Author's Notes 01/01/13

One . [Part 1]

“ Young ladies. Young men.
Welcome to the BATTLEGAME. ”

She was running, breathless, legs pumping, skidding around dark corners, driven by the overwhelming and unfamiliar sensation of fear. Fear of what moved in the dark. Fear of those who used to be her friends, now hunting her like wolves. Every friend could be a foe, and every foe was a killer, and so it hadn't taken long for her to realise that trust was something she could only place in herself. The BATTLEGAME was a frenzy of youths fighting for their freedom; it didn’t matter who you killed, every Prodigy down was an increased chance to win… win the GAME and return home.

Her heart swelled at the thought of it. Home. At last.

The Fortress, previously a training facility with military soldiers lined up against the stone walls, and endless rows of tall windows that illuminated all dark corners and possible hiding places – was now a dark maze. Every place where light entered that wasn't a door had been covered with cracked planks of wood, casting the entire Fortress into shadow. Shards of sunlight still slanted through small gaps. It was near impossible to see who approached from the other end or even to hear how close they were, as footsteps echoed endlessly in the stone passages. Even worse, the sound of screams – screams of the slaughtered – would ricochet, petrifying those still alive.

She tried to ignore the blotches of blood on the grey concrete at her feet, and eventually her run slowed to a jog, her fear subsiding to determination. Good. Determination was something she could work with. Fear was something else completely. Even under the gaze of the mirthless Captain, with his eyes of cold steel, she hadn't succumbed to fear. Fear scrambled your brain, it made you lash out without reason, fear was the reason so many Prodigies were already dead. Fear was the reason the BATTLEGAME was such a successful project.

Why though? What was the point? Why waste all of that effort; the expense of food and water and clothing and time? Sixty-four kids, who didn’t have a future anyway, we got put through something worse. Why? What is really going on here?

Run. Run run run.

We should’ve refused. Made a stand. Then we’d all die, if we were lucky, execution by gunfire. Done. Simple. Only it’s not that simple... brothers are here, and sisters, and friends... they’re trying to protect who they care about. And I need to protect –

Her ears pricked up at footsteps. Her body had already tensed and prepared to move before her mind had decided what exactly her body would do. Silent and swift, her foot kicked off the nearest wall and she shot upwards; hands and feet pressed hard against the walls and ceiling, wedging her body in the shadows. Waiting. Nobody came into view, but she still waited. Better to wait and be sure, than be hasty and die.

I could've been anybody. Anybody. I could've been a hero. I could've been famous. Instead, I'm here. I'm going to die here, and nobody will know what happened to me, everybody will forget about me. But it doesn't matter any more.

Run. Run run run.

Her eyes flicked up and down the quiet corridor. She could see flakes of dust floating when she looked at the rays of sun that shot across the corridor. Eventually, she slid down from the ceiling and landed on two light feet, shifting along the corridor again. The footsteps had stopped. She began to move faster. And faster. Run.

Her foot stepped down on something that rolled backwards – “Oh sh –!”

She crashed to the floor face forward, bringing her elbows up to her face just in time, but it still knocked the air from her lungs and precious seconds were lost by the fumble. Instantly she rolled over and snapped up to sitting, going stiff, waiting, listening, making sure that her echoes weren’t in fact the movements of another. Bruises were already forming, though she didn’t really feel it like she used to. The only type of pain she knew now was torture; training all day under a burning sun, cuts from samurai swords, her face forced under shallow water or her hands burnt when she disobeyed her orders. She knew pain. This was nothing.

Her hand reached out in the half-dark and groped along the floor until it found what she had tripped on, closing her fingers around a long, slim object. One end was pointed, the other soft. A pencil. A pencil. There were Prodigies running around Fortress Island with guns, and all she’d managed to find was a pencil.

She exhaled with disappointment. Her luck couldn't be so dismal. How do you even fight with a pencil? she thought. Ninja would know. During a sparring assessment on the edge of the forest surrounding the Fortress, she’d seen Ninja snap up a branch with a pointed end and stab it into her opponent’s shoulder, as swift as anything. Her smile fading, she glanced at the pencil again. Ninja has always been resourceful.

She broke into a run again as soon as she could. Had Ninja or Tomei found any good weapons? Were they protecting themselves or joining in with the slaughter? Can I really blame them if they are? she thought, her mind racing ten times faster than her feet. They’d been abducted just like her, snatched away from everything they knew to be trained on an Island in the middle of nowhere for a whole year. This was their final chance to return home. The situation was dire, and the Prodigies were desperate. Another reason why the BATTLEGAME was so successful.

She would've rather been eaten by the Predators.

She passed the empty classrooms where they had been taught Anatomy, Maths, Health and Injury, Geography, Weaponry… she halted at the doorway, staring into the half-gloom of the Weapon Assembly room.

Inside, rows and rows of glass cases were set into the wall. Aquamarine-blue light glowed from the bottom of each glass case, the light shining upwards and make the whole room look as if it were underwater. And every case was filled with firearms.

Her shoulders tensed, but she stealthily crept into the room. It seemed empty. The strange light made her skin glow blue as if she was filled with water instead of blood. Her thoughts raced – the cases had a weight sensor and the removal of any weapon caused an alarm to sound. She’d have to smash it with her bare hands and run fast. She’d be fine if she had a gun in her hands. When she decided this, she walked into the centre of the room determinedly, then froze. Shit.

All of the weapons had been removed from the room, or rather, removed from the GAME. Fury welled up in her like a storm and she could only barely hold in a vicious string of swear words. Her memory teased her with the magnificent collection of firearms that she knew had once been here, now out of reach. The Coordinator’s work. Two steps ahead, as always. She remembered that ruby-red smile.

She returned to the corridor, grudgingly, and wondered where else she might find a gun. Perhaps in the East Wing… but she’d first need to escape this Fortress and its maze of corridors. With the next corner she turned, she got lucky. At the end of the corridor, there was an exit, an open archway where daylight shone in like the guiding light of a miracle. Gratitude morphed into caution. No telling what or who was on the other side of that doorway. She approached it, passing doors that were ajar and boarded-up windows that blocked most of the morning sunlight, holding her pencil in what the Captain called ‘Stabbing Position’ when they trained with blunt knives in Weaponry. It was when the fingers curled around the handle, with the sharp end of the knife protruding where the little finger was instead of where the thumb was, which would be ‘Slicing Position’. She raising the pencil above her head and inched closer, praying she wouldn't have to attack a hiding enemy. She could hear Ninja’s quiet voice, telling her with a sinister chuckle, Who knows? Maybe you could survive this GAME without making a single kill.

This was, of course, bullshit. But still, she found comfort in the thought.

A cautious step beyond the doorway, and she blinked a few times to adjust to the blaring sun that reflected off the glittering waves of sand at her feet. Towering trees with widespread leaves stood not too far in the distance, their leaves rustling with what little breeze there was, and the smell of the sea’s salt was heavy in the air. Not a single person was in sight. The black and blue Lycra suit that she wore covered all of her arms and legs, and the sun’s heat was so intense that she tried to rip the damn thing off, but all it did was stretch. Dizziness made her sway. It was all she could do to yank the elastic band from her hair, the heat trapped there bursting free as russet-brown locks fell to her shoulders, the dizziness lifting –

Muffled footsteps in the sand from behind moved faster than her sharpened mind could process them. Fingers closed around her neck and shook it, determinedly tightening a bit at a time. Air was cut off, she choked. Panic exploded in her chest. She gave a dazed thought to the incredible amount of strength in those fingers before her training kicked in and her own hands reached up to her neck to liberate it – she realised too late that one hand still clutched the pencil, and quickly moved into Plan B. The fingers tightened. She stopped supporting her weight and her body collapsed into a crouch position, using her own weight to drag her attacker down, and then pressed off the balls of her feet as if trying to do a backwards roll. The attacker was thrown onto their back, a muffled cry escaping them. Sand wiggled into her clothes and hair, little pricks against the skin, almost as uncomfortable as the itch that that couldn't be scratched. The moment her attacker’s fingers loosened, she flung those hands off and scrambled to her feet. A deep breath revived her. There was a WHOOSH of air beside her ear, but her mistake was glancing back to see what caused it. The Prodigy – girl or boy, for that matter? Their T-shirt and muddy face wasn't giving away any clues – was attacking her with a log, now a makeshift-bludgeon. WHOOSH – another swipe with the bludgeon made the air scream, and she instinctively ducked but felt it brush along the top of her head this time.

“Stop! Stop!” she yelled. The sun half-blinded her but she kept moving, dancing backwards as the bludgeon kept coming at her, each swipe closer then the last. A cry burst from her throat. She knew she’d have to kill somebody eventually if she didn't want to be killed herself, but she was startled at how fast the pace of the GAME was moving. She hadn't even had the chance to find a remotely useful weapon. But anything would suffice now she stood on death’s doorstep.

That muddy, sweating face was beginning to look familiar.

The next time she dodged, she moved her back to the sun, and took that pause before the next swing to paint a diagram of the human body over this Prodigy. Like the one she’d been made to memorize in Biology. She gripped the pencil she’d found, and thought of Ninja. The next moment, she’d lunged forward and thrust the pencil forward as far as it would go into their neck, puncturing the vein she knew was there. She couldn't have foreseen how that diagram would end up saving her life, but that was no doubt the Coordinator’s work too.

A girl. She knew it was a girl now. Those round eyes went wide, that bludgeon dropped to the sand, and this girl’s body performed a graceful tilt that seemed to last an age before she hit the sand with a soft TSSS. And that was it. That was it.

Quiet. Deep breaths, each one restoring calm. She thought there’d be more to dying, more to killing, than this. The girl Prodigy on the sand convulsed for a moment, and then she went still. Had her heart stopped beating now, for real? Why wasn't she more shocked? Shouldn't she be wrecked with grief? She was a murder now! Was there too much adrenaline in her blood to feel sorrow?

Well done, Kneedle. Ninja’s voice said grimly in her mind. Your first murder.

The sound of voices shot through the trees. The next moment, another girl with a long, thick braid flapping behind her as she ran, her T-shirt and leggings already soiled with dirt and sweat, suddenly burst out of the trees and headed straight for the exit that she had just left – she was taking cover. But at least, this face, she did know.

“Run, Knee! They have guns! Run, they will kill you!” Crystalline yelled at her, leaping over the body without so much as a glance. “Knee! Run!”

If Knee Coal wasn't still so disturbed by her lack of emotion, she would've realised that this was a very good piece of advice. But now the shock was starting to kick in, the shock of having taken the lie of this girl she’d barely known in her whole year of being at the Fortress, and it wasn't the shock of killing her fellow Prodigy but of how easily her toughened hands could damage and destroy, and how much that made Gladys seem like a brittle, fragile little toy. She was so troubled by this that she couldn't urge her feet to move, not even at the sound of a gunshot. Followed by another. Several.

Crystalline had almost reached the dark, looming entrance to the Fortress that Knee had just left, when she glanced back and saw Knee hadn't moved. She skidded to a halt in the sand, almost falling forward. “What are you doing?” she screamed.

Seconds later, a boy emerged from the trees wearing a similar T-shirt to Crystalline and khakis, shrouded behind waves of heat, holding a Taser gun of some kind. He had his eyes fixed on the same exit of the fortress Crystalline was headed for, when he glanced at Knee, glanced at the dead body, then brought himself to a halt with such a panic that he almost landed on top of the body. Knee instinctively took three decisive steps back, towards Crystalline, even thought her brain still couldn't function properly. The heat... she thought groggily. Maybe it’s the heat...

“Gladys?” the boy said blankly. He put his free hand on the dead Prodigy’s shoulder, shaking her. Panic rose in his voice, and his next word came out as a strangled yell. “Gladys!

Something about the tone in his voice jolted Knee out of her trance. Gladys. Knee hadn't known her, but if she was this boy’s friend, he might just decide to get even. she realised her hands were empty. Without warning, she ran towards the boy and kicked sand at his face. He shot away from her before it hit him, but he’d moved away from the corpse like she wanted – she jerked the pencil out of Gladys’ neck, her eye on his taser. It was still a shit weapon, but it made her feel better to hold something.

She imagined Ninja saying to her with a trace of sarcasm, Hey, you’re getting the hang of this.

Crystalline flipped her braid over her shoulder and snapped, “What the hell is wrong with you? Forget him, just run if you want to live! We can stick together. Yo! You deaf, Knee?”

“Shut up!” Knee Coal said loudly to her. “If you want to panic, fuck off and panic so I can think!

Crystalline, taken aback, remained silent, though she itched closer to the entrance. As Knee Coal hadn't decided yet whether she was an asset or a liability, she did hope Crystalline would wait around a bit longer.

Knee Coal moved closer to Taser Boy. He looked about fourteen – no, maybe sixteen. dark hair, dark eyes, average. Scared. A thin trail of sweat ran from temple to jaw, his eyes fixed on the pencil in Knee Coal’s hand, stained red with blood.

“I want you to know,” she called to him, hoping he could hear her over the wind, “That If I fight you, I’ll win. So...? Do you want to do this?”

Sunlight made her squint and the salt air blew her russet hair across her eyes. She could only fight at close range with her pencil, but the same went for him and his taser.

“Knee, come on.” Crystalline said urgently, jerking at the sound of every distant gunshot, her braid waving from side to side down her back as she continuously glanced around her. “Come on! I saw Bryan run this way, I don’t wanna lose him!” But Knee Coal didn't respond, because she knew Crystalline didn't want to lose her either.

The pencil was loose in her hand but it would take less than a second for him to react if she attacked. She didn’t want to kill him just because she thought he might attack her. Wasn’t that what every other prodigy was doing? Reacting out of fear? Her jaw tightened and she tried not to look at Gladys. Her heart slammed against her ribcage.

Knee Coal raised her arms to the other Prodigy, trying to ignore the way they involuntarily shook. “Aren't you going to fight me?” she said softly.

He shifted. “I don’t think I can.” he laughed shakily. “My muscles have frozen.” Knee Coal felt a pang of sympathy, but ultimately she was glad she’d conquered her fear prior to this. That fact that he couldn't move was nothing more than an inconvenience to him.

His eyes flickered to her left. “You killed Gladys.”

She determinedly stared at him, fighting not to look back at the body herself. If she didn't look, she could pretend that she’d just knocked her out... or something. But she ended up looking anyway. Sand had already begun to cover it, and the blood that had streamed down her neck was already dry in the face of the sun. A moment ago, that corpse had been moving and breathing. It was beginning to seem unreal.

“I’m sorry that you had to see this, but I did what I had to do to save my own behind. She tried to kill me.” The wind barely carried her voice, but the look on his face answered her question. When she imagined Ninja lying there in place of Gladys’, she instantly knew the horror he must feel.

He laughed bitterly. “That’s not hard to believe. Everybody’s gone out of their minds – my closest friends just tried to decapitate me.” His expression darkened.  “Anyway, I know who you are, I've watched you train. I know I don’t stand a chance in hell of killing you. I was waiting for you to finish me. I was praying you’d just make it quick.” He voice dropped so low, that without the breeze she wouldn’t have caught his last words.

Knee Coal raised a hand to her temple and slowly massaged it, feeling the dizziness begin to return, and blocking out the gunshots so that she could try to figure out what was going on. “Where is everybody finding their weapons?” The boy shrugged. She glanced back at Crystalline, who managed to look extremely pissed and extremely frightened at the same time. Knee Coal knew the risk she was taking by hanging around, but decided it was worth it for a shred of information. “Well, when the Co-ordinator announced the start of the BATTLEGAME, did the boys dorm go crazy like the girls dorm did?”

His lips curled into a sour smile. “Is that a joke? Some of them never even had time to leave their beds. Most of us bolted. The Brothers all made it out. So did Romeo, I think, Khalil and Bryan too – all the best prodigies, all the people that matter, managed to make it out.”

This was when Knee Coal finally began to worry. With everybody behaving so wildly, their lives might have been taken as easily and Knee Coal took Gladys’. She hoped Ninja had somehow managed to brave it. She couldn't imagine leaving this place without her, her or Tomei.

She cleared her throat and said steadily, “What about Tomei? Did Tomei get out?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Crystalline shrieked from behind her, pulling at the loose strands of hair around her face, moving forward and back as if unsure whether to run or wait for her friend. “We are this close to being murdered and you’re trying to arrange a reunion! Seriously, Knee, I'm leaving without you.”

“Did he?” Knee Coal demanded, ignoring her.

The boy nodded. “He was with me and a couple other guys trying to figure out what to do. In the end, he left with Jin and headed West. Me and another dude were heading for the Fortress, but he got shot in the head by… by another prodigy.”

The gunshots grew significantly louder, and now to accompany them were rustles in the forest-like gathering of trees. Knee Coal inhaled sharply, and understood at once that their time was up. As she backed away, she called, “You’d better run. If you follow us, I promise I won’t kill you. If you behave.”

“Screw this, I'm gone.” Crystalline yelled, bolting right into the Fortress exit that Knee Coal had exited not too long before. Knee Coal started to jog after her, glancing back once more at Taser Boy. Now she could see that he was terrified, she felt sorry for him. Leaving him behind meant certain death, but then again, she knew enough about treachery to be suspicious of even the weakest soul. Some Prodigies were damn good actors, so every single Prodigy here was under the microscope. Even Crystalline.

He shook his head tiny fractions left and right. “I can’t. They were my friends. I can’t kill them.”

“I'm not asking you to kill anybody! Just run!” she shouted. He didn't move. She shook her head and said simply, “You’ll die.” Figures in T-shirts emerged from the forest-like gathering of trees, and gunfire rattled in her ears as Taser Boy’s body dropped to the sand with a soft TSSS.

Move, Knee! Move! she thought urgently, turning on her heel and sprinting towards the dark entrance. She hoped she hadn't lost the only ally she’d encountered in the GAME so far.

Read Author's Notes For This Post

Chapter One [ Part 2 ] - COMING SOON

Prologue Two: Ready

Her hands in a tight clasp, she drew them under her chin, silent and still with expectation. Clear-painted nails dug into the backs of her hands, at times her jaw clenching with distaste, or relaxing with approval.

She watched.

Her hands rediscovered their easy position on the arm-rests, a slim leg took its time to cross over the other. With an exterior so calm, it was hard to imagine that this was a woman who had viciously clawed her way to the top, that this one human being possessed a mind that endlessly assessed, calculated, evaluated. Her co-ordination of life circumstances reaped success, and nothing less.

What an expressionless face. It periodically became either innocent and open, or empty and cold. She wore white from head to heel; a blouse with a dash of ruffles across the front; loose suit-trousers with an ironed seam down the front of each leg; an ivory waistcoat fitted over her torso; bone-coloured high heels of a staggering height. A sweep of sandy blonde hair was curled back into a tight bun, such a light shade of blonde that with her attire, it also appeared a creamy white. The only feature that took away from her typically innocent appearance was the large black sunglasses that stole any expression from her face. Still, scarlet lips drew attention to her mouth, the only dash of colour against the white canvas.

She watched.

They were lined up along the beach and drenched in sweat – the youths, the projects, the prodigies, the candidates. They ran through the drill again and again, the same sequence of offensive movements, kicking up a cloud of sand with each step. Mixed martial arts had been cemented into their minds and bodies.

The unbearable heat of the sun made them all appear to be underwater, or behind a curtain of gases. Their eyes squinted against the sun, their bodies weakened in the heat. The youths would begin to relax, become the slightest bit lazier with their movements, until the Captain strolled by, gripped their neck and threw them to the scorching sand with a single hand.

“Get the fuck up. Start again.” he spat. “EVERYBODY START AGAIN!”

The Prodigies immediately became clearer and decisive with their movements; hit, hit, clench fist, kick, flying kick. Punch, punch, kick, spinning kick. La dee da dee da. The Coordinator drummed her fingers boredly on the armrest of her chair. She took a sip of iced punch; the coolness of it improved her mood. Her hidden eyes, however, never left the youth, never stopped assessing their progress. Third year running. Maybe she’d been doing this too long. Never mind. Assess. Calculate. Evaluate.

The projects strained to keep up, fatigue and dizziness threatening to make their bodies give up. Prowling along four rows that made up almost sixty prodigies, the Captain pounced on every Prodigy that even hesitated, stumbling for the briefest of a second, and brutally tossed their bodies to the sand before ordering a repeat of the sequence.

“Just watching them makes me thirsty.” she murmured. Surrounding her chair, the four soldiers that made up her personal guard roared with brute laughter. The Coordinator smiled at her own joke but the sounds of the soldiers’ laughing turned it bitter. She felt mildly disgusted by their bloodthirsty eagerness. She could appreciate the stubbornness and defiance that came with years of training for the military, but she had no care for savagery. With the thought, she turned her eye to the Prodigy known as Lani Lenoir, without a doubt the most savage prodigy of this year’s selection, the girl who’d kill without question, who would do whatever was necessary to stay alive. The Coordinator hadn’t yet decided whether she yet liked or disliked this. Such a tool of destruction could run wild and prove to be more damaging than useful.

The Government Official cleared his throat. “Excuse me,” he began.

From underneath her umbrella of palm trees, her eyes continued to scan the line of adolescents, dressed in their customary clothing, a black Lycra suit with a blue streak down the side. Other times they were permitted to wear a white tank top and khaki shorts. All wore plimsolls. This year was full of groups of people who knew each other and came from similar regions, unlike the previous two years. The Captain had warned her against it, but she had a feeling this would bring different results out of the Final Field Assessment Battlegame. The harvest from the last two years were serving well, but their mental stability was more than rocky. Who knew. Maybe this lot would be different.

This year they had quite a mix; Knight brothers, four brothers with similar physique selected for the same year; Asjana and Romeo, sweethearts from the start and no doubt the first two dead; Lola Lenoir, Lani’s twin – the gentle twin; Raven Darko, this year’s natural leader. Sixty-four prodigies were chosen every year but she always knew each one by name, looking over their files constantly until she had it by heart. She didn’t like to suppress their personality. She found it fascinating. Sometimes those she least expected to do well far exceeded her expectations. There was so much potential that the Coordinator hungered to keep them all, make them all fight as her army of Prodigies. But obviously, with so many youths taken against their will, that would horribly backfire. No. As always, only the strongest, the others would die to keep SEP a secret.

“I can’t do it!”

As soon as the cry issued, the Coordinator snapped her head to the source of the noise and sat up straighter. Everyone; the Prodigies, the soldier patrolling around them, the Coordinator’s guards – all looked in the same direction. From under the shade, Government Official Harris exclaimed and began to walk towards the sound when two of the Coordinator’s soldiers placed firm hands on his arms and shoulders to halt him.

One of the older girls had collapsed onto the sand and the Captain was bounding towards her like a hellhound, teeth bared and eyes blazing. Her fellow prodigies had paused their training, grateful for the distraction that gave them a short relief, fearful for her certain punishment. They wiped their brows breathlessly, fighting the urge to crowd around and help her – the last time they did that, the Captain grabbed the nearest Prodigy and used him to knock down the rest like bowling pins. The Prodigy’s name had been Khalil, and his back had been fragile ever since.

The Captain harshly shoved all of the kids out of his way and with a steel grip he had the screaming girl by the hair, lifting her high off the ground like a trophy, a shining example of failure. “Stephany,” The Coordinator murmured, leaning forwards further. Stephany. Seventeen. Athletic to a degree. Past hobby was cheerleading. Home region was well-protected with no savage attacks from the Predators so far. Interesting. Perhaps those who didn’t yet fully understand that threat had less motivation to train. It was November. She’d been training for nine months. Has she not built up the stamina by now?

Maybe she’d made an error in selecting her.

“The next motherfucker to drop will NOT get back up. Ever.” the Captain said, blood rushing to his face, matching the fury of his eyes. Fear rippled through every single one of them; lips trembled, arms shook, shoulders tensed. Stephany was screaming with agony, tears streaming down her face. “Now do the sequence AGAIN!” he roared, flinging Stephany to the ground and pacing the lines again. “AGAIN, AGAIN!” Stephany whimpered on the sand for no longer than ten seconds before forcing herself to her feet. Not because it was easy or because she wanted to, but because she knew what the consequences would be if she didn’t. The Coordinator was quite proud of her for that. She found herself smiling as she watched them bleed, burn and sweat in the heat while she sat in the coolness of the forest bordering the beach, listening to the birdsong, surrounded by a breeze so sweet, it almost felt sinful.

“Excuse me, Miss... Coordinator.” Official Harris said firmly, though his voice was thin with shock. “I think we need to have a talk. These youngsters, as brilliant as they are, are obviously trained within an inch of their lives in the blistering heat... as for that... that man, your Captain... his methods are completely unethical – and insane!”

“YES!” the Captain screamed, his face full of glee to watch the sequence executed perfectly, with such precision, that it could’ve been one mind controlling all fifty-something bodies at once. Over and over again. It took every ounce of strength in them, but with it came a silent understanding between all of them that the sacrifice had saved all them another three hours of pain. The Coordinator’s eyebrows pulled together slightly, only slightly, a millimetre at a time. Fifty... fifty-what? She should’ve known the number. There’d only been a couple deaths. She should’ve known how many were left.

She was getting tired. A mind cannot function at its best when tired.

She leaned over to slip off her white high heels and her fingers held onto them as she stood briskly. Enough of this. They had to be ready now. They had to be.

“We’ll talk in my office, Official Harris.” she said in a light and musical voice, before setting off into the heat with soldiers in tow, one of them slinging his rifle over his shoulder to open the Coordinator’s enormous, enveloping parasol.

“Finally. Some of you fools are actually putting in some work. Get your filthy behinds in the showers. Dismissed!” the Captain’s bawl made the teenagers collapse, but on seeing the Coordinator, changed his orders. “ATTENTION!”

The Prodigies halted and folded their arms behind their backs in salute. The Coordinator nodded, gesturing for one of her personal guard to move closer with her parasol. “I’m so pleased, Prodigies!” she sang. “You’re almost there! Tomorrow is your very last day of training, and you’ve all come so far. Go shower, dress, eat, relax. After tomorrow is your final test and you must be ready.” She took a moment to meet eyes, and eyes and eyes, as many pairs of eyes as she could, establishing her authority. She knew she terrified them more than the Captain, because they didn’t really know what she was capable of.

She smiled again. “Dismissed!”

Military soldiers stood in front, beside and behind the entire group, guiding them back to their living quarters. She assessed the Prodigies’ faces. Tired. But still determined. They weren’t broken. Yet.

“I just don’t understand how they can learn anything in these conditions...” Official Harris mumbled. The Coordinator pressed cherry-red lips together. The fool was beginning to irritate her.

As the Captain approached, she gave him permission to stand under her brilliant-white parasol with a beckoning of her hand. He was a six foot monster of a man. Leathery skin and stone muscles covered his whole body and the sight of him alone was the perfect image for a nightmare. He removed his cap, showing short dark hair that shot upwards, and waved himself with it.

“Heh. So. Training finishes in two days. This should be fun. By the way – Merry Christmas Eve.”

“And to you.” she smiled, gesturing for them to walk. Official Harris hurried to keep up behind them, panting, his brow pouring sweat in the sun. “I’m impatient to see who my new champions are, Captain.” she sighed. “I want this year’s program to be over so that I can go back to the mainland and see where we stand with these Goddamn monsters.”

“So...?” the Captain prompted. “You think they’re ready?”

“They’d better be, or they’re going to die.” she said shortly. “Prepare the Battlegame.”

“ Young ladies. Young men.
Your lessons have been cancelled.
This is the final test.

There is only one rule for the BATTLEGAME – kill.

The only way any of you can leave this fortress
is if you are one of the last three to survive the GAME,
so locate randomised weapons across the Island to help your plight.
There is a time limit.
If there are more than three people left alive when it is up,
all of the remaining survivors
will be killed.

You are free to forfeit the BATTLEGAME at any time;
this will result in your immediate death.
If you are unfortunate, your body will forfeit for you.

Do yourself a good deed – grab two companions, and start
cutting, hacking, sawing, strangling, squeezing, decapitating
and mutilating anybody and everybody that crosses your path.

Day One of the BATTLEGAME has commenced. ”

Prologue One: Spores

Wanna get straight to the story? Chapter One will be up soon! Sorry dudes!

Introduction .

RE: Equipment for Battlegame 2009

Please find enclosed the list of equipment to be implemented in this year's Battlegame (2009) and a map locating where each should be placed.

1. Longsword
2. Geometry compass
3. Baseball bat
4. Dual swords
5. Axe
6. Drug trolley (loaded with tranquilisers, acids and poisons)
7. Shotgun
8. Pocket blade (NB. Please replace this item with ‘Kunai Knife’)
9. Stungun prototype
10. Brass knuckles
11. Pencil
12. Iron bar
13. Taser
14. Pepper spray
15. Whip
16. Length of ribbon
17. Boomerang
18. Cheerleading baton
19. Slingshot
20. Chainsaw
21. Cannon
22. Razor
23. Crossbow
24. Tonfa

25. Standard pistol
26. Mace
27. Rifle
28. Gas bombs

N.B. Other items we cannot account for are that which can be found in the forest area; tree bark and branches, poisonous plants, and so on. Please ensure there is half the number of provided equipment to the number of prodigies participating - fewer is fine. PLEASE BE REMINDED THAT ITEMS THAT WILL ALLOW THE CANDIDATES TO ESCAPE (eg. explosives) SHOULD NOT BE PROVIDED IN THE BATTLEGAME.

Thank you.

“ Last year, an unidentifiable substance was found by field scientists searching for a cure to unusual spores making the local inhabitants sick. Months later, the animals roaming the territory became infected and mutated into colossal predators. Those predators ravaged the landscape, killing all the people living there.

“This year, every country in the world has been alerted to the sudden evolvement of earth’s creatures. Even domestic creatures have altered even though they don't seem to have been exposed to the spores; from the pattern on their pelt to their expected behaviours and habitat. As it was quickly realised that nature’s new predators couldn’t be tamed, a quick motion was passed by the government that they must instead be exterminated using guns, bombs and whatever else necessary to protect our own species.

“I, however, have already affirmed with the Captain, this will not work.

“From the creatures that the military have able to destroy, we have scanned the bodies from weaknesses. All we noticed was that the Predators seem to have grown an extra organ. I’ll spare you the details, but imagine it like a second heart. It makes them tireless and incredibly vicious, but you remove this organ and the body shuts down. We tested this in the field – it took no fewer than forty-seven soldiers to distract it, restrain it, then kill it. Less than half of them lived, and all of the survivors have developed some sort of sickness from the spores.

“As the Governor and Co-ordinator of SEP, I have been given approval to create a program that, after years of planning, is finally ready to launch since I have made a stunning discovery.

“Adults exposed to the same spores that created and evolved our new natural enemy soon died from the incompatibilities in their body, likewise with children, who haven’t yet reached full growth or built a stable immune system. But the bodies of 13 and 19 year olds do not reject the spores. In fact, as I noticed with young soldiers who battled the predators, (later agreed to experiments) within a year they became stronger, smarter and faster, with added abilities that made them more than able to fight the Predators. These soldiers were incredible prodigies.

Carefully selected projects will be chosen to take part in the ‘Prodigy Scheme’, which I'm sure you’ll agree, is the nation’s best chance of survival. Sadly, finding the subjects in times such as these had been difficult, but we have done it. I'm embarrassed to tell you that our methods have not exactly been orthodox, but... in most cases, the parents were dead or absent and we acted as we saw fit. It has been challenging to select the nation’s future heroes out of this meagre bunch, but as you well know, the other option is the end of the human race.

The projects will be carefully exposed to the spores and trained to the same level of physical and mental capacities as the soldiers. However this training gives the projects a false sense of security as they know it will end. The only way we are able to test whether or not the acceptance was successful is to pit them against opponent with similar threat to a Predator. They are the only subjects purposefully exposed to spores, so they will be required to fight each other in a final test that I like to call Battlegame Forfeit. As the Battlegame is a life or death, adrenaline-based game, it dramatically increases the chemical reaction of the spores. It’s a battle, it’s a game, and if their body rejects the spores we call it a ‘Forfeit’, which means that the procedure was unsuccessful and the prodigy is dead. It’s a sorrowful but necessary way to root out the weak.”

The Commander said nothing.

She smiled. “I know. It’s a lot to take in.”

The Captain stepped forward and cleared his throat. “If I could add to that, Ma’am.” She bowed her head once. The Captain said,

“Commander, the youth of our nation are currently untrained and untamed. In the face of this new crisis, all that they will produce is a disarrayed generation of adults paralysed by fear. They will aspire to nothing, achieve nothing.  The Prodigy Scheme has a much more… efficient… use for them.”

Read Prologue Two
or to skip straight to the action; Read Chapter One [ Part 1 ]