The food hall was like a large restaurant, with pretty oak tables decorated with newly polished cutlery and pastel table cloths. There was a buffet set up along the back wall with a tower of plates and row after row of different foods, each stored in heavy steel trays that added to the quantity of steam already flooding the room.
At least fifty children were already in the hall, much to Sara’s surprise. She realised all too suddenly that she was staying in cabin one hundred and nineteen, and there was therefore one hundred and ninety nine other cabins left spare for other hybrids. She was amazed by quite how many were making their way in to fill their stomachs, each with a ravenous look in their eyes.
“Look at them all,” Erika breathed, “There’s tons of them.”
Callum smirked, “There’s hundreds, although now we’re got to stick together.”
“Why?” Jay raised an eyebrow, “Can’t we mingle?”
Everyone’s eyes turned to Sara and Erika who were stood side by side, as if the leaders of some bizarre social group. They exchanged a look, meeting each other’s eyes for less than a second before they reacted.
“Sure, you can talk to other people,” Sara said slowly.
“But you still have to live with us,” Erika added, “And we don’t want to cause any rivalry.”
The group joined the queue for the buffet, Sara first, and then Erika, Devin, Jay, Callum, and Ruby at the back. She looked disgruntled by this and rubbed her stomach with a pained expression. Slowly, she changed her skin tone to blend into the background and pulled off the clothes she was wearing. Confident that she wouldn’t suddenly become visible, she handed her clothes to Erika and made her way to the front of the queue. Erika passed her clothes forward, rolling her eyes, and watched as what appeared to be nothing but air pulled on a pair of shoes.
“Smooth,” Devin muttered as he finally reached the plates.
“Don’t lie,” Callum scolded, “You’d do it too, given the opportunity.”
Devin tilted his head in agreement and followed the lead of Sara, who’d loaded her plate up with spaghetti carbonara and some slices of garlic bread. Then he followed her over to a table opposite the buffet where Ruby was already tucking into a meal of beef casserole with a pleased look on her face. The others joined them at the table happily and they all enjoyed the fresh, warm food, restoring their energy levels after the swim from earlier.
The Leader strode into the food hall unnoticed, hiding behind a long black coat and a pair of sunglasses. His shoes squeaked on the tiled floor as he walked, moving swiftly to the centre of the room. He’d been preparing this all afternoon, and having the entire Alpha Team assembled was the perfect opportunity.
“Hybrids, I wish to share some important information with you,” his voice boomed around the hall, and he waited until they were all seated before he continued: “It is time that you all learned to fight. We have altered your training schedules to ensure that you gain experience in physical combat, as well as extra skills in other beneficial subjects.”
No one spoke. No one even moved. This shock announcement was enough to startle even the most trained hybrids. In all of their time at the facility, they had never had to fight each other. There were competitive scenarios, such as races and challenges, but never a situation in which they were to bring harm to one another.
“From here on,” the Leader continued, “There will be selected fights every night which will be assessed by the guards and I, and your progress will be evaluated.”
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