Chapter 192

                “And that’s what we’ve got laid out so far. Right now things are pretty stable, but once we start the ball seriously rolling it’s all going to come to a head quickly. As far as I can tell, you’re genuinely out. No one in the group seems to be looking at our old members too suspiciously. Whether you stay that way is up to you. I left you a doorway, but there’s no need to walk through it.”

                Will stared across the desk to Camille, who was carefully reading over the files he’d shown her. Despite not making it to the inner circle, she’d been adamant about receiving updates on the state of Take Back Lander. He’d almost expected some pushback when they got to the part about bringing in others, especially Nick, but there had been nary a peep. With her kind nature and innocent looks, it was easy to forget that Camille was among the most ruthless of the class when her loved ones were threatened.

                “So either way, you need my help, it’s just a question of if I do it at your side or from a distance?” Flipping the pages over, she slid them back to Will who tucked the entire stack in a special safe installed in his desk. If anyone did try to break in the pages would be ash before they could ever be read. Better to lose work than have an operation compromised.

                “Actually, it’s my deepest hope that you won’t be needed,” Will corrected. “Escalating to physical violence, even if we’re faking it, changes the stakes in a dangerous way. My goal is to keep things simple, digital, and impossible to prove. But I’m not as good at improvising at this as some of the others, so I need to build my contingency plans in advance. That way, if things do go awry, I’ve got options to fall back on.”

                Although she didn’t say it out loud, personally Camille thought Will was selling himself short. In the years they’d known each other, he’d transformed from the tech-builder in Jill’s shadow to a formidable opponent in his own right, and that was just what he could do with the staff. When looking at the amount of skill he’d gained in Subtlety, Camille considered Will to be a very dangerous man. All the more so because he refused to over-estimate himself.

                “I want to get in there. I really do. I want to be in that room, watching as they fall apart. Ever since I went to that first meeting I’ve longed to see these people brought down. But I’m not a Subtlety Hero. I don’t have the training you and Nick do. Part of being a Hero means knowing what you can and can’t accomplish, as well as trusting your friends, your team, to be able to fill in those gaps. So I leave it in your hands, Will. If you tell me that my being in the room is going to be helpful, then I’m in. If you think I’m going to be a detriment, or worse, put the whole thing in danger, then I won’t be mad if you cut me out.” Much as she loathed the idea of walking away, Camille just couldn’t put her desire to be in the action over the safety of her friends. “The operation is what matters. Sending these people a message is what matters. You make sure they know this is our fucking home, and while we’ll share it freely we will not be driven out.”

                Will stared at her for several long seconds, blinking like a stunned owl. “You’re not usually a big fan of the f-word.”

                “I don’t often get cause to use it,” Camille replied. “But for a lot of us, this college is the first place in the world where we’ve felt like we belonged. Where we were part of a community instead of being the lone freak in town. I love this campus, and the people it’s brought into my life, down to my bones. It’s the one spot where Supers shouldn’t have to be afraid of getting run off. I’ll do whatever you need, even if it means staying away, to help protect that.”

                “Hmm.” Will leaned back in his chair, mulling the idea over in that amazing brain of his. “I sent messages to some of the other members who didn’t make the circle, low-stakes stuff to ones I knew were tight with those who still remained. Let’s see how the next meeting goes. If the group as a whole decides to start bringing in everyone we can, then I think you’d be able to smoothly transition to the Take Back Lander core. If they want to keep it limited to who we’ve got right now, I won’t force the issue. I could steer things in your direction, but maybe its better this way. The less they can see me moving them, the safer the operation.”

                Much as she still wanted to get back in the fray, Camille simply nodded in agreement with the proposal. Will had a point; it was less suspicious if he let the group take whatever direction they wanted. It would make her re-entry seem more natural, should it occur, and would paint him as a dopey follower either way. Given what Will had planned with Nick, and Camille knew Will hadn’t told her everything, Will needed to be an inconspicuous as possible. If this blew back on him, it very well might be the end of his HCP career.

                Someone else might have tried to talk Will out of it. To make the point that he was risking a lot to thwart a group with low chances of success. Camille understood, however. She knew what it was to watch people group up and turn against Supers. Take Back Lander could push and push and potentially ruin some Super’s life while risking only a slap on the wrist if they were found out. It was too much to sit by and stomach yet again, especially when Will had the power to change things. Low chances of success or not, these people were targeting she and Will’s friends. That wasn’t the kind of shit a Hero stood on the sidelines for. Not the kind of Hero she wanted to be, anyway.

                “Got a next play in mind?” Camille asked. There had been a few options outlined in the files, however she had no idea what direction Will was leaning.

                “I’ll see how they feel about expanding the inner circle first, then go from there. Part of me is still hoping they’ll make the smart choice and disband, but with Kennedy at the helm it’s a longshot. Most likely I’ll have to escalate things gently, give them the sort of bad luck that’s impossible to prove anyone is behind but gets them more paranoid. Not long after that, I think it will be time to give a face to their fears, albeit one in a mask.”

                “I know I said I was okay with not being there to help, but I just realized that means I have to miss the Nick show as well. Any chance you’d be willing to sneak a video camera in or something?” Camille asked.

                “You know, I just might do that. Win or lose, I have a hunch it’s a performance I’ll want to record for posterity.”