“The tournament will work like this. You’ve got four teams. In the first round, there will be two fights and the winners will fight each other in the second round. It’s quick and simple, and it will have to be. We’ve got the VIP’s for the afternoon, and not longer than that. With luck, it’ll be exciting and get everyone back here in time for supper.”
Lee’s mouth quirked in a half smile. “Does anyone have any questions?”
Patriot Jr’s hand shot up. “I’m not trying to second guess you, sir, but why these groups? There are enough upperclassmen alone to fill the exercise, but you sprinkled in a few second years. I’m not complaining. They’re powerhouses, but why?”
Lee shrugged. “You want an honest answer? Part of it is politics. People are coming from the outside, and there are certain people they’ll want to see in action. I’m making sure they will, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that you’re all people I’m confident won’t kill anybody during the demonstration. Don’t prove me wrong.”
Next to me, Travis shook his head and raised his hand. “So what you’re saying is that we’re wasting training time to give a show to politicians?”
Nodding, Lee said, “Pretty much, but not entirely. I’ve been teaching all of you for a little over a year now. I’m not wild about tournaments because they teach you to fight like you’re fighting in a tournament. On the other hand, you’re going to be trying for non-lethal takedowns most of the time in the real world. Think of it as a test for that, and everything’s okay.”
Further to my left, Tara raised her hand, and when Lee nodded asked, “What will the tournament be? A straight fight, or something more complicated?”
Lee turned to face her. “Good question. Excellent question, in fact. It’s nice to hear one that has something to do with the exercise. Unfortunately, I’m not telling. Expect that you could be asked to fight any of the other teams. I’m not going to explain the circumstances because that’s how it works sometimes.”
Then he dismissed us, but not before we arranged to meet after everything was done. That’s how everyone found themselves in my lab. I’m not sure of the exact reasoning behind that decision, but Amy did say that it would be easy to ward it against eavesdroppers.
She didn’t say that it was because she’d already done the work.
Rod stood next to my computer desk, clicking until he found the specs. “Nice. The regular students are stuck with the computers in their rooms, or whatever they brought from home. These computers are top of the line.”
I stood next to him, hoping he wouldn’t click on any of the surveillance programs I’d installed, and regretting I’d said yes when he asked to take a look.
“And you know what, even these computers don’t have the necessary power for some things people want to do. They’ve got a mainframe in the compound that they said they might give us time on.”
Rod looked up from the computer. “Yeah? Have they?”
I shook my head. “It looked like they were going to, but I think they must have changed their minds and not told us. Keon’s been talking about putting together a Beowulf cluster. We’ve still got some space in the commons. You know what a Beowulf cluster is, right?”
Rod nodded. “My school’s got one for students. I’m majoring in computer science—the normal kind, not the super genius kind.”
I nodded. “Cool. I thought about doing that, but I’m already double majoring. Triple majoring would be stupid.”
Amy stepped backwards, away from the small blood red crystals on either side of the door. “The wards are working. As soon as Tara and Sam get here, we can start.”
Rod pointed at the crystals. “Those are the wards? They were here when I got here. Why did you ward this place?”
Amy and I looked at each other.
Hoping my voice remained even, I said, “We probably shouldn’t talk about it.”
Amy nodded. “I’m not even in on everything, but I agree.”
Rod’s eyes flicked between the two of us. “Hey, I respect keeping secrets and everything. It’s required around here, but I’ve been noticing a lot of fairies around when I’m in my other form. Any connection?”
“Seriously?” I asked, definitely failing at keeping an even tone. “I mean, yeah. We’ve had a couple incidents. Do you know why they’re here?”
Rod sat on the edge of the computer desk. “No clue, but it’s been making me nervous. They’re not going to do anything to me, but another faerie invasion won’t make anybody’s life better.”
“Can’t argue,” I said, “but we’re not seeing anything like that.”
I caught Amy’s eye. “Are we?”
Amy grabbed a chair from next to the wall and sat down. “Not so far, but I’m seeing more of them than I used to too.”