Castle Roland

Adventure Quest

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 12

Posted: 21 Sept 15

Adventure Quest
Kyle Aarons

A Leeching Effect

Robin glanced back over to Ajax and Fairfax as they came back from the evening study group. Both kids looked a bit unhappy, "What's wrong guys?"

Ajax shook his head, "Oliver has spent pretty much all evening with Meghan, Sean, Ricky and Shane getting ready for their Spelunking test. They are pouring their hearts into this test."

"Is he going to let me try to do my thing and help him like we talked about at dinner?"

Fairfax shrugged. "I haven't been able to ask him, although I know he wants to do the link up again."

"So do I," Ajax admitted. "It made me feel kind of weird and I wasn't sure what to make of it, but now I kind of miss not having the middle of my head tingle."

"To be honest, me too." Fairfax grinned sheepishly. "But I don't want you to hurt yourself, Robin."

"I don't think it did. It made me hungry, but it helped me gain some control. I have to wonder what would have happened without opening up this creepy ability further with you all last night; 'cause I'm pretty sure I would have missed the filter in the test today. Matter of fact, I think I used this ability during my first test too. I knew I hadn't done something right even though my brain was telling me to call for a grade. I think the same thing happens when I fill out the applications to places for my Junior Explorer patrol. It's why my group keeps getting to go to so many places and do so much."

"It makes sense," Ajax snickered. "I bet the government of your CHZ would be pissed if they found out you have been taking advantage of them!"

Robin grinned, "Wait till I get a chance to really dial this in! With your guy's help, I bet the academy will be really an interesting place to develop this more!"

Just as Robin finished talking, Gavin came in with a huge smile on his face. "Well, if you want help count me in, but not for helping me. It felt like I cheated on the first Outstanding, but not this one!"

"Wow…" Fairfax suddenly found himself at a loss for words as he saw Gavin wearing an Explorer Corp uniform with private rank on his collar.

"Right on Gavin!" Ajax jumped up off his cot and gave his friend a huge hug.

Robin's whole face lit up. "Congrats! Way to go! How about the other two?"

"All three of us got awarded with recruit rank, but since I managed to convert into hover mode over water on my second try, then proved I could do it again before Mr. Allen let me fly back; he pushed for me to get a special award. Space command agreed, so I was given private rank."

"Really cool," Oliver managed a weak grin as he entered the tent and patted Gavin on the shoulder. "I just heard from Sara and Jason how you guys actually got to see where Mr. Allen's ground team crashed and where they lived too."

"It was so awesome… but I'm beat. At least Sara and Jason got a nap on the way back. I had to fly and dock with the space station, then fly back here." He handed a bag over to Robin, "Uniforms for you, along with rank and your pilot wings. Mr. Allen wants me to take the day off from testing tomorrow; so he can get me up to your certifications, so I can have full space wings too."

Oliver let out a long sigh, "I have got to get an Outstanding on this cave exploration test tomorrow!"

"You want me to help?" Robin asked.

"I do, but I am kind of like Gavin, it would kind of feel like cheating," Oliver let out a long breath.

Fairfax moved over to Oliver, "Look, let Robin help you on this; then all the pressure is off. You can get another Outstanding. This way we all know we're in and we can really focus on helping the others."

Gavin nodded slowly, "Look, even as right as Robin was about my test there were some things he couldn't see. I think he can only really see the past and what is planned or something. No one planned on Adrienne getting hurt and even when he was linking us together her fall was fuzzy, and he wasn't even sure how she was going to fall for sure, only how they wanted her to fall. It's almost like the fuzzy parts were a warning to really pay attention or something.

"Besides, if Robin wants to learn how to activate this thing and use it better, then this is a way for you to help him. Plus, I don't want you left out of going to the academy with us!"

Oliver nodded slowly, "OK, sure. Let's do this. After talking things over, I don't see how I won't get an Outstanding on Laser Rifle anyway."

Gavin glanced over to Robin, "You know, on the flight back, I had a weird idea about this thing of yours too."

Robin glanced over with a degree of eagerness, "Let's hear it!"

"Do you think it would be easier on you if we held hands?" Gavin's face went a bit red as he realized how it sounded but he continued to talk, "I mean, maybe it would help you to use less energy to see it if you were in contact with Oliver. It might also be less of a drain on you to project it to us if we were all in contact with each other."

Robin shrugged, "It's worth a shot, but just in case others want to come poking around we ought to kill the lights and make it look like we are bedded down for the night."

"Good idea," Ajax hardened, "The last thing we need is for Randy to see us holding hands."

"Speaking of Team Eight, none of them showed up for either study session," Fairfax announced more for Gavin's benefit than anything else.

"Probably made things a bit easier," Gavin let out a snort. "Anyone give you any problems?"

"No, and there was almost no test takers this evening. I think there was almost thirty of us in the study session. Only those who had not passed two tests and those from Team Eight went for testing this evening," Oliver informed Gavin. "And everyone pretty much has our whole team's back too.

"Troy and Curtis even escorted me back here because Randy is already back from his test and it is pretty clear he failed, and failed badly. I thought he was going to try to fight all three of us until Mr. Allen told him to stop calling others names and hit the books before he ends up being shuttled out for standard Adventure Quest intake."

Oliver managed a grin, "Mr. Allen told him if he didn't knock it off he would end spending his entire three months on some island learning how to survive with no electrics at all."

Gavin snickered, "Hey, I just came from there. Anything electronic has to be on before you get there and stay on or it blows out when it gets turned back on."

Oliver's head tilted to the side and his face showed how perplexed he was, "How did you send a signal without electrics?"

Gavin pulled out his pocket LED and flashed it several times.

Robin giggled, "He just spelled out the words, 'In a way predating Mr. Allen'."

"Oh, you have to teach us!" Ajax all but begged.

Fairfax felt a chill of excitement, "If we all could learn it, we could talk to each other without saying a word!"

Gavin nodded, "We'll have months to teach you. Let's get Oliver taken care of and make sure we can all go to the academy first."

"Kill the lights and let's do this," Robin commanded. "Ajax, you did get me some food, right?"

"It'll be cold, but yeah, I hit the serving line while the staff was breaking it down and stuffed my satchel with more than enough for you. I think a couple of the Explorer cadets on clean-up noticed the food was missin' but they kind'a shrugged it off. Unless I miss my guess, I think they were somewhat happy to have less work to do."

Fairfax let out a sigh, "I wonder if we will be on food duty at some point as academy cadets."

"If it means we get to come here for extra time," Gavin smiled, "I'll be the first in line volunteering!"

"I'll be right there with you," Robin agreed without hesitation. "Even as cool as the dome is in Dal-Houston, this place is way better."

Robin nodded at Oliver, "Since I am trying to read your test, you should be in direct contact with me."

Oliver reached out and took Robin's hand. He had to fight off the desire for even closer contact as he sat down on the cot next to him.

Robin glanced over, "Look, relax already. I know you are trying to hide being gay, but we all know and I don't mind if you want to put an arm around me."

Oliver swallowed hard and edged closer. As he put his arm around Robin he squirmed slightly to adjust himself. He cringed; half expecting Robin to push him away and say something, like what had happened every other time Oliver had tried to get close to someone. Part of him mentally braced for harsh words from the others while his body tightened on the off chance of fist being thrown.

Robin felt both the physical and mental unease. Robin said nothing; instead he reached over, put his arm around Oliver's shoulder and pulled him even closer. Even as he felt Oliver tighten up more, he started to rub the back of his neck gently.

Robin said nothing as he continued to give Oliver a neck massage. To further ease Oliver's mind, he wasted no time using his free hand to take Gavin's right hand.

Ajax moved around to take Oliver's free hand while Fairfax killed the last of the light and closed the circle by taking Ajax's and Gavin's hand.

Robin spoke after a few seconds, "Alright, this test is Oliver's so I don't think he should be the one to talk me into it like he helped to do the last time. Gavin, help take me into this one."

Gavin took a deep breath, "OK… Oliver you are moving to the vehicle assignment. Think about it. Robin, what vehicle and who else is there?"

Robin tried to focus and got nothing for a moment, then he found himself reading some thoughts off of Oliver. "Man, come on Oliver. This is no different than the last time I let you hug me. No one here is going to hurt you…" Robin couldn't help but giggle as he caught a rogue thought. "No, I don't care if you think I am gorgeous, and no, I don't even care if you thought it from the first time you saw me."

Ajax giggled, "Come of Oliver, focus on the test. I can hear your thoughts now too! I'm fine with you thinking about me being kind of cute too. You're not too bad looking yourself, you know. Now focus on walking up to the vehicle. Think about it, and think about the gear you are going to use."

Robin had to fight through some other thoughts coming from the others. The physical contact was making getting surface thoughts from all of them almost too easy. Gavin was actively trying to figure out why any boy could find another boy beautiful when there were so many good looking girls in the camp, and in particular, Sara.

Fairfax was trying to read the thoughts of others and was so focused on getting bits and pieces he couldn't really concentrate on anything else and Ajax, although wanting to be helpful, was actually slightly disappointed Oliver found him only somewhat attractive.

Suddenly he felt something, however, and directed his mind onto it. It took another few seconds of fighting though some more stray thoughts from the others, but he saw a glimmer in the middle of his mind of Oliver walking toward a vehicle with seven other kids around it. He focused on the image and it suddenly exploded into such clarity it was almost like he was there.

Gavin gasped as the images leaked into his mind. "Wow! They are taking the supply transport since there are eight of them. I can see Meghan, Sean, Ricky, Shane, Lynn, Jason, and Dillon too!"

Ajax snickered, "Dress warm, Oliver, you guys are going to have to ride in the back and transport's cargo area isn't heated."

Fairfax took a deep breath, "This one is even in color Robin! Um, it looks like you are drawing Mrs. Rockland for the test, Oliver… Dillon has a black eye…"

Robin turned his focus to the boy from Team Eight and for a brief instant he saw Randy's fist slamming into the smaller boy's face. Even though he didn't hear the words, he somehow knew Randy was mad at the kid because he had passed the afternoon test and wanted to go to the study group. He pulled back from the image, but not before Fairfax caught Robin's thought.

"Kicking Randy's ass for punching Dillon isn't going to help anything right now, but I'd love to see you do it again."

"Me too," Ajax admitted. "But maybe we can get some real revenge if Oliver can help Dillon get an Outstanding."

"Yeah," Gavin smiled, "Maybe we could help all the others and make Randy look so bad he will be forced to step down as team leader."

"Come on," Fairfax prodded, "Let's keep on this test. We saw how bad this drained Robin the last time. Robin, forget Dillon for now and think about something else. What is Mrs. Rockland planning?"

As Robin refocused his efforts on the test he didn't have to say anything. Everyone in the tent saw it. First, time seemed to stop and back up a bit, with Mrs. Rockland walking backwards from the supply hut. It was almost like watching a movie in reverse. She backed into the tent, pulled out the gear, and sabotaged some of the equipment, but did so in a way to where it could be easily found and fixed. She didn't stop with just one or two items either. Almost every pack she planned on handing out had multiple small problems.

The image suddenly fast-forwarded at an astounding speed. The transport landed on a long ridgeline pockmarked with several small caves. There were Lizard mounds to the south where a couple of the biggest and most enticing caves were located.

Up to the north there was a large overhang of snow which, if it fell, could cause a small avalanche. This realization inside of Oliver actually caused the image to flicker a few times, as looking at what was above the cave was not something covered; nor was it something they had talked about in the study group Oliver had spent hours being part of.

This time Gavin spoke, "Neat little trap they set. Keep everyone away from it, Oliver, and you'll be fine. Let it go and think about the test."

Oliver let out a long breath, "I'm just mad at myself, because I haven't been looking around enough on any of my tests. Sorry."

'Nothing to apologize for.' Robin pushed his thoughts inside all their heads without ever opening his mouth. 'I would have never thought of looking all the way up to the top of the hill to see what was above it.'

The image flickered a couple more times as a couple of possible scenarios played out. The first was Jason and Shane shooting at the overhang in an attempt to bring the snow down. It was not clear if this worked, but it was a way to get a better grade. The second one was of Dillon sliding on some rocks, but it faded out quickly. As much as Robin tried to get a clearer picture, the only thing he could see was the same thing.

"I don't like the feel of this part, Robin," Ajax spoke up nervously, "Can we move on?"

'I don't know what it means, though.' Robin spoke through the mental link again. 'Give me a second.' He demanded as he tried again only to get the same result. 'Oliver, before you get into a cave, keep an eye on him.'

"I will."

Robin took his mind off the image. 'OK, Oliver, think about going into a cave or something.'

All five boys watched as a new set of images played out. These weren't quite as clear as the first part was, but were still in color. The first few caves only went in a short distance. The fifth one was really promising, but there was a weird smell and some large animal droppings.

Fairfax cringed but when he started to speak he realized he had already transmitted his thoughts to the others, 'Um, just a guess, but going deeper in there is like auto fail!'

'Such would be my guess.' Oliver managed a soft snicker as his thoughts carried across the whole group as well.

Robin's return thought was almost a whisper in the middle of the others' minds, 'Wow, this is a really strong connection this time. I bet all of you can just start thinking to each other now!' Robin dialed in on the test again and sent a telepathic message to the others. 'I get a strong sense Mrs. Rockland wants to see some leadership here. You can't let anyone try to check out any nearby caves. Move out of that area!'

'No problem. I do not want to play with any meat eating beast.' Oliver shivered. 'I would prefer to stay at the top of the food chain.'

This got a round of audible snickers from all of the others and caused the image to fade from their minds for a few seconds. When it started up again, the group was peeking into a small entrance in the side of a hill, which quickly opened up into a much larger cavern beyond. In the distance there was the sound of water as it roared down a narrow passage somewhere deeper within. Closer examination by Robin showed multiple footprints on the cave floor, telling all of them this cave was used for testing often.

'You don't even have to tell me not to go too close to the water if we can hear it running. Mrs. Reid actually told us during one of the classes last week about a couple of kids who fell into a cave river a few years ago and were never found.'

'Still, I am getting a feeling of Mrs. Rockland seeing if any of you suggest to tie off to each other in case. She will tell you it's not needed, but just by saying it gets you a plus mark.' Robin added.

'Interesting,' Oliver grumbled, 'Yet another thing the manual does not mention.'

'I get the feeling they are pushing us extra hard because of our classes,' Robin snickered. 'They don't want to give out too many Outstanding marks, but they also want to be fair, so they are coming up with ways for some to stand out a bit more above the others.'

The kids continued to watch and occasionally even listen to the rest of the test. There were another half dozen things to show extra caution around, but it was all straight forward. It all amounted to paying attention above and to make sure each foot was firmly planted on solid ground. Finally, even though there was a whole lot more to explore, once the twine ran out the exploration had to end. Getting lost in a cave was just too easy to do.

Just as Robin was about to break concentration, Fairfax's mind focused on Dillon again and everyone in the team could feel his concern. 'Robin, once we saw Dillon slide, I never saw him again.'

'Huh, me neither.' Gavin thought with a hint of anxiety mind. 'All the others would show up now and again, especially, Ricky. Oliver, do you really find some boys that cute?'

'Yeah, he does. I don't know how you can be so focused in on Sara when she isn't even part of this test, so let it go. We can talk about this stuff later.' Ajax defended Oliver quickly, 'Let's see if we can help Robin get more of Dillon. I can already feel him thinking about needing food!'

'Yeah, getting real hungry over here,' Robin gave the others a mental chuckle. 'Let me try to see where Dillon is in all this and then we can break so I can eat.'

Once again the image of Dillon sliding on the rocks played though all their minds as Robin tried to think only about the boy. Suddenly the scene shifted to a couple of the girls from Team Eight stripping Dillon to his undershorts, holding him so Randy could punch him and slap him without any retaliation while the others laughed.

The image shifted to Dillon crawling into bed with tears pouring out of his eyes and holding up a knife to his wrists but not going through with it.

The metal picture changed again to Dillon on the ridgeline with all the caves and sliding, but this time they saw the thirteen-year-old looking around on the edge of a hill and then purposefully jumping so he'd slide down toward a steep drop off of well over fifteen meters.

'He wants to kill himself!' Fairfax thought so loudly it actually caused a bit of pain in the heads of the other four.

'I don't think so.' Robin countered quickly, 'I can get some things the rest of you don't seem to be able to. He wants to get hurt so he has to go for treatment then just go to standard Adventure Quest intake, but then what happens after he jumps is totally fuzzy. It's kind of like what I saw in Gavin's test. I know what is being planned but then what really happens is jumbled. This one totally fades out, so I don't know what it means.'

Fairfax felt some exhaustion inside of Robin and started to speak up only to find his thoughts had already carried to the rest of the group. 'Break it off guys, Robin needs a break!'

Fairfax was the first to break the circle, but was followed moments later by everyone else. Still, they could see as Robin tried one more time to see what was going to happen after Dillon fell. He ended up with the same result.

Gavin shook Robin's shoulder. 'Let it go!' a moment later his words came out. "Let it go!"

Before more could be said, Ajax moved up with some of the food he had grabbed and moved over to Robin. At the same time Oliver was lowering the boy back into the cot. "I won't let him hurt himself, Robin. Let me handle it from here."

Gavin shook his head and cringed slightly, "Are any of the rest of you feeling a bit dizzy?"

Fairfax blinked a few times, "I don't know if dizzy is the right word. I am seeing some spots around the corners of my eyes and the middle of my head is really tingly this time!"

"Exact same here," Ajax spoke. "Way more than the first time, but it feels so neat!"

"I'm a bit dizzy," Oliver admitted sheepishly. "I'm also a bit hungry now and I wasn't at all before we started."

"I could eat some, too." Fairfax grinned, "But me being hungry is nothing new."

Gavin stumbled once but made it to his own cot before lying down. "I'm hungry and I just ate at the space station less than an hour ago. I wonder if we all didn't start using some extra energy because our minds were linked though Robin. We better take a day or two off to see if there are any other lingering problems."

Robin took a deep breath and all but inhaled a packet of juice before looking over all the food Ajax had pilfered, "Wow, what did you do, take all the juice packets, lasagna, and cake left?"

"Yeah, why?"

While Oliver and Gavin stared at the mound of food, Fairfax patted Ajax on the shoulder, "You three just don't get what it's like down at street level in Chi-Troit. We see this kind of food and we'll find a way to take it and take it fast, given even half the chance! We can also be real sneaky. It doesn't take much for us to revert back to being SLO's!"

"Good," Robin announced, "Cause I can feel all of you are hungry so let's eat the evidence and get some sleep."

Morning came a bit too early for all the kids in Team Five. Still, Oliver was the first to get up, wanting to be as awake as possible for the test. He started going over what he had seen with the help of Robin while he organized his pack.

Gavin rolled over. "Come on Oliver. Stop talking."

Oliver frowned. "What are you talking about?"

Ajax sat up and rubbed some crusty junk from around his eyes, "You were just talking to yourself about hoping to be able to stop Dillon from jumping."

"No, I didn't."

'Yes, you did.' Fairfax groaned as he pulled his pillow around his head. 'Would you shut up and give me a few more minutes!'

"OK, Mr. Grumpy." Ajax snickered as he grabbed some stuff to hit the camp showers. "You need a shower as bad as I do."

Fairfax wrapped the pillow around his head tighter. 'It doesn't matter, we are both planning on taking rescue swimming this morning so we'll get clean enough in the water.'

"What the…" Oliver spoke as he looked over to Fairfax and realized he had heard the comment but the boy's lips hadn't so much as budged. "I heard you Fairfax!"

Robin sat up and blinked, "So did I, but I didn't hear it like sound, I heard it in my mind!"

Gavin let out a gasp, "Me too!"

Fairfax suddenly sat up as he too realized about half of what he was hearing was not being spoken. He clamped his fingers over his lips so he could show the others he wasn't talking and thought, 'Are we really reading each other's minds without Robin's help?'

'Yes, we are!' Ajax jumped up and down in some delight. 'I can feel something new in the middle of my brain, it's kind of like tingling, but it is different now. This is too cool!'

Robin held up his hand and spoke aloud. "Guys, this isn't the time to play with this. Let's see if it's still happening after morning testing and, if it is, we need to see how far away we can get and still have it work and stuff. But if using this hits you all, like it does me, you will get too hungry to pass the tests if you continue to play with it now."

Gavin scratched his head, realizing the weird itch he was feeling was actually inside his head and couldn't be scratched. "Robin, I know you are right, but can you do us a favor, and hit the showers so we can see if it really is us and not some sort of link with you?"

Robin nodded and grabbed his stuff, "Good idea."

The four boys continued to pick up stray thoughts from each other and even held a short metal conversation before Robin returned.

Robin came back in, "I started hearing you thinking to each other about Dillon right about the time I got to the door of the mess hall."

Oliver's eyes went wide, "But you couldn't hear us in the showers?"

"No, I picked up a few things when I got to the back of the mess hall, but I could hear you all clearly once I got to the front of it. That gives me a range of about two hundred meters. I hate to break up the party, but Dillon was in the shower when I was there and was crying softly. I managed to take a quick look; he took the full beating we saw last night."

"Crap," Ajax shook his head, "he's kind of a dick, but no one deserves to get beat down… well no one but Randy…" Even though his words tapered off his thoughts didn't. 'Maybe we should tell Jasper.'

'We'd need proof,' Gavin thought back. 'Otherwise the others would all deny it and we'd be left hanging out to dry along with Dillon, and no matter what's happening to him, I don't want him on this team.'

'Me neither,' Oliver thought. 'Even if he has a nice looking face and pretty eyes.'

This got a round of out loud giggles from the others and gave Robin a chance to cut off the thought talk. "Guys, talk. Don't burn yourself out."

"What if we have to practice to keep it going or something?" Ajax asked with a great deal of worry. "I don't want to lose this!"

"Well, you all seemed to have leached this off of me, so if I need to hold a few more sessions to make it stronger I will. The circle thing worked real well, so, if I need to, I'll bump you all again. Hopefully it is permanent though. Maybe I can even push over the other ability to see what is planned or what has happened too. We will just have to wait."

"I think Robin is right," Fairfax frowned, "I actually think I'm now hungrier now than I was before we started this morning. We have to be careful. The real problem is I don't see a way to totally shut it off now. I'm still hearing Gavin wondering why Oliver can think of a guy's eyes when Sara is walking around here somewhere."

Gavin turned bright red, "Hey, now!"

Laughter exploded out of the rest of the group, but at the same time they felt the link to Gavin shut off.

"Hey, how'd you cut us off," Ajax begged to know.

"I thought of a door slamming between you all and my thoughts."

One after another the other three boys did the same thing and found their link to each other was cut.

Oliver held up a finger causing the rest to stop what they were doing. Oliver then closed his eyes and imagined the door opening again. He then sent a thought to Ajax. 'Can you hear me thinking you are more cute than I let on last night?'

Ajax heard this and tried to think a response only to realize he couldn't.

Oliver thought to him again. 'Re-open the door.'

Ajax grinned and nodded in sudden understanding. A few seconds later he thought back. 'Got it! Thanks for the compliment too.'

Oliver shot Ajax a smile. "We have to imagine the door opening again before we can send thoughts. As long as your door stays shut I can think to you, but I can't hear an answer."

"Good experiment," Robin patted Oliver on the back. "Now, let's keep the doors shut, eat and test. If we all pass we'll see what we can and can't do this afternoon."

Gavin signed. "I have to go flying with an instructor Mr. Allen is getting for me this afternoon."

Robin suddenly smiled as he had a new flash of inspiration. "Ask him to take Oliver with you so he can learn the basics. We still have enough time to get him through basic ground school with Jasper before we leave, but he needs some flight time."

Oliver's face lit up, "I could get wings too?"

"Sure!" Ajax nodded. "You're part of Team Five and we all need to have our wings before we go to the academy! We'll all pitch in and help you."

Gavin moved up to Robin as the other three headed off to the chow hall. "Hey, I don't want to tell the others, but when I got my rank from Commander Hollister last night, she pulled Mr. Allen off to the side."

"Were you able to hear any of it?"

"Not really, but it had something to do with us, and Mr. Allen didn't look like he was happy about it. I did hear enough to know if you get one more Outstanding grade and Oliver gets one as well, the Commander is going to come down and talk to us privately. I backed away before I could hear more since I heard someone coming down the passage.

"Then on the way back down Mr. Allen said there was a chance of a command team coming down to talk to all of us if your testing classes work out."

Robin took a deep breath, "Any idea, any at all?"

"I heard some of the space station people talking about a lot of sun spots and hoping it doesn't cause the same types of problems as it did for kids from the San-San CHZ six months ago. As soon as they realized Sara and I were listening, they shut up though."

"Well, I have sun and star navigation to take, which has to be at night and re-supply bunker testing this morning, and those are the two easiest tests. Heck even Allen from Team Nineteen got an Outstanding on it last night. The Re-Supply test was twenty minutes out and he was back in less than an hour. He said it was all about checking for safety and making sure the place was properly locked along with sending a report of what was taken and to look out for what wasn't there but should be so it could be added to the report as well. He also said the only reason he got the Outstanding was because of the classes."

Gavin snickered, "I bet they are going to throw you a real curve ball on your test this morning."

"I'm counting on it," Robin responded with a smirk. "They don't want me to get another Outstanding."

Gavin rolled his eyes and put his arm around the shoulders of his best friend as they walked toward the mess hall. "Actually, they are kind of expecting you to at this point, which has Mr. Allen more than a bit peeved."

"Oh, boy, this is going to be a beast of a test then," Robin laughed. "I was going to try to do it without using this mental thing, but maybe I should use it and get it over with."

"The more I think about it, the more I think you are always using it. Most of the time you don't even realize it."

Robin glanced over to Gavin, "I was kind of wondering if all the places I have gotten our patrol approved to go see is because I have unknowingly known what to put on the paperwork."

"Probably has…" Gavin started only to get cut off as Randy came around the mess building from the other direction.

"Well, look there! They really are boyfriends!"

Gavin glanced over at Robin, "My turn."

Robin snorted, "Be my guest. I'll watch your back, since we know he doesn't fight fair."

Gavin took his arm from around Robin and stepped forward. "I'm not one of your team members and you aren't going to get anyone to hold me down like you did last night. Also the same warning I gave you at the Dal-Houston Dome applies; you are risking serious injury." A nasty smirk crossed Gavin's face. "You come at me, you're going to need one of your boyfriends to tuck you in tonight; but if you still want to play, let's do this."

Randy snarled and a couple of others from his team got wide eyes. It was clear at least a couple of them felt a little guilty for what had happened in the middle of the night.

Gavin took another couple of steps forward, "Come on, or do you always need girls to hold down those you beat up!"

Randy's whole face went bright red, "If I wasn't gunna get kicked out of this I'd kill you right now."

Gavin glanced over to Mr. O'Mally, who had come out of his own office to see what all the fuss was about, "Sir, can we just get this over with, without anyone getting kicked out?"

Mr. O'Mally frowned deeply, "Technically, this is no different than what happened between Robin and Randy earlier. No one is getting kicked out for fighting, but if this continues we will put down some new rules. Besides, I'm not liking what I am hearing. Those are some pretty serious accusations you are making, Private. Do you have proof?"

"Not hard proof," Gavin stated, "but you could always take a look at those in Team Eight and come to your own conclusions."

Mrs. Reid stepped out of her office with a sonic rifle, "Let's get this over with. We all knew another fight between Randy and Team Five was going to happen. Once I call for a halt, you both best stop though, 'cause I will shoot if you don't… and I will not miss."

Everyone moving toward the mess hall, and several inside, stopped what they were doing and moved to see what was going on.

Jasper moved up, only to get stopped by Mrs. Rockland, "Gavin's making some serious claims against Randy, boss, and Eva just gave the go ahead. Let's see what happens and pick up the pieces. This really needs to end. I am tired of waiting for the next round."

As a circle of kids continued to grow around Gavin and Randy, Gavin took off his Explorer Corps coat and tossed it over to Sara, "Mind holding that for me. I don't want any of Randy's blood on it."

"Sure," the girl's look showed she was a bit worried for Gavin, but was certainly happy she had been picked out by him.

This was the final straw for Randy. He let out a billow and charged.

Gavin lightly shook his head and rolled his eyes. The moment Randy got close, the smaller boy jumped high in the air and delivered a textbook perfect roundhouse kick to the teen's face. The fact he was wearing heavy hiking boots only added insult to injury.

A pair of teeth flew out of Randy's mouth while his eyes rolled up into the back of his head. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.

Gavin landed smoothly and looked down with a smirk, "Robin has a brown belt. I have a black belt. By law, I am certified as a deadly weapon, and I warned you. What an idiot!" Gavin fired a wad of spit into Randy's face before he glanced over to where the others form Team Eight were standing. "Hand to hand combat is about the only thing I think I can do better than Robin, and in this, I am way better than he is. Anyone else want to try me or can we just drop this and go our separate ways?"

All around the circle there were gasps, Awww's and Ohhhh's. More than a few kids where leaning back with cringes on their faces as they saw blood spilling out of Randy's mouth and nose and a few closest to where Randy fell were a bit horrified to find they had droplets of blood spray on their clothing and faces. Those from Team Eight who saw what happened all backed away from Gavin while shaking their heads.

Gavin ignored it all as he went over to Sara with a big smile, "Thanks."

"You owe me a date when we get back to Dal-Houston!" The girl smiled while handing him the coat back.

A devious grin crossed Gavin's features, "I could have kicked him with my other foot and sent the blood and teeth toward you…"

Sara burst out laughing, "Fine! I'll buy you dinner!"

Gavin couldn't help himself, "How about a kiss instead?"

Sara didn't hesitate. She moved up, wrapped her arms around Gavin, gave him a big kiss right on the lips, and held it for several seconds. As she backed away from the wide-eyed Gavin, she had a huge smile. "You best find me some really nice flowers out in your ISTAZ area and figure out how to save them for me!"

This broke the tension. Several kids burst out laughing and more than a few moved over and patted either Gavin, Sara, or both of them on the back, many stepping over a still out cold Randy. A few even teased about a future academy wedding.

Mrs. Rockland moved up to Randy and pointed to a couple of Explorer cadets who had been manning the mess hall. "One of you grab the shuttle and get him to Station Six. He is going to lose these teeth if we don't get him to a real med bay in the next hour or so and if he doesn't have a concussion I'll eat my hat."

Jasper moved up and looked down. "I was Team Five's Primary. I saw Robin and Gavin practice. Gavin is one of the best I have ever seen. He can break boards with his hands too. I think the only reason Robin is not a black belt is he happens to be in the same class as Gavin."

"So you were trying to warn me this was a real possibility?"

"Nope," Jasper snickered, "I just wanted a good view."

"Well, you got one."

"Yeah." Jasper grinned fiendishly. "The kiss was very impressive for a pair of twelve-year-olds."

Mrs. Rockland burst out laughing. "Yes… As a matter of fact, yes it was."

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