Chapter 4 - Get Settled

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After the meeting with Vasco things had moved at an alarming pace. Codi found herself signing a mountain of forms and wavers agreeing to all the various terms of competing in the Gauntlet. Some were financial wavers, penalties should she abandon the program, others disclosure agreements, most of it designed to keep someone in the competition. That suited her fine; she had nowhere else to go.

Only one clause in particular grabbed her attention – a frightening but not unexpected requirement to accept the possibility of grievous injury in the competition itself, leaving the organising powers-that-be unaccountable if anything serious happened.

Eventually after navigating the layers of bureaucracy she was shown to her new accommodation within the academy itself, situated on the middle floor. Her first thought: it wasn’t much of a step up from her previous situation. Vasco swung the small, steel-coloured door open revealing a chamber not unlike a prison cell.

The bed glared at her from the far corner, a featureless white rectangle with the duvet and sheets neatly folded. Just inside the door to the right a chair and desk were positioned, and along the far wall was a wardrobe made of grey painted wood. A tiny door in the left hand wall opened off into a cubicle containing a toilet and shower. Despite the unremarkable nature of her new living space, Codi was gratified to note the presence of a telescreen built into the wall above the desk.

“Don’t get any ideas, kid,” Vasco grunted, seeing her eyeing the screen. “It’s not linked to the planet net. You’ll be watching what I tell you to watch.”

“Wow, you’re a regular little dictator, aren’t you?” she returned. He looked at her for a moment, then shrugged and turned away, back into the corridor. She followed him through the gridiron arrangement of corridors till they reached a large canteen area, with six tables arranged symmetrically. A kitchen area joined on to the canteen at the far end with two large fridges, an oven and a sink.

“This is where you’ll have your meals,” he said, gesturing to the area with a wave of his hand. “Three a day, and better than the slop that orphanage will have been feeding you. Breakfast is seven-thirty sharp every morning. Sleep in and you’ll be training on an empty stomach. Understand?”

Codi rolled her eyes and changed the subject. “So how many other kids are in this place with me then?”

“Four.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. What were you expecting, a damned army?”

“Not quite,” she snapped. “But that means you’ve only got enough of us to field one team.”

“True enough.” Vasco nodded. “But one team is all we need. If we start the tournament with five then the rules say all competitors are eligible even if there is an injury or withdrawal.”

“But some of the big academies have four or five whole teams!”

“What do you want from me?” he growled. “I can only work with what I’ve got. This dump of a training centre barely has the gear to train a single team in the first place. We couldn’t afford any more competitors if we wanted to.” Rounding, he motioned with his head back the way they’d come. “Now since you’re so interested, it’s time to meet the rest of the team.”

Codi fell into step behind him as he led her back to the elevator. Once inside he punched the button marked with a large blue “B.” From its position on the panel she assumed that meant the basement. Vasco said nothing during the brief decent and all she could do was shift her weight uncomfortably as she waited to be introduced to the four individuals who would be her training partners.

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