Reads: 21

The second band on his wrist vibrates. He takes it off and throws it at the wall. He lays back onto the single bed, staring out of the window. There is no way he’s going out there with that psychopath on the loose. Do these people have any idea what Cain did? Would these people allow Cain to do such a heinous act? When he reviewed the footage on the tablet, there weren’t any video recordings of him until he reached the village gates. This is odd…because that factory would have been an excellent choice to set up cameras. 


What do the doctors want to do with them? Why are they here? 


A part of him misses his mother, but if these people don’t know where she is, maybe that’s for the better. He hopes wherever she is, she’s safe. He’ll try and find her when given the right opportunity to escape. 


His stomach grumbles in protest and he swears. He hasn’t had much to eat all day. He turns over and picks up the tablet for a second time. As a distraction, he opens one of the apps. It’s tomorrow’s schedule. He scrolls through the activities. Physical training, ability training, agility training, self-defence training, combat training, weapon handling…he smirks. Everything is physical? They really don’t care about their education. Sounds like they’re training soldiers. 


Xavier looks at the description of each of the planned programs. As his stomach growls again he tosses the miniature computer onto the floor. He rubs his hands over his face and sighs. He leans over and picks up the bracelet, fixing it back to his wrist, and disappearing from the room. He sits on the dormitory roof, scanning the courtyard below. There are a few late stragglers, but no one he recognizes. Casually, he transports behind a group of girls. As he materialises from a dark mist, a few of the girls closest to him jump. 


“Sorry…” he mumbles, embarrassed. His power feels a bit…different than before. He can’t put his finger on it. 


He walks past the group and into the building. There’s a significant number of children in the dinner hall. The majority of them are sitting and quietly chatting amongst each other. He keeps his gaze down and walks the long way around to the small buffet dinner. The dinner is kept behind glass and before he is even able to collect a plate, there’s a sign instructing him to scan his bracelet. Reluctantly he does so and receives a plate. He wonders if this is to train them to be compliant or to track their behaviour.


The food is nothing special. Meat, vegetables, potatoes, buns…simple but he is so hungry, it doesn’t matter. He turns and contemplates sitting down. He’s hungry, but he could wait until he returns back to his room to eat. 


But when he tries, a sharp pain enters his skill. He immediately opens his eyes and searches around the room. He doesn’t see the woman from before. His eyes scan the ceiling, there are cameras pointed at the students below from all angles. He silently wonders if there are psychics watching him from a control room, deciding when to inflict pain and cancelling his concentration. 


He picks an empty round table near the less crowded side of the cafeteria. He begins eating, watching out of the corner of his eyes for any approaching people. As his stomach fills, the less anxious he feels. He decides to look around the room. Near the opposite side of the room, he sees Brittany and Ambre. They’re sitting by Adriel, Judas, and Dion. If he had noticed them earlier, he probably would have sat beside them. Ambre suddenly stands up and gives Dion a hug. He’s shocked for a moment but then returns the hug. Dion did save her life, twice. She gives him a peck on the cheek and sits back down, leaving Dion with a flush of colour creeping up his face.


His eyes lock onto the blue haired boy. He really needs to apologise to Adriel. The poor boy was frightened of him, as anyone would be, after he attacked Adriel out of reflex. The boy smiles softly, listening to a story Dion is telling the group. He cuts a piece of pork and places a small piece into his mouth. The boy’s dark jade eyes flick up and stare back. Even from a distance, that beautiful colour is visible. Xavier places his chin in the palm of his hand and stares back. Adriel suddenly sits up straighter and his face begins to blush. 


“Huh?” Xavier cocks his head, confused. 


The sound of someone slamming their fists on a table redirects his attention. Cain raises, pushing at one of his table mate’s shoulders. He laughs, having a very animated conversation with the group around him. Xavier immediately tries to transport back to the room, but that sharp pain returns to his head again. He grabs his forehead and tries again. Whoever is watching him, accurately times the attack. Without feeling the intrusion at a constant rate, he can't push them from his mind. 


Cain suddenly sits back down, now hidden behind a wall of people. Xavier takes a deep breath. Maybe he’s safe around others. Sure, Cain could still bully or beat him, but he wouldn’t do anything more serious in public. Cain does not like negative attention - well, attention that he deems negative.


Xavier decides it’s better to leave now than to wait for Cain to see him. As quietly as possible, he slinks towards the front door and slips through the exit. He places his hands in his dress pant’s pockets and walks towards the dormitory. The air is cold and the sun is beginning to set. In the distance, sheet lightning flashes. He tries once again to move to his room and in an instance, he’s standing in the middle of his room. 




The next day his bracelet vibrates at exactly six in the morning. Oddly, he was able to sleep quite well. Each dorm room is limited to sleeping arrangements only, so to provide the facilities required, each floor has a shared bathroom. He decides he’d rather wash his face and brush his teeth and return to his room as quickly as possible. He still doesn’t know who his neighbours are and if he is one of them. 


He avoids a large number of boys by quickly finishing his morning routine. While getting dressed, that annoying bracelet populates a hologram and refuses to close until he’s read his schedule for the day. It’s all physical training and he honestly could care less. He’ll just go to the training and pretend to comply. He needs to know who that doctor is and where they currently are. If that means going along with what they want until they trust him enough to provide more information, so be it. 


Xavier catches himself in the mirror, along his right side, a huge yellow and purple bruise hugs the side of his rib cage. What, was that bastard expecting him to comply by beating the shit out of him while he was unconscious? He pulls a shirt over his head and sits down to put on the running shoes provided. Every single piece of clothing fits him perfectly. It’s extremely creepy. Where the hell did they get all of this money to build a compound like this, pay for the staff, and provide necessities for, god knows how many, children?


He moves down to the grounds, stepping out of the dark mist. It definitely feels easier to use transportation now. There’s less of a…strain. He wonders how many times in a row that he can use his power now before it becomes more difficult.


As he looks onto the garden, he notices that the landscape has changed, quite significantly actually. All of the trimmed bushes, large trees, and stone pathways have been replaced by different roped off sections. There seems to be five areas in total. One, which he assumes to be agility training, has a number of obstacles within its bounds - from climbing walls to ropes. There’s another with free weights, tires, and sleds. The other three areas are hard to determine what they’re exactly for, especially the one with large locked cabinets. 


All the children gather near the front entrance. There’s a dirt path hugging the inner walls of the compound. There are two adults waiting for them to arrive. One of them is recognizable from yesterday. It’s that bald man with the nasty scar on his face. Shit, what was his name…Gagnon? Guards are randomly placed around the ground, each one holding a rifle. 


Xavier fiddles with the wristband that holds his skin like glue. He takes note of the people around him. A big majority of these kids stand close to others that they probably met over the last few days - people who they could trust their lives with. There’s the odd person who seems to keep to themselves and Xavier wonders if they had finished the trials all on their own. If so, they'd probably have one hell of a power. 


He waits until he sees Brittany and Ambre. Without any hesitation he walks up to them.


“Oh Xavier.” Brittany smiles, “I didn't see you last night. Are you feeling ok?”


“Yeah, I just ate and went to bed.” Xavier replies truthfully. 


“That’s good.” Ambre chimes, “We ate with Judas’ friends. I’m so thankful we met them. Everyone else feels like they’re avoiding us after the whole…incident yesterday.”


“About that…the doctor said that your parents stopped your appointments-” 


“Alright, everyone split up. Females are to take the inner two rings and the males on the outer two rings. I don’t want any mixing during the run.” Gagnon shouts, his raspy, deep voice carrying over the large group of children. Annoyed that his question was cut off by the man’s booming voice, Xavier waves to the two girls and takes his place in the boy’s line. He stands behind a heavy set boy - which is surprising considering the adverse affects some of the kids went through after being administered the injections. He muses that most overweight bodies probably can’t easily handle the physical strain. 


“The run will be exactly thirty minutes. If you can’t run, jog, If you can’t jog, walk. Do not stop until the thirty minutes are up. You are forbidden to use any abilities during the run.” he shouts. He stops, smirking, “Looks like we have a few stragglers. I’m not going to repeat myself. If you’re going to be late, you miss the explanation. Oh, and for every minute that you’re late, the extra time you’ll need to make up.”


He raises his hand, an old pistol in his hand. As he pulls the trigger, the group begins to run. Naturally each sex splits into two different lanes. Xavier follows the heavy set guy in front of him. He’ll put the minimum effort in, that way, he’ll conserve some energy. As he turns the first corner, he can see the remaining tail end of the group. There has to be, at least, two hundred kids here. 


The time ticks by and the kid in front of him starts to slow down to a walk. They’ve only completed about one lap now and halfway through their second. As they run behind the administration building, Xavier hears someone coming up from behind. Without warning, he feels a hand shove him hard. Before he cracks his head on the compound wall, he transports himself onto the path just in front of the fat kid and controls a fall onto the ground. Xavier raises himself to his feet and immediately catches the gaze of the person who pushed him. 


Cain smirks and then turns to resume his run. He then decides it’s better to keep his pace up to avoid another close encounter with that bastard. Fortunately, the rest of the run goes without incident and he is able to keep his distance from Cain. Xavier wonders if the staff even saw Cain push him. 


Gagnon waits until most of the kids have returned to the starting point, “Review your schedule and head to your next activity. All activities’ descriptions have an associated number preceding it. The number will match the sign on the area designated for that activity. Proceed to that area in five minutes.”


Xavier fiddles with his watch. A touch screen lights up with a few icons. He selects the calendar and a holographic table outlines his entire day. Next is some kind of ability training. Closing the application, he makes his way towards area four. As others rush beside him, he looks over his shoulder. He keeps himself positioned behind two girls and in front of a group of younger boys until they break off towards another area. He reaches the location, it’s a small empty field roped off. Weird, but okay. He steps onto the grass and keeps his distance from the entrance and watches the rest of the children enter. Unsurprisingly, Cain is in this group. Of course he is. 


He maintains awareness and keeps an eye on him, and does, until a familiar blue-haired boy steps onto the grass. Without Dion or Judas, he is even more reserved. Well, he already seemed pretty shy. Adriel gravitates to him and plays with the bottom of his shirt, “Hey.”


“Hey.” Xavier fiddles with the tight bracelet. Eyes wandering back to Cain. 


“How are you feeling?” He asks, eyes fixed to the ground.


“Fine.” Xavier shoves his hands into his pant pockets, “Did they pump you full of chemicals too?”


Adriel suddenly looks up, seemingly shocked at the blunt question, “Um…yeah, it was awful.” He rubs his hands together, “I hope that you didn’t break anything. Dr. Dubois….”


“I’m fine.” Xavier shrugs, “No need to worry about me, I heal pretty quickly.”


“That’s good.” a small smile tugs at the boy’s lips. 


Oh yeah, Adriel’s awkwardness reminds him of what he should have done several days ago. He scratches the back of his neck, “I didn’t get a chance to apologise. I’m sorry for attacking you a few days ago. I wasn’t in the right mind.”


Adriel cocks his head to the side like a puppy, “You don’t need to apologise. I was the one who invaded your space and crossed a line. I’m sorry.”


Xavier shoots Adriel a look of bewilderment and then lets a laugh slip, “You think you’re…pfft you’re something else Adriel.”


The boy pauses, eyes wide like a deer in the headlights. Those jade eyes staring at him through those black rimmed glasses. It takes a moment for Xavier to realise that the boy is blushing. He feels a small flutter in his stomach before abruptly turning his head away. This feeling isn’t foreign, but not well known either. Where the hell did that come from?


That fluttery feeling dissipates as someone yells and that Gagnon militant like man storms onto the field. He pulls out his phone and aggressively types. The ground suddenly rumbles and in an instance, a portion of the ground raises, revealing a large set of stairs. The man turns towards the group, “Alright down you go!”


“I’m not going down there.” someone protests. 


“You will go down immediately.” the man booms. The boy who had protests shakes his head timidly. Gagnon waves a soldier over. In a split second, the butt of the rifle hits the boy in the back. The boy cries out in pain and collapses. The soldier begins to yell at him, telling him to get up, and forcing him down the stairs. No one else dares to resist after that.


Xavier waits in line, silently counting the size of the group until he and Adriel are one of the last teenagers on the surface. Seven girls and eighteen boys. Uneven but then again, it did look as if there were more boys than girls in the cafeteria. As they move into the staircase, fluorescent lights shine down on the small group.The stairs go down three levels and then open up into a huge, empty room. The ceilings are high, reminding him of a warehouse. Near the ceiling on one side is a set of windows. 


“You’re our guinea pigs today.” Scarface's voice echoes off the walls, “We have a few different methods we’d like to test. There are three rounds, each round should take approximately fifteen minutes to complete. The goal is survival. Girls, come with me, your training is much different. Stay if you want, but if you didn’t like living in that monster infested town a few days ago, you certainly won’t like this.”


Without any hesitation, the seven girls followed the man to the wall with the windows. A door, barely visible from where they stand, slides open. As soon as the last girl enters, the door disappears into the wall once again. Then, a timer appears on the far wall. No, a countdown. 


A few of the boys attempt to run back to the staircase, but as they approach, the stairwell closes off. They bang on the metal wall while the clock slowly ticks down. With twenty seconds to go, he notices Cain. There’s an arousing, bloodthirsty look on his face. Two boys next to him appear to be excited too, but not nearly to the same degree. Both were two of the boys who were standing on that stage yesterday. 


During the last ten seconds he glances over at Adriel. There’s a look of concern plastered over his now pale face. He turns his head to meet Xavier for a second and then they both turn their attention to the last few seconds.






Submitted: September 17, 2023

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