“Crafty,” Mary said, her eyes closed as she listened to all of her competitors throughout the field. The rest of her team milled around her quietly, trying to keep their thoughts as silent as possible so as not to add to the mental ruckus. The starting bell had gone off a few minutes ago, but rather than dash off all at once, they were waiting for her to figure out who would be holding each team’s orb. As for where to go, that much at least was quite evident.
Some distance away, impossible to judge through the trees of this arena, a giant beam of red light stretched from the ceiling down below the tree line, presumably to the floor. It didn’t take a great leap of intuition to figure out this was the depository Dean Blaine had told them about. Unfortunately, knowing where they needed to end up wasn’t the same as knowing where to go until then.
“Okay, I’ve got it pieced together,” Mary said at last, opening her eyes and getting to her feet. “Team Two is trying to make me think that Chad has it, but a few of them slipped up and thought about the truth. They gave the orb to Julia. Sadly, that’s not a big help, since she’s split off into about a dozen clones, all of whom share the same mind. If you see one then go for it. Just know that as soon as one sees you the others will know your location, and a clone is going with every member of her team to pass along information.”
“Instant communication. Damn, that’s pretty good,” Nick complimented.
“Yes, but we always knew Chad’s team was going to be a beast to contend with. Shane came up with a pretty effective strategy as well. He gave the orb to Tiffani and paired her with Amber. Between her ability to make illusions and Amber’s sound manipulation, those two are going to be effectively invisible to everyone but myself and Alex,” Mary continued.
“Plus, Amber is a pretty heavy hitter in her own right,” Roy added. His pride wouldn’t let him forget how easily she’d dropped him during the maze fight freshman year.
“Very true. Britney took the most expected strategy; she held onto the orb and went invisible. She’s staying hidden and mobile while her team hunts for other orbs. Adam copied Allen, so they have two people able to fire ranged energy explosions.”
“So, what do we do?” Vince asked.
“First we figure out who is going to hold onto our orb,” Mary said. “The obvious choices are myself and Alice.”
“You can fly up to the top of the arena and wait out the match in relative safety,” Nick pointed out. “That strategy isn’t perfect; there are still ways you could get reached if the other teams get creative. Besides, I hate to take one of our stronger abilities out of the game.”
“This from the guy who gave me a four,” Alice teased. They both knew the girl whose power ranked so low in the relative scale was long gone. What she could do now was nothing short of tremendous.
“I agree. Alice should stay in,” Alex concurred. “Especially since no one knows what she can do. Her power and the element of surprise are too good to give up.”
“Suggestions are heard. All right then, I’ll hold the orb. Any objections?” Mary asked.
“It’s what they’ll all expect,” Nick pointed out. “But that’s because it’s the smart call to make. You’ve got the range to detect people approaching and the power to knock them back if they get near.”
“Mary keeps the orb then; what do the rest of us do?”
“Alex should hunt down Britney, Mary and I will go after Amber and Tiffani,” Nick replied. “The rest of you fan out in your formations and hope we get lucky and find the right Julia. I’ll supply what help I can in that regard.”
“I think I should go after Amber and Tiffani,” Alex protested.
“Alex, Amber is very powerful,” Camille said gently.
“Which is why it should be me. In case you guys forgot our last match, I’m the only one with practice deflecting soundwaves. Mary has gotten a lot better in training, but I don’t think she’ll be able to pull it off. Sorry.” He said the last part to her with a look of slight embarrassment. Alex took no joy in pointing out the shortcomings of others; he merely wanted to give his team the best chance it had. Luckily for him, Mary had already made peace with the fact that there were some things he could do that she never would.
“No, you’re absolutely right,” Mary agreed. “You go after Amber and Tiffani, Nick and I will hunt for Britney.”
“Wouldn’t it make more sense for Nick to crank up his luck and find the right Julia?” Alice asked.
“And if I did, and she was with one of the combat members of her team, what purpose would that serve? I got skills, but they aren’t enough for me to take down a trained Super,” Nick said.
“Except for all the times you’ve done just that,” Vince added.
“That was just Gilbert. Mary made the right call on this one. First we hunt Britney, and then we go after Julia.”
“If the three of you are going to try and get the orbs then why don’t we stay with you?” Camille pointed out.
“This is a numbers game,” Nick explained. “If we can find Britney, and if my luck happens to work the way I’m hoping and lead me to Julia, and if that clone of Julia isn’t guarded by someone like Chad, and if we can do all of this in time to make it to the depository, then sure, it would be a great plan. That’s a lot of ifs. It makes more sense to send you guys out separately and increase our chances. Besides, this isn’t just about what we do, it’s about how we do it. Going off in different directions increases our chances of showcasing our various skills.”
“Makes sense to me,” Roy said. Vince and Alex nodded their agreement as well. Camille merely stepped to Vince’s side in preparation for departure.
“Looks like we’ve got a plan then,” Alice quipped.
“That we do. The others have already begun to move while we were talking, so everyone stay alert and keep safe,” Mary cautioned. “And move fast. We’ve got less than two hours to show everyone what this team can really do.”