“I won’t do it,” Gibbons cried. “You can’t make me.”

“Make you do what?” laughed Spinelli.

“Make me your guinea pig in all these magical insect demonstrations!” Gibbons replied, her voice shrilly passionate. “I’ve been mauled by a toothless ghast, mind-controlled into eating an Iowa’s worth of corn…orders or no orders, I’m not doing it!”

“Relax,” said Spinelli. “The Fighting Unicorns aren’t about coercion. Would it make you feel better if I was the next demonstration subject and you got to release the insect on me?”

Gibbons nodded eagerly, a fiendish gleam in her eyes, and Spinelli obligingly handed over a small case and a cue card before standing in the middle of the proving ground.

“This is a species of Auchenorrhyncha, best known for…producing loud noises in summer,” read Gibbons from the card. She opened the container and a repulsive insect resembling a giant housefly with oversized (and bright green) wings buzzed out. It made a beeline for Spinelli, who held out his arm for it to land on.

“Go on,” Spinelli said.

“The creature’s natural song…has evolved into a strong magical defense mechanism that uses sound to cause nausea at a distance,” Gibbons continued. “The sound becomes more potent at greater range, with a zone of safety extending about one meter…to…all…sides.” She looked up. “Oh no.”

As if on cue, the insect on Spinelli’s arm buzzed loudly. Spinelli himself felt nothing, but Gibbons, standing some distance away, was immediately and violently nauseous, and turned to hurl a mixture of various kinds of corn all over the waiting cadets.”

“And that, ladies and gentlemen,” Spinelli said with a grin, “is why we call this particular specimen a Sick Ada.”

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“Now this critter,” Spinelli said, “is a much, much nastier than a Mana Cricket. It’s perhaps the most dangerous magical insect from the order Orthoptera.”

“Are…are you sure about this?” said Gibbons. “I still have bruises from that defanged ghast after the Mana Crickets…”

“You’ll be fine, soldier,” said Spinelli dismissively. “Say hello to our newest guest.”

He pulled a lid of magic-proof glass off of a nearby tray, revealing a grasshopper that was electric purple with terribly long antennae, at least twice as long as its body. The creature took flight and landed atop Gibbons’ head to her intense displeasure.

“Get it off, get it off, get it off!” she shrieked.

“Wait for it, kids,” said Spinelli. “If you’re going to encounter these in the field, you have to know what they’re capable of.”

Moments later, Gibbons ceased her thrashing and her eyes glazed over, pupils dilated. “Corn,” she said in a monotone. “I must find corn. Barley. Oats. Alfalfa. But mostly corn. Cooorrrnnn.” She began walking unsteadily toward the windows, through which the mess hall was visible with its heaping helpings of corn both creamed and cobbed. She walked directly into the glass, bumping against it and leaving a forehead print. Undeterred, she bumped against it again, and again, still moaning about corn with a purple grasshopper on her coif.

“Wow,” said a recruit. “What did it do to her?”

“That’s the External Locust of Control,” said Spinelli proudly. “It takes over your brain and makes you its puppet to seek food, mostly corn.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Nonsense,” replied Spinelli. “If you think that’s bad, you should see the Internal Locust of Control.”

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“They call this creature the Mana Cricket, even though it’s really more of a grasshopper,” said Spinelli. “It feeds off of arcane essence ethereally siphoned from other living beings.”

The insect alighted on Gibbons’ arm and began crawling around. “Hey! That tickles!” she squealed.

“Now, one Mana Cricket obviously isn’t going to do much, and is easily squashed,” said Spinelli, adjusting his uniform cap. “Happily, they’re rarely seen in groups of less than 1,000.”

Dozens more large blue grasshoppers descended on Gibbons, causing her to emit a series of shrill not-quite-screams, not-quite-laughs. They crawled over her, apparently benignly; she didn’t reach for the pistol in her holster or attempt to summon a fireball.

“Of course, even a thousand–or hundred thousand–Mana Crickets can’t kill you,” Spinelli said.

One by one, the grasshoppers alighted, leaving Gibbons alone and swaying. “I don’t feel so good,” she moaned.

“But what they can do is drain you so completely that it will take days for your natural arcane essence to rejuvenate, and in the meantime…”

A door in the arena opened, revealing an immature ghast which promptly charged Gibbons, its knuckles dragging through the dirt. She gestured with her arm, apparently expecting a fireball to spring from her fingertips; when none was forthcoming, she could only utter a startled “Ugh!” as the ghast tackled her.

“Don’t worry, it’s been declawed and defanged.”