One year earlier…
A ray of light broke through my window blinds and stirred me from my sleep. I tossed and turned, praying for just a few extra minutes but today was an important day. That fact brought me up, and with a quick stretch and yawn, I walked over to the window and opened it fully.
The cloudless city skyline greeted me with a smile. That magic hour just as the Sun peaked its head over the top of the horizon made everything truly look beautiful. It was times like this I could almost look past the muggy smoke clouds and disheveled buildings that reared their ugly head.
Shaking those thoughts from my mind, I turned to my nightstand. Clutter was around, but one important document lay sprawled out at the top. It was no lie to say I had read that document hundreds of times over, and each iteration made my heart almost leap from my chest. Even now, the words continued to echo in my head:
"Dear Naomi Valentine,
It is with great pleasure I inform you of your acceptance into Terminal University. All it took was one look at your application and marvelous results on your application test for us to know that Terminal was right for you, and within our halls you will find exactly the tools you need to make those dreams a reality.
Hope to see you soon,
Martha Lovegood, Assistant Dean"
Terminal University. Just thinking that name was enough to bring a smile to my face. Who could blame me though? The "Melting Pot of Talent" was not just an ordinary school, and for someone like me, living just beyond the boundary of that mystical place was like putting candy just out of arm's reach of your child.
I happened to catch a glance of myself in the mirror of my desk, Yikes. Bad hair day alright. My long black hair was extra puffy this morning, and it wouldn't take a long glance to see the bags under my deep blue eyes.
"I really should have gotten more sleep," I voiced to no one in particular. My hands reached for my face and did a light slap, hoping to get a little kick in my step. Need to stay focused. You're a Valentine. You got this.
Reassuring myself, I gathered my outfit for the day. It wasn't anything crazy, just a nice black blouse with a skirt to match. After taking way longer than I'd like to admit, it was time to meet the day ahead.
Exiting my room, a quick glance down the hallway showed the rest of my family was already up and about. Guess Kai would be gone by now…
I headed downstairs. My dad was already busy getting all of his stuff in line to open up for the day. The shelves had all been cleaned, and given the fact I had rearranged all the books myself, it was nice to get to see the fruits of that labor in action.
As I walked through my dad stopped me. "Oh, are you leaving already Naomi? It's only 7:30."
I smiled and turned around. "Yeah, well you know what they say. On days like these, we need to put our best foot forward, right?"
My dad chuckled at my comment. "Well if you say so. Good luck on your exam." With some quick thanks, I headed out the door.
The Neon District greeted me with a sight I had become very familiar over the years. I could see in a nearby alley a man passed out on the ground, reeking of alcohol. Cigarette smoke permeated the air, and there was a distinct funk that emanated from a nearby dumpster. A few men turned their gaze toward me with a nice smile. I knew better than that though. Living here, you figure out quickly between a friendly smile and a scummy smile.
With a deep sigh, I threw my bag over my shoulder, and headed out into the city proper. The scenery around me changed from crumbling buildings and scandalous nightclubs to towering skyscrapers and crowds of cars and people all trying to get to where they needed to go.
I may have gotten accepted, but there's still the Entrance Exam. If what Kai said is right, then I have my work cut out for me…
It was hard to describe how I felt. The butterflies in my stomach knotted and weaved their way throughout my body. My saliva gathered quivering at the back of my throat. But I could imagine my face had one look to it. Determination.
The Central District came and went, its huge crowds and towering buildings led into my destination: The University District. The district itself was not hugely impressive, and in fact was one of the smaller districts in the city. Of course, size doesn't matter. Because when you came here, you were here for one thing. And that thing was just within my sights.
Beautiful ornate white walls with a golden coating, and a campus stretching all the way to the pier of the Transit Hub. I could just barely see the fountain that lay in the entrance yard behind the massive archway that greeted everyone with a holographic display: "Welcome to Terminal University".
I stopped in front of that gate. It was like I was standing outside of a portal to a whole other world. It was hard for me to imagine this place existed just a decent walk away from where I came from. A clock tower in courtyard displayed the time for me. 8:01 AM. Which meant I still had a little time before I had to be where I needed to be.
No use in standing around. I could already see hordes of students, old and new, crowding into the entrance. I took my first steps inside, and tried my best to take in all the information I could by looking around.
The central building lay in front of me, housing most of the administrative functions the school needed. To its left lay the Science Wing, home of the well known Advanced Science Society. At the right side lay the Liberal Arts center, containing most of the elective based classes you could find here.
But what everyone came for was what lay beyond the central building. I couldn't see it, but I knew it was there. Terminal's Combat Arena housed an impressive coliseum, as well as several areas designed with the latest in virtual tech to allow you to train in almost all combat situations.
As I was lost in my thoughts, I didn't notice the man that had approached me until he spoke. "Do you need some help, Miss?"
I turned. He looked to be around my age, his auburn colored hair looking recently conditioned and brushed. His sea green eyes looked at me, and his smile seemed sincere enough.
"No. I'm fine actually. But thanks for asking. Are you a new student too?"
He seemed…disappointed. I don't know what he expected, but I guess he didn't get it. The man regained composure quick.
"Yes, I am. Name's Calvin. Nice to meet you. Would you honor me with your name?"
I smiled and chuckled. "Of course. Though honor isn't a word I'd use. I'm Naomi. Naomi Valentine."
Calvin gave me a smile back. "Well, Naomi. Since we're both heading to the same place, why not head together? I'm sure it'd be nice to have company."
It seemed he was still trying to save something from his initial approach. He seemed nice enough though. "Sure. We have to head to the auditorium, right?"
With that decision made, we headed off toward the back of the campus. At the end of the long walk lay a large square building, with a notice posted outside letting everyone know it was where the opening ceremony would be held. A crowd had already gathered around and was heading inside.
Not wanting to lose my chance to snag a seat, Calvin and I rushed inward as well. Within quick order we found a pair of open seats, and took our spot. The auditorium itself was huge, with rows upon rows of seats for students to take, and a massive stage set at the back. Everyone was chatting, probably wondering what would be in store for us.
"So…" Calvin seemed to be searching for an ice breaker. "…why are you here? Why did you decide Terminal is the place you wanted to be?"
I was surprised that was the first question he'd ask. But, I guess it wasn't too bad for an ice breaker. "Well, that's easy." I turned to him, and gave him the most determined look I could. "I'm going to become the Magistrate of Terminal City."
Before Calvin could say anything else, there was a flash of light that drew our attention to center stage. A woman had stepped out, and taken her place at the front of the stage. She looked to be in her mid-thirties, and had short, well kept green hair. A white dress shirt was worn on top of her black skirt and long black leggings. I couldn't quite make it out, but it looked like she had a pin in the front part of her hair.
She cleared her throat, and began speaking into the microphone. "Hello, everyone. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Martha Lovegood. I am the Assistant Dean here at Terminal University."
I took in the woman before me. So, she was the one who sent me my letter. I was expecting someone more intimidating.
"Allow me a chance to congratulate you all for coming here. Sitting within this auditorium means you have already conquered the first step to attending our fine institution. Of course, this is only the first step. The real challenge begins now." She smiled and scanned the crowd before continuing. "I look around this room, and I see the best and brightest minds our generation has to offer. Each of you may not feel like it, but there is a shining star burning inside, waiting to shoot off into the night sky.
The exam will be difficult, but as metahumans you are no stranger to adversity. And just like all challenges you have faced thus far, I am sure all of you will be more than capable of overcoming it."
Her speech seemed to be having the effect she wanted. Everyone seemed relaxed, and determined. Even I felt a little more confidence welling up in me when she worded it like that.
"Now, as the exam itself. It is simple in its execution." She turned around as a screen descended from the top of the stage. With a simple flick of a switch, the lights turned down and the screen blared to life. It displayed a map of what appeared to be a small island. It had various landmarks noted, revealing this island was mostly forest and cliffs. In the middle was a city, with a big red X labeled as "GOAL".
"This is a map of Kana Island, which is just a little way off the coast of here. This will be the testing ground for our exam. You will be transported there using teleportation devices located on campus. From there your task is as follows: make your way to the city in the center of the island, survive, and accomplish the goal that will be revealed tomorrow."
The exam did sound simple. And that's the part that made me nervous. It seemed I wasn't alone in my sentiments as multiple people seemed to shift in their seats uncomfortably. Even Calvin chuckled slightly and scratched at his cheek.
"Survive on a deserted island, huh? Yeah…simple."
Martha seemed to sense these reactions and gave off a warm smile, almost like a mother reassuring her children it was going to be ok. "Don't worry. I know it seems easier said than done, but remember. You are all going to be on this island. Cooperation is key to the completion of this exam. Because if you can't even trust the person sitting next to you, how are you ever going to trust the people you have to out in the field?"
I nodded to myself at her words. She was right. Terminal wasn't just designed for students to learn, but also to grow. If we couldn't work together with people, it would be hard pressed for our abilities to mature.
"Please make your way backstage to the devices I spoke of earlier. Your entrance exam begins as soon as you arrive on the island."
With words as simple as that, everyone began to rise up and file to the backroom. Several staff members came and gathered the belongings we didn't need, and it was just a matter of waiting.
Calvin tapped my shoulder slightly, causing me to turn to face him. "Hey, just wanted to say…you know. Good luck."
I nodded back at him and smiled. "You too, Calvin." I returned to facing forward and mentally prepared myself.
This entrance exam is what I've been training for. I'm not gonna mess this up.
Within a short while, I arrived at the entrance to the room. After giving my name to the attendants, I stepped through.
The room itself was simple. Just a long series of platforms, designed to teleport us to the island once we stepped on. I was motioned over to the closest one to me, and stepped on. Just knowing what was about to happen, caused that nervousness to creep in again.
I can't lie. Despite how confident I made myself look, there was still the lingering sense of doubt I had. What if…I fail…
Shaking my head in an attempt to rid myself of those thoughts I sighed. "Now's not the time to second guess myself."
"Are you ready to go Miss Valentine?" The attendant had been watching me, and must have noticed my unease. I turned and nodded. With that, he flipped the switch at his control desk. It's hard to describe the feeling of every molecule in your body being ripped apart, bit by bit, and reassembled elsewhere. I guess it feels like…all the air in your lungs in ripped from your chest, and you can feel every muscle in your body tense up and stretch over and over.
The experience in nauseating. Before the process could be complete, my vising fell, and darkness was all I could see. I was out like a light.