Chapter 5 - The First Day

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When her battered alarm clock woke her at seven o'clock Codi very nearly turned it off and went straight back to sleep. However, in the nick of time she remembered where she was and what she had to do. With a groan she sat fully upright before shutting off the piercing tone of her alarm, and then threw the thin covers away from her. The combination of missing last night's sleep and the long day that followed had meant she slept like a log.

Swinging her legs off the side of the bed she scrunched her toes against the featureless grey carpet. Light streamed in through the small window aperture, but when she looked over at it, Codi realised it faced the wrong way to see the sunrise. A small jab of disappointment hit her, but she shook her head and got down to the business at hand. Forcing herself to stand, she invaded the wardrobe and took stock.

Everything lay in meticulous organisation, with a boldly functional array of whites, greys and blacks. First she grabbed a towel, feeling the soft, feathery fabric between her fingers before slinging it over one shoulder. Then she delved into the clothing that had been provided. It wasn't much, but free was free. Tugging free a pair of black leggings and a long-sleeved grey top, she turned and crossed the room to the en-suite shower.

She glanced at the shower controls and found them to be gratifyingly simple. Only a single dial awaited her touch, with a series of coloured marks around it shifting from blue to red. In a single sharp motion Codi twisted the dial up into the red and the shower burst into life. In seconds hot water was gushing from the nozzle.

After washing away the previous two long, hard days, she struggled her way sleepily into the clothes and went back into the room. She slipped her feet into a pair of black plimsolls and reached for the door handle, but then an afterthought struck her. Turning to the desk, she swept up the empty locket and clipped it around her neck before leaving the room.

As she made her way through the corridors a niggling feeling of apprehension pressed its way into the back of her mind. The first day of Gauntlet training; what should she expect? Codi expected it to be tough at best; brutal at worst, but what she didn't know was how she'd handle it. Physical activity didn't worry her, but Drake Vasco did. If he was going to be standing over them like a drill instructor for the entire day then her temper would see things quickly spiral into chaos. She re-ran his words though her head. If you're going to compete, do exactly what I tell you.

She let out a resigned sigh. She owed it to Barrow to at least try and see this through. And whichever way she looked at it, this was an opportunity beyond anything she'd ever had.

Entering the canteen area, Codi found the rest of the group already there, the four of them seated at a table eating, drinking and chatting. To her surprise, Vasco himself stood in the kitchen area, cooking. He glanced around when she entered and nodded approvingly.

"Bang on time, kid," he said. "You're off to a good start."

"Thanks," she murmured, uncertain of what to do next.

Vasco beckoned her over. "C'mon, get some breakfast." She obeyed wordlessly, not looking at the others as she passed their table to the kitchen area. Vasco turned and placed a large steaming bowl of what looked like oatmeal in front of her.

"You a coffee drinker?"

"Uh-huh." A mug of coffee materialised a few seconds later. She stirred the food suspiciously with the spoon provided. "What is this stuff?"

"Think I'm trying to poison you?" Drake rolled his eyes. "It's a kind of porridge, but heavy with vitamin and protein supplements."

"Drugs?"

"It's not drugs, Codi. But it will give you a boost that normal people don't have...over time. Gauntlet fighters are not like everybody else. The preparation by necessity makes you hit harder, move faster, and it'll ramp up your pain threshold a few notches." He inclined his head to the food. "So shut up and eat so we can get on with the day."

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