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My boots echo around the soaring atrium of the S109 Complex. The area is deserted and my voice echoes eerily. The floor is multicolored metal, varying shades of silvers and grays and the walls have graffiti, showing examples of people’s hatred to the Syndicate. Those people have guts do that, especially when someone could tip off the Syndicate about this place and have it demolished.

Walking farther back to the receptionist desk, I notice that there is an elderly woman typing on a Stat-Screen. She couldn’t be over her sixties, with gray hair passing her blonde hair with violent streaks. I step onto the mat that expressed its gratitude by sending a cloud of dust sailing towards my face.

The woman looked up at me and smiled a toothy smile. “Are you new?” Her voice was like raw sandpaper, scratching itself through the echoing atrium. I look for a nametag, though the badge that notified her as Q-F2. I stare at the odd name of the old woman and it takes me a few seconds to respond.

“I, uh, am new. I came here to see Dextra Sevaire. I got an envelope from him, telling me to meet him at this place. So, if you could…” The woman stops me by handing me a clipboard and pen with about twenty pages of questions. “Answer these questions concisely and honestly, no tricks or jokes. If you answer them incorrect and falsely, you will be escorted out of here and banned never to come here. Understood?”

I stare at the questionnaire, then the old lady, then back again. “Understood.” I reply tersely to her. “There is a seating area next to the southern wall, past the hallway. You can’t miss it. Answer the questionnaire there.” After saying such, the old lady turns her back to me and continues to type.

The unnerving old lady didn’t spare a look in my direction as I slowly made my way to the “seating” area. In truth, the room was a cold, bare room with metal bars blocking the windows and overall making this whole room feel like a prison to me. I kick some rubble away from a corner and slowly sat down, cautious for any sharp objects, while sitting my butt down on the ground.

I notice on the top of the clipboard, a word, worn off by time or something, read the word Staples. I couldn’t get why something would be named that but go figure. This isn’t some old-time sitcom. I feel the paper, waiting for some crunchy, worn out feeling. But what it feels like surprises me.

It’s smooth!

I look at the questions as I answered them. “Do you like the color blue?” and “If you could have a pet, what would it be?” Among others were odd questions, like “What is your favorite food?” I got stuck on that one. What is my favorite food? I think sarcastically. All the Syndicate has is old slop that is given to the peasants. The rich people have the good old foods. Like bread and cheese.

I keep going down the list as the questions get even more confusing and mind-bending as they go on. I go through seventy questions, while only completing nine of the pages. I blink my eyes repeatedly to get myself to keep going.

Most likely and hour passes before I am done all the questions, my hand cramping from holding the pen so long. I get up and stretch before I start to head back to the old lady.

As I walk to the atrium, I hear a repeating clicking noise echo throughout the soaring room. I turn the corner and realize that the old lady was moving her hands in the same motion and pattern as before. I looked at the woman and realized, with a start, two vertical semi-translucent lines were reaching to the ceiling until they faded no to long after going two feet vertically.

“Excuse me, but…um…can you tell me what to do now that I am done with this questionnaire? It may have taken me too long, but…” At the sound of my voice, the old lady’s head jerked up and her hands slowly made it to the counter, like a robot.

“Oh, just give it to me, I will take care of it for you.” She held out her hand and smiled, but it was then that I realized what she was.

“You’re a puppet! How could you be a puppet? No one can make a fully versed one who can act and talk like and…and…be like a human. How?” The old lady smiled at me and held her hand out for the clipboard and pen. “There are things that are meant to be seen and there are some things that can destroy someone who can’t even comprehend the world they are in. The reality of it, at least.”

I passed the clipboard and pen to the lady and she grinned, a smile that showed utter warmth. As she took it, she chuckled as she saw the top page, my name in particular. “Karma…Isvaire. The name of the first rebellion leader, Isvaire Sanatoga. And your first name means good actions beckon evil or malicious things. I see why you were named that.

“I can tell that you have had a negative action happen before you recently because of your scrawling handwriting. That, or you have terrible penmanship. One or the other. So, which is it?” I stare at the old lady and notice that her eyes were glassy and looked like marbles.

“One of the things you may-or may not-know is that puppets don’t have their own souls or spirits or whatever you want to call them. This puppet is being controlled by Dextra Sevaire.” She motioned to herself. “I don’t know how many have come and not noticed any of what you have. So, that begs the question…who are you really?”

The old lady still smiled, but this time, the puppet isn’t smiling for warmth. The smile is cold and calculating. Then a sigh. “The papers will take about a half hour to analyze. Be here is at exactly thirty minutes. No longer, no less. If you fail to come here at that time, you will be banned out of this place. You will be killed on sight.”

The old lady shuffles to the desk and pulls out a drawer that has scanning equipment, expensive type, one that showed Dextra Sevaire is rich and has serious money. I take that as my cue to leave. I pull out the watch and set the timer for twenty-five minutes, so I can get some extra time to walk around the grounds of S109.

As I leave S109, Proj-Boards blare out announcements, some having to do with some type of recent criminology event, others have to do with unnecessary ads that just make some people feel worse about their life.

I look up at the Proj-Board closest to me and notice that there is the symbol of the Syndicate racing across the screen. I turn my head to gaze at the other Proj-Board, which is doing the same thing as the one near me.

People start to murmur and point at th Symbol. But there is no video of a person. It seems to be a recording, or a message done verbally, not physically.

People of the Syndicate of North America, I provide you with the urgent news concerning the Maveris Syndrome: It is rumored to be a new strain en route towards the Tree Sectors. It is advised to all inhabitants of said Sectors to evacuate within twenty minutes. Those who do not leave, the strain will hit.

As well as what is said above, there is a new Message from the Dictator.

The verbal message flickered until there was static. People started clamoring to each other, yelling in frantic voices. I put all my thoughts to the back of my brain and waited for the Dictator to complete what was said.

But what the Dictator said confused me.

The image of the Dictator was live, so it was more direct. Usually, the Dictator’s video message was recorded. It was edited to be more presentable…but there were some obvious glitches when they set it up. The government seems to want to make the Proj-Boards broadcast recorded messages, but that is proven to not work. As proven by the mysterious message.

The Dictator’s image flickered on and the voice was electronically altered.

The Dictator wore a slightly oval helmet, with gold and black armor, with thick gloves and metal boots. The Dictator’s name is Anah Carnalian and she is the definition of the worlds living devil.

She caused the shelling of all the rebellion sectors, the ones that had a spark of defiance. all the sectors were bombed and decimated because of her destructive authority, No one even dared to oppose her directly, so the Sectors that had a slight chance on surviving decimation by the Dictator boarded up their house and hoped for the best to come.

My brother knew the Dictator very well. Most likely since the Dictator had no qualms about the diplomatic flair he exerted out into the air. He was a natural smooth talker, who could talk almost anyone to do what he needed, which is how the Syndicate became fearful of the Powerful Pine Sector had in his midst.

My brother knew what he had done to the Sector was his fault. He decided to make an army out of all the willing people in Pine Sector. He decided to control it and cause a riot at the Honor Square in the Sector. That is why I sometimes hate my brother, even though I still admire him like I have for my whole life.

Soon, the video flickered on, and the Dictator spoke in a clear, resonating voice.

The beginning of this broadcast will be directed at the Maveris Syndrome. The evacuation has started now, despite the earlier broadcast. There has been a location and frequency misinterpretation, so it is advised to leave now, so all those who can leave their sector can evacuate to one of the listed safe divisions.

Once all the citizens have been evacuated safely, there will be a mentality-force scan to inform the Omega Faction if said citizen or citizens has Maveris Syndrome. If a citizen has Maveris Syndrome, they will be taken into federal custody and will be quarantined, in the case that a pandemic doesn’t occur. Please note that this broadcast is set to only specific Sectors. if one has no knowledge of this broadcast, it is advised to obscure the facts of the emergency evacuation.

The broadcast began to flicker, until the normal news was on the screen, showing no signs that there was a broadcast beforehand. I stare at all the people around me and notice that they are all staring at the screen, blank gazes at the Proj-Board. There was a metallic hum in the air, like the air was singing a sweet song that had poison on the underside.

I never knew what the sound was doing, but I knew citizens started making a sound in their throats, like a grinding noise. I never had any clue that humans could make such a sound. It seemed inhuman for some to make such a sound. It gave me the chills just hearing it.

And I knew I had to run, but the noise was making me dizzy and gave me a migraine. I just hunched over as my throat began to dry up. Now, one could say they felt their throat go dry. But when you feel it shriveling up and drying up, you will know the difference.

But something in the recesses of my brain began to turn and something sparked inside of me. Something I couldn’t quite understand, but something that helped me the most: a surge of panic. It may seem odd that panic helps my brain and throat, but it must have triggered something to make my brain go on overload.

I turn to the direction of S109 and look at where I am in relation to how far I am from S109. I force my arm to go in front of me, focusing on the watch’s time. I have to keep moving forward. This is the proto-phase before the…I don’t know…some reforming technique. This happened in…Rose Sector, where Kortni was born. But…why are they doing this here? In this place? Why are they doing this?

I make myself take small steps, while trying to clear my mind. It worked before, when I needed to focus my mind on something- anything- that can help keep my mind from succumbing to this stupid electronic hypnosis. I know what happens next: The citizens’ bodies begin to heat up, the immense rate skyrocketing second by second, while the bodies begin to inform the brain to cool down.

I think you can guess what happens last.

More steps. One. Two. Three…I make my way past the Proj-Board, past the shops while trying to keep my mind on something that is positive. Well, in the world, there isn’t a single positive thing in existence. There is no way, while there are fights and firing squad and riots…how can anyone even manage a smile every day? I know I was a carefree kid, but when your world crumbles to ash when you are six years of age…you soon realize that there is no one there for you, no matter how they attempt to help you.

That thought helped me stay clear of the electronic hypnosis. It made me keep a clear head while trying to ignore the incessant buzz in my ears. I soon look up to see S109’s complex, its bright and reflective silver sheen illuminating the air.

I walk in after vomiting multiple times, hacking out all the mind-numbing mental air waves. The old lady is still there, this time getting up to come my way. She seems to be in a hurry, since she was in a swift walking pace. In her hand was the clipboard, with a red tag slapped to the front of the packet.

“Take this to Mr. Sevaire. He will need to examine this. You know, to make sure you aren’t a Syndicati crony for the Dictator. I know you aren’t, because the ones who were…all those visitors were killed in some way. No one knows how, and even I don’t know. So, don’t go asking Mr. Sevaire all of the crap I know you will ask.”

The old lady points to a pair of golden panels, engraved with a flower motif, directing me to my further destination. “Go through there. You will be led to the…what was it he called it…A penthouse. I have never been in there and I have never met Mr. Sevaire in the flesh, so he might sound a bit angry or temperamental.”

With that, the old lady turns around and travels to her desk. I cautiously travel to the panels, but on my way, I notice something strange: The desk isn’t three-dimensional. The desk is practically flat- and translucent. The “drawers” are just thin rectangles. There are no Stat-Screens. They were all created as an illusion.

“Damn.” I mutter. “I can’t believe I fell for this elaborate trap.” If this is what Dextra Sevaire is like and his prodigious intellect making a whole trap for people to fall for, I am quite scared as of now. I look at the clipboard in my hand as I stand in front of the panels, I notice that all the questions had notes written in neat penmanship. There was not a stray line out of the ordinary.

I crane my head up to stare at the glowing panel, displaying a downward arrow with numbers decreasing in value every second. The ground shakes, most likely machinery over-processing their limits. After all, this building is over seventeen stories high. So, something coming down that height, the gears must all be straining themselves.

With a cheerful ding, the panels spread apart and produce a steel box, with a hovering light producing a bright, white light. I cautiously step in, inspecting the box, which turns out to have about two dozen buttons, ranging from numbers to icons. I stare at the highest number. As I gaze at the number slots, I notice a few numbers are cracked or flickering. The box smelled of disinfectant and had a too-bright ostentatious interior which could practically glow if the light wasn’t in here.

After about ten seconds the box’s panels shut and the room became claustrophobic. A rough, rumbling vibration made the box seem to shake, as the numbers on the display began to count rapidly up the number line and after about three seconds, the box bucked, throwing me straight up to face-plant the ceiling.

After greeting the ceiling, I realized that the number pad was upside down and now the display was next to my boots. I stare at the screen, the flickering numbers distorting the display. I get up tentatively, making sure the now-floor ceiling doesn’t swap again. After affirming this, I stand up, walk to the display, and tap it.

Surprisingly, the display halts its rampage of numbers, until the two words are pasted on the screen:

Get Ready

“Get ready for what…?” I mutter in confusion. As if to answer my question, the box begins to accelerate, though the ceiling-floor is still the bottom. It feels as if there is a pressure sucking all my body to the floor-ceiling. My body vibrates as we increase speed.

I begin to have the nauseous feeling of vomiting while the box is going warp speed. In seconds, which feels like hours, the box grinds to a halt, throwing me back to the floor.

Laying angel-spread on the metal floor, the panels open again, letting in bright light. I blink as I groggily get up, noticing a shape in the far back in the light. It seems to be a person, thought I couldn’t tell at this distance.

Shoving myself up, fixing my jacket and trying to regain my dignity, I begin to face the light. The light seems to dim as I get farther into the room. After the all the light dims, I notice there is a figure on a dais.

The figure is wearing an over-sized white lab coat-like coat. The cuffs are clipped up onto the sleeves, while parts of the coat are clipped up onto the upper folds of the coat. There is a wide, slacking collar around the top, as well as disheveled brown hair sticking out from the top of the coat. I stare at the…the best word for the clothing style is…extravagant.

I take deep breaths as I wait for Dextra to talk. Here is second most rich person in the whole Syndicate, and he wears an over-sized lab coat. As I wait for him to speak, I observe the penthouse’s layout.

The dais Dextra is standing upon has levitating steps that seem to float in the air. They seem to be a part of some sort of hovering system. I am at the edge of a circular pit with steps that lead to a desk and chair, with a real Stat-Screen and electronic equipment.

To the left of me, there is a small kitchen with the barest of equipment. To the right, there is a glass-walled room with stacks of equipment, tools and miscellaneous object laying all over the floors and surfaces of the room.

Before I know it, Dextra takes a deep breath and begins to state a speech:

“Greetings, Karma Isvaire. Let’s get one thing straight and clear: I will not make things absolute without makin’ a required deal or bargain. That includes makin’ sappy comments and showin’ people things in a child’s-play sort of way. So dontcha make things easy. Am I understood?”

I stare at the back of Dextra, glaring at him with all the force I have. More silence. I sigh, giving up and muttered “Understood, sir.” I stand firm and erect, locking my knees in anticipation for Dextra’s approval or dissent. The waiting included five more minutes of my time while Dextra just stood there. “I guess you are thinking…’What nerve that man has. Wasting my time and insulting me when I am taking time to come here, when I almost got my brain fried. How dare he.’ Isn’t that right?”

I stare at the back of Dextra, shocked that he knew exactly what I was thinking. I open my mouth, just about to say, “How the hell did you know what I was thinking?’ when Dextra just pointed to the ceiling, which was about twenty-two meters up as far as I could tell.

“I can tell your face from the reflection on this dais, from the light reflecting on the ceiling. The window also shows your reflected face. You should really get better at hiding your emotions. It could kill you, you know.”

With a flourish, Dextra turns around, holding up parts of his lab coat, which shows his even more bizarre clothing style. His pants are over-sized on his unhealthily skinny waist, thin chains looped through the belt loops, connected around his upper waist. His shirt was clipped up like his over-sized lab coat, since it was too loose and long.

He had black metal boots, ones that were too loose on his too skinny legs. To me, I seemed he was malnourished, or he was a very picky eater and couldn’t find food that he liked. I was going for the first option.

“I know you came here because of the Maveris Syndrome sufferer, you know, another person you couldn’t save? You can thank me for that. Without him, you would never have come here. Oh, that reminds me: Where is the clipboard Q-F2 gave you? I need to see if you are a Maveris Syndrome sufferer as well as that old man.”

Dextra starts to step down both the dais and pit steps, then continued traveling up the pits steps. He had a youthful face, making telling his age difficult. Dextra walks up to me and smiles an infectious smile. I thrust the clipboard into his face, almost smashing his nose. Dextra delicately takes it, looks at the top, then hurls it behind him into a trashcan.

I stare at him as he smiles. “That was all a test. You do realize that all the questions asked, I could have found another way? I don’t give a crap about your favorite color. Unless I would be paintin’ your childish room, if you have one.”

The word childish remined me of the necklace I had in my pocket. Yanking it out of my pocket, I toss it at Dextra’s face. With the speed of a fleeting wind, Dextra caught it out of the air within the span of a millisecond.

He stares at me in disgust. “You didn’t realize that this is a tracker? Such a stupid fool. This is how I knew where you were durin’ the Maveris System Psychosomatic Test. You could have had the Maveris Syndrome implanted into your head. Well, one out of four hundred an’ ninety two percent. I gotta show you somethin’ I think you would like. You do seem to be failing in your goal, am right?”

I grit my teeth at his jibe. “Fine. Wanna show me somethin’?” I attempt to copy is accent, which shouldn’t be possible since we all have the same speech patterns. Dextra grins at my futile attempt.

“C’mon. I’ll show ya what I wanna show ya. Don’t be late or ya will be excluded from my magnificence.” I follow Dextra into his glass paneled room. All the equipment were pieces of tech that were expertly made. We wade ourselves into the back of the cramped room to find a marionette doll.

I groan at the scene of another puppet. “This one yours as well?” Dextra starts to inch back, slowly. “I-It will ask you a question and you will answer it as- as honestly a possible. Now…Go talk to it!” And with that, Dextra ran out of the room. “Wimp.”

A nerve-grinding sound came from the puppet. Its mouth seemed to move slightly, as I came closer to it. After a few seconds, it began to talk.

What is it you wish for, young brat? Ask anything. And it will be granted. There are no limits. Wealth or fame? Or is what you want darker and sinister? Come and ask.

I stare at the puppet, its glossy features reflecting my face. As for the question, I think on it. What is it I want? I have never had such a question asked. This has to be an elaborate joke. But that begs the big question: why would Dextra show me this? It would be a foul play, especially when Dextra ran out of the room like a scared child.

I stare at the puppet, its mocking smile making me pissed off. I take a deep breath as I seriously think about the question. What would I wish for? The puppet said anything...but there have to be limits. No one would give out a freebie like that. “If I could have a serious wish...I guess...” I trail off, remembering all the people who have died because I could save them. Additionally, my older brother died when I was six. I don’t want that to happen again. everyone dies in my life. So that gave me the inspiration for my wish.

“If I could make a wish...it would be to keep on living, and if I die, I could come back to life without the sustained injuries I died with, which leads to the other part of my wish: I don’t want to die before I destroy the Dictator’s life, including the Syndicate. That is my wish.”

The puppet laughed, its voice resonating through the air, permeating it, making the air tighter. So, the wish you want me to grant you...Resurrective immortality? That is what you wish? Don’t worry. It will come true. Within seconds. Get ready.

I stare at the puppet, its limp body loose in its position on the chair. Seconds pass, then minutes, until there is a raspy laugh coming from the puppet. I flinch, when the puppet begins to stand and walk towards me, its limbs making machine-grind type of sound.

In a half-second, the puppet is towering over me. The puppets left hand to make its way to my face, the cold metal sending chills up my back.

It uttered one last piece of advice:

“Be careful on what you wish for, young brat.”

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