He runs, the fierce sounds of footsteps pounding behind him. He turns around but there is no one there. The moon illuminates the dense forest as he tries to escape, raging on as if his life depended on it.
Wolves howl to the crumbling moon, a chill to match the dread his pursuers bring. They must be close, but where are they? He keeps running, dodging violent branches and leaping over cunning logs until he reaches a clearing. Now, which way? Left? Right? Straight ahead? Up. He frantically climbs a tree just high enough to avoid being seen. He perches and waits.
He waits for what feels like a lifetime, the silence slowly mocking him. Finally, he hears the sound of voices coming closer. He looks down to see two females bearing the golden crest of the General, swords in hand and bows strapped to their backs.
“I’m sure he went this way”, one declares as they enter the clearing.
“Of course he did! I was with you when you lost him!” the other exclaims.
He holds his breath, thinking of ways he can possibly escape. He hadn’t expected women. He knew he was being followed but this is a shock. Females are so slender, so thin. He can’t possibly hurt them; but he has to in order to progress.
The women continue bickering until one mutters ‘SHH’. He holds his breath. They have noticed his footprints. Their heads slowly turn, eyes following the prints until they realise where they stop. They look up. His eyes meet theirs. He jumps down and draws his sword.
He can now see that they are beautiful, dangerously beautiful- porcelain skin, piercing silver eyes that bore through his soul, thick, curly hair falling way past their shoulders. They look very similar, twins perhaps? Maybe sisters? But that’s impossible, unless… these must be the General’s daughters. They are The Gifted; he has heard of them, heard of their skills, heard that they are ruthless. He hadn’t expected their participation so early.
The one who had spoken first looks somewhat older, wiser. Her hair is midnight blue, glistening like sapphires in the moonlight. The other has a certain innocence about her yet she looks sly, a teasing smirk lingering on her lips. Her hair is black with a hint of violet. She’s shorter, perhaps an inch or two but definitely smaller. They watch him, studying his features, studying his stance, studying his weapons.
Time stands still as they stare, each wondering who will make the first move. The women circle him, edging closer; closer and closer till they can see the beads of sweat dripping from his forehead. He strikes. Moving swiftly he manages to knock the smaller one off her feet, he quickly turns round to strike the other. Too late; their blades collide.
They fight for what feels like hours, their swords dancing dangerously. He lunges, they duck, he stabs, they slash. He is quick, he is talented.
One sudden slip means it’s over. He falls, sword crashing beside him as he squirms in pain from the wound on his torso. The sisters move closer. By now he is kneeling before them, begging for mercy.
“Any last words?” the sly one sneers.
“Please! Wait! NO!”
Down in The Bunker he wakes up. He rips off the wires and storms out of his pod. He must have been the first one out. Everyone else looks peaceful, eyes twitching, fingers moving ever so slightly as they continue in the virtual competition known as The Progression.
“Better luck next time son!” a guard exclaims, escorting him out.