Chapter – IV
The freshmen class did as the dean said, but they did so abuzz at what they had just heard. Frustration bubbled over having to maintain a cover identity or their above-ground grades, curiosity about their HCP classes, but mostly they were talking about the impending battles.
“What the hell is this? We’re going to fight it out for our grades on the first day?” Tom asked.
“You had to know something like this was coming. I mean come on, this is Hero training. Fighting is kind of a big deal here.” Max replied.
“Yeah. And come on, it’s gonna be fun!” Erik added.
“I know combat training was a big part of all this, but I wasn’t expecting it on the first day. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to throw down on our first day.” Tom said, then turning to Erik “And you would be looking forward to this, you’re a ginormous freakin’ viking. You’ve been quiet Pete, what do you think about all this?”
Peter, who had been quite reserved since the dean concluded his speech answered “It’s Peter, and if it must be, then it must. Personally, I’m not fond of violence. My sister has always been the fighter between of the two of us. I prefer to find a better way to resolve conflicts.”
“Huh. Well, when you put it like that, there isn’t much to say. I guess I’m just gonna have to kick all your asses.” Tom replied.
“Psshh, you wish!” said Erik.
By this time the foursome had made their way out of the auditorium and were quickly collected by Mike, who lead them to the locker rooms. The newly minted freshmen changed into their uniforms and were largely standing around awkwardly, though some were trying to get the measure of their soon-to-be opponents.
After a few moments a door opened on the far side of the room, and a tall, lean, muscular man entered. He stood there for a moment, gazing at the collected students, before speaking. No, almost shouting.
“Alright kiddies, my name is Alex Marshall. To sophomores and up, I’m Professor Marshall. To you, I’m Coach Alex and I am an instructor in one of the combat courses here. I’ll be running the men’s combat ranking matches. It is set up in as a single-elimination tournament. Win and advance or lose and become a spectator. Matches are decided when one of you either yields or is incapacitated. The use of powers is allowed, and there will be a healer standing by. However, the intentional use of deadly force will result in a loss and your immediate expulsion from the HCP.”
Coach Alex paused to let the rules sink in to the shell-shocked freshmen, who were suddenly, if unconsciously standing at attention, before continuing.
“After the match, anyone who needs healing will be taken to the infirmary, winners go back to the locker room to get the room assignment for their next match, and losers get to go up to the observation rooms to see how winners fight. The first round has already been decided at random, and we’ll continue up the ladder from there. The first round will have two shifts because we only have so many combat cells, so try not to fuck any of them up too badly. Any questions?”
Peter, surprisingly, raised his hand “Yes, you said you run the men’s tournament. Will we always be divided by sex?”
Coach Alex smiled for a second “No, this is only for freshmen. And to answer the follow-up question I know is out there: Surprisingly, there are still those rare creatures known as ‘gentlemen’ out there. Some of you may have been raised to not hit girls. Here, if you don’t want to hit a girl you might get your ass blowed up while you’re busy wrestling with your conscience. After this year, we assume that you have had any sense of chivalry beaten out of you and lump all of you together.”
The coach continued “Also, apart from that, you are generally bigger and stronger than your female counterparts. We would have a hard time gauging combat ability if we put Danielsen there against a girl who is five foot nothing, and ninety-eight pounds. Any other questions?”
This time a dark skinned young man with bright eyes raised his hand. “Yes, sir. You mentioned that the initial round of matches would be broken into two sets. Wouldn’t that give the first set of combatants an advantage if they see their opponent’s match?”
“You must be the smart one in the class. Most years the freshmen don’t trip to that. But to answer your question, yes. It does, and that will factor into your rankings, but there’s nothing you can do about it. So my advice is to not worry about it. That it?”
He looked around at thirty-two fresh faced supers and didn’t see any more hands being raised.
“No? Okay I’m going to read off your names and give you a slip with your cell number on it. Keep your assignment to yourself and go through the door and find your cell. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Max looked at the slip of paper in his hand as he walked down long hallway, with no decoration save a door every eighty feet or so. Half way down the hall he found his appointed cell, and pressed his thumb against the scanner beside the door. It silently slid open to let him in, though as he walked through, Max couldn’t help but wonder how such a thick door slid so easily.
The cell itself was a massive concrete box with lights dotting the ceiling and windows about two thirds of the way up either wall. There were two squares painted on the floor about the same distance apart as they were from either end of the cell. Without anything better to do, Max went and stood in one square while he waited for his opponent, and tried to remember everything he knew about fighting. It wasn’t much, though. Being the only super in his small town, and thought be a powered at that, he was a target for bullies as a kid. But, his power being what it is, he never had to fight them. He usually just waited until they got tired of trying to hit him and wandered off, or an adult came along.
He didn’t have long to search his memory for information that wasn’t there. The door opened again and his suitemate Peter came through.
Max blinked away his surprise, then greeted one of the few people in the school he knew. “Hey Peter, I guess we have to fight each other.”
“So it would seem. I have to wonder how random their selection process was that suitemates fight in the first round.”
“I dunno. Hey, you said you hate fighting, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, Max, I’m sure. My gifts are a blessing from the Lord, an instrument of His mercy. But, if I must do this to share my gifts with others, then I will.” Peter answered solemnly.
“Um. Wow. Okay then.”
Coach Alex’s voice sounded from unseen speakers. “This is an official ranking match between Maximilian Hall and Peter Shaw. The match will commence when the buzzer sounds. Make any final preparations you need and fight well.”
Max walked over to his suite mate, who met him in the middle of the cell and offered his hand “Hey, no matter what happens, no hard feelings, alright?”
“Agreed, now I think we should get back to our boxes.”
The two retreated to the separate boxes moments before the buzzer rang. Max settled back into a defensive posture and with an effort of will he extended his invisible field. Across the cell Peter closed his eyes and took a deep breath. In a flash Peter Shaw was gone, and his box was now stood a radiant being, so bright Max had to squint.
“Now you see what I meant, my gifts truly are the Lord’s blessing.” The voice was a resonant baritone and seemed to come from the very walls. Peter’s angelic form raised its hand and the light only increased in intensity. “Do you wish to keep fighting, or do you yield so we may go in peace?”
“Okay, that is cool!” Max said, as his astonishment at his suitemate’s change faded. “But no, I’m still ready to go.”
Peter’s stance shifted uncertainly “Uh, are you sure? Are you sure you don’t feel like resting in the warmth of The Lord’s love?” He raised his other hand and a look of concentration descended over his face and a golden corona began to form around Max as Peters radiance focused tightly on him. As his field filtered out Peter’s projected energy, Max noticed that hidden in the glare behind him were an enormous pair of wings, and he wondered if Peter could fly.
“Nope. Must be my force field, because I don’t really feel a thing. So, I guess I’m going to start fighting now.”
At that Peter lowered his hands and the glow faded to merely blinding. “In that case I yield”
Coach Alex’s voice once again filled the cell. “The winner is Maximilian Hall, by forfeit.”
Peter returned to his normal form and moved to shake Max’s hand. “Come on, I don’t think Erik has fought his bout yet. Let’s see if we can catch his fight.”
Up in the observation room, where Dean Smith and Coach Alex were watching the match, the conversation was a bit different. “So this is the kid you were so sure on you used your auto?” Coach Alex asked the dean “I gotta say, I’m not impressed. That was definitely an underwhelming match. And what was with that ‘God’s Grace’ line? Is he supposed to be some kind of advanced mind in that form? I thought he was just a healer.”
“I’ll agree that the match lacked the fireworks of some of the others, but the fact that mister Hall was able to turn away Shaw’s aura without even thinking about it is impressive. He emits a light of a very specific wave length, pulsed at a very specific frequency, and it makes those around him more relaxed. When he focused it, even one as stubborn as you would give up on the fight.”
“Whatever. I’m jealous of Helen, I bet that Ross girl puts on a show.”