May dodged to the side of Patrick’s punch just in time. It landed onto a car, smashing through the front as if tin foil. Rivulets of metal ran down from the hole Patrick left in it. Jared came in from behind Patrick and slammed into the back of Patrick’s knee with a low kick that had Jared’s entire body weight behind it. Patrick went over backwards.
Jared leapt on top of Patrick and pulled the pin on a stun grenade, using his own body to shield May from its blast. The noise was still a little disorienting, but May recovered nicely and quickly tied a poly carbonate rope around the fallen Patrick’s hands and feet. This new rope wouldn’t be something he could easily burn through.
An alarm blared. “Enough,” came Mirkov’s voice over a speaker. “You did well.” Finally, thought May. Jared got up. His leg was smoking from where he’d kicked Patrick. She could see the burns healing through the parts of clothing that had been charred off. It was a lot better than their last training exercise, where Patrick took off half of his face and knocked out most of his teeth with a quick jab.
May had not fared much better the last couple of times, losing her surrogates. Usually Patrick destroyed them mercifully quick, devastating kicks and punches destroying her clones before they could transmit much pain. But the last training exercise he’d caught her by a leg. She could still remember the burning and the smell of scorched flesh before she terminated her connection to the surrogate and left it to its fate.
She missed her energy projector. Battles like this would have been over quickly if they were allowed to use them, but the higher ups wanted them to be able to take down dangerous opponents with less potentially lethal methods. Especially after the fiasco with the bus. They wanted to capture more potential soldiers like Patrick and minimize collateral damage.
“Damn that stings,” Jared complained, rubbing his eyes.
“At least you can heal,” Patrick grumbled from the ground in susurrus tones. He began to change form from the volcanic golem he could become into his human appearance. “I’m going to be half blind for hours. And half deaf. Ugh, my ears won’t stop ringing. Can you guys please untie me?”
May smirked and went to release Patrick from his bindings. Patrick rubbed his wrists where the rope had dug into flesh and glowered.
“This one of the boy genius’s toys?” he asked.
“Yeah, he gave us it to use this morning,” Jared replied. “He and doctor Mirkov figured we would need better restraint measures for behemoths like you.”
“Heh, figures. One of these days I’m going to squash that little twerp like a bug.”
Good luck, May thought. When they first brought her here she tried to use one of her surrogates to punch the little bastard out for making the nuero-chip they used to control her. She’d lost the surrogate when Krieg used a repulsion shield he built to crush it into a wall. She wasn’t sure why they didn’t make Krieg share such a useful device with their other soldiers, though suspected it was because they couldn’t. The ten year old invented what he felt like inventing and shared what he wanted to share. If there was ever a time their higher ups were able to compel Krieg to work for them, it was before May had been drafted. But she knew he enjoyed watching his gadgets put to use and working for a government agency like Grey Snow was the best way to do that.
None of the other Empowered, as Doctor Mirkov called them when he wasn’t calling them specials, was very fond of Krieg. Even ignoring the fact that he invented the chip used to enslave them, he was an arrogant and obnoxious little kid.
“Do we get to eat anytime soon?” Jared asked. It was only eleven, but healing always made him ravenous. This was especially the case when he was first starting out. Mirkov wanted Jared to be as useful as possible before throwing him into the field, so he made him undergo an intensive training program. He correctly predicted that Jared’s healing ability would let him endure multiple weight and cardio sessions a day, rapidly rebuilding damaged muscle and connective tissue.
He also was able to endure a considerable amount of combat training, healing from punches and kicks delivered by multiple assailants. Between his increased physical fitness and nearly nonstop practice, he had improved immensely. May suspected his fighting ability would even surpass hers soon, though they’d still have to see if he could kill a real opponent. Given the nature of their goals, she hoped he wouldn’t have to find out.
But the first couple of weeks he’d spent half the day getting beaten bloody and then eating a lot of the mediocre food they had here to get ready for another round. Even now he ate five or six meals a day.
“Seriously, I’m famished,” Patrick added in. He was always famished. From what he said, his appetite came from long before he got his powers.
“Yes. You may have a thirty minute break. Training will recommence in gym 32.”
“Ugh, they never give us enough time to eat,” grumbled Patrick.
“You’d be eating all day if they did,” May said. She paused a moment, pleased again to hear the new speaker she’d received this morning better conveyed her actual voice. It was a lot better than the tinny speaker she’d had the last couple of weeks. Maybe Jared and Patrick would warm to her more if she didn’t sound like a damn robot. At first they’d expressed open hostility towards her, blaming her for the death of their friends and their own personal circumstances.
That had waned when they learned she was as much a slave as they were, but they were still more standoffish with her than they were with each other. It might just be their common background, coming from the same place and having lost people they both knew, but she suspected it was at least partly because she was only allowed to deal with them through her surrogates.
She wondered for the hundredth time whether she should just transfer a portion of her voice to her surrogate. But the last time she’d done that her surrogate was injured in a training exercise. The pain had transmitted back to her and she had been unable to scream with her own lungs. The feeling had been traumatizingly disconcerting, far worse than the pain itself, and she’d never been able to part with her voice again. It was bad enough that both she and her surrogates needed special contacts since she shared her vision with them.
At least they can walk, she thought idly, stroking the wheel of her wheelchair. That wasn’t something she’d been able to do in her own body since quite some time before gaining her powers.
“What do you need more time to eat for? Not exactly like the food here’s worth savoring,” Jared commented.
“Yeah, but can be hard to choke it all down so fast,” Patrick replied.
“True that,” Jared replied. “They make hot dogs seem like gourmet food.”
“What do you think is in it?”
“No, peasants. I know the Redarctica government isn’t known for being very efficient, but maybe they decided not to let all those starving people of theirs go to waste.” Patrick looked ill at the thought, but May smiled. She wasn’t sure if Jared’s sense of humor had always been so dark, but she liked it.
“Sick man. That’s pretty sick,” Patrick told him.
“State of life these days,” Jared retorted.
Patrick considered a moment and then gave a shrug of agreement. They reached the cafeteria and got their trays. The food all had an unhealthy grey tint to it, but May knew it was actually well-tailored to provide nutrients to them. Unfortunately Krieg hadn’t bothered to give his specially designed super foods much taste. That or he had, but the higher ups didn’t want to spoil them.
Maybe it’s budget issues. The kid can be annoying but he might be making all sorts of awesome stuff for us and our bosses are just too cheap to give us it.
May watched as the two boys ate, always unsure of what to do. Her surrogate didn’t require sustenance and they didn’t really have enough time for her to try and engage them in conversation.
This sucks. I finally have partners and I still don’t really know how to connect with them. She sighed with her real body and began wondering when their first mission would begin.