I look over at my best friend A.J., remembering all of the wonderful times we had had together. But I suppose, now, all of them are over. I study my friend.
With long legs and a tall figure, she is ideal for running long distances and climbing. Her black, short, curly hair is good, since she is very talented in tumbling, running, climbing and fighting, and her dark skin can hide her in the dark. The Apollo Warriors would make good work of her. Even though I am good at those things to, especially fighting and climbing, my long hair gets in the way, and I am not as easily hidden in the dark.
A young man who lives in our sector had come from the Apollo Warriors to prepare those of us that were left. He seemed to have taken a liking to A.J. and I, because he trained us hardest of all.
The AWA focuses on certain core traits that they need in all of their warriors, he told us. They are intelligence, creativity, agility, looks, and the ability to socialize with other people. While both A.J. and I excel at all of these, we each have our own special traits. My I.Q. is that of 130, which, according to my books was one of the highest I.Q.’s you could get. According to the man, Arcturius Quevlezin, I can probably ace the looks test. As for A.J., her agility and creativity are supreme. She can turn handsprings around the rest of us; literally, and comes up with her own stories to tell to her little brother Adam. I was creative and athletic too but I am 9better at acrobatics and stealth than tumbling, and can’t write to save my life, but art was a strong suit for me. However, the only thing that we are each good at equally is the sociability test. So we will both probably get branded with all five. Wait, I hadn’t mentioned branding yet, had I? According to Arcturius, when the Apollo men decided what you were good at, you would get branded with a symbol based on your abilities. You can get all five, as Arcturius had done, but I wasn’t sure. They would knock you out for the process, but it sounded like a very uncomfortable experience.
I feel a huge bump, as the truck seemed to go over an incredibly small hill. But after that, the road smoothed out, almost as if we are floating on ice. Hot ice, but still. I watch as A.J. pokes her head out of the window yet again. She stays out for much longer than normal, which I took to mean that the dust had subsided quite a bit. When A.J. came back in, her face showed pure horror, her eyes as big as saucers and her mouth opened a little. I look outside too. True to my observation, the dust had subsided, but we are now extremely close to the tower. I can now see that it read “Apollo Warriors Association Training Facility”. My breath catches in my throat. How awful would it be inside those walls? Arcturius had never described to us what the training would be like.
An hour later the truck came to a stop. I hug my brother closer. Thomas puts his arms around me protectively. Suddenly, the doors fly open. The rough men are standing there. Many of the children scream in fright, as the men look absolutely terrifying. Their white teeth show through the dark green helmets that cover their cruel faces. The men gather us up and take us in the same manner they had ripped us from our homes. I was very scared indeed, as I know not when I will see the rest of my beloved family. The men push and tug us into a dark warehouse. It is damp and moldy with the distinct smell of rotting cheese that I know all too well. Faces small and large peer around at their surroundings apprehensively. The men push groups of us onto the darker portions of the floor, but did not seem like part of the floor at all. A familiar body is pressed up against me as we stand on the platform. It is A.J. We had gone over the plan every week since we were seven. Stay quiet, Show no fear, Show no weakness or you would be ejected immediately.
Suddenly, shiny, polished, silver railings come up around the platforms and with a huge lurch, the platforms begin to rise. I feel a spasm of horror because I think, “Surely they mean to crush us!” But then the ceiling begins to break open, depositing us in another, smaller, but much cleaner room. The men lead us all through several doors into a grand room with a domed ceiling. It has red seats, which I suppose are wood with simple cloth, though it seems as though it might be true plush. There is a large platform in front of the many chairs and large circular things pointing towards the middle of the platform. The floor is covered in a royal red rug with deep blue swirls curling and running in random places in the room.
I choose a seat in the middle of Thomas and A.J. Both of their faces are expressionless, as Thomas also knows the rules that A.J. and I had set in place. Suddenly the room goes dark and the round black things light up and bathe the stage in a bright yellow light.
“How do you think they lit the kerosene so fast?” I ask A.J. She shrugs, and her face clearly shows that she is as clueless as I am. Then a man steps out from behind the curtains.