Dean Blaine surveyed the ready expressions on Monday’s class, each student looking as though they were ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. There were no skirting glances or fearful shuffling to be found, not amongst these seniors. While some would certainly have answers that were better than others, everyone had come with an opinion that was thought through. That was why he loved teaching the seniors, they came prepared, and often brought forth insights he’d have never found on his own. In a way, this was a class where he learned as much as he taught.
“Why are there Heroes?” He didn’t bother with much recapping on what their assignment had been, everyone present knew exactly what today’s topic was going to be. “Not just their existence, but why Heroes as we know them? What is the purpose to this particular system? Ms. Dixon, would you be so kind as to start us off?”
“It’s because they make people feel safe,” Amber said, no hesitation in her words as she was chosen to offer up the first opinion. “Supers are really scary to most humans, and with good reason. If Heroes were faceless enforcers in uniforms, it would make everyone think the government was stockpiling us like assets to use whenever they needed. This way, we seem like independent entities, and with all the PR and charity work we can even be likable. People are okay with putting their trust in us in a way they would never be if we were like cops.”
“A very good point,” Dean Blaine acknowledged. “And in fact, we can see in several other nations who attempted a military model that the distrust can lead to unrest, and sometimes revolution. Ms. Murray, do you have any other theories on why our system functions this way?”
Jill glanced across the room on reflex, but stopped herself before her eyes fell on her twin brother. “They inspire people. Amber wasn’t wrong about Heroes making people feel safe, but I think it’s more than that. Heroes can make people want to be better, whether it’s by being one or just showing that the powerful don’t always turn corrupt.”
Dean Blaine nodded, eyes perusing the room as he tried to figure out who the next selection would be. The last one was already chosen, though he was curious to see how close they would all get before he called on the only person there with second-hand knowledge of the truth.
“Quite true, Heroes work hard to create positive impacts on their communities and those who look up to them. Mr. Daniels, would you care to add to the previous points?”
Unlike Amber and Jill, Hershel did hesitate after he was called on. While it had made sense for him to handle the academic side of the HCP, especially since he and Roy now both considered themselves to be part of the Super equation, he also felt a touch out of place in the classroom. Still, he’d faced far more terrifying situations than this, so he steeled his nerve and met the dean’s eyes as he answered.
“Heroes exist because they set the standard,” Hershel said. “They’re everywhere in our culture. On television, posters, clothing, all over the place. They’re celebrated pretty much wherever they go, and except in cases where they really screw up, are usually loved more than they’re hated. So, for a Super who has a lot of power, that’s the obvious goal to set for themselves. Instead of thinking they can get ahead by working around the system, they see being a Hero as the logical thing to shoot for. It funnels most of the strongest Supers toward this job in a way that wouldn’t work without the fanfare and celebrity.”
“That is very accurate.” Dean Blaine had been planning to tease this session out a bit longer, but Hershel had hit the nail so close to the head that it made little sense to string the students along. Better to lead them to the truth than to take them down false paths. It was a shame though, usually he liked to get more out of this topic. “In fact, it comes very close to touching on the actual pitch used when the Hero program was first proposed. Normally, I am the one who recaps that part of our history, however I think it only fitting that we allow Mr. DeSoto to handle it from here.”
If Shane was surprised at being picked to finish things off, it wasn’t evident. He simply set his hands carefully on his desk and gazed out at the rest of the class, slowly turning his head to look at all of them.
“You three came really close, and in fact you hit aspects of why the Hero program works and the government agreed to implement it. But you missed the bigger picture as a whole. Remember, when Heroes were created, the world didn’t know that Supers existed. The program was created with that in mind. This was a situation that was going to be very dangerous unless handled perfectly. Humans, the dominant species for millennia, were going to lose their place at the top of the food chain, and at the same time every Super who was hiding their powers was going to learn they weren’t the only one of their kind. Humans would be mad, and scared, while Supers would feel emboldened to use their abilities. Anyone who knows even the basics of history can guess how that would play out nine out of ten times, and all nine involve a lot of blood. Which meant Captain Starlight and the rest of the government were tasked with finding a way to make this revelation be that tenth instance.”
Shane’s turning head paused, and he gave a small nod toward Hershel. “You were right about Heroes setting the standard, and Amber and Jill were dead on about them making people feel inspired and at ease. All of that was carefully thought out. Heroes were elevated to star status intentionally, so as to draw in the best Supers. After all, why turn to crime when fame and riches are in reach through legal means? At the same time, Heroes were presented as the best of the best, a shield between humanity and the few Supers who would use their power for evil or destruction. They had to create a way to endear at least some Supers to humanity, while discouraging the more powerful ones from running wild.”
“It has been said by those smarter and more informed than me that the creation of Heroes was really the creation of our current culture,” Dean Blaine added, taking over for his student. “The creation of our program defined not only how Supers were viewed, but how we saw our own role in society. By making the best of our kind humanity’s allies, it became the default for how Supers viewed themselves. That’s why, in spite of the heavy restrictions placed on them, so many Supers who don’t become Heroes still join services to help others, becoming firemen, EMTs, and even police officers. We have been raised on a culture that emphasizes the importance of Supers aiding humanity, of us seeing our powers as a responsibility to help the weaker, and at least partially thanks to that we’ve managed to find a peace with humans, in spite of our differences.”
Dean Blaine paused, taking a step toward the center of the room so that all eyes were once again upon him. “And that is why the role of Hero is such a closely guarded and monitored one. We must continue to set the example, to inspire and influence those watching us. That, perhaps even more than stopping criminal Supers, is the Hero’s most sacred duty. A life lost is a tragedy. But if we lose this tenuous arrangement, the trust of the humans who depend on us and the adoration of the Supers who look to us… there is honestly no measuring how far this world could fall.”
Hey folks, few quick announcements. First off, if anyone will be in Austin on October 8th, I'm doing another reading and signing, plus will have a few advanced copies of Split the Party on hand to sell.
Also, for my Patreon supporters, there's a new sneak peek to check out!
And lastly, for those of you excited about Split the Party but not near Austin (or who do live near Austin and want to do both), I'm doing another release day digital celebration, which means prizes, events, and Ask the Author. Here's the link if you're interested.