Demo: Part 14

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 was 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?”

I nodded. “I know how the original Rocket caught Ghostwoman. The technology should still work.”

Tara acknowledged me with a brief nod and turned. “Red Hex? Bloodmaiden? You’ve worked out a way to handle the speedsters. You won’t have more than instants. Can you?”

Samita and Amy looked at each other. Samita said, “My spell should buy enough time for yours.”

Amy grinned, and turned to Tara. “My working won’t hold them very long, but I’ll have enough time to unleash it.”

Tara turned back to me. “Your technology deploys instantly?”

I shrugged. “Close.”

Turning her head toward Rod, she said, “Troll and Rocket are our offense. Bloodmaiden and Red Hex will defend the flag. I’ll coordinate—from next to the flag.”

She talked about backup plans in case our first round of plans didn’t work, but judging from the first fight, ours could be over seconds after it began. Theirs had taken longer than that, but it couldn’t have lasted more than a couple minutes.

Tara went over details with Amy and Samita. Spells and magic devices involved a lot of details that we’d all be better off knowing.

I tried to listen in, knowing that being aware of their limitations wouldn’t hurt, but I didn’t get to.

An alert appeared in my HUD.

[The Coffeehouse Illuminati are invading Turkmenistan in force. Do you want detailed updates or summaries?]

I wrote back, “Summaries for now, and nothing during the fight—which will start in minutes.”

[I’ll keep that in mind. Current summary: They’re effectively executing the “Divide and Conquer” strategy I wrote for you, but since they are not you, I project a high probability of escalation.]

I wanted to hear more about that, and was about to ask for more details when the announcer said, “Contestants, please stand near your flags and stand ready to fight. I’ll begin the countdown once you’re in place.”

And that was all for international news.

We walked toward the flag, Tara running down final details with all of us. She turned from Samita and Amy to me. “Remember to release the Ghost tech before you leave.”

Ignoring the feeling in my stomach, I said, “Got it.”

The grass brushed against the Rocket suit’s legs. Since it was considerably more sparse and less green than in Michigan, we were mostly walking on dirt.

When we got to the flag, I considered turning on the phase blocker, but guessed that we weren’t allowed to until after it started.

Barely seconds after we turned to face the other team’s flag, the announcer started to talk. “With both teams in place, we’re now ready to begin. I’ll count down, and on ‘go,’ they’ll begin.”

“Three.”

I put my right hand on the belt pouch where the blocker was.

“Two.”

I took a breath, watching Jaclyn and Meteor. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if Jaclyn grabbed me. It was too bad I had to drop the device before taking off. Why hadn’t I turned the phase blocker into bots?

“One.”

I clenched and unclenched my fists, dreading the fight.

“Go! Go! Go!”

I opened the pouch, pressed the button, and dropped it next to the stone pillar that held the flag pole. A blinking green light and my HUD confirmed that I hadn’t broken it in the process.

Then I took a step forward, starting the rocket pack at the same time. It roared, lifting me into the air, and warming my butt and legs.

I’d barely made it into the air as Rod shifted from his human look—fedora, trench coat and black mask to troll form. I say “shifted,” but there was no shifting. In one moment, he was a man, and in the next a troll stood in his place. Twice the size of a normal human, dressed in medieval clothing, and drooling from a mouth full of sharp teeth, Rod would terrify any sensible person.

Personally, I felt relieved he was on my side.

In the next moment he jumped, crossing most of the way from our flag to team three’s flag, passing over Jaclyn and Meteor who couldn’t have been more than fifty feet from our flag already.

The air around Meteor was already burning. I could only guess where she’d be next.

9 thoughts on “Demo: Part 14”

  1. So escalation seems highly likely? I wonder how long until the Illminati find out who is involved there and I’m not sure if it’ll happen during the game so we only get a summary afterwards or after it so we can get the live commentary on howtheir plan falls apart. Either way its probably unlikely they ll win.

    Contests, please stand near your flags and stand ready to fight.
    Contestants I guess?

  2. Nick, priorities! No matter how important the tournament may seem, updates about someone destabilizing Turkmenistan are more important! If you don’t want to be distracted at a critical moment, I get that, but what about passing this critical information on to the grownups?

  3. An avid reader,

    Nick already has an expert in tactics watching them. Hal.

    Also, the data was stolen from Vaughn. The league is not responsible for how they use it, though a case could be made that gathering the data was not appropriate without adult supervision.

    If you steal scissors, then stab yourself while running away with them, the owner of the scissors isn’t responsible for your injury, unless you intentionally set things up as a trap.

    Also, Nick’s personal data processing capacity (brain) isn’t fast enough to do what Hal is doing right now. If he tells adults exactly what’s happening, he might have to start answering questions that might lead them to suspect Hal’s existence.

  4. I find it difficult to believe that Tara was not aware that Nick was not listening to the pre-match conversation. If she’s not brought into the loop far enough for Nick to explain, soon, I suspect she’s going to be very irritated.

  5. Farmerbob1,

    I’m not expecting Nick to particularly care about whether the Coffeeshop Illuminati, who stole the scissors (well, received stolen scissors from a fairy intermediary, I guess), might get stabbed running with them, but about all that collateral damage (I… can’t think of a scissors-based equivalent) if they royally screw up and Turkmenistan’s super-powered dictators start “escalating.” As Hal suggested they would.

    Whether or not Nick feels he and the League are to blame for collecting the data and getting the analysis stolen, he obviously felt like innocent civilians getting killed in another country was reason enough to invent a new drone carrying system and break some international laws. It should also probably be worth a call to one of the adults already in the loop, like Dr. Nation or Daniel’s dad.

    And, hey, I’m not saying this is what’s going to make everything go kerblooey — there are plenty of other reasons for it, and if the match really is as short as Nick thinks, it won’t make a big difference in practical communication or travel time. It’s just that this kind of failure to communicate important information to team members/interested parties has been a problem for Nick before, and it sort of stuck out for me that it didn’t seem as high priority for him as a school tournament.

  6. Unfortunately, school tournaments tend to take priority over [i]everything.[/i]

    Granted, it’s not school officials making the call this time, but still…

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