“Hit me.” Norman said. I wiped my forehead.
“I’m not going to do that, I can’t hit you.” I panted. We had been doing fitness for about three hours now and my arms and legs were killing me. Norman rolled his eyes and then stuck out his arm and punched me in the stomach.
I fell onto the floor with force. He extended a hand and I thankfully took it. As soon as he helped me up, he took my arm and twisted it behind my back.
“Lesson 1: never trust your enemy.” He let go of me and I massaged my arm.
“Please, stop, I’ve done enough today.” I moaned. Norman smirked. He had not broken a sweat the entire three hours that we had been training. Training for what? They still hadn’t told me.
“You think she’s ready yet, Marcus?” Norman asked. Marcus stood up and looked at me. His stare made me feel so very uncomfortable. What was I ready for? Why wouldn’t these people just answer my questions? What were they forcing me to train for?
Why did I have to do this?
“No, Norman, she has to be strong. She has to be like us. Her father and his disciples must not know that she has been with us, but she must be able to withstand their training fast enough. She must not be swayed by their beliefs.”
Marcus shook his head angrily. He picked up a 10kg weight with one hand and threw it across the room. I was the only one to flinch upon impact. Marcus spoke to Norman in a low voice and then walked out. Norman pulled his jumper off so he was left with just a very tight, white singlet on which complemented his tanned skin. I blinked. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him.
“Grab a weapon.” He swept his arm across the room. I looked around and picked up a dagger. It looked like it had a fire inside it that was trying to get out. I held it out and Norman took it. He then handed it back to me. “Good choice Ogre.”
I was shocked. Was he calling me ugly? Was he calling me a green monster? He was suddenly within inches from me and I lunged at him with the knife.
Not that I actually knew what I was doing.
“It’s Opal, you piece of-” He stopped me short as he grabbed me, keeping the knife as far from himself as possible.
“Do not put that knife near me again. That knife kills our people, Ogre.” He hissed. I slapped him in the face with my free hand.
“That’s good. Next time, clench your hands into fists and punch me.” Norman laughed. My mouth dropped open.
“You were doing that just to get me to hit you?” I asked, appalled. He inclined his head and winked at me.
“Sure was, Opal honey.” My face burned and I felt something rising inside me. He actually said my name. “You don’t have a Double, do you? Your type never has a Double. Maybe after you swap sides to be a Jumper, you’ll get a Double.”
I couldn’t help but notice the hopefulness in his voice.
“How do you get a Double?” I asked him. I kept my distance. “What do you have to do to get a Double?”
“Well, you dream about them a lot and then you get drawn to them somehow.”
I looked up sharply.
“Is there a girl Time Jumper here? Someone I can talk to?” I asked. Norman looked at me questioningly. “Please, someone trustworthy.”
“Victoria, we need you out here.” Norman knocked on a closed door. We had walked down countless stairs and through a torture chamber (Norman called it a prison) before we got to the door. My arm ached. Norman was gripping it tightly so I didn’t run away. He didn’t want it on his hands if I disappeared.
I wouldn’t run away, because I would be too scared of the Time Jumpers.
“What do you want, Norms?” Victoria called. I stifled a laugh and Norman’s grip tightened.
“Norms? That’s what they call you? That really does not suit you at all.” I whispered. Norman sighed.
“What would suit me better then?” He asked me. I shrugged.
“Killer, Destroyer…. Scary names,”
The door opened inwards and I almost fell over if it wasn’t for Norman’s hand.
“Well, I for one think that Norman is a scary name. I’ve seen what he can do.” Victoria had a very strong Australian accent. She was well built but also quite small. I blinked. Her wide eyes surveyed me quickly and suddenly she was gone. “Well, come in, Shrimp.”
“It’s Opal,” Norman said. I turned and looked at him. “What the hell are you waiting for? You wanted a trustworthy girl jumper and I brought you to one. Hurry the hell up so we can get back to the training.”
He pushed me forward and I landed in the room. Victoria sat on the windowsill, one leg up, one leg down. I looked back at Norman and he shut the door in my face. I took a deep breath and took a step forward.
“Hey, Victoria, is it? … I…”
“It’s TJ302043 to you, Shrimp. Only Time Jumpers and the ender insiders call me Victoria. You and that Elodie chick call me TJ302043.”
Who was Elodie?
“I have a question about the Doubles.” I said quietly.
“Why didn’t you just ask your buddy Killer the Destroyer out there?” She asked me sarcastically.
“You mean Norman?” I asked. She gave me a look. “I just don’t know what to do. Marcus and Norman don’t seem to understand and now that I look more closely, I guess you don’t really care either.”
“Fine, shoot. Ask away, Shrimp.” She said. She was obviously annoyed.
“I dreamt about someone.”
She looked at me. Her eyes were wide.
“But that impossible, are you sure it’s not just teenage fantasies?”
I shook my head.
“It’s nothing like that- he-he calls to me.”
“I’m sorry, Shrimp but we have to tell Marcus and Killer the Destroyer.”
I shook my head again- more fervently this time.
“Why do you HAVE to tell them?”
“Why do you not want to?”
“I don’t know stuff might happen.”
“I would have had to tell them anyway because Marcus is my boss.”
“I’m sorry, Shrimp. There’s nothing I can do. I have to tell my boss everything that I see and hear. It’s part of my duties.”
She sighed and looked down at her feet. I stepped closer.
“Duties as what?” I whispered.
“Sit down. I think it’s time some things are explained to you.”