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Three days. Just three days was all it took for his life's dream to change into a nightmare beyond comprehension.
Thinking back, he tried to remember what happened.
One long week ago . . . 13.45, Tuesday, April 10, 2790.
‘‘. . . you all know that The Department will . . .''
Sparks, that sounded important he told himself, trying to wake up from his slumbering state.
‘‘. . . one student from Cloud High will be chosen . . .''
Yawning and stretching, he lifted his heavy head off his idesk and started paying attention to what Ms Goldfeld was saying.
‘‘. . . there has been some speculation that that student will be chosen from this class,'' she finished excitedly.
The Department. His whole life he had been aiming to be chosen for the programme, and now he had the opportune moment.
The Department, a government funded and run organisation that everyone wanted to be chosen for, an opportunity that changed your life completely.
Once you were chosen, you were given one day to pack your bags and say goodbye, because the next morning you were picked up by the Department guys and taken to the facility in the Redlands.
The Programme provided advanced education and gave your families extra food and money while you were still in the Programme.
If you completed the Programme, then you were placed in the Advanced Tech and Control, who keep the peace.
It paid well and opened lots of doorways into high positions.
He himself stood a good chance of being picked, because The Department only took the intellectual elite, and those who were physically fit.
Ms Goldfeld continued: ‘‘. . . ceremony will take place during lunch tomorrow, as The Department don't want to hinder any classwork''.
If I get selected, it won't matter if I miss out on one lunchtime, he thought silently to himself.
‘‘How long will the ceremony take,'' asked Astrid, looking all smug.
‘‘Of course,'' he thought to himself, always Astrid, the genius sports girl.
She had all the guys in the school drooling over her, answering to her every command.
Not me, he vowed solemnly, hating the very idea of Astrid.
She was probably all that stood in his path to the Redlands, all that was destroying his life's ambition.
12.30, Wednesday, April 11, 2790:
‘‘As you have all heard,'' said Mr Townly, his voice a sonic boom in the microphone, ‘‘The Department will be choosing one of you to join them in the Programme, and to assist the Government in protecting the brittle peace that we forged in the wake of our war. There is no greater honour''.
‘‘Zone out time,'' Quinn thought silently, or at least until something interesting happens.
‘‘. . . so without any further delay, please join me in welcoming Mr Orlandish, assistant head of The Department.''
The walls of the theatre boomed with the familiar voice. The visitor began to speak.
‘‘As you should all know, The Department specialises in helping the Government to maintain peace, and encourages young minds, like yours, to reach their full potential, and to aid them in their journey to be part of the very same Government.''
‘‘Mr Orlandish has a strange voice,'' Quinn thought, not unlike a poisonous snake.
‘‘I will not waste too much more of your time, as that time should be spent learning so that you might be chosen to join the Programme next year.
‘‘This year's student to be chosen from Cloud High to join the Programme is . . .''
It was here that Quinn's heart went up an escalator to his mouth. Swallowing it back down, he tuned back into the snake's voice.
‘‘. . . Ms Astrid Govia Smith. Congratulations Astrid.''
Mr Orlandish pronounced it like he had said it a thousand times already, and his voice was quickly drowned out by clapping.
Quinn looked like he might be sick, he felt his face turn whiter than a freshly cleaned sheet.
But his disappointment quickly turned to hate, hate of Astrid and her achievements.
‘‘But for the first time ever, Astrid will not be alone in her selection. Please join Astrid on the stage Mr Quinn Suweeden Arkright.''
Quinn slowly looked up, wondering whether he needed his hearing checked.
Noticing that everyone was looking at him with expressions of jealousy, hate and awe, he rose, and as if in a trance walked to the stage with a slow pace, trying not to pass out from the weight of all those eyes looking at him.
Joining Astrid in the spotlight, he thought that the light was as bright as a hundred suns.
Looking over at Astrid, he saw that she was standing proud, looking every bit the smug, selfish girl she was supposed to be.
Feeling embarrassed and still stunned that he had been chosen, Quinn forced himself to smile and stand tall in the light.
-By Paul Burke - Year 12, King's High School