“Patrol tonight,” Hunch says, “hurry up and finish your food.”

“For fuck’s sake,” I tell him, “I just got here.”

“I know,” Hunch says, “that’s why I’m telling you to hurry up. If you’d been here on time, I’d probably just be bringing you a cookie.”

“Fuck,” I say, and start eating my food.

“Trouble with the kids?” he says, “no, don’t worry about it, keep eating, kid.”

I glare at him and chew furiously.

“Okay, confession, I checked in on you while you were training,” he tells me, sipping his coffee, “you did okay. Not great, but for your first day, I’d say it’s a good start.

“What you need to do is split up the training. Set one kid on a task, move on to the next kid. You’re trying to get them all doing something at once, which is not going to work out, unless they have similar powers. I mean, maybe you could get Psybeam and what’s his name, Bullet Brat, to spar, but I don’t know that it would do them much good, and one of them will certainly not be a lot of help in training the other one, if you follow.”

“Not just me, then,” I tell him.

“Eat,” he says. “No. it’s not just you. First year he was here, he spent a lot of time mouthing off at Weathervane. Poor kid almost quit the program – and he’d been planning to join up after graduation, too. But, I mean, after – well, not taking chances. So I got Ultraviolet in to hand the brat his ass, and he calmed down a little after that.

“Speaking of getting people in – no, you don’t need to arrange for guest lectures, there are other people responsible for that if you’re out – have you talked to Sensei Domino yet, because last I heard he said you hadn’t. He knows you’re new, so he’s kept his schedule clear, but if you have someone else in mind, it would be polite to let him know sooner rather than later.”

“Shit,” I say, around a mouthful of roll, “I need to talk to him.”

“Oh, good, you do want him,” Hunch says. “No worries. I’ll talk to him for you. Be prepared to put up with a little bit of a lecture. For some reason he’s under the impression that you’re disorganized and unprepared for this job.”

I take a sip of juice. “I am unprepared –”

“And he wants excuses?” Hunch shakes his head. “Look, I know they basically tossed you to the lions here, but you agreed – and this after you swore to me you’d never put on a mask, kids these days, I tell you – and you owe it to these kids to give them the best training they can get.”

“Never took karate,” I tell him, and go back to eating before he can tell me.

“I know,” he says, “you’re on my team, remember? I know your short size. The purple ones, by the way, not my fault. I always get cotton.

“The point of karate isn’t that it’s specifically necessary, anyway, it’s just that you want something consistent even if you have to change instructors, and because they’re dumbasses at that age – even Melanie, and she just got into a med school eight-year –”


“Oh, she keeps saying she told us so since she was three – and you need to give them some sort of philosophy to rely on so they don’t think they have carte blanche to use their powers on people.

“I know you think it’s about the punching, it’s not. Not that it’s a bad thing to tell them when it’s okay and not okay to punch people. You’ve just got to practice integrating that philosophy into your curriculum, too; subtle-like, so they don’t think their powers are theirs to use however they see fit. You’ve got to remind them that their powers affect other people. Especially the little shit.”

I almost snort coffee out my nose.

“Oh, please, Travis, you’re old enough to realize that your elders can hate an asshole little kid just as much as you can. Do you need me to get Ultraviolet back for you?”

I must have been about to say something skeptical about that, but it was only about the help, not whether he knew him; I know he knows him, we’ve even met. I guess he get that a lot, though.

“I do too know him. I helped train him before he decided to sidekick for – anyway, we stayed in touch even after he left. So, yes, I can ask him to come in if you need the help.”

I shake my head.

“If you’re sure. Offer’s always on the table. I did like your little time out, there, though. Nice to see you establishing your authority quick. You have several little troublemakers on your team; not sure about the new girl, yet. Looks like a cheerleader. How arrogant has she been so far?”

I shake my head again, and finish my ‘mixed vegetables’.

“Well, that’s good, at least. Let’s hope she is a cheerleader – that’ll give her a head start on the physical training, if nothing else, and you know how demanding the white hat course is. Tell her to join gymnastics if she hasn’t already.

“So, tonight we get to wander around the vicinity of half a dozen warehouses in case we see anything suspicious. Command can’t get us anything most specific than ‘somewhere in this area here with all the warehouses’. Yeah, let’s just wait until we see the one that happens to have the modified cuffs coming out of it, that’s a pretty good bet.

“They’re not even clear enough on which one for us to set up a stakeout. So keep your eyes open, but I’m not actually expecting success. Also, keep your eyes open for sickos – some asshole’s been hassling the prostitutes down there, recently, and Vice has no leads, so if we catch him, we get to keep him, isn’t that fun?”

I finish off the last of my coffee and get up to follow him to the locker room, and he glances at his watch, pronouncing me three and a half minutes faster than he anticipated. He grabs that cookie for me (for fuck’s sake), and he walks me back to where the rest of the team is only just getting started changing, luckily.

He tosses me a pair of briefs. “See? Cotton.”

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