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The Basic Training building is a metal box. The walls are so thin that they shake when the wind blows. Standing outside the rolling door, I can hear the chaos that is the young military force of Compound 5. There's yelling, screaming, and singing. Chaos just scratches the surface. Lexi stands beside me on the right; Naomi on the left.

"Welcome to the BT building," Colonel Rivers says behind us.

He met us at the school building after class dismissed, carrying a suitcase for each of us. Apparently, we weren't allowed to go home and pack. Our parents were told to pack bags for us. We could go home Sunday, Rivers tells us, shrugging.

"Well, go on in," Rivers tells us now, prodding the back of my leg with his steel toed boot, "They don't bite that hard."

It's Lexi that strides forward first, dragging her bag behind her. When she pulls the door up, the room drops quiet.

If I thought the eyes in the classroom were bad, this is worse.

Row upon row of metal bunk beds line the building. There are three columns of beds, and I can't see the end of them. People are scattered around the room, sitting on the floor, dangling off top bunks, and laying on the bottom bunks. Most of them are either playing cards, reading on their tablets or in the middle of what looks like red hands.

Rivers gives me a shove. This time I give in, walking forward.

My knees shake when I walk; my stomach feels like it is upside down.

"You'll be sleeping in the back, together hopefully," Rivers says, "It makes the adjustment easier if you stay together."

Lexi has already skipped ahead, scanning the faces in the crowd. They all smirk back at her, sizing her up.

"Here," Rivers says, pointing to two bunks in the middle aisle. The mattress' are folded in half, a clump of sheets and pillows in the middle. Someone has taped a piece of paper with our names on it to the beds.

"I call top," Lexi blurts, throwing her bag on the ground and diving in to make up her bed.

"When do we report for work?" Naomi asks, crossing her hands behind her back, "And where?"

"Your respective Captains will meet you outside the BT bunks in the morning, after breakfast, which is served outside on the front yard. You'll know when."

There's a tone of amusement in his voice, like he knows something we don't.

"Austin, you look terrified," he says to me as Naomi turns away to the bottom bunk across from Lexi. "Your face is green."

"I'm sorry, sir," I say, clearing my throat, "It's a big adjustment."

"It'll be easier than you think," he mutters, squeezing my shoulder, "See you in the morning. Sleep good."

He disappears, and as soon as the door shuts, the world around us explodes. Grown men and women go back to talking and playing, most of them ignoring our existence. Naomi is rummaging through her bag; Lexi is laid out on the top bunk, spread eagle with her hair dangling over the edge.

I make up my bed and decide to see what my parents packed for me.

In the bag, I find plain pajamas, some t-shirts, the blanket that my mom made for me, and my tablet. It's really bare, and I can tell they rushed through packing it. Mom didn't even fold the clothes. On the bottom, I find a folded up note.


Have fun at the BT building. Make friends. Be nice. Shower on a regular basis, and make sure you clean your belly button out. Don't forget to come see us.

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