The New Millennials: Running the Gauntlet
Wayne Purdy
Six teens answer a casting call to star in a new reality television series produced by the ... Show More
Genres:
Adventure, Sci Fi, Superhero, Thriller, Young Adult
Tags:
serial fiction, serial, novel, the ink-stained wretch

Manny

     Days passed and Manny had settled into a comfortable routine. It began to feel like a summer camp, and Manny was enjoying himself. They kids were woken promptly at 7 am each morning. Miss French served them a hot breakfast in the Great Room. Then they were ushered into a modified classroom where they performed a variety of aptitude tests. Sometimes it was mathematical, sometimes vocabulary, there was a lateral thinking test, and a leadership test. Today it was a computer literacy test that Wiggles finished quicker than any of the others. There were no marks, in fact the kids were never told exactly how they fared on the tests, but Manny had the sinking suspicion that he wasn’t doing so well.

     After the test, they were off to the gymnasium for some physical education. These sessions varied as well. Sometimes they played a team sport; basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, or dodge ball. Sometimes they did an individual activity like weight training or cardio. Whatever it was, it always left Manny exhausted and drenched in sweat. He clearly wasn’t the best athlete in the group. That honour belonged to Brock and Kat. Today it was dodge ball, which was fine with Manny. He loved that game. They were divided into two teams of three. The red team, because they wore the red jerseys were Brock, Manny, and Elisabeth. The blue team was Kat, Carter, and Wiggles.

     Manny appraised the two teams and decided that his had the advantage. They had Brock, and that was always an asset. As good as Kat was, she was no match for Brock. Manny felt he had the edge over Carter. Carter was a nice guy, but he was no athlete. Just the opposite, in fact. He was tentative and self-conscious. He seemed afraid of making a mistake, and even more afraid of making a fool of himself. Elisabeth and Wiggles were a wash, neither one bringing any sort of advantage to their teams, at least not in a physical challenge.

     Sinclair stood along the sidelines, a whistle tied around his neck. The notion seemed preposterous at first, Sinclair as gym coach, but seeing him in athletic gear quickly dispelled that thought. The man could have been a gym teacher in another life. It was hard to gauge how fit he was when he was wearing the black tux. Certainly he carried himself in a manner that suggested that he was dangerous. Now, seeing him in gym wear, Manny could see the muscles ripple with every movement. It was clear that Sinclair took his health very seriously.

     Brock and Manny each had balls for red and Kat and Carter for blue. “You’re going down!” Manny yelled at the blue team, heckling them.

     “You’re going to eat those words,” Kat said. Her voice was calm and steady. Her face a case study in determination.

     “Keep yer mowfs shut, an' yer eye on da ball.” Sinclair yelled before blowing the whistle. Brock didn’t hesitate. He hurled his ball and caught Wiggles full on in the face, knocking her glasses off. They clattered to the floor, but mercifully weren’t broken.

     “Hey!” She yelled. “I wasn’t ready!”

     “No head shots!” Carter protested.

     “There ain’t no rules,” Sinclair snapped. “’Cept don’t get hit!”

     Manny threw his ball at Kat, but she anticipated it and deflected the shot harmlessly away. She threw her ball at Brock, who dodged it effortlessly. Wiggles made her way to the line behind the opposing team, still rubbing the sting from her reddened cheeks. Manny caught a quick glimpse of her and felt badly. She had tears welling in her eyes. His reverie was quickly broken as Carter’s throw narrowly missed him.

     “Pay attention,” Brock said. Brock picked up an errant ball and faked a pump at Kat. She was poised for action and reacted instinctively. When he finally released the ball it caught Carter on the hip, but not before Carter sent another ball sailing to the back line and into Wiggles’ arms.

     Wiggles threw her ball with an unexpected swiftness, catching Brock squarely between the shoulder blades. He cursed himself for underestimating her. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. Now it was Manny and Elisabeth against Kat. Their advantage was dwindling but it was still two against one. He liked those odds. Kat had one ball in her arms and another at her feet. Manny had one and there was another rolling near the center line.

     “Elisabeth, get that ball,” Brock pointed. “Manny cover her.” Elisabeth glanced over her shoulder furtively; making sure Manny would cover her. He nodded his head and she made a bee-line for the loose ball. Kat grinned. She kicked the ball at her feet and it connected with the loose ball, sending it flying to the back line. Carter picked it up and threw it at Manny. He dodged that one but was outflanked by Kat and she struck him in the gut. Kat rolled two balls to the back and Carter and Wiggles each grabbed one. She again had one in her arms and another at her feet.

     Elisabeth put her arms up, “I surrender,” she said.

     “Bloody hell,” Sinclair said. “There ain’t no surrenderin’.” Elisabeth had no chance. She was hit with all three balls.

     “Good game,” Brock said, high-fiving his opponents. “Are you okay?” he asked Wiggles. “I didn’t mean to hit you in the face.”

     “I’m fine,” she said. “I just wasn’t expecting it.” Manny noticed a sly grin trace across her face and for a brief second he wondered if that was all part of her plan. He recalled a documentary he’d watched with his dad about martial arts. There was a style of fighting called zui quan, where the warrior imitates a drunkard to lull his opponent into a false sense of security. Is this what Wiggles just did? He wondered.

     “I’m going to be keeping an eye on you,” Brock told her. “There’s more to you than meets the eye.”

     “Thanks,” she whispered.

     Elisabeth stood in the background. She was dejected. Not only had she cost her team the game, but she was willing to quit rather than get hit. “You should have gone for that ball more aggressively,” Brock told her. Your hesitation lost us the game.”

     Elisabeth wanted to scream at him. She wanted to rage, ‘and what good were you, you muscle-bound meat-head,” but she couldn’t. Instead, she said, “yes,” in a nearly inaudible sob.

     “Don’t worry about it,” Kat told her, placing her own muscled arm around the slender girl’s shoulders. “If you want, I can practice with you during free time. You know, teach you to throw and catch. Just the basics.”

     Elisabeth’s eyes lit up. “Really? You’d do that?”

     “Sure,” Kat replied. “Us girls have to stick together.” Manny watched the interaction very carefully. The rules of the competition hadn’t been made clear yet, at least not to him. Maybe it had already started and he didn’t know it yet. Still, as he watched his closest ally, Kat, befriend Elisabeth, it made him nervous.

     After lunch, Manny reported to Professor Pauer’s office. It was a small room on the same floor as the gymnasium. It had a heavy oak door propped open with a stack of medical journals, and a ceiling fan pushed around stale air. Surprisingly, the office didn’t look any different than any family doctor’s office would. It had a small desk with a manila envelope emblazoned with Manny’s name on it. Inside was a sheaf of papers, presumably Manny’s medical information. There was an examination table lined with paper and various medical equipment attached to the wall.

     Pauer was sitting at his desk when Manny entered. “Ah, Pacheco,” he said with a thick German accent. “Please disrobe,” he said. Manny stood uncomfortably waiting for the professor to leave the room or at least turn around. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, Manny very reluctantly stripped down. “Everything.” Professor Pauer said, watching the display with an attentiveness that unnerved Manny. “Even your underthings.”

     The examination was horrible. The Professor’s touch was cold and lingering and Manny was poked, and prodded, and probed, and groped in ways he had never been before. It was an incredible violation and he found himself blinking back tears. Did the girls have to endure this indignity too, he wondered and he found himself feeling even worse for them.

     “Where are the cameras?” he asked as he quickly put his clothing back on.

The professor was filling out some forms at his desk and answered without looking up from his paperwork. “We can’t have them in here,” he said. “For legal reasons. Doctor-patient confidentiality and all that.”

    “That’s convenient,” Manny murmured. Professor Pauer glared at him with an intensity that silenced him.

     Pauer’s eyes narrowed in his gaunt, skeletal face. “Report to the Treatment Centre tomorrow. You are fit for the procedure,” Professor Pauer said finally. Manny didn’t wait to be excused. He dashed out of the room with deliberate hustle. In his haste, he rushed past Brock. Brock must have been on his way to see Professor Pauer too.

     “Be careful,” Manny called to him. “The guy’s a creep!”

     Manny wasn’t watching where he was going and ran face-first into the well-muscled chest of a large, surly man. At first he thought it was Sinclair, before realising his mistake. This man made Sinclair look friendly. “Watch where you’re going,” he said in a gruff voice.

     “I’m sorry,” Manny said. “I didn’t see you there.”

     “That’s not my problem, is it?” He said.

     “What’s your problem?” Manny said. “I apologised. What more do you want?”

     The man looked at Manny scornfully. “Maybe I’d just like to pound the snot out of a little punk,” he said. He grabbed Manny by the neck, squeezing with enough force to close his windpipe. Manny struggled to break free but the man was too strong. He felt himself beginning to black out.

     “What do you think you’re doing?” Brock said. Brock came rushing down the hall when he heard the commotion. He charged into the bigger man with his shoulder, breaking his hold on Manny. Manny fell to the ground, gasping for breath. Brock squared off against the much older, rougher looking man.

     “Haw! If it isn’t the Big Man On Campus,” he guffawed. “I got a newsflash for you; school’s out.”

     Brock stood his ground. “You don’t scare me,” he said.

     “That’s your mistake,” the man said.

     At that moment, Professor Pauer appeared in the hallway. “Blevins! You’re late. You were supposed to report in my office five minutes ago.”

     “I was on my way,” Brock responded, “but this guy started picking a fight.”

     Pauer looked at the other man with exasperation. “Sturm, leave them. You’ll have your chance with these children soon enough.”

     The man, Sturm, looked from Manny to Brock with a sneer. “I look forward to it.” He stormed off. Manny watched him go with growing concern. Who was he and what did Pauer mean, ‘he’d have his chance soon?’ A shiver went racing down his spine. For the first time, Manny was beginning to regret his decision to join the show.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 12/11/2015 2:33:15 AM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    12/12/2015 9:47:25 PM
    It was cool to see the "team" work together, as if to get a really good grasp of how they gel together and how sharply their personalities stand out in contrast to one ... Show More
    • Wayne Purdy Brock isn't really a bully. He's a strong and strong-willed person. He's trying to take his place as a leader but hasn't quite figured out how to do that yet.
      12/14/2015 3:30:07 AM
  • Ryan Watt commented on :
    12/11/2015 6:31:46 AM
    Nice use of the team exercise to show off personalities and inter-personal relationships. A non-powered Danger Room set up. Curious to see how this changes once they have ... Show More
    • Wayne Purdy I had fun with this chapter and the team exercise. It'll be interesting to see how they interact as the story moves forward. You can see Brock assuming a leadership role though not quite effectively yet.
      12/11/2015 12:54:24 PM