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Dr Lisbet Dahlberg was a talented surgeon before her accident 6 years ago, but hasn't worked as a medical professional since then. She's fluent in Swedish but lives in the South of England and is capable of remaining calm even in unusual situations like unexpectedly waking up in a US motel. Any quick google of her name after returning home will find articles on the tragic collapse of a Californian Mall after an unpredicted earthquake, with Lisbet as one of very few survivors; you'll also find signs of a terminated medical career before that and little of note since then.
They were the youngest guests by far this year. Too young, really, for a casino, or at least according to US Gambling laws, but the metaphysical rules governing reality are a little more lax. A dangerous place to be for a couple of youths with unconvincing fake IDs and even less convincing lip fuzz; or would have been were the watchful eye of the Manager not on them every second they could spare.
“It is all true! All of it! Like the Executionis said. The worlds, both of them they were real! It is sooooooo angsty and doomed. I mean the Other World - betrayed and hurting, lashing out with blind torment! I wish they had succeeded - at least then I wouldn't have to take Advanced Chem with Dr Anton!”
“You are such a loser, reading all those Parallel World Romances. They wanted to suck our oceans out through a wormhole! I bet you'd be one of the war-slaves like in Furiosa - Biker Battle if it had happened!”
“Oh yeah, and if I hadn't read those books, I'd never have found out about the Executionis trail.”
As the Casino begins to empty the two youths begin to make their way to the exit - walking through a haze of an exhaustion and excitement induced high, they don't notice that they are veering towards a roped-off area, towards a set of statues.
“And anyway, it totally is the most amazing story - the passion and the glory Finn, the passion and the glory!”
They stop dead before a pair of statues with hands intertwined. One, the not-Finn-one, the aren't-the-Earth-69ers-romantic one reaches out, almost unconsciously. The other one, Finn, tries to slap his hand away.
“What are you doing? Don't touch that it-”.
Too late, and together not-Finn and Finn are drawn into another world. Or something like it.
The memories of Anne Harris, who travelled for some time by the name, and in the body of, Lisbet Sutherland are not like the memories of the other statues. Perhaps she strove to keep too much, to hold on to more than could fit into a frame of marble and basalt, but more like it was deliberate - a reflection of her own life perhaps, full of chaos and uncertainty, of loose ends and dangling threads from which she had to make something.
So no, when Finn and not-Finn step in to her dream there is no one to talk to them, no one to guide them.
Instead, in overwhelming panoramic view they are surrounded by scenes from two worlds. Here we see Anne's brutal training regime - blood, sweat and tears bound together by an iron will and an iron discipline, but behind it something more, a wish, a need, a desperate, almost hopeless desire for redemption. There they see a woman - Lisbet-in-Anne's-body strapped to a table, her spine being surgically severed, being subjected to deafening music and blinding light-shows - seven-years of 'compliance conditioning' concentrated into one horrifying scene.
Turn and turn again the two young men do, look away from the personal pain and see the mushroom cloud growing on the horizon, see the columns of refugees fleeing the cities, see the makeshift hospitals groaning with the dying. Fires, fires, fires burning and burning and burning and the dead litter the roadsides. Contained with these hellish scenes is more than just the abject suffering of a whole world - enmeshed through every skein, every fibre of the these memories are laced with resolve, with will, with an iron-clad knowledge that this was done to her world, and that it could be undone.
They pull their eyes away, draw them off the blood and smoke to see the architecture of a whole world - a loom weaving the very fabric of reality. Anne is visible here. The whole scene shakes with the intensity of the memory. As powerful as the memories of nuclear holocaust, Anne's whole life dances on the head of a pin in this place. A decision is made here and now to change course, to take a risk, a risk of unimaginable proportions. Here, in this place, she sees that there might be another way.
And last, at the last turning of the wheel of memory there are Anne's own statues - the silent, solemn faces of the '69 Agents who went home one final time, went back to failing bodies, shortened life-spans and agonising deaths. And Winnifred. Winnifred whose soul was spent, like so much currency, as were the souls of hundreds, of thousands of others - a mere means to an end set by an Agency bore the weight of a whole world on its shoulders. Winnifred who lov
The memories end abruptly and the two youths find themselves in the desert, at a bus stop. Finn will find that in the space of a few hours he has grown from a callow youth whose confidence lay in belittling others to a self-assured, thoughtful young man. The fundamental kindness of his soul, which might have taken years to shine through sits like a second-skin now, just below the surface. Abassi, the second boy, the angst-ridden, the Parallel World Romance reader will grow also, grow more serious, grow more silent. He won't romanticise, won't imagine a world of tormented angst in which star-crossed lovers reunite at the end of all things to be trapped in amber - ever locked untraversable inches from their love. No, he knows now what true necessity is, and what it justifies, no matter the pain, the horror. He knows, and he loves; fiercely, protectively and truly. He knows and he won't forget.
“You may turn over your papers… now.”
The final stage of the entrance exams are a relatively recent addition to the suite of tests, both physical and mental, which are the gatekeepers to membership of the Agency.
Scenario 1: You are on undercover assignment infiltrating a Twin-Earth cult seeking bomb a factory dedicated to producing Meta-capacitor Rhesus Generators vital to the correct functioning of the Bridge. A group of three cultists have gone off the radar - you suspect they are procuring the money required to pay off the prospective bomb-makers. A Class-B Analyst has been collating data regarding one of the three cultists and is assessed as 74% likely to materially assist a pursuit and capture. In detail, with diagrams where appropriate, please describe three scenarios in which the cult's progress can be halted without breaking your cover and without depleting the Analyst resource.
Scenario 2: You are heading up a team of five Agents, rolling up a sigma-category anomaly. Two Agents have sustained injuries and are operating at 57% reduced capacity (Class-A Analyst estimated, MoE: +-3%), and the remaining three have a joint probability of success of 45% under normal operational parameters (Class-A Analyst estimated, MoE: +-5%). Develop one core operational exit strategy achieving at least a 65% probability of retrieving all Agents alive, and one completion strategy with an 80% probability of success, assuming no operational constraints. Present an analysis of each approach, compare and contrast the costs and benefits of both.
More candidates fail at this final stage than at any other, even including the live fire exercises. For the Agents who know why this test was developed, for those who knew her, not only is this no surprise, but they would not have it any other way.