It didn’t take long before we reentered the conference room. It was a straight shot down the hall, after all. As we stepped inside, V8 was saying, “Unless any of you have something you’d like to add, all we’re waiting for is Working Man and V4.”
That’s the moment when Working Man opened the door. V8 turned to him, saying, “I was just about to end the meeting. Do you have anything you want to say?”
Working Man shook his head, “I’ll talk to Blue Mask in a moment, but everything’s fine. I’m happy with the work that everyone’s done. You’re all free to go.”
Amy shot me a look as he said that and I nodded. With that everyone stood up and filed out. Working Man and I didn’t even get fully inside. I only had a foot in before I had to back out.
I found myself standing in the hall as Amy, Rod, and Samita stepped out. After they stepped into the hall, Working Man walked into the room, closing the door as Vincent said, “I’d like to stick around a second.”
The door shut behind Working Man and Amy asked me, “What happened?”
I nodded toward the lab, “Let’s talk about it over there. It wasn’t bad, but I think I’d like a little privacy.”
When we made it down the hall and over into the lab’s spoke, I sat down at the desk, took off my helmet, and leaned back in the chair.
Amy did the magical girl thing. Black and red colors swirled around her along with writing similar to both Gothic and Celtic scripts. It left her a foot shorter, thinner, and wearing jeans and a green t-shirt instead of black armor.
“I wanted to be in my own body,” she said in response to my unasked question. “So, what happened?”
I sighed, “Working Man was doing some kind of test. He’s actually fine with me calling everyone in. In fact, he’d have been disappointed if I hadn’t. He said he did it to encourage me to question authority.”
Amy blinked, “Are you kidding me? He did that to you deliberately? That’s crazy. My ‘guardian’ or whatever he was supposed be deliberately taught me as little as possible. I came to hate the man. Unlike him, I suppose Working Man’s at least trying to teach… But he doesn’t do that kind of thing all the time, does he?”
“No,” I sat up in my chair. “Mostly I’ve been working with Mateo. He’s been straightforward.”
Amy shook her head as Rod laughed, “I’m not sure I’d have ever done it that way, but you won’t forget it.”
Nodding, I said, “True. That’s an understatement.”
“No doubt,” Rod turned toward the door as footsteps echoed from the hallway. Mateo walked in with Vincent close behind him.
Mateo had taken off his mask and tucked it into the pocket on his shirt, “Sorry about that. I didn’t know he was doing that as a teaching technique or I’d have told him not to. I thought Working Man was just being his normal level of difficult.”
He took a deep breath and might have been about to say more, but Vincent spoke first, “Could be worse. I’ve heard stories about martial arts masters that are much crazier. You know what I mean, right? The kind of guys who don’t teach you anything at all for a year or something. They just have you clean their house and make their meals? And then when the student asks what the hell is going on, they explain how the student should have learned some great martial arts principles from doing dishes and shit?
“I don’t know if anybody really does that or if those are just folktales, but that’d be more of a waste of your time. Anyway, I was just stopping by on my way out. Unity sent a car for me and they’re almost here. Great fighting with you kids and I hope things stay vampire free for a while.”
He gave a wave and walked back out to where the elevator waited.
After the elevator doors shut and the motors began to haul it upward, Samita turned away from the noise to look back at the rest of us, “My sixth-grade homeroom teacher had hamsters in her classroom… I was tempted to pet him the whole time he was here. I hope that’s not just me. Anyway, we should go back, or I don’t know, we did let them know we were going. I think they’d understand if we slept here.”
Rod nodded, “Hell, yes to that. I’m going to fall asleep standing.”
“I’ve been sleeping here,” I said. “It’s okay.”
Mateo smiled, “We can clear out a guest room or two if you want. It’s nicer than the conference room.”
“Nicer than the conference room?” Amy asked. “Is it bigger? I hit my head on a filing cabinet getting out of there. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, it would have hurt.”
“It’s bigger,” I said. “Not that that would be hard. And by the way, thanks. None of you had to come, but you did because I asked you to and you’ve done this more than once, Amy especially.”
She looked up at me, shaking her head, “Of course, we did. You needed help and you’d do the same for us. That’s what friends do.”
I didn’t doubt that she meant, but in the back of my mind, I wondered when, or if, she’d someday go back to her home. “Sure,” I said, “let me know when you all get up. We should all go out to eat or something before you leave.”