Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 6

I followed Sagar as he continued to lead me through the compound. As we walked through the converted factory, it was impossible to imagine that the building used to be a factory for making cookies. There were training rooms, manufacturing centers for weapons and technology, and many other areas of importance.

“And this is just the first floor!” Sagar reminded me. “There are four stories, and each level is really important for Tsalderek. There are living quarters on the third and fourth floors, the cafeteria is on the second floor, along with most of our research and development labs.”

I looked around in wonder. Everything was like a perfectly engineered machine, with interacting parts that all worked together flawlessly. The only difference was that the parts here were people.

“The most amazing part of our organization is the training we give. I’m one of the combat trainers here, but I’m not the head honcho or anything. There are others as well. The way we do it is that everyone goes through basic training. That makes sure that every member of Tsalderek can handle themselves in a fight, has basic combat experience, and is physically ready for anything that they might face. We split everyone who is old enough to train into groups of five. The best out of all of them is promoted to be one of our elite agents, while the others take very important jobs in the community. Everyone is important here.”

We walked through the open manufacturing areas of the building, toward the far end.

“Down here is where we have our training classes. I want to introduce you to the students you will be training with and-Oh Lord here comes my boss.”

On our path toward the instructional centers was intercepted by a fast-walking older man. He looked to be about 50, but was in peak physical condition. His head was so bald that it reflected the bright fluorescent lights above, and displayed the numerous large scars on his face and head.

“Sagar! Where have you been?! You missed an entire training session!”

“Sorry, sir. I was on a mission for Razo, I figured direct orders from our leader would take priority.”

The superior-ranked man scowled, and his glare was filled with burning anger.

“Besides, what if I told you that what I found was well worth it?”

What he found…was he referring to me?

“Wait…you don’t mean…”

“I think so. I think this is the one.”

Suddenly, I found myself the target of two pairs of staring eyes. I tried not to show my discomfort, but I couldn’t help but wilt back a little.

“So, you think this little whelp will be the one to end the struggle?”

“We’ll see. But for now, I want to introduce him to the others.”

“Fine. Go ahead. If he survives the training, maybe he’s the one we’ve been waiting for. But I doubt it”

The grouchy man walked away, and Sagar shook his head.

“Charming. That’s Camron Hanson. He oversees all of the training divisions. There are usually six of them, and I lead one. Hanson’s not a bad guy, he’s just really strict. He’s seen some stuff in his time.”

At last, we reached a large open gym. There were mats, punching bags, and a lot of training equipment. Along the left side of the huge area were several accessory rooms, with weight sets and other gear.

I looked around the gym at the people training. There were four of them, all around my age. A boy and a girl were sparring on one of the mats. They used a lot of somewhat clumsy kicks, mixed with punches. A very tall, muscular boy was walking toward the weight room. Finally, there was a girl who stood off to the side, staring at us with wide eyes.

“Students!” Sagar shouted. “Report to me!”

All of the children stopped what they were doing and lined up in front of their instructor. Maybe it was because I was standing right beside him, but I felt that all eyes were on me. I shuffled several steps to my right, and their gaze followed me. Great.

“Students, this is Milo. He’ll be joining you in your program.”

There was complete silence, as the two boys and two girls stared at me. I felt like I had just been thrown into a cage full of lions. The majority of them did not look as though they wanted to be friends.

“Alright. This is Kazushita Hideki.” Sagar pointed to the tall, muscular Japanese boy.

“This is Geoffrey Card.” He said, gesturing to the other boy. Geoffrey wore a headband which pushed his fawn-colored hair up and out of his eyes.

“Here is Rachael Fox.” The girl who was sparring with Geoffrey earlier had bandages around her dark-toned hands.

“And last is Danica Blaine.” Danica was the wide-eyed blonde girl from before. She was still staring at me, but her pale blue eyes were the only ones not filled with contempt. Actually, instead of hateful, she looked fascinated.

“You five will be under my command until Hanson decides that you’re ready to graduate. Then, he’ll pick one of you to become one of our elite agents, and the rest can find your place in our organization.”

At that, the three hostile students looked even angrier. I was in for a rough time. I looked at Danica. She smiled and shrugged.

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