After the orientation, the seven invited several of the people from the various groups they had been talking to out to lunch at one of the cafeterias. Five other students agreed to go with them, the boy Jennifer has been talking to, Shawn Cain, two roommates that Sam had been chatting up, Valerie Singley, and a different Sara than the one Jennifer had been talking to, also there was Hector Camacho, invited by Michael, and Robert Pinto invited by Hope. Luckily the cafeteria was serving pizza, hard to mess up pizza, so most of them ate that, although Sara only had a salad, and Allison had several pieces of fruit. Even though all they wanted to discuss was their powers, besides being dangerous in public, discussing your powers with people you will be fighting in combat rankings in a week just wasn’t strategically sound. They did however discuss the subtlety test, “so, on this questionnaire, you see question 87, ‘Name a hero that graduated from the Sizemore Tech HCP,’ you think this is a trick question?” Shawn asked.
“With subtlety, there is not really anyway to tell, I find question 23 kind of strange, ‘Where does Dean Allen eat lunch on Wednesday?’ are 50 students going to be following him at lunch on Wednesday, seems like a good way to get everyone caught and lose two points,” Tony asked. The discussing went on for most of lunch, everyone discussing various questions, everyone else trying very hard not to cheat and give something away, quite a balancing act. The conversation eventually changed to why the seven all shared an off campus house, if none of them knew each other before a few days ago. The seven had actually been anticipating questions like this would eventually be coming and had spent some time on Saturday coming up with some good lies. Allison had also used her empathic abilities to figure out the best liar of the group so it fell to Sam to start the basic stories and the others to fill in small gaps to help with believability.
“Well, for starters you should know that we are the Dean’s seven picks, you’d have figured that pretty easily eventually, and while he didn’t let us in on the entire reasons he picked us, or put us together in that house, we put some of the story together. It seems that the DVA was unhappy with the small class that Sizemore has had for the last three year; it seems that numerous study show the most effective number of freshmen for the best graduate outcome is 50, so they made him use his choices. But all this came only about a month ago, so most housing had been filled up, and likely because he wanted us to have a little advantage he put us in that house,” Sam said.
“Well it’s kind of cool,” Robert said, “How you like your housing?”
“Oh, it is so big, I think it was a fraternity before the school acquired it,” Hope said.
Some of the group had gone off together to explore campus, but Tony, James and Allison had all decided to head back home and start working on this subtlety assignment. If they had known the kind of pain they would be in for the next few months they would have taken one of their last pain free days to have fun, but they were blissfully ignorance of that fact. Tony had gone through every question once, only about a quarter of them were in unscrambled English, some like the dean question probably couldn’t be answered from internet research, but everyone knew the hero Titan had come from Sizemore, and Tony didn’t think it was a trick question, so he answered it such. Some of the other English questions seemed like riddles, he left those alone for now. About half of the questions seemed to be in one foreign language or another, and about three quarters of those were easily translated by internet translation programs, and some of those came out again as easily answered, but possibly trick questions. Five of the questions were nothing but a string of numbers. After about five hours Tony had about 70% percent of it translated, but only 15 questions even answered, with not an abundance of confidence on those. He eventually just had to step away from the packet for a while or he’d go crazy.
Allison knew this subtlety assignment didn’t fall anywhere in her skill set. She knew she was smart, finishing high school with a high GPA, and getting a good SAT score. But this was abstract thinking, she needed to come at it from a different angle, and she thought she knew a way. While Professor Young had been discussing the dos and don’ts of the packet, Allison had been feeling out his emotions, and when he talked about not being able to help or get help from other students there was the equivalent of an emotional wink, she knew there was something there. She had an idea, but it was very risky, she took a deep breath, tried to calm her nerves and headed off to enact her plan.
James had never been an exceptional student, he’d worked his ass off in high school and still only ended up with a 3.0 GPA, and he only tried so hard for that result because ACLU or not he wouldn’t get into an HCP with less than that. But these questions, they were puzzles and those he always had a knack for, he saw right away in one of the numbers puzzles a pattern, and on a second he saw something else, he suddenly felt confident he could do this. He ran translation programs to get the undecipherable questions into something more readable, he found basic decryption programs on the internet and set them running on all questions, maybe he’d get lucky.
As Monday morning rolled around, Sam had yet to give the subtlety assignment more than a passing glance, he wanted to make his mark in Combat, not subtlety; not that he wouldn’t try, but it just wasn’t high on his priority list. Today, however, was the first day of regular college classes as well as HCP classes, and today like every day was going to be difficult. Because the HCP took so much of the day, the entire afternoon in fact, an entire college curriculum had to be shoved into the four hours of the morning, it is why most HCP students, including Sam, chose easy majors, even so the work load was going to be torturous, add in HCP gym and the figurative torture is likely to be literal. Luckily the normal collage classes all involved simply reviewing the syllabus, and probably more fortunate none of them came with homework. And then came the HCP classes, he’d been fearing and anticipating these since he first applied to the program almost eight months ago.
The lecture hall was almost full by the time Sam got there but he did see an empty seat next to Hope, she was sitting next to the tallest person Sam had ever seen in person. He was over seven foot tall, twice as wide as the average person and sporting a long mop of green hair. He wasn’t sitting at a normal desk, but rather an oversized chair on the end of the row. “Hey Hope, whose your friend?”
“Hey Sam, this is Jackson Locke, don’t call him Jack, he doesn’t like that. I figured I’d get to know him, us both having the strange hair and all. Us freaks need to stick together,” Hope said with a smirk.
“Hey Jackie, how you doing?” Sam asked. Jackson grunted back, adding no further expression and barely looking at Sam. “Talkative isn’t he.”
“I think he’s the strong silent type,” Hope said, smiling at Jackson.
The Dean walked in the side door and greeted the class, all but one of the seats were occupied, “Good afternoon class. First before we begin, I need to talk about our healer program, anyone with the talent and the desire to study and serve under our healing staff please raise your hand now,” Five people raised their hands, “alright Hope Simons, Rebecca Stone, Bradley Erin, Sandy Jones and James Reed. Excellent, you will be dismissed from gym one hour early every day for your training, unless Coach Tillman or Young deem it necessary that you remain for the full three hours, but they understand the importance of healers, so it shouldn’t be an issue.”
“Actually dean, it’s Mandy that will be doing the healing,” Sandy said.
“Of course Miss Jones, I remember, thank you. I have two additional announcements before we begin, these concern two of your fellow students. Normally both would be kept private, but one has implications that impact others in class, and the other I think will make a good topic for today’s discussion. So first, congratulations are in order, Mr. Locke, you have the most SI infractions of any student in the history of HCP, four of them before your fist class even began.” This elicited the biggest reaction that Sam had yet to see from Jackson; his eyebrow twitched. The dean laughed, “Not to worry Mr. Locke, all four have been covertly questioned by a telepath, and there was no evidence that you revealed your powers, admitted to being a super or made any mention of the HCP. But the basic fact is a man over seven foot tall, as wide as a truck and with bright green hair, could hardly be anything but a super. I have contacted the DVA and gotten you an exception to the secret identity requirement. This means that you can inform those that may ask that you are in fact a super, it however does not grant you leave to make any mention of the HCP or that you are part of it. I recommend that you downplay your strength, saying you were not strong enough to get into the program, but I will leave the details up to you. Now, the rest of you may be wondering why this matter was brought up in front of the entire class, some may have figured it out. Those of you seen in public with Mr. Locke run the risk of also falling under suspicion, and I can assure you that no more SI exceptions will be given. Also, Mr. Locke’s roommate, Robert Pinto, you may choose to have your housing reassigned, I’ll give you to the end of the week to decide.
“Second announcement, you will all notice that we have an empty seat, for those that are extremely observant, you will notice that it is one of the boys who came in late during Professor Young’s speech. Have no fear, tardiness alone will not get you removed from this program. However, I asked the young man in question to come to my office later in the day to discuss his behavior, and again he was late, and again that would not have been enough to remove him from the program, he however was very rude, his exact words were ‘this program needs me a hell of a lot more than I need it. I’ll be the most powerful graduate this school has ever had.’ And you know, I still don’t know what his power was,” the dean said with a smirk. “So, I am going to use that young man as the topic of today’s discussion, ‘does power make you above the rules?”
The Ethic’s discussion went on quite well for the entire hour, James of course didn’t participate, he hated being the center of attention, luckily with almost 50 students in class he could get lost in the crowd and not worry about poor participation grading. Gym began by everyone milling around the middle of track. “Line up now! And shut up!” Professor Tillman yelled. The students tried to quickly do what they were told, but it must not have been good enough, “When I say now I mean now! Not when you god damn feel like it!” Apparently they could go faster, because by the time he finished speaking they were in a rather straight line, only angled in a little at the end so everyone could see. “Good! I am Coach Tillman, assisting me is Coach Young, and you will address us as such,” Coach said, the volume of his voice had remained the same, but the tone seemed to change to something that didn’t constitute yelling, but still imposing. “Other school’s programs would now split you into male and female groups and proceed from there, we don’t do that here. I understand why they do that. Everything revolves around the combat rankings there, and if we only did close combat rankings, we’d still be doing the same, but with all the other rankings added in to the final tally, gender becomes a minor distinction when evaluating skill.
“Here is how this day and every day that follows is going to play out. I am going to say run and you are going to start running! I will stay stop and you will stop! I will say lift and you go over to the weights and lift! If you fall behind while running you will see me in my office, then come back and continue running, if you fall behind a second time…well you don’t want to know what will happen then! If you need any more detailed instructions than that then you are too stupid be at a major university! Now RUN!” Coach Tillman yelled, and almost everyone took off as fast as they could. A few didn’t or couldn’t put in the same effort as the rest of the class, “I said Run!” James had been doing martial arts for years, he was in what he considered top physical shape, and so he ran, heading to the front of the pack. James looked over the pack and notice an oddity, it appeared that except for Jackson Locke, nobody else seemed to have an always-on power, so nobody else was working with an unfair advantage.
Sam thought he was in good shape, he surfed every day, and it was not an easy hobby. But just running for the sake of running was not his forte, after twenty minutes he had to cheat and added a charge to his endurance and speed. It kept him near the front of the pack. Tony and Allison were not faring well at all, luckily for them at least five other people were slower and were keeping the Coach’s attention, three had been called away to the coach’s office and returned to the track picking up speed and moving up in the pack, maybe it was the rest while in the office, but more likely it was whatever the coach told them that drove them on.
Allison didn’t think the coach would be keeping them running for two hours, if it hadn’t been for the fact that everyone was also slowing Allison would have fallen behind a long time ago. But in the mist of all the pain of running Allison discovered something about her power, when she opened herself to everyone’s emotions the determination that they all felt reverberated within her and drove her on well past the point of exhaustion. Allison had large breasts, and it always made running difficult, even with the state of the art sports bra the school provided, they were annoying at best, at worst it was going to cause her to fail out of this program. At two hours and twenty minutes coach called them to stop, “Get over here!” Coach Tillman yelled. The class headed over, some began to collapse, actually almost everyone collapsed, the only ones still on their feet were the ones that Allison suspected had some kind of enhanced endurance or a way to heal, Sam, Jackson, Bradley, and four others remained standing with no effort and a hand-full of others stayed standing with difficultly, but most likely they did so because they knew what would happen to their muscles if they simply stopped without cooling down. “alright healers head to the infirmary for healer training, Coach Young will show you the way, everyone else get up, get some water and start walking for the next ten minutes, then we’ll move on,” Coach Tillman said.
Hope and James followed Coach Young to the infirmary, where they were greeted by a fifty-something year old woman, her graying hair worn in a tight bun on her head, and bi-focals rested on the end of her nose, she looked very much like the stereotypical librarian. “Welcome students, my name is Doctor Elizabeth Peavy. I am a real medical doctor, and you may call be doctor, Elizabeth, Dr. Peavy, or any combination of the three, I’m not picky,” she said. “This is the infirmary, if your powers are powerful enough to warrant me teaching you, this is where you will be spending most of your time, that and watching over tests and challenge matches. So, what are your abilities, let’s start with you…Miss?”
“Stone, Rebecca Stone,” The short, blonde, wild haired girl said, “I have the power to make chemicals in my body and use them through my sweat. Offensively, I make poisons and paralytics, for healing I worked out a powerful regenerative agent, it heals cuts in seconds, broken bones in minutes, and has worked to eliminate cancers.”
“That seems useful, we will of course be testing these serums before we use them on any student. Have you ever attempted to fix a concussion, we get a lot of those here?” Dr. Peavy asked.
“I don’t really know how a concussion works, but the compound I developed seems to be a cure-all, so I would think it would work alright,” Rebecca said.
“And those are some of the things we are going to teach you here, it won’t simply be a healing work-study. And now you,” Dr. Peavy said looking at Bradley.
“Ah, Brad Erin. I have the power to grow angel wings that allow flight and also the ability to heal, complete tissue regeneration ability,” the boy said, he was a six foot tall, average build, spiked black haired boy.
“I take it the ‘complete tissue regeneration’ part was an assessment by a healer when you developed your powers,” The doc asked, and Brad nodded back, “But I will still be making my own assessment of your abilities before you are allowed to work on student. And now you,” she said to Mandy.
“I’m Mandy Jones. I can self-heal within moments, but I’m having a little trouble with the healing others part, I can do full regeneration, but a broken bone takes up to twenty minutes. Eventually though, I can get them back to perfect health.”
“We might be able to get your speed up, we have very specific criteria for how fast you have to be able to fix an injury. We’ll practice some exercises to get you up to snuff. And now you,” Dr. Peavy said to Hope.
“My name is Hope Simons, I am an enhancer, and I give people’s immune system a super boost.”
“That’s an interesting power. Are there are any limitations or side effects with your power?” Dr. Peavy asked.
“Well, if I had to say there was a limitation it’s that it drains their own strength for the healing, so I couldn’t use it on someone close to death.”
“That is a very big limitation here Ms. Simons. Combat can and does often leave people near death. It may not be a good fit for this program, especially because I can’t teach you anything, you just touch them and your power does the rest of the work. Here we learn why and how healing works, what should be healed naturally and what requires actual healing. We teach biology and anatomy and chemistry.”
“No! My power to enhance alone is not good enough to get me though even one year here, I need to have a healing recommendation to advance,” Hope said, pleading with her expression.
“Not so fast, Hope, I said it may disqualify you. Causing the body to naturally speed up its own recovery, it may be enough, I’ll have to see your ability for myself. Now, finally you, young man, your name and power please.”
“I am James Reed, my power is absorbing health and energy from another person, then using it on myself or I can give it to another person.”
“I take it you see for yourself the limitation of your ability then?”
“Yes, that I would need a donor, if you will, to heal another person.”
“That is a big one, Mr. Reed, students often keep solo shifts in here, you would not be able to, logically your ability is even less feasible than Ms. Simons,” Dr. Peavy said.
“Actually, I have given it a little thought, when I heard about Hope’s power. If we were to work as team, Hope could heal all injuries up to a certain severity, I could use my draining ability on Hope and heal all those after that point, I would only need to drain and heal just enough to the point where Hope could take back over for the rest of the healing, it ultimately shouldn’t be too much of a drain on Hope,” James said.
“Well thought out plan Mr. Reed, and possibly a viable solution, you would not be the first duo healers I have worked with, but ultimately it would be up to Hope here, she may not welcome the drain to her energy, especially once classes really get into full swing.”
“I’ll do anything to get into the healing portion,” Hope said.
“Very well, then on the condition that you two are a team for all healing assignments, I formally and provisionally, pending review of power, welcome you to healing classes,” Dr. Peavy said, James just had to smile, he’d wormed his way into being able to spent much more time alone with Hope.
Tony was the last one to arrive home, after a very long hot shower, it had taken him almost an hour to muster up the energy to change and leave the complex. He thought he was in good shape, but what he had failed to relieve at the time was that flying for hours as a bird, or doing a 100 yard dash as a cheetah added nothing to human physicality, and he had spent a long time in one animal form or another. He arrived home to find five of his roommates, sprawled and unmoving on the living room coaches, Sam was not around, “Let me guess, Sam used his energy to heal up?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, he’s in the backyard recharging,” Jennifer said.
“Hey, Hope couldn’t you heal me up?” Tony asked collapsing on the coach next to her.
“I could, however, I’m worried that your muscles would lose all the work you put in today, I plan on asking Dr. Peavy the effectiveness of my ability tomorrow, until then, it’s probably better to just deal with it,” Hope said.
“Also, Doc Peavy told us today that healing for pain management is potentially addictive, and a bad idea for warriors. Apparently, those who never experience pain in training don’t know how to react to it in battle,” James added.
“You two are spoil-sports, I can’t even move, and I have to continue working on the subtlety test,” Tony said.
“Ah, that thing, I haven’t even opened that packet yet. I’m not looking forward to all that work,” Jennifer said.