Karissa Dogg almost missed the boy’s outstretched hand when he stood to leave her station in the tutor center. She still had a hangover slamming the corners of her skull and no one tried to shake hands after a session, the gesture was too formal for any self respecting college student. “Thank you again, Miss Dogg.” He sounded like someone from one of her novels for Romantic lit. Or maybe Victorian. The Victorians were big on formalities…
“Kary, please Johnathan.” She stood and shook the hand he offered. His grip wasn’t as weak as the rest of him looked. His eyes were the darkest natural blue she’d ever seen. “I’m just happy to help.” She kept her customer smile in place without wincing, even though there was a student at the German tutor’s desk acting like that language should be shouted instead of spoken.
She needed water. She needed Advil. She needed to sleep and eat and shower and then call her brother and congratulate him on his win the night before.
“Well then you have to call me Johnnie.”
She didn’t want to call him anything. She wanted to have her hand back and sit. She wanted to con Jason Dods, her co-worker, into bringing her lunch. She wanted to not be further behind on her Spanish research than she was ever going to admit to Dr. C.
He dropped her hand. The tutor fell back into her chair and had put her head on her desk before he was out the door.
“You okay, frauline?” Jason was standing over her, the shouty German student done and gone, it seemed.
Kary wagged her hand to show approximation. “Más o menos”
He leaned across to look at the session log she still had up on her computer. “Seventeen and in advanced Spanish?” He whistled. Kary jabbed her elbow into his gut, making her co-worker stagger back a step.
“Eyes off Dods.”
He rubbed the spot where she’d sunk her elbow. “Easy there, Adamant. What’s got you touchy?”
Kary rolled her eyes at the mention of their city’s Register designated super and closed out of her logbook. “Seth’s fight ran late. They had to interrupt coverage cause the Dynamic A’s,” she scoffed her way through their local super and his sidekick’s team nickname, “were knocking down buildings or something.”
Jason retreated to his own desk, his tone became patronizing once he was out of range of her strikes. “They were bringing down White Thorn, you know, the Enlisted gang from—”
“You should pay more attention. Supers are important to —”
“Supers are important to you. Not me.” Kary dug through her backpack on the off chance there was a water bottle tucked somewhere in the folds.
“They keep the peace.”
“They keep the road crews in work and the rest of us in traffic.” Kary upended the bottle she found and sucked down the dregs.
“You’d let the Enlisted overrun us all?”
And that was the crux: the Enlisted and their cadre of super villains and all the mayhem that went with them. The Register, the network of sanctioned supers all across the world, were necessary to keep the Enlisted in check. “Do we have to debate this? I’ve got a hangover and a hungry.”
“Thought you were just sleepy.”
“Why would I be just sleepy? Seth won last night and we closed out Jimmie’s.” She pitched the empty bottle into a trashcan near the door without leaving her seat and swiveled in her chair to face Jason. Her smile was wicked enough to make the German tutor gulp and wish heartily that his twenty-first birthday would come soon so he could go to Jimmie’s bar, watch Kary’s brother fight on the screens there, and celebrate his victories until the wee hours with the dark-headed, dark-eyed girl sitting across the room.
She swung toward the voice and watched Dr. Constance hop-jog across the quad towards her just before her only Monday afternoon lecture. Tallish, youngish, and far too exuberant about obscure Latin American poets, her The Adventures of Dogg Girl and Sidekick 8 research professor was frequently mistaken for a student. “Hola Dr. C.”
Kary planted her backpack on a bench and pretended to search through it while the professor pretended he wasn’t winded.
“Do you have—”
“Those translations? Yes, somewhere, I think…” She flipped through the folder where she kept her Victorian literature homework. “Damn, I must’ve left it at my desk in the tutor center.” She slapped the binder closed before he could look too closely. “Can I email you a copy tonight? It’s saved to my hard drive back home.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.” He looked disappointed. The student didn’t waste energy on feeling guilty. “So how’re you finding el diario?”
El diario de Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz? Dry. And the antiquated Spanish hurt her head.
“Fascinating, she was a poet ahead of her time.”
“Aren’t all poets?” She laughed because he expected her to. “Verdad.” A pause grew between them while Kary shuffled her lit folder back into her bag, twisting so he couldn’t see the label and catch her lie. “I had one of your students in the center today—Johnnie Foxx.” She meant it as a distraction.
It worked, Dr. C brightened. “Oh? I’m glad he finally went for help. He’s been needing it.”
“Really?” Kary hefted her bag back onto her shoulder.
“Yeah. He’s a good kid, just doesn’t apply himself. Sleeps in class, comes in late. That sort of thing.” Were professors allowed to talk about their students to other students? Kary checked her watch.
“Well I hope I helped him. Sorry to run, but I’ve got Dr. Peters in—”
“No worries, just email me that file when you get the chance.” Kary waved without looking back; she was going to be late.