Chapter 172

                A hand shot up before Dean Blaine’s voice had finished echoing through the gym. He nodded to its owner, Rich Weaver, to proceed.

                “Aren’t we going to get the new rankings first?”

                “Do you need them?” It was immediately clear that not only had Dean Blaine been ready for this question, he’d been expecting it. A hint of a smirk appeared on his lips as he looked from Rich to the rest of the students one-by-one. “As I just told you, your time in the HCP is nearing its end. When that final day arrives, assuming you make the cut, you’re going to need to adjust to a new world. One where a group of teachers won’t be carefully analyzing the skill-level of you, your teammates, and your opponents in advance. Sometimes the DVA will have intel, but keep in mind that you are the first line of defense, and that often means evaluating the potential danger of a new Super on the fly, as well as keeping a constant understanding of your own skills and abilities. If you’d like to see the new rankings before you make your call, I’ll have them brought out right now. But if you’d like to use this opportunity to test and hone your own collective evaluation skills, I certainly won’t stop you.”

                The smirk vanished into a placid smile as Dean Blaine grew silent. Nobody needed to be a telepath, not that it would have worked on him anyway, to know which of the options they were supposed to choose. An HCP education was more or less built on taking the hardest path possible at all times. However, another hand did go up, this one smaller and reaching a lower height than Rich’s had.

                “Yes, Ms. Belden?”

                “Can we get the results later? What I mean is, if we don’t take them now, but hit an impasse in making a decision, can we bring them in as new data to help break up disagreements? Or is this a one-time only chance?” Camille asked.

                Dean Blaine’s smile grew a little less placid and a touch more impressed for a moment. “The results are yours, you may call for them whenever you like.”

                “Okay, so we should at least talk it over and see what we come up with on our own first, right?” Alex broke the ice among the class, speaking to his fellow students rather than Dean Blaine. “I mean, I think we all know at least one pick right off the bat. We’ve got to send Chad.”

                Eyes darted over to the blond student, who opened his mouth quickly. “My performance in the last trial was subpar, and I suspect it has devalued my overall ranking. You may wish to recon-”

                “Nope, fuck that.” Shane cut his friend off, holding up his hand into the air. “I think we’ve all lost enough matches to you not to make a production out of this. All in favor of Chad representing Lander, and showing what our class is made of, raise a hand.”

                Every student hand in the gym rose, even Dean Blaine had to resist the urge to lift his arm. Shane had hit the point perfectly, they’d been fighting Chad for their entire HCP careers and each of his classmates knew how powerful he was. More than that though, they understood the depths of his resolve. If someone was going to fight for the pride of Lander, there was no doubt that Chad would be the top choice.

                “So that’s one of… three, wasn’t it?” Alice said.

                “Four,” Dean Blaine corrected. “Lander has been selected to host again this year, due to various security circumstances. As such, we will be afforded a fourth slot.”

                “I would say Mary is a shoe-in too, but with her gone this gets a little more difficult.” Violet looked around the half-circle, eyeing her friends, acquaintances, and adversaries with an appraising eye. It didn’t matter who she liked, it didn’t matter who might prefer the visibility of being on such a grand stage, the only question she had to determine was who could win. “Given that Alice not only scored the most points, but also lasted the longest in our trial, I think she should be put up for consideration.”

                “But she’s a Subtlety major,” Amber protested.

                “A Subtlety major with a phenomenal power, expert control, and a sharp mind.” Thomas locked eyes with Alice as he spoke, not an ounce of malice in them for his loss. All that shone on his face was respect for his opponent and fellow Lander student. “Violet is right. Regardless of major, the power to wield gravity is not something to be underestimated.”

                There was a ripple of murmurs that ran through the crowd as they pondered Thomas and Violet’s suggestion. Will Murray was the one who turned it into action, however. Silently, he lifted his hand into the air, a clear vote for Alice to join the ranks of the Intramural team. The other students soon followed suit, lifting their arms into the air to signal approval. Rich and Amber were the last two hold-outs, though eventually seeing a sea of lifted hands spurred them to raise their own.

                “Two out of four slots filled,” Dean Blaine noted.

                “Before we cram those full, I’d like to nominate myself.” No one was particularly surprised to hear Amber put herself into consideration, from the way her eyes were darting about it was plain she’d been hoping someone else would toss her name into the hat.

                “Amber makes a good point,” Alice said. Now that she was no longer in contention, she stepped forward to assume a judicial role in the process. “I’m fine with going, and I think we all know Chad never says no to a fight, but instead of picking from the whole class we should narrow it down to the people who actually want to take on this kind of task. Dean Blaine, am I right that Intramurals are pretty taxing?”

                “Extremely so. You’ll be fighting against the very best that the other HCP schools have to offer, in front other teachers, existing Heroes, and people with enough clout to garner invitations. It is something I would encourage every participant to treat with the utmost, forgive the word choice, gravity.” Dean Blaine didn’t actually look too apologetic about the pun, but he kept a mostly straight face anyway.

                Alice nodded, then looked at the class. “Let’s narrow this down and make it easier on ourselves then. Everyone who wants to go to Intramurals, line up next to Amber. Everyone else, come over to me. Once we know the volunteers, it should be easier to pick our other two competitors.”