“I’m just,” I gesture vaguely at a beach chair someone’s pulled out of the closet, presumably a while before I got here, “going to sit down here. For a minute.”
I sit. I misaim, and I have to tug the chair under me in flare of bright purple, but I sit.
“Wow.” Vector shakes her head. “You need another coffee, or a lullaby? Sleepy time?”
“Seriously. You’ve got to be used to the schedule by now,” Vector says, stretching her arm across her chest and shaking her head at me.
I let my head drop back. Part of the fabricy bit on the chair catches it. I stare at the ceiling.
“Maybe we should do this another time,” Vector offers.
I groan. Shake my head (slightly). Wave my hand, so the…the things…so they float up in the air and all around, and she can shoot at them or whatever, my god I need a nap.
“A little bit more spin, if you please,” Vector says.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her, spinning the targets around a little more. “I didn’t sleep.”
“Nightmares?” she asks.
I shrug. I don’t know if she can tell, because my eyes are closed, so I have no idea where she’s looking, but I don’t really have the energy to verbalize my shrugitude.
“Maybe you should find something to help you sleep,” she tells me.
“Have a ’scription,” I say.
“Not that,” she huffs. I can’t tell if it’s exertion or exasperation. “I mean, like a white noise machine or something. Maybe some waterfall sounds. Scented candles. Something.”
“Scented candles,” I tell her, “so do not help me sleep.”
“But you’ve played relaxing noises?” she asks.
I wave my hand vaguely. I hear a couple targets crash to the ground and shatter. I wince.
“Maybe a routine,” Vector elaborates, “take a nice warm bubble bath before bed. Drink some soothing tea. Read a very boring book.”
“I hate all three of those things,” I tell her, rubbing my temple.
“How the hell does a person hate bubble baths?” Vector grumbles. “This better not be some hyped up macho bullshit you’re pulling on me here, Trav.”
I groan at that one, too. “Fuckin’ is not. The bubbles make you feel all greasy, that’s all.”
“You probably need better bubbles,” Vector tells me, way louder, like she’s staring me right in the face.
I peel open one eye. Her face is directly in front of mine, a few inches away, with a suppressed grin and one eyebrow raised. I groan again.
Someone yells something lewd from the hallway, followed by a chorus of cackles.
Like, okay, it’s one sort of surprised chortle and it lasts about a second, but whatever.
“You really can do that in your sleep, huh?” Vector says.
“What?” I ask her, scandalized.
“The semi-randomized jumble. You do it unconsciously.” She shakes her head at me.
“Yeah,” I agree. “’s boring. Gotta memorize it.”
“No, I mean, actually unconscious.” She grins and shrugs.
“Fell asleep?” I say, and rub just a little bit of dried spit off my chin.
“Looks like,” she tells me, “or else you were being an asshole for no reason and just ignoring me when I talked to you. How far through my list do you remember?”
“List?” I repeat.
“Uh-huh,” she draws out, “of the kinds of bubble bath I said I liked that didn’t leave a soap scum feeling, because you asked me what I meant.”
“No,” I say, “no, I think that didn’t happen.”
Vector chuckles. “Keep this bitch in the air for me, will you?”
I hoist it up. It looks at me curiously.
I mean it doesn’t, I’m just sleep deprived, but I swear the robot has a personality.
“You’re gonna break the thing,” I warn Vector, gesturing vaguely at her guns, you know, carefully, so I don’t grab them or discharge them or anything.
She pulls out what I swear looks exactly like an airbrush, only it’s completely filled with little marshmallows. I wonder if I really am asleep, after all.
I don’t even know where she’s been storing it.
“They say,” Vector explains, “I need to work on my precision aiming. And yes, that’s not a misstatement – they actually have been telling that to all the deadeyes.”
“No why,” I say, and shake my head.
“Something about small targets, moving targets, lots of targets in a row,” Vector says. “I honestly have no idea, and I keep expecting a ‘change in management’ note.”
“Note?” I say, “management?”
I really need some coffee. No, hang on. I have coffee. I have it right here, I brought it with me. Where the hell is my thermos?
“You know,” Vector tells me, while the tiny tiny marshmallows go bop bop bop, “‘thank you for your patience during this change in management’ while they assign you ridiculous tasks.”
“Already got mine,” I tell her, and finally close my fingers around textured plastic molded to fit my hand just so, “have to get the kids to do the stuff.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” She unscrews the cap for me. I have no idea when she got over here. The tiny multicolored marshmallows look like maybe little bits of foam, actually.
I stare at the cap and the bottle, wondering which is better to drink my coffee out of. “No, I know, they told me to give the kids a survey about would they recommend the program,” I say.
Vector snorts. “As opposed to what?”
“Private-run, I assume,” I tell her.
“Even Arsenal couldn’t find a private-run he liked,” she says.
“Hmm?” I ask. It turns out, more efficient not to pour it into a cup first.
“I mean,” she says, “our students are skewed to upperclass anyway. And you wouldn’t see that if there were any good alternatives.”
“Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make any,” I say.
She scrunches up her face and sort of half-raises one eyebrow at me again.
Wait, hang on, I don’t know which side I’m arguing on anymore.
“School programs,” I hazard a guess. “We should improve them.”
“Right.” Vector says. “Travis, maybe you should go home.”
“I’m just,” I say. “No. It’s fine. I. Will get someone to. Help.”
“Yeah,” Vector tells me. “You do that.”
I wonder where Alarm is.