Chapter 51

Tuesday morning found the sophomore students shuffling uncertainly to their first classes after gym. It was strange to shift gears so rapidly. Yesterday they’d been looking at each other with the savagery only competition can bring out, but today they were back in their normal schedules and social groups. It was uncomfortable to greet a friend that one might have had to punch in the face yesterday as if nothing had ever happened. The professors never said it out loud, but this flexibility of perspective was as much a point of the exercises as learning the initial teamwork. It was an unfortunate and undeniable fact that in the world of Heroes, sometimes you found yourself fighting a friend. Getting accustomed to it now reduced hesitation down the line.

The students soon fell back into their routine with minimal effort. It helped that the professors acted as though Monday had never happened, moving right from Friday’s lesson on to the logical continuation. There was no gain to be had in rehashing the matches; everyone knew who had won and who had lost. If the teams wanted consultation on why those results had been produced then they could schedule office hours. For the most part the goal was to move everyone past this last trial and get them refocused so they’d be ready for the next one. Besides, as the chilly October air suggested, it was growing later in the year. That meant midterms were fewer than eight weeks away. That thought alone was enough to put more fear in the students than any ghost or goblin. Of course, some people had other concerns on their minds.

“Hey, tall, tan, and talkative,” Angela yelled, grabbing Thomas’s attention as the sophomores headed toward the lifts. “Hold up for a moment, I need to chat with you.”

Thomas paused in his walking; HCP classes were over and he had some time before his first afternoon class, so it would be fine to listen to her. He motioned for Violet and Stella to keep going. The three of them usually had lunch together; he knew their habits and catching up would be no problem.

“How can I help you?” Thomas said politely as Angela approached.

“We need to talk about the party.”

“The party?”

“Yeah, the party. The shindig, the festivity, the kegger, the gathering. That enough synonyms?” Angela asked.

“I know what a party is; I’m not sure which party you’re talking about.”

“Look, October is winding down. That means pretty soon most of the cuts on the freshman class will have been made,” Angela said impatiently. “And as I explained last year when you came to the party at my place, it is tradition for the sophomores to extend an invitation to a social gathering for those newbies still remaining.”

“Wait, you want me to throw it?”

“Good thing you’ve got a knack for fighting, kid, you aren’t too quick on the mental upswing. Yes, you need to throw it. You’re a sophomore and you have one of the few houses with adequate size, location, and residents that are all Supers.”

Thomas resisted the urge to ask how she knew so much about his living space: a girl this determined probably had methods he was happier being ignorant of. Instead he focused on diffusing the situation. “I might have the means; however, I’m not really the most gregarious person in our class. Perhaps there is a better fit for this duty.”

“You’re joking, right? Look, being a good host in this situation isn’t about creating fun. The kegs and attendees will handle that all on their own. No, it’s about being respected and powerful enough to impose order when things get out of hand, which they will. Take last year, for example; if I hadn’t broken up the pissing match that started over beer pong, a lot of bad shit could have happened.”

“If it’s power and respect, why not someone like Chad? I doubt anyone would question his authority to impose peace.”

“For one thing, because he lives in the dorms and doesn’t have a place. For another, because Chad, while hunky, is pretty anti-social. I don’t know how many people would show to something he organized. Having a good number of sophomore attendees makes the freshmen feel like they’ve walked into part of an existing community. If the party consists of five people, they’ll feel like they’re courted by a fringe of losers who can’t make friends with their own class.”

“I suppose I can see the point there,” Thomas conceded. “I still have some-”

“Listen, I don’t have time for this,” Angela cut him off. “The torch is passed, you have been tasked. If you want help and advice, by all means come to me. If you want to slide the burden to someone else, that’s your call. Just remember, we have this tradition for a reason. Freshman year is scary as shit, and letting those kids know that they have some support coming from higher up the ladder can make a big difference for some of them. So if you want to blow it off, I can’t stop you. Then again, if I thought you were the type to do that, I wouldn’t be having this talk with you in the first place.” Angela turned and began to walk away.

“You don’t know me beyond a few times we’ve briefly spoken,” Thomas called after her, his words bouncing in the now empty hall. “What makes you think I’m a good fit for this?”

“Shane recommended you,” Angela replied, turning around and giving Thomas a half-smile. “Funny thing about that kid, he has an odd knack for getting a sense of people. He said you were the most responsible guy in the whole class. That was enough for me.”

Thomas took a breath and cleared his head as Angela’s sunshine-colored locks swayed off in the opposite direction. He really didn’t want to throw a party, especially not with kegs and drinking and the like. It would be a large inconvenience for him and his roommates. Despite his wants, however, it seemed this was a duty, and Thomas Castillo had a very firm understanding of duty. He set his resolve and began heading toward the lifts.

On the upside, at least Violet and Stella would be happy about the news.