“Good work, everyone,” Professor Fletcher said to the battered and beaten students before him. Camille was already making the rounds to heal her classmates, but there were many to go before everyone would be back to normal. That was the thing about a Close Combat class: getting beaten senseless was pretty much a requirement day in and day out.
“I’ll see you all tomorrow. Class dismissed. Vince, can you hang back for a moment?”
“Sure, Professor,” Vince said agreeably. He’d already been healed up as soon as the sparring had ended. Professor Fletcher fleetingly wondered if the boy had ever noticed that his teammate always healed him before everyone else. Somehow, he doubted it.
Professor Fletcher waited until the rest of the class had finished filing out before speaking. “Vince, I’ve noticed that while you use fire for both long- and short-ranged attacks, you seem to only use electricity when in grappling distance of an opponent. I just wanted to ask why that was. I mean, if you can use one type of energy at a distance, you should be able to use others as well.”
“Oh, well, I can, sort of. It’s complicated,” Vince said, shifting awkwardly in place.
“Let me guess: every time you try and shoot it too far it splinters off and careens out of control?”
“Right. I mean, exactly, precisely right,” Vince said. “How did you know?”
“Aside from it being my element and my specialty? Electricity is one of the hardest energies to control out there. Everyone who uses it has those same problems initially,” Professor Fletcher explained. “They aren’t insurmountable.”
“I’d hoped not, but after Coa- George and I spent so much time working on it without results, I sort of resigned myself to only using it when I was right by my opponent.”
“George tried to teach you how to direct a ranged lighting shot? No wonder you didn’t get anywhere.”
“What do you mean?”
“George, all other things aside, is a very strong Super. That said, his understanding of electricity is only as a power source. He never appreciated it as the wild, living force of nature that it is. That’s why he couldn’t teach you to aim it.”
“Well, that and he lacked any experience actually using it himself. A flaw that I certainly don’t share,” Professor Fletcher said.
“I see. So you think you could help me?” Vince asked hopefully.
“Generally, teaching ranged mastery would fall into Professor Baker’s domain,” Professor Fletcher noted. “But given the circumstances, I’ll talk with her and see if we can’t set up some special sessions with you and me to help bring that particular skill along.”
“That would be awesome,” Vince said. “Thank you, Professor.”
“Thank me if we succeed,” Professor Fletcher cautioned him. “I can teach you the techniques, but it’s going to be up to you to make them work. Electricity is one of the hardest types of energy to effectively utilize in combat. In contrast, however, it’s also one of the most effective.”
“Yeah, I remember your opening day demonstration,” Vince said, rubbing the side of his head without noticing.
“Good, then keep that memory attendant when you train. If you can get some real control over that part of your abilities you’ll become a far more powerful opponent,” Professor Fletcher told him.
Somewhere in Vince’s mind the image of a Jack flitted across the landscape of his thoughts.
“Don’t worry. If it’s even remotely possible for me then I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen,” Vince said.
Though normally one to doubt the hurried promises of other people, Professor Fletcher found himself believing the silver-haired youth’s determination. It was pure, strong, and unwavering. It reminded him of another pair of blue eyes he’d gazed upon so very many years ago, but those had calculation where Vince’s had honesty.
“I’m sure you will,” Professor Fletcher said. “Now go to your next class. I’ll talk with Professor Baker and let you know how we’ll proceed tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” Vince said quickly, practically scampering out of the room and off to his next set of educational trials.
* * *
Shane Desoto was nearly at the lifts when a female hand closed around his shoulder. He sighed and tried not to shrug it off. He knew quite well it wouldn’t do any good.
“I’ve got other classes to get to,” Shane said swiftly, playing the academic card.
“You have geology at two and nothing until then,” Angela replied as she walked along with her brother.
“Of course you know my schedule,” Shane said defeatedly.
“Can’t a big sister take an interest in her little brother’s academic pursuits?”
“I’d like to get lunch before class,” Shane said, breezing past her comment. “Let’s hurry this along. What do you want?”
“I wanted to talk to you about your upcoming test. I heard you’re going against Chad’s team,” Angela said.
“How did... never mind, it doesn’t matter. Yes, I’m going against Chad.”
“So what is your strategy?” Angela asked.
Shane sighed again. He didn’t want to get into this here, but he knew Angela wouldn’t let it, or him, go until he spoke up. “It will depend on the type of test we’re given; however, since my team has more people with martial specialties, our strategy will likely rely on forcing them into combat situations whenever possible.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Angela replied. “Look, I know you think I’m a meddlesome, pain-in-the-ass sister, and you’re right, but this is one of those moments you need to put that aside and listen to me.”
“Go on,” Shane said noncommittally.
“It’s bad form to reveal things about someone’s abilities that happen in private matches, so I can’t really go into detail. Still, you remember last year when I promised Chad a sparring session?”
“Well, I won, but barely, and I mean by the skin of my teeth,” Angela said, looking her little brother dead in the eyes. “Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m telling you that kid was not only able to keep up with me, he was nearly able to overtake me.”
“That is... impressive,” Shane admitted. What was more impressive was that Angela was admitting to such a close win. Chad must have left quite an impression on her.
“No, dipshit, it’s not impressive, it’s insane. He was able to do that almost six months ago. I guarantee he’s gotten stronger since then.”
“Sew buttons, bitch,” Angela retorted. “So don’t lean too heavily on a martial strategy. Think non-combat whenever possible because if any of your team goes against him, even together, they’ll be taken out.”
“Thank you for the input,” Shane said, stepping away from his blonde sibling. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” He trekked off toward the lifts, more set than ever on using this test to show everyone that he was as good, if not better, a warrior than Chad.
Angela watched him skulk off and gently shook her head. She already knew what was going through her brother’s mind, and she knew what the outcome would be.
“Dumbass,” she muttered under her breath.