Tue | Sep 25, 2018

The Emma Project

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jason Stephenson, Contributor

Eight years had passed since Agent 0011 first encountered Specimen 191. He was gathering intel in Northern Russia on corruption allegations made against government officials when he was abruptly instructed to abort all mission objectives and report to Italy for reassignment.

He had no idea what he was in for until his commander, Agent 0003, handed him a small blanket one cold December morning.

"This is one of the Pandora specimens," Agent 0011 said, eyeing the blanket's contents.

"Specimen 191, Generation XT49," said Agent 0003, handing over a suitcase and some folders. "A subgroup of the Pandora faction, only a handful survived. Everything you need is in there."

Agent 0011 spotted the small boy next to his commander. He had a dagger in hand with a vicious glare in his eyes. Agent 0003 spun around and began trekking through the snow, making his way back into the nearby woods from which he came. "Come 126," he said. The child continued staring at Agent 0011 as if his only goal, his only dream, his only desire, was to jump up and slit his throat. But that soon changed as he reluctantly wheeled around and followed.

The specimen remained fast asleep. She was more than just some mere child; she was an instrument of the agency. Right then and there Agent 0011 was assigned chief commander of - The Emma Project.

Emma's training

Around the time she could crawl her training began - hand-eye coordination, muscle development, obedience. Upon speaking she underwent verbal coding, psychological deception and bodily resistance. By kindergarten, she was a critical thinker with third-rate martial arts techniques and sharp infiltration skills, but on occasion, as expected at that age, she began asking a number of questions.

"Do I have a mother?" asked Specimen 191 as Agent 0011 picked her up from school one day. "Everyone else has a mother."

"Your DNA was donated to us by Agent 0017," he said as they crossed the road. "She was beheaded during her mission in Iraq."

"Oh," said 191. "So you're my father then, right?"

"No," he responded coolly. "I only go by the alias 'Daddy' when in public and you by the name of Emma. I'm your superior - I've told you this once before Specimen 191, you've already been trained in memory recognisance."

Specimen 191 didn't push the matter any further that day, but as the weeks passed she grew even more curious. "Is 0011 your real name?" she said one day while doing push-ups in the backyard.

"Yes, it is - two hundred and eight, two hundred and nine, two hundred and ten ... ."

"Is Specimen 191 my real name?" she puffed. "The other girls don't have names like mine."


"That's because you're different from other girls," he said. "You were harvested in a lab and your cells were surgically altered to become one of the government's first-class soldiers." Suddenly, a grey cat sprinted past, making Emma tumble to the ground, distracted by its allure.

"Sloppy!" snapped Agent 0011, flagging her on the leg with a branch. "Again."

Oddly enough, a few months later Agent 0011 brought home a large cardboard box. He sat it down on the coffee table facing Specimen 191 who was far too busy watching the six o'clock news. Loud scuffling could be heard coming from inside it.

"Stand down," said Agent 0011 as Specimen 191 grabbed for the revolver by her waist. He dipped inside and pulled out a brown puppy, placing the hound into her lap. "I see the way you've been eyeing that grey cat from across the street." he said. "From now on this will be your pet. You'll call it Kippa." Specimen 191 held the dog up to her face looking blankly into its eyes, not exactly sure what to do with it. "I've realised you aren't blending in well with the other children at school. Why didn't you inform me? It could blow our cover."

"You said I was different," she replied.

"True, but fracturing another girl's leg for calling you weird is unacceptable. You must keep your emotions intact. Kippa's purpose is to help you do that. You will feed it, walk it and tend to its every need, but don't become attached, it's just another tool in your training, remember that."

Specimen 191 nodded without a question. "And from now on you will be called Emma - outside of school," he concluded, as he stepped out of the room. Emma wasn't sure why but for some reason that made her smile.

becoming too attached

Much time passed with Emma still undergoing her training. Kippa the puppy was now Kippa the dog and Emma had taught him all sorts of commands, like sniffing for contraband, making calls on the telephone and paying the pizza man when they ordered out. But Agent 0011 soon noticed that Emma was growing far too fond of Kippa. It wasn't until he found her hiding the dog's puppies in a basket tucked under the house that he decided enough was enough.

"This dog is interfering with your judgement." said Agent 0011. "You're becoming hesitant and your actions were too hesitant."

"But I was just ..."

"Not to mention I've realised you're lying more and hiding data from me to protect others." He threw a file with reports on the ground before her. Emma lowered her gaze. "You've developed more than enough empathy training, you're becoming too attached," he said. "You know what to do."

Emma's gaze slowly shifted to the dog feeding its puppies. She walked over and kneeled beside it. "Hurry up," snapped Agent 0011. Wrapping her arms around its collar she quickly snapped its neck, holding the dog's limp body in her arms.

"Good," he said. "Now the puppies."

undisclosed rooftop

Weeks later, the two travelled to an undisclosed rooftop in the city where they were greeted by a helicopter. Agent 0003 accompanied by the now much older young man hopped out. He and Emma greeted each other by quickly whipping out their guns.

"Stand down, Emma," said Agent 0011.

"Emma?" hummed the commander, signalling Specimen 126 to lower his weapon. "First-name basis, are we?" Agent 0011 hinted for Emma to leave the roof, giving them some time alone. She nodded and slipped through the door leading back to the building floors. "Pretty soon you'll be calling her honey-bunch and dumpling pie."

"It's for concealment purposes," he assured him.

"Ah yes, of course," said Agent 0003. "Well, we might as well get to the matter at hand." He handed the agent a file with money and some documents. "You've been reassigned."

Agent 0011 skipped through the sheets of paper in the file. "Australia?!" he said.

"Yes, it turned out The Generation XT49 Project was a complete failure, the Plume Elixir wasn't successful - we have nothing to inject into her system."

"But, she can do it without the supplement, she's highly talented."

"That's right; you would know all about her talents wouldn't you?"

"What that's supposed to mean?" asked Agent 0011

"Word on the street is you've run off and gotten soft on us."

"That's crap." declare Agent 0003 "I'm assuming a cover which ... ."

"Don't play dumb, Agent 0011," he said, adjusting his cufflinks. "You and your little family outings in the park, ordering pizza on movie night, having her kill her little doggie thinking we wouldn't learn about it." The commander stared into Agent 0003's soul. "The project is over because you compromised it. You've become far too attached, Agent 0011." He finished, his face unmoved whatsoever. "You know what to do."