The car came to pick us up after school was over. We sat down in the tinted windowed car and I leaned onto Kenzie. We kissed for a minute. The driver could see and hear us but I didn’t mind him.
“So, do you want to hang out tonight? We could watch TV or something.”
“I’d love to but I already promised Jessie I’d go out shopping with her last week. Well, technically I promised to do it yesterday but you know, rogues and everything.”
“Oh alright…” She took my hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
“I’m really sorry, if it was anyone else I would bring you, but Jessie is kind of the shy type and if I bring you, she’ll socially shut down and I don’t want her to be a third wheel when I’m supposed to be hanging out with her.”
“I’ll find something else to do.”
The car dropped us at the headquarter and we went in. I noticed that Kickback was in the entrance, speaking with the receptionist.
“Paige, what are you doing here, didn’t you get my message?”
“No… I forgot to turn my phone back on.”
“Well, there’s no physical training in the three days after a battle. You need to rest and heal, Paige.” Kickback told me. “You have today the next two days off of physical training.”
“Guess I came here for nothing then…”
It was odd. Even while being sore and beaten, I felt bad for not having to suffer through the training regiment. In the last few weeks, I had become used to it and not having anything to do was strangely unsettling, like there was this void in my schedule I didn’t know how to fill... Kickback probably caught my reaction because she started speaking.
“Well, if you’re feeling like doing something constructive, we could get your started on your secondary skills training.”
“Up until now, you’ve only had to do the physical and power development training exercise but to graduate there are a number of classes you need to take and succeed in before you can be a young guardian; First aid, weapon accreditation, basic driver’s courses, irritant and toxin resistance training course and et cetera.”
“Irritant and toxin training?”
“That’s procedure speak for ‘getting shot with pepper spray, drugged with tranquilizers and a few other things to prepare you for the worse.”
“That sounds… fun.”
“Let’s not have that until you’re in top shape. I looked at the footage of the fight with the rogues, I think you would do well to learn how to use the weapons we have.”
We went into the Armory, it took half of the first floor of the same building where the young guardians had their lounge. In addition to weapon cabinets and workbenches, there was a shooting range and mannequins. Kickback had me wait for a minute and she came back with my costume utility belt.
“We’ve equipped you with some standard issue weapons that members of the guardians often use to compensate for their limited abilities.” She picked the gun thing out of it’s holster. It was fairly boxy and the barrel was painted in yellow and black stripes.
“First up is the tazer. This is a special model, rather than fire darts connected to the gun, the ammunitions are self powered and will stick to the target. technically you could put standard rounds but we use a special caliber so people can't use available ammunition should they steal one. The magazine contains eight rounds with a spare on the belt. The way the weapon is designed, it can hold a round in the chamber, meaning that you can have up to nine shots at your disposal.” She swapped the weapon’s ammunition for training rounds
She flipped the weapon and handed it to me handle first. I took it, wrapping my fingers around the handle and trigger and she gently pushed it away.
“First security lesson when handling firearms; Don’t point at something you aren’t going to shoot. Until you’re ready to aim at something you are determined to shoot, aim at the ground and fifty five degrees up. Don’t aim in advance. Also, until then finger on the trigger guard, not the trigger itself. Doesn't matter if it's unloaded, treat it as if it was ready to fire and always follow the right procedure.”
I did as she asked, aiming it away and half raised. She brought me to the targeting range and then took my hands and placed them differently on the grip so that I was holding the weapon with both hands.
She showed me how to safely handle and fire the weapon; how to check and action the safety, the correct way to pull the trigger and how to breathe. She also corrected my stance several times. She made me fire several times, slightly increasing the range every time I hit. She showed me the importance of reloading before the gun clicked that it was empty, having to cycle the action to get the first round of the next magazine in the chamber wasted valuable time.
“Is every guardian required to know how to shoot a gun?”
“Yes. We have to be able to use a variety of weapons. All guardians who can are encouraged to carry weapons so that they may defend themselves in case they are affected by a negator ace or meet someone who is immune to their ability.”
After that, we moved to other weapons; these she gave a quick demonstration and explanation: the collapsible baton, pepper spray, utility knife. There were also some useful tools on the belt; flashlight, self-igniting waterproof signal flares, glow sticks, binoculars, plastic restrains, the small medical kit and a lockpicking gun.
“I think that concludes it for today. Starting tomorrow, you’ll begin firearms training.”
“Didn’t we just go through that.”
“You need to put at least fifty hours on the gun range just for the handgun certification and we only went into your utility belt, next we’ll talk about actual firearms; actions, types and the major parts. By the end of your training, you’ll be able to disassemble, clean and reassemble your gun.”
With the other training I had, my training regiment would probably get massive.
“Say, Can I ask a personal question?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not.”
“How did you get involved with the guardians? I mean I could just check online, but it feels wrong to just read someone’s bio.”
“I’m actually one of the old timers. I triggered my ability in 2022 about a month and a half after El Milagro.” The Miracle or El Milagro as he was known was the first publicly recorded divergent; having been caught on live television absorbing the blaze that had consumed the newest hotel of Cancun. “Soon after that, I joined the Houston Defenders, don’t ask what we were defending, I’m still not sure myself... I’d love to say there was a big reason, but the oldest of us were twelve and at the time, it just sort of made sense to be a superhero.”
“Wasn’t that Patriot’s group?” I asked, vaguely remembering my history lessons.
“Yes it was.” She sighed.
“Is he as bad as people say?”
“Do you promise to keep what I’ll say confidential and I do mean just between the two of us? Don’t even talk to the other guardians about it. If you talk, I’ll consider removing you from the program.”
“That’s pretty harsh…”
“If you can’t keep a secret confidential, how can we expect to trust you with matters of national security?”
“That makes a lot of sense. I won’t tell a soul, I promise.”
“I’ll just say this outright; Dennis, is an awful person, but at the same time I don’t entirely blame him. His family was trash, I mean borderline neo-nazi theocratic scum. Back then though, he wasn’t the most hated cape in america, he was just an angry tween with so much psychological baggage from his upbringing. About four months after we formed, Dennis came to us asking to join the team. He didn’t fit all that well with us, he was insensitive at the time but some of us tried to reach out to him however we didn’t succeed.
Of our group, the only person he got close to was Falcon and the two became really close. After a few months, Dennis started warming up to us and we had really high hopes for him. This went on for over a year. But then, Falcon asked him out, as in on a date. To say Dennis didn’t react well would be the understatement of the century, lots of harmful words were exchanged and he left our team.
The next part is speculation on my parts and it’s why I ask you not to babble about it, but what I saw at the time, I believe that Dennis did have some romantic or sexual feelings for Falcon, he was softer around him, more playful, there was a lot of body contact between the two and they spent their days together. There was a lot that could be read into it. And I think that when Falcon came out, he wasn’t ready to deal with his own feelings and he panicked, after that, it was just too late to fix anything.
He was solo for a few months and then Detroit happened. They rounded up most of the active capes, many joined the nascent guardians program and others hung up their capes. Dennis never really got along with the other guardians then either but he cooperated. I don’t entirely blame him for his behavior, part of it comes from his family, part of it from our failure to help him and now all I see when I see him is a boy incapable of dealing with his feelings trying to be a purer man or american than others.”
It was odd to think of Patriot not as a walking incarnation of ignorance and privilege but as just another hurt person who couldn’t cope with their issues. He was still a homophobic, racist and sexist dick though. Angst and crummy life didn’t excuse any of that.
“Alright, there’s one last thing we need to do.”
“Classifications and procedures. Let’s start; shaper alpha.”
She went through dozens of classifications and I couldn’t remember several so she promised an increase in physical tasks once I was better.
Kickback was definitely back in slave driver mode.