Chapter 50

“I don’t understand,” Alice said as the older woman’s hands fell away from her forehead. “What do you mean it’s not working?”

The two women were in Professor Stone’s office, sitting on a set of chairs facing each other. From the movement of the clock on the wall, it seemed a good thing the professor had advocated ample time for this procedure, as they had yet to make any progress in over an hour.

“Seeing memories is difficult,” Professor Stone explained to her, pausing the attempts to take a gulp from a glass of water. “Especially with some minds. Without getting too in-depth, some people’s mental defenses are naturally better than others. This can be trained to a certain extent, but much of it is how one is born.”

“I don’t have those,” Alice replied. “Mary never has trouble reading my thoughts, and Rich put me under with no problem last year.”

Professor Stone finished off her water. “Telepaths can only read surface thoughts. That isn’t so much invading your mind, it’s more like ours are tuned to the frequency where everyone’s thoughts are broadcasted. It’s receiving, not invading. Mr. Weaver’s ability is its own matter. I suspect part of his power shuts down the minds' defenses, or turns them against itself. That is merely conjecture, I only know how his power works in a functional sense.”

With a minor grunt of effort she got up and began walking around the room. “I admit, I suspected this might happen when Mary told me about what happened during your experiment. Still, I’ve encountered resistant minds before, and they never pushed back against me this hard. I have to ask, are you sure you want to do this?”

“What? Of course I do, I’ve been trying to remember what happened in that dream for months,” Alice protested.

“I believe you, however I feel like part of you is still actively fighting me. Are you sure there isn’t some secret you’re afraid I’ll discover while traipsing about in your head?”

Alice bit her lip in frustration. Stupid Nick. Stupid damn Nick. He was always doing this, making things more complicated, even when he was gone. She could have gotten her answers, finally, but now she was so scared about Professor Stone finding out he was back on campus it was screwing with her head.

“Oh, is that all?” Professor Stone asked. Alice looked up in surprise, to which Professor Stone gave her a look of consternation. “It amazes me how easily you students can forget I’m telepathic.”

Alice would have blushed in embarrassment, if she hadn’t been so scared about what this accidental reveal meant. “Is he in trouble now?”

“No, I was already aware Mr. Campbell had chosen to return to Lander,” the professor informed her.

“How did you know?”

“Because we’re always made aware of these situations. Students who fail out, but aren’t expelled, frequently continue their academic careers at Lander, though that group is predominantly freshmen.”

“So then, how do you make sure none of the other HCP students talk to them?” Alice asked.

“We don’t,” Professor Stone replied.

“But…the whole mind-wipe thing-”

“Is done for the protection of the students, especially those who go on to become Heroes,” Professor Stone answered, not waiting for the question to become fully cohesive. “We can’t allow someone to carry around that kind of inside knowledge indiscriminately. That said, your identity is your business. If you choose to rekindle that friendship, to reveal yourself for what you are, then it is your right to do so. And if he outs you, today or in thirty years, those are your consequences to bear.”

“Gotcha, so he’s allowed to be here, and I’m allowed to talk to him, and nothing bad will happen,” Alice surmised.

“I never promised you that,” Professor Stone corrected. “However, there will be no repercussions from the staff, unless that activity leads to rules being broken.”

“With Nick, that’s more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’ statement,” Alice sighed. “Okay, I think that at least puts me at ease. Should we try the memory thing again?”

“At this point, it would be wasted time,” Professor Stone told her. “Your mental defenses are unusually strong, and though you feel relieved, the effects of all that worrying still linger in your mind. Besides which, I used up a lot of energy trying to crack through and see your memories the first time. We’ll have more success if we try again later.”

The professor walked to her desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a small book. “In the meantime, I want you to start working on meditation and clearing your mind. If you can learn even the basics, it will help a great deal in making the process easier for both of us.”

“Oh yeah, Mary is learning this stuff too,” Alice said, accepting the small book and flipping through the pages.

“Indeed, you two should feel free to practice together. Give that a few weeks, and we’ll try again.”

“I’ll do my best,” Alice promised, tucking the book into her backpack and rising from her seat. She started for the door, but a sudden thought caused her to turn halfway around and face her teacher. “Hey, Professor Stone, if I have these awesome mental defenses, does that mean I’m immune to being mindwiped?”

The older, smaller woman gave the blonde girl a gentle smile. “No, Alice. As I said, your defenses are unusually strong, but not insurmountable. The people who do the wiping have encountered such minds before, and there are a multitude of ways to overcome such obstacles.”

“Guess I should have figured,” Alice said, returning her teacher’s grin and heading out the door.

The parting question left Professor Stone with her own odd realization. Alice’s mind was unusually difficult to penetrate; though had she been fogging memories instead of trying to pull them up, Professor Stone could have pulled it off. The odd part was that such minds were relatively uncommon. Yet, she’d encountered another particularly resistant mind just last year, one able to completely block her out of viewing certain memories.

Nick Campbell’s head had been nearly as tough as Alice’s. What were the odds that two people who lived together would share a rare resistance? Not high, Professor Stone knew that. People who had been fundamentally altered in the way the former Powereds had, on the other hand, presented a far more lengthy set of possibilities. Still, two out of five didn’t make for conclusive proof.

Five out of five, now that would be something of considerable concern. Professor Stone got up from her chair and headed out the door. She’d need Dean Blaine to sign off on this, and it was not a conversation she cared to have in any other way besides one on one.