Chapter 35

                A tray of now mostly-eaten sandwiches rested atop a table in the back of the room, only the most undesirable of fillings left to be claimed. Along the walls, giant television screens showcased the battle taking place down in the mock city, with different cameras capturing every aspect of the seniors’ trial. Roughly two dozen costumed men and women sat in dark, cushy chairs, as they picked at their leftover sandwiches and watched the fighting unfold. Dean Blaine, along with all the other Lander professors, save for Carl Fletcher and Sean Pendleton, stood quietly around the room, ready to answer any questions a viewing Hero might have. It was not their place to offer unsolicited commentary, who the Heroes took interest in was their own decision to make, but sometimes one would want to know more about a student’s training or ability. When those questions arose, it was the duty of the educators to fill in the gaps.

                There was a rustle of movement from the chairs as a woman wearing a red and blue costume rose from her seat. She made her way around the others, walking quietly to the back of the room where the sandwich tray sat and looking over the few remains.

                “Blaine,” she called, motioning to the nearby dean. “Why in God’s name do you insist on getting tuna salad? Honestly, does anyone ever pick these things, or do you just use them to make the pile look bigger?”

                “It’s a pre-made variety tray, Coral,” Dean Blaine told her. “We just pick from a list of various combinations, and this was the one with the fewest bad options. Unless you wanted chicken and pineapple?”

                Coral shuddered and slowly lifted one of the remaining tuna salad sandwiches onto her plate. “Point made, I guess you did the best you could.”

                “I’m so glad you approve of my catering choices. Do you have any questions about the actual reason you’ve come out today?” Dean Blaine asked.

                “No, you already told me about the free food.” Coral nibbled at the edge of the bread and walked away from the table, leaning against the wall next to Blaine. “And honestly, what I’m seeing so far is pretty clear cut, so there’s not much to ask about. You’ve got a few with strong leadership potential, though they definitely need more tactical training, and a couple that could serve as excellent second in commands. But that stuff is long down the road anyway, as interns they need to know how to follow more than lead, and on that account they’re doing well. Actually, if anything I’m a little blown away at how easily they all fell into formation and took orders. Most classes lose twenty minutes with bickering and pissing contests.”

                “Horrific as it was, last May’s attack gave them all a true taste of what awaits them outside this school.” Dean Blaine looked away from Coral, to the monitors where his class was currently slicing through the Sims at a rapid pace. “They understand the importance of teamwork, planning, and timeliness in a way that few other students possibly could.”

                “Obviously. But you see these things every year; I don’t have to tell you that they’re putting on a good showing.” She jabbed him lightly in the ribs, and met his glare with a wide smile. “Why are you so uptight? You doubled the normal amount of Sims, and the kids are still tearing them up while minimizing civilian losses. No one is talking because they’re impressed. They want to see how everything plays out.”

                 “In a way, I think I was afraid of exactly this outcome,” Dean Blaine slowly admitted. “There has already been so much attention and interest paid to these students, so much scrutiny placed atop them, I fear that if they get much more it will follow them for the rest of their lives. Another Class of Legends, another group of fresh Heroes saddled with impossible expectations and hundreds of bitter eyes just waiting for them to fail. That is the last thing I want for any of my students, especially ones who have already endured so much.”

                “I think I can say with complete certainty that no one is going to call these kids a Class of Legends,” Coral assured him. “For one thing, you lot were all really powerful, but most of you had abilities better suited to neutralizing criminal threats that flat-out offing them. That made it easy to promote you all as heroic saviors, showing you standing atop a group of handcuffed criminals about to face the justice system.”

                “From what I can see, they’ve managed to avoid killing the vast majority of the Sims they’ve encountered so far.” Dean Blaine pointed to a small screen, nestled in the center of the larger ones, which displayed the stats for Sims killed, Sims safely neutralized, and civilians lost. Currently, only four of the Sims had died in the brawl, and no civilian was yet lost.

                “They might not be killing them, but if those were humans then the aftermath of all this would be far from media-friendly,” Coral said. “Cut spines, shattered limbs, not to mention the fact that the ground would be slick with blood by this point. Not that they’re really doing anything wrong, the job is the job, after all. Just saying, this is not a group that’s easy to hold up and make people feel safe. If anything, they’ll be a group that gets whispered about in the criminal world. A new generation of boogeymen terrifying all but the bravest or dumbest Super who decides to try and test them.”

                “I’m not so certain that will be better for them, in the long run,” Dean Blaine said.

                “Maybe it won’t be easy, but that sort of reputation can save a lot of lives, when used properly.” Coral was watching the screens so devotedly that she actually took a big bite of the tuna salad sandwich. With a grimace, she chewed and forced it down, then set the plate aside. “Whether you like it or not, Blaine, these kids are going to make a splash when they hit the world, if not sooner. And while they may not be another Class of Legends, personally I think they’re something better. They’re the sort of Hero that smiles at the cameras while haunting the dreams of criminals. Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to scooping one of these kids up. After all, it won’t be a lot of us who get to say we helped mentor the Class of Nightmares.”

                Dean Blaine groaned softly under his breath, and looked quickly around. “Please don’t say that out loud again; the last thing I want is for it to catch on.”

                “Sorry, Blaine,” Coral replied with a shrug. “I didn’t even come up with it. Like you said, those kids have already gotten a lot of attention. I’m not the first person to notice just how much collective power they’re packing.”

                “Wonderful.” Dean Blaine looked back at the screens, where the team of Mary, Allen, Amber, and Selena had successfully repelled a second cluster of Sims that tried to surprise them. Across the faux-city at the largest brawl, all the civilians had successfully been evacuated from the nearby buildings and the class was finally beginning to pick off Sims on the edge while Violet, Vince, Roy, and Chad continued mowing them down from the center. Alice and Shane, having laid low six Sims on their own, had joined up with Rich and Jill and were currently flying around, Jill leading them with a device on her arm, using Rich’s eyes and Shane’s shadows to neutralize any of the non-engaged Sims they spotted. Alice laid in wait in case neither of the first methods succeeded, and when she struck, the Sims fell.

                He’d doubled the usual number of Sims in the test, trying to account for the unusual concentration of offensive power in the class, and yet they were still making incredible time. True, this was the easiest of the monthly trials they were going to face, but that didn’t mean it was actually supposed to be a cakewalk. Previous classes usually had a harder time of it until they worked out a plan, often with several students needing to be removed for injury. Yet this group was blazing across the city, saving civilians and shattering Sims in their wake.

                Class of Nightmares might be a terrible name, but even he had to admit it wasn’t entirely unfitting.