Shane’s exam failed to beat either the time or efficiency set my Chad, but not by a lot. His aggressive strategy and surgeon-like precision with his shadow attacks took down most of the opponents in a clean and concise manner. His misfortune came when one of the yellow-light Sims proved to be a heavily armored opponent clearly replicating the strongman style of Super. That one refused to go down easily, and in the confusion it allowed a red-light Sim that released destructive blasts to get off a fair bit of collateral damage.
Thomas was next, and while his careful strategy yielded low collateral damage, it took too long to match Chad and Shane’s aggressive times. Additionally, he was taken by surprise twice, which resulted in minor injuries to his body that Camille had to patch when he came back. It was a strong showing, and one that demonstrated no signs of the hesitation he’d shown earlier in the year. He and Vince locked eyes as Thomas returned, exchanging small nods and covert smiles.
Dean Blaine had barely finished checking on Thomas when Roy stepped up, raring to go. “Mr. Daniels, I presume you’re ready?”
“Damn straight. Sorry, I mean, yes sir.”
Dean Blaine ignored the slip-up, in these situations such things were bound to happen. He was far more interested in the dark metal bat clutched in Roy’s left hand. Professor Cole’s expression was inscrutable thanks to her wrapped face, but judging from the twinkle in her eyes Blaine guess she was pretty proud of having talked a student like Roy into bringing along a weapon.
“Very well then, follow me.”
They started for the door, but before going through Roy turned back to his class.
“Try and pay attention, because I promise I’m about to put on a hell of a show.”
Some of students laughed at his bravado, others snickered, and a few glared silently. For his part, Dean Blaine mentally adjusted how much to budget for in repairs to this training area. When students like Roy Daniels promised a good show it was usually best to plan for destruction.
* * *
“The hell are you doing?” Hank asked as Roy took his first few swings. Around them were the sounds of the horses stomping, an inhuman gallery already jeering Roy’s attempts.
“You told me to attack you,” Roy replied, confusion evident on his face. “I thought you said your shield could handle it.”
“Course it can,” Hank replied. The dark-haired man was built like a barrel, low and thick. He would have seemed entirely non-descript if not for the slight golden shimmer in the air around him. “My power produces an energy shield that would stop a damn rocket, your little love taps won’t do shit. I’m asking why you came at me swinging like that.”
“It’s an opening attack,” Roy replied. “I was trying to pop you on the chin.”
Hank stared up at the taller, younger man. It had only been three days since Sally Daniels dropped her boys off and Hank already preferred the short smart one. At lease he didn’t need concepts rolled out step by step for him.
“Let me come at this another way, why are you punching me at all? I said to attack me, not dance around with jabs. Come at me like you mean to do me serious harm.”
“If you’ve got a better way, I’d love to hear it.”
Hank let out a grin that all the riders knew meant to stand clear, because something very dumb and very violent was about to transpire. “Yeah kid, I might just have a better way.”
* * *
“Of course he’s shirtless,” Alice sighed, watching Roy step onto screen. His broad, muscular torso was easy to make out in contrast to his grey uniform pants. The grey stopped at his ankles, leaving his bare feet exposed to the simulated street terrain. “Oh, and no shoes either. Is he trying to do Chad’s sneaking thing?”
“I highly doubt it,” Chad said. After finishing his test, he’d migrated back through the crowd to stand with his dormmates. “Roy has become far more aware of the limits of his skills over the past year. He should know that my technique for dealing with the situation would be ill-suited to him.”
“Mary, want to let us in on what he’s planning?” Vince asked.
The small telepath shook her head. “No chance. I’m a little bit sorry I know.”
“That bad?” Alice said.
“Maybe bad, maybe good. I don’t know how well it will go. Roy was truthful about one thing though: it will be entertaining.”
* * *
The halls changed every time the course was altered, as did the number of guards, but the basic situation was always the same. Some Sims as guards, patrolling the layout of the halls, with a bunch of Sims gathered together in a room near the center. It was only the small details like layouts and numbers that got tweaked, making sure every student encountered the unknown. At its core, the trial was always the same: stop the threats before they became actual dangers.
Roy would never be able to pull off the stuff Chad and Shane did, he knew that going in. Chad could see the Sims without being seen, and Shane’s power came with enough range to take out people at a distance. Roy didn’t have those gifts. He could take Sims down, no doubt about that, but it was going to be loud and alert the others. Given those circumstances, it meant his best strategy was to take down the largest concentration possible in his first move.
As he walked onto the field, Roy felt a sense of wild excitement burn in his exposed chest. The cameras had always focused on the inside of the building, with a few angles watching the exterior. This meant that he hadn’t known if they’d built a high, sky-simulation-ceiling like the outdoor courses they’d used last year. It turned out that for this field, they hadn’t. Roughly twenty to thirty feet from the roof of the building was thick black concrete, creating the impression of a starless night hanging over head.
Roy moved carefully, hoping dearly that none of the Sims he was going against had enhanced senses. This was the part where he needed to be quiet, in fact the only part where it was possible. With his bat tucked into the waist of his pants, he scaled the outer wall of the brick building, moving up the side as silently as he could. It was easy going, since anytime he lacked a good handhold Roy merely sank his fingers into the tough exterior and made his own. Within a minute he was on top of the roof and tiptoeing toward the center.
Now it was time for the fun to begin.