The reactions from most of the student body had been shocked and dismayed, but it was the freshman class filing down the hall to their exams where anger budded most prominently.
“This is utter horse shit,” Allen Wells complained, his hands itching to dole out some explosions to demonstrate his outrage. “First we find out they’re fucking Powereds, then they don’t even have to take the test. I wonder who I have to blow to get on the special treatment train?”
“Were,” said Thomas’ flat voice.
“Were what?” Allen asked.
“They were Powereds. Now they’re Supers,” Thomas corrected. “Did you not pay attention at all to the dean’s announcement?”
“Oh, I heard him loud and clear. We’re all stuck with the standard test to fight for spots while they’ve been just waved on through,” Allen snapped back.
“They weren’t waved through,” Will said, joining the discussion. “Two of them were kidnapped, and then the five of them subdued Coach George. Do you think your test will be harder than that?”
“What the fuck ever, there’s no way the coaches would actually do something like that. I’m sure they just objected to the Powereds being let into the program at all so now they’re being tossed under the bus, just like Michael,” Allen said.
“I’m with him on this one,” Terrance stepped forward to add. “It is sort of crap that they’ve put Michael under ‘judicial review’ just for telling everyone the truth.”
“He ‘told the truth’ by breaking into a sound booth and endangering those five,” Thomas shot back. “I’m amazed they didn’t flat out drop him from the program all together.”
“They didn’t do it because they knew we would have rioted if they’d taken it that far,” Allen said, his voice raising a few octaves. The steady march toward the exam room had slowed as the discussion grew; now it was grinding to a halt. One partly pink-haired individual never broke stride, though, moving up to the debate from her position in the rear.
“Sasha,” Thomas called out. “Would you please help me explain to this imbecile that our friends are not the amoral monsters that current opinion seems to paint them as?”
Sasha never looked at him, never slowed down, never even moved her eyes. Her only response was a single pair of words delivered with such venom that clarification wasn’t needed in the slightest.
“See, even one of their girlfriends knows they don’t belong here,” Allen declared triumphantly.
Thomas considered pushing the issue further; however, Sasha’s comment had taken most of the wind from his sails and he wasn’t sure how to recover the lost ground. Instead he retook his place in line and shook his head.
It was a good thing all five of the Melbrook students had been outed simultaneously, because Thomas had a firm suspicion they were going to be leaning on each other a lot come next year.
* * *
Dean Blaine poured himself two fingers of scotch, then stepped back. After a moment’s consideration he filled up the rest of the glass. He stared at it for a few more seconds then went to his cabinet. He emerged holding a much bigger glass, dumped the original glass’s contents into it, and then filled it up the rest of the way.
The announcement had gone over about as well as he’d expected. It wasn’t the initial reaction one had to watch out for in situations like this. No one ever really grasped the full implication of big announcements immediately. No, the part he had to be on guard for was in the weeks to come, when the simmering thoughts would lead people down all the rabbit holes of possibility that he’d pursued himself nearly a year ago. They’d find the same conclusions, too. That this procedure, if evaluated and approved as successful, would significantly alter the landscape of Supers and Powereds permanently. And while it was a good thing, overall, it also meant taking the group that had been seen as secondary and elevating them to the status of equals. Dean Blaine might have slept through his college history courses, but even he knew you didn’t have to dig hard to find all the examples of that being a tumultuous process at best. At worst... well, he was going to have to keep an eye on those five next year. He was certain there were plenty of people who would like to see their little experiment declared to be a failure.
It was a shame, too; they were good kids. Under different circumstances a few of them might have even gone all the way, with the right guidance. Dean Blaine took a big gulp of his scotch at that thought. George and Persephone... they’d been teaching here for over ten years, longer than he’d even been at Lander. For them to have stolen away with students in the middle of the night... Dean Blaine didn’t think he would have truly believed it if he hadn’t been present to retrieve George’s unconscious body. When he was thoroughly secured, Dean Blaine intended to have a very long, very in-depth chat about exactly what the point of their little stunt had been.
For right now, though, their absence created a more pressing dilemma. Dean Blaine had only two and a half months to find adequate replacements for their roles. That included background checks, board approval, negotiations and training, a process that usually took at least a year to complete. Dean Blaine let out a sigh and drummed his fingers on the desk.
He was going to need more scotch.