Chapter Twelve – Review
“So, how are this year’s intake shaping up? Any real surprises apart from those we’re already aware of?”
“I’m guessing you mean Parks? No, no other real shocks. The jump made by Lloyd was, whilst impressive, was actually well within the bounds of what we predicted. Had we had the initial rankings on a Sunday, he probably would have been middle of the pack. By giving him the motivation to move, he’s shown he has the necessary forethought and observation skills we’re looking for.”
Dean Finch nodded at Mick Barkley’s assessment. She’d spoken with Professor Collins about the particulars of the boy’s powers and he had perhaps the most versatile ability she’d ever come across. He did however have a tendency to rush head first into things.
“Good. Keep pushing him to think before acting. What about our top tens and top fives? Any surprises?”
Susanne Marsterson shuffled a few pieces of paper until she found the one she was looking for. The paper was heavily marked with inked and pencilled notes. Susanne hummed to herself as she ran over the notes.
“Obviously we’re all a little surprised that the top two ranks were filled by Mr Jeng and Miss Edwards, typically non-physical based powers don’t always break into the top five and, whilst Mr Jeng is a speedster, he’s categorised as a low-mid speedster. It’s the barriers he can create that have given him an edge so far, incredibly useful for changing direction and gaining velocity. I believe he’s had some training in making the most of them.
“Miss Collins’s own high rank is unsurprising, she’s been trained in the combat capabilities of her powers since they appeared. Same goes for the Gibbs twins. I was a bit disappointed none of the other students thought to attack the defenceless twin and instead focused on the massive dog, but I expect someone will twig eventually.”
Susanne picked up another sheet of note covered paper, discarded it before grabbing an overly filled file. Flicking through it she reached the transcript for another student.
“Another unsurprising student was Miss Brashmoore. Her powers are a legacy again, the Crimson Butterfly was her Grandmother, and the family have been training here for years.”
The dean held up a hand, pausing Susanne’s assessment.
“I don’t recall another Brashmoore here within the last twenty years. Did her parents go elsewhere?”
Susanne glanced through the file again before speaking.
“Says here that Karissa’s parents are both mundane humans. Seems the ability skipped a generation. Mother met her father on an exchange trip to the US and moved out there after graduating from University. The grandmother was apparently less than impress and cut off all ties until Karissa was born and her Super physical traits appeared.”
Sarah filed that fact away. She had met the Crimson butterfly a few times in her early hero days and remembered the stern, serious hero. From the sounds of it, she was likely the driving force behind Karissa’s current path.
“So a few legacy’s managing to take the top spots. How did the light manipulator do? Didn’t we peg them as a top ten?”
Coach Barkley sucked in a breath before letting it out slowly.
“We did, however she was knocked out in the second round by this year’s No.13, a paper manipulator. Have to admit, even having read her and the DFH’s assessment of her powers on file, that material manipulator was far stronger than we’d assumed.” He sounded annoyed, though knowing him, Sarah guessed it was due to his poor estimate of the Super’s combat capabilities rather than the students’ less than stellar showing.
“True, material manipulators don’t normally put on a good showing early on, but there have been quite a few who become respected heroes. Look at Seamstress.” Mick’s only response was a grunt.
Sarah look down at her own papers. The summarised the powers and predictions for each Super currently still enrolled in the Lower Sixth and were composed of multiple statements from the DFH, teachers and the students themselves Put together, they provided an interesting read as well as a good summary and sometimes indicator for a student’s potential progress. Reluctantly though she sifted through the stack until she reached the one file she was least eager to discuss.
“Bethany Parks.” From the paper she held in front of her, the serious red eyed stare of Bethany looked back. “What do we make of her?”
“Trouble,” Susanne spat, glaring at the file as though it had personally offended her. “She held back in the rankings for some clandestine reason, then swoops in and takes out one of the top ten students, the third ranked female, in under ten minutes. She’s hiding something, and the DFH interest doesn’t reassure me in the least.”
“Same for me,” Mick grunted. “On paper she’s a good HCP candidate, not stellar, but decent. Her powers clearly have room to improve and there’s nothing to rule her out. But that first match, the way she acts around some of the other students… something doesn’t sit right. Were you able to read anything off her Sarah?”
“Nothing that set off my alarm bells, though her mental shielding is far stronger than I’d expect from a sixteen year old. Has she regained consciousness yet?”
Mick shook his head. “The Doc still has her under observation, no sign of her waking up any time soon. Clearly she used far more energy than she expected if she crashed like that, though the results were very impressive. I’ve only seen a handful of summoners who can have a summons change shape, or adopt traits of their summons. I get why she only has the one.”
“It’s odd though,” mused Susanne, “most summoners spend more time create a varied group of creatures they can summon since it gives them more versatility. I wonder if Miss Parks’ focus on the one was deliberate or just part of her power.”
“Whatever the case may be,” concluded Dean Finch, “We’ll keep watching her. If she makes it after half-term we can get into the nitty gritty of her powers then.”
On each Lower Sixth students’ timetable was a two hour slot on Monday after lunch. The subject was simply labelled ‘Ethics’ and since classes hadn’t started until the middle of last week, that particular block of time had been missed by many of the students as they focused on more immediate issues.
However as the lunch period ended, the Lower Sixth class found themselves making their way underground once more to a large classroom filled with desks. On the board was written the word Ethics, helping to ease the concern of many students who’d been wondering if they’d found the right room. One by one the desks were filled. Conversations floated through the room, some students discussing the shortened gym class that would come after, others chatted about their above ground lessons.
As the clock on the wall struck one the dean entered the room, her entrance acting as some unspoken signal for quiet. Like always, the dean was dressed sharply in a black suit and heels. She moved behind the large desk at the front of the room and turned to face the assembled teens.
“Good morning students,” she welcomed, a small smile on her face. “Today we’ll be having our first ethics class. For those of you unaware, this is another aspect of your mandatory HCP training. Each Monday we will spend this two hour period discussing the many things that make a hero, from their public identities to the hard choices many will often face.
“So to begin our first lesson, let’s discuss how we classify Supers. How do we decide which Super is stronger? Which is more dangerous or destructive? Anyone?” The Dean paused, hoping, as she did every year for a volunteer. Once it became obvious that one was not forthcoming, she resigned herself to picking one of the less attentive students. She may as well have their attention if not their willingness to participate.
“How about you Mr Reese? Any thoughts?”
Tom jerked his head up at the sound of his name. Biting his lip he quickly composed what he hoped would be a satisfactory, if not complete, answer.
“Umm…” he began hesitantly, “All the news reports and articles use the same descriptions. You have NTC Supers, Non-Threatening Combatant, Standard; which tends to most Supers like low level speedsters and strongmen. Demolition class, which means Supers that can destroy a lot, Manhattan, which is Supers on par with a nuclear bomb, and finally Armageddon class Supers who could in theory destroy the world…” He petered off here, hoping his generic explanation would get him a pass.
Dean Finch however was having none of it.
“Indeed,” she agreed, “that is the most common system used to class Supers. However why do we use that system, Mr Reese? Why not something more detailed?”
“Well,” Tom began, stalling for time. “The American classification system, which is what is used most often, is really simple. That makes it easy for everyone to understand and remember it.” He chewed his lip furiously as he cobbled together an idea.
“We use it because A) everyone uses it and B) everyone can use it in everyday conversation. Also, describing someone as a Manhattan Class Super sounds better than something more formal and measured.”
The Dean nodded, “A good answer. Yes, as with many things, the world has adopted a generic American system that works best because it is simple and descriptive. However it is also flawed. Aside from its oversimplification of a subject as diverse as Super abilities, who can guess as to why the DFH and UK government choose not to use this system when classifying Supers?”
Again she was met with silence, although this time it was a thoughtful silence, rather than the stunned silence of a deer in headlights. It gladdened Dean Finch to see another year take her question seriously. A Hero that couldn’t think outside the box, even off the battle field, was not going to last long in this line of work.
After a few minutes of thoughtful silence one of the students tentatively raised their hand.
“Yes?” prompted the Dean.
“Human casualty,” the girl half whispered from behind a curtain of silvery blonde hair, obviously nervous about speaking out. “The generic classifications all look at damage done to an area within a certain timeframe if the Super were left unchecked, but it doesn’t take into account human casualties.”
Smiling, Dean Finch nodded before asking, “Geography A-Level?”
The girl blinked owlishly, unsure how to respond. “I’m sorry?” she ventured.
“Most students who think of that flaw tend to be Geography students, particularly those who enjoy demographics and so on. You are quite correct however. For the general public, a system that easily, and rather prettily, classifies Supers is useful, whilst for an impartial and objective description of a Super’s capabilities works well for governments and insurance companies. However it fails to consider Supers with less flashy and physically destructive powers.
“For example, a high level gravity manipulator can easily destroy a city in an hour, possibly reaching Armageddon levels depending on how strong they are. For their power the generic system works well. But what about a Super who can create and spread, let’s say, bubonic plague? Or a super who can control minds? With the American system they’d be no more than NTCs. Not that threatening in theory, but in practice if let loose on a densely populated area? The loss of life would be catastrophic.
“For this reason, the UK Super administrations use a classification system devised by a researcher back in the 1980’s. For some reason, known only to them, its official name is the Spock System.”
A few chuckles rang out at the clearly nerd inspired name.
“Yes I know, but let’s move on to actually discussing how this system works.”
Dean Finch turned to the board behind her and, after wiping of the lone word written there, proceeded to write from 1 to 10 and then writing the letters P, M, E and O.
“Any guesses?” she asked the class. This time the hands were quicker in coming so she picked one at random. “Yes Mr Thompson?”
“Obviously the numbers show an increase in power, or I suppose increase in people killed.” He paused a little as the implication of what he’d just said sinking in. Dean Finch knew discussing human casualties was a distressing subject, but one she felt was best dealt with early on.
Getting to grips once more with the subject at hand, Evan Thompson returned his focus to the board.
“I’m guessing the letter could also represent an increase in impact… but I’m not sure.”
“You’re correct about what the numbers represent. A Super ranked 10 would cause no injuries through anything but mundane means, for example with a gun, whilst a Super classed as a 1 could, conceivably wipe humanity from the face of the earth, though not necessarily through its complete destruction.
“The letters however, do not further distinguish between Supers, rather they denote a Supers power type. P for Physical based powers, M for Mental, E for External, and O for those less easily classified, Other.”
She turned back to the class. “For your first assignment, you’re to discuss in groups what you believe your classification would be and those of any notable Heroes that come to mind. Any last questions?”
Not expecting any further questions Dean Finch was caught off guard when one was called out.
“What about Powereds? Are they classified the same way?”
Trying to suppress a wince at the rather blunt suggestion that Powereds would be dealt with separately, Dean Finch scanned the room for the speaker.
“Yes,” she stated, perhaps a bit too coolly. “Powereds use the same system as Supers. However they are identified as being Powered in reports or for missions, as often in situations where a Powered is involved, the incident is typically accidental.”
“Accidental? More like lazy.”
The Dean focused in on the student who muttered, eyes glaring daggers at the now rather pale girl.
“Kylie Morton. I will have no prejudicial talk about Powereds.” Turning back to the room, Dean Finch tried to reign in her anger. “Powereds are not simply Supers who cannot be bothered to control their powers, as the media would often like to portray. They are as human as any of us. The only difference between you and them are that you have a conscious control over when you use your ability, they do not.”
Taking a deep breath, Dean Finch turned her back to the class and walked over to her chair. “You may begin with the task I have set you.”
It was several minutes before the noise level reached what could be considered a normal level.
Amelia left the Ethics classroom deep in thought. She’d been worried that Powereds would be mention during class and so had been prepared for the inevitable prejudicial beliefs regarding them, but she’d been surprised at how the Dean had reacted to the careless comment made by Luke Smith. Indeed she’d also been pleased by the stalwart defence some of the students had put forth on behalf of Powereds during the group discussion, most notably by a boy Amelia knew only by sight.
The boy had hair so blindingly green even Amelia could see it through her blindfold, hence making him easily recognisable. He had quickly come to the defence of Powereds when one of the other lads had suggested that Powereds just couldn’t be bothered to exercise control.
“Powereds aren’t lazy or stupid,” he said rather forcefully. “They lack the mechanisms we Supers take for granted that allow us to channel and control our powers.”
The other boy, one Amelia recognised from his voice as having been a supporter of the boy who’d been defeated last Sunday by the previously last ranked male, just scoffed.
“So some Supers have it easier than others when controlling their powers. We’ve all seen the news, so many accidents and emergencies are caused by Powereds, and it’s just an excuse we give to lazy Supers who don’t have the brain cells to really think about what they’re doing!” He laughed rather obnoxiously and Amelia was less than pleased to make out the laughs of several other students.
“So being labelled Powered is just an excuse? My seven-year old sister is a Powered. Like me she can cause explosions, but rather than being able to shape and throw them like I can, these explosions happen only when she laughs too much. My little sister has to avoid watching or reading anything too funny in case she blows up our house. Do you really think she’s too lazy or stupid to control her ability?”
The quiet that filled the room after the boys speech lasted a several seconds before the dean moved the conversation onto a different topic. Inside Amelia felt a surge of warmth and sympathy for the boy and his sister. She’d known many other Powereds whose lives had been stunted by the quirks of their own abilities and could personally relate to the situation.
As she left the room she attempted to catch up to the boy who’d all but ran once the class ended but through her blindfold she couldn’t make out the blur of his green hair in the large crowd. Sighing silently she made her way with the rest of the class back above ground for yet another gruelling and mud filled gym class. Hopefully Coach M would at least keep the weather mildly calm instead of violently windy like the last time.