Chapter XLIV – The Game (Preparation)

Right after going down the stage, Vincent led the group outside the party area. The limousine was already waiting for them outside. He walked fast as if he’s in a hurry. Rem and Marybeth just followed him.

In the condominium unit, the two were surprised seeing Anya. She greeted them with hugs and kisses as if she didn’t see them for a long time.

“You guys know Anya, right?” Vincent asked.

Rem smiled and nodded. Marybeth gave thumbs up.

“Anya, as what we talked a few days ago, is the latest Arkiman winner of the ‘The Bloody Train’ and no one can give you great tips in surviving but her,” said Vincent.

Dricks and Jimmy arrived a few minutes after. They explained that the pizza and lasagna they ordered will be delivered shortly. Vincent and Anya started to talk and this time, it’s more of an informal setting where all of them were seated.

“In my year, I and Carlos didn’t start together and based on the past games, none did. The first person to find his buddy will definitely have the higher chances of winning. So, I would recommend to the two of you to look for each other first. As much as possible, stay out of other wildcats’ ways.

“If you had no choice, but to fight, that will be the only time that you fight and use your energy. The Arkimans are very good in surviving alone in the forest. So, our plan is to first survive alone to reunite. Then, victory is ours.”

“How long did you find Carlos?” Rem asked.

“He actually found me after 72 hours,” said Anya. “I was walking when I fell for one his traps. Then, we’re together.”

“In that 72 hours, how did you survive?” Rem again asked.

“Well, I stayed alerted, ate, remained hidden and slept, vacated the shelter without leaving any tracks, and remained hidden. I repeated it for three days.”

“You didn’t find any enemies along the way?” Marybeth asked.

“I found two. But, I backed off. I wanted to conserve my energy.”

“How about at night?” asked Rem. “It’s cold. How did you find warmth?”

“First thing, find a not-so-obvious hiding place that has an opening opposite of the wind. The wind will be you worst enemy during the night; it can give you colds and having a simple cold in such competition is like cutting your own finger.

“During my first night, I covered myself with dried leaves and on the second, I found a small opening on a cliff, which was a vertical hole that was enough for me squeeze in. Then, the next day I found Carlos.”

“The nights after finding your buddy will be much easier. You can take turns sleeping and guarding the area. Me and Carlos, most of the times, slept sitting, thinking we should be in a position where we can easily fight or escape.”

The tip sharing by Anya and Vincent lasted for at least two hours with Rem and Marybeth listening carefully. When nothing more to share, the two fighters were advised to sleep well so they can have more energy tomorrow.

*****

“Mr. Burrows, it’s 8:00 a.m., the time came, you should be preparing now,” said Carklein.

Rem obliged and immediately went to the bathroom. After taking a bath, he checked his closet and saw an all-black rash guard pants and shirt, black sports shoes and a belt bag full of daggers. He wore them and immediately went outside. There, Vincent, Anya, and the escorts were waiting. He just walked towards them with his poker face.

“You look good on that,” Anya said.

“Was that for a consolation prize?” Rem replied. He was already pale.

Then, Marybeth opened her door. Rem thought she again looked great. However, his nerves were killing him and he can’t speak a word. As she walked towards them, he noticed that she also looked terrified — like a child who might anytime cry. It reminded him of staying strong.

Marybeth hugged Rem tightly. He hugged her back because he felt her vulnerability. He was still nervous but more motivated.

The group traveled for two more hours. They reached a dense area that looked like a forest. In the middle of the thick vegetation, revealed a small tunnel that only a vehicle can pass. Rem thought they were traveling in a mine tunnel-like area where the walls featured yellow dim bulb.

Then they stopped… Vincent opened his window, opened a small box on the wall and laid his palm. A door opened and revealed a highly lighted hall that was about a hectare. The place was filled with different types of machinery and uniformed people – like the army – working on different aircraft, and tube-like machines that looked like classy coffins. Rem thought those will be the coffins of deceased wildcats.

A few meters from the entrance, the limousine stopped. Vincent nodded to the group and immediately alighted the vehicle. They walked straight and turned left down the stairway, revealing another busy place, but this time the people were wearing white. Rem thought they were in a hospital.

He was never wrong. Vincent asked Marybeth to enter a cubicle saying that they will undergo medical tests for the last time. Next to Marybeth’s room was Rem’s.

The room was tiny; Rem thought it’s about 10 feet long and five feet wide. It only houses a cot bed, a laptop on a small table and some apparatus that were not familiar to him. A few minutes after, a man wearing scrub suit appeared. Two more women wearing white uniform followed.

“Rem Burrows, from Arkimans?” asked the man.

Rem nodded.

“Ok. Kindly take your shirt off.”

Rem followed.

The man nodded to the ladies, who worked together in attaching suction cups on his chest, back, stomach, side of the forehead and nape. The chords were then plugged into an apparatus that was under the bed. The doctor plugged the apparatus in the laptop.

“Burrows, can you please breathe deeply and exhale,” said the doctor.

Rem followed each and everything the doctor asked him. Later, he was asked to put his shirt back.

“Please stand Burrows.”

One of the ladies pulled a gun tucker and punched it on his back, Rem was surprised.

“What was that?”

“Doesn’t hurt right? It’s your tracker and they will only be punched via your suit.”

One of the ladies asked Rem to sit on the bed. A soldier then entered the room and inspected his belt bag. He returned it and immediately left the room.

“Alright, we are done here,” said the doctor.

The three then left the room. Vincent entered.

“Alright, this is it, Burrows, it’s time,” said Vincent putting his hands on his shoulders. “I saw your training personally. I can say, you are the smartest and strongest Arkiman ever. I’m counting on you.”

“Let’s go,” Vincent added as he left the room.

Rem followed. Outside the room, he saw Marybeth with Anya. Vincent nodded to them and walked a few meters from the area and entered another door. A domed room was revealed. The capsules Rem saw earlier were laid on the floor. He now had the idea that they will be used as the wildcats’ vehicle to the battlefield.

Other teams were already waiting in the area when Rem and his group arrived. After a few more minutes, all the groups were completed. A woman walked into the center and started to speak.

“Warm morning my dear fighters! The time has come and we are wishing you all the best!” said the white slender woman with short blonde hair. “In front of you is a capsule that will bring you to the battlefield. All you have to do is lay inside it and keep calm. The countdown will be heard while you guys are still inside the capsule. It will open right away and that marked the start of the game. Forget that, you are dead.”

“Mr. Daryl Ocampo will have a few more word for you guys,” she added.

Ocampo walked into the center, picked his eyeglasses and wore them. A battalion of army surrounded the whole area.

“Wildcats, it’s such an honor to see you for the last time,” said Ocampo. “You are the greatest fighters of your group. However, the greatest fighters of this year’s ‘Bloody Train’ will be determined a few days from now. Waiting for them are fame, money, position, power and invincibility. I can’t wait.”

Ocampo exited the center after finishing his speech. A buzzer was heard.

“Burrows, it’s time,” said Vincent pushing Rem to the capsule.