It was very nice, with white beadboard walls, the ceiling sloping down away from the door, sand colored carpet, a vanity that fit snuggly between the two beds on the opposite side of the room, and four extra-long twin beds with their headboards against the walls. Each bed had a nightstand and a desk lamp, but as we rushed to the beds with our luggage beside them, I saw a watch laying on my nightstand.
“Oh yeah, you need to put that on.” Mickey said, strapping hers on. “It was on the paper. We’re supposed to always wear these and they’re already set up with alarms on them to signal our classes.”
“Wow, cool!” I said and strapped mine on too. Then we quickly dressed, left the dorm building and met back up with the guys in the courtyard.
“Does anyone even know where the Active Studies classes are?” Johnny asked.
“Well, our first few classes are at the Coliseum.” Morgan said and when everyone looked at him added, “It’s behind the academy building. You’ll see.”
“So, how do we get back to the campus?” I asked, and everyone looked at Morgan, who still looked a little singed.
“Well, you see this tree?” he said, going to one of the shade trees in the middle of the courtyard. “See these knobs on it? Pib hooked it up to wear you push them and they’ll transport you back to campus. Pretty cool, huh?”
“Cool!” Mickey said and without hesitation pressed one of the knobs and disappeared.
We all followed after her and were soon back on the campus and walking around the little shed. A huge Coliseum, like the one in Greece, sat in the far distance looking like brand new yet at the same time still ancient. Behind that I could see a beach and a large strip of blue, one side extended out of sight behind the Coliseum while the other was bordered by think trees that then extended all the way up to the front. It was absolutely the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my entire life.
We all stared in amazement as we made our way towards the Coliseum. Johnny and Buddy let out wows in unison while Morgan said, “The pictures didn’t do it justice.”
Then, just as I was just about to ask why they had a Coliseum on campus, or a huge lake with a boat house, a noise started up behind us. We looked behind us, the sound growing until it could have been thunder, and saw a crowd of kids stampeding towards us looking like crazed maniacs.
“Run!” Mickey cried and we all broke into a sprint.
We were booking it, and only just managed to keep in front of the crowd. Our lead on them decreased the closer we got to the Coliseum, everyone breathing hard and wincing in pain. A horrible stitch had developed in my side and I struggled to keep up with everyone, though my problem was pretty widespread. Some people slowed so much they were jogging/hobbling while others were reduced to just walking.
All I could think was that I was thankful I’d been taking track for at least a while, because I probably wouldn’t have made it halfway there, it being farther away than the length of three football fields. But the longer we ran the slower we got, until we were between the middle and the back of the crowd. I was on the left edge of the crowd, so I could see who was doing well and I saw a girl with long almost black brown hair tied into a ponytail at the very front, followed closely by a few others.
They got to the Coliseum a few minutes before the bulk of the crowd, and it was then that I saw three men waiting there for us. They were all standing with their hands behind their backs and wearing the Atlas uniform, the man in front looking like a drill sergeant. Andhewas looking at me. Under his scary gaze I picked up the pace on my pained jogging, but even as I hurried to keep pace with the crowd, I thought I’d done especially well for just having been in track a few months.Why is he staring at me? Why doesn’t he stare at the others behind me? My coach would’ve been proud.I thought.
But this guy definitely wasn’t and that was clear, because the longer he waited on us, the harder his gaze became. He was a pretty tall man, though some of the assassin boys like Buddy and Silas were catching up to him, he had very light almost-white blonde hair in a high and tight cut, an almost copper tan and ice blue eyes that were digging into me as we all finally reached him. His eyes continued to bore into me for a few minutes before he finally looked at the rest of the students.
“Welcome ladies,” he growled when everyone had gotten to us, addressing the boys as well as the girls, “to Close Combat. This year you’ll be learning basic hand-to-hand combat moves and a few different martial arts styles. Any questions?” He looked out over the crowd and everyone was silent, but then just remembering something, he added, “My name is Bear. I’ll be your coach, and if you continue to display attempts as pathetic as your run over here, if you don’t give me everything you have in your sorry bodies, Iwillmake these six years here the most miserable years of your wretched lives.” His voice grew even more gravelly and threatening as he glared at us. I knew right then why they called him Bear and I shivered involuntarily.
His eyes flashed in my direction and all the air left my body for a minute.I’m going to die.I thought.He could crush me between his fingers.This was not going to end well.
His assistant coaches separated us into three smaller groups of thirty in the field in front of the Coliseum, and as we were spreading out from each other I noticed there were other Novice ranks on the other side of the Coliseum. Apparently the inside of the Coliseum was for the peepers.
He showed us a move he demonstrated on a kid, who I felt bad for because he ended up on the ground both times. And not on a soft mat either, they didn’t have that here, so the only soft thing we were going to feel was the grass, and it was only an inch high. Then he told us to face the person next to us, which for me just happened to be Mickey.
Apparently, instead of getting a personal trainer to help me work out, I should’ve gotten one that taught me how to fight because I still ended up on the ground. I never flipped her once and every time I hit the ground she’d say sorry and something like “move faster next time”, “that was too fast”, “Oh, did you break your nose? Sorry!” This last time was when Bear decided to walk over.
“How’s it going girls?” he asked, like he hadn’t just seen me take a face plant in the dirt.
“Fine.” I said, picking myself upagain.
“Damien, if you’re going to lie, at least do it well. Or try harder.” he said, giving me a withering look.
“Yes, sir.” I said, because what else was I supposed to say? No way was I going to smart off to this guy. I turned my back to him and lunged at Mickey again, only to be thrown to the ground, again.
I tried a few more times, and just when I thought I was beginning to get a handle on her pattern of moves since it took her longer to put me down, Bear’s voice was behind me saying, “Okay, Cooper stand down for a minute. Damien?” I picked myself off the ground and looked at him expectantly.What’s he gonna do now? Humiliate me in front of everyone?I thought.
Nope. It was worse.
“Damien,” he said again, putting his hands behind his back and walking around us slowly, like he was thinking over his words carefully. “Your mother may not have mentioned it, but I knew her very well. We were good friends, she and I, and I was even privileged enough to accompany her on a few missions. And I have to say… you’re nothing like her.” He came to a stop on Mickey’s right and spun to look at me.
I couldn’t believe what he’d just said. Mickey’s eyes were as wide as mine with shock, and a few of the sparring pairs around us paused in their attacks. But then that shock turned to anger. “What?” I said, looking at him with incredulity.