“Are they going to do that every week?” FiendPuncher asks me.
I definitely do not drop anything I’m carrying, or jump, even a little. I turn around, slowly and calmly. And then I kind of don’t know what to do, because instead of the normal sweatpants and t-shirt she’s been wearing, there’s some sort of awful thing that looks like it came out of a cartoon, with a shirt that seems like it would get her denied service in a lot of restaurants (although I guess she makes up for it in the amount of shoe?), and a skirt I’m not even sure won’t get her arrested for indecent exposure.
And she has some sort of tiny ribbons with rhinestones dotted around her curls.
“Teke,” FiendPuncher says, crossly, “I asked a question.”
“Right,” I say, “uh, what?”
“Are we going through testing like that every week?” she repeats, exasperated.
“Yes, every Monday, they’ll reassess your abilities and study them, research, see if you need accommodations, that stuff,” I say, “what the hell are you wearing?”
“My costume,” she says. “The website didn’t mention this. Why every Monday?”
“That’s your costume?” I say, about to add something a little more harsh than that, when she interrupts me.
“Look, Teke, this is what sells,” FiendPuncher tells me, gesturing to herself. “Do I want to wear it? No. Do I feel comfortable wearing it? Also no. But someone’s coming to photograph the team today.”
Which is the first I’ve heard of it, and I know that should probably tell me to worry about something or other, but instead, I just say, “look, if you don’t want to wear it –”
“I don’t. I want to sell action figures, though,” she says. “It’ll put me through college. Now will you answer why every Monday before everyone else fucking gets here?”
“FiendPuncher,” I say, because someone’s coming to photograph the team today, “if you have memetic abilities you have until you’re eighteen, but I’m obligated to report any technopathic –”
“You’re going to turn me in?” she asks, head cocked.
“Uh, no,” I say, “no, but be careful with those, because you’re technically legally mandated –”
“Testing,” she says. “Every Monday.”
“Uh,” I say, as I go to unwrap the dozens of layers of plastic on a tray of sandwiches. “Because your powers may change dramatically from week to week at your age? Plus, again, research.”
“We’re guinea pigs,” she says, with a snort, and takes a sandwich.
“Well, no, they’re not allowed to do anything to you without parental consent,” I tell her, “you’re case studies.”
“So they’re only allowed to experiment on Gatling?” FiendPuncher asks, with a smirk.
“I wish,” I mutter, and then look over at her, wide-eyed, to see if she heard.
She heard, alright. She’s giving me the world’s biggest shit-eating grin. Then she turns to give a stunning smile, I’m sure at exactly where the camera is, and takes dainty bites of her sandwich. And probably vegetables again instead of chips. Because, vegetables or not, last week she was drinking soda, and today she has a water bottle – one branded with our logo. Okay. Girl has a plan.
I really hope she doesn’t grow up to go villain.
“Yo, Teke,” Enigma Machine yells at me, staggering in from the locker room, “why’d you tell me to bring the suit again today? More tests?”
Go with it, my phone tells me, immediately, and not even signed. Thanks, guys.
“Just thought you should practice with it,” I say.
“Oh,” he says. Stops to think for a minute. “Cool.”
The others filter in shortly. For a minute, I think Jailbait’s in costume, too, but, no, trick of the light. It’s the normal catsuit she wears to practice, and not the glitter one at all. Because some people obviously do consider them everyday wear (or, at least, she wants to get used to wearing them?) and don’t mind just hanging out in them. Gatling’s still wearing his jeans (and I know I’m not the first person to ask him to wear appropriate clothes, or the first to get a fuck-off-whatever). Caffeine’s wearing racing-striped trackpants and a sweatshirt with an outline of Minnesota on it today, which I think is probably a joke, but may be an homage. They’re all wearing big enough masks, at least.
Psybeam looks a little more put together than I expected him to, but I have no idea why, and struggling to remember if he dressed any differently last week is giving me a migraine. I file it away, instead, under the other student who might have known this was planned. Couldn’t say why.
Unless Caffeine’s little joke is set up to look good on camera.
Can’t think about this anymore. This is too confusing, and it’s not going to do me any good to know who had advance warning or how.
I wish they’d given me advance warning. Now I’m going to be acting weird all class, knowing I’m being filmed. Which is quite possibly why they didn’t tell me.
Fuck it, Travis, pretend you don’t know they’re there. You can’t even see them.
I snap open a box of cookies, instead.
“Food first,” I say, reflexively, pointing at the sandwiches, when Gatling goes to take one.
He flips me off and takes two, but at least he’s quiet while he does it.
“So,” I say, as they pick at their sandwiches. “How was testing?”
They all shrug pretty much in unison.
“Anyone get any new powers?” I joke.
“Alright,” I say. “Anyone get a jump in power, or…?”
“If I stay still long enough, I can almost go invisible,” Psybeam says, quietly.
“They love the new laser attachment,” Enigma Machine says, pointing it up at the ceiling and pressing the back of his glove.
Aware of the cameras, I carefully don’t flinch, but he’s cautiously only got it set to laser pointer mode, right now, so nothing happens.
Or he just attached a laser pointer to his suit and that’s all it’s supposed to do.
“I can fly so fast now!” FiendPuncher says, with a giggle.
“I can almost fly, if I aim my jumps right,” Caffeine offers.
“They’re having me do exploding bullets now,” Gatling brags.
Jailbait, whose powers haven’t changed in a year, looks kind of jealous.
“Anyone,” I say, trying to figure out how the hell to word it, and knowing it’s being recorded for posterity doesn’t help, “having any trouble with their powers?”
More headshakes all around.
“Okay,” I say, “let’s do some warmups and then we can get to practicing with them.”