Chapter 45

Vince came around a few minutes later, shivering slightly, and pulled himself up off the concrete.

“Whoa there, buddy, I’d go slow if I were you. Camille patched you up, but cold has a way of seeping in on people,” said the dark-skinned boy dressed as a Native American.

“I’m getting used to it,” Vince said. “Sadly.”

“I take it you and Baldy have a history?”

“Only in his sad, angry little cue ball of a head,” Vince said. “Thanks for saving me, by the way.”

“Of course,” Thomas said. “It was an illegal match and you were down. There was nothing else to do.”

“Well, I’m still glad you wandered by. My name is Vince, by the way.”

“Thomas,” Thomas replied, extending a hand. Vince accepted and shook it.

“So I heard,” Vince said. “Where are the rest of your friends?”

“Camille went to get some help, and Violet and Stella are escorting Frosty back to campus,” Thomas told him. “He’ll be less of an ass after he sleeps off the alcohol... we hope.”

“Michael was drunk?” Vince said in surprise.

“My understanding is that most students have a pre-party a bit before these events, especially the underage ones who can’t buy anything during. It seems he went a little overboard,” Thomas said.

“I guess I feel a little bit better,” Vince said. “Also, you should call your friend Camille. I’m going to be fine, I don’t need any more help, and I really don’t want to cause a fuss.”

“You sure about that? You took a pretty nasty beating there.”

“I’m sure,” Vince confirmed. “Your healer took care of nearly everything except the exhaustion. Right now all I want to do is catch a bus home and sleep for a day.”

“Your call, I guess,” Thomas shrugged.

“That it is,” Vince agreed. “Thanks again for saving me though. I can’t express how glad I am you guys stopped him.”

“A person was in need,” Thomas replied. “That’s the exact reason we’re going through this training anyway, right? Besides, once we report him on Monday I’m pretty sure you won’t have to worry about Michael anymore.”

“Report him?” Vince asked.

“Of course. He broke the rules,” Thomas answered.

“Sure, but I mean I’m okay and everything. Like I said, I’d rather avoid a fuss,” Vince said.

“He broke the rules,” Thomas said again. “That means he has to be reported so he can face the consequences.”

“Yes... yes, you’re right, of course,” Vince agreed. “By all means make the report on Monday. If you’ll excuse me, though, I really am feeling drained from my ordeal.”

“Of course; go home and rest. Are you sure you don’t need any more help?”

“I’m positive,” Vince reassured him. “But tell your friends thanks as well from me.”

“Will do,” Thomas agreed.

*          *          *

"Mr. Reynolds," Dean Blaine called as Vince entered Ethics of Heroism on Tuesday. "May I speak with you a moment?"

"Um, sure," Vince said awkwardly. He had pretty good inclination what this was going to be about and it was something he'd been hoping dearly would slide by unnoticed.

"It seems Coach George would like you to go to the gym today instead of attending my class," Dean Blaine said, any possible resentment at his class being snubbed hidden artfully in the smile that stretched across his face.

 "Is that okay?" Vince asked. "I mean, we start presentations today."

"You and Mr. Murray are scheduled for Thursday since, as you know, we weren't able to fit all of them into just one class. I do hope you'll hurry back to watch the others if possible, but if Coach George feels this is important enough to pull you from class, then you should make sure and give him your full attention," Dean Blaine assured him.

No other option coming to mind, Vince waded against the incoming crowd and made his way to the gymnasium. Nick noticed idly that Vince was exiting instead of entering, but he'd been suspecting something was up since Saturday, anyway. Vince wasn't the kind of guy to flake out, so when he'd vanished early in the night only to text Sasha that he'd gotten suddenly ill and had caught a bus home, it was obvious he was lying. Inconvenient too, since he'd had Alice's keys when he ditched. Fortunately Sasha was able to dash over and recover them, so the pilgrimage home had been possible.

Whatever Vince was dealing with obviously was tethered to what happened Saturday, but Nick's attention was focused on his task at hand for the day. He and Alice were scheduled to present, and he had a bad feeling he knew exactly the spot they were going in. Sure enough, as the class settled into their seats, Alice's tall frame remained standing, speaking hurriedly to Dean Blaine and gesturing to the mountain of poster-board she had dragged along with her. One might think she hadn't heard of a slideshow program, but one would be wrong. The posters were supplemental to the slide show. She'd worked extra hard to get them done in time. As she motioned for him to come up to the front, Nick groaned inwardly. He should have picked a worse subject to do the report over. Not even Globe was going to drag them down enough with her putting out this kind of effort.

"Class, it seems one of today's teams brought along some materials that would be inconvenient to store, so they've kindly volunteered to start us off today," Dean Blaine told the students as Alice ordered Nick around behind him, the duo quickly setting up their posters and loading the presentation onto the computer. "I'm sure all of you feel just devastated by this loss of opportunity, but please try to keep your disappointment to yourself."

A polite chuckle rippled through the class. People learn early on to laugh at the jokes of those in charge, and that goes for Supers just as much as humans. Dean Blaine cast a glance back at Alice, who flashed him a grin and a thumbs-up, so he continued. "It seems our group is ready. I urge you to give them your full attention and ask any relevant questions once they are finished. Remember, participation is a vital part of my class."

With that, Dean Blaine took a seat at a desk formerly occupied by one of the ever-mounting number of students who had washed out. Nick cleared his throat and stepped to the center of the classroom. He'd managed to talk Alice into letting him speak on the grounds that he had more practice at it than she (truth) and that he would give a better presentation overall because of that (lie). The reality was that he wanted to control the flow of the presentation, hindering where he could and helping it if he had to. Nick was determined to squeak out of this incident as nothing more than an afterthought in the minds of the class, no matter how much effort it took.

"Alice and I chose something of a controversial Hero for our presentation," Nick began. "In fact, I think many would argue whether he should still even be rightly categorized as one. Certainly there have been outcries by some to strip him of any semblance of that title, even in reference to the years he served dutifully as one. There is some validity to those opinions, just as there is some in the beliefs of a few people that this Hero was a victim of some deeper problem, or that his fall from grace was orchestrated. Today, we are going to look over the known life, and ultimately the demise, of a Hero with the code name Globe."

Nick's monologue was interrupted by a loud CRACK that echoed through the room. The source was immediately visible, as a part of Chad's desk fell heavily to the floor. Chad hastily rose from his seat.

"I'm so sorry about the interruption," Chad apologized to Nick. "My hand slipped while I was resting it on the corner of my desk. I think I must be feeling ill, so I'll excuse myself to the infirmary and let you get back to your work. Again, very sorry." Without so much as a glance for confirmation to Dean Blaine, Chad strode out of the room.

"Okay... right then," Nick said, damning that blond bastard for making sure this presentation would stick in the mind of every single person in attendance. "Anyway, Globe first appeared as the top graduate in his year of the Hero Certification Program..."