And now for all of you, a look at that story you've heard me mention. Tension Rising, I call it. :D Hehe so...without further ado (I've always wanted to say that)...let the games...er, the story begin!
The Elite Legion Academy was searching. They needed a thousand boys this year to fill the place of another thousand men and boys that had died defending their planet years ago in the Sweep, a galactic battle which had killed thousands and thousands of them. They needed to combat the hostile races of aliens and creatures they found.
The children they found amounted to nothing. Some were fair, but none had made the right friends or learned right and some of them were just plain vile. The Elite Legion had to go into their resources and assign the children to adult leaders in the end, when they went into battle.
They wanted to end this galactic war. They wanted to bring back the faraway soldiers that waited patiently for either conquest or death, for either salvation or destruction. They also wanted to bring back the nearby soldiers that had been stationed for years, soldiers that had boarded the ships as children and waited there now as adults. They wanted desperately to reunite those soldiers with their families. They needed a golden child. A boy that could last without being corrupted by other children. A boy with the strategies of an adult. A boy who could do great things and make logical reasoning beyond what some adults could do. And they found this golden child in a seven year old named Emmett Callahan.
Emmett Callahan was a seven year old boy they had found. He was beyond just intelligent, he was listed as a state prodigy and he soon reached the top of that list. The Elite Legion Selection Squad took a look at his complete record.
Emmett was perfect. He had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping once before, if you could call it that. Four year old Emmett had made it out of the kidnapping just fine and the kidnapper...the kidnapper was found dead in his truck. The only logical answer the Elite Legion could come up with was that the then four-year old Emmett had killed his captor.
Only yesterday an incident involving Emmett had occurred. They had recovered one of the school cameras. About six older boys had tried to gang up on Emmett. The result was not pretty.
They watched as the six larger boys surrounded Emmett. The small boy kept up his cool. When one of them finally reached out to grab him, Emmett grabbed the boy's arm and twisted sharply. The boy screamed...broken arm, the Selection Squad had determined. They watched as the other boys soon ended up on the ground soon. They had gotten the results from the hospital. One boy had died of a torn lung, likely to have been caused when Emmett mercilessly stomped on him. The rest had either broken bones and there was one in critical condition as well. The Selection Squad presented the results to Colonel Albreich.
"How do you know he's the one?" Colonel Albreich had asked them as they reviewed the video with him for the umpteenth time.
"He didn't accidentally inflict those injuries. Look." one of them pointed out. They watched as Emmett, without even a hint of hesitation, slammed his foot down hard on one boy's -- the boy that had died -- chest. They zoomed in and bumped up the quality significantly and watched the video again, keeping a close eye on the boy's expressions. There wasn't anything to suggest that the boy was shocked at the extent of injury he had. He wore a face that was cold.
"He knows full well what he's doing. He intended to cause those kind of injuries from the start. The only time he stops attacking is when he's scrutinizing exactly where he should hit them next. He knows exactly what he's doing."
"Fine then...bring him in. Put him on the list. I don't care how young he his."
Emmett froze where he stood. Six older boys walked towards him, spreading out. He knew by the pattern of their footsteps and just by pure logic alone that they were surrounding him. Fine, let them. Emmett could handle this. He knew how to break bones. He knew how to cause injury. The second-in-command reached to grab Emmett. Now was Emmett's chance.
Emmett grabbed his arm and twisted it. He heard the snap and a scream of pain, but Emmett did not display that it bothered him in any way. He kicked one over, made two run into each other, dodged a fourth and shoved him to the ground. He brought his leg up, determining where the blow would do the most damage and then brought it down, full strength on the leader's chest. The leader was gasping now. A torn lung was likely. But Emmett didn't care. This is what you get when you mess with me, Emmett thought. I'll tear you apart.
Emmett exited campus looking as if nothing at all had happened, leaving the six beaten bullies to fend for themselves. Emmett had done what he had to, and no one would ever mess with him again at this school.
Emmett arrived at home. He was the youngest of four brothers. Not many families had four kids. Twos and threes were the common amount. But Emmett's family had managed. Emmett's older brothers were all mean to him though. As Emmett could not kill any of his brothers without there being a real problem, Emmett just did his best to avoid them.
But the next day something different happened. He walked downstairs at six o'clock sharp to eat breakfast, which was a part of a usual routine of his and he found his mother crying at the kitchen table. He stopped dead in his tracks. This was unexpected. Emmett froze up for a moment. This was strange and uncomfortable. This wasn't in his daily regimen. Emmett hated it when something unexpected happened, but he grew accustomed to it. It was a shame that the rest of the world couldn't work with the same routine he had.
His father walked over and put a hand on Emmett's shoulder. Emmett looked up at his father, a questioning look to his face.
"Emmett...son. You remember the special story we told you years ago? The one where a special group of people call a thousand boys to go become soldiers?" his father asked and Emmett froze where he stood as a man from the Elite Legion walked into the room from the other doorway. Emmett and the man looked at each other but Emmett didn't smile, didn't pale, didn't get nervous.
"You came for me, didn't you?" Emmett asked, keeping his level of cool in his voice.
"Bright one, aren't you? Of course I'm here for you. None of your imbecile brothers could ever make it into a program like mine. Now are you going to agree to come? Without crying because you don't want to go without mommy and daddy?" the man replied.
"Of course." Emmett said. He liked how this man was. He was being kind of a hard-ass but Emmett preferred this behavior rather than being babied. He hated it when adults looked down on him. "But aren't I a little young? I thought it was age eight to eighteen. I've only just turned seven."
"That's true. You're younger than our usual selections. But we've decided to take you because you seem to be worth something. Better than our usual selections."
"So I'm the youngest the Elite Legion has ever selected, am I?"
"Yes. You are. Can we get going now? It's a long way to the training center and unlike the boys that you put in the hospital, I cannot afford to spend free time."
Emmett turned to his mother and father and said his last goodbyes. It was unsure if he'd ever see them again. But Emmett didn't cry and he didn't say goodbye to his brothers, who were thankfully all sleeping.
It was indeed a long drive. Emmett didn't need to play childish games like I Spy. He just let his thoughts wander to entertain him. He was left to sit alone in the back seat and he could really do anything he wanted here. He first began to list all multiples of four, then he proceeded to let his imagination run wild when he had gotten into the ten-thousands.
He imagined all sorts of creatures and made them run wild in the landscape he saw out the window. He imagined the arts and crafts supplies back at home and incorporated them into his imaginations. He made heroes made of many different pieces of colored construction paper in his head, fighting clay monsters and aided by small mythological creatures made of colored yarn.
In this manner he had passed the time accordingly and soon they had arrived. Emmett got out of the truck, taking the first step into his destiny.
(Some chapters...okay well either one or two are missing because I didn't write them yet)
THE LOST FRIENDSHIP
So that was how it was going to be, huh? Emmett's eyes tingled for fear of crying, but then Emmett stopped this unwanted reaction. Though Eli seemed clearly to reject Emmett this was no reason for Emmett to be in any way disappointed. Emmett had dealt with worse before and Emmett knew that if he still wanted a shot at being commander, then it was time to get over Eli. It took more than a little rejection to wear Emmett down, and just because Eli didn't seem to want Emmett's friendship, Emmett knew better. Emmett was capable of finding others to take Eli's place. And Emmett always reminded himself that he needed to focus on being the best and crushing the enemy.
When Emmett reached up to rub his right eye there was no wetness, and he had done so because of an itch. He kept his composure in an almost unnatural way, presenting his usual cold, calculating face...the face that lied sometimes. Emmett wasn't ever going to let anyone in, not unless he was absolutely sure that he trusted them with his life. Emmett may have only been a seven year old boy, but Emmett was ruthless. His rock-hard determination broke for no one. He then found a simple way to even forget Eli. He recalled James, a boy who had done a similar thing. He then made a mask for himself in his head, a mask that looked exactly like James, and then he placed that mask over Eli. Unworthy, it said and Emmett almost smiled internally.
When time for the new lesson came, Emmett waited outside of the battlefloor with not even a glance cast in Eli's direction. If Eli ever did want to pursue a friendship again, he would have to come to Emmett for it. Emmett would not go to him. Going to someone else...that would be a sign of weakness. And Emmett was not weak. No, Emmett was strong, so strong even that he beat the sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year olds at the battle game. Maybe that was why fifteen year old Eli didn't like Emmett. He resented him for his ability, just like the others.
Not everyone was like that. When it came time to do the actual classwork, things got much better. Emmett' prior request to change seats soon placed him away from Eli and next to an older boy named Damon King. Damon was a tall black boy -- Eli's age -- that played football. Though he was clearly a much different character than Eli...Emmett liked Damon. He was goofy, funny and spontaneous. Much funnier than Eli even. Though the boy clearly had visible raw power -- being a football player and all -- he was one of the nicest boys Emmett had ever met in this school.
The older boy was often so busy with football and sports that he rarely made time for work. So it was not surprising when one day he asked for Emmett's help.
Emmett was done with his packet, first as usual. The class was watching a movie and Emmett had missed nothing, as he had let the information enter his mind while he worked and it stayed there. It had only been five minutes so far, and when Emmett flipped over his packet as a means to expose only the blank back of it, Damon noticed.
"Hey...can I copy your packet?" Damon asked. It was History work, and in History virtually everyone would have to have the same answer to have the right one.
"Sure." Emmett said, handing his packet to Damon. For the first time, Emmett saw an easy opportunity at friendship.
Damon smiled at him, looking a little more than just grateful. The look on Damon's face was comparable to what it would have looked like if Emmett had just saved one of Damon's limbs.
"Thanks so much Emmett." Damon said, taking the packet from Emmett in a way that was not harsh or careless, but gentle and careful. He obviously appreciated Emmett's kind gesture and was going to show a careful amount of respect to Emmett for it, at least by being gentle with Emmett's packet of work.
Emmett decided then that it may be time to pursue friendship. After all, by the time he was made a commander he needed a team, didn't he?
"Say Damon?" Emmett asked.
"Huh?" Damon replied.
"How bout you come train with me in the battlezone?" Emmett asked. "They let me get in free sessions whenever I want."
Now that got Damon's interest, as Damon was clearly more interested in the physical side of their education.
"Yeah sure. How about lunch tomorrow?" Damon suggested and it was set.
The next day though, they got a whirlwind of new opportunities. They were introducing something new to the students.
The launchpads were circular touch-sensitive "crash pads" ringed by a circle of shiny titanium. They were an innovative new tool. They came in mostly blue, but other colors were occasionally present.
The other students refused to use the launch pads. They claimed that they were useless and avoided it when in battle most of the time. Emmett soon saw why.
Emmett had been willing to try it. He ran towards one of the launchpads before throwing himself onto it. He felt himself almost stick to it, as if it seemed to pull in, even seeming to make a sound comparable to the sound of a breath being drawn in until everything seemed to be silent for a moment.
The launch pad made a noise like an explosion, becoming higher and higher pitched until it sounded like the wind mimicking a screamer firecracker. All of a sudden it flipped Emmett on his back and catapulted him, not the direction he had hoped for (straight up) but at an angle. He shot forward at that odd angle, flying, completely disoriented. He hurtled through the air, flipping so his head and feet often traded places. The sudden shifts in movement left him very disoriented and he got a sickening lurch whenever he flipped. Emmett slammed into another boy trying a launch pad and then plummeted straight down and very quickly, having only just repositioned himself to hit the center of the blue launch pad rather than the titanium ring surrounding it.
Emmett's legs hit the launch pad hard and thankfully the launch pad absorbed the brunt of the shock, otherwise Emmett's legs would have surely been broken, if not worse. Emmett prepared to be launched.
This time, to Emmett's surprise, he shot straight up, being flung about fifty feet in the air. Emmett marveled at the sight, and also about how easy it would be to shoot people if he were just a little lower. He angled himself correctly when in air, and landed on one of the few landing pads and watched the other students for a while.
Emmett watched as one boy charged at the launch pad, his head and shoulders almost level with the rest of his body as he charged forward like a bull. He hit the launch pad, his body almost parallel with the ground. The launch pad then flung the boy forward, so low to the ground that other boys had to move out of his way as he hurtled forward.
The reason why Emmett had a hard time understanding them at first was because they seemed to be unpredictable. Rather than launch people straight up as it "should" have, it seemed to launch them in sporadic, random directions. That was why the other boys avoided it...it made no sense to them. But after closely examining it, Emmett figured it out.
The launch pad didn't launch you up, but it launched in at the opposite direction that you hit it from, like it was deflecting. How high you flew in the air, that depended on the speed you hit the launch pad at. The only way to go straight up was for your feet to hit the launch pad from straight up. If you just jumped on it, you'd end up flying at an angle. If you dived onto it, you flew far but low to the ground.
Emmett tested out this theory. It took a few tries but he soon proved his point and before long, he was flying very well. He had learned the right positions to assume before and after hitting the launch pad. He had learned what to do if he angled wrong or judged the angle he would fly at incorrectly and learned the best things to do, the best positions to take in that situation. He learned also to reorient himself to make flight less sickening and frightening. Emmett had also learned a crucial thing only veterans of the battlezone ought to know, and that was keeping himself calm and keeping himself from tightening up in flight.
Emmett soon saw Damon struggling and decided to help his new friend.
"You can't keep your old orientations." Emmett explained. "Don't think of the wall as the wall any more. Think of it as a landing pad and land on the surface of it. Or kick off of it. And try to keep your muscles loose and ready when you're flying through the air. If you lock up then it's hard to do much anything."
Damon tried and with Emmett quietly explaining how the launch pads worked, he and Damon were soon soaring freely around the outdoor enclosure, Damon grinning as they bounced against the padded walls of the enclosure and the ceiling at times. Thankfully Damon had promised to keep Emmett's secrets about flight and the launch pads to himself. Emmett noticed the other boys looking on jealously. Now Emmett and Damon both had an advantage over them in the play battles they did in the battlezone. Eli didn't seem to be too happy about this.
The next "plaything" they got for the battles was a special set of walls placed in by the corner.
"The propulsion walls react with your battle boots. Observe." Colonel Albreich said. He kicked off one wall in the corner and kicked off the next, rising higher and higher in that manner as the boys below let out cries and cheers in awe.
"Emmett, why don't you show us how it's done?" Albreich said with a grin. Emmett wanted to respond back angrily. "Why do you always make me do it? Why do you have to set me apart from the others?" But Emmett merely nodded and kept up his cold facade. He would not make a fuss or throw a tantrum. He would simply listen, think and react. Hear, think, do. That was all he allowed himself to have the capacity for. He was a machine, a machine that mechanically did what it was told by the adults while secret formations began in its head.
Emmett had carefully observed the kind of kick and the speed at which it was done and easily accomplished the task, making his way up to touch the roof and gripping the wall carefully enough to slide down. He made it look easy, but it was actually hard.
The other boys slipped and fell and Damon and other football players had the best grasp on it, but not nearly enough. Emmett taught Damon how to do it again, as usual. But he felt a sort of gap between he and the others. He needed to form a group.
Emmett soon found an excellent candidate. There was an Asian boy named Erick. Erick was ambitious but somewhat eccentric. This slight eccentricity made him a target for bullying for the other boys. Emmett found that he was needy of a friend and was picked up into a boy named Ezekiel's group early on. Ezekiel, however, was a bully and he loved to prove it. Ezekiel made fun of Erick, for various reasons.
"Erick ought to join the circus with a face like that." Ezekiel said. There was really nothing that wrong with how Erick looked, but Ezekiel was Ezekiel so he used any possibly reason of bullying. Erick stormed off angrily and sat down in fetal position in one of the empty outdoor hallways.
"Hello Erick." Emmett said. Emmett had been walking idly through the hallway when he noticed Erick. Erick looked up, lifting his face up to look at Emmett.
"Hey." Erick said.
"What's the matter?" Emmett said, with just a bit of empathy in his voice.
"Zeke and his gang....jerks." Erick muttered under his breath. "If only I could beat them."
"You can." Emmett said quietly. Erick looked up, surprised.
"How?" Erick asked.
"Well...if you meet the right people. They can teach you how to fight." Emmett said. He had just found Ezekiel's chip, the very thing he had needed for his next plan. While Ezekiel was busy bothering Erick, Emmett had snuck into the bunks and stole the chip from Ezekiel's MicroWorker. Now he had the final ingredient for payback.
He pulled out his own MicroWorker, which was not uncommon as many kids used their MicroWorkers to play games and watch videos during break. He found the special chip port and plugged Ezekiel's chip in. Emmett himself kept his own chip in a very safe place, in the DNA locker where no one other than himself could get it. Ezekiel had not thought of this.
At once a window of text appeared. Emmett smiled when he saw the information. It was Ezekiel's history on his Microworker, listing which files he had, which documents he had created or edited, which games and videos he had looked at, which materials and resources he had used. It also displayed his grades, personal information, secrets, fears, weaknesses and just about everything. It even knew which set of the chipped uniforms he was wearing and it displayed exactly where he was on the map. It was too perfect for Emmett. Emmett pointed at it and smiled, showing it to Erick. Erick was in disbelief for a moment before a smile spread across his face.
Emmett quickly ran to the barracks and placed the chip back in Ezekiel's MicroWorker, his computer having obtained all the information it would ever need. It was a quick process Emmett had learned, and he had already stolen such information from almost all of the new students, including Erick, Damon and even Eli.
Erick was surprised by this collection but made no objections to being part of it himself.
"What happens if you leave your chip somewhere?" Erick had asked him.
"Easy. I've set it up with my MicroWorker so that this chip responds ONLY to my MicroWorker, and even then it's under scanner-lock. They would have to link it to the DNA Locker and scan their hand and if it was anyone other than me...access denied." Emmett explained cooly.
"Can you set mine up the same way?" Erick asked.
"Sure." Emmett said. It was a quick procedure, but soon enough, Erick had the same heightened security that Emmett did. It wasn't a hard procedure, as Emmett had done the same exact thing for Damon so now there were three students in the school that could not be hacked.
"Meet Damon and I at the battlezone at lunch." Emmett said and Erick agreed. And now, Emmett was proud. He had won two friends despite all odds and that was enough for him so far. He had been sturdy and defiant while still intelligent and compliant. And it had payed off. He could hack his and his new friends' enemies, outlast them in the games and even fly by them academically. And he would keep doing it, because this was not just a school, not just a battle, not just a game, not just a contest.
It was Emmett's game. And Emmett was determined to be the winner.