You’re walking down a corridor. No, not walking… sneaking. Your breath rasps a little in your throat and you try to breathe less, more quietly. Lifting the gun in your hands, you peer over a barricade of corroded metal, trying to see if it’s safe to move. It looks like it; none of the… enemy? Is out there.
No, they’re not the enemy, you suddenly realize; that’s right, these are training exercises. No one's life is at risk, but you still have to get your team out, all of them, because you’re the best. You’re Storm. People look up to you, depend on you. You have to do this right.
And just like that, you’re outside yourself, looking on. Storm/you peers over the barricade, blue eyes piercing beneath the mud that covers his/your face, army fatigues equally dirty and ripped here and there. He/you looks back—there are 5 other people clustered around him/you, watching. Gene’s there, a pistol in one hand and a rifle strapped to his back. Gai and Bell both have swords strapped to their hips, knives in their hands, probably more weapons hidden away... you never know, with those two. Bell's holding a book open in one hand, though he isn't reading it, his visible eye fixed on Storm/you. Gai is holding a staff that's nearly as tall as he is, with leaves sprouting from it even while the main length of the staff is smooth and ready to be used in combat. Castle has a gun as well, and a pen in his other hand. Storm/you raise an eyebrow at him.
He shrugs. “They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Thought I’d give it a try.”
Storm/you nod. This is clearly a perfectly reasonable leap of logic.
Finally, there’s Genius. Genius has Tribble in his arms; they’re non-combatants, and the point of this exercise is to get them out ‘alive’.
“Spread out.” It’s Storm’s voice when he/you give the order, of course. Not quite snapped, since he/you are keeping his/your voice down to a murmur, but it’s still unmistakably an order. “Formation Omega.”
The four fighters hesitate. Gai shifts a little uncomfortably. “Omega? You are certain?”
Storm/you stare, and his/your gaze turns just a hair more piercing. “I gave you an order.” The implication that he/you expect it to be followed doesn’t need to be said out loud.
The four are still hesitating. Storm’s/your face suddenly twists in anger. “Move!”
It’s a shout rather than a whisper, and it seems to be louder than it should reasonably be, echoing off the walls. All five of them (and Tribble) suddenly jump to their feet and scatter, running hard in five different directions.
Within moments they’re gone, swallowed up by mist that’s suddenly everywhere.
You’re in your body again, not seeing things from the outside, and you’re not Storm anymore. You’re yourself; moving to sit at a desk, you can feel your two hearts beating. Your pulse is a little elevated, but that’s not too surprising—this test is what determines your final grade, and you can’t even read it! You know you ought to be able to, but the shapes of the words turn into meaningless blurs before your eyes.
“Miss Romana!” The tone is condescending, superior, half-familiar. You look up, but you can’t see anyone standing there—you’re all alone, in a stark white room, one that has circular depressions evenly sunken into the walls. “You really must try harder, my dear. I don’t know how you’ll get anywhere in life with scores like this.”
A page drifts down from nowhere, landing in front of you, on top of the weirdly shifting words.
This one, you can read. And it’s not a test at all, or a paper, or anything school-like… rather, it is part of a page from a book. You pick it up, say the words aloud, your voice a thoughtful murmur of sound. “ ‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’ “
Looking up from the paper, you see something rushing toward you, and you fling up one hand, guarding yourself against it—
A rustle as it hits you, and one of the things slips between your fingers. It is an image of a tower, with lightning striking the top and tiny figures falling down. The top of the card reads ‘XVI &diams THE TOWER’
The dream ends.