Chapter – XXXIII
“Now then, would anyone like to offer a summation of today’s discussion?” Dean Smith asked. As expected, several hands leapt into the air, followed shortly thereafter by a few more cautiously raised hands. It was from this second group that the dean preferred to pick from, though he held back often enough to keep the students from ever being sure.
And sometimes he would call on a student without their hand raised at all, just to keep them on their toes.
“Ms. Shaw, why don’t you go ahead.”
Cat looked down accusingly at her hands, folded on the top of her desk, as though one of them had betrayed her and secretly signaled to Dean Smith that she should be called upon. “Uh, thank you sir.” She said, uncertainly.
She took a long moment to collect her thoughts and steel her nerves. Cat really hated public speaking; despite her outgoing personality among friends, she always felt that her somewhat petite stature kept people from taking her seriously.
“Okay. So, Heroes started out operating solo. The limited number of certified heroes, and the example of Captain Starlight, meant that most heroes stuck to limited geographic regions, usually their home cities. Generally, heroes respected each other’s territory, and even in neighboring cities, heroes wouldn’t go on another hero’s turf unless they were asked. Then, heroes started banding together into teams in response to threat posed by gangs getting their hands on more powerful weapons or criminal supers would form alliances. At first the teams were more like loose associations, and individual heroes would go back to their home cities after a crisis passed.”
Cat paused to take a breath and try to wet her quickly drying lips. She continued when Dean Smith quietly urged her on “But as time went on, more and more heroes saw the advantages of teaming up and formal teams were formed. Several leading heroes publically recognized that operating in teams let them deal with bigger and more diverse threats, as well as watch each others’ backs. Now, most heroes are in teams, although a few still work solo.”
After finishing, Cat quickly sat back down, folding her hands in her lap and as a delayed blush lit her cheeks.
“Very good, and thank you, Ms. Shaw. Now, I want you all to think about today’s lecture, because we will have our first guest speaker in Friday’s class. It shouldn’t I’m expecting respectful, attentive listening and insightful questions.
The class buzzed with speculation, and after a few moments the expected hands went up. Picking one, essentially at random, the Dean called on Sean Kearney
“Can you tell us who the speaker will be?”
“I certainly could tell you who the speaker will be. However your question really should be ‘Would I tell you who the speaker will be?’” Dean Smith replied. He always toldl the class eventually, it was a good opportunity to see which students had the foresight to research the speakers and ask more insightful questions. It was a homework assignment they didn’t know about, but learning what kind of edge knowledge could give was a lesson that every successful hero learned.
“Well, will you tell us who the speaker is?” Sean asked again, trying to keep the irritation and chagrin out of his voice.
“Since you asked nicely, I will. Our first guest speaker will be Ani-Man, of Second City Justice. As you may well know, Second City Justice is one of Chicago’s foremost hero teams, and Ani-Man is their leader. So I am expecting you all to show him the respect he has earned.” What the Dean did not share with the class was that Ani-Man was visiting the campus for a number of reasons, only one of which was to speak to the freshman class. He would also be observing the upcoming senior trial and providing an in person briefing on what his team had discovered about Trans-Human and the growing gang of augmented supers. That conversation would be more appropriate in person. John Smith might have been considered paranoid by a large part of the population, but he considered it a survival adaptation.
“And finally, with Halloween looming, it’s time for my annual warning to the freshman class. I know many of you will celebrate the holiday by going to parties. One of the unfortunate realities of our fair city is that there are gangs, and they have been known to attack or even try to forcibly recruit young supers. You will be safe enough if you stay on or around the Sizemore campus however. Now, off to the gymnasium with you.” He finished, effectively dismissing the class.
“Danielle, would you hang back a minute?” The Dean added as the students filed out of the room. When the room was empty, Dean Smith walked over and shut the door, then turned back and leaned against the desk at the front of the room.
“So, how is your training with Coach Helen progressing?” he asked Danielle as she awkwardly tried to decide between mirroring the Dean’s stance and simply sitting in the chair.
Ultimately deciding to just give into force of habit, she sat down and answered. “She hasn’t told you? I kinda figured you’d be talking about it.”
“She’s offered her assessment, but I wanted your thoughts.”
“It feels like I have been beating my head against a wall.” Danielle said, frustration lacing her voice. “I can’t get one finger to so much as get shiny, let alone change my whole hand. It feels like we’ve tried everything. Visualization, meditation, surprise. Nothing has worked.”
The Dean was quiet for several moments before answering. “That is roughly what Coach Helen said, though without the exasperation. Have faith in her, she went through something similar when first mastering her own power. Helen is a tremendous instructor and her abilities may just giver her a unique insight into how your abilities may work. Since you were able to transform your body once, even if only briefly and by accident, we know that it can happen. That means it can happen again. You will figure it out, and you will control your powers. In the meantime, I’d suggest trying to remember what you can from when your hand changed. Even something that seems insignificant can turn out to be important.”
“Thank you sir, I’ll keep at it. It just gets frustrating to work so hard, try so many things that don’t work again and again.” Daniell said, looking down at the desk. “I mean, I don’t think I’m forgetting anything from that night. I teleported to the house then played a couple drinking games, only a couple though, I’m really not good at them. Then John tried to hit on me and spit at me when I passed.”
“That’s okay. I’m sure you will hit upon the the right combination before long.” He was reassuring in his tone, but inside John Smith felt an idea crystallizing. It wasn’t a conventional way of teaching or training, but it ‘conventional’ was a rarity in his line of work. “Now go on, get to the gymnasium before you are late and Coach Helen decides to force you to do extra to make up.”
Danielle’s eyes went wide with panic and she quickly jumped from her seat and scampered out of the room, picking up speed as she passed through the door and went down the hall. The prospect of extra PE work would have that kind of effect on any HCP student after their first day. Chuckling softly to himself, he reached into his suit jacket and pulling out his phone he dialed a number from memory.
“Helen? It’s John. Stop by my office when you get a chance. We need to discuss Danielle’s special training. I think I’ve stumbled on an avenue that we haven’t explored yet that might be promising.”