Vince knocked hesitantly on Coach George’s office door. It was during his visiting hours, so he should be there, but Vince still felt a bit out of place. Nick was organizing a putt-putt outing for the group to do on its last day of break, but it would be another few hours before they departed and Vince had ultimately decided he would rather find out what Coach George wanted now rather than put it off for a day.
“Come in,” Coach George hollered from the other side.
Vince turned the handle and walked in, taking in a more comprehensive view of the small office than last time. There were various degrees along the walls, as well as a multitude of pictures. Some were very old, but many seemed recent. The contents of these photographs were completely varied, with no common theme or person spanning them all.
The actual desk took up a significant portion of the room, and it was literally covered in papers. Vince wasn’t sure how anyone could find anything in that enormous sprawl of pages. Sitting atop that mess though was something even more surprising. A car battery.
“Reynolds, glad you made it early,” Coach George said from behind the desk. “Take a seat.”
“Um, okay,” Vince said uncertainly. “Why did you want to see me?”
“Because I’m adding something to your diet,” Coach George told him.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“You keep yourself stocked with a little fire by draining lighters, right?” Coach George asked.
“Well, I saw what you did during the mid-term, when you drained your weapon and blasted Castillo with electricity. That was impressive.”
“Thank you,” Vince said, struggling for a moment to figure out who Castillo was before remembering it was Thomas’ last name.
“So impressive, in fact, that I decided you need to add it to your training regiment,” Coach George continued. “Hence I brought you a snack.” He patted the car battery.
“You want me to drain the battery? But I already keep some fire in reserve,” Vince said.
“So you can’t hold more than one form of energy at the same time?” Coach George asked.
“No, I can hold as many as I want. At least, that’s been my experience so far. I was referring to the talk we had last semester, about me not wanting to have too much in case I lost control,” Vince explained.
“Listen Reynolds, I’m more than meeting you halfway here. I’m cutting you more slack than I’ve given anyone in a very long time. I’m still your teacher, though, and I would be remiss in my duties if I let you get by without mastering all the weapons at your disposal. So here’s the deal: you’re going to keep up your fire reserves, and in addition you’re going to drain this car battery every day before class.”
“And before you object, let me make this clear, I’m not making a request. You’re going into combat training, that means you’re going to learn how to fight with both types of energy,” Coach George finished, cutting Vince off.
Vince took a deep breath and considered the situation. A car battery wasn’t all that much power in the grand scheme of things, but then again, with electricity a little went a long way. Still, it could be manageable, with the right precautions.
“I have to drain it every day before class. If I have any left over when gym is finished do I have to keep it with me?” Vince asked.
“I don’t care what you do after,” Coach George told him. “As long as you start my class each day with a full battery’s worth of power then you can discharge the rest down here when we’re done.”
Vince nodded. “I can work with that.”
“So glad to hear it,” Coach George said. “Now get out of here, kid, I’ve got work to do.”
Vince scrambled up and headed out the door. He made his way to the lifts, thankful he’d faced his problem today instead of waiting and worrying. It hadn’t been nearly as bad as he expected. He just had to start using another type of energy. In fighting. Which he would apparently be doing every day there was class.
As the lift began to rise Vince felt his stomach begin to drop.
* * *
“Your move,” Mary said, setting her pawn down. Nick was rounding up people for putt-putt, Vince had gone to see Coach George about something, Alice was getting herself dolled up, and Hershel had gone to get lunch, leaving her the perfect opportunity for a match with Mr. Numbers.
“Indeed it is,” he said, quickly analyzing the board. “I find it interesting that you wish to continue these games, even after our disagreement of opinion over the mountain test.” He moved his knight.
“We have the same objective, we’re just going after it in different ways. I disagreed with your methods, not the results,” Mary said, positioning her rook.
“I see. And do you feel our tactic has borne fruit?”
“Everyone is a little bit closer after the experience, I’ll give you. Not to mention for the first time Alice got to see how her power can be useful, even lifesaving,” Mary said.
“Ah yes, is that why you claimed you had trouble lifting people with your gift?” Mr. Numbers asked.
Mary blinked in surprise. “That was true,” she told him.
“Then what about when you plucked the fit version of Mr. Daniels off the ground and held him restrained in mid-air while threatening him?” Mr. Number pointed out, shifting his knight once more.
“Roy is incredibly resistant to damage. That means I can hold him in the air indefinitely and not worry about crushing him. Other people aren’t quite as durable,” Mary replied.
It was Mr. Numbers’ turn to be surprised. He’d assumed she was lying in order to elevate Alice’s need and usefulness within the group. He had been wrong, though; she truly did possess that limitation. He mentally adjusted several calculations, then turned his focus back to the game.
“So the mountain was a success then,” he said.
“It bonded us, yes. It also made us the stronger of us realize our limitations, which is somewhat counterproductive to my work with Vince, Nick, and Alice,” Mary informed him, moving another pawn.
“Such endeavors must invariably suffer small setbacks on occasion,” Mr. Numbers commented.
“Agreed, but let’s try to keep those to a minimum in the future. It will be better for everyone. Especially Mr. Transport,” Mary chuckled.
“What do you mean?”
“Ask him about when he went to pick up Hershel. I’ll let him explain the rest,” Mary said, a small grin still stuck to her face.
“I will,” Mr. Numbers agreed. He took the game in three more moves.