~~The gathering hall is darker than usual and loud music bounces from wall to wall ad we walk in and making the floor vibrate slightly. I can see a few of our class mates walking around; Clora included wearing a dress that barely covers her thighs. We find Jaylyn and his friends and start dancing, waving our hands up in the air and shouting until our lungs start burning and we can’t carry on. We then wonder over to the canteen where it’s much quieter and gives our aching heads rest from all the noise. “Does anyone want any drinks?” The group start mumbling their answers but I just shake my head, avoiding the temptation to ask for alcohol. Jaylyn and his friends walk over to the bar to order the drinks while Tamara Sina and Keena slide closer to me “He totally likes you” Sina hisses “Who wouldn’t in that outfit?” Keena adds with a sigh. I raise my eyebrows at the girls “He’s cute” Tamara adds. I shake my head “Not my type, he’s too nice” Sina laughs
“Guys can never be too nice”
“What is your type then?” Keena asks, I shrug trying to remember why I said yes to the boys I went out with, most of them were jerks. “I suppose I just know it when I see it” I say.
“I know what my type is” Keena says dreamily “Ethan” I roll my eyes
“You don’t even know him” She looks at me blankly so I let out an exasperated sigh which results in Tamara laughing. Jaylyn arrives back with the drinks and the convocation shifts quickly from boys to training “The next test you’ll have is fear, to be a good soldier you need to concur fear” Explains Rotex, Jaylyns older brother who’s amongst the group of boys Jaylyn brought with him. He’s already done the two year training course and is a proper soldier now. “I wonder what they’ll do for me?” Sian says whilst fiddling with the straw in her coke. I watch the liquid swirl around and a thought occurs to me “Where do you get all your supplies from?” Every one shrugs or shakes their head “we don’t know, it’s just another unsolved mystery about this place Jaylyn says. The moment passes and we leave the canteen to go into the gathering hall. The music has stopped and everyone’s shuffling around trying to stand as near as they can to the stage in the middle of the hall. “Marlec’s here, he’s about to make his ‘I’m back’ speech’.” Sina says as we quietly find a space to stand in at the back of the hall. A tall skinny man with thin white hair and a pointy nose walks onto the stage, making everyone in the room cheer and clap. I put my hands together with everyone else but what I’m really concentrating on is just entering the room, he’s wearing a dark blue t-shirt and a pair of jeans instead of his uniform and his shaggy hair is wet from a recent shower. A group of guys notice him as he walks in and surround him obscuring my view so I turn back to the stage. “Good evening everyone, I hope you have enjoyed today’s celebration and it’s great to see our family is still growing. I can tell you that missions have been successful and by next year I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s us sitting upstairs instead of them.” At this the crowd erupts into a wave loud applause and the man, who must be Marlec, raises a hand to silence everyone. “Until then we must continue to keep this place going, I am returning for a few weeks and will be observing you to make sure everything’s running smoothly.” He then nods and walks off the stage. I clap for real this time, for once in my life I feel real respect for someone by choice. Jaylyn swings his arm over me “So what do you think of Marlec?” He asks as the crowd starts to break up, some people going back to their apartments others to the bar. The music starts again and it was as if Marlec was never there “He’s different to the government leaders” I reply and at that moment I spot a pair of brown eyes staring at me form the other side of the room, just for a second but they were there.
Our group hangs around in the hall for another half an hour until a woman with short black hair walks over dragging a little boy along with her “The agreement was meet at the cafe after Marlec’s speech, this is the last time I’m trusting you” She says and I know from the look on Sina and Keena’s faces that it’s their mother. They both mumble a quick good bye and follow their mum out of the hall. I watch them go and as I do I feel a small ache for my own mother, but I know it’s unlikely that I’ll ever see her again. “We’re going too, do you want me to walk you to your flat?” Jaylyn offers hopefully. I shake my head “I think I’ll stay here for a while” I instantly feel guilty when I see the flash of disappointment in his eyes but he brushes it away with a smile “See you tomorrow then” He says then turns around to be swallowed up by the crowd. I look around and notice the bar, one drink won’t matter all I need it for is to calm my nerves then I might have a decent amount of sleep tonight. I walk slowly over to the bar and sit on one of the stools near the end, its full of adults and I don’t see many people my age left around the hall. The barman walks over and I brace myself for him to refuse to serve me but he just smiles “What can I get you sweetie?” I quickly scan the menu, not recognising any of the fancy names “Chambord” I say, I’ve had it once with Mirax and I think it was alright. The man nods and starts making it for me “You’re a face I haven’t seen before, are you new?” he asks making convocation and I nod
“Arrived last week” I tell him and take the finished drink
“Everything’s on the house tonight, but don’t go getting any ideas there is a limit” he warns. I smile to let him know I understand then take a sip of my drink. It fizzes in my mouth the trickles down my throat and I relish in the numbness I can already start to fee; I have to stop myself form sighing with pleasure. “Pint of beer Tiron if you would” An all too familiar voice says, and here I was thinking I could enjoy my drink in peace. I turn to watch Ethan leaning against the bar, he looks my way and a surprise flashes onto his face. "What are you doing here, you’re not old enough to drink” he hisses at me, I just shrug “Nobody else seems to have a problem with me drinking” I say innocently and turn away from him. When Tiron returns with his drink Ethan doesn’t leave so I just ignore him and silently sip at my drink, as the glass becomes empty I feel much better, all the nerves from today have settled down and I am already starting to fell tiered it must have been quite a strong drink. When my glass is empty I start to get but Ethan leans over and says “You could have done that test by yourself in training today” It’s not a question so I just shrug not wanting to talk about it. “its quite remarkable, I’ve never met a grade 3 who’s mind ticks so fast” I raise my eyebrows at him suddenly feeling a little angry “We’re not dumb you know, just cause we don’t have dreams doesn’t make us any less intelligent” Ethan realises what he’s said and raises his hands in an apology
“I’m not saying that, I’m from zone 3 as well you know, it’s just those clues involved using part of the brain that is messed with during the operation, most zone 3 people struggle with logic” He says. I look at him, shocked, he’s from zone 3 as well. Then I realise what he just said, I’m not supposed to be good at logic, oh no! I’ve already let slip a sign that I’m having dreams, I mentally kick myself for being so foolish. He’s too clever, I can’t risk showing him anymore signs that I still have dreams “I’m going now, see you tomorrow” I say quickly and get up.
“Wait Ashlyn” Ethan starts to say but is interrupted by a group of girls rushing over in heels so high I didn’t think they were possible. I use the momentary distraction to slip away but as I leave the bar i can feel his calculating eyes on me.
Back in the apartment I start taking deep breaths no longer feeling calm and able to sleep. I find my sketch pad and flick over the pages until I find the one of the man surrounded by light in the field. I bite my lip nervously as I look at it, his voice is familiar, and then it hits me. The man who told me it’s time is Ethan, and I realise something else, Ethan told me he’s from zone 3. If it’s so hard for someone from zone 3 to solve those riddles, how did he do it?