**BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD**
For those of you that read And So It Begins and want a little more understanding and lore for the types of tests and torture techniques going on at Omphalos, then you've come to the right place! In this article, I will be explaining in-depth how Omphalos runs and what exactly the Headmistress wants to accomplish. Enjoy!
Three Month Trial
So the first thing to note about Omphalos is that it is one of MANY rehabilitions schools for the Guardianship. This is the main facility where most commoners go through a three month trial period.
In the trial period, a patient will be deemed Tainted or Not Tainted; some may even get the Exceptional moniker. If they are deemed Tainted, then the Guardianship does one of a few things.
If they're young and weak, they will send them out with the Tainted part of their tracker turned on and they will use them one last time to try and get other runaways up until the child parishes, whether from the elements or something else.
If they are older and stronger, there are two options: kill them, or utilize them. If they kill them, then it's easy enough for disposal. If they decide maybe they would be of some use, they will typically have them go through the sterilization process so that they wouldn't ever be able to reproduce their "bad genes" and then they will have them do odd jobs that no one else wants to; something like, cleaning all the dead bodies from the streets, or being used as human NPC's in other patient's stress tests.
If the patients are deemed Not Tainted, then one of two things happens as well. They are either sent to one of the many other schools to zero in on their talents and raise them up to be upstanding citizens in the Reaver's eyes. Basically, they need to learn to play their part. The other option is that they may decide to try their hand at A.L.F. training. This would mean that they stay in Omphalos even after their three month trial ends.
If they are deemed Exceptional, then this brings out a whole different aspect. Exceptional patients are of the utmost importance for the Guardianship. This means they stay in Omphalos to be kept under close eye. They are groomed and preserved, and most often are given jobs in the birthing rooms.
Exceptional vs Tainted
So now that I've outlined the three month trial in which the patients are given a title, I figured it would be best to explain what those titles mean or how they are deemed to be Tainted or not.
Imagine this like a checklist of variables all along a point system. Parent/family history, sex, outspokennes, willingness to comply, susceptibility to waning loyalty, etc. All of these things and more are monitored when each individual passes through Omphalos.
In Emma's case from It Starts With Me, she is a female, so naturally weaker (although I say screw you Guardianship for having such sexist views!), there is no real emotion behind her father being arrested as she was not present, her mother is already gone, she responds to treatment well, is smart, beautiful, submissive, young. Overall, Emma is deemed as Exceptional because of all of these things. However, if she were older, then perhaps points would be taken away. If she had been aware of her father's ties to the propaganda AND didn't see the problem with it, she would have almost certainly been removed from Exceptional status.
In Amity's case, she has no choice but to be Tainted. She ran, she's older, she's defiant. The Guardianship wants compliant individuals with no originality or questioning minds. Amity in this case, ends up being the exact opposite from her younger sister. Besides that, as the Reaver digs deeper into her brain, she starts to find even more characteristics she's opposed to.
Every patient must get checked in. This means getting a proper cleaning, getting a tracker, and fixing any and all imperfections that could be related to being a commoner. In the case of It Starts With Me, Emma sees the old fashioned way things are done. Everything is done manually, by a person employed in the Guardianship. For Amity, things are wildly different. However, in both cases, they receive the same treatment.
First, the patient is sprayed with a white foam that completely removes all body hair, younger and older alike. This is typically more of a common practice for females, but males are kept just as "pristine".
Then they are washed and dried. Nothing really too exceptional here. After that, they are given their tracker and the signature grey clothes of Omphalos.
Once they are all dressed and ready, a worker gets started on washing and styling hair, using hi-tech tools, oils, extracts, lotions, and serums to take away imperfections of the face and body such as bags under the eyes, sunken in eyes, scars, bruises, and the like.
The Physical Examination
The physical exam is the first step for getting a read on a person's physical attributes to see if they are healthy individuals. The Reaver wants a full history of everything that has ever happened to their bodies, and she wants their vitals, blood type, dental information, heartrate, x-rays, etc, you name it. This is important for her because she wants only the best and healthiest people to carry on. There is no point wasting time on someone who is mentally exceptional if they are just going to get sick or pass on something that wouldn't be helpful in the long run. However, this information also helps her figure out which things can be fixed. We learn from Luke in And So It Begins that deafness is no longer an issue in Western American Society. Therefore, the Reaver also is likely to find other issues that she may be able to find cures for.
Typically the Headmisstress does not attend physical examinations, but in the case of Amity, she is very intrigued. This is more than likely her one of only a few times she's overseen such a common practice.
The Stress Test
The Stress Test is the first dive into the patient's psyche. The Reaver believes that the easiest way to preserve the Exceptional is for them to make the decision to change on their own. She calls it the Organic Approach. Therefore, she needs to figure out the strengths and weaknesses that everyone has. If she can do that, then she can figure out ways to target their weaknesses and get them to change on their own.
The process is actually completed by creating a "plane" in the patient's subconcious. Imagine it's like cyberspace, where you may have an avatar or character you play in a highly developed world. This is exactly how it happens in the patient's brain. They can only do what they would normally be capable of.
It is also possible to "link" planes so that the patients can see others. These others can be altered to appear different just as the surroundings can be changed. As for pain and suffering? It is all very real. Anything that happens in the plane can be felt with excrutiating detail. If you burn your foot, you feel the burn. The nurses are able to combat the pain from test to test, but they cannot combat death.
Why not death? Well, the Guardianship is using the patients brain as the battlefield. It can process pain, it can fill in the blanks for certain things, but the human brain cannot process death, and therefore just dies as if you were to die from the same thing in reality.
As we've learned, there is also a manual override that isn't typical and only the Reaver and a few higher ups are aware of how to complete it. When Amity decides she's going to let the other patient kill her, Madame Keres realizes she can't let this happen, so she creates a manual override. She then takes control of the "avatars" in the plane.
Although we don't really SEE what happens in the book because Madame Keres is not in the same "plane" as Amity, I will let you know that there is a device that the Reaver carries around that can completely stun a person, giving them worlds of pain, yet at the same time, making them appear as if they have no control over their body. We DO see this in the instance with Charlie at the end of the book.
By placing Amity in this state in the real world, the nurse is able to combat the pain, but because her body can't move, her plane is stuck to follow the same unfortunate circumstance.
Memory Actualization Process
MAPing is what happens to the more troublesome patients. For Emma, she never even made it to this step because her physical exam, stress test, and everyday life in her classes with Mr. Ricky revealed Exceptional status in the eyes of the Reaver. However, for many others like Trixie or Amity, they end up going into the Memory Actualization Process.
In this step, the patients are injected with a serum at the base of their skull. This serum links with the brain to target the memories that match up to the weakness they revealed during their stress test. At first, the patient relives these memories over and over. This is a way for the system to pick up on patterns and find the best possible memories to try and alter. It also doubles as a way to wear down the patient in a torturous way.
The serum then acts as an agent, allowing the nurse or even the Brain to input data into certain circumstances, essentially changing the memory the individual has. This is done in order to hopefully have the patient make the decision to conform "all on their own".
Like all things, there is always a flaw. Luke was able to pick up on the flaw somehow and told Amity how to get out of it as well. There are ways to keep people in the dark, and if you can pick up on certain inconsistencies, then you are also able to completely shut it out. If the patient is able to realize that the memory isn't real, they can instantly shut it down.
In the case of Amity in And So It Begins, the Brain assumed that "M" was a nickname of familiarity and took an educated guess that anyone who called her that would show a deep connection built on respect. But it was wrong in that regard, giving Amity the perfect opening to realize that it wasn't real.
The other flaw in this is that Madame Keres can't actually read minds. Sure, she can see inside the head of all of her patients, but she can only access memories with ties to the emotion she inputs. If she's looking for something specific, it'll take a long time to find. This is why she tries to use other torturous techniques after MAPing in order to try and get what she wants.
The Elemental Pods are creative torture chambers basically. These are the next step up in the scale of pain the Reaver needs to inflict. If the Reaver is determined that she wants something from someone, or maybe their genes are too good to pass up and deem Tainted, then she will order them to the Elemental Pods.
There are four types: The water pods simulate being drowned, the earth pods simulate being buried alive, the air pods simulate being shot at over and over again, and finally, the fire pods simulate being burned alive.
The way the pods work is simple, really. The patient is placed inside the pod and asked a series of questions, basically like a lie detector test. Then they are subjected to the torture of the chosen pod for a pre-determined amount of time. Once their torture is over, they are asked similar questions to the beginning. If the answer is determined to be a lie, or they still do not want to comply, then the torture begins again.
This can be done as many times as the Reaver pleases, but typically is only done in hour long increments.
The White Rooms
The White Rooms are reserved for the patients that hold information. These patients are too damaged to let be, but too good to let die. The White Rooms are typically used to break individuals that have no leverage.
For Amity, she never really makes it to the White Rooms because her weakness of Guilt makes it easy to break her. Others that may not have family, friends, or really anything to live for will typically be harder to break. These are the individuals that end up in the White Rooms.
The White Rooms are rooms that are devoid of sound, stimulation, and color. Everything is white. The walls, the doors, the clothes you're stuck in. It is completely sound proof, and you are left alone with just your conciousness. For a lot of individuals, this is torturous.
They are only allowed out when they say they are ready to talk, and if they don't talk when they come out, they immediately get thrown back in. This practice will often drive patients mad if they stay in the rooms for too long.
Limbo is the standard torture for those that have information. This is the type of torture you would typically see in most gangster movies. There is usually a nurse in the back, monitoring health and brain function, and a Master Sergeant doing the torturing, or overseeing the torture as a lower level trainee does it.
The Limbo room has a viewing area for the Headmistress and/or anyone she chooses to show. She will typically oversee these types of tortures and whisper into the ear of the Master Sergeant, giving them directions.
The patient in Limbo will be tortured relentlessly on most occasions. They are hooked up to the same lie monitors as the elemental pods and they have no choice but to endure what is coming to them unless they give up the information the Reaver is asking for.
The Birthing Rooms don't really come up too much in And So It Begins, but they are very much a part of the psychopathy of the Guardianship.
Those deemed Exceptional are often groomed to become the breeders for the next generation. This is most likely where Emma would have ended up if she were to have continued through the program. Imagine backyard breeders of dogs, not the good kind, and picture it as human beings instead.
These "rooms" consist of everything up to and including the nurseries for the children. Once they reach the age of 5, they are shuffled into the rest of Omphalos and then spread accordingly after their official three month evaluation.
The sterilization chambers are exactly what they sound like: A room in which sterilization happens. This is a technique that was developed to be non-invasive and quick. For anyone deemed Tainted, they must be sterilized in order to not accidentally reproduce.
In the case of young children, they typically do not get sterilized for obvious reasons. But if a tainted individual is 15 and up, they are sterilized out of precaution. In Amity's case, she is being released strategically, so they would have to make sure she could never reproduce.
Of course, this is a risk that the Reaver is taking, because there is always a possibility that Amity could produce more children like Emma, and especially knowing that her children may very well be Luke's children, she battles with the idea of it being too much of a risk. However, SPOILER ALERT, in the third installment of the Fight for Survival Series, we learn that with the complete change of the facility between book one and two, the sterilization method is implanted into the MAPing serum and Elemental Pods. The more times a patient goes through them, the more sterile they become. So in this case, we can only assume that Amity will not be able to reproduce in the future (or will she?)
Memory draining is a practice that isn't well known. Pull any random Force officer on the street and they will laugh at you if you mention anything about it. However, the First Sergeant being groomed for the Sergeant Major position will know, and the Reaver knows.
This is a practice that has a function for the future of the Guardianship, but the Reaver is not ready to unleash it. It is the Impetus Method (Impetus Approach). We learn in And So It Begins that the Reaver has only used it once before Amity and did not like the results. But, she uses Amity later to perfect her methods and to push along what she really wants: a once deviant individual to be compliant. Subsequently, she's also hoping for Luke to get angry and drop Amity from his life.
Memory draining works from present to past, removing the most recent memories first. The process doesn't take long at all, about 5 minutes per year of life. Although we don't really learn about it, in the instance of John Collins, the Reaver completely created a shell of a man. If you take away all memories, with no filters, or guidelines, you run the risk of taking away everything that makes a person themselves. Think retrograde amnesia, where the procedural memories are intact, but they know nothing about their past, and their true selves come out. This is what had happened with John Collins. Instead of finally getting the father she had so desperately wanted, Madame Keres ended up with man that didn't know how to be a parent and didn't care to be one. Her ultimate goal was to have this for Amity as well, to restart her back to whatever baseline she was living with, but of course, Luke cut this short.
So what's the overall goal for the Guardianship? I suppose it's not explicity laid out in any of the books yet. But the truth is, Madame Keres is hoping to rewrite the genetic history of Humanity. Deep down, she truly wants others to feel relief from the normal things that weigh us down. She has created Omphalos and the other rehabilitation centers in hopes to fine tune indiviudals for creating an advanced Human Race. Think of Eugenics, but on a very deep level of changing all of Humanity, not just physical genes.