0415 Hours, November 30, 2517 (Military Calender) / Episilon Erandi System, Reach Military Complex, planet Reach

Carris stirred and her eyes flickered open. Immediately every muscle in her body was met with the now very familiar sensation of a dull and stiff ache, every morning it was the same and she could barely remember what is was like to not be in pain.

Ever since she had been brought here with each day that passed she was stretched to breaking point as Chief Mendez put her and the rest of the children through a backbreaking routine of drills and exercises. Each day she was put through the ringer and each day she had come out the other side battered and bruised but alive, she wondered how long these men and the lady doctor were going to keep her here, and when she could go home.

Carris swung her rigid, skinny legs off the bunk and sat for a moment dangling her bare feet in the cool morning air. It was still fairly dark in the bunkhouse but out of the barred windows she could see the midnight black sky was turning an orangey blue and the stars were beginning to fade, it must have been very early.

She wondered what had woken her, normally she slept like a log and her days felt almost seamless. Every morning without fail the children were awoken by Mendez at dawn to be put through some hard exercise routines, before being sent on a run across the compound. This was followed by lessons and a small breakfast which was in turn followed by another run and then by some kind of war game. The children were then given dinner, the closest thing they got to 'free' time during the day and then put through more drills before they were finally sent bed, only to close their eyes and then instantly find themselves being roused by Mendez again. Thinking about it made Carris realise she didn't even dream anymore.

As she sat and enjoyed her first truly peaceful moment in months, she noticed she could hear a slight whimpering coming from the far end of the bunkhouse. Carris listened carefully and could hear it was a boy. However he was, he was frantically trying to choke back sobs and in the dim light she could see one of the children at the far end tossing and turning in their cot. Soundlessly she dropped to the floor as not to wake the boy who slept beneath her. His name was Sam and he was tall. She crept through the narrow passage between the two rows of simple metal framed bunks and approached the source of the whimper.

She reached the bunk and quietly climbed the short ladder so her head was poking just over the mattress and seats. Lying in the bunk was a boy bundled up into a ball beneath his sheets, shivering as he tried to hold back his tears.

"Hey" Carris whispered

The boy turned over and sat up in shock. He rubbed his wet eyes on his blankets and backed up against the bedframe, she almost thought it seemed like he had expected to find Mendez standing at the end of his bed. She didn't blame him if he had, she was scared of him too, and she hated him.

"Oh hello" The boy finally said softly, sniffling slightly as he tried in vain to hide what he had been doing.

"Are you ok?" Carris asked.

"Yes" The boy sniffed "Yes I'm fine, sorry if I woke you, I didn't mean to, sorry"

"Can I come up?" Carris smiled.

"Ok" The boy said, he hugged his legs close to himself through the blankets and made room for her.

Carris climbed up the ladder and carefully seated herself on the far end of the bed, making sure as not to make too much noise and wake the boy who was asleep on the bunk bellow. As she sat down she got a better look at the crying boy, he had big brown eyes, closely shorn brown hair and a nose that looked like it had been recently broken.

"What happened to your nose?" Carris blurted out as she made herself comfortable, tucking her legs beneath the sheet.

"Oh it doesn't matter" The boy said sheepishly/

"Tell me" Carris insisted

"One of the other boys beat me up" He said with a pout and a sniff, wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his nightshirt "He said I stole his crackers during Déjà's lessons but I did not! It was John, he always does it! I've seen him!"

"Oh" Carris frowned before smiling "Tell me who it was I will get him back for you!"

"Doesn't matter" The boy said turning away "I will just stay away from him"

"Come on Tell me!"

"You wouldn't be able to beat him up anyway, you're a girl!"

"I could too!" Carris protested eagerly, rocking back and forth on the mattress "Back home, teacher took me out of PE class cause he said I didn't know my own strength, I bet I could get that boy back for you, I bet I could!"

The boy sat on the other end of the bunk smiled before letting out another small snivel.

"No, it's ok, I don't want any more trouble" He said

"That sucks, but ok" Carris pouted "But it's nothing to cry about!"

"I wasn't crying"

"Don't lie, I heard you"

"Then I wasn't crying about that"

The boy looked away and Carris noticed tears were welling up in his eyes again, she slightly bad and wondered if she had been a bit mean to him.

"Sorry" Carris said sheepishly "You aren't a liar, but what were you crying about?"

"I miss my Mum and Dad" The boy sniffed "I hate it here; I just want to go home"

"Me too" Carris said, saying it aloud made her realise how much it was true, she felt herself tearing up slightly but decided she wouldn't cry for the sake of her new friend, she would be strong.

"I just want to close my eyes and wish myself back home. I want to wake up tomorrow and just be back in my room in my house. No more stupid lessons, no more running, no more drills and no more fighting"

The boy was starting to stutter his words as he tried in vain to hold back his sobs. Large tears streaked down his face and pattered softly onto the clean white sheets.

"It's ok" Carris said scooting forward slightly using her legs "It's ok"

"No its not" The boy whimpered

"Yes it is" Carris smiled "Cause we are going to be friends and we are going to stick together!"

The boy looked up at her with his watery brown eyes.

"I don't have any friends here" He sniffed

"You do now; I'm not going to let anyone hurt you anymore"

The boy let out one final sniff and finally a smile crept its way across his broad face.

"My name is Jorge, what's yours?" He said

"Carris" She replied.