Chapter 283

                Awareness was Globe’s greatest weakness, and few knew that better than Charles Adair. Globe could stop, change, and react to nearly anything inside his sphere of power, but only with intent. Sure, setting up a small barrier around himself required little concentration to maintain, however in a battle this chaotic there were always more elements to consider. The new Supers entering the fray, demonstrating power that would have made them exceptional Heroes if they weren’t displaying the telltale control issues of someone using enhancement. That was a symptom Globe could easily recognize, obviously, as he was keenly aware of how much training it took to wield amplified abilities with the same skill as one’s normal set. It was hard to even be mad at Charles for using an enhancer, if nothing else it proved that they still thought alike, just as one would expect from brothers.

                No, what annoyed Globe were the numerous traps, devices, and shifting hallways that not only made navigating the underground space slow and tedious, but split Globe’s attention in a half-dozen directions at any given time. The goal was clear: Charles knew Globe would be doing more than just attacking, he’d also be working to keep his team safe. Even as Raze destroyed a reinforced door with a mere touch, avoiding the walls lest the structural integrity of the subterranean base be compromised, Globe kept a wild blast of energy and a wave of acid from ever getting near Raze or the door. It was like that all over, his team was amazing, but the sheer amount of numbers they were facing made it virtually impossible for them to deal with every threat.

                The door in front of Raze turned to dust, revealing a small team of four Supers waiting to strike. They weren’t the only ones who’d been prepared, though. As soon as Globe saw them, and how close they were, he made a small effort of will and all four slumped to the ground. They were alive, temporarily comatose, but alive. Most of the guards had already figured out that their best bet was attacking from a long distance, however it seemed a few were still slow to respond.

                Not ten seconds after the guards dropped, automated turrets popped out from the floor. They locked on to the nearest targets, some pointing at Raze while others aimed for the guards on the ground. Globe turned them all the scrap with a quick wave, then spun around to block a giant axe that was spinning toward George’s back from seemingly out of nowhere. So many fronts to keep track of, so many people to protect. It wasn’t enough to stop them, but it was slowing down progress.

                That was a dangerous game to play, once Globe and his team’s enhancements wore off this would be a much more dire fight. Not to mention that the longer this went on, the better a chance of someone out there noticing. If the DVA or local cops showed up, Globe wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep them safe. Maybe Charles had safeguards in place, or maybe he was going to try and pin all of this on Globe when the dust settled.

                None of that mattered, though. The only mission they had, the only purpose of this fight, was to get proof and bring the truth to light. Until that was done or he was dead, Globe would keep going, and he knew his team felt the same.

                They surged through the opening Raze had created, with Globe pausing briefly to will metal debris into the hole where the door once stood, then fusing it all together into a solid lump. It wasn’t much, but it might buy them some time. At this point, every minute they could steal was vital. For them, and perhaps for the world as a whole.

*             *             *

                Mr. Numbers sat quietly, reading the reports. He’d had a hunch this was coming. It was impossible to miss the way Professor Pendleton had been acting, at least for someone with Mr. Numbers’ observation skills. The man was an expert at Subtlety, but he was still human. Flickers of annoyance, the slight tensing of nerves, all of these things had to be repressed, which meant there would be signs of them trying to get through. And every one of them had grown worse as this day approached. The day of Intramurals, when the DVA and the Heroes would be watching every HCP campus with unwavering focus. The day when the rest of the country might just be a little less observed, for all the attention being paid to ensure no one repeated last year’s attack.

                It was obvious, when one looked at it all as data. True, not many people were privy to as much information as Mr. Numbers, so it was forgivable that more hadn’t seen this coming. But for him, it was such a given that he wasn’t even surprised when reports began to come through that employees of their company were suddenly turning up missing. Mr. Stop and Mrs. Tracking were already both called in, and word was that Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport might be pulled away from their Lander duties at any moment.  He hadn’t even bother to tell Mr. Transport, who was hanging around the HCP, hoping to get the results of the students’ matches. Mr. Numbers had seen a lot, and it was pretty clear that Charles Adair had been helping himself to the company’s talent for quite a while. Whether the order came from management, Charles Adair, or even Isaac Lamont himself, Mr. Numbers had no intention to join the fray just yet.

                That was why he’d stayed silent, even as the pieces fell into place. A man with his gift could figure out quite a lot, and it was plain early on that one way or another, it was always going to come to this. Truth against lies, brother against brother, Globe and Charles were on a collision course from the start. Mr. Numbers couldn’t have stopped it, the most he might have accomplished was a brief delay. But, now that the conflict was finally here, there would be new possibilities, fresh data to consider. When and how Mr. Numbers intervened, if indeed he chose to do so at all, would hinge on how much a difference he might be able to make. And what he was able to save.

                It was almost a given that the company would be pulled down with Charles Adair, if the latter sank. They were too interconnected, both fiscally and with deeds in the shadows. Too many of Mr. Numbers’ own compatriots had been lured away by the temptation of endless funds. To save the company would require saving Charles Adair, and that was not an idea Mr. Numbers took much joy in. Still, he had to consider it, because that was what he did. Every possibility, every angle, every factor, all of it had to be crunched in that unnatural brain of his.

                Other Supers had always been stronger than Mr. Numbers. Or tougher, or faster, or sometimes even flat-out smarter. But he understood his own strength better than they did. Mr. Numbers knew that one didn’t need snow or rock manipulation powers to start an avalanche, sometimes all that was required was a single stone and a perfect throw.

                Mr. Numbers sat at his desk, computer open as more reports of strange lights and fire came from a supposedly uninhabited section of woodlands in a flyover state. It was unfolding right there in front of him, and he didn’t let a single bit escape his notice.

                When the time came, he would be sure he knew exactly where to throw his stone.