Chapter 59

                October’s chill managed to bring the California temperature from hot to merely warm as it blew in winds from the oceans. Across campus, shorts began to slowly evolve into pants, and the occasional windbreaker could be seen on the more cold-natured students. The HCP remained as climate controlled as ever, deep beneath the surface and immune to the fickle decisions of Mother Nature. Protesters for the “Take Back Lander” campaign could be seen about gathering signatures, though their activity seemed to be dropping right along with the temperature.

                Miles from campus, tucked away in a hidden bunker all but forgotten by time and those who’d once needed it, Dean Blaine had gathered up his trusted circle to discuss their next step in trying to acquire answers about Globe. Nick, Professor Stone, Professor Fletcher, Professor Pendleton, Mr. Numbers, and Mr. Transport all sat around the large table, waiting for word of what came next. With only dead-ends still greeting them at every turn, Dean Blaine had run out of other good leads. Though he disliked it on multiple levels, it was time to try and talk to the dream-walker.

                “I’ve procured the services of a very talented Super with the power to mimic others,” Dean Blaine began. There was no file to hand out on Galina, no references to check. Either they trusted his judgement on using her or they didn’t. She wasn’t going to tolerate being vetted. “Her power allows her to do full transformations and power absorption from as little as a few strands of hair. This will permit us to use Rich Weaver’s ability without actually bringing him in.”

                “Hang on a second; wouldn’t it make more sense just to find someone else who has the same power?” Nick asked. “A mimic seems kind of dicey.”

                The urge to chastise him darted across Dean Blaine’s tongue as he exchanged weary looks with his fellow educators. Though an undeniably smart young man, Nick still lacked enough experience in dealing with other Supers to grasp one of the fundamental truths of their kind. And, having failed out sophomore year, the HCP hadn’t been able to fill in that gap for him.

                “There are other Supers who can subdue people with a look, though very few of them, but it’s impossible to know that their abilities would have the same reaction to Alice’s mind as Rich’s does,” Dean Blaine explained. “While there are vast amounts of similar abilities in the world, each Super is unique. There are always variances, and in a case like this we don’t have the luxury of risking that a similar power won’t get the result we need. Thus, a mimic is the more pragmatic solution.”

                “I know there are risks,” Nick replied. “But potential variance sounds better than allowing that sort of mimic near us.  I mean, no one needs me to point out that a Super who can work with as little as a strand of hair is insanely dangerous, especially around Supers with your power sets.”

                “He raises a fair point.” Professor Fletcher was polite in his objection, but his decades of experience dealing with people of often less-than-savory-natures left him clearly wary about associating with someone so strong.

                Dean Blaine nodded, it was a concern worth addressing, and one he’d considered himself before hiring Galina. “The trade-off to our mimic’s ease in taking on forms is that she cannot sustain them for long. Even with fresh hair samples, her body reverts back to its natural state after approximately an hour, and she is unable to retake the form for nearly a day. That is part of why she’s deemed trustworthy enough to have been recommended to us, it would be impossible for her to mount any real assault unless she’d taken an Armageddon-Class ability.”

                “An hour a day is plenty long enough to ruin someone’s life though, if you know what you’re doing,” Nick pointed out.

                “Mr. Campbell, if you have another mimic you’d like to bring on board, one who you trust with not only your life and ours, but the lives of all of your friends, then by all means present them,” Dean Blaine said, his patience slipping. No one knew better than him how dangerous this was, which was why he’d tried for weeks to avoid doing it. “Yes, using this asset comes with risks. I am doing all I can to mitigate them. If you find them to be unacceptable, then feel free to propose a better system.”

                Nick leaned back in his chair, distancing himself from the conversation. “I didn’t mean to step on your toes, just pointing out potential security issues. You’re right; this mimic probably is our best option for getting at Abridail. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take precautions to keep my friends safe.”

                “On that subject, we whole-heartedly agree,” Dean Blaine replied. “If you would let me finish, I’ll outline the contract that Galina has signed, as well as the security measures I intend to put into place. The first issue to tackle, however, is yours, Mr. Campbell. Have you informed Alice and Mary about our plan?”

                “Mary knows, obviously.” Nick tapped his own temple, just in case anyone had missed the insinuation, which they hadn’t. “It didn’t seem like a good idea to tell Alice until we actually had some details, though. She’s not squeamish, but she does prefer to go into situations knowing exactly what’s going to happen. No sense in leaving her with questions that none of us would be able to answer.”

                “Seems like that’s no longer the case, now that Dean Blaine has the details ironed out,” Professor Pendleton said. “If needed, I can broach the subject with her.”

                “Probably better to let me handle this,” Nick told him. “You two are already on a bit of thin ice, what with the whole ‘secret uncle’ thing.”

                Professor Pendleton raised an eyebrow. “And you think she’ll take the news of secret plans involving her better from you, her… romantic entanglement?”

                “Well, at least she’s used to it from me. It’s part of our dynamic,” Nick said.

                Professor Pendleton gave the younger man a long, hard stare, before shaking his head. “Why in heaven’s name am I not trying to scare you off from dating my niece?”

                “Because deep down, you know it wouldn’t work. I don’t scare that easy, and Alice isn’t inclined to listen to your advice outside a class.” Nick’s ever-present smile dimmed a bit. “And you also know that I’d do whatever it took to keep her safe.”

                “A sentiment that will come in quite handy when the three of you are negotiating with a dream-walker inside her brain,” Dean Blaine said, forcefully grabbing the conversation and steering it back under his control. “Now let’s flesh out the details so we can get on with this. The sooner we talk with Abridail, the sooner we might get our hands on a lead about Globe.”


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