Chapter 207

                There was uncharacteristic tension in the air as the Heroes stared at the monitor screens. Usually the viewing room was full of conversation, kept politely quiet but present nonetheless. Today was different; any words spoken were spat out in a hurried whisper. All attention was on the screens, and the students they showed, as it should be.

                Dean Blaine didn’t blame them at all. Were he in their position, evaluating a potential intern, he’d be paying just as much attention. You learned a lot about a person in situations like these. When they were told they could destroy as much as they had to, did they grow bolder in their attacks or try to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. Did they ignore the panicked civilians in the streets or lend aid? Did they avoid groups of roaming gangs or mow through them without remorse? There was no right answer to any of those questions; in scenarios where the fate of the entire world was on the line morality quickly became an abstract concept. Each way of acting had benefits and costs, only the end result would prove if they’d chosen correctly or not. But a mentor would want an intern whose way of thinking lined up with their own. Otherwise, facing a moment like this in the field could lead to arguing, or disobedience, neither of which were acceptable when the stakes were high.

                Personally, Dean Blaine had taken some small measure of satisfaction in watching Shane obliterate the group of Sims trying to move against Will. Like most people with powers suited to destruction, Shane was trapped on a tightrope. If he used his abilities to their full extent then he’d be tossed out for excessive force, yet limiting them every day made him appear weaker than he was. It was the same struggle Gerard, later known as Raze, had dealt with during his HCP years. The world wasn’t the HCP, however, and once they got outside these walls destructive Supers found they didn’t just have a place in the Hero system, they were high in demand. The jobs to wipe out entire gangs or areas weren’t exactly common, the “scorched-earth” runs they’d been called, but when they came the DVA made sure to tap Heroes who could see the task through. And now everyone was getting a chance to see that Shane DeSoto could fill that role damn well, if he proved to have the stomach for it.

                A rogue whisper reached Dean Blaine’s ears about it being good luck that Will had brought in his surveillance system, and a smile threatened to twitch on the educator’s lip. Luck had nothing to do with it, Will had been tinkering with that drone case, along with a few other unused gadgets, since midway through last semester’s trials. He’d held it back though, waiting until it was truly necessary to use it so the administration couldn’t counter him the next time. Creating brilliant tech was certainly useful on any team; however Will Murray was doing more than that. By using strategy, conserving resources, and wielding the element of surprise effectively, Will was proving that he had the sort of tactical mind befitting a Subtlety Hero. Professor Pendleton was certainly taking notice, as were the rest of the Subtlety Heroes hunting for interns; Dean Blaine had no doubt of that.

                They were holding together well so far, but establishing a strategy was only the first of several hurdles. From here on, they’d have no choice but to start getting their hands dirty, and not all of them would take to the task of slaughter as competently as Shane had. But given their history, and their brief journey into a real battle, Dean Blaine didn’t expect them to shrink from that challenge either.

                At this point, he was just hoping the class as a whole didn’t come off as too bloodthirsty. Class of Nightmares was a bad enough nickname, and the year wasn’t over yet. There was still time for them to earn something worse.

*             *             *

                It felt strange to be running away from fights, but even Roy had to admit that this was probably the faster tactic. While he could have bulldozed his way through the gangs of Sims on the streets it would have taken longer than going around them, not to mention put Alex and Camille at risk. Swinging wide by a block or two when Alex sensed Sims coming saved them a lot of time, even if it did mean they never put themselves in position to help any civilians. Roy didn’t care for that, nor did Hershel, but they both kept reminding the other that the lives of everyone in the world were at stake. Citizens in every city, the brothers’ own friends, their family, even their mother. Titan… well even in an apocalypse neither was sure Titan would die, though after long enough alone he might turn off his power and let himself pass on. These were the kinds of losses that the world would take if they failed. Theoretically, anyway.

                They made it to the trailer park in no time, years of cardio in their gym sessions paying excellent dividends. Roy was about to call Will for direction on what to do next until he noticed the flickering light in the window of one of the trailers. That sure seemed like the target they’d been sent after. Deciding that a moment of prudence was better than charging in blind, an act which Roy would look back on and marvel at himself for, he put in a quick call to confirm with Will.

                “We’re at the trailer park. There’s a green one with a white awning sticking out from it and glowing light in the windows, is that our target?”

                “One moment,” Will said. There was a brief hum in the air as a drone whipped by, moving too quickly to be targeted by any Sims that might be lurking behind cover. “That’s the one. Be careful on the approach. Even if this isn’t our guy, it’s a Sim that obviously meant to bait us into approach. That means it’s probably going to be a tough fight either way.”

                “Yeah, I kinda figured that might be the case.” Roy hefted his bat into prime swinging position then checked with his impromptu team members. “Any thoughts?”

                “If you can get him in the open, there’s a high chance I can disable him with a touch,” Camille offered. “It doesn’t work on every Sim, but the ones who can resist me are pretty rare.”

                “That puts you at risk, though. It might be better to let Roy take the brunt of the attack and slowly wear our enemy down,” Alex countered.

                “Except that time is the most important asset we have, and that wastes it,” Camille shot back.

                They both had valid points, and on his own Roy might have been lost for what to do. Thankfully, he was no longer by himself, and Hershel was no stranger to thinking tactically. “You’re both right, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to fight this Sim into the open. Alex, you have good control, so I want you to telekinetically carry or Force-lift or whatever Camille into the air. When there’s an opening, drop her on the Sim’s back so she can try her touch. If it works, great, if it fails then just try to help me tear it apart as fast as possible. Any objections?”

                Neither protested immediately, so Roy took that as agreement. Camille was right about time being crucial, after all. One more thought did strike him, this idea not from Hershel but rather from a cartoon Roy had watched in childhood. It was a silly thought, honestly, yet there was some merit in expediency. Plus, it had the potential to look really cool.

                “Before that though, I think the less warning we give this Sim the better. Alex, you’ve been working on raw power. Think you can lift and throw something pretty heavy?” Roy asked.

                “Like your bat?” Alex’s eyes were already on the ultra-dense material in Roy’s hands, a step ahead of him.

                “Like my bat with a little more weight added. I want you to throw me into the trailer as hard as you can.”