Mystery (The Rewrite)

Hidden in the depths of Britain's largest countryside lies a military base inhabiting over a thousand children and teenagers between the age of four and nineteen. Their best recruit, seventeen-year-old Aiden Gonzalez, is coming to realize that finding someone he cares deeply about isn't always a fairytale. Lexi Matthews just wants a small shred of normalcy back in her life but is having to come to terms with the fact that it won't be happening anytime soon.

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"It happens sometimes. People say they'll come back and you believe them, believe that they wouldn't intentionally leave you. I guess they didn't get into the accident on purpose. But, God, I wish they just wouldn't have promised me anything before they left."

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"People are broken. You can be the most straight-edged person on the planet and still be broken. That doesn't matter though, no one cares about the story of how you became damaged. At the end of the day, it's how you pick yourself back up again that counts."

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2. Introduction (Lexi)

Lexi

It's been a year since my parents passed away, and the foster system wasn't working out as well as my social worked had hoped. My social worker, Elaine (who doesn't appreciate my very well-thought out Tracy Beaker references), set me up with a couple who got married a couple years back and have five kids already living under their roof. Three of the kids are theirs, and the other two are also being fostered. When I arrived during late September they had just transformed their basement into one large room, with two sets of bedroom furniture set around the room.

I shared that space with one of the biological girls, Jasmine, who's my age and is of similar build and style. I'll hand the family one thing, they made me feel welcome straight off the bat. Even the boys (one of them being eighteen and the other sixteen) didn't push their luck.

The problem was school. Being sixteen and living thirty-seven miles away from my previous school I was bound to struggle at the beginning of a new school despite having Jasmine by my side 24/7. But my parents had just been killed in a car crash so the grief was still strong and eventually it got to the point where just leaving the house and walking along the road was enough to set off a panic attack. My foster parents pulled me out of school and home-schooled me through my final year at secondary school and I took my GCSE examinations in a government hall during May and June. 

Elaine called a couple weeks ago after having reread my file. She said that there was a boarding program which could support me in a disclosed location, and I only took it because it will cater me until I'm nineteen years old at least. The foster system only supports me until I turn eighteen, and that age is fastly approaching.

I was told to be at the train station with Elaine on August 16th at midday. My suitcase is currently taking the form of my seat as I buried my chin further into my coat to warm myself up. Elaine's talking to the person who's apparently taking me to the program's compound. The woman's tall, dark-skinned and looks as if she should have taken a job at a nursery rather than a chaperone. I'm thankful that she's in jeans and sneakers because for a moment I thought my track pants and high tops would set off a bad impression. 

The woman, Mali - if I heard correctly - turned to me and smiled, taking in my outfit. My track pants are fitted, with elastics holding my ankles and waist tight, and my windbreaker is keeping out the majority of the cold wind. "Well I'm glad you're in comfy clothes," Mali even speaks as if she should be dealing with small children, "You'd have no idea how many kids I've picked up who are in heels. All set to go?"

I clutched my phone tighter in my pocket and shot Mali a smile and a small nod. Elaine all but threw herself at me for a hug as I stood up straight and I cringed as she squeezed me a bit too tight. Eventually, Elaine let go and Mali indicated to get onto the train. Apparently, Mali isn't the only person to have picked me up because she made a beeline to sit with a man who looks around forty years old, who smiled at her and stood to introduce himself to me.

"Good afternoon, my name's Henry."

I returned his smile and shook his hand, "Lexi Matthews."

"Yes, I've read your file. Impressive stuff." Henry nodded and I, in an awkward daze, just blushed.

Mali sat in a seat, Henry took the seat beside her and I slipped in opposite them. The train started pretty much immediately and it was then that I looked around and noticed the train is completely empty.

Mali noticed me looking and chuckled softly, "This is the program's private transportation Sweetie. We need to make a few stops and pick up some others and then we'll be heading straight to the compound."

"Why the private train?" I asked.

Henry answered without looking up from his newspaper. "We're a militant based operation. It's safer to use secure networks rather than a public form. Saves nosy ears."

"Hold up, I was told you guys were a boarding program."

"Oh, we are," Henry replied, "We train students - who live on campus - survival skills and combat fighting techniques. The army and navy tend to ask for our help on missions as children and teenagers are labeled as too innocent to be involved in terrorist organizations."

"But we don't send you guys out if there's a chance of death," Mali jumped in quickly, "And if you're on a mission that turns south we pull you guys out as quickly as possible. Henry often forgets to mention that part."

"I'm a busy man, things slip my mind often," Henry rolls his eyes and turns towards the sports section.

Mali tuts and turns back to me, "Henry here inherited the organization from his father. He runs the business."

The train stops before I can react and Mali excuses herself. I look out the window to see a girl around my age also bracing herself against the cold. Mali has a conversation with the adult with the girl and then she's escorting the teen into the train and towards us. 

The girl's called Riley Johnson, and after she had the same conversation with Henry and Mali that I had she turned to me started our own conversation. When we pull into the next station five minutes later Riley and I have clicked and are laughing straight out tears. 

We make twelve more stops after that, and the seat beside Riley is filled by a girl called Harriet who seems quiet but opened up pretty quickly. I don't remember reading any signs to say where we are, and Google Maps didn't pick up my location as anywhere publicized. Riley gripped my hand in hers as we lugged our suitcases up the gravel drive leading from the tiny train station we were dropped off at. Henry's leading us up a worn out path whilst Mali's making sure the slower walkers keep up. 

It went from drop-dead silent to loud in mere seconds, and a set of barbed wire gates opened up for us. We were ushered into a room where we were all patted down and our suitcases were loaded into a truck which drove off quickly afterward. A stern-faced, frowning woman had us stick a white label on our phones and sign our names on them before taking them away in a clear plastic box, and I heard Harriet make a disgruntled noise as the woman disappeared from sight. 

"Girls," Mali handed us all gray tee shirts folded into pressed plastic covers. The boys had no problem ripping off their own tee shirts to replace them with the gray ones, whereas the girls around us made a line so one person could change without the eyes of the boys. I had a vest on underneath the windbreaker so I quickly changed and held up my jacket as a cover for Riley and Harriet. Looking around the room I noticed the numbers stitched onto the breast pockets. Harriet was number two, Riley had a seven and I had a ten. 

We didn't get a chance to question what they meant before Henry was pushing us all out of the room and into the blistering wind again. The large hall he took us to looks as if it should be an airplane hangar but when we walked into it showed to be a dining hall. It looks just like ones at school, but everyone sitting at the tables is wearing different colored shirts. Hanging on the walls are pictures of who I can presume are the founders, and there is a large medal and trophy cabinet taking up one whole wall. 

"Aiden, Drew!" Henry shouts out and my eyes immediately take in the tall, well muscled and extremely good looking guy who practically jumps out of his seat and begins dragging another (just as equally handsome) boy towards us. The first boy sees Henry and smiles widely as he's pulled into a hug, and when the second boy is released from the same affection he throws a casual arm around his shoulders. 

"Boys, meet the new recruits, you'll be training them this week," Henry nods towards us and then splits us all a smile that I can only imagine is one of pride, "Guys, meet out best fighters."

****

The bunks that Aiden and Drew, the toy boys from the dining hall, took us to were in a corridor consisting of six separate doors. Each door leads to identical rooms with two sets of bunk beds in each, as well as a small shower room attached, wardrobes, drawers, and windows. 

Aiden took the guys towards the last three doors and split them into groups, and Drew did the same for us. I ended up with Harriet, Riley and another girl called Mia. Riley and I moved straight towards the bunk furthermost from the window and closer to the bathroom, with Riley on the bottom bunk and me clambering up to the top. 

"Girls," Drew poked his head round the door frame and I looked up from untying my boots, "Your clothes and everything will be kept in the west wing until training's over. If you want to go pick up jeans or night stuff and everything someone will be round in ten minutes to lead you there."

"Thanks." I nodded at him, rolling my eyes as the other three could do nothing but gape at him. He smirked at me and shut the door after him. 

Five minutes later and Mia went to visit one of her friends in the neighboring room, and Riley and Harriet climbed up onto my bed. "When's training starting?" Harriet asked, sitting behind me and taking out my ponytail to tie my hair into braids. 

"Tomorrow morning," Riley replied, spreading her legs out to dangle over the edge, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

No one answered, but Riley did grip my hand between hers between us.

****

At six AM the next morning we were escorted from the bunk rooms and into a fenced off compound a mile or so away from the rest of the grounds. Drew and Aiden were waiting outside the open gates, each with a backpack slung over their shoulders. Aiden has a cigarette hanging from his lips as he crunched the heel of his combat boot into the dirt path. Drew's showing him something on his phone and they're both grinning as they see us making our way over. Drew slides his phone into his back pocket and Aiden puffs out smoke from his mouth as he crushes the remains of his cigarette into the dirt. 

The woman escorting us, a 35-year-old staff member called Heather, barely nodded at the boys before turning round and hoping back on the bus that we got here on. Watching her go, I felt the gust of wind rustle the gray tee shirt I'm wearing from yesterday. The army print camo pants and combat boots they gave all of us are doing very little to keep us warm, and I registered the fact that Aiden has on a band hoodie with the hood covering his hair. Drew's wearing a black coat and a beanie, so they stick out from the rest of us. 

The compound is surrounded by thick trees and a barbed wire fence. From my place in the middle of the group, I can see obstacle courses behind the fence, as well as a biggish building made from cement and brick. The fence disappears into the trees and beyond, meaning that I have no clue how far this thing actually goes. 

It wasn't until I looked over at the gate that I realized I hadn't been paying attention to Drew talking, and that we were all filing into through the gate. Riley gave me a slight nudge, pushing me forward. Aiden's stood just inside the new compound, leaning against the wall and watching. Riley muttered something about his looks again and I snorted, causing him to flick his eyes to me.

I couldn't stop walking, not when Riley squeaked and walked faster, pushing my shoulders and forcing me to move quicker, but I did see Aiden crack a smile in my direction. 

Inside the building, I sighed as the warmth hit me, a stark contrast against the coldness of outside. There's a pile of backpacks in the center of the room sitting on a round table, and circling the table are a group of guys that look around the same age as Aiden and Drew. I'm guessing they're all friends, seeing as Aiden rolled up the sleeves of his hoodie and walked towards them, a few of them moving to make a space for him before he even reached them.

"This is totally unfair," Harriet whined gently, coming to stand beside Riley and myself nearest the door - and far away enough so that we can't hear the boys, "They're all good looking, how am I supposed to get through this?"

A light laugh from behind us made us train around. Standing there is a girl around our age, confident looking and wearing a gray shirt. The only difference between her shirt and ours was that her's has no number on it. Neither do the guys' shirts. She's slim, tall and blonde, with irritatingly flawless skin and a sparkling necklace around her neck. 

"Trust me," She smiled at us, "It'll be easy. Just think, you pass training, and you'll get to see those guys shirtless every summer. They're even hotter with minimum clothing, and most of them are pretty easy to get with. Except for that one," She pointed at a blonde boy next to Drew. His hair's longish and ruffled, his jaw strong despite his slightly chubby cheeks. He's good looking though, just not exactly someone I would go for.

"That on," The mystery girl said and I looked back at her in time to see her smile and her eyes soften slightly, "Is Marcus, my boyfriend. So don't try anything."

"Noted." I nodded, and she chuckled, holding out her hand for me to shake.

"I'm Hannah." She said as I shook her hand.

"Lexi," I replied, then pointed towards Riley and Harriet, introducing them in turn.

Hannah smiled at us once again. "Well it was nice to meet you guys, and I hope you all get in. If you'll excuse me,"

She jogged across the room, gaining the attention of the blonde boy (Marcus, she said) who smiled widely at her and held up his arm as she wrapped both of hers around his waist and stood on her toes to kiss him. 

"I already hate them both because of how good looking they are," Riley stated, and I laughed. Hannah looked over her shoulders and waved us over to the table where everyone else seems to be gathering. Riley squeezed my hand again, and Harriet sent me a nervous smile.

"Looks like we're starting."

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