Sean didn’t have any real reason to be bothered. It wasn’t as if everyone worshiped me or something. I knew people, you know? Some I knew better than others. Some I liked better than others.
I’d met a lot of supers without ever trying to, and I’m pretty inoffensive, so no one had anything much against me.
I could see where it might be a comedown for him though. He was pretty popular in high school.
It probably wouldn’t last. He was good looking, and even charming from what I’d been told. I’d never noticed it myself.
The only way people wouldn’t like him was if I made a point of telling people what he was like in high school, and I wasn’t going to. Why not let both of us get a fresh start?
Of course, if he generally treated girls like he’d tried to treat Haley, I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors by keeping silent.
Still, he might have changed. I could tell myself that anyhow. So, I decided not to say anything unless he gave me a reason.
We weren’t in the air for long. They didn’t even give us the chance to get out of our seats before the captain announced that we’d be landing at O’Hare in Chicago.
When we got to Chicago, they herded us into tour buses, and they brought us to a hotel somewhere in the suburbs. The sign identified it as “Springhill Suites.” The Kennedy Expressway ran behind it. It stood on a four lane road near other hotels, a couple pizza places, and a Hooters (which got a few laughs).
The hotel itself didn’t do much for me. It stood ten stories high, and was divided into two sections. One looked newer than the other, but both weren’t much more than gray concrete and glass.
Oh, and one other thing… The first floor was an Outback Steakhouse.
I guess what I’m getting at here was that they’d brought us to a large and exciting city, and stuck us in the least interesting spot they could manage.
I did notice that aside from our buses, the parking lot stood empty.
Our bus pulled in front of the main entrance, and a blond man in shades and a suit stepped inside the bus.
“I’d like everybody’s attention. We’ve arrived at the hotel we’ll be at for the week. First year students need to grab your carry-on luggage and follow me to a conference room. Your suitcases will be brought up to your rooms. The rest of you need to pick up your keys at the desk, and you’ll be free until supper.”
We all grabbed our stuff, and followed each other down the aisle. Daniel and I had been sitting next to each other. I waited while he grabbed his backpack.
“Did you see who that was? Did you notice he was on the plane with us?”
Daniel put the backpack on his back, “No, but you did.”
I stared out the bus window at the entrance to the hotel, stunned that I was part of a program that used Bullet as a babysitter. The guy could create cone-shaped force field constructs, some of them as large as planes.
I wondered if the decoy scholarship programs that the government set up had this level of protection.
I doubt it, Daniel said. I’m sure they’ve got some, but I’d bet they send the powerhouses with us.
Ten minutes later we sat in a conference room inside the hotel. It felt like the world’s most boring science fiction convention—no cosplay, or decorations of any kind.
No denying there were a lot of us though. They’d parked eight buses in the parking lot, and more than half of us were in the first years’ room. I wondered why.
Bullet walked up to the podium. I didn’t know what to call him outside of costume, but his codename worked for now.
“First off, I’d like to welcome all of you to the Stapledon program. This is the largest class we’ve ever had enter the program, so handling this many will be just as new to us as it is to all of you. I hope we’ll be able to live up to what we’ve done in the past because it’s never been more clear than now that this program is necessary.
“What we’ve told you is that we’re going to train you to become better heroes, and that’s true. The world needs heroes, but that’s not why you’re here.
“What the world really needs is soldiers. Some of you know that aliens regularly attempt to raid our planet. Almost none of you know that others have already quietly invaded it. That’s why you’re here.”