“Now,” he said, “the first two years will be mostly classes, but in the third year your classes will include internships with nearby superheroes or superhero teams. The summers starting in your second year will all be intense physical training, and—”
The sound of someone clearing her throat sounded, audible everywhere in the conference room, but not unbearably loud. Just as obviously, it hadn’t come from the speakers near the front of the room.
Turning my head back, I saw a woman standing in the middle of the room. She held her hand up. “Excuse me?”
“I’d planned to take questions later, but go ahead.”
“Oh…” She paused, looked down for a second. “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with this.”
Bullet frowned at her. “With what? And please identify yourself.”
She wasn’t holding her hand up any longer, but she was still standing. I got a better look at her, and realized I knew her. Even half a room away, I could tell that she was over six feet tall with light brown skin, and waist length, black hair. A long sleeved blouse hid her muscles.
The last time I’d seen her, she’d been part of a team of the grandchildren of supervillains who’d faced the original League. Her grandfather (or father?) had been Dixie Superman, a white supremacist from an alternate universe where post-Civil War Reconstruction had turned into a more than hundred year long occupation.
A few seats down the row, Jaclyn glanced at me. She remembered her too.
“I’m Izzy… uh… Isabel Ivarra. I don’t have a costumed identity yet.”
“Go on.” Bullet didn’t sound patient.
“I’m not comfortable with the way this sounds. The way you’re talking it’s as if we’re going to be hunting people down whether they’ve done anything wrong or not. What happens to them after we find them? Do we kill them, send them home, or keep them in a big concentration camp?
“If all we’re going to be are super-powered enforcers, I’m not staying. You can keep your scholarship. I’m going home.”
I didn’t catch the words, but people began to talk when she said that. Bullet held up his hand to stop the noise.
“Wait. It’s more complicated than that. Where did you get that idea?”
“You. Your tone. You’re basically saying ‘Kill them all. The only good alien is a dead alien.’”
She’d sounded nervous when she started, but she’d worked up a good head of steam as she talked. I knew I wouldn’t have said it quite that way.
Bullet shook his head. “That’s not how I meant it.” He looked down at his notes. “I was going to talk about this later, but since you’ve asked, we need to get this on the table now.
“We can’t kill them all. We aren’t even going to try. So far as we can tell, the first appearance of the genetic structures that give us powers comes after the Abominators appeared on Earth. Even though they tried to keep our genetic pool uncontaminated by the finished versions of the humans they modified, it didn’t work. Their work has been coming back here for years, and leaving descendants. Plus when the Abominators tried to hide from the Xiniti here, they released even more genes into our gene pool.
“If you have powers, and they’re not magical, you’re probably a product of the Abominators’ work. They never intended for you to exist. They never imagined their work combining in this way, but here we all are.
“Now, if you’re wondering why we’re so focused on the aliens around us in this program, it’s because their influence is so pervasive. The Cabal—the group that a lot of heroes fought last year—shows evidence of coordinating with aliens. The Nine have been collecting Abominator artifacts for years, and we think their organization may have been infiltrated. I’m not going to go into detail about why we think that, but we’ve got good reason.”
Bullet stopped, and nodded at all of us. “I hope I’ve answered your concerns, Isabel, and I hope that all of you understand why we haven’t let this out to the press, and why we had telepaths put security blocks into your heads before you even filled out the paperwork to attend.”
Telepaths. That had been a pain. The man assigned to put in my block freaked out, and by the end, we’d had to bring in Daniel and his dad to get anything done. As I understood it, they’d had to do that for all the League and former Justice Fist members—something else for Sean to hold against me if he wanted to, I supposed.
The rest of the time, Bullet talked about all the stuff you’d have expected—program requirements, details about how many classes you’d have to take to finish—that kind of thing.
I barely listened. I wondered if anyone was. From what we’d just heard, the Abominators were responsible for everything related to powers. You could see why they didn’t want it to get out. Of course, with the security block, it wasn’t as if we’d be able to tell anybody.
When the talk ended, I got up in a daze, still thinking about all of it. Following everyone out, we walked into the hall. A few groups of people stood talking, but most of us started walking back to the lobby. We still had to get our room keys.
I found myself next to Daniel, Cassie, and Vaughn.
“Talk about crazy,” Vaughn said. And then he opened his mouth, but said nothing.
“Whoa,” he said, “that’s quite a block.”
I agreed, but I didn’t say anything. I’d noticed Isabel walking a few feet ahead of us.