“This is far enough,” said Dylan. He and Rocky had been making fake tracks for the uglies to follow when they showed up.
“Yeah, we won’t have much time before they arrive,” agreed Rocky.
They backtracked along their sloppy markings and began tiptoeing around the ferns, leaving no trace of their steps. Dylan scanned the woods for cover. The choices were the ferns, rocks and trees. The ferns were good cover if they had to suddenly duck and hide, but would risk leaving them in the big uglies’ path. The rock was smooth and swirling, cooled lava flow from past volcanic eruptions frozen in time. They decided their best cover would be a bit exposed, up in a tree. With any luck the big uglies would be too stupid to think to look up.
“This is a good spot,” said Dylan. Is there a pocket knife in there? I’ll keep a lookout while you check the gear bag.”
Dylan inspected the bag. They had been provided a pocket knife, food and water, a flashlight, pen and a paper map. No SID.
“Yeah, there’s a knife, but no SID.” said Rocky. He and Dylan had hoped it would have been retrieved for them, even if it was broken. SID had been dropped while they were climbing the volcano, which meant its location was somewhere near big uglies’ hideout.
“Hopefully we find it before they do,” said Rocky.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” said Dylan, a smile forming on his face. He grabbed the knife and cut and bunch of ferns. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it back. Maybe we’ll find Dynamo the old fashioned way.”
“What way is that?” asked Rocky, afraid to hear the answer.
“Sneaking up on the bad guys!” said Dylan, beaming a wide eyed, full teeth grin at Rocky through the bunch of ferns.
“Shh! I think they may be sneaking up on us,” answered Rocky. Voices could be heard approaching them. Rocky and Dylan scrambled up a tree. Dylan had just enough time to place the ferns around them for cover.
The programmers at the NSA knew kids could see things in a video game that adults couldn’t, and they needed kids who really knew their stuff to test them out. Rocky was a boy-genius programmer, and Dylan was the kind of kid who made everything look easy. Challenger was the government’s official term for the project. The object was to test virtual gaming systems that would challenge and train agents and prepare them for real-life scenarios. They discovered Rocky in the park playing chess, beating all the old guys who normally couldn’t be beat. Dylan was there too, waiting for Rocky. They witnessed him chase down a purse-snatcher. Dylan tied the guy to a street pole with his own belt and returned the purse to its owner as he waited for help to arrive. When she offered him a reward he politely said getting the guy off the streets was reward enough for him.
They both had special skills, for 10-year-olds, and now they got to put them to good use under Dr. Longley’s supervision. Their teachers enjoyed hearing the reports from the NSA, and even gave the boys extra credit. Sometimes they got to replace projects with their NSA activities. Dylan was hoping to earn some field trip time to NSA during the upcoming poetry week at school.
“Let go! We’ve got to drop!” yelled Dylan. He was hanging onto his best friend Rocky, who was hanging onto the top edge of a volcano, staring into its fiery core. They had just climbed to its top, hoping to find some safety along its slippery, craggy edge. At the base of the volcano were two big uglies they had narrowly avoided. Dylan had thought the best way to get past them was to go up. Rocky had thought it was a good time for them to give up and go hide out in exile for a little while, until the big uglies weren’t so hot on their trail.
It was hot. At least if they had given up they could have gone into exile, which was the game developers name for recovery mode. They would have lived. Now, he wasn’t so sure. If they fell, they might lose everything they’d gained.