The next day at school, it occurred to me that I should have been more scared after receiving that message.
I can’t say that I wasn’t scared at all, but I didn’t freak out. Marcus and I called Isaac Lim, and the FBI traced the call to a payphone somewhere near Nashville. It surprised me that Prime could even find a payphone.
I mean, seriously, who uses them?
When I explained why we wanted the trace done, Isaac wanted to hear the call himself, and told us that he’d look into getting us some help. I almost told him not to worry about it.
Apparently, I was getting used to the idea that people wanted to kill me.
Well, that was one possibility, the other was that I might be relying too much on Lee’s assessment of danger. He hadn’t thought much of the professionalism of the Cabal or the little that was left of them. On the other hand, he’d been impressed by the Executioner (or the team that portrayed him).
So anyway, that’s the sort of thing that was going through my head during the special assembly for graduating seniors (only). Which was okay because it was largely a waste of time. We all gathered in the auditorium after first period, filling only the center section because we only had a quarter of the school there.
It lasted for an hour.
The principal, Dr. Williams, talked about his memories of our class, conversations he’d had with parents, how we’d all grown over the last four years, how we’d remember this time with fondness for the rest of our lives, and that even the people in our class that we didn’t like now would be friends in the future because they’d shared this moment with us.
After he finished, Assistant Principal Sledge went up to the podium, and talked about the importance of filling out the graduation paperwork that went home with us the night before. It included ordering our robes, the way we wanted our names to appear on our diplomas, signing up for the senior trip, and signing up for the post-graduation party.
So again, largely a waste of time.
I spent the largest part of the assembly speculating as to why Prime had called us to let us know he was coming. Surprising us seemed like the better strategy. Of course, they’d tried that twice already, and it hadn’t worked.
If I remembered my world history class correctly, the Roman Empire’s army had been full of barbarians by the end. Maybe Prime had been one of them? Directly challenging somebody seemed like the sort of thing a barbarian might do. Of course, leaving the challenge as a voice mail sounded like something from a Monty Python skit.
If Prime were immortal, it could mean he hadn’t adjusted very well to the modern age. On the other hand, an immortal would to have centuries of experience with people to draw from. He might be using it.
In the end, I decided I didn’t have enough data to make a good guess.
When Mr. Sledge stopped, I left with everyone else, walking with Cassie and Kayla. Thanks to alphabetically assigned seating (Nick Klein, Kayla Ketchem, Cassie Kowalski), we were all near each other anyway.
“Ready to be out of here?” Cassie stepped between Kayla and I and put her arms around our shoulders.
“I can’t believe it’s almost over,” Kayla said. “I feel like our class just started to come together.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I feel like I’ve barely been here this year.”
Cassie laughed. “I believe you. You zoned out for the entire assembly.” Then more quietly, she said, “Anything important?”
“Ask me after school.”
Kayla didn’t say anything.
After we got back into the hall, I left them, and headed to my locker.
The halls were empty except for seniors and senior homeroom teachers. Everyone else was still in class. I passed Sean’s locker. It was only a few down from mine. He stood there, hanging onto the open door, and not moving, staring inside.
I wondered if I’d been that obviously out of it during the assembly.
I half-expected him to notice me, and ask me what I was looking at, or possibly give me the finger.
He didn’t. Dayton came up, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, still upset?”
Sean turned around, frowning as he noticed me, and said, “Not here. After school.”
I knew what I wanted to talk about after school. What did he want to talk about?
Fortunately, death threats have a way of focusing the mind, and I’d come to school more prepared than usual. I’d worn the stealth suit under my clothes, and carried a bunch of roachbots with their PSP shaped controller in my backpack.
During study hall, my last class of the day, I texted Cassie, telling her to wait for me because I might not come out immediately.
Once I got out, I made a beeline for my locker, got out the PSP, and sent out a few roachbots around the school. It took a couple minutes, but I did find Sean. Instead of talking with Dayton, he’d gone into Mr. Beacham’s room. He’d shut the door behind him, but the roachbot fit underneath it.
I sent in two. Then I started walking, backpack on my back, earphones in my ears, and pretending to be more interested in a video game than where I was going.
“… I don’t know who he was, but he called my house last night,” Sean said.
Mr. Beacham and he stood talking in front of Mr. Beacham’s desk. The roachbot gave me a good view of the “I Have a Dream” speech poster, and the chalkboard.
“He knows where I live. He looked it up in the phone book, and he told me if I got into his business again, he’d kill me. Now what am I supposed to do?”
Mr. Beacham checked outside. “I’d call the police, or maybe the FBI.”
“They can’t do anything. You know they can’t do anything. They just die when supers come to town.”
“Then call the Heroes League. Teenagers or not, they seem to know what they’re doing.”
“But I thought you didn’t like secret identities, and inherited powers. I thought it sounded like feudalism to you. You said you wanted supers to be public and accountable.”
“I did. Sean, I’m a teacher. It’s my job to teach you, and maybe in the future, you can change how the world works. For now, you need to work with what’s here.”
Sean clenched his fists as Mr. Beacham talked, and when he stopped, Sean started shouting.
“But they don’t like me, and they’re not going to help me. I’m public because you said it was the right thing to do, and I’m going to die, and it’s all your fault!”
The plastic paperclip box on Mr. Beacham’s desk fell over, and metal paperclips spread across it, pointing in Sean’s direction.
Sean looked down at the mess, making a wordless noise, and left, slamming the door behind him.
The roachbot’s signal blinked out for a moment as he walked under it, but then reconnected, much to my relief.
As Mr. Beacham took a deep breath, I wondered if Prime had been trying to provoke reactions like Sean’s.