Ms. Hemming waved me into her office. “Take a chair.”
She shut the door behind me, as I walked inside. Pikes Peak rose among the mountains viewable from her windows.
I sat down in one of the chairs across from her desk. Unlike every therapist’s office I’d seen in cartoons, it did not have a couch–not that I expected to see one. My dad was a clinical psychologist. He didn’t have a couch.
Her office had been carved out of the rock by Earthmover’s mind and included bookshelves. They’d been cut out of the rock too, but were almost entirely empty. One half shelf held books.
I supposed that they might not have planned to hire as many psychologists as they needed. As crazy as it seemed, the Hrrrnna had attacked Earth only a month or two ago, and the Stapledon program’s expansion probably only included psychologists as an afterthought.
Regardless, between the sunlight and the view, it felt comfortable.
Ms. Hemming sat down behind her desk, giving me a smile, and picking up a folder. As she opened it, she said, “I know you’ve gone to a couple group sessions by now, so some of the questions I’m about to ask might seem redundant, but remember, I haven’t heard you talk about them before.”
“Sure,” I said.
“Good,” she said, nodding. “How did you come to be in Stapledon?”
“In a roundabout way because of my grandfather. I’m guessing you know he was the Rocket?”
“Okay. Well, he left me everything I needed to be a superhero, and I helped my friends handle some problems. That made me and my friends eligible for the Stapledon program as it was then–which was basically a way to train and educate people who were already acting as vigilantes anyway.”
She’d pulled out a notebook as I talked, and jotted something down. “I’ve read reports on what you did prior to being recruited for the program. What appealed to you about being a vigilante?”
That was a question. I couldn’t say it made a lot of sense, but it was a question.
“Um… Nothing. I don’t have any kind of burning need to dispense justice. Look, most of the early stuff we did was to keep from dying. The Cabal was collecting information on us, and so we did what we needed to find out who they were, and survive meeting them.”
She wrote a little more. “But you could have handed off everything to the Midwest Defenders. You chose to keep it to yourself.”
I shook my head. “Not really. We brought adults in, but we didn’t have enough information to hand it off when we fought the Mayor. Later, when we fought the remnants of the Cabal when they teamed up with the Executioner, well… That was more complicated. We didn’t know we were fighting them at first, and when we did we brought in adults.”
She looked up from writing. “But you still stayed involved.”
“Unless we wanted to run for our lives there wasn’t any way to avoid being involved. They were after us, and if we ever wanted to live in Grand Lake again, we didn’t have a choice.”
Ms. Hemming put down the notebook. “And after that?”
I thought about we did after that–Evil Beatnik, saving St. Louis, the attack by the Hrrnna, and the time we rescued Cassie from the Nine.
“Well, there are still a lot of times where we weren’t so much acting to save civilians as we were acting to save ourselves or one of our team members. Granted there are exceptions to that. We went to St. Louis, and there we really did save civilians, but that was one of those things. We had the ability to save them, and no one else did.
“I don’t see that as a superhero thing as much as simply the right thing to do. You don’t let people die if you have the power to stop it from happening. So, I mean, getting back to your first question, there’s nothing that appeals to me about being a vigilante. Occasionally though, when I’m not dealing with people who are trying to kill me for one reason or another, I notice that people need help, and then I help.”
We talked about other aspects of the program after that, finally turning to the fight in New York and on Manhattan island.
She looked up from her notepad, asking, “How did the fight make you feel?”
I looked at her, thinking about it. “I didn’t feel much. At different points, I felt scared and sometimes relieved, but mostly feelings were the furthest thing from my mind. I kept my mind on the next step, whatever we all had to do to stop the aliens from winning.”
She nodded. “My notes say that you killed a Xiniti and other aliens as well. Do you often find yourself thinking about that?”
I considered it. “Not really. I did right afterward, but not very hard. They were all in armor, so I couldn’t see their faces, and so that looked very similar. It was almost like fighting robots. They didn’t seem like real people. I thought about the Xiniti a little more because there was only one. He wasn’t human at all though.”
She kept on writing notes. “You can say more about that if there’s more to say.”
“I don’t think there is. I expected more guilt if I ever had to kill something, but I haven’t felt any. Maybe it’s still coming. Maybe it was all too weird for me to feel like they were real. I don’t know.”
She looked up. “Is there anything about the battle that does come back to you?”
“Not really. I have had dreams about being on the mothership as it was going down, but not lately. I’ve also had the occasional flashback to being on the ship, but not for a few weeks now. My last one was not long after I arrived here. I wonder why they stopped?”
“These things fade over time. You might have gotten over it. You might not have encountered any triggers lately. Try to be aware of it if you do.”