Chapter 176

                Professor Cole examined the form carefully, her eyes moving slowly over each section. There weren’t many, admittedly, but what was there had to be done precisely right. Such was one of the many joys of working with government agencies. But things like this were important; a mistake here or there could lead to major issues down the road when dealing with licensing and concept ownership. Better to take the time and scrutinize these forms rather than let the kids start off on a bad foot. Finally, she lowered the page back onto her desk, looking across it to Roy Daniels, who was more nervous than he’d ever been during one of his fights.

                “It looks good. Once I turn it in, you’re set.”

                Roy’s muscular body seemed to ooze with relief at the news; he sat back in his chair and adjusted his hat. “Thank goodness. Hershel was up late going over that to make sure we did everything right.”

                “Well he nailed it. This might be one of the few times I haven’t found anything in need of correction,” Professor Cole said. “You already checked to make sure the name hasn’t existed previously?”

                “Yes ma’am. No known record of a Hero called Ettin in any of the databases where you told us to look. So far as we know, it should be free and clear.” Roy was still relaxed, though he did grow a touch more tense at the question. Clearly he still thought some surprise hurdle might pop up to knock them off-course.

                “I’ll do some digging as well, just to be certain, but I think you’re going to be fine with this.” Professor Cole glanced down at the document, specifically at the name written in the largest blank. Generally, she tried not to question the choices of her students when picking names and personas. A Heroes call sign was something personal and special, often coming from places they didn’t always want to delve into. In this case, however, curiosity got the better of her. “What does it mean, anyway? What’s an Ettin?”

                No sooner had the words left her mouth than Roy turned sheepish. She was about to retract the question, but he began to speak before she could. “It’s a mythical monster. Hershel learned about it from those dice games he plays. Don’t worry, we checked and the creature predates those games so they should be public domain. Anyway, Ettins are two-headed giants. Really strong, really tough, and sometimes they’d use small trees like clubs. When thinking over Hero names, that was the one that seemed to fit us the best.”

                A two-headed brute. Well, it was a little on the nose, but only because she knew about Hershel. To the criminals he’d face, assuming they had enough knowledge of monster lore to even place the name, it would seem like something Roy had picked up just because he was tough and used a bat. They would never guess the true implications of an Ettin’s two-headed nature, and they’d underestimate Roy because of that. Personally, Professor Cole was rather fond of such tactics when choosing names. After all, not many crooks had been fearful of a Hero called Seamstress, right up until she appeared and showed them the true meaning of her moniker. And it fit the brothers well, drawing on aspects of both their identities to create a Hero persona that represented each of them.

                “I like it,” she told Roy. “It’s a strong name. I think one day it’s going to be whispered like a curse among criminals, and yelled like a prayer among the innocent. Assuming you keep your efforts up and make it to graduation, I mean. Don’t go slacking off near the end.”

                “Slack off?” Roy asked. “I just failed to make the cut for Intramurals, ain’t no part of me thinking about slacking off right now. If anything Hershel and I are doubling down on our training. We’ve got one semester left to close the gap and reach the top of this class. No way we’re giving up on that until the last punch is thrown.”

                “Yes, well, I can’t say your classmates didn’t choose some strong competitors, but don’t get too down about who was selected.” Professor Cole considered her next words carefully. She wanted to encourage Roy, but it needed to be done without disparaging other students. “Remember, you and Chad, from the perspective of your class, both fill the strongman role. Given his record, if they were going to choose one from that category to send, it makes sense that they’d go with him.”

                Roy tilted his hat back slightly, making sure he could look Professor Cole directly in the eyes. “Don’t worry; I’m not down about missing the cut. It sucks, yeah, but I ain’t got room to argue. Vince beat me, flat-out, and Chad’s done the same many a time before. Right now, they’re stronger than I am. That’s why I’m working toward the future, instead of being caught up in where I am today.”

                Although Roy couldn’t see it under her ever-present bandages, Professor Cole smiled. Ego had always been Roy’s biggest weakness, a failure that it seemed he was starting to overcome. Rather than be slighted by a loss, making excuses or justifications, he was using it as motivation to improve. She liked that, hell, she respected that. It was the attitude of a Hero, and if he kept it up then she was positive he’d be walking across the graduation stage.

                “Speaking of the future, do you have any thoughts on potential mentors? I ask because after the show you put on during the mid-year trial, I’d be shocked if a few offers didn’t make their way to you. It might be prudent to have some top-picks in mind.”

                “No, ma’am,” Roy said. “Lots of the people I spoke with either were or worked with strongman-type Heroes, but to be honest none of them really stood out to me. I know some have better reputations than others, and some of them would make starting a career easier. I don’t particularly care about that though. All I want is someone who can make me stronger, who can teach me to be the best possible Hero I can be. Figuring out who can do that from handshakes and small talk is tough. If you’ve got any pointers, I’m open to hearing them.”

                “Pragmatically, I guess your best bet is to see who makes you an offer and then do your research about them. You can read up on their careers online, and if any of the staff has worked with them we’ll shoot straight with you about what they’re like. Even if we haven’t, we’ll find someone who has. Your mentor is a big deal; you deserve to know what you’re stepping into.” She stopped, wondering if to go on would be overstepping her bounds as an educator. It probably was, but she pressed on anyway. Sonya Cole had never been one for the laws of decorum. “All of that said, I think most of the time when you meet your mentor, you know it. Something clicks, and you can just see yourself learning from them. If you haven’t had that yet, then keep shaking hands at the mixers. You might get more than you think out of it.”

                “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Do I need to do anything else with the form?” Roy rose from his chair, looking down at her desk and the slip of paper on it.

                She followed his gaze, aware of how much he’d put into that single page. So many hours looking for a name, trying on ones that never felt quite right, until finally he’d found the one that fit. It was part of the Hero journey, and she could remember being in his shoes, nervously turning over a form to a professor of her own. “No, I’ve got it from here. Looks like you’re good to go Roy. Or should I say, Ettin.”