Chapter 11

                By the time Mary’s meeting came around, things had calmed down significantly in the interview room. It certainly helped that Professor Pendleton had left, since he’d already talked to the few remaining Subtlety students, and now Professor Stone sat on Dean Blaine’s right. While Mary hadn’t actually heard the fight as it happened, Dean Blaine’s power shutting her out completely, she’d pieced it together from Alice’s thoughts after she left the room. Professor Hill did still seem a touch out of sorts, but it was possible she saw that only because she was looking for it. Inside this room, their thoughts were their own, so Mary merely took her seat quietly while facing the three educators.

                “Mary Smith, the time has come for you to choose your discipline.” His words were almost exactly as Alice had pictured them, proving that he did rehearse this part of the meeting, or had been doing it so long that it was automatic.

                “Currently, you are enrolled in Control and Focus. While neither of these classes had a final exam, your overall scores and demonstrated skill throughout the previous years have left neither of your teachers with any doubt that you can handle the next step down either path. You may choose without additional examination.”

                Mary looked away from Dean Blaine, to Professor Stone, who met her gaze as if she’d been waiting for it. Mary dearly, desperately, wanted to be able to have a discussion with the older telepath, but it was impossible with Dean Blaine blocking powers in the room. There was always the option of talking out loud, however, that came with the risk of revealing things she wasn’t certain she wanted to be common knowledge. Not yet, at least. With few options before her, Mary decided to roll the dice.

                “Dean Blaine, would you mind letting me use my power for a few minutes? It doesn’t need to be on you and Professor Hill, just Professor Stone.”

                “I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline that request,” Dean Blaine replied, noticeably unsurprised by the question. “Anything you wish to ask or discuss with Professor Stone may be said out loud, or not at all.”

                It had been a longshot going in and she knew it, but Mary still felt a bit disappointed at getting shut down. Nothing for it now, she’d either have to hold her tongue or press on. There was technically no risk in silence, yet all the same Mary knew she would regret this moment if she didn’t speak. So very much was at stake, for the others even more than her.

                “Professor Stone, is this okay?” She couldn’t have made it any vaguer, not that she hadn’t tried, so Mary felt a rush of relief as the older woman gave her a soft smile and nodded.

                “It’s fine, Mary. Just for now, but it’s fine.”

                “Does anyone plan to tell me what that was about, or at least what discipline Ms. Smith has chosen?” Dean Blaine interjected.

                “Focus, sir. I’ll be continuing my education in Focus.” Mary stood to leave, but paused before heading to the door. “Also, if it’s possible, I’d like to have a meeting with you. Sometime in January, after whatever mid-year events or exams you throw at us.”

                Dean Blaine considered the short, amber-eyed woman for several seconds. “I’ll put something on the books and send you an e-mail. Let me know if the time doesn’t work for you and I can move it around. The one upside to booking my time this early is there’s ample wiggle room.”

                “I’m sure it will be fine.” Without another word, Mary hurried out the door.

                “Well, that wasn’t odd or anything,” Professor Hill muttered under his breath.

                “Let it be, Blake. She’s my student, and I know what I’m doing.” Professor Stone gave her colleague the best wise, all-knowing look she had in her arsenal. The truth of the matter was that she was half-winging it in this, and most, matters. Luckily, no one else on staff was a telepath, so that was a secret she got to keep all to herself.

*             *             *

                Mary moved quickly as she left, passing the three other students waiting for their own meetings with a nod of greeting. Alex, Violet, and Shane all returned the same gestures, though Alex glanced at a clock afterward.

                “It’s still five minutes until my time is supposed to start. Do you think I should just go in?”

                “I’d wait to be called,” Violet replied. “Maybe they need to get a beer or take a piss between these things. Best to wait until they’re ready for you.”

                “Personally, I’m just impressed they’ve managed to keep it all running on time so far,” Shane added. “Every new meeting has been within the fifteen minutes we’re given. Guess they’re not letting people run long.”

                “It’s not like there’s much debate to be had,” Violet said. “I think everyone spent the summer figuring out what they wanted to continue training in. Well, those of us who didn’t know from the first year, anyway.”

                “True,” Shane agreed. “We all knew you and I would go Close Combat, and that Alex would specialize in Focus.”

                “Guess again, buddy boy.” Violet mimed throwing a dagger at Shane’s heart, then reeling it back in. “I’m going Weapons. Scrapping with the best of them is fun and all, but the addition of range makes a big difference for me, especially now that I’ve more or less gotten flying down. I’ve got a few ideas I want to test out this year, and Professor Cole is my best shot at making them work.”

                “Is this why you kept gathering all those rocks, then flying off away from everyone else?” Alex had noted her odd behavior over the summer, though given that all of them were engaged in some of form of training or another; it hadn’t struck him as particularly worth pursuing.

                “It was part of it. Let’s just say I have a few new tricks up my sleeve. Hopefully I’ll get to show them off before we do the Intermurals vote,” Violet replied.

                Shane snorted softly. “From what we’ve seen in years past, the opportunity to demonstrate our combat skills is likely the only thing in this entire program we can depend on. Especially this close to graduation.”

                The door to the meeting room opened and Dean Blaine stuck out his head, scanning around. “Alex, we’re ready for you.”

                “See you both later on,” Alex said, rising from his seat. “Looks like it’s time to pick my destiny.”