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August 3, 1987

At the next training session, the kids were uniformly psyched after the victory of the other day. Rick was the last to appear, with Dawn on his board.
    "Hi, dad!" she called to Phoenix Talon, stepping off gracefully.
    "Hi, hon." He realized that he hadn't heard Rick's approach, because his board wasn't making any noise. "Students, this is Dawn, my daughter," he stressed meaningfully. "Everyone say 'hello Dawn.'"
    "Hello, Dawn, sensei's daughter!" they chorused dutifully.
    "Did you see the way she was holding Rick?" someone whispered.
    "Shut up!" was the hissed response.
    Phoenix Talon had in fact noticed.
    "So Rick, what's with the new board?" another asked.
    "Tech upgrade," he grinned. "Take a look!" He picked it up and displayed the lack of wheels.
    "Hon?" Talon looked at Dawn for an explanation.
    "It was easy once I put my mind to it. You remember I told you I'd fixed the hoverbike the other day? The principles are pretty simple."
    He was quick to see the possibilities. "Can you make one for the other guys?"
    "Oh yeah, sure."
    "You should see this thing," Rick enthused. "Goes up walls, hovers, two hundred foot jumps. And you don't fall off it."
    "You don't fall off it?" another youth asked.
    "It generates its own microgravity field around the exterior of it, so that if you've got your feet firmly placed, you get caught up in the," Dawn started to explain.
    "It holds ya on," Rick translated.
    "Oh. Cool!"
    "Good, uh, good work hon." Phoenix Talon didn't sound all too certain about that.
    "Was that all right, dad?" she asked quietly.
    "Yeah. Yeah, it's good," he decided. "There's no weapons on these, are there?"
    "No. Not that they'd be able to figure out."
    Uh-oh. "Just, uh, don't put 'em on."
    "I suppose in theory... no, no. I wouldn't worry about it," she decided.
    She went to work making more boards for the rest of the group, including Talon, who could not help but notice that she had one for herself.
    "Everybody, say thank you to Dawn."
    "Thank you, sensei's daughter!"
    "They seem like really nice kids," she whispered to Talon.
    "They're my boys."
    "See, I told you he was going to come through on this," Rick was telling the doubters. "Tech upgrades? Tech upgrades. Can we have a minute, sensei? The guys and I are gonna talk for a second."
    "They do seem really nice," Dawn repeated. "What's that forty-year-old guy doing?"
    "He's with us," Talon shrugged.
    "Okay. Um, is it all right if I... start riding with 'em?"
    Pause. "What, you mean—? You can't go out on patrol with 'em," he said firmly.
    "Why not?"
    "Hon, you're a lover, not a fighter. Hanging around's one thing. We saw it in Japan too, you're just not cut out for that kind of thing."
    "So you'll teach them? What if someone were to come after me? I should know how to defend myself, right?" she countered.
    "Hon, you live in a superhero base."
    "All the more reason. Rick and I were talking about this the other night."
    "No. I don't think it's a good idea. There's no reason for you to have to... not everybody has to fight. That's why some of us who do fight, we fight so everybody doesn't have to fight." That sounded good.
    "But I can hang out while they practice? I just like riding on the boards," she shrugged. "I understand how Needle feels now, the whole flying thing."
    That, he figured he could afford to give on. "Yeah, that's fine. They're not always riding for patrol purposes. Sometimes they're just out here fooling around and that's fine. But you gotta remember, these guys, their lives are gonna get more dangerous. We haven't taken care of the Alley Cats, they're still out there. For all I know, we could get attacked in the next five minutes. If we do, you head for cover," he warned. "That's an order."
    "All right, sensei, we're finished," Rick called.
    "Okay, then. Why don't you guys take some time, get used to the new boards. That'll be the remainder of the training for today. Rick, I want to talk to you."
    "Yes, sensei? What's up?"
    Talon took him aside. "Never, ever, ever put Dawn in a dangerous situation. That's an order!"
    "I would never do that," he protested, confused.
    "Well, she asked me if she could start riding with you guys. Now, hanging out one's thing, I don't have a problem with you two—"
    "I thought she meant here!"
    "Okay, that's good. But you've gotta be real careful. I'm depending on you for this," he emphasized. "She doesn't get involved with anything with the Alley Cats, no patrolling. She's not part of that."
    "I would never think it," he swore.
    "Now, there's some background here that you'll find out someday."
    "It has to do with the...?" He pointed to his neck, indicating Dawn's scar.
    "Yeah, it does. Observant boy, you've noticed that."
    "Well yeah, when she—" He shut up abruptly.
    Talon let it pass. "One time, a while ago, somebody convinced me that we try to use Dawn in a combat situation, and she was in a coma for a couple months because of it."
    "I would never bring her into a fight or anything like that," he promised. "She just likes riding. She's getting really good at it, too."
    "She does that."
    "And I hate to say it, but she's been kicking my ass at pool," he confided. "And I've been playing for a long time."
    "Yeah, she does that, too."
    "You been training her or something?"
    "No, she's a wonda. She can pick up anything like that." He shrugged. "All right, as long as we've got that straight. And keep your hands to yourself."
    "Like, don't teach her how to fight?"
    "Yeah, that too."
    He watched the group practice. The boys were showing off for their new female audience, looking pretty good already. Soon it would be time for the next step.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson