Chapter 142

Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport were enjoying a quiet cup of tea in the kitchen when they heard the front door slam open loudly. They exchanged a wary glance and Mr. Numbers tensed momentarily as a flood of possible attack scenarios played out in his head. Their concern was (briefly) alleviated when the voices of their charges reached their location. That reprieve lasted only until they ascertained of context of said discussion.

“Didn’t you see their faces? They aren’t going to forgive us,” Alice’s voice declared from the living room.

“They’re our friends. They’ll understand why we had to keep it a secret,” Vince disagreed.

“Forgive us? Are you two joking or just playing dumb?” Nick berated. “Do you not realize the full scope of what this outing means? Forget feelings of betrayal from our friends, that shit is nothing. We’re Powereds that have become and functioned as Supers in the HCP for an entire school year. Our existence challenges everything they know about the distinction between Supers and Powereds. Trust me, when that realization really sets in we’re looking at a lot of trouble. I’ll be amazed if they don’t have this house burned down by morning.”

Mr. Transport’s eyes had grown larger throughout Nick’s tirade. By the time it ended his eyes could have passed as twins to the saucer currently resting under his teacup. He and Mr. Numbers exchanged another look, this time fully aware of the situation and taking up their respective roles for how to deal with it. Mr. Numbers made an immediate exit into their room, shutting the door firmly behind him. Mr. Transport took one last sip of his tea and stepped out into the living room.

“It won’t be that bad,” Alice said. “I mean, what do they care if Powereds can get control of their abilities? It doesn’t stop all the Supers from having theirs.”

“Alice, there are about nearly double the number of Powereds in the world as there are Supers. Powereds who have spent their whole lives being looked down on, belittled, and treated as second-class citizens. Powereds who, for all they know, will be turning into Supers with a pretty justified grudge by year’s end. How do you see that playing out? Because I promise you, they’re assuming the worst-case scenario,” Nick said.

“But that’s not going to happen,” Vince pointed out. “We’re the only ones.”

“What’s true doesn’t matter. Only what they’re afraid of is relevant,” Nick replied.

“I’m afraid Nick has a point,” Mr. Transport said.

“They’re going to burn the house down?” Vince asked.

“Not necessarily. But he is correct in that things will be getting worse before they get better,” Mr. Transport clarified. “This revelation will need to be handled carefully, and the public delicately managed. They will make peace with it, though. Eventually.”

“What can we do to help?” Vince asked, taking a step forward.

“At the moment, with things as uncertain as they are, the only thing we need from you is to stay safe. I’ll be extracting you all to a safe location once Mr. Numbers determines the optimum place for us to use,” Mr. Transport said.

“Wait, you don’t already know where we’re going?” Alice asked, a new flavor of fear pungent in her voice.

“No, but I assure you it will only take us a short while to make the determination,” Mr. Transport said.

“Yeah, that’s great, but if you don’t know where you’re taking us then I’m guessing you didn’t already take Hershel and Mary there,” Alice said.

“That would be a correct guess,” Mr. Transport agreed.

“Then where are they?” Alice asked. “We got slowed down by worming through all the people out celebrating the end of finals on campus, crowds Mary could detect and avoid with her telepathy. They should have easily beaten us here, but they didn’t. So where are they?”

“Excuse me,” said a new voice, one soft and female. “The door was open so I...”

Mr. Transport and the three students whirled on their feet at the intruder, only to find one of the HCP freshmen girls looking awkward in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, young lady, but this is not an opportune time for visiting,” Mr. Transport said briskly.

“I know. I mean, obviously. I mean, I was underground and everything and heard the announcement,” she said. “But there’s something I really need to tell you guys.”

Nick gave her a brief nod.

“Then you better say it quick, because I think this place is going to empty pretty soon.”

“Right, um, so, my name is Agatha, and I’m in class with you guys,” Agatha said. “But I mean, you knew that, I’m the only animator in our year. Anyway, I know none of us really hang out or talk or anything, but over spring break Mary helped me out when I was stuck in the library so I know she’s a really nice girl and I guess we’re kind of friends. So I was using my power to just sort of eavesdrop on everyone tonight with some folded paper figures.”

“Not to be rude, but I trust there’s a point coming around the bend,” Nick said.

“There is. I had one hanging out in an empty classroom when Hershel and Mary walked in. I was going to have him leave but then they started talking and it was really sweet, so I kept listening in. And that’s why my creation was still around to see what happened,” Agatha said. She took in a deep breath and stared miserably at the floor. She wasn’t one for speaking to groups of people, and this was going to be hardest part to tell.

“They were knocked out and taken.”

“They were what?” Vince yelled, his back jerking straight as a flagpole and his hand curling into fists.

“What? No, no, no, that’s crazy,” Alice said, aggressive denial setting in. “I don’t believe it. This is a horrible joke to play on tonight of all nights.”

“Both of you shut up,” Nick said, not quite raising his voice to yell, but projecting loud enough overwhelm them both. He stepped toward Agatha, taking in every last detail about the girl. The angle of her eyes, the position of her feet, the wrinkling around her eyebrow, not one piece of it escaped Nick’s focus. This was unfortunate, because it all pointed to a single conclusion.

“She’s telling the truth,” Nick announced. “But there’s something I don’t understand. Hershel might be powerless in his normal form, but Mary is a juggernaut. Who could have subdued both of them without causing a ruckus and then slipped them out of the gym?”

Agatha somehow managed to look even more uncomfortable as she squirmed in place.

“That’s why I came to tell you all instead of getting a professor or the dean,” she said. “I’m really hoping there’s a logical explanation for this, but just in case there isn’t I thought you should know.”

“Tell us who took them,” Vince said. The initial panic had passed from his voice; what remained was a tone that was flat as a blade and just as sharp.

Agatha licked her lips and tried to remember the kind act of the girl she was worried about. The probably was a good reason for what she had seen, but as she remembered Mary’s unconscious body being tossed over that man’s shoulder so unceremoniously, she couldn’t think of a single one that would fully explain the situation.

“The people who took them... It was the coaches. George and Persephone.”