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Chapter 3

Crystal stood smiling at Leith's door. She watched Leith slowly pack all of his belongings carefully back into the bag they came in. She admired the precision in Leith's technique of putting everything back where it needed to go and it still fitting.

When Leith had all of his belongings packed, he sat on his bed and took out an amulet. He looked intently at the amulet for a couple of minutes before wiping a tear from his cheek and putting it away.

As Leith left his room, Crystal embraced him, planting a kiss on his cheek. this caused Leith to smile as he returned Crystal's kiss on her cheek. The two walked together to the big meeting room where everybody else was gathered, awaiting the arrival of Area X. Low murmurs of conversation could be heard as anticipation of the arrival grew.

"Do you think we'll be treated well at Area X?" Jessica quietly said to Ben.

"I think they have to if we are Scelsia’s last hope. I'm just wondering if we'll be able to train enough here quick enough in order to come to Scelsia's aid if we're needed."

"Good point." Jessica said, seeming very nervous. "I'm hoping that we don't become too much of a disappointment for the people that are counting on us."

Ben had nothing to say to that as Jessica gave him a massive hug, clinging to him. Once Jessica became aware that everybody was staring at her, she defiantly said, "I can have my moments of comfort alright!"

The mood lightened as everybody was laughing at Jessica's ability to be soft as well as harsh while Jessica's face turned red as tomato. Ben was quick to help put Jessica's humiliation at ease.

"It's okay Jessica, I enjoyed the hug." he said with a smile.

This caused Jessica's face to get even redder but also caused her to smile as she thought, "Maybe Ben and I do have a chance." Even though Jessica made it seem as if she liked Leith, she really liked Ben, and just didn't like being outdone by Crystal.

Jake was in the corner of the room practicing his energy sphere. He created it, held it for ten seconds and released it. He repeated this process over and over until he felt confident that he could make an energy sphere with less than a moment’s notice or whenever he was required to.

As the hovercraft descended into Area X's hidden landing platform, Mr. Williams entered the room to give the briefing for arrival.

"Listen up everybody. We have finally arrived at Area X. It is a pretty big place so stick together. It's past dinner time here so you'll find meals in your accommodation rooms. Last, but probably most important, don't disrupt the goings on of this base and don't give anybody a reason to dislike you. These soldiers have been training for years and might envy your special force position. Let's go."

Mr. Williams, Zeke and the teens stood and waited for the ramp to fully extend to the ground. As they walked down the ramp, they were greeted by guards.

"Welcome back to Area X Paul."

"It's good to be back." Mr. Williams said with a smile.

"We'll escort you guys to your rooms. We've put you in the secluded guest area so nobody will be likely to disturb you."

"Thank you. Lead on."

The group walked on deeper into the heart of the base. As they entered a building, snickers could be heard from a small group behind them. As Leith turned around, he saw a group of three girls and two boys laughing while one yelled, "You guys won't last ten minutes here, better go home HEROES!"

“Search the surrounding area; make sure that no ambush can come from the Scelsians after we set up camp at our new village.”

Veltron watched his loyal General bow and scramble off to carry out the order. Veltron took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the air from his first reward from war. The Scelsian village had not lasted long while Veltron himself suffered minimal loss to his own army. He had truly caught his enemy off guard.

As Veltron was silently congratulating himself, a great stir caught his attention on the east corner of his camp. Puzzling over what could possibly be the matter at this great moment of triumph, Veltron watched as a lone soldier came sprinting to his makeshift throne.

“Lord Veltron.” The soldier said panting. He managed a salute after a moment of catching his breath. “A small Scelsian force has been spotted to the east of our position. We got hit by what seems to be a small strike force that used fire blasts. Before we knew what was happening, everything was over.”

Holding back his anger, Veltron said, “Thank you soldier. Return to your post.”

Veltron was baffled how his elite Shadow Army could have been ambushed without even returning fire. Irritated, Veltron strode to the site of impact. There he found signs of fire that had scorched the earth. Beneath the ruined tents were two men, burnt from head to toe. They were obviously dead as one soldier dared say, “They took the full brunt of the attack.”

Veltron signalled all of his men and then spoke.

“This will not happen ever again. We are in enemy territory so everybody will have to be on watch. Next time the Scelsians have the guts to ambush us, you return fire. The enemy dies with you.”

Storming off, Veltron muttered under his breath. Soldiers started to organize themselves again, setting up watch rosters, not wanting to upset their great leader again.

Men started to talk to each other. Some spoke out of fright and some spoke out of nervousness. Soon, rumors of invisible Scelsians spread throughout the Shadow Army camp. Low murmurs could be heard for the rest of the evening because nobody wanted to be a victim of an ambush.

Sat in his Throne Tent, Veltron brushed off the annoyance of the ambush. It was something he’d have to learn to accept and keep moving towards his bigger and greater goal of complete domination of the country. A map of Scelsia sat spread open on his desk with arrows depicting the different stages of his invasion plan. Veltron moved his army piece onto the territory marked with “One”. The first stage of the invasion was complete.

Time was short in order to reach the Scelsian capital before every soldier was roused up to fight against Veltron. The whole invasion plan relied on speed and agility to outmanoeuvre his enemy before they had a chance to react. This would ensure him full victory without ever encountering little, if any, resistance from the Scelsians.

“We move at dawn.” Veltron thought.

“President Snow, we have received word that the invasion has started. Veltron has taken one village at the outskirts of the country. We believe that he has every intention to move out soon. Are you ready to enact the plan?”

“Yes. Let us greet our enemy.”

The first hours of Starlight’s time in Area X brought mixed feelings. The first and most prominent feeling was excitement. The atmosphere in the building was geared for war and training. The people that Starlight passed were all impressively practicing advanced elemental techniques which made Starlight gaze in awe.

Perhaps the more subdued emotion was fear, the fear that they could not individually perform at the highest elemental level. As a result of failing, Starlight would be the laugh of the army, being no stronger or any better than a normal soldier.

When Starlight arrived at the sector where their bed chambers were located, the plan for their training was given out. Each member would go to their respective power tutors who would supervise the progress of their power until they were proficient in their element. Then group training would begin and the full power of Starlight would start to emerge.

“Well.” Mr. Williams began. “I will not see you all for some time now. The only time you will most likely see each other is for meals and back here for bed. Work hard and become effective and efficient fighters that will give us the chance to stop Veltron once and for all.”

Mr. Williams then gave a slight bow and took his leave, with Starlight standing outside of their rooms. Nobody knew what to do or say until Jessica broke the silence.

“Well I’m going to bed. Training probably starts early and I don’t want to be the one who lags behind the rest of the group.”

Giving a nod to each individual, with a smile towards Ben, she went into her room and shut the door. As the door shut, Leith said, “Well Jake and Ben, let’s train hard and show everybody what we are capable of doing. I know you’ll make me and us as Starlight proud.”

With a hug from both of them, Jake and Ben turned in and entered their rooms. Crystal was left standing with Leith and soon fell into his embrace.

“I love you Crystal.” Leith said affectionately. “We’ll be apart for some time but stay motivated because this will be worth it once we have the power to save the country and then when it’s all over, we can come up with another plan.”

“Ok.” Crystal whispered. “Just be strong and make us all proud with your talent and power, because we all know that you’re the strongest one of all of us.”

Leith kissed Crystal and retreated to his room as Crystal watched his door close. Only then did she make her way into her own room.

The next morning brought new and unexpected refreshes to the anxious teens. An assistant came around to each door and made sure everybody was awake.

"Breakfast starts in ten minutes, I expect everybody to be out here and ready to go in five." he said, no unkindly, but with a sense of authority.

Groggily, the teens filed out into the hallway with Leith being the first one. Crystal, Jake and Ben followed with Jessica being the last one out of her room, arriving just before they were escorted to breakfast.

"Stay close behind me and don't talk to anybody or wander off on your own. Certain places here are not meant to be explored. Let's go." the assistant instructed.

Jake nudged Ben and Leith and smiled with a glint in his eyes. All three boys started to laugh as they thought back to their old school in the capital. Jake loved exploring places that they were not supposed to be in and as a result, would always be found trying to get into rooms that were locked and marked 'staff only'.

The boys stopped laughing, coming back into reality as the assistant cleared his throat.

"I expect no disruptions." he said as the final word on the matter.

The five teens were then led back down familiar corridors that they had been down the previous night. However, they made a lot of new turns down halls that led to the cafeteria. The assistant stopped in front of the double doors to give his final instructions to Starlight.

"You will be given twenty minutes to eat breakfast. Do not leave this place before then, but be done within your twenty minute time slot. After breakfast you'll be collected for your training."

After Starlight repeated the steps back to the assistant, he opened the doors, let them through, and left.

"I hope we don't have to see him and let him lead us here every morning." Jessica said. "He was quite awkward to be around."

The group laughed in agreement as they now looked and observed their new surroundings. The hall was massive with rows and rows of tables on their left. On their right was three large kitchens, all serving the seemingly endless line of soldiers. Leith went over to pick up a tray and got into the line of people.

The first kitchen provided a plate of eggs for every soldier. The next kitchen provided a choice of bacon slices or ham, with the last kitchen providing potatoes, either hashed or sliced.

As Leith made his way through the line, the rest of his group followed.

"Well." said Ben. "I suppose this food will keep us going even if we get tired of eating this every morning."

"You're a never ending source of sarcasm." Jessica said, cracking a smile.

Leith was already sat in the far corner of the cafeteria when Crystal, the last to get food, got out of line. As she sat down, there was an audible sigh from Jessica.

"Of all the places you could have chosen to sit Leith, you choose the table farthest away from anybody else. How are we supposed to make friends?"

Leith, not caring if Jessica was being sarcastic or serious, replied in an firm tone.

"We came here to train and become strong, not to make friends. Besides, sitting away from everybody else won't earn us enemies either. Both of which we are trying to avoid because of what Mr. Williams told us."

As if right on cue, a voice from behind Leith spoke.

"Well well. If it isn't the infamous Starlight." the voice said.

"More like the in-famous Starlight." another added.

Starlight looked in their direction, startled at the sudden addition of new voices as the newcomers laughed at their own joke. To Leith's dismay, he saw the same three girls and two boys that had harassed him the previous night when they arrived to Area X.

The leader of the group, Anna, spoke directly to Leith.

"Are you guys to good to come sit with the rest of us soldiers? Is that why you've chosen the farthest table away?"

Without missing a beat, Leith replied, "No. We sit over here so we don't find any trouble, but it seems as if trouble has been out to find us."

Seeming slightly shocked, Anna thought for a second. Then, changing her tone, she introduced the rest of her friends.

"I'm sorry." She said. "I forgot to introduce ourselves. I'm Anna. The other two girls are Rika and Priscila. The boys in the back are Toby and Oscar. We are our own group called Nightwalker."

This time, Crystal spoke to Anna.

"That's very nice of you to come and introduce yourselves to us, but we really need to finish eating. We're on a tight schedule."

Rika stepped forward and in a low hushed tone issued a warning.

"I'm only going to tell you dimwits once. This base is our place for training and it is OUR goal to become the elite group of Scelsia. We won't have any second rate group who are so special coming in and stand in our way to making it to the top. If you guys don't back down, I suggest you watch your backs."

Rika stormed off with the rest of Nightwalker right behind her. Cracking a faint smile, as only Jessica can do, she said, "Good thing we sat over here so we didn't make any friends huh Leith?"

Ben answered for Leith by saying, "I believe they would have given us trouble no matter where we sat Jessica. They are just going to make our lives miserable while we're here."

"Hurry up and finish eating." Leith said to his friends. "We only have ten more minutes before we are supposed to be collected for the start of our training. We don't need thoughts of Nightwalker making us late on our first day. Eat up."

Starlight gobbled up their remaining food and finished just in time to hear more footsteps approaching their table. Crystal took Leith's hand while Jessica put her hand on Ben's arm. all of them were pleasantly surprised to hear an adult's voice instead of the pompous voice of Anna.

"Good morning Starlight!" said a cheery voice.

Starlight stared at the newcomer and took in what they saw. The man had slick black hair with a white button up shirt with his sleeves rolled up and his top button undone.

"I hope you all slept well and ate well. Are you ready to start your training? I'm Alexander Meek, the supervisor for all five of your training."

All five teens were surprised at the informal nature of Alexander. This was mostly because, due to the military setting they were in, they expected a more formal supervisor.

Jake could not help but ask, "Alexander, or Mr. Meek, why are you so informal? Everybody else here is in uniform and given the military procedures, I would have thought this would be against the rules, especially for a supervisor like yourself."

Alexander laughed and shook his head with a twinkle in his eye.

"Please, please." he said. "Call me Alex. And as for your question, I am allowed to dress how I please because it helped me perform much better in my job when I'm free from those stiff uniforms."

"What exactly is your job Alex?" Ben asked with great curiosity.

"I'm glad you asked Ben. Your reputation precedes you. My job is simple. I am to manage the training of this base and to improve training techniques where required, hence the casual clothes so my mind can wander and become creative to think of new things."

Now it was Jessica's turn to ask a question. "How did you know who Ben was?"

Crystal whispered to Leith, "Here we go with Jessica's endless questions; Always filled with suspicion."

Leith chuckled as Alex answered Jessica's question.

"I know how all of you are Jessica. I also know your personalities. For instance, Jake is usually quiet but has a fiery passion for winning and out-powering his opponents. Ben is analytical and a thinker, using this to outsmart his foes. You, Jessica are stubborn and refuse to quit just like your element suggests, while Crystal is smooth and calm like her element. However, Crystal will unleash her power when push comes to shove."

Alex paused, looking at the new pupils expectantly. After a moment of hesitation, Crystal broke the silence by asking, "What about Leith? You have mentioned everybody but him."

Alex gave almost a sad smile to Crystal, though she couldn't tell whether it was the light or not.

"Leith, my dear Crystal, is a special case. Although he is a great leader for you guys, the future could prove disastrous. As you will soon find out, Leith is one of the only shadow users in the whole of Scelsia. This makes him valuable. However, the time for talk has ended. I have designed a specific course of training for all of you. Follow me please."

Alex gave another smile to Starlight and gestured for them to follow him. Suspicious glances at one another proved only more nerve racking. Starlight rose from their seats and followed their supervisor.

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