“So you just told him?” Jaclyn didn’t seem to be able to contain her disbelief.
“It’s not like I invited him to train with us,” I said. “I just told him the same thing I’ve always told anyone curious about who I’m taking martial arts from.”
“It’s not that bad,” Haley said. “Of all Sean’s friends, Dayton’s the only one who’s actually nice.”
We stood in an old, empty warehouse downtown — concrete floor, brick walls, and fluorescent lights that flickered constantly. Except for the section with the office, the ceiling rose two stories high.
All of us were in costume, but, I had my helmet off so I could get a drink of water. The helmet had a thin mask under it. Sometimes Grandpa had needed to eat in costume.
As Lee requested, all nine of us were all there — including my sister Rachel who had taken her last exam and gotten back from the University of Michigan just that day.
While we took a break, Lee said, “For the last half of class we’re going to start fighting in groups.”
“We already fight in groups,” Vaughn said.
As everybody turned to look at him, he said, “What? We do.” The straps and rings on his costume bumped against each other as he looked over the group.
“You need to learn to fight as a group,” Lee said. “Right now you’re fighting next to each other. It’s not the same thing. That’s why I’m breaking you up into small groups. Rocket and Accelerando, you’re together. Storm King and Mystic, you too. Night Cat, Night Wolf and Captain Commando, over there… Shift, and Ghost, over there…”
Haley raised her hand, “Do I have to be with my brother?”
Travis raised an eyebrow, but sounded amused as he said. “What’s wrong with that?”
Lee just said, “Yes.”
From the other side of the group, Rachel waved her hand. “Why are Shift and I together? He’s a shapeshifter, I walk through walls.” Marcus, who had been talking with Vaughn looked like he was wondering too.
“Figure you’re more similar to each other than to anyone else. Any more questions?”
Lee took a couple steps, stopping in the middle of all of us.
“Here’s what you’ve got. You’ve got two fast, armored hand to hand fighters, two people who are better off attacking from a distance, three people who excel at hand to hand, and two people with weird, but useful abilities. We’re going to play full contact capture the flag. What I want you to do is come up with strategies and tactics that use your group’s strengths.”
So that’s what we did for the next hour. Lee swapped groups within each team, making sure that each of the small groups had a turn together. At first, whichever team had Rachel and Marcus won automatically. She’d turn invisible and intangible, grab one of the towels Lee had designated a flag, disappear, and reappear back on their side of the room. Even worse, Lee teamed Rachel and Marcus with Vaughn and Daniel once, which meant that not only could Daniel grab the flag’s location from our minds, and direct Rachel to it, but Vaughn rolled a fog into their half of the floor, allowing Marcus to hide, and making it impossible to search their side without being jumped.
That wasn’t fun at all, but then Lee changed it to “Capture the Chair,” and allowed us to use every floor of the building. That’s when it became a challenge for everyone. Rachel couldn’t turn a chair intangible, and Daniel’s range couldn’t cover the entire building.
By the time we were done, I felt like I’d learned a lot. Having Vaughn fill a room with fog worked great — especially if Daniel guided Jaclyn and I through it at a couple hundred miles per hour. People didn’t get in our way — especially when Vaughn cleared the path with lightning.
I also learned that fog didn’t stop Travis and Haley at all. While Haley wasn’t quite strong enough to hold the Rocket suit in place, Travis could.
At the end, we sat down on the concrete floor, everybody but Cassie completely tired out. Even Cassie seemed a little tired.
“That’s what I was looking for.” Lee said. “You’re beginning to work with each other, and you’re beginning to look at people’s powers strategically. We’re going to focus on that for a while.”
* * *
Everyone changed back into clothes and showered at HQ.
Rachel and I ended up waiting for everyone else to go so I could turn off the lights. We walked together as I checked on the hangar, the storage rooms, the lab and the tunnels.
“Something’s on your mind,” Rachel said.
“It’s Sean.” I said.
I shut the door next to the main door to the hangar.
Rachel nodded. “Sean who dated Haley last summer, and, whose ass you kicked in February?”
“Is that the Sean whose face was all over the news a couple days ago?”
I turned off a few more lights and we took the elevator up to Grandpa’s house. We walked out of Grandpa’s workroom, down the hall and into the living room.
“It looks so bare,” Rachel said.
I’d gotten the house in Grandpa’s will, but the family split up the possessions. Now the furniture amounted to a couple chairs and a ten year old television set in the living room. When Grandpa and Grandma were alive, photos of all their children and grandchildren hung on the walls. They were gone now.
I locked the door and we stepped out of the house. It was lighter than I’d expected though not as light as it would be during the summer.
Time to get home and eat. I wondered if my parents were waiting for us or if Mom had put the food in the refrigerator.
Rachel stood on the porch next to the swing. “So, what are you going to do about him?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about bugging his house and finding out what he’s really up to.”
“Then do it.”
“He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“I think Haley might disagree. After all that business with the fight, you might disagree.”
“I can’t go and bug people for personal reasons.”
“You know he’s a jerk normally. Now he’s got power. It sounds like a good enough reason to me.”
She looked down at the porch swing and gave the armrest a push. It swung a little.
“Tell you what,” she said. “I’ll float in and find out what’s going on.”
“I’d prefer to handle this myself.”