Chapter 5

“You’re sure you want to start things off like this?” Professor Cole asked; Professor Fletcher still hadn’t pieced together how she spoke so clearly through all that cloth.

For his part, Carl Fletcher nodded his head and took a sip of his tea. The dean’s meeting would end soon and the students would be filing into the gym. Right now the professors were all dwelling in the break room, discussing plans for their first introduction.

“I’m sure,” he said. “I don’t agree with a lot of George’s old methods, but he and I do see eye to eye on a few points. Having faith and respect in the people trusting you is definitely one of them.”

“Perhaps, but given the atmosphere and recent events I’m not certain showing the class that not even all twenty-eight of them at once can beat you instills the sense of security you think it does,” Esme said, sipping her own mug filled with strong black coffee.

“It’s not ideal,” Carl conceded. “But if we’re talking ideal I wouldn’t be here and George wouldn’t be a turncoat. We can’t afford to treat them with kid gloves because of his and Persephone’s mistake. The students still have to learn, and to do that effectively they need to believe we have something to teach them.”

“Which begs the question, why are you the one squaring off with them?” Blake Hill asked, his tone respectful and his eyes suspicious.

“Three reasons,” Carl replied. “First, I’m the Close Combat class teacher, so it makes sense that I’m the one to fight them. Second, I’ve got a lot of experience in bringing down Supers without doing lasting damage. And finally, because I’m the new guy. If I can beat them all so easily, they’ll think you more experienced folks can kill them with a thought.”

“A great idea,” Professor Pendleton contributed, “with one caveat. We’re talking about twenty-eight kids with pretty exceptional skills. Are you sure you can beat them?”

Carl gave an easy smile and finished the rest of his tea.

*    *    *

If last year had taught the students nothing else, it was to take seriously a threat of violence from one of their teachers. Professor Fletcher had scarcely finished speaking before Stella had adopted a more chromeish veneer and Hershel had gulped down the contents of his pocket flask. Others in the class took fighting poses, or brought themselves up to full alertness before Professor Fletcher took his first step. Not that it helped much.

Most of the students only saw the man in the brightly colored shirt vanish before their eyes. A select few were still conscious to see him reappear on the other side of the crowd, or rather on the other side of the sea of collapsed bodies. They were also privy to the light show that streaked the air, wild currents of electricity hanging about like floating tinsel, searing the eyes for a moment then fading away into oblivion. Of the seven still standing, only Chad and Sasha had been able to see everything that happened.

“Not bad,” Professor Fletcher said. “I expected to get more of you with that.”

“E-Electricity,” Sasha panted. Most of the others had remained standing due to their natural resistances. She and Gilbert, on the other hand, had actually dodged his attacks, a task which had tasked her speed and reflexes to the limit. “You turned into electricity.”

“Quite,” Professor Fletcher confirmed. “You see, of the known Supers in the world, approximately seven percent fall into an elemental manipulation category, such as the ice user over there.”

Michael’s armor of ice was melting on the ground as he lay passed out on the cold cement floor. Frozen water was an excellent barrier from physical assaults, but it came up lacking as an electrical insulator.

“Most of these can only generate or shift a certain kind of element. Of that seven percent, about a quarter have total mastery of their element. The ability to sense it, create it, control it, and alter it in any fashion they see fit. Now, of that quarter, a mere ten percent are so powerful that they can give their physical bodies aspects of their element. Stony skin, boiling touch, and even a thing like lightning speed becomes possible.”

“Yeah, yeah, we get it, you’re the cream of the crop, you rise to the top,” Roy said, shaking off the last attack. It had been a strong charge, but he’d remained standing. He was somewhat pleased to note that of the men’s top five ranks, only he and Chad could boast that claim. “Big whoop, we’ve heard it before.”

“The point I was trying to make, good student, is that even that ten percent of a quarter of seven percent is still classified under me. Because I don’t just assume my element, I can actually turn into it,” Professor Fletcher concluded. “So let’s see, still standing we have two resistance- and strength-based fighters, one absorber, one super speeder, one density controller, one rubber man, and one short range teleporter. Decisions, decisions.”