“Kuiper!” someone calls from down the hallway, which isn’t right, because I’ve definitely got the mask on right now. I check and everything.

I mean, not that everyone doesn’t know who I am, or at least everyone who’s been here for more than a few weeks, who have all definitely seen me with my mask off.

And also maybe some of the newer people. I haven’t been very good about wearing my mask, except in front of the kids.

Which is actually pretty fucking ridiculous, because everyone but FiendPuncher has seen me without it for whole weeks, even, and also knows my name. And FiendPuncher has a Plan or something, and isn’t giving that up to tell everyone who I am.

Not that I care, actually, because the last time someone actually went after a teacher was ten years ago or whatever, and that was in, what, Bay City? Agapolis? And the media came down hard on them, and people aren’t that stupid anymore.

Well, actually, people are definitely that stupid, and everything probably really is due to the identity protocols, and damn. This is why they don’t tap armor personnel.

“Kuiper?” the voice says again, from where its owner is leaning against the doorway, arms crossed, staring at me with a raised eyebrow, and, hey, when did she get here?

“Yes,” I say, tugging off the mask (I can’t believe I’ve gotten used to wearing these). “Right. That’s me. What did you need?”

“You’re going on a field trip,” she informs me.

I dip my head in acknowledgement. “That I am. I’m taking the kids on patrol later today.”

She frowns, opens her mouth, holds up a hand, and harrumphs. “Hang on, let me rephrase that. We’re going on a field trip.”

I don’t suppose she wants to chaperone the demon spawn with me.

“We, as in, you, me, Graham, and Chen,” she says, “we have a case.”

“We,” I repeat.

“Yeah, well, you know, special investigative squad or whatever,” she tells me.

Oh, god, I hate it when they put together handpicked teams. It never ends well.

Maybe they can find someone else.

“I have, you know, class to teach,” I say.

She gives me a Look (wow, I am just getting those in spades this week) and sweetly reassures me that, “you’ll be back in plenty of time for the kids. Now move your ass.”

“Fuck, fine,” I say, “is there a reason, or…?”

“What, why they’d pull a perfectly capable mask and stick him on our bespoke party of adventurers?” she says. “Why, yes, yes, there is a reason.”

Flicking the door closed (because I don’t want to change in front of the entire building, thanks), which she raises an eyebrow at but doesn’t say anything about, I head to the back of the office, where those tiny little lockers are, and pull out my regular clothes.

Yes, I do, in fact, have to change into my costume as soon as I get in every day, why?

(Or, well, at least, after I get something to eat and, you know, caffeinated.)

Mason politely turns her back while I fight harder than a human person should reasonably have to fight getting out of the glossy purple unitard thing (it zips; it’s not really a unitard). Lucky me, I don’t actually need anyone to unzip me, but they just never want to stop sticking to my legs. Especially at the knee, where it’s done that thing where it bunches and molds itself to my skin or something, because I’ve been sitting in the chair for a while, and now I have weird texturing on my leg.

At least it takes two seconds to put on pants and a shirt. I cannot for the life of me find my socks, but I know they’re around here somewhere.

Travis, Travis. What a dumbass. I tucked them into my shoes so I wouldn’t forget about them.

I’m also pointedly not asking her what the reason is, because two can fucking play at that game, Agent Need-to-know. “Armor or no?”

“Shouldn’t need it, just recon right now,” she tells me, eyes still on the window. Probably watching to see if anyone came into the gym.

“It’s alright, you can look now,” I say, and I can’t help but kind of laugh when I do.

She rolls her eyes at me. “Well, I can’t have your virtue threatened because I caught a glimpse of your equipment while it wasn’t in use.”

“I would think it would be more of a problem if you caught it in use, actually.” I shrug.

She frowns. “I have no idea whether you’re joking.”

I grin. “Recon as in let’s sit in a parking lot and stare at nothing for hours, or recon as in we’re doing forensics’ job but patterns says they’ll mess something up?”

“Neither,” she says, “we’re doing forensics’ job because we’re investigating something almost probably extranormally-influenced, where people don’t want names of lowly techs attached.”

Oh, god. “Do we even need four of us?”

“Four,” she sighs, and shakes her head. “No. We need precisely one of us, and probably not even that, because it’s not like there’s not security footage.”

“What a shame we won’t be here for that,” I deadpan.

She laughs. “I know. When we catch this guy, I’m planning on giving him a piece of my mind for not pulling this next week.”

“Why, how many interns are you getting?” I ask.

She shrugs. “It’s not how many interns I get, it’s how many interns forensics gets. Or, actually, how many have nothing better to do than comb through hours of footage.”

“So, probably some of yours, anyway,” I say.

“Probably,” she agrees. “I’m actually capable of reading and writing. Frees up a lot of time I’d otherwise have to spend dictating a report to an underling.”

“You know when they put you on the illiterate teams, it’s because they’re somehow convinced you can teach the guys to read,” I tell her.

She nods sagely. “I have always given off a high school principal vibe. I think it’s the glasses.”

I grin. The frames are your basic black, but they’ve got a little bit of a cat-eye shape to them. And she does have her hair pinned up (in the same bun everyone else wears, but still). And I can’t really see someone letting a teacher – even a principal – carry a high voltage Taser, because once you had one it would be so hard not to use it, but I imagine it’s just slightly more effective than a ruler to shake at people. The thing The Man never realizes is that some students just don’t want to learn.

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