When you turn five, everyone is categorised according to ability. Group A is the highest rating and group Z is the lowest ability, with the entire alphabet in between. When you reach the age of eighteen, you are assigned a job according to your ability group. Tara is assigned to the job of assassinating people who defy against this categorisation, but one of those people is her best friend. Is it time to bring the system down or will she really have to kill her friend?


2. Chapter One

I remember the day that I got categorised as clear as if it was yesterday.


"Mummy? Where are we going?" I looked up at my mummy, blinking my blue eyes at her.

"Tara," mummy replied, "you are going to have a little test. It won't hurt very much and you don't need to do anything scary. All you have to do is sit in a chair, the people will give you a teeny-weeny prick and it will all be sorted."

"A prick? Like with a needle?" My brother, Edward said in fear.

"Yes, but it won't hurt much, I promise you." Mummy answered, winding her long fingers round mine and Edward's hands.

"Where's daddy?" I asked.

"I don't know. He should be here." Mummy replied, staring off into the distance.

The car suddenly stopped outside a large marble building. Golden gates blocked the driveway, but these gates swung open when our car stopped in front of them. Our car crawled up the driveway slowly and our driver pulled into a free parking space.

"Would you like me to wait here, Ma'am?" The driver asked, turning round in his seat to look at my mummy.

"Oh, yes please." She popped the door open and glanced at me and Edward. "Come on then you two."

We climbed out after her and made our way towards the marble building. Huge wooden doors swung open to reveal a large, dark entrance hall containing a desk and some chairs. Several people with small children were sat on these chairs and the adults kept glancing towards two white doors at the sides of the room.

"Hello, are you here for the categorisation?" The woman at the desk asked my mummy with a smile.

"Yes we are. This is Edward and Tara Cavendish."

The woman scanned over her computer screen for a moment before nodding. "Yes, I've found you. Take a seat and you'll be called in soon."

Mummy nodded and took me and Edward over to the seating area.

What seemed like hours later (it probably was only a few minutes, but to a child's mind, this can seem like hours), a man came out of one of the white doors and called Edward's name.

"What about Tara?" My mummy asked, looking down at me with concern.

"We analyse children separately, but you two may come in and wait in the side room." The man replied.

The white door led into a small room containing just three chairs and a tablet on a small table. There was another door at the end of the room that the man led Edward through.


"Tara? Do you want to come through now?" The man asked, coming back out the room with Edward.

Edward climbed onto one of the free chairs, smiling down at a sticker stuck to his t-shirt. I glanced nervously at the man before following him into the room.

"My name is Jack Wilder and I will be analysing you today. All you have to do is sit on this very comfy chair here, relax, and don't worry about a thing. Me and my friends will do all the science-y stuff for you." He smiled at me before helping me to get onto the chair that he indicated.

It reminded me of the dentist's in here. Jack turned my head to the side and covered my eyes with one of his gloved hands. A nurse came over and pressed down on my forearms gently to hold me in place. I felt a sharp prick as a needle slid into the side of my neck. I wriggled around, but tried not to squeal.

"Well done, there's a good girl." Jack soothed, taking his hand away from my eyes.

I barely had time to smile at my own bravery before everything went black.


"Tara? Tara Cavendish!" A voice cut through the darkness and jolted me from my sleep.

"Mm?" I mumbled, opening my eyes.

"You're done, you can go back to your mummy now." Jack said, smiling down at me and helping me to get off the dentist-like chair.

"Is that it?"

"Yes. See? It wasn't so bad was it?" The nurse said to me, taking me to the door. Jack was typing something on his tablet as he too followed me out.

"The results of their tests will be sent out in a few days." Jack said to my mummy as we left the room.

I looked back at Jack as we left the building and he gave me a small wave before calling the next child in. I glanced down at my t-shirt and saw that it now had a sticker on it. Jack must have put it there while I was asleep. It had a picture of four people holding hands and said "I've been categorised!" above them.

About a week after the test, we got our results in the post. I was put into category D and Edward was put into category B. Our parents were so pleased with our results that they threw a party for us and invited the whole family round to celebrate.


I had a best friend. Her name was Cara Wilbourne. I had known her since she was born. She was exactly two months younger than I was and our mums had gone to school together. Even our dads knew each other from an old drama group that they used to go to. We did everything together. Before we started school, our mums took it in turns to look after us during the week and our families would share a meal together on Friday evenings. We went to the park together, we stuck up for each other from the older children who used to tease us, we even had a pair of walkie-talkies (especially invented for young children to communicate over long distances).

This all changed after categorisation day. I received a D (really good) and Cara received an X (not so good). People who received X, Y or Z were looked down upon in society. They were the outcasts, the people who were, basically, too stupid to be useful to our government.

Cara had to go to a special school for the children who received an X, Y or Z and I hardly ever saw her. We tried to meet up most weekends, but something had changed. Cara was no longer the person that I knew. And as we got older, this change became deeper. By the time we left primary school (and got retested), she was not the Cara that I knew at all.


"Maybe you will move up in your test?" I said to Cara when we met up the Saturday before our end-of-primary-school retest.

Every child is given the categorisation test again at the end of primary school to see if their category has changed. Some people do move up a category, it is rare to move down a category, but most stay the same. People who received an X, Y or Z on their first test, rarely move out of that bracket. They have already been rejected and will not be received back into society.

"Oh, come on, Tara. You know as well as I do that no one in my bracket moves out of it. I'm stuck here. So you just move on up in your life and live very successfully with a high paid job. Don't you worry about me, probably destined for collecting rubbish or something." Cara snapped.

"So this is what this snappy silence for the past six years has been about? The fact that I was categorised higher than you were? Well, I'm sorry that it turned out like this. You know, I didn't want to leave you. I would much rather been an X so I could be with you." I snapped back, turning away from her and playing with a loose bit of thread on my bedroom curtains.

"There is nothing that anyone can do to change my result now. I'll just be stuck as an X for the rest of my life. X. Nothing." Cara muttered, her voice breaking.

I turned around, all my anger slipping away at the sight of the tears on her cheeks. I bent down and wrapped my arms round her. We stayed like that until my parents called us down to dinner an hour later.


Neither of our tests changed. Cara came round my house after she had got her results. She wasn't crying. She merely said: "Once an X, always an X."

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