Chapter 178

                Despite Dean Blaine’s warning, there was still a wave of surprise as the denizens of Melbrooke came home from class to find four piles of crisp letters stacked neatly on the coffee table. There were varying amounts in each stack, although none had less than four in any pile. Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport were standing nearby, ready to explain. It was obvious that they had been the ones to arrange the mail so carefully, and even more apparent that documents like this had certainly not been sent by means of regular postal services. The fact that they were addressed to initials rather than full-names was proof enough of that. Although they all knew what was waiting for them on sight, it was Hershel who actually said the words out loud, whispering them like a holy prayer as he stepped closer to the four stacks on the table.

                “Those are our internship offers, aren’t they?”

                “Got it in one shot,” Mr. Transport replied. “That’s correct, these are offer letters, contingent on graduation of course, from the Heroes who’ve been impressed with what you’ve shown thus far. If there’s someone you were hoping to get an offer from that isn’t here, remember that there’s still half a year left in the semester, and I’m told some Heroes don’t make their selections until closer to graduation.”

                Hershel started to reach forward, but hesitated. At his side, Mary took his free hand and gave it a firm squeeze. Under different circumstances, she’d have a letter stack of her own, and she’d be radiating as much tension as her friends. Not all of them had specific letters they were hoping for, but the prospect of having to hunt for a good mentor was a daunting thought. If there wasn’t someone who felt like a good fit in the offers, it would add more stress to the already imposing task of making it through their final semester. Eventually, Hershel moved his hand the rest of the way forward and took the pile of envelopes bearing the initials “R.D.” into his arms.

                The others followed his lead. First Alice, then Vince, and finally Chad, whose pile was easily the largest of the lot. Alice held up a hand before anyone could tear in, forcing everyone to pause. “Is there some sort of ceremony or toast for this kind of thing? It feels like a moment where we should do something, you know?”

                “How about wishing everyone good luck?” Vince suggested.

                “Or we could just bring these to Nick’s and make sure we’ve got luck on our side,” Hershel countered. “But maybe that wouldn’t work since the contents of the envelopes are already printed. One day I’ve really got to sit down with Nick and figure out exactly what that power of his can do.”

                “I think you’ve got better chances of getting an internship offer from Captain Starlight.” Alice barely suppressed a snicker at the idea of getting a straight answer from the mouth of Nicholas Campbell.

                The sound of tearing paper was unmistakable; all eyes moving to Chad as he carefully peeled open the first of his envelopes. After a few seconds, he noticed the stares and looked up. “I’m sorry; I thought we were done with the toasting part after you all slipped into small talk. And, if I’m honest, I’m quite interested to see who is reaching out to me.”

                “Chad’s right, no more stalling.” Vince ripped into one of his envelopes as well, albeit with far less delicacy than Chad. “Let’s see what we’re working with.”

                 Speech fell away as the sound of tearing and unfolding paper filled the air, each student meticulously going through their offers one by one. Some of the names were familiar, others they could scarcely recall from the mixers. A few were complete mysteries, but they had been told not every Hero who might want an intern enjoyed mingling at the post-trial events. Alice was the one who broke the silence this time, letting out a deep sigh of relief as she perused one of the last letters in her pile.

                “Looks like Gale from Elemental Fury wasn’t just blowing smoke. She sent me an official offer letter.” Alice held it up for the room to see, as if she was afraid they wouldn’t believe her.

                “Gale isn’t a Subtlety Hero though, is she?” Hershel asked.

                “No, but she’s the leader of a long-standing team, plus Elemental Fury has a Subtlety Hero I can learn from. I’ve always been about half-Control and half-Subtlety anyway, so I think this will be a good fit for my kind of education. Plus I like the idea of learning from the head of a team, it’s a position I might want to fill myself one day.”

                “Well, you may have some company.” Hershel flipped his own letter around to show the word “Granite” near the top in bold print. “Looks like Elemental Fury’s strongman is interested in Roy and me.”

                “They are a good team with a strong reputation. I would encourage both of you to consider those options seriously.” Chad was going through his letters, popping each open, reading it, and then setting it aside without so much as a flicker in expression. “I have a few excellent options as well, although I’d like to speak with Shane and compare our offers before making any firm decisions. I think it would be preferable to go into my internship with a friend in the same city, if possible.”

                “Huh, that’s more sentimental than I was expecting from you,” Alice said.

                Chad nodded, as if to say he understood. “New Heroes are especially prone to making mistakes, even with the supervision of more experienced Heroes watching over them. I think there is something to be said for having a friend you trust and know the capabilities of watching your back, and vice versa.”

                It was the sort of logical, pragmatic decision process they expected from Chad, which was why it caught everyone by surprise when he kept talking. “Beyond the safety issue, however, I simply like the idea of being with my best friend after college. I am… not the best at connecting with other people, so I greatly prize the connections I do manage to make. Should things work out well, perhaps we can even work in Port Valins near Angela. I must confess, the challenge of such a city appeals to me.”

                “Given the pile of offers you’ve got, I’m betting you can find a place anywhere you want to go.” Vince was finishing up the last of his own letters, this one from a respectable energy blaster he’d met a few months back. His offers had been solid, even if he didn’t especially feel a strong connection with any of them. The truth of the matter was that Vince hadn’t met any Hero who felt like a perfect fit yet, and he was resigned to that. As the Son of Globe, the fact that he was getting offers at all was miraculous and Vince was well aware of that. So long as he found someone trustworthy and committed to doing the job well, that would be enough for him.

                With all of the letters opened, the mood in the room had lightened considerably, save for Hershel. He was still digging through his papers, rereading them as if he’d missed something. While most of the others could guess what he was looking for, no one said anything about it.

                After all, it would have been in poor taste to point out that he was clearly searching for a non-existent offer letter from Titan.