Only ten remained, from the thousands of candidates that had attempted the selection process into the Elite Guard.
Many aspirants that would have been more than exceptional within the ranks of the Regiments, were cast aside. Only the best of the best could call themselves Guardsmen. The ten which had made it this far were close to attaining that honour. But their trials were not quite over.
The Captain of the Guard and high protector of Earth's President, paced up and down the line of wheezing men. He would take only three.
‘My name gentleman, is Master Tong. I trust you have all heard of me.’
The candidates all nodded. After all, Who had not heard of the legendary captain.
Tong approached a young man that had stood out from all others over the past four weeks. He was only eighteen years old. That was a young age for a guardsman. But this one had shone like a star going supernova. No one had beaten him on the duelling mats in single combat. He had also come first in every challenge that had been laid before them.
That did not mean he would pass through. It was likely, but the tests were not over yet.
‘Why do you want to be a Guardsmen young man?’
The normal answer when Tong asked this question, would be to protect the President and Earth. He was expecting the same from this candidate who had ticked all other boxes. He did not answer straight away. The prodigy looked over to the setting sun that was sinking behind the swiss alps, casting the dojo in a glow that Tong found pleasing. He did not hurry the candidate for an answer.
‘I want it sir, because someone told me once that I could not have it.’
‘Who told you that you could not have it?’
‘My father sir. I am not genetically enhanced like most other candidates here. I neither come from a noble family. He saw these problems to be insurmountable.’
Tong knew in that moment that this one would go through.
‘How did you see those problems?’
‘I do not see problems sir, only solutions. If something I want is difficult, I just turn my will to master it.’
‘Some would find you arrogant for saying so young man.’
‘No arrogance sir. Only confidence In what I am capable of.’
Some of the others looked at his boast with envious eyes. They had all fell at some point to his skill. A rival in particular stared daggers at the exchange.
‘Your confidence is well placed. Tell me who taught you your skills?’
‘I taught myself sir.’
Some eyes went wide in surprise. It was inconceivable that he had trained himself to beat all others, who had received instruction from famous masters. For some reason, Tong believed him.
‘Then you have proved your father wrong Dorn Bruce. You will be the first candidate to be selected into the advanced training academy.’
Everyone knew he would be the first. It was just strange to everyone lined up, that someone from such low birth without any physical or mental enhancements could be so good.
Dorn lowered his head and closed his eyes. A single tear fell from his cheek. The first show of weakness any of them had seen. Tong was pleased to see how much it had meant to him.
‘Step forward Dorn.’
He did as ordered and stepped out of line. After years of sacrifice, he had made it.
‘Thank you Captain Tong.’
Said Dorn, clearly trying to control his emotions.
‘I require no thanks. You have done this yourself.’
He turned to the rest; they all looked on eagerly to see who would be the next to be chosen. He did not keep them waiting.
‘The next candidate to pass, is Lin Kam.’
An oriental man about the same age of Dorn stepped forward smiling. He had also shown exceptional ability throughout the trials. There was just one more selection to make. The first two had been easy choices. No one else had been in the first two candidates leagues. Tong had been forced to consider the third selection with great care. It was between a young man from a noble family who demonstrated a remarkable strategic mind.
His name was William Defoe, son of Tiberius Defoe who had also been a guardsmen and rival to Tong. This would not affect the lads chances of progression. But there was another of equal ability to Defoe that was of a lower class of family who had no military ties. His name was Fin Donnelly, and his family were wealthy landowners that held no great influence within Earth's military. What separated the two came simply to character.
Defoe was not a pleasant person in the slightest. Throughout the whole process he had schemed and made several enemies to get to the final ten. He had made few friends so far for his efforts.
Donnelly in comparison was the complete paradox to Defoe. He was the joker of the ten, and apart from Defoe, was friendly and well liked by most.
‘William Defoe and Fin Donnelly step Forward.’
They did as they were bid and stepped forward. Both candidates looked confused to both be called out of line. Everyone knew they only took three a year.
‘It has been a difficult selection between the two of you. Traditionally the Elite Guard only except three outstanding candidates into its advanced training academy. This year however has been our best batch by far.’
Both young men looked with hope at the possibility of advancing to the academy.
‘That is why you will both be joining our ranks. Congratulations to you all.’
Donnelly could hardly contain himself, he was so pleased. He would have to learn to control his emotions thought Tong. But he would allow his jubilation. He remembered how elated he had felt when he was given this honor.
Defoe was poker faced and unreadable, but he must had been just as happy to make it into the most elite fighting force humanity had ever produced.
‘The rest of you; the ones that did not make it. You must leave here with your heads held high. You made it to the final ten. Any Regiment would be proud to have you. You may all try again next year.’ You are all dismissed.’
‘Defoe marched off alone, such was his way, while the others that did not make it, gathered around the other three that had passed to offer their congratulations. Nighttime was coming, and no doubt the small group would go off and have a drink or two in farewell. The new guardsmen would regret drinking too much though. In the morning their training would begin.