Chapter 31

While his students drilled themselves tirelessly in anticipation of their upcoming trial, Dean Blaine flew away from the city. He did so not by means of any special ability, unless skill at booking a seat on a commercial plane is considered special in some circles. It was frustrating at times to see the excess and decadence some of his classmates took as part of life while he had to simply muddle through as an average citizen. Hallow would have merely taken his own jet to run an errand and Bullrush’s company would at least have flown him first class, but for the legendary Zero, business class was the most for which Lander would spring.

Admittedly, he could have run down a teleporter to jump him to and fro; after all, he knew a few from his Hero days, but he loathed calling on people for personal favors if it was unnecessary. Those people had lives and jobs and problems all their own and didn’t need constant interruption from others needing transportation. Dean Blaine had lobbied to keep a full time teleporter on staff merely for traveling situations, but the board kept dragging its feet. In the meantime, employees traveling on business got to fly like all the other humans: uncomfortably and overcharged.

It wasn’t the glamorous life he’d imagined when he was younger, no question about that, but Blaine at least had the knowledge that he was still making a difference in the world. He knew many retired Heroes who had lost that feeling and it had crushed them. It was difficult to walk away from any career rooted in constant action, but being a Hero was even a step above even that. The fame, the accolades, the respect people showed you, all of it was unparalleled. Supers had been known to suffer occasional discrimination in some professions; however, no one dared to show any negativity publicly toward Heroes. Blaine was never certain if that came from genuine respect or merely fear of what would happen if the Heroes ceased to do their job.

There was a baby three rows over from Blaine, already yelping erratically. It didn’t take years of combat and pattern recognition experience to see that yelps would escalate into a constant, siren-like scream once they were airborne. Blaine closed his eyes and tried to drift elsewhere.

*    *    *

Blaine and Gerard sat at the bar, a beer in front of Blaine and a whiskey on the rocks in front of Gerard. There were many college-themed bars dotting the Lander campus, places with Greek letters and loud music abounding freely with the intoxicated co-eds. This was not one of those bars. It was too well-kept to be a dive, but too low-key to draw in most people of college age. Blaine and Gerard were, as usual, exceptions.

“How long do we have?” Blaine asked.

“About an hour,” Gerard replied.

“Until we have to leave or until we’re supposed to be there?”

“Leave,” Gerard said simply.

“Good,” Blaine said, and gulped down more beer. He would have had to quit if it was the other way since he was driving, but he was happy to discover he could still finish his drink. “Remind me why we’re doing this again?”

“Because Clarissa was on our team back in sophomore year, because she’s our friend, and because the girl asks for so little that this is the least we can do,” Gerard said.

“Yeah, but still... a dinner party? And with a dress code? That seems cruel.”

“She’s a girl. She’s allowed to have fancy tastes.”

“We’re guys; we’re allowed to not have them,” Blaine pointed out.

“Yeah, but we’re also her friends.”

“I know, I know. We’re going. I’m just getting all the complaining out of my system now so I can be pleasant when we arrive.”

“Stiff upper lip, Blaine. These are the best days of our lives, after all.”

Blaine snorted a laugh into his beer. “I certainly hope not.”

“Okay, maybe not the best days, but they are pretty good,” Gerard amended. “Who knows, there may be a point when you look back on the day of Clarissa’s dinner party with fondness and nostalgia.”

“If that’s the case then I can only imagine what kind of nightmare I’d be dealing with that this seems pleasant by comparison.”

*    *    *

The facility was higher tech than where Sean Pendleton had been stored, with retina scanners along with well-armed and armored guards populating every door. This wasn’t a place for Supers with the propensity for escape. This was for Supers whose abilities could easily turn deadly. In most cases of those here, said abilities had already taken that turn. The walls were concrete, reinforced with steel, and covered in hidden wires carrying heavy voltages. The actual location of this testament to incarceration was on a mountaintop far from any nearby society. There were at least ten Heroes on site at any given time, all combat-hardened and able to make the tough choices in an instant.

Blaine stepped through a final checkpoint, ignoring the suspicious gaze of the guard that let him pass. It was their job to be paranoid and he wasn’t going to critique them for doing it well, even if the long and loud flight had left him in a bit of a foul mood. Blaine stood placidly as the heavy steel door before him slid open, revealing a room void of anything but bare concrete walls, a pot for excretion collection, and a man.

The man had every appendage locked down and encased in a series of large metal tubes. Blaine knew those restraints each weighed in the tons and cut off all movement even to the strongest of Supers. They also served the purpose of sealing off any lasers or other attack apparatuses the prisoner might have in his arms and legs. Had he possessed such destructive abilities in his chest or head, equally restrictive measures would have been taken for those as well.

This was not the case, so it was with a perfectly unobscured face that George gave Blaine a weary smile of welcome.

“Good to see you again, Boss. I think it’s time we talked about a cost of living raise. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but this place is kind of a hellhole.”