Chapter – XVIII
“Down one! Up! Down, two! Up! Down three! Up!” Coach Alex counted as the male students grunted their way through the push-ups.
He kept a steady temp throughout the set, forcing the students to go down slowly, but also giving the ones who were getting tired quickly time to work their way up. Once they finished the set of push-ups, had them go over to the track for sprints while the girls moved off to the side to do their own round of bodyweight exercises.
The HCP had the very best facilities and equipment. The modular gymnasium could be adapted on the fly to almost any training, from basic calisthenics to a deadly obstical course. The strength and conditioning room, Kevin Strong’s domain, was equipped with the all the old standbys for strength training as well as the very latest in machines and hyper-dense weights. After training Titan, they made sure that they had a weight room that could effectively challenge a super of almost any strength level. The individual classrooms were equipped with almost any teaching aid the professors could ask for, and were constantly upgraded to better serve the individual disciplines.
The one thing they lacked was room. The HCP occupied most of Sizemore Tech’s campus footprint, but there was a practical limit to how big they could build it, how far they could expand, in a metropolis as developed as Chicago. They had come up with some innovative solutions like the modular gym to create multi-purpose spaces, and Lake Michigan had provided some solutions itself. But simple geography limited Sizemore – and Korman in New York City – in ways that Lander, West Private, and Overton simply weren’t.
So the Sizemore staff worked around the limitations. They were teaching the students to be innovative and self-reliant, so it was best for the professors to live that example. As such, coaches Alex and Helen choreographed their classes’ workouts. It allowed them to efficiently make use of the whole gym while staying out of each other’s way.
“Hustle! Hustle! All right, form up. Four lines, you should know the drill by now!” Coach Alex shouted, urging tired students to at least jog to their next exercise and waste as little time as possible forming up. It was their fourth gym class and the freshman class was shrinking quickly. But at the same time, it was still too early for the student’s bodies to begin to adapt to the workouts. As harsh as the later training would be, Coach Alex always felt that he had to be more than a bit of a sadist during this first part of the Program. The coaches had to keep pushing the students, to ride them to the ragged edge of physical and mental failure, and do it long enough to weed out the students who couldn’t adapt.
Just as the last of his students finished their sprints, the whistle around Helen’s neck shrieked twice. “Alright everybody, water break! Let’s go!” Alex shouted, loud enough to spur the whole class into movement. The group of young men didn’t exactly run over to the table bearing the cups of water, but they also didn’t plod. As much as they wanted to make their brief rest last as long as possible, all of the students wanted that water at least as much.
Reaching out as the crowd passed him, Coach Alex reached out and gently grabbed Tom Porter’s shoulder to stop him. He lowered his voice enough that only Tom could here him “I know you have an appointment to see the dean after class. We’re almost done here, so go hit the showers now so you aren’t late.” Tom breathlessly tried to offer his thanks, then gave up and just nodded before turning to walk back to the locker room.
As he watched Tom head back toward the lockerroom, Coach Alex heard the sounds of a scuffle breaking out around the water table. Unsurprisingly, one of the combatants was Christina Ross. The other girl was shorter and being blocked out by the quickly forming crowd.
“Bitch, I have had enough of your shit!” The shorter girl shouted.
“Fuck you! You need to learn your place and get your ass out of my way!” Christina replied, matching the first girl’s volume.
Coach Alex muttered a curse and started over to the table, his pace picking up as the volume and vitriol of the shouting increased. He quickly reached the outside of the circle of students that had formed something of a mosh pit around the two girls just as the sharp crack of a slap landing split the air.
That was the last sound for a long moment of sudden crystalline silence. In the middle of the circle Christina’s head was turned to one side, her eyes wide with shock. The moment shattered when she slowly turned her head back to face the other girl. The crowd surrounding the girls collectively inhaled and took a step backwards, more than two score of students acting like a single organism.
Christina let out a shriek of rage, and charged. She slammed into the other girl, knocking her back and sending cups, some of them still full of water flying. Coach Alex started pushing his way through the crowd, but suddenly felt a flash of heat and gallons of water seemingly materialized out of nowhere to pour upon the wrestling girls.
The two now soaked girls squeeled at the shock of the icy water and jumped apart. As soon as they were apart the water dried and a wall of ice formed, separating them.
“Enough!” Coach Helen bellowed and all motion in the gym stopped. Alex took advantage of Hellen’s stunning intervention to grab Christina by the arm and haul her back, away from the wall.
The two girls launched into conflicting and only semi-coherant accusations and explanations, but Coach Helen silenced them “I don’t want to hear it. That is not how perspective heroes conduct themselves, and that is not how we settle differences in this school.” The temperature in the immediate area dropped noticibly as the wall spontaneously evaporated, revealing Catherine Shaw as the other combatant.
Looking around at the assembled students Coach Hellen continued “You are all too powerful for that kind of display. If any of you lose control in a temper tantrum like that, you will hurt your classmates, or completely innocent byestanders if you lose your shit above ground. That’s what you are here to learn how to stop.”
For her part Cat had her head down, looking chagrined. But, predictably, Christina was struggling slightly in Coach Alex’s grip, her head held high and a scowl on her face.
“If any of you want to throw down to settle your differences, there’s a time and a place for it. That’s in a combat cell, with somebody watching to make sure nobody kills their damn selves. Now, I’m inclined to escort you down to one of the cells and let you giht it out. Is that what you want?”
Without hesitation Christina responded with an enthusiastic “Fuck yes! I gotta finish beating that little bitch.” Hellen looked to Catherine and after a moment’s hesitation Cat nodded her assent.
“Good. Now, you are both top-5 ranks. That means you have the right to make this a ranking challenge. Catherine, do you want to make this a formal challenge?”
This time Cat’s eyes hardened and she responded with a firm “Yes.”
A jolt of figurative electricity, a palpable excitement, shot through the assembled students as they realized what they were about to see. For his part, Coach Alex quietly joined them in their excitement. This was a match he had been hoping to see, but Cat had lost in the semi-final round of ranking battles. He made a mental note to offer a – grudging – kudos to Helen. Her method of interrupting the fighting girls had been swift and effective, and getting the opportunity to see a grudge match between two of the most powerful supers in this class was an added bonus.
“Alright. Now shut up, keep your hands to yourselves, and let’s get down to the combat cells.” Helen said.
Catherine immediately started walking quietly toward the exit to the gym. Christina soon followed, shaking her hand, trying to work some feeling back into the arm. Coach Alex had been none too gentle behinding it behind her back, but it had stopped her struggling.
Looking around at the remaining freshmen, Coach Alex said “Well, I guess none of you are going to be particularly attentive to the rest of your workouts, are you? I didn’t think so. Well, just this once we’ll cut class short. You didn’t have much left before your cooldowns anyway. Follow me and we’ll go to the observation room.”
Without another word Coach Alex turned and headed for the lift with a mass of freshmen behind him, buzzing with excitement.