Chapter 2 - The Call

76.2K 2.7K 410
                                    

Codi didn’t sleep that night. The orphanage had managed to give her the small comfort of a private room so no-one could see the tears. She couldn’t say what brought the flood of midnight emotion, but after lying in bed for a few hours with the latest day’s events plaguing her thoughts she’d simply lost control.

Now sitting at her desk, she looked out the window at the rising red globe of Kantha’s sun. The angular structures of the city centre reared up like a mountain, the rays of morning light splitting through them in a dazzling burst of red-gold. She glanced at her battered old alarm clock. Six o’clock in the morning. Gazing around the rest of her pitiful abode she felt another surge of whatever it was, and the tears threatened to come again. The orphanage room was little more than a glorified closet and she’d been stuck living in this one for four years now.

That was her life, unremarkable in every way. School bored her to the verge of tears, the city was a filthy, industrial mining smog field; even the planet Kantha itself made her feel part of something insignificant. The fringe world never did anything, made no impact on the galactic stage in any arena. It just churned out raw materials and sucked in the money it could get.

With a curse she sent the pile of schoolwork flying across the room with a savage sweep of one arm. What was the point? She’d be expelled by the end of the week and shipped off to some other dump to repeat the process. The tears started to flow again, trickling down both her cheeks. She slumped dejectedly in her seat, fantasising about what could have been.

When the sharp knock on the door snapped her out of her daydream almost half an hour had passed. Codi frowned in confusion. Breakfast at the orphanage wasn’t till eight. Wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her hoody, she stood and walked to the door. Peering through the peep-hole she saw the vulpine features of a woman that she recognised as the head administrator of the orphanage and her stomach flipped. What had she done now? Swallowing hard, she braced herself and hauled the door open.

“Miss James,” the tall, grey-haired woman began. “You have a phone call from your school.”

Codi felt almost sick. “Am I being expelled?”

“No. However, the man was quite insistent upon speaking to you in person.”

“He was? Who was it?”

“Mr. Barrow, head disciplinarian.” She blinked in surprise as the administrator continued. “If you’ll accompany to the reception area…” The woman gestured with one arm. Codi wiped her eyes again then stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind her. She walked quickly through the dilapidated, peeling corridors of the orphanage and down two flights of stairs till she reached the reception area. A young woman sat waiting expectantly with the phone beside her. Without a word Codi walked over and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

Codi? Is that you?

“Mr. Barrow?”

Yes it’s me. Listen, I need you to meet me at eight o’clock sharp this morning. I’ll pick you up from the orphanage. This is important.

Codi’s brow furrowed in bafflement. “What…has the headmaster decided yet?”

Not yet, but I know which way he’s leaning.”

“So what do you need to meet me for?”

So I can give you chance to fix your life before you screw it up for good, alright? Just meet me outside the orphanage at eight and I’ll explain everything. Oh, and best pack up all your clothes and anything sentimental you want to hang onto.” Before she could ask any more questions the line went dead. She handed the receiver back to the receptionist and stood there for a moment, mind racing over Barrow’s words.

The Gauntlet (The Gauntlet #1)Where stories live. Discover now