25 - T R A I N I N G

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"Today's tests involve what you may have already expected."

I frown at Number One and set my hand on my hip. "Stealing?"

His eyes narrow. "You are running," he says slowly. "I will be calculating your endurance, speed, pace, factors along those lines. Understood?"

"Where are they?" I demand. Someone knows where Travis's tags went. My first guess would be him.

However, he looks genuinely confused. "What are you talking about?"

"The tags that were around my neck. Where did they go?"

He crosses his arms. "How would I know?"

I shove him and he stumbles backward, not expecting the sudden explosion on my part. "Someone took them. I'm not doing a thing until I get them back."

"We have work to do." He snags my wrist and proceeds to lead me to a section of the room with a long, straight strip of tar, that I assume is supposed to resemble a track. I tear my hand away from him and he crosses his arms. "This is where you will begin and end. A bot will state the rules—"

I scoff and shake my head. "You're crazy if you think—"

"—and I will preside over it, recording and determining your strengths, weaknesses, the works," he says louder, talking right over me. He walks away and goes to the nearest wall where a bot resides, and clicks a button to bring it to life. Its suit is entirely black like the rest of the ones in this area. Number One gives him no initial command; the bot has obviously been programmed specifically for this place. This Training Center. The bot steps forward and a wide beam of bluish light scans me from top to bottom, making me feel like I'm being electronically searched at an airport. I freeze up.

"5," the bot confirms. "Take your stance and prepare to sprint until you reach the white mark on the opposite end of the track. Ready? Five...four...three..."

"What? No!" I turn to Number One who has the biggest smirk on his face. "I'm not—"


"Go," Number One encourages in a slick, impatient voice.

I shoot out like a bullet from a gun—a gun that shoots slow—and push myself to get to the victory line at the opposite end of the track. When my feet cross the white paint, I come to a gradual stop. To get what I want, I'm going to have to play this stupid game for a bit. But I will get what I want.

From the other side of the room, I shout at Number One. "This..." I pant, "is bullshit!" I bend in half and set my hands on my knees to catch my breath. I'm ready to pass out.

"Response not available," I hear the bot spout out.

Number One bursts into laughter at it, but I don't find it the least bit humorous. "Let's see you run back," he yells, chuckling.

I shake my head no as I gasp at the air around me, thankful I don't have to do this with a mask on. "Let's not."

"Run," Number One growls. "Now."

My lips furls up in disgust, but I do what I have to and bolt.

"I thought the bots were in charge of my training," I sneer once I reach the other side, wishing so bad I could just punch him in the face.

Number One smiles maliciously. "But I control him, you see?" he says rhetorically before belting out more instructions. "Time to jog. And please just do it so I don't have to make you." He expels a sigh, not because he's tired, but perhaps he's bored or simply fed up with my stubbornness.

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