Seth is a 6th grade student at Bethel Woods Orphanage. On his first day as a "year six-er" he is summoned to the office of Birdie, the friendly face of the otherwise distant headmasters. She presents him with a contract asking him to sign. The contract states that he, along with his year-6 classmates, will gain a one hour access every day to a gym in the lost north quarter, an area he previously did not know even existed. In exchange for the one hour of unsupervised access, the students will never speak of the contract or the room to anyone. Nothing is allowed to be taken into the room. Seth suspects something is being kept secret from him about the contract or the Orphanage in general but willingly signs, accepting responsibility for his classmates.
The chapter ends with Seth wonderingly aloud what the students will. Birdie hints that there may be more in the gym than either of them know.