Chapter 19

                “Guess I know what I’m doing with my weekend.” Vince all but fell onto a couch in the Melbrook common room, burying his head under a decorative pillow and letting out a long, frustrated grunt of air. “How the hell did I forget about picking names?”

                “You did hear the part where we don’t have to choose them until the end of the year, right?” Alice said, setting her own backpack down as she, Mary, Roy, and Chad all followed Vince into the dormitory. “Shouldn’t you be more concerned with whatever test is coming up?”

                “Sure, that worries me, but we’ve gone through three years of those, plus I’ve spent all summer training as hard as I can. That’s scary, but it’s a familiar kind of scary. Figuring out my Hero name… I have no idea how to even approach that.” Vince pulled his head out from under the pillow and sat up, looking at his friends. “Do you guys have any ideas for yours?”

                “Don’t look this way, the only thing I’ve figured out so far is that I’m damned sure not answering to ‘Slugger’,” Roy replied. He’d tolerated that makeshift name during the attack on Lander only because of how little it mattered compared to what was going on around them. This wasn’t the same thing, however. A Hero’s name was like his brand, it was the name that got plastered on t-shirts, cheered by fans, and nervously whispered by criminals. Neither he nor Hershel had any solid ideas for one yet, they just knew it had to be good. And, ideally, not in any way related to Greek mythology; especially gods and titans.

                “I’ve reserved mine, though it is inherited, not chosen,” Chad said.

                This comment took exactly zero people in the room by surprise. Chad had declared long ago that he intended to redeem the name Intra, and since then he’d made damn fine progress on doing just that. While it was nice to hear he was making progress with acquiring the rights to wear his father’s name, it didn’t help any of them with the problem at hand.

                “Personally, I’ve been on the fence.” Alice sat down in one of the empty recliners, getting comfortable since it seemed they were going to be chewing the fat on this subject for some time to come. “Part of me wants to pick a name related to gravity somehow, you know, since that’s where I get my powers from. But, on the other hand, I’m actually majoring in Subtlety, so I feel like I need a name that’s a little less on the nose.”

                “How about ‘The Cheek’?” Mary suggested.

                Alice tried to hit her with a pillow, which the smaller woman deftly dodged. “Sorry, sorry, Nick isn’t here so someone had to say it,” Mary quickly explained.

                “What about you, little miss smartass?” Alice said, lowering her feather-stuffed weapon but not releasing it entirely. “Got any ideas for your own name?”

                “I… actually hadn’t given it much thought either,” Mary admitted, though her pause and momentarily downcast eyes pricked Alice’s curiosity. “Maybe I’ll just use the one from last summer. Short Brain isn’t so bad.”

                “Maybe not, but it ain’t that great either,” Roy pointed out. “And your name is something important. It’s what will outlive you, the foundation that everything you do and inspire will be built on. Dean Blaine hit the nail on the head earlier, even if no one else gets it, your name should mean something to you.”

                “Plus,” Vince said, his voice a touch quieter than it had been before. “Do you really want to take a name from that night?”

                “I can see the appeal there,” Alice countered. “Painful, terrible, as that night was, it was also the first time we all acted as Heroes. That matters, all the more so because no one made us. I can see why Mary might want to draw strength from that memory.” Alice paused, considering her closest friend carefully. “That said, Short Brain is still a pretty shitty name.”

                “Guess that puts me in the same boat as the rest of you,” Mary replied. “What’s your plan, Vince? Have a think-tank session until we brainstorm good names for all of us?”

                “I actually didn’t have a plan,” Vince said. “Aside from worrying, and trying really hard to think something up this weekend.”

                “Never going to happen.” Alice had pulled out her phone to check the time, which indicated they had an hour or so before all but the latest classes were let out and the first weekend of the school year officially dawned on Lander. “Come on, I can’t be the only one to see this coming. It’s Friday, the first Friday of our last year here, and also the only time we’re all guaranteed to be off. Unless Supper with Supers has you two coming in already?”

                Vince shook his head. “We’re supposed to show up next Tuesday to get our hours for the year.”

                “That’s what I thought,” Alice said. “And Six-Shooter isn’t scheduled to have its grand re-opening for another two weeks. That leaves us completely free, with no ready excuses, and a whole weekend of time to kill. Do I really have to spell this out for you?”

                Of all people, it was Roy who finally caught her meaning first. “Son of a bitch… Nick’s going to try and corral us into watching slasher flicks, isn’t he?”

                “The only things you can count on: Death, taxes, and our friend’s insatiable appetite for torturing us with C-movie gorefests.” Alice slipped the phone back into her pocket, praying it wouldn’t vibrate with a call for at least a few minutes. They had to strategize. “If we want to fend him off, the only thing he’ll respect is other, better, plans. So we need to figure out something to do with our Friday night, and fast.”

                “Forgive me, I don’t know Nick as well as the rest of you, but couldn’t you just tell him no?” Chad asked.

                The rest of the room looked at each other sheepishly, not quite certain how to explain things. Finally, Vince gave up all hope of finding the right words and just plowed forward, as only he could. “We’ve tried that, lots of times actually. Somehow, it just never seems to work. I don’t know if it’s how relentless he is or he just tricks us into it, but way more often than not we’d start off objecting and end up watching beheaded scarecrow goblins battle rugged townsfolk.”

                Chad tilted his head slightly, a small gesture they’d learned to interpret as surprise. “That example is hypothetical, I assume?”

                “I wish,” Mary muttered darkly. “It’s the Headless Corn Goblin franchise, and so far he’s made us watch four out of the eleven films.”

                “Twelve,” Roy corrected. The uncertain stares leveled his way drew out a stammering explanation without request. “Um, Hershel… noticed they put a new one out last month. By accident. Just happened to see an ad.”

                “So there are twelve of these films,” Chad surmised, mercifully breezing over Roy’s half-hearted deception. “Perhaps Alice is right. A counter-strategy might indeed be in order.”

                “Start tossing out those ideas, people,” Alice demanded. “By my count, we’ve got less than an hour until Nick tries to make his move.”