Chapter 7

                “This one is going to be a pain in the ass,” Professor Blake Hill said, laying a white index card down on the wooden table. “How the hell is she supposed to fight someone without using lethal force?”

                “If they’re smart with their power, there’s always a way.” Professor Esme Stone mentally lifted the card from across the table and brought it over until it hung before her. A slight frown crossed her face as she read the name and power listed there. “Or not. Damn, I forgot about her.”

                “Is it the boomer?” Professor Sonya Cole asked, the table in front of her already covered in carefully paired sets of index cards.

                “I pray that’s not what we’re calling her, but yes,” Professor Stone confirmed.

                “Ariel had one set aside for that.” Professor Cole turned her cloth-bandage covered face across the room, where a red-headed woman was rifling through the small pile of cards in her hands.

                “One sec, I know I saw it… here we go!” Professor Baker produced a white card with a folded corner and handed it to Professor Stone. “That should get her through the first round, at least. After that we’ll have a better idea of how much control she’s got, and can choose an appropriate opponent.”

                Professor Stone looked over the card she’d been given, examining the words carefully. “Is this a fair match though? We’re pitting Transmute’s daughter against a girl with no documented training whatsoever. She made it in on ability alone.”

                “Which is why we need to send her against a skilled opponent for the first round,” Professor Hill said. “She’s got power, and, until we teach her how to control it, that makes her dangerous. Judy inherited her mother’s ability, and she’s been trained since it manifested. She won’t let herself get hurt.”

                “Still, maybe one of us should watch the match,” Professor Baker proposed.

                “Let’s have Professor Fletcher on hand, he can get in there the fastest,” Professor Hill agreed. “But put one of the seniors on it too. Someone with a bit of brains. It might be good to get multiple eyes on the fight. Plus, we can see just how well these kids know how to break down a fight.”

                “Sean has a pair of Subtlety students that passed the final, either of them is probably smart enough.” Professor Baker had turned her eyes back to sorting her own pile, making sure none of the other matches were so lopsided that they wouldn’t provide useful information.

                “Perhaps it would be better to choose someone from a different major,” Professor Stone said gently. “It’s a good learning opportunity, especially with Intermurals ahead of them this year, but you know how rarely a class elects to send Subtlety majors to the event. Besides, they already receive that sort of training in class.”

                “Smart, but not in Subtlety.” The bandage across Professor Cole’s face spread, signaling that she was smiling under her cloth coverings. “You know, I actually think I’ve got the perfect kid for that job.”

                “Then let’s consider the matter settled.” Professor Hill reached over and took the two cards from Professor Stone, setting them on the table next to a Post-It with a combat cell number written across the top. “Next up, does anyone have a good fight for an acid spitter?”

*             *             *

                Mr. Numbers finished scribbling the last few notes down onto the form and slid it across the small table to the waiting DVA agents. While Lander had agreed to make room for the DVA as it tightened security and evaluated protocols, there were only so many spaces to use in the underground area. Combats cells were needed, training facilities a poor fit, and classrooms obviously already dedicated to a purpose, so most of the makeshift DVA offices were renovated storage spaces made as habitable as possible. It was for this reason that the form had a very short journey across the narrow table, arriving quickly in the hands of Ralph Chapman.

                “We thank you very much for your input, Mr. Numbers. Your expertise is considered second to none.” Ralph was the only one who spoke in these meetings, his two underlings had firm instructions not to say a word inside the room. This was less a power-play to make him seem more important than it was out of concern for privacy. Mr. Numbers was indeed renowned for his mind, and a single slipped word from the other agents might betray information he wasn’t meant to have.

                “Anything to help make the school safer,” Mr. Transport said. He stood at Mr. Numbers’ side, since there was inadequate space to fit more than the single chair. “We’re happy to do our part to keep these students safe, so long as the company permits it.”

                “No worries there, Senator Malcolm spoke to Isaac Lamont personally. He’s pledged as many resources as he can spare to help shore up defenses.” Ralph skimmed over the document Mr. Numbers had handed him, skipping the more complex parts entirely. Ralph Chapman was a multitude of things, many of them bad, but he was not a man who pretended to be more than he was. The Super in the dark suit with blue eyes had a brain that could do things no human would ever rival. There was no shame in not understanding his work; that was for the DVA’s more intelligent personnel to handle. “Most of the changes I can understand look fairly simple.”

                “They are,” Mr. Numbers confirmed. “My goal was to make small alterations to the protocols, ones that were easily executable and slightly narrowed an enemy’s chance to attack us. Each is a small piece, but using them all will make it fourteen percent less likely that a successful sneak attack can occur.”

                “Only fourteen percent?” The DVA agent who spoke immediately slammed his mouth shut and grew a few shades paler as Ralph glared up at him.

                “That’s on top of the reductions we’ve already made through the larger changes,” Mr. Numbers said. He resisted the urge to smirk at one of the silent duo finally speaking, but managed to keep a neutral demeanor. The time for chuckling would come when he and Mr. Transport were on their own.

                “I’ll run this up the channels, though I doubt there will be any contention,” Ralph said, slipping the form into his briefcase. “Once we make the changes I’ll get you fresh data to check over. Same time next week?”

                “Certainly,” Mr. Transport said. “We look forward to it.”

                Without another word, he and Mr. Numbers vanished, leaving only Ralph Chapman and his two underlings still in the room, one of whom was already braced for an extensive tongue-lashing.