Chapter 138

Vince wandered into the common room to find Hershel and Alice already watching television on the couch. All three were clad in pajamas, though Alice’s were a pink silk set and Vince’s were composed of a tank top and sweats. Hershel, on the other hand, was sporting an enormous t-shirt and a pair of work-out shorts. It was definitely dead day, a day in which lounging was not only encouraged, it was downright mandatory.

“Morning,” Vince said.

“Hey,” Hershel replied.

“Hi, Vince,” Alice said.

“Anything good on the tube?”

“Nah,” Hershel said, changing the channel. “Just some wildfires out in southern California they’re trying to get under control. Interesting story, but once you’ve seen one clip of trees on fire you’ve kind of seen them all.”

“Too bad,” Vince said. “I know the HCP carnival thing doesn’t start until around six tonight. I’ve been spending so much time training I’m not sure how to kill a day off.”

“Ooooh, we could go into town and do some shopping,” Alice suggested.

Vince and Hershel stared at her, their eyes unblinking.

“Screw you both. I’m a girl, I’m allowed to like shopping.”

“I’ll give you that,” Vince agreed. “But we’re boys. We’re allowed to really not like it.”

“Would you rather we let Nick organize another movie gore-a-thon?”

“The lady makes a point,” Hershel conceded. “I’m scared we’ll be seeing more than enough gore for my tastes tomorrow.”

“It won’t be that bad. We had to fight each other at the beginning of the year, and there were matches all through the first semester. Not to mention, we also had our daily sparring. I think the coaches have a good sense of what they’re doing and won’t let anyone get seriously hurt,” Vince assured him.

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re smart enough to quit when you can’t win. That’s a trait my alter ego lacks,” Hershel said.

“I think you give me too much credit,” Vince said.

“Oh, you’ll both be fine,” Alice snipped. “Remember, you two have actual powers. I just float.”

“It served you pretty well in the semester final. You outlasted both of us,” Vince pointed out.

“Not to mention it saved Nick’s life on the mountain.”

“Ah yes, what on earth was I thinking with that one?” Alice asked aloud.

“That we had a friend in need,” Vince said, giving her a smile and plopping down in a chair near the couch. “It’s kind of weird, though, you know?”

“That I saved Nick?”

“No, I mean being here, at the end of the year,” Vince said. “Thinking back to how things were at the beginning, it feels like so much has changed.”

“True,” Alice said. “I was terrified of living next to a telepath. Now Mary is a dear friend.”

“Roy was completely unmanageable. Now he’s... well, still pretty unmanageable, but at least he’s motivated to put in effort,” Hershel said.

“I was so scared of my power I went into the initial test with nothing more than a single lighter’s worth of energy,” Vince said.

“How much do you have now?” Hershel asked.

“About two and a half,” Vince replied.

“Oh yeah, the world is completely flipped on its head,” Hershel chuckled.

Vince shrugged. “I’m just not one to take unnecessary risks.”

“So some things haven’t changed,” Alice said. “That’s a bit reassuring.”

“Just weird to imagine, if this is how different things are after one year, imagine what it will be like after four,” Vince mused.

“I think that’s the entire point of the HCP. Bringing us from Supers we started as and radically changing us into Heroes,” Hershel said.

“Yeah, except for the whole ‘starting as Supers’ part of it,” Alice said.

“We were Supers when the school year started. It counts,” Hershel replied.

“Very true. And given how many years of practice everyone else had on us, it’s amazing we’ve all hung in this long,” Vince said.

“I don’t know, I think being Powered for so long gave us an edge over the rest of them,” Hershel said.

“And that is?” Alice asked.

“We know what it is like to lose. We know what it is like to not be the cream of the crop or the top of the class. We’ve spent most of our lives considered pariahs while they were hailed as demigods. Long story short, we had vastly more motivation to work for the Hero title than the rest of them.”

“I can see that,” Vince agreed. “With a few exceptions. Shane is certainly one determined Super.”

“Credit where it’s due, Chad is a pretty relentless guy as well,” Hershel admitted.

“Yeah, what is that guy’s deal?” Alice asked. “I mean, I rarely ever see him smile, or laugh, or do anything besides train.”

“He and Roy trained together for a while. I can’t say for sure, but I got a strong impression that whatever his motivation is, it had something to do with his father,” Hershel said.

“Eh, who isn’t at least a little messed up from their parents?” Alice said. “Anyway, gents, we’ve strayed from the main point of this conversation.”

“How different things are?” Vince asked.

“No, figuring out what the shit we’re going to do until tonight,” Alice said.

“I have all my Dungeons and Dragons books,” Hershel volunteered softly.

“Let’s table that as Plan B,” Alice said.

“You have a Plan A?” Vince asked.

“Did you miss the whole ‘let’s go shopping’ thing?”

Vince and Hershel groaned together.

“We could get some of the others together and see what they think,” Hershel said.

Alice shook her head. “They’re as bad at this as we are. By then Nick will be up and we’ll all just go along with whatever asinine activity he pitches.”

“Someone call?” Nick said, walking in to the room.

“We were just going over our plans for the dead day,” Vince said.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Nick said. “It turns out there is a Skull Splitter marathon at the Cineplex downtown. They start with the original Skull Splitter and go all the way through Skull Splitter 5: Daughter of Son of Skull Splitter.”

Vince and Hershel cast glances at Alice, hoping against hope she had come up with some idea in the last ten seconds that would deliver them from this terrible fate.

“As much fun as that sounds, we’ve already come up with a way to burn the day,” Alice said.

“Oh did you?” Nick asked.

“Yup,” Alice confirmed. “So Hershel, go get your books.”

“Really?”

Alice looked at his excited face, then at Nick’s cocky grin, then back at Hershel.

“Really.”