Prologue 5

Korman University, HCP Dean's Office.

Daniel Silvers was being escorted to the HCP Dean's Office by one Candis Delacroix from Korman's admissions office; in brief she was in her late 20s, Caucasian, 5'10", slim with black hair tied into a bun, she wore square black glasses, black culottes and a white button down blouse. And she was also extremely irritated. Apparently the weight of the Dean of Admissions displeasure had fallen on the unfortunate Candis and most of the admissions' staff for embarrassing him in front of the new HCP Dean which was why Candis had been delegated as Daniel's guide.

The trip down to the Dean's Office was long, winding, and fraught with an icy silence with maybe two dozen words being exchanged between them. Just as Daniel was beginning to wonder if Candis was leading him around in circles he noticed a door unlike any he'd seen so far in this tour. Tall floor-to-ceiling French-doors stood open about 20ft down the hall, made from what appeared to be two solid slabs of frosted stained-glass six inches thick. As Daniel got closer he noticed that the doors colors slowly shifted and blended before separating again, it was at once both hypnotic and peaceful, and also slightly disturbing.

As Candis came to an abrupt stop by the glass doors she turned to face her charge. "Here you are Mr. Silvers, Dean Steel's office with 5min to spare. If you should require a guide after your meeting don't hesitate to call my extension and I will be at your service for as long as you need. Have a pleasant day." and with that she stalked off down the hall. As Daniel turned to the open doorway he noticed that she had entirely failed to provide her extension for him to call if needed and shook his head in resignation. Kids these days, and then because he was going to be a collage student again, You need to be still lady, chill out!Laughing openly at the absurdity of his own thoughts Daniel walked into the deans office.

Looking around Daniel found the office to be a generic outer office with a secretary, he was in fact a little taken aback by how generic it was give the ostentatious gate (the word 'door' didn't quite fit that aperture) that led to it. To tell the truth the only remarkable thing about the office was the secretary. He had bean around a long time and had seen his fair share of the so called "super freaks", though even he had only talked to a few, so while finding one here was a little startling he waved it away as nothing special and went to announce himself. Dressed in a bright red silk kimono with golden foxes embroidered everywhere in all manner of play, including two going at it like rabbits across her chest, with a black eye patch covering her left eye she was the most colorful thing in room (in every sense of the word), but it was the ears the stuck out (quite literately) on top of her head. Daniel noticed too a full set of business clothing hanging behind the desk on a hanger, the outfit was utterly professional and said in a rather blazing way "I'm a sophisticated and classy aide-de-camp not just some air-head of a secretary who is just here to look pretty" (40 years of listening to Lillian mutter about what an outfit 'said' had endowed him with a fair understanding of the subtle and not so subtle messages one can send with the proper ensemble). But however professional the clothes were they did no good on a hanger behind their owner. He decided not to ask.

Walking up to the secretary, who was typing away at a furious pace behind a large and extremely heavy looking desk, he expected to be greeted by a fake but professional smile and a question as to his appointment time; what he got was ignored, ignored with extreme prejudice. After a brief interval of watching her slam the keyboard with a viciousness that 'said' that she most dearly wanted a legitimate target, ANY target really, on which to vent her hatred Daniel took his fate in his own hands, cleared his throat and announced, "Hello, Ms. I'm Daniel Sil-"

"Door." Interrupting him the secretary pointed to a plain wood door to the right and went right back to slamming/typing without even looking up. Her voice was honey poured over gravel, wrapped in velvet and smoke and it sent a shiver down his spine.

Daniel waited a beat for anything else and when nothing was forthcoming turned and walked to the door. Knocking he waited for an acknowledgement and entered. The Inner office was very spars with only a few appliances and no personal touches what so ever. A 90in wide screen TV set was in to the right wall, and facing it across the room was a hi-tech computer/desk with a fully integrated holographic interface and voice command (Daniel had drooled over the one that was featured in last months Tomorrow's Science Today magazine and that unit was probably at least an order of magnitude inferior to this one) + 2 chairs (one on ether side of the desk), and a cot that was shoved up against the far wall with a full size fridge in the far left corner that was actually labeled "Beer Fridge", other than that the room was bare. The man working behind the holograms was INTENSE, there was no better way to describe him. Whatever he did he did with the whole of his being, and because of that what he did was more REAL then real, more present and lasting, with effects magnified far beyond their scope. His physical shape and profile was pushed aside by his sheer intensity and Daniel couldn't make out anything about the man. Then all of a sudden the intensity shut itself off, the computer's holograms dissolved and the man diminished to just a man again, About 6'3" or so, built, in his early 30s, his red hair was cut short, and he wore black fatigues and a fitted dark forest-green shirt.

"Daniel Silvers." Stated Duncan Steels, Dean of the Korman HCP by way of greeting; he didn't get up or offer his hand. Waving a hand to the only other chair in the room he commanded "Come, Mr. Silvers. Sit. We have much to discuss."

Daniel sat in the offered chair before beginning on opening speech he had practiced on the plane. "Thank you, Dean Steels, for allowing me this inertvi-" Daniel began but was cut off mid-word when the Dean let loose a loud bark of a laugh.

"I did not ALLOW you anything, I merely gave way to the inevitable. From what I've been told you are not one to yield to a little adversity, I'm sure you would have found your way here one way or another. And besides, I was curious see what kind of grandpa would want to sign up for the HCP." Dean Steels paused for a time looking Daniel over. "I only have one relevant question for you Mr. Silvers, and how you answer it will determine whether you are accepted into the HCP. If you attempt lie to me I'll quash your application like a tiny bug. Got it?" Steels waited for a nod from Daniel before he continued. "Why do you want to enter the HCP?"

Daniel was silent for some time. Not because he didn't have an answer, Daniel was well aware of own reasons for doing this. No, Daniel was silent because the answer sounded so odd him, even on inside his own head. But Dean Steels had been straightforward with his question and so disserved a straightforward answer. "I wish to test myself and see if I'm still relevant; see if I can still pull my weight in a young mans world. I suppose that you could say that this is my midlife crisis."

Dean Steels said was astounded; flabbergasted even. Then with another big bark of a laugh he got up and went over to the Beer Fridge. "Want a drink?"

"Thank you Dean Steels, but no." was Daniel's reply. "I'm not much of a drinker and it IS a bit early in the day."

Steels was back from the Beer Fridge with two large brown bottles and a large sheaf of papers. Twisting the caps off the bottles with an absent minded flick of a wrist he set the stack of papers and a bottle down in front of Daniel before taking a swig from his own beverage and dropping back into his chair with a contented sigh.

Daniel was surprised at the thickness of the papers as he tilted the stack in his hands and began to read. He got as far as the word 'Congratulations' that was hidden at the end of the second paragraph before realizing what it was and starting over from the top.

"It's no fun to drink alone, my friend. Perhaps you'd help me out. Old Tilman's is a fine brew, it'd be a shame to waste it."

With a half absent shrug Daniel took a sip from the bottle, his eyes never leaving the words on the paper, then did a double take as the taste hit his palate. "You know, that might be the best damn brew I've ever tasted. Certainly it's in the top 3." He said before taking a another bigger drink. "Damn that's good."

"Yeah, a buddy of mine makes it in small batches over on the West Coast. Costs a small fortune to buy even with the friends-and-family-discount but it's well worth it. "

Dean Steels set his feet up on the desk and studied Daniel. "All the information you need for the coming school year is in those papers but in brief I'm willing to let you take a shot at the HCP because well, quite frankly that's what I'm all about. It's scatter-shot, my friend. Throw everything including the kitchen sink at the wall and see what sticks. I've made some drastic changes around here, one of which is letting anyone who wants a shot at the HCP to take it, so you wont be the only older student in the ranks this year but you'll most definitely be the be the oldest. Another change I've instituted is that the starting freshmen HCP class will be twice as big as a normal freshmen class, around 140 students all told. But I expect that number to decrease rather dramatically within the first week. This year at Korman we're not offering a ramp-up period, you will come to us in top physical shape and stay above the cut off line or be shipped out; that's not something we're suppose to teach you, that's something your suppose to do on your own anyway. Any questions so far?"

"Well, three so far. What's the name of that buddy of yours? What the hell is you front door made of? And Why was your secretary dressed like that?"

Dean Steels burst out laughing

The Silvers' Condo, NY New York, 3hrs later.

"So how was the meeting dear? And could you hand me that box with the dishes please? Thank you."

Lillian and Daniel were busy unpacking the pile of boxes the movers had brought along with them and the pile was starting to get noticeably smaller.

"It was interesting anyway." Daniel answered. "The man managed to dump a great deal of information on me in only 45 minuets. There's a lot of work to do to get ready for the school year. Oh, and I found a very fine brew that even you will like. It's called Old Tilman's."