I couldn’t argue with her there. Jaclyn alone had a chance of taking out our entire team in a straight fight. Add in another speedster plus Travis, Rachel, and Mist for good measure…

We were toast.

That sounds defeatist, but it wasn’t. The funny thing is that what gave us a chance of winning was the fact that we were playing a game. Jaclyn might be able to kill any of us with a blow in real life, but here she had to decide how much she willing to hurt us to win.

In front of me, Tara met each of our eyes in turn. “I think I know what they’re going to to do. Rocket, you’ve got a way to stop Ghost, right?” (more…)


The flash worked better on the audience than anyone else. All around me, people were saying things like, “Can you see what’s happening?”

Amy shook her head. Tara, like me, appeared to be unaffected.

She’d probably anticipated the explosion.

Not that that mattered. What mattered was that the blast hadn’t affected Gordon either. Either his hood or something in his mask had blocked the light. (more…)


Standing slightly behind Stephanie, Slugger and Blue Mask stood on either side of their flag pole. Sean and Gordon flew above them—at least at first. Team one had either opted for a defensive strategy or they’d been too slow to go on offense.

The way the wind had blown the broken bits of rock away from Stephanie argued that it was more likely to be intentional than not.

On the whole both teams were playing to their strengths. Team four had three fast moving, practically invulnerable members (Izzy, Akesha, Patriot, Jr) whereas everyone on team one was physically human normal so far as I knew—however fast Gordon or Sean might be.

On the other hand, team one had Stephanie who could immobilize from a distance, and Slugger and Blue Mask. I assumed they had to be useful somehow. (more…)


Amy nodded, and then closed her eyes for a moment, making a small motion with her right hand. “We can talk privately–at least for a little while. I’ll warn you when it’s over.”

“Sure,” I said, noticing Samita glance in our direction and frown. “Uh… It looks like Samita noticed your spell.”

Amy’s helmet didn’t make it easy to see, but she appeared to roll her eyes at that. “She would. Look, she’s supposed to be mentoring me in traditional magic, but she’s also watching to make sure I don’t go batshit insane and drain the school’s blood in an act of ritual horror.”

“Um. Okay. Is it too late to include her?” (more…)


“Okay,” I typed. “Keep watching them, and report—unless I’m fighting. Then only bother me if it’s bad, and it’s something I can actually change. Actually, tell anyone in the League under those conditions.”

The alert flashed. [Understood.]

I needed to encourage Hal to use a handle in the League’s comm system. Having him interact with me through the alert system didn’t make a lot of sense.

Taking my eyes off transparent letters in my helmet’s HUD, I started paying attention to everything around me again.

Amy nodded toward my hands, a gesture made a little stranger by her black and blood red helmet. “What were you doing?” (more…)


Amy and I walked over to student seating. Students sat in bleachers slightly to the left of the VIP stand. Tournament participants were in the first row. A stone wall about three feet high rose in front of us.

Bearing in mind how powerful some of the fighters were, I wondered how much protection that really represented. Then I noticed the telltale shimmer of a force shield above the wall. For a moment I wondered whether it generated by a person or a machine but then I realized that small black discs with glowing sides sat at even intervals on top of the wall.

One of them was within reach.

I reminded myself that tampering with it before the match would cause no end of trouble. I’d have every chance to look at after the tournament–assuming nothing disastrous happened.

Still… (more…)


I ignored him. The last thing I needed was for the man to connect the Rocket with one of the kids who’d trashed his pictures at the club a month ago.

Out of the corner of my helmet’s view, the photographer tensed as Rod jumped over the wall in troll form, carrying Samita in one hand and drooling from his mouth. The ground shook as he landed.

Tara, who’d landed just behind Rod, didn’t fall, but she did have to take a few extra steps where she might normally have taken one.

The photographer along with the rest of the crowd took several steps backward. A few people cursed. Others made wordless noises. (more…)


Tara and I parted after that, each of us heading to our own rooms. The week flew past. We had two matches with each of the three teams, losing more than we won. That was okay. It was actually the plan. We’d come up with strategies and tactics for fighting each team, and devices or spells that might help.

Tara wanted to test how the other teams would respond to similar tactics that didn’t use the new equipment.

It had the side effect of getting them used to less effective versions of the same idea. Combined with losing, it might lull our opponents into thinking we weren’t much of a threat.

I explained as much to Haley on Friday night, the night before the tournament. We were sitting in my lab with the lights on low, deliberately next to the wall and out of direct view of the door.

Haley glanced in the direction of Stephanie’s lab. “Are you sure you can tell me this? It’s not as if I’m going to tell Travis, but Izzy hears everything.” (more…)


In the first sinking moments of understanding what she’d asked, I thought I might be able to get away with pretending not to know. Then realism set in. She’d realized who was missing from the common areas simply by walking through them and remembering our normal habits—whatever they were.

Lies would be useless. She’d probably be able to match up everything we’d ever said in her presence.

In the face of that, I had no choice.

Sighing, I led with, “It probably doesn’t matter anymore anyway. You know how Turkmenistan’s been in the news lately? Most of the Heroes League was involved with a plan to bug the presidential palace, steal files, and set the regime up for embarrassment or overthrow. We weren’t going to go forward without permission. Unfortunately, someone gave all the stuff we’d collected up through the fourth of July over to Gordon and Stephanie, and they gave it to the Coffeeshop Illuminati, and now, well, who knows what’s going to happen?” (more…)


Tara nodded. “And how do we win?”

“Well,” I thought about her question, trying to guess  what she was going for, “the obvious answer is that the specific strategy and tactics might be different for each team. That’s not the answer though. Our best quality as a team is that our capabilities could be completely different at the end of the week than the beginning. I might modify my suit or bots. Amy or Samita might use new spells or new magic objects.

“We’ll have to train against the other teams all week, so we may have to come up with ideas, and then not try them out until the tournament–which means we really won’t know how well they work.”

Tara grinned briefly. “That’s what I was thinking too. But we’ll have a better idea of what might work than you think. I can remember every move the third and fourth years have made in a fight I’ve seen.” (more…)