This could not be happening. Outside at night in the city had been one thing. Psychic sprites appearing in a combat simulation?
There was really only one thing Joseph could do.
He had to take control, no matter the costs to his identity.
The cadets out there would die – unless he rose. Forest had already told him to protect the students, no matter what.
Joseph backed off, called on his sword, and sliced forward.
He cut right through a psychic sprite just as it shot toward his face. The crackle of sparks was so satisfying, his lips twitched up for half a second.
He quickly stepped to the side and called on his mask. It locked onto his face, sealing his identity behind it.
Then he spun on his foot.
He shot toward the next psychic sprite and cut it down.
The whole time, he desperately tried to call Forest. Nothing. Something was blocking his neural comms. He could technically transport out of here and try to contact her, but he didn’t want to leave the students alone.
He heard a scream.
He twisted to the side and saw a drone. He simply placed a hand on it as he flipped on by. He sent a charge of subspace particles blasting into it, and the thing ruptured like a balloon that had been sucked up by a vacuum.
He landed, instantly pushed into the air, and transported again.
He appeared 50 meters down the corridor. Then he transported once more.
He kept doing that until he found some cadets. He paused at the end of the corridor – long before they saw him. He opened his hands wide. They were pinned by a sprite.
Both cadets were down on their knees, screaming. One of them was closer to the sprite. The guy’s pressured face was so wet with sweat that it dripped off him as if he’d shoved his head underneath a waterfall. “I’m locking my most traumatic memory away,” he stammered. “We’ve just got to lock our most traumatic memories away.”
The sprite snarled through a smile, got close, and spread a ghostly hand out.
The guy started to shudder.
Joseph shot the sprite from afar with a blast of energy. It didn’t have a chance. It exploded.
Both cadets fell back.
Joseph ported 50 meters behind them so they didn’t see him.
“What the hell was that. What’s going on?” the first guy asked.
The other guy behind him grabbed him and pulled him up. And together they ran.
Joseph ported to the next screaming group of cadets he heard.
He could keep this up, but he couldn’t keep it up forever.
He told himself that there’d only be a few cadets here. Most of them had failed the exam. Yet all the class was still in the hologram.
He longed to find Sally. Had to. But out of everyone, she was the only person not screaming.
The only way to end this was to get to the holographic generator at the end of the maze and destroy it.
But to do that, it would take time. These cadets just didn’t have it.
Joseph kept porting in, usually sticking close by the ceiling so no one would see him. He would get there a second before the cadets would succumb to attacks.
This couldn’t be happening, he kept telling himself. This was just a frigging simulation among fifth-year cadets. How did the Scarax Galaxy get control of it?
Joseph ported again. He heard two groups of screaming cadets. They were just down a twisting section of the corridor.
He pulled up next to a vent, using its bulk to hide behind.
It was Jerry and his partner. There was Serena too and Willis.
“We should just run,” Willis said. “Something’s wrong. I don’t think this is the original simulation anymore.”
“I’m not losing my damn points. If you want to run, go ahead and run.” Joseph shoved Willis in the back. She struck the wall hard, cracked her ankle, and fell.
It was right in the path of a psychic sprite.
Joseph saw the look in Jerry’s eyes. He looked triumphant like this was a game and he actually thought he was winning.
He started blasting away at the psychic sprite with nothing more than a crappy holographic Barbarian gun. It did nothing at all.
The sprite reached toward Willis.
Everyone was behind her. She could try to crumple. She didn’t. With a terrified but still knowing look in her eyes, she threw her arms out wide like she was a shield.
It was time to act. Joseph sent several powerful blasts shooting out of his palm. They smashed into the sprite and obliterated it.
“See?! That’s all you have to do,” Jerry cried, mistakenly somehow thinking that those charges had been part of the simulation. “We get rewarded for being brave. Come on,” he snarled.
Serena gripped her gun in shaking hands. She didn’t look as convinced as Jerry, but she didn’t fight him, either.
“We have to keep going. If we’re brave, the simulation will help us.” Jerry rounded a hand and beat his chest like an alpha gorilla.
“This isn’t a simulation,” Willis tried in a fractured tone.
“It is. Now get up. Don’t be a dead weight,” Jerry snarled.
He went to grab her. She shoved him off. “This isn’t a simulation. If you keep going, you’re just gonna get killed. This isn’t about points, Jerry.”
“Whatever. If you’re not strong enough to rise, fall then.” Jerry nodded at the other two, and they rushed away down the corridor.
Joseph had already spent too long here. He heard other screaming cadets. Right now he wanted to port down in front of Jerry, grab the guy by the shoulders, and ram him against a wall. What a damn idiot.
Joseph made it to another group of cadets just as sprites went to blast through them.
Joseph… couldn’t keep this up.
He needed a miracle.
And one was on its way.