That didn’t stop me from continuing to talk, “Look, you literally weren’t available to answer questions and it was deliberate. You had the technology to contact us even if all you did was send a short text. I know this. I made it. In fact, I’ve been in situations this bad without losing contact with my team. Sometimes I’ve ignored them long enough to get out of a bad situation, but you were unavailable for hours. And I’ve got the experience to know when I’m out of my depth.
“You’re lucky I’ve got that kind of experience and that I’ve got friends who will show up to get me out of a jam. If I didn’t, I might have died and you might have too. Barrington told me that the vampires you were fighting were calling for help and that if we hadn’t been fighting him, he’d have given it. Maybe you’d have won anyway, but it would have been harder. Also, maybe you’d have died too.
“So, if you think about it, my disobedience may have saved your life.”
Vincent cleared his throat, “You’ve got to admit that the kid has a point. Speaking as someone who’s been in the middle of some big fights, we needed the help. Everyone I knew who could have helped was either busy or too far away to call.”
Turning toward Vincent, Working Man said, “I’ll keep that in mind. V4, come to my office.”
Mateo began to get up from his chair, “I was in charge of the two of us. If V4 is coming to your office, I should as well.”
Working Man held up his hand, “No. Stay in here. We’ll talk later.”
Amy’s eyes narrowed and I wondered if she was going to say something, but I moved toward the door, saying only, “Okay.”
If he was going to kick me out or fail me, I could deal with it. Repeating the internship with someone else might be a pain, but it wasn’t the end of the world. And besides, it wasn’t as if I needed a license to be a hero. The internship was a requirement for the Stapledon program, but I’d been training before I ever started with them.
Everyone watched as I followed Working Man out of the room. We walked down the hall without speaking, passing Mateo and Holly’s offices and ending at Working Man’s, the door at the end of the hall.
Like the others, it was made of reinforced metal and didn’t have a window. Painted green, it gave the hall an industrial look, as if this were the office area of a factory.
I followed him in, thinking back to the last time I’d stepped inside—on the day I’d started my internship. The decor hadn’t changed. A wide poster of the Detroit skyline hung on the wall behind him, showing the city’s skyscrapers, including Book Tower. The posters on the other walls depicted cars—the Ford Mustang, the 57 Chevy, the Ford Model T, Dodge Charger, and even one newer model, the Dodge Viper.
All the cars gleamed.
The rest of the office didn’t. Papers, some of them in folders, covered his desk. An old black laptop lay off to one side, partially covered by a folder. It wasn’t plugged in.
I’d suggested he might want to replace it once. He didn’t want to.
Four beige filing cabinets ran down the side of the wall on my left. A model of a factory covered the tops of the two farthest from me. A big brick building with cars rolling out one end, accompanied by workers, I almost recognized it, but didn’t think this would be a good time to ask about it.
A glance backward reminded me of the map of Detroit that hung there. A few pins stuck out of it. I wondered what kind of crimes they represented. Murder? Rape? Robberies?
I sat down as Working Man sat behind the desk, his bulk filling the chair. Whether he had low-level powers or a high level of natural, physical potential, he had at least half a foot on me.
He started with, “You did what I wanted you to—ignored me—and that’s a good thing. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve passed this internship.”
I thought about that, and then said, “If you were trying to teach me something, don’t you think a life and death situation might have been a bad time?”
He shook his head, “V8 showed me how to monitor the situation discreetly. If you’d followed directions, I’d have called to tell you to bring people in, but I didn’t think I’d have to. You do have enough experience to gauge whether or not you can handle a situation.”
Keeping my voice under control, I said, “Then what was the point of putting me into a position like that if you thought I’d make the right choice anyway?”
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, “I’m not a teacher by trade, but I’m good at reading people. You trust authority figures, maybe not all of them, but most. That’s not all bad, but it’s a common failing of kids coming out of the Stapledon. In fact, I’d say that it’s an intended failing. The government can’t control vigilantes directly, but it’s doing what it can.
“I can’t even say that I think Feds are wrong to try, but I do think we’re losing something important when people like us get too comfortable with the powers that be.”