After the Shell class, the group went back to their room. Quin gave Timothy and Jordan a quick history of his life and of his parents. They gave him looks of pity, which Quin hated. He felt he was happier without toxic people in his life, even if those people were his own parents.
The next day, the group went to their suit-fitting appointment. It took place on the medical floor. The process was fairly simple and quick, as the designers who fabricated the suits had already taken their measurements and plate placements while they were on the operating table, and the suits were ready for them to try on when they arrived. The designers just needed to make sure everything was set correctly and make any minor tweaks that were needed.
Quin’s fitting took about five minutes. He slipped on his suit, and it formed perfectly to his body. It was tight, but comfortable. It felt like an extra layer of skin. The fabric was thick and heavy, but very smooth. It felt like a cross between silk and polyester. Quin was afraid that it would be too hot inside the suit, but once he put it on, it breathed very nicely. It was grey, with the PYKSEL logo encased in a blue triangle on the chest. Another blue triangle was in the same spot on the back of his suit. The suit covered everything except his face. It had built in shoes and gloves for him to slip his feet and hands into. The hood pulled over the top of his head and ended just below his hairline. He felt like he was going scuba diving. Quin looked in the mirror and thought he looked ridiculous, like a bad superhero. When Quin had pulled the suit on, he felt its magnets cling to the ones that were implanted in him. They weren’t very strong, so it didn’t make it difficult, but it felt weird for his skin be pulled from underneath, as if bugs were crawling through him. Once the suit was in place, he didn’t notice it anymore.
Once he was fitted and the designer gave her approval, he changed back into his regular clothes and returned to the lobby. Timothy was already finished and waiting. In his arms, he held a folded suit that looked identical to Quin’s. A few minutes later, Blair and Jordan emerged from the double doors, also carrying their suits.
Before returning to their rooms, the group decided to get an early dinner. They dispersed in the dining area to get the food they wanted, then met back up at a communal table in the center of the room. It was very packed and loud. They didn’t usually eat that early.
There wasn’t enough privacy to have any serious conversation. Instead, they pretended to make small talk as they eavesdropped on the conversations around them. One girl at the table across from Quin was staring at him and twirling her hair. She was pretty, Quin thought, but he had no real interest. He gave her a fake smile and looked away.
Blair noticed the girl as well, but she wasn’t the jealous type. She saw girls gawk over Quin all the time, but she always just laughed and found it hilarious. If they only knew, she thought. She also knew that Quin was loyal and that she didn’t need to worry about him.
She leaned to Quin and said, “If you have to flirt, flirt. Maybe then they won’t try to shoot us.”
Quin laughed and nudged her with his shoulder. “Good point,” he said as he swallowed a bite of food. He looked at the staring girl and winked at her. She smiled, flushed, and looked away. He heard Blair laugh beside him as she squeezed his forearm.
Most of the conversations they overheard were related to The Prism. They heard strategies, concerns, and some people bragging. Nothing was particularly notable until someone pounded a fist on the table several seats to the left of Quin. They all looked to see a small, skinny girl with a pixie haircut standing half out of her seat and staring intently at the man across from her. Her hair was black, and she had a fair complexion. She was small, but she looked fierce. The man she was yelling at didn’t back down in the face of her aggression. Instead, he matched it with just as much intensity. He was taller than her, but just as skinny. His hair was very short, barely even there.
“You can’t be serious!” she yelled a little too loudly. “You’ll get us killed!”
“No way! I know what I’m doing,” he said, leaning over the table.
“We need to be careful. Play back. Snipe them and stay undercover. This isn’t a game,” she said.
“If you want to be a little bitch and camp in the corner, be my guest, but I’m here to eliminate people as quickly as possible and make my way to the end.” He stood up. The cafeteria was quiet, and all eyes were on them.
“Yeah, well, you can’t make it to the end if you’re dead. I’ll try to keep them off you, or maybe I won’t,” she yelled as he stormed off. She sat back down in her seat and noticed everyone’s eyes on her. “What are y’all looking at?” she yelled. She quickly grabbed her stuff and stomped out of the HUE.
Shortly after that episode, Quin and the rest of the group finished eating and went back to their room. The next schedule was waiting for them. It read,
You all will be escorted from your rooms tomorrow between 9:00 AM and 9:30 AM. Be ready with your suits on. You will be participating in your first round of phase one in The Prism. Further instructions will be given upon arrival to The Prism Simulation Room. We suggest you drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, and stretch before you come. This will be physical work.
“We haven’t even begun to strategize for this. It seems like everyone else is a step ahead,” Blair said worriedly.
“We‘ll be fine. Everyone talks, but no one knows what this will be like. No one is prepared. We are pretty level-headed people,” Timothy said with pride. “If we keep our cool and stick together, I think we will be just fine.”
“He’s right,” Quin said. He kissed Blair on the head. “We just need to relax and go in calm and collected. That’s easier said than done, but we have to try.”
“Though I would suggest taking a long-range approach at first, scoping out what we’re up against,” Jordan said.
“Sure, if long range is an option. But we don’t know what terrain we will be facing,” Timothy said He shrugged matter-of-factly. “We could be in close quarters with a hundred other people.”
“Hmm, true,” Jordan agreed. “Then I guess we just wait and see what it’s like, like you said.”
Knock, knock, knock
The four had been waiting at the table with their suits on and the hoods loose on their back. They walked out of the room to find the two drivers waiting and a large group of people already in the hall. It was hard to see how far the group extended to get an accurate measurement of how many there were. Was this everyone, or just a portion?
“That’s everyone,” the woman said to the man.
“Alright. Next stop, The Prism Simulation!” the man said with forced enthusiasm. There were a couple cheers in the crowd from the few people still excited about this process. Most people, however, were shaking in their suits. Blair hung tight onto Quin’s shoulder, and Jordan held onto Blair and Timothy to avoid being separated in the large mass of indistinguishable bodies. Everyone was wearing the same suit.
They walked through the bright white central room. The contrast made their suits look much darker than they really were. They walked along the right-hand wall towards the hallway where Karen had come through on their very first day here. The time had finally come to enter The Prism. Quin was terrified. He didn’t know what to expect. Would they survive? Hopefully they could at least get through round one. The suit felt tighter than it had before, and he was aware of every metal plate in his body. He was anticipating the pain that would come from being shot or hurt in the simulation, but he couldn’t dwell on it. Panicking is how you die. He had to remain vigilant. He took a deep breath and walked confidently as they passed the threshold of the hallway where they would finally enter The Prism.