Chapter 1

HCP Underground Facility, Korman University, NYC. Day 1.

The first day of the Fall Quarter had been a hectic day for everyone on campus, including one Daniel Silvers, and it wasn't half over yet.

After getting up at 4:30am Daniel was out the door around 6 and arrived on campus, after a 45min cab ride, just in time to pick up his various student ID, authorization cards, and full biometric data imprints before heading off to his first class of the day.

Over the years Daniel had become accustomed to knowing what he was about on a day-to-day basis; the order of tasks that needed to be accomplished, the time allocated to them and the correcting responses to all the myriad things that could and would go wrong had become routine in his life and required little actual thought. But this new environment had him severely off his stride, he couldn't remember the last time he'd actually had to take NOTES in a classroom. Maybe I should have spent more time acclimating to school life than on physical training.

After a math class that left his head stuffed full of numbers it was 12:17 exactly and time to head underground for the HCP introduction ceremony and his first HCP class. Since Daniel didn't live in the dorms on campus he made his way to the concealed lift in back of, as far as Daniel could make out, a random conference room on the second floor of the science building. Stepping off the lift Daniel found himself in a wide hallway decorated with 50 or so different colored, ruler straight stripes all along the floor and walls.

"I guess those are guiding lines." Daniel muttered

A high pitched voice sounded from right behind him, "Right you are Mr D." Daniel jumped 3 feet in the air. Whirling around he saw a blond haired young woman doubled over in gales of gut busting laughter behind him. After a bit the blond straightened and wiped her eyes and held out a business card sized piece of paper.

"Oh! Ye Gods and Little Fishes'! I LOVE doing that! Names' Christa. Here's your number card. Follow the green line till' the end and have a seat. Don't dawdle, the Freshmen Intro is about to start."

Unsure how to respond Daniel took the paper square and glimpsed at it. It was as Christa the blond had said and had the number 140 printed on it and nothing else. Then a sudden though occurred to him.

"Hay, how did you know my..." he looked up and Christa was simply gone. "name?"

Well, you wanted to be in the HCP didn't you? With a shake of his head Daniel stared down the hall following the slim green line and in no time at all caught up with the tail end of the rest of the freshmen class as they filed into a large open lecture hall with a dais and podium at the front. Three people were sitting behind the podium in standard stackable conference chairs talking to each other in low voices.

Glancing around as he entered Daniel noticed that the students had congregated into 3 distinct groups. On the left side of the room, and by far the largest group, were traditional students; in different clothes and styles, yes, but instantly recognizable as yuppie collage kids. In the middle were a smaller group of older, more distinguished individuals in professional wear; slacks and skirts, dress shirts and blouses, ties and scarves. The last group on the right was made up of a very few lean hard eyed souls who had planted their backs firmly against the wall and left themselves plenty of personal space. Seeing a open seat in the back of the second group Daniel took a seat as a familiar shape stepped behind the podium.

"OK. Quiet down. Quiet down." clearing his throat he continued. "Welcome Freshmen, to the Hero Certification Program. To save a bunch of time and to avoid a lot of boring chit chat later my name is Duncan Steels, I'm the Head Dean of Korman's HCP as well as one of your three freshmen combat coaches. You can call me Dean Steels or Coach. And You... are all Fresh-Meat." Dean Steels announced with a wide evil smile. "There are one hundred and forty seven of you here in this Class and by the end of the day I'm expecting that number to drop by a full third. By the end of tomorrow it will drop by another third. Hopefully these next two days will serve to jettison those of you who thought you could just skate on by with your untrained abilities and charming personality. This Program is expecting more of you than that and you will give it everything you are if you wish to stay.

This first testing will also determine you rankings; note your number card. At each testing site you will insert your card into the reader and at the end of the session you will receive your new ranking. I promise you the testing WILL be brutal, some of you may even be seriously injured. But not to worry," the smile became further twisted, sending a shiver down the spines of some of the students. "This school has some excellent doctors." Clapping his hands sharply the Dean barked out, "Now! As your schedules say that your Ethics class starts in three days you will be here, right here, until you are finished with the days allotment of testing or you ring one of the bells that are being set up inside the testing areas. Note: if you ring the bell you are signaling that you give up. Anyone who rings the bell WILL be sent packing, there are no second chances. That is very important so I will say it again."

"There. Are. No. Second. Chances." Dean Steels paused and looked out at the students, his expression grim.

"Now I will introduce to you your second combat coach, Coach Elizabeth Walker." A woman on the right of Steels stood and walked over to the podium. She was half Dean Steels height and had an angular body, she had a green Mohawk and was dressed out in punk rocker chic in black leather with multiple piercings and tattoos, one of which was an Eye of Horus tattooed in the middle of her forehead . The heavily reinforced spiked collar and the vambraces on her arms stood out as items that had seen combat, worn and dented as they were.

"Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen." her voice was surprisingly sweet. "I'm Coach Walker and it will be my job in the year to come to remake you. Your Mind, Your Will must be reforged and tempered if you are to survive the stresses of combat. I will push you to your braking point again and again. You will learn your limits and you will surpass them. Thank you."

As Coach Walker stepped back to her seat you could have heard a pin drop in the hall it was so silent. Daniel took a look around the room to see how everyone was taking it. The group of teens off to his right were looking a little bit shell shocked, some among them were pale with fear and looked about to be sick. Though a group about half way to the front looked especially determined. They stood out even more so to Daniel because there was an older woman had chosen to sit with them instead. The older rank and file around him seemed to be pretty even keeled about it all, maybe a little grimmer, but even keeled all the same. We all knew what we were getting into and we stepped into this with our eyes open. No illusions for us.

Surprisingly the small group of hard eyed men and woman showed no outward sign of anxiety or fear, just a natural wariness and calculating eyes.

Dean Steels Stepped back to the podium. "Thank you Coach Walker. And now your third and final Combat Coach, the leader of our Healers' Cadre, Professor Jasmine Everill."

Daniel was stunned; Jazz was to be one of their combat coaches?

"Welcome, Freshmen. You may call me Coach or Healer Everill. I will be responsible for your auxiliary and non-standard training. That means that while Dean Silvers teaches you how to fight head-on and Coach Walker retrains your emotional reflexes, I will be teaching you new ways of thinking, new ways of using your abilities and rudimentary tactics. Those who fight must also think. Thank you."

Dean Steels stepped up to the podium as Jasmine paced back to her seat. "And Now lets see who survives the day. Along the wall outside there will be a purple stripe, please follow it to the first testing area. And don't forget to hit the locker rooms on the way."

There was a general hubbub as the students got up grabbed their gear and made their way to the door.

Daniel was one of the first out the door and so was one of the first to the testing area which consisted of a half mile circler track and lots of weight machines. Now this was familiar ground. At the door entrance was a card slot on one side and a brass bell with a baseball bat next to it. After everyone was gathered Coaches Walker and Everill told everyone to put their card into the slot and start running.

"You MUST keep a five minuet mile time or you will be shipped out!"

--------3 hours later---------

Daniel was exhausted and running on empty. After the hour run they had done an hour of power lifting and then an hour of using their powers full blast and now Coach Walker had stuffed him into a huge white room with a bell by the door, which had slammed shut the moment he had cleared the door way, and a red button on a pedestal in the middle of the room. As Daniel looked around he realized that the floor, walls and ceiling were made of white tiles roughly 2feet by 2feet across.

"Push The Button." The mechanical came from some overhead speaker.

"It can't be that easy." Daniel muttered and as he hesitated the voice came again.

"Push The Button."

With a shrug Daniel took a single step and that's when the room changed as tiles shifted elevation, some dropping twenty feet down and others climbing 5, 10 feet up. There was still a clear path to the button though.

"I knew I wasn't going to be that easy." and that's when the bottom of the room began to quickly flood with water.

"Push The Button."

------outside Mach-Test Room 15-------

Jazz, who had seen Daniel walking into MT-15 10 minuets ago, went over to Coach Walker who was leaning against the door to the MT room with her eyes closed.

"How's he doing in there?"

"He's putting on quite the performance, I must say. But he's doing well over all. And Lord but that man knows a hell of a lot of cuss words. Oh my! I think I'm going to write that one down."

"I'll go call Lillian and tell her she can pick him up in two hours." Jazz sounded morose. "Hopefully she wont scold me again."

"Best of luck, Girlfriend. I've herd Lillian Silvers can be more ornery than Kodiak Grizzly with a sore paw.