After I finished my assessment, it took about a day before there was a knock on my door and Sylvan's assistant stood, arms crossed, foot tapping, outside. It was midmorning, and I had been reading a novel I had found under my bed. It was a bout a kid in a space academy, training to fight off aliens.

"Your scores are in. Gotta go see Sylvan now." She turned sharply on her heel, and stalked off in the direction of Sylvan's building. I quickly threw on my shoes and hustled to catch up.

"Hi, Lydia," Sylvan greeted me as I walked in through the door to his office and sat down on the chair opposite him. His office has kind of become a familiar, soothing place. I feel calm there, and I have started getting more and more relaxed, more and more open with Sylvan. Maybe that's why it was so easy to answer the questions on that survey so openly. I gave information that I really rarely ever give anyone. But, even knowing that it was Sylvan, instead of some automated system, asking for the information, I felt just the slightest urge to omit everything, but I was able to fight that urge off and answer openly anyways.

"Hey," I responded, "So, how's it look?"

"Well, there was a lot of stuff on that survey that you hadn't told me," he let the slightest sigh escape, "And I'd really like to talk to you about some of it, as your friend. But, as your supervisor, I'm going to have to warn you, there's a lot of stuff in there that's going to make getting a high enough rating in your field very difficult."

"What do you mean?" I asked slowly, aware that some tenseness from my body was oozing out through the words. I had suddenly gone a little rigid, as a reflex. "I thought you said that no matter what I tested, I could still change my field later?"

"Of course, Dahlia, but that's only if you qualify for the work. I mean, it wouldn't do us much good if we allowed, say, someone who's only been trained as a cook their entire life to start performing complicated surgeries, just because that's what they wanted to do. I'm not trying to compare your situation to that, but it's the same principle. That's the sort of situation we're trying to protect ourselves from,and people in situations like yours unfortunately tend to get caught somewhere in the middle. You're technically qualified to do the work, but you may or may not be of sound enough mind to perform the job. Does that make sense?" He was smiling this piteous smile at me, his brow creased with concern. I was pretty pissed, though, even though he seemed sincere.

"So, what your telling me is that even though I am extremely qualified for the work that I do, even though I'm good at it, even though the entire reason I'm here is because of it, even though I brought you what very well may be a new lead to the treatment of the most evasive, aggressive disease in history, you're going to block me off from my work on the basis of shit that happened before I even got this training? Because of the shit that drove me into this field in the first place?"

"Not exactly--" He started before I cut him off."

"What then?! What possible reasoning could you have for this decision?" I could feel my voice rising in pitch and volume, and made a conscious effort to keep myself under control.

"It's not one event or another that causes the system to flag you, or to rate you higher or lower in any given field. It's the combination of all the events, as well as the personality traits that you expose when you complete the "this or that" kind of questions. I haven't read your file yet, I haven't read the suggestions. The only part of the assessment that I have access to before this point in the process is the free entry portion. Based on the information that I saw, what I was required to rate... All I'm saying is that your cognitive and personality traits are going to have to rate fairly high, to balance out the potential risks."

I thought for a moment, collecting myself. I was pretty certain that my abilities are strong. Based on my history, I never really cracked during my career. Sure, I had trouble sometimes, it was hard to sleep at night, but I'm pretty sure that's standard in my line of work. We're killing, rekilling, and poking with sticks people who once had families and friends and lives. It's not pleasant.

"Fine," I said, sourly, "What are my scores, then? What are my options?"

Sylvan gingerly untied the manila envelope that had been under his resting hands. I hadn't noticed it before. He glanced at me briefly before opening the envelope, assessing me, I think. I tried to remain as neutral as possible.

"All right, so," he started, eyes sweeping across the page, left to right and back again. "You have four high scores, those are the suggested fields. Then there are four low scores, those are the fields you are completely not qualified for, and you will not be allowed to apply for them without a full education, training, and assessment. In the middle are all other areas, which are ranked in order of your aptitude. Depending on the scores for the lower few of the mid range fields, you may be required to take specialized assessments before entering the field, or you may be required to do complete or partial training. So, where should we start?"

"Tell me the top four first," I crossed my arms across my chest, hoping to both appear nonchalant and keep myself calm at the same time. I'm not really sure that either worked.

"All right, so your number one was teaching, specifically teaching biology, medicine, or any other form of science. That's not surprising. It's very similar to your field of choice, but is far less stressful on your body and mind.
"Number two, pharmacist. That one's interesting, since you don't technically have training in pharmacology. I suppose your background in biology, human testing, medicine, and chemistry had a lot to do with that one. You'd have to take a certification test, but I doubt you'd have any trouble with it if you studied a little.
"Number three, engineering and maintenance. Those are the ones who make sure our equipment and habitats are still running and will continue to work. They also work on new, innovative ways to improve our standard of living and the quality of our equipment. Your math score were phenomenal, as well as your reasoning and physics scores. I imagine you'd also have a lot of knowledge to add to our defense systems, since you are very familiar with the physiology of Z's.
"Finally, number four, we have nurse. Obviously, that's very close to what you wanted to do, you're just working with live people with minor ailments. It was probably rated the lowest of these four for the same reasons as your low rating in xenobiology: the stress levels."

He paused, looking at me, trying to read my response. Granted,those suggestions weren't that bad. I could see myself doing any of the four, had my history played out any differently. They weren't as bad as cleaning houses, or working a cash register or something. But they weren't what I was looking for. I didn't really want to, but I asked anyways, "What are the bottom four, then?"

"Well, from the bottom up, we've got carpentry, you're obviously not inclined or trained for that, so that makes sense.
"Then, there's IT, which are the ones who make sure that we can stay connected to the outside world, make sure the programs controlling the atmosphere down here works correctly. Again, you've never had any training, and you have no real desire for that kind of work, so it's another obvious exclusion.
"Next up was childcare, and the reason for that one was a combination of your lack of parenthood, along with your volatile, traumatic history, as well as the slight possibility of mental illnesses.
"Finally, number four, you won't be able to be a trader or recruiter. There is a team of people who go above ground every so often to trade, buy supplies, or check on information regarding any new outbreaks that may not have been reported. They also are the ones sent out to lead in new members, like Denise, when we find new people who need our help. Your desire not to be found right now, along with your unpredictable emotional health, keeps you from being eligible for that job. I think, overall, your non-eligible set is pretty spot-on for you, what do you think?"

I couldn't help but agree, and I couldn't help the corner of my mouth rising as I asked, "So that means that I can continue my work, right?"

"Let me see here..." He trailed off as his eyes scanned the page. "Well," he laid the paper down on his desk, then slowly raised his eyes to meet mine. I knew his answer before he could say it, "Not exactly. You're going to have to be specifically assessed for that program. It was sixth from the bottom of your midrange. Honestly, if it hadn't been for your strong desire for it, and your previous experience, there's no way you would have qualified to even train for that job."

Why is it that this is the only field so strongly affected by my emotional history? I mean, being a nurse is a high stress job, but I qualify. What's going on?" I demanded.

"There's a difference. Working with Z's puts you and everyone else here at risk. IT's the most strictly regulated field that we have. You have to understand, if we have an outbreak here, no one lives. The fact that we even bring infected tissue in here just barely got approved when we were drafting city laws. I had to fight tooth and nail to get the citizens and leaders to agree that this should be a research facility, and it was only under the agreement thta we could insure with the smallest amount of doubt that it would also be a safe haven for the people required to make the economy work, the 'nonskilled' workers who support and care for the researchers. The vast majority of the population here.
"So we have to take every precaution possible to protect them and their families. That means no one with any shadow of a doubt to their performance abilities can enter those chambers, unless they have enough to offer that it makes them worth the risk.
"That's where your assessments and retraining will come in. If you prove that you are both stable enough and worth enough to make the risk worth taking, we will take it.
"Today, though, you're going to have to choose another path. You will have until tomorrow morning to make your decision. I want to see you back here before noon so we can get you coded and prepared to begin. After your first cycle in your position, we'll reassess, and you can start on your training if you want. Deal?"

"Do I have a choice?" I couldn't hide the rage in my voice very well.
"Not really."

So I went home with my paper and started reading my options. At the bottom of the page, there was a little disclaimer that read, 'If you have any inquiries about job descriptions or requirements, please see the recruiting and assessment team in the Welcome Center between sunup and sundown, seven days a week.

I guess I just didn't really want to be alone anymore, after all this time in my apartment. And I figured I could use some information about some of the jobs I wasn't entirely familiar with. I suppose, deep down, I just didn't want to make a decision by myself and be stuck with it and with no one else to blame, so I made my way back to the Welcome Center after about an hour or so of trying to find some way to make a decision.

No comments:

Post a Comment