Promotions, Preparations, and Parents
"You really think this is the time to be talking about parties, Collin?" The heavily built Samoan tried to put some force behind his words, but his tone seemed to come out hollow instead. All the sophomores were feeling the emotional drain of the last couple of weeks; capped by the recent revelation that five of their friends had already lost their places in the program going beyond the present year.
“Yes.” The firm, plainly stated response took Rorie a bit by surprise. Collin waited a moment as he observed the larger man's expression, then elaborated. “We need SOMETHING that isn't more bad news, more training, or more studying. The HCP Halloween party is apparently a LONG running tradition, and the 31st is only four weeks away. Remember how hard it was for us coming in last year as freshmen? Well this new lot gets all the normal pressure of the HCP, but instead of having Oversight looming over their heads, they get the even MORE spectacular pleasure of knowing that the HCP that accepted them might cease to exist the year before they get a shot at graduating. We need it, they need it, so are you in?”
“By which you mean, 'Rorie, will you please seduce your girlfriend into helping with OUR class's preparations instead of the third year prep?'” The falsetto tone the large man used to emphasize the core question asked by the smaller sophomore drew a chuckle from Collin.
“I don't think I ever said you needed to 'seduce her into' anything, but I can definitely see why you'd want to go that route.” The red haired youth raised his hands defensively at the mock glare Rorie threw his way. “Seriously though, just ask her. Between Jessica and Kyle we could keep most of the front area under constantly changing illusions, Sean and Jon have been volunteered to provide some tactile backup to the illusionists as needed, and Erin and Eloise are going to trade off running an invisible coat check for the freshies while Cat randomly messes with people's heads.”
“So if we're going all out up front, what the hell are the third years going to be doing in the Labyrinth sections they open up for the party?”
“Hell if I know. I can confirm, however, that they HAVEN'T asked your girlfriend to play a role yet, and in the competitive nature of the HCP I say this means we take advantage of that and steal her away for our side.”
“You really think this is going to help get things back to normal?”
"No. Things are still going to suck, our evaluations are still going to be down almost across the entire class, and we're still going to be saying goodbye to some of our friends that were almost definitely going to be with us next year before all this shit. I think this will help us to cope with how shitty things are going, just a little bit.” Collin's response had lost playful banter it held from moments ago, replaced with something more akin to firm confidence in what he was saying. “The professors, the Heroes out there, the DVA and everyone else, they'll figure out who's fucking with us and our families eventually. I don't believe anyone can kick a hornet's nest THIS big and get away clean. No matter what they do to cover their tracks, it's just a stall. So while they're stalling we have to hold it together and keep advancing through this program to keep them from winning.”
“Alright.” Rorie turned as he spoke, hiding the smile that crossed his face as the sudden acquiescence caught Collin off guard. “I'll try to convince Jessica to turn traitor on the juniors, but you are coming with me to absorb any incidental damage that occurs, AND you owe me one.”
The smaller youth just smiled in return and nodded his response, before following after the large Samoan.
“Hello, Harvin.” Harvin Temes scowled deeply at the speaker phone on his desk. The extremely cordial tone of the female voice told him quite clearly that the woman on the other end was about to ask for a favor.
“Save the buttering up for Lee or Edward, Joyce. What do you want?”
“None for you OR Patrick then?” The thin man actually let out a burst of honest, uncontrolled laughter at the conjured mental image before reigning in his emotions.
“You? Buttering up PATRICK?”
“I imagine it will take a lot of butter when we eventually fry the fat bastard.”
“Threatened you again, did he?”
“I know, I know. I shouldn't take it so personally since he does it to EVERYBODY.”
“Which annoys you more; another death threat from our dear colleague, or the fact that his insane scheme actually produced real results?”
The only audible sound over the speaker was a hissing intake of breath, and Harvin braced himself for the expected explosion that came from needling Joyce about the wrong issue. Instead, a long moment of silence stretched out before a reasonably calm voice spoke again. “Regardless, I do need a favor.”
“It would have to be a LITTLE favor, Joyce dear. Our efforts are being kept separate for good reason, and you did volunteer to be one of the ones at the front taking the brunt of the risk for this stage.”
“I wasn't expecting to be sharing that brunt with PATRICK at the time.” It was impressive the amount of venom that could be inserted into a two syllable name. “And it's both little, and not.”
“So really more not than little then?”
A sigh came over the speaker. “The fat man is pressuring me to move before things are properly settled, too much attention still on the homefront in spite of a measure of success in getting it turned outwards. All I need is a little poke from the outside, something obviously a different sort of planning from the hamfisted scattergun approach of Patrick's scheme. I need a push that's subtle enough that they aren't completely sure it's a push, but precise enough that they HAVE to assume it is. Confirming that they really are facing multiple fronts is going to be my best hope for getting a window of opportunity before New Year's.”
“You want me to go after one of the remaining 'unprotected' families.” The words were a statement, not a question.
“Unprotected?” The emphasis on the word apparently took Joyce by surprise.
Or she's just a better actress than she's been pretending all along. “I'm a little shocked your own network didn't pick up on that bit. You're aware of Janette Wal-...”
“Yes yes, the Walker bitch pulled on a ton of her family's resources and riches and got private security details for the families. What, she somehow missed a few? Or they opted out?”
“There are a few families associated with our target class that never had private details assigned to them, as far as MY sources can tell. Three of those were still targeted during the wrap up of the 'augmented' crime wave. In one case two violent murderers were gunned down on the porch while their third accomplice cowered until he was arrested. The other two proved that their acceptance in the HCP apparently 'runs in the family,' as it were.”
“So they didn't bother assigning extra security to the Super families.”
“I don't know if they're all Supers, but essentially yes. Some of the family members appear to have been deemed capable of repelling threats like the ones Patrick placed them in front of on their own.”
“I don't see the issue then, Harvin. It's obviously better if any push you make is successful, for multiple reasons, but as long as the execution is precise and subtle enough it will help make that window for me to work with.”
“You're still going to owe me a pretty big favor for this one, Joyce.”
“Agreed, Harvin. Just make sure to act as little like the fat fuck as you can.”
“THAT shouldn't be a problem. In fact, I believe I have something in the works that can be tempered slightly to suit, provided you understand that I'm going to have to burn some valuable assets to pull this off.”
“I'll buy you some replacements as soon as I get the opportunity. Thank you, Harvin.” With that last statement, the connection terminated.
“Very well then, a subtle push is called for.” A predatory grin grew across the face of the thin man as he sat alone in his office, typing out messages lazily on the keyboard in front of him. “And what downfall could be less expected than from a promotion?”
“I can't believe our families are coming here.” Iris sighed as her most recent roommate repeated the phrase for what must have been the hundredth time.
“Parent's Day WAS part of the orientation packet, El.”
“Eloise.” The correction was automatic, but becoming more halfhearted with each repetition. The blonde girl smiled at what she saw as her inevitably approaching victory with the shorter girl's nickname. “And last year the Oversight Committee canceled it. It was canceled this year too. I can't believe our families are coming here.”
“They did give us a week's notice. What are you so worried about, anyways?”
The white haired girl slowly turned to offer a hard stare at her roommate. “My parents. The survival nuts that live in the wilderness in the Rockies. Are coming. Here. TODAY.”
“Ah. So it's not that OUR families are going to be here, so much as YOUR family is going to be here then?”
“I apparently have a little brother now. I'll be meeting him for the first time.”
“He's only six months old.”
“Ah. That makes a little more sense. I still don't see why you're worried though. Can't you just ghost away if your parents embarrass you too much?”
“No!” The level of fear in the normally confident (and frequently confrontational) Eloise drew more genuine curiosity from the blonde speedster.
“Okay... and why is that?”
The petite girl seemed about to speak several times, but stopped herself before words actually made it out on each occasion. After a half dozen such false starts, a question emerged. “I'll tell you, but if you tell anyone else I will END you.”
“Agreed.” There was no hesitation from the tall girl as she moved to sit closer to her roommate. “Now spill.”
“My mom told me she was going to bring the Box. It's pretty much EVERY embarrassing thing you can imagine. Photographs, things I made or wrote when I was a lot younger...” Eloise's voice dropped to a barely audible whisper. “...love letters I wrote to the Spectral Avenger when I was twelve.” The white haired girl shook her head violently for a moment. “Anyways, I have to be good and introduce them to all my friends, or mom swears she's going to start passing out things from the Box.”
“So you can introduce us.” Iris actually laughed at the momentary look of non-comprehension on the smaller girl's face. “Us. Me, Tara, Louise, your teammates, Cat, and anyone else you hang out with. It'll be fun, El. You can meet my family too!”
“Eloise.” The white haired girl barely mouthed the automatic correction this time. “But, I mean, are we all friends? Really?”
“God damn, El.”
“No offense, but you must have had a really fucked up life in some respects. The fact that your mom apparently knows exactly how to shame you into behaving like a normal parent tells me you can't blame it all on your parents. You seriously don't realize you have friends here?” The tall girl sounded equal parts amused, shocked, and hurt at the idea.
“It's just, I mean, we're mostly nice to each other, but we're competing against each other. Some of us have to get knocked out of the program for the rest of us to move on. How can we really be friends through all that?” Eloise sounded genuinely confused by the perceived conflict.
“Some people honestly can't.” Iris paused for a moment and sought out the correct words for what she wanted to say, and slowed her thought process down enough that Eloise could TELL she was giving the question proper consideration. Speedster problems no one tells you about; everyone assumes you're being flippant or casual because you can respond as soon as the other guy stops talking, never mind that for you that pause for breath could have amounted to half a minute or more to consider all the points you want to make.
“I'm sure the professors could show you plenty of examples from other classes where the competition undermines the ability of most of the students to make friends, but that won't be universally true in any program I suspect. I think ultimately being this directly in competition is going to help tell who your friends REALLY are, because they'll cheer for you and congratulate you right after you kick their asses. They'll come back at you next time even harder for it, but they won't make it a personal grudge.”
“Okay, I can maybe buy that. I get why you would assume that my roommates and my teammates would be my friends, or at least close enough to introduce to my parents. But why Cat?”
Iris started giggling almost uncontrollably at the question, and broke into outright laughter when it wasn't HER that got to answer. “Iris considers me as a friend to everyone in the program, because I get to see pretty much ALL the embarrassing crap that goes through everyone's head every day and I keep it all to myself.”
Eloise nearly fell off the bed from the combination surprise of Iris' burst of hysterical laughter and the unexpected voice in her brain. “So... You often just jump into other people's private conversations then?” The white haired girl tried to inject some anger into her voice, but the fact that her question seemed to cause Iris to only laugh harder made it a difficult proposition.
“Hey, don't blame me for that one. Giggles McSpeedy over there was basically chanting, 'HEY CAT HEY CAT HEY CAT HEY CAT' in her head as soon as she started trying to give examples of people you should think of as friends. If it helps, I do think of all you guys as MY friends. Even the crazy blonde speedsters, who are late to an agreed upon training session.”
“Oh crap.” Iris suddenly stopped laughing and dug out her phone to check the time on it. “Great, fastest girl in class is late for training.” A long, melodramatic sigh followed. “Well, I'm off then El. And stop worrying about your parents!”
With that the tall girl swept quickly out of the room, so fast that she didn't notice her roommate respond to the nickname. Not a correction this time, just a small smile.
The large figure, barely discernible from the shadows of the parking garage, paused in his approach towards the blonde woman in front of him as she stopped to answer her phone.
“Yeah, you guessed right, your sister is, in fact, NOT on her way to Texas.”
“Hell if I know, I got a priority email from my boss telling me I had to come into the office IMMEDIATELY.”
“He thinks he's the District Attorney for the city of Chicago, Ames. Look, I promise I will try to get this figured out as quickly as possible and still be down there in time to take you to dinner.”
“I know I missed the flight, but I can afford to splurge a little and hire a teleporter to get me down to visit my only sis-..”
Apparently whatever reserve of patience the figure possessed had become exhausted listening to half the conversation, and an arm leapt forward with blinding speed to strike the phone out of the woman's grip. Instead of shrieking, jumping, or any of the other reactions the shadow was used to seeing at this point, the tall blonde simply turned to face it with an annoyed look on her face.
“You know how expensive those damned things are? I mean yeah, I can afford it, but still. That was really fucking rude.” A wide, gaping grin became visible as the shape in the shadows solidified into a vaguely human form.
“It's impressive that you aren't lying on the floor pissing yourself, counselor. How long does the bravado last, I wonder?” The voice that seemed to echo from all the shadows around the parking structure was distinctly male, and seemed equal parts intrigued and menacing.
“Oh, let me guess. Another Black Jack?” Seeing the face wince, the young woman offered an almost pitying expression. “You know there are over three HUNDRED criminal supers that use that alias? I mean, I know it's hard to find a name that NO ONE has taken in this day and age, but to go that clich-...”
The faux sympathetic speech was interrupted when 'Black Jack' snarled in rage and swung an inhumanly long arm at the woman's face, the hand at the end twisted into vicious looking claws. Instead of ripping through skin and bone as he expected, the claws barely caught a few strands of hair as the blonde fell neatly back away from the blow, somehow managing to even keep her feet under her as she did.
“Nice to see they gave you a little training when you signed up to prosecute 'Variant Humans,' Ms Jacobson.”
“Amanda, please. Ms Jacobson makes me feel old, or like the judge is talking to me.”
“You still smile and mock? Perhaps you don't understand the position you're in yet. Do you suffer from some secret mental disability, Amanda?” The shadowy form drew closer as each word came out, but Amanda managed to pace backwards almost perfectly in step with the menacing approach.
“I wouldn't have thought my work primarily cutting deals with juvie Supers and working out how to handle similarly juvenile Powereds would warrant someone sending what, I'm assuming anyways, is a Super hitman after me.”
The advance paused and Black Jack let out a long, deep chuckle. “Of course, your boss had only JUST informed you that you needed to come into the office. How amusing. It seems, Amanda, that my organization's means of getting information from the DA's office is more efficient than that employed by those who are actually EMPLOYED there. Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your promotion. You were appointed to the recently vacant position in the OSC prosecution team. A team that is, regrettably, currently seeking to incarcerate my employer for an unsustainable length of time.”
“Wait, I got the Organized Super Crime spot? Seriously?” The shadowy man was taken aback once again as the lawyer responded, not with fear, but with jubilance.
“You realize you're going to die before you even get to ACCEPT the promotion, yes?”
“Mmmmmm, nah. Seriously, this is Chicago. If you wanted to kill an ADA you should have sent more than three guys.”
Eyes went wide in the darkness at the realization that, somehow, the lawyer must have detected not only his own presence, but that of his accomplices. Before Black Jack could get a word out however, the enclosed space of the parking garage was filled with the deafening bangs of rapid gunshots. Accompanying the first shot was a stabbing agony in the shadowy man's leg as the .38 round tore through his knee to ricochet off the pavement behind him. As he fell screaming, a small part of his mind dimly noted similarly pained yells from his left and right. Desperately, he tried to claw his way back into the shadows, but even as he reached out he knew it wouldn't work. His opponent had perfectly lured him just far enough into the open that he was well illuminated, and the dark areas under the parked cars were out of even his reach.
“How... shoot so... fast?”
“Lot's of practice. Now put some pressure on that damned leg so you don't bleed out before these lovely gentlemen come and arrest you.” With that statement, the blonde attorney dug her ID out of her jacket and turned to walk towards the nearest of the rapidly approaching police officers, identifying herself as she walked and holding the revolver far out to the side and by the barrel so as not to invite similar injuries as the ones she had just inflicted.
Jack didn't bother trying to follow the instructions about staunching the wound to his leg, instead he simply laid back on the asphalt and tried to figure out HOW this situation could have gone so poorly. Turning from his new position, he noted the disheveled pant leg of Amanda Jacobson that barely revealed the presence of a small ankle holster. No... How? How could she have possibly gotten to the gun so fast? Not possible... Even with the impossible riddle taunting him, Jack couldn't prevent a different sort of blackness from claiming him before it was solved.
“It's too bad your uncle couldn't make it.” Ty Rodins had one arm draped comfortingly over his girlfriend's shoulder as they wound their way through dozens of introductions in the large meeting hall where the Overton HCP was hosting 'Parent Day.'
Erin looked over at her boyfriend, then burst out laughing. The black youth attempted to adopt a hurt, confused expression for a moment, before joining in with his own chuckle. “Okay, not really feeling bad about that. Your uncle Dom scares the HELL out of me, Erin.”
“Decades long veteran of Army Force Ops, gone on who knows how many completely classified missions, killed probably dozens if not HUNDREDS of enemies with his bare hands. What's to be scared of, Ty?” Erin managed a sweet, almost airheaded tone as she asked the question. “I mean, you're just the guy doing horribly depraved things to the only family he cares about, the girl he treats like his own daughter.”
“He, I object to that. None of the things we do are HORRIBLY depraved, and most of the kinda depraved ones are your idea in the first place.”
With a too-sweet smile Erin produced her cell phone in front of her boyfriend's face. “I'm sure hearing that would change everything. Want to tell him?”
The heavily built young man shivered visible for several seconds before responding. “Okay, too far with that one even as a joke. As graphic as your uncle's speech, 'you hurt my niece and THIS is what I do to you in return,' was; I think that an admission like THAT would probably net me something way out past the range of the terrible, terrible threats already on the table.”
“Oh calm down. He heard pretty much everything we did at my place anyways.”
“Wai- Wha- HOW?”
Erin laughed again. “For someone whose power involves 'brilliance,' you can be really slow outside of your area of expertise. I guess that's part of why I love you.” The tall girl leaned in for a quick kiss before her boyfriend could recover from his surprise. “But to answer your question, Uncle Dom's a Super, remember? Major physical enhancements, including SENSORY enhancements. The man could hear your heartbeat from two rooms away. We were RELATIVELY quiet, but not THAT quiet.”
“Oh God, he's gonna kill me. Someday, I won't be expecting it, then I'll turn around and BAM! He'll be standing there, and it'll be the last thing I -... Erin? What's wrong?” Ty found himself breaking off his own over-dramatic speech as his girlfriend went completely rigid next to him, her hand tightening on his hard enough to hurt. Looking out at the crowd, the heavy youth was about to call a full alarm as he couldn't see whatever it was that had the normally unflappable Erin so completely spooked, when suddenly the answer stepped around the momentarily obscuring form that had been Rorie and stood almost directly in front of the pair.
“Oh Erin, sweetie, you've grown up so much!” The tone was far too sweet, too overdone. The woman spouting them was wearing makeup that seemed to have been almost caked on, then worked as much as possible to resemble only a normal skin tone. She was also wearing, by far, the most expensive dress in the room. “Don't you recognize us, pumpkin?”
“Oh, she recognizes us. It's so good to see you again, dear daughter.” The man accompanying the fakely-sweet woman was also impeccably dressed, and stood eye level with Ty, just barely taller than his daughter.
Holy shit, it's her parents. Timothy and Margerie Casse. WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY HERE? It had taken quite some time before Ty had gotten the full story from Erin about her parents, and when he finally had it had required his girlfriend to physically restrain him, multiple times, to prevent him from seeking them out and doing something that would have insured that THIS scene never came to pass. Ty realized his free hand was clenched into a fist, and it took a major effort of will NOT to launch himself at the man in front of him.
“I don't know how you got in here, but get the fuck out.” Erin remained perfectly still, seeming not even to breathe as she addressed her parents, but the look in her eyes was so cold that her mother took an involuntary step backwards, her skin seeming to shine momentarily through her layer of makeup.
That's right, Erin told me her mom was a Powered. Light reflection when she gets scared, that's why all the makeup. Ty offered what he hoped was a reassuring pat with the arm still draped over his girlfriend's shoulder. Wrong place to visit if you don't want THAT little quirk acting up.
“We're your parents, it's Parent Day. It's really not hard to figure out, Erin. You'll have to be quicker than that once we get you transferred to a REAL school.” The condescending tone from Timothy Casse resulted in another brief internal struggle for Ty to keep control of himself.
“No, you aren't. You two threw me away, along with all POSSIBLE parental rights, when I was FOUR. You don't get to come in here now and pretend you have anything to do with me. Now get. The. Fuck. OUT.”
“Erin, sweetie, you wouldn't want to cause a scene here now would you? We'd much prefer if you decided to reunite WILLINGLY and bury the hatchet, but other arrangements could be made.” Margerie Casse rejoined the conversation, her tone still fakely honey-sweet, but carrying an undercurrent of threat now. “After all, I hear that the SI requirements of these programs can be BRUTAL. It would be a shame if your overly proud mother and father were to let something slip, just to make it easier to transfer you to a more... proper program. Why it wou-...”
Fuck letting THIS go for even one more second. “Forgive me for interrupting.” Ty stepped forward slightly as he spoke, causing the much smaller Margerie to scamper backwards to avoid being run over and even startling Timothy back a step. “We haven't been properly introduced, my name is Ty. I'm your daughter's boyfriend, and I must say how HAPPY I am to be meeting you in person after everything she's told me about you.” Timothy Casse looked deeply disconcerted at the seemingly genuine smile Ty was wearing. Margerie looked suspicious.
“You're... happy to see us?” Ty nodded in response as he could almost feel the disbelief and outrage swelling up behind him.
Going to have to settle this quickly before Erin murders all of us. “Quite happy. I can't tell you how often I have fantasized about this moment, though I admit it was usually in more secluded circumstances.” And with those words, before either of the Erin's parents could respond, Ty swung his fist as hard as he could. The smile was still plastered across his face as the black youth felt the crushing impact with Timothy's jaw, and the older man was actually blown off his feet by the perfectly executed uppercut.
“Stay back!” Margerie was now shining quite clearly through her layer of camouflaging makeup, but Ty wasn't even looking at the woman. Instead he was looking down at the unconscious, twitching form of Erin's biological father.
Remarkably, the crowd seemed completely unperturbed by the chaotic turn of events, save for a few faces that wore looks of grim satisfaction. “Assault! Assault and battery, felony is going to get you thrown RIGHT OUT boy!” Margerie's tone had grown shrill with panic, but fortunately she didn't have many words left to speak. Even as the nervous woman began looking frantically about for some authority figure to scream at, a petite hand placed itself on her shoulder. Margerie Casse collapsed immediately to the floor, seeming for all the world as if she had just suffered from a severe run in with narcolepsy.
“You two owe me a VERY good explanation. And I believe Ms Blake should also be present in my office for this, as I am CERTAIN she's involved with the lack of reaction from the crowd.” It was extremely difficult for a woman who stood notably short of five and a half feet tall to be physically imposing. An angry Dean Kathryn Jilles managed to pull it off QUITE nicely, however.
“Wakey, wakey!” Timothy Casse came groggily to his senses to hear an accented male voice coaxing him, and gentle taps on his forehead dragging him to wakefulness. “Ah, good, you're both awake now.”
“Quiet, Marge. I'll do that talking.” The heavily made up middle-aged woman immediately went silent and seemed to project a much more confident aura than she had a moment ago. Her tall, dark haired husband spent several seconds ignoring the older man in the room with both of them and went through a quick set of motions to make sure he was properly settled. Jaw hurts, but not as much as it should. That kid got in a hell of a sucker punch.
“To answer your unspoken question,” the British accented voice snapped Timothy out of his self inspection, “you received some basic healing as your jaw was quite well and truly shattered by our young Mr Rodins. And yes, I am an Advanced Mind, in answer to your next question.”
“Then what you're doing right now is illegal, Mr Advanced Mind. I dema-...”
“It's Laurence Vree, Mr Casse.” The change in tone as the white haired professor cut off the younger man's bluster was startlingly sharp. “And you don't get to demand anything. Are you aware of how SERIOUS the trouble you and your wife have thrown yourselves into is?”
“My wife and I came to visit our DAUGHTER and-...”
“No, Mr Casse.” The interruption this time was even colder than the last, and the fury in Vree's voice set Timothy back to a seated position as he flinched away. “You don't HAVE a daughter. Not legally, as you yourself quite thoroughly and completely severed ALL ties. That means that you conned your way into the Overton Hero Certification Program, and considering the amount of money we know you paid out in bribes to several University and DVA officials in order to gain that access, we have a VERY solid case for the charges that will be brought against you.”
“Charges? What charges? That boy assaulted my husband!” Margerie was beginning to shine through her makeup again, as the seriousness of the professor's words seemed to sink in.
“The pair of you conspired to gain illegal access to the restricted areas of a Hero Certification Facility. In doing so you gained extremely confidential information you aren't cleared for: the identities of MANY of our students.”
“So what? That's the big charge?” Timothy let a mocking smile crawl across his face as he stood again. “So we saw some kids' faces? What's the charge for that anyways?”
Laurence met the mocking grin with a cold smile of his own. “Conspiracy to gain illegal access to a secure HCP facility is classed under the same felonies as treason against the United States. If found guilty you and your wife will be executed.”
Margerie processed the words for a moment, then passed out in the chair she still occupied. Timothy attempted to laugh the declaration away, but something in the older man's look stopped him. “You... you can't be serious. TREASON?”
“Or there's an alternative.”
“Ah, so that's how it is. Scare us with the impossible and then offer the bait? No thank you.”
“Mr Casse, believe me when I say that few things would please me more, knowing what I have learned, than seeing you killed for your own stupidity. I believe that if we were to ask for volunteers to deliver the injection the line would stretch around a city block. In spite of this, you have inherited a great many connections from your family, and it is only due to the potential for future issues with THOSE persons that we are offering you ANY recourse.”
“And what would this 'alternative' entail?”
“You and your wife will have your memories of your visit to Overton completely removed. In addition you will consent to a deep telepathic scan to insure that you truly had no motive, aside from your own stupidity, in conning your way into our facility. In addition, to prevent any FUTURE stupidity that would affect the HCP, both you and your wife will have all memories of Erin Casse removed. Permanently.”
“I am very good at what I do, Mr Casse. It will be difficult, and it will be painful for both of us, but before you answer I would like to inform you of one additional fact you are not presently aware of.”
“Oh?” The tone was an attempt to sound dismissive, but the icy serious manner of the old professor had worn on Timothy's nerves to the point where the closest he could manage was 'not terrified.'
“Officially both you and your wife were caught infiltrating an extremely high security government facility WELL past the normal authorizations for lethal force on sight. If you decline, I will kill both of you here, in this room.” The taller man searched desperately for ANY sign that Laurence was bluffing. What he found searching the older man's eyes truly, deeply terrified him.
“I consent. Margerie will consent as soon as you wake her up again.”
“I must say I am somewhat disappointed by this resolution. Please lay down on the floor, Mr Casse. I really wasn't kidding when I told you this part is going to hurt.”
“News, now.” Dean Kathryn Jilles looked quite a bit less intimidating at 6am, dragging herself towards the coffee machine, than she had the previous night dealing with the wayward Casses.
“Good news!” All eyes turned to the inexplicably cheerful sounding, though exhausted looking, Focus Instructor. “Timothy and Margerie REALLY are that stupid. They found out about their biological daughter through the leaks we always suspected would form on the government side of the Oversight reporting. Somehow they came up with the idea that they could get Ms Casse transferred to Korman and ride a successful Hero daughter all the way to major political offices that have always eluded both of them.” A sadistic smile made its way onto the professor's face. “And as deep as I went I can assure you that they came up with this harebrained scheme on their own. This one was bad timing that had a happy ending for one of our best students, no further scheming from our still unknown adversaries.”
“The bad news, then.” Elena Martinez paused to take a drink from her own mug as the Dean finally made her way to the table. “The attack on Amanda Jacobson was, in all likelihood, another maneuver on the part of our enemies.”
“Proof?” James Rachd sounded eager as he leaned forward and growled out the single word question.
“Only circumstantial. But someone went to great lengths to manipulate a promotion for Amanda, then made sure that word of that promotion got out before even she knew about it.”
“Wait, the bad guys got Ames' sister a promotion? What the hell kind of attack is that?” The Weapons Instructor wore a genuinely confused look as she leaned back in her chair and balanced a coffee mug on one finger.
“Amanda was promoted to a very prominent position in the Chicago DA's office in charge of prosecuting Super criminals involved in organized, major crime. The position tends to be a very rapid rotation as the level of threat involved is extreme. Most attorneys last a few months and then transfer out to another city.”
“So she was promoted, that promotion was immediately leaked, and...?” The question from the Control Instructor seemed more lucid than those from the rest of the table, Hai Nguyen was apparently a morning person.
“Three hitmen, all Supers, attacked her in the parking garage used by the Chicago DA's Office on her way in to hear about her promotion.”
“The bad guys found out about her new job before even SHE did? That's kinda impressive.” Dani drained the contents of her mug and let the cup roll smoothly off her hand to rest on the table. “Poor bad guys.”
“What?” The startled question that came simultaneously from both Ranged and Close Combat Instructors set the animated redhead into a fit of giggling.
“James, Tony, perhaps later today you should familiarize yourselves with some of our files on the families of our students.” There was the barest hint of laughter in the Dean's voice as she spoke. “I recommend starting with Amanda Jacobson's file.”
“Right, we'll do that.” Anthony Banning made the declaration quickly, cutting off whatever angry retort was about to come from Rachd in response to the early morning laughter,
“So that's the news from last night, anything else of note before we get into our next planning session?” Seeing negative responses around the table, the Dean took another fortifying swig of her coffee before continuing. “So, aside from a leftover and largely defunct move to get a nuisance anti-Super zealot group into our faces, all the efforts of our enemies have been focused OUTSIDE of Overton this year. They've been going after our students' families in order to impact their performance in the program in a manner that can be capitalized on through the Oversight reviews. We have also learned, relatively conclusively considering the skill of the telepaths involved, that Oversight is NOT aligned with our adversaries except for incidentally, meaning there isn't really anything we can do there. Based on the completely amoral manner in which our opponents are acting against us, it's my belief, shared by the Walkers for what that's worth, that the next series of attacks will likely be attempts on family and friends of Overton's HCP staff.” Dean Jilles waved off the sudden responses from around the conference table as she continued. “As IMPOSSIBLE as that scenario sounds, it never really occurred to us that a group could realistically compile a thorough class roster for the HCP either. As much as we hate to admit it, a great many of the security protocols that have always been in place around the HCP have never been tested because no one believed that ANYONE would EVER truly attempt an attack in this way, or any way. Even with all the political strings being pulled to slow the responses down, Heroes are beginning to get involved, which makes for a VERY short window for our adversaries to throw anything more at us before they drop back as deep as they can to wait until focus inevitably shifts away again. Almost everything that's happened since that damned Oversight Committee was assigned should have been 'impossible,' but we have to accept that the HCP and DVA were both woefully underprepared for events like these to actually happen. When this is all over, we're going to have a LOT of things that need to be changed to insure nothing like it happens again, but until then we have work to do, students to prepare, and people to protect.”