[Chap 6] Exam Results

The exam room was so silent that hearing a pin drop wasn’t an impossibility. However, at the moment, even a pinprick would fail to garner any attention from the candidates. Their thoughts boomed in rhythm to their beating hearts as their fingers struggled to express their knowledge on screen.

When the first page of questions was completed successfully, everyone let loose a sigh of turbid air, held in from the start of the test. Their tense muscles relaxed as their lungs greedily devoured a stream of well-needed fresh air.

Unfortunately, the oxygen received was inadequate to prepare their brains for the unveiling of the second page. When their eyes scanned its contents, their mind seemed to have crashed and then rebooted, scanning it again.

If the previous page was referred to as being at the high school level, the following pages were comparable to advanced courses at university. Furthermore, this specific test was a mix of different subject areas and topics arranged randomly or given as a sequence of a main problem.

While other exams gave the privilege of doing only a single subject at a given time, allowing room for revision in preparation for the next, this exam required all-rounded knowledge of all the subject areas in one sitting.

Everyone’s hands seemed to have suffered from a stroke as their movements were clumsy, slow, and not as confident as before. However, it was a path of no retreat. The ’leave and come again’ approach was useless as the other pages were of similar difficulty, some even more complicated.

Even though the room was cold, droplets of sweat still managed to escape the candidates’ taut pores.

*  *  * 

In his office, the professor slumped lazily in his chair, reclining while sipping a brew of freshly made coffee. Android 9 parked quietly by the side, its services readily available. Above the desk, a holographic image floated, its area split into five, each section dedicated to a particular candidate.

The professor’s eyes occasionally shifted from section to section, indulging in the candidates’ suffering. As the seconds ticked by, things got all the more amusing. One candidate, in particular, nibbled his nails so badly that they were forged into serrated blades. He then proceeded to scratch his head intensely in frustration, almost peeling his scalp hairless.

Gulp—— Cough~

The professor choked on his coffee upon witnessing the scene. While wiping his grinning mouth clean, he watched on as the candidate rubbed his eyes indignantly, unable to release his pent up pain and emotions.

Hehe, this is too priceless, suprisingly better than my time with Dr. Fields…well, if the money was taken out of the picture. Even a diluted version of Pepper’s test could dig out such desperate expressions from even the best of the country’s geniuses. Jaylin must be my lucky star. Because of him, not only did I get a few tidbits from Dr. Fields, I even obtained some live entertainment to top it off. Speaking of which, how’s he faring…?

*  *  *

Mika’s lips quivered as her breaths left them in uneven wafts, her fingers rubbed the mouse’s scroll wheel intermittently in an attempt to soothe her nervousness and agitation. Drops of cold sweat ran en parallel to her furrowed brows, leaving chilling rills behind.

The crystalline droplets scattered as she batted her lashes discreetly, reading the other candidates’ countenances. Upon seeing their bitter faces, she flashed a sweet smile. Although it was inferior to the professor’s, it was still as loathsome in such a situation.

Although the test was difficult, Mika was confident that she could score decently. As long as she managed to get over a 90, she believed that the top score would inevitably be hers. According to her speculations, there was no way that the three male candidates could surpass her. As for Jaylin…

Mika straightened her back and lifted her vision above that of her computer screen, peering into the direction of Jaylin. She was however somewhat baffled by what she saw.

What the hell is he doing? Did he give up? Why is he writing in his hand?

Instead of receiving confirmation of Jaylin’s poor performance, she was instead struck with more questions and unsurety.

Jaylin was scribbling tiny notes on his hand with a pen which he took from his sling bag, sometimes browsing through the test before proceeding with his strange behavior again.

Mika was confused and disappointed. Vaguely, she could see the same sharp and unwavering eyes reflecting off Jaylin’s computer screen, absent of any distress or wild emotions. Even if she defeated him or he failed miserably, without any exceptional reactions, she would still be dissatisfied.

The observer, however, was being observed, as the acute sound of inquisitive cameras snapped Mika out of her sidelong glance. She immediately returned to answering the torturous questions, doubt growing in her heart.

Meanwhile, Jaylin’s concentration was already fully occupied by the exam in front of him; he had no time to be concerned about others. The professor’s tweaks with his test already cornered him in a tight spot as his exam was at least twofold harder than normal, possibly even more. 

Completing this tampered test successfully would be as troublesome as crossing stormy, shark-infested waters. Though difficult, it was not impossible, but sufficient preparations would be needed.

Finally, the pen’s last stroke was made, leaving a trail of glistening black silk its wake. It fell elegantly onto the last cell, completing the mysterious rows of characters.

Finally finished, Jaylin flicked his wrists a few times, drying the ink. The cool sensation massaged his hand, after which his fingers were cracked for the task to come. 

Jaylin’s idea was as simple as making a map. In order to mitigate some of the complexity of the exam, he simply made references to the pages and locations of specific subjects. With this, he could focus on one topic at a time without the need of shifting gears every so often, back and forth. His efficiency was guaranteed to be increased.

He developed this method after doing the first couple of questions on the second page. Switching from Mathematics to History, then to Language was more than enough to send any top student’s brain into turmoil, increasing the exam’s difficulty much more than necessary.

Taking in a deep breath, Jaylin spun the pen between his fingers before placing it between his ear. He clocked into gear: 

“First subject, Mathematics. Category, Inverse binary. References, page 2, section 3, 5…” 

Tap

Tap

Tap…

The keyboards were usually silent, but the fluid and unhindered contact between fingertips and keys resounded in the candidates’ ears. Such a sound was surprising in the usually quiet and tense atmosphere, even more so than the profound contact between a couple’s bodies in midnight.

Sneakily, everybody ceased their work to satisfy their curiosity. They were immediately entranced. Man and computer were in total synergy as lines upon lines of text came into being. It was as if they were witnesses to God’s creation, the tapping akin to the music of the archangels.

Tap

A final, lonely note resounded— the suspense was built.

Crick——

Jaylin’s hands waved as if commanding wind and cloud, offloading the pressure from the constant typing. Gear 2:

“Second subject, History. Category, WWIV, World Order. References, page 1, section 1,3,4,7, page 2…”

Tap

Tap

Tap…

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The melody continued even more vigorously than before. Jaylin was like a speedboat piercing through the storm, dodging vicious sharks left and right. There was no turning back, no hesitation, only resolution and a will to break through. A lone sailor navigating through a sea of affliction…

This guy is either a hardcore gamer or a p*rn addict. How else are his hands able to move so fast?

How’s this guy answering the questions so quickly. He must have gone crazy or his answers must be complete bullcrap. How is he making his movements so precise though?

Is it just me, or is this the small, yet wide gap between the abilities of the top two versus the rest of us?

The candidates looked over to Mika, however, were met with her dumbfounded expression.

Nope, she seems normal enough.

*  *  * 

The professor had long since been watching Jaylin, however, his sudden outburst of momentum was out of expectations. At first, he didn’t understand Jaylin’s scribblings of initials and numbers, but after some moments of pondering and observing through the high definition lenses of the cameras, its purpose was roughly comprehended.

From the looks of it, his answers were more or less on point as well. The professor’s eyes narrowed into slits while his smile deepened, “This brat is interesting. If things continue like this, Dr. Fields may experience a heart attack after the results are compiled.”

Taking out the debit card from his pocket, he continued, “Oh well…no refunds!”

*  *  *

The three waiting middle-aged men discussed boisterously who they thought the top scorer would be, as well as the ranks that would follow, even going as far as to make hefty bets. This was the only way they could somewhat mask the nervousness they were feeling. Although they weren’t confident that their sons could top the rest, the small hope still lingered.

There was also still the possibility of failing the qualifications, causing them to fret. In the back of their minds though, they wondered how Jaylin was doing, since he ended up provoking a powerhouse like Dr. Fields. That was still something to look forward to.

On Dr. Fields’ side, his eyes were closed, silently waiting for the end of the exam. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t strung with nervousness. On one hand, he wanted his daughter to be successful, and on the other, for Jaylin to fail and suffer miserably. On the third hand, if humans had an extra, seeing all the other candidates fail would be an interesting sight.

Opening his eyes, Dr. Fields checked the time on his expensive golden watch before covering it again with is sleeves. It was almost too blinding to look at, however, it served its purpose.

“It’s almost time.”

Dr. Fields’ low and raspy voice reached the ears of the other three men. The exam started roughly around 1:18 PM, now it was ticking towards 1:53 PM. The time of judgment had arrived.

On cue, the professor stepped out of his office. After greeting the anxious men, he continued towards the exam room, strolling leisurely. Opening the door he announced,

“Time’s up. If you haven’t submitted yet, please do it now. Computers will shut down in a minute or two. After you’re finished, make your way back to the waiting area where your answers will be analyzed by a specialized A.I, and your points determined live, on screen.”

An audible wave of sighs could be heard thereafter.

Stretching, one candidate rejoiced sorrowfully, “Finally it’s over. With this, my failure will come faster so I can just go home. I’ll be able to afford a chip in a couple of years anyway.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic, Kevin. I bet you did even better than me. I don’t think I even got a grade above a 70. Hopefully, the A.I glitches.” 

“Haha, we’re brothers, right? We’ll be helping each other out in the future anyway, so it doesn’t matter who succeeds or not. You guys are probably higher ranked than me so I’ll be depending on you in the future.” They continued.

Mika: Hypocrites…hmph. (¬_¬)

Jaylin got up, cracked his fingers, then flung his sling bag over his shoulders. Seeing the disgusted expression on Mika’s face, he shook his head, Wouldn’t be surprised if that was instead meant to look down on their inferior shamelessness.

Soon enough, the candidates and their fathers/guardians reunited. Typical questions such as ‘How did you do?’ and ‘How confident are you?’ were asked with the most used response being, ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘It was okay’.”

This time, it was Mika’s turn to be uncomfortable upon seeing her father’s welcoming smile.

“How did it go? Did you see any interesting expressions on that b*stard’s face? Tell me about it.”

“Erhm, I didn’t get to see clearly. Let’s just wait on the results. It determines everything.” Mika took up her fan left previously in her seat, fanning hurriedly. The familiar movements and faint breeze helped in restoring her past demeanor.

In sooth, she knew her father spent a lot in order to suppress Jaylin. Everything should be fine, right? There’s no way he could actually beat me, right? However, no matter how she tried comforting herself, the scene of Jaylin’s shocking performance couldn’t leave her mind.

The professor stood before everyone, operating a small holographic watch on his wrist. Finally the moment of truth! Everybody held tight onto their breaths.

Small lights sparkled and embraced the thin air, forming a rectangular screen. A brief logo of the ATDR flashed by before a loading screen overtook its place:

[Reading Responses…] [Analyzing Responses…] [Detecting Keywords…] [Grading Answers…] [Counting Points…] [Compiling Final Results…] [Displaying Ranks…]

Dingling rings reverberated through the room as the candidate’s points soared simultaneously. In the final stretch, around the 80% mark, the speed of rising gradually slowed, some falling behind the other. Finally, just after the 90% mark, the first candidate, Jerome, stopped around 90.13. 

The others kept rising, though barely crawling. Marc, being the second to stop, was halted at 91.09. The other three candidates struggled in the race for victory. At last, the third candidate, Kevington, dropped out at precisely 91.45. The only persons left were Jaylin and Mika, their points battling it out.

The atmosphere tensed as their leaps neared the end. At last, with one final big push, Jaylin’s score surpassed Mika’s by a full 1.2 points with Mika’s being 93.79 and Jaylin’s being 94.99.

1) Jaylin Channing- 94.99

2) Mika Fields- 93.79

3) Kevington Linderhof- 91.45

4) Marc Anderson- 91.09

5) Jerome Holmes- 90.13

…..

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