I half expected Turkmenistan to erupt in torrents of blood and destruction by Sunday night, but it didn’t. Nothing happened. That didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to stop it though.
I considered sending an email explaining everything to Agent Lim, but didn’t when it occurred to me that anything that went to Lim’s email address might be permanently archived by the government. Instead I sent him an email saying that something of potentially international importance had come up, and that he should talk to me or Dr.Nation as soon as possible.
He must have talked to Dr. Nation because Dr. Nation caught up with me on Monday morning after a group run. We’d divided and subdivided since the summer had begun. I’m pretty sure my group was the “Virtually No Chance of Metahuman Physical Improvement” group.
Anyway, as I walked off the last run, still breathing heavily, Dr. Nation stepped off the track and walked next to me in the grass.
Keeping his voice low, he said, “Don’t worry about what we talked about earlier. People are on it. Do tell me if there’s any retaliation.”
“Sure.” I took a ragged breath.
Nodding, he said, “Excellent. Your group’s heading to the weight room next.”
I can only guess what my expression was, but he laughed and waved me toward the compounds’ high school.
After weightlifting and a half hour break later, I was back on the field–with a few differences. This time I was in the Rocket suit. I wasn’t alone as I stood on the grass–the entire Stapledon program stood with me, all of them dressed in their own costumes.
Lee stood on top of a small platform on the field. As usual when training the group, he’d taken the form of Gunther, an associate of the Heroes’ League. That’s to say that he looked like a soldier–brush cut blond hair, combat fatigues, and a steady gaze.
Picking up a microphone, he surveyed the group. “Hey there, everyone. We’ve been training for almost a month now, and the powers-that-be need a sign that the millions of dollars they’re spending on you are working. Now even though a month is not enough time to produce a combat force that I’d be proud of, it is enough time to put on a show.
“We’re going to have you run some obstacle courses, and then we’ll have a few teams slug it out. It should be fun. I’ll match up some teams of with similar skill levels, and let them go at it.
“Now, one thing that will make this whole excise interesting is that it will take place in full view of the public. We’re going to have full use of otherwise unused grassland. Politicians, the press, and the general public will be there watching.
“That means that you’ll get to exercise two skills that you’ll find useful in life–fighting, and talking to the press. For most of you, the better choice will be not talking. You’ll want to memorize the words ‘no comment’ and use them at any opportunity. Got it?”
“Alright, time to start. I’m going to read off members of teams. You’ll go join yours immediately afterward. And remember, only a few of you will be fighting, but all of you will be running the obstacle courses.”
He started reading off the names, followed by a number, and using our codenames instead of our real names. I didn’t hear a lot of codenames I recognized, meaning that they were doing one of two things–choosing mostly upperclassmen or mostly first years.
For demonstration purposes, upperclassmen seemed like the better bet. Beyond that, it was probably good news. It meant that I’d probably get out of it. They could easily fill four teams by using the older students.
Except then Lee said, “Bloodmaiden. Group 2.”
That was bad news. If Amy could get picked, I could get picked.
“The Rocket. Group 2.” Lee pointed toward a spot directly in front of the podium, and I pushed through the crowd to find out who I’d been teamed with. They weren’t hard to find.
I knew most of them–at least a little. Except for Amy and I, they were all upperclassmen.
Amy, now in full Bloodmaiden armor (black and blood red) lifted her spear from the ground, waving it to get my attention. “Hey Rocket, do you know everybody?”
“Kind of? Not well though.” I recognized Samita, alias Red Hex, now wearing a red robe and white pants. Next to her stood Rod, a light skinned, blond haired guy who wore a black trench coat. He could turn into a troll. Appropriately, Troll was also his codename.
Tara nodded at me. “Rocket.” We’d both acted as Lee’s assistant while teaching classes. Blond, and square jawed, she wore a blue body suit. “Any objection to me acting as field leader?”
I shook my head. “You’ll be great.”
I snuck a look at one of our competitors. Lee was still calling out names, but so far they had Gordon and Stephanie. As I looked though, Lee called out, “The Power. Group 1.”
Sean pushed his way out of the crowd to join them.
This was going to be awesome.