“Good morning!” Owen called over the crowd. “And good luck.”
He turned and faced the principals. “If the principals would shake hands.”
“Wait!” I shouted, alarmed. “That’s it? They’re just going
to start it?”
For once Patrick had nothing snarky or sarcastic to say. He
looked terrified, his face as white as a ghost. This was really happening and
there was nothing we could do about it.
“Students, face each other.”
I looked over my shoulder at Kara and Jared. Their hands
were interlaced, bodies ready to spring.
“Enter the simulation now.”
The tingling sensation was back as I pressed the button on
my I.D. bracelet with a trembling hand. Just like the day before, the outside
edges of the high school disappeared with a blue ripple and the vivid colors
returned, but I was too scared now to enjoy them.
Owen’s voice continued to give instructions: “Turn on all
weapons.” The sound of tasers activating became a dull roar while the excess
electricity seemed to dissolve into air already thick with expectancy. I
clutched my weapon tightly as I watched Aaron several feet away twirl his taser
in his hand in anticipation. I knew the only way Squad Treble stood a chance
was to never let our weapons go.
Owen, the woman, and the principals moved toward the Super
Children, out of the way of the battle about to take place. I looked to Patrick
who held onto his staff like his life depended on it. It would have been so
easy to watch him run to his own demise, but I couldn’t do it—I was too
terrified to be alone. Despite everything I felt, I knew I had to follow him to
that supply shed or be eliminated as I stood there in fear.
“Prepare to battle! Ready…”
Patrick gave me a curt nod as he got into position, ready to
run. I took one last glance around, trying to remember partnerships and
positions, even faces I recognized from other squads, just in case.
I took a deep breath and attempted to focus; what happened
now would set the stage for everything else. A moment’s hesitation and it could
all be over. I had to believe I would make it longer than that. I had gone
toe-to-toe with a Chi Rho Iota lackey. Knock out in the first few minutes was
not an option.
You know that feeling when someone is watching you and you
can feel it? I turned my head just in time to see Brayden’s soft brown eyes
looking at me. His face was grave, and it made my heart palpitate. I would have
been elated had my time not run out.