Ron : Roman
Career training (or, officially, Peacekeeper training) began at four in District 2. Fourteen long years to whip children into killers, and not a moment wasted.
Roman still remembered when he'd been told to say goodbye to his parents—no loss there, they'd been so wrapped up in him becoming a tribute when they hadn't managed it that they'd never even thought to see him as his own person—and been shipped, in a bus with every other Peacekeeper-class four year-old who met the minimum standard, to the Training Academy, Boy's Section.
Their age had seemed an irrelevant factor from the beginning. The first year was all about breaking them down, and their youth was no defense to anything their teachers thought to throw at them.
Roman had nearly puked the first time a boy—only four, only four—who had been displaying subpar hygiene was forced to lick the toilet seat as punishment.
He had puked—hours after the actual event, when he was sure no one else was around to hear—the first time he found one of his classmates hanging.
That was less than a year into training.
The first year, in many ways, really was the worst. Unlike the rest they didn't get their own training gymnasiums, each strategically placed around each other in a warehouse so that someone walking on the platforms above could see multiple gyms at once. They certainly didn't get their semi-private curtained off bunks stacked against one wall of a gym, where each boy had his own bunk, his own sheets, and his own bag of necessities.
No, instead they slept huddled together outdoors, trying to make the best use out of whatever defense from the rain, snow, sleet, hail, heat, cold, animals they had been given and somehow survive a full 365 days of such treatment.
After that they were allowed inside.
The regimen was built up quickly.
After morning ablutions and during drills lessons would be held until lunch (which always took place well after they were already losing concentration from their hunger.)
After lunch was more training, this time more practical (weaponry, survival, hunting), followed by etiquette lessons and the like in the evening.
Sometimes, during holidays or when their particular team had done unusually well, they'd have contests too—shooting contests, maybe, or races, or anything else to pit them against each other in a way mildly more 'fun' than average.
And then there were the promotions, the tests they underwent every six months to assure they were performing to standard.
Too poor a score and you were kicked out. High enough and you were moved to a team with more experience, a gymnasium with harder practicals and more worthwhile instruction. There were eighteen gyms, each harder than the last, where most students took six months to be moved up, and by 6 Roman was in gym 5, and by 7 in 10. After that he moved with his group—apparently a two year age gap between him and everyone else was deemed sufficient.
Of course, then last year he had gone and run his mouth, had asked to be trained harder. He'd known, still knew, that being prepared earlier than intended was necessary, but it was still more than a shock to the system to be mercilessly tossed in with 15 year-olds the day after and the oldest group six months after that.
He was the worst in the group, of that there was never any doubt, but he was the best of his age by far.
He was ready.
And by the time of the 100th Reaping all that was left to do was hope that everyone else was too.
By the time it was District 2's turn to pull names Roman was grinning wildly.
The rest of the school was too—here, more than any year previous, was the year to prove who they were, and no one could wait.