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A Killing Glare (Part 1): Cadet 787
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 28 January 2004, 8:49 PM

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      The wind howled through the ruins of the ancient temple, its sound distorted by the pillars that still stood in silent tribute to the glory of what had once stood there. Sreka Rokemee noticed the wind, but did not let it disturb him as he knelt in the center of the ruins, on a little patch of dirt. Instead, it was as if he and the wind became one, his breath and the sighs of the wind one and the same. Sreka was meditating, losing his awareness and his soul in the calm and the peace of the hilltop ruins.
      Sreka was about to begin warrior training to become a member of the Covenant military. To become a true Elite. He needed to become a warrior more than anything in the universe. A fate worse than death awaited those who failed training. Elites were a warrior race and it was not fitting for an Elite not to pass training. Those that failed were looked down upon, cast out. They could try again, and if they passed, they could regain their lost honor, but some simply lost hope and disappeared from society. Sreka had to become a warrior. He knew it like he knew his soul. It was his destiny.
      Training was very hard and very brutal. Some cadets died during training. Others failed. But the majority passed and became the warriors that they all longed to be. He would be leaving in two days. He had prepared his whole life for the military training program. He knew how to fight effectively in hand-to-hand combat and had done strength and endurance training as part of his daily routine. He was as ready as he ever could be. But there was still that feeling, that fear of failure that seemed to maintain a presence in the back of his mind, like a splinter that could not be removed.
      And that was why Sreka was at the ruins. It was a day's hike on foot from his home city. There were other modes of transportation, but Sreka had decided that what would probably be his last trip to his favorite site for meditation should be a special one. So he had gone on foot, taking three days worth of food with him. Sreka contemplated what lay in store for him and could not tell what the gods had planned for him. He offered a prayer, but received no response. He hadn't expected one anyway.
      It was time to turn his back on his past and ready himself for the future.

Early morning/
Elite Training Facility 11-Kappa

      Sreka Rokemee squinted and raised his arm to shield his eyes from the flying sand as the transport lifted off from the landing site and sped off into the distance, followed by eleven other transports. Once the dust had settled, Sreka looked around. Standing in a group around him were fourteen other Elites from his city. He knew most of them. Close by were eleven other groups of Elites. Each of the groups was from a different city and they all were looking around, unsure of what to do, shuffling their feet anxiously.
      "I do not trust any of these non-locals," a young Elite named Katt said. Sreka looked out over the field and saw that the other groups were eyeing each other warily, not sure of who they could trust.
      Sreka shivered. It was bitterly cold here. He wished that he had brought some warmer garments. He had already been given a number. He was cadet 787. As far as the military was concerned, he had no real name until he passed the training. That was fine with him. He was willing to go through all sorts of disgraces if it meant he could be a warrior.
      "Look! Those are the trainers," Sreka's friend Sorrta said, gesturing towards a group of tall Elites that were striding out of the buildings that made up Elite Training Facility 11-Kappa. They were fully armored, but their armor was not the armor of the military Elites. It was a dull gray color. Sreka wondered if they had fully functional shields. It was possible. The trainers stood in little groups, eyeing the cadets with expressions bordering on contempt. They glared at the cadets, pointing at them and conversing quietly among themselves. Occasionally, one would burst into laughter. It was not friendly laughter. It sounded forced and mocking, as if these trainers weren't capable of real laughter. The cadets drew back in fear of these strangers that would become the masters of their lives soon.
      "Look at them. Do you see the sidelong glances and the way they whisper with each other? They are assessing us," Sorrta said to Sreka.
      "What do you think we should do?" Sreka said.
      "We should look calm, show them that we are ready for whatever they can throw at us. Show them that we are ready to become warriors," Sorrta said.
      "They won't make us stand here like this forever, will they? I mean, it's cold out here!" Katt said.
      And sure enough, the group of trainers broke off into twelve groups of two, each pair striding towards a group of cadets. Sreka's eyes met those of the lead trainer that was walking towards them. It was an angry face, one full of hatred and disgust. Sreka felt fear for this Elite and he had not even met him. He was taller than his partner, who had a less intimidating air about him. They stopped in front of the fifteen young Elites that made up Sreka's group and studied them up close.
      "Has there been some sort of mistake Neta? Have they sent us a group of frightened little children instead of Elites on the verge of becoming warriors?" the first Elite snarled in disbelief to this partner.
      "If this is what new generations of Elites are like, then there is truly no hope of us ever defeating the humans," Neta answered.
      Sreka cringed. To say that Sreka and his comrades were so incompetent and weak that they could not ever hope of defeating humans in battle was an insult that could not be ignored. And it seemed that his friends agreed. Their postures took on the look of defiance and their expressions took on the look of outrage or disbelief. And the trainers took notice of this.
      "Obviously they are not fit to become warriors. Maybe we should just kill the lot of them and save ourselves the trouble of undergoing the impossible task of training them," the first one said. Sreka had already formed a dislike of this one.
      "Let us see just how unfit they are, Roka," Neta said, his face distorting into a feral grin that spoke of anticipation of blood.
      "Test them? I agree. Fifteen to one odds are too great even for the incredible fighting prowess of warriors like you and I, but I am willing to split them eight to seven," Roka said.
      "Only seven for me? I will take on nine of these paper-thin children and you can have the other six," Neta said.
      "Nine of them will strain even your combat abilities. I will take ten and you can have the other five," Roka said.
      "Fine. It seems that you have overstretched your abilities once again, Roka. While you attempt to defeat ten of them, I will shrug off the other five with ease," Neta said.
      Sreka's senses were on high alert. He was entering what seemed to be a combat situation with his own trainers and he was not sure what he should do.
      "You five! Over here now!" Neta yelled, pointing at five cadets who drew back in fear. But the fear of not obeying overrode their fear of the unknown and they approached Neta.
      "The rest of you come here. Fight me. Show me what you are capable of," Roka said.
      Sreka and the others stood there in disbelief, not wanting to get in a fight with this trainer whose very movements struck fear into their hearts.
      "You heard him! Attack, you filthy infidels!" Neta yelled.
      They closed in, forming a loose circle around Roka. Sreka noticed that the others were doing to the same to Neta. He could not believe this. They had just been ordered to fight their trainers! Looking out over the field, he noticed that some of the other groups were already marching off of the field towards the training complex. This was ridiculous. But he did not have time to think about that now. He had to concentrate. If he was going to fight his trainer, he was going to do his best. Maybe it was true, what they said about how you could never truly know someone until you have fought them. Maybe this was just the first of many tests that his trainers had thought up for them.
      Sreka and his comrades were by no means weak. They had spent their whole lives preparing for the training, and all knew how to fight in hand-to-hand combat. There were ten of them and there was only one trainer. They should be able to defeat him, maybe even incapacitate him. The only problem was his armor. If it had shields, there would be no way to damage Roka directly until his shields were down, and then, they still had the armor to deal with. Fortunately, Elite armor did not cover its wearer completely. Sreka was confident that he could exploit any weaknesses that he found.
      "You! Why do you hide behind your comrades like a coward? Come out and fight me!" Roka yelled, pointing at Katt. Katt walked around Sreka and approached Roka cautiously. Sreka noticed that he was trembling, though it was probably because of the cold, not because of fear. There was not doubt that he was afraid, but it would be cowardly to show it.
      "You stand there like a poor beggar begging for food!" Roka said with a mocking laugh.
      Katt was taken aback by the insult. He was from a distinguished line of Elite blood and was by no means a beggar. He was about to say something when Roka, in a move that was not telegraphed in any way, punched him in the stomach, hard. Katt was not wearing any armor and Roka was very strong. Katt doubled over, gasping. Roka punched him again in the exact same spot and this time, he twisted his fist for extra punishment. Tears of pain sprang to Katt's eyes as the armored fist smashed into his stomach. Katt stumbled backwards, struggling to maintain his balance, but Roka delivered a viscous kick to the side of his head, spinning him around. Katt collapsed to the dirt, passed out from the pain.
      Roka laughed. The cadets got over their shock and together, they charged Roka from all sides. He was fast, very fast. Cadets delivered sharp kicks and punches to Roka, but his armor protected him. It did not have the rechargeable energy shields that military Elite armor had, but it was still armor nonetheless. Laughing, Roka struck out with every part of his body, throwing off cadets like they were nothing by flies. Sreka aimed a kick at Roka's unprotected mandibles but Roka somehow managed to catch his foot. Yanking him around, Sreka was thrown to the ground. He got back up and his eyes met those of his friend Sorrta. Sorrta nodded and together, they attacked Roka. Sorrta was the strongest of the cadets in the group and he came at Roka from behind and wrapped his arms around him, pinning them to his side.
      Roka roared in rage as Sreka landed a kick to his face, snapping his head back. Sreka was about to punch him a few times when Roka, in an incredible display of strength, broke free of Sorrta's hold and flipped him over his shoulder. Sorrta landed in a heap in front of Roka. Shrugging off two other cadets, Roka delivered a kick to Sorrta's head as he was trying to get up. Dazed, he collapsed. Sreka saw that Sorrta was out of the fight. Cursing, Sreka watched as Roka head-butted a cadet in front of him and kicked one behind him. The ground around Roka was littered with the bodies of cadets, either unconscious or crawling away.
      Sreka felt hatred for this trainer. How could he do this? What was the point? Sreka did not know, but he decided that he was going to make Roka pay. Sreka was good at the martial arts and he intended for Roka to find that out the hard way. Uttering a cry of rage that would have frightened any normal creature but not this monster of a trainer, Sreka charged at him, tackling him to the ground. Roka emitted a howl of rage that did frighten Sreka and he punched Sreka twice in the side of the head. Momentarily stunned, Sreka was not able to pin Roka in place so that the few remaining cadets could pound him. Roka took advantage of this and threw him off. Roka sprung to his feet, blocking a punch from his right and sweeping the feet out from under another cadet.
      Sreka got to his feet. He kicked Roka in the back of the head and then behind his right knee. The knee collapsed and Roka fell. Sreka did not let up and he continued to punish this trainer with his fists, until his knuckles were bleeding from hits against the armor. Roka rose and sent Sreka to the ground with a powerful punch that connected with his mandibles. Sreka coughed as he rose from the ground and some drops of dark purple blood fell from his mouth to the dirt in front of him.
      Looking around, he saw that Neta had already finished with his five cadets, all of whom were unconscious. Looking back at Roka, he realized that he was the only cadet that was still on his feet. He stared at Roka, letting his hatred for the trainer show on his face as he approached him. Roka snickered and swung with his armored fist. Sreka blocked it and winced from the pain of the armor connecting with his skin. Sreka aimed a kick at Roka's stomach but it was caught by Roka's other hand. Using Roka's hand for leverage, Sreka leapt into the air and delivered a kick to Roka's mandibles. Sreka fell to the ground as Roka stumbled backwards. Sreka sprung back to his feet to take advantage of Roka's momentary lapse in concentration, but was smashed back to the ground by Roka's merciless armored foot.
      Roka laughed and said to Neta, "See, I told you they were weak,"
      Neta nodded and was about to answer when he saw Sreka struggle back to his feet to stand behind Roka. Seeing Neta staring over his shoulder, Roka turned around and was shocked to see Sreka still standing there. Blood oozed from Roka's mouth. Sreka's last kick must have done some damage. That made Sreka happy. It did not give him hope though. He knew that there was no chance of him defeating this armored monster. But Sreka would not give up. That went against the core of his being, the very fighting spirit that had kept him alive before.
      Shaking his head, Roka kicked Sreka in the chest, and once more, Sreka found himself on the ground staring up at a cold, uncaring, gray sky. Suddenly, that image was replaced by the image of Roka standing over him. Sreka attempted to sit up, to fight on, but Roka kicked him again, this time in the head. Stars exploded in front of Sreka's eyes and for a moment, he could not tell what was happening. Tears of pain filled his eyes. Ashamed at the tears, but not yet ready to give up, Sreka started to sit back up. Putting his foot on Sreka's chest, Roka gently pushed him back down to the ground. This time, Sreka stayed there.
      "The heart of a warrior beats in your chest, cadet. You just might make it through training. But remember one thing. I will be watching you," Roka said.
      And with that, he walked off and began the task of urging all of the cadets back to some semblance of consciousness and mobility. Once they were all on their feet, he and Neta ordered them to form ranks.
      "Welcome to Elite Training Facility 11-Kappa. It is a long way to the barracks, cadets. And you will march every step of the way. In double time," Neta snarled.
      And off they went, swaying with pain and exhaustion. Sreka glared at the cold gray sky. He hated it here already. But he knew that it had to be endured. He had to become a warrior. It was his destiny.

To be continued...