Chapter 2

“Things have calmed down a bit since your departure,” Dean Blaine elaborated. “Unfortunately, that has also given people time to truly grasp the implications of your existence. To say I received some complaints regarding your enrollment would be a significant understatement.”

“They don’t want us here?” Of them all, only Vince could be genuinely surprised by such a statement.

“At the very least, a vocal minority of them do not,” Dean Blaine said. “I, however, do. Regardless of what you started life as, you are currently Supers. You have also shown the kind of determination and talent needed to enroll in the sophomore year of the HCP. Any information beyond that is extraneous and irrelevant so far as your admittance goes. With that said, I feel you should all be braced for a far less welcoming atmosphere than you found last year at Lander.”

“We know some of our friends are sticking by us,” Hershel said.

Dean Blaine nodded. “And I’m sure more will in time. Right now you aren’t the people they knew, but rather a representation of one of the greatest unspoken fears in Super society. Eventually, some of them will begin seeing you for the individuals you are once more.”

“But not everyone,” Alice said somberly.

“No, Ms. Adair. Not everyone. In the meantime, I suggest you stay close, work together, and trust in the allies you still have. That mindset will be very important this year, but you’ll get the details on that tomorrow. Now, on to logistics. I’m sure you’re all wondering about Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport. I’m... well, not pleased, but not angered, to report that they will be returning to Melbrook as your guardians.”

There was a general expression of pleasure and relief for the five to learn that not only had the duo survived, they were also being reinstated in their post.

“The other professors and I will be keeping an eye on you as well, for extra security. I’m afraid I have to report that despite several interrogation sessions, George has yet to divulge any information about who he was delivering Mary to, or why. That means for the moment we have no idea if you all are still in danger, so we’ve chosen to assume you are,” Dean Blaine continued.

Nick raised an eyebrow. “So you’re going to be spying on us? Creepy.”

“Now, now, Mr. Campbell. There’s no such thing as privacy in the HCP facility anyway. We’ll just be more actively watching over you five.”

“We appreciate it,” Mary said politely.

“No trouble at all. I think that outlines most of what you needed to know immediately. People are angry, you’re still assumed to be in danger, same people living here as last year. Yes, I’d say that covers the high notes.” Dean Blaine rose from the chair and adjusted his glasses. “Oh yes, one more thing. Last year you were not able to use the lifts to enter the HCP facility and instead had to rely on Mr. Transport. I’m not sure what reason he gave you for this, but the truth is that it was because I wasn’t sure any of you should have that access. I didn’t quite know what to expect of you and I certainly didn’t trust you.”

“Yeesh, thanks, jerk,” Nick quipped.

“The point I was driving at was that this year you will find them quite functional for all of you. You are free to come and go at your own leisure. Welcome to the Hero Certification Program,” Dean Blaine concluded. He exited through the front door, letting the cold steel lock shut with an audible thud behind him.

“Well, that was a real upper,” Nick said in the ensuing silence.

“Forewarned is forearmed,” Vince replied, picking up his own bag once more and heading toward the boys’ side. “I need to unpack then maybe we can all grab dinner.”

“Oh yeah, me, too,” Hershel said, hurriedly gathering his own parcels. “Where should we go? I bet the dining halls are open.”

“Of course they’re open, tomorrow is the first day of class,” Nick pointed out. “We got here a day earlier last year for freshman orientation and they were already serving up what we’ll choose to refer to as food.”

“Then let’s do that,” Hershel said as the door sealed behind him.

Nick turned to the girls. “Should I point out to him that we’re currently pariahs to a small but very powerful portion of the population, and we have to keep our abilities here, along with our HCP enrollment, a secret? You know, the sort of situation that warrants avoiding densely-packed areas of students where we’re likely to encounter an antagonizing entity that could blow our cover to purposely get us booted?”

“They’d get themselves thrown out too,” Alice pointed out.

“Not if they were smart about it. Besides, even if they did, I’ll bet you money one of the other colleges would take them in. They’d be hailed as legends for keeping the name of Hero pure by knocking out people like us,” Nick said.

“Maybe so,” Mary agreed. “But I for one refuse to spend the rest of my time here shaking in fear of what some jerk may or may not do. I’m going to live my life, and if anyone decides to interfere with that... well, I suppose at the very least we can make them work for it.”

“Easy for you to say,” Alice noted. “You can actually follow through on that threat. Nick and I are somewhat less able to take a toll on any would-be attackers.”

“Speak for yourself. I plan to curse anyone who tries to drum me out with terrible luck at sex for the rest of their lives,” Nick said.

Both girls turned to look at their sandy-haired companion.

“Can you actually do that?” Alice asked.

Nick shrugged. “Sex comes from confidence, and if someone thinks they’re cursed, they’ll sabotage themselves. So sort of, I guess.”

“Seems a bit roundabout for you,” Mary said.

“I’ll think of something. I guess I’d better since it seems you folks are set on going about business as usual,” Nick said.

“That we are,” Mary agreed. “So let’s go help the boys and then get ourselves some sloppy joes.”

Alice groaned audibly as they headed out of the common room, her stomach already protesting its impending culinary assault.