Chapter 191

Mr. Numbers stepped carefully around the workers diligently packing away Nick Campbell’s belongings. They’d just arrived, but from the speed with which they were moving, it wouldn’t be long until they were finished. It made sense; the HCP booted a lot of students in their freshman year. Having a competent moving staff would be an absolute necessity. Mr. Transport had agreed to teleport the cargo to Vegas once it was ready; at least they could save Nick the trouble of hauling it in his small car.

Weaving through the rapid workers, Mr. Numbers made his way to a modest shelf positioned above Nick’s computer. Stacked neatly, in alphabetical order, were at least two dozen DVDs, all of them terrible slasher films perfectly suited to Nick’s tastes. Reading through the titles, Mr. Numbers located the film he needed, Brazilian Bloodsuckers 6: The AB Negative Wars, and pulled it from the shelf. It made a brief journey into his coat pocket, and he turned to exit the room. No one made any move to stop him, nor had he expected them to.

Mentally, Mr. Numbers checked the item from his to-do list. This was his only acquisition; the next three tasks were deliveries. Normally he was not the type to run errands for others, but in light of Nick’s actions, he had allowed himself to be talked into it. Still, when Nick had given him the sealed envelope of instructions and the two packages, he’d never expected the sarcastic student to actually go through with any of the plans that got him thrown out. He was certain there would be some last minute twist, which only went to show that despite his age and ability, even Mr. Numbers could occasionally be surprised.

*    *    *

“Nick Campbell,” Dean Blaine said, his voice purposely raised and clear. There were only four people in the room, so it was a bit more effort than was necessary, but he made a point to keep everything in these proceeding as open and filled with clarity as possible. “For the violations to which you have confessed, you are being expelled from the Hero Certification Program. This means that you cannot reapply for junior year, or any year, at any location. You are forever barred from this program. Do you understand?”

“Crystal clear,” Nick said. Professor Pendleton sat next to him, trying to keep his face neutral. It was more effort than he would have expected.

“Good. Now, whenever a student leaves our program, it is necessary to take certain precautions to ensure they cannot divulge information about the facilities or their fellow students. Professor Stone is here to facilitate those precautions.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re going to wipe my memories so that I won’t know the secret identities of any of the Supers I trained with in case some make it to Hero.”

“Not the whole thing,” Dean Blaine corrected. “Admittedly, it will be more extensive than if you’d simply failed. Then we would only obscure memories of individuals, blurring out their names and faces, if you will. You would still retain all memory of your training, classes, and exercises. As is, you will still retain some memories from the last two years. Legally we cannot obscure any of your regular curriculum Lander classes. This meeting will also be preserved, so that you understand why there is a giant gap in your recollection. Everything else will be stripped away. Right now the packing team is also editing any photographs or documentation in your room. There will be no record of anything you experienced here in the HCP, mental or otherwise.”

“So, just to be clear, is this a psychic thing or a brain damage thing?” Nick asked. “I know it won’t change the outcome, but if you’re blowing up brain cells, I think I’d like to schedule an MRI for when I get home.”

“Your brain will be fine,” Professor Stone informed him, her voice softer than Dean Blaine’s, though not by much. “My particular telepathy allows me to interact with people’s memories. I can view them or obscure them; however, that last part is generally kept confidential.”

“I assumed it was someone on staff,” Nick replied. “You can’t very well have every bitter young adult you kick out of this thing go off with full knowledge of everyone’s names and abilities. Secret identities wouldn’t last five minutes after a new Hero’s debut.”

“I’m glad you understand the reason why we do this,” Dean Blaine said. “Now, as for your academic record, you’ve maintained good grades at Lander’s regular classes, and those will transfer to any university you’d care to attend, should you decide to continue your education. Your time in the HCP will count for various elective credits: gym, humanities, that sort of thing. You’ll have a transcript that will keep you on track for a four-year college career.”

“That’s awfully kind of you.”

“It’s policy. Just because someone didn’t make it in the HCP doesn’t mean they deserve to have their regular education set back. Besides, elective requirements are largely bullshit anyway.”

“Amen,” Nick agreed.

“So, you understand what will happen, and what your options forward from here are. When we finish you’ll be free to go. Your things have already been packed and delivered, and we will help you find your car in case the memory of that is stricken as well. Do you have any questions or statements before we begin?”

“Sort of feels like you’re asking me if I have any last words.”

“In a way, I suppose I am,” Dean Blaine admitted. He disliked this portion of the job more than almost any other. It was part of the agreement each student signed, to sacrifice bits of their memory in the event they didn’t make it, but still it always nagged at Dean Blaine. He felt like he was stripping away a piece of each person, tearing out chunks of what comprised them. It was a necessary sacrifice, he knew that, because it was better to lose a tenth of a person than to watch a whole one be killed through leaked information. That didn’t make him hate it any less.

Nick smiled. “You guys put on a good program. I had a lot of fun in my time here. I learned more than I ever expected to. I made friends, which surprised even me. I guess if I had to give one statement to summarize the whole experience, it’s that I have no regrets about coming here.” He turned in his chair to face Professor Pendleton. “That, and I hope that when you get your gift, you’ll be able to forgive what I’m about to do.”

“What do you mean?” Professor Pendleton asked.

Nick gave no verbal response; instead, he rose from his chair and crossed the room, walking around the large wooden table, coming to a stop in front of Professor Stone. He sat down next to her and closed his eyes.

“Let’s get this show on the road.”