I had to admit he made sense, but I couldn’t say I liked it.
When push came to shove, I didn’t want Sean to go to jail for killing Ray. You could argue that Ray’s standard operating procedure was driving people past what they could emotionally handle, and then killing them while they were too tortured to think straight.
It didn’t take much to see that if your strategy was based on giving people an irrational need to kill you, it could come back to bite you someday. Sean just happened to be the biter.
And anyway, if Sean kept on trying to be a hero, he needed more help than I wanted to give him. Plus, even if I wasn’t wild about him getting into the Stapledon program, it could have been worse. Mr. Cohen might have wanted us to bring him into the League.
“OK,” I said. “That’s all I wanted to talk about. I guess having him in the program would be better than just leaving him to figure things out for himself.”
“On the other hand, if he goes bad after going through the program, he might actually become competent.”
Mr. Cohen gave me a brief, and slightly uncomfortable smile. “I know. We’ll be watching.”
He stood up, and so did I. He held out his hand. I shook it.
“Think about joining Stapledon, Nick. It’s less Army Reserves than it’s ROTC. You’ll be taught what you need to know about being a superhero, make connections within the community, and you’ll have the chance to study things you’ll never see at a university.”
“Alien technology. The history that hasn’t made it into the textbooks because it’s still too secret. That kind of thing. And you’ll probably see some action too. Not all of it on Earth.”
I thought about that.
Isaac Lim had hinted I might get to find out more about what they were doing in space if I signed up.
“Who’s behind it? I’m assuming the government, but who?”
“Various agencies. They’ve all found useful people through it, but not just the government. Some supers and their teams have money. We provide about half the budget.”
“What’s the catch? You’re providing free tuition, but even in ROTC don’t you have to sign up after that?”
“You’ll have to be on call throughout college, and for four years after that. Count on being kept busy, but don’t worry about the effect on the rest of your life. We’ll handle it.”
I decided not to ask how. “OK,” I said. “I’ll think about it.”
Daniel’s brother and sister were still watching TV, but Daniel stood behind the couch, turning his head toward me as I walked out of his dad’s office.
I walked over toward him. “I didn’t know you were going into the Stapledon program.”
“I couldn’t do anything else. It seems like my dad’s their main recruiter.”
Daniel shook his head. “Not really, but since joining the Midwest Defenders he’s been involved. I think he’s talked to everyone in Justice Fist by now. They’re not all going into the main program. I think some of them are going into the affiliated programs for people who don’t intend to be vigilantes. The main program’s for people who have gone out and actively fought people.”
“Huh. I don’t think of myself as a vigilante. I’ve been training because it seems like everyone and his dog has been going out of their way to come here, and beat up on us.”
“And along the way you’ve been in more fights than some people get into in years.”
We looked at each other. Then Daniel said, “Let’s go upstairs and call Cassie. We should do something fun this summer.”
“Assuming we can fit it in between fighting random psychos…”
We walked up the stairs, coming out in the hallway near the kitchen.
Daniel’s grandfather stood in the kitchen. He wore a blue suit which seemed a bit formal for being at home in early July. On the other hand, given his dementia, they were probably grateful that he wore clothes at all.
Dishes covered the counter. They weren’t broken. They’d been carefully stacked. Even as we stepped closer, another stack of bowls floated out of a cupboard door, landing softly next to the large plates.
“Hello Nick,” he said. “Hello Daniel.”
He knew my name for a change.
“Grandpa,” Daniel said, “what are you doing with the dishes?”
“Practicing. If you want to improve your fine manipulation skills, you need to practice.”
A plate floated back toward the cupboard, and the door swung open. The plate floated inside, and the door shut behind it.
“Grandpa, maybe I should put them back. I need practice too, don’t I?” Daniel’s voice remained level.
In my head, he said, I just called my dad.
“I’ll try this time,” he said aloud.
The cupboard door opened again, and a stack of plates floated back where it belonged.
Ignoring the plates, Daniel’s grandfather stepped toward me, and held out his hand.
It felt warm, if wrinkled.
“The power device. It’s dangerous. Destroy it,” he told me.
As he let go of my hand, i asked, “Do you mean the Power Impregnator?”
He didn’t say anything, and opened a drawer. It was filled with boxes of sheeting–aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper..
That was going to be a mess, I thought, but then the basement door opened.
Daniel’s father stepped out. Speaking to Daniel’s grandfather, he said, “Dad, why don’t we go into the living room and talk.”
In my mind, he said, Nick, Daniel, why don’t you go outside. This will be easier without distractions.