“From what I can tell, we’re about equidistant from three different professors.” Alex’s eyes were closed tightly, his legs crossed as he sat on the cold floor and focused. Chad and Shane both stood over him, keeping watch for any signs of other students hoping to score some easy points. With the trial so recently started, it was unlikely anyone could mobilize so quickly, but the stakes were too high to take needless chances.
“Who do we have?” Shane asked.
“We’ve got an almost perfectly clear path to Professor Pendleton, a few others between us and Professor Hill, and there are several students in the general area of Professor Fletcher, so we might be able to slip past or we could have to deal with them, depending on how they move.”
Although he was quite proud of his own senses, Chad was continually impressed at how simple having a telepath, or a Super who was close enough, made information gathering. While he could pick out heartbeats and scents well enough to glean the general locations of bodies, not even his heightened observational abilities would have netted such an abundance of specifics in this short amount of time. Alex had saved them at least a quarter of an hour of stumbling around hoping to find a professor. Now they not only knew where the three nearest were, but could actually take their pick of which to battle.
“Professor Hill is out,” Chad announced. “Without someone who can restrict the use of gravity or manipulate a battlefield, we’d be working at too steep of a disadvantage. These fights will be difficult enough, there’s no need to put ourselves at a harsher handicap.”
“What then, we take on the man who beat the entire class, or the one who specializes in tricking people?” Shane was worried, Chad could hear his heart beating faster than normal. But at the same time, he seemed to be excited too, and it was a sentiment Chad understood perfectly well. Terrifying as the idea of battling a teacher was in some ways, they wouldn’t have made it an option unless students had gotten those points in the past. Just knowing it was possible made Chad itch to see if he was capable, and Shane was no less determined than he.
“Does anyone actually know what Professor Pendleton’s power is?” Alex asked. “I’m not in Subtlety, and I’ve never seen him bust it out during training.”
For a moment, Chad hesitated. This might not be something he was supposed to know, technically speaking. He dismissed the concern almost as soon as it entered his mind, however. They were in a battle, and information was information, regardless of how it was obtained. The very fact that there was a Subtlety teacher spoke to that very point. And it wasn’t like the information was impossible to piece together, even if one hadn’t grown up listening to Chad’s godfather’s tales of the old Hero days.
“Professor Pendleton can turn himself into living fog, not unlike what Professor Fletcher does when he becomes living lightning. In that form, he becomes functionally immune to direct physical attacks.”
“But it’s not like he can do much while he’s fog, right?” Shane didn’t sound too sure of himself; they all knew teaching positions in the HCP weren’t handed out to useless Supers.
“He would never have become a Hero if that were the case,” Chad replied. “Subtlety specialized or not, we have to assume he’s capable of holding his own.”
There was a sharp intake of air from the ground, and Alex tilted his head slightly upward. “We should make a choice soon. Amber is heading this direction, and I don’t think any of us want to take her on before we try to go after a professor.”
Dealing with Amber Dixon was something Chad felt confident this team could handle, however they’d undoubtedly suffer injuries in the process. She was not one to go down easily, and since she could essentially use echolocation Amber would probably have the best sight among them in this environment.
“Lightning or fog. Not a great choice. Maybe we should hunt around and see if we can find Professor Baker. We’d have the advantage if we could force her into melee,” Shane pointed out.
“The longer we linger, the greater the chance that we run into another student. I can heal, but you two would have to carry your injuries to battle, and we can’t afford to be weakened if we take on a teacher. Besides, there’s no guarantee we really would have such an advantage, I’m sure someone tried that tactic on Professor Baker during her Hero days.” Chad’s mind raced as they talked, furiously working out countless potential outcomes from facing either of the opponents. Professor Fletcher’s ability was more martially inclined, however Professor Pendleton had the combat experience from being a Hero. A member of the Class of Legends, at that.
“Let’s go after Pendleton.” Alex uncurled his legs and slowly rose to his feet, eyes still closed tightly. “I don’t have any tricks up my sleeve to deal with lightning, but I might be able to do something with fog. Unless one of you has a plan to bring down Fletcher?”
“I have a technique in mind that might be viable, but to call it a plan would be giving the idea far too much credit,” Chad said. “I feel like I should point out that Shane and I are both geared toward dealing physical damage though. If we go after Professor Pendleton, the bulk of subduing him will fall on your shoulders.”
“If you guys are okay with that, then its fine with me,” Alex replied. “You two were nice enough to invite me onto your team; I don’t want to steal your thunder in front of the watching Heroes. That said, I am going to be leaning on you both heavily if we go through with this fight. I have a sort of idea of how to go after him, more a general thought than a strategy, and there’s no way I can pull it off alone.”
A plan, no matter how unformed, was better than nothing at all. Chad nodded his agreement before remembering that no one else could make out such subtle motions in the dark. “I have no objections. A win is a win, regardless of who stands at the center. Being able to tackle opponents as a team is an essential skill for any Hero to train, so you’ve got my vote.”
“Count me in too,” Shane added. “I’ve got no clue how to defeat the other two with this line-up, so I’m happy to follow someone with an idea.”
“Again, you’re really overstating this; it’s a hunch more than anything. But it’s all I’ve got, so I guess we’ll have to work with it. Let’s talk as we move, though. We’re going to want to come at this fight as fresh as possible.” Alex, still with his eyes firmly shut, turned to a hall on the left and began walking down it without so much as a hand out to check for walls.
Chad mentally re-adjusted his assessment of what Alex was capable of, and then followed. He’d been counting on being the only one with functional vision in the darkness when the end came and they had to battle one another, that Alex could evidently sense his way around made things more complicated. Then again, it might also prove to make him a more challenging opponent, and that was something Chad was never averse to.
Of course, all of that assumed they made it past their battle with Professor Pendleton, and Chad was far too wise to take that as a given. He had to focus on the obstacle in front of him before worrying about what lay further down the path. After all, there was a very good chance they’d be eliminated before they ever had to turn on one another.