Chapter – XIII
The night after the ranking battles was handled in different ways by the various HCP students. Some nursed injuries not severe enough to require the attentions of the school’s healers. Others nursed bruised egos for which there was no outside panacea. Some stewed in bitterness, some resolved to improve, while the seeds of doubt germinated in others who were wondering just what the hell they had gotten themselves into.
Erik Danielsen woke up from his Kearney-induced slumber in the infirmary. Some may have expected an outburst when he woke up in a strange place, his last memories being of a ferocious battle. In fact, the staff were expecting just that, and a professor was on hand to restrain him if need be. However, Erik’s irrepressibly affable nature took hold over once the adrenaline of battle had worn off. He took in his new surroundings in stride, and immediately proceeded to the dining hall once it was determined that there were no lasting ill effects from the fight.
After Erik devoured a truly massive meal of food that can best be described as edible, the evening was spent in the pleasant company of his roommates, along with Robin and Cat. They chatted and Robin, who it turned out was an avid gamer, cajoled them into an impromptu lighthearted video game tournament. A circle of friends was spontaneously generating in the way such things do when people have shared circumstances in close proximity.
They didn’t stay up late, however. Their RAs’ had warned them that they would want to be in top form for classes the next morning, though they wouldn’t say why. Sleep was precious in the HCP and they should be getting as much as they could, whenever they could. Peter, being the most conscientious among them reminded them of that fact, much to the grumbling of Tom, Cat, and Robin. Eventually, however, each one drifted off to sleep as nervous energy about their first classes was overcome by fatigue from the preceding day.
The night was only interrupted by Tom waking up with a gasp in a cold sweat. He was able to quietly sneak into the bathroom without waking his suitemates, but it was a while before he was willing to try sleep again.
Bright and early the following morning, to bright and too early for those who didn’t heed the RAs’ warning, the black uniformed freshmen filed into a conveniently sized room. The first to arrive noticed a young woman already in the room. Most simply assumed she was an over-achiever who made a point of being first in the room, though the connotations of that thought varied from student to student. Those who took a closer look noticed her matte chrome eyes and wondered if she came down early to avoid that distinctive trait being seen.
Sitting behind a utilitarian desk at the front of the classroom was was Dean Smith. He casually observed each student as they entered the room and took their seats. As the last student to enter sat down he glanced at his watch he said
“Everyone is here, and with three minutes to spare. Well done. Since your HCP curriculum hasn’t really started yet, I’d like to share some friendly advice with you. Time is the most precious commodity there is. We only ever get so much and we are always losing what we have. Make the most of every second you have, being early is on time, and never be tardy. A late hero is a dead civilian.”
The Dean paused to take a sip of water from a bottle on the desk before standing and walking around to stand before the class.
“And on that note, I’d like to welcome you all to your first class in Sizemore Tech’s Hero Certification Program. As I mentioned yesterday, as freshmen your curriculum will only consist of two classes, Ethics Of Heroism and Physical Education, or as students tend to call it: Gym. The purpose of your freshmen year, and particularly your freshmen semester is to lay down the foundation that we will build upon as you progress through the program. In PE, you will be training your bodies for your careers as heroes while Ethics Of Heroism will begin the training of your minds. I will allow your PE teachers to address the particulars of their class, we have quite enough to discuss for Ethics Of Heroism. Our first order of business is the syllabus. Unlike your classes above ground, this one won’t have one. Ethics of Heroism is primarily, although not exclusively, a discussion class. We will explore the history of heroes, what they accomplished, and most importantly why they took the actions they did. That is not to say that this class is one you can simply skate through. No, this class thrives on your participation, which, in fact, is vitally important to your grade and continued enrollment in this program. Make no mistake, while you are all in this together, as you may have surmised yesterday, you are also in competition with one another.”
The Dean paused once again to allow this to sink in. He almost smiled at the small chorus of squeaking chairs as students used to tuning out class discussions straightened in their seats.
“Yesterday I did promise to answer what questions you may already have in your short time here, So before we get on to the next matter of today’s business I would be glad to answer them now.”
A number of hands shot into the air almost before Dean Smith finished speaking. “Yes, Ms. Rodriguez? I do believe you were first.” He said, addressing a young woman with dark, straight hair and a dusky complexion.
“Thank you, sir. I was wondering when we would find out our combat rankings.”
“Ahh, somehow this is the first question asked every year without fail. Your rankings will be posted in in the gymnasium, and you can go investigate them after this class is over.”
Almost immediately the majority of the hands went back down, and this time Dean Smith allowed himself a small smile.
“Yes, Mr. Hall? I’m assuming your question isn’t related to the combat rankings.”
“No sir,” Max said “I was wondering, If there isn’t a syllabus, and is a discussion class, how will we be graded?
“An excellent question, though one I was going to answer in due course. But, now is as good a time as any, I suppose. Your participation will make up the bulk of your grade. Mr. Hall is correct in assuming that as a discussion class, Ethics Of Heroism will not be graded as a traditional class. We will be discussing ideas, events, and actions. I won’t say that there are no wrong answers, because at points we will be discussing scenarios where there were no right answers. It falls on each of you to come to your own conclusions and answers. There will, however, be several more normal assignments that will be graded as they would be in a traditional class.”
He pointed to one final hand, this one belonging to a lean young woman who’s hetero-chromatic irises were one of her least remarkable physical traits. Roughly a third of her head was shaved bald, the other two thirds were died a riot of colors. Blood reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, her hair was died with no rhyme nor reason. The shaved portion of her head boasted a sinuous, spiky tattoo that curled around her ear before winding its way down her neck and disappearing beneath the collar of her black uniform. More tattoos peeked out the cuffs of her uniform sleeves. Her ears, nose, eyebrows, and lips were generously, if haphazardly, pierced and decorated.
“Yeah, I was wondering why we’re bothering with all this touchy-feely bullshit. Aren’t we here to learn how to kick some criminal ass?” She said. More than a few students sucked in breaths at her crudeness while others arched eyebrows as her question echoed some of their own sentiments.
“First, Ms. Ross, I will remind you once, and only once, to keep a civil tongue in your head.” The Dean’s voice was hard and sharp, a verbal slap in response to the young woman’s lack of respect. “To answer your question, in short, PE will teach you the ‘Hows’ of being a hero, Ethics of Heroism will teach you ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘Where’, and most importantly, ‘Why’. PE will teach you how to train your body to overcome obstacles and push through adversity. It will teach you how to develop and use your abilities at levels you would not believe possible right now. In Ethics Of Heroism, you will be learning the things that separate a Hero from an over-powered thug that a Hero has to be called in to stop.”
Dean Smith allowed himself to relax slighty, and decided to bring the class back to subjects he had planned on discussing. He did have a few items on his agenda that he had to address, and didn’t want to allow Christina Ross any lattitude to hijack the class.
“I think that is enough questions for now. There will be plenty of time for questions after the weekend, and it is a tradition that extra time be devoted to your first PE class. We have one last piece of pressing business for today, and a question for you to ponder over the weekend. Ms. Malone, would you please raise your hand?”
In the middle of the room the young woman who’s eyes appeared to be made of matte chrome sheepishly raised her hand, letting it hang in the air for a few beats before lowering it back down to the desk with a subtle click.
“Thank you. Ms. Danielle Malone was a very late addition to our program. Because of that, and the exceptional circumstances of how she came to the program, is why none of you recognize her. She did not participate in the combat trials yesterday and isn’t housed in the residence towers above ground. She is and will be, for lack of a better term, auditing the first semester of the HCP. While she will be participating in all activities, she is not in direct competition with you, at least not yet. Though she is somewhat separate from you for now, I would like to encourage you all to introduce yourselves and welcome her into the greater community of your class. And now the first question I will ask you in your HCP careers: What does it mean to be a “Hero”? I want you all to ponder this over the weekend and be ready to discuss it on Monday’s class. Until then, you are released to go to your first PE class, and do try to have fun.”
As the students stood up and filed out the classroom, conversations bubbling up as they went, Dean Smith strode back around the desk and sat down. When the door finally closed, the Dean allowed himself to smile. The only two who would enjoy themselves were Alex and Helen, and he knew none of the students would be able to ponder his parting question. That thought was chased away by his own concerns and curiosity regarding Danielle Malone. The summer’s tests had revealed surprisingly little about the effects of her transformation. They had held her out of the combat trials to avoid an unexpected and potentially deadly surprise, opting instead to ease her in to the world of Supers. However, John Smith had lived too long and seen entirely too much not to know that a surprise was coming.
The only questions were when it would come and what it would be.