In my rearview mirror, I saw Courtney’s shoulder’s tense. “That bothers me. Remember Mr. Beacham from high school?”
Keon glanced over at Courtney, and said, “I can’t say I remember him at all.”
Courtney nodded. “I know. You didn’t go to high school with us, but give me a second. Nick and Camille will remember him.”
“Nick’s mentioned him,” Haley said, “and I met him once. He was the teacher Evil Beatnik possessed.”
Courtney looked from Haley to me (to the back of my head, anyway). “Evil Beatnik possessed Mr. Beacham?”
Keon frowned. “Wasn’t Evil Beatnik a big deal back in the 1950’s or 60’s?”
From the back Camille said, “Yes. It was awful.”
“Okay,” Courtney said, “that was not the direction I was trying to go with this. Mr. Beacham teaches history back at the high school that Nick, Camille and I went to. He’s a good teacher, but he likes to play devil’s advocate on issues, and push students to defend what they think.”
Keon nodded. “I’ve had teachers like that.”
Courtney didn’t give anyone else time to add anything. “Every year he’d give a lecture on superhero history where he’d argue that the US had given up on taking it’s laws seriously and was on it’s way to creating a class of warrior lords.”
She had Keon’s full attention then. He nodded as she talked. “I think I know where this is going. Hunter’s going to get away with it because he’s got powers?”
“Well,” Courtney paused, “I guess that’s it, but it seemed deeper when Mr. Beacham talked about it all. I didn’t like that lecture. Back then, it was obvious to me that superheroes weren’t taking over, and even if they didn’t always obey laws, they obeyed the spirit of them.”
Courtney stopped there, swallowed, and said, “But since being here, I’ve been wondering if he was underestimating how far things have already gone. I knew about the compounds, but I never thought about the compounds. We’re being kept away from people, and only interacting with them when we want to have some fun. We are almost literally descending from the castle to interact with the peasants.”
“What,” Keon asked, “didn’t you like going to the club?”
She shook her head. “No. It bothers me that I wasn’t thinking about it very much until Hunter destroyed the camera’s memory, and Gifford was all, ‘Thanks for saving my butt…’ I didn’t think about it—the fortress, the private room, or the way we can break people’s stuff whenever we make a mistake.”
Keon shook his head. “I get that. I was mostly joking a minute ago. I didn’t like breaking the camera either. I didn’t want the guy to get away with Gifford’s face, but it seems like the guy’s going to have a grudge from now on, you know? He’s going to hate us, and he might look for us. What do we do if he goes after us? Call in a telepath and make him forget everything?”
“No,” I said.
“For real though,” I said. “Daniel has done that a couple times, but the longer the person’s known what you want him to forget, the more you have to change to get it done. Imagine the guy’s been obsessing about how to get back at us for a couple months. What do you put in his head to explain why he’s been hanging around clubs looking for teenagers? Worse, what if he’s been at it for a year?”
In a normal tone of voice, Courtney said, “Is that why you didn’t try that with me?”
Keeping my eyes on the dark highway, I said, “No. You’d figured out who we were, but also we knew you, and knew you weren’t out to get us. What we did with you was what we’re doing with all the League members—a mental block that stops people from giving away identities accidentally.”
“Like the one we got too,” Camille said.
Haley turned in her seat to face Camille. “We trusted you. That kind of block only works if we trust you.”
“That’s what Daniel told me,” I added. “It turns out to be relatively common among telepaths. It’s basically the same block the Stapledon program uses. So, if you keep looking, you’ll eventually be able to find a skilled telepath who can get rid of it.
“See,” I continued, “I don’t even know what we’d do for that guy. The best thing would have been if someone erased all of our faces from his memory back at the club.”
“Except that would assume that we’ve got the right to decide what he remembers,” Courtney said.
“Yeah.” I sighed at that. She was right. “It would have been the most practical choice—probably not the most moral. But that’s the problem, after a certain points all your choices are basically varying shades of gray.”
Keon nodded. “Point made. Should we have called it in back at the club?”
Haley and I looked at each other.