Chapter 219

                “I have to say, I did not expect to be paying up. Nobody beats the Armageddon trial; this should have been the easiest ten bucks I ever made.” Jeremiah’s hands dove into one of the many pockets on his unassuming costume and produced a folded bill which he handed over to Titan.

                “Not nobody,” Titan objected. “There are a few classes who’ve pulled it off.”

                “Maybe a few, but it’s far between when it happens,” Granite said. “Classes that beat this test are rare.”

                “So tell us, oh legendary Titan, was yours one of them?” From the smirk on Jeremiah’s face, Titan had a sneaking hunch he already knew the answer, even though that shouldn’t be possible.

                Accepting his prize, Titan tucked it away carefully before answering. “We came close. Put on a show worth being proud of. What about you?”

                “Me? Heavens no, most of that class was all muscle and no thought, they stumbled around like useless cinderblocks until the timer ran out. Actually, that fight was where I first got the idea for an entire team of Subtlety Heroes. It got me thinking about how much we could have done with only a few more competent minds on hand.”

                “Seems to me this class did pretty well with just one Subtlety student doing recon,” Gale pointed out. “Maybe Will’s better than you were at that age.”

                To their surprise, Jeremiah didn’t immediately swat the idea away. “You may be right. Obviously we have different talents, but it took me a while in the field before I settled into the role of leadership. Will took charge the moment he realized that he was the one best suited for it, that takes guts. Guts, and a lot of faith in the people around you to pull off what you tell them to do. I’m a little surprised about that part, too. I’d heard the rumors about this class, but they really didn’t hesitate for a moment when it came time to deal some heavy hits. Most classes see those numbers and get momentarily bowled over.”

                “My class sure did. I had to fly around, blasting half the Sims away from the battlefield until people got their act together. Nearly cost us the trial.” Gale took a sip of her martini, putting a nice flourish on the sentence and letting her words sink in.

                “Hang on, you beat your Armageddon trial?” Titan asked.

                “I’m going to pretend I’m not hurt by the amount of surprise in your voice, and yes, yes we did.” Gale set her glass down, revealing a cheerful expression that was savoring her moment of triumph. “We were quite an adept little unit, and our Subtlety people had some solid talent. And on that note: Jeremiah, did you see any that caught your eye? Alice might be spoken for, but I don’t think anyone has won over the invisible girl yet, and I suppose Will is technically up for grabs as well.”

                Jeremiah nodded, eyes lingering on the screen as the students made their way out of the combat chamber. “Tempting as Will is, there’s a conflict of interest there, one I don’t have the spare time to overcome. I did see a few who interested me though. Figured I might take a page from Gale’s book and try a cross-specialty internship, see what happens if I give a meat shield some critical-thinking skills.”

                “Any particular meat shields catch your eye?” Although Granite asked the question, they all noticed that Titan leaned in a bit closer to hear the answer.

                “A few potential candidates.” Jeremiah hopped out of his seat and motioned to the door where other Heroes were already starting to exit. “Nothing I’d want to discuss until I had the chance to speak with them and shake their hands in person. Which means it’s time for us to head down to the mixer. If we hurry, we may even beat the usual line-up at the bar.”

*             *             *

                Dean Blaine was sweating as he fell back into his chair, announcement made and trial officially finished. He felt drained, far worse than he did after a fight or work-out. Coordinating this trial was always a bear, and the longer it went on the harder things got. With so many Sims on the field, there was potential for anything to go wrong, and he had to position the professors strategically as the fight locations changed in case a student needed saving. By the end, he’d had to leave the observation room and join Dr. Moran to handle things more directly. Still, it was all worth it to make that announcement at the end. Nobody could say the kids hadn’t earned this win, either. They’d gotten the same parameters as every other HCP class, and they’d pulled it off. Even if it had put more fuel on the Class of Nightmares fire, at least now there was tangible evidence that they were the kind of nightmares who could be relied on to get things done. Even if they did cut it a little closer than he might have liked.

                “Do you need any healing?” Dr. Moran was staring at him, and with a start Dean Blaine realized he hadn’t moved since collapsing against his seat.

                “I’m fine, thank you. Just feeling a bit ragged. Things got rather dicey toward the end there.”

                “And yet the students handled themselves just fine. I have to admit, even I thought the day was lost when Chad and Vince let that ‘healing’ Sim retrieve our Armageddon unit. Nick or no Nick, luck seemed to be on their side today,” Dr. Moran said.

                “Perhaps. Personally, I’m more inclined to give this victory to skill over luck; however, they did have a few things break their way. Regardless, they won, and that should make things easier for a lot of them. Few classes beat this trial.” In the years Dean Blaine had been working at Lander, he could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen a class stop Armageddon, and in each of those instances he would say without question that luck played a pivotal role.

                Reaching across the keyboard, Dr. Moran hit a few buttons and the screens started to grow dark. “Very few, if I remember the numbers accurately. Which means the Heroes will be excited to congratulate the kids and see who doesn’t already have a mentor. You should get down to the mixer before the students do. I’m sure they’ll feel better seeing a familiar face when they walk in.”

                After what he’d just seen them do, Dean Blaine couldn’t imagine the sort of situation that would actually get to that group, at least when they were working together. But Dr. Moran was right, his job wasn’t over just because the testing was done. Taking a moment to mop his brow with a handkerchief, Dean Blaine rose from his seat and smoothed out his suit.

                “How did the famous Class of Legends do on this trial?” Dr. Moran asked. “Just out of curiosity.”

                “We passed it, of course. Had three minutes left to spare. But you know, I’ll say this much.” Dean Blaine finished with his suit and gave his tie the smallest of adjustments to make sure it was perfect. He had an image to maintain, and a tiring ordeal was no excuse for a slovenly appearance. “I don’t think we were nearly as creative as these kids. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they just had fun with that life-or-death trial.”