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THE MISSING

Discussion in 'Stories' started by HelloColdWorld, May 17, 2018.

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  1. HelloColdWorld

    HelloColdWorld Moderator Staff Member Moderator Elite

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    Here is the REWRITE of the story, THE MISSING!
    Click here for the original story!
    The Characters:
    C.41.3 Clarissa Young - @HelloColdWorld
    C.42.2 Iris Hearth - @Anqth
    C.41.2 Alex Hester - @Wolfy
    C.41.4 Leviathan Inges - @Bori
    C.41.1 Colin Davidson - @PepperPancake
    C.42.4 Kyo Kizokunashi - @Staraboo
    C.42.3 Charlotte Anders - @hecccing
    C.42.1 Karter Fontaine - @HuskyInAHat

    All it took was one moment — a sudden jolt across the ocean that set off the entire world screaming. Twenty-eight thousand had lived and breathed a moment before, but by the next, they were gone. Some wrenched from their beds, others mid-conversation. A plan that had been in the works for decades was finally in motion. Nothing was coincidental, all aged from eighteen to twenty-four, all talented in their own way. In the days that followed the zip in time, these twenty-eight thousand were dubbed The Missing, but would they ever be found?

    ~

    Darkness swarmed her, the suffocating black made it difficult to breathe, as if she were drowning in midnight. Her grey eyes refused to adjust to the impenetrable darkness that filled her vision. She was trapped, caged, imprisoned. Her body began to shake violently as she tried to remember something, anything. Who was she? Where was she? Her mind was blank.

    Suddenly, the lights snapped on, and harsh light flooded her vision. She let out a cry at the immediate brightness of the room. Blinking away tears, she found herself in a small white cell, the walls, floor and ceiling were all padded. There was nothing in the cell except herself: she was tall, standing at 5’10 and had limbs corded with lean muscle. But with a start, she found her left leg partially different. Nervously, she pulled up the black jeans she wore, revealing from the knee downwards, a prosthetic limb. Sweat beaded on her skin as she began racking her brain, trying to remember the loss of half her leg. But no recollection came. Her skin was a dark ebony complexion and her hair pitch black which trailed into dyed silver.

    Along with the jeans, she wore a grey t-shirt and a black leather jacket that was covered with embroidered roses on the left arm. She shrugged it off, glad to feel a small chill in the padded room, snaking across her muscular arms was a fire dragon tattoo on her left and a symbol she couldn’t remember on her right. Scars decorated her bare skin, the thin white lines telling stories of a violent past, most significantly one that slashed just below her right eye before stopping at her neck. Inspecting these scars, she suddenly jolted as one word punched through into her blank mind.

    Iris.

    Tears flooded her stone-grey eyes; her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish as she screamed at herself. Iris, Iris, IRIS! She silently yelled in her mind. But she remembered nothing else. As warm tears covered her face, she sank onto the floor again. Iris curled into a ball, quietly whimpering to herself.

    The cell remained lit, allowing her to watch the tears sink into the padded floor. The lump formed in her throat refused to budge, but her whimpers had gone silent. The tears now drying on Iris’ face sobered her thoughts, almost as if they always did. Did she cry often? Why? She knew there was nothing wrong with crying, but even so, she felt it as a weakness to shed tears. She was at least glad the cell contained only herself. Iris pursed her lips, willing herself to disappear behind a mask of neutrality. It was easy, had she done that before too? It didn’t matter; she was locked in a cell with no memories. She was a blank slate mentally, so she made herself one physically in response.

    ~

    The lights had brought them to consciousness, but as soon as they opened their aching eyes, the bright lights dissipated. They didn’t have time to register the room they sat in, regardless, they began to move. A devious smirk lifted their cheeks as they started to analyse their situation, almost completely forgetting the cuffs the clamped their hands together. They looked at the handcuffs, raising their arms and squinting into the darkness. It took a moment before their eyes adjusted to the lack of lighting; they found themselves chained down by simple handcuffs. A mischievous grin lifted their lips; it was hardly a challenge to them. They pulled out a hairpin from their unkempt long brown hair, straightening out the metal and shaping it into a sort of key. Within seconds, the handcuffs fell to the ground, unlocked. Just as the cuffs hit the padded floors, one thought filled their mind.

    You are Alex Hester, how could you forget?

    Their smirk momentarily faded, a jolt of surprise flooding them. Alex’s immediate thoughts were to escape; they never thought about their name. In response to their surprise, the lights switched back on. Instantly, Alex began inspecting the room: plain padded walls, ceiling and door, and a dirty mirror hung on the left wall. With a grimace, they started to evaluate their appearance, trying to remember more of themselves.

    Alex stood at around six feet, dominating the space of the small cell. Their skin was deeply tanned, indicating they had spent long hours in the sun. Their wavy brown hair faded into dark purple that reached their chest, with a sigh, Alex tied up their long hair into a sweeping ponytail before continuing their assessment. Their eyes were heterochromatic; their left eye was a stormy grey while their right was a shade of blue that matched the ocean. A faded scar that trailed from their right cheek to their left collarbone distorted their tanned skin to a pale white. Alex smirked once more, turning away from the grimy mirror and towards the door. They decided it was time to leave this padded room and get the hell out of wherever they were.

    The lights seemed to understand Alex’s thoughts, as they marched towards the door; the brightness of the room was swallowed up by absolute darkness. It was as if whoever had put them in the padded room had said; You can’t leave just yet.

    Alex cursed in Spanish, hissing at the darkness that left them blind. It was nothing like the dim lighting from before when they unlocked the handcuffs; this was a swarm of black that swallowed the room whole. Alex shivered, crossing their arms they flopped onto the padded floor, legs also crossed. It would be impossible for them to navigate the dark, so in stubborn defeat, all they could do was wait.

    ~

    It was difficult for him to ignore the dread that flooded through his veins, the thick swarm of nerves and anxiety twisted his insides and spat out the cold sweat that lined his lean body. His breathing was harsh, but it couldn’t drown out the churning of his thoughts, the unanswerable question. What have I done? What have I done? What have I done? Nothing could comfort him; everything was gone, no memories, no sight, nothing, not even a name. The darkened room he was crouched in was most obviously a cell, even if he couldn’t see, he could feel the inescapable feeling of being trapped. To be locked up like this meant one thing, he had destroyed his freedom without knowing how.

    A buzzing noise filled his ears suddenly; electricity began to pump into the fluorescent lights, setting the room into a sickly white glow. He squinted his eyes at the fresh brightness, curling into himself further to shrink away from it all. All the light did was confirm his entrapment, the buzzing bulbs revealed the padded floor, walls and ceilings, along with an outline of a door. There were no windows, no furniture, only himself and the lights. He raked a hand through his hair in frustration, making it stand on end. More questions came to mind the longer he remained curled in a ball. Where are my memories? Who am I? What have I done?!

    He snapped then, shooting upwards so quickly he smacked his head on the wall. He gritted his teeth, it was painless, thankfully, but frustration and anger thrummed in his veins. He began to pace back and forth, suddenly acutely aware of every tiny detail in the cell. The padded door had no handle, instead, blending into the padded walls, but the other side was metal, thanks to the high-pitched screech it made when he rammed his shoulder into it. He was the first inhabitant of the cell, the white starch fabric beneath him was fresh and clean, with no faded memories of human activity. He also found himself wearing slightly rumpled pyjamas. He could only assume he had been sleeping, tucked away beneath a duvet before ending up here. His pacing continued until his legs burned, his socked feet treading a path in the floor. He groaned, flopping to the ground again and rubbing his forearms.

    ‘Just a clue,’ he murmured, his voice hoarse. ‘Anything.’

    A splotch of ink became his clue, sunk beneath his otherwise pale skin was a tattoo — abroad eagle, its wings outstretched in flight, the swirling ink soaring motionlessly across his left wrist. His throat constricted as his breathing hitched. A memory of the pain, the teeth-clenching feeling of needle upon needle grating against his flesh, came to mind. His pupils blew wide, swallowing the usual bright green as he remembered.

    ‘My name is Karter.’

    ~

    The mask made her feel strong enough that her legs no longer shook. But the crawling fear that lurked beneath her pale skin continued to send shivers down her spine. Sat in the brace position, her breath was hot against the black mask she had found upon her face. At first when she woke it felt like a barrier, cutting away her oxygen and ability to speak. But after ripping it off, after her panted breaths were no longer deafened by her hammering heart, did she find the scars that the mask had covered — deep ridges sunk into cheeks that were now smeared with drying tears. A moment later she put it back on, eyes still flooded with emotions she didn’t want to be spilt.

    An hour later, her name came back to her like ink being dropped into water. The sudden blooming of memories, of foreign thoughts, made her lithe body wrack with terror — Leviathan Inges. That was her name, but it was still strange to call herself that. Who exactly was she? No other memories came to mind, just that name over and over, Leviathan Inges, Leviathan Inges, Leviathan Inges, like a drumbeat that refused to cease.

    Her shaky hands raked through her short brown hair as if to silence the tattoo of words pounding in her head. The lump in her throat deepened, making Leviathan feel as if she couldn’t breathe. She gasped and spluttered, forcing herself to stand in an attempt to get more air into her lungs. Grabbing onto the wall with grasping hands, her bitten nails scratched across the fabric, and her legs shook once more. Standing at full height, barely five feet, she choked on the lump stuck in her throat, tears suddenly flooding her eyes. Squeezing them shut, she collapsed back to the floor, her legs giving out from beneath her.

    The warm tears pooled beneath her eyelids, a thin stream seeping down her cheek and dampening the mask slightly. In the darkness of her mind, a light suddenly flooded her thoughts, a new memory of cold air sweeping her away from the cell.

    ‘Levi! Wait up!’

    The falling snowflakes crowned her head, which she shook free as she ran further through the snowscape. Turning for a moment, she saw the bright smile of a young boy, a friend? Under his arm was a wooden sledge, which he gave up carrying, dragging it across the snow-covered ground. Laughter echoed through the mist, Leviathan’s small body raced on, her short legs skipping across the slush.

    ‘You’ll have to catch me first!’ she cried happily.

    Leviathan’s eyes flew open, her mouth suddenly dry. Her breathing became steadier, a rush of calm swiftly flowing through her body. She swallowed down bile, smearing the tears on her face off as she took a deep breath. Shifting back into the brace position, a mantra of hope began in her mind.

    Leviathan Inges — Levi — You will be okay. You will get through this.

    ~

    Waking up to the pitch black had been disorientating, the slight chill of the room leaving goosebumps prickling on her flesh. But the sudden fresh clarity of two words was all she needed to stop the screaming that bubbled beneath the surface.

    My name is Charlotte Anders.

    The lights suddenly switched on almost in affirmation. She blinked instinctively, raising an arm to shield herself from the new brightness that flooded in. The darkness had only surrounded her for a second, but she was glad it was gone; it was like a thick hood, choking her of all senses. As Charlotte’s eyes adjusted, pupils shrinking to compensate, she sprang up from the floor from where she had been curled up. The lingering of sleep was still crusted in her eyes, but she scrubbed it away, heart thumping madly.

    ‘What’s going on?’ she demanded, running her fingers through her hair in frustration.

    The goosebumps on Charlotte’s tanned skin remained, even as she began pacing, her feet sinking deep into the padded fabric of the cell. She wore what she presumed were pyjamas, black leggings, an oversized burgundy hoodie and bright blue fuzzy socks. Rubbing at her arms, she stopped in her tracks, mind racing with questions that had no answers.

    ‘This is a mistake. I haven’t done anything wrong.’ Charlotte said firmly, eyes narrowing at the door. ‘Whoever has done this better let me out…’

    Her long legs set her striding up to the door; the padded door barely outlined as it blended with the room’s walls. She shivered again, a lump forming in her throat as she stood by the door. Less than a foot shorter than it, Charlotte looked it up and down with a creased brow. Slamming her palm against the door, it barely made a sound against the padded fabric.

    ‘Hey! Let me out!’ she shouted. ‘I’m not supposed to be here!’

    Despite her shouts that eventually choked into a hoarse rasp, she was left unanswered. The hammering of her heart increased, her breathing turning harsher as a new question bloomed.

    What if I am meant to be here?

    Charlotte couldn’t stop herself as she collapsed onto the floor, legs giving out at her newfound horror. She began rocking back and forth; hands gripped tight into her light brown hair. A sudden stinging pricked at her eyes, tears flooding through. She tried to swipe them away angrily, but a mantra of anxiety brought them faster.

    What if I did something horrible? Is there something wrong with me? What’s happening?! Who… who am I? I only know my name, but is that really enough?

    Through the hours, all that could be heard were the uncontrollable sobs. Nothing came to Charlotte, no memories, no spark. Only tears.

    ~

    Before he was even fully conscious, the need to investigate was fresh in his mind. Light brown eyes opened to find the flickering fluorescent lights above him, the white padded flooring beneath him and the tight metal handcuffs that cut right into his skin. A dark laugh escaped him as he eyed up the cuffs which gleamed slightly in the dim cell.

    ‘You and I,’ he said quietly to the cuffs, ‘are gonna talk.’

    He craned his neck to see the keyhole of the cuffs, the small hole depthless in the gloom. Next, his eyes slid across the room, narrowing slightly at the locked up door before landing on a neatly folded leather jacket on the floor. Gingerly, he kicked it with his foot before digging into its pockets. Inside was a single receipt, an empty pack of gum and an array of loose stationery. His eyes lit up at the four colourful paper clips, snatching them up, he began his task. His fingers slipped slightly as he bent one into shape, straightening it flat before shoving it into the keyhole. With gritted teeth, he fiddled and twisted the paper clip until the lock clicked, the mechanism of the handcuffs sliding loose on his left hand. A moment passed before he took it off his right, free at last.

    He grabbed up the jacket, shoving the unlocked handcuffs into the pocket and pulled out the receipt, brows creased. After eating up the room with his roving eyes, the next thing on the list was him. Who the hell was he? Smoothing out the crumpled piece of paper, he read it all out, hoping his memory would kick in.

    ‘Walmart - Save Money. Live Better.’ he said dully. ‘Boston, MA. 5 Gum, x3. $9.69. Cashier: Jamie Boyle. Customer: Colin Davidson. ’

    He swallowed uneasily, rereading the customer name over again. A flash of scenes lit up his vision for a moment, a loud, bright superstore and monotonous beeping of scanners. He suddenly remembered holding the warm coins along with the freshly printed receipt. Colin Davidson. He had shoved three pieces of gum into his mouth as he left, chewing loudly and giving everyone a dirty look. Colin Davidson. Walking from the store he had headed to a bookstore, the bell jangling loudly before the memory faded, the smell of sharp mint and old books disappearing.

    Blinking for a moment, Colin gave a nonchalant shrug. Amnesia, huh? Like that’ll stop me. He thought, grabbing up the bent out paperclip he stormed up to the where the door was, giving it a shove with his shoulder. It barely budged, a squeak being its only response. He shouldered it again, but just as he did, the lights snapped off. The sudden darkness left him hopelessly blind, losing his balance he collapsed on the floor, nose smashing against the door. He cursed, holding his nose as exhaustion seeped into his bones.

    ‘Dammit…’ he muttered.

    ~

    Her heart raced manically in her chest as if all the energy in the world had begun pumping through her veins. Her blue eyes had flown open as a stab of light flooded her vision. Taken aback by the brightness, she shielded her face, letting her eyes adjust for a moment before blinking the world into focus. Her mouth opened into a perfect ‘o’ shape as she found the room she was in.

    Not a room. A cell. Like one from a film about insane asylums. Her skin prickled at that realisation, goosebumps erupting on her pale flesh, her mouth still open and going dry at the sight of it all. White starch padded floors, a door with no handle, no natural light, only the bright buzzing above her. She rose from her curled position, spinning around in continuous circles in shock and horror. Losing her balance slightly, she tried to hold her arms out for support but found them clamped together. Handcuffs.

    ‘W-what!?’ she cried, gaping at the handcuffs. ‘Where am I!? What’s happening!?’

    Slower now, she twirled around several more times, her mind getting dizzy at the spinning before stopping dead, a new question in mind. Who am I?? No rational thought floated through her mind as she sifted through the thickness of her brain. It was as if her mind had been submerged in thick jelly, one she couldn’t pull out of despite her hurried movements. Her hammering heart refused to slow as she tucked herself onto the floor, cuffed hands awkwardly wrapped around her head in a fool’s attempt to shut out reality. None of it made sense to her, as it would to anyone, but it was real, no dream could ever be this vivid. She squeezed her hair tightly, scalp screaming as she almost tore it out in frustration.

    Her eyes blinked up as she noticed the peculiar hue of her hair, bright blue. Her brow creased, confusion filling her as she stared at it. Why did I dye my hair blue? She thought, twiddling the strands between her fingers in fascination.

    Another blink and she was in a bathroom, a light flickering above her. Sat on the lid of the bathtub were two children, their hair plastered to their heads, soaked with hair dye. Their legs swung impatiently, and although their words were inaudible to her, she knew what they were saying. Can we wash it off? It’s itchy! I’m bored! But she had only calmly quieted them, turning to the mirror with a new bottle of dye. Once I’ve done my hair, you can wash it out. She had said, squeezing a dollop of the stuff into a gloved hand. But Kyooo! One of the children cried, dragging the last word on. We wanna take it off now! Kyo!

    She gasped, eyes flying open as she found herself back in the cell. She knelt to the floor, hands twisted back into her hair once more, the cold metal of the handcuffs embedding onto her forehead. A lump formed into her throat, her sluggish thoughts slowly making the connection.

    My name is Kyo, and those were my siblings.

    ~

    A pulsing headache conjured Clarissa into reality; she blinked rapidly, the sudden brightness of the room blinding her. She cursed, trying to push herself up, but found she could not. Holding her pale arms up, she saw her hands cuffed together, the metal digging into her skin. Scrunching her nose up, Clarissa dropped them down into her lap, a cold lick of dread filling her.

    ‘What’s happening?’ she asked herself, her voice rough from disuse.

    No answer came, which she huffed at. Her dark eyes began to roam the room, though still squinting at the severe bright lights. Blinking everything into clarity, her heart dropped to her stomach. It was a padded cell. Clarissa’s mouth turned dry, any rational thought disappearing from her mind.

    ‘This can’t be happening.’

    She stood suddenly, legs shaking with nerves as she hurtled herself at the door. Clarissa’s shoulder slammed against the padded fabric, making her bounce off harmlessly, skittering to the opposite end of the tiny cell. She growled in frustration, quickly realising there was no use in trying. With another huff, she plopped onto the floor, arms and legs crossed in annoyance.

    ‘Why am I in a bloody cell? Why am I bloody handcuffed!?’ Clarissa shouted, putting her head in her hands. ‘I don’t understand what’s going on…’ Her voice became quiet as tears began to well up in her eyes, ‘I just want to go home…’

    But where is home?

    Everything went numb at that moment. The temperature of the room felt as if it had dropped below freezing, forcing a sharp intake of breath from Clarissa. She looked up, eyes bleak and glassy as the lights suddenly shut off, leaving her in the gloom. Her mind slowly began to whir, though sluggishly, her thoughts were an endless black with nothing to beat it back. The surety of knowing her name, a beacon of hope she’d thought, was now nothing more than a burnt out match. Her memories were charred and burned, wiped clean by a flame she never saw.

    ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening.’ Clarissa began to repeat; her words slowly slurring together.

    A sudden shrieking sound of metal grinding against metal conjured her from her tangled words. Looking up, a single shaft of light was visible from the door. It lit up the small section of the floor, widening slightly as the door opened further. An almost animalistic urge flooded Clarissa. An escape. Freedom. She unsteadily stood up, pushing against the wall with her handcuffed hands in support. Her mouth had gone dry, still not believing it. Not even as she opened the door fully, basking in a fresh, new light.

    ~

    ‘The cells are open, ma’am.’ a woman said, her eyes scanning over a dozen digital screens.

    ‘And the medics are ready?’ another woman asked, smoothing down her military uniform.

    ‘Affirmative.’

    She cleared her throat. ‘Turn on the speakers. I need to introduce myself.’

    ‘Certainly, ma’am.’ there was a moment of clicking before the technician gave the nod. ‘It’s live.’

    She gave a close-lipped smile. ‘Thank you. Good evening soldiers, and welcome to the Western Sector. My name is Lieutenant General Archer, and this is Operation TBE.’
    The hissing of the padded door drew Levi from her thoughts for a moment. She had shifted her plain mantra; you will be okay; you will get through this, into a poetic verse that turned her voice hoarse at the number of times she had repeated it. The hissing door disturbed the words, making her hesitate and return to her thoughts. But a sudden shiver down her spine had Levi standing upright, legs shaking beneath her weight as she realised what was happening.

    ‘It’s open!?’ she gasped breathlessly, eyes becoming wet with tears.

    Her fingernails dug into the wall; her body moved before she could think as she darted towards the open door; afraid it would slam at her approach. Levi’s pupils shrank at the bright lighting that filled the space in front of her as she yanked it open with all her might. The dim cell behind her was easily forgotten as she took in large gulps of new air, a sense of freedom washing over her. There was no hesitation in her departure, as she slammed the cell door behind her and leaned against the cold surface.

    ‘I’m free,’ she breathed, heart hammering against her ribcage.

    Levi’s eyes scanned the vicinity around her, a new realisation upon her lips.

    ‘I wasn’t the only one…’

    In front of her was an endless expanse of cell doors that stretched on for yards to her left, right, and directly in front of her. Dozens and dozens of metal doors, like the one she leaned against, filled her vision. All of them were unlocked, a small gap cutting bright light into each padded cell. Levi’s mouth turned dry, her legs threatening to buckle. She had made guesses of what waited behind the locked door, but this was not it. So many doors she couldn’t even begin to count, so many forgotten souls like her trapped in their own silence, in their own lost memories.

    Four doors down, a figure pushed open their own cell. Levi’s head snapped up at the shrieking noise of metal against metal, standing there was a woman, breathing harshly. Clamped around her wrists were handcuffs, the metal shining in the fluorescent lighting as she struggled against their hold on her. Before Levi could move, before she could say anything, maybe something of encouragement, another door opened. She turned her attention to that door, but within seconds the hallway Levi stood in was flooded with the cell occupants, turning the small space into a faceless swarm of anxiety and confusion.

    She swallowed down bile, her heartbeat picking up faster as every new person appeared. The bubble of silence had finally popped, shouts and screams filled her ears, causing her legs to give out in the shock. Everything in her was screaming at her to disappear, to be invisible, to be forgotten again. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she clamped her hands over her ears, to deafen the voices around her or inside her? She couldn’t tell.

    ‘Hey, are you okay?’

    No answer.

    ‘Hello? Can you hear me?’

    Levi’s body refused to move; she was stuck in place, heart pounding in her chest so rapidly she thought it would burst.

    ‘Hey! She needs help! Someone!’

    Whoever had stood above her was gone, voice lost in the swarm of panic that careened past Levi. She didn't care, couldn’t care. The only thing that mattered was the screaming in her mind. I take it back; this is not okay; I will not get through this. I can’t; I can’t, I can’t!
    ‘PLEASE!’

    Then everything stopped.

    ~

    Kyo’s harsh breathing kept her from thinking straight. After the cell door had opened, a slow crack of light filling the room, did she run at full speed. No rational thought had come to her as she sprinted towards the door, handcuffed wrists held out in front of her as she slammed it open with her shoulder.

    She now had her head bowed as she gulped fresh air into her lungs. The world was still fuzzy to her as she blinked away black spots from her eyes, trying to focus her vision on the surroundings before her. Slowly, she looked up, her body finally connecting to her thoughts.

    ‘Where am I now?’ she whispered, still panting from exertion.

    She was still slightly dizzy from the impact with the door, but she made an effort to survey her surroundings. A lone figure stood nearby, but they were suddenly swallowed up by an oncoming swarm of others. Her heart jumped, noticing the other metal doors. More cells? Does that mean my siblings are here? Kyo still couldn’t remember the names of the two children in her memory, but her feeling of need to find them flooded her. But the neverending horde of young people stopped her from even moving more than two feet. Her vision started to clear, and she began studying the faces of the others, in small hope of recognising one of them. She didn’t.

    When the shouting began, cries of help, and people in search. Kyo wanted to join in, to cry out the names of her siblings, feel the pride in her heart as they met one another’s eyes. But she couldn’t, there was only a blank, a question mark that refused to amend itself.

    But then it stopped — not her mind, which whirred endlessly. But the screaming, the shouting, the rapid movements of everyone around her. They all halted at one sentence that broke through the walls like a message sent from above.

    ‘Good evening soldiers, and welcome to the Western Sector.’

    ~

    ‘My name is Lieutenant General Archer, and this is Operation TBE.’

    Clary tried to ignore the words, tried to ignore the announcement that jarred her teeth at their grating intensity. All she wanted to do was find that girl again, who was crouched in her own despair. But the rushing crowd had pushed her away the second she’d looked up, and just like that, she was alone in a sea of hundreds.

    ‘Soldiers?’

    ‘Operation TBE?’

    The questions floated through the hallway aimlessly, clamouring voices bouncing off the walls and flooding Clary’s ears. If it weren’t for the handcuffs, she would have pressed her hands against her ears to block out the noise.

    ‘Just let the bloody woman speak, for Christ’s sake,’ she muttered, clenching her hands into fists.

    Her muttering was loud enough to garner some estranged looks, which she brushed off easily. Seeing as there were more concerning issues at hand, having some snickers aimed her did little to hurt her pride. But when turned, it wasn’t her words that had the rest stepping away from her. It was what was clamped upon her wrists.

    ‘What’s with the handcuffs?’ someone asked her, prodding her arm. ‘Are you a criminal?’

    ‘What!?’ she cried, but her response was short as the announcement returned, though the concerned looks remained.

    ‘I understand you are all confused. But, fear not. Operation TBE has been established to save the Earth. War is beginning, and a draft was drawn up globally. We are currently in the Western Sector of this operation, which is divided into seven individual quads; you are a part of Quad Charlie, also known as Quad C. You were selected to fight back against our enemy, but a virus infiltrated our original bases and although there were no fatalities, side effects remained. As many of you have realised, you cannot remember much about yourself. This is due to the main effect of the virus, memory loss. Severe aggression was also another side effect, hence the padded cells and/or handcuffs. We apologise for this precaution, but it was for your own safety.’

    Clary smirked, raising an eyebrow at the people who had gaped at her handcuffs earlier, who returned disgusted looks and reverted their attention to the speaker.

    ‘As you are all supposedly cleared of the virus, training will be beginning. But first, you shall each be going through a medical examination to clear up anything you may have forgotten and note any side effects or symptoms you may still have. And afterwards, you shall be organised into your groups and dormitories through a coding system. Now, please follow the open doors to begin these medical examinations.’

    As she finished speaking, a hissing sound filled the hallway as four doors opened, revealing a series of rooms to follow. Even with confusion rife in the air, an unconscious desire to leave the winding corridor of cells set the place into motion. Clary could barely keep herself upright as she was pushed violently to the left, dragged by the crowd to begin the next stage of... whatever the hell was going on.

    ~

    When he had been released from the cell, Karter had been relieved. His concerns about his potential illegal actions slightly diminished, if you were a prisoner, they wouldn’t let you out of the cell, right? But when he came face to face with all the other terrified cellmates did his concerns come back; notably the several he saw handcuffed. Karter had gone numb when the commotion began, a lump forming in his throat as he clenched his jaw tightly.

    And now he was struggling to keep up with the moving crowd. At least four people had trampled on his feet, though no one cared as they surged forward. He was pushed by the group of people into another corridor, where several more doors lay ahead. More cells? Karter asked himself, fear filling him. Just how many people are here? But as the crowd began to fill up the corridor, many of the doors started opening, revealing clean, brightly lit medical rooms.

    ‘Please enter one room each, if they are all occupied, please head back through the corridor to another room.’ The same speaker from before said, her voice clipped and collected.

    Above each medical room was a number, though it was easy to count the ten doors. And the number of people in the corridor didn’t match that. Panic teemed in the hallway as everyone began rushing to a door until it was just Karter and six others standing dazed staring at the shut doors.

    The person beside him laughed bitterly. ‘Guess we were too slow, huh? Better find another corridor before we get chucked into those cells again.’

    Eventually, Karter found an empty medical room. The door shut quietly behind him, leaving him in silence. After the hysteria from moments before, he found it suffocating. He let out a harsh breath, scratching the back of his neck as he surveyed the room. The floors were linoleum with white tiles lining the walls. The small room only included a sink, a bed, and what Karter thought was a human model. However, on closer inspection he realised it was actually an android, sitting in the corner idly.

    His eyes widened, a wave of embarrassment flooding him as he pressed the button located on its chest. Medical androids had always been a part of his day to day life ever since he was a kid; he couldn’t help but feel foolish that he had managed to forget that. It only took seconds before the android loaded up fully, rising from its sitting position and meeting Karter’s eyes with its luminous bionic ones.

    ‘Scan complete.’ It said coldly after a moment. ‘Identity verified: Fontaine, Karter. Gender, Male. Age, 20. Height, 5’10. Nationality, Spanish-American. No viral contamination detected. Please specify which of the following symptoms have you experienced or are currently experiencing: amnesia, panic attacks, limited movement or disorientated vision?’

    Karter paused before answering. ‘Amnesia and panic attacks.’

    ‘Information logged. Please present your dominant hand, wrist exposed.’

    He did so, holding up his right wrist in front of the android’s mechanical eyes where a red flash appeared on his skin. A sudden spark of pain slashed his wrist, Karter stepped back in shock, gritting his teeth as the rippling burn. Looking down, he saw a spread of ink develop onto his skin, similar to a tattoo, simply stating, C.42.1.

    ‘W-what is this?’ he demanded.

    ‘The coding system. You are in Quad C, Group 42, Soldier 1. Would you like a painkiller?’

    The pain had already begun to subside, only an itching sensation following. ‘No, I’m fine. What now?’

    ‘You will be heading to your dormitory, C.42, where you shall meet your groupmates. You will await further instructions there.’ As it spoke, a door opened, revealing a set of stairs. ‘Examination complete, you may leave now.’

    The android began to shutter off, the light in its eyes dying after it sat back down. Karter shivered, heading towards the winding staircase leading upwards. Putting one foot on the first step, he couldn’t help but feel cautious, as if all of this was one big mistake coming up to bite him. Despite that, he took another step, ascending the stairs.

    ~

    The medical examinations occurred throughout the whole of Quad C, the new information about themselves were found out in such monotony it left many stunned. The protests and questions were barely given a satisfactory response.

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Hester, Alex. Gender, Non-binary. Age, 20. Height, 6’0. Nationality, Spanish-British. No viral contamination detected.’

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Davidson, Colin. Gender, Male. Age, 21. Height, 5’11. Nationality, American. No viral contamination detected.’

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Anders, Charlotte. Gender, Female. Age, 20. Height, 5’10. Nationality, Spanish-American. No viral contamination detected.’

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Young, Clarissa. Gender, Female. Age, 19. Height, 5’7. Nationality, British. No viral contamination detected.’

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Kizokunashi, Kyo. Gender, Female. Age, 22. Height, 5’4. Nationality, Japanese. No viral contamination detected.’

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Inges, Leviathan. Gender, Female. Age, 20. Height, 5’2. Nationality, American. No viral contamination detected.’

    ~

    ‘Scan complete. Identity verified: Hearth, Iris. Gender, Female. Age, 21. Height, 5’10. Nationality, American. No viral contamination detected. Please specify which of the following symptoms have you experienced or are currently experiencing: amnesia, panic attacks, limited movement or disorientated vision?’ the android asked Iris, its eyes blinking at her.

    ‘Amnesia.’

    ‘Anything else?’ it asked again, not believing her answer.

    ‘No.’

    ‘Information logged. Please present your dominant hand, wrist exposed.’

    Iris pulled up the sleeve of her jacket, showing her right wrist to the android. The red flash that passed by burned her skin, but she barely reacted, only inhaling sharply as the pain lanced through her. A tattoo? She asked herself, seeing the splotch of ink now developed onto her wrist.

    ‘Coding system complete. You are C.42.2; Quad C, Group 42, Soldier 2.’

    ‘How many groups are there? How many soldiers in each group?’ Iris asked, her voice hoarse from disuse.

    ‘Currently, in Quad C there are 1,000 soldiers. With a total of 250 groups, there are four members per unit. You will be heading to your dormitory now, C.42, where you shall meet these members. You will await further instructions there. Examination complete, you may leave now.’

    She nodded, heading to the open door while the android shut itself off. While she climbed up the winding staircase, she made a quick run through of all the information she’d collected: forty cells, forty soldiers, ten medical room per corridor. Logically, three of the people in those cells are a part of C.42 as well. Iris couldn’t properly recall anyone’s faces; it had all been a blur as she exited the padded cell. She clenched her fists together, confusion wrapping her mind. I don’t remember myself and yet I have to play the part of the soldier. A blank canvas ready to be crafted into a killing machine.

    Iris shivered, her last thought eerily familiar. But it disappeared quickly as she began to take in her new surroundings. She’d only been climbing the stairs for a minute before she reached the end of the stairs. Where she found herself was a new corridor, along with thirty-nine staircases just like the one she had just walked up. In front of them was a glowing THIS WAY sign, which was slanted slightly upwards.

    Underground cells for one thousand soldiers, just how large is this place? Iris asked herself, heading up the ascending corridor. Her movement was silent in the concrete-walled hallway, but from behind and in front of her she could hear the continuous sound of footsteps and breathy words. It was like a symphony of human noise, less erratic than before, but the anxiety of everything before them still lingered close.

    It didn’t take long until she was marching along the corridor with all thirty-nine members there. From the looks on their faces, Iris could tell that had a similar experience to her in the medical examination. And now they were all in one search to find their dormitory, meet their groupmates and await further instructions. Whatever those may be.

    A set of double doors came into view as they swung open vicariously, more fluorescent lighting could be seen shining through as everyone began filtering out of the corridor. Iris felt a lump form in her throat as she neared the door. Everything had happened so quickly she still couldn’t wrap her head around it all. So many things had been thrown at them all it was a surprise that everyone was still standing. Iris pushed through the doors, finding a long corridor that headed vertically forwards. On her left were ten doors, each stamped with numbers from C.40 to C.49.

    The group was beginning to disperse, heading further into the corridor into the direction of their number. She started forwards too, only needing to go past two doors before reaching C.42. Already she could see someone at the door of her dormitory, a tall woman anxiously eyeing the door while scratching the back of her neck.

    ~

    Charlotte stood at the door of C.42; confusion set deep into her brow as she hopelessly tried to figure out how to open it. There was no handle anywhere, nor a window into the room. Just a black, metal door staring back at her. She clenched her fists, glancing around to see what exactly everyone else was doing. Instead, all she saw was a woman decorated in scars heading towards her. Charlotte stiffened, her heart jolting with fear and unease.

    The woman stopped beside her, hands in her pockets. ‘Are you C.42 as well?’ she asked, giving herself no introduction.

    ‘Y-yes.’ Charlotte stuttered, shakily showing her grazed wrist. ‘C.42.3. You..?’

    C.42.2.’

    ‘Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Charlotte; I also have no clue how to open this door.’ She replied, nervously laughing at herself. ‘Have you got any ideas on how to open it?’

    The scarred woman strode past her, stone-grey eyes sizing up the door. A moment later she spotted a small slit in the wall; one Charlotte had completely ignored. Pressing the slit, a black screen unfolded outwards, revealing a scanner. Charlotte made a small noise, wonder filling her eyes as the woman stuck her wrist underneath the scanner.

    ‘Identity verified, C.42.2, Iris Hearth.’ A gritty voice said, the scanner turning green.

    As it began to fold away back into the slit, the door slid open soundlessly. Charlotte ducked in quickly after Iris, who silently made her way into the dormitory. It was a spacious room, fitted with two bunk beds, four cabinets and two more doors. The grey walls had no windows, and the floor was made up of polished black tiles, the overhead lighting shining off it. The room was empty, but Charlotte noticed one of the bed’s slightly rumpled. Her brows furrowed in confusion, but before she could say anything, Iris spoke first.

    ‘Someone’s already been here. Most likely C.42.1.’

    As if on cue, one of the two doors on the opposite wall opened. Padding out was a young man wiping his hands on a pair of standard-issue army trousers that he wore. Looking up, he saw Iris and Charlotte standing at the dormitory’s entrance, both as shocked as he, and froze. From behind his lean shoulders, Charlotte noted the white tiled walls of the room he’d just exited, a shadow of a sink and shower also visible to her, indicating it was a bathroom.

    ‘Oh. Hello.’ He said sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck on reflex. ‘I’m Karter. Also C.42.1 I guess?’

    Charlotte brightened at his words, smiling at him. ‘Hi! I’m Charlotte, also known as C.42.3! And this is… Iris?’

    She nodded in affirmation, grey eyes suddenly interested in the bunk beds. On the black frame of each bed was a small metal engraving of each code. The cabinets also had matching engravings, with the C.42.1 door slightly ajar, Iris opened her own. Inside was a neatly folded pile of clothing and a pair of polished black boots. Turning back to Karter, who was animatedly conversing with Charlotte, she found the uniform he wore was the same.

    ‘Did you receive instructions to get changed?’ Iris asked him, holding the navy polo shirt in hand.

    Karter shook his head, ‘I just assumed it was a good idea. I woke up in that cell in just my pyjamas so I thought it’d be best to… not be.’

    Charlotte shrugged, smiling. ‘Sounds like a plan!’ she looked down at herself, ‘as much as I love this hoodie, I doubt we should stay dressed like this.’

    Like civilians. She thought to herself, skipping past Iris to her own cabinet. She lay the camo trousers against her leg, slightly surprised to see them as the correct length. It seemed whoever had organised this was very particular in their work. Grabbing the rest of the uniform, Charlotte headed back to the bathroom, the light still on since Karter left it. She closed the door behind her, finally getting a proper look of the bathroom.

    The same fluorescent lights buzzed above her, turning Charlotte’s usual tanned skin sallow and pale. Opposite the door was a shower, hidden by a curtain. Swiping it back, she saw an assortment of soaps and shampoos, each blandly labelled in white bottles. The white sink had a mirror cabinet above it, which upon closer inspection contained a tube of toothpaste and four toothbrushes, all tagged with their codes, hairbrushes and hairbands, and floss. She dropped the pile of clothes onto the toilet seat, pulling off her hoodie and began to change.

    It only took her five minutes to change, but as she opened the door back into the main section of the dormitory, she could tell something was different. Iris had also changed, after Charlotte realised the second door was just another bathroom, and she was sat on the bottom bunk, tightening the laces of her leather boots. In the centre of the room, however, was a short woman with bright blue hair chatting happily to Karter. As Charlotte closed the bathroom door behind her, they both looked up at her with smiles.

    ‘This is Kyo.’ Karter said, indicating their new arrival who waved.

    ‘It’s nice to meet you! I kinda got lost on my way here,’ Kyo replied, her pale cheeks flushing in embarrassment. ‘But I’m here now! You probably already guessed it but I am C.42.4.’

    Charlotte nodded, ‘I guess we’re all here now. Any clue what’s happening next?’

    When no one answered, Karter shrugged in response. ‘Guess we’re still awaiting further instructions.’

    Kyo only laughed, her blue hair dancing around her. ‘So what? That just means we have more time to get to know each other!’

    ~

    Colin raised his eyebrows as he entered the dormitory, C.41. It was clean to the point he found it slightly ridiculous. It reminded him of the cells; the white starch fabric was just as spotless as the four beds set up in bunks. Even the two bathrooms, which stood opposite to the front door, were clear of anything that indicated that anyone had used them.

    It didn’t matter that much to Colin when he saw the labelled bunks, and that his code, C.41.1 was situated at the top bed. Leaping up with catlike ease, he sank into the soft mattress, rumpling the duvet in the process. He couldn’t help smiling, his entire body relaxing for the first time since he’d woken up in the cells. The medical examination had felt more like an interrogation than anything else, and despite the painkiller the android had given him, his right wrist still stung from the coding tattoo. Rubbing it unconsciously, he sat up for a moment, noticing a shadow from beneath the front door.

    A second later, it slid open noiselessly. Standing at the entrance was a white-haired woman he’d never seen before. It was obvious her hair was dyed, and he noticed that smudged beneath her eyes was some sort of eye makeup, mascara or eyeliner, he didn’t really care. She looked up at him, her chin raising slightly. Their eyes locked as she stepped in, the door sliding shut behind her.

    ‘And you are?’ he asked, flopping back onto the bed, hands behind his head.

    She gave him a slightly puzzled look before answering, ‘Clary. C.41.3. You?’

    C.41.1. Colin. ’

    ‘Is it just you here? Where’s C.41.2?’

    He shrugged, ‘I was the first one here, and aside from you, no one else has arrived.’

    ‘Hm, that’s odd.’ Clary replied, crossing her arms.

    ‘Not really, given the circumstance.’ He replied matter-of-factly before cocking his head to the side. ‘You know, I think waking up in a padded cell handcuffed and not even knowing your name is odder. Not some random kid getting lost.’ He said venomously.

    She flinched, hesitating before speaking, ‘It’s just a lot to take in, okay? At least they let us out, but to have someone missing this early in, that’s odd. Waking up in a cell thinking you’re a criminal, having people ask you if you’re a criminal, watching someone collapse to the floor unresponsive before losing them in the crowd. That’s not odd; that’s insane.’ She raked a hand through her white hair, the ends tickling her chin. ‘Do you have any idea why you’re here?! Any idea why you would sign up for something like this?! Cause I don’t! It just seems like one big sick joke.’

    Colin jumped off his bunk bed, the small leap bringing him inches away from Clary’s face. Her grey eyes stared deep into his; her expression briefly flashed with fear. His lips curled into a snarl, his entire body raring to scream at her for no reason at all. But before either of them could speak, the dormitory door slid open noiselessly. Looking up, the two saw a small female figure flinch back from the entrance. Gingerly, she stepped through, big eyes landing on Clary and Colin who stepped back from one another immediately.

    Any evidence of the two’s argument disappeared as Clary smiled brightly, swiping at her pale face quickly. ‘Hi! Welcome to C.41.’ Her voice was surprisingly strong as she stepped towards the newcomer, ‘I’m Clary. Are you C.41.2 by any chance?’

    The girl did not speak but shook her head slowly, already shying her way back towards the door. Colin sighed heavily, muttering something under his breath that Clary couldn’t hear, not that she would’ve wanted to.

    ‘Shut it.’ She said quickly, before turning to the girl.‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

    The reply was barely a whisper, so inaudible that Clary had to ask a second time. ‘Levi.’ She finally blurted out. ‘It’s Levi. And I’m C.41.4.’ She added hastily.

    ‘Levi is a boy’s name.’ Colin murmured, arching a brow.

    ‘What don’t you understand by “shut it,” Colin?’ Clary turned on him.

    ‘Am I wrong?’ Colin spat. ‘It’s a free country. I’ll say whatever I feel like saying.’

    ‘We don’t even know what country we’re in. We could be in Antarctica for all we know!’ Clary said, irritation bleeding into her words.

    ‘You seem to know what you’re doing. Why don’t you go find out,’ Colin challenged, ‘instead of telling me to can it every two seconds?’

    Clary scoffed and turned back to Levi, who was staring at Colin, shocked at his attitude. ‘That’s Colin,’ Clary told her, ‘he’s a little… problematic.’

    Levi didn’t respond to that, only murmuring, ‘I recognise your voice, somehow..?’

    Both Clary and Colin froze, eyes wide as they stared at Levi who flinched once more. Her words came out in a rush, cheeks glowing bright red in a panic. ‘I-I didn’t mean anything bad! It’s just when we were let out of the cells I-I-I just fell over! There we just so many people I couldn’t stay upright, but, but, I think it was you who talked to me… right?’ Levi’s voice grew hoarse as she looked up at Clary with dread.

    The three lapsed into silence, save for the occasional whimper from Levi. Clary could hardly recall the details of the girl she tried to help, but the short stature of Levi, and her dark brown hair that curled just beneath her chin were familiar to her. Stepping forwards, Clary’s eyes met with Levi’s bright blue which shone in recognition.

    ‘I-I think it was.’ Clary stammered. ‘Are you alright? What happened? I got carried off by the crowd.’

    ‘I just shut down!’ She gasped, ‘there was so much happening all at once my entire body went into panic mode. It’s one of my symptoms from the virus, I guess. I was able to get up after the announcement because everyone went to the medical examinations.’ Levi was about to continue when Colin blurted in.

    ‘Okay, seeing as you two have had your little reunion, which, being honest, wasn’t very interesting. Shouldn’t we be focusing on, you know, the present? There are meant to be four of us now. And we’ve been here for around five minutes. Where the hell is, what was it? C.41.2?’

    ~
    ‘Stupid war.’ Alex grumbled to themselves. ‘Stupid draft, just to round up a bunch of people across the world as if they wouldn’t mind. Yeah. Great. Just what I needed.’

    They were walking alone in a hallway, which comprised of doors each brightly labelled with codes, including C.41, the dormitory they’d been directed to go to. Alex made sure to avoid it, breezing past the bright red letters and sliding door. After climbing up the spiral staircase from the medical examination (which was pure hell in itself), they’d lagged behind, until Alex was the only one left in the sloping corridor up to the dormitories.

    ‘So many bloody hallways.’ They said, eyes scanning the vicinity. ‘This place was probably designed to be a maze, stupid.’

    After walking past all ten dormitories, Alex found themselves facing a door. Unlike the others, it had a proper doorknob with a small keyhole. Jigging the handle, they found it locked, unsurprising really. But that didn’t stop Alex as they crouched in front of the lock, hairpins at the ready to force it open. The small clicking noise as the mechanisms worked was satisfying to them as the lock released.

    Entering through the door, what Alex expected was not what was in front of them. They stood in a box-sized room that only contained only two spiral staircases that both headed down. Each was garishly labelled, with one saying, ‘NO ENTRY - UPSTAIRS ONLY’ and the other, ‘THIS WAY - DOWNSTAIRS ONLY’. Alex couldn’t help but sigh, raking a hand through their hair — their options were pretty limited.

    ‘Downstairs it is!’ They said exasperatedly, ignoring the ‘NO ENTRY - UPSTAIRS ONLY’ sign and headed deep into the gloom.

    The jog down was pretty uneventful, the lighting was non-existent, indicating to Alex that no one was supposed to be there. Means no one will bother me. They thought cheerfully, smirking even as they struggled through the dark. The winding staircase was a cold, black metal that was more or less impossible to see, not that it mattered much as Alex could already see the bottom of the stairs, which led them to smack into another locked door.

    There was no keyhole, no doorknob, not even a scanner; just a smooth door that indicated no way of opening it. Alex slammed their fist against the iron door, but it didn’t budge. They cursed in Spanish; it was almost a reflex to revert to their mother tongue in situations like this; they didn’t particularly know why. Not that as if it mattered, neither Spanish or English was going to open a door that refused to do so. Turning back, they began the begrudging ascent back upstairs to the ‘correct’ staircase. But as their feet hit the metal stairs, voices suddenly filled Alex’s ears. Looking behind, they saw the door open from the other way, an automatic mechanism that worked only one way.

    As the door swung open, overhead lights blazed on, making them squint at the harsh brightness. Four people headed through the entryway, the one in the lead stopped as she saw Alex blinking rapidly.

    ‘Uh…’ she began, holding back the rest of her group, ‘what are you doing here?’ she asked them.

    Alex cracked a smile, ‘oh, you know, I went down the wrong stairway. Whoops! But seeing as you guys are here, can I just go past ya? I don’t wanna get into your way and all.’

    ‘Sure..? Are you going to the hangar now? Where’s the rest of your group?’ The woman responded, her eyebrows raised.

    The hangar, eh? Alex thought, looking the four up and down, suddenly noticing they all wore the same uniform. It seems like place takes the whole soldiership thing seriously. And everyone’s following it too! These people are crazy.

    ‘Yeah. I’m going there now.’ They responded, smiling. ‘I decided to head on a little bit early, so we don’t get lost altogether, you know?’

    ‘Oh, so that’s why you haven’t gotten changed yet?’ she asked, looking Alex up and down too. ‘And it’s not too difficult to find, just follow the corridor.’ She turned to gesture with her hands but found the door shut, ‘oh. That wasn’t like that.’

    ‘Yeah, the thing works one way.’ Alex said, sighing inwardly. ‘It’s fine; I’ll just head back to my dorm and all if it’s just down a corridor. Cheers!’

    They leapt up the stairs, leaving the four in silence. Shoving their hands into their pockets, they swung back into the dormitory corridor. It seemed whatever was happening in the hangar would be occurring soon, meaning Alex needed to at least try to blend in with the rest of their group; even if they were going to disappear later.

    It wasn’t difficult to enter the dormitory, C.41, as Alex had watched several people use the scanner with their codes. They stuck their right hand under it, the C.41.2 on their wrist turning the scanner green in affirmation. As the door slid open, Alex was pleased to see three people, two females and one male, standing around. They all turned around at Alex’s arrival, dumbfounded looks flashing briefly on their faces.

    ‘Finally.’ The male of the group drawled, raking a hand through his tousled brown hair. ‘You’ve decided to join us C.41.2, otherwise known as..?’

    Alex ignored him. ‘That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that none of you are dressed.’

    ‘Um, what??’ the tallest female demanded, walking up to them. ‘I think we’re all perfectly well dressed, thank you very much. Not that it matters. Anyway, I’m Clary; this is Colin and Levi. Who are you exactly?’

    They rolled their eyes. ‘I’m Alex. And I don’t particularly care who any of you are so I’ll just be calling you the posh one,’ they said, pointing at Clary, ‘you, the annoying one,’ gesturing to Colin, ‘and you… the scrawny one.’

    Levi made a small noise, hands flying to her mouth at Alex’s sudden bluntness. Colin had already divulged into a torrent of curses and insults while Clary yelled at him to shut up. Alex couldn’t help but crack a smile; maybe these people may not be that bad after all.

    ‘Anyway. Back to my original point, none of you are dressed. We’re basically at a boot camp, yo. And what do boot camps have?’

    ‘Uniforms!’ Clary gasped, eyes going wide. ‘Shoot, so we just need to get changed, right?’

    ‘Well, not just that. We have to be somewhere very soon—’

    Alex was cut off by a sudden beeping noise that sounded in the room. Levi winced, eyes squeezing shut and hands clamping over her ears. A moment later, a tinny voice screeched into the room.

    ‘Your presence is required in the hangar for deliberation. All member units must be changed and arrive in five minutes. Failure to do so will lead to punishments, head to the staircase to find where you are going.’

    The beeping noise followed again, before stopping, leaving the four in stunned silence. The grace period lasted only seconds as the three exploded at the announcement.

    Alex couldn’t stop laughing. ‘And so the chaos ensues. This is already better than I expected.’
    ‘Our five minutes are definitely up, right?’ Clary asked nervously, chewing on her lip as they jogged through so many hallways they blurred together.

    ‘The five minutes were up the moment we heard that announcement.’ Colin replied bluntly, eyes ahead of them. ‘We were screwed from the minute they walked in.’

    ‘Despite you all moving as slow as possible behind me, I can still hear you loud and clearly.’ Alex barked, white teeth glinting at him. ‘And it’s not my fault you didn’t take the initiative to get changed. It seems like everyone else in this goddamn place did.’

    Colin didn’t reply, only grumbling a slew of curses under his breath. It was only Levi who heard his choice words, her face turning bright red at his crudeness. Every passing moment had made her heartbeat race faster and faster; she was now worried she would burst. All she wanted was a moment to stop, to think everything through, before starting again. But it seemed everything in her world was refusing to do just that.

    The four of them were now changed, skipping through hallways as if the hounds of hell were chasing them. Alex had to grab Levi by the collar, like a mewling kitten, after she tried dashing down the ‘NO ENTRY’ staircase. The dark glint in their heterochromatic eyes made any attempt she may have had to question it die instantly. Regardless of their efforts, it became more and more obvious as they pushed through the silver double doors signposted as ‘THE HANGAR’ that they were in for it.

    The hangar was of astronomical size, constructed out of steel, concrete and wood; it spanned fifteen meters from each side of the door that C.41 burst through. Hung from the vaulted ceiling of corrugated steel were several fluorescent lights that buzzed ruthlessly. Along the walls of the building were several doors, each leading off to unknown places. Opposite the entrance was a lacklustre stage, a wooden podium stood alone, a microphone protruding from it.

    ‘If I’m being honest,’ Colin said quietly, suddenly finding his voice again, ‘but when I heard the name hangar I expected to see some, you know, aircraft?’

    ‘That is where you are wrong, C.41.1.’ A sudden booming voice called, all four of them looked forwards, finding five people standing. ‘But that’s beside the point. You. Are. All. Late.’

    Clary’s cheeks coloured red. ‘We’re so screwed.’

    ‘We already knew that.’ Alex said gruffly, taking the lead as they walked towards the small group. ‘What I want to know is who the hell that is.’

    ‘Well, not just him, right?’ Levi squeaked, eyes landing on the separate four who stood in a line. ‘They’re also wearing uniforms!’

    ‘Maybe we were so late they started the next group’s deliberation.’ Colin mused. ‘Or maybe they’re our punishment. Maybe they’re going to beat us with… maybe with sticks.’

    ‘Sticks!?’ Clary cried.

    SILENCE! GET OVER HERE NOW!’

    The four of them skidded over, falling into line beside the second group. All eight of them directed their attention to the man standing before them. He appeared to be in his mid-forties, with deep wrinkles set into his tanned skin. A layer of black stubble resided on his chin, despite his apparent baldness which was covered by a navy blue beret. Standing at 6’3, he even towered over Alex, and his powerful build was no less intimidating. It was only after a moment of surveying the new arrivals with cold eyes of pure ice did he speak.

    ‘My name is Commander Ozera. You will address me as sir, and you will obey every instruction I give you. If you fail to do so…Well, C.41 will have the honour of the firsthand experience of what happens when simple orders are disobeyed.’

    ‘Yep.’ Colin whispered under his breath so only Clary could hear, ‘we’re definitely screwed.’

    ‘Regardless, we’ll be moving swiftly onwards.’ Ozera continued, eyeing the eight of them. ‘As you all know, you are grouped in fours. However, each of these groups is paired together, and you will be working together. C.41, this is C.42, C.42, this is C.41. For starters, get into code order, now.’

    The four of them jumped, while C.42 stared at them in quiet contempt. By the looks of it, they were already in order, whatever that meant. Colin’s eyes darted back and forth at Ozera, C.42 and his own poor excuse for a group. Levi looked as if she was two seconds away from bursting into tears, her eyes bright and shaky.

    Alex stood, hands on their hips, watching Colin, waiting for him to work it out. He met their eyes for a moment, anger sparking a small flame before realising how much of an idiot he was. Looking at his wrist, he remembered his code, C.41.1, remembered the order they all came into the dormitory. Stupid codes. He thought angrily, lowering his arm and grabbing Clary by the shoulders, dragging her into a spot. Alex followed suit, standing beside her while Colin pulled Levi to the end of their line before placing himself at the front. The room had been silent the entire time that C.41 had been shuffling around, and if Ozera was impressed, he didn’t show it, rather launching into the next step of the deliberation. Colin had only been there for five minutes, and he already wanted to throttle the commander.

    ~

    From the moment they walked in, it wasn’t difficult for Charlotte to see that something seemed a little ‘off’ with C.41. At least in comparison to her own group, who had all arrived with more than enough time to spare in the hangar. Watching the four of them squirm didn’t make her feel so reassured about being paired up with C.41, if they couldn’t follow basic orders, how were they to cope throughout training? Charlotte’s concerns were left unanswered as Ozera began running through more information she wasn’t exactly expecting.

    ‘You should all be aware of your status as soldiers by now. But, if you prove yourselves, you will be more than that. You shall be starting your training under my command for an entire year, starting tomorrow. Those three-hundred and sixty-five days will be spent honing you all into not just soldiers, but into elite spies. By the end of this period, you will be completing a set of trials. Failure of The Trials will lead to your dismissal. I do not expect any of you to fail, but if you do… well, let’s hope you’ll never see this outcome.
    As soldiers, I do not care for first, middle or last names. Those are your civilian names, and besides from this one time, you will not be addressed as that any longer. Rather, I have given you all a codename each. If you don’t like it, get used to it. You were drafted up to fight in a war, not to enjoy your time here.’

    Ozera pulled out an electronic device from one of the many pockets on his uniform. He held it up, where the holographic screen flashed on, revealing a set of folders. With a flick of his wrist, he brought up a bullet-point list of each code in C.41 and C.42.

    ‘Let’s begin, shall we?’ he said, a devilish grin on his face.

    No one answered, Charlotte nervously wiped the sweat off her palms onto her trousers as Ozera eyed all of eight of them individually. Her heart pounded madly, how could someone instil this much fear into her?

    ‘Colin Davidson, C.41.1,’ he started, glancing at the list for a moment. ‘Your codename is River.’

    He blinked, the codename obviously meaning nothing to him. Colin opened his mouth to respond but closed it again, dark eyes following Ozera with a glare.

    ‘Alex Hester, C.41.2, your codename is Omega.’

    They gave a small nod, accepting the new name, though a glint of curiosity flashed in their heterochromatic eyes.

    Ozera continued, ‘Clarissa Young, C.41.3, your codename is: Frost.’

    Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked up at the commander. He returned the glance, his eyes sweeping over her white hair. Clary’s mouth formed an ‘o’, the reasoning of her codename suddenly becoming clear.

    Finally, Ozera turned onto the last member of C.41, who was trembling uncontrollably. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he murmured some distasteful things before addressing the group. ‘Leviathan Inges, C.41.4, your codename is Cat.’

    The girl’s trembling continued, though it was the only thing that showed her reaction for her eyes were downturned and mouth concealed by the black mask she wore. Charlotte couldn’t help but find it odd to see the girl wear it, was she contagious? Or was she hiding something? Her questions remained unanswered as Ozera turned to Karter, who met the man’s eyes dead on, who had his jaw clenched.

    The corners of the commander’s mouth turned up for a moment before returning to his usual scowl. ‘Karter Fontaine, C.42.1, your codename is Eagle.’

    Recognition dawned on his face at the codename. It was a simple enough connection to him thanks to the tattoo on his wrist that depicted the flying bird. Even as Ozera turned away, Karter resisted the urge to glance down at it, feeling as if the commander would somehow see him doing so.

    Beside Karter was Iris, she was staring blankly into the distance, seemingly unbothered by the older man before her. Ozera cocked his head to the side, surveying her intently. Charlotte shivered uncontrollably, watching his cold blue eyes rake across her before glancing at his clipboard. He smirked again, which was beginning to make Charlotte more and more concerned every time he did so.

    Iris Hearth, C.42.2, your codename is Sorrow.’

    Charlotte felt more than saw Iris’ reaction. It was a subtle enough flinch as she stared up at Ozera, brows knitted together and lips pursed. The commander continued smiling, obviously satisfied by the sudden recoil her new name gave.

    He continued forwards, standing in front of Charlotte herself. Even as a tall girl, Ozera still towered over her easily. She tilted her chin upwards and took a deep breath, readying herself for the worst.

    ‘Charlotte Anders, C.42.2, your codename is Arrow.’

    Confusion rolled over her, did the name have something to do with her past? She knew not to ask, but the questions bubbled up in her that she barely glanced at Ozera, only creasing her brows in deep thought. The commander ignored her reaction, scowling all the same as he finished his walk down the eight of them with Kyo.

    Despite everything, she was smiling brightly, her waves of optimism had been obvious since the moment Charlotte had met her. However, her blue eyes were slightly dimmed; it was plain to see on her face that she too was expecting nothing good to come from the codenames. Especially after seeing Iris, someone who so far had shown nothing but a blank wall, become even slightly rattled, Kyo had internally steeled her nerves.

    ‘Kyo Kizokunashi, C.42.4, your codename is Princess.’

    She cocked her head to the side, a quizzical look upon her face. She was itching to ask what it meant, along with everyone else’s names, but Ozera had already walked away so that he addressed all eight of them once more.

    ‘Now that that is out of the way, we shall be heading to the Operations Headquarters for a secondary briefing and a simulation test.’

    The one called Colin groaned aloud, his mass of dark curls flying about as he shook his head. ‘Secondary briefing?! This is some expository bu—’

    ‘Do not under any circumstance speak unless spoken to, River.’ Ozera growled as his eyes darkened. ‘I am not here to baby any of you, so remain SILENT.’

    Colin flushed, averting his gaze and mumbling a string of words beneath his breath. Whatever he said, the commander didn’t pay any attention. Instead, he turned away from the group of eight and began walking off. Charlotte raised her eyebrows before looking over at Karter who mirrored her expression at her.

    ‘Are we meant to follow..?’ she asked, her voice barely audible for fear that Ozera would hear her.

    Karter gave a sympathetic shrug, ‘I guess so. Let’s go.’

    He started off behind Ozera, Charlotte close on his heels. The sound of feet slapping across the concrete floor told her that everyone else was following the two of them. The commander had already swung into one of the many doors lining the hangar walls, the doors flying about madly on their hinges. Charlotte was able to catch a quick glance at the metal sign nailed into the wall beside the room, ‘OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS’, just as she and Karter slipped in.

    The headquarters was pitch black as they entered. At the front of the room, Charlotte could hear the snapping sound of lights being switched on. A second later the endarkened room began to brighten up with light panels on the floor. As her eyes adjusted, she saw two tiers of black desks arranged similarly to a lecture hall, upon each table was a desktop computer and seats for each place. Turning to the front, she found Ozera standing in front of a large electronic screen along with a desk that he began to sit at.

    ‘Sit down. Now. This will take some time.’ He demanded, scanning the eight as they filtered into the room. Once everyone was seated, he continued, ‘To begin with, you will have a timetable that you need to follow. Already in your dormitories are these timetables, but for the time being here they are.’

    The screen on the wall flashed on, where a list materialised before them:

    6:00 am - Get up, complete chores and dormitory inspections
    7:00 am - Morning drills - HANGAR
    8:00 am - Breakfast - MESS HALL
    9:00 am - Combat training - SPARRING HALLS
    10:00 am - Melee weapons training - ARMOURY
    11:00 am - Agility training - GYMNASIUM
    12:00 pm - Afternoon drills - HANGAR
    13:00 pm - Lunch - MESS HALL
    14:00 pm - Intelligence operatives - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    15:00 pm - Ranged weapons training - ARMOURY
    16:00 pm - Simulations - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    17:00 pm - Simulations - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    18:00 pm - Team building exercises - HANGAR
    19:00 pm - Dinner - MESS HALL
    20:00 pm - Evening shifts - HANGAR
    21:00 pm - Free time - QUAD C
    22:00 pm - Lights out

    ‘From the looks upon all your faces, I will, begrudgingly, explain the timetable.’ Ozera said after a moment, still scowling. ‘The mess hall is on the right when you leave your dormitories; it’s clearly labelled so try not to be stupid. And the rest of the locations listed are all situated here in the hangar. You probably noticed all the doors, and thankfully they are all labelled too. All the hourly training sessions are pretty self-explanatory, so I’m not going through them. Besides, you’ll know what’s going on soon enough.’

    Karter stuck his hand up, which earned him a raised eyebrow from Ozera. He pinched the bridge of his nose, ‘What is it?’

    ‘What are the evening shifts? And the drills?’ he asked slowly, lowering his arm. ‘They’re not as self-explanatory as the rest of them.’

    The commander sighed, considering the question for a moment. ‘The drills will include announcements and marching drills, hence the name. Evening shifts include let’s say, extracurricular activities. Driving lessons, swimming lessons, you name it. That’s about it.’

    Karter nodded in thanks, while Ozera switched the computer screen off. Charlotte swallowed uneasily, feeling a dull ache in the base of her skull. The information that had been dumped on them had made her mentally exhausted, did she really get drafted up into this? She massaged her temples, closing her eyes for a moment to shut out the bright fluorescent lights. She missed natural lighting; she couldn’t even tell what time it was as they sat in yet another concrete box. When Charlotte opened her eyes, she realised that Ozera was rattling off again, pushing buttons here and there.

    ‘This is where the simulations take place.’ He announced, pressing one final button.

    Instantly, the electronic screen receded, revealing a boxed-in, yet spacious, room with a one-way mirror that they could see through. The light fixtures began flickering on, showing black panels covering the rooms' walls, floor and ceiling. Charlotte saw Kyo lean forward, eyes alight with fascination as her mouthed something with a smile.

    With deft fingers, Ozera tapped upon the keys on his computer. A holographic screen began to boot up as he did so. The scene that materialised before them was split into four first-person view screens. Each one looked upon a sandy desert void any life whatsoever. Swirling around the sand dunes were the four soldier figures that were each the eyes of the screens.

    ‘The simulation is of a hostage situation.’ He explained, arms crossed. ‘As you can see, we are able to watch each soldier’s own perspective. This is how it’ll be in your own simulations so remember that if you mess up, we’ll all see it.’ Ozera pointed up at the first split screen, ‘The soldier with the red armband, who we will call Soldier 1, is the group’s leader and informant. They’ll be the one to receive all the intel, and you will all be switching through this role during the simulations. This technology we use is so that you become accustomed to situations such as this for you will have to engage in this after the succession of the trials. Now, let’s begin.’

    ~

    Hostage situation, one kilometre south is a guarded facility which holds the package. Get in the facility, eliminate the guards and get the hostage out alive.

    The simulation jerked to life, all four blank soldiers shifting awake. They were androids, each humanoid in appearance, yet their bright bionic eyes and blank faces distorted the picture. Soldier 1, taking the lead as Ozera indicated, pulled out a compass, its eyes following the needle for a moment before speaking in a robotic voice.

    ‘This way. Let’s go.’

    The four figures began running, the rifles on their backs slapping incessantly against the stiff uniform each of them wore. The pack of soldiers ran in smooth unison as they travelled along the desolate landscape on foot. Even though it was a simulation, the androids became more sluggish in the oppressive heat that no doubt would cover the setting they ran in. But within five minutes, did the soldiers halt where they stood above a warehouse circled by sand dunes.

    The android that took up screen two, nicknamed Soldier 2, pulled out a pair of binoculars, where they zoomed in on the entrance of the facility. ‘Two guards at the entry. Two most likely at the rear as well.’ It said in the same robotic voice as the other android.

    Soldier 1 knelt down on the sand dunes, bionic eyes scanning the vicinity before speaking. ‘Soldier 2 will take out the two guards and will remain up here as overhead cover. The rest of you will follow me inside where Soldier 3 and 4 will get the hostage out. I will remain at the entry as the backup. Any questions?’

    ‘No.’ The three other androids replied, setting themselves up for the assault.

    Soldier 2 began fitting a suppressor onto its rifle before sizing up the guards with the scope of the firearm. Soldier 1, 3 and 4 had already made their way down the dunes, staying out of sight of the two guards at the entrance. Within moments they were only a few yards away, Soldier 2 then took the shots. At the pull of the trigger, the quietened bullet found its place in the head of the first guard. A second later, another burrowed itself into the second guard. Soldier 1 and 3 grabbed at the guards, slowing their falls to the ground.

    The door into the warehouse was unlocked, allowing the three androids to enter silently. Standing idly by the entrance with three guards, Soldier 1 held its fist up, a silent command to the two others. Soldier 3 and 4 took off, dashing at full speed, knives in hand. Soldier 1 remained at the entrance, rifle aimed at the guards. In moments, only Soldier 1 stood in the entryway, bleeding bodies besides its feet.

    Soldier 3 and 4 had pushed through a set of doors, revealing the main section of the facility. Bright sunlight burst through large windows that lined the two walls to their left and right. Wooden beams supported the corrugated roof on the building, but sat dead centre was a motionless figure. They were sat upright; a gag shoved into their mouth and hair plastered to their head with blood and sweat. Three more guards stood stationed around the hostage, though at the sound of the doors slamming behind the androids, they turned, guns blazing.

    Soldier 3 ducked out of the way, where it threw two knives at the guards. They sank deep into the chests of two of the shooters, cutting down the onslaught of bullets to only one gun. Soldier 4 hadn’t been so lucky as it cradled its shoulder, which profused with dark red blood.

    ‘Soldier 4 has been hit.’ Soldier 3 said emotionlessly into its comms. ‘Requesting backup, now.’

    Soldier 1 burst in, efficiently cutting down the last guard with a single bullet. The android headed to the bleeding android, pressing onto the wound with its hands, it spoke to Soldier 3.

    ‘Secure the package and then head back to Soldier 2. We’ll join you in a moment.’

    Soldier 3 was already running to the hostage who remained limp in the chair. With one of its knives, the android slashed the bonds and took the gag out of their mouth. Collecting them up in its arms, Soldier 3 headed out of the warehouse without a word.

    Soldier 1 picked up its wounded teammate, who sagged in its arms. Even in simulation, the realism of the situation was flawless, blood leaked from Soldier 4’s mouth and they began jerking as if in real pain. Soldier 1 made their way out of the facility and back into the scorching heat outside. Soldier 3 had already met with Soldier 2, who both watched as Soldier 1 made its way up the dune. From a distance, a jeep began to materialise from upon the horizon, driving full pelt at them. Setting Soldier 4 down, Soldier 1 spoke.

    ‘Package secured, mission complete.’

    SIMULATION END.

    ~

    As the simulation began to shutter off, Kyo jittered with excitement. The visual effects of the desolate landscape and the realism of it all made her unbelievably happy. When they’d sat in the Operations Headquarters, she had already been itching to boot up the desktop in front of her. Even with no memories, it seemed innate to Kyo to use the technology before her. Despite the horrors of the mission, she was oddly looking forward to doing it herself.

    Ozera sighed heavily as the lights flashed back on. ‘As you can probably tell,’ he began, ‘some aspects of the mission went wrong. So, what went wrong?’

    ‘Soldier 4 got shot, duh.’

    Kyo’s fixation of the black screen snapped. Turning to the side, she saw one of the members of C.41, the tall one, whose name had escaped her, leaning back on their chair with a devilish smile on their face. She glanced at Ozera, already seeing the glare on his face clearly in her mind.

    Omega.’ He seethed, teeth gritted. ‘Put your hand up next time. I didn’t realise I was to be teaching you all discipline and respect as well!’

    ‘I’m not wrong though.’ They replied, twirling a strand of hair in their finger. ‘Besides from that, there didn’t seem to be any other issues. It was effectively carried out, if I do say so myself.’

    There was a pause before the commander replied. ‘Yes. However, if Soldier 1 had gone with 3 and 4, the latter may not have been shot, correct?’

    They shrugged, raising their eyebrows. ‘If Soldier 4 actually moved then it wouldn’t have been shot.’

    Karter stuck his hand up again before speaking. ‘Even though they were androids, they showed that humans make mistakes. So having a carefully thought out plan will help minimise these mistakes along with casualties. Yes?’

    Ozera nodded. ‘Eagle is correct, which is why you will be all doing this simulation next week, hopefully with some success. You’ll be in your groups, though later in training all eight of you will be participating in a single simulation.’

    Kyo couldn’t stop herself from gasping as her hands flew to cover her open mouth. Around her, the others leaned upwards in muted shock. The look in Ozera’s eyes confirmed it was no joke, did he think they were capable of completing such a task? Or was he expecting their failure? Whatever his purpose, the commander didn’t explain it. Instead, he leaned back in his chair where he concluded the briefing.

    ‘Head back to your dormitories, and you’ll find your timetables as they are going into effect now. However, you’ll be eating late, at 8 pm, so free time is being replaced by evening shifts as we’ll be going through first aid. Oh, and C.41, your tardiness has not been forgotten. There will be amendments made to your timetables, ones I can tell you will all enjoy.’ Ozera grinned, the wrinkles on his face becoming even more pronounced. ‘Now, get out.’

    The eight of them wasted no time leaving, Kyo followed after Charlotte and Karter, skipping down the stairs as fast as she could. As the two ahead of her began walking for the exit, she tugged on Charlotte’s sleeve.

    ‘Hey! Shouldn’t we talk with the others? I still don’t know anyone’s names.’ She scrunched her nose up, but her eyes were bright and feverish. ‘We need to know everyone!’

    Charlotte smiled. ‘I didn’t think of that, Ozera spooked me too much. I think we should get to the dorms first though.’

    ‘Nonsense! We can walk and talk at the same time!’ Kyo stated before turning away, waving up at everyone in C.41. ‘Hi! We haven’t all properly met; I’m Kyo.’

    The white-haired girl came forwards, obviously ignoring the loud mutterings from the assumed leader of the four. ‘Hey. I’m Clary, not Frost, or whatever that guy called me.’

    The eight of them continued their venture back to the dormitories. By the time they’d reached the staircase, all had exchanged names. Kyo had her arms looped with Levi and Clary, who began recounting their arrival to the dormitories.

    None of you were changed?!’ she cried, blue eyes wide.

    ‘We didn’t even know where the uniforms were!’ Clary replied, ‘I was too busy being bashed around by Colin to go looking.’

    Kyo giggled. ‘He seems like a barrel of laughs, doesn’t he? Alex too! I can’t believe they talked so bluntly to the commander. I could never!’

    ‘I’d love to see you try, though.’ Charlotte chirped in, smiling brightly. ‘He needs to chill sometimes.’

    ‘As much as you are all enjoying this bonding time.’ Colin said flatly, stopping to face everyone so that he stood in the way. ‘But can we all remember that this is a war? We’re not training here to get a little bit stronger; we’re here to learn how to kill, to step out into a battle zone and be willing to die. And you’re acting like this is recess or something!’

    Alex snorted. ‘Calm it, drama queen. It’s not the end of the world.’

    ‘I mean,’ Karter stepped in, eyebrows raised, ‘depending on the severity of this war, it kinda is.’

    There was a moment of silence before both Clary and Charlotte burst out laughing. A chorus of laughter broke out, with only Colin rolling his eyes and cursing under his breath once more. He began to walk off while the rest continued snickering uncontrollably. Kyo was surprised to find that even Iris’ grey eyes shone with amusement, but as the two caught one another’s glances, did it disappear. Out of everyone there, it seemed she was still the most unwilling to open up. Kyo thought back to Iris’ codename, Sorrow, what sort of experiences must you go through to receive a name such as that?

    ‘Come on,’ Charlotte gasped, still hiccuping with laughter. ‘We should probably get back to the dorms before Ozera comes and yells at us.’

    ~

    Dinner in the mess hall swept past quickly, leaving the members of C.41 and C.42 full and satisfied. As Ozera had said, it wasn’t difficult to find thanks to the constant slew of people heading inside. The white tables could seat eight people, and each was labelled with the group numbers. On the far side of the hall was the kitchen area which included a set of buffet-style serving stations. The food was provided on metal trays with indents for each aspect of the meal. The rectangular room was filled with around a thousand voices, all chatting feverishly about the day.

    As dinner drew to a close, Karter pulled out his timetable. It was only a thin piece of plastic similar to a credit card, however, the electronic screen suggested otherwise, as the text printed on it flashed up brightly. ‘We better head to the hangar now. Seeing as we’re all grouped together, I’d rather you not keep up this habit of being late.’

    Levi squeaked in protest, ‘It was one time!’

    He cracked a smile, ‘I know, I was only joking. Come on; let’s go.’

    The hangar was also filled to the brim with people, indicating that everyone in Quad C followed a similar regiment. It was difficult for them, however, to find their commander, who was scowling at nothing. Ozera turned to the eight of them, eyebrows furrowed as usual.

    ‘As mentioned before,’ he began once the eight of them had quietened. ‘You’ll be going through the basics of first aid, namely CPR. These skills may save yours or your comrades’ life, so pay attention.’

    The commander spent the rest of the evening teaching the eight the acronym DRSABC. When in the situation of someone, whether a fallen comrade or civilian, lying unconscious on the floor, how to act. It took him fifteen minutes to explain each section of it, and the rest of the hour was spent practising on a CPR dummy. Despite Colin’s dramatics, his reminder that they were in war training sobered up any bouts of awkwardness or belittling. By the end of the shift, each member of the group had memorised DRSABC and knew how to attempt at saving a life.

    ‘Lights out is in 10.’ Ozera said, wiping his hands together. ‘An alarm will go off at the allotted time so make sure you get some sleep as I do not tolerate zombie soldiers.’

    ‘Um, sir?’ Clary asked quietly, shyly half-raising her hand.

    ‘What?’ he demanded.

    ‘You said there would be amendments to C.41’s timetables, but nothing has changed yet.’ She pulled out her own card, holding it out to him. ‘When will it be changing?’

    The commander sighed, eyes going skyward for a moment. ‘As a matter of fact,’ he fished out his own electronic card, which he tapped at quietly. ‘They’ll be changing, now.’

    Clary’s timetable vibrated abruptly, causing her to drop it from shock. From the expressions on Colin, Levi and Alex’s faces, it was obviously theirs too had made a noise. Snatching up the fallen card, she took in the new timetable.

    5:00 am - Get up, complete chores and dormitory inspections
    6:00 am - Sprints - HANGAR
    7:00 am - Morning drills - HANGAR
    8:00 am - Breakfast - MESS HALL
    9:00 am - Combat training - SPARRING HALLS
    10:00 am - Melee weapons training - ARMOURY
    11:00 am - Agility training - GYMNASIUM
    12:00 pm - Afternoon drills - HANGAR
    13:00 pm - Lunch - MESS HALL
    14:00 pm - Intelligence operatives - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    15:00 pm - Ranged weapons training - ARMOURY
    16:00 pm - Simulations - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    17:00 pm - Simulations - OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS
    18:00 pm - Team building exercises - HANGAR
    19:00 pm - Dinner - MESS HALL
    20:00 pm - Evening shifts - HANGAR
    21:00 pm - Extra chores
    22:00 pm - Lights out

    At once, the four began shouting out in protest.

    ‘Five in the morning? I can’t live on seven hours of sleep!’

    ‘Sprints? At 6 am? Pretty stupid choice of time.’

    Extra chores?! What sort of hell..?’

    ‘SHUT UP! All of you! You were told there would be consequences for tardiness, and so they have come to bite you. Now, head back to your dorms, I’ll see you all the morning.’

    Trudging back, Kyo and Charlotte’s attempts at cheering the four up failed miserably. Even if it was a learning curve, it was clear to see that the next several days were going to be pure hell. The two groups eventually split off at their separate dormitories, finally putting their first day of stress to rest.

    ~

    The early morning sun stung Robyn Winchester’s eyes ruthlessly. She scrubbed sleep from her eyes, stifling a yawn that made them water anyway. Even with a steaming cup of coffee perfuming the air with its rich scent, she couldn’t shake her fatigue.

    ‘You should start going to sleep earlier; you know that, right?’

    Robyn looked up, grey eyes landing on the young man sitting down beside her. ‘Shut up, Isaac. I had that guy in the palm of my hand; I couldn’t just go to sleep at a moment like that!’

    ‘Sure you could have. You just wanted to brag about taking down an international spy in one night.’ He replied, taking a sip of his coffee.

    She smiled broadly. ‘Oh, how you know me so well.’

    Isaac chuckled, putting the cup down. The two were alone in the small coffee shop, as the morning haul had not yet reached its doors. Robyn’s eyes had gone to the clock, watching the minute hand inch closer and closer to 7 am. She was about to say something when a sudden shout echoed from outside. The two looked up, both taut as a bow, only to see a middle-aged woman stood shouting at a much younger figure dashing down the street, a leather purse in hand.

    Isaac relaxed, picking up the cup again. ‘A mugger. At this time of day? Strange people.’

    Robyn was already out of her chair. ‘I’m going after them.’

    W-wait, Robyn!’

    It was too late; it was as if all sleeplessness had flooded out of her as she wrenched the coffee shop door open and gave chase. Her long legs carried her swiftly across the sun-drenched pavement; her sneakers barely made a sound as she hunted her prey. Behind her, Robyn could hear the jangling of the coffee shop bell, no doubt Isaac attempting to follow after her. But she was only a blurry figure to him, a trail of black and green hair the only indication it was her that raced down the street.

    It wasn’t difficult for Robyn to follow after the mugger, who’d she picked out was a young male that was barely in his teens. He’d caught a glance of her chasing him, resulting in a loud slew of curses to erupt from him as he picked up the pace. But it wasn't exactly enough as she leapt over an empty crate and swooped ahead of him. The teen skidded to a halt, intending to turn back but Robyn had already grabbed the back of his hood.

    ‘Hey! Don’t bother. Just give me the purse, and I’ll let you go.’ She said, keeping a firm grip on him.

    ‘Nu-uh! You’re a cop!’ he cried, squirming slightly.

    Robyn made a noise of disgust. ‘A cop? Jesus, no. I’m not a cop, I’m a…’ she trailed off, realising it probably wasn’t a wise idea to finish that sentence. ‘Just give me the damn purse, kid. Or I will take you to the police like the good law-abiding citizen I am.’

    ‘Get off me!

    ‘Just drop the purse! Or we’ll both stand here like lunatics for the rest of the morning.’

    He began to protest, wriggling once more under her grip when suddenly the purse dropped. Instinctively, Robyn grabbed it with her left hand, still holding the teen with her right. Or so she thought. Her hand came up empty; the kid was gone.

    ‘What the?’ she whirled around, still holding the purse.

    It was only a split second, he was there in one moment but gone the next. Robyn could still remember the softness of his hoodie, so where did he go? Cursing under her breath, she ran back down the street, trying to see where he had run off to. Instead, she went smack into the chest of Isaac. He grabbed her wrist, steadying her balance as she tipped back.

    ‘You okay?’ he asked as she righted herself. ‘Did you get the purse?’

    Robyn blinked, grey eyes glassy for a moment. ‘Yeah, I did. It’s just the kid…’ she trailed off, still looking around, still unsure what had just happened.

    ‘The kid?’ Isaac asked before realising she meant the mugger he too looked around. ‘Where’d he go? Wait a minute, Robyn did you let him go?’

    ‘Did I what? Christ, no. It’s just, he just,’ she stumbled, ‘he just vanished.’

    ‘Vanished? What are you talking about?’

    ‘I had him; he couldn’t run. He was standing right in front of me,’ Robyn said numbly. ‘And then he just... he just disappeared...’
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
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  2. AJules

    AJules Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator Elite+

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    Woah! This is absolutely amazing!
     
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  3. Wolfy

    Wolfy Heroic Partier Elite+

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    Amazing :))))) can't wait for the actual story to happen <3 love you Cold.
     
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  4. HuskyInAHat

    HuskyInAHat Ultimate Partier Elite

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    Yes!! I’m so glad this has begun! I love your writing, good luck continuing
     
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  5. hharis

    hharis Legendary Partier Elite+

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    You are such a great writer! I really enjoyed this <3 can't wait to see much more! :)
     
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  6. Bori

    Bori Heroic Partier Elite

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    omgomg yes yes yES
     
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  7. GlowingLights

    GlowingLights Legendary Partier Elite+

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    Love it!
     
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  8. PepperPancake

    PepperPancake Heroic Partier Elite

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    Im in love with this story already wow
     
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  9. Glowy

    Glowy Legendary Partier Elite+

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    yay
     
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    Chanyeol Champion Partier Elite

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    Omg!
    That is like amazing!
    How the hell did you have the time tp write all that!? Loving it btw! Good work! :)

    I’m calling it, Cold is officially The Flash, You’ve been exposed xD
     
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  11. HelloColdWorld

    HelloColdWorld Moderator Staff Member Moderator Elite

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    Thank you Jules! <3
    It's only just beginning! ilyt <3
    Thank you! Hopefully I'll continue this to the end.
    Thank you! I'll try my best to keep the chapters coming.
    Glad you like it!
    Thanks <3
    Woo! <3
    yay c;
    Thank you! I can write a lot when I put my mind to it ;)

    CHAPTER ONE IS OUT!
    Characters in the chapter:
    Clarissa Ada Young - @HelloColdWorld
    Alex Silverfeather - @Wolfy
    Leiko Wannabe - @DanielaParty
    Freya Hilton - @ShootingStqr
    Leviathan Inges - @Boriiii
    Leslie Jimenez - @Pinxxie
    Colin Davidson - @PepperPancake
    Jules Burke - @AJules
     
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  12. Bori

    Bori Heroic Partier Elite

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    mY cHiLD iS pREciOuS

    amazing chapter though!
     
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  13. Wolfy

    Wolfy Heroic Partier Elite+

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    I love my child.

    Can't wait for the next chapter Culd!
     
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  14. AJules

    AJules Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator Elite+

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    Woo! I’m loving it x
     
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  15. HuskyInAHat

    HuskyInAHat Ultimate Partier Elite

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    Yoy!
     
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    I love your writing style so much! I can really put myself in the shoes of characters other than my own! Amazing job <3
     
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  17. PepperPancake

    PepperPancake Heroic Partier Elite

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    Yes!
     
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  18. calico

    calico Legendary Partier Elite+

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    spectacular, amazing, just woAh. keep up the great work ;p
     
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  19. ABerryyy

    ABerryyy Legendary Partier Elite+

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    It's really amazing, can't wait for more! xx
     
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  20. HelloColdWorld

    HelloColdWorld Moderator Staff Member Moderator Elite

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    She's definitely the sweetie of C.41 ;) Thank you!
    Who doesn't? Thank you Wolfy!
    I'm glad! Thankss.
    yoy!(?)
    Thank you Raya!
    :)
    Thank you!
    Thanks!

    CHAPTER TWO IS OUT!
    Characters in the chapter:
    Emily Sunshine - @GlowingLights
    Iris Hearth - @TheFqllen
    Naoko Nakamura - @Glowy
    Freya Hilton - @ShootingStqr
    Kyo Kizokunashi - @Azamii
    Charlotte Anders - @ECatto
    Karter Fontaine - @HuskyInAHat
     
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