It took Professor Stone relatively little time to restore Stella’s memories. More of that evening was taken up by tests in the Lander medical clinic, where they attempted to determine how those memories had come back in the first place. The DVA staff and doctors had theories about how Stella should be classified a ‘ferro-mimetic’ rather than a shifter, as she could convert some or all of her body into a different substance, and how changing her neurons to and from metal over and over again must have caused her synapses to reform.
At the end of the very long day Stella was exhausted, and neither she nor any of the staff at Lander had any real clue as to what had happened, or why.
Stella was tempted to track down old friends and acquaintances. Instead, she went back to her small studio apartment just off campus. By the time it was all over, even with the teleportation from the East Coast to the West Coast effectively moving her back in time three hours, it was late evening.
The rest of Stella’s VCS intervention team had been cornered by Dean Blaine to give a talk to the current class of Juniors on the next day; normally something that VCS agents didn’t have time to do. Miriam, Tiffany, and Gerald had been put up in a nice hotel at Lander’s expense.
The next day found Stella in her one clean set of professional clothes still in California. The set she’d been wearing yesterday were still in the DVA headquarters; in a locker in the gym. She was surprised to find that the workout clothes she’d been given yesterday were still intact. Obviously, they’d been made of a material that could take the abuse of supers in combat. She’d just finished that blessed first cup of coffee when there was a sharp knock at her door. A quick glance through the peephole showed Miriam and Tiffany on the other side, which explained how they’d gotten past the security door without Stella buzzing them in; Tiffany was a teleporter after all.
Tiffany raised an eyebrow upon entering Stella’s small studio apartment. “Girl. How can you live like this? I’ve seen cleaner dumpsters!”
“Hush Tiff,” said Miriam. “This is America, and if someone wants to live like this, they have that right.”
“You both sound like my old roommates.”
“So you want the memories gone after all then?”
“No! They were good friends, but they just rode me too much if I happened to leave some clothes lying around.”
“You know Stella,” said Tiffany. “I ain’t even going to go there. You ready to go back to your old school?”
“I guess, how are we…”
And suddenly Stella, Tiffany, and Miriam were in the main training gym of Lander.
Stella fought a sudden burst of vertigo. “Woah, you need to warn me next time.”
The other woman smiled. “Sorry. The rest of the team is used to me. Let’s go hunt down Gerald and see if he’s recovered from his fights by now.”
“He was top of his class,” Tiffany said. “ He figured he was good enough to never have to kill anyone, but the HCP beat that out of him. He got a good way through hero training before he dropped out. He still likes a good fight, even if he can’t remember his time in the HCP like you can. I never could figure out why he’s not on a super sports league team, or working for a PEERS team.”
“He likes his privacy too much,” said Miriam. “And he’s got his own reasons. He’s really just a big softy under all that grouchiness.”
“But damn he can fight,” said Tiffany. “Glad I never bothered trying for HCP.”
Stella was confused, “I thought you said you only recruited HCP dropouts?”
“We have to make an exception for teleporters and healers,” Miriam said. “They’re a common enough type of super, but their skills are in high demand, and supers are still rare. Let’s go track down Gerald, give our little talk, and get out of here. The other three teams are probably going mad taking up our workload.”
Later, a class of Juniors, and some Seniors, gathered in the Lander gym for the threatened presentation. Stella found herself greeted, if somewhat cautiously, by some of her former classmates, and subjected to a crushing hug by a few others. Once the crowd of students and staff had settled, Dean Blaine strode up to the podium.
“I think everyone’s heard by now, but I want to make sure all the facts of what’s happened in the last couple of days are known. Rarely, we have a student leave the HCP whose abilities make them immune to having their memories removed. Even more rarely, the wipes fade over time, though in this case I’m happy to say that this will not present any problems for the Junior or Senior classes who know Stella Hawkins.”
There was a stirring in the crowd, as if some of the students weren’t sure they agreed with the dean. “I know what some of you may be thinking, and we did indeed decide to drop Miss Hawkins from the program in part due to her impulse control issues, and when former students recover their memories of potential future heroes it is considered a serious issue. But Stella is now a full agent of the DVA, and is under severe confidentiality and secrecy agreements. Any indiscretion on her part would result in the most severe penalties.
“As to why these other three people are here. Stella Hawkins has managed to land in an unusual place in our world. She’s now a member of an intervention team for the DVA’s department of Variant Child Services. Many of you have had incidents early in your life that put you in contact with VCS agents, and you will probably run into them when you work as heroes.
“Normally, they’re too busy during the school year to have time to talk at each of the HCP campuses, but Agents Foster, King, Jones, and Hawkins have agreed to offer us some of their valuable time while they’re here.”
Miriam bustled up to the podium and smiled at the small crowd. “Hello students! I know a few of you remember me from incidents over the past decade or so, but for those of you who’ve had uneventful lives we at the VCS department are social workers for powered and super children. The department is fairly large, but as heroes you’ll only encounter one of our intervention teams. We also train DVA staff assigned to hero teams to make sure they know how to handle situations involving children, though if all goes well, you never encounter us at all.
“Normally, you’ll be involved with a VCS intervention team when we call for help. Each of our teams has a guardian, which in our team is now Agent Hawkins, and a controller like Agent Jones, to help keep us safe. However, they are not authorized to involve themselves in fights past a certain point. From time to time, a situation will spiral out of control, and we’ll have to call for backup. Normally this occurs when a parent or child with unusually potent abilities gets violent. All four of the VCS teams consist of four highly trained supers, so when you hear the call for help from us, be prepared for it to be a threat of at least Demolition class.
“Many of you are aware of what Agent Hawkins can do, having fought her during her time as a student. And some of you had some bouts with Agent Jones, so you should be aware that we are no pushovers. A few of us were even fully licensed heroes for a time. Any incident that we cannot quickly defuse ourselves is going to be a major problem. I and the other three team leads are privileged to have access to Dispatch, and she assigns a high priority to our calls.”
Miriam carried on talking for a full thirty minutes, outlining the sad story of the girl from Kansas that prompted the creation of the VCS department, and described a few cases from her team’s history where they’d had to call on help from teams of heroes. Then she opened it up to questions. The first of which was from Alice Adair.
“You said that you might call us, but when should we call you? There must be a lot of kids that need your help and never get it.”
“A very good question,” said Miriam. “The sad reality is that this is a country of hundreds of millions of people with many tens of thousands of powereds and supers. Some are going to slip through the cracks, which is why we have a large staff of social workers and researchers who work out of DVA headquarters. We also maintain close relationships with other agencies, and those of you in the subtlety program will probably be contacted by one of our analysts early in your career. Any time you encounter a child just coming into their powers that might be in a bad place please let us know.”
Miriam called on another student with a raised hand. A Junior that Stella didn’t recognize. “What can you do when children actively avoid contact with the authorities?”
“If their powers or situations assist them in avoiding interaction with the schools and other public agencies they usually never encounter us at all. It’s difficult enough to assist a human that doesn’t want help, when someone can read minds or teleport it can become impossible. That almost always ends badly. As often as not, those are the kids that grow into adults you’ll be fighting as heroes.”
The question and answer session continued on for some time, but Stella tuned it out. Being here, in Lander’s HCP campus, made her realize that the professors had made the correct decision. She didn’t feel like she’d returned to a place where she belonged. Eventually, Miriam and the Dean called an end to the presentation, and the whole team returned to DVA headquarters by early afternoon East Coast time to help the other teams file their reports.