Confrontation

“Astrid told you about herself already?” Sky asked, startled, as Zack and Weston stood in front of his desk.

“S-so – it really – is Astrid?” Weston said hesitantly.

“Well, if she can do things like bring people into dreams and talk to them there,” Sky muttered. “Gladiators affects the human brain. Of course it involves manipulating dreams, too. And it's especially stronger for her to control her target if that target carries his Gladiator key around a lot.”

Weston glanced at Zack.

“I sleep with my sword in key form,” Zack muttered. “I mean, it's because I'm worried someone takes it away from me, and I lose it while I slept.” He frowned. “So . . . Astrid is the Whisperer, then?”

“She's working on the virtual reality battlefields you will be going on soon,” said Sky, rising from behind his desk. “Astrid has a job, and she'll be busy here for the time being. You two are going to enter the selections, then the Games, aren't you?”

“Yeah,” said Zack. “Weston, Elian, and I are going to head out to the Dome, soon.”

“What are you planning there?” asked Sky.

Weston frowned. “Gladiating. We've got to improve our skills in two weeks, right? Where else other than a Dome where a lot of Gladiators are going to be fighting, too?”

Sky smiled. “'Guess I don't need to worry about you, but meet up with Mikey, Carter, and Astrid one hour from now.”

That surprised them.

“Huh? Why?” asked Weston, startled.

“Simply because Mikey has plenty of free time to kill,” said Sky casually.

“But – he works here, at the Synchron Organization, right?” Zack frowned. “Or – do you have plans for us?”

“It's Mikey's idea,” said Sky with a shrug. “He'll tell you what he's got later. Carter and Astrid will just be taking breaks by then, but, you know, the more the merrier.”

“Er – for what?” asked Weston, puzzled.

“Gladiating,” said Sky. “Although I figure that you're good on your own, Mikey's eager to check on you guys.”

“Mikey's idea?” said Weston, startled. “What's he up to?”

“I suppose he's wondering how you'll get into the selections. Well, find out later. I'll be busy all day again, so I can't hang out. But do me a favor, you two.”

“What is it?” asked Weston.

“Challenge Carter. Even though he'll need a bit of a push to warm up to you guys, you might as well see what kind of power you need to wield before you enter the selections.”

Weston tensed, even more puzzled, but Zack grinned. “Oh, right! I gotta Gladiate him.”

As they left the building, Zack noted Weston's frown.

“What's wrong?” he asked.

“I'm thinking – your brother's some kind of workaholic,” said Weston with a frown. “You're not going to hang out with him much.”

“Well, if he kicks the bucket for work, I'm here to help him,” said Zack with a shrug. “Actually, he doesn't really like office work either. He's staying, only because the virtual reality world is something he's got a lot of history with. Speaking of which, let's head to the Dome-”

“No, uh, Zack, it's more like – we were manipulated away from the question of whether Astrid really is the Whisperer or not,” said Weston. “Like – he never really said yes or no.”

Zack paused, then frowned. “Let's assume he said yes. And we're going to see Astrid later, anyway. Come to think of it – guess we were manipulated away from the subject.” Then he looked up. “Oh, Elian's here!” He waved to a figure streaking along the path towards them.

Weston blinked, seeing Zack's lack of reaction about his brother and how he'd already moved on, as he greeted Elian.

The two were definitely really brothers, though. Despite their differences, Weston could see that they were almost similar.

He sighed, shaking his head. It'll be a long time till he got used to these guys.

The End

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