“Alright, where do you want me to set up?” Pathos asks, flipping through a notebook, while the kids are finishing up their laps, looking only vaguely grumpy.

(Except Caffeine. Caffeine is always weird about the running thing.)

I gesture to the corner with the chairs and mini-range he asked me to put out for him.

Pathos stares at the three chairs. “Two students? I thought only – oh, one of them has an effect, huh? How permeable?”

“Seems to go away if you concentrate on it,” I tell him. “I’ve never noticed anyone having a problem when speaking directly to him.”

Pathos laughs, turns to me, and abruptly clears his throat. “Oh. Well. Okay. Well, I’ll keep that in mind. Just Jailbait and, uh –”

“Psybeam,” I say, gesturing to him. It’s not all that helpful, because they’re running in a pack, but I point at him anyway.

“Psybeam,” he repeats, “right.”

And continues to watch me out of the corner of his eye as he makes his way over to the chairs.

The kids slow down as they get to me, stopping to lean over and pant (because, apparently, Coach Domino was getting lax in his old age), or to fall dramatically to their knees, hand over heart, gasping and demanding water, in the case of Caffeine.

Enigma Machine tosses a bottle of water right at his face.

Caffeine catches it, of course he does, because of those goddamned reflexes.

No, actually, I’ve changed my mind, I feel pretty good about him catching that one, because otherwise someone would be getting on my case about having missed it and letting a water bottle smack a kid in the face. (Pathos, probably.) The rest of them pick up water bottles on their own, except for FiendPuncher, who has her nice decorative bottle still with her, all shiny and unscuffed, and probably filled it up at the fountain.

Those things are pretty cool, actually. Smoke swears he ran a tank over one once, and there wasn’t a scratch on it. I’m inclined to believe him, but that may be because it’s intensely discomfiting to argue with Smoke. (I know, but still – it’s not like I talk to him enough to be used to it.) Bartok says he’s full of shit and you can barely drop one from ten stories and have it survive. I don’t know why the Flight Crew gets such a kick out of these experiments, but we’re not short on replication.

“Jailbait,” I say, “Psybeam, you’re over there with Pathos.”

He bristles when I point to him, even from clear across the room.

“Why do they get a special teacher?” Gatling whines, “I want the qualified guy!”

I don’t smack Gatling on the nose even once.

I mean, also, I don’t have a newspaper.

“Because they have better powers than you, dumbass,” Caffeine says.

Gatling crosses his arms and shakes his head. “People are just people no matter what kind of powers they have and you shouldn’t treat them differently just because you think one way is better.”

FiendPuncher starts cracking up.

The other three turn to look at her.

“I’m sorry,” she says, then, clearing her throat, higher pitched, she says, “I’m sorry I just thought of a funny joke that’s all.”

They don’t seem to believe her. One even says, “oh, yeah?”

Yes, Gatling. Who glares. And says, “let’s hear this joke, then.”

“Okay!” FiendPuncher dons a beatific smile. “Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?” Gatling says, warily.

“Who!” FiendPuncher says, her smile growing wider.

“Who who?” Gatling growls, balling his hands into fists.

FiendPuncher slaps her hands to her face. “Oh, no, an owl infestation!”

Caffeine and Enigma Machine both start laughing. I don’t, but it’s through an effort of will that more than doubles when I see the kind of daggers Gatling is glaring at her.

“You know,” Gatling says, forcefully nonchalant, “that’s not that funny.”

FiendPuncher just looks at him with wide, innocent eyes, and says, “maybe you just need to grow a sense of humor.”

I do snicker at that one, but I don’t think any of them hear me. When I can talk to the students without laughing at any of them again, I say, “so. We’re working on individual exercises, today.”

“Power drills?” Caffeine asks, clapping his hands together.

“Yes,” I agree, and, because it’ll be so much faster than explaining out loud, just hand him the sheet that tells him how many circles to run in.

He takes off with a whoop.

“You two are on flying routines,” I say, to FiendPuncher and Enigma Machine. “Show her the basics; I’ll be by to check your form in a couple minutes.”

“Which routine?” Enigma Machine asks, with a huff.

“Start with the first and work your way through them, Enigma Machine,” I tell him. “I know you remember your flying buddy showing you. It was two years ago.”

Enigma Machine sighs even more exasperatedly, and says, “well, come on then, little lady, let’s show you how to fly.”

I can tell there are no cameras today, because she flips him off with both hands.

As she flies after him, Gatling says to me, “I’m not working with you.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“If you lay one finger on me, I’ll scream rape.” He smirks.

“I’m not going to touch you, Gatling,” I tell him. “I’m going to give you instructions, verbally, from way over here, and you’re going to practice using your powers.”

He tucks his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels. “And what if I don’t?”

“Then you can get the hell out of my class, because I have no idea why I’d waste time teaching you,” I say.

Gatling snorts. “Typical. Just want to get out of doing your job, any way you can, huh?”

Maybe I should send him over to hang out with Pathos after all.

“You know what, Gatling?” I say, and hand over the sheet, still from way over here. “Do the things patterns has specifically, personally cooked up for you to better yourself, or don’t. Sit there. Read a book. Play Angry Birds. I really don’t care.”

And then I leave to go check on my flyers.

When I glance back over, Gatling is doing his work. Or doing something, anyway. Sullenly, but he’s working at it. The flyers seem to be almost halfway down the list. They’re not coordinated with each other, not yet, but they’re working through the basic patterns very quickly. Willing to bet FiendPuncher memorized the exercises, too. I wonder if she has some sort of memory enhancement.

That would be a little out of place for a white hat, I think. Mostly they’re too young or too dumb when they get their powers to care about studying. That’s really more of a gray hat skillset. Of course, three quarters of black hats have perfect recall or something like that, so what do I know. Maybe all the white hats are just trying not to seem like nerds.

On his way out, before we move on to meditation, Pathos sneers at me, “would have been real helpful to leave me a table, dog.”

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