The Beginning of the End
“Christ, what fucking time is it Elena?” The hispanic woman calmly waited for a few moments as a brief torrent of profanity was unleashed on the other side of the phone, as James Rachd found the answer to his own question. “God dammit, it is FIVE IN THE MORNING. We have a class full of nervous wrecks to brief on their absolute bullshit of a final exam in three hours. Why are you fucking with me?”
“I’ve had something come up.” Elena’s completely emotionless tone had the desired effect of bringing the muscular Combat Instructor on the other end of the line fully awake.
“One of my old cases just reopened itself.”
“Define ‘old’ and ‘reopened.'”
“Almost ten years is how old. And reopened is the murderer that I never managed to track down back then appears to have resurfaced.”
There was a long silence from the phone as the Latina patiently waited for her colleague to process the information she’d just dropped on him. “This doesn’t seem like incredibly coincidental timing to you?”
Elena sighed. “It is almost far too coincidental to be a coincidence, I freely admit. But James, this is someone that murdered seven people and vanished. Broke into homes and froze them to death in their beds, and there was never a lead to follow.” She took a steadying breath as images of the youngest victims flashed through her mind to accompany her statement. “Contact came to law enforcement who passed it up to the DVA to request Hero assistance with an obvious Super involved case, and they called me because my name is all over the old file. Even if this is some stupid ploy to get me out of Overton for the day, so what? Dani and Anthony are both fully prepped to step in to oversee the exams for either one of us, and technically until Raines’ shitty surprise final falls apart having us both here is redundant.”
“Well fuck it, Elena. I took a week’s leave with no notice to deal with my personal shit. I can’t really bitch about you taking a few hours to deal with some of your old ghosts.” The understanding in Rachd’s tone would likely have shocked most of his students unconscious were they present to hear it. “Just keep in contact in case there is some crazy bullshit and we need you back here.”
The hispanic woman smiled. “Let Kathryn know for me please, James. I’ll be back in a few seconds if you need me, and sometime this afternoon otherwise.”
“Wait, you woke ME up to wake up the Dean FOR you?”
“Of course not. I woke YOU up so that the Dean could get her sleep and you can inform her of my absence at a more reasonable hour.”
“Welcome to the finish line, boys and girls!” The students assembled in the lecture hall winced slightly at Coach Rachd’s chosen volume for eight AM on a Saturday morning. The more awake of those present noted that the muscular Combat Instructor seemed in a slightly fouler mood that he normally chose to project at the class. “Today you will take on your final trial in the HCP as a freshman. Whether you move on to the next year now, later, or never, this will be your last day wearing black in the HCP.
“Now, onto the important shit! I’m sure all of you are eager to hear what your final exam will be today.” Several freshmen sat attentively forward in their seats at this. “Well keep waiting, cause we have other crap to get out of the way first.” Rachd grinned at the frustrated expressions around him. “Before we get into what it is you will be doing, first comes how it is you will be doing it!
“Overton’s freshman final is taken in teams, pairing up Combat with Alternative to allow both sides to cooperate on solving the obstacle they are faced with. By longstanding tradition, the student with the highest combat rank starts things off. It’s pretty simple, so please do not make me repeat any of this shit! Highest ranked student picks their partner for the exam. Then the next highest, and the next, and so on. It should go without saying, but for some reason they make us say everything for this crap; you have to select a partner from the opposite training program. As those of you able to count may have noticed, there is an uneven number between the two training groups. This is resolved by having the final, lowest combat ranked, team made up of three members instead of two.” A murmur of conversation arose amongst the students in anticipation of selecting their partners for the upcoming test.
“QUIET!” And so it abruptly was. “Now, as I was saying: Once all the teams have been determined the final will be run by one group at a time. The groups with the highest rankers will go first, and we will cycle through in descending order. And your entire class will be observing you during your attempt; so if you have stage fright, get over it right fucking now.” There was a wide range of expressions visible among the freshmen as the coach continued after only a short pause to see if more conversation would spring up in the midst of his speech. “I want to make this very clear. DO. NOT. ASSUME. You will be facing very similar circumstances to the ones you watch your classmates take on, but they will NOT be identical. The highest ranking students will go in with the least preparation, but they will also have the least exposure to potential misinformation. Learn from what happens before it’s your turn, but don’t simply try to copy what you see work or you WILL fail. Any questions yet?”
“You said that the highest ranked picks first, and that the only restriction is that Combat has to pick from Alternative and vice versa, right?” The statement from the current lowest ranked student in the class came without a raised hand, and held barely enough inflection to count as a question.
“Get to the point, Montaine.”
“So there’s nothing that would prevent Ames from picking Erin as her partner, and having the top two students on one team? And then Collin could pick Aaron, and Gerard could pick Ben, and we’d have most of the top ten students on the first three teams?”
“That is an accurate description of the reality you are sitting in right now. I’m going to guess that what you’re actually concerned about is ending up with all the high ranking students pairing up and this leaving the low rankers with an uphill battle?”
“It seems likely from here, Coach.”
“You would probably be right, if the final were nothing but a pure combat simulation.” Rachd’s expression darkened even further for a moment at these words, though few of the assembled students caught the change. “Teams aren’t picked until after you are briefed on what it is you will actually be DOING for the final. It’s usually a better tactical choice for the high rankers to pick someone who compliments what they can do, instead of simply going for the next highest rank available to partner with.” The blond Canadian seemed somewhat reassured by the coach’s words as he returned to a seated position. “Anyone else?”
“Can we bring in additional equipment for the final?” The petite white haired girl that had raised her hand immediately in response to the Combat Instructor’s first call for questions didn’t bother waiting before speaking out the second time.
“Once the briefing is over you will be given an opportunity to have special equipment approved, same as for a ranking match.” At the mention of the ranking matches Eloise grimaced, but nodded in acceptance of the answer. “That all?” No additional questions seemed forthcoming.
“All right, now it’s time to finally tell you patient boys and girls what it is you will be expected to accomplish today!” More shifting to eager attentiveness from the class. “But first, a brief lesson in current events and history is required.” The bald man grinned humorlessly at the groans that came from the crowd at this declaration. “As all of you are aware by now, our program is graced with the WONDERFUL presence of some additional oversight for the foreseeable future.” A sweeping hand gesture indicated the suddenly very nervous brunette in the corner, quietly taking notes and trying very hard to be invisible. “Don’t worry Ms Watkins. We know you’re just doing your job and that you want Raines to die in a fire ALMOST as much as we do.” The young woman offered a weak grin in response as the Instructor moved the topic along. “As a result of Oversight choosing to meddle with HCP business as much as possible, the normal final exam curriculum has been modified this year.” Rachd picked up a small remote from the lectern next to him at this point, the lights dimmed, and a projector came on in the ceiling to display a large image along the wall behind him.
“Now it’s time for a brief history lesson. For those of you who are unfamiliar with really stupid shit the US Military has built, you are looking at the design for the USMC’s HExF-01A, a.k.a. the power armor project.” The display showed a half schematic overlaid on a photograph of a ten foot tall armored frame bristling with weaponry. “This was someone’s brilliant idea back in the early 80’s as a method to allow non-Super forces to potentially combat Super opponents on an even or advantageous playing field. The problem was that by the time they finished putting all the armor and firepower in it, the operators couldn’t manage the systems quickly enough to be remotely effective. It was determined that to make single operator powered frames like this feasible, you needed either a much more efficient means of running the equipment, or you needed to automate somewhere near eighty percent of the systems.” A click of a button and a new image came up. Very similar to the first but the dimensions showed it slightly shorter and much sleeker overall. “And this is what the military figured out how to do after some fucking lunatic stole one of the HExF’s, from where it had been mothballed in a munitions depot, and rebuilt it to function autonomously. Instead of being run be a human operator, they receive remote directives and are controlled by a sophisticated VI program.” There were looks of dawning disbelief around the room as several of the students seemed to finally realize why they were being lectured on advanced military hardware just before their final exam.
“So as I see a few of you have finally guessed it; Mr Walter Raines has somehow managed to convince the Senate and the DOD to provide four of these new and improved Remote Combat Units to be the meat of your freshman finals.” The sense of dread in the room deepened as the students began to really pay attention to the listed specifications for the weaponry on their newly announced robotic foes. “The good news for you students, is that those of you that face off against the RCUs will be doing it with no restrictions. These are machines, so there is absolutely NO lethal force restriction for you. The robots, on the other hand, will be restricted to less-lethal weapons and marker rounds.” Rachd paused for another moment to let the students assimilate all the information he had just dumped on them. The first question to be asked brought a genuine smile to his lips.
“If there’s only four of them, what do the other ten teams get to do?” Amelia Jacobson showed no sign of arrogance with her question. Her tone carried only a genuine note of curiosity coupled with her normal quiet confidence.
“I don’t recall saying anything about teams only being allowed to take on a single RCU, Jacobson. The final presented by the esteemed Mr Raines states that students will be given ten minutes to attempt to neutralize the RCUs. There are no caveats preventing a single team from moving on to an additional target if the first is neutralized in less than that, and I am more than happy to allow teams that want extra credit to go for it.” The sense of anxiety in the room seemed to dissipate as it became clear to the students what the Combat Instructor was saying. The man clearly expected the robotic opponents to be felled by the first few groups in. “Now, since Raines’ final is childishly simple, I can move on to what I expect most of you will ACTUALLY be doing today. First though, questions?”
“I call Be as my partner.” Though not a question, the muscular coach still offered a wide smile to the number one ranked student in the class as response to her declaration before moving on with his briefing.
The last three suits were ripped off their hangers and flung into the suitcase with a level of finesse far lower than that recommended for handling thousand dollar clothing items. The greasy haired man went back to the closet a final time to confirm there were no further items hidden in the back, then he began a careful sweep of the large suite to ensure that no items had been missed in the morning’s flurry of packing. Having assured himself that nothing was left behind, he rolled his luggage nearly to the door when he was interrupted by a ringing sound from his jacket. A look of dread faded to one of resignation as the out of shape man coughed a few times before answering.
“Dean Jilles, it’s quite early for a Saturday.”
“Mr Raines, it is nearly ten AM and you are quite late.”
“I wasn’t aware we had an early appointment today. Surely it’s nothing that Jerem-…”
“I am certain, Mr Raines,” the female voice from the phone cut him off abruptly, “that this is NOT something you wish your personal assistant to take care of for you.”
“Might I at least inquire as to WHY my presence is suddenly so desirable?” The brown haired man was aiming for exasperated, but instead managed a strange mix of whiny and desperate.
“Your presence is required while the freshmen complete YOUR final exam.”
“But Dean Jilles, I would hardly consider myself the most qualified to admini-…”
“I would agree with that assessment completely Mr Raines. But if you’d bothered to be nearly as versed in actual HCP regulations as you’ve become in the minutiae of the many loopholes in the Federal rules governing the program, you would be aware that the person or person responsible for designing an HCP exam MUST be present during testing.”
“Ah, that.” Silent cursing. “I can assure you, Dean, that Jeremy was as fully involved in the development of the Oversight final examination for the freshman class as I was.”
“Again, I have no trouble at all believing that you had assistance in coming up with your test. However, since you only bothered to list your own name in giving credit for the final on paper, then you will have to be present or we cannot administer your final exam and will be forced to simply grade the students using the more traditional final. And since we have now made a good faith effort to inform you of your error, you wouldn’t have grounds to claim that we intentionally circumvented the Oversight final.”
More silent profanity. There goes a perfectly good plan A. Plan B is fucking terrible, but what else have I got? “I thank you for your attention to detail, Dean Jilles. I will make sure I arrive at Overton within the hour.”
“Please make haste, Mr Raines. I would hate for the Oversight Committee to receive negative reports itself for allowing a negligent moment like this to interfere with the operations of my HCP.”
Fucking bitch. “I do apologize for my mistake again. I will arrive as swiftly as possible.” As soon as I can work out a better way to keep you out of my head. And with that, the line went dead.
The greasy haired man spent several moments pacing back and forth in front of the door to his suite as he considered his options. The revised plan he was stuck with was idiotic. There was a chance for a huge coup as a result, but the original plan had been a far safer bet. But the powers that be had decreed a change, and he was powerless in the face of orders from on high. And the Dean can get around Mirror’s static trick. But maybe… A smile lit up his face as a realization was made. She can get around it, but it’s not perfect. Otherwise she should have gotten enough to screw me with last night.
The cell phone reappeared from within the jacket and a number was quickly dialed. “Good morning, Mirror.”
“Good morning Walter, you’re really late!”
“Yes, I was just made aware of that by the Dean herself. You know, you failed to clue me in on a few important things I really should have known as part of the Oversight Committee.”
“And what things would those be?”
“You never mentioned that keeping one of your static doubles trailing around with me all year would do jack and shit for keeping my thoughts private from the woman who FUCKING TAUGHT YOU HOW TO DO IT!” There was a pause and what sounded like a stifled giggle from the other end of the conversation.
“My, my, Walter. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that much genuine anger from you before. Does having a conversation from a safe distance give you a shot of manliness?”
“Cut the bullshit, Mirror. You and I are in charge of the Oversight Committee that is INVESTIGATING the Overton HCP. You knew that I wanted one of your static doubles to make sure that nothing sensitive was being leaked to the people we were charged with investigating by the GOD DAMNED SENATE.”
“Relax a little Walter. If you’d read the briefings like you REALLY should have, you’d have noticed where I went to school, who my Instructors were, and the fact that the static clones only MITIGATE an Advanced Mind’s ability to read thought. I never claimed it completely negated it.”
“And you still don’t think you own any responsibility for failing to mention that their ISN’T any mitigation when dealing with Dean Jilles?”
“Seriously, calm down. Dean Jilles is probably in the top twenty most powerful telepaths in the country, and she taught me the trick in the first place, but it still makes it more challenging for her to pick things up.”
A wider smile that transferred no sentiment at all to his voice grew across the brown haired man’s face. Confirmation! “Then why is it that the Dean was fully aware of my intention to use Oversight’s authority to replace the ‘traditional’ final with a more exacting curriculum?”
“That would probably be because you have a tendency to gloat, Walter. You didn’t inform anyone else on the committee about what you had planned, but I’m pretty sure everyone figured out you had something in the works months ago.”
Dammit, stupid. Okay, lesson learned, need to not focus on anything in particular. And… “So in the interest of keeping any further secret details SECRET, would two statics be more effective than one?” And maybe plan B isn’t quite so suicidal as it looked five minutes ago.
The young auburn haired woman was practically vibrating from all the emotional strain ramming against her mind from all sides. Excitement, fear, confidence, nervousness, stress, the full gamut of anticipatory emotions assaulted the young telepath as she stood in the short line waiting to get extra equipment approved for the upcoming exam. Standing just ahead of Catalina was the still arguing form of Eloise, who had carted in a truly epic number of weapon cases to be examined by Coach Rachd.
“I don’t care if you somehow got a license for it, or if you’re rated to use it, or anything else. You are not approved to bring a 17mm Gauss Cannon into your final exam!”
“This is bullshit, I don’t HAVE a combat based ability. If I’m going to do any damage to a damned armored robot, it’s going to be with the right hardware! Ames can probably punch as hard as anything the 17mm can put out!”
“Fucking Christ, James. You are paired up with Shang, which makes the two of you number eight in the lineup. Tell you what, in the unlikely event that the first SEVEN teams all completely fail to disable the FOUR RCUs, you are approved to use the 25mm auto, now put the Sci Fi shit away and show me something you realistically expect to use in the final you should be realistically expecting to take!”
Catalina tuned out the remainder of the argument at the table in front of her and turned to survey the room instead. Erin and Amelia had consecutively picked the class’s two teleporters as their partners for the upcoming exam, leaving virtually no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Oversight’s ‘special final’ would be ended by the time the second team finished. The traditional Overton final was far more in depth than a simple grudge match with a piece of military hardware, and the hispanic girl had to smile at the realization that the teams expecting to take on Walter Raines’ best shot were the least nervous of those in the room. Far fewer variable to worry about at leas-…
“WAKE UP BLAKE!” Catalina started as she realized that the discussion ahead of her had apparently concluded and the coach had been trying to get her attention for several seconds. “Hope you’ve got better focus than that for the real thing. Please tell me you aren’t bringing any artillery?”
“Nothing quite so dramatic.” The auburn haired telepath presented the same M4 loaded with paint rounds that she had been qualified with for the joint Force Ops exercise a few months earlier. In deference to the presence of military robots there was an additional magazine of armor piercing rounds with the words, ‘Just In Case,’ written on the side in silver point. Also present were several sets of lightweight wrist restraints, and the tiny silver canister of Tara Warren’s special recipe Super Mace.
“And these are?” The muscular man lifted the magazine loaded with tungsten rounds suggestively as he spoke.
“Those are for the extremely unlikely event that the eleventh team still has to face a robot.” She smiled at the withering look the Combat Instructor offered. “You just finished telling Eloise that she could take a genuine artillery piece in if there were any robots left, I figured I might as well plan for the unlikely scenarios also.”
Rachd responded with a short laugh and made a notation on the clipboard he held behind the table. “Accepted, although you will be personally responsible for apologizing to anyone you spray that crap of Warren’s on.”
Catalina drifted away from the table to see that she had been the second to last to get her additional equipment checked out. Considering the very last person was the very Tara Warren whose invention was just recently being discussed, the young telepath assumed there was still plenty of time before things got started.
As if to contradict her train of thought, the door to the observation lounge opened to reveal the HCP Dean and Walter Raines, today flanked by a pair of Mirror’s duplicates instead of the single he usually had following him around. The Dean offered a brief, stern look at the auburn haired girl as she entered to serve as a reminder to an earlier conversation. Catalina’s unusual ability to completely ignore Mirror’s normally quite effective static duplicates had gathered a few bits of very useful information over the course of the year. But as things came to a conclusion and the second in command of the Oversight Committee had apparently committed his best cards to the game, the Dean had warned the younger telepath to steer clear of the slimy politician’s mind as best she could for the time being. With so many wheels in motion, the HCP did not want there to be any grounds for any objections. Technically Raines held a significant security clearance at present, and problems could potentially arise if Catalina were to overhear something that an HCP student shouldn’t know.
“I apologize for the slight delay in getting things started, though I understand that it’s not really a noticeable one when final approval for all equipment hasn’t been managed yet.” The Dean’s opening statement caused the only student still waiting for review to blush a brilliant shade of crimson, and drew a few somewhat strained chuckles from the assembly. “Without any further ado, since I believe we would all like to finish these exams as quickly as possible, I believe Ms Jacobson and Ms Abbot are up first against their adversaries in simulation room one.”
“Dean Jilles, I must request a slight delay as RCUs 3 and 4 have not yet arrived at their designated staging room!” Considering the hostility directed towards the greasy politician, it was unsurprising to Catalina to see the man sweating and stammering a bit as he attempted to interrupt the Dean.
The petite woman turned towards the taller man. “And what could possibly have delayed half of your robots from reaching the simulation room?”
“Well, in examining the Overton freshman final protocols on my way here, I noted that there was a second simulation room designated usable by this freshman class. In order to allow for a wider variety of testing variables, I had two of the units sent to the secondary site.”
Dean Jilles voice came out very tightly controlled. “And what made you think that this was a good idea, Mr Raines?”
“Our apologies, Dean.” Jeremy Kreid, previously unseen behind one of the twin Mirror duplicates stepped forward as his employer shrank back from the suddenly dangerous looking woman in front of him. “But it is our understanding that Overton has always attempted to include additional variables that will not drastically change the overall final scenario in order to create a more robust testing base. Additionally I am sure you will find that our selection is fully within the grounds of the established regulations.”
The short woman turned her glare to the personal assistant as he dove into the conversation to rescue his boss. “Yes, Mr Kreid, I imagine I would find that your selection is completely within regulations. Very well, Ms Jacobson, Ms Abbot, I know it’s a bit disappointing but you will only be discovering a maximum of two of the much vaunted RCUs in your exam. In accordance with the rules of this exam, you have two minutes to strategize and then ten minutes to inflict as much damage as possible against your targets. Begin.”
The two girls that made up the first team immediately began a short conference, Catalina knew they were simply confirming the plan they’d already come up with over an hour ago, now simplified with having only two targets to deal with. The young telepath found the nearly frantic politician far more entertaining to watch while she waited for the show to begin.
“Dean Jilles, I understand that as an HCP faculty you must feel a certain amount of favor and faith for your students, but surely you must acknowledge that they are facing state of the art military hardware. It would not reflect poorly on your program if you were to wait until all four RCUs are in position and allow four teams to take them on simultaneously! In the current configuration your students could end up faci-…”
“Yes, Mr Raines. The students could end up facing more than one opponent at a time. In that ONE aspect we have managed to make your mockery of an exam function closer to the real world we are SUPPOSED to be simulating with these tests.” The Dean was no longer bothering to conceal her disdain for the man as she cut him off. “Now you will be silent and observe these exams, if you insist on continuously interrupting then you WILL be removed for interfering with HCP testing. Do you understand?”
Raines looked like he was about to launch another protest, but his assistant quickly stepped in front of him with an earnest expression on his face. “Of course, Dean Jilles. We apologize for our failing to properly observe protocol. We will be happy to observe.”
“We’re ready, Dean!” Catalina’s attention swiveled back to see the first team casually waiting to be acknowledged, neither girl demonstrating any real feeling of anxiety as they were about to engage real live killer robots in combat.
“You two are certain of your plan?”
“Yes Dean. I drop Amelia off and get out of the way, she breaks the robot. I pick her up and drop her off at the second robot, she breaks the robot.” Beulah wore a smile as she described the ridiculously simple strategy, though there was a bit of a disappointed look in her eye as she realized she probably wasn’t going to see much excitement today.
“I’ve definitely seen worse plans put into play in real world situations. At your leisure, ladies.”
The entire class turned their attention to the large monitor. The nine foot tall armored frame came into perfect HD focus on the screen, patrolling slowly around the very same building that was the focus of the freshman midterm a few short months ago. A brief crackling sound came over the speakers as the first team appeared about a hundred feet away from the RCU. The smaller darkhaired girl immediately vanished again to reappear back in the observation lounge as her teammate charged forward.
“Ms Abbott?” The Dean looked startled to see the Israeli woman return.
“The plan is for me to observe from a safe location til Ames is done, and this is abou-…” Beulah was interrupted as the armored figure on the screen noted the new arrival rapidly approaching and a pair of hip mounted machine guns opened fire on the skinny blonde.
The entire room sat enraptured by the action on the screen as Amelia quickly covered her head to protect it from the gunfire, then dove through a wall and out of the RCUs line of sight. The muscular Combat Instructor turned a dangerous look towards the politician and his assistant.
“That looked an awful lot like live fucking rounds Mr Raines.”
Walter Raines faculty for speech briefly deserted him, and Catalina and several other students were forced to suppress giggles at the terrified expression on the man’s face before his assistant again leapt to the rescue.
“As you are aware, Professor Rachd, the RCUs have a number of variable systems for these examinations. Ms Jacobson’s durability is of significant note that the variable system is simply using standard ammunition as a non-lethal deterrent based on her abilities.” The young telepath was a little nonplussed to note that, while he seemed to lack no confidence in the speech he had just given, he was as surprised as anyone else in the room at the apparent presence of live ammunition in the exercise.
Before further consideration could be taken, the speakers in the observation room transmitted a thunderous crashing sound as a huge section of the building exploded outwards towards the waiting RCU. Machine guns opened fire once again, as did the heavy shoulder mounted cannon, strafing through the rubble with explosive force. Gasps of shock at the apparent presence of live artillery rounds were cut off by cheering as the skinny braided girl reappeared, not amongst the falling rubble but catapulting out of a window to the side of the massive distraction she had created. Her robotic opponent apparently noted her emergence and attempted to bring its weapons to bear once again, but this time the blonde closed too quickly and came in with a sweeping strike that ripped both the smaller firearms off the waist of the robot.
Attempting to create distance and bring its formidable shoulder mounted weaponry back into play, one of the long arms lashed out at the young woman with a wickedly pointed hydraulic clamp, only to find the massive limb caught in the girl’s comparatively tiny hand and stopped as if it had attempted to swat a mountain out of its path. With a display of truly inhuman strength the pavement split beneath Amelia’s feet as she braced her other hand against the robot in front of her and tore the arm off at the elbow. Without waiting to see how it would respond to the maiming, her braced hand dug into the armor plating of the RCUs stomach as if it were heavy cloth, and she brought her other hand to brace against the metal surface of its upper leg.
The entire room sat silently in awe as they were treated to, for many the first time, a true display of the number one ranked student’s incredible strength. With a scream somewhere between primal rage and joyous victory, Amelia Jacobson ripped seven tons of state of the art military hardware in half. Hydraulic fluid gushed around her as the legs in front of her spasmed several times, then fell. Amelia then brought her left arm up to grip the still aloft torso alongside her right, and smashed the RCU’s upper body into the ground with a pavement shattering crash. Several small explosions rocked along the mangled upper body as one of the magazines ruptured and the propellant inside detonated from the force of the impact. The skinny young woman, now soaked in various fluids from her decimated artificial opponent, offered a triumphant fist pump towards the camera observing her action.
Seeing her friend’s incredible triumph stun the room speechless, Catalina couldn’t resist the temptation to peek at the dumbstruck politician’s thoughts to see how he was handling the sight of his plan being torn down by a single young girl and her impossible strength. The first robot had lasted less than three minutes.
As the auburn haired telepath discretely scanned across the near hyperventilating man’s mind, she ran into something far more unexpected than anything she had just seen on the monitor. She checked again, then deeper, and she felt the blood drain out away from her face in shock as she turned to direct a covert mental scream towards the petite HCP Dean.
“DEAN JILLES!” The young hispanic woman saw the older telepath wince at the volume of her frantic shout, and tried to keep her thoughts more calm as she carefully kept her face averted from the politician’s line of sight. “Dean Jilles, that man is NOT Walter Raines!”