Heavy footsteps echoed through the barren concrete and steel corridor. The tall, strongly built man wearing a drab green military uniform moved with a nearly mechanical precision as he strode through the empty detention area, finally coming to a stop in front of the very last cell in the long hallway. As he turned to examine the sole occupant of the seemingly deserted prison, the harsh fluorescent lights glinted from a matching pair of silver eagles worn on each shoulder.
“Have you decided you feel like having a conversation yet? Or at least giving us a name to call you aside from ‘prisoner?'”
The heavily restrained man inside the cell managed to shift around to face his questioner, seeing the uniformed man through two rows of metal bars and six inches of almost perfectly clear Plexiglas. “I must be moving up in the world, they sent a full bird Colonel down to visit with little old me?” The mocking speech was followed by a gasping grunt as the smart restraints in securing the prisoner to the wall of his cell readjusted to another shape shifting attempt. “Don’t you at least have the manners to introduce yourself first, Colonel…?”
“Colonel Dominic Casse, US Army. I’d offer to shake your hand, but I’m sure you understand.”
“A pleasure, Colonel Casse. Forgive me for not standing during introductions.” There was a long silence as the Colonel waited impassively for the prisoner to continue. “Oh, sorry Dominic, you wanted something to call me as well. You know, I enjoyed being Donovan. You can call me Don.”
“Is there a real Donovan Verrile whom we should be searching for?”
“If there is, it will be a surprise to me as well. Donovan was an identity created solely to gain access to Mr Raines.” The tall officer nodded before pushing an intercom button located next to the holding cell.
“Operations, please advise the investigators to open a missing persons and probable murder investigation for the real Donovan Verrile. I’ll provide updates if our guest offers any more concrete information on where they should start looking.”
“That is quite an impressive trick, Colonel. My talents are frequently in high demand because I am particularly skilled in the arts of deception, but you didn’t even hesitate in going with your read.” The prisoner’s face split into a truly inhuman smile as he maintained eye contact with his questioner. “My stock seems to be rising more and more, why is Force Ops interrogating me?”
“Do you really not know what it is you delivered to the Overton HCP?” Dominic’s mocking laughter caused a rapid withering of the restrained man’s smile. “Although I have already told my superiors that’s the most likely scenario, otherwise you would have taken the prototypes and run.”
“RCUs are hardly unique to the United States armed forces, and I don-…”
“You’re a pawn, and you probably don’t know anything of any value.” The Colonel interrupted the other man with a condescending tone. “I’m not here because you, or really the people who hired you, stole some of RDECOM’s shiny toys. So I’m going to explain to you how this is going to work, as you have two options.
“Option one, you will tell me all the few, trivial, details that you know regarding your employer and any contacts they gave you. After that, you spend the rest of your life in a relatively pleasant jail cell.
“Option two, you will persist in claiming complete ignorance, you will lie and mock our interrogators, and things will get VERY unpleasant. This is a National Security matter.”
“So what? A little light water boarding and sleep deprivation? You aren’t a stupid man, Colonel. If they took something that important from Force Ops, my employers will kill me when they find out I’m talking to you.”
“And if you don’t talk, through all the unpleasantness that will occur, you will likely be executed for crimes you’ve already been found guilty of.”
“LIAR!” A strangled gasp followed as the prisoner’s attempt to lunge off his bench was easily thwarted by his restraints. “Three days in here, and you think you can pull a bluff like that?”
“You were tried in absentia Don, or whatever your name is. It’s amazing what can happen when you get involved in shit that is WAY over your head, and how quickly all that shit can happen to YOU.”
“I have rights…”
“Feel free to appeal before they stick a needle in you. Or you can cooperate with us, and take the gamble that we can keep you hidden since we KNOW someone will be coming for you.”
A long silence stretched out between the two men as the prisoner weighed and considered his options. “I’ve decided I don’t believe you Colonel, but you have got some serious balls to tell a lie that big. My contact inside RDECOM was one Staff Sergeant Mack Bowen. And you won’t find Mr Verrile’s body, but he owned a house in northern Maryland under the name John Smith. Not a terribly creative man I’m afraid.”
“You’re really willing to bet your life that I’m bluffing?”
“I seriously doubt someone will suddenly burst into my cell to administer my lethal injection. If I learn that I am, in fact, slated for execution, I’m sure I can remember enough relevant details for a stay or two.”
A long pause came as Colonel Casse carefully studied the man in the cell, before he turned and walked swiftly back down the hallway. The tall man’s quick pace took him out of the detention wing and up several levels to a room filled with monitors and personnel.
“He’s not going to give us anything else for now, run with what he handed us at the end.”
A short, stocky man wearing Captain’s bars saluted and began barking orders to the intel analysts at a nearby station. An incredibly average looking woman in a dark grey suit that practically had the words ‘Federal Agent’ embroidered across her forehead offered a quizzical look.
“Just like that, you believe him?”
“I’m good at what I do.”
The woman started to laugh in response, but was cut off by a loud blaring siren from over head.
“Large fire, high security detainment wing. Suppression team en route!” The Captain turned to his superior officer for orders, only to find that Colonel Casse was already sprinting out of the room and towards the detention wing at an inhumanly fast speed.
Dominic Casse quickly made his way down the three floors to reach his destination, only to be driven back by intense heat and choking smoke. There was a tang to the smoke that the long time special forces operator recognized, as well as a curious bluish green tint to the light emitted by the flames ahead. Somehow, someone had flooded the entire high security detainment wing with phosphorous grenades. The muscular Colonel pulled back farther as several men in hazmat suits arrived on the scene and began to spray their way into the hallway with suppression foam. Casse knew it wasn’t going to make a difference regarding their prisoner. He sighed and brought his hands up to massage his temples as he pictured all the inquiries he was going to have to sit through after this disaster. The military had only a tenuous justifications for asserting control in incarceration and interrogation of the prisoner, primarily that they had been the first ones to get their act together in order to acquire the man from the HCP staff at Overton.
“Well, he was definitely right to be worried that his employers would try to silence him.” The Colonel muttered under his breath as he began his trip back up to the Operations center. A list of names floated through his head as he walked, trying to figure out who would be the prime suspects in somehow firebombing nearly an entire floor of a secure military facility, before his train of thought was derailed by a tangent realization.
“God, if my niece finds out I oversaw this fuck up, she’s going to kill me.”
The petite woman seated at the small table before a panel of nine US senators fought strongly against the urge to murder every one in the room with her. Kathryn Jilles had spent the entire morning, and now most of the afternoon, listening to the HCP Budget Committee scream at her for the disastrous fallout that had accompanied the end of the special Oversight Committee’s first year observing the Overton program. Three of them have no clue what is going on, the other six are all terrified that I MIGHT know. It was unfortunate that two of the ignorant parties enjoyed hearing themselves speak so much, although it did play well with the plan for the day.
“Dean Jilles, are you even LISTENING to this Committee?” Overton’s HCP Dean looked up at the flushed face one Senator Ned Learner, a massively overweight man who looked about to have a stroke at the thought that the petite woman might not be giving his tantrum one hundred percent of her attention.
“I assure you, Senator, I am listening. However you’ve been going in circles for the past twenty minutes, I’m afraid I must ask what the point of this particular tirade is.” Kathryn managed to mask a smirk by taking a sip of water as the man began to literally shake with anger in response to her nonchalant attitude.
“NOW SEE HERE YO-…” Whatever was to come next was cut off as the oversized door to the conference chamber slammed open and a tidal wave of men in suits poured into the room. “NOW WHO THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE? THIS IS A CLOSED SESSION!”
“Senator Learner, I’m sure we’ve been previously introduced. Joseph Alcroft, United States Attorney General, and I am afraid I am going to have to put an end to this closed session, sir.”
Thank God, it’s finally over Kathryn managed to respond outwardly with only a look of polite interest at the sudden intrusion.
“Under what authority is the Attorney General interfering with a Senate Subcommittee?” The questioner this time was the junior most member of the HCP Committee, Senator Marie Harves.
“Senator Harves, I’m afraid I must bear some bad news to some of your colleagues here. Good news for yourself, Senator Learner, and Senator Gregory however!”
“And what is this good news?” Samuel Gregory’s attention had locked quickly onto the AG when his name was mentioned, and from his tone it was apparent that the man had survived several rounds of ‘good news, bad news’ in the past.
“The good news for the three of you is that all of you are still United States Senators. Sadly, the same cannot be said for your other six FORMER colleagues as the other 91 members of the Senate met this morning and voted to expel all six. Additionally, there’s the little matter of an investigation into charges of treason against your former colleagues.”
The three still-Senators all rocked back in their seats in shock, the other six now former Senators all stood to begin screaming at the Attorney General.
“SHUT UP!” The room was shocked into silence by the remarkably loud outburst from the relatively small frame of the AG. “That’s better. Now, I recommend that those of you still in office hurry along to meet with your staffs to be briefed on this morning’s events that occurred outside this room. And please, don’t speak to the press, we really do NOT want this snowballing out of control before we’ve had a proper chance to conduct our investigation.
“The rest of you,” Alcroft turned his gaze to the remaining politicians in the room, all gone pale now that the realization of what was happening to them had had time to sink in, “are being placed under house arrest for the time being. Please cooperate fully with our investigation, and we can determine if you will be facing capital charges for treason, or simply living with your ruined political careers as penance for outstanding incompetence that created such a major breach of National Security.”
“I’ll just see myself out as well, Mr Alcroft. Unless there’s something else you need of me?” Kathryn Jilles stood from her seat as the three ‘surviving’ Senators rushed quickly from the room.
“Nothing springs to mind, Dean Jilles. Please just continue to show discretion with these matters, and I thank you again for playing decoy for us today.” The Dean simply smiled and nodded in response, and strode from the room as a small swarm of federal agents descended upon each of the six former Senators.
“She’s ready to travel?” Dr Raj Saxena offered a reassuring smile in response to the question from the young woman standing behind him as he tended the most difficult patient of his long career.
“She’ll be fine, just make sure she gets plenty of rest.” It was quite easy to make out the resemblance between the woman behind him and his patient resting on the infirmary bed. Amanda Jacobson was not quite as tall as her little sister, but still taller than most women at only about an inch shy of six feet. She was not quite as rail-skinny as Amelia either, but her hair was a near identical shade of dirty blonde and the faces were similar enough that it would be easy to mistake one sister for the other at a distance.
“There’s nothing else you can do for her?”
The doctor sighed heavily before responding. “Her defensive ability, however it works, seems to grow acclimated to any specific energy that it is exposed to regularly. Every time I attempt to repair more of the damage, it’s less effective. I promise you though, if you give us the time to track down a sufficiently different healer with enough strength to work through the initial blocking, we’ll get your sister back to her old self. You don’t have t-…”
“Thank you Dr Saxena, truly, but I do have to.” Amanda turned her gaze towards her sister as she interrupted the small Indian man. “After everything else she’s been through, I am not going to force her to spend one more MINUTE in this condition than she has to. Money won’t be an issue, I never had any slick son of a bitch draining my trust fund for all it was worth. I owe her this much at least.”
“I wish you the best of luck then, Ms Jacobson. Please, contact me if there is anything I can do to assist you or your sister. Will you be leaving in the morning then?”
“As soon as Ames is awake. I’ve already got an appointment booked with a regeneration specialist back in Chicago tomorrow afternoon.” Amanda trailed off as she continued to watch her little sister sleep, breaking into muffled giggles as Amelia rolled slightly to one side and began to snore loudly.
Doctor Saxena quickly ushered the young woman out of the room and closed the door so that she could laugh without waking his patient, a smile creasing his own face at the incredible volume managing to emanate from such a skinny girl. His smile vanished as he saw that the older sister was attempting to fight back tears along with her laughter.
“She’ll really be okay, right? There’s someone who can beat this, whatever it is, and make her better? So she can be a Hero…” The smaller man took the quietly crying girl by the shoulders and directed her calmly into a chair to bring her down to eye level with him.
“Ms Jacobson, your sister will be whole again, I swear this to you. Even if her power proves insurmountable for any healer. Amelia will regenerate on her own, given enough time.” There was a long pause as the doctor waited for the elder Jacobson sister to dry her tears. “You should tell her.”
The gaze that snapped up to meet the doctor’s this time was calculating and wary, but then the expression softened as Amanda considered whom the advice was coming from. “You have absolutely no doubt that she’s going to get better, and that she’ll be back here?”
“Absolutely no doubts at all.”
“Then I’ll tell her when she graduates. When she’s a Hero, no more secrets.”
“You can come in now, they’re ready for you.” The brunette seated in the small waiting room stood and stretched as a secretary poked his head through the door to make the announcement. Deanne Trenn, aka the Hero Mirror, stretched as she stood up in an attempt to coax feeling back into muscles that had stiffened during her interminable wait.
DVA calls me in for an urgent face to face, and then makes me wait almost six hours. Ah, bureaucracy, how I did NOT miss you. The woman smiled politely at the people she passed as she made her way back across the reception area towards her designated meeting room. DVA employees were always shocked to see someone coming from a ‘Hero Waiting Room’ unmasked, but Mirror had never needed to bother with a mask.
At the end of the short corridor, the door stood open and a man standing almost the exact same height as the Hero’s 5’8″ beckoned her through the door. Mirror paused with a gracious smile to indicate that Agent Devins should precede her into the room. Even if the man was the same height as her, he was roughly three times as wide and squeezing past his bulk in the doorway was not on the brunette’s list of good times.
Once she had closed the door behind her Mirror turned to see the predictable scowl of the DVA agent waiting for her. “Is there a problem, Agent Devins?”
“You can drop it, you know. I already know your name and what you really look like Deanne.” The woman simply smiled and shook her head apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Mark, I didn’t realize we were supposed to be back on a first name basis. And no, I can’t drop it, I still have a duplicate out there doing important work.” The heavy man massaged his temples with a growl in response, then dropped heavily into the chair behind his desk.
Mirror’s power had always had a strange secondary effect, and one that caused a significant amount of cognitive dissonance in most people who actually knew who she was when they had to deal with her while her power was active. Her ability somehow prevented a person from being able to remember any details of her face and her skin showed up in all known recording mediums as a perfectly mirrored surface reflecting its surroundings. For some people, knowing what the person sitting across from you was SUPPOSED to look like while your brain was unable to process any details about their current appearance resulted in headaches like the one currently plaguing DVA Agent Mark Devins.
“Let’s cut to the chase then Deanne: You fucked this one up big time.”
“And how, pray-tell, did I do so? Just because the entire Oversight assignment turned into a giant clusterfuck doesn’t mean you get to pin it on ME, Mark.”
“Because you sided with the Overton staff from nearly day one. You weren’t impartial, and it reflects VERY poorly on the DVA when the Hero we assigned to such a simple task can’t manage to maintain the requisite distance to do her job right.”
“Show me one line of any report I submitted that’s biased. Find one tidbit of information that I omitted to make the Overton HCP look better. This entire Oversight thing has been political bullshit from the beginning, so please stop pretending that this is anything other than you trying to cover your ass because you tried to play politics with the big boys and things didn’t go perfectly.” Mirror’s tone was completely calm as she spoke, her volume actually low enough that the man across the desk from her had to strain slightly to make out all the words, and still the DVA agent shrank back into his chair slightly as if threatened.
“It’s all about appearances, Deanne. Even if you did manage to be perfectly unbiased, just the fact that you GRADUATED from Overton is going to make it lo-…”
“First page, first line, preliminary report before I was selected to be the Hero overseeing Oversight. You didn’t seem to have a problem with it THEN.”
“Well things hadn’t devolved into a giant clusterfuck back then, as you so elegantly put it. We have to assign someone else going forward.”
“No Mark. HELL no. I took a job babysitting that bullshit committee because the DVA told me it would get me assigned somewhere OTHER than the capitol so I could stop spending my time babysitting ALL of our nation’s paranoid politicians.” Even as she spoke, Mark was producing a stack of forms from his desk drawer and placing them in front of him.
“You will be getting out of D.C. anyways, so no worries on that front.” Registering the surprised silence from the Hero the DVA agent offered a wide smile at having finally managed to shock the woman instead of the other way around. “You haven’t heard? The Senate lost six of their own to this Oversight shitstorm so far, and a majority seem to be aligning into a very ‘us vs them’ mentality with regard to the Overton HCP right now. Your popularity with the ruling elite has been replaced with paranoia, so they are happy to see you assigned elsewhere for the time being.” A sheet of paper was slid across the desk towards the waiting Hero.
“This is official? No more following the politicians around?”
“As long as you make sure to remove yourself SUBSTANTIALLY from the capitol area, effective as soon as possible. I hear that Seattle is nice this time of year.”
“You want me on the other side of the country?” Mirror stood as she carefully examined the sheet of paper. All the seals, signatures, and legal text seemed in order. BOTH of her special DVA assignments were officially ended. “That’s not a bad idea, though I think I might want to hang out somewhere warmer than the Northwest once summer’s over.”
“Oh? California maybe?”
“Actually I was thinking Texas is pretty nice in the winter.”
Fiery, burning agony. An entire world subsumed by a sea of never ending pain. And then, strangely, it was the absence of suffering that pulled the man free from the blanket of unconsciousness. One eye cracked slowly open, followed by the other. A dimly illuminated concrete ceiling stared back down at him, seeming to spin slowly. As more awareness returned, the man noted the oddity that the room seemed to continue its lazy spin. Drugs, someone drugged me.
The first several attempt to roll his head to the side met resistance, and finally led to the conclusion that he was strapped quite thoroughly in place. And that whatever it was pouring through his system was doing an excellent job of keeping him too unfocused and weak to use his abilities to escape.
Straining for even a small view of his surrounding, the man strapped to the large metal table managed to make out no fewer than six IV bags hanging from racks on both sides of him. Clear plastic lines leading from each bag showing the steady dripping of whatever chemical cocktail was being fed into him involved ALL the bags at once. Before he could attempt any further reconnaissance, a human figure materialized in the room next to the restrained man’s head.
“Oh, lovely, you’re finally awake. We’ve been waiting patiently for quite some time.” The woman was petite with raven hair, deeply tanned skin, and a gorgeous figure.
“This is a little kinkier than I usually go for on a first date, you know.” The man’s lips turned up in a smile as he slurred slightly while speaking, but managed to get the full sentence out. Behind the smile his drug fogged brain raced to try and figure out where he could be and who this woman was. Accent is strange, middle eastern. Turkish?
The woman smiled down at her prisoner in response to his statement, then calmly stabbed a thin scalpel into his shoulder.
“Ah, FUCK! Crazy bitch!”
“And it is lovely to see that your sensitivity to pain appears to be appropriately increased by your treatments. Now is the part where we are going to get some ground rules straight.” The expression on the woman’s face had gone from pleasant smile to pure ice in an instant. “You are a corpse. You were being held in a secure facility in America, and the entire wing was torched when we extracted you. Sufficient traces of your DNA were left behind with a charred cadaver that it should leave no doubt as to your demise. No one is going to come looking for you here, so you have no reason to lie to me or posture. Tell me your name or I am going to stab you again.”
“You’re INSANE, yo-…” Panic flashed in the man’s eyes as he saw the scalpel hovering over his head again. “LEIF! My name is Leif Worley!” The panic ebbed as the scalpel descended out of sight without further pain.
“Excellent, so you are understanding a little bit your situation. Now, to continue with the rules; I am going to ask you questions. You will NOT lie to me or horrible things will happen to you. Observing your answers is a friend of mine who has a very useful ability, she can tell instantly if someone has spoken a falsehood.” The dark haired woman leaned slightly over the restrained man to show the small earpiece she was wearing. “She will tell me if you lie, and then you will suffer. If my ability to inflict pain on you proves insufficient, then I have other friends who are FAR better suited to inflicting agony than I. Do you understand the rules?”
“Where am I? Who are you?”
“You are in a very secret prison. We are nearly four miles underground, and there are no ladders, shafts, lifts, or stairs. The only way in or out is to be teleported, or to dig through miles of stone and dirt. I suppose it might also be possible to somehow crawl through several miles of conduit or air vents, but the widest of those is only three inches and they stretch for many miles farther than the vertical distance. You will answer a question for me now. Who hired you to attempt mass murder of students in Overton?”
“I wasn’t hired to murder anyone, I was just supposed to make sure the robots got where they needed to gOAAAHHH!” The final word broke in a scream as the scalpel landed again in Lief’s arm and twisted.
“My question was who hired you.” There was no emotion in the woman’s voice as she calmly scraped the surgical blade against bone.
“I DON’T KNOW!” A pause, then the pain ebbed again.
“How were you hired?”
“I work through different intermediaries. They have means of making contact anonymously after a prospective contract has been properly vetted. I don’t know who actually paid the bills.”
“I am somewhat surprised that you are already telling the truth, Mr Worley.” The imprisoned man looked up again to meet the cold gaze of the woman looking down at him. “You were stupid enough to enter, with plans to openly assail, a facility containing several active American Heroes. Not to mention dozens of Supers in training to become Heroes. Yet, you seem intelligent enough to not needlessly suffer.”
“Who… WHAT are you?”
The smile that crossed the dark haired woman’s face was decidedly feral as she answered. “I am a Mossad operative, although I must confess since you are being so honest, I am doing this for personal reasons.”
The woman leaned close, and her voice dropped to a whisper. “My name is Dalia Abbott. One of the students you nearly killed completing your contract is my only daughter. I tell you this so that you understand.” The man’s eyes went wide with terror as instead of a scalpel this time, a rusted, jagged blade was produced to rest gently against his bare chest. “You will tell me everything you know. You will work as hard as you can to remember every detail possible. And if you do a VERY good job, I will let you spend the rest of your life living peacefully in this facility. I hope you understand how important it is for you NOT to do a bad job.”
“WASTED!” The shout was accompanied by the sound of shattering glass as a large man wearing a very expensive suit punctuated his anger by hurling a brandy glass into the wall. “So much invested, and its WASTED!”
“Calm down, Patrick.” The quiet voice came from a small, elderly man seated at the head of the expansive marble table that dominated the center of the large conference room. Seated around the table were two additional men and one woman, all dressed at least as expensively as the enraged Patrick.
“You want CALM, Edward? Why should we be CALM?”
“Because screaming and breaking things is not going to accomplish anything you buffoon!” The woman at the table spoke up, her voice coming out like an angry hiss.
“Nothing is wasted, Patrick.” The taller of the two remaining men spoke this time. “We have learned a great deal, and we are going to be able to use what we have learned going forward.”
“Have you all forgotten that Roger is dead?” The remaining man at the table seemed closer to the enraged Patrick’s emotional state than the relative calm being projected by the other three.
“Roger chose that path himself, Lee.” The elderly man at the head of the table spoke again. “He saw an opportunity to shorten our five year plan into a one year opportunity, and if he had not then we likely would have had no warning that those idiot politicians were hatching their OWN schemes that would likely have seen all our investments fall into true ruin.”
“And you expect me to believe you had nothing to do with his death, Edward?” The angrily pacing man managed to return to his seat, although the woman next to him quickly slid the brandy out of his reach as he sat down.
“Roger knew the risks and chose his own way out. Once he had chosen, all I did was work to make sure that he, and he alone, would be implicated in all of the darkest works that had already been accomplished.”
“And that’s supposed to make it alright?” The man identified as Lee practically spat at the older man. “This HCP at Overton is supposed to be the weakest link in the chain, and with a combined total of over a hundred million sunk into this project all we can say is that we haven’t FAILED yet and one of our own is DEAD!”
“Please, Lee, do us all a favor and JOIN Roger, won’t you?” The hissing female voice snapped the younger man’s attention back across the table, but the woman continued before he could retort. “You are actually stupid enough to believe the propaganda that WE created? There is no such thing as a truly weak link in the HCP, at least not one that could be seen from outside their secrecy. We worked very hard to create the illusion of incompetence, and apparently we did our job too well as some of our own are FALLING FOR IT!”
“Enough, Joyce. The point is made.”
“No, it isn’t Harvin.” The woman rounded on the tall man across from her. “This fool is going to cost us everything unle-…”
“Joyce,” the interruption from the man at the head of the table immediately silenced the woman, “Harvin is right. We need to begin planning our way forward with what we have learned, not continuing to assign blame and bicker amongst ourselves.”
“And what have we learned?” The belligerent tone from the large Patrick was heavy with condescension. “Tell us, oh great and wise ones.”
“We learned that the HCP at Overton has some extremely effective local political connections. We learned that the layers of subtlety that would be sufficient with most of our enemies is not enough to fully mislead Heroes when responding to a direct attack.” The quiet Harvin answered Patrick’s rhetorical question. “We have also positively identified almost a dozen students in the HCP, so we can begin to look for indirect means of attacking them.”
“When did we get confirmation?” The small Lee looked suddenly interested in the content of the discussion again.
“There are at least four outside investigations going on regarding the events that Roger set in motion for the final day of Overton’s last school year. With that many different government agencies reviewing evidence, it is much easier for someone working for us to gain access.” The expressions around the table seemed to shift universally towards predatory smiles.
“So what IS our plan going forward?” The belligerent tone had gone out of the large man’s voice.
“For now, our plan will be to observe. We must expect that after such a blatant assault on their program, all of the HCP faculty AND students will be on high guard.” The oldest man at the table steepled his fingers in front of himself as he spoke. “We will be exceedingly subtle, and we will attempt to convince our opponents that they have proven victorious in this.”
“And then?” The question came from the other four at the table nearly simultaneously.
“And then, we take all the information we have gathered, determine where the students and faculty are the softest, and find a way to hit them that will never trace back to us as Roger’s folly did. Hit them swiftly and hard enough to ensure that they break.”