Chapter 141

                The door was open when Vince arrived, and as he slipped through Dean Blaine motioned for him to close it behind him. He hadn’t noticed at the mixer, but the dean looked far more tired than usual. Evidently the day had been stressful on his end as well. Given just some of what Vince knew (either by personal experience or gossip before the mixer) had happened in the trial, it wasn’t very surprising. Vince didn’t know much about the other schools’ HCPs, however he imagined they were probably ending the day with less broken bones than Lander. There was an edge in battle now, one that hadn’t been there before last May. Everyone still here was training to fight with their lives on the line, and they knew it.

                “Vince, take a seat,” Dean Blaine said once the door was closed and he’d fiddled with a few switches on his desk. “Just to reiterate before we get into things, this is not a disciplinary meeting. However, today you utilized some new tactics and levels of force previously absent from your training. I wanted to talk to you about that, and about some potential options moving forward.”

                “Okay.” Despite the reassurance, which he did appreciate, Vince still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this meeting. He’d never been called into the dean’s office like this before. Usually their interactions were limited to class discussions or meetings with DVA agents about the mystery of Globe.

                “Good. Now, let’s start with the elephant in the room, that bolt you threw at Mr. Daniels. In terms of raw destructive power, that was a class above what you’ve utilized in the past. Several classes, actually. As far as sheer destructive potential in a single strike, I daresay it surpasses anything else your fellow seniors could conjure. Honestly, if you hadn’t been so careful as to make sure Mr. Daniels could withstand it, we would be having an extremely different conversation right now. But you were smart and safe, as you were with the punch on the wall. So tell me, why am I only now seeing this level of power from you?”

                “In the Sim fight, the one where everyone looked human, I had a… realization? I’m not sure what the right word is.” Vince fidgeted in his chair, but Dean Blaine sat patiently, waiting for him to continue. “I just had this moment where I realized that if I couldn’t stop a Sim, it was going to kill some of the civilians. And even though it was all fake, it felt real. Like… like I was back at that night again. I understood that sometimes, I wasn’t going to be able to be gentle and wear people down. I might only get one shot to save a life, so I couldn’t afford to fall short. Since then I’ve been working hard on gathering and releasing bigger amounts of energy. It’s a work in progress, and some energies still come faster than others, but I’m getting better.”

                 Dean Blaine nodded; a careful, controlled motion that betrayed nothing more than the fact that he’d heard Vince’s words. “The hole in our wall and semi-fried electrical system can both attest to that. I’m glad to see you’re coming to terms with the dire necessities that sometimes come with Hero work, but I’d caution you not to go too far in the other direction. Discretion and mercy are important pieces of being a Hero as well. Without them, we’d be little more than unchecked tyrants.”

                “Yes, sir.”

                “I’d also like to talk about your absorption.” This time, Dean Blaine did look a touch uncomfortable as he fiddled with some pages on his desk that seemed to have no bearing on the discussion. “You used it offensively in the battle, darkening the field and trying to freeze Professor Cole’s equipment. But you stopped short of the technique that could have gained a potential early victory against Mr. Daniels, instead electing to try a riskier gambit with electricity.”

                Finally, Vince understood why Dean Blaine had been so polite and reassuring every step of the way. This was the real meat of the conversation. What happened that night in May wasn’t a secret, it couldn’t be. Not with dozens of DVA agents going through the crime scene that Lander had become and interviewing every student that had been out on the grounds. Stopping one of the hopped up Supers brought in by the Sons of Progress was a huge element to what had happened, and Vince had been forced to explain the feat in excruciating detail. No matter how much he’d wanted to put the incident out of his mind.

                “You want to know why I didn’t do to Roy what I did to the super-speeder.”

                “I want to understand where your mind is at, Vince.” Dean Blaine tilted his head forward, forsaking the pointless pages. “You’re starting to grapple with serious destructive potential. Between the ability you showed that night and the wreckage you left in your wake today, I would be remiss in my duties as an educator if I didn’t make sure you were on the right path.”

                “I guess that’s fair.” Vince tried to put his thoughts neatly together, imagining how he’d concisely explain everything, then quickly gave it up as a lost cause and resigned himself to rambling. “From a practical side, I need to feel the kinetic energy to steal it, like when someone punches me. For stopping a heartbeat it means skin-to-skin contact. I have to feel the heart, the pulse, the blood pumping through them. Roy wasn’t exactly going to make getting a grip on his neck easy. But… but even if he had, I’m not sure I would have used it. That technique is dangerous. I can’t… I don’t know what the difference between capture and killing is when I use it. A few seconds too long and I could do something permanent. I’m not… I’ll use it if I have to. When I have to. But not for a trial, and not against someone I’m not prepared to kill.”

                Dean Blaine stared at him for a long, silent, moment, then reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a form. “I understand, Vince. That skill is one that scares you, because it is, at its core, a killing technique. I’m glad it does, too. If you were the kind of man who embraced such options without pause, I shudder to think at what sort of person you’d be after ten years in the field. But on the other hand, polishing your absorption skills will make you vastly more effective, and in this class to ignore such potential would be folly. So I’d like to make you an offer: what are your plans for Winter Break?”

                “Just going to visit Hershel and Roy’s house as usual,” Vince replied.

                “Would you be open to spending it elsewhere? You see Vince, you are certainly strong, but you are hardly the first Super to come through this program wielding more power than could be safely contained and properly utilized on a college campus. A long while ago, we created a separate training facility, somewhere far from civilization where those with destructive, dangerous abilities could sharpen their skills without fear. Well, it serves that purpose among others. Anyway, if you’re willing, I’d like you to spend Winter Break there. I think it will give you perspective, as well as the chance to fine-tune your power in a way you might never find here.”

                There was barely a pause after Dean Blaine’s offer was fully formed before Vince spat out, “I’ll go.”

                Slowly, he slid the form across the desk. Vince noticed that the top portion was already filled out.

                “I took the liberty of getting a head start,” Dean Blaine explained. “Something told me you’d be game. Just fill out the rest yourself, and by the day’s end we’ll have a temporary spot lined up for you at Lander’s East campus.”