Chapter 7

The silver-haired boy was fidgeting nervously. Alice noted that in the back of her mind, not particularly intrigued but not ambivalent either. Every little detail added up to the sum of who a person was, and that was information worth having if she was going to be dealing with these people on a regular basis.

The five students were assembled in the central common room scattered among various seats. Mary was off to the side on her own, save for the stuffed bear she kept perched carefully in her lap. Alice had been tempted to ask why Mary had a stuffed animal, but the moment she had looked into those amber eyes all desire had melted away in the face of the overwhelming certainty that talking to Mary was a bad idea.

The boys were clustered together for the most part. Silver hair and sunglasses were lounging on the white couch, with the third boy in the chair to their side. He was a husky one, wearing a shirt that had strangely shaped dice on the front. Alice deduced within a few moments of hearing him speak that the boy was certainly lacking the basic set of social skills. Then again, given who she was surrounded by, she could hardly say that he didn’t fit in.

Alice herself had taken a center position in the room, eager to appear eager for whatever authority figure Daddy had managed to wrangle into this baby-sitting job. Alice didn’t expect for whoever showed up to pose any real problem for her; after all, they would obviously know who her father was, but she still preferred to get her way through charm and cunning rather than threats and force. It was the way a proper lady got things done.

As the clock struck seven, a bit too loudly, Alice noted with a grimace, a pair of men appeared in front of the group of students. They dressed almost the same, save that the shorter of the two wore a tie while the taller one did not. They wore black suits and white shirts, both kept their dark hair trimmed and while the short one had bright blue eyes, the larger one had only muddy brown ones.

“Hello, students,” said the shorter of the pair. “You may call me Mr. Numbers. My friend, Mr. Transport, and I are here to oversee and assist you in your academic endeavors. Our apartment is what lies behind the steel door in the kitchen. You will not be permitted access; however, an intercom is on the counter next to the pantry  for emergency contact. Do we have any questions so far?”

Alice glanced around to test the temperature of the room. It seemed everyone but she and Mary were struck dumb by the appearance and promptness of the two men who had materialized in front of them. Alice suppressed the urge to scoff. Of course these poor dregs were surprised; their only experience with people who had abilities was undoubtedly with others like themselves. The sight of someone using precision teleportation would be truly alien to them. Alice wasn’t quite sure why Mary wasn’t more taken back, but she readily chalked that up to just another aspect of the girl’s strangeness.

“I take your silence to mean we are on the same page,” Mr. Numbers continued. “Now, I want to be clear here. We’ve met most of you already when we were selecting people appropriate for the program you all participated in. We were nice and friendly then. We will continue to maintain that same level of friendliness during our tenure as your house administrators. However, please do not misinterpret my good nature as weakness. Mr. Transport and I are here to enforce the rules, and you will find we are both excellent at our jobs.”

“Um, what rules are you talking about?” The question came timidly from the silver-haired boy.

“A full copy will be issued before the week is over,” Mr. Numbers replied. “I will touch briefly on the main three, though. First, you are to keep your identities secret at all times. This is a requirement of all those who participate in the Hero Certification Program, or HCP as we call it around here, and it is the duty of the administrators to observe who has broken it, intentionally or otherwise. That will be covered in more depth tomorrow during your first class. Secondly, there is to be no fighting with other Supers or with regular humans outside the confines of the classroom.”

“Wait,” the silver-haired boy said again. “We’re going to fighting in class?”

“Of course,” said Mr. Numbers. “You are training to be a Hero. This means you must learn to fight against time, villains, and environmental conditions to save as many people as possible in any given scenario. Combat training will be a very important part of that.”

“Don’t worry,” Mr. Transport broke in, speaking for the first time. “All fights are strictly monitored, and there is always someone with a healing power on hand to tend to both parties afterward.”

“Mr. Transport is correct, though both he and you could stand to take a course in not interrupting,” Mr. Numbers said, staring at the silver-haired boy. “Now then, the third rule is the most important for all of you. Your powers must stay within your control at all times. This is a rule specific to your situation and certainly doesn’t need explanation. Be aware that this is the primary reason Mr. Transport and myself were selected for this assignment. Should any of you lose control, we will act quickly and decisively to ensure the safety of those around while simultaneously shutting down the problematic party.”

“Wait; I thought we all had control of our abilities. That’s why they let us enroll here.” This time the speaker was the dark-haired boy wearing sunglasses. Alice noticed he spoke with a strange accent. Not quite northern, but not quite southern, either. It seemed to be a hint of dialect from a region all its own.

“You all do have control of your abilities. Currently,” said Mr. Numbers. “The procedure you underwent was experimental, though. Those who created and performed it are certain you will remain as Supers and not drift back to your previous uncontrollable states. However, there are those who remain skeptical such a thing is possible, and the positioning of Mr. Transport and me as overseers is a compromise to assure the safety of the regular student body.”

“So what happens if someone loses control?” Alice was shocked to realize this question had come from her own mouth. It wasn’t as if she was a danger to anyone if she began floating around again, but she was concerned that the slip-ups of some of these cretins could affect her college career. At least, that’s how she rationalized the sudden nagging fear that had formed in her stomach.

“Testing,” Mr. Numbers replied simply.

“What Mr. Numbers means to say,” Mr. Transport said, jumping in as he saw the looks of distress cross his charges’ faces, “is that we will test and investigate the reason why control was lost. Maybe there was a psychological component and it doesn’t mean things failed. Maybe it’s an individual case, or maybe it just means that person will need another round of treatment. We don’t anticipate anything going wrong with any of you, but if it does then we’ll be there to find out exactly why it happened.”

“I feel testing was an adequate answer,” Mr. Numbers said. “Now, do any of you have any questions about the rules I have set down so far?”

There was silence, though this time it was less motivated by being dumbstruck at the dramatic entrance and more motivated by the sudden fear they had all presumably acquired of someone losing control and screwing the deal for everyone.

“Excellent,” Mr. Numbers said. “Then I will turn the floor over to Mr. Transport for some ‘getting to know our dorm mates’ activities.” With that, Mr. Numbers sat down in the chair directly opposite of Alice. Alice, for her part, worked very hard to avoid his observant blue eyes and focus on the tall Mr. Transport. It seemed that everyone was following her lead on that account; everyone, that is, except for Mary.

Mary was staring directly into Mr. Numbers’ big blue eyes, meeting his gaze with her own amber orbs. Since everyone was gazing intently at Mr. Transport, no one noticed the two looking at each other. If they did, though, certainly no one noticed as Mary brought both of her hands up and began clapping them together softly, engaging in a very gentle, very silent, session of applause.