I stare at the kids. They’re lying down in the middle of the gym playing Risk, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t hear a word I just said. I mean, that’s not my problem, the same note’s been put in their mailboxes and sent to their agency accounts, but I still feel like announcements are something I’m not being paid to just yell at the air.
“Also, watch out for werewolves,” I add, droning on in the same oh-look-notices voice.
Jailbait flips me off.
“You’re not allowed to be a dick to us, Teke, we’re traumatized,” Caffeine says, not even looking up from where he’s moving little blue pieces.
“Especially me,” Gatling says, waving his wrist around to show off his cast.
FiendPuncher rolls her eyes and takes the opportunity to line all the extra green pieces up next to her, and seems to be succeeding admirably in ignoring the fact that she’s directly in between Gatling and Enigma Machine, who has now removed his shirt, which Jailbait makes some sort of dirty joke about just a little too quietly for me to make out (or possibly that doesn’t scan because she’s using random slang I’m just too old and lame to know), and Caffeine waves an encompassing hand as if to say, see, there you go.
Psybeam’s just minding his own business taking over Australia.
“Okay, maybe we can work on running skills,” I say to them.
“Oh, no,” Enigma Machine says, hand to his chest, where he still hasn’t put his goddamn shirt back on, isn’t he cold? “We couldn’t possibly. Running is just so – stressful.”
“We’ll run slowly, then,” I say.
“I just don’t know if I can do that,” Caffeine says, with a shit-eating grin.
“Nobody’s going to listen to me if I say to run laps, are they,” I state more than ask.
“Nooooooooot likely,” FiendPuncher says, intently floating a few inches off the ground to scrutinize the board.
I feel like maybe she’s a little too into this game. Or maybe that’s just paranoia. Everyone likes a little Risk, right? It doesn’t have to have anything to do with actually taking over the world.
“What about yoga?” I ask. “You guys liked yoga.”
“Yoga’s gay,” someone says, one of the boys, I don’t know which one, because I wasn’t looking, and, honestly, it’s not really out of place from any of them, even after that talk.
“So gay,” Jailbait agrees hastily.
“I liked it,” FiendPuncher mutters, even though she’s completely not on my side on this one, because no matter what I suggest she’d going to fight tooth and nail to keep playing that game.
I may be reading too much into it.
“Do you,” I say, “do you guys want to punch stuff?”
I mean, I think I can get a bunch of pads and bags and stuff out here fairly quickly, what with the influx of interns. Some of them have got to be bored. And it’s not like Sensei Domino’s not showing up sooner or later. And they love punching; it’s their favorite.
I get a bunch of equivocal responses that aren’t even whole words.
Damn, maybe they really are traumatized.
Dr. Jerry shows up, waving Enigma Machine over. He sighs, but gathers up his things and walks out of the room after the shrink. He at least puts his shirt back on before he goes. I sit down in his spot, reaching over to pick up the dice.
“I guess I’ll play in,” I tell them.
To a one, they all cross their arms at me. “No.”
“What?” I ask, “why not?”
FiendPuncher tips her head at Lisa. “We want Lisa to take over.”
“Take over the spot,” Caffeine clarifies, “not take over the world.”
Lisa grins at me as I watch her slip the wristband over her wrist. “What? Sportsmanship. Can’t use my unfair advantage.” She laughs slightly, covering her mouth with her hand.
“Is it really that much of an advantage?” I ask her.
She tilts her head at me, scrutinizing for a minute. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” I say, frowning.
She sits down next to FiendPuncher, who, beaming, scoots closer to her. “I can call people’s bluff. It doesn’t make for very cooperative gameplay.”
I stare at the board, slightly put out. “It’s not even supposed to be a cooperative game.”
She shrugs, and leans over to play a piece. Gatling looks down her shirt. Caffeine glances at her, very quickly (although, with him, that could’ve been a long, leisurely look right there), and looks away again, back at the board. Psybeam seems to be trying very hard not to look, and is definitely starting to develop a blush. Jailbait pouts, leaning over slightly herself. I can’t tell whether her look is jealousy.
I float a piece of paper up in front of Gatling’s face when he doesn’t stop looking. I think it’s the rulebook. He bats it away and glares at me. Lisa buttons the top button of her polo, grimacing and tugging it away from her neck after she does.
“Do you ever wear the ribbon?” Psybeam asks.
Lisa’s gaze flicks over to him. “Sometimes.”
“Don’t you have to tell everyone you meet?” FiendPuncher asks.
“Only if they talk to me.” Lisa wiggles her wrist at them. “I wear one of these a lot of the time so I don’t even have to do that.”
“It’s not so bad if it’s only when they talk to you,” Jailbait says. “It’s not like you’re a telepath. Telepaths have to inform everyone in thinking range.”
“It’s not so bad if you can just take their word that they understand what you mean,” Lisa says. “Meanwhile, I can tell when they lie about understanding, and I’m mandated to explain it.”
“I bet you look really pretty in green, though,” Caffeine says, and then clamps a hand over his mouth, eyes going huge.
Lisa stifles a smile.
Gatling smirks. “I bet you look better in –”
Oh, yeah, that’s definitely the rule book. I wonder what it’s doing being plastered to Gatling’s face every time he tries to finish his sentence.
They go around in circles, Lisa playing out what she says is Enigma’s strategy when I ask. I don’t know how she can tell – it’s still too early in the game to be interesting, so I can’t imagine there were enough data points. I also wonder if she’s figuring out anyone else’s strategy to mimic, once they leave for their appointments. I tap my fingers against my leg. It’s still going to be slow-going for a while.
I wonder if Dr. Skye will show up and take one of the other kids at some point so I can play in.