Chapter 232

                “It’s a little… aggressive At least for anyone who catches the meaning.” Professor Fletcher lowered the page, looking over it to Camille, who was seated across the desk from him. Originally his plan for the morning had been to check in on how Roy was doing with Ashley, hoping he could direct some of the fire burning in that woman’s belly. Fury certainly had its places in battle, but only when it was well-focused. That idea had been interrupted when Camille arrived in his office, form in hand, to submit her code name for official consideration.

                “Good. I want aggressive.” Lifting her arms slightly, Camille motioned to her own body. “Given my size, I’m probably never going to be physically imposing to anyone. Not at first, anyway. But I decided that if I took a name with a clear capacity for violence, I could put people on edge. Make them uncertain of why such a small lady would have such a fierce name. And once I actually get into the field and start working, hopefully I can build a reputation of something to be feared. The kind of Hero that makes people surrender before a fight ever breaks out. I’m uniquely suited to hurting my enemies with enough precision to cripple them without ever quite crossing the line. Sooner or later, I think word of that will get around between criminals.”

                “I can’t say you haven’t thought this through,” Professor Fletcher admitted. “But it’s also worth noting that as someone with healing powers, you have a built-in avenue to positive public perception. Everyone likes a Hero who can show up at hospitals and clear out the ER when time permits. You could make a persona that’s comforting to countless people.”

                He was spot on. Camille had done her homework in the months leading up to this choice, researching the various healing Heroes through the years. And with a few exceptions, like Hallow’s move to the private sector, they were generally all looked upon favorably by the public. True, they never became big names like Globe, Titan, or Captain Starlight, but all of them held positive images that were treated well and moved merchandise. It was the smart, business-savvy direction to take her Hero identity. There was just one critical flaw.

                “I don’t want to be loved. I want to be feared. Not by the people I heal, but by the ones who hurt them. I want the sound of my name to make the guilty sprint as fast as they can in the other direction. I want them to know, as soon as they see me, that all is lost. And I want the people they’re hurting to know that they’re going to be okay. While I get that this is an unusual path for a healer to take, it’s the kind of Hero I want to be.”

                Part of Camille would always be that bullied child, harassed and hurt for the sin of being born different. No matter how much she grew, it was a part of her, one that she was slowly learning to draw strength from rather than regret. Because horrible as those times had been, they’d taught her an important lesson. Plenty of people tried to make her feel better, to heal her heart, but none of them had actually improved her situation. The only one who had was the silver-haired, wide-eyed boy who showed up out of nowhere and beat the hell out of her attackers. Comfort was important, kindness was vital, and showing empathy for those in pain was what made humans… human. Still, sometimes the only way to make things better was to stand up and swing, to fight back until there was no one left standing. She knew firsthand what it was like to have a hero swoop in during the darkest moments, and that was a feeling she wanted to give to others. Camille was not training to be support, or gentle comfort. She’d worked all these years to be an ungodly terror in the eyes of those poor souls who called down the wrath of a Hero. This was just one more step along that path.

                 “If that’s what you’re after, then this is certainly a good choice,” Professor Fletcher said. “Adrestia, she who cannot be escaped, goddess of retribution. A little obscure, which is probably why the name is still available, but it shouldn’t take a decent agent long to get the meaning out there. Before we make it official, I should ask, have you talked this over with your potential mentors yet? It’s the sort of image decision that might make a few teams wary of taking you on, especially if they’re trying to project a more family friendly appearance.”

                “I’ve only got two mentors I’m considering right now, and I made it clear to both of them when we talked that I wasn’t looking to go the usual healer route. Not everyone supported that decision, which is why I’ve narrowed it down to two. Both of them will be fine with this choice. And if they’re not, I can find a new mentor. On-team healers are never in short demand, especially ones who can fully negate injuries like me.” Camille’s parents, both regular people with mundane careers, had never been able to help her much on the path to being a Hero, even if they’d both tried. But there was one bit of advice that had proven valuable during her senior year: Know your worth and don’t settle for less. Healers were always useful in the field. She’d held out until she found mentors who were willing to deal with an odd image choice in exchange for having someone who could remove injuries near-instantly on their team. Truth be told, there had been plenty willing to see past it, so she’d focused on picking ones that would give her the best education.

                “That’s fine then, just wanted to be sure you’d considered all the ramifications.” Professor Fletcher read a few more lines on the page before finally setting it down. “I will add this much though: if your goal is to be seen as terrifying to the wicked, then I think you’ll have ample success. When I first took over this position and saw that you were in Close Combat, I’ll admit I had my doubts. Good as you were at hand-to-hand fighting, your size and power seemed like they’d be difficult gaps to close. Then I saw you let loose on Hector and Allen during the capture the flag team trial, and you know what I thought? I thought that I was going to fight tooth and nail to keep you in Close Combat, because the potential you had was utterly terrifying. Not just the power itself, but how well you unnerved your opponents. Being hit is one thing, having your bones suddenly snap within your skin is fundamentally disturbing on a whole other level. While I didn’t imagine you’d go so bold with your Hero name, I’m glad you did. I think it will be a fine fit for you, eventually.”

                “Thank you, professor.” Camille was blushing, though for once she didn’t feel bothered by the blood in her cheeks. She’d just received the kindest comment she’d ever heard from Professor Fletcher, and embarrassing as it was she also knew this was a moment she would hold close to her heart for years to come. “I’ll do my best to make Lander proud.”

                “On that point, I never had any doubt,” he replied. “Just take care of yourself, and even if you graduate don’t grow reckless. If you end up in a town with classmates, make sure you keep in contact with and lean on them. While I’ve never done Hero work, I still know the importance of having a good team.”

                Professor Fletcher began to rise from his chair, signaling that the meeting had come to a close. Camille did the same, pausing only to shake her teacher’s hand once more. “Thank you, sir. For the advice, and all the years of training. I’m going to do all I can to walk across that graduation stage. But I don’t think I’ll get to make much use of the team advice for a while. Most of my friends have been looking toward Brewster or Port Valins for their internships. My potential mentors are in Kansas and New York, respectively.”

                That drew a slight eyebrow raise from the older man as they finished their handshake. “Interesting. Was that by coincidence, or design?”

                “Fate, maybe,” Camille said. “I certainly didn’t try to make it happen, but I won’t be mad if it goes this way. Healers are usually thought of as part of a team more than capable in their own right. If I really want to be my kind of Hero, then a few years away from my support network will do me good. I leaned on the strength of others for too long. This will be my chance to see what I can do on my own.”

                Professor Fletcher nodded with a quiet smile as he watched Camille take her leave. Easy as it was to overlook her amidst the powerhouses that were her classmates, he had a hunch that once they hit the real world she’d make quite the name for herself. And a lot of bad people would end up deeply regretting the fact that Camille Belden had decided to walk the path of a Hero.