33 - Evaluate Me

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The car ride to the ecomp had been silent.

Prof had stared out the window of the passenger seat the entire time. He hadn't said much since I'd explained to him the details of, well, everything. Needless to say, it hadn't gone great.

But hey, at least he'd liked Isaac.

Now we were at the venue in which the competition was being held. The place was a palace, the size of a football stadium. However, my growing nerves prevented me from paying too much attention to my ostentatious environment.

We were waiting anxiously outside the evaluation room. Lisa, Adrian and Rokim had gone to find out when it'd be starting, so we were left with Prof to stand near the doors. Only Rian and I would actually be going in, though; the rest would be herded off into the stands as part of a small audience.

So not only was I going to fail miserably, all my friends were going to see it happen. Fan-freaking-tastic, I thought bitterly. 

Unfortunately, I was drawn out of my musings before I could formulate a plan.

"Well," said a snide voice, out of nowhere. "If it isn't Ms. Jordan."

My eyes snapped to the person who had spoken, already feeling anger pool in my gut. Rian did the same, scowling as soon as he saw who it was. 

He shifted around slightly—stuffing something into his pocket?—but I wasn't able to see what he was doing clearly. My gaze was stuck on one thing, and one thing only.

The old evaluator from last night stood a few feet away, an ugly smirk on his even uglier face. "And I see you brought your insolent friend along with you. Delightful."

A fiery rejoinder was already on my lips, ready to slam him into a not-so-early grave. But, with the help of a warning glance from Prof, I barely managed to hold my tongue. 

"Yes," I forced myself to respond politely. The words tasted as bitter as I felt. I thanked my lucky stars that I'd at least managed to learn his name before we arrived. "It's nice to see you again, Mr. Waddles."

His eyes narrowed balefully. I raised my eyebrows, unsure what had gone wrong. But I couldn't deny a hint of satisfaction upon seeing his steadily reddening face. 

"It's pronounced Wad-lays!" he hissed, clearly offended.

I blinked. "Ah. Wadlays. Yes, that's much better."

Prof shook his head, muttering something under his breath. I winced a little—from what I caught, it didn't sound very good. 

Mr. Waddles simply sneered. "I'm glad to see you're as disrespectful as ever, Ms. Jordan," he spat. "That way, it will seem much less surprising when I give you a score of zero during your evaluation."

I bristled, and Prof looked up sharply from where he'd been staring at the floor. The words hung in the air, and Waddles' smug expression proved he meant them. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Suspecting bias in a judge was one thing, but an outright declaration was another.

"That is an enormous breach of regulation," Prof said, his voice concealing a torrent of tightly restrained anger.

Waddles considered him with disdain. "Then perhaps you shouldn't have sent them to the Evaluators' Ball in the first place. Upstarts like you don't even deserve an invitation," he said nastily. "It was a wonder these two were allowed through the door."

I was silent, mulling over his words. Rian was stock-still, not engaging in the slightest. Whatever he'd been doing, shifting around earlier, had stopped as soon as Waddles had spoken. Prof scowled but said nothing, probably trying to keep the situation from worsening. 

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