A/N: Hey, readers! Does it seem like I'm getting faster with my updates? If so, YAY! If not... Well, we can't have everything. (And apparently, "everything" includes my hands moving faster. ^^")

Wow, we're almost at 100 reviews! I can honestly say that I never expected to get this much feedback from the story. After each chapter is out and I'm starting the next, I'm always surprised by the stats. So from the bottom of my heart, thanks. :')

To celebrate the one hundredth review, I'll write a bonus chapter in place of the fourteenth chapter! And if I don't get one, I'll just write it anyway. (...What? You can't say I'm begging. ;P)

For the Disclaimer let's do a quick recap of characters:

Brianna/Psy= swingdancer23: Reads minds, age seventeen, hard core and hard to impress, mortal enemy of Pancake; dark brown hair with light brown highlights in short bob style, tall, green eyes

Cyrus/Ascend= swingdancer23: Can fly, age eighteen, introvert but polite, enjoys stargazing and Cheetos, and is hopelessly in love with Brianna. Shaggy black hair, deep brown eyes, wears black rectangular glasses, tall, and really strong arms.

Lacey/The Blue Bolt= Grandmaster Soul: Super-speed, age sixteen, bubbly, high energy levels; shoulder-length blonde hair with blue streaks, green eyes, short

Yuri/Golden Arc= Grandmaster Soul: Controls lightning, age seventeen, likes and dislikes nothing, an overall a** (Dani's words, not mine :P); long waist-length black hair and golden eyes

Stella/Plural= violetfireflies: Clones herself, previously attacked by Spikeasaurus, age seventeen; loud, makes jokes, sets Asher straight when he flirts for unknown reason... Light blonde hair just past shoulder-length, blue-green eyes, short

Angus/Creature= chuice (anonymous): Turns herself into a three-headed hydra (each head shoots lightning, fire, and ice), age fourteen, shy, smart ratty brown hair, pretty eyes, and stick-like figure.

Rachael/Tart= The Nerdy Mirror Maze Queen (anonymous): Exhales acid through mouth that can make you hallucinate, skin burns to the touch, age fifteen, talkative; tan skin, shoulder-length wavy black hair, bright green eyes, tall and skinny.

Lissy/Vigor= 13DawnsShadow13 (anonymous): Channels pure energy and can use it to heal others and herself, age fourteen, tough, mysterious and rebellious; long black hair tied in a ponytail, blue-green eyes, athletic build.

Adriana/Tigress= Kaylio: When mad or under stress, silver stripes appear on forehead, triangular striped ears pop out of head, hands turn to claws with black stripes and fur, grows tail, and has longer canines. She's independent, hot-tempered, cares how she looks, and hates being teased about height. Her normal appearance is short height, long red hair, and dark brown eyes.

Pancake (Lindsay)/Spawn= HersheyChocolates101 (anonymous): Creates illusions, age fourteen, clever, looks innocent but is really misbehaved and likes to prank. Straight and thick shoulder-length brown hair, skinny arms and legs, gray-blue eyes.

Kilas/Temp= Kaylio: Left hand is extreme heat and the right is extreme cold-when he claps them together they're switched off and vice versa, and it's impossible to cut off his arms. He has a weapon only he can hold; a flaming whip in his left and an ice sword on right. Each element is artificial. Age seventeen. He holds grudges, amusing, weird sense of humor, can be heartless and cruel on missions. Is of average height, has spiky gray hair, and icy-blue eyes.

Asher/Torrent= Aria-Dancingdolphins15 (anonymous): laser vision, super-strength, reads minds, age seventeen, airhead, smart, flirty; blond hair, green eyes, strong build, handsome.

Deziree= WingsEternal: Controls animals and shadows and can create illusions from them to do damage, age fourteen, quick-tempered, prone to acts of violence, perfectionist, extremely smart; short height, short brown hair with blonde highlights, one eye is blue while the other is hazel.

Jenna= TheCatOwl: Supposedly a young genius girl who creates most of the tech the Alter Knights use, claimed to be a "good kid" by Stella. (The rest will be revealed and continued later on)

Nia= TheGoldenHeartedGirl329 (anonymous): A young girl who does most of the cooking for the team (To be continued later on)

Specter= me: Mysterious founder of the Alter Knights respected by all of the members (except Dani and Shadow who are still suspicious; the rest will be continued later on)

This much will also be on my profile, so be on the look out. :) Now, onto the story!

Why Kids my Age Hate School

"Dani, get up! It's time for breakfast!" If I didn't know any better I'd think I was home in my own bed about to be pounced on by Aaron, but this voice didn't belong to any member of my family.

I cracked an eye open, slowly taking in my surroundings. I mentally went over the facts to jar myself awake and alert; I was in a room that was given to me by the group known as The Altered Knights. I was apparently one of them, and thus had to act like them like a "good girl."

But I think we all know about my problem with authority by now, especially when it means being humble to people that have tried to kill me.

"C'mon!" called a different voice from behind my door. "Rise and shine!"

Time, I thought groggily. Somehow I managed to find my phone and checked the time. It was 9:28 a.m., but since it was on New York time it had to be about half past six.

Freakin' morning people... I grumbled in my head.

"I heard that, Rookie!" the same voice snapped.


"Five more minutes..." I moaned into my pillow.

"No can do!" another girl shouted, and the bubbly tone helped me realize that it was Lacey.

"If you don't get out of here right now, we're going in after you," someone else threatened, and the bluntness behind it reminded me of Yuri or Lissy.

"You can't," I smirked. "It can only be opened by me, right?"

"Wrong. We can get Jenna to open it if we want..."

My eyes snapped open. "Really?"

"Really. Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. What will it be?"

"Just do it," Shadow whispered, giving me a start. He was sitting while watching me, his amber eyes shining in the darkness. "All this yelling is giving me a headache. Oh, and have fun." He concluded this with a teasing smile.

"You have to come too, Shadow," someone I couldn't place stated, and his eyes darted to the door.


"We have special training for the animals. They help out too, y'know. What did you think they did; sit around doing nothing all day?"

"Yes," I snickered.

He shot a glare at me and stood up. "Ha ha. Go get ready if you're still sure about this."

I smiled and rolled out of bed to my feet. "Alright, alright. I'm up."

"Hurry!" someone instructed in a more timid tone, and I was instantly reminded of Angus. "Breakfast is in thirty minutes! Make sure you wear something presentable. It should be what you'll be fighting in on missions."

"Got it," I said thoughtfully.

I went to the bag with clothes in it and started rummaging through the contents. What did I have that was presentable? And what would I fight in that would represent the meaning of what I'd strive for? My wardrobe was very limited, so there was no way I'd have something to fit Angus' description, right? But believe it or not, just when I was starting lose hope I came across an article of clothing that made me freeze.

James' present he gave me on my birthday.

As if I were in a trance, I picked it up and unraveled it. It still looked brand new and the memories came rushing back. A part of me had purposely been avoiding it, and I'd realized that as I stared at it for the second time in almost half a year. I don't know how long I stared at the clothing, but before I knew it a single tear was rolling down my cheek.

"What's wrong?" Shadow asked me tentatively, and I was snapped back to reality.

I blinked and quickly wiped the tear away. "Nothing, I'm fine."

I grabbed the outfit with the addition of a pair of jean shorts and then I gathered the toiletries. I locked myself in the bathroom and finally got the chance to look around it. It was pretty big, with a large sink connected to a white marble counter. In the back was a bathtub with a closed off shower next to it. Under the sink were wooden cabinets, and on the wall above the sink was a medicine cabinet with the door being clear glass. In front of the sink was a long, rectangular mirror.

Sighing, I tried to put the guys out of my mind with my first real shower in months. I spent a long time just letting the water flow into my face, and when I saw shampoo and conditioner bottles I nearly squealed in delight. I'm not the type of girl to be obsessed with their appearance, but you can't blame me for wanting to be clean.

I washed my hair like there was no tomorrow along with myself; so much that Shadow actually knocked on the door saying, "You're not trying to drown yourself, are you?"

I took that as my cue to get out, albeit reluctantly. Then I got ready as I normally would except I took a little extra care. I found a fresh roll of bandages underneath the sink and changed the compress around my wounds from yesterday after cleaning them. Finally when I was dressed, I was staring at my reflection and looking myself over. I couldn't help noticing how well the clothes really fit me-casual yet meaningful. I just hoped the others thought so.

When I stepped out of the bathroom Shadow immediately looked at the shirt and cocked his head to the side. "Way to make a fashion statement." When I was still silent he added, "I mean it-I like it. How come I've never seen it before?"

"What makes you think you know everything I own?" I responded, and I was vaguely aware that I was kind of avoiding the question.

I knew he could sense it too, but I was grateful that instead of pressing the matter he just shrugged and said, "Fair enough. You ready?"

"Ready as I'll ever be. Let's get our 'gym class' on."

As soon as we exited through the sliding door we were greeted by a series of familiar and unfamiliar faces. Lacey, Lissy, Angus, Brianna, and Yuri were there, plus the acid-spitting girl (who was now wearing a muzzle) seen in the forest and a short girl with long red hair and dark brown eyes.

"Thought you'd never get out of there," Yuri groaned, already beginning to turn around to leave. My narrowed eyes stared after her until I tore myself away to see the others.

"Nice outfit," Angus complimented me. She herself was wearing a purple stretchy one-piece material that clung to her body, and over it she wore a black cloak.

"It's still fashionable and you can throw good kicks and punches in it," Brianna agreed. "A useful combo indeed." She was wearing jeans, fingerless gloves, and a white cropped shirt.

"I don't think I've introduced myself," the acidic girl said as she stepped forward, her voice deeply distorted by the muzzle. "I'm Rachael, but call me Tart on the field."

I nodded and turned to the other girl. "I'm Adriana, your next-door neighbor," she explained with a small smile, "but you should also get to know me as Tigress."

"It's nice to meet you both," I said. "I have a feeling that I have much more people to meet..."

"Yep," they replied at once.

"We better get going!" Lacey exclaimed, glancing at her watch. She was bouncing up and down in her blue Adidas track suit. "We'll be late for breakfast!" And she sped off without another word.

I blinked at the spot she had just stood in disbelief and said, "She was worried about being late?"

"She really likes breakfast," was the only explanation that was offered.

"I would too if I burned a thousand calories a day," Shadow murmured. "She needs a chill pill."

"You haven't seen anything yet," Adriana smirked. "This is just her without coffee."

"I thought Specter banned her from coffee after what happened last time?" Angus questioned softly, and I was amused to see that she actually looked fearful at the thought of mixing the two together.

"She did, but Nia still gives in every once in a while after multiple puppy-dog eyes," Brianna stated. "Y'know, I read Lacey's mind once while she was on a sugar-high."

Everyone stared at her with wide eyes hoping to hear more. Lissy was finally the one to ask, "What was she thinking?"

"I swear, all I heard was her repeatedly chant, 'Sugar-sugar-sugar-run-run-run-food-food-food-happy-happy-happy-SQUIRREL!"

There was a long disturbed moment of silence before Angus muttered, "Remind me to lock myself in my room more often," looking like she just wanted to disappear.

There was another surprised quietness that befell us before they all laughed, leaving me to just stare in amazement at all of them. This was the first time I'd ever seen so many mutants together getting along. You would never think that this was a species feared by most people around the world. They were just a group of friends having fun together, but wasn't this usually the case?

"Man, we gotta go," Adriana said between giggles as she wiped a tear away.

"Yeah," Brianna said, although she looked like she was on the verge of busting out into laughter again.

"Follow us," Angus giggled lightly, and I noted that this was probably a rare moment for her to open up since she was so shy.

They all walked down the corridor leading outside, leaving Shadow and I to follow. While we walked out the doors I could feel the chilly autumn morning air blowing around me, and the moon was still visible in the sky. We continued on until we were nearing the main building that looked even taller than when I had been on top of it, but that could've just been my nerves talking.

Rachael pressed a key on a side panel and said, "Hey, Jenna!"

We had to wait a couple of moments before a young girl voice said, "What's up?"

"Could you let us in, please? We've got the Rookie here."

Just for the record, I seriously wasn't liking that nickname.

"No prob. I think I've almost got her on the system as a member. Just give me a sec, and...done!"

The door slid open and we walked inside one by one so that the system could analyze us. The debriefing room was empty, but I could hear a lot of commotion coming from somewhere inside the building. I saw where when we walked down a corridor on the opposite side and into a whole other room.

There were long tables like in a cafeteria and teens were roaming the area everywhere, talking and eating and just being themselves. On the side was a door that said "Kitchen." Against the wall near it though was an even longer table adorned with food of all sorts, including fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs, muffins, pancakes, oatmeal, grits, cereal, and condiments. My mouth was watering just looking at it (except the bacon and sausage). I was pretty sure Shadow was literally drooling.

"I take it you're hungry?" Angus said with an eyebrow raised. We just nodded in response.

"You can sit with us," Adriana said. "We'll find a table."

Again we nodded and we began our trek down the aisle towards the food. I could feel lots of curious eyes in my direction but I tried my best to ignore them and focus on my mission: to fill my empty belly. Unfortunately, in my effort to avoid any eye contact I ended up staring at the ground a bit and not paying attention to where I was going. And because I wasn't watching where I was going, I bumped into someone just as they were getting up from a table, the half-eaten muffin in their hand falling to the floor.

"I'm so sorry," I apologized quickly.

"You better be, Rookie," an all-too familiar voice snapped as they bent down to retrieve the food. When they stood back up I found myself face-to-face with Deziree.

Of course.

"On second thought, I think I just saved that poor muffin from your evil clutches," I retorted wholeheartedly. People were now looking up from their own conversations and watching us.

"Don't think you're so great just because you beat me in one match," she snarled. "You just got lucky."

"What you call 'luck,' I call 'talent;' something you obviously know nothing about," Shadow barked, and I could tell he was seriously ready to rearrange the girl's face on command.

"If I remember correctly, I think you were the one trapped in the cage crying for your friend's help, mutt. Let's not forget the kind of damage I can cause you."

"You don't scare me," Shadow spat, "but I will say that you remind me a lot of this flea I had, once-annoying, hard to get rid of, and you just don't know when to give up."

"That's some big talk for such a little creature. You wouldn't be so tough without those powers, I bet. Which reminds me-how did your life go while you were living in the wild? Were you on your own, tortured, never to have a home on your own? You were rejected by other animals, weren't you? I guess a freak of nature like you isn't even allowed in nature."

She has a death wish, I thought numbly, staring at Shadow's shaking body. The emotions flowing off of him through our link were overwhelming. That's the only logical reason-she wants to die at the paws of a vengeful wolf.

Finally, acting on his instinctive impulsiveness, he lunged for her with an ear-splitting bark. I wanted to stop him, really. I mean, I didn't want to get in a fight on an empty stomach. But Shadow was too fast for me to stop. I saw him leap in what seemed like slow-motion; his hindquarters tensed until they pushed him off the floor flying right at Deziree...

...Only to be intercepted by another wolf.

Shadow was thrown to the side midway to Deziree, skidding to a halt as he lay on the floor. He quickly shook himself off as he got up staring down his opponent.

This wolf didn't have Shadow's unique mutated changes, but it had a dark aura around it just like anything Deziree conjured from the shadows, which meant it was just another warped shadow. But its actual appearance included thick black fur and red eyes.

"Careful, it's just an illusion Deziree created," I warned him.

"Well, it sure felt real," he growled, sizing it up.

"Down, boy," the shadow wolf smirked in a female voice, shocking both me and Shadow.

"I-It...can talk?" Shadow muttered in wonderment.

"What, you thought you were the only wolf with powers like that?" Deziree chortled. "How do you think I knew how to capture you so easily? And she's a girl, genius. Meet Shade."

"The pleasure's all yours," Shade taunted cockily as they started circling each other.

"Look, sweetheart, I don't have anything against you," Shadow gave a toothy, smooth grin.

"Well, sorry to disappoint you, love, but if you have anything against her then you have something against me," she replied, smiling as well.

"Sweetheart?" "Love?" Was this smack-talking or flirting?

The link Shadow and I share is pretty special and goes so much deeper than just a "master and pet" relationship; it's actual empathy. So you know I mean it when I say I could feel the testosterone radiating off of him.

The question was: did my Wolfie have himself a crush?

"Shade, attack," Deziree ordered suddenly, and Shade seemed to hesitate before crouching.

"Sorry, Master's orders," she winked to Shadow and then ran straight for him.

"Shade, stop!" Specter's commanding voice rang out clearly through the room.

All the people that had started to gather around us now stood at attention to her. Shade immediately slid to a stop a foot away from Shadow's face because of her momentum. I caught them back away from each other in embarrassment at there closeness before regarding Specter again. She glided forward before stopping between Deziree and I, glancing at us both.

"Getting into fights on your first day, are we?" she said to me after several moments of complete silence.

I stared her down defiantly. Believe it or not, I just wasn't ready to be obedient to the "Mighty Specter" just yet, so sue me.

"It wasn't on purpose," I said curtly. "She was the one that blew up over a muffin."

"I was provoked!" Deziree cried defensively.

"By losing your muffin," I added, rolling my eyes.

"That's enough, you two," Specter interfered firmly. "Dani, Shadow, come with me." She turned around and started to walk towards a hallway she supposedly came from.

I hesitated but followed with Shadow at my heels, and everyone stared at us with stoic faces besides the group I entered the cafeteria with; they actually looked sorry for me. As I walked past Deziree she gave me a satisfied leer and I just glared back at her. Shade vanished, but not without sparing one last, grim glance in Shadow's direction.

The hallway was only lit with some chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the walls a dull gray. The floor rose like a ramp leading to our unknown destination. Portraits of the AK members were placed on each side, their poses deviating but somewhat touching. It was as if they were an actual family. I wondered if mine would ever be up there...

We finally came to a door at the end of it, but the entranceway broke off to the right where another hallway began. Instead of turning, she placed her hand on the scanner of the door, scanned her eye in another beam of light, and finally she did the voice command being just her name and the door opened. She walked inside and beckoned on forward.

Inside it was like an office. Bookshelves lined the walls chock-full of volume after volume. In the middle towards the back was a desk that was neat aside from stacks of paperwork and files, and a flat-screen T.V. hung in the top left corner near the door. A couch was placed on the wall with a water filter in a corner. In front of the desk were two wooden chairs, and to the right there was a door that lead to a balcony outside that I guessed would give a pretty good view of the island.

"Have a seat," she gestured towards the chairs while she sat down behind her desk. I took one look at the hard, uncomfortable-looking chairs and went straight for the couch. Shadow followed suit and sat down next to me, and we both had a relaxed, unworried pose.

"Do you two have to be so...independent?" she finally sighed rubbing her temples.

Shadow and I exchanged incredulous looks before replying, "Uh, yeah."

She sighed again. "Look, it's your first day. I get that it must be difficult for you two to adjust here, but can you at least make an effort?"

"Hey, I tried to," I said, hands raised in defense. "You were the one who helped me make my first enemy here."

"This was the first time I ever made a new recruit fight an experienced member as soon as they gained consciousness, I promise. This was unlike something I've ever done before. I was just curious as to what you could do. Did you know that you're the first new member we've had in about two years? You are different from the others."

"Stop, you're making me blush."

She rolled her eyes at my sarcasm. "Yeah, laugh it up. I mean it. We could use you here, but only if you cooperate."

"The fact that we even decided to spend the night here was cooperation enough," Shadow scowled. "I could barely sleep, thinking creatures were gonna come out of the shadows at any minute and attack."

"And I apologize once more for that," she said. "I plan on treating you well here, just like all of my pupils."

"And what exactly is this place?" I asked. "A school or something?"

"I guess you could say that. I, as well as some of the others, help teach them their true potential. If you have any questions or concerns, you can come to me."

"I've got one," Shadow raised a paw. "What can you do?"

"Excuse me?" she asked in confusion.

"C'mon, I'm a mutant animal," Shadow said gruffly. "I figured out that you were a mutant the moment I saw you. The question is, what are your powers?"

She regarded us both silently before finally saying, "I can take control of an animal's essence for a while or put my spirit in one; their eyesight, speed, agility, stealthiness, smell, hearing-you name it, and I can get it. My prize animal that I use the most is Cookie, my sparrow."

"Interesting," Shadow murmured suspiciously, at which Specter smiled.

"Don't worry, you're safe. I don't use any of the team's animals unless it's an absolute emergency, and that hardly ever happens."

"That's good to hear," I said as I got up. "If that's all you wanted to say, then I'll show myself out. I'm still running on 'E' since I never got to eat."

"I'm not done yet," she said, stopping me. "There are consequences for fighting outside of the training sessions..."

"You're kidding, right?" I dully asked.

"Relax, I won't discipline you this time. Just be warned. I'll talk to Deziree later about leaving you alone."

"You don't have to do that," I groaned in annoyance. "I can handle her and myself."

"Even if that may be, I'm still talking to her. What she did was inexcusable," she said, and I could see that there was no changing her mind.

I ran my fingers through my hair irritably. "Fine. Anything else?"

"Just two," she answered, and I flopped back onto the couch tiredly. "One, how would you like to be the first to train in our sparring lessons? It's obvious from your previous display of actions that you need to let off some steam."

"As much fun as that sounds, I'd rather not. I'm still a little beat up from yesterday."

"Ah, yes, your wounds. That can be taken care of." She pressed a button on her desk and said, "Lissette, come here, please."

There was a moment of silence before her voice could be heard saying, "On my way."

I tapped my foot impatiently until the door opened and Lissy walked in.

"What's up?" she asked, looking at us both.

"That's what I wanna know," I said, throwing a questioning glance Specter's way.

"How energized are you?" Specter asked her.

"I think I have enough to give and then some," she answered. "You want me to help her?" Specter nodded in affirmation.

Lissy then turned to me and said, "Take off your shirt. I'm going to heal your wounds."

I looked at her and then to Shadow meaningfully. He smirked and went to face the corner. "You realize I'm an animal, right?"

"As long as you're a guy, I couldn't care less," I replied.

I followed Lissy's instructions and she began undressing the gash from Deziree's scythe on my left arm. Then she placed both hands on it, making me wince. "What are you-?"

Red waves of warm energy started seeping into the wound, and it hurt like the good kind of pain you get after removing a troubling needle from a foot. I watched as my skin stitched itself back together until there was nothing left but a very faint scar.

"That's amazing," I said, gazing at my arm and moving it. It didn't even hurt.

"Now I'll do your shoulder," she said, but I noticed she sounded a bit tired and looked woozy.

"Are you sure?" I asked sincerely.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she shrugged off her condition. "I've gotten worse."

"Okay..." I responded, still somewhat uncertain. She peeled the wrapping off from around my shoulder and ribs and rested her hands directly on the initial wound. Soon the same sensation came and I was left with another small scar.

"The scars should go away after a week or so," she told me, her voice wavering.

"Thanks a lot," I said, redressing. "I owe you."

"Don't mention it," she waved a hand dismissively. "I'll probably just make you do stupid favors for me for a while." I was somewhat relieved that she said it in a joking tone but I wasn't fully convinced she didn't mean it.

Specter cleared her throat. "Well done, Lissette. Make sure you get plenty of rest."

"Will do," she said and slowly made her leave.

"Can I turn around now?" Shadow asked.


He faced me, a ghost of a smile still on his lips. "Self-conscious, are we?"

I ignored him and gave my attention back to Specter. "You said there was one more thing...?"

"Right. I want you to take this." She went into a drawer and took out a rectangular and thick compact device with the AK symbol on it. It looked kind of like the dinosaur portable game systems from several decades ago.

I picked it up and instantly a little metallic rod popped out from the edge of it, the bead at the tip fanning out as a ray of violet light scanned my entire body.

I dropped it on the floor in surprise but quickly recovered, sending an aggravated look at Specter. "What is up with all these scanners? Paranoid much?"

"You can never be too careful," she simply said, her eyes trained on me. "Now pick it back up."

Grudgingly I conceded and the cover flipped upwards at my touch. There was a square screen on the top and a circular screen on the bottom with the addition of a few buttons on the side.

"It looks cool," Shadow admitted, "but it would help to know what it does."

"This is just a smaller and a bit less advanced version of T.E.C.C.A, our supercomputer. Many of the others just call it 'Holo-Tech,' or just 'Holo' as in 'hologram.' It will be your friend the time you'll be staying with us," she explained. "Every member has one. It'll alert you when you're needed to go to a briefing for a mission or meeting, when I need you to come see me, or inform you of schedule changes. You can make it your personal organizer if you want and update it with alarms or fill in it's 'Task' function. It will also provide you with of a map of the grounds.

"You can message the others by calling them or with a function that is much like texting, but that feature should only be used for emergencies. Granted, I don't think many of the others listen to that rule, but that's the way it should be used. Be warned that you can track the others' computers, but many of them don't carry it on themselves. You may just track it straight to their rooms, so you shouldn't rely on it to much and get to know the grounds as soon as possible."

"This little thing can do all that?" I asked. "I only see a couple of buttons!"

"Press the one that says 'ON,'" she rolled her eyes.

I pressed it and the top screen flashed brightly along with the circular one, which streamed a concentrated ball of light that ascended and spread out evenly to a size almost twice as big as the machine itself. I suddenly realized that it was a hologram as letters clearly appeared in the light. The screen on the top said in legible text, "Enter name" and below it there was a box with a blinking cursor.

"Does it-?" I began to ask, mesmerized by the holographic radiation.

Specter nodded, "It does. Touch it."

I held the shift key with my pinkie finger and kept it there while I maneuvered my middle finger to tap the "D" as I would on a real keyboard. To my astonishment, although I didn't feel anything but air, the letter I "touched" was acknowledged in the box.

"Okay, so it's majorly cool," Shadow corrected himself in awe.

"Without a doubt," I reiterated, finishing my first name. "And I can keep it?"

"It's yours. Explore the functions as you like, but here are the instructions." She handed me a thick packet that I inwardly groaned at.

"Gee, thanks..." I took it and placed it in my jacket pocket, but I knew that it wasn't getting read tonight or any other night, that was for sure.

"You better hurry up if you still want to eat; it won't be too long until training starts. I already entered your schedule in, but it won't be needed if you can find someone to show you the way. I teach some of the training exercises, but we have some members of the team who like to teach, too."

The hologram keyboard had faded and left the top screen on the homepage, showing my name in the corner, it's working connection signal, and the time reading 7:47.

"Thirteen minutes to eat?" Shadow panicked loudly. "We have to go!" He rushed toward the door.

"Wait for me!" I called, shoving Holo in my pocket and running after him. Behind us I could hear Specter chuckling softly.

Shadow darted down the hallway in Shadow form straight towards the buffet table and I jogged more slowly. He thankfully waited for me at the table before pulling the contents off of it and I got him and myself plates. I pretty much got him lots and lots of meat, with me having everything minus the meat. With our plates piled high we looked around for any sign of the girls, but I was starting to doubt them wanting anything to do with us after earlier. My worries disappeared though when Lacey appeared in front of us in a flash of blue wearing a wide grin.

"There you guys are!" she chirped. "We were starting to think you'd miss breakfast!"

"That would, in a word, suck," Shadow grimaced.

"Especially since you'll need all of your energy," she nodded. "C'mon, we're sitting over there."

She pointed to a table off to the side and we followed her easily now that she was walking at normal speed. When we got to the table conversations stopped, and I saw that girls and boys were sitting there. I was glad that the genders weren't completely separated. I sat down at and empty spot on the end as the others gazed at me, curiosity written clearly on all of their faces. Other than Lacey, there were Brianna, Stella, Angus, Adriana, Cyrus, Asher, Pancake, and Kilas seated there as well.

When I finally couldn't take any more of there scrutinizing stares I sighed and said, "What do you want to know?" They blinked in surprise and some of them in embarrassment, but they soon smiled.

"Are you single?" Asher asked innocently, which earned him a painful kick underneath the table. It was easy to tell by who with Stella's glare.

"I was only kidding!" he cried out in pain.

"No you weren't," Brianna stated as a matter-of-fact, and he gave her a scathing look.

"I'm keeping my eye on you, kid," Shadow growled from the ground.

Asher's eyes went wide, probably thinking about having Shadow watch him from the darkness at night as he gulped and said, "Duly noted."

I watched their interaction go down in amusement as I shoveled a fork-full of pancakes into my mouth. I wasn't phased by Asher's flirting at all. Trust me, after you've been hit on by Harry the Creep, nothing can bother you. But it didn't hurt that he was much better-looking than Harry was.

"Ahem," Angus cleared her throat softly, but it was so out of place that eyes flickered over to her. "So... Did Specter fill you in on the activities of today?"

"Yep. She also gave me Holo-Tech, which I think is majorly awesome. Let me guess, this 'Jenna' girl made it, too?"

"That's right. She invents pretty much everything."

"Hey, you didn't get into trouble about what happened with Deziree, did you?" Stella asked.

"Nah, but I'm gonna have to watch it next time. She really hates me, but I'd be lying if I said that the feeling wasn't mutual. What's her problem?"

"She's a sore loser," Pancake said. "She's usually pretty distant from us and doesn't talk much about herself. All we know is that her parents were killed when she was five."

As much as it killed me to admit it, my heart went out to her. I knew what it was like not to have parents, and having them killed is enough to turn anyone hostile. Why she wanted to take it out on me, though, was something I couldn't identify.

"Well, I'll just try to stay away from her from now on," I decided with a shrug.

"Good plan," Cyrus nodded. "It would do well for you to stay out of trouble for a while."

"Oh, lighten up," Brianna elbowed him from the side teasingly. "I say if she bothers you, you give her what she deserves."

"I second that," Kilas said. "She'll have it coming for sure."

"I don't...think that's such...a good idea," Shadow said between wolfish swallows of food. "She's trouble, especially that she-wolf."

"I'll say," I smirked down at him. At my tone he lifted his head up and looked at me in confusion.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Give it a rest, dude," I rolled my eyes. Turning towards the others I said, "You guys saw it too, right?"

"Definitely," they said in unison.

"Saw what?" he demanded skeptically.

"You two were totally flirting!" I said exasperatedly since he was obviously too oblivious.

"I-I was not!" he stuttered, and if he could blush I'm sure he would have. "What would I want to do with the devil's little pet?"

"Mate," Kilas said in a cough loud enough for us all to hear, and we laughed at Shadow's mortification.

"That's the way it looked to me," Lacey sang playfully.

"You're insane," he denied and went back to his food.

"Well, there's your chance to get to know her and the other animals," I smirked. "They're sitting over there."

It was true. Many animals of different shape, sizes, and species sat on the other side of the room. They ranged from cats, to big cats, to polar bears, turtles, and much more. Many were either eating or interacting with each other. Disconnected from the rest of them was Shade, who had been watching Shadow while drinking water. After she realized she'd been caught she dropped her gaze and pretended that she hadn't been looking. It was like another serious case of Cassey and James.

"Oh yeah, she digs you," I teased him.

"I do recommend you going over there and introducing yourself," Cyrus said. "You'll be working with them, too, after all."

He glanced at them and lastly at me before sighing, picking up the plate with his teeth, and walking over there. I watched as he struggled not to bare his teeth at an orange tabby that came up to him and tried to swipe at him. A half cat, half owl creature kept a little distance from him, and I saw the turtle go into its shell cautiously. Shade eyed Shadow warily but sauntered up in front of him.

"Training's going to start soon," Stella said, making me glance back to the food I still hadn't finished.

"Yeah, on it." I proceeded to gobble up my food as quickly as I could, which resulted in seven minutes.

"That was really good," I said once I finished. "My compliments to the chef."

"That would be Nia, our cook," Cyrus said. "I'm sure she'll appreciate the praise."

"So I take it that if she's the cook then she doesn't fight much?"

"Not really. She'll attend some self-defense training but that's it. She's a good kid, but would rather spend her time cooking plenty of food than on missions. We help sometimes if it's a lot for her to handle."

I nodded just as a beep over an intercom sounded. Then Specter's voice said, "All combat trainees to Room E28."

Everyone in the room stood up and I slowly followed. The animals stopped their interactions as well and I saw Shadow look at me for direction.

"You ready?" Brianna asked. "This could get pretty rough."

I nodded, determined to push myself. "Let's do this."

A/N: Lot's of personalities to cope with in here, so I hope I did okay. I can't wait to write the training chapter. ^^

And speaking of chapters, don't forget about what I said about a bonus chapter! I have a couple ideas in my head that I want to try out. ;)

Quick shout-out to Kaylio: Thanks so much for beta-ing this chapter as well as the others! You've been a big help encouragement-wise and critique-wise. I appreciate it a lot. :D


~Baby BlueJay