Chapter 13.3: The Gaming Commission

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The Commissioner's questions were a distraction at best. Getting her to focus on details that didn't matter combined with long wait periods and repetition of similar interviews was designed to open her up to the real line of questions. She was prepared for the real questions, since time was fleeting, they'd have to ask them soon. It was easy to remain on point when she kept to the facts and didn't elaborate.

It would be as simple as tossing in the question like: What colour were your socks? Followed in quick succession by: What did you use to murder Colonel Mustard? A slip of the tongue, and she'd find herself watching from a distance as the Ghost in the Machine devoured a whole generation of people.

There were other schools in other towns. Most top-world school focused on skills that were needed within the community, as though expecting that when their young returned from the war, they would pick up where they left off, never aspiring for more. The capitol had a fair number of schools to serve its multi-million populace. Only in the capitol could a person find a school dedicated to the study of culture and the arts. The people who came to the Academy were looking for something exclusive to the school; participation in the games namely, but there were other incentives.

Top-worlders could earn residential rights within the safety of the capitol. Marriage and breeding contract access improved in numbers and in quality for young women looking to escape the terrors of war and were willing to offer in their stead the next generation of soldiers. Legacy students benefited from multi-generational networking which aided in the acquisition of high-level jobs, trade deals, and mergers, which meant that the money remained with a dwindling number of people. That was fine, if the war carried on for much longer, there wouldn't be anything left to barter with. A king who cares not for his people is ruler of nothing.

In essence, the Academy had become a school so entrenched with the elite culture that it had become the place to attend if parents wanted their children to achieve ambitious goals, particularly political ambitions. Astral's talents were wasted at a school that focused on social climbing. She craved the wilds of the killing fields where she could shed the illusion of humanity and ravage the demon hordes with the ancient power they once feared and respected. Surrounded by so many people, with far too much security looking for an excuse to label her as a threat, she dare not consider using even a snippet of her talents. However, in unleashing her power, she ran the risk of losing herself, which meant her core would win. She couldn't have that.

'Who destroyed the pillar to cross the gorge?'

Astral considered her answer carefully. Admitting she or Seth had the resources to blow the pillar would admit that they also had the means to destroy the bridge, which occurred before the make-shift bridge. An idea scratched at the surface of her brain. Did they know about the wards and where they lead?

"The game was a strange experience." She stared off into the distance caught on the wave of an idea. "It reminded me of a training simulator. I played with one once when grand-father toured some of the training facilities down south. It was a low grade system. The graphics were terrible. Ultimately how it worked was they would place a subject into stasis while running the program. In theory, the program used a lucid dreaming technique to prepare the soldier for war. Well...except for their bodies. I was only under for 3 days, but there's a familiarity to the sensation."

She leaned in, her legs tucking under her as she stared into the man behind the machine. "You see, I'm very good at taking control of my dreams. It's what qualified me to go through a sampling of the program. Just imagine the things a person can do when they realize that nothing is real and that with a single thought, the environment will provide."

She leaned back again, returning her gaze to some arbitrary spot on the wall. "It's a fascinating game. With the level of technology needed to control the randomness of the players actions, I have to admit, I wondered who would want to blow the bridge, especially as Seth and I would have been on the verge of crossing, had we not found an alternate path."

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