The morning had been way too exciting for Mark. Sure, in a previous world, mornings were hectic and crazed, but Mark like to think they had moved beyond that and this new world would have boring affairs of clearing mana spawned horrors bent on killing him and his family. Which was what actually happened, but the horrors were much tougher than he was expecting, and that wasn’t cool.
Liz was taking a break from hunting and chilling with his mom while he finished up the patrol with the newbs. Mark was really quite impressed at how bad they all were at this. He didn’t like to brag, much, but he could totally kick all their butts without much effort. In fairness, most of the crew had been office workers, but it was painful to watch them try and hit things. Whether it was a bow, slingshot, spear, or swords, they seemed to be hopeless.
“Good job! You almost had it that time.” His dad encouraged bow office guy.
Mark was really trying to remember their names, but aside from the first two he met they all sorta looked alike to him. Frank and David he could remember because one was tall and one was short. Unless one of these guys was Frank, and the other two just happened to be tall. Mark squinted at them. It was hard to tell.
“Mark, you okay? You look confused.” Slingshot office guy asked him.
“I’m fine, mhmrnmnmrmm.” Mark mumbled under his breath, not wanting to admit he had no idea what slingshot office guy’s was. “In anycase, I think we’re close to done here and I wanted to talk to my dad about a few things. We good to call in the harvesting crew Dad?”
“Sure, I think that’s a good morning’s hunt. Good work everyone. Check in with Mary to see how you’re progressing and if you had some skill development. You can work on trying to gain an ability if you got something registered.” His dad stated in a loud voice so the group could hear him.
The crew dispersed leaving Mark alone with his dad. “So Mark, I can probably guess what this is about, but go ahead anyway and ask.”
The stern look his dad gave him wasn’t very encouraging, but Mark plowed forward. “Well, I was just thinking, since I can totally like, go all stealth like and have clones now, we should do a rescue mission and get George out of the high school.”
His dad just stared at him.
“I even know how to pick locks and stuff, so if he’s locked up, I’m totally going to be able to break him out.”
“If the sheriff runs in on us I can. Uh. Well. You always complain that I don’t listen, so I just develop an ability around that and he can’t tell me what to do!” Mark smiled with his best goofy grin.
“The problem, Mark, is that this isn’t a joke. It’s not a game, and the stakes are high. If Douglass catches you, you know very well I wouldn’t just sit idly by, and that could potentially put our groups at odds with each other. And trust me when I say that if Sheriff Douglass caught you breaking into the school to aid the escape of people he has designated as prisoners there is no doubt in my mind that he would consider you a criminal and arrest you.”
“But we’re in the middle of an apocalypse! There’s not even any courts or things to try me!”
“Mark, you know that, and I know that, but Sheriff Douglass decidedly doesn’t want to admit that. You don’t get to hear the entirety of our arguments, but the man is insisting that he’s going to wait for the National Guard to arrive and that he’s going to have me arrested for reckless endangerment by giving weapons to kids in a school zone.”
“But that’s so stupid! How will the Guard get here! There’s no working vehicles except for our bus!”
“That’s not the point Mark. The point is the Sheriff is scared and liable to do something he will regret, and I will not let you risk yourself on abilities that you’ve had for all of a single day.”
“But dad! Haley is going crazy! We can’t just abandon everyone in that school. Can we at least just get some messages in or out?”
“The Sheriff has denied me the privilege of talking with anyone else, see afore mentioned ‘reckless endangerment’ statement. And as much as I hate to say it, I’m not willing to put anyone into his range of influence again, even Haley. That voice thing he has going on is a doozy, and if not for the resistances I have I wouldn’t risk talking to him myself. We have to hope that he comes to his senses and realizes that we are the only help he’s going to get.”
“That’s a stupid plan! He’s stupid! He’s never going to realize that!”
“Mark, look, I know this means a lot to you, but you’ve never really done any spying before.” Mark was about to argue another point when his dad held up his hand to stop him.
“I’ll tell you what.” His dad took a pencil out and jotted down a note that he folded over.
“I’ll give you fifteen minutes a day. During those fifteen minutes, I’ll put this someplace nearby me, but if you can figure out what is on this note without me noticing, I’ll consider your plan to go in and get a message to people. That fair?”
Mark thought about it for awhile. It didn’t seem fair, but he didn’t really see any alternative. “Sure.”
“K, after we do our food run, I’ll give you your shot.”
Mark immediately started planning. He was so going to show his dad that he could do this.
The rest of the day went through in a blur for Mark. Every now and then some refugees would wander in and the construction continued unabated. Between helping people out Mark worked on polishing his skills and abilities. He had brought Liz up to speed on his plan to get a message in and she actually agreed with him, which was weird, but cool. She still had friends in school and thought the sheriff was a stupid head, so she was going to figure out a way to communicate with them. Of course, she had her own ideas on how to do it, and even though they weren’t as good as Mark’s, she kept on insisting on doing it her way.
“But that’s stupid! Natasha is a mouse and everyone would totally freak out if they saw her. You can’t send her in.”
“It’s BECAUSE she’s a mouse. She’s tiny! She can totally sneak around better than you!”
“I can like, turn into mist and poof into places! It would take her hours just to run around to a place I can get to instantly.”
“Fine, I’ll show you. I’ll get the note, and then you’ll be all ‘I wish I listened to my super smart sister who is totally smarter than me, instead of trying to do my dumb plan’. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I find out what George is up to anyway.”
“Fine! I’ll get the note before you and then let your friends know that your plan was stupid and I had to bail you out!”
The conversation ended with both siblings shouting at each other and getting ready to try for the note. His dad had set up in the living room and was reading a reference on leatherworking while giving Mark and Liz their shot. The note was on an end table next to him, but his eyes were firmly on his book.
It was pretty quiet in the house, so Mark slowly creeped up the stairs pushing his ability into overdrive. Since he knew no one was looking, he used his Mist Escape to move silently to the kitchen and hid behind the island.
“Mark, you do realize that inside the house a giant wave of mist is pretty damn obvious, right? Especially when a ball of it rolls behind the kitchen island?”
Mark cursed under his breath and stood up.
“Well, yeah, now that you put it that way.”
“And Liz, I appreciate that your new little friend is smarter and faster than other mice, but I swear to god that thing is louder than Barry thumping around. How much does she weight?”
Liz poked her head down from upstairs frowning. “She’s not fat. She’s just really solid, and probably weighs a couple pounds or something.”
“Are you kidding me? She’s like the size of my palm. What the heck is she made out of.”
“Magical muscle. She can like, lift up more than her body weight too.”
His dad just stood there for awhile dumbfounded. “Well, explains why the damn things were able to get into the barn no matter what we put up in their way, but seriously, she’s really loud. Also what’s up with it’s coat?”
“Oh that! It’s what Sam made for me. I can like, put notes and stuff into the pockets and she can carry around a little pencil that I found. I figured that way I can get someone to message me with her. I’m going to call it squeemail.”
His dad closed his eyes and Mark could tell he was torn between laughing and crying. “Kids, I love you both, and you both are very capable, but seriously, this was bad. You aren’t coordinating, you barely have a base understanding of your skills and how they impact the environment, and you’ve never really done anything this covert. Hunting is a completely different skillset, one that involves patience and being able to execute a skill at the drop of a hat. Infiltration requires you to actively exploit distractions. If this is all you have, you’re not going to get close to this note.”
His dad grabbed their prize and put it back into his pocket. “We can try again tomorrow, but think about this more, because there’s no way I’m risking either of you getting close the to school for now.
As his dad went downstairs Mark looked over at Liz. “I guess we have some practicing to do. But I’m still getting that note before you.”
“Yeah, maybe, but if we’re going to practice maybe we should at least talk about different strategies.”
Mark hesitated, but only for a moment. He knew Liz was smart and would probably come up with some good ideas on how to practice. In the end, his desire to win was overriden by his desire to actually succeed in this test. “Sure, I was thinking about making an obstacle course, you know, like ninja warrior.”
“Not a bad idea, but if we make it have things like we might encounter in the school, that will ultimately make it more useful.”
Mark nodded and they both went outside and got to work.