“I like the father. It’s almost hard to believe that he was real at some point,” cheerfully spoke Atlas.
“I wouldn’t become attached. He’s probably the first thing they’ll change in the next transfer,” openly announced Damion.
“What do you mean?!” exclaimed Atlas.
“They always start with the parents. If a great dad makes a serial killer, then maybe a bad dad makes a great kid,” explained Damion.
“I hate my job sometimes,” disappointedly spoke Atlas.
“Speaking of work, we need to check the reviews before we go to the next press conference.”
“Well, our great leader cannot find the time in her very busy schedule for something as simple as a second press conference.”
“So we're expected to do her job for her now?”
“Well apparently we did so well with the last one she’s confident that we could ‘get the job done’.”
“So we’ll ignore the fact I have stage fright and these press conferences make me incredibly uncomfortable,” grumbled Atlas.
“Just think of it in a positive light: Soon you will get so used to it and have conquered fear,” encouraged Damion.
With Atlas still sulking in the chair beside him, Damion pulled up the reviews for the show. Several graphs appeared on the holograph in front of him, each one with a face of a character on it.
“Look! It doesn’t seem like I’m the only one who likes her father,” ecstatically announced Atlas.
“Looking at these graphs, the only character who doesn’t seem to be in the audience’s favor is the principal, and judging by the comments from viewers they hope she’s the first one they kill,” stated Damion as he was reading off the pad in his hand.
“Well, she did come off as a bitch,” calmly responded Atlas.
“ATLAS! Do I need to remind you that these used to be real people? This is more of a documentary, not a tale of fiction,” scolded Damion.
“I’m sorry, Damion. It’s just a really good show so far and, it’s hard not to get sucked in,” ashamedly admitted Atlas.
“We can’t afford to lose sight of this project; it was barely approved of in the first place.”
“I know. I won’t be unprofessional again. You can count on me,” encouraged Atlas.
“Well let’s get some of these viewer questions ready to answer for the press conference tomorrow. We need to be prepared for any hostile comments against the show as well,” said Damion.
The next morning Damion and Atlas found themselves in wardrobe and makeup preparing for the press conference before the new episode aired. Atlas was of course still squirming in his chair and making the makeup artist’s job more difficult. It took a speech about him embarrassing Damion before he finally calmed down. When it was time to start the press conference Damion explained to the audience that he wanted to answer viewer questions first before anything else since the point of the project was for the community.
“First question: Is it safe? Well of course that would be the first question,” joked Damion, the reporters all laughed behind him. “The containment world is completely safe, I assure you. We have several military officials that guard the outside perimeter to the containment wall. This wall is made from explosion-proof concrete, shockproof glass, and a new substance we are calling Devour. For example: let’s say our antagonists want to blow up a nuclear plant. This new substance will absorb any nuclear radiation that could potentially leak out into our world. If any of that seems to be insufficient, we have a kill switch for the whole project.
’Second Question: Should I expect higher taxes with this new government project? Of course everyone’s favorite subject is money. Re-Inc has many divisions that each bring in their own revenue which always have some money to spare that is being used for the project. We are optimistic that the television series will be a hit and start making its own revenue. Just because the government is supporting the project does not mean you’ll be paying for it through new taxes.
’Third question: Why did you make them so attractive? These are absolute clones made from various DNA collected at crime scenes. They are attractive because they happened to be attractive in life. We didn’t alter them in any way for the show. We simply transferred their consciousness into new bodies for this rehabilitation. If you find them attractive, then so be it. Let’s remember they weren’t suspects for almost a decade-- maybe them being attractive is what made them look innocent? Now, these were the most common questions from the viewers and from this point on they will be answered on the website which I will answer personally. Now if the media has any questions you may ask.” The press all began to shout out raising their hands in order to attract Damion’s attention.
“You, there” spoke Damion as he pointed to a woman.
“Mr. Chester, you said that you’re transferring their consciousness not their souls” curiously questioned the woman.
Damion lightly chuckled at this question before he spoke “As we are all aware there are two main groups in this society the Soulees, those who believe that we are ripping out souls and preventing them from passing in order to reincarnate them and well people like me have not claimed a name for ourselves though we were given the name Crickets by others. This company was built by a Soulee but that doesn’t insist that we all must be one, we still all have the same goal which is to build a safer world.”
After Damion finished the rush of the press trying to get his attention “You used the word world as well earlier but there is only about a state size area right now” spoke the same woman.
Damion grinned “I’m glad you’re listening so well, yes I said world these individuals wreaked havoc on a worldwide basis so to show you the actual events we have begun to terraform our own planet, one who we could easily manipulate the environment as we please and tear down then rebuild for any transfer to come.” The press began to murmur between them writing down or talking to the cameras behind them repeating Damion's words. Damion waited patiently for them to absorb what he had told them.
Atlas leaned over towards Damion covering his microphone “We weren’t supposed to release that information until the construction was complete, not to mention she specifically wanted to release it herself.”
Damion smiled at Atlas “I assumed she would be too busy.”
Over the next week, Will showed up at 4 pm every day to help Aj with her homework. Eventually, Aj musters up the courage to ask about Hayley, Will briefly explained that her adopted parents weren’t happy and have her under house arrest until the suspension was over. He continued to explain that they were overprotective of her due to them not being able to have kids and barely had enough money to adopt Hayley so a second child wasn’t an option for them, not that it matters they seemed to be happy with her. Even though she didn’t see Hayley other than that first day she was able to tell she would enjoy her presence as well thanks to the way Will always talked about her.
When the suspension was over Will had shown up in his truck with Hayley, it was a tight squeeze but Aj didn’t mind. “So let's make a deal to not get suspended or in any trouble today” insisted Hayley.
“You would be the first before any of us” responded Will.
“I know that” raised Hayley’s voice, “that’s why I’m the one demanding we make it. I would be more willing to behave if I knew we had a pact.”
Aj smiled “I’m in, iv never made a pact with anyone but my dad.”
“Always been a lone wolf,” asked Will.
Aj looked away out the window “People never seemed like an important factor I needed in my life.”
“Well were different I can feel it we are going to do amazing things together” excitedly spoke Hayley.
Aj sat and listen to them talk for the last couple minutes of the drive. She watched them closely and noticed how playful they were with each other. Will was usually calm around Aj but being near Hayley seemed to give him new energy and Aj was feeling the energy as well. “After school, why don’t you let us show you around town?” spoke Will.
Snapping out of her own thoughts “Sure, I haven’t gone anywhere but to school and back home” replied Aj.
“There’s a lot of old buildings and houses around they’re really cool,” excitedly interjected Hayley.
“Then it’s official after school you will get the best this town has to offer” confidently spoke Will.
Aj had no classes with either of them which may the day drag by. The other students at the school seemed dull compared to her new friends. They all migrated with one and another talked about ordinary things with their obvious biased opinions that seemed all originated from elsewhere not their own minds. The classes itself seemed simple enough mostly worksheet work and the occasional teamwork, thankfully Aj arriving put the classes at an odd number and she was free to work by herself even though the teacher insisted she joins one of the groups. She could hear other students whisper about her “She’s been suspended from every school she’s been in” whispered a girl in class.
“I heard her dad always bails her out of Jail too” responded another girl. Imbeciles Aj thought to herself. Lunchtime rolled around and she was finally able to see Hayley and Will.
“There’s an opening in my mechanics class, that’s probably the only opening you’ll find in classes” explained Will.
“Sounds better than nothing” replied Aj. Aj began looking around the room and noticed the majority of the cafeteria staring her way feeling her with anger.
“It’s the rumors student council started about you” Hayley spoke after noticing Aj’s body becoming tense.
“Why is its student councils business to talk about me?” asked Aj even more furiously.
“The fight, they’re always trying to get Will expelled because they consider him an embarrassment, well one of those jocks girlfriends is on the council and when she heard that Will had a new friend she looked into your past,” explained Hayley.
“But some of it is just lies!” furiously responded Aj.
Hayley grinned “Oh? Which parts are true than?” she asked.
Aj blushed from her own embarrassment, not that she was ashamed of her past but the fact she wasn’t used to someone, a friend, being so interested in her.
“It doesn’t matter Hayley what matters is that there will definitely be more fights,” Will stated. Aj understood what Will was trying to point out, she would have to break her promise again.
“So much for a new start,” Aj sighed.
“Your dad seems to like the kind of guy who would understand” Will attempted to reassure her.
“He is that’s the point, he’s been the best, the kind of dad that only seemed possible on television” Aj explained upset still “and to repay him I keep managing to fuck things up.”
Hayley slammed her juice bottle on the table “Don’t talk about yourself like that,” a strange seriousness took over her face a side that Aj wouldn’t have expected from her “you’re not a fuck up and your dad wouldn’t be so great if he thought you were.”
Before Aj could respond the bell rang indicating that lunch was over. “Were still on for this afternoon right?” asked Will. “Yeah!” excitedly answered Aj she almost forgot about their plans. “Great meet us at the office so we can change your schedule before we head off” Will explained.