As Ember passed through the doors, she felt compelled to look back over her shoulder. The doors closed behind them and from the inside they appeared to be glass, where they had seemed like solid wood on the outside. In fact all the walls seemed to be made of glass, with views of the forest and meadows everywhere she looked. How odd that from the outside it looked like a normal fortress, but from the inside the outside view was idealistic. As Ember looked around at the workers, she noticed they all sat at little six section cubicles, and while a few stared out the window longingly, most had their heads down.
Ember could feel the tension and sadness that permeated the atmosphere. Tasha grabbed Ember's arm, "Keep up dear, we have to get you processed."
Tasha smiles, sending a chill down Ember's spine, "All who come here to work must earn time to rest or go outside."
"Oh, I haven't come here to work. I'm just visiting, " Ember explained.
The quiet one, Anita, snickered. She hadn't said anything since she appeared, yet Ember sensed something dark and sinister about her. Her eyes are black and seem soulless. She is about the same height as Ember, average looking with long straight black hair that reaches down her back. Ember feels there is more to her than she shows.
As they approach a cubicle in the corner, Anita and Shamra take seats on one side. On the other side, across from Anita, sits an average looking woman, slightly overweight with long mousy brown hair. She stares at her computer screen cursing under her breath. Between these two, is a heavy set woman with long blonde hair, typing into a laptop at an alarming fast speed. The woman glances up and although she looks tired and stressed, she smiles at Ember. For the first time, Ember feels genuine warmth coming from someone in this realm. She then passes a woman on the opposite end of the cubicle that has fiery hair like herself. This woman is very young and acts as though she doesn't have a care in the world. She seems strangely out of place amongst these people. She looks up at Ember and smiles. Again, Ember feels genuine warmth from this woman as well.
"That's Bridget. You should stay away from her. She is a little flighty and just wants everyone to be happy. She won't last here long." Tasha states, as she pulls Ember along. They enter what appears to be an office of sorts, although it's more like a partially framed room with walls only going halfway up. "Greta, Marla, look what I found wondering around outside. Her name is Ember, she needs to be processed so we can put her to work."
"There seems to be a misunderstanding. I'm not looking for a job. I was just passing by...outside and Tasha said to follow her inside," Ember corrected.
Both Greta and Marla exchanged a glance, before all three women began to cackle. Greta stood and came around her desk. She was a shorty, stocky woman with shoulder length blunt cut black hair. When she smiled at Ember, it did not reach her hollow eyes. She placed her hand on Ember's shoulder and said, "Ember, it is Ember, right? No matter. When you enter our doors, you may not leave until we decide it's time for you to leave. That is how it works. You belong to us now, to do with what we will. Only the chosen few are allowed to come and go as they please. People like myself and Marla."
"But you can't just keep someone here all the time. Don't they have homes to go to?" Ember asked, motioning to the people working around them.
"No dear. They work until they have nothing left that we desire and then we toss them outside. The ones too used up to wander off on their own are disposed of. It's the way it has always been and will always be. Now there are those who have caught the eye of the Tri-powers. Those special 'friends' get privileges the rest do not. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to catch their eye. You are a pretty girl, although they do prefer blondes. Besides, their special friends are often picked on by the other girls due to jealousy. It really keeps the rest of us entertained. But keep that unspoiled view of freedom; we wouldn't want to take all your hope away," she said with a chuckle. "Now go with Marla, she is the warden who will get you processed."
Marla stood, taking Ember's arm and leading her out of the office and main room. Her touch was oddly warm, even though Ember felt a chill at her touch. Marla was dressed in a prudish gray dress and her short cropped dark reddish-blonde hair did not move when she walked. She was a pleasant looking woman and seemed nice, engaging in small talk as they walked down a long corridor through the center of the building. She had a way of making you feel at ease in her company, but Ember noticed as they passed people, they either shifted as far away from her as possible or glared at her. Something told Ember there was more to this woman than she showed.
They finally reached the other side of the building which opened into another large room surrounded by what looked like windows overlooking gardens and forests. They entered a glass enclosed office, Marla directed Ember to sit across from her as she sat down behind a massive desk. She began asking Ember about her life and family. Ember shared very little even though she felt as if she were being compelled to reveal everything about herself. She wasn't sure why, but her gut told her to not disclose too much. After Marla, realized she wasn't getting anywhere with Ember, she told her she was going to give her a series of tests to determine her skills.
While she filled out the tests, she wondered what it was she was supposed to achieve or learn in this place. She also wondered how she was going to be able to escape. She had a journey to finish. Surely it couldn't be as restricted as they made it sound.