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Time: 6:50 PM/Month: REDACTED/Year: 2539/Location: Camp Currahee, Mess Hall/

Why did she lie about the food fight? Why was she still talking about her family?

Winter Schnee looked away from Ruby and frowned as she told her friend that she'd talk about her family. She cursed herself for saying such a thing. It wasn't right; she wouldn't tell her the truth. It was a lie, all a lie. Winter hated it. She hated the feeling forming in her gut. She hated being in this situation, but she knew she couldn't run. They'd find her dead or alive.

She wanted to curse the A.I. Alain, but she couldn't blame him. He was just a machine following the orders given to him. She couldn't blame Kurt or Mendez. They didn't know anything about her, or so she thought. She felt unsure about many things; there were so many variables. She didn't have any control over the insanity of her life currently, and that frightened her.

But at least she had Ruby as a friend, right? Her gaze moved from the floor to her' friend.' They had only really known each other for four days. Did that make them friends? What did she know about her, her likes and dislikes? They hadn't had much of a chance to talk yet.

Winter watched Ruby scrub away from her, slowly moving down the table aisles, soon leaving Winter alone.

Crap!

Why didn't she ask Ruby to help her stay around in this area and help her clean? It would've been so useful.

Ugh!

She wasn't using her head that much.

Curse her clustered thoughts!

Curse everything!

Well, not everything.

Winter sighed in defeat as she went back to cleaning the floor. In a few minutes, she'd thoroughly cleaned off the surrounding floor. She stood up, legs wet and soapy. Dropping the brush back into the bucket, she looked around to see that most of the things on the floor were getting cleaned.

The tables, though, were an entirely different story. They were even messier than the floor was, by some horrible miracle. There was more food laid about and... and it made no fucking sense as to how that happened. Sighing in pure annoyance, Winter decided to work on the table to her right. She scrubbed away the mush and muck that had already started to dry upon the seats and tabletop.

"How, how is there so much food on these tables? How?!" She gritted her teeth together as she went about the task, her eyes narrowed and focused on the entire damn thing. But that didn't stop her from getting mad at a particular pair of morons. Well, morons in her mind at least. James and Mason, screw those two! Especially Mason, what did that kid think he was doing?

"Stupid idiots. Just why? Why would anyone ever do that? Did they not think this would end up like this?" Winter muttered in anger as her grip on the brush tightened, her nails turning white.

What she wouldn't give to deck that idiot in the face...

No sooner had she finished her thought than a familiar voice came from behind her.

"Who's an idiot?"

It was Mason.

Shit.

Winter stiffened as she looked over her shoulder to see the blonde boy staring back at her. She slowly turned around. She needed to control her anger, not show it. After all, it was unbecoming of her to let it dictate how she acted around someone.

"Don't worry about it," Winter replied.

Mason raised a brow. "Really, why not? Scared I'm going to do something?" He moved to the same table as her, placing his bucket on the floor before reaching down and grabbing his brush. "I can tell you this. I'm not going to do anything to you."

He then pointed one of his fingers at Winter. "You, you haven't done anything that pissed me off, unlike fatty," Mason said as he began to clean the table.

Winter's right eye began to twitch, and her lips slowly started to turn into a snarl. Her expression quickly faded away as she forced herself to calm down. She needed to calm down; she couldn't lose her cool. Otherwise, she'd be no better than Mason or James. She was a Schnee, after all, and Schnees were calm and collected.

And yet, the feeling came back, even as she went back to cleaning. Winter just couldn't let it go. She spoke, "Listen, you brute, I'm not worried about what you're going to do. I'm angry and annoyed that your actions ended up getting us in trouble. You could've just let James mouth off. I'm sure one of the adults would've noticed, and everything would've been fine."

Now she was starting to run her mouth. Fantastic.

"But you, you wanted to be a big hero and get him to stop talking. Instead of just telling him to shut up like a reasonable person, you throw fucking mushy grey shit at him and start an entire food fight." She stopped for a moment, taking in a deep breath as she drenched her brush again. "How did you ever think that was going to go well? What in your mind told you that it would be the best idea to do that?"

With that, Winter went silent and waited for Mason to speak, to respond, to say something that might seem like an apology.

But Mason didn't speak. He remained quiet and focused on the task on hand.

Winter watched him and smirked, "Struck a nerve, did I? Good." She felt happy, proven right by Mason's silence.

Finally, Mason replied, "You're right."

"What?" She was taken back by the response; she had not expected such a thing.

"I said you're right, but I don't care. I did what I did because it was the right thing to do in my mind. Besides, kids like him need to get a good beating, so they learn to stop," Mason responded quickly, with a small frown visible on his lips. "It wasn't because I wanted to be a hero."

"Well, whatever, you still got us all in trouble."

"You're no better. What was it the Lieutenant Commander said? Oh right, you stood around and tried to avoid getting hit. You did nothing to stop the fight, nothing."

So he wanted to play that game now, did he? Well, she could play that game, too.

"Oh yeah? Well, Kurt, er, the Lieutenant Commander said you should've thought out what you were doing more." Internally, Winter cursed herself for such a childish reply. She knew she needed to stop.

But Mason quickly fired back, "You know, you don't belong here. You act like a shithead. A spoiled shithead. What gives you the reason to be so high and mighty? Were you some rich kid? Did mommy and daddy make sure you got off first before everyone else?"

Winter's eyes narrowed, and she slowed down her cleaning pace. How dare he! "I'm not spoiled. I'm just like everyone else here. I've lost everyone I ever loved." She put on her most determined face as she looked towards Mason, to show him she wasn't lying.

After all, it was the truth.

Winter watched as Mason turned to look at her, his eyes scanning her body for a moment before moving away. He went back to cleaning. "Whatever you say. Guess we got off on the wrong foot, then. Wanna take a step back and reintroduce ourselves?"

Winter was pleased with his response; it'd gone better than she'd expected. Although, she couldn't help but roll her eyes at his offer as she entertained the idea. "Fine, you go first," she said.

She didn't really want to do anything with the boy. She just didn't want to get involved with him any further, and a gut feeling told her that things wouldn't go her way if she did.

Mason responded quickly, "Mason Kamarov, and you?"

"Winter Schnee." She paused and dunked the brush back into the red bucket of soapy water.

"Nice to meet you, I guess... This was dumb, can't believe I suggested it," Mason's voice cracked with a small chuckle.

Winter couldn't help but smirk, "Well, I guess it shows your intelligence."

Mason chucked again, this time more audibly. "Maybe, but at least I can win in a fight." He tilted his head to the side a bit, allowing Winter to see the small smile visible on his lips.

But she didn't focus on his expression. She focused instead on what Mason had said. "Are you saying I can't?" Even if he was joking, she took offense at that.

"Yeah. After all, why would you be running around and trying to avoid getting hit?"

"I didn't want to be in trouble, and I figured that was the best option."

"Sure, keep telling yourself that."

With that, silence fell between the two. No words, no glances back and forth. They cleaned and concentrated on the task at hand, ensuring it was completed before it was too late.

Two hours later, they finally finished. All six kids were outside, waiting for Kurt or someone else to arrive. Winter was exhausted and still in her wet clothing. She stared at the ground, her eyes heavy as she was out of energy. She barely could move a muscle and seriously thought of just falling onto the dirt beneath her feet.

Ruby was on her left, and James and the rest were on her right. No one had said anything yet, and things had been relatively peaceful. But Winter's gut told her that was going to get messy.

"Everything is so wet," Ruby groaned. "Are we going to get new clothing?"

Winter opened her mouth to answer, but James beat her to it.

"Shut up... Stupid moron," he said.

His reply was just what Winter expected. He didn't seem like the type that would be kind to anyone, but at least he wasn't vulgar this time.

"I'm not a moron!" Ruby shouted. "I'm just as smart as everyone here."

"Sure thing, whatever you say fu-"

"Just shut up, fatty," someone interrupted.

Winter looked up, shaking her head. Of course, it was Lisa. She was only the other girl in the group besides Ruby. Winter couldn't help but sigh. Her mind was all over the place.

"Why the hell do you keep talking? Do you want another beating?" Lisa said. "All you ever do is act rude and whine, and just... Ugh, why the hell are you even here in the first place?"

Winter couldn't help but agree; James had been continuously rude.

James spat on the ground before he replied, his voice thick with sarcasm, "Same reason you're here, lost my family, lost my home, and well, what other option do I have? I don't want to be in a goddamn orphanage with a bunch of brain-dead kids, like red here. Little dumbass can't even do anything right. I mean, look at her and her stupid fucking-"

Once she registered his words, Winter tackled James to the ground and was grasping at his neck. Or, at least, she was trying to. It seemed James was fast enough to grab her hands and stop her, but thankfully she was stronger than him.

Winter didn't quite know why she tackled him and was attempting to strangle him. But she knew it felt almost good, in a way. It was like she was venting her frustrations and letting all those bottled up emotions flow out. She quickly turned, punching him instead as tears streamed down her face, and everything seemed to spin around her.

She saw Ruby rushing to James' side for some reason. She saw Mason, Lisa, and the last boy Cameron before landing face-first into the dirt as they roughly pulled her off of James.

But why?

Why did Ruby rush to James' side? Why?

She flipped herself onto her back and looked around, tears still streaming down her cheeks. Ruby was helping James up. Winter attempted to stand up, but Cameron stepped in front of her, blocking her from James.

Time: 9:19 PM /Month: REDACTED/Year:2539/Location: Camp Currahee/

Winter hadn't spoken since the incident. She hadn't said a single word. She sat against the mess hall's outside walls curled up, arms locked around her legs and face buried into her knees as she thought about what she had done.

What had possessed her to do such a thing? Why? Why? Why?

She'd never done anything like that before back home, even when she encountered other annoying kids like James. So why did she do it?

Ever since she came to this godforsaken camp… The answer hit her. It was just emotional build-up. Yeah, that made sense. It made perfect sense! She was stressed with everything going on. After all, she didn't want to be here. She wanted to be home.

Home.

But she would never be able to go back home. The machine, A.I. Alain, assured her of that. She was stuck here with all these other kids. Winter's thoughts drifted to Ruby. There was so much she wanted to tell her but couldn't. She had to stay quiet and watch as Ruby wandered about in the dark, in a sense.

Winter felt a pang of regret in her heart.

Ruby was so innocent, almost pure. Too good for this world. But at the same time, she was tainted, messed up in the head. Ruby seemed to beam at the idea of killing what she was told were the "bad guys." Granted, this Covenant truly did deserve what was coming to them for all that they had done. But it was still disturbing to see a girl her age acting like going outside and playing, beaming with joy and happiness, and…

Fuck. It was all just wrong! But Winter knew she had no choice but to keep her mouth shut, to keep quiet, and never tell a single fucking soul the truth about her and Ruby.

It just wasn't fair for her or Ruby. All Winter could do was to protect Ruby, keep her out of harm's way.

It suddenly clicked in Winter's head, why she had been acting the way she was. It wasn't just because she missed her home. No, it was because she wanted to protect Ruby, try to keep her safe. That was why she attacked James. It was why her emotions were all over the place. It made perfect sense.

Still, that didn't fix the issue of her beating up James. She needed to apologize or something. Looking up from her knees, the first thing she saw was Ruby's beaming, smiling face.

"Hey, you're awake, not sleeping and stuff! That's cool and, and um, well, you beat up James..." Ruby's hands fiddled, fingers locking and unlocking. "I mean, that was sort of cool but at the same time, I mean it isn't... I don't think any of us should be beating each other up."

Ruby brought one of her hands to the back of her neck, scratching her skin lightly before offering her free hand to Winter. "Here, let me help you up."

Winter had not expected this, but she couldn't help but smile at Ruby and take her hand. She had to admit; it was nice that Ruby didn't seem mad at her. She couldn't put the finger on why, but it was excellent.

Plus, there were more pressing matters, like apologizing to James.

Standing up with help from Ruby, Winter turned her attention to James. He was sitting against the outside wall of the mess hall, only five feet to her right. Cameron was standing between them still. Mason and Lisa had moved over to the left and remained quiet. Neither looked in Winter's general direction either.

Winter's attention snapped back to Ruby as she began to speak, "Yeah, everything got a little weird after you um, beat up James or well, tried to... I mean, you didn't hurt him nearly as much as Mason did, but uh... Wait, I'm getting off-topic. What I mean to say is that after Cameron pulled you off, James, things got weird. Wait, no, that isn't any better... Ugh!"

Winter smiled at her friend and placed a hand on her shoulder, "Listen, Ruby, it's okay. You don't need to explain anything. I think I can figure out what happened here." She took her hand off of Ruby's shoulder and turned her attention back to James, intent on apologizing. It would be an easy thing to do, she thought.

But as Winter took her first steps to approach James, Lieutenant Commander Kurt's familiar voice rang out. "Trainees, line up!"

Winter quickly backed up against the wall, following his orders. She gazed upon Kurt, an absolute giant of a man. She watched as his eyes scanned over each one of them thoroughly. He briefly focused on Winter herself before finally speaking again, "You all completed your punishment, but you didn't all work together. No coordination, no teamwork, nothing."

Winter's eyes widened in bewilderment. He thought they'd work together? Wasn't just cleaning in the same building enough, wasn't that working together?

Kurt continued, "I gave you this punishment to see if you could work together as a team, but that seemed to be putting too much faith in all of you being able to put aside your differences."

He clasped his hands behind his back and continued, "Or put aside your unique quirks." Kurt glanced over to Cameron briefly. "So, it's fitting that your next punishment will make you learn to work together as you form the very first team of Beta Company."

Beads of sweat ran down the sides of her face. Winter's eyes still wide with shock as she processed what Kurt said. She wondered if it could get any worse.

"You'll be forming Delta Team or, more fittingly, Delinquent Team. I should emphasize, you six are going to learn to work together, because if you don't and you let one of your teammates fail and get pulled out of the program... Well, all of you will fail and be pulled out of the program. Now, get to the barracks you were assigned, grab your issued materials, and follow the trainers to your new sleeping area. After all, a team should be sleeping together in the same place."

Winter watched as Kurt left, blinking in disbelief as the literal giant walked out of view.

She attempted to speak, to say something, but she couldn't form any words. She was utterly confused and bewildered. How was this fair? How could he do that? What would happen to her and Ruby if they were pulled out of the program? Where would they go-

"Oh, that is fucking great! Fuck! Stupid fucking cunt!"

Winter's thoughts were cut short by James' sudden outburst. He glared, looking back and forth between her and Mason.

He shoved his hand out toward them, middle finger raised high, "Fuck you! Fuck all of you! Now I gotta work with your asses or get kicked out. I had a chance at fucking revenge, and now it's ruined! If one of you sodding bastards fails, I fail! GREAT! THIS IS GREAT!" James' face began to turn cherry red as he panted.

Lisa snapped back, "Shut up! This wouldn't have happened if your fatass hadn't decided to be a prick-"

But James quickly interrupted. "Oh, no, no, no! If your sodding brother and that fucking weirdly colored moron hadn't been idiots, we wouldn't be in this mess! It's your brother's fault for throwing food at me and then getting in a fistfight! Heck, it's your fault too, bitch!" James turned his attention to Cameron as he tried to say something about him, too. "And you, you, uh, well, actually what the hell did you do?"

"I tried to stop the fighting, do you not remember that?" Cameron responded quickly.

"Alright then, thanks, I guess." James' turned his gaze back to Winter, "You made it worse, that little outburst. He probably had, like, a hidden camera or some shit watching us, and he saw us wrestle a bit, and well, you know made that punishment worse for us. As for the uh, mess hall, I uh, can't blame anyone for that and shit." James was panting heavily, clearly winded from his ranting spree.

That seemed to be a good thing in Winter's mind since it meant he wouldn't be saying anything else.

But Lisa said, "Are you out of breath?"

Winter couldn't help but sigh as a new argument erupted and eventually resolved. She watched each of the other four kids leave for their respective barracks with their things, leaving her and Ruby all alone.

There was a brief silence until Ruby spoke up, "So, Winter, what do you think about the whole team thing?"

Winter answered truthfully, "It's not fair. At least, I don't think it's appropriate. Sure, we were all in trouble before, but how could we have known we were supposed to work together? I mean, it doesn't make any sense. Nothing here does, and well, I hate it. What are we supposed to do? I don't think-"

Ruby was quick to interrupt her, "Ah, come on! Let's not be so gloomy about this! I mean, yeah, it's not great and stuff, but like... It's not that bad. We have to learn how to work together and not try and, um, beat each other up. I think we can do it." Ruby placed a hand on Winter's shoulder and smiled softly at her. "We can do this cause we're going to be heroes. Spartans."

Ruby was full of optimism - optimism, which Winter lacked. "R-Ruby, I don't think it's going to go the way you think it's going to go. I mean, let's be real here. None of those other kids like each other. I don't even think they like us that much. So how are we going to learn to work together if we don't even like each other? I mean, you saw what happened today. You saw how James acted and how everyone else treated each other." She paused and frowned slightly, "I mean, maybe Cameron, we could get along with. But James, Mason, and Lisa? H-how are you going to get along with them? I barely got along with Mason when we were cleaning in the mess hall. Heck, I wanted to punch him more than James! I seriously don't get how you can be so optimistic..."

"Well, I think that everyone has something in common," Ruby began, "and besides, we all came here for the same reason. We need to work together to get what we desire, which is killing the bad guys. Isn't that how things are supposed to be? Complicated like in all those books I read?" Ruby's smile was nervous and wavering.

Winter was puzzled by Ruby, unsure of what to say except the first thing that came to mind, "I-I, what books are you reading?"

Ruby bit her lip for a second and looked to the side before looking back at Winter again. "Well, I'm not reading any books right now because we haven't been given any, but back where I last was, I did. A nice man named Alain would help me read many books, and a lot of them were about people coming together and stuff. I just thought, you know, that's kind of how things normally happened." Ruby looked to the ground for a moment before she continued, "Well, whatever. We should try our best, and we'll make friends. Like how I made friends with you. I mean, we didn't have any problems with each other so, you know. Friends."

Winter watched as Ruby pulled her hand away from her shoulder and turned around, "Now come on, Winter, we gotta grab our stuff!"

With that, Ruby headed in the direction of their barracks. Winter was left standing there alone, confused and conflicted, her thoughts running rampant. For one reason or another, Winter felt hopeful from what Ruby said, even if her more rational side of herself argued that she shouldn't. The whole situation they were in was horrible, but Ruby made her feel hope for whatever reason, which made her wonder:

Was that hope a good thing?

Time: 6:00 AM/Month: REDACTED/Year:2539/Location: Camp Currahee, Mess Hall/

Five AM was a terrible time to get up. For the past five days and counting, Winter wondered how she managed to do it. She wondered how any kid managed to do that, and then go jogging for an hour straight.

But that was in the past, and she'd have to wait for tomorrow for the cycle to repeat. Now it was Six AM, and that usually meant push-ups. Or at least she thought it was going to be push-ups. Little did she know the whole schedule was going to be flipped on its head.

Winter looked around at the new environment she found herself in with her team. A series of tall poles stood before them, almost all of them had platforms attached and were several meters off the ground. Falling off them would be slightly painful. There were a series of bridges connecting many of the platforms, and a few pulley systems.

"The fuck is this?" Winter heard James whisper. She had to agree with him on that. What was this, what purpose did this serve? Why were they here? She looked from the forest of poles and platforms to the other kids led to the area.

"It's an obstacle course of some type, I think," Mason replied. Winter looked a bit puzzled, wondering how he knew what it was.

Lisa then spoke, "Nah, reminds me of the king of the hill courts back at school, except all the platforms are at the same level. Maybe, there is a singular platform we have to control?"

Mason shook his head at his sister's suggestions, "That wouldn't make sense. It would be too hard for just a single kid to keep a platform for himself. You'd need a team like, uh, us. But no one else here is in a team, so-"

James spoke up again, sounding somewhat annoyed, "Shit, this is where they're going to form fucking teams, ain't it?"

Mason's voice grew audibly annoyed, "Probably, and do you need to curse so much? Every sentence that's come out of your mouth so far has been filled with curses."

"Don't tell me how I should-" It seemed for a second another argument would break out between the new budding team, but Cameron was quick to interrupt James.

Winter couldn't help but sigh in relief. So far, Cameron was the calmest out of all them, a voice of reason.

"Hey, quiet down, we got Mendez walking up on us. I don't think anyone wants to be chewed out by him unless you want a day three repeat." Winter grimaced slightly at the thought of her third day here, how one of the other kids got chewed out.

Speaking of Mendez, Winter noticed him coming in from the right. She gulped slightly and froze up as she observed him. By all appearances, Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez was old enough to be Winter's grandpa. But his well-built body betrayed his aged look. His face was firm and steady, but there were deep creases around his eyes and a set of scars running brow to chin. What hair that was visible from under his green cap was a deep silver. He was also dressed in the typical uniform Winter had seen around here, green and padded.

"Candidates! Attention!" Mendez strolled to stand in front of all the kids, his eyes scanning every last one of them before he continued to speak, "Today you might've noticed that things are already going a bit different, and there is a good reason for that. We're going to be placing you into teams."

He gestured to the forest of poles as he continued, "And then we're going to run you all through 'The Playground' here. Now, you might be wondering why and the answer to that is simple: In The Playground, are platforms raised higher than the others, and on those platforms is a bell. Your team will need to ring that bell to win. For the teams that win, you get an excellent breakfast. For the team that finishes last, you will not be getting breakfast."

Winter's heart skipped a beat, her eyes going wide as she glanced at her teammates. She gulped as she noticed how they began to exchange looks to each other.

Ruby was confused.

James didn't seem happy.

Cameron seemed indifferent.

Lisa seemed excited.

And Mason looked like he was trying to figure something out.

But there was one underlying question on all their minds: How were they going to win? And would they lose due to their differences?

"Don't fuck this up," James whispered.

"Same to you, fatty," Lisa retorted

"Wait, shouldn't we plan together or something?" Ruby tried to be the voice of reason but was ignored by everyone save Winter. Winter wanted to say something, but couldn't find any words to say.

Instead, she looked to the platformed poles and bit her lip lightly, knowing that what lay before them was not going to be easy, especially since her teammates were not precisely friendly.

They were fucked, weren't they?

/

Author's Notes:

Not much to say other than this shouldn't have taken this long, and yeah, that is about it. I really have nothing to say other than that next chapter we getting into some proper training.