Parallax chapter 3, part 2
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Meanwhile, they’d learned recently that there was another level of Change Agent: a CA0. This was a fallen Change Agent, one who had reached the top of the great chain of understanding, but who had begun to use the awareness for evil. Proof had reluctantly discussed it. It was clear that he preferred to focus on more positive matters.
In any event, everyone on this team had already achieved CA2. William, Grace, Jeremy, Trina, even Hunter, despite the fact that he’d begun causing trouble. He was what they called a rotten apple.
And William fervently hoped that he wouldn’t spoil the bunch.
“Now it’s time to name that emotion,” said Proof. This was how they ended every debriefing. Each person had to name an emotion that he or she had experienced either for the first time or to a greater degree than ever before. “Trina?”
“Boredom,” she said.
“Interesting,” Proof replied. “That was the first time you felt bored in a tag-along?”
She nodded. “I was tagged to this Spaniard soldier at the back of the group. He was just guiding a pack mule.” She nodded toward William and Hunter. “I never even saw the fight that they’ve been talking about.”
“But what did you learn from that experience?”
She thought about it. “Maybe that there’s dignity in work. This guy was patiently doing his job.”
Proof waved a device up and down her body. It looked like a thin wand, about the length of a human hand. The device beeped approvingly. “The spectrometer says yes.”
William tried not to smile. Proof had earned his name for a very good reason. It’s what he demanded after every snap. He was quantifying the emotional and spiritual progress of each member of the team, but exactly how these things were quantified was never explained. William secretly hoped that they would meet the Ancient Engineer to get more concrete explanations.
“Jeremy?” said Proof.
“I was with the Spanish team, too,” he said. “I felt trapped.” “Like you weren’t in charge of your own destiny?” “Exactly. I was tagged to a foot soldier who didn’t even want to be there.”
“How did it make you feel?”
“Awful.” Jeremy looked around. “Free will is everything, people. I mean it.”
Proof waved the spectrometer up and down the young man. Beep.
“Good,” he said. Then he turned to William. “And you?” William felt a stirring of anxiety in his stomach. “Well, I
definitely found a new emotion tonight.” “What is it?”
“Fear. I felt total and complete fear.” “Of what?”
“You heard the story. Of death.”
Proof nodded. He waved the spectrometer across William. It beeped approvingly.
Then he turned to Hunter. “Let’s hear it, Hunter.” His dark eyes fixed on Proof. “Bloodlust.”
“You wanted to kill somebody?”
“Like I’ve never experienced.”
Proof tilted his head ever so slightly. “And you liked it?” “No.” Hunter waited a beat. “I loved it.”
Proof stood there, regarding him for a moment. Then he waved the spectrometer, and it beeped.
“Mine was motherly love,” said Grace. “I had a baby on my breast.”
“Strong stuff, isn’t it?” said Proof, turning toward her. “I tagged a new mother once. It gives you a whole new perspective.” He waved the device, and it beeped.
“Congratulations,” he said, “you’ve all made advancements today.”
Grace’s hand shot up. “So when do we get to see how close we are to CA3?”
“Those algorithms are created and guarded by the Ancient Engineer. Remember, what do we know about the Ancient Engineer?”
In unison, the group said, “He loves us, and he wants us to succeed.”
Proof reclined in his seat. “Tomorrow, it’s Grace’s turn to select the parallax. That’s all for now everybody.”
The lights dimmed in the room. William looked down at his cup. It was empty. He and the other team members stood up one by one.
“Hey Grace,” said Hunter.
“Pick a good one tomorrow. Like a war or something. I want to feel what it’s like to kill somebody.”
Hunter moved ahead down the hall, and Grace looked back at William with alarm in her eyes.