Chapter 184

               Roy dropped his bat as Will’s weird gizmo made his entire body explode with the sensation of needing to be scratched. It didn’t hurt, exactly, but at the same time it made focusing nearly impossible. Then it was over, and Professor Cole blew her whistle.

                “Roy Daniels has been taken down by the team of Murray, Murray, and Sullivan. Time: five minutes and thirty six seconds. Good job everyone.” She made a few notes on the clipboard, her bandaged fingers clearly having no issue holding the pen. When that was done, Professor Cole checked the stopwatch in her hands, seeing how much time was left in the class.

                “We’ll go ahead and call it a day here, people,” she announced. “Not enough time to do another bout before the bell. But everyone gather close, because there’s an announcement I want to make.”

                Violet offered Roy a hand up from the ground, which he accepted. While a younger Roy might have been bothered at being bested by Will, Jill, and Violet; after so many matches he found it impossible to take an occasional loss personally. Especially against Will, whose weird doo-dads were almost impossible to predict. The tricks from his staff were never as showy as what he built into Jill’s suit, but they were curiously effective. Will knew how to fight like a weakling, and that made him vastly more dangerous than someone who’d spent a lifetime being strong.

                “As all of you who can read a calendar should be aware, we’re coming up on mid-semester exams,” Professor Cole said, speaking as her seven students fell into place. “For most of your classes, this will be much like what you did back in the fall: you’ll be teamed up to fight another student meeting you as a team. I’m sure your professors will throw in a few changes to keep it fresh, maybe having you fight more people or changing up the terrain, but in Weapons we’re going to do something a little different.”

                Ears perked up and weariness seemed to slide off her student’s faces as the prospect of a new challenge was dangled before them. They’d thought they knew what to expect, now there was a chance of dealing with the unknown, which obviously filled each of them with intrigue rather than dread. That was one of the many reason why they still stood before her, while so many others had fallen by the wayside.

                “In the Hero world, there are some people who are better suited to certain types of battles than others. I’m not just talking about our specialties, Subtlety and Weapons and Control and all that. I’m talking about how our skills and powers can be best utilized in the field. For example: someone who generates a lot of damage but has limited ability to direct it, would be most often called in on situations where the enemies are all confirmed and civilians have been evacuated. There’s a technical code for that kind of thing, but we just called it ‘scorched earth’ and I don’t think you need me to tell you why.”

                The serious expressions that met her eyes told her that no, she didn’t need to explain. They were far enough along to understand the burdens that came with Hero work. At least, to understand them as best they could without actually being in the field.

                “Now I was not the sort they called in for scorched earth. I was, however, especially good at dealing with large groups of Supers that would band together and fight. In a sense, the focus of this year’s training was what I happened to be best at: taking on multiple enemies at once. In fact, I have so much experience at it that I can often evaluate how well my opponents coordinate and work together, just from taking them on as a group. So, that’s what we’ll be doing for our Weapons mid-term.”

                “Wait, we’re fighting you?” Britney said, comprehension quickly dawning.

                “That’s right. We’ll do it in two matches, since there are seven of you, one team of four and one team of three. I’ll pick your teams, but you won’t know them until right before the match begins.”

                “Why not?” Terrance asked. “We learned about teamwork last year, and it’s assumed we’re working on Hero teams when we get into the field. Why can’t we have the chance to plan and coordinate?”

                “For one thing, because this is an exercise in thinking like the enemy,” Professor Cole told him. “Gangs of Supers are sometimes well-trained and cooperative, but most of them fight without planning or teamwork. I want you to feel what that’s from their end, to understand what’s going through their heads in the chaos of a fight. But, the other reason I don’t want you prepping is that life as a Hero doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes you have to work with strangers, because they are there and the job needs to be done. Coordinating on the fly is a learned skill, so it’s our job to get you practice in it whenever we can.”

                “Are we expected to win this bout?” Will asked. His eyes were already sparking with thought as he tried to imagine what sort of abilities Professor Cole had. All she’d ever shown was tremendous skill with weapons, and a refusal to appear before her students without the many layers of clothing and bandages. There were oceans of possibilities there, but nothing concrete.

                “You’re damn sure expected to try,” Professor Cole said. “But I’m going to be grading you based on tactics more than results; what strategies you employ, how you work together, when I see real thought going in to your attacks, that sort of thing. Oh, and here is something important: you are all expected to come at me full-force. Treat me like a Sim, no holding back. If you don’t come into this fight with all you’ve got, you won’t last long enough for me to take a good assessment.”

                “I guess we’re supposed to assume that nothing we can do will hurt you,” Roy said. As the only one in the class who had earnestly fought a professor before, he knew all too well just how powerful they could be.

                “As third-years, it’s entirely possible one of you could injure me, which is why I’ll have some safety precautions taken,” Professor Cole replied. “But in the twelve years I’ve been teaching this course, those precautions have never been needed. Don’t be afraid, and don’t hold back. I want to see what you all can really do.”