Chapter 221

                Terrifying and exhilarating as that last test had been, Vince found that his stomach wasn’t settling just because it had ended. The reason was easy to guess: he still had important work left to do. While pretty much everyone else seemed to be at least zoning in on a mentor and a name, Vince was floundering. He’d gotten offers, thankfully, however none of the Heroes had really stood out to him in terms of what kind of education they’d offer. If push came to shove he could just pick one, but an internship felt too important for that choosing method. His goal today was to meet as many of the new visiting Heroes as possible and see if any of them felt like a potential mentor. Even if it wasn’t one who’d made him an offer, he could still try to win them over. Vince was not a man who shied away from working for the things he wanted.

                At least there were plenty of options, as the mixer was packed with costumes and masks. Dean Blaine hadn’t been kidding; this trial really did produce a huge turnout. This was the best shot Vince would get to meet a mentor, so he was determined to make every moment count. From the second he stepped through the door, he was greeted by masked faces congratulating him. As the one who’d actually dealt the final blow, it wasn’t shocking that he’d receive a fair bit of the praise, but he was by no means the only one.

                Shane was absolutely mobbed by people. Vince wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but from what he’d pieced together in the brief time they had during changing Shane had effectively slaughtered every Sim that even stepped close to him while he guarded Will. Truth be told, Will might have appreciated a little more of that backup now, as he was nearly swarmed by Heroes trying to shake his hand or compliment him. Despite not throwing a single punch, Will was unquestionably the MVP of this fight, and he’d damn sure earned it. Violet, Roy, Thomas, Chad, and Alice were all getting big crowds too, and even the students who hadn’t necessarily been in the spotlight were still shaking a lot of hands. It was a group win, and everyone that watched it was in high spirits as they celebrated the accomplishment.

                If he’d had the time, Vince might have liked to tell a few of his friends how well they did too, but he was busy chatting with everyone who approached, fighting hard to remember their names and keep smiling politely even as he began to feel overwhelmed. Thankfully, a huge Hero that Vince didn’t have to fake a smile for approached, handing him a bottle of water.

                “You just had a big fight and you’ve been talking non-stop, you need to hydrate,” Titan said. It was a relief to see Roy and Hershel’s father, even though Vince knew he should be schmoozing every minute. But years of constant training had taught him a few lessons, one of which was that it was okay to take an occasional break for recovery. At this point, he certainly needed it.

                “Thanks.” Vince cracked opened the bottle and drained half of it in a single chug. “How did we look on screen?”

                “Good. Strong. Coordinated and determined. Will made things worlds easier than most classes have it, but without everyone executing his orders victory would have still slipped through your grasp. You all are improving fast; I barely recognized any of you from the summer.”

                With one more gulp, Vince finished his water and tossed it into the nearest trash can. “Hopefully that stays true. Maybe next time we won’t cut it quite so close.”

                Titan opened his mouth, no doubt to say something reassuring, but before he could speak a much less physically imposing man in a costume covered in pockets appeared from behind him, tossing Vince another bottle of water without waiting to see if he would catch it. “You didn’t really cut it all that close, not the first time. If you’d taken out the Sim in the museum then I’d say you might have set a new record time.”

                Vince didn’t blush only because he’d had similar thoughts since first finding out that they’d screwed up. Interestingly, despite all the gabbing he’d been doing this was the first Hero to bring up the fact that he and Chad let a much easier victory slip through their fingers. “Yeah, we botched that part pretty bad. Thankfully the rest of the team was good enough to get us a second shot.”

                The stranger cocked his head a few inches to the side. “Interesting. Most students in this situation would have used an excuse for that mistake.”

                “You should do your research more thoroughly; Vince is a good kid who knows when he needs to improve on something. And for the record, I don’t consider showing mercy as a failing; you just need to account for the threat having allies.” Titan patted the stranger on the back, inadvertently pushing him slightly forward. “Vince, let me introduce Jeremiah. Please, excuse his lack of diplomacy; he does it full time at work so he barely uses the stuff in his personal life. Jeremiah, this is Vince Reynolds, a fine young man and a friend of my sons’.”

                “Pleasure to meet you, sir.” Vince shook Jeremiah’s hand even as the Hero waved off his formality.

                “No sirs or titles or anything like that. Never suited me to use, so I can’t very well expect them from other people. And it’s nice to meet you too, Vince. That’s quite a power you’ve got, you know. Might be one of the most versatile I’ve seen in years. I assume you’re going the Close Combat route?”

                “It seemed a natural fit,” Vince confirmed. “And so far I’ve been doing well at it.”

                Titan snorted. “Don’t be so humble, this isn’t the place for it. You’re here to impress, remember? Vince was actually selected as one of Lander’s Intramural representatives, that’s how well he’s doing at his major.”

                Taking a step back, Jeremiah looked Vince up and down theatrically, like he was evaluating a horse he might place a bet on. “An Intramural contender, a multiple-energy absorber, and a talented hand-to-hand fighter. That’s quite a package. What lucky Hero scooped you up as their intern?”

                “Oh, no one, yet. I’ve got some offers, but I’m trying to learn as much as I can to find a good fit.” Vince’s reply came quickly, almost as a reflex, since he’d said the same thing to nearly every Hero who’d talked with him so far. It was the polite way of saying he was in demand, but could still be won over by someone with the right things to teach.

                “Perfect,” Jeremiah replied. “Because you know, when I watched you fight out there, I actually thought you would be an ideal candidate for something I want to try.”

                He leaned in conspiratorially, an effect that was somewhat diminished by Titan’s shadow looming over both of them, and motioned for Vince to do the same. “Tell me something Vince, what do you think about interning under a Subtlety Hero?”