Chapter 288

                “Dean Blaine. We’ve got an unscheduled teleport onto campus.”

                Part of him had wondered if it was overkill to keep a comm in his ear during Intramurals, but as Professor Baker’s voice alerted Dean Blaine to the surprise arrival, he was exceedingly grateful he’d bothered with the precaution. As the Heroes in the room milled about, waiting for the next fight to start, Dean Blaine tried to hide his tension. There were a lot of reasons someone might teleport to Lander that didn’t involve an assault on campus. Hell, it might just be a civilian Super visiting a friend, it wasn’t as though teleportation was illegal. Even as he worked to convince himself, however, Dean Blaine didn’t believe it. This was another attack, another attempt on the HCP, and this time when the dust settled there would be-

                “Teleporters located. It’s just Shimmerpath and some friend of hers. She says she wants to speak with you or Graham as soon as possible.”

                Unexpected relief surged through Dean Blaine. Just Shimmerpath. That probably meant something was up with Globe, Clarissa wasn’t the type to “pop-in” unannounced, but even that situation was far more preferable than another army invading Lander. “Let her know I’m with Graham, about to oversee the final match of Intramurals. If she wants to wait in my office, I imagine I won’t be too long. By this point, all cards are on the table so the fights tend to be brief.”

                “I’ll pass on the message,” Professor Baker replied. It had been tempting to bring her down here to see how Intramurals was run, but the truth was that deans had little role in this part of the competition, aside from the one he’d played for Chad. Having her running the defenses not only gave her better training, it also put Dean Blaine at ease to have someone competent and trustworthy at the helm.

                The screens above the massive, dark pane of clear material lit up, but this time they weren’t alone. Light began to flicker on in the depths of the seemingly empty window as well, illuminating the final field of battle. Lesser matches had the random field element added in to keep students on their toes, however the final bout always took place in the same location. A simple combat cell like the students were used to, only far larger. The consensus was that a battle for championship should be focused on the skills of the students, rather than what variables they could spin to their advantage. Across all the HCPs, in every year of classes there were only two students who would get to stand in that cell, where so many fights between future Heroes had taken place over the decades. It was a privilege not even Dean Blaine had received.

                “Dean Blaine? Shimmerpath is requesting to speak with Professor Pendleton, since you’re unavailable.”

                “That’s fine, but unless her friend has Hero credentials it will just be Shimmerpath. Anyone else can wait above-ground. This isn’t the day to flaunt security protocols.”

                “That seems to be fine, she says she just wants to pass on a message.”

                A message? And one she wanted to hand off so quickly that she couldn’t wait for one match? Maybe this was more pressing than Dean Blaine had realized. It didn’t change much, he still had to be here, but he made a mental note to find out what was going on as soon as Intramurals ended.

                At that moment, with the dark window finally lit, displaying the massive cell behind it, Victor stepped to the front, signaling that the fight was about to begin. Dean Blaine glanced across the room to Dean Jackson, who paused his chat with Titan to stare right back.

                Lander versus Sizemore. Not the first time they’d gone up against one another in the finals, although it had been a while. And if things went the way Dean Blaine was expecting, this would be a fight they’d be talking about for a years to come.

*             *             *

                Clarissa was less than thrilled at being told to wait in an office, but her team had been the ones who decided to act on Intramurals day without letting Blaine know what they had planned. It made sense at the time, the further they could keep someone like him from this, the better a chance he wouldn’t be swept up in the fallout. Still, the idea of sitting in a chair while her enhancement wore off and her friends fought for their lives was more than Clarissa could stomach, so she made the call to hand the jump-drive over to Sean and get back to the fight.

                It took all her self-control not to sprint down the halls, compromising with a quick-walk that drew a few stares but didn’t get her stopped by anyone with questions. Navigating to the gym, a place she could have found in total darkness thanks to years trudging there during her own HCP days, Clarissa forced herself not to burst in. She’d already been briefed that Sean was with the non-competing kids, relaying results. Poking her head in, as calmly as she could manage, Clarissa loudly cleared her throat.

                “Professor Pendleton, could I speak with you outside for a moment?”

                Sean, who was standing in a room of students that seemed to be working out pretty hard on a day off, did a double-take when he saw her. Unlike Blaine, Sean absolutely knew where she was supposed to be, and he almost tripped over himself getting out of the gym.

                “What the hell are you doing here?”

                “Following orders.” She grabbed his arm and yanked it forward, putting the jump-drive in his palm. “That’s the data. Just the data. The others are still working on the rest. It was decided that, if my team fails, some truth should escape. Get that somewhere safe, then give it to Blaine or Graham when Intramurals is over. I can’t wait around, the others still need me.”

                Clarissa released his arm, turning to go, but it was Sean’s turn to do the grabbing, his thin hands gripping her shoulder. “Not alone you don’t. I’m coming to.”

                “Sean, your place is here.”

                “My place is wherever I can help my family the most. If they’re that close, if she’s in reach, I can’t not be there.”

                “Sean, this isn’t open for discussion…” Clarissa’s words trailed off as a group of DVA agents turned down the hall. They were all running, sprinting really, and for a moment Clarissa thought she was caught. Instead, the DVA agents raced past, all of them yelling orders into their phones. She didn’t catch much, but the few words she made out were hardly encouraging. Phrases like “sudden attack” and “middle of nowhere” were good hints that the assault had finally been noticed, but it was one word that confirmed her suspicions. A DVA agent was trying to whisper into his phone, however he was an expressive fellow, which made reading his lips all-too-easy.

                There was no doubt about it, he’d definitely said the word “Globe” during the sprint. The DVA knew something was happening. They knew, and they’d have to respond. Suddenly the situation wasn’t quite as clear-cut as it had been moments prior.

                “Find someone to cover for you,” she instructed. “I have to talk with Joan. Be fast. Once we decide what to do, we’re doing it, with or without you.”