~~I’m standing in a field with the sun shining blindingly down on me, its rays spreading warmth and light all over the green grass. I squint and see a man sitting on the ground chewing on a long piece of yellowish grass. He sees me looking at me and jumps to his feet, holding the grass between his teeth he barks at me “What is the time?” I stare at him confused, how should I know? So I shrug. He shakes his head “Look around girl and tell me the time” He demands. I do as he says and look around, there’s no clock but then I look at the sun again, and realise it’s directly over head. “Midday” I tell the man. He nods, satisfied “Make sure you remember that.”
I’m woken up by the beeping of my alarm clock and I roll over burying my head in the pillow but the beeping won’t stop so I sit up and switch it off. Its 6:00 so I let out a low moan, I hate early mornings however I’m abruptly when I see the date. Its Friday, today’s the day of the hunt. The week has gone so fast, I’d continued to learn how to shoot in combat using various different weapons and in strategy we’d continued to learn how to crack codes. Sina, Tamara and Jaylyn have stuck with me and shown me around the base so I’m prepared for today. Ethan got back from his mission yesterday and he’d arrived to class with huge black bags under his eyes and was even less talkative than usual. I change into a strappy top and a pair of soft trackies then put studs in my ears. Sina showed me where I could jewellery and clothes and it’s a relief to feel the familial metal in my ears. I have 3 studs in my right ear and two in my left I’ve had it like this since I was ten, mum went mental when she found out. They also sell makeup here which is a relief; I hate how vulnerable I look without it on. I check the time and see that I still have half an hour before I need to meet the others so I decide to get my sketch book out. I flick through my recent drawings, ones of my new gun and necklace and of my friends. There’s one unfinished one of the dream I had the night before leaving to come here. I leave that one and turn to a fresh page. I draw the field I was just in and the man chewing the grass with a scowl on his face, then I sketch the sun at the top in the middle and its rays on the grass. I look at the clock and swear, I’m 10 minutes lat. After hurriedly shoving my sketchbook under my mattress and pulling a hoodie on, I run out the door and into the canteen. No one’s very talkative today; we eat in a nervous silence then make our way to the training hall. Nervous butterfly’s start fluttering in my stomach as I see all the tables and chairs set out around the hall. Ethan is putting packs of paper on each table as Brent and Teel walk in together, Brent’s shaved head shining under the artificial lights. They gesture for us to make a circle around them so we can all see and hear them. “We have chosen your teams; you are to work together to solve the riddles lain out for you which will then lead you to find the glass goblet. The point of this exercise is to enhance your teamwork skills and make you think.” The words are flat as they come out Brent’s mouth, it’s as if he has said them 100 times before. Teel starts reading names out and I move to the table I’m told to go too, my legs suddenly feeling heavier as I lift them. I’m happy to see that Jaylyns in my team and he smiles as I sit down. The rest of our team consists of: Ranti, one of Clora’s minions, a few boys who’s names I don’t know and a quiet girl called Meto who seems to follow Clora’s crowd but isn’t quite a part of it. She sits with Ranti but neither of them says anything to each other. Each team is assigned an instructor to observe and make sure we’re not cheating; they aren’t allowed to help though. Of course ours is Ethan. He’s standing quietly behind us, deep in thought then suddenly looks up at us “You may start” Is all he says in his musical voice.
Brent told us that we’ll be awarded points for contributing to the group and for each riddle we get right, this means you don’t have to win to get points. I’m not really fussed about the point system; it’s their way of controlling us. As long as I get a job that means I can make any minor blows to the government I’ll be satisfied, I don’t care what rank it is. That’s why when Jaylyn hands me a copy of the riddles sheet I don’t really read them. Instead I pick up my pen and start drawing lines at the top of the sheet, I deliberately don’t let them form anything just in case any one sees, everyone here thinks I’ve had the injection so drawing isn’t something I should be doing. I start to get board of lines so I draw simple things, such as flowers. One of them goes wrong so I make it a circle with a cross inside. “I think you should concentrate on solving the riddles” Ethan whispers over my shoulder. I tense and instinctively cover my drawings waiting for him to stop watching me. He doesn’t so I sigh and try to participate. “What have you got?” I ask the group. They all shake their heads indicating that we are probably all going to fail this test; I sigh and decide to have a go.
The first piece of paper in the pack Jaylyn gave me says:
Where 3 is at 1 take 2 and hit the right place which is only seen in 4. When it lies in the right place all will be reviled.
The numbers have to be replaced by the answers to the riddles so I move quickly on to reading riddle number 1:
I view the world in little space always restless, changing place. No food I eat but at this hour my power is at its best producing what millions do devour.
I rest my head on my hands; the words don’t even make sense. Jaylyn suddenly starts scribbling something down with his pen and looks up “Number 2 is gun and bullet, I think” he says proudly but looks a little unsure. I quickly read 2
I am so gently curved, he is firm and straight, alone we’re nothing but together we’re a deadly team
I frown, Jaylyns answer can’t be right, guns aren’t straight and bullets are round, not curved. I look around the room and spot the bow and arrows in the corner left out from yesterday’s lesson. They fit the description better. I’m about to point this out but stop, I don’t want to sound like a know it all again. Under the table I kick Mira, her shy eyes lift up to mine. I gesture to the bow and arrows in the corner and I watch as she realises what I’m telling her. “Bow and arrow, not gun and bullet is the answer to 2” She says softly and gives me a thankful look. I realise she’s happy because she can now have points for contribution and some for getting a riddle right. I smile; for once I did the right thing. Everyone in the group makes sounds of improvement and congratulates her, one person isn’t fooled and he’s looking at me with those brown eyes. I ignore him though and look at the next riddle
I am so simple I only point, yet I guide men all over the world.
That one doesn’t make any sense either, so I move onto number 4
You can see me but I can’t see you everything within me is accurate and true
I move back to 3 because it makes more sense than that one, I think hard but nothing comes. I look back at my drawings from earlier and the one that went wrong seems to stand out. I suddenly have an idea and add the letters N, S, E, and W to the four points of the cross. “Number 3 is compass” I say before I can stop myself. The group nod in agreement and Jaylyn adds compass to gap number 3. I look at number 4 again “Number 4 has to be mirror” One of the boys says. I look at number 4 and agree with them. That just leaves 1 which is really bugging me, there’s something I need to remember but I can’t. Rina suddenly starts waving her hands “I’ve got it” She says excitedly and too loudly. “Say it quietly” I hiss at her. She gives me a dirty look then whispers “Sun” We now have the whole clue
Where the compass is at the sun take the bow and arrow and hit the right place which is only seen in the mirror. When it lies in the right place, all will be reviled.
In horror I watch group 1 get up and leave the room that means we have to wait for 5 minutes so that we can’t follow them. Everyone in our group moans and group 2 give us confused looks. We wait impatiently for 5 minutes, during which Jaylyn has got the map out and said that we should go to the Sun room which has a compass on its floor. When we can finally leave we hurriedly make our way over there but my stomach still has that annoying nagging sensation in it that’s telling me I’m forgetting something. I ignore it though and follow the others into the sun room after making a stop to grab a bow and arrow.
Inside the sun room it’s very warm so I take my hoodie off and tie it around my waste and watch the others as they scour the room for a mirror. “Not really into this are you?” Ethan says next to me, folding his arms and watching the others as well. “What’s the point, the point system reminds me of the gold star system we had in basic school ‘be good today Ashlyn and you can have a gold star’” I say mimicking my basic school teachers’ voice. Ethan laughs quietly “Never worked on me” I grumble. Ethan smiles “I can imagine that”. He says but then turns serious “You should still help your team though, you’ve already worked out 3 of them” he says. I look at him, confused and am about to point out that he’s wrong we’ve worked out all four of them but then I understand what he’s saying. One of them is wrong. I think back to the answers we have, it must be number 1, it’s the only one that doesn’t really make sense. The word ‘remember’ keeps running through my mind and I try to ignore it but it won’t go away.
Then it hits me and I laugh at my stupidity “Guys its midday not sun” which means when the compass is at midday which means north “The North tower is where we’re supposed to be” I say, thankful for my mini tour earlier on in the week. I turn and start to walk towards the North tower, relieved that the nagging feeling has gone, my group hastily follow me. It’s strange we don’t bump into the other group so that either means that group 1 have beaten us to the North tower or they’ve got it wrong as well.
The north tower is one of the tallest buildings in the base and under all the windows is a different coloured flag to represent that we are all equal no matter how different we are; thats what Tmara had said the other day anyway. We clamber up the stairs and I stumble several times stubbing my toes but I carry on without even noticing the tiny aches .I’m pleased to see that it’s empty when we get to the top, this means the other groups haven’t figured the riddles out right. Jaylyn spots the mirror first and Rina hands him the bow, “I can only see myself” He says puzzled.
“You can only see your reflection in a mirror that’s what you shoot” Mira points out and I look at her, impressed. She gives me shy smile while Jaylyn lodes the bow and shoots. We all watch eagerly but it just hits the mirror then falls to the ground. The mirror doesn’t smash and nothing happens yet I was certain this was right. The others don’t want to give up so they take it in turn to shoot from different angles and heights but it doesn’t change anything, it just keeps hitting the mirror and falling to the floor. Jaylyn sighs “It’s no use the arrow just lies there doing nothing” By this point I’m leaning against the wall staring at the ceiling, when Jaylyn says this I look back at the group and catch Ethan’s eyes “Think” he mouths at me. I look at the arrow “Can you fire it one more time?” I ask not taking my eyes off it. Jaylyn picks it up and fires it at the mirror, it clatters to the floor again and I watch it as it stops moving and lands in exactly the same position as it was before, pointing in the direction of the cupboard. As I walk over to it I’m vaguely aware of another group entering the room but my eyes are on the white cupboard which I open to revile the goblet. I pull it out feeling the cold glass in my hands; the groups behind me erupt into cheers and rush over to me to see the goblet and clap me on the back, I hand it to Jaylyn and step out of the crowd not liking the attention. Ethan appears next to me “Well done” He whispers into my ear, send a chill of pleasure tingling up my spine. “I didn’t think you should be in grade 2 but you proved me wrong” He admits. I raise my eyebrows at him “Oh really? You don’t seem to be the kind of person who gets things wrong” I say. He looks down at me “Why would you say that?” he asks. I shrug
“I’m guessing you weren’t told the answers but you worked them out” I tell him watching his reaction, but he remains expressionless. “That’s perceptive”, word of advice though. People with your potential should listen in class otherwise that potential doesn’t become anything” And with that he walks away to talk to Brent. I just stare at him, normally I’d brush that kind of comment away but for some reason when he says it somehow it means something.
“I can’t believe you got it!”Sina gushes when she suddenly appears in front of me. The next hour is full of congratulations and happy faces and all I want to do is disappear but Sina finally helps me escape every one and drags me to the shops. We have the afternoon off due to the fact that we figured out the riddles and completed the test. “There’s a party tonight to celebrate Marlec coming home” Sina explains as she admires a sparkly top. I nod. “And we have to find you some decent clothes to wear” She continues tutting at the jeans and top I changed into after lunch. I let her drag me around the shops and try on all the dresses she shoves at me but refuse to buy any of them, I hate dresses so I finally settle for a denim skirt and top that leaves my shoulders bare. When Sina has finally chosen a thigh length tight blue dress that leaves her back bare we make our way to her apartment. Her apartment is just like mine accept it has more personality and looks more homely, the walls are covered in photos and pictures, I look on in fascination at the pictures her brothers and sisters have drawn for her. I don’t have any siblings and I’ve always wondered what it would be like “There a right pain sometimes but they can be fun” Sina says noticing me looking at the drawings. “You can use the bathroom to change” I walk into her bathroom and rummage through my bags to find my new clothes. After having a quick shower I get changed put some makeup on and tie my hair back and check that I look ok in the mirror. The skirt and top show off my skinny figure and make it look like I have curves and the green pattern on the top brings out the colour in my eyes. Sina knocks on the door and comes in, when she sees me she smiles “You look great.”I smile back at her
“You don’t look so bad yourself” I say, and it’s true, the dark dress makes her skin look paler and her eyes darker. She’s ruffled her short hair up and replaced the small stud in her nose for a big one, she looks stunning. Sina frowns at my hair then walks over and pulls it so it comes lose. “If I had naturally blonde hair I would never put it up” She says sternly. I wince as cold water soaks through the top but I leave it down not wanting to make a fuss. I borrow a pair of Sina’s boots but refuse to wear ones with heels, last time I wore a pair of heels I fell down some steps and twisted my ankle so I decided then I’d never wear a pair again. Having bear shoulders means you can see my tattoo so as I wait for Sina I absentmindedly stroke it. After about 5 minutes of standing around Sina is almost done and Tamara and Keena walk in. “Hi you look nice” Keena says as she opens the door blinding me with a bright red dress “Mum says I wasn’t allowed to wear anything above the knee” She says pouting at the length of my skirt. “Bet she didn’t approve of the colour either” Sina says as she walks over adjusting one of her earrings. Keena scowls but luckily Tamara distracts her by admiring the colour of her nail varnish before the two sisters can star world war 3. “Ready” I ask and Sina nods so we walk out the door and towards the gathering hall, Sina’s bangles clinking as we go.