On Saturday morning, we gathered at the compound’s athletic fields. They had two football/soccer fields with tracks running around them. The first year students gathered in the middle of one and the second, third, and fourth years gathered in the other.
The first years seemed to take up most of the middle of their field, but that wasn’t really true. It wasn’t just them. Adults in costume (both superhero and medical scrubs) were scattered throughout the crowd.
I recognized what they were doing from last year—entry assessment. The program was getting a baseline of their abilities. They’d set up a walled room on one end of the field. I wasn’t sure of the material, but from here it looked like stone.
I didn’t know what kind of powers they had to work with, but an awful lot of powers had the potential to kill if they weren’t contained.
I couldn’t actually see Haley anymore. She’d disappeared into the rest of the crowd with Camille, a friend from Grand Lake.
“Please move closer everyone. I need all of you to hear me.”
A voice broke through the talking, and I recognized it. I felt a little surprised hearing it in the context of “physical training” though.
All of us moved forward, surrounding the person who’d called out to us. Dr. Freddie Nation stood there in his “Brawn” costume. Between the black and white striped tank top, and the black pants, it drew heavily from strongman costumes. The domino mask and mustache completed the retro look even if the black utility belt didn’t quite fit with the theme.
His bare arms and shoulders made it obvious that he was in very good shape. Even if he didn’t look like a professional bodybuilder, his muscles were clearly defined. I knew that his physical abilities were well outside human norms, but I supposed it could have been due to training on some level.
Mostly it surprised me because he taught Stapledon’s technology specialists.
Looking around, I could see that I wasn’t the only one confused. The expressions of most ranged from flat acceptance to disbelief. They might not be in tech, but they knew what he taught.
“That’s good. Everyone can hear me?”
Nods came from the crowd.
“Excellent. I imagine some of the second years are wondering why I’m here. I’ll explain. A few years ago I became interested in powers and whether it was possible to improve them. We all know people whose powers have expanded over time. My question was whether we could make it happen at will, and the answer is yes. Our training program is built on my research.
“Those of you with physical powers should find noticeable improvement in them over the course of the year. Those of you without physical powers will have less intense workouts based on the same system. Some of you have small physical powers you haven’t noticed yet. The rest of you should still benefit.”
Then he began to go into the overall theory about his system and why it worked. It fit with what I’d learned about how powers worked when fixing our power impregnator.
I considered asking questions, but didn’t. From the expressions on their faces, a lot of people were struggling to pay attention already.
It wasn’t the greatest place for a lecture. We were all wearing shorts, and t-shirts. Some people had sweatshirts, and as interesting as Dr. Nation was, I wished I had one too. It couldn’t have been much more than sixty degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius), and the athletic facilities were between the bottom of the rocky foothill our dorms were inside and the wall that surrounded the compound.
Half the field seemed to be in the shade, so it felt even colder.
Dr. Nation seemed to sense that, and cut the lecture off, saying, “But we’ll talk about it more later. For now, we’re going to start doing it. The upperclassmen will guide you through any special exercises. You will all help the first years when they start on Monday.
“Time to divide into groups.”
For all the talk about increasing physical powers and giving less intense workouts to those of us limited to a normal physical potential, Dr. Nation’s first exercise was, “Six miles on the track for group 1.”
As Dr. Nation moved on, the guy next to me said, “That’s not bad. It’s bootcamp light.”
I recognized him, but couldn’t match his face to a name. A little taller than I, he had brown skin and short, curly hair along with a long distance runner’s physique—thin.
As we started walking toward the track, I finally did remember his name—Malik. He’d been in New York with all the rest of us, but he’d been carrying a rifle then. I couldn’t for the life of me remember his power though.
“Bootcamp light?” I glanced over at him as we began to run.
He grinned. “We aren’t carrying a pack or wearing boots, and there’s no drill sergeant to give us hell.”
I must not have looked as happy at that news as he’d expected because he continued, “Trust me, this is easy.”
After we ran the six miles, we went to the weight room, and after a break, came back out and ran an obstacle course. This was followed by more exercise.
By two, even with a lunch break, I felt sore all over.
I never got to ask Malik if he still thought it was easy by the end. Lee showed up. As was normal at Stapledon, he showed up as “Gunther,” a WW2 ally of my grandfather. He looked almost like he did in the old photos–tall with brush cut blond hair, and combat fatigues. The fatigues were more modern than the ones in the pictures.
I walked across the track toward him, feeling like I was limping on both legs.
“Heya kid,” Gunther said, “I need some help. The entry assessment’s mostly over, and I’m going to give the first years their orientation to combat training. I need some help with that. Grab a team, suit up, and meet me at the other field.”
I nodded, too tired to argue. “Sure. What do you want us for? Assistants? A fighting demo?”
He grinned at the last one. “A demo? Sure. That’s about right.”