I didn’t ask him what the problem was. There were so many options, and it’s not as if I wanted to go into it.
Anyway, Günther started splitting up the groups as the last people walked through the door. Sean ended up in one of the groups for physically normal people. I directed a group for people with mid-level physical abilities. There’s no reason to go into detail about it except to mention that Dayton was in the group.
A big guy in a roomful of big guys, Dayton stood out not because he looked like a football player stereotype, but because he had great coordination and learned any move he saw instantly.
In the comics, you’d think that it would instantly make him the best hand to hand fighter alive. In reality, no.
The effectiveness of copying people’s moves was limited by the people you had to copy i.e. if you train with other students, most of the moves you learn will be wrong somehow.
At the end of class, I talked to him about it. My group had gone through all the exercises and we only had a minute left. I stepped up to him as he stood, taking a few breaths after sparring.
He wore his Justice Fist uniform, a white fist stood against the blue background on his chest. That was interesting, but explainable. Unlike Sean’s family, Dayton’s didn’t have a lot of money. He’d be using that uniform until he got the money for a new one, and combat ready uniforms were expensive.
“Hey,” I said, “I noticed that you were doing the last hold wrong. I was helping someone else at the time or I would have told you then. Um—“
He grinned, taking it better than some. “I couldn’t see you very well, so I copied the guy ahead of me.”
“You want to see it again?”
He did, and I used his sparring partner to demonstrate the hold.
When I said, “Great, now do it to me,” he did it perfectly, or close to it.
As he stepped back, I asked, “Did I do it like that?” He’d started to grab my arm as if I’d been a few inches taller than I actually was. It was perfect after that.
He shook his head. “No, Cody’s about your height, and if I don’t think, I’ll do the move exactly as you did it.”
“Oh, I didn’t know it worked like that.”
Nodding, he said, “I didn’t either at first. Do you mind if I practice this a couple times? It doesn’t stick if I don’t.”
“No problem,” I said, and stepped back while he did the move on Cody a few times, and that’s how I found myself standing next to Sean.
By “found myself”, I mean that I was still watching as Sean broke away from his section and walked over. Maybe I should have walked away, but I didn’t.
Even though a mask covered his face, his frown and a sidelong glance at me hinted at his standard level of annoyance where I was concerned. “What’s he doing? Class is done.”
“Memorizing a move,” I said.
Fully turning his head to look at me, he said, “You’re not keeping him after deliberately, are you?”
“No, he wanted to practice more.”
Responding the instant I stopped talking, he said, “What’s going on with my sister? Why did you bring her along?”
Looking around, I realized that people were leaving, and not paying much attention to us. That was good.
“To St. Louis? Haley wanted her and Camille to come. They’ve been out patrolling together lately.”
“She could have died!” Sean’s voice wasn’t quite shouting, but it was close. People turned their heads to look.
“But she didn’t,” I said. “It worked out.”
Sean didn’t seem to hear me, or didn’t care, pointing out, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
That got me. “Honestly? Because we were going into a dangerous situation, and I needed to have people around who would listen, and the last time we worked together you argued with anybody who told you to do something you didn’t want to do.”
“I stood up for myself when everyone you snowed was telling me to do stupid shit, you mean. Just because you’re riding on the first Rocket’s coattails, it doesn’t mean that everybody has to jump when you say something. I’m making my own way.”
Sean still wasn’t shouting, but everybody left in the room was looking in our direction. Fortunately that wasn’t a lot of people—maybe twenty—which was still more than I wanted.
Dayton and Cody had stopped practicing. Günther watched from a distance, not intervening, deliberately letting me handle it myself.
At that moment, I wanted to unload on Sean, and let him know that in the face of city shattering bombs self-empowerment wouldn’t help much, and not listening would tend to kill people.
It took too long to put it together in my head, and before I was done, Dayton had stepped closer, saying something quietly to Sean. It sounded like, “Remember your probation?”
Sean froze, and his face tightened. I tensed, expecting an attack, but he didn’t. He turned around and left without another word.
Dayton watched him go. “Sorry about that. He’s still barely talking to Sydney because of Camille, but he wants to do that big brother thing.” He paused. “Plus, I guess you know he’s never liked you.”
“Yeah,” I managed, “I noticed that.”
Dayton grinned, obviously clear on how much of an understatement that was. “I better catch up with him. Thanks for the tip, and see you next class.”
He hurried after Sean.