I’ve decided to post the full text of my first novel, The Nephilim Protocol, on my blog for free, which I’ll be doing for the next month. People are hardly going to buy a book they don’t even know about, so if posting the book makes more people aware of it, even if they don’t buy it, wonderful. Plus, this way, I get to promo The Hospitaller Oath, which at this point I’m hoping to publish sometime in late August or mid-September.
Of course, as I said in an earlier post, the language is very explicit. This is the fourth and fifth chapter (because the fourth was too short), but if you want to read from the beginning, this is the first .
The big guy in the suit shows us into another room. “Here are your orientation packets,” he says, handing us four bright red rucksacks. They’re big, like the kind you use to go camping. “Start looking through them. Your upperclassman mentor will be in shortly.”
He closes the door. These people don’t seem to like being in the same room as us.
We examine our packets. Inside the bag are ten other turtlenecks of the exact size and shape as the ones we’re wearing. Mine have the number “984” stamped onto the shoulder. There’s some khaki pants in the bag also, with plastic-wrapped packages of socks and underwear, and a zip-locked bag of basic toiletries.
Taped to the exterior of the rucksack is a clear plastic bag. I rip it open.
“What is this?” says Olive Skin, who’s way ahead of the rest of us, holding up the garment that’s inside.
“A parka,” I say, recognizing the fur on the hood. “You wear it—”
“I’ve seen coats before, moron.”
“Ease off, towel jockey. Douche-chin here was trying to be helpful,” Fat Kid says, untangling the boots from where they’re laced to the bottom of the rucksack.
“Wow,” I say, turning on him. “Racist and idiotic. ‘Towel jockey’ isn’t even a thing. Is there something wrong with using people’s names?”
Fat Kid shrugs. “I don’t know them?”
Olive Skin speaks up. “They call me the Rich and Prosperous One.”
We look at him blankly. “What?” says Fat Kid.
“It’s just a name.” Rich-and-Prosperous-One looks at us. “What about you guys?”
Fat Kid rolls his eyes. “Weirdo. Fine, my name’s ‘Gracious’.”
Rich-and-Prosperous-One gives a dry chuckle. “What. Seriously?”
I try not to laugh. “Is that … like … a family name or something?”
Gracious looks at us. “No…. my family name is ‘He Who Lives on the Seawall.’ They’ve got these big seawalls in the Netherlands to keep the ocean rushing in. They call them dikes. A house on the seawall is a dike-house. Gracious-Man-who-Lives-on-the-Seawall.”
But this time, that’s not exactly what I hear. Instead, I hear the actual sounds he’s making. Miles Dikehouse.
Something clicks. “Quick test here,” I say, holding up my hands. “When I say ‘Gareth’, what do you hear?”
They both burst out laughing.
“Really, man? Gentle?” Rich and Prosperous says, “Seriously? Who names their kid …” But then something shifts in his face, and I can tell the same thing has clicked.
“We’re hearing translations of our names,” I say.
Rich and Prosperous slowly nods. “So … when I say ‘Rich and …’”
Except this time, I do hear it. Farez.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. Gracious is looking back and forth. “Whoah.”
“Names take some getting used to,” says a new voice. Standing in the doorway is a short, black, slightly chubby teenager, beaming a smile at us. He’s fully dressed in the winter gear we’re still unpacking. “Idioms as well. You should hear the name and not the translation the second or third time around.”
“You’re the upperclassman mentor?” asks … Farez.
The newcomer grins. “My name is Destroyer, Guardian of Humanity,” he says, extending a hand. “My parents were perhaps a bit dramatic. That is how I would describe them. Most here call me Destro”
“Oh, there should be gloves and a hat in your coat pockets,” Destro tells us, as we enter what looks like some sort of security station. “You may also want to put those on before we head out.”
“Seems like a lot of clothes,” says Farez, pulling them out. He’s having trouble walking in the boots we picked up from the supply station.
“I assure you, they’re necessary,” Destro says, smiling. He does a lot of that.
Our upperclassman mentor is a short, chubby guy, with wide smiling eyes and big ears that poke out from the sides of his close-cut afro. He’s wearing the same red parka we all have on, but the colors are faded, and it’s got a slightly different design. The number on the sleeve reads “847.”
Also, he’s black. I keep telling myself to stop thinking about that, but … this guy is really black. I mean obviously that doesn’t matter. I’m just saying it’s hard to ignore.
“We’re about to go outside, you say?” asks Miles.
“Shortly.” Destro smiles at the lady on the security desk, who presses a button. There’s a loud buzzing noise, and the door in front of us opens. We go through and are stopped by another pair of doors. The doors behind us slam shut and lock.
I feel nervous.
“What are the goggles for?” Farez asks, fishing them out from another pocket.
“For later,” Destro replies. “You shouldn’t need them.… Wait! Stop!”
As the doors open in front of us, Farez takes, off running. The doors aren’t quite open far enough, and as he dashes out, he smashes them back on their pillars. There’s a cracking noise, and a claxon starts to blare.
“No! Wait!” Destro yells, running after him.
I take off after him and run out into a wailing snowstorm. The wind is roaring about my ears, snow is whipping everywhere, the whole world is dark and cold. And snow is pelting against my face because holy shit, I’m running fast. Like my first few steps, I nearly faceplant into a snowbank because I’m not prepared for the force behind my legs. It takes a while before I can work out a smooth running pace. But even while I’m stumble-running, I’m flashing past dark, box-like buildings, red (and blue) figures, and rows and rows of towers with gleaming lights shining down on the smooth paths. The only reason I haven’t caught Farez is that he’s running faster.
Hang on.Why am I trying to catch Farez, anyway? He’s escaping. I should be helping him.
And with that thought, I realize something else. No-one is stopping us.
I don’t have a real clear image, but the blue figures I’m racing past are more of the red-goggled guards, and not one of them is lifting his gun. I dash through a hundred glowing searchlights from the towers, and no-one raises an alarm. We dart around a box-like snow truck. I get a glimpse of the driver, looking at us with a bored expression.
And then I see up ahead that the path is ending, and oh, that’s a snowbank.
I try to stop but slip on the ice, trip and slide five feet before hitting the powdery snowbank. Miles slams into the bank to my left, barely missing me.
Destro comes jogging back and helps us up. “Here,” he says. “Running through snow is tricky. You need to leap-run—each step a jump up as well as out.”
It seems Farez doesn’t quite understand snow—the scrawny kid can run fast, but the tracks make it look like he’s trying to just push his way through. It must be like wading in quicksand. Miles and I do much better. The landscape is sweeping past—white hills lost amidst a haze of white snow. It’s starting to get light. No sunlight, but the clouds are getting brighter, so the sun must be behind them somewhere, and I can see for some way. There’s hills, slopes, and ridges. But no trees.
Eventually, we catch up to Farez. He’s lying, collapsed, in the snow, his breath panting in and out in those high-pitched gulps that mean someone’s chest is exploding.
Destro, who slowed us to a walk a little bit before, wades through the snow towards him. “There’s a seven-minute limit on our strength,” he explains to the shaking Farez. “You keep active for longer than that and …” He shrugs.
Farez doesn’t answer. He’s just staring. So am I. Miles comes stumbling up behind us, and I hear a sharp intake of breath.
Five hundred feet from where Farez is collapsed, the white snow gives way to a dark sea, with crashing waves sending bits of ice against the shoreline. In the growing light, it’s easy to see the water stretching back, back, back towards the horizon—nothing but water for miles. To the left and the right, I see the shoreline receding, shrinking back from the island.
And I realize why the guards weren’t chasing us, why there’s no fence around the camp, and why no-one cared where we were running.
There’s nowhere to run to.
Chapter 5: Camp Solanas
“So where are we?” I ask.
“That is a thing which I do not know,” Destro says, pulling the lid off a banana pudding tin. “We are on an island, and very far north. That is all that can be said.”
The dining hall is pretty fancy, really, all gleaming metal-brushed surfaces and light blue and grey tiles. The tables are arranged in long rows but with plenty of space to squeeze in between on hard metal chairs. The food is a bit disappointing—prepackaged pudding tins and spam with noodles.
Not that we’d be in a mood to appreciate any food anyway. Farez is shivering uncontrollably. “My face still hurts,” he mutters, hands clutched around his cup. “From the air. How is that possible? How can the air hurt your face?”
“The cold does take some getting used to.” Destro nods, nibbling at his banana pudding. “For the first week at least, you should stay inside as much as possible.”
“No-one at camp knows where we are?” I ask.
Destro shrugs. “Presumably the soldiers, but they do not speak much to us. There are various theories. Some say we’re near Norway; some near Canada; some say that we’re actually off the coast of Antarctica.” He smiles. “It is something of a puzzle.”
“But wait. I’m from America; Miles is from America; Farez is Turkish. But if most cases come from America, it’d make sense to have the camp close by, right? Where are you from, Destro?”
“Ethiopia,” he says, polishing off the last of the pudding.
Oh. Well, that explains the accent. No, wait. Actually, it doesn’t. “What’s with your accent?” I ask. “Like how am I even hearing it? Farez doesn’t have one at all.”
“Ah. Yes, you’re American. I can see how that would be confusing. To you as well?” He looks over at Miles.
But Miles shakes his head. “Threw me for a loop at first, but I’ve got it now. You’re just talking English, right? Like our Nephilim-whatever isn’t auto-translating, so we just hear your actual words.”
“Just so. I was taught English at a young age. It’s a most useful language for trade and travel. I find it helpful to practice.” He turns to me. “Unfortunately, your theory does not hold water, my friend. Americans are actually a minority within the camp. Although the guards … ah!” He stands up. “Forgive me. One moment. I see your roommate over there.”
“Roommate?” But he’s already gone.
After a few moments, Destro comes hurrying back again, a lanky spot-faced teenager at his heel. “This is Dolphin,” says Destro. “Farez, he will be your roommate.”
“Dolphin” looks bored shitless. “Sure,” he says, nodding at Farez. “Honestly, though, I’m only here until my dad sues the pants off these assholes. You got a name?”
Dolphin looks puzzled, then his face clears. “No, like a handle. A nickname. Have they come up with one for you yet?”
“They’ve only recently arrived,” says Destro.
“Oh.” Dolphin nods. “Gotcha. Then you should know: the guys are going to give you some sort of nickname. Makes it easier than constantly dealing with translation issues.”
“Like ‘Dolphin’? Thought that was an awfully weird name,” Miles comments, taking another forkful of bacon. “Why do they call you that?”
“Because dolphins are smart,” says Dolphin, tilting his chin.
I catch, just in the corner of my vision, an odd look on Destro’s face. I wonder.
“Huh.” Miles chews on some bacon thoughtfully. “So. Can I be ‘Fatty’?”
We all look at him.
“What?” He gives a lopsided grin. “It’s what you all think of, isn’t it? Might as well make it official. No-one’s gonna care about me getting offended.”
“It doesn’t describe much about you, though,” Farez says. “Like at first, sure, but having spent a few hours with you, it doesn’t sound right. ‘Fatty’ sounds … happy.”
“Also, you’re not allowed to choose your own name,” Destro says.
“And we already have a ‘Fatty,’” Dolphin adds. “It’s just not going to work.”
Shrugging, Fatty—Damnit, Chad. Stop it. Stupid, stupid, stupid—that is, Miles, picks up his fork again. “So what’re all those towers for outside? We must’ve run past dozens of those things.”
“To keep an eye on us,” Dolphin says, lounging on the bench. “Though if you ask me, half of them probably aren’t even manned…. Wait a minute. ‘Running?’ That was you guys just now?”
“It was him.” Miles nods in Farez’s direction. “We were just chasing after him.”
“Hey, Sidewinder!” Dolphin leans back, calling to the next table. “That scrawny kid you said was running like a mouse? This is him right here!”
“Say what?” A muscular Asian kid looks over. “Oh, dude!” He comes over. “That was hilarious. What: were you going to outrun the helicopter?”
Farez looks irritated. “It’s usually the quickest way out of trouble.”
“Heh, he even looks like a mouse!” This comment’s from a kid with a long red mullet. A number of guys come to our table. “All brown and scrawny…. Hey, what house you in?”
Farez blinks at the boys gathered. “House?”
“House Spider,” Destro explains, smiling at us. “There are four residence halls: Spider, Mantis, Anaconda, and Scorpion.”
“Really?” I ask. “So … is it like one for smart kids, one for brave kids, another for…?”
“Honestly man, I couldn’t begin to tell you what they stand for.” Sidewinder shrugs.
Miles snorts loudly. “I’ll tell you what they stand for,” he says. “Bullshit. This whole place: it’s just bullshit.”
“We should get you all set up in your dorms,” Destro says, as we dump our trays and head towards the exit. “I’m afraid only Dolphin and Farez are in House Spider. You other two have been put up in House Mantis. It’s right across the path from House Spider, though, so you’ll be able to visit each other if you so desire.” He pushes open the door.
“See ya, little mouse!” calls someone from a back table. I guess at least one of us has his nickname.
Farez—or maybe Mouse?—doesn’t seem to care. He’s looking up at the sky. Snow’s still falling, much slower now. “So strange,” he murmurs, blinking as the flakes land on his lashes. “Like … like…”
“Like flour?” Destro says, chuckling. “I remember my first time seeing them.”
Mouse looks at him. “I was going to say like ashes.”
“That would make sense also.” Destro turns to the rest. “We’d better head straight to the dorms. The schoolhouse and the gymnasium are past them—it would take too long to show them to you. Sometime, we should visit the library, though…. It’s a most fascinating place.”
“Or the rec room,” Dolphin says. “They’ve got an awesome arcade setup there.”
“Later, I think.” Destro looks at Mouse, who’s starting to shiver again. “This one hasn’t yet recovered.”
“So I guess we don’t get super-cold tolerance with the super strength and the super running,” I say.
“No. We have a higher pain tolerance than most humans, but our senses are much the same, otherwise.”
“Which actually means we can feel levels of pain that would make humans black out long before feeling,” Dolphin says, grinning. “Sucks, right?”
“Your body does … harden to a certain extent when you sense danger,” says Destro. “Fortunately. Otherwise punching would be very painful. Nephilim have many abilities.”
“Nephilim,” I say. That term again. It’s oddly irritating, not being able to whip out my phone and look things up. “So people keep saying that. What even is it?”
“You don’t know?” Mouse looks over his shoulder at me. “They’re angels.”
I stop. Miles stops. The others stop, by common consent.
“Bullshit,” I say.
“I’m serious,” Mouse insists. “They’re in the Book of Genesis. I mean, okay, they’re not exactly angels, but there’s some verse about the sons of God and the daughters of men getting it on …”
“How the fuck would you even know that?” Miles asks.
Mouse shrugs. “The iman would give out free bowls of broth to whoever could memorize an entire chapter from the Bible.”
“What?” Miles looks deeply confused. “Why’d he do that?”
“How am I supposed to know? Because he was a decent guy who wanted to help kids out?”
“But shouldn’t he be having you memorize,” Miles says, waving his hand, “… the Korean or whatever?”
“Dude, the Bible’s basically the Koran’s prequel series,” Dolphin says. “I mean, it’s not all canon, but they still study it.”
I really do not give two craps about this. “So not exactly angels … like how?”
“Half-angel,” Mouse says. “Half-man. The iman said they were also called the Ad or the Hud or something … a race of giants.”
Destro smiles. “It does make sense, yes?” He nods at the way we all tower over him.
A lot of kids did call me a giant. That was about my only claim to fame.
“Except angels aren’t a thing,” Miles says.
Dolphin grins. “Aliens are a thing.”
“No.” Miles shakes his head. “No, no. None of this alien bullshit. We’re mutants, or supersoldiers or … I dunno … New-anderthals.”
“Maybe you are,” Dolphin says. “With that face.”
“You’re no prize yourself,” Miles says.
I guess I can sort of see it, with the forehead—stop it Chad damnit damnit damn you “So can we fly or anything?” I ask.
“No,” Dolphin says. “We can jump really high, and—”
“Wait. How high?” Miles asks.
Dolphin looks irritated. “I don’t know … eight, ten feet?”
Miles scoffs. “This I gotta see.”
Just as Miles goes into a crouch, Destro turns and his eyes widen. “Wait, not here–!”
Miles springs into the air. Easily ten feet. Maybe fifteen. I think at first, he’s screaming, then I realize he’s laughing. I can see his red parka against the grey sky, gesturing wildly.
A shot cracks across the frozen air.
Miles jerks sideways like he’s been punched, sailing back away from the path. I look over just in time to see some sort of gun disappear from one of the nearby watchtowers.
“Shit!” says Dolphin.
Miles hits the snow, white powder exploding in every direction. Destro’s already leaping over the snowbank. I follow, landing knee-deep in the drift. It feels like trying to wade through a swamp. Mouse jumps up after me and trips and falls face first in the deep snow.
“Hurry!” Destro barks—he’s doing some leap-run thing. “Before he does something stupid!”
Before he …?
Mouse is floundering behind me in the snow, but I can’t stop to help him. The gunshot’s attracted attention. A couple other red shapes run over. Two blue dots are coming towards us with the roar of engines.
We get to where Miles hit the ground, and he’s screaming. “Ff-f-f-f-u-c-k-k-k-k-k th-th-th-the f-f-f-fuck out of those fucking bastards!” His voice is tight, high, and his hands are cupped over his crotch. “Fuck!”
“Dude,” Dolphin says, coming to a stop. He looks about ready to laugh. “You seriously got hit in the nutsack?”
“It fucking kills, you asshole!” Miles glares at him. He can’t even sit up. “I’ll murder those bastards and …”
“Lie still, calm down, and shut up,” Destro hisses, coming up next to him. His face is intense. “They just hit you with a bean-bag round. Now shut up, and let me do the talking.”
The roar of engines is getting louder.
“Damnit,” Dolphin says behind me. He looks around like he’s planning to run, but already the snowmobiles are coming up on us. “Destro, maybe—”
“Shut up,” Destro mutters, standing up and raising his hands. Then his face becomes bright, cheerful—like he’s flipped a switch somewhere.
The snowmobiles pull up in a spray of snow, and the riders hop off. Four guards, red goggles unwinking above their blue camo. Guns already drawn. “Step away from him,” the lead one demands.
I raise my hands in solidarity.
“I do apologize for my friend,” Destro says, his voice light again. “He’s a new arrival and didn’t know jumping was prohibited near watchtowers.”
“The … fuck?” Miles says. Destro gives him a little kick. I can’t tell if the guards notice.
“Step away from him,” the lead guard—a woman, I realize now—repeats.
“I’m Camper 847, his senior mentor.” Destro continues to talk as if he hasn’t even heard the order. “I’m responsible for him. Again, apologies. I should have told him about the towers.”
The guard hesitates. “And you others?” She nods in our direction. “Campers … 962 and 981?” She’s reading the tags on our parkas. “Friends of his?”
“Well …” Dolphin says.
“Yeah,” I say. I’m watching the black hole of the gun, the way it dips, points. In my head, I see a dark muzzle poking into a supply closet.
“Right,” says the guard. “All three of you are going to have to come with us.”
“Why’s that then?” shouts an angry voice. A solid-looking kid in a red parka is walking up. “They didn’t do bugger all!”
He’s not alone. To the left, I see three or four red parkas. On my right are five others. I wonder how many are behind me.… I can see two coming up behind the guards.
The guards can see them too. “Because I say so,” says the lead guard, glancing to the side. “You all know you’re not supposed to go jumping at the watchtowers. That’s the rule.”
“No it ain’t.” Same person as before. The speaker is tanned, muscular. He’s got a squarish build and thick neck. Gives the impression of a brick wall. “Issa shit addition you made to the rules. Never heard Wolfe say didley squat about it.”
“Come, Jackhammer,” Destro says with a smile. “It’s simple enough. Just a little confusing at first. Like it was for my friend. An honest mistake.”
A new engine roars. Some of the red parkas glance off to the left. But none of them budge.
“I’m not debating the rules with you,” says the guard. “I say they come with us, so they’re coming with us. If they haven’t done anything, they should be out and clear in no time.”
The new vehicle pulls up. It’s much bigger: two boxes on treads, like a snub-nosed truck pulling a camper. A lot more guards start to come out. This has a bad feeling. There’s a lot of guns around. I step forward, next to Destro.
Mouse comes up beside me, covered in snow. “What’s going on?” he mutters to me.
There’s starting to be some angry yells. Some of the campers kick snow at the guards. A few campers are stooping to pick the snow up. The guards—almost twenty of them now—are moving to a tighter circle, their guns pointed out.
I glance over at Mouse and see something strange. He seems oddly concentrated, staring at the ground. At his side, his fingers are flexing and unflexing. Then I look up and see something stranger.
His eyes are glowing. The others can’t see it, but I’m close enough. The irises are gleaming red, and the air around him shimmers like heat rising off of blacktop.
The yells start to die down. A few snowballs drop to the ground. The guards lower their weapons. Only a little, but it’s the first time in this conversation.
“Let’s all calm down,” Mouse says. “Right?” He’s still looking at the ground, but he waves toward Destro.
Destro is staring at Mouse with a strange expression. “Everything’s fine,” he says, turning back to the guard. “No need to make a big deal about this. I’m sure Director Wolfe has a lot on her plate right now.”
The guard seems to consider this. “All right. I’ll let him off with a warning this time.” She lowers her gun completely. “Explain the security protocols to him and what he can’t do.”
“Understood.” Destro smiles. It looks … odd.
“All right.” The guard looks back at her team. “We’re done here. Pack it up. The rest of you, get back to your schoolwork. Show’s over.”
And weirdly enough, it does seem to be over. The guards jump in their truck, and the mob that was shouting for blood just seconds ago starts to drift apart.
“The fuck just happened?” Dolphin asks.
Destro bends to offer Miles a hand up. “They’re … sensitive about the towers,” he says. “And about jumping in general, really.”
“No kidding,” Miles grumbles, grabbing Destro’s hand. Some of the other boys help to pull him upright.
“To them, it looks like an attack,” Destro continues, looking at the towers. “The towers are higher than most of us can jump, but it’s hard to be sure from up there.”
“Fuckin hell, mate. Could you be any more of a brown-noser?” The big kid—Jackhammer, Chad. His name is Jackhammer—looks over at Destro with disgust. “They’s just assholes is all. Like throwin’ their weight about a bit.”
“Were they … I mean, were they really about to shoot us?” I ask.
Destro shrugs. “Perhaps. They shot about twelve kids last year.”
Miles looks at him. “You’re shitting me.”
“Stinky got hisself shot last week,” Jackhammer says. His voice sounds English, but not like fancy English. It also sounds angry.
“In the leg,” Destro says. “He got better. I think that doesn’t count. That’s what I think.” He looks over at Miles. “You shall most certainly feel better shortly.”
Miles glares. “Still stings like hell.” There’s a sizeable ripped portion of his khakis.
Another of the boys laughs. “I’ll bet. Damn, they really did nail you in the gonads, didn’t they? What did that feel like?”
“It hurt. It still hurts.” Miles takes an awkward step forward. “Look, just get me inside.”
“You got it.” The boy offers him a hand. “No problem, Mr. Ball Buster.”
Well, I guess it’s a better name than ‘Fatty.’
“So, we’re not bulletproof,” Miles says.
“Oh no,” says Destro. “Most certainly not. You’ll heal, yes, but not before they put a cold-iron spike through your head.”
“A what?” I ask. We’re in the dorm now. The carpet is thin and the furniture is hard lightly-colored wood—a bunkbed and a dresser for our gear—but no-one is interested in the furniture.
“Cold iron,” Destro says. “The towers are coated with it all over. It’s as if we have … some most strange sort of allergy. The kind that kills you.”
Miles—or I should say Ball Buster—frowns at Destro from the bed. “You’re suddenly much more helpful.”
“Please understand,” Destro says. “Everybody here hates us.”
“They’re terrified of us, you see.” He shrugs. “It’s understandable. If I were living with a man who could crush my skull in his hand, I would likewise be terrified of him.”
“Can we do that?”, asks Dolphin, looking interested.
“I’ve told you already: you must not ask such questions.” Destro glares at him. “You must not remind them how dangerous you are. Never show your strength, your skills. You must play dumb. That’s what you must do. These people are scared. People do most stupid things when they’re scared. That’s what makes what you did,” he says to Mouse, “all the more dangerous.”
“Me?” Mouse looks wary.
“It’s currently the case that all campers have the same abilities,” Destro tells us. “That’s the situation for now. But in time, campers will start to develop unique … talents. Like manipulating the emotions of people within a ten-foot radius.”
“Dude!” Ball Buster’s eyes widen.
“That was you?” Dolphin asks. “What is it, like pherenomes?”
Mouse looks uncomfortable. “It’s a sort of hit-or-miss thing.… I can only calm people down. Never tried it with so many before. How’d you know, Destro?”
“Dude, that’s an awesome power,” Dolphin says. “Much better than mine.”
Dolphin puts his hand on the water glass Destro brought in. His eyes start to glow red, and something shifts in his face. As we watch, ripples form on the water, spreading outward with increasing speed. A high-pitched whine fills the air.
“That’s enough,” Destro says.
Dolphin lifts his hand, and the glow in his eyes fades. “Vibrations,” he says. “They’re supposed to get stronger as I get older, but right now all I can do is make noises.”
“Oh so that’s why they call you Dolphin!” I say.
“What? No, man. I told you. It’s because dolphins are smart.”
“The other campers don’t know about Dolphin’s talent,” Destro says. “And it will remain that way.”
“Haven’t you wondered why I’m the only older student you’ve seen here?”
There’s a short silence.
“Well, I wasn’t before now,” Ball Buster says, sounding a little shook.
“Last year, there was another class. Very few from that class remain. One by one, as they developed their talents, they were taken away.”
Mouse looks worried. “Where were they taken to?”
“That,” says Destro, “I do not know.”