Jenny skated along the middle of the cobblestone path in a crouched position. She knew she was approaching the finish line so stood and leaned back to slow down. The bright blue glow faded from her hair leaving black spikes. She turned her body and came to a full stop an inch from the finish line.
“The Zero’s giving up!” The black and green naga yelled. Laughter erupted from the crowd of Uniques. Jenny recognized the croaky voice that pointed her ordinariness, but she ignored it. She focused on the two-inch white stripe that cut through the width of the cobblestone path. She’d
“‘Betcha she’s not!” another girl yelled. It was a voice Jenny did not recognize and she wondered who it belonged to. She glanced at the crowd and noticed the girl with orange eyes smiling at her. She stood next to Dread, the tall girl with white spiky hair. Jenny realized they both stood up for her and thought they might be friends.
[No way! Watch this. -Jny] She Whispered a reply then gave Dirge and Dread a thumbs up gesture. Dread smiled.
“I told you!” Dirge yelled at the crowd. Their laughter died down and Jenny realized everyone was staring at her.
“Awesome,” she thought. This was her chance to show Ms. Sharp what she could do. “Bailey!” Jenny whipped her head around to find her opponent. The girl stood on the other side of the track with her green hood down and an impatient look on her face. She uncrossed her arms and gestured them forward in a “move it along” motion. “Yep, you just lost,” Jenny giggled to herself. She appreciated the sportsmanship, but it did not mean she wasn’t going to take advantage of it.
Jenny stared down at
Jenny pushed her left hand forward and smiled to herself when she heard a gasp from somewhere in the crowd. Her hand hovered in the air as if disconnected from her body. She turned as she stepped across the line as if she were slipping her body into a coat that someone held for her. She moved through the blue rectangle and emerged on the other side as a disembodied head with floating hands. She faced the crowd then spun in place on her skates to show them her genius. As she twirled, her blue body-suit appeared and disappeared each time her invisible coat caught the wind.
[Hard to explain. -Jny] Jenny replied, but she did not want Dirge to feel blown off. [Tell you after I win. -Jny] She added.
Jenny turned her attention back to the match. She skated forward again and scanned the track for her opponent. Bailey moved fast around the track with a look of annoyed determination on her face. Jenny decided she did not want to be close to the starting line when Bailey crossed it. She crouched low to increase her speed but skated on the outside lane of the track to keep an eye on Bailey. She thought her new friend might get a kick out of what was about to happen.
Jenny watched for the moment Bailey completed her second lap. The girl in green skated over the line at full speed, but she immediately slowed to a stop. Bailey looked at the starting line, then at Jenny. Jenny visibly shrugged, then giggled to herself and kept skating.
The sound of a buzzer made Jenny jump. She did not know what it meant, so she stopped and looked around. Ms. Sharp had stepped down from the stage and was walking towards the starting line. Ms. Sharp’s assistant followed close behind her, and she waved Jenny over. Jenny felt a knot tighten in her stomach, but she sighed and skated back to the start. By the time she arrived Bailey, Ms. Sharp, and Ms. Sharp’s assistant stood on the track. The rest of the Unique applicants, including Dirge, Dread, and the naga stood around them in a large circle.
“How did you block Bailey’s card draw?” Ms. Sharp asked Jenny.
“She can’t draw until I finish my first lap,” she explained. Jenny hoped that it sounded less like cheating if she explained it that way. She tugged at her invisible coat. “I haven’t yet.” The crowd didn’t seem to think so.
“CHEATER!” The naga croaked. Jenny hoped the naga did not make the team. Other members of the crowd started to boo, but Ms. Sharp held a hand up. Everyone went quiet.
“What are you?” The pale woman asked Jenny.
“Craftsman, programmer. Swarm Queen spec.”
“Human?” Jenny nodded.
“What soul are you using?”
“Cyber,” Jenny replied. Ms. Sharp stared at Jenny for a couple of seconds, then she nodded.
“Okay, you’re in,” She said. Jenny heard Dirge cheering over the boos from the rest of the crowd.
“I can join the try-outs?” Jenny asked. She was eager to show up the naga. Ms. Sharp shook her head.
“No. You’re on the team.” She turned to walk away, but her assistant made it clear to everyone.
“Three slots left. Line up with Bailey,” she said.
“SHE’S A CHEATER!” the naga yelled again. “Why does she get to be on the team?”
“If you think she cheated, then YOU don’t know how to play the game,” Bailey said. “You’re out.” The naga hissed at Bailey.
“FINE. But if I’m out, I’m taking her with me.” The black and green naga turned towards Jenny and rushed at her. Green light gathered in the snake’s hands. Jenny recognized it as a very painful monk skill that would hit eight times. Even if she had time to block the first, she could not keep up with all eight impacts. The green glowing fist flew towards Jenny’s face. She flinched and blocked with her hands, but the first hit never connected. She peeked through her hands and saw bulky, sea-green tentacles blocking every hit. The naga yelled at Bailey again.
“WHY ARE YOU PROTECTING A CHEATING ZERO?!” she raged.
“She’s on my team. You’re not,” Bailey said flatly. “And I already told you, she didn’t cheat. You can’t cheat in the AlterNet. If she did it, then it can be done. Leave or I’ll make you leave.” The naga stood tall and crossed her arms.
“You can’t make all of us leave,” she said. Most of the other Uniques there for try-outs gathered behind the snake. Before Bailey could reply Dread stepped in front of the naga and stared the snake-girl down. Dirge moved to stand next to Jenny and Bailey.
“We can,” Dread said.
“She’s a Calavera!” Dirge yelled. “She’ll stomp all of you.” Jenny noticed the naga shrank back a bit. She watched the crowd disperse until the naga and another girl were the only ones left. She was a dark-skinned girl with her hair made up in a pair of large black puffs on her head.
“Where’s everyone going? Am I that late?” the new girl asked.
“Hey, do you care if there’s a Zero on the team?” Bailey asked the girl. The girl’s eyes rolled upward while she thought about the question.
“Ummmm… ” Finally she shrugged at Bailey. “Kind of?”
“I’m going to ask you again. Give me a different answer,” Bailey said. “Do you care if there’s a Zero on the team?”
“YES!” the girl yelled.
“No.” Bailey corrected her.
“NO!” she repeated.
“Great, you’re on the team.” Bailey looked at the naga. “Why are you still here? Roster’s full.”