“I’m afraid I just don’t agree,” Mr. Numbers said politely, taking a sip tea to punctuate his sentence.
“I’m not asking for agreement, merely assistance, even if only by association,” Mr. Transport replied.
The two men were taking advantage of the time their charges were occupied in gym to pop out and get lunch at the only place one could find truly delicious Italian food.
“I’ll concede that your idea does regain us some of the ground we were forced to sacrifice for the mountain trial; however, I feel it comes off as far too transparent an attempt to do just that,” Mr. Numbers said. “If we are seen as actively manipulating their emotions then it would undermine our efforts, not aid them.”
“That argument is only valid if they see it as an act done for the sake of manipulation. If they take it as genuine then it would do wonders to foster some trust. Trust that would greatly assist us down the line,” Mr. Transport countered.
“I think the risk is too great against the potential reward,” Mr. Numbers assessed bluntly. “The optimum gain is simply too minimal to justify such an overt gesture.”
Mr. Transport slowly cut into his manicotti, considering Mr. Numbers’ point. It was true that this could work against them; however, it was also true that Mr. Transport still wanted to proceed with the plan. Not just for the reasons he’d advocated to Mr. Numbers, but because it was an act of decency he wanted to perform. Mr. Numbers wouldn’t accept sentiment in place of logic, though. Mr. Transport thought carefully, then voiced an idea.
“We could get some of them to assist us.”
Mr. Numbers merely raised an eyebrow rather than conjure the effort of a vocal reaction.
“It’s not without precedent in circumstances such as these. We would need Nick and Mary. The others trust Mary thanks to her ability, and Nick has been shaping their perceptions since the first day. If they agree to aid us then we significantly reduce risk,” Mr. Transport said.
“Valid,” Mr. Numbers said. “However, working with Nick in itself generates a risk.”
“Then let’s begin with Mary. Broach the topic with her over your next chess game. You can gauge her reaction and decide then if the equation is more adequately balanced.”
“Very well,” Mr. Numbers agreed. “Assuming the risk reward ratio becomes justifiable, I will agree to help you with your project.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Transport said.
“Not at all,” Mr. Numbers replied. “Shall we get dessert?”
“Sounds delicious. I believe there is an excellent bakery down the street,” Mr. Transport suggested.
“Perfect,” Mr. Numbers agreed. “One thing I love about New York, variety is always close at hand.”
* * *
“Because I’m retired, that’s why!” Dean Blaine yelled into the phone. He was in his office and had been attempting to unwind from the day. His attempt was clearly unsuccessful, as his face was flushed and a small vein near his eye was beginning to throb. Dean Blaine prided himself on his unflappable demeanor in dealing with the students; however, the person currently on the line was not enrolled at Lander. Aside from that, there were just some things that got under his skin.
There was a murmur of words from the phone.
“Save the guilt trip. I’ve told you people more times than I care to count that I’m done. There are plenty of capable, active Heroes out there who can fix your problem. I know that because I trained them. That’s what I do now, since you seem to have forgotten.”
Another murmur crackled across the lines.
“Well, if time is such an issue then quit wasting time with me and find someone who’s willing to help. Good day!”
Dean Blaine slammed the receiver down, cracking off a small piece of plastic in the process. He took several deep breaths and got up from his desk. It took him a few moments of rooting through one of the drawers in his file cabinet, but he finally emerged with a small white bottle. He poured of glass of water, then deposited two tablets from the bottle into the glass and watched as they fizzed enthusiastically. Only after downing the bubbly liquid in a single gulp did he retake his seat.
Dean Blaine knew he should take it as compliment. He’d been retired for nearly a decade and yet they still called him when things went too far south too fast. No one wanted to accept that he’d retired, even after all this time. Not too shabby for a guy who had barely made it into the HCP to begin with. He had to believe some of the reluctance to let him go was hype, though. After all, he was one of the few graduates still left from his graduating class. The Class of Legends, people had called it.
Globe may have been at the top, but all ten Heroes who came from that class went on to become famous worldwide. Though, admittedly, some gained fame from less than ideal circumstances.
He mentally ticked through the class roster. Globe and Intra were dead, of course. Wisp was in prison. Shimmerpath was missing. Bull-Rush had retired and was now in the private sector. Raze was considered wanted and dangerous. His mental accounting stalled on Raze. They had been roommates nearly their whole time at Lander. They sparred often, honing their skills against a fellow well-trained opponent. No one had been more surprised than he when word spread about Raze’s crimes.
Dean Blaine rose from his chair once again, this time heading for the door. He would go watch the juniors’ class; it would be going on around now. Seeing the students always centered him. It reminded him of his own days at Lander. Years spent fighting, competing, and bonding with fellow Supers. Of a time when he lived and trained with his best friends. Sometimes, when he was watching the young ones work toward their goal, he could almost forget what had happened to the rest of his class, could lose himself in that ignorant memory of decades ago. Only almost, though. Wherever his mind let him wander, reality always just a step behind waiting to pounce.