Chapter 26

“Good afternoon, class; I trust everyone had a fun weekend,” Dean Blaine said he breezed into the classroom. It was Tuesday and all of the freshmen were gathered in his lecture hall for their first real session of Ethics of Heroism. Well, almost all of them. As Nick did his customary sweep of the room, he noticed three of the seats now stood out as empty. There had been two students in Monday’s gym who had broken down crying and one who had simply collapsed. As he stared at the cheap plastic chairs left vacant, the fact that there was no possibility these two things weren’t related gnawed at the back of his mind.

In fact, what were the odds that this lecture hall would have had precisely the correct number of seats for this class size? Nick realized these empty seats were meant to be noticed, meant to remind them that some of the class hadn’t been able to cut it. And if they were using a method like this, then it could only mean they expected many more chairs to be ownerless before the year was through.

“Now then, I’m sure some of you are wondering how we will be discussing such a complicated and tangled topic as ethics and how it pertains to Supers. We’re going to start by defining who Supers are. And that, my students, begins with an understanding of where they come from. Can anyone tell me who the first officially-documented Super is, and in what year they revealed themselves?”

Several hands shot up, and Dean Blaine pointed to a boy in the front. “Mr. Desoto, please enlighten us.”

“The first documented Super was Captain Starlight, a former World War Two pilot who approached the government about working with people like him, the so-called extraordinary individuals that would eventually be known as Supers. This took place in 1957, and was caused by Captain Starlight’s frustration with returning to civilian life after having achieved a sense of purpose defending his country during the war,” the boy in front said. Nick realized with a start that it was the other guy they had dealt with on Friday, Shane Desoto. His voice hadn’t sounded familiar; but then again, Shane hadn’t spoken once the entire night.

“You’re close, Shane. Speculations about motivations aside, it was indeed Captain Starlight who approached the government, but that took place in 1959,” Dean Blaine corrected.

“Actually, the government officially announced that the meeting took place then, but it really happened two years prior. It took two years of testing, trials, and Captain Starlight bringing in other Supers for them to see before the politicians were able to accept that there were such things as Supers. They changed the date because they felt taking two years to confirm things that could plainly be read as incompetence to the voters,” Shane corrected right back.

“An interesting hypothesis,” Dean Blaine said. “May I ask where you heard this theory?”

“My grandfather told me,” Shane replied.

“Wise as I’m sure your grandfather is, I’d wager he wasn’t necessarily privy to every detail of Captain Starlight’s life and rise to fame,” Dean Blaine said.

“Would you, now?” Shane said simply, crossing his arms.

“Thank you, Shane, let’s move on. Now, can anyone tell me what important events came about as a result of Captain Starlight’s revelation to the government?” Dena Blaine asked. This time he pointed at a hand in the air that was familiar to Nick.

“Because of Captain Starlight’s brave actions revealing the existence of Supers, the government made the rest of the country aware of them, setting up special laws to protect aspects of their lives, and ultimately set up the Hero Certification Program so that Supers who had undergone proper training and qualification would be able to protect our country without being held liable for incidental damages caused in the process,” Alice said rapidly.

“Very nice, Ms. Adair,” Dean Blaine complimented. “Those are all correct, though there were of course many more ramifications to Captain Starlight’s revelation than that; but we will get into those at a later date. For now, we know that Captain Starlight is the first officially documented Super. Does that mean he was the first in existence? Please tell us, Mr. Campbell.”

“No,” Nick responded immediately. The dean had been spamming his eyes across the class during the discussion thus far. Nick had noticed those eyes hesitate for an instant on him seconds before the question came, so he had been ready for it. Nick noted that he needed to look just a dash more interested in discussions. The goal was to draw no attention, neither from being too observant nor too apathetic. Clearly he had fumbled and fallen below the acceptable apathy line.

“How do you know that?” Dean Blaine continued pressing.

“I don’t,” Nick said honestly. “But nobody does. Since there are no records, we can’t really say for certain one way or the other if Captain Starlight was the first Super. The popular consensus leans toward the negative, though.”

“Correct, Mr. Campbell. Without documentation, no one can prove or disprove the existence of previous Supers,” Dean Blaine said. “Of course, the odds of an entire genetic offshoot beginning with one man and then continuing to appear at a steady rate for half a century afterwards are ludicrously low. This means that most likely Captain Starlight was nowhere near the first. Again, though, we don’t know, and this lack of knowledge has led to many controversies and theories. Who can name one?”

Dean Blaine pointed to a young man wearing glasses in the front row.

“My mom used to say that the stories of the Greek gods were really about Supers, the people just didn’t know it then.”

“A popular theory indeed,” Dean Blaine said. “And this led to one of the greatest controversies that our existence has caused in this century. Who would like to venture a guess on what that was? Mr. Reynolds, give it a go.”

“Religion,” Vince said awkwardly. It was an interesting paradox that Vince could be so self-assured and insecure simultaneously. Nick already had a few ideas at how that tendency could work in his own favor, though.

“Please elaborate,” Dean Blaine told him.

“People pretty much all agreed that the Greek gods were just Supers in disguise, so it was only a matter of time until they began speculating about whether other iconic figures from the past had really just been people with powers. The most obvious ones were all those tied to magical events. Prophets, saviors, warriors of their lord, everything was thrown into even more speculation that it had been,” Vince explained.

“Very good, Mr. Reynolds,” Dean Blaine said. “The addition of Supers to our world meant the opening of new possibilities. Events that had been mentioned in religious texts could now be challenged not only on historical accuracy, but also the possibility that even if they had occurred, then perhaps it wasn’t a divine hand that had guided them. Now the truly devout had to defend their faith on a whole other level, and it was not well-received. Now then: we know who the first Super was, can anyone tell me the name of the first documented Powered?”

“Who cares?” yelled out the braided blonde from the back. The rest of class laughed and echoed sentiment.

“I’d wager the Powereds care,” Dean Blaine said seriously.

“Yeah, but they don’t count. I mean, this is a class about heroism and Supers, not malfunctioning humans. Why would we need to know anything about the first of a thousand gears to break?” the girl shot back.

“You wouldn’t,” Dean Blaine said. “Unless you were the one trying to put the machine those gears had supported back together. I want you to think about that, because Powereds will be coming up over the course of this class. Their history and ours are more closely intertwined that you all might realize. Still, since no one seems to be informed enough to discuss their origins today, we can skip ahead to how Captain Starlight helped create special criminal classifications for Supers gone awry.”

Nick cursed under his breath. Dean Blaine’s eyes had hesitated on him again when he mentioned Powereds. Of course the dean of the college would know about him and the others, but little tics like that would give them away if anyone ever suspected. Nick took a deep breath. No one had any reason to think they were any different from every other Super in attendance. He just had to keep it that way.