Chapter 186

                Neither man said anything for some while. Instead, Dean Blaine rose from his seat, went to the bar in the back of his office, and poured two generous glasses of scotch. He set one down in front of Graham before helping himself to a careful sip of the other. Only when he was settled back in his chair did he finally respond.

                “It’s a generous offer Graham, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a childhood dream of mine to work with Captain Starlight. Not quite the way I pictured it, but I imagine nine-year-old me wouldn’t be a stickler about specifics. But I can’t just leave the kids midway through the year. It wouldn’t be right.”

                “This is the government we’re talking about, how fast do you think things move?” Graham helped himself to a larger gulp of the drink than Dean Blaine had taken. As a man further on in his life, he never knew when the next of these pleasures might be the last, so it was important to savor them when they came. Sometimes he and his granddaughter were more alike than they knew. “We’d be looking at you to start after the school year is over, sometime in the summer. That would give us enough time to line up a replacement teacher, since I assume you’d want to promote from within your own ranks. Any thoughts on who would replace you?”

                Dean Blaine knew this trick well, Graham was trying to coax him into talking about the specifics of how the change would happen, framing it as a hypothetical. The deeper they got, the more forgone the conclusion would be that of course he would take the job, after all they were having a meeting about how to facilitate it weren’t they? He opted to play along for the moment, because if he did decide to go down that path these were things they’d have to tackle. This way he could see how viable the idea really was.

                “My first choice would be Professor Esme Stone, the Focus instructor. Unfortunately, she’s made it abundantly clear that she has no interest whatsoever in taking over my job. Esme loves to teach, however she’s got no stomach for bureaucracy. If I didn’t have to get it past the board and the DVA, I think Sean Pendleton would actually make a fine replacement for me as well. I presume an ex-con would be a hard sell though.”

                “Good presumption,” Graham agreed.

                “Then I’d have to go with Professor Ariel Baker, our Ranged Combat teacher. While Blake Hill and Sonya Cole both have seniority, neither possess the right temperament for this job. Ariel has the necessary mixture of patience, kindness, and determination that I think would serve her well if she stepped into my shoes.”

                Graham took another sip from the glass, turning the idea over in his head. “She’s young.”

                “Not by Hero standards. Besides, young isn’t a bad thing. Young means they can put in more years before you have to play this game again,” Dean Blaine pointed out.

                “Your recommendation carries a lot of weight, so if you really push for her I doubt it will be an issue. Ranged Combat should be an easy position to fill too, unlike some subjects, so that’s in her favor. Finding Subtlety Heroes willing to teach is a real pain in the ass, let me tell you. Anyway, Ariel Baker moves up to be Dean Baker, and some other Hero ready to hang up the cape steps in for her. If we did it at the end of the year, can you think of any reason why that transition wouldn’t work?”

                Although Dean Blaine’s mind immediately objected to the idea, the more he thought it over the harder it was to find a true obstacle. Yes, there was the mystery of Globe, but that seemed tied to the students who were graduating more than the school. The former Powereds were either out of the program or in their final year and showing strong chances of graduation, so he wouldn’t be dumping that on Ariel’s plate. And Crispin… Blaine could only imagine the sort of manhunt he’d be able to mount with the DVA’s full resources at his disposal.

                Even with all of that, he might have pushed away at the idea of a career change harder if not for the issue of Shelby Adair’s visions. Alice and Mary had told him what they were shown, a world where war erupted and society was torn apart by it. Maybe it was a trick by a bored dream-walker, but with every bit of Abridail’s info that proved true it became more and more likely that those visions were real. Graham was talking about the potential war, even if he didn’t know about it, and he was offering Blaine a chance to work at a higher level to keep it from happening. If he could help steer the world toward the better future, wasn’t it his duty to do so? Of course, that assumed he’d be able to guide things from his new position, which required his boss being on board with the idea. Could he trust Graham DeSoto, a man who he knew in passing with the secrets that they’d been uncovering?

                No. It was too dangerous; too many lives were on the line. Dean Blaine couldn’t put that much faith in someone he barely knew. But he’d been starting to hit the edge of what his people could accomplish on their own; it was becoming ever clearer that they needed help. The head of the DVA could certainly open up some new options. And while Dean Blaine knew he shouldn’t set something this heavy in the hands of a near stranger, he had to trust someone.

                If there was ever a Hero to put blind faith in, it was Captain Starlight.

                “Graham, I’m interested in the job. I am. But there are some things you need to know first. Things that I’ve done, rules I’ve broken, secrets that I’ve uncovered. Hard truths that are going to force you to make some difficult choices. If you still want me after all of that, we can talk. Either way, as the new head of the DVA and the man who showed us all what it means to be a Hero, you have to be brought up to speed. I’d prefer not to have this conversation here. Honestly I think I’d rather have it nowhere, or in the infinite void of space, but since neither of those is possible what’s the most secure area for discussion you have?”

                Graham took his time replying, scratching his chin and appearing to really think on the issue. “The DVA has some rooms that are pretty high-tech, but using them can raise the wrong kind of red flags in a situation like this. I’ve got my own spot, though, back in an old base I used to use. I still swing by there regularly, so me showing up won’t be too strange. If you want a private conversation, it’s the best I’ve got.”

                “Then let’s schedule a meeting, or head there after the mixer,” Dean Blaine said. “The sooner you’re brought in on this, the better. There are people you need to be wary of.”

                Graham laughed again, this time restraining his cough. “I’m a Hero and a politician; you think that’s news to me?”

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