A light drizzle produced a fog throughout the trees. The mist weaved its way through the underbrush, clinging to leaves and making it very difficult to see if anyone was hiding there, which also made things much easier for me.
I was on scout duty for my team. My mission was to locate “enemy” encampments so we could attack and “kill” them later – preferably by luring them away from where they were the most comfortable. Even if there was no one in sight, I stayed hidden, making my way slowly across the ground. All part of the final test until one team remained, however long that took.
Suddenly, behind me, the leaves rustled. I turned, readying myself for a fight, but only Anthony appeared.
I heaved an exasperated sigh. “What are you doing here?” I whispered, glancing around to make sure no one had spotted him.
“Following you,” he replied with a sneer while joining me in crouching low to the ground. “Wanted to make sure you didn’t run for the System. Idonwehdyhitndjuhseismlkuefdshkedvised.”
I ground my teeth, glaring at him. He’d gone from intimidating to irritating, the more time we spent out here together. “I wouldn’t do that,” I replied.
He scoffed. “Like anyone can trust a byte.”
I resisted the urge to throw a rock at him – the large stone next to my hand was practically begging to fly. “You’re supposed to be rationing food for us, not spy on me.”
“Celeste can do that,” he responded, rolling his eyes.
“She’s on guard duty.”
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. A woman in military uniform walked by. We flattened ourselves on the ground, hiding among the mist shrouded leaves.
As soon as she passed, I stood up carefully. “Let’s return to camp,” I said. “We can strategize with – ” I gasped.
Anthony had pushed me onto the path the guard had just walked. I fell hard onto the ground, a sharp pain traveling up from palm to elbow.
“She’s a byte!” Anthony exclaimed. “Kill her now!”
The guard, who was only just now turning in her perimeter, looked back at us in confusion. She seemed to know Anthony and I were supposed to be teammates.
“Time out!” Sergeant Gil’s voice called from the trees. He stepped out onto the guard’s path, glowering at Anthony.
As the guard jogged up to us, Sergeant Gil helped me up. I winced as I tried to move the hand I’d landed on. Celeste would have to help me look at it later.
“Sir,” the guard started, “is…there a procedure I should follow?”
Sergeant Gil huffed. “Weuwedslkhifdjslmdese kind of problems,” he muttered, eyeing me and Anthony. “Continue the test as normal. You’re dismissed.”
“Yes, sir,” she responded with a salute, turning on her heel – most likely running off to report to her camp.
“Recruit Anthony!” Sergeant Gil said, turning to him. “What were you thinking?! Behuitjefmdjhtieodlmdhtifjmseuhfeinhtdnsable!”
Anthony stood straight and, without a hint of emotion, replied, “All bytes deserve death.”
Sergeant Gil’s jaw dropped. He squared off his shoulders and stared down Anthony as he yelled at him.
I glanced down at my now throbbing hand. It looked a little swollen. By the time I looked up, Anthony was glaring at the restraints on his wrists while Sergeant Gil gripped one of his arms.
“Are you alright, Recruit?” Sergeant Gil asked me.
“Yes, sir,” I replied with a pained smile. “I might be injured, but it’s nothing Recruit Celeste and I can’t handle.”
“Very well. Return to the test. Youweofnshtnemdsd teammate anymore. Dismissed.”
I saluted as Sergeant Gil began to guide Anthony away. “Um, sir?” I called.
He paused, glancing at me over his shoulder.
“Are you going to tell Leslie anything about this?”
He smiled. “Jushtemdskljdhfmdskeokesehwjkdfsnhtghejkfdyou, doesn’t mean it’s any of their business.”
Anthony stiffened at whatever Sergeant Gil had said. I could hear him chuckling as they walked away. Looked like he was really enjoying taunting Anthony.
With one last glance at my throbbing wrist, I returned to the test.
To be continued…