Chapter 190

               Roy sat in the single occupancy concrete cell and dearly wished he’d thought to bring his phone with him. Like every day when he went to class, Roy had set it in the lockers when he changed into his HCP uniform. The delicate electronic devices were far too breakable to be brought into the sorts of sparring matches he regularly engaged it. That had been doubly so when he changed this morning, as he was heading into his Weapons mid-term, which certainly promised to be a tough one. Still, if he’d known Professor Cole was going to send the entire class into individual cells so she could test the groups separately, he might have risked it. After only five minutes of sitting around he was going out of his mind with boredom.

                For the umpteenth time in his incarceration, Roy picked up his bat and turned it around in his hands. It was still new enough to be in mostly the same shape as when he’d received it, but the few dents running along the side spoke to the hours he’d trained with the weapon to get accustomed to its weight. After a couple of weeks, he could wield it as easily as he had his first bat, which was no small accomplishment given the difference in weight between the two.

                If nothing else, Roy felt like he was getting worth from Weapons training in terms of his workouts. Weights were all well and good, but trying to wield an object that weighed hundreds of pounds had tested him in ways he could have never seen with just lifting. Were he truly pressed on the issue, Roy might have admitted that he’d grown a certain fondness for his bat; that it no longer seemed like a haphazardly chosen tool to satisfy a professor’s demands, but was now a part of his arsenal.

                He still wasn’t all that good with it, not compared to the skill that the other student’s had with some of their weapons. They could move with a grace and precision that Roy could scarcely manage for brief windows with just his body, let alone with the cumbersome bat clutched in his hands. Roy had accepted that he would never be able to move as fluidly as Vince or Chad, and under Hank’s summer tutelage he’d learned that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing. Moving with controlled power had a beauty of its own, and that was something Roy felt he could master, with enough effort.

                The sound of his door sliding open nearly made Roy drop his bat, a mistake that would have no doubt cracked a large section of the concrete. Slowly, he rose to his feet and peered out the door. From above, a soft voice whispered to him over the intercom.

                “Follow the stairs to the left, Roy. It’s time to show me what you can do.”

                With Professor Cole’s voice still lingering in his ear, Roy walked slowly down the hallway. As he did, he noted that two more of the individual cells had been opened, meaning he was either the last in the group of three or next to last in the group of four. Personally, Roy hoped for the former. No one had said it out loud, but every Weapons student had assumed that Professor Cole would put the best three into the smaller group to make for a more balanced challenge. Aside from matters of pride and ego, of which Roy had plenty, he wanted to be in that more exceptional group so he could fight alongside the best his class had to offer. Despite her warnings about never losing, Roy was going into this fight with the intent to win it. He had to get strong enough to take on a professor if he was ever going to be able to properly pay back George for that freshman year beating.

                Roy reached the end of the hallway and began climbing the steps, too aware of the heavy clunks from his boots echoing down the concrete corridor. When he reached the top area, he found four doors standing before him. The two on the left were closed, then one was open, and the last one was also closed. Inside the one open room, there were a few feet of space and another door at the opposite end, this one still closed. Roy might not have been as smart as Hershel, but he could put this one together pretty easily. Stepping into the one open door, Roy managed to not jump this time as it slid shut behind him. It seemed Professor Cole was pretty serious about keeping them in the dark about who was on their teams until the real fighting began. Roy wondered who he’d be fighting alongside, and he also began to ask himself why exactly Lander needed a chamber like this one. It couldn’t be just to support one professor’s favorite method of assessment. Sometimes it bothered him how long he’d been at Lander without seeing all it of its secrets. None of the students knew how deep Lander went, either literally or metaphorically, but it was often the topic of speculation when minds got to wandering.

                “Attention students of the junior Weapons class,” Professor Cole said from a speaker overhead. “Here is the situation for your exam: A rogue Super has been located after a deadly encounter with police. She is presumed very dangerous, and has already taken multiple civilian lives. All Heroes in the area are being tapped to respond, which means you’ll be working with whoever happens to be on hand. Your target must be neutralized by any means necessary, so lethal force has been authorized. Stop her before she stops you. Good luck.”

                Roy licked his lips and tightened his grip on the bat. Already he could feel his fingers tingling as adrenaline surged through his system. Here it was at long last: a real fight. The sort where he didn’t have to be afraid of tearing apart his opponent. For the first time since his winter final against the Sims, Roy was being told to come out swinging with everything he had, and he could barely contain himself at the opportunity.

                When the door in front of Roy finally swung open, he bolted forward, right into the action. It was where he was always meant to be.