7 Random Days in the Life of a Hero
Subject: Dani Reyes – Thursday
"Will you stop pacing!" The annoyed shout drew 14 pairs of eyes to look in the direction of dark haired, tall, athletically-muscular young man leaning against the lecture hall's wall and utterly failing to project a look of confidence.
The target of the yelling, a slim red-haired hispanic girl of average height held the taller youth's gaze for several seconds before sticking her tongue out and turning to resume her, to all outward appearances, carefree walk around the room. The young man pushed off the wall with a force that left cracks in the concrete, but he was intercepted before he could make it more than a few steps.
"Dude, David, chill the hell out." The interceptor was slightly shorter and much lighter than the angry dark haired man, but David halted the moment the blond man stepped in his path.
“Whatever. She's not gonna make it anyways.” David glared past the shorter man at the redhead as he stepped back to lean against the wall again.
The pacing girl responded by giggling loudly. “Aw, poor Davie. It's okay to be nervous, just don't take it out on me big guy.”
The blond man sighed and raised a hand to interrupt another outburst from David as he turned to face the mocking Latina. “Dani, you've been messing with David for the past four years. You think you can MAYBE lay off for the next hour until we find out if we made it or not?”
Dani paused her pacing and seemed to consider the matter deeply. “Well, Mark, since you asked SO nicely, I guess I could make today an exception. Just for you!” The redhead linked her hands together in front of herself and leaned forward to bat her eyelashes at the blond man as she replied. She managed to hold the pose for almost five seconds before she broken down laughing, along with the rest of the room.
“Seriously girl, how can you NOT be worried about this? No one has EVER graduated from Professor Miccay's Weapons course since he started at Overton five years ago.” The question came as the laughter died down, from the only other female in the room. Slightly taller than the pacing redhead, but thinner and with plain brown hair and glasses, the girl's voice carried a heavy note of anxiety even as she recovered from the brief bout of laughter.
“What's the point in worrying? I either made it, and Kitty Style will be unleashed to claw her way through the underworld of criminal Supers tomorrow!” Several groans came from around the room as the hispanic girl actually leapt onto one of the chairs as she spoke to strike a 'heroic pose.' “Or they're going to rip my freakin' memories out of my skull, and I won't remember anything that I need to be anxious about!”
“But Dani, think about it.” A small, black-haired youth in one corner joined the conversation with a quietly deadpan voice. “Of everyone in this room, can you afford to lose ANY of the brains you claim to have in that skull of yours?”
Another round of laughter rang out in the room, with Dani sticking her tongue out again briefly before joining in.
It was to this laughter that the door of the room opened, revealing a middle aged man wearing a business suit that strained to contain the muscular body that completely filled the doorway. “Mark Gillesen, please accompany me.” The voice was not loud, but the whole room seemed to vibrate softly with the cadence of the man's words.
“Right away, Dean!” The blond man strode quickly to the doorway before spinning to bow deeply to his classmates. “Looks like this is it, one way or another! See you on the other side!”
And with that farewell, he was through the door. Most of the students turned their attention back inward, focusing on trying to project calm and confidence that few of them actually felt. The effect was rather ruined when the redhaired girl leapt up onto one of the desks and began cartwheeling across the furniture. It didn't take long for the room to break back down into laughter again when she missed the corner at the end of the second row.
“Good morning, Ms Reyes.” Dani blinked a few times in response to the greeting as her eyes adjusted to the slightly too-bright lighting in the room, the she waved cheerfully to the assembled Instructors and strolled over to drop gracelessly into the single chair facing the group.
The nonchalance from the student drew a few brief chuckles from the assembled Overton Instructors. “You seem to be in rather good spirits this morning, Ms Reyes.” Even in the larger room, the rumbling voice of Overton's Hero Certification Dean seemed to vibrate through the walls.
“Of course I'm in a good mood! I just finished four years of college and I got my god damned degree! Do you have any idea how HARD it is to study all the boring stuff?” A couple more chuckles emerged from the Dean, while the rest of the Instructors found themselves staring with more than a little disbelief. “Oh, and I get to be a Hero starting today! That's pretty awesome!”
“You seem extremely confident that you've landed above the cutoff line, Ms Reyes.” The observation from the thin man immediately to the massive Dean's left drew a dismissive wave from the student.
“Of course I'm above the line, Professor Miccay. I'm awesome!”
The response drew a pointed stare from the Weapons Professor, which the student ignored in favor of smiling at the rest of the assembled Instructors. “So, I'm a Hero now. What happens next?”
“Like I said.” There was a note of levity in the slender man's tone as he spoke again. “Completely fearless, completely irreverent, and terrifyingly skillful.”
“So we've noticed, over they years.” The interjection from the lone female Instructor at the far right of the table drew more chuckles and murmurs of assent. “In answer to your question, Ms Reyes, what happens next is we congratulate you for earning the title of 'Hero' and discuss what that will mean over the next two years.”
“Oh, I know that part! This is where I get to be a sidekick! Who am I going to be working with? Is it someone awesome? Like Diamond Glance, or Dreadnaught, OOOH! Is Captain Starlight still a Hero? I th-...”
“BEFORE the matter of your internship.” The Dean finally interrupted the rapid fire stream of chatter from the excited new Hero. “There is the matter of confirming your intended Hero Identity wi-...”
“I already did all that. Brand new Hero, Kitty Style, reporting for internship! I picked out the name two years ago, and finished my uniform design last year! All done already! So who's my Hero?”
“Dani, what Dean Hallen is trying to say with FAR too much tact for you to realize.” It was impressive that Professor Miccay could manage to begin a speech like that without sounding the least bit condescending. “Is that you might want to reconsider your chosen Hero Identity and... 'uniform.'”
“Hmmm.... Nope. I like them both!”
Sighs came from around the table, though a few heads were lowered to hide the smiles that accompanied them. “Please take this matter seriously Ms Reyes.” The Dean's voice was raised slightly this time and the floor trembled slightly as a result. “Ignoring the extremely derogatory jokes that 'Kitty Style' can be made into with no effort at all-...”
The Dean stopped speaking and stared at the graduate in front of him, mouth actually hanging open in shock. Dani managed to maintain a completely innocent, puzzled expression for almost ten seconds before she fell out of her chair laughing.
“Right, so you DO see wha-...”
“Try to convince me that Ramrod isn't turned into a sex joke just as easily.” Dani made her interrupting rebuttal from the floor as she got her laughter under control and pulled herself up into the chair again. “Tell me that Superslick or The Wondrous Orbs aren't constantly written into news articles that make fun of their names. Hell, Pants of Power has been an active Hero for almost 8 years. You really want to give me a hard time for Kitty Style? Or think it's somehow gonna be worse than a hundred other Hero names?”
“...point taken, Ms Reyes. Moving on to your uniform.” The extremely muscular Dean reached down to fiddle with a remote that looked like it was about to come apart in his massive hands at any moment, before finally getting a screen on the wall behind the Instructors to come to life. Displayed in impressively high definition, for such a large monitor, was possibly the most bizarre and eclectic collections of different traditional martial arts wear ever assembled into a single outfit.
Dani squee'd with delight at the larger than life image of her uniform, drawing a few more sighs from the table.
“The concern here, Ms Reyes.” The oldest man at the table took the lead this time, Overton's Focus Instructor was closing in on ninety and every one of the seniors had been shocked to see him back again this year. “Is that your chosen 'uniform' might be considered extremely offensive to many of those who diligently practice the martial arts you have co-opted pieces of garb from. Several of the pieces of paraphernalia included represent extreme levels of dedication and hard-work that martial artists spend YEARS achieving.”
“I know all that, Professor Yates. I earned all of them myself, that's why I want them to be part of my uniform.”
The Professor met the declaration with a steady stare, holding the look for over a minute before seeming to realize that the young Hero was not about to break down laughing a second time. “You earned, ALL of these?”
“Yep! I've been practicing martial arts since I could walk. And then once I started shifting and found out how fast I was, I started branching out into more and more styles so that I could find the pieces I needed to finish my own style. Kitty Style!”
It seemed completely impossible for anyone to make such a declaration with a straight face, but there was no sign of humor from the recently graduated HCP student. Dani Reyes made her statement wearing a proud smile and no hint of levity that could be detected.
“Well, I suppose that matter is, in fact, settled.” The Dean reached down to the table in front of him and flipped open a folder. “Ms Reyes, it would appear that you are better prepared than we believed. Having had the privilege of training you for the past four years, I suppose we REALLY should all have known better.” Unmuffled laughter came from around the table this time as Dani nodded her vigorous agreement with the statement. “So it is my pleasure to officially welcome you to the ranks of Heroes, Kitty Style. All the mentors will be meeting their interns in the Ethics lecture hall at one o'clock. I recommend grabbing some lunch and being in uniform and waiting by then.”
The Dean stood to offer a handshake to congratulate the newest Overton Hero, but was nearly bowled over when the shifter opted for a high-velocity tackle-hug instead.
“I'm a HERO!”
“C'mon Dani, you're going to be late if we don't head back soon.” Dani offered the brown haired girl a disbelieving look in response. “Okay, so you and I won't be late, but everyone else will be. C'mon girl, you can count. There's ten of us here, that's all that make it through.”
“Not always. There've been classes with eleven graduates before when all eleven were ranked in the top 50 between the programs. That's what's happened again this time, Tracy. It HAS to be.”
“Dani, if that were true then David would have been here over an hour ago. Didn't he get called out of the waiting room before you did?” The redhead jerked away as her friend tried to reach a comforting hand across the table.
“There's no way Davie didn't make it. He was ranked fourth in our class. FOURTH. He'll be here.”
Tanya sighed and settled back in her chair to wait with her friend, knowing there wouldn't be anything she could say at this point to change the redhead's mind. “Tell you what, Dani. We'll wait until a quarter til, then we'll rush back together. Maybe David DID graduate and he's just not showing up at the restaurant we picked because he wants to get back at you for all the times you messed with him over the years.”
Dani smiled and nodded in response, then turned to stare down at the tabletop in front of her. Tracy continued to engage her friend with small talk as they sat in the booth and waited, pointedly ignoring the occasional tear that dropped from Dani's downturned face to land on the table between them.
The woman that strolled, slightly late, into the largest of the Overton HCP's lecture halls drew a great many stares as she entered. Even among Supers, a six and a half foot tall red-furred anthropomorphic cheetah woman wearing a mishmash of a dozen martial arts costumes and twice that many archaic weapons was apparently enough of an oddity to stand out. Dani glanced around the room, showing real nervousness for the first time that day before slumping slightly in depression. She would have recognized the ridiculously tacky gold, green, and white body suit that David had designed for himself at a thousand yards. It was not among the costumes present in the room.
“Damn, you're a TALL one aren'tcha?” The sudden, friendly voice from directly behind Dani caused her spin around quickly.
Standing in the doorway the red-furred shifter had just entered through was a woman close to a foot shorter than the cheetah-girl, wearing a full dark blue bodysuit with a partially transparent layer over it that did a remarkable job looking like a shifting block of ice whenever the woman moved. “And here I was worried that I was running a couple of minutes behind. You MUST be Kitty Style.”
Dani nodded and wracked her brain to try and figure out who the Hero in front of her was. The costume is not familiar, she is definitely not a local. “That's me! Only giant cat-woman martial artist in the HCP! I'm really sorry, but I don-...”
“Don't recognize me, right?” Dani nodded with more enthusiasm than she really should have, but the shorter woman simply laughed at the response. “No worries there, I'm used to it. I'm just a LITTLE bit far from home right now. Cold Front, at your service Ms Style.”
Dani giggled as she shook the woman's offered hand. “Let me guess, you have ice powers?”
“Nope!” The shifter felt her jaw drop slightly at the cheerful rebuttal.
A long pause. “What DO you do then?”
“I'm a hydrokinetic. Water manipulator.” The second was added when the catlike face clouded with confusion at the first bit. “I do specialize a bit in manipulating water while it's in solid form, and I can freeze and unfreeze water but I can't get it up anywhere near a boil.”
“So... Ice and water powers?”
Cold Front laughed. “Close enough! And you, Kitty, I believe that you're supposed to be a pretty fast speedster.”
A surprised look crossed Dani's feline features. “That's right! Oh! I'm probably distracting you. Who are you here to mentor?”
The short woman gave the tall shifter a penetrating stare in response, holding it for several seconds without getting any reaction from Dani before she started laughing again. “You're absolutely right, I am supposed to be meeting my new intern right now. Maybe you've seen her? Tall girl, cat-form shifter, super speed, Overton's first Weapons focus graduate in five years? Sound familiar?”
The shorter Hero simply began laughing again. “How did you THINK I knew your Hero name on the day you graduated?”
“Because I am awesome!”
Cold Front seemed to consider this for a moment, before shrugging. “Fair enough.” Then the shorter Hero reached up to her face and carefully peeled up the nearly full mask she was wearing.
Dani watched with a little bit of awe as the veteran Hero unmasked in front of her, actually clapping a little when the mask came free to reveal a net that had to be teased free of the shorter woman's hair, causing it to change from a navy-blue nearly the same color as her uniform to a nearly platinum blonde once the net was free. Once unmasked, the shorter woman again offered a hand to the tall shifter. “Janie Philps. Pleasure to meet you.”
Dani glanced down at the hand, then her body began to shifted slowly from six and a half foot catgirl into her less eye-catching 5'7” human form. “Dani Reyes.”
The handshake was cut short when the redhaired Latina let out a yelp and reached quickly with both hands to steady her slipping costume. She shrugged to her smiling mentor as she shifted back to her cat form. “I haven't had time to look into getting some kind of size-changing costume yet. Sorry!”
Janie responded to the apology with a dismissive wave. “Unless you're planning on going out in human-form for some reason I would skip it. Anyone trying to figure out who you really are is going to be looking at people a lot taller than your normal body this way.”
“Well, you should probably say goodbye to your friends and get anything you need packed. Our plane leaves at six.”
“Oh! I never remembered to ask where you're stationed! You just said that it was a long ways from here.”
“I'm with the Arctic Alliance currently, based out of Anchorage.”
A puzzled look shot across Dani's face. “Where's that?”
“Anchorage?” No recognition. “Alaska? The great white north?”
“Yep, that's the one!”
Dani stood completely still for nearly a minute as she processed this new information, then the shifter reached across herself to rub one of her arms. “Man I hope this fur turns out to be warmer than I think it is.”
“I can't believe we get our own jet!” Dani darted around the cabin now that the small plane was in the air, exploring every nook and cranny she could find on the aircraft. “I didn't think the DVA paid for stuff like this!”
“They don't.” Janie chuckled at the younger woman's enthusiasm. “At least, not very often. Our team leader is from one of those fantastically wealthy families. Officially we all work for companies that he owns, so we get to use things like company cars and company jets sometimes.”
“Who all is on the team?”
“Well, there's me obviously. Like I said before, I'm a hyd-... water manipulator. Control graduate from Sizemore Tech. Currently I'm the team artillery since... for the past couple years.
“Our current team leader is Darkstep, aka Landen Moyer. He's a Subtlety Hero, graduated from Lander seven years ago. He calls himself a 'shadowmancer,' and you have to try not to laugh when he does it. He does shadow illusions, can mess with lighting, make himself almost invisible, and he can line of sight teleport as long as there's VERY little light at his intended exit point.”
“Your leader is the team sneaky guy? That seems weird.”
The blonde woman shrugged in response. “It works for us. Subtlety Heroes tend to know what's going on and are usually better lateral thinkers than the rest of us.
“Our last member is the team Strongman, Showstopper. He's only in the medium-range for strong Supers, but when he braces he becomes effectively un-movable. You'll probably be working around him as often as me since he's Close Combat and you're Weapons.”
“This is going to be great! I'm going to have a team!”
Janie just smiled as she watched the redhaired woman continue to bounce around the cabin on what must have been her tenth exploration. “So tell me, Dani, why were you looking so down just before I came up behind you?”
The shift in conversation topics froze the younger woman in place, and she moved to sit down opposite the older Hero without responding.
“Someone you cared about didn't make it through, huh?”
The hispanic girl's gaze snapped up to treat the blonde woman to a suspicious glare. “Relax, Dani. I went through the HCP too, remember? It happens to all of us I think. Except the ones that try to go through the whole program as hermits or something. Who was it?”
Dani turned to stare back at her own lap again, embarrassed that she hadn't figured out why Janie had known the cause of her depression. “Davie. David Lucke.”
The redhead shook her head in response. “We were razzing each other from the first day in the program, when we ended up sitting next to each other at orientation. I was... I was going to ask him to go out with me tonight, after we both graduated.”
“What's his power?”
“He controls rocks and metal and stuff.”
Janie let out a low whistle at that response. “I'm going to assume he was pretty good at it?”
“He was. I think he wasn't trying hard enough for the last year though. I think he could have moved up to the top spot in the class except he lost to Mark in a match back in second year, and I think he was afraid he'd lose again.”
“So, knowing how the HCP works, I guess there's really only one thing you can do.”
“Wait til he applies again for Hero status next year after taking things seriously, and THEN ask him out!”
Dani stared incredulously at her mentor for a long moment, before both women broke down laughing. “So I guess this means you're giving your intern some time off next June!”
“That clock has GOT to be wrong.”
“Welcome to the wonderful world of jet-lag!” Janie smiled at her intern as the pair moved to the cargo hatch on the small jet to unload the few pieces of luggage Dani had brought.
“Is this it? Shouldn't there be more snow?” Dani looked around at the well lit runway. Amazingly well lit, considering the sky was still close to full daylight. “And shouldn't it be dark by now?”
“Ah, poor Dani. You have so much to learn about this insane land you find yourself in. But first let's get you to headquarters so we can get you checked in!”
“Why is it that whenever you sound consoling I feel like things are going to get worse?”
“No idea. Maybe see a psychiatrist about that?” Janie smiled as the redhead stuck out her tongue at her in response. “Besides, be glad you're up here in the summer. Land of the midnight sun and all that! In the winter we have to deal with the freakin vampires.”
Dani laughed at that, then turn a curious look back at her mentor when the blonde woman didn't join in. Dani's highly expressive face continued to twitch from curiosity to panic as Janie maintained a deathly serious look. “Seriously, there aren't really vampires, right?”
Janie held her expression for another five seconds, long enough that Dani was actually starting to really panic, before she started laughing so hard she nearly collapsed on the tarmac. Dani let out a sigh of relief with the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, and grabbed her suitcases while grumbling.
“C'mon now Dani, let's go get you checked in. This is going to be a FUN couple of years!”