Chapter 13

                “Close Combat.”

                Chad noticed a visible wave of relief sweep the room as he made his choice, most visibly in Dean Blaine, though Professor Stone and Professor Fletcher let their body language relax as well. He made no effort to comment on it, trusting it would either be touched on or was none of his business. It turned out to be the former.

                “Well, at least there were no surprises with our final student,” Dean Blaine said, more muttering than announcing. While not every meeting had involved colleagues fighting or strange, cryptic discussions with professors, there had been enough oddities for everyone to be glad the day was done. “Thank you, Chad. Your choice has been noted and you will continue your education under Professor Fletcher. Since you’re the last meeting of the day, and still have a few minutes left, were there any questions you wanted to ask?  Bear in mind, we’ll be going over the general program for the year during class tomorrow.”

                “Nothing about classes, though I would like to know if all the construction has impacted our gym or training areas. I still have an evening workout to do.”

                None of the educators were surprised that Chad’s first impulse after an entire summer of constant training was to try and work more, they’d been watching him for three years, after all. Honestly, they were more surprised he hadn’t tried to smuggle in some free-weights and sneak a few curls during the meeting.

                “All training facilities are fully operational,” Dean Blaine informed him. “In fact, we took the opportunity to add on a few upgrades. Feel free to check them out, though I should remind you that the first gym session of the year is also tomorrow. Try not to overdo it.”

                “Of course.” Chad rose from his chair and looked toward the door, then hesitated. “I do have one more question, albeit one not related to the facilities or the program. Or, not the program directly, perhaps I should say. It can wait, if there’s a better time.”

                Dean Blaine glanced to the professors on either side of him and, receiving no objection from them, gave Chad a slight nod. “You still have a few minutes left, go ahead and ask whatever you’d like.”

                “Thank you.” Chad retook his seat, facing all three of those before him but focusing chiefly on Dean Blaine. “Now that we’re seniors, I’m well aware that we will need to begin considering and submitting our code names for the possibility that we graduate. While the deadline for that is likely some ways off, since I intend to submit a legacy name, I wanted to see if there were any additional forms or process that needed addressing early.”

                “There’s a little more,” Professor Fletcher said, perfectly aware of the name Chad wanted, but pretending not to know for the sake of decorum. “The biggest issue is obtaining the rights to use a name. When a Hero retires, they keep ownership and income from use of their name. Should they… pass… then that ownership goes either to their next of kin or is bequeathed through a will.”

                “That part will not be an issue. My mother is currently the owner of the name I wish to use, and has agreed to transfer it to me when the time to submit my own Hero codename arrives,” Chad said.

                Dean Blaine said nothing; of those in the room he was the only one besides Chad who knew it hadn’t been quite as simple as that. For so long Miriam had tried to fight her son’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. She hoped to convince him to use his abilities to have a normal, happy life away from violence and bloodshed. But Chad was indeed Joshua’s son, and as such he refused to give in on an issue where he felt he was right. It had taken many hard, bitter discussions, until eventually Miriam had relented. Deep down, Blaine suspected it was because she realized Chad would press forward no matter what, and she’d preferred to preserve whatever time with him that she could. Of course, she’d also demanded Blaine do everything he could to prepare Chad, so that he wouldn’t echo Intra’s early end. It was an unnecessary request; he’d already intended to do exactly that.

                “If you’ve got the rights, then that makes the process very easy,” Professor Fletcher said. “I’ll give you a couple of forms tomorrow for you and your mother to fill out. Once we have those on file, then you’ll be able to submit a legacy name just like you would any other. It’s also worth mentioning that just turning in the paperwork doesn’t bind you to it, either. You can still choose another one when the time comes, if you change your mind.”

                “That’s good to know,” Chad said, once more leaving his chair. “But I assure you, I’m set on the name. It’s one I’ve wanted to wear for a very long time.”

                “Then I suppose all there is to say is good luck in the coming year,” Professor Fletcher replied. “Do your best, work hard, and hopefully you’ll make it to graduation.”

                “I will give everything I have.” Chad turned and walked out the door, leaving Dean Blaine considering his parting words.

                For most people, that was just a way to say they were going to put in a hundred and ten percent. With Chad, on the other hand, there was so much more to it. He truly meant those words. He would give everything; his time, his body, his blood, even his life, if it meant reaching his goal. Chad Taylor had been born with an ability that was useful, a talent for martial arts, and a good head on his shoulders, but none of that accounted for why he’d manage to dominate the top spot during his three years at Lander. No, what truly set Chad apart was the gift he’d been given in almost immeasurable quantities.

                Chad Taylor was the absolute embodiment of determination.