Somewhere in the UK
Tayla was groggy when she woke up, for a brief moment it felt like she was home, back in her own bed. But that moment was soon gone and the daunting images of her family's death flooded her mind. The sun was streaming through an open curtain and as she rolled over she got a face full of duvet. Sitting up alarmed Tayla took in her surroundings. The room was fairly large; the white walls gleamed in the early morning light. There was a small couch opposite a flat screen T.V, a mini fridge next to a desk in the corner of the room, and a chest of draws and a door on the opposite wall next to the couch.
Tayla sat up and that was when she realised why it felt weird in this bed. She had no clothes on. Tayla let out a yelp of surprise and held the duvet close to her chest, glancing back round the room her eyes settled on the small coffee table. Placed in the middle were trousers and an orange t-shirt. Leaping out of the bed Tayla scrambled across the room and pulled the top over her head and the underwear and trouser over her legs.
Once pleased with the clothes she ventured into the bathroom, presented with a mirror she took in her reflection. Her skin had pale tinge to it and heavy black bags rested beneath her eyes. Her hair was knotted and she ran her fingers through the knotted curls, trying to make them fall straight.
Leaving the bathroom Tayla slipped on the pair of boots and socks which were resting next to the couch and walked over to the window. Outside was an athletics track bright orange and out of place amongst the scattering of buildings and tennis courts. Tayla rested her hands on the window sill. If this was some form of Foster Home, she didn't like it. It was too in your face and she was sure to be bullied when she went back to school.
Tayla left the room and walked down the hall way. It was silent, dull sounds came from the closed doors which lined either side. The odd window showed the outside world, more greenery and buildings, the odd person in different coloured shirts running around. The silver doors of an elevator greeted her and she pressed the down button. The doors pinged and slid open, a young girl was stood in the lift holding a history book.
"Where am I?" Tayla asked stepping into the lift.
The girl glanced at Tayla and then above her head. "Can't speak to orange." she said in a Yorkshire accent.
Tayla glanced behind her to see a security camera in the corner of the lift. This place was getting weirder. The lift moved down and Tayla closed her eyes, trying desperately to remember what had last happened. She remembered confronting Amy about something she had overheard, she had walked into the room and felt a searing pain in the small of her back. Then nothing more. Tayla's hand moved to her back, she traced the bruised skin with her fingertips. What had given her that?
Before Tayla could ask the Yorkshire girl any questions she had hurried off. Tayla came to a standstill in front of a desk, the room looked like a reception, it even had the potted plants. A woman with short curly hair was sat behind the desk.
Tayla walked over, the lady glanced up when she heard Tayla walking over, and she motioned with her hand to be silent as she finished on the phone. It seemed like an age until the lady finished on the phone but it was soon sat in its cradle with a satisfying bleep.
Before the lady could speak Tayla butted in. "Don't you bloody say can't speak to orange."
The lady sighed and tapped away at her keyboard. "Mac would like to see you in his office. First door on your right as you go down the hall."
"Thanks." Tayla muttered heading down the hall.
A deep oak door lead the way to 'Mac' and Tayla's fist connected with the wooden panels three times until a soft Scottish voice was heard.
Tayla pushed the door open to find an old man with grey hair and blue eyes sat behind a desk, he gestured to a leather seat before the desk. Tayla walked over and sat down.
"You must be Tayla Furmage, how are you?" Mac asked.
"Fine." she replied. "Where am I?"
"You are at CHERUB, a school where we train children like you to become spies. No one ever suspects children are spying on them."
"Is this some kind of sick joke?" Tayla asked.
Mac shook his head and sighed. "No its not, now here's the deal. You take a test to see of you pass CHERUB's standards, if you do we give you the chance to join or you can go back to New Zealand. If you don't pass, well, you back to New Zealand."
Tayla nodded. "What if I don't want to join? What if I go to the police once I've left, tell them everything?"
"What will you tell them?"
Tayla shrugged. "I was abducted by an organisation called CHERUB who trains kids to be spies."
"And what evidence do you have?" Mac asked raising an eyebrow.
"None." Tayla replied.
"Do you know where it was?"
"Don't you see?" Mac said pressing his hands together and resting his head on them.
"Well like you said before, adults always trust kids, so they will believe me."
"Would they really believe a child whose parents have recently been murdered in front of them?"
Tayla sighed. "No."
"Exactly, now would you like to do this test?" Mac asked. "Have a shot at CHERUB?"
"Yes." Tayla said.
Tayla followed Mac to a golf cart which was waiting outside. Although the sun was shining no heat was coming from it, Tayla rubbed goose bumps which had appeared on her arms.
"If you plan to stay, it's going to be quite a culture shock." Mac said. "And a temperature shock."
Tayla looked sideways. "We're in England aren't we?"
Mac nodded. "You are quite right."
"I'm sure I will be fine with the culture shock, not so sure about the weather."
"You'll get used to it." Mac stopped the golf cart. "And here we are, the obstacle course."
Tayla craned her neck as she peered into the trees. "I have to go up there?"
"Yes," Mac said getting out of the golf cart. "But not alone, we'll have Arif go up there with you."
"Arif?" Tayla asked.
A teenager around sixteen walked out from the trees, he was strong and bulky with muscle. "I hope you aren't scared of heights." he said.
Tayla shook her head. "I'm scared of falling."
Arif chuckled. "Well let's hope you don't fall."
Tayla clambered up the pieces of wood which were nailed into the tree, it was ladder of sorts and by the time she had reached the platform her arms were ready to drop off.
Arif walked across a swinging bridge. "Follow my lead." he said from the other platform.
Tayla would have found the walk across a breeze, if it had railings and wasn't hundreds of metres in the air. She didn't look down but straight ahead, keeping her gaze fixed to the bark of the tree she stepped out onto the rickety panels. Her sudden weight caused them to sway, instead of walking across calmly as she had anticipated she end up doing a mad rush.
"Good, that was good." Arif said patting Tayla's shoulder.
By the end of the course, the adrenaline coursing through her veins was sky high and she wanted to do it again. The thrill of being on the edge sent her into a craze of hormones; all she wanted to do was feel the same sweet moment where your life was in your hands. The last time she had felt it was when she held the gun, steady in her hand and aimed at the head of the man coming towards her.
"You have to jump." Arif said breaking Tayla's thoughts.
Tayla glanced down at the blue mat. It looked like a DVD resting in the grass.
"I'll go first." Arif said. "Just keep your arms in and you should be fine."
Arif jumped and in a woosh and thud he was down on the mat resembling an ant. Once he was out of the way Tayla swallowed her fear and steeped over the edge. The falling was intense, for a brief moment it felt like she was flying, the sickening feeling of her stomach being left at the top was gone, the roar of the air in her ears made her feel like she wasn't alive. But not after long she made impact with the blue mat.
"That was rather graceful." Arif said giving Tayla a hand off the mat.
"Uh, thanks?" Tayla said.
Arif grinned. "No problem!"
"If you would follow me." Mac said getting back onto the golf cart. Tayla followed and sat in the passenger seat while Arif got into the back. "I don't remember saying you could get on Arif."
"Sorry," Arif said. "But it's a real long walk back to the main building!"
Mac sighed. "Fine." and started the engine.
They pulled up in front of a Japanese style building, it was sleek and red. "That's pretty wow worthy." Tayla said following Mac up the steps.
"Take off your shoes and socks." Mac said stepping into the dojo.
Tayla pulled the laces of the combat boots and stepped inside. It was full of students in white pyjamas with black and brown belts fighting and twisting each other into painful positions. A few stopped and stared at Tayla as she followed Mac to a small room out back. . A short woman came out of a doorway followed by a short skinny boy with dark hair. The woman nodded to Mac before walking into the room they had recently vacated, yelling in a mixture of Japanese and English.
"We need to test your fighting skills." Mac said. "This is Bruce, and he will be your partner."
Tayla stared at Bruce and he stared back, he didn't look strong but his stance was confident. Tayla knew he was going to be good and over confident.
"Here are the rules," Mac said. "The first to win five submissions is the winner. An opponent can submit at any time by tapping the mat or speaking. No eye gouging or hitting the testicles. You can withdraw at any time."
"Understand?" Mac said passing the two youngsters mouth guards. They nodded. "Fight."
Tayla bit down on the blue gum shield and chewed it thoughtfully as she watched Bruce; he was stepping slowly round in a circle. Tayla mirrored his moves, out of the blue Bruce lunged for her, his foot coming towards her face. At the last moment Tayla ducked and rolled across the floor. In a few seconds she felt a searing pain in her back as Bruce brought his foot down on her back. She didn't think it was possible for someone to move that fast.
Tayla had been in a few fights in her time and she had always fought with her brother. She had never been properly trained but she knew how to defend herself and throw some decent punches and kicks.
"Submit." Bruce growled pressing down on her back.
"I submit." Tayla muttered.
"Point to Bruce." Mac said.
Tayla got to her feet and turned to Bruce, who was already coming towards her. She ducked his punch and stuck her fist out blindly; she felt it connect with something bony. Bruce cried out in pain and stumbled back. Tayla clutched her fist grimacing through the pain as she moved forwards. Bruce was still distracted from the blood pouring from his nose.
Tayla took her shot. She kicked him in the ankle and sent a punch to his solar plexus before his hands gripped her shoulders and she got flung against the mat. Her head it the ground and for a moment she was winded.
"You bitch." Bruce spat, blood dripping on Tayla's face. "Submit."
Tayla knew she was no match for Bruce but she wanted to see him suffer once more. She wriggled her hand from beneath her back and placed it on the back of Bruce's neck. Tayla didn't know if it would work but she had seen it in plenty of movies.
She pulled his face down to hers in a matter of seconds, her lips bet his. She didn't bother to be sensual or anything, instead she bit down on his bottom lip. She felt his blood trickle into her mouth and she could taste the iron from it. Bruce grunted in pain and disgust as he tried to free himself.
Tayla felt his body weight leave hers and she wrapped her free leg round his abdomen, pushing from the floor with her arm she rolled Bruce onto his back. She let go of his lip and used all her body weight to hold Bruce on the ground.
"Submit." she panted.
Tayla was shocked about what happened next, the once ruthless boy was crying and clutching his lip.
"That wasn't fair!" he sobbed. "That, that!"
Tayla got of him and he curled up on the floor, she stepped back in wonder. She spat out his blood and it landed on the floor beside him.
"That was a different tactic." Mac said walking over. "Do you give up Bruce?"
"Yes!" he cried.
"Is he okay?" Tayla asked watching the boy cry on the floor.
"He'll be fine. Now are you ready to do the written part of your test?" Mac asked.
Tayla nodded, rubbing her sore back. "I guess so."
The paper got harder as it neared the end but Tayla was able to finish all the pages before time ran out. She couldn't concentrate properly with the pain from her back and right hand. Tayla ended up doing the paper left handed, although she was right handed she had broken her arm falling from a tree and she was forced to write left handed and so was used to it. Once finished she was given some sketchy directions to the canteen, and in the end she was so helplessly lost she followed a bunch of kids hoping they would go to the canteen.
The room was full and as she entered it went silent and everyone stared. Tayla kept her head down and reached for a tray, she filled her plate with a pasta dish and walked over to a table and sat down. She could barely eat properly as her right hand was throbbing, swelling and turning a dodgy shade of purple.
Soon enough she was back in Mac's office. On the desk between them was a chicken in a small cage.
"Are you a vegetarian?" Mac asked.
Tayla shook her head. "No."
"Do you eat chicken?"
"I want you to kill this chicken."
Tayla glanced at the bird. "With what?"
"Your bare hands should do it."
Tayla reached into the cage and gripped the bird, it squawked in shock but she ringed its next and she felt the satisfying crack of the bird's neck. It was dead.
Tayla stood at the edge of the pool staring at the brick shimmering in the bottom. She hadn't been swimming in a week, and she missed the water.
"You need to dive in, get the brick and swim to the other end." Mac said.
Tayla kicked off her shoes and socks, pulled off her trousers knowing the extra weight would only drag her down. She dived into the cool water and with a few strong kicks she was beside the brick. Grabbing it firmly with her left hand she breast stroked along the bottom of the pool. She was pushing off from the pools floor and reaching the surface within a matter of moments. Tayla hauled the brick onto the side of the pool and got out.
"Well done." Mac said handing her a towel.
Tayla wrapped the towel around her shoulders before drying her legs and putting her trousers back on.
Back in Mac's office Tayla was nervous. She sat on her hands to stop them from shaking.
"Do you believe you passed?" Mac asked.
"I don't think so." Tayla said.
"You passed the first test with ease, even Arif was impressed about how you didn't stop and stutter once. Your second test you passed with a low mark, Bruce is a top martial arts expert, and the way you handled it was a way I don't think seen before, however you knew he was too good for you and you still continued anyway." Mac said. "Your written test was excellent; you were one mark off full marks."
Tayla nodded. "I have a good memory."
"And the last two you passed excellently." Mac said. "You have a place in CHERUB if you would like to take it. We will give you two days to decide and let you stay in the room you were in."
Tayla nodded amazed, unable to breathe. She could leave her old life of pain and misery and live in a place with chances and new people.
Here is chapter 2. Hope you like it.
Thanks for the great reviews :)
I'm not sure hormones is the word for saying about like feeling great with the adrenaline.
8 of 10 exams to done :) this is a result of studying maths. haha!