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Not So Novel: Magic in the Mundane (NN Episode 3)

[continued from Episode 2; it’s now the next morning, and the Narcoleptic Ninja is reporting to the infirmary]

He walked up to the infirmary’s reception desk.  “Hi, I was ordered by Naginata to report here this.  My codename is….”

The receptionist barely gave him a glance before interrupting.  “Yes, we were notified you were coming, and why.  Go up the stairs to the second floor, take a right, and go down to room 281.  One of the nurse technicians will take your vitals, and then you’ll be sent to sleep therapy.”

He thanked her, found the stairs, and stepped out into the 2nd floor hallway.  As he approached room 281 he heard two people talking.

“So what’s the matter?  She can ask you to run any test she likes on whomever she wants.”

“Yes, but running a DNA comparison check on a sample taken yesterday to the guy’s initial sample taken at age 5?  What’s that going to show?  It’s the same person!”

Curious, he slowed down.  He quickly glanced up and down the hall.  Nobody.  He leaned against the wall next to the door.

“So what?  You run the test, it’s the same, you report the results.  Don’t tick her off next time and she won’t make you perform useless tests as punishment.”

“I didn’t tick her off!  Besides, you know what the really weird thing is?”  The voice got softer.  “I think she believes the results would show a difference!  She told me to run the test, report the results directly to her, but then mark the test in the system as a ‘training exercise’.”

“But those get purged from the system automatically…..  Why would she want the test results deleted?”

“I don’t know.  But she asked me not to tell anyone about it, either.”

“What?!  Then I’m out of here, and this conversation never happened.  To think you would risk my life…”

Footsteps.  Moving as quickly as possible, he took several steps away from the door, pivoted….and the world went dark.

…..

…..

Pain.  An ache in his jaw.

“Come on, wake up.  I don’t want to have to slap you again, nor do I want to carry you.  Damn, you were lucky.  If I hadn’t come out in time to catch you, you could have broken your nose taking a dive like that.”

He opened his eyes.  A man in a nurse’s smock bent over him.  A swinging name tag identified the nurse by the generic codename “Taro”. He sighed.  That would be no help identifying him later; the nurse hadn’t earned a unique codename yet.  A second male nurse came out into the hall.  A quick glance at the name tag showed him that nurse’s codename.  Taro.  Great.  “So”, he said, looking at the nurse bending over him, “which Taro are you?”

“Very funny, very funny”, Taro 1 said sarcastically.  The nurse looked at his coworker.  “OK, he seems to be alright, so he’s your problem now.”  Taro 1 then started walking down the hall, perhaps a little faster than necessary.

Taro 2 eyed Taro 1 nervously for a moment, then looked down. “Get up and come on inside.  We have a few tests to perform before I release you to the therapist”.

A couple hours later he walked out of the infirmary building towards the training area.  Interesting, very interesting.  True, he didn’t know for certain that they were talking about him.  There would only be one way to know for sure, and that would be to get his hands on the test results.  He groaned.  How was he going to get his hands on the results before this “automatic purge” took place, and how long did he have?  He couldn’t help but smile, though.  This was far more exciting than escort missions, of which there had been far too many lately.

As he walked he looked around at The School.  The School consisted of several main buildings (the infirmary, the dormitory, the food hall with adjacent store, and headquarters itself), a complete set of training areas (indoor, outdoor, stealth, close quarters, an obstacle course, etc), and a private airstrip.  The whole compound was surrounded by 20 foot high wall, but that didn’t seem necessary.  There was nothing around.  Even when you did your mandatory guard shift on the wall once a month, there wasn’t a thing to see.  Trees?  Yes.  Hills?  Yes.  Grass?  All that you could want.  But people?  Nope.  Roads?  Nope.  Any signs of life other than the occasional squirrel?  Nope.  There wasn’t even a road that came up to the wall, though they did make sure to put in the occasional gate.  Nobody came here by ground, only air.

In fact, he didn’t even technically know where he was.  He thought back to his first days at The School, many years ago.  He had only been 5 years old at the time.  After a plane trip that felt like it took forever, he had arrived.  He vaguely remembered his parents hugging him goodbye, telling him it was going to be alright.  He remembered his dad telling him, “We made it, so will you.”  He remembered having a name….

His parents had gotten back on the plane and then flew off.  He had been shown to a dormitory where some other children were already settled in; apparently he had been the last to arrive for the day.  The next morning his training began.  One of the first lessons, a harsh one for some, was finding out that what ever your name was before, it didn’t matter now.  Each batch of students got a name to share.  So he, along with approximately 200 other kids, were now known as Rabbit.  They were forced to accept the name by a very simple method: if you didn’t accept your new name, you didn’t eat.  Eventually everybody accepted the name.

Training and rules, rules and training.  That was his life for the next 15 years.  Every subject was covered: etiquette, stealth, english, hand-to-hand combat, math, weapons, history, survival techniques….  The School valued any kind of eduction and strove to instill all of it that it could, except where that education involved knowledge of The School itself.  Questions about The School were redirected or flat out ignored, and if you pushed too hard you would simply be punished.  They were told that they would find out “later”.

But for some, “later” never came.  The first 10 years of training had been hard but very nearly fun.  There were strict rules then, and any violence or aggression towards another student came with severe consequences.  But then things changed.  After he had turned 15, his group had been taken into a big room.  On a board there were 25 codenames, ordered 1-25.  The teacher had explained that 25 people from our group would be given individual codenames, and then the teacher asked for volunteers.  Nearly every hand shot up; individual codenames!  That was a dream among all the Rabbits, to have a codename of their own.  The teacher walked through, picking 25 kids seemingly at random.  Every kid picked was assigned a number, also seemingly at random.  He had been devastated at the time, as he wasn’t one of them.

The teacher had returned to the front of the room and explained further.  The new codenames were effective immediately, and the numbers indicated rank.  The higher your rank, the more privileges you received.  Better accommodations, more personal time with the trainers, etc.  The list went on.  Groans went through the room as the teacher got to the last perk:  operative training.  The 25 codenamed individuals would receive operative training, and in 5 years they would become official active operatives.

Angry muttering had filled the room.  The kids may not have known a whole lot about the school itself, but they had watched for years as operatives had left for missions.  The teacher had held up a hand for silence, and when the kids quieted down filled in a few final details.  If any one else wanted to be a operative, they could.  They just had to permanently remove one of the 25.  When they did, they would assume the new codename and receive all of the privileges the rank entailed.  There were only 3 rules:  the killing had to be done via prearranged duels (the combatants would be given a private building where any tactic could be employed), the higher ranked person could not decline a duel, and nobody could duel more than once a month.

Silence had fallen over the room.  Those kids who had been chosen had suddenly looked extremely nervous.  The teacher added one last point.  Other than the initial 25 volunteers, nobody had to try to become a operative.  During the next 5 years a kid could choose a different path.  The School had several other jobs available, so anybody who wanted to could transfer.  The teacher added that each area had their own specific rules, but to expect that “rapid advancement opportunities” existed in all of them.

He had listened raptly to the whole time.  Transfer to another area?  Not a chance.  But he hadn’t been a fool.  For the first couple years he had done nothing but continue training while those around him jockeyed for position.  Many of his fellow students died, either trying to become one of the 25 or trying to keep their position.  Most of the original 25 were dead; only 4 made it to the third year, and they were now the top 4.  They were challenged as often as the rules allowed.

In that same year, he carefully chose his target.  He didn’t choose one of the top 4; on the off chance that he did win, he would be a marked man (even more so than usual).  No, he chose to go after the 5th…..

[to be continued]

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Jen | November 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Ah, back story. That’s some training school.

    I love that one of the Taros pulled a bit of a Dr. Rodney McKay (the one saying how dare you risk my life by telling me this, etc.).

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