[Book 1: The Embers] 1] Breaking News
“Move faster, unless you want to burn alive,” I push my friend, using my best menacing snarl. I watch Sophie push and push to keep running, without dropping. She’s puffing hard, trying to keep at it, but failing ultimately. She falls to her knees on the gym floor, looking like she is about to puke, “Come on, Sophie, you need to try harder. The only way we can win... is if we get stronger!” I drop to my knees beside her to see if she’s okay.
A soft glow quietly vibrates and illuminates her body. Her breathing slows immediately. She lifts her face and I catch the glint in her bright blue eyes.
“You lucky bitch,” I snap, but I do so playfully, “Healing yourself again, huh? Why don’t you learn to do that while you’re running?”
“I’m working on it, don’t worry,” she sighs and pushes her blonde curls over her sweaty shoulders, then she pulls down her blue tank top, “Let’s have a break, Jazz. Also, as if you’re jealous of my healing! You can just burn up anything chasing you with a blink of an eye. You don’t have to worry about getting hurt or exhausted,” she shoves me as she stands and I laugh, crossing my arms over my own black tank top, hardly covered in any sweat... not yet.
“If only it were that easy in the DFS competition,” I retort, raising a brow.
When fighting other teams in the DFS, everyone wore special clothes that deflected any supernatural, magical abilities. It made attacking people with magic a pain in the ass, and that was my prime weapon.
“Who the hell invented MBG anyway?” I ask as we move to the side of the massive, school’s privately owned gym where a radio is set by the grey peeling wall, playing the latest hit song. Sophie gives me a knowing look.
“Magic-Block Gear?” she repeats, “Isn’t it obvious? So that people like me, can wear it and be protected from the likes of magically possessed, psychopathic adrenaline heads like you,” she explains slowly and calmly, which just annoys me.
We then both sit together with our backs against the wall, waiting for the rest of the team.
“That was a mouthful,” I respond, in a happy drawl, “Magically possessed, psychopathic adrenaline head? Me? Next time we face off against the A-Stars head captain, Jaxon, that’s when I’ll be exactly how you just described me. I thank you so much, dear Sophie, for the compliment,” we laugh together for a while then fall silent, bobbing our heads to the beat of the music. We both stare at the front gym’s double doors which were at least a hundred and fifty feet from us.
“I wonder when Alex will arrive,” Sophie mutters quietly.
“Hmmm, well,” I think about the black-haired and blue-eyed, Mr. Popular, from the Guardian High School we attended daily, “Mr. Hot-Shot is most likely at the hair dresser, again! His parents are crazy on presentation... but seriously, he’s just a teenager like us and they dress him like a... a prince or something. He needs to be getting his hands dirty with us. He’s the Captain for fricks sake. The Captain of The Embers, the soon to be, greatest team in the DFS – ever –and he should be here, training with us!” Sophie nods in agreement, smiling slightly in amusement.
“Always melodramatic, aren’t you?” she murmurs but quickly shuts up when I glare right back at her, so she quickly changes the topic, “Argh... well... w-we still don’t know where the others are either,” Sophie adds, “They’re never this late for training...” the song finishes on the radio, and a news report interrupts, so we both decide to shut up and listen.
“Breaking news!” The reporter booms from the speakers, “Early this morning a co-science-magic research company has found a way to open the gate-way connecting to the rest of the universe. The portal should be up, running and ready in a month or two. The seventeen-year wait has finally come to an end.”
“Whoa,” Sophie and I both exclaim in unison. We look at each other in amazement. We were both seventeen so we have never known the rest of the worlds that surround us, which we have been cut off to ever since the year we were born. As we process the latest news in awe, the gym doors swing open.
In walks John, Alex’s older brother and the superhuman twins, Mitchel and Blake. Alex comes in last. So, they were all out hanging together, without us! And from the looks of it...
“You all got haircuts!” Sophie exclaims. I roll my eyes and smack my palm to my forehead. We both stand up to greet them and I turn off the radio. They all look quite smart with their new hairstyles. Alex’s hair outshines them all in its glorious black, as usual. Then, as they stop in front of us, Sophie starts to compliment them.
“Do you like it, Sofa?” Blake asks while using Sophie’s hated pet nickname. He spins around with his super-speed to show off his hair, spiked upright... it looked so kiddish, argh... and of course... his twin copied him and got the same style.
“Amazing,” Sophie exclaims with sarcasm and Mitchel then leans down so she can feel it.
“Touch it, Sophie... but don’t get hurt, you won’t believe how prickly it feels,” Mitchel dares her and she just smacks her palm on the top of his head instead, hard. I try not to snort as he jumps back, offended.
“You paid for their haircuts, didn’t you?” I address Alex, “Why weren’t we invited?” I ask, knowing the answer. He didn’t pay for his friend’s haircuts, his parents, Elizabeth and Logan did.
His parents... argh... they sort of... well they... do... hate me... and I have no idea why. Or I do have a good idea why, okay? It’s probably my ‘bad’ manners and occasional outbursts. I was too unruly for them to appreciate. He glares straight back at me.
“Take a breath and relax, Jazz, we were just having some time out,” he answers with a smirk, “My parents suggested to go out with friends and break up school and DFS training.”
“Oh! I see, I see. You were having some boy’s only time. Having haircuts. Yep. I got it. Are you all little princesses? We have a Die or Fight and Survive competition to win here! Can you also gain some independence? Do you ever disobey your parents? You know its ok to do so. You’re a teenager!”
“An adult, actually, I’m 18. You, Jazz... you’re 17. The teenage girl that needs to calm down and try to reason... with some sense... if that’s possible, which it probably isn’t,” he whispers the last part, mockingly. He does it so naturally. I want to slap him. My fists clench.
“Do you two ever stop arguing?” John asks, stepping in and putting a hand on each of our shoulders, “Let’s burn some steam off, ok?”
“Fine,” I reply through my teeth. I relax my stance and everyone starts to walk off to the middle of the gym. Alex stands still, watching me, waiting for me to walk off.
“There was some interesting news on the radio,” I speak, changing the subject.
“I heard,” Alex pauses, his eyes focusing in on my face too intensely. I wait, awkwardly, when he suddenly reaches out a hand. His finger darts across my cheek and he lightly brushes a piece of dirt or something off my skin. My heart stops as his finger makes contact, “Don’t go off at me. You had a smudge on your cheek, from a pencil mark, I think,” he says it almost to himself. When he takes his hand away from me my heart jerks and starts to beat again.
Damn this – thing –we had. That’s all it was. A thing.
I refused to label it as anything else.
No, no, not that type of thing. Not a sexual thing. Um... we had never even kissed. In fact, I’d never been kissed before.
But every time he touched me –
“We’ll be able to learn about new cultures, people and what the rest of the universe is like,” Alex responds, so casually, after he has just made my heart melt into a puddle.
“Yeah,” I say as steadily as possible.
“Hey! Could you two love birds stop flirting and start training with us?” John calls out enthusiastically. Alex and I turn away from each other and walk towards the rest of them.
“We are not fucking love birds,” I snap, losing my temper quickly. John smiles knowingly, and Sophie and the twins follow suit.
I try to ignore the shared looks. It was time to train.
Our training for the DFS involved turning on an FR field, which surrounds a certain area. Ours is a 100 x 100 field. The actual field in the competition is triple that size. FR stands for Fake Reality which means whatever happens inside the field isn’t real, though it feels real. You could pretty much get wounded, killed or have limbs torn off, but once the field is switched off, everyone goes back to their original state; healthy, fit, strong, and most importantly, intact.
There is also a program in the FR field, which can generate computerised people with different fighting skills. It also generates fake weather conditions, or objects such as weapons, cages, simple landscape scenarios like a dirt ground or cobble stones, hills, rivers, you name it.
Alex is often in charge of choosing the different scenarios and computerised subjects to test and home in our fighting skills with. He isn’t the leader for nothing; he has a strong head and often keeps his cool while fighting.
I’m the opposite; the smallest things set me off. Everyone tells me I have an anger problem and emotional issues. But I’m not the vice-captain for nothing either, I was the strongest, the energy source for the team. Alex and John could channel my energy. That is their only power, but a good one since I had too much magic to spare.
We basically have three fire users in the team; Alex, John and I. One healer; Sophie. And two super humans; Mitchel and Blake.
We’re a good team; The Embers. Our arch-nemesis are the A-stars. We are two very different groups. Ours is more an offensive team because of our strength. The A-stars have four healers and only two magic users, Jaxon and Flora. Jaxon, the ass hole, could move inanimate objects with his mind. Flora was an illusionist and could make things appear that weren’t real. However, the things she can create with her mind are designed to mess with your head so when she attacks you, you legitimately get hurt.
That’s what we’re up against, they are the closest team in strength to us and they are the ones who we are determined to destroy in the DFS... for fame and money of course. The DFS itself is an acronym for Die or Fight and Survive. It’s a game, hugely popular and broadcasted on T.V. It’s basically high school kids versing one another within teams, in which you must retrieve a golden object from the opposing side of the FR field and bring it back to your own side.
That’s how you win, and then you verse the winners for the next round, and if you ever lose a match you get knocked out of the competition, though there were a few ways to get back in. Usually 20 teams enter every year.
Now, Alex chooses a basic dirt field, a few computerised healers and one magic user for us to destroy. We slowly get into the hang of it and by the end of training we are all in synch with each other’s moves. It always takes us a while to fall in synch.
Sophie was focusing on attacking with daggers, since she needed to improve physically. The twins did their usual distraction techniques and Alex, John and I worked together with my fire magic to slowly beat down the healer’s strength. By the end of training we had worked up a real sweat and were happy to take a break.
So, we all sit together in a circle on the grass outside the gym which is situated next to an oval. The gym is an older building with dull orange coloured bricks and a few pretty vines growing up the sides of it. It was a nice big fat building, larger than most gyms and a few blocks separated it from the school it belonged to.
We’ve just finished training before lunch time and just like that half of Saturday has already passed. I sit next to Sophie and John, the twins and Alex opposite us. If we want to win the DFS against the top team we’d have to train every Saturday morning, like today as well as every afternoon after school. It’s a lot of commitment, but it’s necessary if we want to win. We had come second, last year in the DFS. We were well known. We had been expected to win, but we didn’t.
This year, we were all determined to grab the title of the new DFS Golden Team, especially I. I have an undying hatred of the previous winning team, the A-stars... but mostly their captain; Jaxon. He has a massive ego and he loves to constantly try to humiliate me when we’re facing off on television.
I couldn’t wait to kick his ass.
“That was a pretty good training session,” John remarks. Mitchel and Blake instantly perk up.
“Yeah, but it’s all because of us,” Mitchel starts, then Blake ends, “Our distraction techniques are awesome.”
“Stop gloating, jeez,” I sigh as they bicker, like usual.
"Guys. We’re all meant to be equal in this team, we must think of each other as equals, otherwise we won’t work together efficiently,” Sophie reminds us all while scolding us at the same time.
“Well,” Alex buds in, casually, “We can all bond tonight. My parents are holding a dinner party for us. You’re all invited,” I can’t help but mutter under my breath, “Whoopie,” but Alex hears it and glares at me for a split second. I just roll my eyes.
“Seriously–?” I begin but Alex cuts me off.
“Wait, let me explain,” all the others are interested, leaning forward to hear about the surprise dinner party we suddenly haveto – no doubt – attend, “My parents want to surprise us with something, something about the DFS, I’m not sure what it is but they asked John and I to invite you all,” Alex explains and everyone nods obediently.
“Well, you guys have a great time, because I’m not going,” I state, crossing my arms over my chest and flopping down on the grass, stretching out and yawning. I expect Alex to retort but it’s Sophie who does instead.
“Jasmine, please, it’ll be fun, don’t always be so pessimistic about Alex and John’s parents. The fact that they have a surprise about the DFS is really important. What if it means the difference between winning and losing? They could surprise us with anything. Alex’s dad is a politician, and they’re rich, which means they have power, probably the power to give us some, you know, extra help in the DFS,” I sit up suddenly.
“I love your thinking Sophie. Instead of resenting their ‘up themselves’ attitude, I can use it to my advantage.”
“You are so disrespectful of your elders,” Alex addresses me and I glare at him.
“And you are way too old fashioned, youths should be the ones that are respected, we have all the ideas. Adults are too set in their ways, and you,” I point my finger at our Captain, “You’re starting to act like an old fart who is still under the instruction of his mummy and daddy... whatever they say, always goes,” Alex’s face turns slightly red in anger. His eyes flash at me. I stand up. I feel great satisfaction in getting under his skin, but a small part of me feels bad about it too, “I’ll come to the fancy shamancy dinner party,” I tell Alex and John, “And I’ll try to be civilised. What time is it going to start? I have to get home and do homework before I get ready.”
“Seven O’clock,” Alex says, “And dress up.”
“Whatever,” I turn and walk away, heading for home.