Finally, the two men stopped at a set of double-doors. As they opened them, a big light above a large mat flicked on.
I stepped into the room that was easily the biggest room I had ever seen. It had to be as big as the inside of the coliseum, a good football field in length. I whistled in awe at the large mat in the center of the room. Other equipment sat along the wall. The room wasn't completely empty. On one of the treadmills was a blonde, curly-haired girl. She was running with ear buds in her ears.
"Ready to owe me ten bucks?" I called.
"Don't, kid. Rebecca is...not the kind of girl you think she is," the lab coat guy warned.
"A deal's a deal."
I walked up to her. She glanced over at me but didn't stop running.
"Can I help you?" she asked as she pulled one of the ear buds out.
"My name's Nick. I'm new. The guys over there were admiring your butt. I thought it might be disrespectful if I didn't tell you. Getting a good look at you though, I can't say I blame them. You have a beauty that would captivate any man," I admitted.
It wasn't a lie. She was beautiful, but I already had my sights set on Audrey. I have to keep my head clear of distractions. The girl stopped running and looked at me, a confident smirk on her face. Okay, I wasn't expecting that.
"You said you're new right, Nick? I'm Rebecca...but you already knew that. Hey, Joe, what does he owe you?" Rebecca called to the lab coat guy I made the bet with.
"Ten dollars if he could pick up the next girl he met," the guy, Joe, shouted.
"Well, I guess you owe him ten dollars," Rebecca said to me. "Don't worry. Since you're new, I'll lend you the money."
She pulled a ten dollar bill out of thin air. Rebecca winked at me as she handed me the money. I looked like an idiot.
"If you spent more time with your surroundings than picking up girls, you might not have gotten caught by Stitch in the first place," Audrey said from the doorway. I hesitantly gave Joe his money. "Told you. Everything's different here."
"Don't be too hard on him, Angel. If I wasn't into girls, that would've totally picked me up," Rebecca said to Audrey.
Rebecca strode proudly out of the weight room. I stared in shock.
"Is she really—"
"Training starts now. Get on the matt and take off your shoes," Audrey ordered.
"Is that all you want me to take off?" I retorted as I kicked off my shoes.
"You might not want to take anything else off. When I leave you on your back, you're going to be glad for the cushion."
"So, what are we doing?"
"First, Mr. Corey wants me to test your reflexes without your ability on."
I didn't even realize it, but I had already powered down. Robert Corey was right. I did feel weak.
"So, I'm going to be fighting you—a girl?"
"The first thing you need to know about me," Audrey said as she swept my feet out from under me, "is that I hate it when people underestimate me."
Okay, I think I just gained more respect for her. She looks like she can fight. As I sat up, she offered her hand out to me. I gave her my hand. She immediately twisted my arm.
"The second thing you need to know is that you can't trust me when I'm fighting you. Your opponent won't help you up so don't expect me to."
Bonus points for being hardcore. I'm starting to fall in love all over again. She still held my arm. I grinned at her. I flipped around to where she couldn't use my arm against me. I then spun around and put her in a headlock.
"Well, if we're doing it that way..."
I let her go. I briefly acknowledged Robert Corey as he stood beside the now-closed doors of the weight room. He was smiling. Facing me, Audrey went in for a direct attack. I stopped her oncoming fist and twisted her arm behind her back as she kicked the back of my knee. I went down and she put me in a headlock.
"It's not nice to copy someone else's moves," I said.
"I'll stop when you do," she said as she let me go.
As she did, I surprised her by kicking back. She landed on the floor. I looked down and smiled sweetly. I'm really enjoying this. I think it was because I was enjoying myself that made Audrey mad. She kicked my legs and I fell face-first on the mat. It was pretty obvious, even from that little excerpt, that we were going to be evenly matched. You can't live in a place like Drayton and not know how to protect yourself.
"Test his abilities, Audrey," Corey instructed her before looking to me. "Turn it on."
"How do I do that?" I asked as Audrey and I stood up.
Audrey whipped out two daggers. She posed, battle-ready.
"We're going to use pressure. At the coliseum, you felt threatened. That kick started your ability as soon as the liquid entered your bloodstream. We have to force you into a corner," Audrey answered.
"I hate to break it to you but I'm starting to like this corner."
Audrey's face turned angry. She came at me on my left side first. I dodged the blades and backed up a few steps. This is nothing. I don't feel threatened or cornered. I feel confident that I can take her. Even as she barraged me with the blades, I dodged most of them. Some of them left shallow cuts on my arms. Nothing. This isn't working. Audrey knew it too. She stopped and lowered the daggers.
"Stand down, Audrey," Corey commanded.
She backed off. Corey snapped his fingers and men in bulletproof suits rushed into the room. Their automatic weapons were all pointed at me. There must've been at least fifteen of them, all surrounding me. The lasers on their AK-47s barely moved at all as they littered my sweat-soaked shirt in red dots. Instantly, I felt my eyes change. My adrenaline raced as I felt my body power up. Just to make sure, I looked at my arms. Blue veins. Never thought that would be a good sign. I glanced around me at the men as my mind and my eyes calculated the best way to take them out. In a blink, I took out the guy at my two o'clock. I elbowed the next guy. They kept coming at me. With my heightened senses, I knew who would come when and what they would do. A few moments later, all fifteen guys lay unconscious at my feet.
"Forty-five seconds. If you had done it in forty, you would have broken Audrey's record," Corey said.
I looked at him, my senses still heightened. From across the room, I could hear the tick of the stopwatch, the winded breaths of the guys beneath me, and even the low rumble of the air conditioner. Audrey advanced on me, her heightened senses showing. We tackled with each other like before. This time, however, we did it with much more force and speed. We evenly countered each other's attacks. We've been going at this for a few minutes at least. My adrenaline was fading. Since the threat was no longer...awake, I had no need for my ability. Audrey noticed. She stopped grappling with me and turned her ability off. As my senses returned to normal, I collapsed. I'm crashing. I overdid it. I braced myself for the hard mat. Strong arms caught me. I looked up at Audrey's beautiful, green eyes as I passed out.