“I appreciate you all coming on such short notice,” Dean Blaine said, greeting the four men already waiting in his office. He’d meant to be here when they arrived; however, it seemed the board that presided over Lander wasn’t content with reaming him for just a few minutes. They’d demanded a full hour of his time for interrogation. Dealing with bureaucrats made him miss his Hero days, back when someone trying to get information out of you only involved a few bouts of light torture. In business things were not nearly so civilized.
“Yeah, well, nothing like the name ‘Globe’ to get people running,” Professor Pendleton said from his chair. He looked relaxed to the untrained eye, which might have been more useful had any eye in the room not been extensively trained. Professor Fletcher sat next to him, his own posture visibly tense. Across from them, Mr. Transport wore an expression of concern while Mr. Numbers worked very hard to ascertain every detail of their situation.
“Nothing indeed,” Dean Blaine agreed. He paused as he went to his desk, tempted for a moment to pour a tall drink for himself and his guests. A heartbeat’s hesitation decided against it. This day was still young, and he might well need his wits about him. “As you all know, there was an outburst last night amidst some of the sophomore class. During this incident, Chad Taylor leveled accusations that the man who raised Vince Reynolds either may have been or might have had some connection to the criminal known as Globe.”
“Globe, who has been dead nearly sixteen years by my count,” Professor Fletcher pointed out.
“It’s not like we’ve never seen someone fake their own death before,” Professor Pendleton said. “Hell, I think I had a villain who pulled it off four times before one of his plans went a little awry and he ended up in the ground for real.”
“Yes, but Globe was killed in full view of hundreds of witnesses, by his own former team at that,” Mr. Numbers countered. “I’ll admit that since it was Black Hole who did the deed, it presents us with the lack of a corpse; however, every possible verification method possible was undertaken and all confirmed Globe’s demise.”
“Did you ever deal with Globe?” Professor Pendleton asked.
“No. He was a Hero, and my job requires interaction with the other side of the spectrum,” Mr. Numbers admitted.
“Blaine and I did. We were in the same class, we graduated with him, and we knew him like family,” Professor Pendleton said. “Trust me when I say that if anyone could have pulled off the fake death in that situation, it was him.”
“While I won’t disagree with Professor Pendleton’s analysis of Globe’s skill level, that is not our most pressing concern,” Dean Blaine interrupted. “The current issue is that the board feels that training someone who might be the son, biological or not, of the world’s most well-known turncoat could turn into a PR nightmare. Not only for us, but for Mr. Reynolds himself.”
“Now hang on: there’s been a long standing precedent for letting children of villains into the HCP,” Mr. Transport objected. “There’s even a rule against discriminating against someone because of their parents’ actions.”
“It’s called the ‘Sins of the Fathers’ clause,” Professor Pendleton supplied helpfully.
“Right. So how can they put pressure on you to drum someone out in violation of their own rules?”
“No one has put that pressure on me. Yet,” Dean Blaine replied. “It has only been hinted at. No, right now I am merely being tasked with investigating the truth of these claims. The board considers it imperative that we know exactly who raised Mr. Reynolds and what, if any, his connection to Globe was.”
“And what if, worst case scenario, his father was Globe?” Professor Fletcher asked.
“Then things become decidedly more complicated,” Dean Blaine admitted.
“That’s bullshit!” Mr. Transport rose from his seat, barely resisting the urge to slam his hand on the dean’s desk. He knew Mr. Numbers would chastise him later for showing his emotions so easily, but at the moment that didn’t matter one bit. “Vince got into this program on his own merits and he’s stayed in by his own skill and determination. No one has the right to take that from him just because of the man who raised him.”
“Nor would they, not officially,” Dean Blaine shot back. “Mr. Reynolds is a talented young man, but he is not exactly leading the pack. His primary role in any team would be as a combatant, yet if one looked at the best warriors in the class, regardless of gender, his record would place him far from even the top five.”
“That’s enough to cut him?” Professor Fletcher asked uncertainly.
“On its own, not yet. He’d usually get to run through his third year before being middle of the pack wasn’t good enough. With the controversy over his group being former Powereds, they’re already being looked at more closely than the others. If we were to determine he was linked in an unfavorable way to Globe... I’m afraid I only have so much sway over the decisions of the board,” Dean Blaine said with a sad shake of his head. “All we can do is hope that such a link does not exist. The board won’t press me too hard on just speculation, at least that’s my hope.”
“Which brings us to why we’re all here,” Professor Pendleton, picking up the topic. “I can’t help but notice you only called in people you either trust or believe to have the best interests of those kids at heart.”
“I have a headache bigger than your ego from dealing with this situation already. Just ask what you want to ask.”
“Are we here to investigate that link, or to cover it up?”
There was a snap of silence as the others waited for the dean’s response. For his part he spent a full ten seconds reflecting on how much he wished he’d stopped to pour that drink.
“You are here to get to the truth,” Dean Blaine said at last. “While I may not like what will come from it, I am not in the habit of dealing in lies. Our duty is to find out everything we can and then do our best to make sure an innocent boy is not unduly punished for it.”
“That is all well and good,” Mr. Numbers said. “But what it doesn’t tell us is why you only summoned us to this meeting. It seems like the rest of the professors would be just as capable at the task you’re presenting.”
“Unfortunately that would be because of another strike against Mr. Reynolds, one that casts suspicion on the validity of his admission, and one of which even he is not aware,” Dean Blaine explained. “None of you have sat in on the conference we hold deciding which applicants are allowed into the freshman class of the HCP, but the process is actually quite simple. The dean and the active professors gather together to review files of those who meet basic requirements, then a vote is taken on each candidate as to whether reject or admit them. Additionally, each professor has the ability to speak before the votes and have one student instantly accepted or rejected. We refer to this as their ‘auto’ and each voter only has one per year. This allows them to bank on hunches or permit admittance of candidates that they see potential in where others do not.”
“Seems fair,” Professor Fletcher noted.
“It is a process that strives for just that description. Anyway, Vince Reynolds was brought into the HCP because of a professor’s auto. His admission was never voted on directly.”
“So what’s the problem? You just told us that was a valid part of the admission process,” Mr. Transport said.
“The issue is not that an auto was cast for him. The issue is the voter who cast it. It was cast by a professor who had not used an auto in over eleven years, who had professed he never saw candidates worthy enough to deserve his nod. The man who opened a wide door for Vince into our HCP was one of the attempted kidnappers of Mary Smith. It was George Russell.”