Ken released the trainees for dinner an hour later and watched as they filed out the doors. He followed behind a few minutes later and joined Theis at one of the tables in the Dining Hall.
Wearing a new glove from the cybernetics lab, Theis grimaced as he gingerly wrapped robotic fingers around his cup. “Rett has the command center up and running.” He greeted Ken without looking up. “Thomas and Evy are with him now, and docs cleared me for stand-by. I hate this damn thing already. I feel like I’m going to crush everything I touch.”
“It’s not grafted, is it?” Ken nodded to the glove. “Why not take it off to eat?”
“Part of the docs agreeing to clear me for emergency duty was they made me promise to keep up with my therapy and practice.” He took a sip of his drink and frowned with concentration as he set it back down and released his grip on the cup. “I don’t suppose you need help with the acolyte candidates while Angela is away? I was cooped up in detention for so long that I’m not really looking forward to spending even more time alone in my apartment.”
“Can start tonight if you want. I gave them twenty minutes for dinner.” Ken nodded towards the cluster of dejected trainees quietly wolfing down their meal.
Theis laughed. “Kroodles, Ken, what did you do to them? They’re acting like it’s the first week of boot camp.”
“I impressed upon them the importance of not losing control over their magic. Told them if they screw up one more time they are out of Dawn’s Light entirely.”
“The whole class?” Theis one good eyebrow shot up.
“They decided to make a show of standing with the three from lunch. If they want to be united, they face the consequences, too.” Ken’s eyes continued searching the room, a slight frown creasing his brow.
He shook his head. “Commander Turner isn’t here. Nothing wrong in that, but you’d think she’d be with the group since the others are now facing punishment for supporting her.”
“Maybe she’s ashamed of bringing this on the others?”
Ken shook his head. “Doesn’t fit with her personality. Fitness assessments all say she’s direct to the point of being blunt, infuriatingly logical, and unapologetic. She noted that the others made the choice to stand with them, so it’s unlikely she feels any responsibility for their actions. She’s from Region Theogonia, but she’s more Laconian than Thomas. You’ll see for yourself if you want to join me in the control room. Speaking of…” He checked his watch. “I want to be in the training hall before they return, so I need to get going.”
Theis looked at his mostly uneaten dinner.
Ken chuckled as he rose from his seat. “Take your time. We’ll be in Field F if you want to observe.”
◊ ◊ ◊
The class returned to the Training Hall to find Ken standing in the middle of the room, looking at his watch. They lined up before him, and by nineteen minutes everyone but Indigo had returned. At nineteen minutes and thirty seconds, a door to one of the meditation rooms opened and she emerged to join her classmates.
Ken remained quiet until she had taken her place, then ordered them to remain in formation and follow him. He led them out of the Training Hall and through the halls of the Lyceum towards the main entrance. The doors whooshed open at their approach, and Ken broke into a sprint, drawing startled gasps from the class as they scrambled to keep up. He dashed down the path to the high, domed training fields, and allowed himself a grin when he felt their collective sigh of relief as they bypassed Field B. It was good they were already anticipating challenges — they would be better prepared for when he really did turn up the heat on their training.
He stopped at the entrance of Field F, a simulated urban environment. The massive stone walls contained a small city, complete with automated cars zooming along busy streets and holographic pedestrians scurrying along the walk ways. A control room allowed training coordinators to adjust environmental controls, so at any time the city could be blanketed in snow or languish in the midst of a heat wave.
“The cliche response to your antics today would be to make you clean the dining hall and kitchens, but I don’t like cliches. You’ve all been through multiple levels of combat training, so you are all familiar with Field F. There was a training exercise today, and you are giving the techs the night off while you reset the field.”
Jason coughed. “The entire field, sir?” He asked incredulously.
“The entire field.”
A flush rose on his cheeks. “There’s only twelve of us! We’ll be working until next week!”
“Sir!” Indigo cut off Jason’s protests. “Is there more we should know before we begin our work?”
Ken let his gaze linger on Jason a moment longer before turning to Indigo. The corner of his lips lifted slightly. “The training mission today was a first run for new recruits.” He paused while the rest of the class groaned, and held up a tablet. “Everything you need to reset the field can be found here.” He handed the tablet to Indigo and opened the doors. The class filed into the training field to gawp at the destruction wrought by the newbies.