Sam spent her entire shift on watch clearing while a taciturn Erica paced the hall. By the time she returned to her cot to continue her sleep, the precursor flowed much smoother through her mind. Morning arrived too soon and Mike led the entire team through a halfhearted fitness routine before a lackluster breakfast of bagels. The operations team secluded themselves with Jimmy to begin planning the big move at the same time that Sam led her assistant instructors over to the public section of their headquarters.
The students began to call questions the moment she landed amongst them at their pickup point. "EDA operations are classified," Sam said, cutting through the chatter. "Training will continue as scheduled. If you have any fears for your safety, you can leave now. I really don't care."
One of the doctors scowled at her. "That's a great attitude."
"Tell me that after you spend a day on the front lines," Sam said.
The doctor rolled his eyes. "Can you guarantee our safety?"
"Shouldn't the city get a refund then?"
"That's not what is in the contract. Once you attune, no refunds are allowed."
She took the first group of five students up, then returned for three more trips. By the final trip, the doctor had overcome his hesitance and decided to remain in the class. Sam broke them up into groups based on their talents. Kinetics trained under Fred, Noetics trained under Srinivas, Teleotics trained under Sean, and Sam took the four students with multiple talents. That done, they moved into the smaller meeting rooms for the breakout sessions.
Because she had two brutes, a siren, and an aeronaut, Sam found herself occupied with keeping all the students busy at all times. The Public Works guy who had attuned as a brute took to the instruction with a passion. The aeronaut firefighter fought her every time she tried to force him to train his noetic talent, expressing his firm opinion that he only needed to practice his kinetic talent. The siren cop, on the other hand, insisted that they covered material too slowly and constantly asked to learn more advanced exercises before he could perform the basic ones without issue. Her final student, a brute doctor, seemed preoccupied with his smart phone.
Sam assigned all of them specific exercises to practice and then offered one-on-one advice as she moved through the room. It quickly became obvious to her that the four students thought they had already extracted most of the value from the training course. They didn't value the instruction she offered now that they were attuned. She could take the opportunity to have an easy day. Maybe work on her clearing some more. Or she could do what Mike would do and convince the group that they wanted her knowledge. How the hell did a doofus like Mike shock and awe his students? He had a strength advantage, of course, which Sam also enjoyed over these newly minted talents. He could show off his corona wrestling, which she couldn't due to the classification of those techniques. He also had some notoriety as the guy who caught a building. Caught half the weight of a building, she revised to herself. What did she have to compare to that? She had only been in a single battle so far . . . .
"Public Works Guy," she said, "since you are the only person who actually wants to learn, I'm going to show you a method of self defense you can use against stronger kinetics."
The other brute and the aeronaut were suddenly paying attention to her with an intensity they hadn't shown all morning. Time to play up her almost non-existent combat experience for all it is worth. "Yesterday, during the attack on Pittsburgh, I took advantage of the fact that one of my kinetic opponents couldn't harden his body. I forced a pattern of breaking onto him while I slapped his leg. The slap isn't strictly necessary, but the concussive force acts like a catalyst to get the pattern to take hold. You need to target a specific material with your pattern, so it isn't 'generic breaking' so much as 'bone material breaking' that you create."
Now even the siren cop was paying attention. "But what about if you don't have the teleotic talent? How would I handle a stronger kinetic?"
Sam smiled. "You have it easy. Just do what we call a meme blast to put the kinetic into a daze and squish his brain."
Everyone stared at her as if expecting more words of wisdom to pour forth. "We're probably getting ahead of ourselves, though. I need you four to get a basic level of proficiency before we can effectively train self defense against terrorists."
In that instant, they transformed into eager students. The doctor put away his phone, the cop doubled down on the basic drills, and the firefighter suddenly wanted to learn the noetic talent. She filed away the lessons in her brain: establish her credentials as a bad-ass to get their attention and dangle the lure of advanced skills for anyone who mastered the basics. Those were very Mike things to do. Maybe some day she would be able to pull off an air of inherent superiority like Cassandane, but for now she thought it best to imitate her uber macho fellow centurion.
She made it through the day and dismissed everyone. Back on the private side of headquarters, they found the operations team engaged in a manic group brainstorming session. Multiple people were reading things aloud from their phones at the same time. Paper covered with print and paper with handwritten notes littered every table. The laptop had several people behind it. No one stopped when her team arrived, so the teachers just integrated with the group to see what the excitement was about.
Jess seized onto her arm when she saw Sam. "I found our houses!"
"They're prefabricated fiberglass shelters used in Antarctica. We're going to put two people in each one. Want to be my roomie?"
"I mean, of course we're going to room together. How big is this shelter going to be?"
"It's a tent-sized plastic igloo. Jimmy already called the company to get pricing and they are really eager to work with the EDA."
"It sounds small."
"The configuration we're ordering can hold three people, but we are going to dedicate the extra space to storage," Jess said. "We're going to use ceramic space heaters to warm them."
Sam squinted at her friend. "So we're going to live in plastic igloos. Sounds . . . great. Are we going to hold classes outside or something?"
"Classes are going to happen in an artificial cave," Jess said. "They're also looking into building an airplane hangar. The plan so far is for half of the space to be for the kitchen and the dining room. The other half will be for the students to put up tents. That way they are responsible for their own accomodations but we don't have to worry about them freezing to death. Mike is convinced that constantly rotating soldiers through individual shelters would destroy them in less than a year."
Sam nodded in thought. "Is the airplane hangar going to be heated?"
"Maybe? We're designing an arctic base using google, so who knows how realistic all of this is."
"Is the cave going to be heated?"
"Of course! The caves double as our greenhouses."
Sam stared at her friend for a moment. "This is really happening, isn't it?"
"Hey, you're the one who had to chase after Cassandane. We could be back home right now."
"Ugh, you just managed to make sub-zero temperatures sound appealing."