Chapter 208

               Alice felt her phone vibrate in her pocket and unabashedly flipped it out to see who was texting her. She didn’t have to listen that closely to the old man speaking down at the bottom of the lecture hall; he had pre-recorded his classes years before and hosted them online for students to listen to. It was why he got away with such massive class sizes, since being able to hear him in the first place scarcely mattered at all.

                To her surprise, it was Nick, checking to see if she was free on Saturday for a lunch. He’d been a bit aloof since their day out with the others, but it looked as though he were finally taking the bull by the horns. Tempted as Alice was to text back immediate agreement, she forced herself to stop and check the calendar function on her phone. Their lives were a bit hectic, and after all their dancing about the last thing she wanted was to have to reschedule with Nick.

                It turned out to be a good thing that she had checked, because Alice was signed up for her mental training session that Saturday afternoon. Vince had already gone and found the whole thing to be uneventful, though he did say he felt a bit more relaxed after his session. That might be good, a mental massage before her big date.

                Alice’s well-manicured nails flew across the touch screen as she texted Nick back, letting him know about the conflict. She also told him that she’d have declined a lunch date anyway, after this long it was dinner or nothing. In truth she probably would have accepted if not for the conflict, but it didn’t hurt to make sure Nick we aware that there were expectations to be met.

                She put her phone back into pocket, then turned to face the teacher once more. This time, however, her thoughts weren’t even cursorily on the material. No doubt about it, she was going to have to re-listen to this entire lecture if she wanted to get anything from the day’s class.

                It was a trade she was happy to make.

*             *             *

                “All in all, you put forth an exceptional effort.” Professor Cole stood in front of her students once more, the first day back from spring break had finally arrived, and with it her evaluations of their exams. “Despite all my preparation to keep you in the dark as to who you would be working with, most of you came together with a fierce efficiency. Granted, this was not exactly what it will be like in the field, since you may have no idea what the other Heroes you work with will be capable of, but none the less you all still did well.”

                The students could just barely make out her green eyes through those cloth bandages, but no longer was her strange style of dress a point of curiosity. Now they understood it for what it was: her shield and sword. Professor Cole came to class every day with the tools she needed to kick ass. It might have been odd from some teachers, but for their Weapons instructor it made perfect sense.

                “Those of who fared best of the lot were the ones who quickly determined what your role in the team would be, and then fulfilled it. We didn’t spend all of last year teaching you team work for nothing, and I was genuinely impressed at how many of you remembered your fundamentals. On top of that, the majority of you truly turned your weapons into tools, and obviously that was a big part of the exam as well.”

                Roy involuntarily tightened the grip on his bat, which rested in his right hand. He’d had a sling for it than went over his back, but after five tries at drawing the weapon carefully he’d gotten over-excited and ripped the thing apart. Now he just carried it. The weight was good. It kept his muscles at least partially engaged all the time. He’d probably miss it when it was time to say goodbye to this class.

                “Now we of course still have final exams coming up, but it’s about time for you to all start thinking about what you want your HCP major to be,” Professor Cole told them. Around him, Roy could feel some of the others bristle. This was a thought that weighed heavy on all their minds as the deadline approached.

                “I took some of you aside this morning and spoke with you about how things went in the exam. For those students, the final will be a very crucial exam in whether or not they are allowed to continue on with Weapons. For the rest of you, so long as you don’t completely fail the thing, you have shown me enough skill and competence that I will sign off on training you for another year. You can still screw this up, but I want you aware that Weapons is a major you can seriously considering undertaking.”

                Roy resisted the urge to look around. He hadn’t been one of those told he needed to make the final exam count, and he didn’t really want to know who had been. For him, Weapons was always a second place priority, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others in the class desperately hoping to make the cut. To have something you wanted that bad and find it out of reach… Roy didn’t need to see those people’s faces.

                He flexed his hand against the bat once more. There was no more getting around it: Professor Cole had made a lot of valid points throughout the year, and he might be better off doing Weapons than Close Combat. Roy was past the point of caring what most strongmen did, or how using a weapon was perceived. It was about power, at the end of the day. What made him the strongest Hero he could be. If it were the bat, then he would wield it. It were his fists, then the bat would be cast aside. The one thing Roy couldn’t afford to do was guess. He needed a test. Not one delivered by the HCP, but one that gave him results that he could believe in.

                Roy knew what he had to do; he just hoped he could manage to pull it off.