Chapter 95

                November’s first class found an unknown, but quite pretty, woman waiting with Dean Blaine when the juniors showed up for gym. After Shutterbug’s speech, they quickly figured out what was going on and lined up in a half-circle around them. Once everyone was in place, Dean Blaine addressed them.

                “Everyone, I would like you to meet Clarissa,” Dean Blaine said. “I will not be telling you what name she went by when she was a Hero, but you can take my word that she was an outstanding one. Clarissa has retired from Hero work and gone into private enterprise. She’s graciously agreed to come speak with you today on what life can be like after the costume is put away.”

                Clarissa stepped forward as Dean Blaine stepped back, greeting the class with a shy smile. “You know, I still remember when I was standing where you are, and I know exactly what I was thinking when the person giving my speech visited us: ‘Who cares about what comes after? Hero-work is all I want to learn more about.’ Maybe I was just a bad student, but I think it’s more likely a few of you are having similar thoughts right now.”

                No one was so disrespectful as to agree, or even nod; however, inwardly more than a few students felt her sentiments echoed in their own.

                “The thing about retirement is: no Hero ever likes to think about it. We get on good terms with death real quick, when you do what we do; you have to make peace with your mortality. But retirement… that’s a whole different monster. The idea of waking up and not putting on the mask, not going to save lives, not living in that world; it’s terrifying to most of us. Some are so scared that they stay active long-past when they should, knowing full well what that inevitable outcome will be. They’d rather die with their cape on than live without it. We spend our whole lives doing this one thing, so is it so surprising that we don’t know what to do when it’s gone? You’ve only been at this for two and a half years, but I bet if you all became regular students tomorrow you’d have no idea what to do with yourselves.”

                This time, there were nods. Normality was a long-ago abandoned notion. To be outside the HCP would be like finding themselves stuck treading open water without land in sight. It occurred to Mary for the first time that this might be part of why mind-wipes were HCP standard procedure for exiting students: you can’t miss what you don’t remember.

                “Luckily, retirement doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom,” Clarissa continued. “If you start laying some groundwork in your Hero days, you can make a smooth transition. Plenty of private industries employ Supers of all types. Or, if you can’t stand giving up the chance to help people, there are ample non-profits that use us as well. Former Heroes are big gets for them, since we can still don the old costumes and make appearances. For example: Hero-Aid puts together big appearances that raise money for various causes, and DreamGranters organizes hundreds of Hero visits to dying children. Both of these companies are staffed with management consisting largely of former Heroes.”

                Clarissa paused for a moment, eyes scanning the various faces of the students before her. It seemed, for the barest of moments, as if she were looking for someone. Then it was over, and she resumed her speech.

                “Alternatively, lots of Heroes go into business for themselves. They use their unique abilities to offer specialized services. Since I’m at Lander, I’ll use one of your biggest alumni as an example. Hallow is a graduate from The Class of Legends with unprecedented healing abilities. He started out as one of the only Supers to be capable of healing someone without physical contact, an incredibly rare, and useful, gift. As he grew older, he discovered his healing was so potent it could actually repair the damage caused by something as mundane as aging. These days, he runs his own business turning back the clock for people with adequate means.”

                “Someone can heal… age?” Alex’s mouth was half-way open, clearly in shock at such a concept.

                “Our guest has not yet begun accepting questions. Please remain silent until she is done speaking,” Dean Blaine warned.

                “No, its fine, I was about to open the floor anyway,” Clarissa said. “I’m not one for long speeches. And yes, Hallow can effectively restore someone to their peak age. I believe he’s officially the only Super to manifest healing at such a high level in all known history, so you can believe he’s in pretty high demand. Now then, if anyone else has questions, feel free to raise your hands. A warning though, I won’t talk about my own powers or my Hero days. I like living in anonymity.”

                Several hands went up, and Clarissa pointed to the one she thought had gone up the fastest.

                “Do all Heroes work after they quit, or do some take a true retirement?” Rich asked.

                “The vast majority do some kind of work, even if it’s volunteer work,” Clarissa said. “Being a Hero is a chaotic and active lifestyle; if you’re not suited to it then you burn out quick. For the same reason we were able to cope with being Heroes, we’re not the sort who can lounge around and do nothing.”

                Clarissa pointed to another hand, this one belonging to a girl.

                “I wanted to know more about private companies that recruit former Heroes,” Selena said. “Do they just look for stuff like healing and teleportation, or do some of the more unique powers get courted too?”

                “Pretty much any power can be useful to someone, at least if it's Hero-grade,” Clarisse replied. “The Super Athletics Association is a place where lots of people end up, even if it’s in a coaching capacity, but Blaine told me you’ve got a real specialist in the field coming to talk later in the year so I’ll leave that to him. Some of us go on retainer for various corporations, they love collecting unique skills in case they ever need them. There’s never a shortage of work for HCP grads; that much I can promise you.”

                Clarissa pointed to a new hand. The owner was a male with spiky silver hair. She empathized with the kid; off-colored hair was a trait that had to be hard to hide.

                “What about emergency response?” Vince asked. “It seems like a lot of us could be useful in non-combat scenarios, when there are natural disasters and the like. Do many former Heroes get jobs like that?”

                As soon as he spoke, she knew. Maybe it was the straightforward look in his eyes, maybe it was how his question was about staying in the fray and helping people… maybe she just saw his father in the way he held himself. Whatever it was, Clarissa knew this was the kid, as clearly as if Phil himself had been asking the question. It was a testament to her training that she held herself together as well as she did.

                “Lots of former Heroes sign on with various response agencies, becoming firefighters or EMTs on a local level, pitching in when big things go wrong. A few work as consultants or liaisons with teams of corp-… Privately Employed Emergency Response Supers, the people who wear corporate logos and do promos while helping. That’s pretty rare, though; there’s a stigma attached and most avoid it. But have no fear: when your Hero days end you can still make a lot of difference in the world.”

                “That’s really good to know,” Vince replied.

                Her gaze lingered for a moment longer before she forced herself to turn away. Clarissa fielded a few more questions, but her answers were half-assed. Her mind was stuck on the young man with the silver hair: Globe’s… Phil’s… son.