Senator Campbell rounded a corner, nimbly side-stepping a reporter whose mouth opened to ask a question or try and get a sound bite. Before she could utter a syllable, he was through a door into a private section of the building, leaving her with nothing save for a sense of wonder at how gracefully he could slip away. Playing with the media was all well and good when he had time, however today was a tight schedule. On top of dealing with a few holdouts on the Powered-subsidization bill, he’d also had to field calls, do two public appearances, and now was on the last of his meetings. All of that before his actual important event this afternoon, and that was one he couldn’t move around. Even if he’d been inclined, which he wasn’t, there was no way he would incur that level of Alice’s wrath. This last meeting had a firm time limit. Luckily, it was at least with someone he could trust to cut to the heart of things.
“Eliza!” He opened his arms as he slid through the door, embracing the curly-haired woman who still looked out of place in suits rather than faded jeans. “So good of you to make the trip. I trust Ms. Pips sends her love along with a few thinly veiled threats?”
“More or less,” Eliza confirmed. She hugged Nick back, then settled into one of the over-stuffed chairs set in this private, windowless room. Their meetings weren’t technically illegal, as a representative for a business owner in Nick’s district it was perfectly acceptable for her to speak with her senator. That said, it did make everyone’s lives run more smoothly when they didn’t have to deal with photographs popping up on the news.
Nick doubled checked the room before sitting down, making sure nothing had been moved or disturbed to indicate a bug was present. He’d never found one before in here, yet some habits refused to die. “How’s Jerome doing? Last I heard he was being groomed for the new head of casino security.” The job actually came with far more responsibilities than tossing out drunks and card cheats on their ears, but publicly this was the title Ms. Pips gave her top enforcer.
“He’s well, training is coming along nicely. In truth, I suspect he’s already at the point where he could take on the job, but Ms. Pips is holding him back for now. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jerome gets his promotion on the same day I get mine, that way she can take some of our current staff for her retirement security.”
With Gerry passed and Nick in politics, there had been a short list of people to take over for Ms. Pips when the time came. Gerry was a man who loved a backup plan, though, and it was no coincidence that he’d taken in and helped train another exceptional candidate. Someone who could make the hard choices, but still had decency in them to temper their actions. Nick liked to think that this was exactly how Gerry had hoped things would go all along. Him free, and Eliza taking over Ms. Pips office. Of course, Ms. Pips wasn’t out yet, and Eliza still had a ways left to go before she would be trusted with that kind of inheritance.
“She likes to do that, start people off with underlings they know and trust. Says keeping the old guard can create fractured loyalty. If you’d like my advice, and I know you don’t but listen anyway, you may want to start getting proactive with finding future department heads. The sooner she knows you’ve got a good staff to lean on, the sooner she’ll think it’s time to hand over the reins.”
“I’ll keep it under advisement,” Eliza replied, her tone cool. The woman had grown by leaps and bounds under Ms. Pips direct tutelage, soon she was going to be dangerous on a level even Nick would have to fear. He could hardly wait to have their first meeting after that, it would prove to be all kinds of entertaining. “In the meantime, I’m here with some concerns from Ms. Pips about proposed laws and how they might impact the Las Vegas gambling industry.”
“Had a feeling you might be.” Nick checked his watch, which was calibrated precisely. “You’ve got exactly one hour and two minutes before I need to be out of here. Make it count.”
* * *
The secure room was quiet save only for the sound of pages turning. One by one, the accounts were reread, double checking for any inconsistencies or issues. No one wanted to find such a thing, but the far worse option would be missing a problem and having someone else discover it. Thoroughness and transparency were paramount in the new DVA, an organization which had voluntarily subjected itself to much greater levels of oversight and investigation after the Charles Adair scandal. Finally, the last page was turned, and the three men on one end of the table looked to the lone fellow on the other side.
“By all accounts, Phillip Adair has completed another community service project with no attempts at escape, efforts to rebel against his overseers, or violations of the conduct code he was given,” Graham DeSoto announced. “Gentlemen, did you see anything I missed?”
“No, sir. Another fine effort from our model prisoner.” Blaine tried to keep his voice neutral, but after all these years it was hard not to let a little snark through. Still, having these sessions was important, he was among those who pushed for them. The records and tapes from them were going to be made public, with only specific details about the work redacted. It was only fair to let the country know the results of these assessments if they were asking the public to put their trust in a criminal.
The last holdout skimmed through the pages one last time. He was the most thorough of the lot, always digging as deep as possible. It could be annoying at times, but his dedication to finding the smallest of mistakes also helped solidify the public trust in this process. After all, if not even Ralph Chapman could find an issue, then there was almost certainly nothing there to uncover.
“There are no problems that I can see,” Ralph said, at last looking up from the file. “He was able to help reconstruct the neighborhood clinic in exceptional time, and adhered to every rule upon him while doing so. It is my judgement that Phillip Adair has continued to honor his sentence and proves that he is an asset to the country and the DVA.”
Graham nodded. “Very well then, as another operation has concluded without issue, Phillip Adair is dismissed back to his monitored living facility with his family.” The community had been Graham’s idea. In the wake of the scandal, when they discovered that Charles Adair had wormed his way into the minds and pockets of both the DVA and the Lamont Corporation, countless supposed facts had been overturned. Many thought guilty of crimes were proven to be patsies, yet some had evaded arrest and committed actual crimes in their attempts to prove their innocence or stay free. It was a convoluted mess, the DVA couldn’t send the message that Heroes were above the law, but at the same time it wasn’t right to throw people who’d been framed into prison.
Instead, they had created a community of former Heroes, tightly monitored and guarded, far from any other town or settlement. There, the former Heroes were able to have a semblance of a normal life while serving their time by helping the DVA whenever a particular power proved useful. It wasn’t a perfect system, and already a few had been booted to regular prison, but it was a compromise people could live with. In a few months, when he made the move to Sizemore, Phil would be one of the first of those former Heroes to be allowed to leave the community. True, he’d still be monitored and watched by Heroes, however it was proof that there was a path forward, for those willing to do the work.
“Mr. Adair, do you have any questions before we adjourn?” Graham wasn’t expecting anything, so he was surprised to see Phil slowly raise his hand.
“I just wanted to make sure my afternoon trip is still approved. I put in the paperwork a few weeks ago, but since I had to work a job today I’m hoping it didn’t muddle things up.”
Graham knit his brow, what trip was Phil talking about? Opening his phone, Graham scanned through emails until he found the right one. A gruff laugh escaped the old man’s lips as he set it back down. “Oh, that trip. Yes, Mr. Adair, you are still approved. If nothing else, we can’t say there wouldn’t be enough Heroes there to keep an eye on you.”