Revealing the Gift
Robin couldn't help but grin as a second member of his team was awarded an Outstanding mark. This made his plan of getting everyone in his five-member team one Outstanding grade a great deal easier. Unfortunately, it also generated greater hostility from those in Randy's team.
Robin could see Randy and a couple of the others from his team, glaring at him and at Fairfax. Robin knew his fight with Randy would probably have to be repeated before the end of the testing week. Making matters worse, there was even some underlying annoyance from some of the other teams toward all Robin's team. He realized this was because only his team had a clean sweep of passing at least one test each. Further increasing the tension, no other team had a single team member pass two tests, let alone two team members like Robin's team had.
He shrugged off the uneasy feeling as everyone broke for the evening testing cycle. Once back inside their team tent Robin looked over at Fairfax, "You and I are already in the academy, so we need to spend more time working with the others." He then turned to Oliver, "And you still have five tests to go to get an Outstanding mark. Ajax and Gavin only have four, because they each took a different test than the one they failed this morning."
"No sweat," Oliver stated. "Even if I didn't get an Outstanding, I get to go back to Mars. Let's make me the lowest priority."
Ajax shook his head, "No way! You're part of the team now, Oliver. There is no way we're going to push you off to the side while we all work to get to the academy!"
Robin agreed, "Ajax is right. All I was asking for was for you to work on your next test without as much help as Fairfax and I are going to give to Gavin and Ajax. Like it or not, you're coming with us to the academy!"
Oliver blushed, "Thanks guys." His voice betrayed a combination of awkwardness and unease.
Gavin glanced over, "What's wrong, Oliver?"
Oliver looked down at the ground as he debated on what to tell his new teammates. Finally he came to the conclusion the truth would be best. He took a deep breath, sensing more than feeling the eyes of the other four boys on him. "I heard about what happened in the mess tent between Robin and Randy. As much as I thank Robin for sticking up for me, Randy was right."
Fairfax felt his eyes go wide, "You mean you are gay?"
A tear trickled down Oliver's cheek. In the tiniest of whispers he spoke a single word. "Yes."
Gavin was stunned and found the admission rather shocking. He gasped but otherwise remained silent.
Fairfax absorbed the news with an interesting raise of his eyebrows as he turned to look at Robin for some leadership.
Robin was at a loss for words and it showed; yet unlike Gavin his facial expression remained calm and showed concern for his new team member, but what to say just wouldn't come to him.
Ajax, on the other hand, spoke up. "You know, Robin spoke out for you, not knowing or caring what your preference in gender is. His point was it made no difference. I agreed with him one hundred percent then, as I do now."
Ajax paused and glanced around. Seeing Robin nod, followed a moment later by Fairfax, helped him a great deal so he continued. "I grew up on the street level of Chi-Triot. My family had to stick together and we took shelter with other SL families often. Countless times I saw sex, it was a way for my parents to forget about what a horrible life we had and one by one it did the same for my sisters and brothers. More than once I saw the momentary joy sex gave them and it didn't seem to matter if it was same sex or different sex partners. The same joy was there. I also saw the effects of rape, and it was also the same no matter if it was someone of the same sex or the other sex who did it. The hurt, the shame, the helplessness was no different."
Ajax paused as he tried to shake off some of the memories of being at Street Level in a CHZ. He knew no matter what happened; being an SLO would always be a part of him, as would the constant fear of the gangs, the military sweeps, and the rats. Before he completely lost his train of thought, he continued, "What I'm trying to say is, I don't care if you're gay or not. It don't matter to me and it never will. What I care about is, can you watch my back and will you trust me to watch yours? You being gay has nothing to do with either one of those!"
Oliver wiped his eyes and looked up at Ajax, seeing the sincerity in the boy's eyes helped improve his attitude and outlook. He then slowly looked over the other three. In Fairfax he saw only a friendly smile, the same smile he saw when he first joined the small team. Glancing at Robin, he could tell his new team leader totally agreed with Ajax. He couldn't help but smile as he saw Robin nod. Finally, he looked over at Gavin.
Gavin stared back, still looking somewhat shocked. If anything there was a hint of fear in his eyes. He stammered as he spoke, "Are you sure? I mean, ah… Well, how do you know?"
Ajax looked over to Gavin with a bewildered smirk, "Duhhh, he likes boys more than girls. What do you mean are you sure?"
Fairfax snickered, "I think he means, how does he know for sure, since he's our age. Most people don't figure out who they are until they hit mid teens according to our stupid Comp-books on sex education."
"Oh, yeah," Ajax blushed feeling rather stupid. "I hadn't thought of that."
Robin giggled, "Knowing Gavin, who happens to be the biggest flirt of any kid I know; he is trying to figure out how anyone could find boys more attractive than a girl!"
Gavin punched Robin hard in the shoulder and turned a bright red. This got a round of laughter out of everyone, including Oliver.
With the tension broken, Robin took over and broke the group into two teams, assigning Oliver to work with Ajax, while he and Fairfax combined efforts to help Gavin. Looking over at Gavin he grinned, "So what do you want to score an Outstanding grade on?"
Gavin shrugged, "My best bet is either Grassland Survival or Night Navigation. I don't know how in the heck I'm ever going to pass the Individual Wilderness Survival or the Wilderness First-aid. I suck so badly in those!"
Fairfax shook his head, "I thought the same thing about rifles and hunting, because my aim is something straight out of a joke book. But I followed everything Robin told me and it worked. It was never about being a good shot. Instead, it was about safety and knowing what to look for, what to shoot in the general direction of, and most importantly, what never to do even when they set me up to do it.
"One of the instructors purposefully walked out in front of me when I saw a good target and I instantly safetied the weapon just like Robin told me to. Three others who didn't all failed and the one who actually fired was bumped down to a sonic rifle. The truth of the matter is, I was only able to take a pair of shots at a fanged lizard and missed with both. The kid from team nine, who shot it, only got a good score because he fired four shots in rapid succession instead of taking his time and conserving power."
Gavin rolled his eyes, "Just like always. I can apply for our adventure scout group to do twenty things and Robin puts in three and we end up going four places, two of mine and two of Robin's. It's like he knows exactly what to say or do sometimes and it is actually kind of annoying."
"Annoying ain't the word for it," Oliver grumbled from over at the other table. "You heard it right out of Mr. Montgomery. Only two kids have ever scored back to back Outstanding marks before, and neither of them did it on the first two tests. The record stands at three Outstanding grades and that was only done once, by a kid who failed out the year before. I don't see how you do it, Robin; those tests are next to impossible the first go around!"
Robin started to shrug it off as luck, but he stopped himself. These guys, all of them, were his friends. They deserved to know the truth even if he, himself, didn't know what the full truth was. "You guys are going to think I'm some sort of a nut," He finally declared.
Fairfax was first to react to Robin's statement. "No, we think your some sort a genius. What do you mean we'll think you're nuts?"
Robin took a deep breath as he sought the right words, "The truth is; I can sometimes see things that have happened, or are going to happen, when I have no way of knowing the information on my own. Sometimes, well most of the time, it's minor stuff. Like me knowing who is at the door before they even knock or knowing there will be a surprise quiz in class the evening before so I study for it."
While Robin paused, Gavin suddenly looked excited, "I've seen you do that! You did it when my dad hid his palm computer and forgot where he hid it!"
"He did what?" Oliver managed to ask before the others.
Gavin rolled his eyes, "I had this bad habit of filling up my dad's comp-pads with games. So one day he bought a new one and hid it so he could take it to work the next day. Robin came over to my place that night and spent the night. Neither of us knew my dad even bought a new one, but the next morning my dad started yelling at me about taking it and playing with it."
"That sucks!" Ajax blurted out.
"Yeah, well, looking back on it… if I had found it I would have played with it. I have loved comp-games from the time I was old enough to push the buttons. I was always getting into trouble for playing games instead of doing chores and homework."
Oliver grinned, "Me too!"
Gavin loosened up a little toward Oliver as he smiled, "I guess we'll have to compare notes sometime."
Fairfax interrupted, "So what happened?"
Robin answered, "I'm not sure how I knew, but I told his dad the comp-pad was behind his picture of Gavin as a baby, right where he put it before Gavin got home from school so he wouldn't even know about it. I then reminded him Gavin hated that picture because he was wearing pink diapers in it, so he would never look there. The very fact I was right on the reasons he put it there got me more than a few questions, but he needed to get to work and was so apologetic to Gavin that my part was kind of forgotten in short order. Still, every time I found something one of them was missing, I always got a strange look from his dad."
"Wow," Ajax's voice betrayed his awe. "How do you make it work?"
"What do you mean?" Robin frowned
"I mean," Ajax rolled his eyes, "is how do you make yourself see those things?"
Robin tossed up his arms, "I don't. They just happen. And when really strong ones happen I get really hungry… really, really, hungry."
Fairfax interrupted, "What if you're wrong Robin?"
"What do you mean? I know when I'm hungry!"
"No, no, no!" Fairfax waved his hands seeing Robin was getting angry. "What if you're wrong about it just happening? What if you can make it happen?"
"It doesn't work that way."
"Have you ever tried?" Oliver asked after a few moments of silence in the group.
Robin chewed on his lower lip in thought for a few moments, then shook his head, "I wouldn't know how to even start. It just happens."
Fairfax's eyes glinted, "Let's try Robin."
Fairfax thought it over for a moment, "Start with Gavin's worst subject. He said there was no chance of him passing Wilderness First-aid, so let's see if you can't tell him how to pass it like you did with me in rifles."
"Fairfax, it just doesn't work that way."
Oliver spoke up, "What if it can?"
"Okay," Robin took a deep breath as he decided to play along, "What do you guys suggest?"
Fairfax pumped his fist as he saw a willingness in his friend to attempt to force this weird gift. Secretly, he didn't fully believe it was true, but after his own test there was a chance. Besides, a chance was all an SLO needed. "When you told me what to do, you did it like you were having normal conversation, so start talking about it."
Robin did as Fairfax instructed, but the fact he didn't know much about it himself hindered the process. Finally he shook his head. "See? It just doesn't work that way."
"Hold on Robin," Fairfax next to begged. "Don't give up on it so fast. Try focusing on Gavin and try to see what he needs to do."
Oliver chimed in, "Look, Robin, it seems like Fairfax and Gavin believe you, and to be honest, I want to believe. If you can do this, let us help to unlock it. "Robin clenched his fists, wanting to forget he ever said anything, but he had and the others weren't going to let him give up, "How?"
Oliver licked his lips and scowled. "Well, my dad always tells me if I need to focus on something to try to block out other stimuli." Getting strange looks, he shrugged, "He's a scientist, he says lots of weird things, but they seem to work"
"Alright," Robin sighed, "What do you want me to do?"
Seeing the others looking at him, Oliver knelt and motioned Robin to sit on the ground next to him. "Sit down and close your eyes. Try to see Gavin taking the test. Gavin talk to him about what you do know."
Gavin snorted, "Yeah, sure, I'll tell you all about what will be my worst test in my life."
Ajax shook his head, "No Gavin, be serious. Try to help him. What do you have to loose anyway?"
"Nothing," Gavin agreed quickly. "Okay, I'm meeting with one of the instructors and the rest of my group. We…"
"Hold on," Fairfax spoke softly as he had a flash of inspiration, "Robin, which instructor is giving the test?"
Gavin and Ajax both frowned, but Oliver saw what Fairfax was up to and held up a finger to keep them silent.
"So who is there other than Gavin, Robin?" Fairfax prodded gently.
Suddenly, Robin felt the familiar twinge and saw the test in his mind. When he spoke his voice trembled as he realized, for the first time, the talent could be activated with a degree of control. With this knowledge, the whole thing became extremely vivid, "Mr. O'Mally is the instructor. There are four others. One of them is a plant. Adrienne, from Team Two, actually passed her test today but was sworn to secrecy. She is going to fall down a ridge and appear hurt, but she has inflatable padding under her suit. Mr. O'Mally wants to see what your reactions will be.
"He expects you all to go after Adrienne. If you endanger yourself you will fail. Look for a safer way down. It is off to the west, going the quicker way to the northeast will get you there faster, but you will have to pass right through some red lizard mounds.
"When you get to her, you will find she is injured with what appears to be something… it's a stick… impaling her. It's a thin, fake skin and blood bladder, but you won't be able to tell it. Don't remove the stick. Bandage around it. Her locator will be broken, so use your own. If she falls the way they plan, her head will be very close to the water, move her so her head is away from the stream so she can't drown, then bandage the impaling object. Make sure she is in a proper shock prevention position and raise her feet using a nearby log.
"Mr. O'Mally is also looking for leadership. You must keep the rest of the group calm and not let them do anything really stupid if you want to get an Outstanding. It will help if you order others what to do, like grabbing the log for you, so you can stay with her and reassure her."
Robin stopped talking and rocked forward only to be caught by Ajax, "Holy crap! I saw it! I really saw it!" Ajax nearly shouted, "OH, man, I can feel his stomach growling too!"
Fairfax jumped up, "I'll get some food. Keep an eye on him!"
Robin shook and cried, "I told you I was a freak…"
"No, Robin," Oliver stated as he slid closer and used his shirt sleeve to wipe away some of Robin's tears, "That was incredible! I was able to see it in my own mind as you were talking!"
"Me, too!" Gavin stated while hugging his friend, "I saw it from the second you talked about the lizard mounds! You took us in to your… your… power… It was amazing!"
Ajax also nodded, "I saw it at the exact same time. It was like I was there! If this pans out, and it doesn't really hurt you, we'll all get Outstanding marks with no problem. But, Robin, if this hurts you, don't do it. I'll go back to the ChiTroit orphanage before I let you hurt yourself to help me."
Robin gulped, "No… It has never hurt me… I'm just hungry and cold… very hungry." He paused and glanced over to Oliver, "And no, I won't get angry if you want to wrap your arms around me to help me warm up… and no, I don't mind the fact you think I'm cute."
"You can read my mind?" Oliver asked as he moved to basically let Robin snuggle into him.
"I'm actually seeing all your thoughts... all of you… but I think I'm getting it shut off…"
Oliver rubbed his hand though Robin's hair, "Put your head on my chest and take some breaths. Think about something fun. I heard you say you play soccer, think about kicking a ball or something." Oliver winced for a second, "Damn, you hit your head on a goal post when they put you in as a goalie?"
"What the hell?" Ajax asked as he realized he had just seen and thought the same thing. "Now you are sending us your thoughts. Take some deep breaths and think of a black piece of paper or something!"
Fairfax came back with some snack cakes and a package of crackers. "Did I just feel you thinking about not wanting to be a goalie?"
Robin nodded and took a package of the cakes. As he took his first bite, his abilities faded and he let out a giant sigh of relief. "Whoa, guys, I'm sorry. It didn't really want to turn off or whatever. I didn't mean to…"
Gavin grinned, "Sorry for what? I don't think any of us are mad!"
"Mad, no…" Fairfax shook his head, "That was the coolest thing ever! My head still feels tingly!"
"Mine too," Ajax snickered. "We actually know someone who can read minds and the future!"
Robin downed the package of crackers and shivered slightly. "Guys, until you're actually there, don't talk about it or let on. I think it will screw things up and I really don't want to do this more than once for each of you unless I have to. It's not like it hurts, but I'm going to need more food than this and a nap. If you all can give me a bit…"
Oliver helped Robin stand, "Okay, Gavin you know what you need to do. Let's drop it and let it happen." He continued to hold onto Robin as he watched Robin wobble a bit. "In the meantime, let's get you tucked into a cot and keep an eye on you. Me and Gavin can compare note-puter games for a while, so it won't be like we are just sitting there watching you or something."
Gavin quickly nodded, "Oliver is right. Let's get you into a bed."
"Ajax and I will go over his next test, since I have my Outstanding I can slack off."
Oliver nodded, "Good idea, and Robin, I want you to focus on Ajax next. I can go without…"
"No," Robin stated firmly. "We all get an Outstanding and go to the academy together or I won't go."
Gavin stepped behind Robin so he could get out of the boy's line of sight and shook his head in warning, letting them all know it was not worth arguing. "Robin, get some rest. With any luck, we'll be able to help Oliver and Ajax get an Outstanding without your help."
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