Ingrid awoke to the sound of a loud whistle. "ALL RIGHT!" shouted an angry voice. "If you're in this bunk, this the FIRST TIME you've been selected for battle. If this is NOT your first battle, raise your hand!"

The previous day's memories flooded Ingrid's mind as she yawned and stretched. It was her first time being selected for battle. The train ride had been pretty short, considering she had to go from her home in Norway to the battle site in Wales. Ingrid wrote it off as the new train technology.

She became acquainted with the others at mess hall after the train ride, and found herself growing closer to her fellow warriors in a few hours than with the people in her main sector after so many years(although she stayed away from her 'fans'). Calm washed over Ingrid as she thought of-


It was that guy again.

"YOU, RAISING YOUR HAND! If you were dumb enough to go to the wrong bunk after having been through a battle ALREADY, then you DON'T GET TO GO with the advanced group!" He blew his whistle a second time. "That's how I asked questions around here, damn it! I don't give a SHIT about the information, I'm just here to KEEP YOU ON YOUR TOES!"


The young man who was raising his hand put his hand down, quivering as he did so. Ingrid sighed, wishing this loud man would get on with the actual training. "AND YOU!" he yelled, pointing straight at Ingrid. "What's wrong with your HAIR!?"

Gingers never really made up a big part of the population, but they had been especially rare as of late. Genetic quirks had mostly been eradicated after certain technologies had hit the market. Her family, however, didn't want to use these technologies, and so Ingrid had had the misfortune of being teased about her hair. And nothing fired her up more.

Somehow, she managed to find a semblance of serenity inside of her, and she kept her fury down low for now.



The target area was well-equipped, with a large variety of targets and several quality training weapons. "IT'S TIME TO SEPARATE INTO GROUPS!" the trainer yelled. "Swords over here, guns over there, axes over there…" Ingrid headed over to train with the other axe-wielders. She saw Fredrik, who she had befriended earlier, walk over to the same training area.

There was a different instructor for each area, and thankfully Ingrid was not stuck with the same vámr who had been so unpleasant this morning. The axe instructor, Magnus, was a well-built man. He had shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. The axe he wielded was fairly simple, save an inscription on the handle that Ingrid couldn't make out.

"All right class! Welcome to axe training. Now, I know you've already got the skills, but fighting on a battlefield is very different. You're going to practice on each other."

There was a silence in the crowd. "This guy is crazy," someone whispered.

Magnus sighed. "Not with real axes, guys. We're using the new holographic technology. You'll only feel a pinch when hit, but the technique needed will be real. It's different from training back at home, though- not even duels come close to this. You will be fighting several opponents in quick succession- providing you're good enough not to get seriously hurt or killed right away. There will be rocks and ditches everywhere you try to step, and you don't have a chance if you don't pay attention to your surroundings. A duel could cost you your pride, but a real fight could cost you your life." Everyone clapped as Magnus continued on to instructions. "Now the holographic axes have…"

"He's a looker, that's for sure," said a girl on the other side of Fredrik.

"I know, and he's SO good with words." Fredrik dreamily replied.

Ingrid wasn't sure how Astrid- the small blonde girl beside Fredrik- got in. Or how she managed to wield an axe. Men tended to be favored over women in these things, as gender roles were heavily encouraged. In fact, there didn't seem to be any other females in the crowd. And somehow this little girl got in. But if she and Fredrik were friends, Ingrid could give her a chance.

As soon as the instructions were over, everyone was instructed to pick what seemed to be just a handle made of fur and wood. When a button was pressed, however, an axe-head appeared on top of it. They then all turned back to Magnus.

"I'm going to take two people to demonstrate some basic moves that'll help in battle. All eyes up front on the mat!" Everyone turned to see. "Now I'll take… Gingy over here and… you in the back!" Someone waved. "Yeah, you! Come up here! What are your names?"

"Ingrid Terjesson, sir!"

"Kol, sir. Just Kol."

"Excellent," said Magnus. "Now I'm going to show you something that will be very useful. Ingrid, I want you to go for a blow to the body. Kol, I want you to try to avoid getting hit."

Ingrid looked at Kol, an average-looking man with dark brown hair and blue eyes. He seemed to be around the same age as Ingrid, late 20's, and fairly experienced. But Ingrid couldn't do it. She couldn't hit him. Something told her that-

"Well, what are you waiting for?"

"I would hurt him."

Magnus shook his head. "Did you hear what I said about these axes? You'll only feel a pinch. It would take incredible technique, force, and drive to turn this into an actual weapon- which you do not possess."

"I can't. I'm sorry," Ingrid replied. "I really believe that I'm strong enough to hurt him. It's just that in all my training, I've never learned to hold back. I've never really had to. For me, it's all or nothing."

Magnus laughed. "You really think you're strong enough to hurt him? Such pride deserves a punishment. "Pieter! I think you might be interested in something over here!"

Ingrid heard a thumping and turned around. It was the same man from earlier! "This is Pieter, Ingrid. Have you met him? He's the sword instructor here, but he's also pretty good with an axe."

"Well HELL-OOOH, Bad Hair Day!" Pieter boomed. "Good to see you again! Looks like I'm here to WHOOP your ass!" PN signaled to his own students to keep training as he picked up a holographic axe and shoved Kol out of the way.

"Now Ingrid, let's try this again. I want you to go for a blow to the body. Pieter, I want you to avoid getting hit and then, perhaps, teach Ingrid her place."

Ingrid felt a bit lightheaded, until she remembered the earlier event. She didn't care that she would end up hurting someone that she would later have to work with. This was a man that she had a personal vendetta against. For a moment, all of her senses were on fire as she started to swing.

It would take incredible technique,

Ingrid trained her eyes on his torso. Took note of the wind. Made sure each finger was where it was supposed to be.


She raised the axe, ready to put her full force into the swing.

And drive

No one made fun of her hair. No one. Ingrid wanted him to hurt.

To turn this into an actual weapon.

Ingrid delivered the blow. This was not all, for the second she let his vile being be graced by the axe, as she thought of it, she hit his face with the handle and flourished by tripping him.

Well, nobody's mouth was particularly closed, that's for sure.

Pieter slowly pulled himself back up. "What. Was. That."

Ingrid smiled. "That was me defending my honor. And hopefully, making Magnus and my new friends proud." Ingrid turned to the crowd. "Comrades, today we learned many new lessons. But I too wish to impart a pearl of wisdom. Let it be known from this day forward that gingers are a force to be reckoned with. We may be few, but that is only because the gods bestow this hair color to the best of the best alone." Ingrid bowed and returned to her place, followed by a clearly freaked-out Kol, who had a front-row view of the whole event.

Magnus gave Ingrid the evil eye while handing Pieter a rag for his bloody nose. "Okay. Ignoring that little hiccup, it's time to pair up in partners and sharpen our dodging skills. I want you to take turns on offense and defense, and do keep in mind that this is a building block to our big test at the end of the week. We'll do some more advanced work on this after lunch. And Ingrid? When I dismiss for lunch, we are going to need to talk before you go."