Chapter 26

The four-bedroom house was located in a development populated almost entirely by homes rented out to students at Lander. In fact, it was so synonymous with the college that the cluster of blocks by the school was called “Lander Lounge” by the locals, both for the type of renter it brought in and for the generous amount of parties thrown in the vicinity. The houses were kept to code, in some cases just barely, but they were affordable and as such had very little in the way of frills. Still, this particular house was well-cared for. It had a fresh coat of paint and the carpets were vacuumed daily. These features spoke less of the owner of the house and more of the tenants who had moved in this year.

Jill, Will, and Sasha clustered around the kitchen table, a set of playing cards before them and a bottle of tequila in the center. Jill slammed her drink and set the empty shot glass upside down on the table.

“Gah! Wow, that is some awful stuff.”

“You’re the one who insisted we pre-game before going out,” Will reminded her.

“Well, yeah, we’re all too young to get served so we’ve got to get our drink on ahead of time,” Jill said, slurping down her beer to drown out the tequila’s twang in her mouth.

“You know, I keep meaning to ask you about that,” Sasha said, her own voice slurring slightly. “Between the two of you, I’d think making a fake I.D. would be nothing.”

“It would be,” Will confirmed. “But I won’t do it.”

“Why not? We’re already drinking underage.”

“In a controlled environment with my roommates in the area should anything go wrong and a designated driver already arranged,” Will replied. “This is a level of risk I find acceptable. Engaging in these activities without such a fail-safe in place is another matter.”

“That’s my brother the worrier,” Jill said, giving Will a side hug.

“It is merely an evaluation of risk versus reward,” Will said. “At any rate, Sasha, it is your turn.”

Sasha pulled a face-down card from the circle, revealing a four. “Fours is whores: girls drink,” she declared. Both she and Jill poured themselves half shots and threw them back. The wincing was excessive.

A door shut as Thomas emerged from the basement. They’d kept the lower floor bare except for some free weights and a punching bag. It was their area to work out without the use of powers. Thomas had been down there for an hour and a half, emerging in a black tank top that was soaked thoroughly with sweat.

“Boyscout!” Jill yelled by way of greeting. “Come drink with us!”

“Eagle Scout, actually,” Thomas corrected her. “And I’m not much of a drinker. I’d thought the same of you, too, Will.”

“Normally, no, but I am testing a pill I designed to block alcohol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead it is merely excreted without any effect on the user’s body,” Will explained. “Stella will be joining us after her shower and Violet has agreed to drive tonight if you’d like to go out dancing with us.”

“I think I very well might,” Thomas said, opening the fridge and pouring himself cold water from the pitcher. He, Violet, Stella, and Will had decided to live together at the year’s inception. Camille had originally been invited in Will’s spot, but she had elected to get a single room in a dorm on campus. Thomas wasn’t totally certain why she’d made that choice, but he suspected it had to do with the safety the familiar setting offered and her timid nature.

“Excellent. We haven’t gone out as a large group since... last year,” Will said, catching himself in time. He drew a card to change the subject, a three – “Three is me,” he announced. He poured himself a shot and kicked it back with minimal grimacing.

“You can say it, Will. We haven’t done much as a group since we found out those freaks were lying to us,” Sasha all but spat.

“Not the way I would have phrased it, but yes, that is the event I was referring to,” Will concurred.

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore,” Sasha said. “This is their last year here, anyway.”

“You suspect their team will perform poorly?” Will asked.

“Of course they will. They’re just a bunch of fucking Powereds. When Britney and her crew get a hold of them, they’ll be lucky if they can all piss out the right hole once it’s over.”

“Perhaps Sasha has had enough to drink,” Thomas cautioned.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Sasha said, waving him off. “I’m just saying what we’re all hoping. Once that team shows how worthless it is, those shits will be kicked out and the name of Hero will stay clean.”

“Sasha, you need to relax,” Jill told her former suitemate.

“Oh, come on, like you want to live in a world where Powereds can become Heroes any more than I do. I’d rather live in a world where donkeys can become presidents.”

“That is enough,” Thomas said, his tone no longer hemmed by politeness. “Now, ignoring the fact that we have two very good, non-Powered friends on that team you are wishing such ill upon, your remarks are still prejudiced and ignorant beyond what can be reasonably tolerated.”

“I was just saying-”

“You’ve said plenty, Sasha, now it is time to listen,” Thomas scolded. “We’ve been patient with your attitude; we all had to go through an adjustment period as well. And we understand that the lie cut you deeper than us because of your involvement with Vince. However, you need to recognize that the company you keep is more sympathetic with that group than hateful. If you want to curse them up and down the street then there are other social groups that will join you in that sentiment. This is not one of them.”

“Fine, then! If you prefer the freaks then I’d rather not be around you anyway,” Sasha yelled, rising from the table to leave.

“Don’t bother; I’ll leave you to your drinking. I’ve lost my desire to go out on the town tonight,” Thomas said, finishing off his water. “But when you sober up, there is one thing I want you to think about.”


“You’re so focused on Vince lying to you and the betrayal you feel over that; have you ever stopped to really ask yourself why he did it?”

“’Cause he’s a lying asshole, just like every other man,” Sasha snapped back.

“If you really believe that after a year together, I think this breakup just might have been the best thing that could have ever happened. For both of you,” Thomas said, walking up the stairs before the fight could turn uglier and setting his course for the shower.

Jill drew her card in the silence that followed as Sasha slumped back into her chair.

“Um, I got a four, so girls-”

Sasha grabbed the bottle and put it to her lips before Jill could even finish. Will sighed and wondered if it was unethical to slip her one of his new anti-drunk pills. Otherwise he had a feeling it would be a very long night.