The hallways felt curiously familiar, even if it had been years since she set foot in them. Almost completely dark, with only a small amount of light coming from the occasional dim bulb or flash of a door opening. In a way, that was a blessing though, as Camille slipped out of her uniform and revealed the special outfit underneath. While she’d more or less gotten used to doing battle in Will’s custom fabric, which in itself was a huge improvement from the sport’s bra and bike shorts she’d used before, it would be a lie to say some part of her focus wasn’t needed to shove away the waves of embarrassment. In the dark, there was no need for such sentiment, even if she did know the visiting Heroes were watching her from their unseen seats.
Her bare feet crept along the cold floor, cutting as brisk of a pace as she dared. Chad, Alex, Vince, and Mary were all working on teams to go after the professors, which left Amber as the lone student with detection abilities unaccounted for. Perhaps Will too, depending on if he’d had the foresight to build something for dealing with darkness, which he probably had. Best to assume it was the case, for safety. So, that made two people who could locate the other students with a method besides walking around and hoping for the best. Not terrible, but far from ideal.
With Amber and, presumably, Will capable of choosing their targets, it wouldn’t take long before anyone low on the combat ranking list was picked off. That meant Camille needed to cover as much ground as she could early in the fight, hopefully she’d be fast enough to snare a few points with surprise attacks before the herd was too far thinned. Of course, this strategy also heightened her risk of running up against someone who could easily defeat her, but it wasn’t like Hero work came without dangers. There was no perfect strategy, all she could do was choose the best option and pray that luck was with her.
Hunching down, making her already diminutive body as small as possible, Camille continued to creep through the shadows, hunting for her first victim.
* * *
With the students dropped into the labyrinth, Dean Blaine made his way to the medical monitoring room, where Dr. Moran sat in front of a row of screens keeping careful watch. Although he should be dealing with the viewing area packed to the brim with Heroes (the Class of Nightmares rumor seemed to be only gaining steam and attention as time wore on) he felt compelled to make sure the safeguards were properly in place. Unlike Sims, the student’s couldn’t be remotely shut down if a situation turned too dangerous.
“Really? Once is practical, twice is understandable, but you’re swinging by to check on me again? At this point, I’m starting to feel like you don’t have faith in me to do my job.” Dr. Moran didn’t so much as turn from her screens as she berated Dean Blaine, who’d only gotten two steps in the door. It didn’t deter him, however, as he walked over to see what she was watching.
“You know I have complete faith in you. But bringing in outside assistance has left me slightly on edge. This trial is a dangerous one; I don’t want to see any of our students injured because there was a breakdown in the communication lines.”
“They aren’t random Supers we grabbed off the streets,” Dr. Moran said. “Dean Fox and Dean Bishop sent over trusted professors with plenty of experience. If we need to do an emergency extraction, they can handle it. What did you have to trade them for this favor, anyway?”
“Professor Stone and Professor Fletcher will both be helping out with the Korman and Overton semester finals, respectively,” Dean Blaine replied. “And though I won’t admit it to him, I think Sean’s whining might have accidentally spawned a good idea. We’d do well to increase our interaction with the other schools, beyond just me talking to my fellow deans and a yearly competition. Everyone gets so caught up in their own problems and objectives that we rarely make time to have our educators learn from one another. Perhaps we can make the occasional trading of teachers into a habit.”
“Not the worst idea you’ve ever had.” Dr. Moran pressed a button on the control panel before her and the screen zoomed in closer to reveal Roy, Mary, and Vince pausing at an intersection and then turning to the left. She hit a few switches and held up a finger for Dean Blaine to stay silent. “Professor Cole, it looks like you’ve got a group heading your way. Professor Wordsworth, you’re our nearest extractor, so please be ready to move if the signal is given.”
“They’re going after Sonya? I’d expected Mary to pick a less martially inclined target, like Ariel or Sean.” Dean Blaine was leaning over Dr. Moran’s chair, so caught up in the action playing out before them that he’d momentarily let his professional language slip. If she noticed that his eyes were moving to another section of the screens, containing a very different group than the one she’d zoomed in on, Dr. Moran didn’t make mention of it.
“Those two rarely engage in combat with the students, which makes them less predictable. Roy’s fought Professor Cole before, so they probably think they know what they’re getting with her. And besides, it’s not like there are any easy wins among our staff.” Dr. Moran pulled the screen’s view back out, spreading her attention across the monitors once more. “But here’s a question, why are you still standing here when there’s a room of Heroes waiting for you to show up and offer commentary?”
“I’m here precisely because there is a room of Heroes waiting to pester me with questions and small talk,” Dean Blaine replied. “I spend years training these students, is it so selfish that I occasionally want to sit back and enjoy watching them?”
“Not really. But that’s not the job you signed up for, is it dean?”
“I suppose not.” Dean Blaine tore himself away from the monitors and turned back toward the door. If he hurried, he could make it to the viewing room in under a minute. “How long until they engage with Professor Cole?”
“Assuming they don’t run into anyone else on the way, at least three minutes. They’ve got some ground to cover. With how everyone else is darting about, there’s a fair chance of them having to fight another student though. As long as you don’t dilly-dally, you won’t miss anything.”
“Then I suppose it is time to get to work.” Dean Blaine headed out the door and down the hall at as quickly as he could without crossing the line into a jog. It was a small mercy that he’d noticed Chad’s team on the screen, dropped in some distance from any of the professors. That gave him enough time to shake hands, brave the first round of questions, and hopefully get a good view. Because as much as he wanted to see all of the students he’d helped train show off their skills, there was nothing on Earth that would keep him from witnessing his godson’s match against a professor.