Chapter 52

                Chad was studying for a test as Vince approached him. Of course, in Chad’s case “studying” meant he was flipping through the textbook and notes, making sure to get a good look at each page and then moving on forever. For the most part, Vince was grateful for the ability he’d been given, exponentially more ever since finally getting it under control, but it was hard not to envy Chad’s gifts when it came to everyday life. His power meant he would be successful at almost any activity he tried, physical or mental; Chad could breeze through life effortlessly if he wanted. Yet he’d chosen the hardest path available to him, and was still dominating at it. Tempting as it was to hate Chad for that, his own work ethic made it impossible to begrudge him the success. No one trained more, or harder, than Chad Taylor.

                Which was exactly why Vince had to interrupt his friend’s study session.

                “Hey.” Vince sat down on a chair near Chad, who paused his “reading” and closed the book. They both knew he didn’t actually have to stop, Chad was more than capable of carrying on a conversation while still getting work done, this was merely a courtesy. It was happening slowly, but he was beginning to get the hang of customary social skills.

                “Good afternoon, Vince. Can I help you with something?”

                “I, uh, what makes you say that?” Vince asked, flustered by being called out on his plan.

                “You’re usually very conscientious about keeping quiet when others use the common room to study,” Chad replied. “If you’re interrupting me, then the safe assumption is that there is a purpose in mind.”

                “Guess you’ve got me there.” Oddly, Vince felt a bit relieved by Chad’s straightforward addressing of the situation. He’d have probably danced around the topic awkwardly with bad small talk before finally getting to the point, but this saved them both time. “I wanted to speak to you about training.”

                “Much as I would enjoy testing my own skills against you in a sparring match, I think we both know that would be a bad idea in the long run,” Chad said, actually managing to sound a bit gentle, like he was letting Vince down easy.

                “Trust me, I know that better than anyone,” Vince assured him. “I’m not looking for a fight though, just some insight. Hershel said that you see everyone’s weaknesses better than anyone else in the class, because, well, you’re always ready to fight them. I’ve been having some trouble deciding how to train and better myself, so I thought working on my weak spots would be the best use of time. But it’s hard for me to see my own blind spots.”

                “I see.” Chad allowed his book to close entirely, and set it down on the coffee table before fully turning to Vince. “Just so we’re clear, you want me to outline what your biggest weaknesses are, the things I would most likely capitalize on in the event we were pitted against one another, so that you can strengthen them and become a more powerful threat overall?”

                 Vince’s face began to flush and he fidgeted with his hands on the chair’s worn fabric. “Sorry. I didn’t realize how selfish it was until you said it like that.”

                “In most cases, it certainly would be,” Chad agreed. “However, I’m actually quite grateful for the opportunity. A match is always possible within the program, and against your very best I might be able to learn much. That’s assuming you’re able to reach your best, however. You are a strong Super and a dedicated friend, Vince, but as you are now I’m afraid you wouldn’t be that much of a challenge to defeat.”

                The flush faded quickly as Vince tried to figure out if he was insulted or not. From almost anyone else, that would be a psych-out attempt or a veiled barb, but Chad was one of the few people whose honesty was genuine. He never really meant to hurt, at least not primarily, but if someone asked for his opinion then he would give it, and that was what Vince had been seeking in a roundabout way.

                “How so?” Vince said. “I’m not saying it would be an easy win for me or anything, but the only time you and I really engaged I did manage to send you flying.”

                “Perspective is important,” Chad told him. “For one thing, that was over a year ago, and we have both been growing in that time. But more importantly, you were not my goal on that hill, Vince. My goal was to get the orb inside the device you were guarding, and on that account I succeeded.”

                Vince slowly allowed his head to nod in agreement. “That’s true, though I’m still pretty proud of that punch.”

                “You should be, it was a good one,” Chad said. “It doesn’t change the fact that, as you are now, I could easily best you.”

                “If you’re willing to tell me how to get better, I’m here to listen,” Vince replied.

                Chad smiled, a rare sudden sign of the emotions locked away in that controlled brain of his. “You are, aren’t you? That’s one thing I admire about you, about everyone in this dorm. Each of you is willing to put the desire to be better ahead of your own egos. Even Roy, albeit he needed some convincing. Alright, Vince, I’ll tell you what your biggest weakness is, although figuring out how to train it is ultimately going to be on you. To put it simply: you are trying to spread your power too thin.”

                “You mean with all the different energies?” Vince asked.

                “Not at all, those add to your arsenal and make you more dangerous. I’m referring to your offense and defense. You’re trying to use your power for both, when you need to focus on one.” Chad looked at his dormmate for a long moment, brow furrowing slightly. “You and I are both doers by nature, I think it will be easier to show this lesson rather than tell it.”

                There was no denying the truth of that, Vince always learned better through actions than words. Of course, that idea came with the same caveat they’d started the conversation with. “It would probably make things easier, but we still can’t spar.”

                “No, we cannot,” Chad agreed. “However, if you’re willing to let someone else, Alex specifically, in on your weaknesses, I think he can provide an excellent demonstration of what I want to show you.”

                It was a dangerous prospect, letting Chad teach someone else what Vince’s biggest weaknesses were. Just because he’d figured them out didn’t mean the rest of the class had. And if Vince couldn’t find a way to overcome them, then he might be opening the door to someone else beating him when it really mattered. Of course, Chad was doing exactly that by trying to teach a competitor how to be better, making the running harder on himself in the process. What right did Vince have to shy away from the same risk?

                “I’ll call Alex and book a combat cell.”