Chapter 76

                “Only losing two, that’s a tough class you’ve trained.” Owen sat in Dean Blaine’s office, along with Mr. Numbers, Mr. Transport, and Professor Stone. He noted it was bigger than Dean Jackson’s office back at Sizemore, a place he’d been called into an equal number of times for scolding and congratulations. Then again, Dean Jackson had been in the position for a long while, and he wasn’t the sort to make frivolous improvements for himself. When Sizemore finally got a new dean, they would no doubt make the office, and the program itself, their own in multiple ways.

                “They are especially hardy,” Dean Blaine agreed. “Though we may lose others as the situations grow more and more realistic. Thinking one can do this work and actually being able to are very different things, and one never really knows what side of the line they fall on until the pivotal moment arrives. Still, at least this gives them some insight so there’s time to choose a better path.”

                “From the way Roy sprayed that Sim’s innards across the street, I’ve got a hunch I know which camp he falls into.” Owen tilted his head, remembering the ferocious attack his son had launched at the Sim sneaking up on Mary. It hadn’t been the wrong move, in moments like that, when choosing between the life of a confirmed criminal and a teammate, a good Hero always picked the teammate. But it had been more ruthless than Owen expected to see in a student, especially out of his son. Though he tried to hide it, Roy was softer inside than he let most people know, and Owen was keenly aware of that. Yet there had been no guilt or hesitation in his swing, all Roy had seen in that moment was the destruction of his opponent. It had been a confusing situation for Owen, until he was called in to consult on the newest development in his sons’ abilities.

                “Or maybe I should say the way Hershel sprayed the Sim,” Owen amended. “Something tells me that in that moment, he was pushing more than Roy.”

                “I looked into the memory, and as far as Roy could tell it was just the warning,” Professor Stone said. “It doesn’t appear that either brother has the ability to take control from the other, yet.”

                “No, I didn’t mean that Hershel was the one pulling the strings. I meant…” Owen wracked his brain, trying to figure out how to explain it. “When Roy was telling you about the experience, he mentioned that early on it felt like hunches and instincts. Feelings, in other words. Well my bet is that Hershel didn’t just send over a warning to save Mary, he also included the anger he felt at seeing the woman he loved in danger. That’s what made Roy swing so hard, he’s not used to dealing with that kind of fury.”

                Owen didn’t bother pretending not to notice the skeptical glances as everyone else in the room tried to think of a polite way to disagree with him, he knew better than anyone the way his sons appeared to handle things. To his surprise, however, one head began nodding in agreement with him, and it was Professor Stone’s.

                “With respect, Hershel is actually the far more restrained of the two,” Dean Blaine said, not noticing that his own staff telepath was backing Owen’s claim. “Roy has a much greater history of giving in to his anger and acting out, though he’s gotten a much greater level of control over it since he first started here.

                “Roy is his mother’s son,” Owen replied. “He lets his anger out when he feels it, speaks his mind and throws a punch if someone needs punching. Hershel takes after me. He tends to keep his feelings, at least the negative ones, tucked away inside where they only grow stronger. Roy can be moved to anger more easily, but when Hershel does have reason to go off he goes a lot further. The first time Roy came to see me after I left home, he ended up leaving without saying a word. Hershel, on the other hand, slugged me in the jaw on his first visit.”

                Despite how humorous the image of Hershel uselessly punching Owen’s nigh-invulnerable face was, not a single chuckle slipped through the room. They all appreciated in a moment like that, when emotion was completely overrunning logic, what it said that Hershel’s first act was one of violence. And, privy to knowing the family’s history, no one could entirely fault Hershel for the reaction, least of all Owen.

                “That’s something to watch then,” Dean Blaine said at last. “It worked out well this time, but Roy can’t suddenly be swinging harder than he intended or holding back at an unexpected moment based on Hershel’s feelings. Especially at the rate his strength is growing, the wrong move at the wrong time could come with a cost weighed in blood.”

                “Couldn’t agree more.” Owen looked over to Professor Stone. “Do you folks have some sort of idea for how to help my boys get a handle on this?”

                “Well, if we choose to ignore the fact that he was once a former Powered, the likeliest conclusion here is that all the training has allowed them to access an aspect of their abilities previously beyond their reach,” Professor Stone said. “Such things do happen on occasion, especially in the HCP where limits are constantly tested and Supers have to reach further and further to understand what they can do. From here, the logical step is to begin to have Roy and Hershel both begin some mental training. Whatever is happening, their connection seems to be the root of it, so the better they can understand it and develop their self-awareness, the more likely they’ll be able to find a degree of control.”

                “And if you don’t ignore the fact that they used to be Powereds?” Mr. Numbers asked. It was the elephant in the room, the thing everyone was trying hard not to think about. Useful as this new aspect might be, there was also the chance that it was the first sign they were seeing of the procedure going awry. Given the power that some of the other four wielded, things could go very bad very quickly if they began to have issues as well.

                “Then I’d say that since none of us know exactly what was done to make them Supers, we have no way of predicting how it is impacting them,” Professor Stone replied. “Perhaps the procedure doesn’t work equally on all Powereds, or Roy and Hershel’s reaction would be an aberrant piece of data in a larger sample. The most important part, for now, is to keep an eye on things and make sure we’re aware if any other unexpected side-effects emerge.”

                “See, there we disagree.” Owen turned slightly, even seated still towering over everyone else in the room. He stared down Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport, who suddenly became aware of just how strong the man they’d been drinking with was. “I trust you two, and I believe you when you say you don’t know anything about the procedure. But that shit can’t fly anymore. We need to know what they did to these kids, or every time they show some new trait or tactic there will be people rightly wondering if its all about to go to shit.”

                Dean Blaine cleared his throat, drawing the room’s attention and moving Owen’s stare off of the suited men working hard not to squirm beneath the piercing gaze. “We’ve been trying to run that down for some time, but it’s been nothing but dead ends. Someone has worked very hard to keep the secrets of that process under wraps.”

                “Funny thing about dead ends,” Owen said. “You hit them hard enough, and sooner or later they’ll bust open. Why don’t you bring me up to speed on exactly what’s been going on, and I’ll see if I can help.”