The Major's office was large but stifling. The massive size of his desk was one reason, but more than that, the piles of paper strewn haphazardly across it made the whole room feel cluttered, and the incessant drone of the fluorescent lights made the air feel oppressive and suffocating. The Major was old-school: he knew how to use computers, but he insisted all the important documents be printed before he read them. He demonstrated outright contempt against people who could read long requests and receipts on a screen; they were 'ruining the fucking country" and "a bunch of brainless, spoiled babies."
His assistants sat uncomfortably on the other side of the desk as he shuffled the papers idly, sniffing with pique. The woman glanced at the man; they had been through this many times, but there was never a way to predict his mood.
"What the fuck is next?" The Major grumbled, picking up a large packet of paper that had been freshly brought to him that morning. He skimmed the first page. "Grant extension request, project DR33672-AA. 'Improving Society and Reducing Generational Conflict by Gamifying Educational Mystery: A Multi-Disciplinary Intervention.' From Dr. Eugene Alameda at New Hope University." He snorted and looked up at his assistants. "I can't tell any of this shit apart; what is this one?"
"It's the Killing Game, sir," the male assistant spoke up.
"Christ, are we still funding that?" The Major looked back down at the papers. "They want six more years."
"They've already been doing it annually for ten years," the woman said. "The results are detailed in Section Four..."
"Sum it up."
"Uh..." The woman was momentarily flustered but recoverd quickly. "Things have been going better than they'd expected. The program has produced a Nobel laureate, two MacArthur Grant recipients, and an Academy Award winner. Average income of graduates is well into seven figures."
"Hmmph. And that's enough for the United States military to fund this little experiment, huh?" The Major opened up the packet of paper and flipped through it perfunctorily. "'...works via two important mechanisms.' Christ, academics. 'By weeding out unsuccessful Ultimates, potentially unstable but talented students are kept from reaching positions of authority in industry or entertainment. Second, and more importantly, graduates emerge with renewed humility and loyalty toward society and humanity.'" He took a deep breath and sat back in his chair. "I need boots to wade through this bullshit. You kill off the bad ones and put the fear of God in the good ones, just say that."
The man leaned forward slightly. "There's a note at the back from the head of the project," he added nervously. "From Dr. Alameda, the head of the project. It doesn't use the same academic language. It's more, um, genuine. That was the most useful part, for me."
"Was it?" The Major tossed the wad of paper across his desk and raised an eyebrow. "Read it."
The male assistant nervously picked up the grant renewal request and flipped to the end. Haltingly, he began to read, "I wish to add a personal note expressing my sincere passion for this project and the good it can do for the world." As he spoke, he grew more confident, as if filled with surety from the writer himself. "In this country and in the whole world, we are at war. I mean this literally. We are at war with our own children. They threaten to destroy tradition and structure. They twist the familiar into the alien. Whether through moral outrage or through apathy, they willingly tear apart everything that makes us great. Through my time overseeing this project, I have seen the filth these younger generations can embody.
"I have also seen them shine bravely. I have seen them stand up to defend truth from lies. I have seen them fight and die to stave off anomie and despair.
"Gentlemen, the program works. New Hope University is an example of what the future of education must be. The truly exemplary learn, through hard work and sacrifice, to live their lives devoted to the structure of society.
"My father used to tell me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who fear chaos and those who embrace it. Hew Hope University only produces graduates in one of those groups." The assistant looked up, nearly panting from his delivery.
The Major sat back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling, chewing the inside of his cheek. "They still use that fucking bear thing?" he asked.
"They say the bear is a central and necessary aspect."
"Jesus Christ." The Major sat back up and looked his assistants in the eye. He gestured to the man and grabbed the stack of paper from his nervous hand. "At least someone understands what this country is up against. Fine, request approved. Tell them we want a full report every twenty-four months." He tossed the stack of paper haphazardly into a nearby recycling bin. It landed with a thud, but one sheet came loose and rested on the floor, unnoticed.
"What's next?" The Major asked.
The woman sorted through papers and handed him one from a nearby stack. "New request for funds to train tigers to fight terrorism..."
As they continued the day's business, the lone sheet of paper lay sprawled on the floor, nearly glowing in the fluorescent light. At the top, it read:
New Hope University's School of Ultimates is a unique, invitation-only education program. Eschewing the usual college experience, students are prepared to take leadership roles in business, culture, and politics.
One month later, Dr. Eugene Alameda sat at his desk, leaning back in his office chair and staring at his computer screen. His office was a monument to his life's work: the school for Ultimates, a brief game to efficiently create productive members of society. There were photos of previous classes, records of graduates' progress, plans for future games.
The door to his office creaked open, and his self-declared 'assistant' sauntered in, bearing a sheet of white paper.
"Looks like they bought it, sir," the assistant sneered mockingly, accenting the word 'sir' with contempt. "I don't know what I was ever worried about."
The assistant slapped the paper down on the desk, Dr. Alameda's head dropping, his eyes staring blankly downward. At the top of the paper were the words "Grant renewal DR33672-AA confirmed."
The assistant laughed. "I got work to do, recruiting the new class of freshmen. But I just wanted to look at your ugly face and tell you that your little dream is going to continue. Congratulations, Doc." Still laughing, the assistant strode out of the office, slamming the door.
Dr. Alameda did not react. This was not surprising. He had been dead for nearly five years.
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