As soon as they all passed the door, it slammed shut behind them. They were in a tunnel of some sort, with blue mat walls like in those indoor playgrounds. It opened up ten feet ahead, however, and there was a straight shot upward. There was a wide ledge some ten feet off the ground, and another one further up on the opposite wall.
“Whu-do-we-do?” Kimmy asked.
“Climb,” Ben instructed, craning his neck up. “The structure repeats. We’ll have to leapfrog back and forth to the top.”
“Easy!” Kimmy shouted before running straight up the wall.
“C’mon, guys!” she shouted gleefully..
“Okay,” Ben said. “The three of us will boost each other up.”
Wordlessly, Gwen ran forward, running up the wall a ways before jumping to the other side, where she then repeated the process. In this manner, she easily reached the top.
“Or no one else will listen and we’ll be left in the dust,” Ben said dryly.
“Stop being dramatic,” Gwen instructed, equally dry. She then flattened herself on the ground and reached her hand down. Kimmy followed suit. The two boys ran at the wall, leaping and grabbing the girls’ hands. In short order, all of them were on the ledge.
“Easy enough,” Ben said. “Let’s just do it again.”
So they did. Again and again and again. It went surprisingly smoothly.
This is too easy, Terry thought.
Outwardly, he said: “Okay, what’s next?”
The four of them looked ahead. The floor dropped off and some seventy feet below was a pool of water. (“Seriously, where’d that come from?!” Kimmy exclaimed.) Ropes hung at intervals from the ceiling. The meaning was clear: swing across.
Before anyone could speak, Gwen was sprinting towards the ledge. In one fluid, practiced motion she leaped and snatched a rope. Using her momentum, she flung herself to the next rope, then another.
“Y’know, I think I saw her smile before she did that,” Kimmy muttered.
“Right, ’cause that’s possible . . .” Ben trailed off with a slight smirk.
“Do you think she’s done this before?” Terry asked, his head cocked and his hands on his hips.
Still smirking, Ben shot back, “Once or twice, yeah.”
Then he too jumped for the ropes.
“’You think he’s done this before?’” Kimmy said in a very bad impression of Terry’s voice. Then she zipped to the ledge and over the gap in an instant.
With a sigh and an exasperated shrug, Terry set off after his teammates.
Maybe it was because of how easily the teen Grim Reaper, surprisingly-athletic-nerd, and the human-cannonball had managed the gap, but Terry completely underestimated what he needed to do.
In other words, he got halfway across before slipping.
Luckily, by his quick reflexes and wish to not die by plummeting toward the water below, Terry managed to snag the end of the rope.
“Easy enough, just gotta . . .” Terry started to grab higher up on the rope. “This is hard . . .”
At this point, his friends had noticed his situation.
“Oh, uh,” Kimmy called back. “You okay, dude?”
“Fine . . . I’m fine,” Terry said, feeling decidedly not fine and extremely embarrassed. Week six of superhero school and he couldn’t even do a rope course.
Well, this can’t get much worse… Terry thought, still struggling to climb.
As if by some cosmic turn of fate (or the meddling of the coaches still watching), things got far worse.
In unison, the first line of ropes fell.
In less than a second, the next batch followed them.
“Uh-oh,” Kimmy whispered.
“This isn’t good,” Ben muttered.
“[CENSORED]!” Terry shouted.
The seventh line of ropes fell.
“He won’t get out of there fast enough,” Kimmy said, twisting desperately on the rope in search of another option.
“We might not make it if we don’t keep moving!” Gwen snarled, although she too remained rooted to her rope.
“We lose if anyone hits the water,” Ben muttered hopelessly.
“Well, then think of something; you’re supposed to be a genius, right?” Gwen shouted at him.
Ben stared, seemingly dumbfounded, as Terry struggled, more and more ropes sailing into the water.
Suddenly, Ben twisted violently to look at Kimmy.
“Create an updraft!” he ordered. “Then it doesn’t matter if he falls!”
“What?” Kimmy turned to him.
“Run on the walls of the room really, really fast, and create a vortex,” Ben explained. “You should be able to make something with enough force to keep Terry in the air!”
“Gotitboss!” Kimmy shouted before speeding off to the end. She leapt onto the wall and started running.
She moved on the walls in a circle, speeding up more and more as she continued to run.
The ropes behind Terry fell.
“Faster, Kim!” Ben shouted, both himself and Gwen still hanging from their respective ropes.
“I’m sorry, guys,” Terry said slowly, looking directly at his team.
Terry took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Then he fell.
Terry had heard you had a lot of time to think while falling. But Terry didn’t think. He mostly screamed.
He had plummeted for only a few seconds before he came to a gentle stop.
Am I dead? Or unconscious? Or dead? Terry thought to himself, eyes firmly latched shut.
He started to rise.
Definitely dead. I’m ascending.
Deciding to take the risk, Terry opened his eyes very, very slowly.
Much to his surprise, he was still in the giant rope room, only instead of getting an impromptu bath, he was floating up towards the ceiling. He could hear Ben whooping enthusiastically from another rope. Unsurprisingly, Gwen remained unruffled. Below him, travelling from wall to wall, was a multicolored blur who could only be:
“Kimmy!” he shouted, thoroughly relieved.
In just a couple of seconds, Kimmy managed to float Terry up to the ceiling. Twisting himself around, he could see his other two teammates, who were also pressed to the roof by the intense force of the updraft.
“C’mon!” Gwen barked, pushing herself toward the exit. Ben followed suit with Terry not far behind.
Soon, all three of them were in the small alcove in front of the exit. They all fell to the floor in a heap as the vortex’s power didn’t reach in there. In an instant their rapid-moving teammate joined them.
“Why’re you all lying around groaning?” she asked. “Isn’t there a race to finish?”
Gwen glared daggers as she rose, brushing herself off and stepping toward the door. The boys scrambled up as well.
“Hey, thanks for the save,” Terry mumbled to Kimmy.
“No problem,” she replied smiling “It was Ben’s idea, anyway.”
“Hey,” Ben said, turning. “I just thought of it. You executed it, magnificently, I might add.”
“You three gonna get a room or should we continue?” Gwen asked sarcastically.
“Lead on,” Ben replied, equally sarcastic.
Gwen huffed forward. The door opened in front of her and she stepped in without hesitation. The other three followed hurriedly into the opening.
Forum Team found themselves in a pitch-black room.
“The hell is this?” Kimmy shouted. “Are we supposed to find the end or something?”
“Nah, that’d be too easy . . .” Ben muttered.
From the darkness, Terry heard an odd, unplaceable sound.
“You guys hear that?” he asked.
“No.” “Nope. “Nuh-uh.”
He heard it again. A sort of dull metallic whir.
“There it is!” he barked, twisting around, searching in vain for the sound’s source in the unending blackness.
“There’s something – ” Terry started.
The lights suddenly clicked on, revealing another giant room, although the team was firmly on the ground. They weren’t alone, either. The room was filled with human-sized robots, all standing in an array of fighting positions.
“– in here,” Terry finished.
“What do we do?” Gwen asked calmly, her fists already raised in a fighting position.
“I’ve seen this kinda test before,” Ben informed them. “Usually, we just need to get to the door and escape.”
“Easy enough,” Kimmy said confidently, stretching her arms as she went. She crouched into a sprinter’s starting pose.
Spreading his hands with the palms skyward, Terry focused intensely. In an instant, electricity began to dance along his hands. He could feel the lightning coursing through him, supercharging his body and making him feel more alive than he had all day. He knew there would be a crash after, but he didn’t care.
Right now, he just wanted to kick some robot ass.
“Alright, guys,” Ben said, looking around at his teammates, “break the line.”
Their four voices melded together into one tremendous roar.
Then, Forum Team charged.