“Wow, wow!” Dave exclaimed as he was pushed through the door of the conference room. The lights clicked on automatically, further bleaching the sterile, white walls. A dry erase board on the far side declared, “TEAMBUILDING.” in all caps, with no further context. “That was incredible! Those things just came out of nowhere, and you showed up with that other guy! Bam, bam, gat gat!” He held out two fingers and snapped them around to simulate the gunfire, spinning balletically – in his mind – before dropping into one of the rolling chairs. His escort, a young woman in full business attire glanced into the hallway, looking both ways for any trouble, before clicking the door shut behind her. She pushed a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and took a seat across from him at the table.
“You are taking this rather well,” she said, placing the pistol Dave had been simulating in front of her and steepling her hands. The gun was entirely too large to be practical, and must have weighed a ton. His rescuer did not seem to have any trouble carrying it, however.
“Well, maybe I was a little worried.” Dave admitted. “There was so much happening. Hey, I didn’t even catch your name.”
“Samantha. Can I just call you ‘Sam’?”
“Oh, ok.” Dave shrugged. “Well yeah, I was worried. But those dudes started using magic, did you see that? Well of course you did, they shot it at you. It was magic right?”
“I suppose you could call it that-”
“Right there in the middle of the mall! It was like a fantasy come to life! And then, those trolls rumbled out of the Payless Shoes! Holy cow, I thought Payless had gone bankrupt!”
“Why do you call them trolls?” Samantha leaned in a bit, her left eyebrow rising.
“Gray and green and huge and big muscles? I’d say they were trolls.” Dave informed her. She did not look convinced.
“That isn’t really what they’re called-”
“So the trolls bust out, and I’m trying to get out of their way, and that elven dude in the robe jumps in front of me. You know the one that you – yeah, I can see you remember him, you shot him. Anyway, he says ‘now we’ve got you’ – right, that’s when you shot him in the head. But to tell you the truth, for some reason the whole time I just felt like everything would be all right. Like everyone was there for me, does that make any sense?”
“Surprisingly, yes it does.” Samantha said.
“Well, after you and that guy started shooting those werewolf things, and then the earthquake started it just all kinda clicked. All those books and stories and everything were suddenly true, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to enjoy that! Real, honest to god magic! Oh, uh, yeah; what happened to that other guy you were with?”
Samantha looked vaguely disappointed. “He didn’t make it.”
“Oh, sorry,” Dave said. He moved to reach across the table to pat her shoulder, but something in her eyes told him not to.
“The others definitely didn’t take it this well,” Samantha continued. She pulled a small notepad and pencil from her breast pocket and made a few marks.
“Yes,” a few glances at her notes. “Mr. Jones, you see, you are what is known colloquially as the ‘Chosen One.’ Though it has had a number of names throughout the-”
“Oh shit, I knew it! I knew it!” Dave whooped and sprang from his chair. He pumped his arm like he had just hit the game winning shot in the NBA Finals. “I could always tell. No seriously, always. Like that time I hit a hole in one in golf club? It was like the Force or something. No wonder I got into William and Mary – I mean, my parents were legacy, but probably some destiny there too. Was that it?”
“I can’t speak to that,” Samantha didn’t have many affectations, but her face looked…bemused. “I’ll have to look into the Webwork when I get a chance. I suppose it could have something to do with college applications.”
“Awesome, check that out for me.”
“Yes, well you see, it used to be every generation or so a Chosen One would arise, come to fruition, mature, evolve. Of course the exact purpose of this creation is debated – fighting great evils, bringing balance – it depends on your viewpoint. Really that aspect is rather inconsequential, and we need not get into the philosophy of it all.”
“So it is passed on through the generations? Who was before me? Do I get their stuff?”
Samantha shook her head. “Please let me continue. Usually it is passed on after death. Sometimes to a newborn, other times to another considered ‘worthy.’ Sometimes,” her eyebrow rose again, “It can be seemingly random. In your case it was passed on rather recently, so it is unlikely it had anything to do with your hole-in-one.”
“But it is a very fluid and difficult to quantify state-of-being. Our analysts have been trying to calculate if there might be multi-causality state of Chosen One for years. That’s…a bit outside the scope of our discussion. But to answer your other question, the last Chosen One was a Sudanese woman named Ameena. And no, you do not ‘get her stuff.’”
“Oh, they even have Chosen Ones in Africa, huh? I guess that makes sense.” Dave pondered with a hand on his chin. He was all the contemplative philosopher. “It probably makes it easier for me to be in America though. Sudan isn’t really first world.”
“Excuse me for a moment,” Samantha said, and reached into her other suit pocket for a folded packet of papers stapled at the corner. She flipped open Dave’s file, the Ariadne Corporation spider logo across the top, and began to scan it once more. The picture matched. Dave Jones, 22, Boston. It didn’t look like she had made any mistakes, but this one was really testing her. And he was so boring. Was Fate losing its touch? She flattened the papers onto the table for later, and continued the interview. Best not to get too frustrated. Her quarterly review was coming up and you never knew when the bosses were watching. Actually, they were always watching, but you never knew when they were really focused in.
“Dave, the Chosen has a number of powers and abilities that grow as they age. Powers and abilities that can change the world – for better and worse. Have you ever heard of Tunguska?”
“A large explosion in Russia. That was some Chosen ‘magic’ as you call it gone wrong – almost catastrophically for the world. Fortunately it was contained. Our agency, the Order of Malta, a few of the other Greater Powers. We don’t normally work together, but…sorry I’m getting outside of the scope again. You’d think I’d be better at this by now.”
“Don’t worry about it, Sam. Let’s talk about these powers though. What can I do? Shoot fire like that elf? Teleport or something? Make people explode? That tree that came to life at the mall caused an Earthquake! Is that something I can rock out?”
“You won’t have to worry too much about the gifts, but that should all conceivably be within reach given time and practice.” Samantha said, placid once again. “I can’t say that I’ve seen a Chosen at full capacity, few have survived that long. But Chosen also have a certain magnetism as well. People and beings of power are drawn to them. They have ‘it’ I guess you could say.”
“Like Tom Brady.”
“Uh, sure. Like Tom Brady.”
Dave was nodding his head again, talking to himself as much as Samantha. “This is so-o-o-o-o cool. It’s just like all the stories, like I’m Harry Potter or something, but not British. And I even have a hot chick following me around already.” He looked at Samantha, who he thought looked extremely slim and attractive in her business suit. “Sorry, Sam. But you are really hot. Have you ever dated a Chosen?”
“It’s…never come up,” she stated flatly, marking something else in her notes.
“Let’s get some dinner or something. Are there elven women though? Not just old guy elves, like that one you shot? I’m a one girl guy, don’t worry, but you can imagine I’m curious.”
“Dave,” Samantha tried to impart a weight to her voice, which was, indeed, very chilly and very intimidating “I don’t think you are recognizing the gravity of the situation. The Chosen is a very dangerous thing! For millennia it has menanced reality with natural disasters, probabilistic corruption, and oscillations of political power that often prove ruinous to entire civilizations. Even the Romans-”
“Sure, sure. There are ‘risks,’” he airquoted it and gave an annoyed half-frown, “But look. It always takes the hero so much time to get in the swing of things. To really enjoy all the phenomenal cosmic power they control, right? I’m just fast-forwarding a bit, Sam! At least give me that. And besides: the good guy always wins in the end. I’ve never been so sure of anything.”
“So far we have always won. And now you are confusing me, so I’m confusing you. The Chosen do not always ‘win,’ at least they haven’t. Not for some time, I mean.”
“Oh?” Dave was somewhere between disappointed and skeptical. “Well, that’s what you think at least. My guess is they are still pretty successful.”
“No, I don’t think, I know. Would you please be silent for a moment?” She managed to keep her voice level despite the rising tension. “What do you imagine happens when some cocky jackass gets a hold of more power than a carrier task force and Harold’s Purple Crayon in the span of a few months?” It was a rhetorical question, but she had to hold a hand up to stop Dave from answering before going on. “Sometimes, sometimes maybe they don’t screw everything up. But that other 95% of the time, it all goes to shit, Mr. Jones. The Pacific Ring of Fire all erupts at once when they throw a tantrum, or they go back and assassinate Archduke Ferdinand, because surely that little stunt didn’t have any unforeseen consequences.”
“Well,” shrugged Dave as Samantha flipped a few more pages. “You’re blowing it out of proportion, babe. I’ll just have to do better. And you can back me up, keep me from causing any issues.”
Samantha closed her eyes and took a moment to breathe. “That is exactly what my job is. And I am extremely good at my job. So far I haven’t had a single incident beyond class 3; just a few cover-ups necessitated here and there. That mall battle, for instance, is going to cost a fortune to silence. The Ariadne Corporation, the company I work for, has spent considerable resources in predicting and tracking where Chosen such as yourself will turn up, transform, exalt, et cetera. I’m proud to say we are as efficient, if not moreso, than any other prognostication or prophesy around. At this point most of our competitors are reactionary. Can you believe that! They follow our moves rather than seeking you out on their own!”
“Yawn, sounds boring,” Dave said. Samantha tried not to let her aggravation show again.
“Well, civilization thrives in the boring, Mr. Jones. I wouldn’t be here, giving your exit interview, if I weren’t very sure of this important fact. Or that power corrupts – absolutely in the absolute, as they say. The Chosen, and in fact all such creatures of Chaotic inclination, are a direct threat to everyone. You can understand this, correct?”
“Wait, exit interview? Where am I exiting, I thought you were recruiting me?”
Samantha shook her head, scanning the last bits of information from her bundle of papers. “All of our studies and work with The Chosen have led us to one conclusion. The Chosen phenomena is a toxic relic and must be eventually controlled and then eliminated if our business interests – and humanity – are to go on. The Corporation, and myself included, feel that explaining the situation to Chosen usually helps everything along, builds a consensus, and what’s more, this chat might also limit our liability in the future. Always best to cover the bases, even when dealing with the ineffable.” She reached out and picked up the pistol, pulling the slide back and checking that everything was in working order. Samantha could tell that realization was finally dawning. It rarely – in fact never – took this long.
“Build a consensus?” Dave protested. “Uh, well, fuck that it didn’t work. Put that thing down, I’m the Chosen!”
“Yes, but unfortunately that neither forgives nor protects you in this case. Despite the propaganda you’ve cited, simply being what you are does not guarantee your success. Apologies, of course; we just got better at finding you before anyone else – human ingenuity overcoming nature you might say. I find it incredibly inspiring.” She lowered the barrel towards him. “I’m sure you would as well, Dave Jones, if you had more time. Don’t worry, I won’t let the next one have your stuff.”
Samantha exited the conference room, dabbing at her suit with a bit of spit to remove a red droplet from her lapel. She mumbled something about dry cleaning, then slapped the janitorial button on the side of the door. These satellite offices really needed to put plastic down in case of exit interviews; she felt terrible someone would probably have to pull up the entire carpet. Another employee passed by and gave a nod and a smile.
“‘Afternoon, m’am. There’s some pizza down in the lounge if you’re hungry.” The woman kept on down the hall after Samantha thanked her, obviously on a schedule – there was never time to waste at Ariadne. At the thought her phone buzzed and she slid it out of her pants pocket. Another urgent project in South America. Often it felt like the work never ended because, well, it didn’t. One job naturally led into the next. She’d need to have a new partner built, and get plane tickets through HR, but first she clocked herself to personal time through her attendance app and decided she would have a bit of that pizza in the lounge, afterall.