There wasn’t much time left. Sure, in theory they still had a couple of months, but with every passing day the options grew smaller as other students locked their mentors down. Vince had accepted Jeremiah’s offer and was heading to Brewster, as was Will apparently. Chad might still be on the fence, but loads of others were getting their futures set up. Meanwhile, Hershel and Roy were sitting on an offer from a respected strongman on a legendary team, unable to pull the trigger and accept.
Sitting at his desk, looking over Granite’s history, Hershel couldn’t find a single reason to decline the offer. The Hero had been great at his job for years; by all accounts he was tough, thorough, and careful. He’d already raised up one intern who was having a respectable career so far. Not to mention, interning under Elemental Fury was a nice start for any Hero, given how well-known they were. It would offer him a solid education, a good boost to notoriety, and he’d even be in the same town as some friends. There was also the added bonus of being in the same city as Titan, so they could continue slowly repairing their relationship. Going with Granite was the smart, prudent move to make.
And yet… Hershel opened a new tab on his computer screen, pulling up the latest reports on Titan. The new incarnation of the Gentle Hammers was doing good work. Brewster didn’t entirely seem to trust them yet, there were more than a few articles questioning whether a fallen legend on a team of disgraced Heroes really had any place in their city. They were winning some people over, being publicly linked to Elemental Fury didn’t hurt in that regard, but there was still a long way up to go. Anyone starting out on that team was putting themselves in a PR hole. They’d be lumped in with what many considered to be failures, and that reputation would extend to the interns as well.
Aside from the Gentle Hammers’ reputation, there was the far more pressing issue of the fact that internships weren’t easy to terminate or transfer. If he and Roy were to intern under Titan, they would be pretty much stuck there for two years. Yes, things were going well right now, however that was with everyone being careful and going slow. Slapped onto the same team, under Titan’s tutelage, there were countless ways for things to take a perilous turn. The relationship still felt fragile, like one bad fight could undo everything they’d managed. Hershel didn’t want that. Neither did Roy, even if he’d have more trouble admitting it. They finally had found some manner of peace with their father.
Hershel’s hands clicked back over to the tab with Granite’s information, but he wasn’t really looking at it. Instead, he was thinking about Ashley in that training cell, and Roy casually paraphrasing their father’s advice. Roy had come a long way in these last four years; it was hard to even imagine the relationship that the brothers once dealt with. Much of that was due to their friends and teachers dragging him into adulthood. But there was no one, no teacher, no guide, whose words seemed to stay with Roy more consistently than the ones imparted by Titan. He’d been the lone soul who could get them over their limitation in sophomore year, he understood their power better than anyone else, he was the strongman among Heroes.
When things were scary, most people hoped for a Hero to appear. But when a Hero was hopelessly outclassed, they hoped for someone like Titan to show up. Roy had experienced that sensation for himself in May, when defeat, if not death, seemed inevitable. As bad as that night had been, as scary as the amped-up Super had seemed, the minute he’d heard Titan’s voice he’d known without question that things would be okay. Because when Titan appeared, even gods grew fearful. He and Roy wanted to be like that one day. Not just good Heroes, or even great ones, but nigh-unstoppable beasts of battle whose very presence could change the course of fate.
Granite was a fine Hero, and by all accounts a good man, but he wasn’t Titan. From the beginning, Roy had been consumed with surpassing their father, and even as the relationship repaired that hadn’t changed. Hershel was with him, too. If they ever wanted to get out of the long shadow of Titan, Ettin had to be better than him. Neither brother knew if such a thing was even possible, their power was different than his. But Titan seemed to think they could overtake him one day, and he’d yet to be wrong about their abilities so far. The thing was, if they ever wanted to do that, then the best path to it was by learning from Titan firsthand.
“I need to run.” Hershel closed the browser entirely and walked over to his closet, changing into workout clothes so he could go for a jog around campus. In the years since he’d had to start exercising, he’d taken to using running as a way to clear his head. Perhaps when he got back, he’d down a shot of whiskey and let Roy grapple with this for a while. The two of them would have to make the choice together, ultimately. If either of them were against the idea, then they’d intern under Granite. It wasn’t right to force the other into that situation. For his part, Roy still seemed to be uncertain, although he was beginning to more seriously entertain the idea of rolling the dice on a Titan internship.
In the end, it was a matter of pitting risk against reward. Working with Titan could go dangerously, powerfully wrong, but it also had the potential to make Ettin a better Hero. Learning from Granite was as safe as Hero work could get, and Ettin would come out well-trained, just perhaps not as well-trained as he could have been. Hershel wasn’t sure where they’d end up, only that they needed to make the choice soon. There was only so long left.
For his part, though, Hershel was leaning toward interning under their father. Yes, it was dangerous, but that was the nature of being a Hero anyway. And sure, he’d start with a PR demerit, but he was already a freak, a Powered turned into a Super. Once that leaked, he was going to be reviled by some regardless. If he was being honest, Hershel almost felt more at home among the cast-offs and the oddballs than the put-together legends. His time in Melbrook Hall had certainly prepared him for such company.
Stepping into the evening air, Hershel took a deep breath and began to run. For all the stress the choice was causing him, he was grateful to have it. There was a time when he and Roy would never have imagined seeing their father wearing the mask again, let alone considered learning from him. This was world’s better than what it could have been, and he made sure to stay thankful for it.
Being grateful for the good things, even when there was plenty of bad to be upset about, was just another of Owen’s lessons that he’d long ago taken to heart.