Study Hall

“I’m thinking about updating my identity. What do you think of Night Bison? Maybe I get a darker suit. Go for the whole brooding crusader look. What do you think?” Bison asked.

Wisp didn’t answer her. She was nose deep in a textbook. A stack of wrinkled pages sat next to her with varying amounts of red ink on them. Wearing an earth tone sweater and glasses on a chain, she didn’t look like Wisp. Instead, she just looked like just plain Sophi Watts, the teacher’s assistant.

Bison fidgeted in her chair. It dug into her hips. She looked around the Citadel Academy Library. The chairs, tables, and desks all looked like set pieces from one of those stuffy British historical dramas. Bison chuckled at the thought of wearing one of those fancy hoop skirts like from Downton Abbey. She wondered if she could fight in one. Wisp looked up from her work over the tops of her glasses.

“Sorry, did you say something?” Wisp asked.

Bison put a bookmark back into a copy of Heathen, vol 1. She tapped on the cover with her fingertips before answering, “Oh, it was nothing. I was just thinking out loud. How’s grading going?”

Wisp took her glasses off to pinch the bridge of her nose. Her hair frizzed out of her ponytail. She said, “I’m just frustrated. I thought being a TA would help me get more one-on-one time with these students but I’m so close in age to most of them that they don’t wanna listen to me. Then there is this one crew of upperclassmen whose grades are plummeting. If their parents weren’t so important, I know they’d be on the shortlist for expulsion. Which is a shame because they are so gifted. I just feel like I can’t get through to them.”

Bison leaned forward. She asked, “Dish, dish. Whose brats are they? They have to be legacies. Come on.”

Wisp looked around the empty library worriedly before leaning forward and whispering, “Aster, Havoc Jr., and Thorn.”

Bison’s eye grew wide. She let out an inaudible ‘oh’ before saying, “No way. Wait, who’s Thorn a legacy of?”

Wisp laughed before looking around to see if that disturbed anyone. She replied, “Sorry, that’s a joke around the teacher’s lounge about Bud Dueberry.”

“Who?”

“Just some other, uh, person Thorn got his name from. Anyway, it’s sad because they get top marks in all their practical exams. Hazel even has Aster running solo recon missions for Command now. They just keep blowing these assignments.”

Bison leaned back in her chair letting the front legs rise in the air. She thought it over for a minute. She said, “Do you think it’s because of all the extracurricular work?”

Wisp shook her head. She said, “No. Havoc and Thorn are still grounded after taking a jet out without permission. Same day as my first monster attack.”

Bison grinned, “That’s been a minute. Have you gotten any more practice on the catapult?”

Wisp closed her textbook with a thud. It made her jump and she looked around before saying, “For your information, I haven’t mastered it but I don’t throw up nearly as much or as often.”

“Well,” the big woman responded. “That’s a relief. I didn’t want to wear rain boots on the next mission if I didn’t have to.”

Placing her stack of papers back inside her messenger bag, Wisp stuck her tongue out at Bison. She checked her watch and sighed then said, “We should get moving. We have patrol tonight.”

Outside the library doors, Bison and Wisp made their way toward Citadel Command. The tower filled the view. It was larger than any other building around it. White marble art deco buildings surrounded the dark stone tower. The courtyard was comprised of benches, water features, manicured topiaries, and statues of the Founders. The sun had sunk behind the tower already but the sky was turning pink.

Halfway across the courtyard Wisp said, “Son of… Hey, wait!” She took off at a run. Bison followed close behind. A group of students in athletic uniforms stopped cold in the shadow of a statue of Captain Infinity. Wisp said, “Excuse me, but what are you three, oh, four doing? If I’m not mistaken it’s your study hall night and why aren’t you in your class uniforms?”

The four students looked down at their feet. Havoc, Aster, and Thorn held their arms behind their backs. After a moment, Aster said, “Sorry Ms. Watts. We just had an emergency come up and we, uh, well, you see…”

The fourth girl walked forward. She was the same age as the others but her outfit was a dark tracksuit without any branding. She said, “It’s my fault, uh, Ms. Watts, right? I’m their study hall tutor.”

Wisp cocked an eyebrow before realizing who it was. She said, “Professor Steel. My mistake. Are you going off campus for your tutoring session?”

Tonia nodded and said, “Yes, we’re covering the physics of sound based powers with a field trip to… uh…”

Havoc jumped in and said, “To a concert. It’s UltraSquad tonight down at the… new club, er, yeah, New Club. That’s the name. Weird, right?”

Thorn nodded along and looked at Wisp. They held up two big gnarled bark covered thumbs. “Yup. That’s the truth.”

Wisp crossed her arms. She looked at the girl in the back. Wisp asked, “Is that right, Professor Steel?”

She nervously smiled and said, “Ya-up.”

Bison tapped Wisp’s shoulder and whispered behind a cupped hand, “That’s Hildi’s kid.”

“Of course,” Wisp said before turning back to the group. She thought a moment before she said, “Well? What are you all waiting on? Don’t forget you have a quiz tomorrow.”

The four students thanked her several times before running toward the parking garage. Wisp let out a breath she had been holding in. Bison gave her shoulder a pat and said, “They’re kids. They need to make mistakes sometimes.”

Wisp said, “I know… I’m just worried. UltraSquad is playing in New Amsterdam tonight, not in Citadel.”

Bison rolled her eyes at the band name. They strolled to the ready room entrance together.

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