August 12, 2008

When I woke up this morning, I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Only now, eating breakfast next to Cade do I remember why.
You see, students of fire, or at least the regular ones without titles, are organized by numbers, with higher numbers being the most powerful fighters. That way, in battle, the more powerful ones can take charge. Currently I'm a nine, and Mark, Zander, Chris, Keleigh, and a few others are tens. The most common rank is four, and anything below that gets you sent back to boot camp.
Every year, all students of fire who aren't fighting have to take an evaluation to determine your rank. We determine this with a series of battles against monsters or other students of fire, or one time even a huge robot. The most enemies defeated by one person was over two hundred fifty opponents.
But even if you lose out at fighting, you can get your score raised by showing really great mental strength. That's why Mark gets ten every time. He's unnaturally good at tactics, and is a great fighter, about as good as me. I'm just not as smart.
Anyway, we have these tests once every year. I actually enjoy them sometimes, because it's interesting to see how well I can do, and to see what kind of opponents they brought in for the tests. The reason I have a bad feeling is because last year, this dragon got lose while I was sleeping, and it almost ate me.
There's also tag battles though, but I don't think I'll try this year. I'm best at fighting with my friend Grace, and she isn't here.

Once me and Cade are done eating, we go to the practice fields. The practice fields are six outdoor coliseums roughly the size of the indoor gymnasiums. There's already a small crowd there, and Mark looks excited. He has to participate too, and if his number score goes down, he loses his leadership title. I know he won't, though. He's probably excited because he got some interesting opponents this year.
"Alright, we have everybody we need for today. We all know how these work, right?"
We all say yes.
"Good. We've got some interesting opponents this year. Now keep in mind, no killing your opponents, and even if you have a gun or something, it has some custom bullets. The other guy'll feel them, but it won't hurt em'. Anyway, I'm getting off track here, this arena is the combat arena. That one" He points to the next one down "Is for mental tests. The third one down is for team battles, and the fourth is squad-on-squad fights. Unless you've been tested, you can't watch though. A third of us tested last night, so they'll already be watching. Anyway, good luck!"
"Would Danny Mueller please enter" Said a heavily tanned girl holding a clipboard.
A short guy in an undershirt and jeans comes forward and goes in. The rest of us scatter to mess around. Cade and I sit under a nearby tree, and a few other of our friends join us. We're sitting in the shade, talking, when a loud explosion goes off in the arena, making us all jump.
"What do you think Mark brought this time?" Wonders Tom Blair
"Who knows?" I reply "I'm not worried about the fighting things though. I'm worried that I'll get downgraded in the mental half. I'm trying to keep my rank at nine or ten, but I doubt I'll get ten."
"Yeah, me too." Says Cade
Right then, the tan girl comes up and says
"Cade Chamberlain, your turn."
Cade nods and stands up.
"Good luck" I say. She smiles and walks off towards the arena.

After a roughly two hour wait, it's my turn. I'm excited to see what Mark had brought in. Whenever he's on a mission, he's also hunting for people to come in and help us out in this test. Because of that, we always have a diverse crowd of opponents from tons of dimensions. I reach the armory in front of the field, and look through the weapons. I select my favorites, a shotgun, a saber, a long knife, and a small pistol. Mark's standing at the door to the field.
"Ready?" He asks.
"Ready as I'll ever be, I guess."
"Good. Good luck"
Mark opens the door, and I step into the sunlight. Now, I've fought a lot of things, but this one was one of the strangest things I've ever had to fight. It's basically a circle in shape, with a metal mask, a cape, and a sword. Yellow eyes stare at me from behind the mask. Then the doors close behind me, and it charges me. Usually a charge against me is a good thing, because a blind rush towards me is about all I can ask for. But the thing was, using it's sword, this thing basically made a drill and came at me at roughly fifty miles per hour. I could only just dodge the blade, and I pull out the shotgun. I aim it carefully at the mask, and pull the trigger. That's when I realize that I made one of the dumbest mistakes in history. I took the shotgun, but I didn't pick up any shells. The gun wasn't loaded. I check the pistol, and sure enough, no bullets. I swear under my breath. I pull out the sword, but I know this won't be a great fight for me right away.
This time it doesn't make a drill, it does more of a tornado of slashes at me. I manage to block a few of the swings when he first reaches me, but in the end, he's to fast with the sword and knocks my blade out of my defensive position, leaving me open. He gets in what feels like thirty slashes before I manage to get him away with a fireball. Now that I'm using fire, I doubt he'll last much longer, but every wave, ball, and line of fire I throw at him, he manages to dodge. Finally, I'm fed up with this. I snap my fingers, and a tiny, but extremely hot spark comes off them. To hide it, I throw several more fireballs at him, which he of course dodges. But the explosion that comes from the spark he gets hit by. The force of the blast sends him into the air, and I'm sure I won. But then people start pointing into the air, and I look up.
At first I think he's using his cape to slow his descent like a parachute, but then either side flaps. The cape turned into wings, and now the guy is flying straight at me. He's coming to quick, I know that for sure, and I know I can't sword fight him and win. But, now that he's flying at high speeds in a straight line, he can't dodge as well as he could. I snap my fingers one more time, and this time the blast is bigger. I know that a blast of that size would kill him though, so I manage to keep the flames from touching him. He remains on course, but knows he's been beat, and lands in front of me.
Now that the fighting's stopped, I check the injuries he gave me. I look like a giant cat attacked me. My stomach and chest are bleeding slightly, but not too badly. We weren't trying to kill each other after all. Finally, a few medics come out and look us over. I get a few band-aids and my opponent gets burn ointment. Then, we shake hands, and he gets taken off the field. I'm left waiting for the next opponent.
The next thing to come out is a hydra, and I instinctively hold my breath. A hydra has poisonous breath, so we only have about a minute at best to beat the things, but I find them easy. I just get it over quickly. I rush in, avoid the heads striking at me, and cut a head off. I use a fireball and seal the limb, and move on to the next eight. I kill it fast, and am done.
Now I know you're thinking how cruel it is to capture the thing only to kill it, but monsters die different than us. A monster gets it's body sucked through a portal, and pulled back into the monster world, where the body will regenerate and become a hollow shell. From there, some evil spirit will possess it, and it'll go back to eating people. I've actually been to the monster world, but that's a story for another time.
My next few opponents are monsters too, and they're just as easy to beat. Then I'm given a "break" so I can go to do the mental testing. I limp off the arena, since a troll smacked my leg with a club. I head for the second coliseum, and notice something odd as soon as I enter. A roof had been put over the top, making the inside pitch dark. I walk in, and find a hallway leading in.
"A maze" I say to myself.
"Very good" says a voice.
I look to where it came from, and see a monitor on a side wall. There's not a face or anything, just a fancy letter L and a plain white background.
"Who're you?" I ask the screen.
"Isn't it obvious?" Asks the voice "It says it right there on the screen."
"Why do I doubt that?" I ask.
"This is your test, correct" It's a maze, but isn't just on the floor of the coliseum. It goes deep underground. If you take the right paths, you'll find puzzles to solve, and if you solve them all, the door to me will open. If you reach inside my room, I'll give you one last test, and if you do that correctly, you'll be the second to totally pass. A few have gotten to see me, but only one has completely passed the test."
"Lemme guess" I say "Mark passed, right?"
"Yes. Now, find me if you can."