Tara grinned, and when she did, I was reminded that whoever had designed the supersoldiers she was descended from, had obviously been designing for looks too. Not for the first time, I wondered why. Still, she was in a good mood, and considering the memories I must have brought up, that wasn’t a bad thing.
“I hope you don’t think I’m telling you he’s a bad person.” She paused but didn’t give me time to respond. “He’s not. It’s just…” She stopped. “You know that I grew up in Infinity City. I grew up on the run from the True, the supersoldier group my parents left. They worked as muscle all over the city, training me the entire time because they knew the True would want me too.
“When we came here and I enrolled in the Stapledon program, the guys didn’t first of all think of me as a soldier. They thought of me as the new, hot girl. Some of them had a betting pool on who could ‘score’ with me first. I didn’t think anything of all the attention at first, but when I thought about it, I put everything together. After that, I got angry.”
I’d never seen Tara angry, but thinking about how she could use her mind to create complex strategies and tactics and then adjust them on the fly…
Nodding, she said, “You get it. I found out exactly how much the healer could handle at once, the next time we had a group combat training exercise, I hurt them hard enough that they couldn’t fight anymore, but nothing that was a real danger. I made sure it would hurt. Kid Biohack was in the group.”
She frowned. “It would have worked better in Infinity City. There’s no central authority there. If you want justice, you make it. It wasn’t a good idea here. I nearly got expelled.”
I shook my head. “What about them?”
Her lips twisted, and she said, “They nearly got expelled too, but after that suddenly no one was getting expelled.”
I tried to wrap my head around that when she leaned forward, and in a softer voice said, “I think I know why. Bullet was the one working hardest for my expulsion. He knew some of the guys’ dads. But other supers knew they needed someone who knew Infinity City, and my dad knew it better than anyone.”
I nodded. “And he wasn’t going to be much help if you were expelled.”
“And I know more than almost anyone else here about how to live in Infinity City. They needed me too.” Tara finished her drink. “I think it might be part of the reason Bullet isn’t running the program anymore, or at least part of me does.” She tapped her head. “I don’t have evidence, just a lot of little details pointing in that direction.”
Frowning, she added, “But I do think it’s for the best. I learned later that it wasn’t the first time he’d covered something like that up.”
I thought about Bullet. He’d welcomed my class during our first year, but faded away after that. He taught specific sections of combat training, but nothing else. Daniel’s dad had said something about changing the program. Quietly sidelining Bullet could have been part of that. He’d also said that Kid Biohack had powerful friends.
“You’re doing your internships and mandatory post-Stapledon service for the next two years, right?”
She nodded. “I’ve got to line up someone this year. I have places in mind.” She flashed me a grin.
I wondered how directly to say it. “If you have any trouble finding someone to do your internship with, tell us. We might know somebody who’s looking for an intern. We, also, and this is the crazy option, might be able to arrange something ourselves. We’ve got a team. The team has an income, and stuff happens in Grand Lake. One of our board members might be willing to act as your supervisor.”
She glanced toward the ground, checking where the line was. It ran from one glowing red gem to another. She was still on the right side. “That’s sweet of you to offer. I don’t think enough people in the community want to get me back for that that I’ll have trouble, but I’ll keep it mind. My dad had friends and a couple of them sound like they might take me on.”
“Good,” I said.
“Thanks,” she said, stepping across the line, and tossing her plastic cup into the nearest trash can. It landed perfectly in the center, dropping into the can.
Daniel and Izzy walked up to me as she walked away. Izzy’s jaw was set, and her jaw muscles stood out. “I’ve never heard anything about that. Every time I begin to feel good about the program, I discover another thing like this. I wonder what else Bullet covered up and who got hurt?”
Daniel met Izzy’s eyes. “We’ll do something about it. I’ll talk to my dad, and see what he knows.”
After that, the night was just talking. When we were done, we cleaned up, and all left together, still talking. It felt a lot like a movie night, but with a few more people. Whenever we did expand, we needed to pull in Samita, Rod and Amy officially— Tara too.
When I got to the room that Daniel and I shared, I fell asleep almost the instant I hit my bed, forgetting all about Kid Biohack and The Thing That Eats for a few hours.
The next morning on the way to the cafeteria, though, I happened to walk past Alex.
A little taller than I was, Alex was tanned with hair bleached blond by the sun. Wearing a t-shirt that advertised a surfboard company, he looked every bit of my surfer stereotype. He didn’t quite live it, though. Stereotypical surfers were supposed to be calm.
“Nick,” he put his hand on my shoulder. “I heard that Kid Biohack was in your town. We’ve got to talk.”