Chapter – XXVIII
“The ethics of heroism are intimately tied to the history of heroism” Dean Smith said, standing before the class of young supers. The class was certainly smaller than it had been to start the year. “After all,” he continued “part of knowing where you are is knowing where you started. The actions, inactions, mistakes, and successes of previous generations of heroes molds how we respond to crises in the future.”
Looking around the class, Dean Smith adjusted his glasses slightly and leaned back against the desk at the front of the room. “But why should we bother talking about the history of Heroes? It’s all well known, isn’t it? Some time after the end of the Second World War, the man who would be known as Captain Starlight, the first hero, revealed himself to the government. He had been through a war and wanted to use his abilities to keep fighting for freedom, justice, and democracy. He wanted to help people. So together he and the government formed what would become the DVA and laid the foundation for the institution of Heroism as we know it today. Everyone knows what happened, so why should we waste our time talking about what everyone knows? Well, as some of you are already finding out in your young college careers, what ‘everybody knows’ and what actually happened are often two different things.”
Max raised his hand when Dean Smith paused, and was promptly called upon. “Why? Wouldn’t people want to know what actually happened?”
“Let me answer your question with another question: Captain Starlight was the first certified Hero, but was he the first super?”
“No.” Erik said, surprising many in the class. Those who had gotten to know him always thought of him affably goofy, at least when he wasn’t fighting. He rarely took part in class discussions, but now the big freshman was understated but absolutely sure of himself. “The gods and heroes from mythology, kings that were worshipped as living deities were probably supers.”
“Quite so, Mr. Danielsen. It has long been speculated that the myths and fables of antiquity, gods, angels, and demons, have all , or at least mostly, been inspired by supers or powereds.”
Peter pursed his lips and ground his teeth, but said nothing. Pagans may have worshipped supers, but he knew his Lord and Savior was the one true Almighty and creator of the heavens and the Earth.
At the front of the room, Dean Smith continued. “But even more recently, supers have been active, albeit covertly in our society.” Around the classroom, ears perked up. Covert supers influencing society was certainly interesting.
“Enhanced physiques gained fame and fortune in professional sports. Super geniuses pushed the boundaries of scientific inquiry, and advanced minds became some of the shrewdest politicians and businessmen. Some also turned to less legitimate enterprises. Much like the criminal supers you will someday do battle with, as populations started exploding in the middle of the nineteenth century, some supers invariably grew to believe themselves above human law and morality. And much like yourselves, law-abiding supers stepped into the breach to stand where normal humans couldn’t.”
The Dean paused to take a sip of water while the class stared in rapt attention. After a moment he continued. “The inter-war years were particularly gruesome. With prohibition came the rise of gangs and the mafia lead to criminal empires that were rivaled only by governments. Doing battle with them were vigilantes. Men and women in masks and trench coats, ghosts in the night who more often than not simply killed their opponents and were they not ‘Gentleman Criminologists’, people who have the independent wealth to fund themselves, they looted their corpses to fund their escapades.”
“So if all that was going on, how doesn’t everyone know about it?” a tall blond girl towards the back of the class asked.
“A good question Ms. Rowe. The simple answer is that government clamped down information. Amidst the anxieties of the depression and fear from Red Scares, the powers that were feared that the news of gods walking the streets would cause a public panic. But to prepare the public consciousness the government let tales of these “Mystery Men” leak out in the form of pulp magazines, dime store novels, and penny dreadfuls. After all, they were common fiction, and only a child would believe those things actually happened. So, should the existence of supers become common knowledge, at least the people would have a mental framework for them to fit into.”
“So what’s so bad about all that?” Christina asked, not bothering to be called upon. “Sounds to me like they did what they had to do, and they got the job done. Why should the government keep people from knowing about that?”
“They did indeed get the job done, however often times the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ were indistinguishable. There were no procedures or regulations, nothing to keep innocents from getting caught in the crossfire. Their mistakes were often horrific and part of the reason why Captain Starlight and the government worked to establish what became the Hero Certification Program. As for why this information isn’t common knowledge, and to circle back around to Max’s original question, I’m sure you have all noticed a simmering undercurrent of resentment, even hatred, of supers among normal humans. How do you think they would react if it became widely known that supers have been active and widely influencing society long before the revelation of Captain Starlight?”
“Oh those asshole bigots.” Christina said. “Yeah, they probably would have pitched a fit. But I mean, how much could they do?”
“Something to remember into your future careers as heroes” the Dean said. “Never underestimate the ability of humans, of any breed, to bring death and destruction. If it were confirmed that for most of human history, supers were passing themselves off as gods, becoming kings, or disregarding the rule of law, there could be utter chaos. Powerful though we supers may be, we are vastly outnumbered by normal humans.”
As the dean finished speaking, even Christina looked contemplative. The thought of the entire mass of humanity turning on them out of fear and rage was a sobering one.
“And that brings us to your first research project. I want each of you to pick a myth, fable, story, or comic book of a potential super from some point in history, before the emergence of Captain Starlight.. You will bring each of them to me before you begin working on your report so I can sign off on your choice, but that is the only limitation. Your reports will consist of a thorough paper detailing what kind of super you believe the protagonist to be, the problem or problems that faced them, how they overcame it or them, and whether or not their solution stands up to the modern Heroic Ideal. You will also give a presentation on your choice to the class as a whole. After all, heroes occasionally need to speak publicly, that is a challenge you might as well learn to confront now.” The sober mood in the classroom became downright somber at the prospects of a research paper and presentation.
“But, on to cheerier thoughts. Your mid-terms.” Dean Smith said as an entirely predictable groan rippled through the class. “I have good news and bad news on this front for you. The bad news, is that your above-ground midterms should be getting started soon, which I’m sure will interfere with your Halloween plans.”
He paused a moment for effect while the class stared at him glumly
“The good news is that as year-long classes, you will not have mid-terms in this class, nor physical education.” This time a small cheer erupted from the class and Dean Smith thought he could feel his hair blown back by the collective sigh of relief. It was the same every year, but like every year, it was time to let the wind out of their sails a bit. Couldn’t let them start to feel too comfortable.
“However, you will be having a mid-year exam before you are released for your winter holidays. While this certainly seems like a long way away, I would caution all of you to step up your training regimens beginning today. To preserve the integrity of the exam, we will be withholding the exact details until the day of the trial, but I can tell you that your physical training has been focused on preparing you for it from the very beginning. We will be opening up the training facilities to you beginning today, with the provision that, for safety reasons, there must always be a coach, RA, or upperclassmen present to oversee your training. I can not stress enough how important this trial is. It is your last chance to change your class rankings, and they will be locked following the completion of your exam. Those rankings will be vital to determining the course of your second semester in the HCP. Take this seriously.”
With that he released the class to go to the tender care of coaches Alex and Helen.
Some of the students bubbled with conversation about the research project, others speculating about the pending exam. Some, however, walked with a new purpose and sense of determination. The dean never truly knew how each student would perform in their first HCP exam, but it was that last group of students who usually put on the best show.