Chapter 139

               As Mary headed toward the outside of the fake building, keenly aware of the various mechanical adversaries awaiting her inside, she forced herself to remain calm and centered. What she was doing would require splitting her concentration in various directions; she couldn’t afford to waste mental capacity on pointless things like fear. Mary moved slowly, determined not to make too much noise and give herself away by accident. With every step, she extended her telepathic senses, searching for the minds she needed. If the Sims were real people then they would be who she was looking for; gathering information about their positions, capabilities, and perhaps even whether they were inclined to surrender. Sadly, she was not going to be able to get such data from their heads.

                But, lucky for her, there were human minds nearby that were still accessible.

                Mary skimmed the thoughts of her peers as they watched her, and more importantly the Sims, on the various monitors stocked throughout the observation room. Their keen eyes and focused minds made her task all the easier; they were thinking about almost nothing besides her and the impending battle. By the time she reached the door of the building, Mary not only had a reasonable idea of the building’s layout, but also of each Sims relative position in it. She was dealing with four independent guard units, two reds and two yellows, with the five remaining clustered together in the central room.

                Her light form gracefully stepped into the hallway and began moving across the floor. There was a red-light Sim not too far from her current location that she wanted to neutralize first. Mary strode with purpose, never wavering or bothering to hide. The others were confused by this, wondering how she was navigating without the aid of her telepathy. Only Alex, Amber, and Shane had figured it out. Well, it was possible Chad knew as well, but being unable to read his mind made it impossible for Mary to tell. It was a pity; she would have loved to overhear his tactical analysis as she moved through the various encounters.

                The first Sim was facing away from her, just as she knew it would be. Though she loathed to take a page from another student’s book, even one she respected as much as Alice, there was simply not getting around a certain amount of ability similarities. Mary grabbed the Sims in a crushing telekinetic grip, lifting it off the ground and pinning its arms and legs just as her tall blonde roommate had done. Of course, only the results were the same; the methods employed to achieve them were drastically different.

                “As a presumed innocent civilian, I would like to offer you the chance to surrender. If you do not take that chance, I’ll have to assume you mean to do me harm and immobilize you by any means necessary.”

                The Sim’s eyes sparked and a strange blue glow began to surge across its torso. What that glow might have done would forever remain a mystery to Mary and the watching students. As soon as it manifested, Mary tightened the telekinetic grip from a hold to a crushing force. Within seconds the Sim had caved in on itself, shattered limbs and inward bent torso being set carefully on the ground as the red-light in its chest dimmed.

                Mary was a bit surprised at how the others seems taken aback at her ruthless display of destruction, their thoughts bubbling up so quickly that it threatened to become a distraction. Really though, how did they expect her to discern what the proper amount of force was for crippling and not killing without a little trial and error? That was why she’d targeted the red-light Sim in the first place; if she crushed too hard at least it wouldn’t take away from her score.

                Walking toward the next Sim, another red-light just to be safe, it occurred to Mary that perhaps she was the one being a bit too detached from the experience. Yes, they were just robots, but they were supposed to represent people. Then again, even if that were true the human equivalent a red-light Sim who refused to surrender might require killing to stop. A little detachment might be healthy, if she were able to hold onto it once she was in the real world.

                Mary nearly stopped in her tracks. Was she really trying to convince herself that it would be okay to be detached about the idea of killing? That was ridiculous; she was just trying to get around facing how much having to take a real human life would bother her. This was self-obfuscation, nothing more than a trick. It was the sort of thing Nick would have inflicted on her himself, had he been there.

                As Mary’s mind inadvertently centered on her absent friend, she unconsciously reached out as she had when he lived near her, groping for his mind to see what mischief the sunglasses-clad conman was up to. Of course, Nick no longer lived mere feet away, nor was he up on the observation room looking down on her. No, Nick was in his bed, in his apartment, a nearly four miles from where Mary was currently standing.

                This time, Mary did stop; her whole body freezing as if she’d heard a Sim sneaking up behind her. Her breathe came short and her eyes grew wide, momentarily losing that honed concentration she’d been so intent on establishing. She stayed like that for nearly a full minute before moving again, this time with a hurried gait as she cut a direct path toward the next Sim in her way.

                Nick was so far away from her… but Mary hadn’t spent nearly eighteen years as an uncontrolled telepath without gaining a little something from the experience. Though she’d reined in her listening since becoming Super, she still possessed a range almost unmatched by any other telepath in the world.

                She needed to finish the test as quickly as possible. Nick was on a short clock, and there was no way to know how long he had. Mary wasn’t even sure what she’d be able to do for him.

                She just knew she had to try.