“What. The Fuck. Was that?” These were the words that greeted Dean Blaine as he returned to his office some hours after the class and his errand with Jacob had been finished.
“Mr. Campbell,” Dean Blaine said graciously. “My secretary informed me you’d been waiting in my office for some time. I must say I’m impressed at your patience.”
Nick stared back at him stonily. There might have been some emotion in the eyes hidden away by those sunglasses, but the face was an absolute blank. No feeling, no sentiment, no expectation, only an unending resolve in waiting for his answer.
“Fine, then. ‘That’, as you put it, was my attempt to develop some semblance of humane feelings towards Powereds in my class,” Dean Blaine said.
“Have you ever done it before?” Nick asked.
“Well, no,” Dean Blaine admitted.
“Then why in God’s sweet name would you do it this time?” Nick asked, rising to his feet.
“Because it’s more relevant,” Dean Blaine replied.
“No, it isn’t,” Nick corrected him. “There is no relevance to it at all. Powereds are broken products, lesser Supers, a group with an unfortunate disability, and not one person in that class needs to think any differently. We’re all Supers after all, so who is going to get offended?”
“Mr. Campbell, if you’re afraid that my experiment will compromise your secret, I can assure you-”
“Stop,” Nick said, holding up his hand. The gesture was unnecessary: the tone of his voice alone would have frozen water. “Do you fully understand how tenuous our position here is? Do you realize what a ridiculous stroke of luck it is that the only real telepath in our class is one of us? Do you think for one moment you really understand what it will be like if our secret gets out? Let me assure you of something, Dean Blaine. I’m certain your heart is in the right place, but don’t you ever fucking dare believe for an instant you know what it’s like growing up as a Powered. Until you’ve seen the looks of disgust and disappointment on people’s faces, until you’ve been literally terrified out of your mind about what you’ll cause to happen next, and until you’ve seen that same fear of the eyes of those you love, only then you can talk to me about how you’re doing your best to keep our secret.”
“Feel better?” Dean Blaine asked. “That was quite the little monologue.”
“It needed to be said,” Nick replied. “You’re too careless, and I understand today was about trying to help us, but honestly, the best thing you can do to help us is treat us like everyone else.”
“In that case I should probably kick you out since you’ve sworn at the dean of your program twice in last few minutes,” Dean Blaine said.
“Do what you’ve got to do,” Nick shot back. “Just understand that while Mary and Roy, and maybe even Vince, could still hang on if we got outed, Alice and I wouldn’t last a week. We’re not the combat type; the only thing that lets us fly through here is being part of the community of Supers. If we were targeted, or different, there’s no way we’d be able to hold on.”
“I take it that’s why you consistently make grades at almost exactly the median of the class,” Dean Blaine speculated.
“On my best day it’s still tenuous that my power should have gotten me in here,” Nick said. “Not making waves is the best strategy I’ve got.”
“Very well, Mr. Campbell,” Dean Blaine said. “I’ll take what you’ve said under advisement for my future lessons. I’ll do this because this is the first time you’ve actually talked to me as yourself, the bright observant boy we both know you to be, rather than that insipid character you’ve concocted.”
“It made more sense to abandon the pretense, otherwise I couldn’t have had this discussion with you,” Nick confessed.
“A wise choice, though I’m sure you’ll be playing the same part in our future classroom interactions,” Dean Blaine said.
“Of course,” Nick confirmed.
“I can accept that. I do hope you realize my door is always open to you, though, not just when you wish to go on a tirade. Since you’ve already shown your true self to me, there’s no harm in dropping by to talk. If you would like,” Dean Blaine offered.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Good. I think we’re done then, Mr. Campbell, unless there was anything else?”
“No, as long as there are no more stunts like today, we should be fine,” Nick said, turning to go.
“Oh, and I should point out there were two problems with your argument,” Dean Blaine said. “Firstly, Ms. Smith is not the only telepath in your year, as you should know from having met Mr. Griffen.”
“Alex is a nice guy, but he’s closer to an empath than a telepath. He rarely gets thoughts, mostly emotions,” Nick said.
“As far as you know,” Dean Blaine pointed out. “It would be wise not to underestimate anyone who has made it into my program. That brings up the second problem. Your ‘tenuous power’, as you described it, is not what elevated you into the HCP.”
“Oh?” Nick asked without turning around. He was confident his face was still controlled, but there was no reason to risk giving anything away when it was avoidable.
“Indeed. The power qualifies you as a Super, but in your evaluation it was your intelligence and strategic thinking that made you Hero material,” Dean Blaine said.
“Good to know,” Nick said, walking to the door and swiftly exiting the dean’s office. Somewhere in course of that conversation he’d lost his power and momentum, but he’d gained insight into how the dean worked, and that might prove to be invaluable. Aside from that, he’d gotten a slight idea at what Dean Blaine’s power might be, and that information he knew would be useful. Now he just had to think of a way to test his hypothesis.
After finals, though. Even Nick wasn’t confident enough to try and take on more projects before the semester ended.