Chapter 10 - Not So Friendly

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 Codi woke up early on the morning of the friendly. Too early. She sat in the canteen at seven o’clock, before even Vasco arrived, nursing a glass of water as she thought. In her head she ran through every combat technique she could remember, the weapon systems, the stances, the reactions, the blocks, the attacks; three weeks of painfully accumulated fighting knowledge.

She knew she was making herself crazy, but she couldn’t help it. Taking a sip from the water, she dug her free hand into her thick black locks and closed her eyes. Codi heard the light footsteps entering the room but didn’t deign to react.

“Can’t sleep either?” Lita enquired, sitting down opposite her.

Codi gave a grunt of ascent but didn’t open her eyes.

“Yeah, I’m nervous too.”

“Never said I was nervous.”

“It’s kind of obvious.”

“Fine.” She opened her eyes and took another sip of water. Looking across the table she saw Lita with her hands resting on the table in front of her, fingers tightly interlocked. The pair sat there in an uneasy silence for the better part of half an hour, wrapped up in their own heads until Vasco arrived to start making breakfast. He noticed them – Codi saw that much – but he didn’t say anything. Instead he just strode into the kitchen area like it was any other day and set to work.

Just before eight the twins and Max appeared, seemingly at ease, but when Max sat down she spotted the nervous twitch at the edges of his smile.

“How we all feeling?” Lucas chimed, irrepressible as ever. “Dunno about you guys, but I feel like someone’s doing a barn dance in my stomach.”

“Nervous?” Max said.

The twin grinned. “Excited.”

Codi shook her head, unable to keep a smile from slipping across her face. For now she stopped analysing inside her head and relaxed a little. Having the others around reminded her: you’re not in this alone. When Vasco served up the usual breakfast of thick porridge she forced it down despite the butterflies in her stomach. Regardless of nerves, Codi knew she’d need the energy later in the day.

Their meal passed quickly, the conversation sparse. She could almost feel the apprehension beating from them, any why shouldn’t they be apprehensive? This would be the first true test of what they’d learned. Codi didn’t want to think about what would happen if they messed it up.

“The tournament starts at noon,” Vasco said while clearing up the plates. “So I think I’ll take the morning to show you the arena.”

“There’s an arena here?” Codi asked.

Vasco gave her an incredulous look. “Where the hell did you think we were going to have this little friendly, kid?”

“Oh…I just, well I thought this place was so run down-,”

“It is.” He shrugged. “The arena used to be for when Brax-Delta had enough support behind it to field up to five teams. They held inter-team matches, competitions for recruits.” Then she saw a flash of something she’d never seen cross his face before: sadness. “But that was a long time ago.” He finished his chores in silence then beckoned them to follow.

After taking the elevator to the ground floor, Vasco led them through past the reception desk, down a long broad corridor with a double door looming at the far end. Codi saw a sliver of light sneaking through the tiny gap at the door’s base.

“First time this arena’s been used in a decade,” their instructor sighed as he gripped the handle. “Well, kids, take a good look.” With that he flung the door open, unleashing a blaze of sunlight and an invigorating waft of fresh air. Codi’s heart leapt when she realised the arena was outdoors.

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