Chapter 2

“-and then I woke up, sitting on a bench over near the Psychology department’s building,” Vince concluded. “My bag was next to me. I don’t know how long I was there before I came around. As soon I realized where I was, I came to see you. That’s pretty much all of it.”

Dean Blaine nodded, his eyes flicking to the other people in the room. All of the professors were in attendance, as was Mr. Transport, sitting by his charge’s side. There was also a man with shoulder length dark hair, one Dean Blaine would have much rather left out of this interview. Ralph Chapman was a member of the board that oversaw all Hero Certification Programs at colleges across the nation, and he had been handpicked to spearhead the search into Vince’s past looking for information on Globe. He was also an unbearable ass. Still, the investigation was happening whether Dean Blaine liked it or not, and he wouldn’t do Vince any favors by impeding the man facilitating it. All that would come from such action was getting himself cut from the loop and leaving Vince truly on his own.

“Are you certain, that’s all?” Ralph asked, his tone probing but not accusatory. “No other details about Globe, or what he’s planning, or where he is?”

Vince shook his head. “I never got to see him or talk to him, I never beat George. I went to sleep expecting another day of fighting. Honestly, I didn’t even know how much time had passed, I completely lost track of the days out there.”

“What about this place where he trained you? Could you find it if you saw it again?”

“Maybe. I don’t know much about geography; are there a lot of flat featureless areas in deserts?”

“I think that’s a no,” Mr. Transport supplied helpfully. His years with Mr. Numbers had taught him a thing or two about reading people, and he already knew he didn’t like the outsider among them, pleasant smile be damned. He also knew better than to be openly defiant. This was a slow game, one that would be played over many months. Rash action aided no one.

“I see,” Ralph said. “One last question. You say that George promised to turn himself in if you defeated him, and that you were free to quit and come home at any time. Why not just give up and alert the authorities?”

“Because George should be in jail. I had the opportunity to make that happen, so I took it. Plus I wanted to see my father.”

“Your father,” Ralph repeated. “Globe, currently the most hunted criminal in the world, that’s the man you wanted to see.”

“Yes,” Vince said immediately.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me you had aspirations of bringing him to justice as well.”

“Not really. I just wanted to see my father. I miss him.”

“Vince, do you realize what you’re saying? This is a wanted villain we’re talking about, an accused murderer.”

“If tomorrow your father robbed a bank, would that stop you from loving him?” Vince replied.

“It might if he killed a man in the process.”

“Then I feel sorry for you. You must have a pretty crappy father if he’s that easy to stop caring about.”

“I think we’ve taken this line of questioning far enough,” Dean Blaine interrupted, working hard to hide the smirk that was manifesting at the sight of Ralph’s reddening features. “Was there anything else you needed to ask Vince directly?”

“No,” Ralph said after a momentary pause. “That’s fine. Thank you.”

“Vince, Mr. Transport will see you to your dorm. He’ll also bring up to speed on a few things you need to know. We’ll see you in class tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Vince replied, rising from his seat. Mr. Transport followed suit and the two exited the room. They were scarcely out the door before Ralph whipped his attention over to Professor Stone.

“So, what was he lying about?”

“Nothing,” Professor Stone barely kept herself from snapping. The older woman had plenty of practice in minding her tongue; however, she also had long passed the point where she felt needlessly compelled to tolerate other people’s rude bullshit. “His thoughts matched his words in every regard. The recount was as honest and accurate as he could give.”

“Impressive. I’d expected no less from the son of Globe,” Ralph muttered. “Or perhaps you’re merely not an adept enough telepath to pick up on his deception.”

Professor Stone opened her mouth to tell him to shove it up his ass, but Professor Pendleton proved quicker on the verbal draw.

“Are you a fucking idiot?”

Ralph glared at the lean man, Professor Pendleton’s own expression one of presumably mock confusion. Professor Pendleton leaned on the conference table, head pressing against one his lengthy fingers as he stared right back at the man making this situation so very uncomfortable.

“I beg your pardon? I must have misheard you.”

“I asked if you’re a fucking idiot,” Professor Pendleton repeated. “Do you know how many Heroes live long enough to retire? Or how many of that percentage are actively combat types? Let alone how many are considered skilled and smart enough to take a position teaching in the HCP. Here’s a hint: not very many. Yet the woman sitting in front you did all of that, and has been educating other Supers to do the same for decades. And you think to question her abilities? That makes me wonder if you’re a goddamned moron.”

“You certainly have a curiously high opinion of HCP professors, given that they allowed a convict to become one,” Ralph shot back.

“A convict who was active and constantly pursued for well over a year before being caught,” Professor Pendleton countered. “Immoral, unethical, illegal, all of those words can be used to describe my activities, but the fact remains that I was really good at what I did. And I’ve got nothing on Professor Stone.”

“Very well,” Ralph said. He turned back to Professor Stone, but there was no question that his malice was still lingering on Professor Pendleton. “My apologies for doubting. So everything Vince told was true, as he knew it?”

“Correct,” Professor Stone confirmed.

“Then what remains next is to determine what Globe hoped to accomplish by having the boy battle endlessly for months on end.”

“Actually, that’s the easy part,” Dean Blaine corrected him. “It was training. We can speculate on the why all we want, but there’s no other way to interpret his activities. Any HCP graduate will tell you the same.”

Ralph snorted. “Seems like a waste of time. How much could this George fellow possibly have taught Vince in a couple of months?”

Had Ralph been born with telepathy, he’d have heard a resounding chorus of thoughts wondering just how big a dumbfuck he could possibly be. Professor Stone had to cough into her hand to keep from laughing.