Enhanced Rivalry: Issue One

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Adam sat stiffly in the uncomfortable plastic chair of the waiting room in the recruiter’s office, trying his best to calm his overactive nerves as he waited for his meeting.  As he waited, Adam stared at the poster hanging on the wall directly across from him.  On the poster, a group of three men and one woman dressed in military uniforms were saluting as they seemed to be floating in the middle of a sky of deep blue dotted with a handful of small clouds.  At the bottom of the poster, a slogan in large, bold letters read, “Be more than you ever thought you could be, join the Enhanced Corps.”  Adam sucked in a deep breath as he stared at the poster, and let it out very slowly.  Adam’s dreams of joining the Enhanced Corps, a branch of the military consisting of enlisted men and women with genetic enhancements that give each soldier their own set of “enhanced” capabilities, began at a very early age.  As far back as Adam could remember, he would watch commercials for the Enhanced Corps on television, and dream of being an enhanced soldier with special powers.  When his brother, Neil entered the Corps two years previously, Adam’s desire to become an enhanced soldier  became almost unbearable.  Any time Neil would come home on leave from the Corps, Adam would beg his brother to tell him every story he could about his time in the military.  On his eighteenth birthday, Adam had rushed down to the recruiter’s office and began a series of tests designed to determine if he would be eligible to become an enhanced soldier.  So lost in his own thoughts about his joining the Elite was Adam, that he did not notice the Corps recruiter, an officer named Joseph Hindlen, standing near him until the recruiter cleared his throat.

“Oh,” Adam said, quickly jumping to his feet.  “Officer Hindlen, I didn’t even notice you coming out of your office.”

“Yes,” Hindlen said, glancing towards the poster Adam had been studying.  “I noticed you were preoccupied.  Dreaming of the future?”

“Yes Sir,” Adam replied, feeling a small bit of embarrassment.  “I guess I was.  I was trying to calm my nerves, really.”

“Well, it is pretty common for hopeful recruits to feel their nerves when they are going through this process.  Why don’t we go into my office then and we can finally get this over with.”

“Yes Sir,” Adam responded, feeling uneasy by the wording of Officer Hindlen’s last sentence.  Adam followed Hindlen into his office, taking a seat in another plastic chair opposite a metal desk in the center of the office.  As Officer Hindlen took a seat behind the desk, Adam took the moment to glance around the office.  Though plain and simple, Hindlen’s office and desk were both meticulously organized.  The walls of the office were bare with the exception of a single poster on the wall advertising the Enhanced Corps.  Adam noticed that Hindlen’s desk was mostly bare, with only a single picture frame, turned to face Officer Hindlen, accompanying the sparse office instruments and file folders.

“All right then,” Hindlen said, opening a folder and placing it on the desk in front of him.”I have gone through the results of all your testing as well as your psych evaluation, and I have the unfortunate duty to inform you that you have been rejected from the Enhanced Corps.”

“I’m sorry,” Adam said, staring at the recruiter in disbelief.  “Rejected?”

“Yes,” Hindlen replied stoically.  “I apologize for being so blunt, but I don’t believe in beating around the bush as they say.  I feel it’s best to just be as direct and deliberate as I possibly can be.  I find it’s best to prevent any kind of false hope about something that is not possible according to your evaluation.”

“B-but,” Adam stammered, dumbfounded, “I don’t understand.  I have wanted to be an elite soldier since I was a kid.  How could I…Why have I been rejected?  How is that possible?”

Officer Hindlen cleared his throat, then began shuffling through the papers in Adam’s file.  “Well, as you are aware, as part of the entrance examinations required to enter the Corps, all potential candidates are subjected to a full mental evaluation by a team of Corps Recruitment Psychics.  Unfortunately, our psychics determined that your mental profile was not up to par according to Corps Recruitment Policy.”

“I don’t understand,” Adam said, shaking his head furiously.  “Are you saying I can’t join the Corps because I am stupid?”

“No,” Hindlen replied quickly, letting out a sigh before continuing.  “The evaluation has nothing to do with your intelligence level.  What the psychics are looking for is flaws in your personality that would prevent you from becoming an ideal Elite Soldier.”

“Flaws in my personality,” Adam repeated angrily.  “Are you kidding me?”

“I do not joke around when it comes to new recruits Adam,” Hindlen replied flatly.

“Well then, can you tell me what they found that made them reject me?”

“I’m sorry,” Hindlen replied, quickly closing Adams file.  “That information is classified.”

“Classified,” Adam repeated angrily.  “You can’t even tell me why I am being rejected?  Seriously?  What kind of bullshit is this?”

“Adam,” Hindlen said calmly, holding his hand out towards Adam in a halting motion.  “I think you need to calm down.  Take a deep breath and get a hold of yourself.”

“How can you tell me to get a hold of myself after this,” Adam shouted, practically jumping out of his chair as he rose to his feet.  “You are denying me my life long dream, and you won’t even give me an actual reason why!  What the hell do you expect from me here?”

“I expect you to act like an adult,” Hindlen said, his voice remaining calm and steadfast.  “Look at yourself right now.  Look at how you are reacting to what I have told you.  Maybe you should take that as a clue as to why you are being rejected.”

“This is the biggest load of bull I have ever seen in my entire life,” Adam barked bitterly.  “I am not going to put up with this!  I am going to go over your head if I have to!  I’m going to-“

Adam found himself suddenly unable to continue speaking as his body became fully paralyzed, leaving him completely immobilized where he stood. Hindlen remained seated, calmly staring down the angry young man.

“You seem to be forgetting that, as an officer in the Elite Corps, I too have my own set of abilities.  Those abilities, along with my personality and calm demeanor, have made me the ideal soldier for recruitment services.  One of those abilities you are experiencing at this very moment, that’s why you find yourself currently mobilized.  Some of my other abilities allowed me to participate in your psychic evaluation, so believe me when I tell you that our findings regarding your personality flaws are accurate.  I am sorry to have to give you the unfortunate news, Adam, but you have been deemed unsuitable for the Elite Corps, and have therefore been rejected.  I understand that you are angry and upset, but this kind of behavior is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.  I am going to release you in a moment, and I expect you to behave like an adult and vacate my office without causing any more of a scene.  I hope that is perfectly understood, because you do not want to push my patience any further.”

Adam suddenly felt his body loosen up, and he knew that Hindlen had released him.  Adam’s mind raced with angry thoughts as he stared at the recruiter furiously.  Swearing under his breath, Adam then stormed out of the recruiter’s office and continued stomping through the waiting room until he reached the sidewalk outside.  Adam spotted a small trash can near the door of the recruiting office, and began to kick it angrily, swearing under his breath as he did.

“Whoah,” a male voice exclaimed from behind Adam.  “Looks like someone’s bubble just got burst.”

Adam turned quickly to see a tall, thin man who appeared to be in his early twenties standing behind him.  A young woman with blue hair stood next to the man, smiling at Adam.  Both the man and woman sported leather bomber jackets two yellow stripes on the left arms of the jackets.

“What the hell do you want,” Adam barked.  “I’m not in the mood to deal with any shit right now.”

“Take it easy man,” the young man said, smirking at Adam.  “We’re not here to give you any shit.  We just saw that you were upset, and we thought you might need some friendly faces to talk to.”

“Friendly faces,” Adam scoffed.  “I don’t even know you people.”

“True,” the woman said, still smiling.  “But I bet we have more in common than you realize.  Let me guess, you just got rejected by the Elite Corps, right?  They gave you some bull about not meeting up to their standards or some shit like that?”

“Yeah,” Adam replied.  “Something like that.  They said it had something to do with my psychic profile.  Said my personality or something doesn’t match up with their policies.  Sounded like a load of crap to me.”

“We can totally relate,” the man said, putting his hand on the woman’s shoulder.  “Me and Katherine here were rejected by the Corps too.  For equally crappy reasons.”

“Really,” Adam asked, raising a suspicious eyebrow.

“Really,” Katherine replied.  “Jeff and I are both rejects, just like you.  How funny is that?”

“So, what, you guys just hang around the recruiter’s office waiting for rejects like me to come out?  For what?  So you can console me or something?”

“No man,” Jeff replied, moving closer to Adam so he could drop his voice to a whisper.  “We’re here to tell you that there is another way.”

“Another way for what,” Adam asked cautiously.

“For you to get the power you are looking for,” Katherine replied in a whisper.

“Bullshit,” Adam said, his body tensing as he prepared to push Katherine and Jeff out of his way so he could escape the duo.

“No man,” Jeff said, raising his hand, palm up directly in front of Adam.  “It’s true.  Check it out.”

Adam looked down at Jeff’s hand, and was surprised to see a small ball of fire suddenly form in his palm.  Shocked by the sight, Adam took a step back, and shot a confused glance towards the duo.

“What the hell is that,” Adam asked, so loud it was almost a shout.

“Keep it down,” Jeff hissed.  “Let’s not attract any unnecessary attention to  ourselves, all right?”

“Sorry,” Adam whispered back.  “But you kind of surprised me there.  Is that real?”

“Oh yeah,” Jeff replied.  “It’s real, and it’s my ability.  I can control heat and fire.  Katherine here has abilities too.”

“Come on,” Adam said, shooting a suspicious look towards the woman.

“Oh, it’s true,” Katherine responded.  “But mine aren’t as flashy as his.  I just have super-strength and invulnerable skin.”

“How did you get those,” Adam asked, still unsure about what he was witnessing.

“If you really want to know,” Jeff replied, “then we’d be happy to show you.  In fact, we can get you your own abilities too, if you want.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Katherine replied.  “I bet you’ll get something good too.  So, come on, are you in, or what?”

Adam paused for a moment, considering the options laid out before him, then agreed to follow Jeff and Katherine.  As he followed the duo down the street, Adam could feel his heart pounding with a mix of excitement and fear.

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