No fucking way.
Mitch tried to pretend that he hadn't heard. It was pretty blatant, but this butt nugget is the last person on earth he with whom he would want to speak. So, fuck him.
Goddamnit. Why couldn't this saggy sack of cunt cheese be one of the ones who got Tolled?* No, the only person on the planet who refuses to call him Mitch and insists on calling him Mitchell; the one who almost got him fired from the only job he ever enjoyed by being a loose-lipped suck-up furry-lipped carpet-munching ninny; the one who just could not take a fucking hint to leave a body alone; he had to be a survivor. Maybe it is petty of him to hold on to the old pre-Tolling grudges. Maybe. However, amidst all this madness, sometimes to make the big things little, you have to make the little things big.
"Alex." You butt-plugging asswipe. The part he said out loud he said very politely. He's a nice guy: he swears. A bit of a foul mouth, but not nearly as much of an asshole as he could be if he really wanted to. Even to this festering waste of what could have been used to make an entirely sensible cowpie. Cowpies are fertilizer, you know. Very useful cowpies are.
"Man! Crazy running into you out here. What are the odds?" That was his opener this time. Next would be the weather. "Insanely hot today right? I'm almost surprised my tires aren't melting onto the road!"
He pauses, waiting for a reply. After a moment, when he finally figures out that he's not going to get any encouragement, he decides to forge on anyway.
"Are you heading up to Fort Irwin for testing?"
Six hundred and eighty-four million people died when the second Tolling happened four months ago; one-tenth of the population at the time of the tolling. The upshot is that this means that only about half of the people in the world will have died by the end of the final Tolling. Fuck, only half. It must be a sign of the times that the deaths of three and a half billion people can make everyone sigh in relief. He supposes people are glad to have a fifty/fifty chance of survival as opposed to one-tenth.
The big downside of the second Tolling was that the benefits survivors received from whatever was really happening became much more pronounced. At first, people were excited. The return of the Age of Legends some had called it. But then, like always, the government decided to come in and take a giant, steaming, you-ate-Indian-food-last-night-didn't-you shit over everything.
Mandatory testing was instituted at military bases all over the country. The officials were saying, along with that orange clown in the Whitehouse, that the abilities some people had developed had reached the point at which they could be considered weapons and as such required registration. If you didn't appear for testing and registration, a warrant would be issued for your arrest. Fucking gun control laws for people.
The abilities had been classified into four types: E, W, F, R. Why those letters? He figured it was because they didn't want to come out and say Earth, Wind, and Fire. And Water, but he was making a funny. If you didn't catch it, they used R for WateR. Like how R somehow stands for Thursday in one-letter weekday abbreviations. They had also been divided into 6 levels, 0-5. Each level had 5 tiers. The higher your numbers; the higher your relative power. So, 0-1 would be the least, and 5-5 would be the greatest.
Damnit. He had been hooked. Wily bastard. Did he know something new? The government hadn't been entirely clear on what the tests involved. All they had said was that it was a "simple" process.
"Yeah, on my way. My test is tomorrow. Don't want to be late and get a warrant put out on me."
"Oh, cool. I'm actually on my way back."
Jackpot. The slightly less useless than usual pile of bat guano (that's feces) had some gold hidden under all that rotten excrement he tries to call a personality.
"Oh? What's it like?" People usually avoid this guy so there is no chance whatsoever that he won't spill.
"It's nothing much really. I was kind of surprised. I expected to have to run an obstacle course and do the long jump and stuff, but they've got some kind of machine that tells them whatever they need to know."
"Machine?" Mitch asks.
"Yeah. It's like one of those things you hold that gives you a BMI reading? But way bigger. It's like a whole wall of stuff, but you just grab on to these handles for a minute, and it spits out some readings, and they give you an ID card with your information."
Holy Saint Nick with a hooker on a Sunday morning. The government didn't lie. If this doesn't count as a miracle what does? The "simple process" is actually a simple process.
"How'd you rate?" Mitch asks.
"Not bad." He says with a patently false bashfulness. The asswipe is going to brag. Fuck. Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck. Goddamnit, he has to know.
"Yeah? What's your number?"
More of that false fucking bashfulness. Mother fucker is acting like a girl that just got asked to prom by a cute guy, but she was really hoping this other guy, who wasn't as hot but had a particular way about him plus they sat next to each other in three classes so how could it not be a thing, would ask her.
"E4-5. They said thats in the ninety-seventh percentile."
"Earth" type; level four; tier five. Fuck the World.
(For you kids out there that's what FTW originally meant.)
Ok, if we extrapolate from that... only the top two percent are level five. That means... they are most likely measuring things on a bell curve. Like fucking god-forsaken highschool. "Hey kids, you really got a good enough score to warrant an A but were going to give you a B instead because well shoot, you just weren't in the top two percent. Fuck the fact that you studied dilligently for the test. Fuck the fact that you know the material at the highest level expected by this course. Shucks, out of 90 students one person did a little bit better than you. Oh, that ruins your GPA? Don't worry about it. Bobbyjoesuelynn gets to pass now even though she scored a fifty-five because Jimmjohnjanelee did even worse and that's why we grade on a curve. Fewer students fail which is great for our funding model."
He's not bitter about school. He promises. Not bitter at all.
"Wow that's pretty good. What kind of abilities do you have these days?" That sounded stilted. Fuck it, he won't notice.
"Yeah, I guess it is." Don't punch Mr. False Modesty in the face. Don't do it. You don't know what he can do now. Don't punch him. Don't.... Don't? Don't. Breathe. Woosah.
"Um, strength... they say I'm at four times the pre-Tolling world record for the deadlift."
Four hundred percent stronger than the world's strongest man before the Tolling? Well, the specialized record for the deadlift. Shit, that's worse. The person who set that record probably trained in that specific excercise for months before they showed Guinness or whoever.
"Really? How much is that?"
"Mmm, fourty-two hundred pounds"
Pat yourself on the back you non-face-puncher; good call.
"Wow. And the machine tells them that?"
"Oh, no. They give you the option to take a voluntary physical after the basic test. They had me do all kinds of things. Sprinting, suicides, lateral jumps, all sorts of weightlifting stuff."
"What did you bench?" There is no way "all sorts of weightlifting stuff" did not include the bench press.
"I did a bit better there, about 4400 lbs."
"What about you? Have you seen any changes?" Asks the super strong cockwad.
"Nothing much really. I'm probably in the average range."
"Ah, that makes sense. Cool, cool." Tool.
"Hey, can I see that card?"
"Oh! Sure. It's not very cool. Just looks like a drivers liscence except for one of those internet code things." Internet code things? He pulls it out.
He meant QR code.
It really does look basically like a drivers liscence. It just doesn't have an organ donor status and in the upper right hand corner larger bold text it says E4-5. On the back there is a QR code.
"Would you mind if I scanned that QR to see what it says?"
"Oh, thats interesting. Sure, give it a go"
I pull out my cell phone. The damn thing has been really glitchy since the second Tolling but I manage to get the QR reader app going and scan the code.
An error notice pops up.
"Format incompatible with this software"
"Aw, dang." says super-nut licker. "I actually got really curious when you asked about that. You think it's one of those electronic glitches or is it the code?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if the encrypted it."
"Hmm, good point."
"Well, thanks for the info. Good to see you again." That taste in the mouth? That's bitterness.
"Oh yeah! You to. Good luck on the test. Keep in touch!"
"Thank you. Have a good one."
"Sure thing buddy! Do the same!" At least he handles goodbyes somewhat adroitly.
Finally the butt licker gets into his car and heads off.
So his information shared in good faith really set Mitch at ease. Fuck that guy.
Now he really wonders how he will do on the tests though? Will he break any old world records? Meh, let's be real: probably not. Maybe he can match some of them? Yea, maybe match.
Only one way and one day to find out.