My phone buzzes at me, and I need a break, so I check my email, wondering whether I can skip out before my shift is officially up, because it’s not like anyone’s doing anything right now. They don’t need me.
But I do still have work I could be doing, work that has to get done some time, so.
(Ha. No. So bored.)
Paragon’s sent me an email, just saying hi. I guess he’s back in Minnesota – I didn’t see him around at all yesterday, so that makes sense. I message him back, figuring I might as well, and he immediately replies, asking if he can call.
I wake my computer back up, and his face appears. He waves at me.
“Hey, Paragon,” I say, “what did you need?”
He shrugs. “Mostly I’m just bored. I have to be here enough to help if they need me, but they don’t need me.”
“You can probably get alerts sent to your phone,” I tell him.
He makes a face. “Yeah, but then I’d have to carry my costume around with me, which is such a pain, and anyway, they get hells of antsy if I’m not here a sufficient portion of the time.”
I raise my eyebrow at that one. “How’d they deal with you taking the summer off?”
He scoffs, “I said they were antsy, I didn’t say they could keep me here, and, anyway, I had an agreement with Will.”
“Who’s Will?” I ask.
He stares blankly at me for a while. “Only the traveler with the longest range on record.”
“What kind of traveler?” I ask, because I’m sure I’ve heard about this, but I can’t recall.
He makes a face like he thinks I’m fucking with him, but he says, “makes doorways?”
I nod. “Kind of square windows, feels like you’re going through a tunnel?”
“That’s the one,” he says, “the tunnel thing is because it automatically corrects for atmospheric changes – pressure, difference in oxygen levels, things like that.”
“Okay,” I say, “it’s weird that you know that.”
“It’s not weird,” Paragon defends, “I got to know him while we were working out logistics. Anyway, you should know him, he’s your coworker.”
“I do know him,” I admit, “or at least we’ve met before. I only remember him because he’s the only one who’s not a touch-teleporter.”
“Is that some kind of thing with you?” Paragon asks.
I stare at him. “Is what some kind of thing?”
“I mean, is it a thing that you’re only comfortable being touch-teleported?” Paragon asks, “because lots of people can teleport at range, plus tunnelers, location shifters, and distorters.”
“No,” I say, still staring at him, “I’m pretty sure we only have touch-teleporters on staff.”
“See, that doesn’t make sense,” he informs me, “because that’s actually the least common traveler power by far, even excluding the ones that are exclusively autolocative.”
I resist the urge to sigh, because I know he’s going to go into it whether I want him to or not. It’s like asking Vector an architectural history question.
“Okay, so the most common,” he starts holding up one finger, “there’s group teleportation, that’s the thing all the shipping companies want, I get why that’s not up there in your staffing.”
“And, obviously, travel agencies and stuff want doorways if they can get them,” he adds, “I mean, not that that’s common, because I would say that’s the second least common. I can check.”
“No, that’s fine,” I tell him.
“Okay, but location shifters,” he holds up a second finger, “is even more common than that, I mean, obviously, that includes some of the small range ones, not useful, so, second.”
I nod again.
“Right, but tunneling and distortion are really common too,” he says, with two more fingers up, “and that’s leaving aside all the rarer stuff, and then we get to range teleportation, then touch.”
“Okay,” I agree.
“So how the hell can all your staff be touch-teleporters?” he yells.
“Is it, is it just, are you like some sort of collection point or something?” he demands, “is JC like a gathering place for all the touch-teleporters of the world?”
I shrug again. “As far as I know, it’s most of the staff in Gates, too.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” he snaps. “Most of the travelers here are shifters, like normal.”
“Okay,” I say.
“If I draw a map of powers by location, is it going to drive me nuts?” he asks me. “Like, is it going to be some arcane symbol that unleashes eldritch horrors or something?”
“Probably,” I say, with a grin.
He lets out a frustrated growl. “Well, tekes are all even by population density, and muscles are pretty uniform, and camouflagers break down by type a little, but they’re all pretty much….”
“Look, Paragon, I really don’t think you need to worry about it,” I tell him, “if it really bothers you, you can probably look up papers on it, but I think it’s just a coincidence.”
“Yeah, unless it turns out I get put on a watch list for it,” Paragon says. “Wouldn’t be the first conspiracy around there people are touchy about.”
“It’s probably going to turn out there was historically a good touch-teleportation program here, or something like that,” I tell him.
“You don’t worry about that at all?” He shakes his head at me.
“Well, your school has a library,” I say, “use it.”
He grins. “What, so I can do all the research without checking out a single book?”
I grin back at him. “Only if you’re paranoid.”
He shoots me a ‘who, me?’ look, but I get the feeling he’s going to look it up, although maybe a little less covertly than all that. He twiddles his thumbs for a minute. “So how are the kids?”
“Horrible,” I say.
“I expected as much,” he sympathizes, “oh, the humanity.”
I shake my head. “They’re really not that bad, actually. We have the one that keeps hurling slurs at everyone and everything, but just the one, the rest are okay.”
“Not all screaming slurs from the rooftops at the top of their lungs?” he asks me.
“A little,” I admit, “but they’re high schoolers, so I give them some latitude.”
“Or you could tell them all to shut the fuck up,” he suggests, “never too early to learn they need to shut their bigot faces.”
“I guess not,” I say.
He frowns, looking apologetic. “You worried you’re going to get in trouble? Never mind, forget I said anything. Let them be bigots, if that’s what the administration expects.”
“Paragon,” I say.
He holds up his hands. “No, really, I didn’t mean anything by it, I don’t actually expect you to fix them when all they’re shooting off is their mouths.”
“I’ll say something to them,” I assure him.
He gives me a wary look. “Really, don’t, not if you’re going to get in trouble. I don’t want what happened to him to happen to you.”
“I’ll say something to them,” I repeat, more forcefully.
“Okay,” he says.
“Okay,” I agree.
He smiles brightly. “Did you hear that Apogee hooked up with Amos the hostage negotiator? You guys have so much more interesting gossip than we do.”