Gavin was the first to wake. Truth be told, he hadn't slept much. He had managed a couple of catnaps, but the events of the prior evening were still very fresh in his mind and he was worried about Robin. His best friend had eaten almost another full meal and every snack the rest of the team could smuggle out of the training camp kitchen.
The other thing Gavin found himself troubled over was having so much advanced knowledge about the upcoming test; it kind of felt like he was cheating. On the other hand, he argued with himself, knowing what was planned and what he had to do was only half the battle. The other half was doing all the first aid properly. On this he knew in his heart he didn't need any help. The explorer scout troop he and Robin belonged to was big on first aid and the training was actually better than what he had received since his arrival at the testing camp. Still, he couldn't help but wonder why he hadn't gotten a better mark the day before on General First Aid. He had done everything perfectly.
Knowing his mind was now starting to spin in endless circles, he got up and dressed as quietly as he could and slipped out of the tent. He shivered as he felt a couple of snowflakes hit his face and melt. His eyes turned skyward, letting a few more hit his face. "This is so freaking amazing!" He spoke softly to himself.
Off to the side he heard someone clear their throat and he turned, only to see Jasper looking at him with a wide smile. Gavin grinned back and tilted his head skyward again, letting more small flakes of snow hit his face.
Jasper moved closer, "Not like the nasty rain and snow we get back on Earth, huh?"
"No…" Gavin spoke softly still enjoying the fact precipitation falling out of the Zong sky was clean enough to drink and it didn't have a smell to it like the pollutant-filled Earth sky dropped on people in the CHZ's. "Did Earth really used to be like this?"
"As hard as it is to believe, yes," Jasper responded. "Without the terraforming of Mars, I am afraid Zong would be losing this as well. To be honest, I don't know how many more years we can keep Zong for just Adventure Quest and scientific study. Sooner, rather than later, we are going to have to start moving people off of Earth before we kill the planet."
"My mom has a pretty high spot in the government and has hinted at the same thing." Gavin paused and sighed, "I know I'm not supposed to know this, but I have heard her on the vid link talking to some other scientists. I know there are even a few marginal worlds you all have found which are being set with terraform stations and jump gates. I even heard something about the explorers identifying promising Zong students to run them since there're too many adults who can't. I really didn't understand why until Oliver told us about OSS and how many in his Mars settlement have died."
Jasper let out a long breath, "I am not going to lie to you cadet, things are getting bad, but you need to keep this information to yourself."
"I haven't even told Robin, although he has been around my parents enough to where he probably knows almost as much as I do. But to be honest, we really don't want to talk about it. Mom has no idea how much me or Robin knows. She tries real hard to hide how bad things are on Earth from me, Robin and my sister, but she brings her work home too much."
"So are you worried about getting picked to learn how to run a terraforming station?"
Gavin let out a long breath and wiped a tear off his cheek, "Can I tell you something… something private?"
Jasper put his hand on the boy's back, "Any time, cadet, but let's head over to my office and get you signed up for today's test so we can keep it out of the ears of others. I can hear a few others starting to wake up."
Gavin frowned as he tried to listen, "I don't hear nothing."
"You will in a few minutes. Sara from Team Eleven is about to get her whole team up for a pep talk." Jasper could see Gavin give him the look of 'how could you know?' but even this didn't totally distract from what was bothering the boy.
Jasper guided Gavin to his prefab office and moved behind his desk, "So, what is really going on inside your brain, son?"
"Sir," Gavin took an uneasy breath, "I don't want to lose Robin."
Jasper frowned deeply, "Why would you?"
"Because he is going to be an explorer; and I don't want to be stuck in some stupid classes on how to terraform in Linc-Omaha or Mia-Orlando, while he goes to Den-Springs or Dal-Houston for explorer training. He's the only real friend I've ever had!"
Jasper rubbed his chin in some thought. "You are way too well informed for a twelve year old. Not many know where our second, and actually more advanced Explorer Corps Training Center is and even fewer know of our two specialized schools for terraforming, let alone where they are located."
Jasper remained silent for a few seconds, then nodded as he decided to say something he knew he shouldn't. "Gavin, I could get into a great deal of trouble for this, but I am going to hint at something, just hint. Okay?"
Gavin took a nervous stuttering breath and nodded, "I understand, sir."
"Good." Still Jasper kept his eyes stern as he looked into Gavin's eyes and spoke. "Sometimes, things work out the way you really want and rumor has it there are special awards for kids who do not give up once they are out on their own in the Independent Survival Training Area Zone we put them in. Some people out there really look at those who tough it out, no matter how bad things get, and find a way to deal with it. I have even heard there are bonuses for going to fewer than five resupply locations too."
Gavin cocked his head to the side, "Sir, if making it for three months is all it will take, I don't even know why you had to say anything. Robin won't let us quit!"
Jasper chuckled, "Most of the time I would argue with you, since I have seen the statistics of first year ISTAZ teams. They aren't pretty. However, I have also never seen a report of one team getting three outstanding marks in the first day of testing either, so you guys are already off to a very good start. Just keep it up. Now, what test did you want to take today?"
"Well, I managed to get my first aid so I want to get Wilderness and Emergency First Aid out of the way." Gavin looked up with a grin, "and after I pass it, I want to do the Emergency Communications test."
Jasper burst out laughing, "Man, you guys are getting cocky. Robin must be rubbing off on all of you!"
"Sir, he's been rubbing off on me since the first day I met him. He had us spend our free time last night going over everything we have seen with testing and quizzing each other. We also talked about the traps you guys set up to mess us up. I bet we all pass our first test this morning."
Jasper raised an eyebrow, "So you all think we are trying to set you up for failure?"
"Most of us did, but Robin says we set ourselves up by being lazy. You all just make being lazy easy by how you set up the tests."
Jasper drummed his fingers on his desk for a moment, "So Robin had you all test each other for the test you were planning on taking today?"
"Yes… Um, that's not wrong, is it?"
"Not at all, actually it is rather remarkable. We will have to see how this works out for you all today. Now, I have forty-three others who need to sign up with me, so get to the mess hall and get a big breakfast and then get your butt to the supply building to grab your supplies. Wilderness First Aid is all on you and whoever takes the test with you. The instructor is just there to grade you all…" Jasper stopped and held up a finger, "So, let me ask you one other thing Gavin."
"Did you talk over the tests you all took, too?"
"In detail," Gavin nodded. "Robin had all of us compare notes and talk over what mistakes we made. Those of us who failed a test, all know why we failed and it was all stupid things on our parts, because we looked for the quick fix, or out, rather than the proper one. Those who passed, even Robin who is Mr. Outstanding, told us ways he could have done better and pointed out mistakes he made, or almost made. It was the whole reason he wanted all of us to take tests we were sure we could pass for the afternoon test session. He wanted to make sure we could all meet as a group last night while most of the others were testing."
"Very resourceful of him, actually of all of you, for listening to him." Jasper nodded his head in some admiration while putting in an order for all the instructors to meet after night testing to find alternate ways to set up the tests for easy failure. "Good luck today, Gavin."
"Thank you, sir…" Gavin paused, "Um, sir, can I ask who the instructor is for my first test?"
Jasper hit a key on his note-puter, "You will be reporting to Mr. O'Mally by hover car four."
Gavin felt his heart race at hearing Robin had gotten the name of the instructor correct. "Let him know I'll be there."
"I sure will," He smiled. "Oh, and send in Jason."
"Okay, sure." Gavin left the office and turned, only to run right into Jason from Team Fifteen as the boy was walking toward Jasper's office. Gavin felt his jaw drop some as he quickly glanced back to the small building wondering how the man knew. "Um, Mr. Montgomery said to go on in."
The slightly older boy nodded, "Thanks." He stopped, and tapped Gavin on the shoulder. "Can I ask you a question?"
Gavin turned nervously, "Sure."
Jason waved his hand to show he was not trying to be a threat and took a half step back, "Hey, I know some of us are jealous as all hell since your team all passed tests yesterday, but since you did, I'm not above asking for help."
Gavin let out a bit of a sigh of relief, "Okay, if I can, sure."
Jason let out a long uneasy breath, "You and Sara are the only ones who passed the test we took and the rest of us failed yesterday. I pounded the books last night and I came up with a big blank. Did you see what I did wrong?"
Gavin shook his head, "I really wasn't watching you…" Gavin suddenly looked down at the ground and kicked at a rock, "Ah, crap!"
Jason's lips turned slightly downward, "What?"
"It was a team test." Gavin shook his head in disgust, "I would've gotten a much better grade if I had stopped and seen what everyone else was doing and maybe I would've been able to see what you did wrong and could have stopped you. I was so focused on getting the dummy's compound fracture taken care of and doing everything right on my end, I didn't even see what my teammates were doing!"
Jason's whole demeanor switched as he smacked his own forehead, "Shit."
By the tone alone, Gavin could tell whatever he had just said sparked something within Jason, "What did I miss?"
"Frank opened a sterile, wound closure strip and put it down on the log when the dummy started spurting blood from our arm wound. I watched him do it. He then handed me a strip to cover the wound, after we put on the pressure point ring, and then the two of us used it to close the wound. I bet it was the same strip he put down on the log!"
"Probably," Gavin agreed. "I'm amazed Sara and I passed if we all ended up using the contaminated wound closure strip."
"You two took the leg wound and let us do our thing," Jason let out a long breath of disgust. "We kind of broke into three teams, each taking a serious injury instead of working as one big team, so they probably graded us separately, while taking points off all of us for not being a real team."
Jason patted Gavin on the back, "I was going to do Emergency Comm, but now I'm going to retake First Aid first, and I bet I end up helping someone get an Outstanding."
Gavin grinned, "If I pass my Wilderness First Aid, I'm going to take Emergency Comm after lunch, so let's both pass this morning so we can help each other get an Outstanding after lunch."
"Sounds like a plan!" Jason stated with a hard nod of his head. "Even if you fail this morning, take E Comm so we can help each other."
Gavin gave a thumbs up and nodded, "I'll be there!"
Off to the side, Mr. Allen stood back and watched the exchange, "Damn kids are teaming up on us. This is a new twist."
Back in Robin's tent, the rest of the kids from Team Five were getting their day going. Ajax glanced over to Robin, "How you feeling?"
"I'm fine, but I'll be eating a very big breakfast and taking some extra rations with me. I want to see if I can force this thing to come on again when I take the Potable Water test. It seems way too easy, so they must have put something really devious in it to screw us up. I want to see if I can find it in advance."
"Do you want some help to see it?" Oliver spoke up with some hope in his voice.
Robin smiled but shook his head, "Let's save my big ones for the rest of you. I need to work on doing this on my own, too. Hopefully we can do another group one tonight, so I can help you or Ajax."
Ajax took a deep breath, "I'm actually going to do everything in my power to make sure you don't have to go through what you did last night for me. It really kicked your butt!"
"It was kind of draining, or something," Robin admitted. "But, guys, I have been living with this, in secret for, like, five years now. Having others I could share it with, and not hate me for it, was incredible. For those few minutes, we were all linked. I want to do it again, and I hope you'll let me."
"I'm in," Fairfax nodded. "It was the coolest thing ever. I think I can still feel some tingling in the center of my brain."
"I know I can," Oliver added. "I've never felt this excited and happy before either. Since, for a brief moment, I could tell you all really don't care I'm gay. I could see Gavin was a little freaked out, but he was still okay with me being me."
"I don't think it's an issue to any of us," Ajax shrugged. "I really don't understand why it would be with anyone else."
"It shouldn't be," Robin sighed. "But, I bet I'm going to have to have another discussion with Randy before we ship out to our zone, especially after we all have outstanding marks."
Ajax moved and sat on the bed next to Robin, "You know, it wouldn't be the worst idea to offer to study with some of the others and help them some. Once we each get an outstanding, it'd be kind of cool to go to the other teams and do a study session. It seems kind of stupid to have everyone in the camp hate us, when we should all be working to help each other."
"Great idea," Robin agreed. "I think it would be kind of neat if we all could help out the other teams so this whole camp gets through ISTAZ without anyone dying."
"Good luck trying to talk to Randy's team," Fairfax grumbled.
"Hey, all we can do is offer," Oliver grinned. "But, I'm probably not the one to try to help Randy's group."
"Actually," Robin shot Oliver a sharp glance, "You may be the perfect one for it."
"What?" Oliver gasped, "I really don't want to get my butt kicked."
"Not if we offer to hold it in the mess hall for all who are interested," Robin countered. "I can start things off, at noon today, since I don't have to pass anything today. So even if I fail, I could be there to help others who managed to pass two tests. Whoever passes their morning tests, and wants to, can join me."
"I can skip the afternoon testing as well," Ajax added. "So I can be there too, just in case someone wants to get stupid."
Fairfax stood, "We need to tell Gavin."
"Don't bother," Robin grabbed Fairfax, while shaking his head. "He is dead set on passing two tests today; I felt it when he dressed and slipped out early. He wants to be able to take a full day of down time, in case he messes up and doesn't get an Outstanding today."
"Okay," Fairfax sighed, "but there's no way he's going to fail."
"I agree," Robin stood and stretched. "Well, we best go put in for our first tests and eat. Talking about testing is only going to make us all nervous and we all pretty much know what we have to do."
It was pretty clear to everyone in Robin's group the mood was a pretty somber one in the chow hall as they moved through the food line. More than a few kids looked really tired and a few were spending more time chewing on their fingernails than their food. Over half the kids had their note-puters sitting next to them as they ate and many of them tried to fight back yawns and failed to do so.
Jasper, as usual, moved up to the small podium once the last kid had food and was seated. "Kids, I know you all had a short night."
Denny, from Team Seventeen, who was sitting at the next table over from Robin's group rolled his eyes, "Not all of us! Team Five's lights were out when I got back."
Robin heard a few grumbles from a few others, but also noticed more than a few others look over to him and his group with a bit of admiration. Deciding to use this to his advantage he stood, "Mr. Montgomery, before you give us a rundown of what tests are where, can I make an announcement?"
Jasper looked down at his notes with a slight frown, but before he could say anything Mr. Allen spoke up from the instructor table. "The boy's one of us. He's got recruit pins on, may as well let him have his say."
Jasper's whole face changed as he took a step back and nodded to Campbell, "Good point Mr. Allen." Jasper stepped to the side and motioned for Robin to come up, "I give you the floor Recruit."
Robin felt his cheeks flush some as he gulped and stepped forward. As he got to the podium, he paused. He glanced over to Jasper, who had moved back to the instructor table and had taken a seat, "I was going to just do it from down there."
Mr. Allen let out a bit of a cackle, showing his old age, "Boy, you want to speak up, you do so from up here like any other member of the Corps."
Robin shuddered involuntarily and took a couple of deep breaths before he turned to look out over the kids. "Guys, I can tell some of you want to ring my neck and many from my team." He waited while a round of snickers and giggles rolled across the room.
This gave him a bit more heart, which allowed him to smile some. "We got a bit lucky yesterday, but we also think we can help anyone who is interested. Since we had the evening off, we compared notes, and since neither Ajax nor me need to pass any tests today, we're going to offer to hold a group meeting here, both in the afternoon for a couple of hours and the same after dinner. I know some of you can't attend because you have to pass tests, but for those who can, it will be a great time to put our heads together. You can then go back to your teams and let them know what ideas we come up with."
Robin glanced over to see most of the instructors looking over with some shock. Only Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Allen didn't seem overly surprised, but even they seemed a bit taken off guard. Robin paused long enough to fire off a bit off a smirk, then turned back to the kids below. "One other thing, only a few of you didn't pass any tests yesterday, so take your time this morning and watch each other's backs. This isn't some kind of competition between teams on who can pass the most tests the quickest. We all want to go out to our Independent Survival Training Area Zones as best prepared as possible. Even though some of us don't like each other very well, I don't think anyone here wants to hear about anyone in this room dying.
"Actually, I think it would be pretty cool if we all came back for year two as a group so we can hit the far back country, but we have to make it through this year to guarantee a slot for Advanced ISTAZ next year. Just think, while some of your friends will only get to come here once, we can all help each other punch a guaranteed ticket back here next year, to be with the friends we are making. What could be better?"
Seeing he was getting through to most of those who were looking at him, Robin glanced to Jasper with a gleam in his eyes then turned back, "One other thing. I would really like to see us break the record for the most kids to get on Outstanding mark and qualify for the academy. I don't know where the record is now, but if we help each other and really talk over the mistakes we have all made, and even I can see ways I could have done better, we can break it. I, for one, would love to see over half of us arrive next year wearing Explorer Corp cadet uniforms."
Robin moved off to the side as more than a few kids below gave a cheer at the idea. He grinned at Jasper, "Sir, we eagerly await our testing assignments."
Jasper moved back up to the podium while smiling, shaking his head, and playing with his note-puter. "Well, well, well, it seems Robin has thrown down quite a gauntlet for all of you, and us instructors as well. As this has taken me totally off guard, I have to apologize to all of you for not having an answer on what the record for number of kids who have gotten an outstanding mark is."
Jasper glanced over at the instructor table, "Mr. Allen, any idea?"
The old man shook his head, "Can't say I do. Most I have seen is nine and it caused quite a stir. It is the whole reason we now have to have another instructor second any Outstanding grade. On the other hand, we already have two in the first day, and the numbers tend to go up as kids see how the testing works. Since they are throwing us a curveball, and offering to put their heads together, they have a chance of getting to ten or more, but it may make us look bad or soft. I can tell you if we get to ten, any others I'm sending up the chain for confirm directly from Command, but this station tends to be tougher than most, so I'm sure if we give one it will be confirmed by higher."
Robin took a deep breath, "Well, we can beat ten! Anyone who wants to help make sure we do, be here after lunch or dinner, even both. The more information we can pass around the better."
Jasper finished assignments and pulled the instructors aside, "Okay, this is my first year, so let me ask the rest of you, has any kid ever pulled a stunt like this?"
Mr. O'Mally shook his head, "Seventh year for me, boss, and nothin' even close. Hell, normally by the end of the second day of testing we start to see teams break up and run for normal Adventure Quest intake in droves, while those who remain scramble to put together new teams. This could change the whole normal dynamic."
"Agreed," Mr. Allen chewed on a pipe with some worry. "There is a possible down side to this, too. We could end up sending out teams who should not be going out. Randy and his squad shouldn't be allowed to set foot on a Survival Training Area Zone and we all know it. One of them kids is gunna end up dead for sure."
Jasper let out a long breath. "Okay, well, we will have to go with what we have set for today, and see if the afternoon meeting helps. If we see too many passing the evening tests, we'll have to sit down and burn some midnight oil to figure out ways to tighten up the examinations while still being fair. Also, Gavin told me his whole team went over all the mistakes they made, so don't be terribly surprised if we end up giving out a few more Outstanding marks today. Be fair to them. At least Fairfax is retaking a test, so we don't have to worry about him."
"Yeah, but I watched Gavin and Jason talking," Mr. Allen snorted, "and they are planning on teaming up on one of us after lunch on E. Comm. The two of them already put their heads together and know why we failed Jason and Frank."
"So do you want E. Comm this afternoon?" Jasper glanced over to Mr. Allen with a questioning look.
Mr. Allen snickered, "Sure, besides, if I give an Outstanding on E. Comm, after what happened to my team after we landed on this rock, it might cause a few jaws to drop all the way back to Dal-Houston!"
As the group of instructors broke up, Gavin watched with growing nervousness as Mr. O'Mally started punching buttons on his note-puter. A moment later Gavin's puter lit up with the details of the class. He read through it, guessing the whole thing was fake, but astonished at how much detail had been put in. They were actually acting like a rescue team for someone who had activated their emergency beacon. It would be up to those in the group to properly handle the problem and set the victim for extraction. The topographic map told them where the signal was coming from and even showed where the lander would have to set down, since the actual location was too rocky for the lander to fly them in closer.
The actual flight to the location was quick. Mr. O'Mally expertly set down right where the briefing said he would and he turned to the kids in the back, "You all saw your assignment since I downloaded it. You may as well all start pretending I am not here, because I will not say another word, even if asked, once I pop the doors."
He didn't even wait for a response. Instead he turned and activated the side doors while he pulled out a headset-recording unit, activated it and hopped out of the front.
Adrienne let out a long breath, "Well, we got a three kilometer hike and I assume we have to do this as fast as possible so let's move."
Sara glanced back and shook her head. "Hold up a sec, Robin got two Outstandings yesterday and told us to think before we did anything. What are we missing?"
Gavin let out a long breath as he saw something Robin's vision had not, "If we leave the doors open, we could come back to a lander with some Zong animals in it, for one."
Jared, from Team Seventeen nodded, "Yeah! Good catch." He reached in and hit the button to secure the small craft. "Who has the best land nav skills?"
"Me," Adrienne stated without hesitation, "I passed it last night, too."
"Then take the lead and get us there," Frank next to demanded.
"But, take it easy so we can all back you up," Jared spoke up. "If we go straight across, you will take us through the geothermal formations and those are dangerous. We should bank around to the south and follow the ravine up."
"I was planning on it, but it's a good catch."
Gavin stayed quiet, until he saw Adrienne move up to the ravine and glance down. She shook her head and turned, "This takes us there, but it's way too steep here. We need to…" She yelped as she took a step back and slid down the side, disappearing from view.
Instantly, Sara and Jared jumped forward while Frank bit back a curse about already failing.
Jared's eyes got wide as he looked down, "She's hurt!"
Sara's eyes went to Mr. O'Mally, "Sir?"
Mr. O'Mally grabbed his radio, reported in, and let the kids hear the response from Jasper.
Jasper's voice sounded a bit confused, but he regained his calm quickly, "Look, we are all out on tests and you are in a zone we can't land in. You are there, so you will have to get her out with an air extraction. Cancel your pervious test and use this. It's the best we can do."
Jared saw a way down and moved.
"Jared, Stop!" Gavin shouted.
"What? She's hurt!"
"And going down through lizard mounds is a good way for us to need two rescues, instead of one!" Gavin pointed to the multitude of mounds not far from where Jared was moving toward.
Jared held up both hands and came to an abrupt halt. His eyes got wide, as he whistled and backed away.
Sara moved up and patted Jared on the back. "Great catch, Gavin!" She then scanned the area, "Over there!"
Gavin carefully surveyed the area and nodded, "Looks good. I'll go first. Jared, Frank, either of you have a rifle?"
Jared shook his head, "Failed my test yesterday and don't even know why. What do we need a rifle for?"
Sara pointed back to the mounds, "Those, just in case."
"Well, I have a stunner since I haven't taken Rifle Testing yet," Frank grumbled, as he pulled his out of his pack. "I'll keep watch."
Gavin paused as he remembered Robin's instructions. "Sara, see if Adrienne can talk and let her know we're coming. Jared, I'm dropping my pack so I can get down without killing myself. Can you lower yours and mine with a rope and join me?"
"I'm on it!" The young teen moved quickly.
Gavin moved up the ravine and shook his head as he got to the girl. Everything about her position and condition was exactly like Robin had foreseen, except the blood sure looked real and her ankle looked puffy. "She's got a stick in her and I think she twisted her ankle, too. Um, I know we aren't supposed to move her, but her head is awful close to the water and as cold as it is, we can't let her get wet."
"Wait for Jared and then move her to a safe zone," Sara stated with a great deal of concern. "How deep is it, Gavin?"
"Can't tell, but I think if we tape it in place and… Her rescue beacon is broken."
"I'll hit mine…" Jared started to reach down.
"No!" Gavin shouted, "These things can give the med station readings! I'll stick mine on her."
"Rule one," Frank finally spoke up, "Never remove your beacon."
Sara shook her head, "No, I think Gavin is right. The med station is going to need to know what is going on. Do it Gavin."
Jared, who had moved up next to Gavin, opened his pack and pulled out his medi-kit. "Mr. O'Mally, let the crew know of the switch and tell them I'm going to need a new one! Since we are going to get an extraction, and one of ours is broken, we would have to send for a replacement anyway."
Jared leaned over to pull Adrienne's necklace to read off her id number and stopped. He turned back to Gavin and patted him on the shoulder, "Stop, she's wearing a blood pack!"
"What!" Sara shouted in outrage, "This was a set up?"
"Maybe it was," Gavin let out a long breath, "but unless she has something on her ankle to make it swell up, she is still hurt."
Adrienne sat up and pulled the blood pack from under her shirt. "No, I twisted it when I fell."
Mr. O'Mally cringed and moved up to the edge and looked down, "You should have said something."
"It isn't too bad and I didn't want to let all your planning go to waste."
Gavin held up both hands, took a breath. "Okay, we're still going to need to go by the book on this. At least you aren't really bleeding so I don't need to glove up and junk. I'm still going to give her my beacon, so the med station can get a reading for the extraction team. Jared, help me move her away from the water."
Adrienne shook her head, "Help me out of here and let's see if they can treat me back at camp. If I get a real extraction I'm done and I want this."
"Mr. O'Mally?" Sara looked up to the instructor.
"No, we do an extraction and I will sign off as it being my fault. If they can get you back to us by end of the day tomorrow, we'll grant an exception. They may even be able to treat and drop you off back at camp, if it really isn't bad, Adrienne."
Less than twenty minutes later a VTOL Craft came in, lowered a stretcher and pulled Adrienne up for treatment.
Mr. O'Mally watched the craft depart before he turned to all four kids. "Well, you all passed; the exact grades I am going to take for review. But I can tell you I am going to recommend two Outstanding marks. I don't see any way Gavin's won't get accepted and Sara, the only reason yours might not is because you didn't actually go down to do any treatment on Adrienne."
"Not fair," Gavin countered, "She did what we needed and what I asked her to do!"
Mr. O'Mally held up both hands, "I agree, which is why she is getting my recommendation. We will have to see what the others do with it. Jared, I am planning on putting you down for an excellent with a dual review for a possible outstanding."
Jared let out a huge sigh as his shoulders drooped, "The lizard mounds, right?"
"Yeah," Mr. O'Mally patted the disheartened boy on the back, "but you did stop the second they were pointed out and this is a team thing, so if you do get bumped, which is very possible, you have Gavin to thank for it. The rest of what you did was perfect, and I didn't expect anyone to go for her ID and find the blood pack, so you do get a serious thumbs up from me. Furthermore, as long as you make it through the rest of the testing, I will offer to give you a letter of recommendation for an academy scholarship if you want to apply, and I bet after other instructors see this, they will be willing to do the same."
Mr. O'Mally then turned to Frank with some disapproval. "You passed, but boy, your attitude stinks. You were more worried about failing than Adrienne from the start. On the other hand, you pulled your head out of your rear and did provide protection and you chimed in about the beacon. It is enough, but just barely. Your whole team needs to stop being so selfish, and it certainly wouldn't hurt for you to attend one of the get-togethers Robin has planned."
Even though Frank looked a bit angry, he did manage to nod, "Okay, point taken." He then managed to send a slight grin over to Gavin, "I'm still pissed about Dal-Houston, but without you, we would a blown this whole thing, so I'm willing to call it good," he offered his hand.
Gavin took a deep breath and accepted it, "Man, let's forget about the past. Show up at the class tonight and we can really kick some butt on the rest of this testing week."
"You not going to be there is afternoon?"
Jared shook his head, "Nope, he and Jason are going to try to do what we just did here for the Emergency Comm test. Jason told me about it during breakfast."
Frank glanced over to Gavin, "I don't know exactly what we did wrong to only get a passing yesterday, but when we first tried to set off a message, we couldn't send up a signal, and simply moving to high ground and setting everything up right all over again only got first timers an average grade. The rest of us got a Passing. The first time we failed and they didn't tell us why."
"Wow," Gavin cringed as he jumped in the vehicle. "Tell me about it on the flight back and I'll tell you everything I know about the rifle course."
Mr. O'Mally couldn't help but shake his head as he powered up the lander. With cooperation like he was seeing, they would really have to crank up the pressure of all the remaining tests.
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