Featured Story • February 2014



Levels of Observation


Kenneth Schneyer


From the Primary Level Placement and Tracking Assessment, administered at age 7:

10. Look at the four pictures below. Which one is the sad face?

a. Face A.

b. Face B.

c. Face C.

d. Face D.

11. After you walked in the front door of this building, how many times did you turn a corner before you got to this room?

a. 5.

b. 7.

c. 9.

d. 11.

12. Which of these things was in your father’s or mother’s pockets when they walked with you in the hallway this morning? You can pick more than one.

a. Nothing.

b. A wallet.

c. A knife or gun.

d. Something else.

e. I don’t know.

13. Press the blue button. When the blue light comes on, answer: Do you think anyone is looking at you right now?

a. Yes, one person is looking at me.

b. Yes, three people are looking at me.

c. No one is looking at me.

d. I can’t tell.

14. Press the red button, and an exam helper will come to your seat. After the exam helper arrives, answer this question: Does the exam helper like to eat:

a. Pizza?

b. Hot dogs?

c. Noodles?

d. Tacos?

15. Press the green button and a window will open. You will see four women sitting in chairs, with numbers on their backs. Which one is keeping a secret?

a. Number 1.

b. Number 2.

c. Number 3.

d. Number 4.

16. Is it a nice secret or a nasty secret?

a. A nice secret.

b. A nasty secret.

* * *

From the Developmental Adjustment & Orientation Inventory, administered to Eighth-Year Students:

28. My talent is:

a. a blessing.

b. a useful tool in the service of a good cause.

c. an irritating habit that sometimes comes in handy.

d. a curse.

29. It’s right for me to know:

a. anything I can find out.

b. anything that helps me serve others and improve the world.

c. anything that doesn’t hurt anybody else.

d. only what people want me to know about them.

30. My teachers:

a. are cruel.

b. don’t care about me one way or the other.

c. are willing to hurt me if it will help them accomplish important goals.

d. want what is best for me.

e. love me.

31. My parents:

a. are the best people to advise me in all things.

b. love me, but do not understand the needs and goals of someone with talents like mine.

c. have no idea what my life is like.

32. I can trust (circle all that apply):

a. my teachers.

b. my fellow students.

c. my family.

d. no one.

* * *

From the Academy Comprehensive Certification Examination:

72. When is authorization by a Desk Officer required before commencing Level Two Observation of a subject?

a. In all cases except where there is an imminent threat to human life or public safety.

b. In all cases except where the Observer has probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be disclosed.

c. It is never required.

73. When is authorization by a Desk Officer required before commencing Level Three Observation of a subject?

a. In all cases.

b. In all cases except where there is an imminent threat to human life or public safety.

c. In all cases except where there is an imminent danger of mission failure.

74. During Level Two Observation, a subject’s feelings and emotional state are:

a. Dangerous.

b. Distractions that should be ignored.

c. Harmless noise.

d. Data that should be recorded.

e. Useful tools for influencing the subject in the future.

75. How long can continuous Level Two Observation be maintained without risk of personality disorientation to the Observer?

a. 5 hours.

b. 10 hours.

c. 15 hours.

d. 20 hours.

76. How long can continuous Level Three Observation be maintained without risk of personality disorientation to the Observer?

a. 30 minutes.

b. 60 minutes.

c. 90 minutes.

d. There is no period without such risk.

77. Practicum Problem A: When you are ready, notify the proctor. The proctor will lead you to an interrogation room containing one subject, one certified Observer, and three other candidates. When the proctor gives the signal, commence Level Two Observation of the subject only, assessing all mandatory and desirable objects. After 30 minutes, write a report of your Observations and give them to the proctor. Candidate reports will be compared to the report of the certified Observer. Any candidate practicing Level Three Observation during this examination will be dismissed.

* * *

From Form 29-J-7, Post-Observation Log, Variation 7:

  5. Duration of Observation:

  6. Location of Subject when Observation commenced:

  7. Location of Subject when Observation terminated:

  8. Level of Observation (check one):  II   III 

For the remaining questions (except for question 17), you will be permitted only 20 seconds for each answer.

  9. Describe the meal you ate most recently before commencing Observation.

10. Name the last person with whom you had a conversation before    commencing Observation:

11. Are you (check as many as apply):

angry frightened sad jealous irritated

annoyed frustrated confused euphoric

12. What is your political affiliation?

13. Do you believe in a god?

14. Do you prefer wine, beer, or spirits?

15. Whom do you love?

16. Whom do you hate?

17. List at least five ways in which you are different from the subject of the Observation:

* * *

From the Nomination Questionnaire for the Outstanding Service Medal:

  7. What was the duration of the longest Level Two Observation completed by the nominee?

a. Less than 24 hours.

b. 24-48 hours.

c. More than 48 hours.

  8. What was the duration of the longest Level Three Observation completed by the nominee?

a. Less than 1 hour.

b. 1-2 hours.

c. More than 2 hours.

  9. Using percentages, indicate the approximate breakdown of characteristics of the nominee’s Level Two and Level Three subjects. (In case of overlap, it is acceptable to exceed 100%. )

a. Unwilling witnesses:

b. Crime victims:

c. Members of criminal/terrorist organizations:

d. Enemy agents:

e. Persons suspected of conspiracy to commit:

i. Violent crime:

ii. Property crime:

iii. Treason:

10. Of the nominee’s Level Two Observations, approximately how many   resulted in:

a. Production of usable material evidence?

b. Identification of new subjects?

c. Positive identification of criminals?

d. Arrests?

e. Incarcerations?

11. Of the nominee’s Level Three Observations, how many resulted in:

a. Prevention without surrender to police?

b. Surrender to police without confession?

c. Confession?

d. Suicide?

* * *

From the Level Three Observation Ancillary Effects Report:

  5. How many persons other than the intended subject were affected by Level Three Observation?

  6. Indicate how far each of these persons was from the intended subject at the time of Level Three Observation.

a. Number within 10 feet of subject:

b. Number between 11 and 20 feet from subject:

c. Number beyond 20 feet from subject:

(If the number in #6(c) is greater than zero, refer to Training Division.)

  7. Were any of the affected persons minor children? If so, how many?

  8. Are any of the affected persons now deceased? If so, how many?

(If the response to #8 is in the affirmative, refer to Compensation Department.)

* * *

From the Observer Oversight Log:

22. Has the Observer expressed reluctance to engage in Level Two or Level Three Observation? If so, provide details.

23. Has the Observer expressed sympathy with criminal subjects? If so, provide details.

24. Has the Observer expressed disagreement with the aims or methods of the Division? If so, provide details.

25. Has the Observer displayed any confusion concerning his/her own motives, beliefs, or identity? If so, provide details and refer to Division Counseling.

* * *

From the Division Counseling and Referral Intake:

  6. When did you first experience the problem for which you are visiting today?

  7. Why do you think this problem is related to one of your Observation     sessions?

  8. Do you think you are in danger of:

a. Hurting yourself?

b. Committing violence against others?

c. Jeopardizing the mission of the Division?

  9. Have you actually attempted to do any of the above? If so, specify.

10. Have you refused any assignments or disobeyed any orders during the last 72 hours?

11. If possible, identify the subject of the last Observation session that preceded the problems you have noticed.

* * *

From the Level Three Observation Failure Report:

  7. Outcome of Observation:

a. Anticipated crime was committed (specify).

b. Subject did not confess.

c. Subject did not turn him/herself in for arrest.

d. Subject did not commit suicide.

e. Subject committed suicide when not authorized.

  8. Current status of subject (check as many as apply):

a. No change in previous status.

b. Changed location (specify).

c. New crime probability (specify).

d. Alerted to Level Three Observations.

e. Deceased.

  9. Probable reason for failure:

a. Insufficient Observer range/duration (refer to Desk Officer).

b. Subject with undocumented Observation abilities (refer to Special   Investigations).

c. Misidentification of subject (refer to Quality Control).

d. Observer error (refer to Training Division).

e. Observer noncompliance (refer to Internal Affairs).

* * *

From the Internal Affairs Referral Cover Sheet:

  4. What is the probable/suspected reason for the Observer noncompliance (check as many as apply)?

a. Personality disorientation or emotional fusion.

b. Fatigue.

c. Other mental disorder (specify).

d. Corruption / criminal activities (specify).

e. Political resistance / treason.

  5. Current status of Observer:

a. Desk duty.

b. Temporary leave.

c. In custody.

d. Under medical observation.

e. Whereabouts unknown.

* * *

From the Observer Detention Intake Inventory:

17. Prisoner’s certified Level Two Observation range (when in doubt,   overestimate):

a. Less than 100 feet.

b. 100-299 feet.

c. 300-499 feet.

d. 500 feet or more.

18. Prisoner’s certified Level Three Observation range (when in doubt,   overestimate):

a. Less than 20 feet.

b. 20-49 feet.

c. 50-69 feet.

d. 70-89 feet.

e. 90 feet or more.

19. Has an assessment been performed of the prisoner’s probable long-term response to isolation? If so, summarize it:

20. How susceptible is the prisoner to Level Two Observation?

a. Fully transparent. (Attach explanation)

b. Partially transparent.

c. Primarily opaque with exceptions.

d. Fully opaque (i. e. , standard Observer profile).

21. How susceptible is the prisoner to Level Three Observation?

a. Fully compliant.

b. Mostly compliant, with exceptions.

c. Mostly resistant, with exceptions (i. e. , standard Observer profile).

d. Impervious.

22. The period of the mandated detention:

a. Less than 180 days.

b. 180 days – 2 years.

c. 2-5 years.

d. More than 5 years.

e. Life.

* * *

From the Level Four Observation Authorization and Mandate:

31. Documented Level Three Observation range of subject (update if possible):

32. Names of at least five (5) certified Observers to commence Level Four Observation, with the certified Level Three range of each (authorization will be denied unless all ranges listed are greater than the range specified in #31):

33. For each Observer listed in #32, attach signed orders for temporary leave of at least 60 days commencing immediately after completion of Level Four Observation. (Authorization will be denied unless all orders are attached. )

34. Psychiatric assessor authorizing Level Four Observation:

35. District director authorizing Level Four Observation:

36. Regional commander authorizing Level Four Observation:

37. Facility warden authorizing Level Four Observation:

38. Contact information for subject’s next of kin:

Copies of this Authorization and Mandate must be provided to the District director, regional commander, psychiatric assessor, facility warden, clerk’s office, all Observers participating in the Level Four Observation and their Desk Officers. If next of kin is unavailable, consult District protocols for disposition of remains.



Ken Schneyer readingKenneth Schneyer has been creating exams for over 20 years as a professor of humanities and legal studies. His stories appear in Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix 3 and Clockwork Phoenix 4, as well as in Analog, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, Podcastle, and various hypothetical essay questions. He’s a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop and a member of both Codex Writers and the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop. He lives in Rhode Island with three champion test-takers and a cat who defies paradox. Look him up on Facebook, on Twitter, and at ken-schneyer.livejournal.com.

Ken had this to say about how “Levels of Observation” came to be: “I asked myself whether an entire story could be crafted from nothing but exam questions, and I thought about the different gateways, from childhood to death, that a person might have to cross. At the same time (possibly due to this choice of narrative structure) I became increasingly paranoid, and so the story turned into a tale about surveillance, intrusion, usurpation and betrayal.”



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