Second String Supers: Freshman Intrigue: Chapter 20

Chapter 20:
Training Steps Up and a Hero Bids Farewell

The heavily built hispanic man groaned as he pulled himself off the floor and began hobbling away from the melee. A large crystalline humanoid took his place as the battle in the room continued while Ramón eventually made his way into the adjacent corridor to be treated by the waiting healer. He muscular man was somewhat surprised to see his Canadian roommate as the apparent on-call person for the Combat training’s super brawl today.

“I though’ ‘ou woul’ be in ‘our Al’erna’ive ‘raining ‘oday m’ frien’.” Ramón noted that his mouth did not seem quite up to the task of enunciating his chosen words properly, a fact also noted by the chuckling Antoin.

“Maybe you should rethink your plans for courting the girl if she’s beating you this badly for grabbing her butt the single time.”

Ramón felt his body relax as his friend’s ability quickly sorted through several bruises, torn muscles, and cracked bones before responding. “If I were to give up so easily, then I would obviously not still be in the HCP. Besides, she does not hit me so hard as she can, so I think soon we will be having our date, my friend.”

“Get back in there and focus on your training before Rachd shows up and removes all thoughts of romance from your brain by force.” The tall blond man was still chuckling as he pushed his roommate back towards the door to the combat room.

Ramón allowed himself to be pushed through the door with a grin, noting as he did that Susan’s shifted form was already making its way slowly towards the healer’s alcove. “It would appear that it is my turn again already. Make sure to have a better bedside manner with the lady than you did with me!” And with a wink, the muscular Mexican rushed back into the fray, catching Amelia off guard with a high speed body check that allowed Collin to land a clean hit to knock the powerful woman off her feet.

Ramón found the combat situation the four students were in somewhat amusing. Amelia’s raw strength made it nearly impossible for either of the Shifters to effectively fight her. Even Collin’s epic durability was worn down quite quickly when the insanely powerful girl started focusing on him. Susan was faster and stronger than Collin, but her movements were too awkward to allow her to effectively evade her skinny opponent for long, and while she was far more resistant to damage than Ramón, against Amelia’s strength she still couldn’t last long. The hybrid strength-speed hispanic fighter was the closest to being able to match Amelia in a solo fight, as he could evade her attacks for long enough to actually begin to noticeably wear down the braided girl. Unfortunately for Ramón, even though the large man knew he was significantly faster than the only person in the class to have beaten Amelia one on one, he couldn’t stay ahead of the girl long enough to emerge victorious.

The three alternating opponents had all settled on a series of strategies for the different pairs that would match up against the powerful blonde. When Ramón was one of the attackers, his role had become the decoy. He was fast and dangerous enough to attract Amelia’s attention, and both Collin and Susan were much stronger than he was and thus better able to capitalize on any distractions. The three of them considered it major progress that after the first week of training thusly Amelia now tended to need attention from the monitoring healers at about the same frequency as Susan and Ramón, and Collin had reached the point where he frequently made it through the first training set still sufficiently intact to continue. Considering that the match was a rotating three on one it wasn’t the greatest of progress, but on the other hand the first three days of training Collin had been eliminated from the combat in less than twenty minutes and the other two fighters tended to need healing at more than a two to one ratio with the skinny girl they were ganging up on.

Ramón was also more than pleased that his nightly training sessions with Amelia were showing stronger and stronger results. The girl was finally starting to incorporate the truly inhuman movement patterns that her incredible strength granted her with a more proper form that allowed her to strike with much greater speed and precision than the untrained flailing she had begun the year with. The muscular man tried to push thoughts of his later training sessions aside as he narrowly avoided a rapid tackle that turned out to be a feint, the incredibly strong woman reversing her direction with only a single foot to the ground and catapulted into Collin hard enough to knock the large crystal form across the room and into the wall.

Ramón winced at the impact. Judging from the small crater the large Shifter had left in the wall it would likely have fully incapacitated the tall Mexican had such a blow been landed on him. Not one to miss an opportunity however, the muscular hispanic man quickly shifted back to offense and landed several solid shots on the off balance blonde, sending her tumbling from her feet where Collin quickly surged forward to hammer her prone form into the reinforced flooring.

“Break!” The half groan from the downed girl as she had pulled her arms up to defend herself from the barrage resulted in an immediate cessation of combat in the room. With a smile at her two current opponents and a wink directed at Ramón, the braided blonde limped off in the direction of the waiting healer, nodding to Susan as she passed the redhead who was waiting for her turn to rejoin the fight.

Ramón found his smile widening to the point where it threatened true damage to his face as a result of the wink offered him by his powerful opponent. The large man was beginning to become unsure that he would have much more of value to teach to Amelia in their late night sessions. But with any luck, that wink was a sign that training or not, the tall Mexican would have something to do with his evenings for a while yet.

Jon paused a moment to smile at his view of the unfolding scene off to one side of the Alternative training room before returning to his own assignment. Both technologically inclined students had apparently descended upon Coach Martinez with a similar idea, and were currently in the process of simultaneously arguing over who should get precedence and attempting to explain the intricacies of their plans to the Instructor. The smile was a result of seeing the coach ambushed and unable to get a word in while her expression settled into a blank stare of non-comprehension. From personal experience Jon had learned it was extremely important not to ask Tara to explain anything she had made or planned to make, and from a distance it seemed that Ty should bear a similar warning for the future.

It had taken the lanky blond man about half of the first period of Alternative training to come up with his own goal, and he decided it was of more importance to focus on making definite progress then to observe the somewhat comedic happenings. Especially after a full week with very little to show as yet. Jon had been working constantly for the last two and a half years to build constructs that could move independently, that could withstand more resistance before shattering, and that could take on more properties than simply being solid. He’d been caught completely unprepared for the assignment and had stumbled repeatedly in trying to find some aspect of his ability that he was not already working towards. His solution turned out to be quite a simple one in hindsight, and had come to him during his third set of extra laps in class. He had always used his ability within his own field of vision, but there was technically no reason that should be required. So Jon Glenn had begun the process of learning how to create his solid light constructs without being able to see them. The act itself was turning out to be far more difficult than he had anticipated.

Jon was still able to create handheld constructs while blindfolded, although he noted immediately that their forms were less rigid and they were overall less durable than his normal attempts. It had been three days of rigorous practice before he had even managed to come close enough to form a construct behind himself that he had heard the odd cross between breaking glass and a burst of static that he was intimately familiar with, signalling the abrupt dissipation of one of his constructs. Even though technically another failure, the young man viewed it as an important step forward. Three more days of practice had only yielded improvement in that it now took the lanky youth a very short time to fail to solidify a construct and start again. Using his roommate as a spotter Jon had learned that at least the out of sight constructs were now taking shape before shattering, but he could not figure out what was missing that prevented them from solidifying.

Deciding on a slightly new approach, Jon started this round by creating a small barrier in front of him. The yellow white obstacle sprang into existence almost immediately. With careful focus, he repeated the process several more times to try and get a feel for exactly what was happening at each step as he used his power. After a half hour of such careful concentration and examination that the young man felt his head was about to burst open, Jon felt he had a firm enough grasp to make another attempt at his new goal.

Taking a deep breath the blond man closed his eyes, focused intently, and carefully released his power to form the construct he was viewing in his mind. Something took hold, slipped, then held again. Jon turned slowly and opened his eyes to see a horribly malformed barrier almost directly behind him. It was so thin that even with the radiance it emitted he was able to see clearly through it, the left side was almost half again the height of the right, and the middle was an erratic mass of bulges and joined the two sides in a bizarre zigzag instead of a straight line. The young man let out a whoop of joy anyways. It was ugly as hell, but it was progress after all.

The young middle eastern girl that appeared in the HCP lecture room did so with a somewhat frantic expression and a ready set of excuses. Instead of seeing the Ethics lecture already begun she was greeted by lazy waves from several students and no sign of either the Dean of the guest lecturer in sight.

“Oh thank God. I thought I was late.” Beulah quickly moved up the rows to find her seat next to her petite roommate.

“You are late Be. The Dean and Mayhem are just later than you are.” Alexandra appeared to be making use of the additional time by studying for one of her mundane classes. Beulah noted the open psychology text book with a bit of disdain.

“I can’t believe you’re into the soft sciences like that Alex.”

“Because Introduction to Classical Literature is such a hardcore discipline.” Beulah found herself a little shocked at her roommate’s quick comeback. Slowly but surely, the small blonde girl was becoming better acclimated to the social repartee of College life.

“So do HCP courses still have the ten minute rule or do we just sit here until it’s time for gym?” The dark haired Israeli woman’s tone indicated the question was rhetorical, but still an answer arrived almost immediately.

“Mayhem is on her way now. There’s been… some bad things today. I think I’ll let her explain it.” Beulah turned towards the telepath to try and get more information, but the door to the lecture hall swung open before she could get any words out.

There was a class wide double-take as the tall leather wearing woman entered the room, for the first time wearing a very concealing upper face mask. The leather mask was crisscrossed with stitch work that was highly reminiscent of the facial scars that had been present previously, but from the fully visible area around the woman’s mouth it was obvious that her skin was now unblemished.

“Welcome to your last day of having me as a guest lecturer. I apologize for being late, and I apologize in advance for the shortness of today’s lesson.” Most of the students present wore nearly identical looks of bewilderment. The two exceptions being Catalina and Michael, the former wearing a sad expression and the latter holding a carefully expressionless mask over his features.

“There has been an incident in the Dallas area, about half an hour ago. Six criminal Supers all classed Demolition or higher attempted a daylight robbery spree of multiple banks in the downtown area. Five of them have been neutralized, the sixth is at large and was last seen headed East on the 20. Of the two responding Heroes, one was a fresh sidekick that went by Frontline. He graduated from Overton last summer, and he was killed in the line of duty.” There was a collective gasp around the room as the news was delivered without any trace of emotion. “It’s traditional at Overton to cancel HCP classes for the day when one of their own falls. After this you are all dismissed until tomorrow.” The Hero started towards the door but paused and turned back about halfway there.

“It was actually not terrible being here. I hope to see some of you out there in another few years.” Mayhem resumed her walk to the door, but paused again when a voice called after her.

“Where are you going?” The entire class turned an almost comically shocked expression towards the bespectacled redhead who had asked the question.

The tall woman turned once more, revealing a truly terrifying smile that held no trace of humor in it. Her tone somehow remained completely emotionless as she responded. “I have an important meeting to get to. Hopefully before anyone else can beat me to it.” No further questions came from the students as the woman finished her exit.

The room was silent for a long moment before a tall black youth stood and made his way to the large screen on the wall facing the class. A few moments of fiddling and a news report was playing, showing the scenes in downtown Dallas where several buildings had been heavily damaged, a few dozen civilians were injured, and a picture in the lower right corner showed the Hero who had been killed in action. The class sat in silence while the reporters scrambled for information, and numbers streamed across the screen as new information came in. In spite of all the damage done, and the destructive powers used by all six of the criminals, it seemed there had been no civilian deaths.

After several minutes of watching the story unfold before everything began to simply repeat what had already been gone over, a tall girl in the front row stood and walked towards the exit.

“You’re leaving?” The question came in an incredulous tone from a tall redhead seated near the middle of the room.

The skinny blonde turned back to respond as she reached the door. “I’m going to train.” With that she turned and disappeared into the hallway.

In the following moments, one by one, the rest of the class stood and went to join her.

“It doesn’t matter how angry you are James, you still can’t go.” The petite older woman looked up into the absolutely livid face of the Close Combat Instructor as he struggled vainly a few feet off the floor.

“Dammit Kathy, Rick was one of MY STUDENTS. Let me go so I can go find that son of a bitch and rip him in half!”

“You aren’t licensed to be a Hero anymore Jimmy. Let it go.” The tall lean black man that had entered the conference room placed a very expensive looking bottle on the table before navigating his way around the airborne man to find a seat next to the Dean.

“You think I give a shit Tony? I am going to g-…”

“Shut up James. Besides, Linda’s got a ten minute head start on you now, and you know there’s not many forces on the planet that can stop her.” The Control Instructor arrived and placed a similar bottle next to the one deposited on the table by Anthony a moment ago.

“He was all of ours, Jim.” Dani Reyes voice was far more subdued as she arrived in the room, seemingly as unfazed as the rest of the staff to see the muscular bald man floating off the floor as she also found a seat.

“It looks like we’re all here except for Laurence.” The last to arrive was Doctor Saxena, who managed a bit of a grin across his otherwise sad features as he took in the image of the mighty Combat Instructor thrashing wildly in the air against invisible bonds.

“He’s been momentarily delayed, but he says we should start without him. He’ll be here in a few minutes.” As she spoke the Dean lowered the still struggling Instructor back to the ground. “Sit down James. If you want us to let you go off half cocked like this, go through the process and renew your certification. But I am not going to hunt down a new Combat Instructor because you went off and got yourself thrown in prison for deciding to go vigilante on us.”

The tall man’s expression still held a great deal of rage, and it looked for a moment like he was simply going to make for the door now that he was able to. Two steps in, he seemed to deflate and turned instead to collapse into one of the chairs. “God dammit. What the hell was Smite thinking taking a rookie into a scenario like that?”

“He was thinking that a lot of people were probably going to die with that many destructive powers being thrown around at once. SWAT was already attempting to engage because the group had already started randomly attacking civilians as they went from bank to bank. They were the only ones close enough to get there in time.” Hai Nguyen answered the tall man’s whispered question as she uncorked the first of the bottles on the table and poured a glass for each present, placed another at the empty seat that the Focus Instructor would occupy, and a last glass was set in the middle of the table.

The lean form of the Ranged Combat Instructor bent across the table slightly, and a flicker of sparks from his left hand ignited the drink in the center of the table. “To Richard Hardaway, the Hero Frontline. He was a great man.”

The glasses around the table raised in response to the toast, and the Overton HCP staff all drained their drinks as the glass in the center of the table rapidly burned down. The Weapons Instructor was the second to stand and begin pouring another round of drinks, repeating the entire ritual once again.

“And that’s why this program is pathetic Jeremy. If anything shows the inferior quality of the ‘Heroes’ they produce, it would have to be this.” Walter Raines gestured at the streaming news display on his phone as his assistant looked uncomfortably around while the two men made their way through the underground HCP complex to one of the work rooms.

“I really think it’s in poor taste to say something like that in response to a man’s death, Sir.” Jeremy Kreid was attempting to walk the fine line between directing his boss’s anger towards him for insubordination and keeping the man from saying something that would likely get him murdered by the faculty. “In any event, the media is not in agreement with that assessment. Two Heroes against six criminal Supers with no civilian deaths in a highly populated area is hardly a sign of incompetence. We have to focus on the present class for Oversight in any event.”

The shorter man started to turn an angry glare towards his assistant when he was suddenly lifted from his feet and slammed into the nearby wall. The greasy haired politician found himself unable to move, and barely able to breathe, as some unseen force pinned him down. His assistant simply gaped in shock at the sight.

“I’m going to very strongly recommend that both of you gentlemen spend the rest of the day away from the Overton HCP facilities.” The cultured voice was accompanied by an older white haired man wearing a slightly out of date formal suit that rounding the corner to face the two men. “This is likely the one day when such careless speech and thoughts on your part, Mr Raines, would be greeted with the response that so many people truly wish to unleash against your person. Also the one day when it is most likely that instead of there being repercussions, we will simply and politely ask for a new appointee to the Committee.”

“You… can’t…” The trapped man struggled to get words to form as he remained pressed across his entire body into the unyielding surface of the wall.

“Yes Mr Raines, I can, and AM, in fact, doing this to you. I can do much more than this, and likely I would not even be punished too severely. Perhaps I would have to return to England when all was said and done, but likely that would be the worst to happen to me.” The white haired man drew very close to the trapped politician before speaking again. “So consider very carefully the next words to come out of your mouth.” With that Walter found himself sliding back down to the floor, released from the invisible force that had held him.

The politician’s angry glare met the older man’s perfectly calm, cold gaze and faltered. This was not a man that appeared to have any doubts about the statement he had just made. “Come on Jeremy, we’re going to take the rest of the day off.” Laurence smiled as the two men quickly scurried towards the elevator.

Heading back to the corner the Focus Instructor retrieved a very expensive looking brandy bottle from where he had placed it, and resumed his stroll to his original destination. It was terrible to be late to the service, but it would have been a far greater sin to allow such a weasel to pollute the halls of the HCP with his stupidity on such a day.

Second String Supers: Freshman Intrigue: Chapter 19
Second String Supers: Freshman Intrigue: Chapter 21

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