1. The angel of life
Morgan trudged along behind the others, his wet suit clinging to his clammy skin, bonded to his thin, gawky body by a sheen of fearful sweat.
There were four of them led by Mr Rossiter, Head of Physical Challenges. Sauntering over the headland in front of Morgan was Barker, a large boy he had come to hate with a fierce passion and who was responsible for issuing the challenge that, in a moment of madness, Morgan had accepted. Barker had wrapped an arm around the shoulders of the delicious Deborah, whose merest glance in Morgan’s direction caused his mouth to dry and his tongue to flap helplessly as he attempted to blurt out some stupid rubbish. Luckily, his voice would crack and he would cough to mask his hot cheeked embarrassment.
He didn’t blame his parents, well not entirely, for sending him on the annual week-long entrance trial at Evanstone College, an establishment dedicated to developing the beautiful elite; a talent crèche for future leaders, movers and shakers.
Evanstone’s blend of high powered academic examinations and extreme physical challenges usually weeded out all but the cream of brilliant brains and courageous spirits. Morgan, who attended boarding school in Salisbury but had spent the last week of term at Evanstone, knew he didn’t belong there despite his astounding gifts. His parents had arranged this torture week in an attempt to ‘bring him out of himself’ and ‘break the back’ of his chronic shyness, and to test him against the very best.
From the moment they met Morgan had clashed with Barker, a final year student whose father was an Evanstone governor and prominent financial benefactor. If anyone was part of the privileged elite at Evanstone it was Barker. He despised those who came on the special Evanstone trial weeks: but he had taken a special dislike to Morgan. And Morgan despised Barker because he was successfully pursuing Deborah who had a brain like a laser and was the most ravishing creature Morgan had ever seen.
Morgan’s remarkable memory saw him sail through the examinations by storing the entire syllabus in his frontal lobe ready for instant recall and regurgitating answers at will. He finished well before the others then, suitably bored, he diverted himself by attempting to write yet another poem. With all his heart he wanted nothing more than to write beautiful words that moved his mind and soul. Deborah’s wide green eyes swam before him as he sweated over a blue-lined exercise book in his small, austere room overlooking the quadrangle. He daren’t reveal this passion for verse to anyone, especially not to morons like Barker who would use it to ridicule him and drive him further into himself.
Morgan had failed pretty miserably at the physical tests of strength and stamina. He certainly wasn’t the worst, but, compared to the athletic Barker, he was some way down the league table and tipping the scales between passing and failing. And Morgan didn’t want to fail for his parents’ sake even though he would never agree to come to place like Evanstone full-time.
When Barker issued his snide challenge Morgan should have known better. He realised it would catapult him up the Evanstone rankings but that wasn’t the real reason he accepted.
With Barker’s fleshy face thrust inches from his own, Morgan tried not to flinch from the stale odour of his breath.
“You’re just chicken, Lane, with your so-called super memory,” Barker had sneered and licked his lips. “I know what you did even if no one else does. You’re a cheat, Lane. And I’ll prove it. Memory Lane, huh! I don’t think so. I’ve already told Doctor Simpson.”
The delicious prospect of smacking that bulbous toffee-nose extremely hard caused Morgan to clench his fist in pleasurable anticipation until he realized he might be in enough trouble as it was without adding assault and battery to Barker’s allegations of cheating. Instead, in a moment of inspiration, he had slipped his hand into his pocket and taken out his mobile phone. But this was no ordinary device. Morgan had rebuilt it as a multi-stage transponder, decoder and scanner that could intercept encoded transmissions and decrypt them as well as having many other useful functions. Whilst keeping his eyes fixed on Barker’s ugly face in a head-to-head stare-out, he manipulated a small control into record mode.