Chapter 56

“It’s fine, Vince. Really. It’s just hair,” Camille reassured him. She, Vince, Chad, and Roy were heading back to the lifts after a quick meeting with Dr. Moran. It seemed that, when jumping through Vince’s wall of flame, a section of her long, pale-blonde hair had caught fire. Luckily, Vince noticed and put her out before too much was consumed or the flame could reach her skull, but the end results had been some severely charred portions of hair.

“I’m still just so seriously sorry,” Vince reiterated. Only Chad’s perfect memory could keep track of how many times Vince had apologized since the incident, and he really didn’t care to.

“Relax,” Camille commanded. “I called the place in the mall where I get my hair cut. They can fit me in within a couple of days.” Absentmindedly, she adjusted the gray cowboy hat now perched atop her skull. In a move more chivalrous than anyone expected, Roy had placed his ever-present hat on Camille’s head for the walk back to the lifts and onto campus. It looked funny on her smaller noggin, however it was a far sight better than the lopsided remains of her hair.

“As sorry as I am about your hair, I would still greatly like to know what it was you did in our trial,” Chad interjected. He’d been largely quiet after waking up to Dr. Moran’s healing touch, lost in his own thoughts as the administrator healed Roy and checked over Camille. Vince had been uninjured, but refused to leave the infirmary without his friends, thus resulting in all of them exiting as a group.

“Oh, that,” Camille said. Her eyes darted to Vince fleetingly. He said he’d known but… how much did he know? She dearly wanted to speak with him in private, however it seemed as though that wasn’t in the cards for the moment. “My healing power doesn’t just take away wounds, it stores them. Then, if I need to, I can expel them into another person.”

“Fascinating,” Chad replied. “Your ability functions more like that of an absorber than a classic healer.” Camille winced; she wished he’d chosen another word. “And you can give these injuries to people even with enhanced endurance, it seems.”

“Yup,” Roy confirmed. “A Camille attack will even bring down guys like us.”

“Incredible,” Chad said. “I cannot fathom how you kept such a skill secret for so long.”

“She was careful with how she used it,” Vince jumped in. “It was her ace in the hole, so it only got used when it really made a difference.”

“That would be prudent, given your non-imposing stature,” Chad agreed. “I will certainly be more careful in how I attack you during our next bout.”

“Our what now?” Camille asked, attention so affixed to Chad that she didn’t even notice they’d arrived at the lifts. Scattered about were several black-uniformed freshmen, along with the occasional spot of gray. One such gray-clad person was a tall blonde who immediately recognized the four people arriving at the lifts.

“Hey, what are you guys doing here?” Alice asked, making her way through the crowd of younger students to greet her friends. “Close Combat let out a while ago, didn’t it?”

“We were required to make a trip to the infirmary,” Chad supplied helpfully.

This raised Alice’s curiosity, not merely because they had a healer with them, but because Chad had included himself in that statement. “Why not just have Camille fix you up?”

“I was getting looked at too,” Camille admitted, suddenly aware of just how precarious the gray cowboy hat on her head was.

“Must have been one hell of a fight,” Alice commented, eyes dancing between the bashful Camille, the guilt-ridden Vince, and the hat-less Roy. “Don’t suppose anyone wants to tell me what happened, or why Camille is wearing the hat Roy almost never takes off outside class?”

“There was… an incident,” Vince admitted.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Camille hastily added. “My hair just got a little singed. Nothing that can’t be fixed.”

“Mmmhmmm,” Alice said, the words coming out from a set of closed lips. She crossed the small distance between her and Camille, then discreetly lifted up the hat and peered beneath. After a few moments assessing the damage, she set the covering back in place. “Do you have a stylist?”

“I go to a shop in the mall that does a good job,” Camille told her.

Alice looked as though someone had struck her with gutted mackerel.

“They’re really nice,” Camille kept going, “I think they’ll be able to squeeze me in by the end of the week.”

This time, Alice’s wide eyes went from the earnest girl speaking, to the three men behind her, back to Camille, and then ultimately upward, presumably to the heavens she was asking to spare her from such nonsense.

“Oh, honey, no. A thousand times no,” Alice said at last. “What you’ve got there is salvageable, if, and only if, the stylist knows what he’s doing. I’ve had my fair share of snafus in getting hair gummed up or stuck on things, so trust me here.” In all her years as a Powered, Alice had never anticipated the times she floated up and got her long hair snagged on things would be useful experiences, but it seemed the universe had a strange sense of humor about such things. “We need to get you to someone with skills, and I mean today.”

“Perhaps you’re putting too much emphasis on the importance of this,” Chad attentively offered.

Alice shot him a look so full of venom it could have melted the ground. “How about I shave you bald and we see how important you find it to be, Mr. Perfect-Part-And-Lift?”

Chad looked away, but stayed silent. He did make the effort to appear nice each day, so perhaps he didn’t have the right to criticize someone else’s vanity.

“Um, I don’t really know any other hair-places,” Camille said.

“You don’t worry about a thing,” Alice assured her. “As soon we’re up the lifts, I’m calling one of my people in town. He’ll be ready for you by the time we arrive. Maybe I’ll get our nails done too, as a way to de-stress from the day. Just leave everything to me.” Alice put a reassuring arm over the smaller girl’s shoulders and led her away to the lifts.

Camille just had enough time to shoot Vince a look of panic, to which he responded with a shrug of uncertainty.