Alice’s eyes fluttered open and she immediately realized two things: this wasn’t the room she’d been put under in, and she was hellishly thirsty. Thankfully the second issue was easy to correct, as a hand with long, bony fingers reached out, offering her an open bottle of water. Alice accepted it gratefully, throwing back the liquid and guzzling it down as quickly as her throat would allow. Only when it was completely drained did she try to sit up and get a sense of her surroundings.
They were in the infirmary, though curiously none of the usual healing students were on hand. There was a woman Alice had caught sight of from time to time, but didn’t recognize, as well as Dean Blaine and Professor Pendleton. Alice’s hand groped around of its own accord, grasping at nothingness with frustration. It took a moment for Alice to realize she was looking for Mary, whose absence suddenly became the most important issue at hand.
“With the others,” Dean Blaine said. “She has more experience being handed unexpected information, and will join us when Ms. Wilkins’ testing is done.”
“You… you kept this all going?”
“Perhaps you’d have preferred we alert everyone in the room to the fact that you had a visitor burst into your head, declare that the Powereds were going to usher in a nightmare future where we were all at war, and charge you with somehow preventing it,” Professor Pendleton said. “Since you had a history with ‘bad reactions’ to Rich’s power we simply said you’d had another and took you to the infirmary to recuperate. Thereby ensuring your secret.”
“You’re right, sorry I-” Alice stopped mid-apology, staring at the tall, scarecrow like teacher who’d clearly been trying to drum her out of his class since she was first put in it. When she next spoke, all softness was gone from her voice. To Alice’s ears, it sounded like a different person entirely, though not an unfamiliar one. In truth, it sounded like the voice she heard from within during the bloodiest parts of a battle.
“Alice, you’re right to be a bit upset about us putting you under knowing that Abridail might come intruding,” Dean Blaine began. He didn’t get the chance to finish however, as Professor Pendleton was suddenly five feet off the ground and dangling helplessly.
“You’re my uncle. My mother’s brother.” Her words were barely above a hiss as she glared at Professor Pendleton, who looked oddly unphased by his impromptu flight. The words, however, caused an expression of sheer shock to break through his stoic facade. “You’ve been around me for two years, and never once did you try and tell me. Did you even treat me like family. Hell, you clearly have fucking hated me from day one. Well I’ll take that from an old bastard who might have a grudge against my father, but I will be god damned if I let it stand from you. Now get out before I throw you out.”
Alice raised her hand to prove the point, but Professor Pendleton dropped to the ground unexpectedly. She was confused, but only for a moment. Dean Blaine was in the room, after all. It had only been a matter of time before he cut off the use of powers.
“Alice… listen, I don’t have a good-”
“Sean, perhaps you should take a walk for a while. Go check on the other students.” Dean Blaine helped his friend and colleague up from the ground, but the grip he used made it clear that this was not a request.
“Yeah. Maybe that’s a good idea.” Professor Pendleton chanced one last look at Alice, who refused to meet his eyes, then walked out of the infirmary and down the hall.
“I’m surprised Professor Stone didn’t tell you I’d been given a heads up,” Alice said once he was gone.
“We only had a few moments to speak as you were transferred to the infirmary. She no doubt put more importance on what Abridail showed you than on discovering part of your hidden family tree.”
“Part of my… right, Professor Hill too.” Alice shook her head and wrung the blankets between her hands. “Is there anyone in my life that’s not keeping some sort of crazy secret from me?”
“Knowing the company you keep, probably not,” Dean Blaine said. “Though it seems you and Mary now have one of your own.”
“I just wanted to know what the hell happened to my mom.” The ferocity that had ballooned in her when she saw Professor Pendleton deflated, and in its place all she could feel was the familiar emptiness where her mother was supposed to be. “Now I find out she’s on some weird future vision quest, doesn’t want to see me, and that oh yeah, my existence might accidently trigger a war between the different species of human. This was a terrible Saturday.”
“If I may offer some advice,” Dean Blaine said. “I would like to remind you that, from a fundamental standpoint, that knowledge changes very little for you. You are already here, in the Hero Certification Program, because you want to make the world a better place, to guide it to a more peaceful future. Abridail’s warning doesn’t change that, it only reminds you of the stakes you’ve always been playing for. As a Hero, if you don’t succeed then people die. The scale may vary, but that is always true.”
“This isn’t making me feel much better,” Alice said. “Though I appreciate the effort.”
“You have my apologies. For all of what you endured today.” Dean Blaine adjusted his glasses slightly. It was the only way he could force himself not to look at the floor. Right now Alice didn’t need a dean who was ashamed of what had been done, she needed to feel that her trial had been worth it. “And I promise that, as we try and run down every bit of information we can gleaned from Abridail, I will keep you in the loop should we uncover your mother’s whereabouts.”
“Thank you. It’d be nice if one good thing came from this.”
“Alice… you know we’ve been searching for your mother for nearly a year now, ever since we learned she was still alive. Sean- sorry, Professor Pendleton has been tireless. I’m sure you have a lot of anger and questions regarding him right now, but please know that at least in terms of wanting to find your mother, you two share common ground.”
“I guess I’ll try to keep that in mind.” Alice reached over to the side table where more bottles of water were piled up and guzzled one down. She would do her best to keep her word to Dean Blaine, but she couldn’t imagine reaching a place of understanding with her Subtlety teacher.
Alice had been lied to for so long, by so many people, that her tolerance for it had just about run dry.