Chapter 17

As he checked his schedule and walked down the hall, scanning for the appropriate room number, Vince was definitely confused. It was Friday, and everyone else was done with HCP classes for the week. He, on the other hand, had a single remaining item on the printed paper clutched in his fingers. “General Discussion” was all that it said, that and a room number Vince was certain he hadn’t been in before. If not for the subterranean location, he would have assumed it was some lab that went with one of his usual classes he’d forgotten about. The fact that it was underground, however, and that no one else seemed to have it on their own schedules, made him wary.

Vince finally located the room; it was only about half a hallway down from the infirmary where he’d woken up so frequently last year. The door was open, so he was spared the awkwardness of knocking. Instead he stepped through and took in the surroundings.

Immediately it was clear this wasn’t a classroom. Though the walls were thick concrete like all HCP rooms, it was too small to accommodate more than a few people at once. Besides that, there were personal knick-knacks and a large central desk that gave away this room’s function as an office. The curious part was that the woman sitting behind it was so unfamiliar to Vince. After two years in the HCP, he believed he had met all of the teaching staff, yet the salt-and-pepper-haired woman, with dark framed glasses, currently sitting at the desk before him was utterly foreign to his memory.

“Hello?” Vince said tentatively. The woman looked up from her desk and greeted him with a warmer smile than he’d been anticipating from her professional appearance.

“Vince, right on time. Please, shut the door and take a seat,” she instructed, gesturing to a large cushioned chair that would have looked more at home in someone’s living room than in an office. Vince complied automatically, pulling the door closed and settling into the indicated chair. It was even more comfortable than it looked.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” the woman said once he was situated.

“Yes, ma’am,” Vince confirmed. “No one else seemed to have this class.”

“That’s because this isn’t a class, per se,” she told him. “I think it’s best if I start from the top. To begin with, my name is Dr. Moran, and I’m the head physician here at Lander.”

“I didn’t even know we had a head physician,” Vince admitted.

“That’s because most of my work is overseeing the healers in taking care of you students. Healing is a discipline that one can only improve at through practice, so except in very extreme situations I leave all the patching up work to the students who need the experience. Of course, in years where we have no healers in any of the classes I take a more active role, but right now we have many skilled Supers with healing talents in attendance.”

“My friend, Camille, is a healer,” Vince supplied, still unsure of what he was supposed to say.

“And a wonderful one at that. Camille is one of the most skilled students I’ve ever had the chance to work with,” Dr. Moran told him. “However, we aren’t here to discuss that kind of healing. Vince, in addition to being a Super with a healing ability, I am also an M.D. who has done fellowships in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. I even ran my own practice before coming to Lander. I’m telling you this to assure you that you are in safe, experienced, and professional hands.”

“I don’t really understand what you’re talking about,” Vince said.

“You were informed that your continued attendance at Lander would come with special requirements, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“This is one of those requirements. You and I are going to sit here for an hour, once a week, and talk. The goal is to make sure that you’re handling everything that’s been thrown at you well, plus to provide help if you need it,” Dr. Moran told him.

“Oh. So you’re making sure I’m not crazy,” Vince surmised, understanding finally kicking in. “Awesome.”

“If you choose to see it that way, then I can’t stop you,” Dr. Moran said, setting her hands down on her desk. “What you get from therapy rests more on your attitude than anything I have the ability to say. But Vince, if I may be so bold, I think you would benefit from having someone to talk things through with.”

“I’d rather if that someone wasn’t working for Ralph Chapman,” Vince said defiantly.

Dr. Moran’s smile darkened just for an instant. “I do not work for Ralph Chapman. He did want to bring in his own personnel for this task, but he was unable to find someone more qualified than I. And let me assure you, Vince, standard confidentiality applies. Unless I suspect you are about to become a danger to yourself or others, everything said in this room will remain between the two of us.”

“That’s not so bad, I guess.” Vince paused for a moment as he contemplated this new information. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I should have assumed you were working for Mr. Chapman so suddenly. This whole situation of being constantly screened just has me a little worried.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Dr. Moran said. “In your situation, a little bit of suspicion is not only excusable, it’s healthy.”

“Still, I don’t know why I need to be in therapy.”

“Vince, I believe a good relationship between doctor and patient is built on trust, so I’ll be honest with you. Yes, part of it is to determine if your mental state is healthy enough to continue in the HCP. But I’ve read your files extensively, and I sincerely doubt I’m going to find you unfit for this program. As to what you could gain out of it, I can cite two incidents that make my case for me. One, when you learned about Globe’s reemergence you inadvertently began releasing fire until you were sealed away. Two, when Nick Campbell convinced you someone you loved was in danger you reacted with the kind of murderous rage one would hardly expect to see in a person of your demeanor.”

“Those were extreme situations,” Vince defended.

“It is in extreme situations that our true natures can be seen,” Dr. Moran countered. “You are a kind, respectful, very loyal young man. But it seems evident to me that there are emotions inside that you are not dealing with. Anger, fear, frustration, and that’s all just what I could get from those two examples. I’m sure you could tell me far more.”

“I keep myself under control.”

“Except when you don’t,” Dr. Moran said. “It seems to me that a Super with such perpetual fears of losing control of his power would be more inclined to address the one avenue where he’s lost that control multiple times.”

“That…is a good point,” Vince said, his own rebuttal failing before it could leave his mouth. She was right, even if no one had made a big deal out of it, he’d still gone overboard both those times. Maybe he did need to address some of the things inside himself he’d purposely left unattended. Which, it dawned on him, was exactly the conclusion she wanted him to reach.

“You are really good at this,” Vince said.

“Of course I am. That’s why I’m at Lander.”