Nick glared across the table at Professor Pendleton and Dean Blaine. They’d arrived at the underground bunker early, anticipating that some words might need to be exchanged with the former HCP-student. He was wearing his annoyance outwardly, like a shiny hateful badge, from the moment they entered. Despite that, he said nothing as they took their seats, preferring to simply stare holes into them and tap his fingers impatiently on the table.
“I suppose you’re wondering why we didn’t tell you about the connection between Charles Adair and Globe,” Dean Blaine said at last. The others would arrive soon, and they’d be pumping Nick for details while combing through every bit of what he’d been shown. Most of it was already known to them, after all Professor Pendleton had personally borne witness to the tragedy of Shelby Adair. Still, they needed every scrap of information they could get even as they worked to schedule another session with Galina. Abridail had dangled a tantalizing secret, and had demonstrated enough knowledge to prove he might just be able to deliver.
“You know, rather than you pushing some shitty excuses on me, how about I start tossing out a theory and you tell me when I’m wrong,” Nick replied. “Charles started building his company with good intentions. He needed to make a lot of money to take care of his wife, and new Heroes don’t tend to move that much merchandise, so he wasn’t going to get by on a government salary. Then Shelby died, at least so far as the public knew, and he began spearheading a charity in her name, which demanded he keep the business thriving so the money would flow. Of course, now we know he also needed a lot of capital to squirrel her away somewhere while researching how to cure Powereds.”
“Technically speaking, until someone lays eyes on Shelby, we only have very well-grounded suspicion.” Dean Blaine ignored the withering glance from Professor Pendleton. “Yes, there is lots of evidence that points to her being alive, however I feel at least one of us should point out the possibility that we’re working largely on word of mouth. Trustworthy word of mouth, but word of mouth all the same.”
“Fair enough,” Nick said. “But if our working assumptions are correct, Charles still had a great need, both public and private, to continue amassing wealth. Nowadays he’s established himself as an institution, however when he was first starting out I’m sure things were far more shaky. Some big scandal, say his own brother killing a teammate and becoming reviled as a criminal, might have knocked his plans askew.”
Nick rose at this point, walking slowly from his side of the table toward the older men. “The odds of that were slim, true. Hero names and powers are considered government secrets, although sometimes when they go rogue details tend to slip. Since Globe was actually alive, a fact we’d be fools to assume Charles wasn’t aware of, he understood that the name Phillip Adair might leak out. And while Alchemist wouldn’t be harmed by it, Charles Adair, budding entrepreneur and philanthropist, might suffer serious backlash. So Charles spent a big chunk of newly earned capital to purge any record of his brother from the face of the earth. I’ve spent the last few days digging, and there are zero provable familial connections between the two men. At worst, if Globe’s identity came out it would be a case of two men who happened to share a last name and served on a team together. And Heroes obviously wouldn’t betray the secret of one of their own, especially a charitable man like Charles who merely had the misfortune of having a brother go off the deep end.”
Nick stopped a mere two feet from where Professor Pendleton was still seated, leaning slightly down so he could look his former teacher and dean in their eyes. A long, silent moment passed between the three, broken when Nick slammed his hand onto the table hard enough to send an echo through the whole room.
“None of which explains why in the nine hells you kept me in the dark. After we’ve gone in this deep, do you genuinely not trust me? I realize I’m not exactly a moral pillar like Vince, but you can’t possibly believe I’d do anything with that information to hurt my friends. So yes, Dean Blaine, I would very much like to know why I’ve been kept in the dark regarding this essential, this crucial fucking detail that might have led me to something useful over the last year of my life!”
“How about ‘because it wouldn’t have mattered’?” Professor Pendleton halfway rose from his own seat, only Dean Blaine’s hand on his shoulder keeping him in check. “The mystery of what happened between Globe and Intra is one that has haunted the Hero world for years, and most of us already knew he was Charles Adair’s brother. You’re a smart guy, Nick, but people with abilities and resources far greater than yours, fuck, far greater than the HCP’s, have dug into this mystery and pulled at every string. What do you really think you would have uncovered if you’d known about the connection?”
“I have no idea,” Nick admitted. “And now we’ll never know, because you didn’t give me the chance. It’s been nearly a year since I got pulled out from the recesses of my own mind, and I’ve spent all that time working, thinking, and researching, all while missing a pretty crucial piece of the puzzle.”
“Enough.” Unlike Professor Pendleton, Dean Blaine did stand all the way up. Even doing so, he wasn’t quite as high above Nick Campbell as he recalled. The damn kids, they just kept on growing, no matter how much he wanted them to stay small and safe. “I made the call to keep the secret. Charles Adair is a very powerful, connected man, and the last thing we needed was to make an enemy of him, and sharing such a dark secret of his with a college student would do precisely that.”
“Only if he found out,” Nick countered.
“Yes, Nick, you probably could have kept it quiet. But what about Mary, who was bound to glimpse such a thing inside your mind? Or Alice, or Vince, if you gave in and told them? One stray thought, one slip-up around someone with more love for Charles and his money than us, and suddenly we have direct opposition to our investigation.”
Dean Blaine paused to gauge Nick’s reaction. The anger he’d shown when striking the table seemed to be gone, though with someone like Nick one could take nothing at face value. He did appear to be listening though, and whether that was an act or genuine didn’t really matter. Nick wanted to seem receptive, which meant Dean Blaine should keep going.
“Be mad at me if you like, although I think when you truly examine the situation you’ll find that in the same circumstances your choices might have been similar. I did what I thought was best, weighing the serious repercussions if you were found out against the slim chance that you might find something so many others had missed. It is what it is. You can either be bitter or move forward.”
There was a moment, short-lived but unforgettable, when Dean Blaine thought Nick was going to choose the former. His hands clenched, and though his head never tilted toward the door one could never be entirely certain what the eyes beneath the sunglasses were doing.
“I’ll be honest, I’d probably be a lot more pissed off if it wouldn’t make me a hypocrite,” Nick told them. “Before we go any further, I need to ask you something serious. Not as Vince’s friend, or a former Hero-in-training, or even as an unapologetic crook. As one person seeking the truth to another, do either of you really believe that Globe is a villain?”
“Logically, I know I have to treat him as one, and I can see the evidence spread before me plain as day,” Dean Blaine said. “But in my heart of hearts, no. I’ve never been able to accept that Globe would murder anyone, especially not his best friend.”
“Same here. Phil was… let’s just say the adopted apple didn’t fall too far from the tree,” Professor Pendleton added. “It would be about the same as Vince killing you.”
“Oh, let’s not take it that far, I’m nowhere near being a fellow Hero and Vince is pretty stalwart about doing the right thing.” Nick lowered himself into a chair near them, not returning to his place across the table. “But I take your meaning. And honestly, I’m really glad to hear I’m not the only one with serious doubts about his guilt. There was something about the guy; he just didn’t come off that way.”
“You mean from old recordings?” Dean Blaine asked, already suspecting his question was wrong.
“No, when we met in person last May. That was my bit of hypocrisy, you see.” Nick looked at both of them, visibly bracing for their reactions. “I never told you that Globe was on campus helping us during the attack on Lander.”