Chapter 214

                “An occupied orphanage. Really. Even for Dean Blaine, that feels a touch over the top.” It was a testament to Chad’s cardiovascular system that he could speak so clearly while still running at a full sprint through the city streets. Vince could keep pace thanks to years of training, but making conversation during the run was a little more than he could manage.

                It wasn’t until they slowed down, their destination appearing at the edge of their view, that Vince was finally able to reply to Chad. “It’s not sadism, it’s punishment. You and I had this guy dead to rights; the trial should have been over with time to spare. Instead, we did a sloppy job with the capture, assuming that just because we didn’t see any allies the Sim didn’t have any to call on, and because we didn’t secure him properly the world is still at risk. Those orphans would still be in danger, whether the Sim holed up in there or not. All of that because we didn’t take a little extra time to make sure our target was cut off from any help.”

                “Perhaps. Or perhaps it is punishment for the fact that we left him alive. Killing is the only way to permanently neutralize a target; if we’d done it he could have never threatened anyone again.”

                “But he gave up,” Vince pointed out. “I’ll accept that we made mistakes today, and if the class fails the test then the blame rightfully should be on us. I’ll never believe that killing a person who has no willingness to defend themselves is the right thing to do though.”

                “I’ll admit, it rubs me the wrong way as well, hence why I didn’t chop his head off.” Chad glanced over to the orphanage, still too far away for Vince to see clearly, and let out a resigned sigh. “Yet the world remains in danger, and the fault for that lies on us. My sense of morality has had to grow and evolve since starting our education here; this may be one more aspect of it. At the very least, are we on the same page for this fight? No more second chances.”

                It was slow and begrudging, but Vince nodded his acceptance. Things were different this time around; they probably didn’t even have the time to be gentle if they wanted to. With no accurate idea of when the clock was restarted, they were flying blind. All they could do was stop the Sim as fast as possible, which almost certainly meant going for the kill over the capture. They gave the Sim a chance to end things peacefully, and he’d used it to fool them. That was all the mercy they could afford with the world in the balance.

                “He’s not alone this time. I can make out three adult Sims standing near the door, and we’d be idiots not to assume more were inside. Our best bet is probably to stick with the same strategy: you go at the front hard while I slip in unnoticed and try to execute the target.”

                “Won’t they know you’re coming as soon as they see me?” Vince asked. “We just used the same tactic; they’re bound to expect it this time.”

                “Whether they expect it or not is irrelevant,” Chad replied. “The point of stealth is not to be able to slip past people who aren’t expecting you, that’s a relatively simple skill to learn. No, the point of being adept at stealth is to slip by an entire room of people looking specifically for you by sneaking right behind them. Trust me; if you can hold out on the front, I can make it inside.”

                “Chad, I know you’re not really one to over-estimate yourself, but are you sure? Bet the world on it sure?”

                This time, the response was delayed as Chad took another long look at the orphanage. “I may fail. That’s possible no matter what the mission or opponent is. Life takes unexpected turns, and it’s always possible my abilities won’t be enough. However, if we both try to storm the front then they know where we are and can figure out how to deal with us. By getting inside I can take them out one at a time, sowing uncertainty and panic. Nothing is guaranteed, but I truly believe this is our best path to victory. That said, you may actually have the harder job this time. We don’t know how many Sims are in there or how powerful they are. You might charge the front only to find yourself staring down an army.”

                It was possible, Chad was certainly right, and while plenty of the Sims went down like cannon fodder the ones in this trial had been a little tougher already. If this was the final boss fight, the guards probably wouldn’t be pushovers. And that was without even taking into account that they had an entire building of innocent civilians to hide behind, which would definitely make the fight even more complicated.

                “How long do you need me to keep their focus so you can get inside?”

                Doing mental math faster than Vince could ever dream of accomplishing, Chad swirled a few numbers around his head and came up with a figure. “Two minutes, minimum. One for careful approach, one for infiltration. After that, I’ll have a whole building to work in.”

                “Then I’ll last for at least two minutes, army or not. No matter what you see or hear, don’t worry about me, just focus on the task at hand.”

                Chad smiled, a surprising expression in a situation as grim as this one. “Of all the things I thought to concern myself with, the idea that you wouldn’t prove capable to the task never even crossed my mind. Are there any other questions, or are you prepared to start?”

                Vince could think of a dozen more ideas or plans that might be worth talking about, however he brought up none of them. They could spend all the time they had left standing around, tossing out ideas that might ultimately prove slightly better than what they were planning yet would never have the chance to be tested. Planning was for when there wasn’t a clock bearing down on them, threatening the end. Today, a rough idea and action were better than comprehensive planning and delay. Win or lose, at least this way they had a chance to try and save the world.

                “I’m ready when you are.” Stretching his arms, Vince uttered a phrase he would have never expected to say in the entirety of his life. “Let’s go storm the orphanage.”