Once all twenty had finished the training exercise, Gary entered the hall from the door to the left. Those trainees looked curiously at him, and the officer overseeing the training greeted him.
“PEC Storm. Good news I take it?”
“Indeed,” Gary stated. “The section I head has now got a new rank to fill. I’m here to see if three of your high-tier trainees are ready to move into it.”
“They are the top of their class, and ready to fill the ranks of the regular force. If three of the students here pass your test, they can move into your section.”
The trainees looked excited at the prospect of being chosen, and Gary could sense their eagerness. Their body language suggested they were ready now. He wanted to make sure. Being a Primary Commander meant accepting the best.
“Do we have the results of that last test?” Gary asked.
He was shown the results on one of the monitors, and looked at the various statistics shown. There were differences between time taken, attacks landed, energy lost, and other data relating to the combat. He didn’t feel that those who were best should automatically get through, so split the group into fives based on that data – best to worst – with the idea of selecting two from each group.
“Use your training swords,” Gary advised. “This will be tough.”
The first five entered the simulation zone – now formed as an office room – and the red formless creatures appeared again, though in a deeper shade of red that was almost black.
The creatures attacked with little regard for the furniture in the room, even using the items as weapons. The trainees were doing everything they could to defeat the creatures. One, two, three went down, leaving two remaining. The trainees quickly finished those, then rematerialized outside of the simulation zone once the last creature had vanished.
The same played out with the other three groups, though in the last, four of the trainees were defeated with only two of the creatures down. The one remaining managed to hold out for a few minutes more, taking another two creatures out, but failed to finish the job. Gary was still impressed that he had lasted as long as he had, and was considering that an automatic pass to the next test.
After reviewing the statistics of those last fights, he had the eight he wanted – having chosen three of the trainees from the first group.
“Those selected will now take up arms against each other in a free-for-all. However, the idea isn’t to be the last one standing. It’s about the skills you use to attack and defend, and how you approach the fight. If you are ready, head to a panel and prepare to enter the final test.”
The eight selected trainees stood next to a panel with left wrists raised to shoulder height.
“Form the simulation.”
A varied amount of colours started building in the simulation zone, rising up from the ground, until several brightly coloured structures had formed.
“A play park?” one of the trainees asked in a cynical tone.
“Learning to fight in varied places is essential,” Gary said, surprised at the outburst. “Every time you train, the battlefield is different. Just as in the real world, you could end up fighting in a place similar. Never forget that.” Gary turned back to those who waited to enter. Upon giving the command, they placed their wrist panels against those of the simulation zone’s, and materialised inside.
Standing in a circle as best as possible with the structures of the play park, none of the trainees had drawn a sword. Gary smiled, knowing this would be interesting.
Upon that word, seven of the trainees launched into the fight, with the eighth – the one who had survived from the final group – sidestepping to the right and climbing the steps of the slide.
In the scuffle that was now happening, it was a tangle of arms and a few kicks planted, but nothing was breaking them apart.
One of the group was thrown to the side, and it was that which broke the group up. A female with red hair streaked with blue leapt onto one of the swings. It flew into the air, hit its apex, then swept back down. At its lowest point, the female let go and flew through the air to land an attack, which was only narrowly avoided by her target. She landed in a crouch, and blocked the counter-attack that had been aimed at her.
The one on the slide had seen an opportunity and flung himself down it, using the speed as he hit the bottom to power an attack into two others who had ventured into line with it. The two he hit were pushed back – one hitting the floor – and when they looked for where the attack had come from, their attacker had already launched himself up and was scrambling to get on top of a climbing frame.
The first defeat came when the female used a seesaw to distract an opponent – having stepped onto the lowest side then ran across it when one of the trainees came to attack. That lowest point had lifted and tripped the other, which the female took advantage of and reduced the other’s energy to zero. He respawned outside the simulation zone, and stepped back to watch.
Another of the trainees was making progress, having tackled the two who had previously been hit. He was stepping to the left and right, dodging the attacks of the other two – who had now seemingly teamed up – and striking when he could. An opportunity arose to destroy the temporary alliance, and he took it, deflecting the attack of one into the other. The latter pushed the other away, in which that one then attacked, leaving them open to attack from the one who had broke them apart. Within a few hits, both despawned.
That male then moved up onto the climbing frame, to get at the one who was still there. He hadn’t moved since his last attack, but he noticed the one approaching him.
Gary noticed a few things between these two. The one climbing had dark shadows around his eyes, but this seemed a permanent fixture rather than any form of illness or injury. These eyes were looking determined, locked onto the other up top.
And this one was also an interesting one, since he was waiting for opportunities rather than making them. His face was paler than the others, and he looked at the one who climbed with a blank expression. Gary noticed a few moments before it happened that his body was in waiting to make a leap down.
As eye-shadow, as Gary named him, made a grab for pale-face’s foot, the latter let go of the rope he was holding. Falling forward, the hand that had previously held rope now had a grip on eye-shadow’s hand and pulled him down to the ground. They both hit with a thud, and eye-shadow beat pale-face to standing by mere seconds. Pale-face didn’t have time to fully orient himself, as eye-shadow was already upon him.
Red-hair was making progress on the other trainees still left while the two males fought each other. Again pale-face was holding out longer than Gary had expected him to against a stronger opponent, but still he fell. All it took was reacting that bit later to a kick thrown out to defeat him. Red-hair had taken out the remaining two trainees, so it was just her and eye-shadow left.
The two met in an area of the play park that hadn’t been used yet. The wooden bridge had two slopes on either end that curved ninety degrees to face the rest of the park, and within the middle had two slides – one straight and one spiral.
Red-hair and eye-shadow side-stepped up the slopes of the bridge until they faced each other near the middle. Neither reacted, but the tension to strike was high. Gary knew this would more than likely be a one attack finish.
The tension was broke by eye-shadow, who charged forward with his right arm held up across his forehead as though to pin the other against the side. Red-hair grabbed that arm, but then eye-shadow’s left fist came up to strike. With both of her hands holding his right, the only thing she could do was twist out of the way. Still holding onto eye-shadow though, she used the momentum of that twist to throw him down the slide. Still holding his arm, the two tumbled down the straight slide until they hit the bottom, where she came up victorious and dug both knees into him. However, his left fist had managed to strike her side, leaving neither a true victor.
As we get closer to release, there'll be more information released on here, and maybe one or two more previews. There will be a bit more insight to the why, but I want to save that - as ever - for when the book itself releases. With just a month and two weeks to go, the promotion of this one is set to continue.