The moment Dante exited his barrack he noticed that several other barracks alongside them were doing the same. Everyone was wearing an Exo-Suit and their respective teams were being led by one person, their destination likely the same, the Amphitheatre. There were ten barracks in total for the new recruits and each barrack housed approximately 210 candidates. Three days ago, after the preliminary examinations were carried out, they were all sorted out and sent to a different team; one through ten and were assigned to their corresponding barrack. Each team had an equal number of candidates and were equally diversified. The only thing that seemed a bit strange was that the ratio of males to females was 1:2. There were approximately 70 males and 140 females in each team.
“Hey, Dante.” Hearing his name, Dante turned his head around only to see Jenell quickly jogging up to his side. Her complexion was glowing in the morning sun and her face was flushed red. It was uncertain if it was due to her blushing or from the summer heat. The silver sheen of the Exo-Suit that was exposed around her neck, arms and legs made her seem even more dazzling and beautiful than before. Glancing at the two small hills on her chest made Dante’s face tighten and forced him to make a gulp. “Damn she’s pretty…” Dante thought to himself. The only regret he had was that the Exo-Suits kept their skin firm and as a result, her breasts didn’t bounce about as they normally would without it.
“Hmm? What’s up Jenell?” he replied while slowing down a bit.
“It seems it’s not just our team who are being sent to the Amphitheatre. It really may not be that we’re being evaluated today” she said while synchronizing her pace with his.
“Don’t get your hopes up too soon,” Dante added while shifting his gaze to the front. “The instructor had us all put on Exo-Suits three weeks earlier than the previous batches. I can’t shake the feeling that something big is about to happen.”
“Yeah, you have a point there.” Suddenly remembering something that bothered her earlier she asked with some hesitation, “Oh by the way, why did the instructor say that you were the most senior candidate? I thought there was an age restriction on the recruitment process? If I recall correctly the age cap should 16 years old.” Jenell asked with an expectant look on her face.
Hearing her question Dante’s expression became despondent. After a moment of silence, he dejectedly replied “I sort of failed the evaluation before, so this is my… next attempt.”
Jenell's expression became one of an immense shock at Dante's reply. “How is that possible? I thought that we only got one chance to go through the evaluation process?”
Dante could already guess what she was thinking and continued his explanation before she cemented her opinion of him. “I said I ‘sort of failed’ the evaluation. I never said I failed. Maybe my choice of words was inappropriate. What I failed was the genome compatibility test.”
“Huh?” Jenell grew even more confused. “How is it even possible to fail that, isn’t the genome compatibility test just matching the DNA of two or more candidates to form a team?”
Dante gave a sigh when he heard her question. He, more than anyone else wanted to know the answer to that question. He then replied “Yeah, but the doctors said that there was something different about my DNA composition and were unable to come to a conclusion who my ideal teammates should be, so they told me that they would make an exception and have me join the next batch of recruits and try again to see if I am able to find a suitable match before I join the Assault Division. It’s been… eight months since then”
“Oh, so that’s it… Wait… What!? Eight months!?” Jenell exclaimed in shock, almost tripping over the rugged terrain. “Y-you mean, you mean you’ve gone through eight batches of recruits already and have yet to find a suitable DNA match? Not even one match?” “Oh my God, that’s… 16,800 people”.
“Yeah… weird huh? Everyone here knows about it, some call me weirdo or freak but the one that tops the list is what the scientists call me ‘a unique specimen’. They’ve stopped looking at me as fellow human being and now just see me a cellular composition at best.
After hearing his story and seeing his downcast expression, Jenell felt her heart shudder at the thought of what those previous eight months must’ve been like for him. To see over 16,000 people leave you behind month after month and be stuck as a prospective candidate must’ve been a mental torture for him. Not to mention the instructor... “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine, it’ll work out”. She comforted him.
“Hmph, hmph” Dante gave a light, helpless chuckle as he listened to her efforts to comfort him. He lost count as to how many times he heard others say the same ‘encouraging’ words as her and each time he would be left behind, only to see them move on ahead and join a Division.
After the group jogged for a while longer, they could see a majestic edifice jutting out in the distance, towering over all surrounding buildings and vegetation.
“We’re here,” Dante said as he slowly came to a stop in front of a huge entrance. Above the entrance was the word AMPHITHEATRE in an imposing bold. Seeing this place again didn’t bring him the initial majestic awe he felt the first time he saw it, but instead brought him a sense of deep melancholy every time he came here.
Jenell slowed to a stop as well and looked ahead of her. What she saw was a huge entrance about 100ft wide and about 50ft tall. Just from the size of the entrance, one could easily imagine the size of the Amphitheatre itself. The building was gigantic. It was similar to a huge international stadium if not bigger.
Seeing the pure look of astonishment on her face Dante decided to give a bit of history to satiate the curious look in her eyes. “The Amphitheatre was built two years ago after the war started. The original stadium that was here, was renovated, expanded, and then transformed into what you’re seeing now. The purpose of this Amphitheatre doesn’t stray too much from its originally intended ‘entertainment’ purposes.”
“What do you mean?” Jenell asked in a curious voice.
“You’ll find out before long, come on let’s go in,” Dante replied while turning around to face the rest of the team that was quickly assembling together.
Once everyone assembled at the entrance to the Amphitheatre Dante’s voice boomed out. “Attention!” Hearing Dante’s voice, everyone quickly huddled together and made two equal lines. Seeing everyone continuing to act so obedient to his commands, it seemed the threat of the informing the instructor of their ‘lack of discipline’ was still firmly in effect.
Dante sighed to himself as he thought of how powerless he was. Recalling the last words of his father, his eyes grew vacant. "Son, once you have enough power you can make anyone bow to you, and when you have enough personal strength makes that even truer. But before that, you must first learn how to survive! Power is built up over time and it comes from those who have submitted to you or choose to follow you wholeheartedly. Strength, on the other hand, comes from your own personal ability. Don’t ever think that strength merely means physical strength. There are many kinds of strengths, and everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. While trying to survive you will gradually develop various strengths. It’s up to you to realize what they are…”
“I know what my strengths are now, but I need to move forward and enter the Assault Division to hone them. I can’t make use my talents while being stuck in this… damn cage! To make things even worse, I can only leave once I find a GP (Genome Partner). So even though I have the strength to take the next step, the decision is not up to me!” Dante subconsciously clenched his fists as he recalled all the suffering that he went through just to survive those three hellish years.
Jenell, who was standing at the front of one of the lines noticed the change in Dante’s expression and knew something was bothering him, but now wasn’t the time to ask about it.
Dante looked at the candidates then continued. “Welcome to the Amphitheatre everyone. There are 12 entrances to the Amphitheatre. You have the main entrance for the staff members to the north, the prospective candidates entrance to the south which is where we are, and then you have the other 10 entrances which are meant for each of the 10 Divisions. The layout for the Amphitheatre’s entrances is similar to that of a clock, which makes it pretty simple to remember. Keep in mind that you are to only enter the Amphitheatre from the southern entrance and NEVER from any other if you do… you won’t have enough time to regret it. Now, follow me.” Dante turned and walked towards the Amphitheatre.
Once Dante made it within 20ft from the entrance, everyone saw a curtain of white light spring up from the ground. The candidates immediately stopped in their tracks and subconsciously took a step back.
“What is that?”
“This is a security gate” Dante answered. “Once you come within 20ft of the entrance, this wall of light will appear. It’s a different color for each entrance and they tend to correspond with the color of your Exo-Suits. For us prospects our gate is white, which makes it easier to identify where you are should you be lost. If you see a ‘red’ security gate when you approach, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PASS THROUGH! As I said before, you won’t have the time to regret it.”
Dante continued to walk forward towards the curtain of white light and then passed right through. When everyone saw Dante step into the light, all they heard was a soft ‘whoosh’ sound similar to a knife passing through water. After Dante made it through the security gate his voice sounded out once again. “Move it!”
Everyone stepped forward and approached the security gate one by one. Since Jenell was in front, she was the first to pass through. When she made it past the 20ft marker the curtain of white light sprung up once more. She raised her head and stared at the wall of light for a few seconds then took a deep breath to calm herself down and then closed her eyes and stepped forward. As she passed through the security gate, she heard the same sound again that everyone else did when Dante passed through the security gate, and at the same time she felt a cool refreshing sensation wash over her body, which was similar to feeling you get after taking a cool shower.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Dante a few feet away looking at her with a slight smile on his face.
“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Dante asked while looking at her surprised expression.
“Yeah, my body feels great! What just happened?” she asked while walking towards him. Without even realizing it, Jenell found herself subconsciously relying on Dante for even the simplest of things and just asked her questions on impulse.
Dante didn’t mind answering her questions too much as he had a good impression of her over the past few days.
When she came closer to him he replied to her while indicating with his finger for her to look towards the security gate. When she turned around, she saw the other prospects pass through one at a time. Each time someone passed through, the light it would ripple like water and at the very top, something similar to steam would appear. Dante began his explanation at this point:
“When you step through the security gate it removes any foreign residue and filth that accumulates outside your body and deposits it to that pipe above the gate. When you completely pass through, it feels like you’ve just taken a shower because there’s no longer any filth on your body. Realize that the sticky feeling from all the sweat that was on your body from jogging earlier is now completely gone?”
After listening to Dante’s explanation, a look of understanding was painted on Jenell's face as she looked at her body. “Oh! So that’s what happened. That is so cool…”
“If you think that’s cool, wait until we get inside” Dante put on an air of mystery as he turned around and continued walking down the hallway. After everyone passed through the security gate, they followed Dante and Jenell further inside. They made their way down the hall and walked for a few minutes until they saw bright sunlight reflecting off the ground at the end of the passage.
When everyone made it through the passage, their eyes went wide in awe as they looked at the interior of the Amphitheatre. There were thousands of seats right around the Amphitheatre. In some areas, there were strange equipment, all manner of weapons and gadgets. In the center of the Amphitheatre, there were two platforms. There was one that connected to the northern entrance that was about 10ft high and another gigantic platform in the very center of the Amphitheatre.
As everyone looked around, they could see the entrances for each Division Dante mentioned earlier. There was a huge sign that was being hung over the wall below each Division, namely; Assault Division, Reconnaissance Division, Medical Division, Construction Division, Engineering Division, Agriculture Division, Marine Division, Firmament Division, Subterranean Division and the G.E.N.E.S.I.S Division.
As everyone took in the sights and details of the Amphitheatre, they suddenly heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind them and realized that everyone else from the prospective candidates’ barracks was slowly making their way over towards them while being in their respective teams.
“Looks like we were the first ones to arrive here,” Jenell commented.
“Oh look, it’s the weirdo…”
“Ah, hey there trash! Here to watch everyone leave you behind again?”
Dante’s expression sunk and his anger flared once more when he heard those two comments. He turned to this left to face the two that just spoke and yelled: “Vladimir, Vlatka! You two pieces of shit! Who the fuck are you two calling weirdo and trash?!”
The two in question were walking from the Assault Division seats which were adjacent to the southern entrance. The two were fraternal twins. Male and female respectively. They both had long blond hair and had cyan colored eyes. They wore a green Exo-Suit that looked far more advanced than the one the prospects were wearing. These green Exo-Suits were full body armors that looked extremely imposing and quite intimidating.
“Ah! So, you do acknowledge yourself as a weirdo and trash! Here we were talking about the garbage over there and you managed to overhear us and actually took offense… ha-ha.” The one that spoke was the male amongst the two, Vladimir. The arrogance in his voice seemed to have come from his bones. Even the way he walked seemed as though he disdained even the very ground he stepped on, it seemed if he had a choice he would rather fly than set foot on the ground. He clearly looked down on everyone as though they were mere insects beneath his feet.
“Tsk-tsk. Truly pathetic. No wonder he’s unable to find a GP. It seems his only match is garbage, hmph hmph” The next to comment was the female amongst the two, Vlatka. She was equally arrogant and had a venomous look in her eyes like a viper that would kill you just for the fun of it.
Just as Dante was about to move forward to let his fists do the talking, a loud voice boomed out.