Upon entering the school yard, the first thing that Sia noticed was that on the other side, many people had gathered. They had formed a round wall of bodies around something and were staring at it while shaking their heads in amazement.
"What do you think is over there?" Sia asked Sebastian as they went through the courtyard, between upset students jostling and running from all sides, to join the others. She rose on her toes, stretching her head as high as she could in attempt to see above the crowd, but only managed to catch with the corner of her eye a strange glow mixed with iridescences.
Sebastian shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it doesn't matter to us."
In the classroom, the usual panic and banter prevailed. Suddenly, the door was slammed wide open and the never-running, always calm professor entered, agitated and panting loudly. The face Mr. Not was paler than ever while drops of sweat were rolling down it. What could have got him into such a state?
He reached the office and practically collapsed into his chair. He took a deep breath and swallowed with difficulty. "I have been told to immediately announce to you lot as soon as possible that we have been just notified that our school has been selected randomly by a government organisation concerned with researching the function of the human brain..."
Murmurs of surprise rose up in the air. Students exchanged glances of honest curiosity between them. Even those who were just loitering at this time turned their attention to the words of the teacher.
"I suppose you've already seen the machine that was brought here and is now in the gym. Some students will go there and engage in some tests. I am afraid that participation is compulsory and… You have to know that it is a great honour to be involved in this." He completed his speech hastily and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
"Sebastian." The voice of the teacher rang clear in Sia's ears. Surprised, she lifted her gaze to see an equally astonished Sebastian staring at her with wide eyes, moving toward the classroom door.
But the next moment, her surprise grew even more.
"Sia. You can follow Sebastian."
"Nice. They chose the most spoiled and most perverted of the class!" A malevolent high pitched screech of a voice sounded behind her back – Eline again. But, the glance that Sia nonchalantly cast over her shoulder made her shiver in her chair and immediately sit up straight.
Behind the door, Sebastian grabbed her hand. His fingers shook hers with strength. A 'crack' sounded and Sia bit her lips from the pain.
"There is no need to do that. You do not know what can happen..." He lashed out at her verbally in a hushed tone.
"I cannot deny such a thing in front of the whole class!" Sia responded with equal vigour. "I feel that it is compulsory that the whole school will learn…"
She paused. "Do you think it has to do with yesterday's visit to of the police?"
"Do these two events seem so accidental?" Sebastian asked sarcastically in reply to her question. He appeared to sink deep into his thoughts for a while.
"The only thing that can come out of all this is that we will be the first to know what is really happening…" He said eventually.
Inside the gym, commotion was raging on. People from school and the government alike came and went carrying equipment and other things. In the centre of the gym towered a structure that resembled a large glass cage. In the centre of it, there was a seat from where a lot of cable clutter began, ending up in a display that was located right next to it.
Inside wearing glasses was the man with the silver hair. He was inspecting 'the cage' sceptically, stopping every now and then to make some calculations in his mind. His hand touched the seat. He felt the material vibrating under it. A smile full of satisfaction spread on his face. "Do your best..." He whispered.
"Master Katsu," A voice sounded from somewhere behind. "The first two people have arrived."
In front of them, on the seat behind the bars, sat a girl of about sixteen years of age. Her black eyes stared straight ahead with determination and her whole posture implied that she was quite a dynamic individual. Katsu Ito's gaze came to rest upon the girl. After a few moments, his amber eyes left, looking tested.
"So you're the one who has the honour to test the cell..."He muttered and licked his lips eagerly.
A piece of paper appeared out of nowhere and her quickly ran his eyes over what was written on it.
"Anastasia de Niez." He read aloud. He threw a look to the attendees.
"Is she well known…?" The heads of the other moved up and down in agreement.
"Are you sure that subjects were chosen completely randomly?" Again, the same condescending shake of the head.
"Ok," He muttered. "She lives with her grandmother after the tragic death of her mother that occurred in front of her eyes; her cousin, that stopped walking by the age of seven after an accident in which her whole family was killed and another person, Sebastian Nis, whom her grandmother adopted after solicitation by Sia. Strange family..."
"They have money... They can do whatever they want ..." Someone commented.
"The weirdest with that family is adopting a child. Speaking in general, they keep a very low profile and never had concerned media."
"How we can be sure that what happened in front of her has no effect – even today – on her psyche?" Ito muttered to himself, thoughtfully staring at the paper.
"So many years passed. There's no way she would remember what has happened..." A voice sounded from the small crowd of technicians and alike, which had gathered during the last couple of minutes.
"Interesting..." Ito muttered. He raised his glance to lock eyes with Sia. "Well, Anastasia de Niez… What do you have to offer me?"
As a man approached her, connecting the last cable to the screen, Sia took a deep breath. While walking to the gym they had made up all these wild conspiracy theories with Sebastian about why their school was chosen to carry on the tests. They had come to the decision that she would go first, despite his strong reactions. And now her curiosity had skyrocketed. They had not given specific instructions. Neither had they got a sample of their DNA. All that was asked of them was for the pair of them to 'please remain absolutely calm'. Nothing else.
Finally, a helmet was gently fixed onto her head. When that happened, the contact with the outside world suddenly seemed to cease to exist. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. A male voice returned her to reality.
"Anastasia de Niez." Sia sat up surprised at hearing this voice all of a sudden. "Do you like playing games?"
"Games?" Sia reiterated.
"Yes. Video games. You are currently on the original portable model I-001 created solely for retaining full dive and all nine senses and with a dose of AI so that the player can enjoy the game to its fullest. So, Anastasia … I may now ask you again. Do you like video games?"
"No." Sia responded drily. "I have to do much more important things in real life."
Loud booming laughter reverberated in the air. The speaker had obviously found her answer to be absolutely hilarious. "You are really something else Anastasia de Niez. Nice… Let's begin! All I want from you is to be absolutely calm, and remember that this is just a game."
The voice fell silent and the light in the area went out. Sia felt the edges of her lips begin to dry. A soft female voice began to count down next to her ear. "Three... Two... One..."
Out of nowhere, a black whirlpool suddenly sprang up, almost instantly devouring her.
Over the screens Katsu Ito watched what was unfolding in front of him at that time with wide eyes. His eyelids were fluttering while his eyes gleamed with joy.
"Impossible..." He muttered. "I've never seen anyone with such synchronization…"
He looked up and focused on the girl within the strange construction. "Well... What are you really, Anastasia de Niez?"