Chapter 13

Weapons class was starting off differently than Roy had expected. During their first year of it Professor Cole had focused on learning about a tremendous amount of weaponry, both ancient and modern, as well as their strengths, weaknesses, and purposes. Some were meant to incapacitate, others to kill. Some were structured in a way that increased the power of the wielder’s blows, while others counted on a thin edge and dexterity to be effective. Some were electric stun batons or pepper spray. It was a foundation of comprehensive knowledge, so that by the time the first year ended any student could identify a sword or morningstar by name, style, and proper way to be held.

Second year began with Professor Cole having them arrange themselves in a wide circle and then standing in the center of it. She wore her usual vestment of cloth wrappings and layered clothes, an overdressed mummy with visible eyes and the occasional tufts of hair. The difference was this time her large sword was not in its sheath, instead it was clutched in one of her hands. Several of her bandages wrapped around it up to the hilt as she clutched the sword with seemingly little effort. It made more than a few students wonder if her power was enhanced strength.

“I am not a coy woman,” Professor Cole announced, causing a few students to jump involuntarily. It was easy to forget the power in her voice, how it was strong yet delicate all at once. “Many of your other classes will keep you in the dark as to what the test events will be, until they draw near. They’ll want you guessing, want you to prepare for multiple scenarios, want you to push your versatility to its limits. I don’t care about any of that. I’m telling you today what your tests, all of them, will be.”

She twirled her blade absent-mindedly. Will noticed the tip always came down at the exact same distance from the floor. Even if her action was effortless, it was still incredibly precise.

“Did you ever wonder how both George and Professor Fletcher were able to fight you combat folks as a group? Seems like a strange skill for two men in very different fields to have acquired. The reason is that both of them have spent time in the real world, and out there taking on a group is almost more common than going one on one. Gangs existed before Supers, and they’ve rolled out the welcome mats to our kind now that they know about us. It’s why Heroes work in teams so frequently. But sometimes, shit happens, and you’ll have to handle multiple enemies on your own. That’s what this year is about. This is where you get the training to put five criminals on the ground instead of letting them beat the hell out of you.”

The blade was still twirling, still staying in the same path without as much as a millimeter of deviation.

“For your first test, you’ll be facing three classmates of my choosing. Second test will be five classmates. Last test will be you against everyone who is still here. Yes, still here. I won’t kick you out of the program; however, every year a couple of people always come to me and ask if they can drop my course early. Turns out once the weapons become real they lose their nerve. And make no mistakes people, we will be using real weaponry. The street thug you go against isn’t going to use a dulled knife, so I don’t want you trained against one. People will be hurt, however I will make certain no one is killed. That is my promise to you, and it is the only one I’ll be making. Other than that, you’re on your own. I want you to get hurt during these sessions, because I want you to feel the consequences of not respecting an opponent’s weapon.”

The sword halted with no warning. One moment it was still steadily in motion, the next it was still.

“All of an opponent’s weapons. Everyone please look at the third button from the top on your uniform coats.”

The students did as they were instructed. Nestled dead center in the mass of each button was a small silver needle that hadn’t been there when the coats were put on. Upon removal some realized that the needles were balanced and weighted, specifically designed for throwing.

“Misdirection is an important skill in fighting groups,” Professor Cole informed them. “Control your opponent’s vision and you can control what they don’t see, which is infinitely more important than what they do. Keep that in mind. I know several of you aren’t the type with physical gifts,” her eyes lingered on Will and Britney just a few moments longer than either would have preferred, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself. Battle is about so much more than who punches harder. Each one of you has the capability of getting through, if not passing these tests. If you didn’t, then I wouldn’t have allowed you in my course to begin with. Now, the first step for each of you is choosing your preferred weapon. You’ll be using several different kinds throughout the year, but this will be your home base, the one that you apply all the things you learn to. We’ll spend the next week making sure each of you finds a good fit. After that, we start learning how to use them.”

She gestured to the racks of weaponry that lined the cement wall of her large classroom, indicating it was time to start seeing they could find a good match. Most of the students followed her implied orders, however one lingered behind.

“Is there a problem, Mr. Murray?”

“There is. I don’t think I’m going to find the right weapon for me in the classroom stock,” he replied. “I have no physical augments, nor do I have a talent that would allow me to approximate them like my sister does.”

“Is this your way of asking if you can drop the course already?”

“Very much the opposite,” Will said. “I think the only chance I have here is to design a weapon customized for me specifically. My body, my natural movements, my capabilities. I wanted to ask if that was against the rules.”

“No,” Professor Cole confirmed. “The rules here are that if you can create it, then you can use it. It’s why we’ve let you bring all your high-tech inventions into fights, while everyone else is restricted to nothing more advanced than a taser.”

“You’ve allowed Jill to bring in my works as well,” Will pointed out.

“Cultivating resources is a Hero skill too. Jill got them from a fellow HCP student, so as far as we’re concerned she procured them under her own power. I’m sure that was your roundabout way of seeing if you could make something for her too.”

“Perhaps a bit,” Will admitted. “However, in this case, my own needs are first priority. Jill can get by with what she’s got. I seem to only have a week to craft a tool that will give me a fighting chance.”

“Do you need more time?”

“No, that should be plenty, though I may consult you for your expertise. Personally, I think it should prove quite the rewarding project.”