by Hydrargentium

“There are seventeen of you in this class. I need three for a mission I can’t tell you about yet.”

Ranger was careful to keep his shoulders square, in line with his hips and his boots. His hands were clasped behind his back in the “at-ease” position.

Behind his goggles, his eyes darted left and right as he studied their reactions. All they saw were his dark lenses, impassive and inscrutable.

“The first two of you to impress me right now, I will bring along.”

Ranger very deliberately did not allow himself even a hint of smirk.

Many of the students started talking all at once, mostly to him. Though cacophonous, it was clear they were all trying to get his attention and tell him why he should choose them. He ignored them, waiting.

His didn’t wait long. From the back of the group, a thunderous clapped sent a literal shockwave through the students. Many of them staggered, and all but one moved in response, parting enough to let Ranger see who had created the sound

A short young man, broad-shoulder and athletic, but barely five feet tall, stood with his hands pressed together. The look on his face was determined, a study in concentration, but his eyes twinkled with confidence.

Ranger nodded.

“That was impressive. What’s your name?”

The confidence wavered under Ranger’s attention.

“Uh, I’m Chaz. Charles Buckholt, sir.”

Ranger pointed at Chaz, but spoke to the rest of the group.

“That’s one. Who’s number two?”