Chapter 6

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Johnny waited patiently in his office for Mr. Casey. Mr. Casey had a horrific fear of the gas beyond the gate. Until recently, he was unable to look out into the forest. Johnny's office was on the top floor, so for the first year, Johnny met Mr. Casey at the center of the town. In a small coffee shop that was secluded and private. Now Mr. Casey met Johnny in his office, with his blinds up. Controlled exposure was one of the best forms of overcoming fear.

Mr. Casey couldn't handle it at first, the thought of looking, brought the idea of going, and his body induced panic attacks. It took constant thought practice for Johnny to help Mr. Casey. Johnny had patience, and over time Mr. Casey was able to stand on his own. Mr. Casey knocked on Dr. Hansen's door and let himself in. "Hey Doc, how are ya doing today?" he asked, as he took a seat. "I'm doing great Mr. Casey. On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your fear level today?" Johnny asked, leaning forward on his elbows. Johnny would lower the gates but never consistently. Sometimes he would wait hours, sometimes minutes.

"I'm a seven today, I'm sure of it." Mr. Casey answered. "Is it the gas?" Johnny asked. "I've been having nightmares, Doc. I know my fear is only rational if I'm outside the gate. I have no reason too." Mr. Casey answered. Johnny shut the blinds in his office. Today was minutes. Mr. Casey had other demons to confront. Truthfully, Johnny couldn't wait for Cynthia's training to begin.

Cynthia woke up, and she was starving. She was never hungry in the morning, she thought. Cynthia zapped her food and gulped it down. They had nanite technology that was able to reconstruct any diet on command. Then she headed straight for her Library. She felt the need to read. Her parents left her a collection of books, and she never touched them until now. Most of them dealt with military strategy and consciousness combat. Cynthia laughed, as she wondered how many books were from Johnny's world and how many were from hers.

Cynthia was halfway through her fourth book when she felt hungry again. Something is seriously wrong with me, she thought. Cynthia headed to her kitchen and zapped another meal, and this one was bigger than the first. A few more hours and she was training, the thought. A part of her felt like she needed to go through this.

Was she was done eating she dove back into the books. She continued reading until she had 15 minutes left. Cynthia finished reading eight books total. When she finished the last one, she put on sweats and a baggy shirt. Cynthia stopped herself going out the door, what was I thinking? She would never go out like this in public. She never ate so much in her life. Never would she get caught dead reading one book, let alone eight.

Cynthia put on her running shoes, and she was out the door, in a dead sprint. She had the sudden urge to run. When Cynthia made it to Johnny's office, with minutes to spare, Cynthia took off again. She started running around the town. It was a collective of small shops that supported each other. Everyone contributed something special that someone needed. No one took more than they gave. Cynthia's parents always bragged about how close their community compared to the others. This principle, they said, was a big part of it.

Cynthia knew that this was his doing. Something wasn't right, but she didn't want to stop running. If she stopped running, she would probably punch that stupid doctor in the face. Cynthia wondered about actually doing it but decided to restrain herself. Instead, she finished her run and returned to his office. "Bye Mr. Casey," Cynthia said as Mr. Casey opened the door for her. "Bye Cynthia, were you running?" He asked. "We're all running," Cynthia answered as she jogged up the stairs. Mr. Casey nodded in agreement as he walked out of the building.

As Cynthia made her way to the top floor, she began dissecting her motives, her actions and found one ingredient missing, fear. Cynthia felt no fear.

"Hello Cynthia, How are you feeling today?" Johnny asked as she made her way into his office. "Nothing new, what kind of training are we doing today?" Cynthia asked. Cynthia felt like it was better to keep things to herself. "Very well, today we are going over your arsenal." Johnny paused for a moment and glanced at Cynthia out of the corner of his eye. She felt like he was studying her.

"Arsenal?" Cynthia asked, drawing Johnny's attention towards her. "You mean like a bow?" Cynthia asked. "You're going to train with something, more versatile," Johnny answered. Johnny walked up to the arcade shooting game. He grabbed one of the plastic pistols and disconnected it from the machine. "But that doesn't work," Cynthia stated. Johnny simply smiled, he shifted something on the pistol, and it made a beep. "Got it," Johnny said. The pistol made a few other noises, and four buttons shifted to the exterior. Johnny pressed them in a combination and gun clicked.

The plastic on the outer edge of the gun shifted and moved. When it stopped, Johnny was no longer holding a blue plastic pistol. "It that real?" Cynthia asked, admiring the metal casing that now covered the pistol. She had only read about guns. They were considered ancient and outlawed. Johnny handed her the weapon, which she carefully accepted. "Don't worry. It's not armed. You have to pass Sparky's training first." Johnny said with a smirk. The metal felt cold in Cynthia's hands. "Is it like the game?" She asked. "It's nothing like the game," he answered.

Johnny pushed the start button, and it moved forward, revealing a small switch. Johnny flipped it, and the game screen went black. The same pistol in Cynthia's hand appeared on the screen.

"Welcome Cynthia," she recognized the voice as Sparky's. "The weapon you are holding is the S2-11." Sparky appeard in his box form on the screen and reassembled himself, before continuing. Cynthia admired the gun while he spoke. "The weapon is a multi-combat tool, the first of its kind." The blank screen flashed and turned on. Sparky rolled across his screen and appeared in the other. "He's going to teach me?" Cynthia asked, with a laugh. It didn't seem to amuse Johnny. "Yes, he is going to teach you, it's gun safety, so I expect you to take it seriously. Nothing would be worse than getting to the end of the mission, only to have you accidentally shoot yourself." Johnny answered.

Johnny opened his laptop and went to work at his desk while Sparky continued. "This weapon is designed to fit any ideal combat situation. Press the first button closest to the handle as soon as you see the next image." Sparky ordered. Cynthia placed her trigger finger over the button and waited. The next image appeared, and Cynthia pressed the button. She was so surprised when the gun extended that she almost dropped it. The hammer of the pistol extended into a stock, and the barrel extended forward into a long barrel. Cynthia stared at it in amazement. The gun was now a pump action shotgun.

"How many can it turn into?" Cynthia asked. Johnny stopped typing and looked up from his computer. "That weapon can turn into any weapon you need." He answered and returned to his work. Sparky moved back to the original screen. "Please flip through the common commands and most common weapons," he said. The arrows on the machine began lighting up. Cynthia pressed the right arrow.

Sub Machine gun, the statistics of the weapon displayed along with the access code, 1411, it read. Cynthia pressed the closest button to her, the furthest, and finally the closest twice more. The shotgun made some clicking noises and shifted itself into a submachine gun. "What about ammo?" Cynthia asked. Johnny looked up again, "Some kid involved in nanobot technology decided to take "infinite ammo" a step further. The nanites in the gun reload itself. There's a small cooling period depending on the weapon." Johnny answered.

"What was wrong with your world, that you needed such an advanced weapon," Cynthia asked. "We were what was wrong," Johnny answered, he began to drift off, his gaze following the forest before getting back to his work. "Today, you study. Tomorrow, I'll teach you how to fight." Jonny said, and he left his office. Where did he go? Cynthia thought to herself. Sparky interrupted her traveling thoughts. "You have eight tests to pass today. I will guide you through each weapon. Please say 'begin' when you're ready."

"What can you tell me about Johnny?" Cynthia asked. She waited, but Sparky said nothing. "Fine, begin," she said. Sparky began running the program, and Cynthia followed along.

Johnny returned a few hours later with two large duffelbags. "What's in there?" Cynthia asked. "Supplies, clothes, and food. You can use the office bathroom to change. It's best you don't leave her looking like you fought a war." Johnny said, he chuckled at the end to soften the word war. Cynthia mimicked his chuckle in response. He was right though, and she knew it. Alexandria may have been the smallest town, but that didn't make it any less busy.

"How did the training go?" Johnny asked as he began organizing things. "I passed," Cynthia responded. "Is everything okay, I mean you would tell me if something was wrong, wouldn't you?" Johnny asked. Cynthia felt his sincerity, but her instinct told her to lie to him. "Couldn't be better, is that it for today?" She answered. The truth was, she was becoming a completely different person, and she didn't know how to explain it without sounding crazy. "We're just getting started." Johnny answered.

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