Terry’s fist slammed into the punching bag. Once. Twice. Three times. He stopped and just let the bag swing. He’d come here to let off some steam, but so far it wasn’t working. He’d felt this pent up anger every since that day at the obstacle course.
Fainting in the obstacle course had only been the second most embarrassing thing to happen to Terry that day.
The most embarrassing thing was waking up in the infirmary, trying to break out of the restraints, and promptly fainting again.
That was two weeks ago. The shame had mostly gone away, along with the taunting. His teammates were all very understanding, grateful even. They had been the first team to complete the obstacle course, being the only ones to beat Olympus Team in three years. Ben had been ecstatic when the results came in. He ran off shouting about how he would never let Kate live this down.
Regardless of how happy his team was, Terry still felt remarkably disappointed. What kind of hero could he be if he passed out every time he used his powers? Between that and his near-failure on the ropes, Terry was beginning to wonder if he deserved to be at the Academy at all.
That was how he ended up here, in the gym. He was so fed up with thinking about all his screw-ups he needed to go and punch something.
Now I’m thinking like Mom, Terry mused to himself.
Terry was broken from his thought by a sudden voice. “Where’d you learn to punch?”
Terry spun around. In the door to the gym he saw his teammate, Gwen. Now Terry hadn’t much noticed Gwen’s looks when they had first started at the school; he was far too scared of her. But after getting to know her a bit he had realized she was really pretty. Distractingly so, at least to Terry.
“Oh, uh,” Terry said, desperately trying to focus again, “my mom. She was an amateur boxer.”
“Was?” Gwen asked, making her way into the room.
“Yeah she, um,” Terry answered, “she died . . . a little over a year ago.”
“I’m so sorry,” Gwen said.
“It was like a freak mugging thing. No one could have prevented it,” he said quickly.
“You don’t mean that.”
“Of course I do!”
“No, you don’t!”
“How do you know?”
“If you meant it you wouldn’t be here, learning to fight, trying to stop random crimes like the one that killed your mother!”
Gwen stopped suddenly. So did Terry. No one had ever seen through him like that. The stood there, just staring at each other.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, turning to leave. “I should go.”
“No!” Terry said suddenly. “ I mean, uh, please . . . stay.”
They faced each other silently for a minute. Then, suddenly, Gwen walked over to the wall and slid herself down the side. Terry followed her over, sitting down next to her.
“I lost my mother too,” she said quietly. “It was years ago. I was just a kid. Her and my dad – they were partners. Condor and Albatross. The Birds of Post City. One night they went on patrol . . .” Gwen drew a long, shuddering breath, then continued. “And she was killed. Needless to say, my dad was never the same. Nothing was . . .”
“I’m so sorry,” Terry said, rather lamely.
“It’s the life we lead,” she said simply. “It’s dangerous. Sometimes . . . sometimes you don’t make it home.”
“I never knew my dad.” Terry said. “Disappeared a couple weeks before I was born, actually. Mom always said he had no choice in leaving. That it was his duty, whatever that’s supposed to mean… . . .”
“Some pair we make,” Gwen muttered.
“Look, I don’t usually — ” Terry started. Then suddenly both their H-Pads were buzzing.
“What’s this?” Gwen said, gripping the device in surprise.
“Mission Control: 7 PM. Come in uniform,” Terry said, reading his own. “You don’t think this means we have a mission, do you?”
“I’m pretty sure that is exactly what it means,” Gwen responded, seeming equally shocked.
“What about uniforms?” Terry asked, rising to his feet.
“Ben will know. Let’s find him.” Gwen said before she ran out of the room.
A real mission. Terry thought. Am I even ready for this?
He shook his head.
It doesn’t matter . . . I have to be.
Resolutely, Terry ran out after Gwen.