A Change of Pace – Chapter 35

Mason lumbered into the dining hall with the intention of putting his head down on one of the foe wood tables and taking a nap. To say he was exhausted was an understatement. The big strongman knew the familiar feeling of being tired. He’d worked multiple jobs, gone to school, and forced himself to make time for training and family before getting into the HCP. Even that hadn’t prepared him for West.

Mason always paid attention during class in high school, so homework was never too challenging. His jobs usually involved lifting things, but as a minor there was a limit to what he was legally allowed to do. He’d made double minimum wage by lifting pallets and construction equipment and walking it from point A to point B, but it hadn’t really winded him. His training was the toughest thing he had to endure. His boxing coach was also a strongman, even if he wasn’t in the same weight class as Mason. The first few months of getting punched a hundred plus times every training session took its toll on him.

<I would trade a lifetime of that for one day away from Coach Meyers,> wishful thinking didn’t help his level of fatigue.

Despite having no enhanced strength whatsoever, Coach Meyers pummeled Mason every time they sparred; while nimbly dancing out of the way of his own attempts to score a hit. He’d started to watch for patterns in her attacks, a tip Angela had given him, but so far he hadn’t been able to find anything. It was beyond frustrating.

Mason loaded up his tray with anything that looked good. Kyoshi had been on his back about eating more green stuff, so he grabbed a packaged chicken caesar salad at the checkout line. Mason ignored the wide-eyed stares of his peers as he paid for the literal mountain of food. It was a good thing that the HCP provided an additional stipend for strongmen, speedsters, or any other Super with an enhanced metabolism; or else they’d all probably starve.

Mason made his way through the crowded room and plopped down into the seat of a table in the back. Kyoshi and Becca weren’t here yet, so he almost made good on his wish to take a cat nap. He would have if he didn’t feel the chair sticking to his pants as he sat down. The top of the table had the same adhesive sheen to it. Someone probably spilled their soda all over themselves and the table, then never cleaned it up. Mason had noticed that the average college student had very little in the way of personal responsibility.

Still, it was tempting to lay down a napkin and rest his head on that.

“Hiya, Mason, you look tired. You want an energy bar?” an excited, energy filled voice interrupted his internal debate.

Mason loved the petite speedster like a baby sister, but she was that baby sister that kept going and going and going. Sometimes it just got on his nerves, but that wasn’t her fault.

“No thanks, Becca. Just a long morning that’s the beginning of a long week, that’s only going to get a lot longer before it’s over,” Mason decided against the nap in the hopes the food would provide him with a much needed wake up call.

“Oh that’s right,” Becca flowed into her chair, giving a disapproving glare at the stickiness when it clung to her skirt. “You’re presenting today, right?”

“I thought volunteering to go first would earn me points from the Dean, but I’m starting to regret that decision,” Mason swallowed half a piece of pizza in a single bite.

“Starting to regret what decision?” Kyoshi arrived, probably already knowing the answer to the question.

Since his girlfriend’s victory over Danny Mason, everyone had been looking at her in a new light. The tall, slightly clumsy, but undeniably gorgeous advanced mind was now being looked at with eyes reserved for the top five in the class. Half the class expected her to start making her way up there soon; after all, how did you stop someone who can possess another person’s mind?

“Easy,” Angela had replied when posed the question right after the fight. “First, you need time to actually take hold of the other person. The recording of your match shows a twenty second time period pass as you and Danny wrestled for control. If the opponent has some mental training they might be able to withstand the attack long enough to win. Second, the possession is entirely one-sided. From the information you’ve given me, you essentially leave your body and inhabit the enemy. If there is more than one enemy then you are a sitting duck. You should really look into seeing if you can use another person’s power while possessing their body, and splitting your consciousness between your body and the enemy’s body to eliminate those weaknesses,” everyone had stared slack jawed as the classes’ number one rank dissected Kyoshi’s weaknesses. Luckily, the information stayed between the room-mates.

Mason was pretty sure Kyoshi wasn’t power hungry enough to move up the ranks like Anna Fletcher did, but he knew his girlfriend would make another challenge or two before the semester was over.

<Speaking of Anna,> Mason thought about the volatile electrokinetic, and was pretty sure she was psyching herself up to challenge him. She’d just barely lost to Anika, and had spent the last few weeks devising a strategy to take down strongmen. She’d go straight to him to test it out.

“Mason thinks going first wasn’t such a good idea,” Becca replied, before he had a chance to.

Kyoshi raised an eyebrow at her boyfriend. “Going first shows confidence, and there is no one in are class more confident than you.” Now it was Mason’s turn to raise a questioning eyebrow.

“Angela’s pretty confident,” Becca argued. “And there’s Anna, Ani, and Seth in his own way…”

“I’m just trying to be reassuring, Becca,” Kyoshi gave her a hard look, and the speedster went silent.

“But you’re super confident too, Mason,” Becca gave him a double thumbs up that didn’t help.

The food was helping a little though. He could feel the calories of his lunch, minus the iceberg lettuce that didn’t do much of anything, revitalizing his body and mind. He’d only be going into his midterm presentation tired, instead of exhausted.

<I’ve got to get more sleep at night,> but that would mean forgoing a much more enjoyable activity with Kyoshi, and he wasn’t willing to miss a moment of that. <Screw exhaustion.> he knew he’d regret it in the morning.

When they left the dining hall half an hour later, Mason had a full hour before the start of the Ethics class. He hurried back to the townhouse to collect the materials for his presentation, got a good luck kiss from Kyoshi, and headed down to the HCP early. He needed to make sure the equipment was working. It wouldn’t reflect well on his grade if everyone showed up and he couldn’t load his Powerpoint. With the HCP’s firewalls being what they were, that was a real possibility. He needed time to get the IT department’s help if he needed it.

Mason found out early that he needed to vary where he entered the HCP. A person of his size and stature screamed strongman, and he’d found out that several of the die-hard Super geeks had started to follow him around. Thankfully, Coach Meyers’ training paid off. He was able to lose the tails most of the time, and if not, he went to one of the administration buildings to take one of the lifts meant for big, official groups. If anyone asked about him, one of the secretaries was actually an HCP employee, and would cover for him. “He’s meeting with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies,” sent most of the stalker’s packing. Mason just needed to make sure he took the same lift back to the surface, even if it was inconvenient.

Today, no one seemed to be watching the townhouse, so he was able to carry all of his supplies right across the street to the student center. He mulled about in one of the lounges, double checking to make sure no on as following him, before passing through the polymorphic mesh that doubled as a wall in front of the elevator. Mason only had to wait five minutes for the elevator, and then got to ride down to the facility alone. By now, he knew the sleek, sci-fi looking hallways just about as well as he knew his own home.

The problem with the student center lift had always been that it was so far away from the auditorium where the Ethics class was held. Mason had to spend even more time walking all the way across the facility, but he still had plenty of time once he arrived. What he arrived to was a bit of a surprise.

The room was the same up to a point. There was assigned seating for all the freshmen in the front, where they had spent all of their Ethic classes. A few rows behind the last of the freshmen seats a small tier had been constructed. It jutted out a little over the row below it, and Mason could make out three chairs behind it.

<That can’t be good,> he didn’t have time to wonder what curveball the professors were throwing their way. He needed to get set up.

Good thing he got there early, because the Powerpoint didn’t open on the first try. He had to call in the IT department, which consisted of a technopath Super who needed to scan Mason’s USB drive before clearing it for access into the system. While the tech brilliance Super was working on that, Mason placed handouts on everyone’s seats, including the three seats on the raised tier.

“You’re good to go, kid,” the older Super tossed him the USB and left just as the first students started to enter.

Mason greeted all of his classmates, exchanged a few high-fives, and a hug with Kyoshi when she arrived. “You’re going to do great. A wise man once told me to go out there and whoop some ass. I’ll be here after you win,” that brought a smile to Mason’s face.

His positive attitude lasted until Dean Ditmar, Coach Meyers, and Coach McMillian showed up. Then he became paranoid.

“Good afternoon,” the Dean greeted the class, instant silence following the address. “Today we start our midterm reports. I hope you all have taken into consideration that this is a large percentage of your Ethics grade, so I hope you took this assignment seriously,” the older Super’s eyes glanced around the room. “Mr. Jackson has volunteered to start us off,” the Dean inclined his head to Mason. “But a quick note before we begin.”

“Coach McMillian and I are going to be evaluating your presentations as well,” Coach Meyers’ voice boomed throughout the auditorium. Despite having spent months with the professor, some still jumped when she yelled. “This is a necessary part of being a Hero.”

“You will have to sit before all sorts of panels when you’re a Hero,” Coach McMillian picked up where she left off. “You’ll have to sit in front of the DVA, the press, other government agencies, and even friends and family of victims,” the last part was said in a somber tone.

“Having multiple viewpoints, with different experiences, will give you a broader assessment of your report; just like when you have to face a panel in the future.” the Dean finished off the explanation, and paused to hand his two co-judges pieces of paper. “We’re ready when you are, Mr. Jackson.”

Mason gulped involuntarily, but quickly fought away his apprehension. This was a test, just like everything else they did at the HCP. They wanted to see how he’d react, and he couldn’t react with hesitation, uncertainty, or weakness. Mason only let enough time pass for him to take a deep breath, and smile at the audience.

“Good afternoon everyone, my name is Mason Jackson, and I will be presenting today on the Hero, Iron Giant.” Mason hit a button and the slide show began. “The agenda for this presentation is a brief historical background of Iron Giant, a review of a major battle he participated in, and his decision making process during that fight. Lastly, I’ll review Iron Giant’s contributions to Super-Human relations, and conclude with his overall contributions to change in the Hero world.”

Mason hit the next slide button, and a blown up image of the Hero covered the entire screen. Another click forwarded to the next slide with information. “DVA records have Iron Giant graduating from our very own West Private University in 1978, making the Hero fifty-eight years old.” Mason heard a few words exchanged between the professors on the panel, but couldn’t make out what they were. “He graduated second in his class, and proceeded to complete his internship with Maiden, a metalokinetic. As we discussed in class, back in the 1970s the internship program was brand new, and only lasted for a year. Information is limited during Iron Giant’s yearlong internship, due to the pre-technological nature of the time, but Maiden’s memoires clearly state that the young Hero made quite an impression on her.”

Mason smiled out at the audience as he outlined Iron Giant, and some basic facts. This was one of the reasons he wanted to go first. Everyone had uncovered that internships had only been a year when the program first started. With not enough Heroes, and a growing demand for their services, they could only afford to have a one year internship in the late 70s early 80s. Since Mason went first, he got to relay this information, and hopefully get some extra points for it.

“DVA records categorize Iron Giant as a shifter class Super. His shifted form is a seven foot, humanoid shape, made of an unknown metallic material. Maiden noted that despite his metallic nature, she, nor any other metalokinetic on record, have been able to control Iron Giant. Despite several rounds of testing by the DVA, the material that composes Iron Giant is still unknown. What we do know,” the images on the screen flashed to action shots of the Hero in battle. “Is that the material is much stronger than steel; which is far stronger than iron. Only a few Supers have been able to harm Iron Giant, and most of those have been through mental means. You can count the times someone has been able to psychically injure Iron Giant on one hand.” Mason held up a hand for emphasis. “On top of durability on par with Titan, Iron Giant possesses superhuman strength.” Mason flexed his bicep and got a few laughs. “While it has been proven that he can’t overpower Titan, who I’m using at the example of excellence for obvious reasons, he is definitely part of the top tier class of extreme strongmen; even though he’s a shifter.”

“What makes you think Iron Giant is a he?” Coach Meyers asked from the back of the room. “You don’t think a woman could be that strong?”

“No…no, Coach Meyers,” Mason stuttered, that question catching him off guard. “I’m using the pronoun because the shape Iron Giant takes it considered masculine by cultural standards. It could totally be a she under the he persona; and if you think about it, that would be a great way to keep their secret identity a secret. “Mason’s professionalism slipped a bit when he had to wing it, but his answer seemed to please the female Super.

“Iron Giant was a member of several notable teams, as well as an independent operator throughout the 80s and 90s,” Mason found his groove again. “He is responsible for several high profile arrests, a few ugly takedowns, and countless lives saved.” Mason displayed the figures he’d been able to come up with, and the DVA sources for those figures. He couldn’t help but grin a little as some jaws dropped. Iron Giant was a first rate Hero, and he had the stats to prove it.

“Iron Giant’s most well know team was the New York Patriots; which he formed after 9/11 to get New York City back on its feet. While the human terrorist attack on that day is widely known, the influx of supervillains, and increase in crime after the event isn’t. The New York Patriots are responsible for stemming the tide of crime that ran rampant in New York through the beginning of the twentieth century; I should know, I was there.”

Mason hit the button again, and a much less impressive picture flashed onto the screen. This picture was old, and a little distorted, with the date-time stamp in the top left hand corner clearly showed it was taken during the time period in question. The photo showed a younger Mason on a class fieldtrip at the Block, standing among the wax cutouts of the New York Patriots. A full sized Iron Giant replica made the young Mason look tiny, but the smile on his face was huge.

Mason heard the “AWWW” from Kyoshi, and a few other girls, but he continued with his presentation.

“Iron Giant’s Hero career ended with the Patriots, and he is currently listed in a retired, but still certified status. Now, I know everyone wants to hear about the legendary battle where Iron Giant almost died, and thousands of lives were lost in New York, but I’m not going to do that. That battle has been analyzed to death, and there isn’t any new information in the DVA records. Instead, I’ve chosen Iron Giant’s 1989 fight against Stonewall to analyze for this presentation,” Mason forwarded the slideshow to a split screen of the two Supers with a big “vs.” in between them.

“Stonewall was a white supremacist supervillain who worked with the KKK in the Deep South throughout the 1980s. His career began with hate speech and burning crosses, but then progressed to murder.” A disclaimer of vivid imagery preceded the following slide. “Stonewall was a fan of crushing the skulls of his victims, usually with a giant stone. Since his shifted form was comprised of stone, it became his calling card,” Mason quickly advanced through the slides of dead people, each with a giant stone sitting where the head should have been.

“Iron Giant confronted Stonewall in Montgomery, Alabama in December of 1989,” the next slide showed an outline of the town with notes written in key areas. “The first decision Iron Giant had to make was dealing with civilian casualties. The area was packed full of innocent people, and Stonewall had already proven his disregard for human life. Iron Giant’s plan was to leverage his great strength and throw Stonewall from the city,” Mason traced a dotted line across the picture of the city. “Iron Giant didn’t calculate Stonewall’s weight correctly, but he was able to get the villain out of the downtown area and into a warehouse district. The fight levelled several warehouses, and ultimately killed twelve people,” Mason flashed a few pictures of the aftermath.

“Stonewall’s shifted form was strong and durable, but he couldn’t match up against Iron Giant. What the villain did have, and what allowed him to fight for so long, was the ability to reform his body after taking hits from Iron Giant. It took Iron Giant several attempts of trial and error to finally take down the tough supervillain. The key was to first dismember and then crush the stone limbs into powder. Stonewall couldn’t reform his extremities when they were damaged that badly, and eventually Iron Giant forced him to shift back into his human form.” Mason ended this section of the slideshow with a newspaper picture of a man being led away in handcuffs. “Going in with a plan, and then quick thinking when the plan was flawed, allowed Iron Giant to minimize damage and casualties as much as possible.”

There was more chattering among the instructors in the top row, but Mason couldn’t make out a word of it. <I’ll have to ask Bridgette about that later.> His classmate with enhanced senses should be able to tell him what she heard.

“While that might not be the most exciting battle that Iron Giant ever fought in, I thought it was a good example of what Iron Giant did well,” Mason paused for a moment to build the anticipation. “Iron Giant was able to plan and improvise. Unlike some Heroes, who can fight but can’t strategize, Iron Giant is the whole package; which was why he made such a great team leader for the Patriots.” Mason noted heads nodding around the room.

<This is going better than I expected,> somewhere in the back of his mind Mason noticed he was energized by this presentation.

“In my outline I described the next two sections as Iron Giant’s contributions to Super-Human relations, and his overall contributions to change in the Hero world as two separate segments. However, Iron Giant’s career has really proven these two to be one in the same.” Mason advanced the slide show to the appropriate point. “Iron Giant was a well-known and beloved Hero. His popularity with humans was average throughout the 80s and 90s, but his actions during and after 9/11 catapulted him to celebrity status. They also cemented his place as one of the greatest Heroes of our age.”

Pictures flashed across the screen of Iron Giant digging through the rubble of the Twin Towers, his massive shifted form hefting chunks of building weighing more than a city bus. Even fourteen years later that day struck a chord with people. The students sitting in this room were barely out of diapers, but they knew too well how that day had changed the world.

Mason forwarded the slide to a colorful group of Heroes helping Iron Giant with his search. “This is the first recorded picture of the Patriots working as a team,” everyone’s eyes were on the metal man dominating the front of the picture, but Mason’s eyes were dragged to a figure in the top right hand corner. It wasn’t a great angle, but he could make out the black fatigues that he recognized from that day on the street in Brooklyn. Mason did his best to not look at Coach Meyers before he continued, but he couldn’t help himself.

When he did, the former member of the New York Patriots didn’t meet them. They were unfocused and staring at a point past Mason, a point fourteen years in the past.

 

***

 

The military Humvee bounced up and down along the uneven road. A thick canvas tarp covered the top and the sides, protecting the inhabitants from dust; but the back was open to allow them a view of the city around them. No one would expect a city street to be this bumpy, especially not New York City. New York was the capital of the world in so many things, which made it the perfect target.

Daisy sat in the back of the Humvee with a squad of soldiers. The men and women were on high alert. Their M4 rifles had a round in the chamber, and all they needed was to disengage the safety to attack. Judging by the twitching Daisy noticed on half the people present, they wanted to do just that.

She couldn’t blame them. Their home had just been attacked, violated by a cowardly enemy’s desire for killing innocent people. Daisy hadn’t been present when the planes hit the towers, but she was here now and ready to do some good.

The soldiers might have itchy trigger fingers, but they weren’t stupid. Despite the Humvee being loaded with people and medical supplies, no one was invading her personal space. In fact, the people nearest her were doing their best to act like they weren’t trying to inch away from her.

<And my reputation precedes me,> Daisy let the grin slip onto her face. She didn’t mind their hesitation; she’d worked very hard to build it.

The Humvee hit another bump, probably a piece of debris, and nearly sent everyone flying into the canvas ceiling. <Son of a bitch,> Daisy growled. She wanted nothing more than to use her power to take the edge off of the ride, but she knew she was going to need every ounce of her strength before the day was over. She’d seen the pictures of the destruction.

“This is Reaper reporting in,” Daisy keyed the earpiece to transmit. “Point me where you want me, Dispatch.” Daisy remembered the days before Dispatch, and wondered how Heroes had ever been able to effectively coordinate before.

“Roger that, Reaper,” Dispatch’s detached voice replied over the earpiece. “You are being assigned to search and rescue. Meet up at Operations Center Charlie and report to the Hero in charge. Good luck.”

The last bit threw Daisy more than she thought it would. No matter how bad the odds had been, or how risky the operation, Dispatch had never wished her “good luck” before. <Is shit really that bad?> If it was, she was going to have to find a good bar when this was finally over. Daisy turned to the squad leader to ask him for recommendations, but he was on the phone.

The man with the staff sergeant’s rank was grizzled. He looked like he’d taken shrapnel to the face at some point during his career. A quick look at his uniform told Daisy he probably had. She was familiar enough with the military to figure out what some of the patches meant. She used to be better about it, but every decade or so the military would change things up for no other reason other than to change things up. After a while, she stopped trying to keep up. However, the “Sniper” and “Ranger” tabs on the man’s shoulder told her he was an ass kicker.

The man’s face split into a savage grin at whatever he heard over the phone, and he waved a hand for everyone to huddle up. Daisy made sure she could hear what the seasoned veteran was saying.

“That was my buddy in ForceOps,” he started, causing a few people to shoot worried glances back at Daisy. When she didn’t stop anything, they took it as permission to continue. “He said the news was right when it said this was some religious attack by Osama Bin Laden.”

Daisy had heard the same reports on the flight up to New York. Reporters and news anchors all over the world were throwing around words like “Islamic terrorism” “religious zealotry” and the always popular “Death to America”; with the latter stemming from people who really didn’t like Daisy’s home. Everyone was saying that an organization, Al something, was taking responsibility for the attacks.

“He also said that ForceOps already launched our counterattack. This Bin Laden guy is already in a body bag,” cheers went up from the rest of the soldiers, and Daisy couldn’t help but smile as well.

Despite vengeance being served; it didn’t help the scene that they were driving into.

“This is your stop, Ma’am,” the staff sergeant pointed at a camouflage covered tent when the Humvee ground to a halt. “Good luck.”

“You too, go kick some ass,” it was the first words Daisy said to the man, but she got him to smile. She didn’t know whose ass he was going to be kicking, but she knew from experience that America didn’t like getting sucker punched; and whoever did it usually got some type of ass whooping down the line.

Daisy hopped down from the back of the vehicle and was instantly glad that she’d wrapped a red bandana over her mouth, and underneath her mask. This close to the towers the air was thick with dust. Everyone was doing something to cover their mouths. A few lucky ones had high quality masks, while most looked like Daisy. She scanned the scene once, but wasn’t able to make out much more than what was around her. Even a day after the towers fell this shit was still all over the place.

“Reaper, reporting in to Operations Center Charlie,” she relayed her arrival to her destination, and then walked into the tent.

The space was larger than it looked from the outside, and it was nearly bursting with people. A lot of those people were wearing colorful costumes, or at least they would have been colorful if they weren’t caked in a thick layer of grime. A few eyes turned and widened as Daisy entered, but she could tell they were too tired to do more than nod a head or wave.

The most exhausted looking man in the group was the one moving from person to person. He momentarily placed his hand on people’s shoulders, and they noticeably perked up. It was necessary to keep the healers circulating. They needed to return peoples’ strength, and clear their lungs. There was no doubt breathing all this shit in was toxic. The healer in Operations Center Charlie was also the only man in the room that Daisy recognized.

“Electrolyte,” Daisy called after than man flittering around the room like an agitated hummingbird.

“What?” he snapped back, before realizing who he was talking to. “Sorry, Reaper,” he gave her a tired smile after taking a deep breath. “Everyone’s wound a bit tight. What can I do for you?”

“I’m just reporting in. Can you point me to whoever is in charge?”

“Big guy over there,” Electrolyte pointed at a massive figure blocking the light from entering through the front tent-flaps. “Try to not be a smart ass,” Electrolyte was already moving away as he gave her the warning.

“That’s like asking water not to be wet,” a few nearby Heroes who heard the exchange laughed.

<Good,> that was what Daisy was hoping for. If people could still laugh, then there was still hope.

People got out of Daisy’s way as she walked over to the hulking man in charge. Just like the soldiers, Heroes knew her reputation. They knew it better than most. The big guy had half a dozen people around him. They were requesting food, water, medical supplies, manpower, transportation, and anything else that would assist the nearby civilians in getting through the next twenty four hours. Daisy wasn’t stuck up enough to think that she could bypass these people legitimate needs, so she patiently waited her turn.

“You must be, Reaper,” the boom of the big man’s voice carrier the weight of authority and power. It was something Daisy knew all too well. “I’m Iron Giant.”

“Nice to meet you,” she replied, shaking the man’s hand with a firm grip.

“Are you ready for this?” he pointed outside the tent.

A group of aerokinetics were getting to work on clearing the dust out of the air. It was something that would probably need to be done hourly with all the crap that was getting thrown into the air during the excavation. They must have worked together before because their coordination was perfect. A little bit of sunshine was finally able to peek through the haze, but it only illuminated the devastation.

Operation’s Center Charlie as sitting at the foot of a small mountain; a manmade mountain of steel beams, glass, drywall, mortar, and somewhere buried in there, human beings. Daisy had seen a lot of messed up shit in her time as a Hero, but that one took top prize.

“This is going to suck ass,” Daisy replied irreverently. “So let’s get to work.”

 

***

 

Daisy snapped out of the memory with a shake of her head. It had all been so clear. She remembered spending the next three days at Ground Zero; using her ability to sense the life threads of the civilians still trapped under the rubble, and then her kinetically powered strength to help clear the debris. She’d even used some of her electricity to jump start a few hearts when people flat lined on their way to getting medical attention. It was one of the hardest operations she’d ever been on, and she remembered all of it like it happened yesterday.

<That was rough,> she shook her head again to clear the last of the mental imagery. She needed to focus on Jackson.

“In conclusion,” Jackson was just beginning to wrap up his presentation.

<How much did I miss?> Daisy looked down at her notes to see that Iron Giant’s 9/11 exploits was the last thing she wrote down. A quick glance at Craig showed more notes about the effects of Iron Giant’s efforts on the people of New York, the formation of the Patriots, and the personnel changes up until John’s retirement. <I need to talk to Grace. Unaccounted for time is something someone like me should not be having.>

                “…was, and still is, a great Hero. And who knows; Iron Giant was spotted in Orlando just a few weeks ago. Maybe our professors know him, and can get him to guest lecture for us,” the presentation was ended with a round of applause and pointed looks in the three instructors’ direction.

All Daisy could do was look appropriately neutral. After Mason’s thorough presentation, Daisy was sure everyone in the freshman class would be beaming with pride if they ever figured out that their Dean was the famed Hero they just learned about.

“That was pretty good,” Craig leaned over to compare notes with her. “I would have liked a little more action in the battle analysis, but that’s just me,” he wrote down a few points that he saw she’d made.

“Are you copying me?” she pulled her observations back, and tucked them into her chest.

“What are we, ten?” Craig looked offended at the question, but Daisy knew enough to know that he was bullshitting. “I was simply cross referencing your analysis with my own, and looking for comparable data points. It will be best for the students if we’re on the same page.”

Daisy slowed down her perception and caught a glance of Craig’s notes. They were pretty thorough from the battle analysis onward, but nothing before then.

“Were you even paying attention during the first half of the presentation, “Daisy hissed, increasing her perception back to real-time.

Craig looked like he’d been caught red handed with his hand in the cookie jar. “I was getting a sense of the room,” his reply lacked conviction.

“Bullshit,” Daisy pulled out her grading sheet, and hid it with her arm as she made a few final notes.

Overall, considering he went first, Jackson had done well. His analysis was thorough, he’d followed the assignment to the letter, and he’d presented handouts coupled with appropriate visuals. Other instructors might have docked him for the graphic nature of some of the pictures, but if Heroes in training couldn’t handle a little photographic gore then they didn’t belong here.

“Still can’t believe that he called out your age like that,” Craig laughed half to himself. “Makes me feel like a young man again.” Craig probably wasn’t more than five to ten years younger than John, but that counted for a lot in Hero time.

“Thank you for that riveting account of Iron Giant’s exploits and contributions to society,” John congratulated the younger Super while collecting the grading sheet from Daisy and Craig. “Are there any questions before we move on to the next presenter?”

Most of the hands in the room stayed down. If Daisy was a telepath then she would have known for sure that most of the students were bursting with curiosity, but didn’t want to be the first to ask a question. Finally, and predictably, a hand went up.

“Yes, Ms. Martin,” John pointed at the classes lead combatant.

“Mason said that Iron Giant is classified as retired but still certified. What does that entail exactly?”

“I got this one boss,” Craig got to his feet and sped down to the stage fasted than most people could follow. “Retired but still certified means exactly what it sounds like. The Hero is retired, but retains their certification. A lot of heroes have trouble leaving the life if they make it to retirement age, and honestly, only the best make it that far,” the seriousness of the subject was spreading throughout the room. “Retaining a certification is possible through annual DVA testing, but the retired Hero isn’t on an active status anymore. The DVA can call them up, with their consent, in the case of an emergency. This gives the DVA strength in numbers when it is really needed, and allows the retired Hero to keep a foot in the door if something terrible happens. Because trust me,” Craig’s eyes were serious. “There’s nothing worse than needing to save people but being hamstringed by government restrictions,” his eyes met Daisy’s and gave her an approving nod.

Despite him trying to copy her answers just a moment ago, Daisy was able to smile and forgive the speedster. Craig’s knack for getting himself out of trouble seemed to be his second superpower.

“I think that’s all the time we have for questions,” John stepped in to keep the class moving. “Would anyone like to volunteer to go next?” A few hands flew into the air, but one was faster than the rest. “Ok, Ms. Martin. You have three minutes to set up before you begin.” John looked down at his watch. “Time begins…now.”

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