The voice was like a clap of thunder going off near everyone’s heart. It reverberated throughout the entire Amphitheatre and caused the whole structure to tremble. All the candidates couldn’t help but cringe their heads to the side in pain at the sound. It felt like their eardrums were being pierced by a thousand needles. They all believed that they would probably go deaf at any moment. At the same time, everyone felt as though the gravity inside the Amphitheatre suddenly intensified, causing their legs go soft like hot noodles under the pressure. Those who did not have the mental perseverance to only bend their knees submitted to the pleading of their trembling legs and knelt down.
Dante, Vladimir, and Vlatka simultaneously turned their heads to the northern entrance and felt their hearts plummet to their feet when their eyes caught sight of the speaker. He was a tall man dressed in full black walking towards them with two beautiful women at his side. One of the two women wore a white and green ruqun and was exceptionally beautiful. Her hair was caught up in a bun and had two braids trailing down the front of her shoulders. The other woman at the man’s side wore a brown jacket with a matching scarf around her neck. She had her own unique appeal and had an air of professionalism about her. Jenell and a few others who weren’t too muddle-headed after hearing the loud voice earlier raised their heads and looked in the direction that Dante and the other two were staring and froze in place, their hearts quivering at the sight.
“D-D-Dr. Lambert” Jenell stuttered.
Dante, Vladimir, and Vlatka started sweating bullets the moment they heard the voice and very nearly went into cardiac arrest. They each knew who the voice belonged to, but still felt compelled to look, just to make sure that their fears and assumptions weren’t being misplaced. But when their gaze met him, they sensed their bodies go cold like a block of aged profound ice. Their faces paled as if they each lost half of their lives. Under Dr. Lambert’s cold gaze, everyone froze and stood still.
The sound of Dr. Lambert’s footsteps making their way down the corridor grew louder and louder with each step he took, and it caused many of the candidates to have trouble breathing. Some grabbed their chest for fear their hearts would leave their bodies, others just stood there refusing to breath; as though, if it were to be heard it would spell their demise.
When Dr. Lambert arrived at the platform connecting the northern entrance, his gaze locked onto the three who were about to brawl then spoke: “Vladimir, Vlatka. What reason do you two have to be interfering with the prospective candidates? Is it that you’ve forgotten your place? Or is it that you want me to give you another reminder?”
When the two in question heard their names be called they could only lament at their misfortune. It was known right throughout the compound that Dr. Lambert was a very secluded person that was hardly ever seen because he was usually busy working in his lab. He was known to have a ruthless personality, and to top it off, he was in charge of all operations involving the 10 divisions. His words were law here and could only be refuted by the Chairman. But, even the Chairman often choose not to get involved with his affairs. The Chairman even went as far as to even assign an assistant to act as an intermediary between them to deliver his reports.
“What the hell is HE doing here?!” The twins thought to themselves. Vladimir, who was the more quick-witted of the two quickly replied in an attempt to salvage the moment. He took a step forward and cupped his hands in greeting and bowed: “Good morning Dr. Lambert, and respectful seniors, this… is a misunderstanding.”
“Oh…” Dr. Lambert said while raising an eyebrow.
Vladimir continued: “We noticed that the prospects arrived rather early and we wanted to extend our congratulations to them for making it past the preliminary examination.”
Vlatka finally regained her bearings and caught on then added: “Good morning Dr. Lambert and distinguished seniors. What my brother said is indeed correct! This was just a misunderstanding. Just now, we only wanted to exchange pointers with Dante and his team as a warm-up exercise to let them better get used to the capabilities of their Exo-Suits.”
“Hmph” Dr. Lambert gave a cold harrumph and looked towards Dante then spoke: “Dante, you need to remember to control that temper of yours, you’re too hot-headed. You have great latent potential, but if you don’t learn to control that temper of yours, it will be the end of you.”
Dante lowered his head as he heard Dr. Lambert’s scolding “I understand; I won’t let it happen again.”
At this, everyone looked at Dante in shock and some gave him odd stares, “Why is Dr. Lambert so… nice to him?”
Shifting his gaze to the previous two, Dr. Lambert spoke: “You two, I’ll overlook today’s incident just this once… return to your designated area and wait for everyone else to arrive.”
Vladimir and Vlatka did not even wait to hear half a sentence more and quickly responded simultaneously while nodding their heads like chickens pecking rice. “Yes, sir! Thank you for your great kindness!” As they turned to leave they didn’t even spare Dante and the others a glance and left quicker than they came, not delaying for even half a breath.
Dr. Lambert then shifted his gaze towards the assembly of prospective candidates and spoke: “Is everyone here?”
Dante who was at the forefront of the assembly quickly replied: “Yes sir! All 210 candidates from team #10 are present!”
The others in charge of their respective teams woke from their stupor by Dante’s voice and quickly added.
“Report! All 210 candidates from team #9 are present!” the one who spoke was a young man of medium built with brown hair. His facial expression was quite stern; it was probably due to being in the presence of Dr. Lambert. His eyes showed his steadiness, and he seemed to be quite responsible.
“Report! All 210 candidates from team #8 are present!” this time, the one who spoke was a female. She was a bit short, probably approaching 4ft. She had a brown complexion and had short curly black hair. Her expression was cool and collected. It seemed she was not affected much by Dr. Lambert’s intimidation earlier.
Soon, one person after another stepped forward and made their reports and before long, everyone was finished. At present, all 2100 prospective candidates were available.
Dr. Lambert nodded his head in approval and continued: “Excellent, everyone please assemble at the center of the main platform.”
At his command, everyone got up and headed directly towards the main platform. The main platform was about 1000ft in diameter and 10ft high. Easily accommodating all 2100 prospective candidates.
Once everyone assembled in front of Dr. Lambert, he continued: “For those of you who don’t know who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Dr. Vincent Lambert. I am in charge of all operations regarding the G.E.N.E.S.I.S Programme. I must apologize for not congratulating you all sooner for successfully passing the preliminary examinations and becoming prospective candidates. For you all to be able to pass such a stringent screening process means that you all are the prestige and pride of our country, our future. Today, I have summoned you all here to make an announcement. As you all know, we are now approaching the latter stages of this war, and as a result, the casualties each nation is experiencing has increased by 10-fold. The political state of the world is now in an extremely volatile state which means, at any given point in time, any of the other six Major Powers can initiate the end war by firing nuclear weapons at each other. In my opinion, this is highly unlikely to happen. The reason for that is; should nuclear weapons be utilized in this war, the victor, or should I say, the survivors would have a very difficult time surviving the subsequent years, as the world would’ve become a toxic wasteland. However, even though the probability of the war reaching such a state is not likely to happen due to its repercussions – it is still, however, a possibility.”
Everyone was listening attentively at this moment. The only sound that could be heard was that of Dr. Lambert’s voice. Not even the collective sound of everyone’s breath could be heard. It was so quiet that even the sound of a pin dropping would be heard clearly. Everyone’s expression was solemn; the matters Dr. Lambert spoke about were things they were extremely familiar with. Most of them used to live in the outside world before and had experienced the cruelty of this war first hand and have seen the boundless sea of bodies that came about as a result.
“As a precaution, in order to secure the continuation of our species and preserve thousands of years of history should this apocalyptic event occur, we have taken several measures to develop items that will aid us in this endeavor. The Exo-Suits that you are all wearing is one example, and the G.E.N.E.S.I.S programme is another. The acronym G.E.N.E.S.I.S stands for; Genetically Engineered Nano Enhancement Symbiosis Integration System.” Saying up to here a slight smile crept onto the corners of Dr. Lambert’s mouth that sent a chill down everyone's back. “It is indeed a mouthful to say all that, but it speaks directly to what the programme is about, and it should be quite easy to discern without much explanation. As most of you may know, originally the process we would have you all undergo, would normally take about three months. You would’ve undergone training to develop your bodies to an ideal state and then we would also have doctors inject a genetic enhancement drug that works in concert with the nanites in your Exo-Suits to improve your immune system and provide your bodies with many more benefits such as increased strength and longevity. This process would have over an 80% chance of success, and the fatality rate due to incompatibility would be near negligible because all of you would have a doctor to monitor your vitals to ensure a successful fusion. However, now that the war has progressed to such a state we are now being pressed for time and as a result, will need to make modifications to how the lot of you will undergo training and genome fusion.
When the candidates heard Dr. Lambert’s discourse their faces showed a variety of expressions. Some blew a sigh of relief, some grew confused, some grew worried while others grew excited.
Jenell muttered to herself with a frown on her face while trying to guess what changes were about to be made. Unable to figure it out, she continued to listen attentively just like everyone else.
After seeing the various expressions on everyone’s faces, Dr. Lambert continued: “Back then the methods we utilized were passive and did not force your predecessors to push themselves to their absolute physical and mental limits and thus had a longer but smoother time undergoing their genome fusion and then finding a genome partner to stabilize the changes in their bodies to grow together. In my opinion, that method, even though it is safer, it wastes your latent potential and limits your future growth and development. In your case, even though you are going to experience a much more ‘challenging’ experience, you will all benefit greatly! Enough so that you can look down on all of mankind in contempt at their inferiority as you all will be the base generation for the future, a stronger generation!”
As the candidates absorbed Dr. Lambert’s words they could feel their blood pump fiercely as their imaginations run wild. Strength! This is what they lacked. This is what they needed more than anything! More than food, shelter, clothing and even the air itself! If you didn’t have enough strength, you wouldn’t even have the qualifications to continue breathing in this world!
Seeing their excited and determined expressions, Dr. Lambert's slight smirk transformed into a genuine smile. A smile of empathy and longing. He too fully understood what the lack of strength meant to these youngsters. His lack of strength made him unable to retrieve his son for 3 long years, and could only watch his wife weep night after night worrying about his wellbeing. Because of their lack of strength, they had to literally beg others for their help and slave themselves away for their ambitions.
Julia who was standing behind her husband could feel the change in him. His voice was filled with vigor and determination as though he too were amongst the candidates standing there, listening to his own words.
Dante’s eyes narrowed for quite some time as he listened to Dr. Lambert’s words. Something inside of him told him that, this time would be different. That he would finally have his chance to move forward.
Dr. Lambert’s voice went down a notch and it seemed as though he was getting to the meat of the matter and arriving at its conclusion. “The difference between your training regime and your predecessors will be like the difference between heaven and earth. You will all be walking on the line between life and death on a daily basis, and at the end of your training, you will find yourselves reach a higher realm of strength, never before seen in this world! Your training regime will last for approximately 30 days and it will include all 2100 of you, and begins now!”
“Now?” Everyone was shocked at his words, to struggle and walk the line of life and death for 30 days, is that even possible, especially for persons no older than 16 years’ old who had no clue what to expect?
“What on earth was he going to have us do, join the war? "No, it can’t be that we can barely survive in our own country, to say nothing of other countries. We would just add to the body count of corpses on the battlefield.” Dante thought to himself.
After speaking, Dr. Lambert removed a spherical device from his jacket pocket and threw it towards the airspace above the main platform where all the candidates stood and shouted: “This is Day 1! Your objective is; to survive!”