Roy was in the gym. He’d planned on taking some time off from training, but after Friday’s little burst of craziness, he wasn’t able to resist. He lifted the weights, ultra dense circles designed specifically designed for people like Roy. They made it possible to really push oneself without having to go to a train yard or other such place.
Roy finished his set of bicep curls and grabbed a pair of weights one increment heavier. Roy took a deep breath, focused with all his will, and began to lift. The weights made it halfway up before his arms gave out. There was a thunderous crunching sound as they shattered the concrete beneath his feet.
“Damn it!” Roy resisted the urge to drive his fist into the wall, but only because of the throbbing pain already coming from his biceps. This was bullshit. He’d hit this wall over a month ago and he’d been trying to break through it since. It made no sense; he’d tripled the number of reps he could do just one weight unit lower but he still couldn’t get even one lift at the higher level. It was like his body had reached a limit and no matter what he did, it wasn’t willing to budge. Roy was growing concerned that this was as far as his power could go. It was a fear that had become stronger with each failed attempt.
Seeing Alice’s spectacle had both inspired and terrified him. It gave him hope that maybe he had some ability that had yet to be discovered, but it also made him wonder if he was getting passed up by the others. Alice had some new skill, Vince had grown by leaps and bounds, Mary had always been stronger than he was, and it turned out Nick had been concealing a rapier intellect. All Roy could do was punch hard. He’d been okay with that, too; it was a skill that was always in demand. If he couldn’t get stronger than this, however, then it was only a matter of time until he started to become useless. He hadn’t been able to hurt George, and he doubted that had changed despite his progress. There were others out there, people even stronger than his former kidnapping coach. A Hero with Roy’s power needed to be able to play on their level, a level that Roy seemed banned from.
He let his arms heal for a moment, then moved on to the bench press. There was another wall here, and on the shoulders, the legs, everything really. Roy was spinning his wheels, and he couldn’t think of any way to get traction again. He pressed on regardless, if only because of an unspoken hope that soon he’d push just hard enough to break through.
That hope was getting dimmer by the day.
* * *
“You’ll find their complete recollections of the incident in the packets, along with some footage I confiscated from a few cell phones,” Dean Blaine said, sliding the manila envelope across his desk. Professor Hill picked it up and scanned through it quickly; there were only a few documents along with a USB drive taped to the inner back of the envelope.
“Confiscated, huh? Told them they’d accidently caught something classified, I assume.”
“Something like that.”
“How kind of you, especially considering that what happened could almost be looked at as a violation of the secret identity rule,” Professor Hill pointed out.
Dean Blaine raised an eyebrow. “You have an objection?”
“Not at all, you know that. I’m just bringing up a point that someone else will raise eventually.”
“If they did, I would simply remind them that the rule is designed to keep our students in line when dealing with regular humans, not punish them for having the misfortune to make a discovery about their abilities while in public. Ms. Adair’s ferocious beating of Mr. Weaver aside, she didn’t intend for the gravity spasm to occur. She’s never experienced anything like it before and couldn’t have intentionally summoned it if she tried.”
“Gravity manipulation,” Professor Hill said, turning his eyes back to the file. “Given her genetics I always suspected that’s where her flight came from.”
“Hope is not the same thing as suspicion,” Dean Blaine corrected. “Besides, nothing is confirmed yet. It could be an aspect of Mr. Weaver’s abilities that manifested in distress.”
Professor Hill snorted. “Yeah, right. We both know that’s unlikely. He did have good reason to be distressed, I’ll say that. I’m surprised by how much damage she did. Maybe you need to pull her from Subtlety and stick her in Close Combat.”
“Mmm, I’m sure you’d like to see me redistribute the bulk of Professor Pendleton’s students in such a fashion.”
“You and I both know that specialty is all trouble. The last person you had teaching it was an undercover kidnapper, and the most qualified person to replace her is a convict. I think that says it all.”
“Subtlety walks a dangerous line, I won’t disagree with you on that. Not all of the Heroes who turn to crime have their concentration in it, however. Raze and George were both specialized in Close Combat, and Globe got his HCP major in Control, just like you.”
“Three examples. The mass of them still come from Subtlety.”
“Subtlety is an established part of the HCP agenda. I have neither the power nor the inclination to remove it. As for Professor Pendleton, I heard your objections when I offered him the job. They were weighed and considered before I made my decision. Now I’d suggest you worry less about his class and more about how you’ll assist your own student.”
“Whatever you say, Boss. I’ll start by helping her figure out how to access that part of her ability. What did Rich do to piss her off so much, anyway?”
Dean Blaine hesitated. He needed to approach this carefully, given Professor Hill’s sensitivities. “He sealed her, along with Mr. Campbell and Ms. Smith, in their minds to prove a point. Ms. Adair experienced a rather upsetting vision while so incapacitated and thought Mr. Weaver had inflicted it on her purposely. All current investigations point to that not being the case, so at the end of the day it was a simple misunderstanding that got out of hand.”
“What was her vision?”
“I believe it was something about her mother. A false hope her brain cobbled together. Completely understandable given her past.” Dean Blaine watched Professor Hill carefully, eyes searching for any signs of repressed anger. He saw an initial flare-up, which simmered down as reason stepped in.
“I see. And we’re sure it wasn’t Rich?”
“Multiple telepaths confirmed he was surprised by the revelation,” Dean Blaine replied.
“Well, I don’t think I’ll use that route for training, but it’s good to know at least.” Professor Hill rose from his seat. “She’s expecting to stay after class on Monday, right?”
“Good. Thanks for the heads up and everything,” Professor Hill said, clutching the file tightly in his hand.
“Thank you for coming in to meet on a weekend,” Dean Blaine replied. Professor Hill gave a curt nod and exited, leaving the dean alone to wonder just what those Melbrook students would throw at him next.