Even though several minutes had come and gone, Jett still had trouble believing his eyes. The other boys in the room were quiet, watching each other warily. The very silence tore at his frayed nerves. Jett pulled his legs up against his chest and buried his face in his knees.
At least he wasn't the only one confused, for after a long while of tense silence, a brunette with a symbol of circles and lines on his face spoke up.
"Anybody know what's going on?" He had a strange kind of accent that Jett had never heard before. The others turned their heads to look at the speaker, yet there was no verbal response from any of them. They just stared, as if wondering what to make of him.
"Well," the first boy seemed calm, completely unfazed by the lack of response. It was almost like this sort of thing happened to him every day. Jett found himself wishing he had that kind of courage. "I'm guessing that all of us were taken by a flyer, right?"
Flyer? Jett's head jerked up. What was a flyer? He looked around the room nervously and noticed that everyone else seemed to know, for a few heads bobbed in affirmative nods. Was he the only one who didn't know anything?
Jett frowned a little, trying to make sense of all this. He didn't get much time to speculate, because a sudden rumbling sound shook the entire room. The boys erupted into startled cries and began surging away from the far wall. To Jett's utter shock, the far wall was moving.
All the boys crowded together, watching in a frightened awe as a whole wall slid right up into the ceiling. As it disappeared, it became clear that it was a doorway of sorts, and that it led into another room. This new room was huge, and it too, was missing an entire wall. In place of that wall, there was a gigantic space that led out to the outside.
Jett got to his feet, squirming against the nearest boys packed against him so that he could see. His gaze went straight to that space of outdoors, taking in the rich green grass and the pale blue sky. He was so focused on that little peek of freedom that he didn't notice them until a gravelly voice began to speak.
"Welcome, all of you."
At once Jett's attention was drawn to the doorway of the room he was in. He almost fell back onto the floor - the entire doorway was blocked by huge, intimidating men! Each one looked like they could tear him apart with two fingers, and they all had similar armor and uniforms. Although when he looked closer, he could see that the designs and coloring of the armor varied from person to person. One man stood in front of the others; he was the speaker and older than the rest.
Jett's heart leaped into his throat as he realized something. The stranger that had kidnapped him – he had been one of these people! He staggered backwards until his back pressed against the wall. The boys in front of him shifted, drawing even closer together despite the fact that they had all been suspicious of each other earlier. Jett was thankful that they created a wall of sorts between him and them. At least this way, he could hide for a bit.
"You are all wondering, undoubtedly, what you are doing here," the older man spoke again. His hair was an iron gray, and he had a small tuft of beard on his chin. Even though his face was rugged and lined, his very presence seemed to fill the entire room. Maybe it was the way his iron gaze seemed to pierce through everything. Even though Jett hid behind the others, he got the feeling that the man was staring at him.
Jett shrunk against the wall. Then started as the older man chuckled suddenly. It was a chilling sound that sent shivers down his spine.
"You are, undoubtedly, wondering what is going on. It's very simple: You have been recruited into the flyer corps of Troit. For those unfamiliar with us, Troit stands for the Tactical Removal of Illegal Technology, and our main purpose is exactly that. You will learn more about that later.
"There is only one thing important to you now. You have been recruited by those who marked you, and your life is now theirs. You will grow under their guidance, or you will perish." The man paused, and smiled chillingly at the boys.
Jett stared blankly at the backs of the boys in front of him. Recruited? Marked? What did this all mean? And Troit? He didn't understand any of this at all and all those big words made his head spin dizzily.
A sudden urge to see the trees and green grass once again came over him, so he slowly stepped away from the wall, and gingerly pushed through the crowd of boys. Everything else faded away into the background as the need to get out of the stifling room pushed its way to the forefront. The group of frightening soldiers were ignored. His gaze focused on that distant doorway, settling upon the warmth and beauty of freedom that lay just beyond.
He could hear his heart pounding in his ears like it was inside of his head rather than in his chest. Staring at those trees, he could only think of one thing. Escape. If he could just get over there, out of these solid gray walls, out of this confining building... if he could get outside, then maybe he'd wake up from this awful dream.
A big wall suddenly moved in his way, forcing him to stop. "And where do you think you're going?"
The familiar voice jerked Jett back to reality. He froze, and so very slowly, he looked up. The white-haired stranger from before looked down at him with an amused expression. Amused! As if Jett was a naughty little puppy that had been caught somewhere where it wasn't supposed to be. Jett clenched his hands to keep them from shaking.
He was terrified out of his wits, but the urge to get outside still had a grip on his mind. He swallowed, met the man's cool gaze, and whispered, "I'm going home."
The man blinked. Then he burst out into laughter, shocking the tar out of Jett and grabbing everyone else's attention.
"Gray?" Another man in the strange, armored uniform came over. He towered over Jett like the entire Putarc forest.
"This kid is hilarious!" The white-haired man, Gray, chortled shamelessly. "He says he's going home!"
"Hm?" The newcomer peered down at Jett, who was absolutely frozen in fright. His expression was dead serious, and the huge furrow in his massive brows somehow gave Jett the image of an angry bear. "You're going to have to educate him, Gray. Seems this one doesn't understand yet."
"Sure, sure," Gray settled a heavy hand on Jett's small shoulder, making Jett flinch. "Come, kid." Jett didn't have a choice. The hand on his shoulder forced him to move where it led, and it led him out into the larger room. Jett cast a nervous glance over his shoulder. The other boys were also being singled out by the uniformed soldiers.
He looked uneasily up at Gray. The man seemed totally carefree, like he simply didn't really care whatever life threw at him. At another time, in another place, Jett supposed that Gray would seem like a fun uncle, or maybe even an older brother. But that wasn't the case now. Jett knew that Gray could rip him in two if he wanted, and wasn't entirely sure that the man wouldn't.
They walked through the final doorway and into the outside area. Somehow, everything didn't seem as bright as did a few minutes ago - the sky seemed gray, the grass a dull shade of brown, the trees brittle and dry. It was as if everything had gone limp, like nature itself was slowly wilting away.
Jett bit back a scared whimper, and lowered his head. Am I going to die?
"All right, kid. Listen up." Gray and Jett stood outside, surrounded by huge, strangely-shaped buildings and a fifteen-foot tall wire fence. Jett didn't dare to look around, for fear that he would see Gray staring at him. He knew the man was watching him, but he dreaded seeing those creepy gray eyes boring right through him. So he stared at his feet, doing his best to not shake like a leaf.
"Let's make things easy for you to understand," Gray spoke in a conversational tone. "Pay attention, because I don't feel like explaining it again."
Jett didn't dare to move or make a sound. Gray must've taken his silence as a sign to continue, as he went on.
"I am a flyer. And because I'm a flyer, Troit has this stupid rule which says I am required to attempt, at least once, to try and create another flyer. And since I don't really feel like training one, I took the first kid I saw. Which was you. S, if you'll just hurry up and die quickly, I'll be much obliged."
Jett's head jerked up in shock, and he stared at Gray with wide eyes. Did he just hear right? Did the man just tell him to die? I am going to die!
Gray smiled. "Yes, I suppose I should tell you. Once you are marked by a Troit flyer, you have two choices. You can either become a flyer, or...you can succumb to the gruesome training and die. Personally, I prefer the second option."
Jett could feel his legs shaking. This can't be happening. This can't be happening! This -
Gray's hand settled onto his shoulder once again with a tight grip. "All right. I don't feel like doing anything right now, so you can go to the barracks. You can get the dying over with tomorrow."
He was led to another building, but Jett hardly noticed. He had gone numb with shock, and was like a lifeless puppet being manipulated by its strings. It wasn't until Gray left him inside of a smaller room filled with metal bunk beds, that he came back to himself. He sank down onto the nearest bed, curled up into a tiny ball, and trembled.
This is ... this is a nightmare!