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"Please, come in," my mother says, patting herself down in an effort to smooth out the wrinkles. Her cheeks are pink, and I watch her eyes dart around the living room, making sure it's clean.

We have never had an officer in our house. Binns comes over every now and again, to tell my parents how well I'm doing in class, but Rivers and President Kovach are celebrities compared to him.

My father appears in the doorway, bright red hair peeking behind his shoulder at me.

"Oh, Alexis," Professor Binns says as he leads the president and colonel to the couch. Lexi waves at him, smiling. "You received your scores?"

"Yes, Professor," she says, in a small voice, pushing past my father to stand in the living room. Her mother isn't as brave.

"And you did well?"

"My score was 452."

"I'm very proud of you. I never had a doubt," Binns says, standing with his hands folded in front of him. President Kovach crosses her legs, sitting up as straight as possible on our old couch. She looks like a pearl sitting in a trash pile. Rivers, though, seems comfortable. One of his arms is propped on the back of the couch behind the president, and the other is in his lap.

"You should have this," President Kovach says, and I realize she's still staring at me. Really, we've been watching each other. Her voice is chilling, smooth like honey. Goosebumps spread over my arms.

I take the envelope out of her outstretched hand, willing my hand not to shake.

"Open it, and read it aloud," she says, in her velvet voice. The fact that she is basically commanding me to doesn't register.

Tearing the light blue seal off, I pull the letter out and unfold it. The paper is thick, and the lettering is embossed. Someone put time into making this presentable.

"Dear Quinn Austin," I read, in a low voice, "Within this e-mail are the results to your Intelligence Exam taken on Monday, May 3rd, 2029."

"Speak up, Quinn," Mom says, hands over her mouth. I nod, clearing my throat and continuing.

"Your score for the first section of the exam was one hundred percent, giving you two hundred points."

I stop, letting out a little air. I wasn't so worried about the first portion of the exam; it was the easiest. Anxious, I flatten the letter and read more.

"Your score for the second portion was one hundred percent, earning you another hundred points. You have no physical deformities or imperfections. Your score for the third portion was also one hundred percent, giving you a total of five hundred points."

I drop the letter, because my hands start shaking.

My mother is crying, gently, just loud enough that I can hear her sniffling. Staring at the carpet, I play with my hands, trying to get them to be still. My heart pounds in my chest.

This can't be happening.

My mind is a medley of emotions, jumbling everything up. First, I look at Lexi, who is grinning broadly. Of course, she would represent the happiness I feel. Then, my parents, who both look immensely proud. I look at Rivers, whose face I can't describe. He doesn't smile, and his forehead furrows as he watches me. Then, there's Kovach, who is still smirking, those eyes analyzing me.

"How do you feel, Quinn?" she suddenly says, blinking. I was staring again.

"I, um, I don't know," I say, rubbing my cheeks, "I'm confused."

"About what?"

"Are you kidding me?"

My mom gasps, and I realize my mistake. Etiquette.

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