Chapter 190

                Professor Pendleton wasn’t particularly surprised when Alice came busting through his classroom door. He hadn’t expected her by any means, but he made it a point to always anticipate unannounced entries, be they friendly or dangerous. It was a habit that had served him well as a Hero and had proven quite useful as a teacher. There was something to be said for never letting his students see him jump in surprise, especially given the subject he taught. Alice didn’t pause to comment on his stoic reaction to the intrusion, she just kept walking forward, reaching his desk before he even had a chance to put his book down.

                “Something up?” The odds that she’d come to talk about their extracurricular searches on HCP grounds were slim, however there was a possibility that she’d come to bring him somewhere that they could have that sort of discussion. Even that was unlikely, as Dean Blaine would have made a much less conspicuous messenger. Plus, as her teacher Professor Pendleton liked to think she’d have learned enough to keep a lower profile in situations like that.

                “Hell yeah something is up. I picked my Hero name.” Alice reached into her backpack and pulled out a small stack of forms and printouts, placing the whole lot carefully on Professor Pendleton’s desk. “I ran it through all the databases we’re supposed to check and none of them had a listing for it. Unless you’ve got some hidden protocol I have to satisfy, this should be good to go.”

                Tempted as he was to grab the top form, Professor Pendleton instead took his time. He placed a bookmark between the pages of his current novel, shut it, and stowed it in one of his top desk drawers. Only when that was done did he finally lean over, scanning the entirety of the top page before letting his eyes wander to the large blank where Alice’s potential new name was waiting. That part he read a few times, making sure he was seeing it right. She wasn’t wrong, Professor Pendleton had never heard of anyone with that Hero name before. Probably because it was an odd choice, even by the admittedly loose standards of Heroes.

                “Legacy? Is there a reference or gravity pun here that I’m missing? Or maybe you meant to apply for a legacy name and filled out the wrong box?”

                “Yes to the first, no to the rest,” Alice replied. “We were working on names this afternoon and Alex brought up the idea of picking a name that might not make sense to the public but had an important meaning to us. Something to remind us what we were out there to accomplish, why we were fighting, and what we wanted to stand for. It got me thinking about something a friend told me not long ago: I’m the Adair legacy now.”

                She paused, briefly, eyes widening a touch as they darted around. It was quick but unmistakable, at least to someone who’d trained her. Alice was saying that there were too many ears down here to be fully honest, so she was going to choose her next words carefully.

                “My dad is a cold-hearted bastard. People will remember him more for the companies he crushed and iron fist he used to rule the financial world than they ever will for his time as a Hero. And my uncle, while probably a decent guy at heart, is still going down in history as a criminal.”

                As much as he might have like to think that last comment was about him, especially since she’d designed it to sound like it was, Professor Pendleton knew she was referring to Globe. If they were talking about the Adair legacy, there was no way he couldn’t be part of the discussion.

                “Even before that, apparently my grandfather was a real piece of shit,” Alice continued. “The Adairs have done a lot of bad in this world. Hurt loads of people, even ruined a few lives. Which means if I want to make our name something worth having, something I might be able to pass down to my own children one day, I have a ton of work to do to balance the scales. I like the idea of keeping that debt with me at all times, wearing it around myself, turning a potential weapon into my own armor. Legacy is a reminder of everything I’ve inherited, good and bad, from the ones that came before me.”

                It was one of the more well-considered pitches Sean Pendleton had heard since taking on the job of professor. Alice had chosen a name that meant something to her, one that would be a source of strength in the dark times. But saddling herself with a burden like that came with dangers of its own. Those were her dangers to brave though, she was already a grown woman and on track to become a Hero in a few months. That didn’t mean there weren’t a few points to raise, however.

                “I like it overall, it’s a solid choice. I’m just wondering what you’re going to tell reporters when they ask you about it, which they will. Can’t very well go into the family history while wearing a mask.” Professor Pendleton had a hunch she’d considered this, but he wouldn’t be doing his duty if he didn’t bring it to her attention.

                In response, Alice’s eyes grew wide again, though there was nothing subtle about it this time. Her face shifted, small changes that were nearly imperceptible on their own yet had the combined effect of making her appear as if she was only half-listening. The biggest change was her smile, which turned wide and cheery instead of holding its usual quiet dignity. In a span of seconds Alice had gone from an excited but reserved Subtlety student to someone who looked… not stupid, perhaps, but the kind of overly happy that people often took as an indication of stupidity.

                “I chose Legacy as my name because that’s what I want to leave. A big lasting crater of positivity on the world, to inspire younger people to chase their dreams. Because with hard work and an upbeat attitude, you can be whatever you want!” Alice’s tone was airy, simple, and almost teeth-grindingly cheery. There was little trace of the hard, cunning, determined Hero Professor Pendleton knew was really there. He had to give her credit; it was solid character work, especially with such a short time to prepare.

                “You realize no one will take that woman seriously, right?” Professor Pendleton asked.

                “Realize it? I’m counting on it.” Alice’s grin warped and soon there was nothing vapid about it. The effect was strange to see coupled with her new expression, like a dolphin suddenly smiling and showing the teeth of a shark. “Let’s be frank here: I’m a tall blonde with curves, there was always going to be a contingent of people who didn’t take me seriously. So if I lean into it, I can use it to my advantage. Everyone will think they can outfox the peppy gravity girl. The more they underestimate me, the better it is.”

                “And all the people who’ll dismiss you outright, maybe even other Heroes who don’t want to work with you?”

                “Fuck ‘em. If someone can’t see the value in playing people’s expectations against them then I don’t imagine that person will have a lot of usefulness to me. Besides, Subtlety Heroes aren’t supposed to be well liked,” Alice pointed out. “Isn’t that the tradition?”

                She had him there. Professor Pendleton took one last look at the page though. He couldn’t say there wasn’t merit in her plan, it would probably serve her well. He still wished she’d chosen an easier direction, but that just wasn’t Alice Adair. No matter the situation, it seemed like she always set herself on the hardest possible path. As her uncle it worried him, but as a former Hero it was a trait he was glad to see. That was the sort of grit needed to last in the Hero world.

                “You’d better practice that act a lot in the next few months,” Professor Pendleton told her. “Assuming you graduate, I suspect Legacy is going to get plenty of media attention.”

                Alice’s face settled back into its normal expression, yet the dangerous smile remained in place. “I can barely wait.”