Castle Roland

Adventure Quest

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 20

Posted: 28 Jul 16

Adventure Quest
Kyle Aarons


As night fell over the camp and surrounding forest, Jasper made the rounds to each of the team buildings. He knocked, poked his head in, and called out, "Forget lights out guys. A window just opened between waves of the star storms. Those who need laser testing need to get to weapon lock-up and grab a rifle."

The second the door closed, Robin rolled over and wiped his eyes and felt his stomach rumble. "Did I just sleep through the whole day?"

"Yeah," Gavin snickered, "but we're ready for you." He pointed to an end table someone had put next to Robin's bed.

Robin grinned as he saw a plate with several sandwiches waiting on him. Before he even sat up he grabbed one and took a bite. "Awesome, guys, thanks!"

"Didn't even have to steal it this time," Ajax sighed with some annoyance. "It was way more fun to have to do it the hard way. I still can't believe you found four of them already!"

Oliver snickered at his friend's clear disappointment, but still took a nervous breath as he pulled his pack out of his footlocker. Even though he was facing his final test, he looked over to Robin with a great deal of awe in his eyes, "Yeah, four found and we haven't even started all our extra classes yet. You are amazing!"

"Couldn't have gotten this far without the rest of you," Robin reminded the others. "You all helped to really unlock this thing, but now everyone knows…"

"It's being whispered, but it's not what you think." Oliver did a quick double-check of his gear before he continued, "Almost everyone thinks your ability is about the coolest thing ever, but no one other than us really knows just how tuned in you can get. Most see it as some kind of hunch, or feeling, nothing more. Right now, I'd take a tenth of what you have, cause even though you all say this is an easy test, it scares the tar out of me. I don't want to be the only one on the team with a stunner…"

Gavin glanced over to Oliver. "It's your last test, I'm sure you'll make it a good one!"

"This should be a cakewalk after last night," Oliver agreed, but still sounded a bit worried. "Man, night ops testing sucked."

"You passed with an Above Average," Ajax grinned, "so don't worry about it. Jay, Allen, Rhonda, and Brandi all have to retake and they are the only ones so they'll have to do it on their own."

"Sara warned both Jay and Brandi to stay clear of where the water was bubbling out of the ground." Fairfax snickered as he remembered the looks on their faces after the two slipped and fell on the icy rocks around the edge of the natural spring then slid into the very cold water.

Gavin grinned as well seeing talking about how others had messed up seemed to be calming Oliver some, "I'm glad it was them instead of me, because I could have used a drink of fresh water after they did something to make our canteen water taste funny. I really thought about trying even after the warning not to… I'm still trying to figure out how I got an Outstanding when Lynn only got a Good. Her and I did pretty much the same things."

Fairfax shrugged, "You recommended no one drink water after we all got our first taste. I caught her taking a couple of sips, so I bet so did one of the instructors."

Robin took another bite of food and glanced over to Oliver as the boy grabbed his pack and moved toward the door, "Remember to check your weapon for damage and keep everyone focused on not pointing their weapons at anyone else. You'll be fine."

"Also remember, accuracy is nothing when compared to safety." Fairfax reminded Oliver as he headed out the door.

Ajax watched the door close and let out a breath, "If he passes we all made it through first year with at least a passing on every class we signed up for. I wonder how many teams can say that?"

"I'd bet very few," Gavin grinned as he spoke. "From what I have heard from Campbell… Mr. Allen… Um, we may be the first new ISTAZ team he has ever worked with to ever have every member certified to carry a laser."

"I'm sure he'll do great." Robin stated with complete confidence. "How are the four we found doing?"

Gavin shrugged. "They were all still in medical as of dinner. I heard their camp was like Stone Aged or something…"

Robin sat up nodding as he finished his second sandwich. He grabbed a third before responding, "It was pretty amazing. They made tents and clothing out of animal hides, made needles to sew with out of bone, and even had a fish net made out of some kind of plant. Their tents were pretty crazy too… I'm not sure how they did it, but they made them into domes with a bunch of curved branches tied together with strips of hide. The domes had a hole in the top so they could have a fire inside and they built rain flies above the holes so rain couldn't come in. To be honest I think what they came up with was every bit as good, if not better, than an e-dome. It was actually kind of weird to see all of the stuff they had made while all of them had laser rifles and some other high tech stuff, it didn't match at all."

Robin polished off the third sandwich and reached for a forth. "I'm hoping they can show all of us how they did some of it before they get transported up to the station to evac back to Earth."

Gavin eyed Robin as he wondered why anyone would want to learn how to make things from animals and plants.

Ajax caught the looked and even the thought behind it and snickered, "Come on Gavin, what if we get stuck out there like they were? Don't you want to know how to survive like they did?"

"Not really." Gavin stated flatly. "What we learned already is great, but I have no desire to wear dead animals, let alone sleep inside of their skins. It kind of grosses me out."

"Wimp!" Fairfax teased, then turned back to Robin. "From what I heard, one of the boys was hurt and his foot is all screwed up. I also overheard one of the girls has some kind of other medical problems, so they are going up as soon as they can get clearance to get them up to the space station. The other two want to stay and help and will be here for a while as the Corps sends a message to San-San to see if their parents will allow them to stay and assist in the search. Explorer Corps Command wants to keep a close eye on them for possible medical problems and the like, so if they do stay, it will only be as part of the back-up teams that will check out promising areas."

Robin took a deep drink from his canteen and finally stood. He grabbed his shower stuff and a fresh change of clothing while he spoke. "Make's sense, but it sounded like Marlin was the one behind figuring out how to make the tents and clothing, so I want to talk to him before they ship him out."

"Careful, warm water is still under restriction." Gavin warned, "Five minutes max since the main power converters are still down."

Robin shrugged, "We best all get used to cold baths and only warm showers, because warm water is not going to be easy to find, or make, once colder weather moves in. The solar heaters will not be able to heat the water inside the camp showers like we are used to, so getting a lukewarm to cold shower is something we'll just have to deal with."

Gavin shuddered noticeably and growled.

"Yup, cold blooded," Fairfax teased, only to get a pillow in the side of the face.

Robin laughed hard as he grabbed the final sandwich and headed out the door. Before the door shut behind him, the sounds of a three-way pillow fight erupted from inside the team building.

Robin entered the shower and noticed steam rolling out. His eyes arched up as Colonel McKnight came out of the back shower.

The colonel shot Robin a big smile, "Well, if it isn't our ISTAZ all-star!" The man then moved up and patted Robin on the back so hard it actually hurt a little. "I'd never believe any ISTAZ trainee would ace every test, let alone get every kid in the camp an outstanding, but here you are. You have set the bar so high no one can top you, and it would be all but impossible to tie your accomplishments! Then, even before we can start you on your Advanced classes you have a stunning success and found four of those the entire Corps couldn't!"

Biting back a wince, Robin stood as tall as he could and forced a smile. "It was an entire testing team effort, sir."

"Bull," the huge man boomed, then laughed almost as loudly, "still, Commander Montgomery warned me you would try to move the credit away from yourself, so I'm ready. I got a team mission leader ribbon for you and a rescue ribbon for everyone in your testing team. You keep this up, son, and you will have some of the highest decorations the Corps has to offer."

Not really wanting the praise, but liking the fact his uniform would now have real ribbons, Robin decided to change the subject. "So, I guess there is no hot water left?"

Once again the massive colonel burst out laughing and clapped his hands on Robin's slender shoulders, clearly not realizing the discomfort his strength was causing. "No, no, Corporal, with the main wave of the first half of this star storm past and the next one still hours away, we were able to bring up one of the main power converters tonight. Take as long and as hot of a shower as you like. Once you're done, I'd like you to come to my pod so I can debrief you on your stunning success, but take your time, and feel free to raid the mess supplies if you are hungry. You deserve no less."

Robin decided to take full advantage of Colonel McKnight's offer, first taking a long and very hot shower, then followed it up with some rummaging around in the mess supplies. Finding a partial pan of chocolate cake and milk, he downed a huge piece then took the rest back for the others in his team to enjoy before heading over to talk to the colonel.

The conversation went way better than Robin expected. The colonel didn't push on how he knew about the missing kids, nor did he focus on the rumors of Robin's 'gut feeling'. Instead the meeting was mostly on what Robin wanted to add to the training after seeing the camp the four kids had made for themselves.

Robin spent most of the time talking about how he would like to have classes on making animal tools, clothing, shelters, and even stuff out of plants. He was not sure any of the others would figure out how to do half of what the four he had just found did, but there was a chance and knowing what to look for and how to do it all might allow him to find similar camp sites.

The big man made notes and promised he would offer all the needed classes once he found people to give them, which he admitted would be the hard part.

Robin simply grinned and suggested the four they rescued would be good class resources.

Nodding in begrudging agreement, Colonel McKnight finished the meeting by simply adding, "If your gut speaks up again, you don't have to get one of us to pull rank. You tell us where to go and we'll find a safe way to get you there."

Robin exited the colonel's private building and noticed the hovercraft with those taking rifle testing had pulled in and everyone was piling out. He made his way over and instantly noticed most of the kids, including Oliver, looked happy. However, Shannon looked totally dejected and Jeff looked beyond pissed off.

Robin started to move up to see what had happened but was cut off as Jasper's voice stopped him in his tracks. "Let the instructors do a debrief first, Corporal. I bet if you concentrate for a minute you'll figure out what happened."

Robin turned with a bit of a jump and finally noticed Jasper sitting in a chair. The man was leaning back, with only the back two legs on the ground, while his back rested on the backside of the barracks where the Academy kids stayed. "I just…"

"You want to know what went wrong, which is fine, but let them unwind and hear whatever Mr. O'Mally has to tell them first. Remember, most of them didn't sleep all day and are probably pretty tired. Besides, you have it in you to find out without asking. If I got it, so can you."

Robin frowned as he realized part of the laser rifle test had been to add the extra pressure of being tired into the equation to see if it would cause mistakes. He frowned, "Not nice, sir. You wouldn't have ever pulled kids out of bed if we hadn't passed so many tests on you…" He stopped as the rest of what Jasper had said registered.

"True, but you all did and you teamed up on us. Part of the pressure of testing was taken away so we had to add in new ones. It's your fault we had to revamp so much and find new and interesting ways to increase difficulty while still making it fair. Since only two of nine didn't pass, you're still well ahead of the averages, and I know this was Jeff's first time and he'll get another shot at carrying a laser. Shannon… well she's relegated to a stunner, but she did it to herself."

Robin eyed Jasper carefully as he suddenly realized Jasper had similar abilities, it was the only thing that made sense. It wasn't like he had seen Jasper guess at things before, it just hadn't clicked. Yet, as Robin glanced back over at the group, he saw a quick glimpse of Shannon shooting at a shadow, not knowing what it was. It turned out it was a moving cut-out of a person. Jeff reacted by grabbing the barrel of the weapon, which in turn caused his fingers to get a light burn. Robin cringed and muttered, "How careless can you get?"

Jasper stood raised an eyebrow at the comment, and then gave Robin a strange, satisfied looking grin. "Careless is an understatement, Corporal. She could have killed someone; Jeff did the right thing, and will even get a total redo, since his actions prevented the target from getting hit. But, his fingertips blistered so we want them to heal before he has to live-fire. If he does nothing wrong when he goes out with me, he'll get on Outstanding because of what he did tonight."

Robin stood and nodded while his brain worked to wrap itself around the fact he was not the only one with weird powers. The next question, which only took seconds to form, was how many others were there?

Jasper let Robin think things over while he waited a couple of minutes until Mr. O'Mally finished talking to those who had just tested. As soon as the kids were dismissed, Jasper moved forward and spoke up. "Those of you who passed make sure your rifles are serviced and properly cared for; you can add them to your gear. Keep in mind, they are not toys, and your certification to carry a laser rifle, just like any other weapon, can be revoked at any time for any safety violation.

"Also, remember the first wave of the storm has passed so your laser rifles are good. However, we are not totally clear of power disruptions. Make sure to keep the battery packs at under seventy-five percent power, so they don't overload when the next wave hits Zong's already buckled EM field."

Jasper paused and turned to face Jeff, "Young man, you did good and your reaction was awesome. I know you're beyond angry right now, but take heart in the fact your actions have been noted and I am going to use my authority to bump you up to a Senior Private. Great work out there."

Jeff gave a slight nod, "Thanks Commander, but I still failed tonight."

"No, son, you didn't. This is a case of no harm, no foul. I'm going to give you a full redo with no downgrade. Whatever mark you get when you retake is what you get. Get to medical and have them fix those burns so you can test with me tomorrow."

Seeing Jeff look up with fading anger and some hope in his eyes, Jasper nodded at the kid. "Just you and me tomorrow, son. Come get me whenever you're ready and feel free to grab your new rank from one of the other instructors in the staff barracks before you go to bed."

Jasper then took a step back and pointed to Robin. "I think your corporal wants to get with you all, so hold up. Robin, I need to talk to you over at the staff barracks as soon as you are through."

Robin nodded and moved up to talk to everyone. He found he had to stare down a few of the others who were giving Shannon a really hard time. He finally moved up to the sobbing girl and put his arm around her. "Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is not to repeat them. You're still one of us, and I'm betting we will be able to get you a retest once we find enough San-San kids."

"If that had been real, and Jeff hadn't messed up my aim, I could have killed someone!" The girl shook as tears continued to roll down her cheeks.

"What's important is you didn't." Robin whispered as comfortingly as he possible could. While Shannon continued to cry on him, he motioned for Oliver to go get some of her team members to help settle her down.

While Meghan and Curtis came out to help deal with Shannon, Robin looked over the others. "Nice work and I know you are all tired, but I'm hoping a few of you can all help me with something before you go to bed."

Diane quickly spoke up, "Whatever you need, Robin."

Seeing a couple of the others nodding, Robin smiled with a great deal of thanks in his eyes, "From what I was told, two of those we just rescued want to stay. I need packs set up for them and I would like a couple of you, preferable one boy and one girl to take them over to medical and see if you can convince all four to give us some pointers. Let them know we could really use them for some classes I want to add before we all head out."

"More classes…" Jose sighed. "Great…"

Robin snickered at the reaction. "These will be totally optional, but if we can get them set up, I'll be taking them. What those four managed to do out there was incredible."

"Jason said pretty much the same thing," Troy nodded. "So I know he'd be up for learning stuff from them, and if he does, so will I. I'll go talk to them."

Diane nodded in total agreement. "I'll go to, the rest of you get a couple of packs set for the two who want to help search for the others."

Robin stood and waited while the group broke up. Most of the talk was about how bad Shannon had messed up. Fortunately, Shannon had already been taken to her team's building so she didn't hear the remarks, some of which were quite cruel. After several seconds of thought he made the rounds to talk to all the others and gently, but firmly, told them to chill out. He pointed out Shannon realized her mistake and there was nothing more she could do about it. Once he was pretty sure the whole thing would be dropped, or at least toned down several notches, he made his way over to the staff barracks.

Before he got there, he found Jasper waiting for him. The man directed him toward a visitor's barracks that had been constructed to house anyone rescued until they could transport them up to one of the space stations. Noticing some light coming from one of the small windows he felt his heart speed up, "What's up, sir?"

Jasper led Robin around to the back side door. "Robin, there is something a few of us want you to see. I think it will help you, but even if it doesn't you have to promise me, you will leave whatever you see and hear at the door. This cannot get out, at least not yet."

Robin gulped as he looked up at Jasper, "Um, sure… But…" Robin stopped as he got close to the door and heard five others talking, only it was the same kind of talking he and the others of his group could do; it was in the middle of his mind and it was pretty strong. He cringed slightly and shook his head as he heard his name mentioned more than once. Just before he got to the door he heard a young sounding thought-voice joke about the new kid joining the secret freak show. Anger flared and his mind sent out a sharp mental shout, 'Stop talking about me! I already know I am a freak!'

Next to Robin, Jasper grabbed the side of the building with one hand while his other pushed into his left temple. At the same time Jasper both heard and felt four sharp gasps and knew at least one of those on the other side had fallen. He also saw a small circular dent appear in the center of the metalplast door right at eye level to Robin.

Robin quickly moved to Jasper, "I'm sorry!"

Jasper dropped to a knee, and shook his head. "Damn, boy, you are not a freak, but please… whatever you do… don't do another one of those!"

A moment later the door opened and Mrs. Anderson appeared with a pale face. Her knees shook slightly and she looked down while rubbing her temples. She spoke out loud in a quivering voice. "Clean through a metalplast door, even." She shook her head and winced, "Ouch!"

Inside the room, two men and one other woman were trying to help another figure to a bed, but all of them looked badly shook up. Each of them wore Explorer Corps uniforms, but the one being helped to the bed was still a teen and in a cadet officer uniform. A trickle of blood oozed out of his nose and onto his cadet shirt.

Before Jasper could even push Robin into the room he noticed Gavin, Oliver, Ajax and Fairfax racing to Robin, all of them with rifles in hand. Fairfax was still wearing only boxers and Gavin, although basically dressed, was in bare feet. Fairfax got there first, 'Robin, you OK?'

Jasper moved his hand away from Robin's back as he heard the unspoken words and saw the rifles. 'What the hell?'

Gavin's eyes went wide, 'Whoa! Commander Montgomery can think-speak too!'

'Did Robin give you the mind-speak power too?' Oliver asked as Fairfax lowered his laser rifle to a more defensive position.

Mrs. Anderson's jaw fell open. She shot a quick look over to Jasper who was clearly still trying to recover from Robin's psionic scream coupled with the fact all the others in Robin's team were openly using telepathy. When she spoke her voice trembled, "There is no way…"

Oliver glanced around realizing the few others in the camp who were still awake had all heard the commotion and were starting to wonder what was going on. Most were moving up to see what was going on. He gulped and shouted. "Guys, Mr. Montgomery spotted a mountain lion just outside the camp perimeter! Get your weapons and make sure everyone is accounted for!"

Steve, leader of Team Nineteen, quickly shouted for others to grab their weapons. At the same time Ellen, leader of Team Two, ordered everyone to pair-up and get a full head count.

Jasper took a couple of deep breaths and massaged his temples. After a few more seconds he glanced over at Robin and the four others now surrounding him, all of them armed with at least a stunning weapon. He blinked a few more times as his eyes narrowed. 'All five of you, get in here, now!'

Ajax shot Robin a look, 'So there are more like you!'

'So it seems…' Robin glanced around and spotted Dwight. Seeing a way to take charge and still deal with what had just happened he called out to the boy from San-San Near Ocean Seven. "Hey, you probably know more about wild animals than all of us put together. Round up everyone and help get a head count. Make sure to check on the academy cadets too. Then make rounds of all the buildings to make sure it didn't get into any of them. We can't chance anyone being out there alone, especially with the power fences down. We do have one power converter up, so get some of the cadets to tie it into the power fences and get it up once we are sure the grounds are clear. All of Team Five is good."

Dwight nodded and moved off to help Ellen.

Once everyone was out of earshot, Robin glanced over to Fairfax and Gavin, "Go get dressed and back over here, guys. It seems like we are about to find out more about what I am."

Gavin and Fairfax turned but were stopped by a thought from Jasper. 'Forget about getting dressed, in here, now!'

Both boys eyed Jasper suspiciously but did as instructed.

Jasper held up a hand and sent a thought over to Oliver and Ajax, who both had laser rifles out. 'Let's keep with the wild animal in camp for now. Go ahead and act like you are guarding us until things settle down. Just stand at the door so we can thought share without much effort because Robin just about knocked all of us out.'

Ajax nodded and lowered the rife into a safe but ready position, while Oliver moved around to get a better view of the camp before doing the same thing.

The moment Gavin and Fairfax entered the barracks room, Mrs. Anderson moved so she could look over all five boys. 'There is no way all five of you are Psionics!'

'I don't know what a psi-thingy is, but if it means being able to think-talk…' Fairfax paused as he looked over to Robin before speaking aloud, "Robin?"

Robin frowned deeply as he felt his heart sped up. "Um, you can blame me, ma'am…"

'Think to us, Robin. We can't talk about this in the openOnce the door closes we can talk.' Jasper thought over, noticing as he did so all the others in Robin's team clearly understood him.

A moment later Mrs. Anderson eyed Robin and asked, 'What do you mean by blame you?' She frowned as his confusion grew. 'But you can all hear me…'

Gavin looked over at the befuddled instructor, 'When Robin started showing us visions he did something to us. We felt it in the middle of our heads and the front part tingled. Each time he did it, we have gotten stronger and it lasts longer. The more we use it, the better we seem to get too.'

'So you really have some kind of full vision ability, Robin?' The other woman asked.

As Robin started to think a response he got a brief glimpse of another vision, this one was of Jasper as a young boy, just a year or two older than Robin, the weird part was it wasn't from the perspective of Jasper. Instead it was from someone watching him: Robin focused in and grabbed it. It quickly became as clear, if not more so, than the vision from World War Two. A moment later everyone saw it as if they too were there as Robin decided it would be easier to just show everyone.

Jasper ducked back around the corner as a trio of older teens pushed a boy about Jasper's age into the bathroom just outside the doors leading to the school inside Jasper's tower. This tower was badly run down, way worse than the one Robin lived in. Several of the light strips in the ceiling were out and wires hung down from a pair of older model zap cameras.

At first Robin had a hard time getting a feel for some of the technology he was seeing like push button key security pads, doorknobs with keyholes, and a cleaning-bot with wheels that sat in a power track. This was a bit confusing, but Jasper was quite a bit older than he was, so the technology was older. Getting a handle on this allowed the rest of the vision to explode into full clarity. Nothing was left out of this one.

Jasper once again chanced a glance around the corner before bolting toward the door to the schoolroom. Just as he yanked open the door he heard the voice of the one who had been grabbed cry out. He was torn between the safety of the school section and the sound of his friend crying for help. Jasper clenched his fist, looked up and took a deep breath. After another couple of seconds and a couple more cries, he finally released his hold on the door and moved to the door to the bathroom. He pulled open the door, slipped in and kneed the oldest of the three tormenters in the groin from behind and shoved him with everything he had. The boy's head hit the wall hard and he fell clutching his crotch and balling. The antiseptic smell of cleaning solution didn't hide the musty urine smell that permeated the room. Nor did all the cleaning chemicals stop the roaches. Masses of them scurried out of the wall as the boy's face smashed into it.

The next older kid released his grip on Jasper's friend, which allowed the young boy to pull his head out of the toilet and knock some roaches off. The boy was crying and coughing, having had his head held under the water more than a few times. All of the kid's pockets were turned inside out and his school pack was empty, its contents spread all over the bathroom floor.

The biggest kid glanced back at his buddy, who was the one most of the vision seemed to come from, "Don't let him go yet, he didn't pay us for protection this week."

Jasper's eyes went wide as the kid then dug into his rather dirty looking pants and pulled out a knife. The thug hit the clicker on the side to make the blade click out but nothing happened. "Damn knife!" The punk grumbled as he smacked it against the wall. Still nothing happened. The boy spit out a long stream of curses and started shaking the weapon. When this didn't help he glanced down at it in puzzlement and held it up to get a closer look at what was wrong.

A moment later Jasper's hand made a weird motion with is index finger flipping up like it was the blade of the knife. The instant he did so, the blade snapped open, cutting a nasty gash across the kid's face just under his eye. The kid screamed and pulled the blade away from his face clutching it tightly with one hand while his other covered the horrid gash.

Jasper stared at the knife for a second before his index finger flipped down like it was the blade closing. Once again the blade seemed to obey. It snapped shut, cutting off two of the boy's fingers as it did so. The kid screamed as the knife and his fingers fell to the ground. While the floor turned crimson with blood, Jasper moved up to the last of the three. The second the kid turned and tossed the other boy further into the stall Jasper shook his head.

The boy charged.

Jasper pulled up his hand and made a motion of closing a door. The metal door to the stall reacted the same way the knife had. It was as if Jasper had slammed it, only from a distance. It slammed into the boy, denting the door, breaking the kids' nose and jaw, while sending the now unconscious ruffian back into the wall. Another wave of roaches poured out of the wall, covering the helpless kid.

The younger boy stood, still crying and looked at Jasper with wide eyes, "You really are a freak!"

Before Jasper could say anything the other kid darted out of the bathroom and disappeared back in the direction of the mag lift, leaving everything the kids had taken out of his pockets and pack scattered all over the bathroom floor.

A tear slid down Jasper's face as he glared at the knife. With a jerk of his head he sent it flying through the air and into the trash shoot. A smirk of satisfaction crossed his face as he heard it clattering down until the sound disappeared. Jasper moved up to the kid who was still out cold in the bathroom stall, brushed off some roaches, and pulled a necklace off from around the boy's head. He glanced at the gold eagle head and pocketed it.

The boy with the missing fingers glanced up with fear and pain in his eyes and started to say something while doing his best to get some of the roaches off himself.

Before the words could come out, Jasper looked at the sink and it seemed to buckle. A moment later the faucet broke off and sent a stream of very hot water into the kid with the missing fingers. Jasper stepped out of the way as the boy screamed with a new round of pain. "You should thank me for getting the bugs off," Jasper snarled.

As the kid spit at him, Jasper glared at the thrashing kid and held up the necklace. "I saw you take this from Mikey before he ran away last year… or did you three finally kill him and toss him out with the trash?"

Jasper's brow crinkled slightly as he realized his thought had been right. Anger flashed in his eyes and the water pipe bent slightly spraying the kid again. Jasper snorted as the kid struggled to get out of the stream of water. "You ever come around here again I'll kill you all!"

This time the kid didn't do anything but get to his feet and run dripping blood and roaches as he went.

Before Jasper could make it to the door to the school section, and while he dug into his school pack for his lunch, a woman in an Explorer Corps uniform stepped up blocking his path. His heart skipped a beat and he started to raise his hand in an attempt to open the door from a distance so he could run past.

Before his hand got even half way up he heard a voice in the middle of his head. 'Nice control, but reckless.' She glanced down at a larger and older style note-puter in her hand. 'LO-KGY9821Z-E872BW… Jasper Timothy Montgomery… you can come with me or you find out what will happen when everyone tells the Linc-Omaha CHZ authorities what you did.'


The woman shook her head. 'Think to me Jasper. A thought can't be recorded, a voice can.'

'Am I under arrest?'

'Not if you come with me… You will just disappear… your family will be told you got an offer to the Corps academy, which you are getting right now… You do this for us, we will move your family to a better building and find a promotion for your father. We will let you contact them once you are settled and know what you are.'

'Which is what?'

'You are one of an estimated point zero one seven percent of the population with mental abilities called psionics.'

'What about those who saw…'

'It almost never happens, Jasper, and if it does we have people in places to make sure it doesn't go far. Besides, if you are right and those three murdered a boy, they will never speak of it.'

Jasper eyed the woman with some confusion. 'How did you know about me?'

She chuckled and then smiled as she tossed him a food pack. 'We have had our eyes on you since cameras on Zong picked up what you did… More will become clear in short order, young man. In the meantime, look at the up side.'

'What up side?'

The woman extended her hand and patted Jasper on the back as she somewhat forcefully lead him to a restricted access service lift. 'You get two extra years at Adventure Quest if you come with me.'

Robin forced it to stop and pulled back. He cringed and looked over to Gavin, "Got any food packs?"

Ajax pulled one out of the top of his pack as he whistled, "Man, your stuff keeps getting better Robin, I even smelled the bathroom in this one!"

Oliver also pulled out a ration pack and broke it open, knowing it would only take Robin seconds to finish the first one. He glanced over to Jasper, "You really had to live in the building with all those bugs we saw?"

"Low labor farming workers buildings are always bad, even today with the sonic roach and rat suppressors." Jasper sighed as he looked around and realized everyone in the room had seen the vision Robin had somehow pulled out of his mind, "Almost everyone who lived in it worked in the adjacent Farming domes and bugs always seemed to catch a ride. So yeah, it was pretty bad. The worst part was, I only got to leave it on field trips and my one stint on Adventure Quest until the day I was taken to the secondary academy in Colorado Springs, which is now formally linked with Denver CHZ."

He let out an uneasy breath and forced a slight grin. "You know the nice part about Den-Springs is the altitude is so high, they can't build the towers as tall. Since it actually causes some oxygen deprivation if you go too high, the towers are smaller and tend to be better maintained. It is probably one of the three nicest CHZs we have in the US. The other two are also mountain CHZ's, also because of oxygen levels."

Robin downed the two ration packs and drank half a canteen of water offered to him by Mrs. Anderson as he listened. Finally he spoke up, "So now what?"

Jasper rubbed his head and let out a long breath. "Well, to be honest, we wanted to see if you could do half of what Mrs. Reid told us you did the other night… so um, other than to recruit you… um… yeah…" Jasper motioned for all five boys to grab a seat around a large table while he tossed Robin another ration pack.

The second everyone was seated the other man stood and extended his hand. As he did so he sent Robin a thought. 'Well met, Robin. I am Senior Commander of the Psi-Watch, a secret branch of the Explorer Corps.'

One of the women nodded as she also thought to Robin. 'Yes, well met, but next time drop your telepathic shout down a few notches, and put the thrust in your back pocket until you need to blow up something! Your psionics are so far off the known charts I have no idea how to rate you and you all but took out Cadet Colonel Kramer.'

Robin glanced over at the sixteen-year-old boy and spoke out loud. "Sorry…"

Cadet Kramer groaned. His head pounded so badly he decided it was easier to talk than think. "So much for me being the strongest psionic in the academy. I thought my class eight rating was impressive. You actually gave me a bloody nose!"

Jasper glanced over his shoulder and spoke out loud since his head was still throbbing after being so close to Robin's mental outburst. "Saying the word freak was not a very good idea, Taylor. He sent a telekinetic thrust with his shout; it was directed at the person who said he was a freak, even if you meant it in a friendly way. You are very lucky there was a door between you and Robin or we very well might be scraping you off the wall right now. He even slightly dented the door!"

The man who identified himself as the Psi-Watch Commander quickly moved up to the door and gazed at it in clear shock. "A telekinetic thrust which was only partially manifested… the rest manifested in here where he could not see his target… I have only seen this a pair of times. Once was the Chinese agent they sent to infiltrate us, and the other is my Russian counterpart. And although powerful, neither of them could have hoped to damage metalplast let alone do so, very impressive!"

Robin shook his head and moved up to the door and rubbed his hand down it. Sure enough there was a dent, but it was so small, it was almost impossible to see unless the light hit it just right. It kind of reminded Robin of the types of dents he had seen in the back of the batting cages at the baseball park, but those were in aluminum and were way deeper, this one was no more than a millimeter or two deep.

He came back inside and closed the door, "You know I didn't do it on purpose…"

"Which scares the crap out of me," Taylor whispered while pressing up a cloth to his bloody nose. "Because once you're trained you'll be able to fully direct what you just did to me."

Oliver glanced over and sent a thought to Robin, 'Is this for real?'

"Boy…" Mrs. Anderson managed a smile, "you ain't seen nothing yet!"

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