Chapter 7

Chapter 7:
Wait, There's Real College Too?


Collin practically collapsed into the worn dorm chair that had become officially 'his' over the past week and a half and stared at the ceiling. "How the hell am I supposed to keep up with all of this crap?" unfortunately for the heavily muscled young man, the ceiling did not seem to have any sage advice to offer, so after a few more moments of blank staring and an attempt to relax out the feeling of being completely overwhelmed Collin hauled himself to his feet to retrieve the items he needed to shower. His probational acceptance into the HCP with Overton's new tutoring program for freshman meant that every day after the grueling HCP Gym period, he had barely half an hour to make it back to his dorm, shower, and meet his tutor for a two hour session.

Properly cleaned and no longer smelling like a gym bag, Collin made his way at a brisk pace to the student Union building for his scheduled meeting. While he might lament the time drain the mandatory program placed on his schedule, he had to admit that so far the limited material he'd had to absorb in his classes had come far more easily with the assistance.

As he arrived and dropped his pack next to the table currently occupied by a tall woman with spiky pink hair and a wardrobe that looked like it belonged at a punk rock concert instead of an academic institution, he also allowed that it was a huge bonus to the program that his tutor was incredibly hot.

"Right on time as usual Mr Gauge," the older girl had already produced far more worn versions of the textbooks for Collin's two Wednesday classes. Noting his freshly showered appearance she grinned at him. "I see you're still prettying yourself up for me everyday as well. Didn't we cover back in the first week that I don't date anyone I'm tutoring?"

"I'll get you to call me by my first name yet Nicki, and I might as well make sure I leave a long lasting good impression for AFTER you've finished tutoring me," the younger man tried to adopt a suave, seductive attitude, but as Nicki responded with only laughter he figured he had probably missed the mark slightly. "After all they tell me that women love a man that can make them laugh!" Take what you've got and roll with it after all.

Nicki took almost a full minute to recover her composure and they began reviewing the material for the day. Collin tried to remain as attentive as possible, but Algebra and Intro to Psychology were not courses that held his attention well. Unfortunate since the psych course was an elective he had picked mostly because it was the only course with a viable time slot that hadn't looked completely terrible. Maybe I should have gone with Anthropology 111 instead.

Eventually the session came to a close, Collin's attempt to convince Nicki to join him for dinner "It won't be a date!" failed miserably once again, and the two confirmed their next session for tomorrow, same time and place.

As Collin wandered off campus looking for something a little more edible than the offerings of the Student Union cafeteria he found himself lost in thought again. He couldn't decide if he'd rather have an uglier and less distracting tutor, or if he was better off with a hot girl that he wanted to impress, at least a little bit. He was also not looking forward to returning to his room and roommate later in the evening. Ben had challenged him for his rank on Monday, and the two men would have their match Saturday morning. Ben treated the whole thing like it was the most exciting thing ever, but Collin was seriously worried about how well the two men would be able to live in the same room after having fought each other. They hadn't matched up in the initial combat rankings, and Collin had been grateful not to have to deal with that drama. As absorbed in his own thoughts as he was, Collin almost missed the sound of a car rapidly accelerating behind him, and looked over his shoulder just in time to see a sedan jump the curb angled directly towards him.

Fortunately Collin's reflexes didn't seem to be suffering too greatly from his internal conflict, and he threw himself to the side in time to almost completely avoid the car, but he felt a jarring impact as the driver's side mirror caught him in the back and turned his dive into a tumble.

As Collin fell he saw with surprising clarity the two men in the car, both white, and the one in the back seat with a camera phone trained on Collin as he fell away from the car and it sped off down the street.Great, and now I have to worry about some assholes who want to run people over and post it on YouTube.

Collin pulled himself to his feet, wincing at the forming bruise on his back, recovered his own phone quickly and punched the emergency call button. As the phone rang he noted the direction the sedan turned as it pulled off the campus drive and into a nearby subdivision. He also quietly recited the license plate to himself over and over to make sure he didn't lose any of the numbers while he waited impatiently for the 911 operator to pick up. I hope that county lockup in Texas is as awful as it is in some of the movies I've seen.




Catalina Blake had a definite spring in her step as she made her way from her last normal class of the day towards the elevators that would take her down to the HCP areas for Ethics of Heroism and another round of intense physical training to look forward to. She already felt like she'd absorbed so much material in her normal classes that she could ace the finals if they were presented to her today. She found the Dean's Ethics class genuinely intriguing as much for the material itself as getting to watch dozens of variations of each scenario play out in the minds of everyone around her. She even found herself enjoying the exhausting Gym periods as a way to bond with her fellow students in shared misery. Okay, maybe I don't actually enjoy Gym. she thought to herself with a brief giggle as the elevator opened to take her below ground.

Catalina received a brief hostile look from the petite Japanese healer as she entered the auditorium, but the other girl made the effort to push her expression back to normal and also to scold herself for being upset, an effort that the telepathic girl was in a somewhat unique position to appreciate. It wasn't particularly surprising, none of the students that had been challenged on Monday had responded with a great deal of fondness to their challenger. The least negative emotions probably came from the students in the top ten ranks that were challenged, as they had accepted the inevitability of such challenges after learning of their own high rankings.

The auburn haired hispanic woman found her way quickly to her seat as the Dean's entrance signaled that the class was about to start. It was somewhat impressive how much presence the petite woman managed to project, as all the assembled students quieted almost immediately when she took her place behind the lectern.

"Today we are going to start a bit of a class project. This will be an ongoing project throughout the year, and it will involve teamwork, research, and public speaking." the final portion was met with a chorus of groans from the assembled class. "All of you are going to have to get used to public speaking sooner or later. You've signed up to become Heroes. Speaking in front of your class will likely be a memory fondly recalled by those who graduate when they find themselves staring down a rabid mob of reporters with dozens of cameras and microphones broadcasting everything they do or say. And of course these days immortalizing every moment in the spotlight on the internet," the Dean's expressions held a trace of almost sadistic pleasure as several of the previously groaning students were now slightly flushed and several had slumped down in their seats as far as possible.

"I'm going to list off your groups for the start of this project, and you will need to co-ordinate with those students assigned to work with you on your own time. Each group will be assigned a city and time period, all within the last twenty years or so, and will be given access to the same kind of information that active Heroes in the same circumstances had available to them. You will study the information and discuss things that stand out to you with your assigned groups. Then I will randomly select one or two groups in each class period, beginning next week, and I will give you a scenario very similar to one that actually occurred in the time and place you are representing. Your group will then present to the assembled class how you would deal with the scenario given to you, and quite likely defend your decisions to cross examination very like what you would experience in an actual after-action debriefing. After each group has had an opportunity to be tested, new teams will be assigned and the process will start over. Are there any questions before we assign the first teams?"

Several hands shot up quickly. "Mr Jansen," a tall athletic male with short cut curly rich brown hair stood as he was called.

"We will have to co-ordinate with random groups for the entire year with no class time? In addition to everything else we have to do in this class?"

"Yes Mr Jansen. In most of your other courses it's simply called 'homework' and the only real difference between this and that is that in other classes you usually have the luxury to do it on your own at any time that works for you. Considering that I am certain every residence on campus is capable of video conferencing with any other residence I don't think this will be that large of a burden." A smile grew on her face again. "And you can always try to work on things during your Gym period after this class. You all will be present at the same time I have to assume. Next question? Ms. Garcia." Several of the students had actually flinched at the suggestion that they use Coach Rachd's gym time to work on the project.

Louise Garcia also stood as she was called but with her extremely small stature, the only student in the class actually smaller than the Dean herself, it was somewhat difficult to tell. "Are we allowed to research information in addition to the material we will be provided? You said that these are all going to be scenarios based on historical events and I think it would probably be easy to find most of the actual events given a location and a range of dates."

"Gathering additional information on the time and date in question is encouraged. The material that will be provided for you to study is primarily concerned with data that is not publicly available, so having additional background is beneficial. I would caution anyone attempting to predict the future with this assignment. The scenarios you will be tasked with resolving are only based on actual events, and you would probably all be rather shocked at how large an event can occur without receiving any noteworthy attention from the media or historians. Anyone else? Good, let's move onto the pairings now so we can get our normal class back underway."

The remainder of the class passed quickly for Catalina as she considered the group she had been assigned. Scott Jameson, Tasha Johnson, and Susan Owens. A magnetic manipulator, a giantess healer, a monster shifter, and a telepath. If Scott had the range for it, or if Catalina could ever develop the telekinesis the so-called experts kept telling her she should have, they could have been a very balanced Hero team in the real world, instead they were slightly overweighted in the close combat aspect. She also pondered the time and place they were studying up on. She couldn't think of anything major that had happened in Cheyenne in '95. Though that was probably the point. As the class filed out Dean Jilles called for Mr Gauge to remain behind a moment. Catalina picked up the undercurrent of concern and saw to her surprise that the number three ranked student had apparently been nearly killed in a car accident the previous night. I hope he didn't blow his SI requirement, but at least he looks okay. And with that final thought Catalina made an effort not to pry further into Collin's and the Dean's minds for a bit.




Sean Tannen relaxed in the standard weight room of the HCP fitness center as he had just successfully completed his second week of classes. He didn't have to worry about reporting for his mandatory tutoring with the constantly condescending senior he'd been assigned until Sunday evening. As the bottom ranked student in the class he had no worries about anyone challenging him, and he knew he wasn't ready to challenge anyone else yet either. With a sigh he pulled himself to his feet to collect a specially designed bag and head towards the currently empty combat rooms. He needed to figure out how to make his power work fast enough in a completely barren environment to matter. In a field or a park, he figured he could beat half the students in the program without even trying hard. In a heavily wooded area the only students he thought might be able to defeat his power were the insanely strong top ranked girl and the teleporters.

He arrived at his destination, and keyed in a quick sequence on the pad that all the students had been taught the same day the challenge format had been explained. It marked the room as 'In Use' and by which students. Walking into the massive empty space he strode all the way to the center before placing his bag on the floor and opening it, revealing dozens and dozens of green sprouting seeds and live vine and branch clippings. With a fully grown plant it was simple for him to cause massive growth spurts and to manipulate the green matter as if it were an extra limb he'd possessed all of his life. With the tiny sprouts and clippings he could functionally carry he needed to force them to mature first. He wasn't sure why his power didn't work very well on immature plants, but if all the combat evaluations were going to happen in lifeless underground cells he needed to figure out a solution. Coach Martinez's encouragement that not all students would be graded on the same combat scale aside, the husky brown haired youth was completely certain that if he didn't find a way to step up his game he'd be in the group Rachd had spoken of the first day during orientation. The group that wouldn't be in the HCP past Winter Break to learn what was going to change in the second semester.

As Sean began what would be several hours of training far harsher than what the two coaches had pushed the class to physically, he never once considered giving up or even taking a break before he had emptied the entire bag. He was absolutely determined not to fall into the second group. No matter what it took.