So there I was, just hanging around.
Ha! Get it, Doc? I was just hanging around.
Yes, I get it.
We’re only three weeks into the Semester, and Applied Skills is like having a midterm already, which sucks unfair, but Sgt. SURGE is a hard-ass who loves bust our ass with things like this. so we get two, three days of “trials,” where he plays a super-villain kind of like he once was, and shouts and yells and would do that thing with mustaches they do in old movies, if he had one. And we have to escape and defeat him.
The scenario varies a bit from year to year, but that’s usually a key feature.
Yeah, if he talked like that when he was a real villain, his victims would have died laughing.
You might look into his record some time. He was quite terrifying an opponent.
Oh, everyone’s looked up the Youtubes of the teachers and stuff. That’s half the fun.
You were telling me about the midterm.
Right. So it starts off with we’re all captured, hanging off this platform, and they’re using power dampeners on us of different types, each designed for each of us. Like mine made me weaker, and the one on Alex locked up his cyber, and like that. And then Sarge starts with all the cackling and hamming it up, and we have to get loose and either get away or defeat him. And it’s like a third of our grade for the semester.
You were doing this with your clique of friends.
Yeah. We even came up with a name for if we beat him: the SURGE Suppressors.
I’m sure he loved that.
Yeah, not so much.
So how did the test go?
So I’m hanging there, right, and it’s sturdy stuff because I weigh more than most students and my arms are kind of long. We’re not hurting or anything, but it’s not all that comfortable, so we all want to figure it out even without the grade. Now, we haven’t had a chance to prep for this, so we’re all thinking of what to do, and Kiln, they start kind of trying to distract him, like, “Hey, it’s the festival of something or another back home, can I be excused from fighting?”
I dunno. I don’t think so, but they say weird stuff like that a lot. And while they’re saying that, Roddy’s like, I gotta pee, and then Alex starts asking him to talk about his master plan, and if he tries to absorb all the student powers does that include like the demonic contract that Chris has and stuff like that. So I decide to get in on it.
Only I don’t get all clever and all that, I start roaring and shaking my chains and telling him he’s a coward and how I’ll tear his arms off, just come over here and say those things to me in the eye.
Was that a ruse, too?
Yeah. I mean, mostly. It’s easy to get angry at Sarge, and – well, I got a short temper most days, but this was mostly just for show. I just wanted him to come over, get close enough I could grab him with my legs – I might not be at full strength, but I was betting I could hold onto him a while while the others came up with a plan.
You said earlier you didn’t do anything clever. Do you think that was a good plan?
Well, yeah, but that’s just what it was and what I do.
Did it work?
Well, kinda. He wasn’t dumb enough to get close, but he was focused on me and maybe wondering if I was serious. I think maybe I sold it that much.
So good acting.
Yeah, maybe I should join the Theater Nerds. Maybe they’ll put on a production of “Planet of the Apes” or something – it could be a one-man show. Or one-gorilla, at least.
You were saying your good acting got Sgt. SURGE’s attention.
Yeah. Enough so that Roddy twists around on his chain to reach with his feet over to Alex, and grabs with his feet the magnetic lock Sarge had put on Alex to turn off their cyberstuff. He not only gets it off, he throws it, with his feet, at Sarge. Which was – ugh.
It sounds like a good maneuver.
Yeah, but it was Roddy, and he did what I wanted to do, which was use his legs and feet to save the day. Which so absolute figures, after he saw me try and not really accomplish anything.
You did say you distracted Sgt. SURGE.
Sure, so “Sync” could copy me and save the day.
Did he? Save the day?
Well, maybe. Kinda. I mean he freed Alex, but somehow that made the whole system short out and release all of us.
Well, that seems like shoddy super-villainry.
Ha! Yeah. And Roddy was in mid-air when it happened, so he slapped down hard on the metal grating below him when his locks opened up.
Was he hurt?
No, he landed on his head. Ha! No, sorry, no, he was okay. I’m glad, because it was damned funny to see. Anyway, at that point everyone was recovering, and Sarge did this big melodramatic “NOOOOO!” thing, and started pulling down stuff on top of us with his magnet powers.
Took me a second or two to get my strength back, or enough of it, and by that time Mette had her tool belt, and I was worried she’d be the first one to try and tackle Sarge, but all of a sudden Kiln is right there, shouting a warning at me, jumping up over me and cutting a big girder falling towards my head with their sword. It was awesome.
You and Kiln aren’t very close.
No, they’re kinda stiff sometimes, and still confused about stuff in the past, or in the future – their future, our present. And I don’t think they like that I sleep in on the weekends, which is what I think they were made for. But they stood up for me then, so that was cool.
What did you do then?
I watched them land, and then I heard Sarge shout something, and there’s Mette, standing alone in front of him and knocking him off-balance with her grav implants, and he tries to grab this metal bar with his magnetics and whip it at her, and I was too far away to do shit about it, which really sucked, but she just batted it aside, and the Sarge was on his back, which meant we won!
I know, right? So the other kids in the class gave us some applause, except Jillian who was busy with her cell phone again, which it’s lucky Sarge didn’t catch her, 'cause last time her QPhone survived a 200 yard throw, and he promised it would be a 400 yard one next time.
Does it bother you when Sgt. SURGE does things like that?
Not with that. I mean, sometimes Jillian’s not playing the Tik Tok queen, and she’s actually pretty smart. But lotta the time, I think if she could get a phone implanted in her head, she’d be the happiest person on the planet.
Harder to take selfies that way.
Truth. Maybe, if it were tied into her eyes she could take selfies with a mirror. Aaaaanyway. Sarge gave us our grades – yeah, he didn’t like the “SURGE Suppressors” thing, but the rest of the class thought it was hilarious. Of course, Roddy got all the biggest kudos for, yeah, that whole leg acrobatics things. I mean, I could’ve done that, if I’d been hanging next to Alex.
How did you feel about that?
Well, it kinda sucked. I almost said something, and Mette like fainted, or something? Like she was all dizzy and almost fell down – but I caught her. Carefully.
So you got to be the hero after all.
Well I – y’know, I guess so. At least she seemed grateful. I asked her what was wrong and she said she’d remembered something, from the future. Or about the future – our present, from what she knew about in the future. Which, I guess, wasn’t such a good thing for her, but, man, I wish I could remember some of my past.
Any luck with those exercises?
I remembered some stuff about my third birthday, but nothing about – y’know. The Africa stuff.
I will mention again that we do have access to psychics through the school. Mrs. Brinkley has a moderate talent, though her specialties are more in empathy than in telepathy. But Psimon Sayers was a guest instructor a year ago. He might –
I – no. I appreciate it, but – I kinda don’t want anyone messing around with my head. Again. Whatever’s with this mental block, I still wanna see if I can figure a way through it myself. Like, organically, if that makes any sense.
A great deal, and it laudable you feel that way. Just know that we do have resources, if it becomes a greater distraction or discomfort.
I got it.
So Mette was all right?
Yeah. Sarge dismissed everyone to clean up, and nobody sits around to chit-chat if it means staying in those school uniforms. Always in two sizes, too big and too small, and guess which I’ve got. And even after you wash them, they always smell like sweat socks. They smell like sweat socks when you get them fresh at the beginning of the year. Why is that?
Perhaps to discourage kids from stealing them.
Well, it works. At least for the kids who aren’t in clubs. So anyway I changed quickly, so I could be out first. And Mette was there, waiting, so that was cool.
You usually meet up with Mette for lunch?
What? No, no, nothing like that. We just – well, the team usually eats together. She just gets changed fast.
And so you do, too.
Well, I was concerned she was feeling okay. And she was looking kind of distracted and unfocused when I came out and saw her there, so I was worried, but she said she was okay, kind of quickly like I was being pushy, and she’s frowning a little, and I wanted to ask her what she had remembered, but it sounded like kind of a rude question, and I didn’t want to tick her off, so I was trying to figure out what to say – and OF COURSE Roddy comes out next.
So I didn’t want anyone thinking I was, like, resentful over what he’d done, so I told him he’d done a good job with that kick thing he’d done, which was kind of what I’d been planning to do, but he’d done it well and I was glad I’d been able to set it up for him.
That was … gracious.
I know. And he kind of says thank you, and I’m thinking, I am next time totally gonna kick someone in the face, just to prove it.
Do you think looking forward to kicking someone in the face is a healthy attitude?
If I can do it before Roddy, yeah.
Anyway, eventually everyone wanders up, and we head off to lunch. Kiln is all into this mysterious “spah-getty” they’re serving, since Chris had said something so now they were all excited over it. So we all march in, get our food and sit down. And it’s kind of weird, cause all the kids from Sarge’s class are sort of eyeing each other, like who thinks they’re going to do better than we did, and some folk swing by and say stuff about our taking down Sarge, which is cool.
How did you feel about that?
Like we’d done good. So it was cool. Though –
I mean, some of it was kind of …
Kind of …?
Roy just kind of popped up, standing behind Mette, talking all about what she’d done in the trial. And I didn’t like it.
Because she seemed uncomfortable.
And what did that make you want to do?
Besides taking him apart?
That … would not be in compliance with school, or even societal, rules.
Yeah. I know.
If Ms. Mette feels that Mr. Talltree’s actions are improper, she can certainly seek out any faculty member and report them.
I – dunno that’s something she thinks of.
Is it something you feel you should tell her?
I – don’t want to – y;know, presume.
But if he should actually do something to her –
I’d kill him.
Ah. I – at this juncture, must inform you that if I feel you are a danger to yourself or others, I am both allowed and required to notify the authorities, regardless of the usual bonds of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Yeah. Well, obviously, I’m talking metaphorical. Right?
As you say, Joey. Tell me more about lunch.
Not much more to say. Alex sat there wolfing down chicken fingers and fries and keeping other people from stealing them. Kiln had their spaghetti – so did Roddy. Mette had a lot of veggies. Nobody bugged her about that.
Did anyone bug you about what you had?
Well. Not really. But I kind of felt judged. All – most of the others, they’re having pasta with meat sauce, and chicken fingers and stuff. And I –
What did you have?
I wanted a salad.
A healthy choice.
I just … felt like a salad. With ham on it.
Nothing wrong with that.
Yeah, you’d think so, but …
Monkeys eat greens, mostly. Maybe bugs, things like that. But not hamburgers. Not chicken nuggets.
I – I feel like people watch what I eat. “Oh, he’s eating a salad – see, he’s a monkey.”
But you sometimes eat nuggets. And other people eat salads, surely. I do, when I eat at the caf.
Yeah, but nobody thinks a person, a human person, eating a salad, that means anything. When I eat a salad …
… it means I’m a monkey. A gorilla. Not a person. Not a human person.
I suspect most gorillas don’t have French Dressing on their salads.
People don’t care about that. They just see a monkey eating greens.
Did anyone say that?
Nobody had to.