Chapter 36

“Okay, um, you,” Shutterbug said, pointing to the nearest hand she saw.

“I was wondering what you can tell us about the process after graduation,” Thomas asked, lowering his hand as he spoke. “Some of the older students have mentioned interning, but that process has yet to be fully explained to us.”

Shutterbug looked over at Dean Blaine and raised an eyebrow.

“We’d planned to cover that later in the year, closer to when an initial meet and greet could be arranged,” Dean Blaine replied to her unasked query.

Shutterbug gave a small nod. “I won’t go too in-depth then, but to lay out some basics, over the course of the tail end of this year and most of next, the staff will bring in Heroes qualified to have interns. You’ll meet, shake hands, do small talk, and generally kiss ass. If the Hero is interested in you, then they’ll review your tapes and maybe watch your final trial. If they still think you’ve got talent, then they offer to mentor you for two years after graduation. This is where you get the on the job training that no amount of school can replicate. Think of it as your Hero learner’s permit.”

More hands were immediately raised, but Shutterbug didn’t call on anyone, instead she kept talking.

“And I already know what your next question is, because I asked the same thing: What happens if no Hero offers to mentor you? Don’t worry; the HCP isn’t going to leave you hanging like that. There are Heroes who don’t do the selection process because they feel it’s elitist. Those Heroes are always willing to take any interns that don’t get offers, up to the maximum three they are permitted to have. I’m sure some of you assume these are the less-than-stellar Heroes, the second-rate ones you’re forced to fall back on, but understand not any Hero can mentor. It takes ten years on the job and a slew of other qualifications. There is no such thing as a second rate Hero mentor.”

This time Shutterbug looked around a little more carefully, choosing a smaller girl whose hand was almost obscured by the taller people around her.

“Yes, you, the small one.” Only after she’d said it did it occur to Shutterbug that her word choice might have been a bit offensive. If it was, the girl didn’t show signs of being upset.

“I was wondering how teams are formed,” Camille asked. “Do you apply for existing ones, or form your own, is there some sort of procedure?”

“Sure is,” Shutterbug told her. “Honestly, both options are perfectly viable. Teams are fluid things, people moving on or changing cities mean constant openings. Technically, there’s no limit on size, but anything over eight gets cumbersome to manage. Some handle this by having sub-teams with different purposes, but that’s off-topic. Lots of Heroes form their own teams after their internships, and plenty try to get on with existing teams. Part of your intern years is getting plugged into the Hero community and expanding your social circles, so that when you’re done you have options lined up.”

With a quick sweep of the room, she selected a new question asker. “You, whacha got?”

“I wanted to know how Heroes make money,” Allen said. “Clearly they do, I’ve just never totally gotten how.”

“Ah yes, this one is a bit of sticky area,” Shutterbug said. “Officially speaking, we’re a branch of emergency response and law enforcement, so we’re paid a modest salary just like any other government worker. Good health plan, too. However, each Hero owns the rights to his or her image, meaning if they want to license it for merchandising, that’s within their rights. By tradition and public expectation, a sizable cut of that money is given to charity, but being a popular Hero can still be a pretty big supplement to your income. That’s part of why an agent is useful.”

“As a note,” Dean Blaine interjected, “Even after retiring from the Hero field, a well-managed image can continue to make money, and there are always a plethora of jobs for Heroes who have solid skills and experience.”

“That’s right,” Shutterbug agreed. “Some of us teach, others become agents themselves, and of course you can always do a stint in the SAA to make some serious cash.”

“Yes, but we have another speaker who will go over that topic,” Dean Blaine cautioned.

“Oh, sorry,” Shutterbug apologized. “Let’s see, next question then. You.”

“I wanted to know what it’s like fighting criminal Supers,” Violet asked. “Is it like training, or what?”

“Yes and no,” Shutterbug told her. “Your training is preparing you for death at every turn. Not all criminals are out for blood, though. A good portion are just people who made bad choices and got caught up in stupid circumstances. In those cases, its better, because if you’re really lucky then you can stop them without throwing a punch, and maybe even get them on a better path. The rest of the time, well, some Supers become convinced that their power means they can do what they want and no one can stop them. In those cases, it’s definitely worse, especially when they’ve got a power set that prohibits peaceful capture.”

“What does that mean?” Violet inquired, though deep down she was already suspicious she knew the answer.

Shutterbug’s eyes flicked to Dean Blaine, who gave a subtle nod. He didn’t call Heroes here to fill his students’ heads with lies and fluff. They deserved to know what they were walking into.

“It’s the unhappy truth that there are Supers who are dangerous, and have to be stopped, or innocent people will die. If you can’t take them to jail, then you stop them the other way, by permanently neutralizing them. Most of us don’t like it, but make no mistake, it’s part of the job.”

“On that note,” Dean Blaine interjected, “I think we have time for one more question.”

“My, how the time flies,” Shutterbug said. “Then the last question will come from the girl with the pink streaks in her hair.”

“Thank you,” Sasha replied. “I was wondering how long the average Hero stays in the game, so to speak. I mean, how many years of that work do most people do?”

“Well, that falls into the four categories. First off, the people who die on the job, which for purposes of this discussion we won’t count since I think you’re asking about the ones who retire. Next you have people whose bodies decay at a normal rate, and this inhibits them. Examples would be people with abilities that let them excel at physical combat, but don’t directly make them less resilient to the ravages of time. Your dean, actually, is a prime example of this. These people can usually make into their forties, but Hero work is incredibly physically demanding. Even with healers and the like on staff, a body just can’t hold up to that much wear and tear after a certain point, especially when you’re fighting people who are looking to capitalize on any weakness.”

Dean Blaine politely pretended not to notice all the glances the students were trying to covertly give him.

“The next set of folks would be ones who still age normally, but whose usefulness isn’t affected. People like advanced minds, healers, and me fall into this area. Our body weakening doesn’t mean much because we weren’t really relying on it to start. Most of this one can go into their sixties and hit a proper retirement age, though some just get weary of the work and stop before then. The last group are people with physical abilities that are unaffected by getting older. You see a few strongmen in this category, as well as some energy shifters. Basically these people could fight until old age took them and never slow down. They tend to vary on career length, since it really is just a matter of them doing it until they decide they’re done.”

“Very well said,” Dean Blaine agreed. “Now, let’s please thank Shutterbug for her time and sharing her knowledge.” The class complied, giving applause that was more enthusiastic than mere obligatory clapping.

“It was my pleasure,” she said, giving the class a smile and a theatrical bow.