"I-I'm not dead?"
One astonished gasp after another could be heard as the young candidates found themselves materializing at an unknown place. They were all pleasantly surprised to find out that they were still alive and didn't perish back at the Amphitheatre. They were all scared witless when they saw their bodies disintegrate, they thought themselves to be dead when they lost consciousness.
At this moment, Jenell who was frantically searching for Dante heard a familiar voice and turned to look at the person who called out to her. "Ashley? You're here!" A beautiful smile bloomed on Jenell's face. She was pleasantly surprised to see that one of her closest friends was in the area she appeared. Ashley was a charming young girl that was surprisingly almost 6ft tall. She had long curly brown hair and shocking green eyes that made her look even more dazzling. Because of her height, she became somewhat of an outcast from her peers and didn't have many friends. Jenell was probably the only real friend she had while growing up. After the war started, the two looked after each other their friendship strengthened even more.
In an instant, Ashley ran over to Jenell and scooped her up as though she was weightless. "Jenell are you ok? How do you feel? Wuuu, I was so scared, I-I thought I was going to die! T-that bastard Dr. Lambert! @$%&!" Ashley started weeping and swearing away in her frustration as she gave Jenell a tight hug. It seemed she was worried that Jenell would disappear if she didn't hold her tight enough. Jenell's face started turning blue after Ashley wrapped her arms around her, when she couldn't take it anymore she cried out with the last bit of breath she had.
"I'm ok, I'm ok! Ashley, I'm fine! Let me go, else I ... won't... be..."
"Oh! Oops sorry!" Ashley apologized and quickly released Jenell.
Jenell stooped over and desperately gasped for air as though there wasn't enough air in the world to fill her vacant lungs.
"I never thought... my life would be threatened by a hug," Jenell said in a wheezing voice. "These exo-suits are dangerous!"
A mask of worry could be seen on Ashley's face after she heard Jenell's comment. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you... I'm not used to this exo-suit as yet. My body feels like someone else's. I feel as though I could jump to the moon if I gave it a try."
"Ha-ha, the moon. Now that's an exaggeration." Jenell laughed while shaking her head.
After catching her breath, Jenell habitually ran her hands down her torso and waist to straighten her clothes, then a look of confusion appeared on her face as she looked down at her body, then her eyes widened with shock. "My clothes... they're gone!” Her youthful curves were completely exposed due to the exo-suits’ tight fit. Jenell swept her gaze around and noticed that the other candidates were just wearing their exo-suits as well. They didn’t have on any other piece of clothing. It was as though they were all wearing thermal clothing.
Earlier when she was searching the area for Dante she didn’t notice this fact. Even as she met with other candidates, the thought never crossed her mind. “Thankfully we’re not naked, I don’t know what I’d do”. She said while smiling wryly.
After recovering from the shock of that discovery, Jenell turned her gaze towards a group of candidates that were chatting in the distance with excited expressions on their faces. "I overheard some of the other candidates earlier say that the exo-suits that we were given are the base models. Once we pass evaluation we would be given more advanced ones.” Jenell suddenly thought back to the Amphitheatre and recalled the imposing exo-suits the twins from the Assault Division wore.
"What!?" Ashley said with wide eyes and her jaw threatening to hit the ground. "Are you serious?" Ashley asked with a disbelieving look on her face.
"Who knows, it's only hearsay," Jenell replied.
It was at this moment that a loud voice descended from the heavens and silenced everyone present. "Hmm. A new flock has arrived". The voice sounded cold and detached as though it considered all life on Earth insignificant.
Everyone became startled in that instant, the voice seemed omnipresent. Everyone, no matter where they were on the island could hear the voice as clear as day, it was as though the speaker stood right next to them. Subconsciously, everyone raised their heads and looked inland. There was a towering mountain that pierced the clouds like a gargantuan sword. It seemed as though this mountain held up the heavens. The voice sounded once more.
"Welcome to World’s Edge little ones. You are the 7th batch of candidates to arrive at this island." The voice sounded cold, yet warm, evil yet enchanting... it was like the Devil's welcome.
"What!? World's Edge!?"
The face of each candidate became panic-stricken and ugly to behold when they heard where they were. World's Edge was the name of the island that emerged off the western coast of America during the war. It was said that there was an earth-rending explosion that evaporated a massive part of the ocean. The blast was so terrifying that distant countries witnessed the clouds above their heads get swept away as though the hand of God wiped them out of the sky. They could feel the ground tremble violently and hear a terrifying howl as though Mother Earth was weeping. This explosion caused the eruption of a volcano beneath the ocean which bled lava constantly for almost a year. This lava was what created the island and that towering mountain was the source of it all. After the lava hardened and the volcano stabilized, America seized the island and gave it the name “World’s Edge” because the island sat perfectly on the horizon.
"I'll keep this short." The mysterious voice continued. "You're here for one reason; to grow stronger. This island is the ideal environment to do just that. Like your predecessors, you have one objective; survive. You will be isolated from the outside world for 30 days. Each day you will be given a new challenge that will test your ability to survive. Failure to complete these challenges will result in your death. You must participate. There are no exceptions."
The candidates stood in place with pale faces as they continued to listen to the omnipresent voice. Every sentence caused their faces to contort as though their hearts were being squeezed by an icy grip.
"Your first challenge is simple. On this island, there are five bases. You will find one to the north, the east, the south, the west and at the center of the island. You are to locate and secure those bases before nightfall. Keep in mind that each base will accommodate no more than 420 persons..."
The voice silently faded away as the last words fell. Everyone felt the tension in their bodies loosen and came back to their senses.
"Who was that?"
"That presence... it was terrifying! I felt as though I was an insect beneath a foot. I felt like I would die at any moment."
Everyone felt their souls quake in fear when that omnipresent voice swept over them. Some of the candidates fell to their knees with blank looks on their faces.
"Jenell... what now?" Asked Ashley after coming to her senses.
Jenell's eyes were vacant as though her mind was elsewhere and didn't seem to hear Ashley's question.
After waiting for a while Ashley realized Jenell was still in a daze and shook her awake.
"Huh?" Jenell said as her eyes regained clarity.
"What do we do now?" Ashley repeated.
"You heard what that person said, we have to find a base and secure it before nightfall. She replied while looking around. The other candidates were having their own conversations about what just happened."
"Team number 9 assemble!" A loud and energetic voice suddenly boomed out drawing everyone's attention. The scattered members of team number 9 started to make their way over to the speaker.
"Hm?" Ashley and Jenell turned her head towards the source of the voice and saw the leader of team number 9 summoning the members of his team who were nearby.
"Sebastian, he's here too." Said Ashley when she caught sight of the speaker. "What is he up to?" She added as she noticed a few persons making their way over to him.
"Hmm, smart move," Jenell said after giving it some thought.
"What do you mean?"
"We're on our own out here, and we're going to have to depend on ourselves to survive this place for a month. He's gathering his team members to consolidate their strength. We don't know what do expect in this place and we stand a better chance of surviving if we work together. Jenell replied.
A look of understanding was painted on Ashley's face when she listened to Jenell's explanation.
"Who better to work with that the people you already know?" Jenell added.
"I see, Sebastian's always cool-headed. Quite admirable for someone his age." A slight smile crept onto Ashley's face as she continued to watch as several candidates made their way over to him.
“Hmmm?” Jenell noticed the spark in Ashly’s eyes when she looked at Sebastian and smiled.
"Let's go take a look," Jenell said as she pulled Ashley along.
Sebastian was a handsome young man with a warm temperament and was easy to get along with. He was someone who naturally adopted the leadership role, and it suited him quite well. He had short, spiky black hair and a nicely toned body.
"Eighteen people, more than I hoped for. It seems we’ve all been scattered across the island. Sebastian thought silently to himself."
“Everyone! As you’ve all heard. It seems we’ve been teleported to World’s Edge by Dr. Lambert, it’s mind-boggling as to how he managed to do that, but it is what it is. Before we were sent here he mentioned that we would be constantly facing life and death situations each day and that mysterious person just affirmed that. I believe that if we’re to make it through this alive we will need to work together as a team! We have no idea what dangers we might find on this island, but we should be able to reduce the amount of danger we face if we support each other.
Everyone in team number 9 nodded in agreement.
“Wise words, I’m surprised you’re able to keep calm and composed at a time like this,” said a voice filled with disdain. Everyone turned to look at the person who just spoke. There was a young man who was walking towards Sebastian with a small group of five persons behind him. He had a ruthless expression and a scar running down the left side of his face to go with it.
“James… is there a problem?” Sebastian asked in a defensive tone. James was the leader for team number 1 and was probably the most aggressive person in their lot. He made that fact about him clear during the preliminary examinations when he crippled his opponents in hand to hand combat.
“I’m glad you asked!” James replied as he made his way over to Sebastian. “You see, you made some good points, but I realized that you only called out for members of your team. What about the rest of us? Doesn’t that apply to us as well? Aren’t we all fellow candidates?” He said while looking around at the other candidates.
Everyone’s expression changed slightly, he was right. There wasn’t a lot of them around in this area, probably about 40 and his team was almost half of that figure. It did look a bit strange. Everyone turned their heads back to Sebastian to hear his response. It was also at this time that Jenell and Ashley made their way over to the group and heard what was said and looked over at Sebastian to hear his reply.
Sebastian’s expression was unperturbed and he calmly replied. “That’s true, we’re all in this together, however, I never said anything about working in separate teams as that would be counterproductive. I simply did a head count to see how many members of my team are here, after all, we’ve spent a great deal of time together up to this point and we know each other better than we know persons from the other teams.
“It’s just as you said earlier Jenell,” said Ashley after hearing Sebastian’s reply.
At the same time, the other candidates from the other teams made smaller groups which made it easy to see that they were members of different teams. Ashley and Jenell weren’t on the same team but stayed together in because they only knew each other. Everyone else was pretty much strangers. There was even someone who was by himself. Which made it easy to guess that there was no one else here on his team, which made him cut a lonely figure.
“Hmph” James gave a low grunt and said nothing further.
Observing that James no longer pursued the topic Sebastian continued: “We need to quickly organize ourselves and decide which of the five bases we’re going to head off to, but first we need to figure out where we are on this island.
It was at this moment that Ashley got an idea and stepped forward. “I can help with that!” she shouted while waving then her face grew hot with embarrassment when she realized everyone was looking at her. Sebastian also looked over in her direction and gave her a slight smile “Ok, go on” he urged.
Ashley at once completely forgot what she was about to say and stood there blankly. Jenell saw what was happening and gave her a nudge.
“Oh, um…my name is Ashley I studied geography in depth prior to becoming a candidate and have a great deal of skill navigating out in the open using the elements and my surroundings.” After organizing her thoughts, she continued “Ahrm, earlier we arrived at the Amphitheatre before 08:00 and judging from the position of the sun, it should be around 09:00 which gives us roughly another 9 hours of daytime before sunset. The position of the sun at this moment is in the east, which means that the eastern base should be in the direction the sun is rising from. The mountain at the center of the island is ahead of us which puts us at the southern part of the island. The reports I’ve read about World’s Edge states that the island should be about 500 square miles. We should be closer towards the southern base at the moment.
Sebastian’s face lit up after hearing her analysis. “Excellent! That’s some good intel that we can use.” Alright, everyone, you heard the lady. Does anyone have anything to add?"
Everyone looked around at each other but no one had anything else to say.
Observing the silence, Sebastian acknowledged it as everyone in agreement. “Ok, let’s get moving. We have a long way to go before reaching the southern base, but we should be able to make it there in time before sunset.”
The candidates didn’t have anything with them so they departed shortly after making some minor preparations.