Chapter XIX – The Forest

One day, after his field training, Rem was again early. He knew that he will be waiting for hours before Marybeth and the rest arrive. So, he went to the defense shooting area to spend some time.

After spending 15 minutes of running, dodging and shooting knives, Rem took a rest at the back of a huge boulder. He thought of formulating different strategies and at the same challenging himself. He decided to drop all his daggers and will just use the materials around him. He then picked rocks, ropes, pieces of woods, metals and a lot more.

While collecting some more materials, Rem noticed something unusual that was hidden in between two boulders. So, he reached for it. He smiled seeing that it was a book about computer – coding, peripherals, and much more. Upon closely checking, it was published just a few months ago.

Rem inspected it and just saw a marker-written code “C1201”. But, he doesn’t care if someone owned it. What he know was that he would love to read what’s inside and he’s excited about it. So, he just let one machine hit him five times to stop his training. He hid the book inside his suit, sneaked through the dome, then to his room and kept the book somewhere safe. Afterward, he took a bath so no one will suspect.

That night, after they were asked to go inside their corresponding rooms, Rem immediately opened the book and read it. Despite he was only using the light passing through his window, he didn’t care. Hours after, he just realized that he was already sleepy. He also found out that he was already on the 200th page. He took a rest.

The next training day, Dricks and Jimmy said to Rem that the defense shooting will only be done twice a week while the field training will be pulled after the feast. He got excited thinking that he will be training with Marybeth, Tatiana, Dreyford, and Randolph.

But, he was wrong.

After, Tatiana, Dreyford, and Randolph were asked to wear their Arkiman suit and instructed that they will go straight outside.

Rem was confused. He felt his heart was pounding and felt something strange with the development. However, he still went through the training. When he was on the field, he can’t help but stare through the forest. At lunch, Rem and Marybeth were both quiet and he knew she was also nervous.

For their forest training, they were asked to wear their green shirt and camouflage pants. They were ordered to just go outside the dome where their new trainers were waiting. From afar, Rem noticed a woman and a guy dressed in military outfits.

“Good morning trainees,” said the smiling woman.

She was about 5-foot-2 inches, medium built, brown eyes and dark hair like those of Asian Americans.

“Ms. Anderson, Bradley will be your teacher,” said the woman who gave her partner a light punch on his arm. “And Mr. Burrows, I am Jacklyn and I will be your forest tour guide.”

“Ms. Anderson, we have to start now,” said Bradley.

Bradley was tall, about 6-foot-3 in height, he came from black American descent, medium built but his muscles were bulging from his tight shirt, his lips were thick. He had fierce looks.

Rem again found a breath of fresh air knowing that he will be trained by a woman. While walking to the entrance of the forest, Rem can’t help but glance at her thinking how a woman that size can go through the forest.

Rem and Jacklyn stopped right in front of the entrance while Bradley and Marybeth continued to walk.

“Mr. Burrows, my main job here is to teach you how to survive in a forest,” said Jacklyn. “Every day, we will go through the forest. I will explain the plants and animals that can help you or endanger you. I will also teach you how to look for shelter and since I know the fact that you are already a sharpshooter, I won’t teach you too much hunting.”

“And because of that, we need this,” said Jacklyn showing a camera that was capable of automatic print up. “Follow me, Mr. Burrows.”

Jacklyn walked. Rem followed. Whenever she stumbled to a plant or animal that was either useful or dangerous, she will stop, give the name and will explain what it can do. She will also take a picture and will give the photo to him.

Rem got a little bored with the information being fed into his mind. For him, forestry was not his cup of tea.

*****

After a few hours of lurking around the forest, Jacklyn suddenly pulled him down.

“Rem, down!” said Jacklyn, grabbing him down by his arms and into the bushes.

From there, Rem was surprised with a man -wearing the Arkiman suit – anxiously running while constantly looking behind. Seconds later, two men and a woman appeared running after him. They were actually having fun while taunting the guy. His heart beat faster because he recognized the body type of the man. He tried to dismiss the idea.

Jacklyn’s phone rang.

“Yes,” said Jacklyn answering the phone. “Alright, we will be there,” she added then hang up.

“We should be going back now Burrows,” said Jacklyn while readying herself to go back. “Class dismissed!”

While walking, Rem can’t help but think why someone was being chased? He recalled that Vincent briefed him about the later part of their training that they will be up against previous trainees to put their skills into practical application.

After reaching the entrance of the forest, Rem saw Marybeth along with Bradley. They were already waiting for them outside. The two were asked to walk back to the dome.

While walking, Rem noticed that Marybeth was smiling.

“What’s up?” asked Rem.

“What?” said Marybeth, who still can’t hide her happiness.

“That smile Marybeth,” said Rem, forcing himself to smile back at her. “There’s something with that!”

“Alright, you got me. I won’t lie. I actually had fun doing the forest training,” said Marybeth. “I love it. I mean, I Luuhhv it,” she added with hand gestures.

Rem looked away and smiled while looking down. He concluded that she didn’t see what he saw earlier.

They are actually a few hours early. Marybeth asked Rem if they can do some shooting, but he declined. He reasoned that he was too tired and wanted to rest in the living room. But, at the back of his head, he was hoping that Randolph, Tatiana, and Dreyford will also come back to the dome early.

There, he lay down on one of the couches pretending to sleep. However, he can’t because he was worrying. After two hours, he was informed that the dinner was being served. He woke Marybeth up saying that they have to take a bath. She asked him if the three had arrived. He shrugged.

While waiting for her, Rem went outside and asked his escorts if the three arrived. None of them know a thing.

After their meal, Rem and Marybeth went straight to the living room. They talked, but most of the time, they were silent. Both felt the tension of waiting for the three. After a few minutes, Dricks informed the two that Randolph arrived and they should check him.

After a few minutes, Dricks informed the two that Randolph arrived and they should check him. Sensing alarm, Rem immediately went outside.

Rem saw from a distance that Randolph was being assisted by his escorts. He ran towards them and as he got closer, he thought he was injured. When Randolph saw him, he smiled. But, he was obviously in pain.

“What happened Randolph?” asked Rem.

“I’m fine,” said Randolph who continued to walk. “It hurts, but I’m fine.”

“What happened to Tatiana and Dreyford?” he added.

Then, Marybeth caught up…

“Oh my God! What happened to you Randolph?” asked Marybeth.

Randolph just gave her a thumb up.

“Drey and Tat? No idea,” said Randolph.

“They are in the clinic,” said one of the escorts. “They needed to be attended because they are badly beaten. This guy’s tough. So, he was just given with some shots of pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. The doctors said he’ll be fine later.”

While Randolph was being brought to the living room, Rem went straight to the kitchen and took a glass of water.

*****

Rem arrived at the living room. He saw Randolph lying on the couch; he helped him to be seated and gave him the glass of water.

“Are you sure, you are fine?” asked Rem. “I think you should also check in the clinic.”

Randolph didn’t say a thing. He just continued to sip water from the glass.

“I think, I should leave you guys,” said Marybeth. “I’ll go and check on the two.”

After Marybeth left, Rem told Randolph about what he saw in the forest.

“When I was in the forest earlier, I saw a guy, wearing an Arkiman suit. Running. Scrambling. He’s being chased by two guys and a woman,” said Rem, who did a squat in front of Randolph. “It’s like they are having fun while making the life of that guy miserable… Is that you, Randolph? Big bro, is that you?”

“Yeah!” said Randolph, nodding. “Dreyford was up with three guys while Tatiana was up with three girls.”

“As far as I can remember, Vincent told me that in the latter part of my training, I will be up with experienced Arkimans,” said Rem. “I think that’s it. You are now guys being put into test.”

“But, to be honest, I never thought it will be this brutal,” Rem said before Randolph opened his mouth.

“That’s me. That’s part of me. That’s part of my pledge,” said Randolph while trying to lay on the couch.

“Bullshit!” shouted Rem, punching a pillow. “That pledge is bullshit! If we are really important here, then you guys won’t experience that.”

“Come on! Relax, bro! I’m alright,” said Randolph. “I even separated them and had a chance to spar with one guy. I even blew him face. Too bad, the two caught up.”

“And you don’t know what really happened there,” Randolph added. “A buzzer on my arm went off. And that moment, they stopped beating me. They were the people who helped me after. So no need to worry.”

Rem sat on the couch where Randolph lay. He sighed deeply and loudly.

“To be honest, I don’t have any idea what will happen the next day. The next weeks. Or months,” said Rem, who was turning a bit emotional. “The only thing I knew is that you guys are already on the latter part of your stay here. Anytime soon, you will be out here, fulfilling that damn purpose.”

Randolph sat beside Rem and wrapped his left around his shoulder.

“You are right!” said Randolph. “But I promise you one thing, my younger brother, I will stay alive to whatever purpose I will serve to see you again. We will still have to spar!”

“I knew that one guy fell on one of my traps,” said Raldolph, mildly punching his leg. “I’m a second late in eliminating one of them.”

Then silence for a few minutes…

Admitting that his body still hurts, Randolph then asked Rem if he could bring him his dinner noting that he’s quite hungry. Rem agreed.

While returning back to living room carrying Randolph’s meal, Marybeth called Rem. Together, they walked back to talk to Randolph.

“Tat and Drey will have to spend the rest of the night in the clinic,” said Marybeth while Randolph ate. “They said, we just have to take a rest here and later go back to our corresponding rooms.”

During sleep time, Rem can’t help but worry and at the same, felt sad knowing that the three will soon be leaving. He also used to sneak through the dorm and take a peek at Randolph’s room to check him out.