Chapter – XIX
Tom was walking more normally by the time he reached Dean Smith’s office. Coach Alex was a hardass, but Tom would have to remember to thank him properly for the shower. He had prepared himself to go to see the dean as a tired and sweaty mess, but thanks to Coach Alex he at least felt human again.
With a slight hesitation (after all, what student gladly and fearlessly strode up to a dean’s door?) Tom knocked on the door. After a moment Dean Smith’s voice sounded through the door, inviting him in.
The Dean’s office was not what Tom was expecting. Usually teachers’ offices were crammed full of inexpensive, utilitarian furniture. Basic desks, chairs that only made a token attempt at comfort, and easily assembeled bookshelves that were usually bowing under the weight of their contents.
The floor of the dean’s office was done in marble tile, laid out in geometric shapes that were at once simple and complex, almost suggesting a shining sun. His bookshelve were made out of some dark substance, maybe ebony, maybe something else. His desk was made out of the same material while the chairs were a study in sleek chrome and black leather – or something like it. The office was well lit, but apart from some fixtures on the walls, the bulk of the lighting was indirect and cleverly hidden.
“Please, take a seat.” Dean Smith said as Tom entered the room. He nodded toward one of the chairs, his glasses flashing. “I suppose I should thank Coach Alex for allowing you to take a shower before you came here. I purchased those chairs from the Weber studio in Los Angeles, and they can be a chore to clean.”
“Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing.” Tom said, “Except for the chairs, I guess.” His eyes were dancing around the room nervously. The young man clearly had much to say and many questions to ask. But it seemed as though they were all trying to squeeze out of him at once, and he couldn’t decide how to start.
“I understand that this is difficult to talk about Tom,” Dean Smith said. “Why don’t you start at the beginning, what is easiest to explain.”
“Okay, is it weird that the easiest part to explain is the dream? Well, one dream anyway. It starts out when I get Max in the loop. He gets going faster and faster, and I know I can’t close the portals in time, so he’s just stuck there forever. In another one I do it by myself and I cut him in half. In another dream we’re too late and he splatters all over the floor.” Tom paused for a moment and shook his head, trying to clear the images from his mind.
“But then there are the dreams where I see what I saw when you did whatever it is you did. I can see how the portals connect, and it’s like some kind of fun-house on acid. I look at Max and he isn’t a blur but I can see all of him… At the same time. I can see his front and I can see his back. I can see the outside of him, and I can see the insides all at the same time… I…” Tom’s voice trailed off as he reached the end of what he had words for.
“The first part, I believe, is simple enough. You are guilty because you hurt, perhaps almost killed, another person. Someone you are coming to call a friend.” Tom didn’t reply, simply looking down as he nodded slowly. “And that is understable. Particularly in today’s culture most well-adjusted people are almost hardwired to abhor hurting another person. The unfortunate truth of the HCP is that that is something you will just have to get past. I’m not saying that you need to be a bloodthirsty killer, but you will need to reconcile yourself with the idea that as a hero you will have to hurt people.”
Once again, Tom simply nodded, though his eyes began rising up to meet the Deans’
“That is a long way off though, and we will help train you all in dealing in violance. That being said, it was the other experiences that most students don’t have to deal with. You see, most people, and supers, would likely just be sick on themselves and lose consciousness had I taken them where I took you.”
“What do you mean?” Tom asked “Why am I different?”
“It is your ability, Tom. In this particular case it is a blessing and a curse.” The dean said “You are a teleporter, of sorts, and my own ability is similar as well. It shouldn’t surprise you that powers effect more than just your physical abilities. For instance, strongmen tend toward obstinacy while absorbers are more mentally flexable. As a teleporter you have a more accute sense of space and spacial relations than most without your gift. Because of that, you were able to perceive what most others could not. The flip side is that your ability gives you the tools to deal with reality as you experienced it. In fact, what you have expereinced could make you all the more powerful.”
“Okay… But what does that all mean?” Tom asked, clearly lost.
“Tom,” Dean Smith asked, leaning forward slightly and looking into his student’s eyes “do you know, truly know, how your power works?”
“Alright you two, go to the middle of the cell and shake hands. Then head back to your squares and wait for the pre-match instructions.” Coach Helen’s voice was heard over the intercom in the observation room. She was standing between the the two soon-to-be combatants, eyes dancing back and forth between the girls. They always lingered just a little bit longer on Christina, who was radiating hostility like a tatooed and pierced star.
“Do you think Cat can beat her Peter?” Max asked, eyes glued to the two girls stiffly shaking hands.
“I do not know. Catherine was always the more martial between us. However Christina is the number one rank. I doubt she got that title through simple fortune.”
“Yeah I guess so. Say, Cat said she is a shifter, but I don’t think she ever said what her shifted form is.” Max said.
“Yeah, she never told me.” Robin said. The two girls had started to become quite close friends, their personalities reinforcing each other, much to the horror of their male companions. “Of course, I also never thought to ask.”
“Does she have an angelic form like you do?” Max asked.
“No. No her form doesn’t reflect our Lord’s grace as mine does. Catherine’s form is… More fluid, I suppose.”
“What the fu… fudge is that supposed to mean?” Robin asked, censoring herself mid-sentence. She respected Peter’s convictions enough to not be too vulgar when speaking to him.
“It would take me too long to explain. You’ll find out soon enough.” Peter said, his voice vaguely teasing. “By the way, do any of you know what Christina’s power is?”
“First off, you suck.” Robin said. “And second, nope. I missed most of the women’s fights because I was busy with Slick in the infirmary.”
“Me neither, I was busy fighting” Erik said.
“When we fought, she attacked with energy blasts that exploded when they hit something.” A voice with a gentle southern accent said softly behind them. The group turned round in surprise to see who spoke and found a slightly built girl with pale skin and long, straight black hair. She wasn’t short, but her thin build, pale skin, and soft voice gave her an almost etherial quality. She also wore gloves on her hands, which seemed to disappear up into the sleeves of her uniform jacket.
“Oh! Hey, you’re… Victoria, right?” Robin said, seaching her memory to try to identify the mystery girl.
“Yes, my name name is Victoria Bennett.” She said “I hope your friend is ready for a fight. Christina Ross is very powerful. She couldn’t even attack me directly without killing me. Not that it mattered. Simply being close to one of the blasts was enough knock me unconscious”
“That’s where I know you from,” Max said. “You were being helped into the infirmary as I was leaving. How’s your arm? That break looked really nasty.”
“It’s fine now, just a very unpleasant memory.” Victoria said “I hope for her sake your friend’s alternate form is much more durable than a human.”
“It can be,” Peter said “if she decides that that is the best way to attack Ross.”
“What does that mean?” Erik asked
“I told you, her shifted form is fluid.” Peter replied “And besides, the match is ready to start, so you’ll see in a few seconds.”
The four friends, as well as Victoria turned to the view screens to see the two combatants return to their starting boxes. Christina’s mouth moved briefly before the starting buzzer sounded and the match was on.