Chapter 72

"I learned never to stand too close to Mr. Transport," Nick said, kicking things off.

"I'm actually going to second that one," Alice agreed.

"Very funny," Mr. Transport said. "Be serious, though. What you took from the test is almost as important as the test itself."

There was a pause of silence before Mary's voice spoke up.

"I learned that being Super doesn't mean I can do anything," she admitted. "I've been able to handle everything so easily now that I can control my power, but none of it really helped me on the mountain."

"You helped save me," Nick pointed out.

"And Alice helped save us all by securing the ropes as we scaled the mountain," Mary replied. "My point was that when I was Powered, I always assumed Supers could just do anything. I was wrong."

"Yeah," Vince agreed. "The only people with really useful powers were Alice and Roy."

"That's because of the environment, though," Alice said. "If we'd been stuck in a volcano then your absorption ability would have been indispensable."

"Which brings up another point," Hershel said. "None of us is the best in every situation. In fact, there are probably situations where four of us would be totally screwed without our fifth friend."

"I guess that's why so many Heroes form teams," Vince speculated.

"Which, for those of you still wondering, is the realization we were supposed to come to, right?" Nick asked, looking over at Mr. Numbers.

"No comment," Mr. Numbers answered.

"We were supposed to realize why it’s useful for established Heroes to form teams?" Hershel asked uncertainly.

"We were supposed to realize that we are a team," Vince explained to him, catching on. "They wanted us to depend on one another, to lean on one another, and to save one another. They wanted us to work as a unit rather than a set of individuals."

"But why? I mean, we more or less did our own thing last semester and got through without issues," Alice said.

"Because it's going to get harder," Mary told her. "We've done well so far, yes. However, we all are about ten to fifteen years behind everyone else in this program. They've spent a lifetime learning to use and control their powers while we're just scratching the surface."

"Funny thing for the number one rank on the girls’ side to say," Nick pointed out.

"Yes, I did well. A lot of that was by surprise and luck, though. You were with me in the labyrinth fighting Gilbert. Did it seem like I would have won by myself?" Mary asked.

"Fair enough," Nick agreed.

"So what’s the point here?" Vince asked. "That we suck alone?"

"That we should work together more, I think," Alice said. "That we're facing a very difficult obstacle, not unlike climbing a mountain, and that the only way we'll make it is if we work together and are ready to help and save one another."

Nick and Mary glanced at one another from their respective positions. They alone knew that while Alice was close, there was a whole other reason their caretakers had wanted to instill that team mentality. This was the point where they could steer the conversation to that logical conclusion, or cut things off and let the others believe it was done solely out of concern for their progress in the program.

"I think you're right, Alice," Mary agreed. "It makes the most sense. And it's true. We've got a long way left to go before we're Heroes, we'll need to start leaning on each other more as things get harder."

"It's a valid point," Vince concurred.

"True," Hershel said with a nod.

"Personally, I think they did it to kill us and cut open our bodies for science," Nick said. "But I guess encouraging us to work together is a possibility."

"So were we right?" Alice asked Mr. Transport.

"You took the lesson you took," Mr. Numbers said, answering before Mr. Transport had a chance to try. "Mr. Transport told you, the lesson you take is as important as the test itself. There wasn't a right or wrong one, only the one you arrived at. I'll say this, though: you five turned a difficult experience into a positive learning opportunity."

"That makes my frostbite all the more bearable, thank you," Nick quipped.

"Don't be such a baby," Alice scolded him.

"I'm pretty sure of all the situations in life I get to bitch about, being abandoned in the freezing snow and told to climb a mountain is right up near the top," Nick shot back. "It's over, though, so can we finish this meeting already? I want to swing by the video store and see if they still have Christmas-themed horror movies out."

"Nice to know nothing changed over the holidays," Vince said with a finger pressed to his temple.

"I think we've got a good sense of what you took from our lesson," Mr. Transport said. "Enjoy the rest of your day. Don't forget to meet me here at ten tomorrow, though. I'm sure you'll all want to see which class you wound up in and how you did on the final."

"And now that will hang over my head all day," Alice said.

"You know what’s good for that?" Nick asked.

"We all know you're going to say bad horror movies," Hershel told him.

"No, I wasn't," Nick told him.

"Fine, what then?" Hershel asked.

"Awesomely bad horror movies," Nick replied with a wide grin.

"You kids have fun," Mr. Transport said, rising to his feet. "We're going... anywhere that isn't here."

He and Mr. Numbers vanished, leaving the students finally alone and back together for the first time in several weeks.

"So, what kind of car did you win, anyway?" Hershel asked.

"Beetle," Nick told him.

"Stole," Vince corrected.

"Damn it," Alice groaned.

"Seriously, Hershel? They've been like this for days. Please don't reignite this crap when it dies," Mary said.

"My bad," Hershel said, putting up his hands.

"Okay, look Vince, you've been plugging away at me on this relentlessly and I haven't caved. Now, it’s apparent we're bothering those around us. So how about we say that this is in an area of murky morality and just agree to disagree. You think I'm wrong, I think I'm right, and neither of us seems to have a shot at changing the other's mind," Nick said.

"Agreed," Vince said after a brief pause. "I still think you should give it back, though."

"I'm well aware," Nick told him. "Now, who wants to ride in my ill-gotten gains to the video store?"