“Twas the night before Christmas,” Hope read from an old children’s book. “And all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not even a mouse.”
Allison smiled at the emotions she felt from Hope when she read those words, “Why are you reading this?”
“It’s a tradition in my family. Well, kind of. When I was a child my Grandma would read it to me every Christmas Eve. And after she passed away I kept doing it. Although my mother just humored me; she didn’t care and my dad left not too long after that anyways, so it was pretty much just me reading it to myself, although I like to think my Grandma can hear it too. Now be quiet, good parts coming.
“The stocking were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
“Or in our case, hung on an entertainment system over the tv, playing the image of a yule log,” Allison interrupted again.
Hope smiled and continued, “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their head. And mama in her ‘kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter’s nap. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter…” no sooner had she finished those words then a loud sound could be heard from the backyard causing both girls to jump.
“What was that?” Allison whisper-yelled.
“I don’t know,” Hope said and got up to head towards the French doors. They looked out onto the backyard, and with the moon shining on the new-fallen snow, it gave the luster of mid-day, clearly showing nothing back there and no disturbances to the snow. “It’s nothing,” Hope said to reassure Allison as much as herself. “Let’s finish up the story so we can get to bed.”
After a few more pages she got to the part that went, “And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof. The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.” And they heard it. At first they thought the story and the weird sound had them hearing things, but once it was clear that they were both hearing it and that it was clearly coming from the roof. They just couldn’t ignore it anymore.
“What is that!?” Allison nearly yelled, more panicked than before.
“I don’t know. Can you sense anyone?”
“Not on the roof,” Allison said.
“Could it be an animal?” Hope asked.
“Like a reindeer?” Allison asked only half joking, since there were supers who could mimic the things Santa did and it’d be a good HCP joke. Yet with the attack so recent, nobody would be stupid enough to risk sneaking up on a super like that. “No, I can usually get a little something from animals. There’s nothing.”
“Should we call for help?”
“My phone and my emergency watch are upstairs.”
“Yeah, mine too. Is Carter here?”
“No he left early this morning,” Allison said.
“What do we do then?”
“We have two options. Either we go and get our phones, or we go and investigate.” All the while the sound of someone/something moving around was getting more persistent.
“It’s not really an option though. Even if we plan to investigate ourselves, we’re going to need phones to report our findings. So I think we need to get to one of our room quickly, but quietly and go from there,” Hope said taking silent steps towards the stairs while clutching Allison’s hand. Hope’s head was on a swivel as they crept up the stairs. Every time another little sound came from the roof they picked up there pace a little.
Hope’s room was slightly closer, so they turned into it as soon as they could and rushed towards her nightstand. The door slammed closed so fast and so loudly that both girls jumped and screamed in a manner that they would not be telling anyone in hero training about, ever. Hope dove for the watch, but the power went out and she instead knocked it over the edge. Hope hated the morning sun, so she had thick curtains and it now made the room beyond dark now. Hope pawed for her phone with one hand and clutched Allison with the other.
Finally, she got her phone in hand and flicked it, giving her a little light which she would have loved to hold over her head and push back the darkness. But she had to find the watch. She practically threw the nightstand out of way, but she found it lying against the wall. She grabbed it and didn’t give it a second thought; mashing the button as hard as possible and she just kept it pressed.
It felt like forever, yet it was only 23 seconds. And two seconds before the dean’s portal opened the lights came back on and found the girls hugging each other tightly.
“What!?” the dean yelled before he’d even finished stepping through his portal. The look on the girl’s faces convinced him quickly that it wasn’t a false alarm and he went on guard fast. He didn’t bring back-up and he didn’t have the most offensive power, so he was cautious as he stepped into the room. “Let’s go,” he told them. They caught on quickly and rushed back the way he’d come, right into his bedroom. Which would have been beyond odd under any other circumstance. He followed them and closed the portal behind him. Then he tapped his ear and said, “Connect me to any member of my staff online.” Ten seconds later and he spoke again, “Where are you? Can you help? Copy, one minute.” He then finally turned to the girls and he seemed to relieve where they were, and what they were wearing. While not too sexualized, it was sleepwear and Hope was not shy. He coughed nervously, “tell me what happened, quickly.” They both started talking at once, but Allison stopped and Hope continued. He didn’t ask for any clarification, he simply listened and nodded. He then opened a portal, “Wait in there,” he said. The girls stepped through into his office. “I’ll try not to be too long. Don’t leave that room.” And he closed the portal on them.
They waited for over an hour before another portal finally opened and the dean stepped out with Carter Shields. “What?” Hope asked.
The dean and Carter exchanged a look. “We found…um, some odd things,” the dean said. “So, on the roof…” he had to stop himself. “We found, a sleigh track and hoof prints, experts say…reindeer.” The girls looked as hard as they could for any sign that this was a joke. But the presence of Carter just took it quickly out of the joke category; he had no sense of humor.
“And there is this,” he said walking around his desk and opening his computer, then he turns the monitor around for the girls to see the video from the interior of their house. “This is you scrambling to your room. Two seconds after you enter, the door slams closed. We can’t see who does it, or if you yourselves do it, and then nothing. You said the power went out, but not in the rest of the house. Or if it did the video has been edited more perfectly than anyone has ever seen before. So at this point I would be calling this a prank and punishing you both most severely,” they both were about to start defending themselves, but he held up his hand to stop them. “But there is this,” he says and hits a button changing the view to the front room with the camera focused on the tree. For about five seconds it looks normal and then suddenly a flash of light and under the tree goes from the two presents the girls were going to give each other, to at least twenty different gifts of all sizes.
“What!?” Hope yells at the screen. “What was that?”
The dean once again looks at Carter for support, but he stays quiet. “I don’t know,” and suddenly he looks very tired. “We took the gifts to a secure location and they’ll be x-rayed and scanned and examined by every method we can conceive and then they’ll probably be destroyed.”
“What about the gifts we got for each other?” Hope asked.
“Likely destroyed as well. Submit a receipt and we’ll reimburse you. That’s the best I can do.”
“What if they were from Santa?” Allison actual asked in a completely serious manner.
“Really?” Carter said; his first words spoken and they were condescending.
“Why not? With all the theories that ancient gods and fairies and witches were actually supers. Why not Santa?” Nobody answered, either because they didn’t want to ruin her Christmas anymore, or they were considering the possibility.
“No!” Carter said. “It’s an attack, or a prank, or something else…” he said trying to convince himself more than the others.
“What do we do now?” Hope asked.
“About what?” the dean asked her.
“Our house. Is it safe?” she asked.
“As safe as it was yesterday,” the dean said. “The teleporter still has the ability to go almost anywhere, and that still includes your house. Plus this could still be unrelated.”
“You don’t believe that?” Allison asked, sensing his emotions.
“No, I don’t. The timing, the flash of bright light, the messing with the house’s systems…it all sounds like the teleporter’s M.O.”
“What do you mean about the timing, and why are you feeling conflicted?” Allison asked.
The dean looked at Carter for support once again, “I wasn’t going to tell you all until after the break, but it seems you need to know.
“The teleporter,” he paused. This didn’t seem very easy for him, “she, attacked isn’t really the right word, but anyways, Tony was visiting his mother in prison and she appeared. Then, for reasons I can’t discuss with you,” he paused again and took a breath. “He’s been expelled.”
“What!?” Both Allison and Hope yelled and then broke down into questions and complaining.
“Sorry,” was all the dean could say. “I tried everything to protect him, but it wasn’t enough.”
“…I don’t know what to say here,” Allison said, “Do we get to say good-bye?” She asked holding back a tear.
“No. Tony has already had his memories wiped.”
“Wiped!? What does that mean?” Hope yelled.
“The names and faces of anyone associated with the program. The locations of the entrances to the complex. The address of this house. He’ll still have all his classes and human connections, all the workouts and ethics classes, he’ll keep those experiences. The specific are really hard to explain if you’ve never felt it. And Tony may be coming back to Sizemore and if he does, then you have the right to reintroduce yourself to him, but he can’t and won’t be coming and looking for you.”
“He’s coming back to school here?’ Allison asked.
“Usually we discourage students from returning because it is that much harder to see things you really can’t remember, but since I’m pretty upset about this decision, I suggested he should return and it will piss off some people, so, win-win. Of course he may not come back, that’s his prerogative, but I think he has reason to return.”
“El?” Allison asked sensing what the dean was feeling.
“Yes, I think so.” He said.
“Well, that’s something as least,” Hope said. “Are you going to tell the others?”
“I wasn’t even going to tell you two until it was closer to the new semester. But, I guess now I should inform them about both incidences and I suppose I’ll have to talk with the DVA once again. You all sure know how to make my life interesting.”
“I’m sorry if we’re more trouble than we’re worth,” Allison said.
“Nonsense. I can see Heroes in all of you and that’s always worth the paperwork.”