Chapter 8

“Well then,” Mr. Transport said as the eyes of his charges fell curiously upon him. He was glad Mr. Numbers had allowed him to be the “good cop” in their interaction with the students, but he still felt a bit awkward dealing with a group of eighteen-year-olds. After all, Mr. Transport could scarcely remember a time when he shared the worries and concerns of an everyday teen. Of course, the reason Mr. Transport had trouble finding those memories is because they didn’t exist. Being able to pop out of nearly every situation had a profound impact on diminishing the amount of things he had to worry about in his formative years. “Why don’t we do an exercise to get to know one another better?”

Mr. Transport waited for some sign of agreement or excitement from the students. Instead he got back blank stares, so after a moment he elected to take that as the sign of their agreement. “Okay,” Mr. Transport continued. “Here is how it works. I want everyone to stand up, say their full name, what their ability is, where they are from, what their cover major is, and one interesting fact about themselves.”

Again Mr. Transport was met with silence; having settled on choosing to perceive that in the positive, though, Mr. Transport was able to keep right on trucking. “I’ll begin. My name is Mr. Transport. My power is teleportation of myself and others. My birth location is considered classified. I am not currently enrolled in Lander University, so I lack a major, and my interesting fact is that I collect bottle caps from sodas all over the world.”

“The still make soda in bottles?” Nick asked skeptically.

“Yes, they do, in other countries as well as in America,” Mr. Transport answered, gratefully to have anyone say anything. “Why don’t you pick up the ball and tell us about yourself now?” Mr. Transport had something that almost seemed like conversation momentum and he would be damned if he was going to lose it.

“No prob,” said Nick, standing from the couch. “Nick Campbell, and I’ve got the power of creating and controlling luck. I’m from Sin City itself, good old Vegas. I’m majoring in business while at Lander. My interesting fact is that I’ve been punched in the mouth by a senator.” With that, Nick plopped back down in the sofa and threw on a big, broad smile.

“Punched by a senator? Would you care to elaborate on that story, Mr. Campbell?” Mr. Transport asked.

“You’re not the only one with shit that’s classified,” Nick answered.

“Okay then,” Mr. Transport said quickly. “Who would like to go next?”

Before the word “next” was fully out of his mouth the blonde girl sitting directly opposite him and Mr. Numbers had popped up from her chair like there was a spring loaded in it. He hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting this young lady, but by process of elimination he knew who she was before she began to speak.

“My name is Alice Adair, and I have the power of flight. I’m from Los Angeles, California. While at Lander I will be enrolled in the communications program. An interesting fact about me is that I have been riding horses since I was five and have won several championships,” Alice said with a firm tone and a confident aura. She was a bit agitated that the sunglasses boy, or Nick as it were, had beaten her to being the first to speak, but she kept that annoyance off of her face as she returned to her seat and smiled placidly.

“Very nice to meet you, Alice,” said Mr. Transport. “Who wants to go next?” He braced, waiting for another student to pop up, but it became all too apparent he had already worked his way through the confident public speakers in his group. Well, no matter; Mr. Transport knew the default solution for problems like this.

“Well, since no one wants to volunteer anymore, how about we just start at this end of the room,” he said, pointing to Hershel, “and we’ll work our way down.”

There were some mumbling and dissatisfied tones, but slowly Hershel rose to his feet. The boy looked a bit better than when Mr. Transport had last seen him. The months of therapy and procedures had shrunken him from round to a wide husky, though the confidence of an elf lord about to siege a castle was strangely gone from his eyes and body language. Now that Mr. Transport thought about it, Hershel and that small girl, Mary, were the only two who hadn’t spoken a word since he and Mr. Numbers appeared in the room.

“My name is Hershel Daniels, and I’m from Chicago. I’m majoring in creative writing, and an interesting fact about me... is... um... well, I won a couple of writing competitions for my fantasy short stories,” Hershel said in soft tones. He moved to sit down, but Nick stopped him.

“You forgot to tell us what your power is,” Nick pointed out.

“Oh,” Hershel said. “Um... well, I guess that’s because I don’t really have any powers. I mean... I do, but... it’s complicated.”

“How complicated can it be?” Nick kept pressing. “You can either do something superhuman or you can’t.”

“Well, it’s more that I do something, and then I can do something super. Does that make sense?” Hershel asked timidly.

“He’s a shifter,” Mary said from her chair on the end.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so? So you turn into some other form that has the powers, right?” Nick asked.

“Yes,” Hershel said, nodding emphatically. “That’s how it works.”

“No shame in that,” Nick said reassuringly. “Some of the best Heroes on the record books had to go through a transformation before they were ready for business. It makes keeping your secret identity and Hero identity separate all the easier, too.”

“I guess it does,” Hershel agreed, looking thoughtful about the benefit Nick had brought up. He sat down in his chair successfully at last, the burden of speech passed off of him and on to the next poor sap.

Since the person to Hershel’s right was Nick, who had already gone, the turn skipped to Vince. It wasn’t really that Vince was scared to talk in public; it was just that everything in him was ingrained to go against the idea of volunteering. In his world, volunteering drew attention, and attention made people notice he was different. Once people noticed that, well... things always had a tendency to get far too interesting for Vince’s tastes.

Vince rose to his feet and addressed the room. “My name is Vince Reynolds. My power is the absorption, storage, and redistribution of energy. I’m from New York... originally. I’m enrolled as undecided as far as my major goes. My interesting fact is that I’ve been in forty of our fifty states.” Vince sat back down on the couch quietly.

“I have to ask, how do you get your hair that color?” Alice said once Vince had hit the couch. She didn’t really care about who his stylist was, but she was curious. The strong tone and voice that had come from Vince didn’t match up with the skittish body language she had seen all night. She wanted to hear more from him to try and reconcile that personality discrepancy.

“I don’t,” Vince said, this time a bit sheepishly. “My hair is naturally this color, and for some reason I can’t get dye to stick in it.”

“Oh,” Alice said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” That was unfortunate; she had been planning on getting a full course of dialogue from him, but if it was natural and a feature he was clearly embarrassed about, then there was no way for her to press onward from her present position.

“Don’t worry about it,” Vince said quickly. “Nick more or less asked the same thing when he first met me. It’s good that people think I dye it this way, it makes it easier to blend in as a human.”

“Very positive attitude, Vince,” Mr. Transport said. “Now then, shall we hear from our last student?”

All eyes turned to the short, wiry girl who had thus far only spoken once, on Hershel’s behalf at that, in the course of the night. Unlike the others, Mary didn’t stand. She delivered her introduction from a cross legged sitting position in her chair.

“My name is Mary,” she began. “And my power is an advanced brain which gives me telekinesis and telepathy. I was born in Louisiana, but I’ve been in the forests of Colorado for about eight years now. I’m double majoring in psychology and biology, and an interesting fact about me is that I know how to turn beavers into hats.”

“What’s your last name?” Hershel asked.

Mary blinked several times then let her gaze move around the room. She unconsciously let her hands pet the head of the stuffed bear in the lap. A few seconds of silence passed, and Mary looked back at her fellow dorm mates.

“I don’t really remember. Like I told Alice, I haven’t had any need for names in a very long time.” Mary asked.

“Thankfully we had ample need,” Mr. Numbers interjected. “Your last name is Smith. You may check the releases your parents signed if you need confirmation.”

“I have no reason to doubt you,” Mary said graciously.

“Thank you, Mary,” Mr. Transport said. “Tell me, does your bear have a name?” He was fairly certain girls who were Mary’s age didn’t name their stuffed animals, but then his understanding was that eighteen-year-olds didn’t normally keep their stuffed animals with them out in the open anyway, so he opted to ask anyway in the hopes of seeming friendly.

“No,” Mary said bluntly.

“I see, that was a silly question,” Mr. Transport said hurriedly.

“Why do you think that?” Mary asked him.

“Well, because you’re obviously old enough that you wouldn’t be naming your bear,” Mr. Transport said.

“You misunderstand,” Mary told him. “I did name my bear. His name is No.”

“Huh,” said Mr. Transport. “Why did you name him No?”

“Why not name him No?” Mary responded.

“Yes, well.” Mr. Transport paused and resisted the urge to press his fingers to his temples. He didn’t need the children seeing that he could be annoyed, gotten to, or given a headache. It was best to just get things back to business. “Since Mr. Numbers already introduced himself, that takes care of the meeting agenda for tonight. One last thing before Mr. Numbers and I retire. As you were all told, classes for Lander take place on the ground level, while classes for the Hero Certification Program take place in a special underground campus. Now, other dorms that house Supers have special elevators to convey their students between campuses. However, since ours is new and it is not yet hooked up to the network, I will be your method of travel between these two schools.”

“Why couldn’t we just get clearance to use an elevator at a nearby dorm?” Nick asked.

“Too much paperwork,” Mr. Transport said with what he hoped was a believable grin. “No, in reality it is simply that getting approval takes months and months, and since we weren’t sure if any of you would be able to attend this year, we were unable to secure that approval in time. Fear not, though, for I know all of your class schedules and I will always be around to teleport you as needed.”

“How do we get back up?” Nick said, asking yet another question.

“You can call for me on my phone or you can ride the elevator. Getting up doesn’t require clearance; only going down. Now, I’m sure you all know there is a meeting welcoming you all tomorrow at eight in the morning, so I expect to see each of you here ready to go promptly at seven forty-five. Aside from that, please intermingle, get to know one another, and have a great night.”

Mr. Transport gently kicked Mr. Numbers, who said something that might or might not have resembled “good night”, depending on the language one was using as well as the level of sarcasm tolerated before the meaning of a word was reversed.

With a nod and a smile, Mr. Transport vanished, presumably taking Mr. Numbers with him since the chair Mr. Numbers had occupied now sat empty. The students were overtaken with surprise at the disappearance once again, though this time the spectacle wore off much more quickly. The vanishing administrators did leave behind a vacuum in conversation, rendering the five gifted individuals with no idea what to say to one another. This vacuum was broken quickly by Nick, whose powers evidently included a need for attention and an utter lack of social insecurity.

“Okay,” Nick said. “I’m now officially taking bets. Gay couple or just a pair of best friends who secretly wish they were a gay couple?”