It had been two months. My wings were as muscled as they could get without weighing me down, and even though I couldn't quite fly just yet I had discovered more about my modified body. I had abnormally large, sharp canine teeth on both my top and bottom jaw. I had a tail, which was long and feathered and spread out when I flew to steer. They had cut my hair so that the straight, dark red locks fell jaw-length, and I discovered that when I was mad or scared it raised up visibly like the hackles on a dog and spiked up around the base of my skull.
I was just about ready to be put into the group with the other kids, who had actually arrived around my time with about a month's difference besides Hawk who had been there for two years, since he was fifteen. He was deadly, and they were already sending him out to "take care of" certain people.
I was put in the beginner group when my wings grew out all the way. Besides me there was Chaos, a boy with hair just as black and long as Hawk's and green eyes; Gypsy, a girl with vivid blue eyes and multicolored hair that reminded me of a German Shepherd's; and Spade, a boy with naturally black hair (not quite as shocking as Chaos's or Hawk's) struck through with a bleached streak that he had probably managed to do himself in whatever equivalent of a janitor's closet there was here.
All the groups were put in the same bunk room. Besides ours, there was the intermediate and advanced groups, and Hawk, who was his own group. I never learned the names of the others, besides Arrow, who was a year older than me and has gotten me out of trouble several times with the cook in the mess hall. He's good with people that way, and so is his sister, who's name might be Deuce but I'm not sure. It was either Deuce or Dice. As for me, I picked up the name Zero. I don't remember why; I think I might have had a little bit of an aphasia moment and tried to say I had no name, instead saying "zero," which apparently stuck. The name was fine with me.
I finished lacing up the boots. They were calf-length, longer than normal combat boots but not quite knee-high. I stood up. For the most part, they didn't have too many restrictions on what to wear, just that it was black or grey and you should be able to move easily in it. We had a lot of freedom here; the base was in the middle of some valley, and it was cut off from almost all civilization, but there was a marketing system within it and we mostly got what we wanted with the credits earned through training and extra jobs. It wasn't much to choose from, but it was alright.
My training clothes were pretty simple: a black tank top and cut-off black jean shorts with a wide studded belt, along with the boots and fingerless gloves that were required.
"Ugh," said Chaos from behind me. He was sliding off his bunk, which was below mine, headfirst and in a position on his back that could convince one that he was melting. "Training should maybe be after lunch, and not start at five a.m."
"Get up, wicked witch, no one's poured water on you. Yet." Gypsy had her legs tossed over the rail on her top bunk, and was tugging on the laces of her left boot. Chaos didn't move, even when Gypsy swung down and nudged his leg with her toe.
"You guys take forever," said Spade. He was leaning in the doorway with arms and legs crossed in front of him, looking bored. He probably was. That kid had ADD like nobody's business. He was wearing the black loose (but not baggy) jeans that most of the males wore, and a dark grey tee-shirt. Chaos matched except for his black shirt and holes in the legs of his jeans. Gypsy wore shorts like mine, minus the belt, and a grey shirt with a little knot in the back that tied it tight around her small body. Gypsy was small, but flexible as heck and just as fierce. Chaos and I, however, had record tempers so far.
After much arguing and pushing and Chaos almost blowing up a dangerous too many times, we finally head out. Spade had gone ahead, and was in the training field when we got there. The training field was an outdoor courtyard-like area bordered with barbed-wire fencing and scattered with wooden structures and courses and the like. Spade was hanging upside down from something that resembled monkey bars.
Rave got up from his rebellious position at the desk. Rave was the head of the beginner's training, and even though he worked us down to wires, we didn't hate him. We were too afraid to. He was only about eighteen or so, but he was vicious.
"What are we doing today, Rave?" Gypsy dared.
He fixed her in a cold glare. "I'll let you know when it's required" he said, sounding like the (insert obscene insulting name of your choice here) that he was.
"Uh," I coughed, "we're kind of the ones doing whatever we happen to be doing today. I think it's required at the beginning of class." I looked up at the sky, trying not to smile and locking my hands behind my back.
Rave snorted. "Excuses," he said, waving us off as Spade walked lazily up. "We're going to do what we were doing yesterday, blade work."
Chaos stood behind me with his arms crossed. "But... I don't see the blades."
We all looked around. Chaos was right. The wall where the blades hung when we were ever doing blade work was bare. Rave puffed air out through his nose, not quite a snort but not quite a sigh.
"We have to get them from the arsenal because plans have changed since last night. You will stay here, and I will get the blades.
We were never allowed near the arsenal until we were at least late intermediate. I think the military officers were afraid we would blow something up, which wasn't exactly irrational. We never thought of the arsenal as something that would come in handy, because it was always under heavy guard.
Until, of course, it drew the training instructor away and left us teenage assassins on our own.