The rest of the day was disaster. Kent put me through a dozen different defense exercises they were brutal and simple. There was absolute no sense of honor, the objective was to disable your opponent and that was achieved in any way possible. I collapsed on my cot in an abandoned barracks set aside for me. It took me exactly two seconds to fall asleep.
I was awaken by the unpleasant sound of a gun going off.
I felt a bullet crush itself self into my chest. I bolted up scales out my chest aching from the impact. The gun exploded again and the impact sent me to my bed. In the smoke of the gun I saw Sergeant Kent. He was frowning and pointing the gun at my chest. I was a little stunned from the whole experience. He lowered the weapon.
“Today you’re going to learn control.”
I was a little to stunned to answer might have had something to with the fact that I was woken by being shot. I tumbled out of bed pulling on my army fatigues. On another day I might have check the mirror but I was determined to prove myself to Kent. He was waiting for me outside my barracks, without a word he stalked towards the big tent. I was beginning to hate that place. On the table in the center of the room there were two sunny side up eggs and a whole pile of bacon. My mouth watered but I knew I wasn’t going to be eating these until I earned it. Kent pulled out his Browing Hi-Power again but this time I was ready and my scales were well in place when the bullet shattered on my chest.
I looked at him defiantly and a little smugly.
“No!” He roared, “Keep your scales in!”
Then I realized what the exercise was about. I was invulnerable all the time but I felt pain when my scales weren’t out. Kent wanted me to learn to fight without my scales and control myself despite the pain. I steeled myself proverbially and let my scales fade.
The next bullet hit skin and burned like being stabbed with a hot poker. I staggered a step back but then straightened. Kent fire twice his bullets slammed into my forehead and stomach. I had gotten used to not feeling anything and the pain was shocking. The next bullet caught me in the throat. I nearly screamed and it took a huge effort I kept my scales in. Kent nodded and lowered his weapon and I got bacon.
That’s how the rest of the week Kent would work me to breaking point every day. I didn’t give up. By the time the week was out I knew how to fire an assault rifle, handgun, and deliver brutal blows with my fists and feet. But most importantly I did it all with out scales. I learned to control them. Kent would burst into my room at night and it took time not to react with my scales. But by the end of the time I learned to sleep lightly and when I awoke it was never in panic. On the final day I rolled out of my cot at 5:30 with my watch beeping me awake. I looked in the mirror. My hair had always be short but now it was virtually non existent. I looked at my arms and chest, the beginnings of hard muscle were starting to form. When I got back I resolved to ask dad to buy me some gym equipment.
I pulled on my green shirt and left the barracks I stood in front of my door. I stood completely erect and serious. At exactly 6 Kent stalked up the only indication of surprise he gave was a raised eye brow. He inspected my stance and then nodded approvingly. He trekked of towards the training tent and I knew I should follow. Without a word he took a bottle of water from the cooler and I smiled.