“Have you got the stuff?”
You can never be too careful when you’re dealing out of your locker, especially not when there are snitches all over the place who would be more than glad to turn me over to the cops. The dark haired boy gave me a grin and then leaned in.
“All the world’s a stage.”
With a relieved sigh, I responded in kind.
“And all the men and women merely players. So, what’ll it be? I’ve got pretty much everything.”
He handed me his backpack and turned to block the view.
“I’m looking for one of the classics.” Again his voice went hushed. “Hobbit.”
I stuffed the old paperback into his bag and shoved it back into his arms.
“Good choice. You remember the deal?”
“I’ll get it there by Friday.”
Friday after school, I went to the mall with every other student in my class, just like every week. It was agonizingly painful, especially knowing that soon I’d be getting home to a new offering for my supply. I had to read through it before I made it available to others…and check it over for bugs. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had bugged something from my stash to try and catch us. Too bad me and my folks are smarter than them. Looking around, I knew I had to buy something before I left or it would look odd. Everyone else was lapping up the pointless sales and the never-ending rounds of cheap entertainment. Turning a corner to go into one of the shops to find a new sweater, I nearly stumbled over a pair of kids from school knocking boots right there on the floor. Not making a sound, I just crept back out and went somewhere else, hating that this was normal.
“It’s not a school.”
That blunt statement rendered the whole room silent and all eyes fell on the young man standing in the open doorway. His eyes were bleak, his hair roughly shorn, and his clothes torn and stained. He limped forward, expression sober as he surveyed the room. They were worried. Good. A little fear would do them good right now. It would bolster them before they had to go do what was necessary.
“Of course it’s a school. What else could it be?”
The woman who spoke clung to the hand of the man beside her. She was shaking. Tremors in her hands. From nerves or something else, the young man wondered. Diagnostics weren’t his specialty. Turning slowly, he looked at the small podium in the front of the room and stretched a hand out towards it. The microphone flew across the room to him and he caught it with ease.
“It’s a training facility. To train super soldiers, spies, and assassins. They said the students would shape the future with their minds and they meant it very literally.”
“Who are you?” That man stood near the front. Arms out, puffing his chest up and spreading his shoulders. He was trying to look big. Of course, he was scared. There was the dilation of his pupils. “What are you?”
“I am Private Gabriel Branson Jr. and so far as I know, I am quite human. Genetically tampered with, but human.”
That stopped them all in their mental tracks once again. Branson. Dr. Gabriel Branson ran the Academy.
“But that would make-”
“I’m my father’s first little experiment. I’m how he knew how to modify your children when they enrolled. And if you’d like to get them all back before he turns them even more into weapons, I suggest you listen to me.”