Chapter 106

                “I’ve got it: InVINCEable!”

                Alice reached over and thumped Nick on the temple with a flick of her finger, then nodded to the game board. “Roll the damn dice and quit with the horrible puns.”

                “Not to mention, that name would more or less piss off every Hero in existence, since no one being invincible is one of the most important lessons we’re supposed to learn,” Hershel added.

                “And there’s the fact that it puts his real name in the middle, which pretty well defeats the purpose of a code name in the first place.” Mary didn’t really have to pile on; Nick had been soundly scorned for his suggestion already. She elected join the mocking mostly for comradery, and perhaps to see if she could get a rise out of him.

                Nick affected what they all assumed was a steely glare from behind the lenses of his sunglasses, then tossed the dice and moved his token forward a few steps. “I notice the only one with a right to an opinion on the matter has yet to chime in.”

                Vince squirmed in his chair and his forehead furrowed slightly as the attention was tossed back on him. “I’m trying to think of a way to put this nicely… look; we all know I’m starting to get desperate as far as code names go. And if I were in the same situation months from now, when I was getting called in for the absolute deadline to submit my Hero name, I still wouldn’t use that. I’d go with Energy Taker Lad first, and that’s hands-down one of the dumbest things I’ve ever answered to.”

                “That was you being nice?” Nick asked.

                Vince reached down and grabbed the dice for his turn. “I said I was trying to think of a nice way to put it. Not that I succeeded.”

                Though the outside was crisp and cold thanks to the mid-December weather, the interior of Nick’s apartment was toasty as they’d all gathered together for their Wednesday game night. While there were many looming topics that could have come up, most were too worrisome to delve into on an evening like this, especially when they all knew there were no answers that could be reached. Instead, the conversation had veered into increasingly familiar territory: what code names they would pick. So far, precisely no one (aside from Chad) in Melbrook had chosen a name to submit, and with every passing week it became a bit less trivial of an annoyance.

                “You should hear the dumb ones he pitches to me sometimes,” Alice said. “Gravity Gal, High-Flier, Queen G-”

                “I still stand by that last one,” Nick interrupted. “You come from economic royalty, you manipulate gravity, which starts with a ‘g’, you can be a bit haughty at times-”

                It was Alice’s turn to interrupt, which she did by punching her perfectly manicured fingers into Nick’s side, hitting him right in the ribs. “You were saying?”

                “Some people just cannot take feedback.” Nick grinned at her, refusing to be deterred.

                “At least you’ve all got something unique about your powers to start from,” Hershel said. “Do you know how many strongman-style Heroes have existed through the years? I’ve been digging through archives, trying to get an idea of what’s still on the table. By the looks of things, Roy is going to end up as something ridiculous like Lord Punchington or The Lifter.”

                “Can you claim to be a lord without owning land?” Mary asked. “I thought they cracked down on titles a while back.”

                Hershel glanced from her to the game board, then slowly lowered his head into his hands. “Damnit… that one was my front-runner, I was secretly floating it out there to see what you all thought.”

                The dice clattered onto the board as Vince finished his roll and moved the metal token three spaces ahead, drawing a red card as consequence. “If it takes the sting out, we would have told you it was pretty silly.”

                “Strangely, no, it does not,” Hershel replied.

                “Personally, I’m trying to find one that doesn’t directly mention what my powers are,” Alice told them. “For a Subtlety Hero, that seems like a risky move. But when you take away that foundation, it’s hard to figure out a starting point. Without the power in the equation, I’m kind of just picking something out of thin air.”

                “Thin Air isn’t a bad one. You do cut a nice figure, and you can fly, so it works without being overt.” Nick braced for the next of her jabs, keeping his eyes peeled for where the attack would aim.

                Instead, Alice flashed him a quick smile before adopting a sterner expression. “That’s a really dumb name, but you did manage to work a compliment in there, so I guess we can let it slide this once.”

                Vince scooped up the dice and handed them over to Mary, who was next up to roll. “What about you, Mary? Any idea of what you’ll go by yet?”

                She accepted the plastic cubes from Vince, telekinetically holding them several inches above her actual palm. The dice spun slowly around, like there was a hidden planet between them that they were gently orbiting.

                 “I can’t say I’ve found a good fit just yet, but if I had to pick one right now, I think I would use the codename Thoughtless.”

                “Kind of a weird choice for a telepath,” Alice pointed out.

                Mary nodded. “Oh yes, out of context it makes no sense at all. But the purpose of the names is as much about choosing a mantle for ourselves as it is picking a name to wear in front of the masses. And personally, I’d want to represent the aspect of my power that meant the most to me. Telepathy and telekinesis are both highly useful, however for most of my life the abilities I have were curses more than gifts, as you all understand. There’s nothing about this power I prize more highly than the ability to turn it off, to exist in a world without other people’s minds seeping into my own. So, for me, Thoughtless would be a reminder of where I came from, and what I went through, to make it this far.”

                “You sure you haven’t found your fit? That sounded like a good name to me,” Hershel said.

                “Well, as Alice demonstrated, it is a little strange without the context, and explaining it would get tedious after a while. We’ve still got plenty of time, so there’s no need to rush to a decision.” The dice in Mary’s hand dropped to her open palm, and she casually tossed them onto the game board.

                “Double fives,” Mary announced. “I hope everyone drew equipment cards, because it’s time to fight the ogre.”