Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport did not, to their credit, fidget as they waited in Dean Blaine’s office. They had attended far too many clandestine meetings in locations much scarier than this one to let their nerves show so easily. That said, neither man felt quite as confident as he normally would have. Some Supers looked at their abilities as a gift that was made more special by using it rarely; others considered their talents a useful skill in their day-to-day lives. Then you had Supers like the two men wearing suits and purposely not fidgeting, Supers who used their abilities so often that being denied access to them was akin to temporarily removing a leg. It was possible to still stand, even to have some sense of mobility, but it left them precariously off-balance.
Dean Blaine popped open the door and strode in without so much as a glance in their direction. He carried a stack of papers in one hand and a cup of coffee that seemed dangerously close to spilling over in the other. After a bit of brief involuntarily juggling, he managed to deposit everything on his desk and take a seat. Still, it was only after a long draw of java that he turned his attention to the men he had summoned for this meeting.
“You’ll forgive the mess, things are a bit busy preparing for the various classes’ exams. The freshman’s labyrinth is particularly time-consuming.”
Both men nodded their understanding. Despite the way the HCP staff liked to make things seem effortless, they had experience enough to know that crafting that illusion just took all the more time and energy.
“I’ve called you here for a brief comparison of notes. As you may know, I’ve been to see George multiple times and all I’ve managed to pull from him are sarcastic barbs and cryptic allusions. I know your company has been looking into the incident as well and I’m hoping they have managed to have a bit more luck.”
Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport very much did not exchange a conspiratorial glance. Instead, Mr. Numbers resettled in his chair and addressed the question.
“I won’t say they haven’t found a few clues; however, that doesn’t mean they’ve shared them with us. As you may recall we aren’t exactly considered exemplary employees these days.”
“Yet you retain your posts.”
“Only through very exceptional fortune and a lot of effort to make things better,” Mr. Numbers pointed out.
“You misunderstand. I don’t mean that because you retain your posts I expect that the company still trusts you. I mean that because you are still tasked with watching over those students I expect your company to give you some warning if they have any idea who might be knocking down the door to Melbrook Hall.”
“I wish they thought that way,” Mr. Transport mumbled.
“What my partner means is that despite the logic of your argument, we were given this assignment specifically because we are thought capable enough to handle any situation without the aid of a warning.”
“Just like you did last year,” Dean Blaine said, his voice pleasant but his eyes growing steadily less friendly.
“Do try to remember that our original assignment was not so much to protect our charges from the world as it was vice versa,” Mr. Numbers said. “Keeping them safe was always a priority, of course.”
“Yes, but only in the general sense. So long as most of them were okay then it was all right to let a small number be lost.”
“That was the company’s stance,” Mr. Transport agreed. “If you recall, it wasn’t ours.”
Dean Blaine realized he’d been inching forward in his seat as the discussion progressed. He leaned back and took another sip of his coffee to calm down. Over-protectiveness could be a good trait in a person who watched over children, but it had to be focused properly. There was no sense in getting angry at two men over policies they’d nearly lost their jobs in defying, especially when they might have information that could prove vital to his efforts.
“You’re right; I apologize,” Dean Blaine said. “I suppose I’m just frustrated. After all these months we still have almost no idea who was pulling the strings behind George and Persephone.”
Mr. Numbers resisted the urge to tilt his head forward in interest. “Almost no idea?”
“George has claimed it was everyone from the President of the United States to one of the janitors up on the main campus. He has only given me one hint that seemed like it might be more valid than the others. That’s what I was hoping to confirm in this meeting.”
A flick of the tongue across his teeth was the only sign Mr. Numbers showed of the internal war currently being waged. Information was a currency in his world, something to guard and protect more fervently than gold. Money could always be reclaimed, but once a secret was out there was no hope of gaining a refund. Still, Dean Blaine had defended them when interviewed by the company’s agents. It had taken a lot of research to uncover this fact for certain, but Mr. Numbers knew it to be true. If there was one thing he loathed more than giving away information for free, it was being in someone’s debt. Besides, he wouldn’t mind seeing just how deep the hole George crawled out of went.
“There is one thing. They never said anything specifically; however, about a month ago, one of our fellow agents showed up while the students were in class. She installed a specialized wire system through all the outer walls, one set to trigger an alarm under very specific circumstances. We were instructed that if that alarm should go off, we would do well to grab all the students we can and teleport to a pre-determined location immediately.”
“All the students you can.” Dean Blaine gulped down more coffee and stayed his temper. What they were told and what they did could be very different things. “So, what were the circumstances that would set off the alarm?”
“She didn’t tell us,” Mr. Transport admitted.
“I did a little digging afterward,” Mr. Numbers added. “As near as I can tell, the wires are programmed to detect when any part of the outer walls are destroyed without registering significant heat or impact.”
“An alarm tripped by disintegration,” Dean Blaine surmised. “That is... unfortunate.”
“I don’t suppose you’d like to make this a two-way street of sharing and tell us what it means,” Mr. Transport said.
Dean Blaine rose from his desk and walked to the bookshelf. His finger slid along the spines of many selections before stopped at a thick leather one. A deft hand plucked it from the shelf and nimble fingers rifled through the pages with effortless dexterity.
“What I am going to tell you stays in the strictest confidence. It seems one of my old classmates is either running this game or is at least another pawn in it. Unfortunately it is one I had hoped I’d never have to contend with again.”
The book made a damp thud as Dean Blaine set it on the desk. He pointed to a picture in the upper right-hand corner, one of himself and a smiling young man both clutching diplomas high overhead in a sign of victory.
“Gerard Cooper, better known to the world as Raze, has returned.”