Chapter Nineteen, Puzzle Pieces

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Bennie marveled at how quickly the last days of summer passed, the first summer in her memory that she never had a moment to get bored. After buckling down and finishing her summer reading and assignments (with Sarah's help, as the better and more focused student), she freely enjoyed spending her days at the community pool with her old friends, or hanging out with her new ones at Sean's house or in Silverdale. She opted to watch them play their games rather than participate, and Peter kept them from teasing her too badly. He understood that, for her, virtual killing was no easier for her than her real life fight to the death.

Even without her playing directly they had plenty of laughs with her, making the virtual characters say shocking things, regaling her with stories of legendary screw-ups fellow players made that reset entire teams to lower levels of the game, and inadvertently making her and Sean laugh when a thunderstorm hit one day. They were used to the steady grey and quiet drizzles of Washington State, and got very excited when the thunder boomed. It echoed around the hills in a peculiar way, unlike the solid grumbles Bennie heard at home almost every time it rained, when it actually did rain.

Bennie quickly found that she and Peter had a similar taste in movies, and on her last weekend of freedom they went to the theater to "scout out" a movie they hoped would be good to rest as a group for a post-training movie night later in the school year, when everyone would need a break from school projects and Guardian work.

Neither could drive, so they took the bus back to Peter's neighborhood, and walked in the rare sunshine, discussing the finer points of the plot as they made their way down Peter's street. They quickly digressed into what Bennie jokingly labeled as "dangerous territory," the love interests in the movie.

"I still think Anne was stupid for putting up with David for so long," Peter said. "With her capabilities she could have simply erased herself from his memory and been done with him. I was glad that she finally gave up on him and pursued her potential with mind manipulation. Maybe she'll be a villain in the sequel."

"She was trying to be patient with him," Bennie argued. "Girls have to be, because, no offense, you guys can take a while to clue in sometimes."

"Oh really?" Peter said, giving her a sideways smile. "Anyone you're hoping will get a clue soon?"

Bennie thought of the past school year. She remembered that first chemistry lab, when she was ready to explode with the chemicals. Her lab partner Marcus had saved the day. He had done so for every lab they had together, her personal grade-saver...wait, should she be thinking about him when she was hanging with Peter? He might have meant himself. It's not like they had put a label on their friendship, if it was something more.

"They were only minor characters anyways," Bennie said, eager to move out of dangerous territory. "I think that our friends will find the main plot of the film more interesting—"

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