For Ian and Jackson, what had been a blissful celebration of their hard-fought victory in the football game was quickly replaced by an uneasy feeling in the pits of their stomachs. Merely hearing their teacher’s voice blaring their names from across the playground was enough to change the mood.
As is usually the case with most fifth graders, the boys wondered what they could have possibly done to cause the teacher to summon them during recess. Both boys soon realized there was no way to avoid the teacher without creating further problems and reacted accordingly, by having a foot race.
Ian took an immediate lead, after shoving Jackson playfully into the crowd of teammates. Jackson enjoyed a brief chuckle, then took off in fast pursuit. It wasn’t long before Jackson’s long stride caught Ian and passed him like he was enjoying a leisurely stroll in the park. Jackson even took the time to tap Ian on the shoulder and wave as he zipped by. Both boys cackled out loud, gasping for air as they hurried toward the school.
Mrs. Campbell found it remarkable that the boys had any energy to run after playing in the football game. The two recruiters simply grinned as they watched the race unfold, almost as if they’d placed a wager on the outcome.
Jackson arrived a couple steps ahead of the bloody-faced Ian. Both boys immediately rested their hands upon their knees, filling their lungs with deep breathes of the fresh Colorado air. The boys glanced at each other. Jackson raised his eyebrows a couple of times and grinned, making certain Ian was aware of his superior speed. Ian smirked, shaking his head and rolling his eyes in response.
“Goodness, child, you’re bleeding everywhere. Are you alright?” asked Mrs. Campbell, concerned, holding Ian’s chin in her hand.
“Oh, yes ma’am, I’m fine. I’m not even bleeding anymore. It’s all dried up. See?” replied Ian, brushing his hand across his face, then showing the palm of his hand to the teacher.
Mrs. Campbell whimpered something unintelligible, then smiled softly through her pursed lips. “Boys, these gentlemen are here to visit with you,” said Mrs. Campbell, turning quite dry, emotionless.
In all the grand excitement of the foot race the boys hadn’t noticed the two military men standing beside Mrs. Campbell. A dozen thoughts raced through the boys’ heads as they stared at the two men, none of which included being recruited. Ian immediately thought the men had news about his sister, Sofia Ann.
“Hello, gentlemen, I’m Major Ryan and this is Recruiter Apprentice McCain,” said the Major. “First of all, congratulations on your victory! That was quite a football game.”
The two boys nodded with appreciation, then executed one last celebratory fist bump before turning their attention back to the Major.
“We’re with the 4th Recruiting Regiment for the New World Military,” continued the Ager Major, “and we’re here to inform you both of your acceptable scores on the military test battery. I’d like to be the first to welcome you as recruits to the New World Military.”