“Hello, new guy,” Sass says, plopping her tray down next to mine.
“Oh, hey,” I say, “I heard you were working on a film with some of my friends.”
“Oh, yeah?” she says, “been doing a little bit work, lately. They like to use the highlights in the background when I get interviewed.”
“Sounds fun,” I agree.
She shrugs. “Why, what did your friends say about me?”
I must make a face, because she immediately starts getting nervous. “Nothing bad,” I try to reassure her, “you just got referred to as ‘Sex Kitten’.”
“Oh, that,” she says, with a laugh, “hardly much worse than my actual code name, thank you. I’m sorry your friend is that guy.”
“She also called you ‘Katie Kate’,” I tell her, then wince.
“Oh, a lady that guy,” she says, “less common, no less irritating. And I actually like that made up name – not ‘sex kitten’, not ‘sassy kitten’ for that matter – better than my real one, you know.”
“Well, Ursula’s not exactly –” and then I break off.
She laughs again. “I know you read my file, Travis; I read yours, too.”
“If it makes you feel any better,” I say, “I didn’t pick the name ‘Teke’, either.”
“It really doesn’t,” she informs me. “You got the kidlets this afternoon?”
“Sure. First class. Ever, for one of them.” I stab a couple of string beans. “But she’s a white hat, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Sure,” Sass says. “Nervous?”
“Nervous I’m going to make one of them cry,” I tell her. “I have no idea what to do with a crying kid. I just hand them back to their parents.”
Sass shakes her head at me. “What are you planning that’s going to make them cry, a live fire obstacle course?”
I laugh. “I think only half of them could handle that, but it includes the new kid – she’s got a shield. No. Just remembering my early training.”
“Why, did you cry?”
I waggle my hand, and she snickers. “Usually only once I got back to my dorm room. We had an ex-marine for an instructor.”
“Did he tell you to drop and give him twenty whenever you mouthed off, or is that just movies?” She unwraps a package of cookies and offers me one of them.
I pass on the cookies. “He made us run laps, mostly, but also pushups, situps – made me do TK reps sometimes – but we had the highest score in physical fitness on the West Coast.”
“Impressive,” she says. “I studied with MediTate, so I don’t know about physical training. Had to trial and error that one myself.”
“What, the self-help guru?” I look at her a little oddly for probably longer than is polite, because I saw him linked from her file, but all it said under training was ‘autodidact’.
“Well, he did train his telekinesis into letting him float,” she argues, “can you float?”
“I can not float,” I concede, with a tip of my head. “That would be cool.”
She grins. “Have you mastered the thing where you balance on something you can float? Because they might make you do it now that you have a costume and all.”
I groan. They really might.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she adds hastily, “I’ll handle the PR, you teach our little scions.”
“Oh, hey,” I say, “you got a mess of a name off of TV. Uh, no offense.”
“None taken.” She shakes her head hard enough to dislodge her cat ears slightly. “That’s true.”
“I thought you might talk to Jailbait?” I say. “She’s going to have to pick a new one, and better something she’s picked than something that gets handed to her.”
“Fair enough.” Sass taps her chin. “She can be a little stubborn. I’ll have to see if I can’t adapt the lecture I usually give.”
“There’s a usual?” I ask.
She shrugs. “You know, they have me talking to schools all the time, telling kids to stay off the rooftops and in class. I tell them how to pick a name once they’re old enough.”
I half-grin at that.
“Or before,” she agrees. “Kids will be kids, though; not all of them take the lecture to heart.”
She tosses her tray, beckoning me to follow her. I get rid of my own lunch, trying to figure out what she wants. She takes me to Hunch’s office, and I figure he must have wanted to see me about team business, but he isn’t there when we get there. Instead, she stops by one of the several smaller desks propped around the room. I idly wonder whether one of them is mine; it’s not like they rearrange the room based on team makeup.
“Have you ever done a patrol before?” she asks, rummaging through files.
“Sure. I’ve been here for years,” I remind her.
“No, I meant a mask patrol,” she clarifies, yanking at something with a triumphant ‘ha’.
I think back. “Yeah, I went on two or three when I first started interning here. Get the feel of nighttime rooftop stalking and all.”
“Ooh,” she says, wincing, “it would’ve still been exciting for you, back then.”
She hands me a clipped together sheaf of papers. “Hat training, for your new recruit.”
“Oh. I printed off the official version already,” I tell her.
She rolls her eyes. “Yes, I did suppose you probably did. I’ve added some notes, because the official version is for shit, and I thought you could use the tips.”
I flip through. There are a lot of tips. “You got all this from the stoner?”
She chuckles into her fist. “He mostly only did for speeches, you know, and only to sound mysterious and otherworldly. And anyway, if Tate can do it….”
She offers me her hand to shake. “Welcome to the team, Teke. Good luck with the kids.”