The Masks We Wear
Chapter 13: Beat Up, Shake Down
The rest of the week passed about the way they expected in class. Ethics was confusing, gym was excruciating, and then there was class above ground…
Sam decided to take a relatively light load of classes for his first semester. Having been out of school for a full year he wasn’t sure how he would do, and he was keenly aware that he could be dropped from the HCP for failing to keep up minimum academic standards. He did take one which particularly interested him. He figured no one would expect an HCP student to take this class, which actually made it relatively safe for him to take.
A thin man wearing a tweed jacket stepped to the front of the lectern and addressed the class. “Good afternoon. My name is Professor Lee, and this is Theoretical Physiology of Variant Homo Sapiens. My TAs are walking around with a syllabus and I’ve started a roll sheet on the first row. Pass it along, please. I realize many professors at our institutions don’t bother taking attendance, but I am not one of them. Showing up is part of the curriculum, and I expect you to fulfill it just as you would any paper or test.”
A murmur of voices accompanied a shuffling of seats on this announcement. Most people hadn’t expected a breeze course, Professor Lee was known to be tough and the course was thought of as difficult. Sam figured as a super himself and with what he would be learning in the HCP, he would have an advantage, he might have been wrong about that. Still, it wasn’t calculus or physics, how hard could it really be? It was a fluff science course that most people took because it satisfied both the science requirement and the study of modern society requirement. Killing two requirements with one class should have made it more popular than it was. There were only about half the seats filled and Sam was becoming a bit concerned that he ended up taking a very difficult course without realizing it.
He started paying attention in earnest and pulled out his notebook and began to write as fast as he could to keep up with the passionate lecturer. A discussion began about whether supers were the same as ordinary humans or genetically distinct. This part was fascinating to Sam, every super at one time or another looks at themselves and asks if they are different from everyone around them. From their parents, friends, lovers. Supers who had kids certainly had a higher chance of having kids who were super themselves. And, from what he had been taught, the same power sets were often passed down generation after generation among super families. He still wondered if he was the same as the people around him or fundamentally different.
His musings were interrupted with the professor asking the class a question.
“So, imagine that tomorrow some company comes out with a new chemical compound that could alter you, give you abilities you never had before. What would you pay to be better than human?”
Everyone suddenly became silent. It was not a question Sam had to ask himself but several variations came to mind.
The professor continued asking the class what they thought about the possibility of turning powereds into supers. Sam would have thought that impossible but he had already heard the rumors that the junior class had several students who were once powereds and somehow became supers. He was anxious to find out more about that but he was intrigued by the line of thought and had a question of his own. He raised his hand and soon was called on by the professor.
“Professor Lee, making supers from scratch or even turning powereds into supers sounds incredible, but wouldn’t it be simpler to take existing supers and make them stronger, perhaps even give them more powers? I mean if whatever makes them super is already there wouldn’t it be simpler to crank it up rather than create it from scratch in someone who never had it?”
“That is another fascinating idea young man, and one that has been proposed at various times in recent years. There is a group of technical brilliance supers that call themselves ‘Improve’ that seeks to do just that, through genetics, cybernetics, pharmacology, they seek new ways to make supers more powerful.”
“Isn’t that a good thing professor? Don’t we want our heroes to be able to handle more, be more likely to survive and keep protecting us?”
“What is your name son?”
“Umm… Matt… Matt Norton.”
“Well Matt Norton, what you suggest sounds noble. But who said they were working with heroes?”
“The market for such services is much larger in the private sector and among criminals than it ever could be among heroes. We currently mint fifty new heroes a year, ten of them at this very institution of higher learning. Of those at least one or two die before they ever make it out of their internships. Heroes shouldn’t necessarily make any long term investments. They aren’t likely to pay out during their lifespan.”
Sam thought about that. About the possibility that villains or mercenaries were more likely than heroes to get enhanced when such things became possible. The thought filled him with dread.
“But wouldn’t there be rules against dealing with villains?”
“Hmm, probably, the government, specifically the DVA tries to regulate all things super. But you are making the assumption that A, the evil-doers attempting to acquire such enhancements are known to be villains, and B, the companies providing them are legitimate. Many things are done on the black market or on the sly. Remember the very first known technical brilliance super was a villain who laid waste to Providence… before he did that he made a fortune supplying tech to other villains and even ordinary gangs and mobsters. If the technology exists to improve supers, how fast will one of the technical brilliance supers reverse engineer it, use it on themselves, and then improve it some more? Then how fast will it be used to make a profit, legitimate or not?”
Sam began to think about that a great deal, so much so that he missed the next several minutes of what the professor was saying. He leaned over to the student on two seats away to his left where a man with sandy brown hair was sitting and asked if he could see his notes for the last few minutes. The man shook himself suddenly, surprised by the interruption. Sam would have thought he woke him from an in class nap except his eyes had been open.
“Sorry to disturb you, could I borrow the last few minutes of notes, I was distracted and missed what the professor said.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I was lost in thought. I didn’t take any notes.”
“Yeah me too, the professor raises some scary questions. I mean the world is rough enough without people going around and making a better villain, right?”
“I suppose so, I think I missed him talking about that though.”
“No worries, I guess I’ll just have to try someone else. Do you want a copy of what I have and what I get?”
“Sure, that would be great.”
“I’m Matt Norton.”
“Nice to meet you Matt, my name is Nicholas.”
“If I get the missing part of the notes, I’ll let you know.”
Sam realized he was missing more of what the professor was saying and went back to taking notes. After Professor Lee ended his lecture Sam leaned forward to the man in the seat one row ahead of him. He was just closing up his tablet where it seemed he had taken copious notes.
“Would you mind if I looked at your notes from right after the professor was discussing companies selling the tech to make better supers?”
The other student turned and looked up at Sam, “Sure, do you just want me to e-mail it to you?”
“That would be great.”
“What’s your e-mail?”
“It’s Matt dot Norton at Lander dot e d u,” Sam told him as he pulled out his tablet.
A few clicks later Sam’s phone buzzed indicating he had a new e-mail. He pulled it out and saw a new e-mail from Mitchell Yates.
“Thanks… uh… Mitchell.”
“No problem. Interesting class huh?”
“Yeah, a lot to think about though, that’s how I missed some of the notes.”
“I don’t have that problem.”
“You don’t think about things?” Sam joked.
“No, that’s not it. I’m taking this class because I’m a super and want to learn more about supers.”
“I… I thought students in the HCP were supposed to keep it secret,” he said looking around to see if anyone had heard, surprised someone would commit such an obvious SI infraction.
“Oh I’m not in the HCP. My power isn’t exactly what you call useful for hero work.”
“Oh… I see… mind if I ask what your power is?”
“Sure, I have a multi-track mind.”
“A multi-track mind. Basically I can pay attention to several things at once, focus down on different things. I can watch television, listen to music, read a book, and play around on my tablet all at the same time. So for the class one track of my mind was taking notes, another was thinking about what he was saying, a third was working on the assignment I got in my math class, and a fourth was going over the sports scores.”
“Sounds like an awesome power for a college student.”
“Yeah, kind of freaks people out though. They never think I’m paying attention to them.”
Around the two of them the class had emptied out. Sam looked around realizing the room was empty. “I guess we ought to get out of here.”
“Yeah, I was going to get some lunch, want to join me?”
Sam looked at his watch, lunch sounded fun but he wanted to get down to the HCP class early.
“Sorry, I have some stuff to do, maybe another time.”
“Sure Matt, see you next class.”
Sam hurried off to the nearest entrance to the HCP and quickly changed into his black uniform. It was Wednesday, no ethics today and still an hour till gym started but he wanted to see if he could track down Ray and some of the others before class.
He was just coming out of the locker room when he saw Jacqui’s roommate, Dixie, heading down the hall quickly.
“Where’s the fire?” he asked, realizing that down here there might actually be a fire.
“Heading to the observation room, the first combat challenge has been given, they’re going to fight in a few minutes.”
“June Bishop, she was my second opponent in ranking, a speedster of some sort. She challenged Jorgie Long, five full ranks above her.”
“What does Jorgie do?”
“I’m not sure, I haven’t met her yet. Come watch the fight with me.”
“OK, sure,” Sam agreed, figuring if he was going to find any of the people he was looking for, that would be his best chance.
The two of them headed over to the main observation room. Quite a few of their classmates were there as well as a few students in grey and even a couple of seniors in white.
One blonde girl wearing white was just finishing saying something as they were walking in, “nothing like a good girl fight to start off the year,” was all Sam caught.
Looking around he saw several of the people he was looking for, Ray was there, and unsurprisingly Vicki was talking to him. He saw Kerry and Kellie off to one side and Clay and Marvin were both there as well. He didn’t see Dennis or Doug but most of the people he wanted were here. He started toward Ray when he felt a light touch on his shoulder.
Turning he saw Jacqui and Jenny standing there, Jacqui’s hand rested lightly on Sam’s shoulder.
“Hey Sam, how was class this morning?” she asked politely.
“Not bad, definitely made me think a lot. How were your classes? You are taking much more difficult subjects than I am.”
“Good, I had Differential Equations at nine and Introduction to Cryptography at eleven.”
“There is something incredibly sexy about smart women,” he said as he did his best attempt at leering at her and wiggled his eyebrows.
She and Jenny both laughed.
“Aren’t you going to ask about my classes Sam?” said Jenny putting on an expression of vapid adoration and a quaver in her voice saying she was mortally offended he hadn’t spoken to her.
“I knew it was a mistake introducing the two of you,” he replied while she quivered her chin and sniffed until they all broke down laughing.
“How were your classes Jenny?”
“Oh just peachy keen Sam.”
Sam laughed and then added “Guys, I’d love to talk but I actually need to catch Ray and some of the others. If you guys would excuse me?” and with their nods he moved over toward the group containing Kerry, Kellie, Clay, and Marvin. Jacqui and Jenny headed over to grab Vicki.
“Howdy guys,” he said by way of greeting, “I wanted to talk to you and Ray and the rest of the study group.”
“Sure,” they all murmured and the five of them walked over to where Ray was talking to Vicki, Jenny, and Jacqui.”
“Hey Ray,” Sam interrupted, “could we grab you, I wanted to set up some times for study sessions.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Ray answered quickly. It may have been his imagination but Ray seemed a bit relieved to be pulled away.
Before anyone could do anything, the screens on the wall lit up and showed the inside of the combat room. Two women were standing about fifteen feet apart. The speakers blared to life and Dean Blaine’s voice echoed through the room.
“This is a match for ranking. As such, the only ways to win are to incapacitate your opponent or force her to give up. Should serious injury occur, the match will be stopped while the injury is reviewed and it is determined if the student can continue. Everyone do your best!”
Sam wanted to ask which girl was which but he didn’t have time. Five seconds after he had wished them well, Dean Blaine’s voice said “Begin,” and the fight started.”
Fog began to eddy in the room around one of the combatants, a tall auburn haired girl, in the close up monitor Sam could see her hair was standing on end forming a halo about her as if she was holding a van De Graff generator. Suddenly she shot her hands in front of her and lightning crackled forth with an echoing boom which then could almost feel.
The other girl had just been standing there up till that point but when the lightning was launched, she wasn’t there any longer. The lightning struck the floor where she had been standing. The main camera widened the view and showed her standing off to one side about thirty feet away, the camera which had been focused on her swung wildly till it centered on her image again.
“Hey Dixie,” Sam said loudly over the general din, “are you sure she’s a speedster, not a teleporter? She isn’t running around like a speedster would.”
“She ran smack into me during our fight Sam. She never teleported,” came the reply from Sam’s left.
Watching the main camera the auburn haired girl, who by elimination must be Jorgie, suddenly was thrown to the right as if struck, the camera focused on her showed a blur and quite clearly caught the distortion of her cheek as if she were struck a heavy blow.
The camera tracking June was swinging wildly again and the wide angle view now showed June turning around twenty feet on the opposite side from Jorgie from where she was before. Oddly she looked as if she were in pain herself.
Jorgie shook off the hit and the fog around her swirled and thickened. The floor by her feet seemed to get slick and the sheen of ice could be seen forming on it.
June finished her turn and was suddenly standing forty feet away on the other side of Jorgie again. Jorgie was on the ground hugging herself tightly as if she had just taken a massive blow to the ribs. June’s arm was held straight out but then she started to shake it as if it was in pain.
“This is one hell of a confusing fight,” said Sam.
“Not really,” added Ray. “June isn’t really a speedster.”
“Just watch,” said Ray pointing at the monitors.
On the screen Jorgie was getting up to a kneeling position and her hair was beginning to stand on end again. June turned and saw this and bent forward putting her arms over her head as if to protect herself and then suddenly she wasn’t there any longer.
June’s camera swung again, the one focused on Jorgie showed her flying out of frame, and the wide view showed June standing in the same position thirty feet away from Jorgie. The camera on Jorgie now showed her lying on the floor her nose was obviously broken, both eyes looked blackened, blood was flowing from the smashed nose, and several teeth were missing from her gaping mouth. Sam was pretty sure looking at it that her jaw was broken.
The camera focused on June showed her wobbling a bit but she turned and straightened and looked over at her opponent.
Professor Fletcher’s voice came over the speakers, “Winner, June Bishop.”
On the other side of the room Sam noticed Jim Sharp and another man in white uniforms suddenly disappear. They reappeared on camera and Jim immediately went over to the fallen Jorgie. The other man went to June grabbed her arm and they disappeared.
The screens went blank.
The din of many conversations started immediately.
“OK Ray,” Sam started as the group of nine of them stood together, “what were you saying about June not being a speedster?”
“Well she is, sort of,” he started to explain, “she can rapidly accelerate and decelerate in straight lines.”
“What’s the difference?”
Ray looked at him the way you would look at a person who asked ‘why is two plus two four’. “A speedster, like Jenny here, can run at incredibly fast rates, just like you or me running but much much faster. What June does isn’t running. She suddenly moves in a straight line at immense speeds till she gets to the point she was looking at and stops, just as suddenly. She goes from zero to sixty without going anywhere in between. She also can’t steer while she’s doing it.”
“So she’s a teleporter?”
“No a teleporter doesn’t go through the points in between. She hits every point along the way and just moves in a straight line. I think she obeys the law of gravity, can’t leave the ground while she does it.”
“So what was she doing to Jorgie?” asked Kerry.
“Don’t you see,” Kellie interrupted, “she hit her at some incredible speed. But she is normal density and strength and she can really aim while she’s doing it so the hits weren’t crushing or killing for the most part. That last one was pretty devastating but she hit her full body not just with a fist or and arm like she did the first couple of times.”
“That’s right,” agreed Ray. “Actually, looking at the damage she did she’s pretty lucky she wasn’t accused of using lethal force… or actually using lethal force.”
“Yeah, there’s that. I think she’s also taking damage whenever she hits something,” added Kellie. “She looked like she was in pain after the first two hits, but that third one nearly knocked her out too. I think that’s why she covered her head with her arms, to protect herself.”
“That was a crazy fight,” added Clay, “even the winner is barely standing.”
“Yeah,” added Sam, “that was rough. And that highlights why I came to talk to all of you. I know it’s early in the year, hell it’s only the second day of classes, but I wanted to start organizing our study sessions. I figure we should start tonight, at least making plans. We should definitely get together every weekend, maybe add more in early mornings or evenings if we think we need to.”
“Do you think we need that much so soon Sam?” asked Marvin.
“What do you think Marvin, look at the damage they did to each other in a simple, no lethal moves sparing match. What happens when someone with June’s power set attacks one of us while carrying a knife? Can you absorb that much kinetic energy focused down to a knife point Marvin?”
“I… I don’t know Sam.”
“Neither do I, but I bet these are the kind of things we are going to get trained to do over the next four years. I just want to give us a jump on it and a better chance to get through the four years.”
“I agree,” said Ray, “you can’t start too early. Hell, we may be starting too late.”
There was a chorus of agreement from the others who were there.
“Clay and Marvin, can you make sure Dennis and Doug are there?” asked Sam.
“No problem,” replied Clay.
“Definitely no problem,” echoed Marvin.
“OK why don’t we meet in classroom thirteen at 7 PM tonight?” asked Ray. “It’s a small breakout room, suitable for ten or so people. It’s got smart boards, computer access, and projectors, everything we’ll need to plan. From there we can move to the gym or combat rooms as we decide what to do next.”
“Are you sure we can’t join you?” asked Jacqui. “This is something I agree with and could get behind.”
“Jacqui,” replied Sam, “you know I would love to have you there, but too large a group won’t function. Eight is actually pretty optimal… I’m sorry.” Sam was worried, he didn’t want this to hurt their burgeoning relationship, but he didn’t want to mess up the study group either.
“Hey Jacqui,” Jenny interrupted, “don’t worry over their group. Let’s make one of our own. I like the idea of roommates, and the four from your suite, me and my roommate will make a good start. Just need two more.”
Jacqui looked at Sam, saw the nervous look in his eye, and promptly stuck out her tongue at him. “I guess I don’t need your group after all Sam. Jenny do you know another room like the one Ray was describing?”
“Sure do,” she replied with a smile on her face. “Oh and I know something else too,” she added looking directly at Ray.
“What’s that Jenny,” he asked on cue.
“I know what we are going to be facing for the next seven months.” She took Jacqui by the arm and started away toward where Dixie was standing.
“Oh,” Jacqui said stopping suddenly, “hold on Jenny, I know the perfect recruit for our group.” She grabbed Jenny’s hand and dragged her over to where John Davis was standing.
Ray looked at Sam and shook his head. “That’s a smart girl you hooked up with. She went right for the only healer in the class. Probably the one thing this group is lacking, a way to fix ourselves up if we get injured in training.”
Sam stared after his girlfriend, for he had started thinking about Jacqui that way, and his friend wishing he could have them both with him. He knew however that would be a bad idea in the long run. “Yeah, she definitely is smart. OK guys let’s start by exchanging phone numbers so we can easily get in touch with one another. And right after that,” he added after glancing at his watch, “let’s head to gym before Professor Fletcher and Professor Pendleton decide we are late and need extra laps.”
Gym went about as was expected. Both June and Jorgie were there and running alongside the women’s group. They didn’t look any worse for the wear.
No one else failed to keep up on the second day so they didn’t lose any other classmates yet. At the end of the day they were exhausted but happy to still be there.
At the end of the class, Professor Fletcher had them gather as he did after the first class.
“No one else managed to prove they don’t belong here yet. Usually by today several others have. Maybe it’s because there was no weekend for you to condition your bodies with alcohol, sex, and other intoxicants.”
There was a single laugh from amidst the group.
Professor Fletcher turned toward the sound, which abruptly cut off. “Do you think that’s funny, Mack?”
“Yeah Coach, I do,” came the obnoxious reply, “I don’t get drunk, I barely need sleep, and sex…” he leered over at Dixie and Bethany, “well sex just supercharges me.”
“I see,” Fletcher replied shaking his head. “Well Mr. Mack, you’ve made me decide to move up my plans. You will have the opportunity to prove that come Monday. I was planning to beat the crap out of all of you on Tuesday, I figured to give you a full week of gym first; that and a day to recover from your weekend. But since Mr. Mack feels a weekend of debauchery will only strengthen him, and I want you to have every opportunity to beat me, instead I will beat the crap out of all of you on Monday, when he’s at his best.”
Most of the class turned to Leo Mack to glare at him.
“Professor?” the interruption was accompanied by a raised hand from June Bishop, who won her first ranking challenge earlier today.
“Yes Ms. Bishop?”
“So we are each going to have to fight you? Is this for you to judge our powers for yourself?”
“Oh no Ms. Bishop, that would take much too long. You will still have a full gym class right afterwards. I’m going to fight all of you at once. Class dismissed.”
“How in the hell are we going to fight Professor Fletcher on Monday,” asked Marvin of the group gathered in classroom thirteen.
“Poorly,” answered Kerry.
“Is there any chance we can beat him Ray?” asked Sam.
“I doubt it,” Ray answered flatly, “the professors here were all chosen in part because they are top of their fields. It’s like asking if a group of five year olds could beat up a ULCL champion,” he stared right at Sam as he said that and then winked.
“OK but there are still forty seven of us left in the class and we aren’t exactly powerless, shouldn’t sheer numbers count for something?”
“Actually, there are only forty six of us left,” Ray corrected. “Nate Anderson quit right after gym today. I think the idea of fighting Professor Fletcher made him nervous.”
“Stained his shorts is more like it,” laughed Kerry.
“Hey Kerry,” Sam interjected, “I wouldn’t laugh over it, that sort of thing could happen to any of us. Mouthing off about it just makes you seem like a poor sport. You may be first now, that doesn’t even guarantee you make it through the year.”
Everyone was looking at the two of them, several slowly nodded.
“Yeah Kerry,” said her roommate, “I know you’re not like that. We don’t need a female Leo Mack in here.”
Kerry shuddered. “OK guys, I’m sorry. I won’t mock anyone for losing their nerve in this place. Sarcasm is my manner though so just throw something at me if I take it too far.”
No sooner had she said that than Kellie took a dime from her pocket, spun it on the tip of her middle finger, and then bounced it off the floor to wedge in Kerry’s right nostril.
Kerry bent over a fit of coughing, making blowing noises, until the sound of the coin hitting the floor again could be heard. “OK… OK…” she said as she stood up catching her breath, “I deserved that. Though if I were you Kellie I would be careful, we do share a room after all. Your hand in a bowl of warm water in the middle of the night would make for all sorts of embarrassing.”
Kellie smiled at her roommate. “Bring it, I figure it’s good training for later on, developing paranoia while sleeping.”
“Yeah OK, it just might be good for situational awareness after all. OK now that we’re done berating me for mocking Nate for quitting, can someone tell me who he was?”
“I don’t know much about him,” Ray said, though Sam was sure he knew his powers at a minimum. “He was ranked twenty third of twenty four men and his roommate was that guy Dexter, the second ranked man.”
“Oh,” Kerry said, “he was Hamster’s roommate.”
“Kerry…” started Kellie.
“No, that one’s not me. Everyone took to calling him that because his power makes him look like a hamster in an exercise ball.”
Kellie looked at her and then suddenly started laughing. “It does, doesn’t it?”
The rest of them started laughing along muttering agreement in-between laughs.
After a minute or so, Sam took the lead again. “OK guys back to my question, Ray shouldn’t the fact that forty six supers are going up against Professor Fletcher mean something?”
“Yeah, it means we will be tripping on each other, bunched up, have no clue how to work with each other. It means we’re an easier target.”
“OK so how do we become less of an easy target?”
“That’s obvious, we train. That’s what the whole HCP experience is about.”
“And how do we train better? I mean gym is toughening us up but there has to be more to it.”
“Of course there is but the powers that be don’t think we are ready and they want to weed out more people still. We will start training with our powers in earnest come next semester.”
“But we should train now, get ahead of the curve, that’s why I wanted to put this group together.”
“Sure, and that’s a good idea as far as it goes. But there are obstacles. No healer is probably the biggest one. Let’s say we do some full power training and Kerry over there does the anti-healer thing and snaps all your bones. How do you plan on getting better?”
“Hey Ray what’s with telling everyone my power?”
Ray looked at her then pointed to each one of them in turn. “Sam has an enhancing and protective energy form, you Kerry are an anti-healer, Marvin is indestructible and absorbs and redirects kinetic energy, Kellie has an enhanced physique and an enhanced brain which lets her use that physique to its fullest, Dennis is a telepath with only minor telekinesis, Doug is a techie whose current signature item is a power gauntlet, Clay stops time around him and can still move and act inside the frozen moment, and lastly I’m a god damned shape shifter, oh and I ferret out information like you wouldn’t believe was possible but that’s just me nothing super about it.”
All of them except for Sam stared at Ray. He was used to his ability to have ridiculous information at his fingertips already.
“If you can’t get used to the idea of people finding out secrets,” Ray continued, “you should just leave the HCP now. And if you can’t trust this group enough to share your powers you don’t belong here either.”
Now even Sam was staring at Ray along with the rest of the group. “Well that’s pretty blunt Ray,” he said.
“Yeah it is, but it’s true too. You guys might not really understand what we are doing here, sure a study group, it sounds great but it’s a bit more in this case. What we are really doing is jumping ahead a year in HCP training. Second year is devoted to teams and they form teams among the students and let them train themselves and pit them against each other.”
“How the hell do you know that?” asked Doug, entering the conversation for the first time. “I’ve been trying to coax the computer system to give me more information about the class schedules since they let us down here, and I’m very good at that sort of thing, but I haven’t gotten squat about anything outside this year.”
“I told you, I ferret out information like no one else. In this case I went low tech, I listened in on the second year class as they were discussing it, pretty simple actually.”
“Damn, I was so focused on the computer I didn’t even think to…”
“Right,” interrupted Ray, “and there is where we need to focus our training for now, thinking.”
“Ray,” Sam said, “tell us how thinking is going to help us beat Professor Fletcher on Monday.”
“It will help us last longer, look less like a bunch of punks who can’t even put up a fight.”
“What we’ll start tonight and work on is knowing our roles and functioning together as a team with those roles. One of the main reasons I bluntly set forth our powers for everyone to hear is we are going to have to know them to know what roles each of us is suited for.”
“What kind of roles, Ray?” asked Dennis.
“OK let’s start with our base archetypes, and this is my own system, it’s not necessarily what you would learn here or anywhere else. Sam and Marvin are our tanks. Their job is to soak up damage so the rest of us don’t have to. Now we are lucky because both our tanks can also dish out a significant amount of damage at the same time. That isn’t always the case.”
“No, think about a super with only increased durability, or one who makes force fields, or maybe even an extreme self-healer. All of them can soak up the damage but can’t put out much more than a normal human. They might be tanks but they’re also knocks.”
“Knocks? What’s a knock?” asked Clay.
“Knock is slang for NTC which is short for non-threatening combatant. It means a super who can’t do any more damage than an ordinary person. It’s part of the ranking system for supers.”
“But, force fielders can be incredibly powerful. Plexiglas is one of the strongest force field generators out there. I don’t think anyone has ever beaten her.”
“Yeah but she’s still a knock. She doesn’t do damage she stops it. The rating is based on how much damage a super can do because the amount of damage they can do leads to the level of response a hero can legitimately use. For knocks and standards they generally don’t use deadly force, they do sometimes for demolition but they usually give them a chance. For Manhattan and Armageddon they take no chances, shoot first, ask questions later, and don’t worry too much about the collateral damage.”
“Deadly force?” Clay swallowed hard.
“It’s something we all need to think about if we get far enough into training. Jumpstarting our team training is going to jumpstart some thought processes early too. Especially for you Clay, your power is well suited for taking out dangerous supers. You would only be classified as a standard but you could take out Armageddons easily given the right circumstances.”
“I’m not really comfortable with that idea.”
“I know and it’s something you will have to come to grips with. I suggest speaking to the counselors they have available for us early on before it starts to gnaw at you, because your job in the group is hatchet man. Your power lets you focus on taking out specific targets. You can’t lay down cover, protect us, or cause a lot of destruction but you can go in and take out individual targets.”
“Yeah,” Clay agreed with a sigh. “I can do that…”
“Kerry, your role is ranged take down, and you are very suited for it. Ranged because nothing in your power set protects you from others and all it would take is a bullet to take you down. You are gonna need some fancy armor someday.”
“Got it,” she replied.
“Kellie and Doug, you two are irregulars. You have very flexible powers but not suited for all situations. Kellie you are more physical right now, very suited for ranged or close combat. Doug, what sort of tasks fit you will really depend on what you do with your powers and what you build. You didn’t do so great in the rankings but it was Marvin who beat you so it’s not that much of a surprise. Given time and planning though you will likely easily beat Marvin.”
“I’d like to see him try,” scoffed Marvin.
“You probably will,” answered Ray, before turning to face Dennis.
“Dennis, you are mostly communication given where your powers are right now. Advanced minds fall into many potential categories but, unless I’m wrong, your biggest strength is in passing your thoughts to others not pulling information out of others’ minds, not attacking their minds, and not telekinesis.”
“I’ve got a little of all of that but you’re right. My biggest strength is that I can pass messages to people I know miles and miles away.”
“That will be useful.”
“So we are missing any number of useful abilities, we don’t have any crowd control, we don’t have any direct damage, we don’t have any illusion or combative advanced minds, and as I already said, we don’t have a healer.”
“What about you Ray?” asked Kerry, “What’s your role?”
“I’m an infiltrator. I can get to the enemy and get information. I’m the secret agent man. I might even use that as my theme song. I also have a great deal of base knowledge already and I know strategy and tactics.”
“What good is infiltration going to do us for this upcoming fight?”
“First of all, not every person or every power is going to be of use in every situation. Second of all, information is the key to planning and planning is the key to doing well. Not necessarily winning but putting up a good fight.”
“OK so what information do you have that will help?”
“Well to start with, I know what Professor Fletcher’s powers are.”
“You do? And…”
“And… we’re fucked.”