A Change of Pace – Chapter 8

Angela sat in the corner of the student union nursing a soda and trying very hard to not let the bongo drums get on her nerves. The theme for the freshmen orientation shindig was a luau, although the organizers weren’t too interested in details since bongo drums were Afro-Cuban not Hawaiian. Angela had visited the island state once before when she was a child. Her parents were on assignment helping to ensure a dormant volcano stayed dormant. She’d spent a lot of time in the hotel room during that family “vacation”, but she did learn that Polynesian drums were called Pahus. That little bit of knowledge was of little comfort as a drunk guy slapped the percussion instrument without any semblance of rhythm or melody.

<Focus,> Angela chided herself for letting the tacky nature of the evening distract her from her strategic recap.

She had wanted to sit in her room, alone, and reflect on how she could improve on her performance if she ever faced the instructor again. Her dorm mates had other plans. Becca turned her room into a cyclone of flying clothes as she picked out an outfit for Angela. Kyoshi sat on Angela’s bed and tried really hard not to pry into her mind, while lending her limited fashion expertise. The busty amazon was about as tactful as a bull in a china shop, but Angela appreciated the attempt to respect her privacy. Ultimately they all decided on sun dresses because anything else in the Florida heat would leave awkwardly placed sweat stains.

Becca’s blue dress matched her hair while Kyoshi’s white one went well with her golden eyes and complexion. Both dresses left enough to the imagination without crossing any promiscuity lines. Angela’s own dress was of a similar design but in a nice forest green. She felt slightly exposed in the thin material. She’d always been a pants kind of girl.

The boys were waiting down in the living room for them. Seth looked every bit the preppy socialite ready to mingle. Mason was a little less dressy in a black t-shirt and dark jeans, but he pulled off the tall, dark, and handsome look complete with the strong silent vibe. He also looked like he wasn’t completely in the mood to socialize, but he smiled when he saw Kyoshi, and Angela knew she’d lost her only potential ally in attempting to derail this outing. A short walk across the street put them in the middle of the action.

Angela took another sip of her flat soda and scanned the room again. “Constant Vigilance” echoed in her mind as she surveyed the rapidly degrading situation. Although alcohol wasn’t allowed at the orientation it was clearly being supplied by someone. She saw Seth with a red solo cup full of the prohibited liquid sandwiched between two girls who’d opted for coconut bras and spandex shorts. Apparently they thought it was more in keeping with the theme of the party, and Seth obviously didn’t mind. The boy was a giant tool. How did every woman not see that? Angela ignored the spike of jealousy at the women’s thin tone bodies, focusing instead on the rest of her dorm mates.

Becca was as much a social butterfly as Seth, although she didn’t skank up the dancefloor. She was dancing rather enjoyably, but her conservative Midwestern upbringing showed through. Angela made a mental note to keep an eye on her. There were a few guys in the crowd with hungry expressions that she didn’t care for. Lastly, Mason and Kyoshi were sitting alone in another booth. The booths were meant to seat four, but the massive couple easily occupied the entire space. Angela was sure they would be using the term “couple” before the night was done. They were so obvious.

With her surveillance complete Angela turned her thoughts inward to a performance she hoped her parents never learned about. <How can I ever be a Hero after such a complete and utter defeat,> she wanted to cry and throw things it was so infuriating. She’d been trained better than this, she was better than this! <If first impressions mean anything to that woman then she must think very little of all of us.>

Ma’am, as she preferred to be called, was as abrasive a personality as she’d encountered. She might not be as cold as Angela’s mother, but she could probably give her a run for her money in overall bitchiness.

<OMG,> Angela slapped her hand over her mouth in surprise. Even though she only thought it, it still felt disrespectful. <She’s still my mother. I need to make her and Dad proud. But how can I do that when I can’t even shift before I get taken down?> she circled around to her tactical error in her brief bout with the professor.

<I should have shifted before we started. Maybe then I would have stood a chance.>

Despite all her considerable training Angela doubted she could have lasted long against the trained Hero. She wasn’t as naïve as Seth. She knew every one of her instructors was one of the best in the world at what they did. There was no other reason they could have lived to see retirement and go into teaching.

In preparation for the HCP, Angela received some of the best training possible from other retired and active Heroes. Her parents were well known and respected, so they were able to call in favors and get her special sessions. Even before her powers manifested at 8 she’d mastered Karate and was deeply involved in Krav Maga and weapons training. She was proud of her preparation, training, and the high standards she set for herself. She needed to carry on the Martin name.

Her proudest moment occurred less than a year ago when she finally bested her fencing teacher, an Olympic gold medalist. The feeling of her rapier making contact with his protective gear was the sweetest sensation she’d ever felt. She thought it was even better than sex, not that she had a point of comparison. The man beamed with pride as he saluted her. If only her parents acknowledged her effort. Her father teleported away the moment the match was over and her mother’s look screamed “about time”.

<I need to be better! I must get better!> Angela found herself repeating her mantra of the last few years.

The tears were there, they always were, but she fought them back. Heroes didn’t cry. Heroes protected the innocent and were role models to everyone. No one wanted a cry baby as a role model.

“How you doing?” Kyoshi asked, her approached masked by Angela’s internal monologue.

<So much for constant vigilance,> Angela mentally sighed, receiving a sympathetic hug from the telepath.

Kyoshi hesitated, clearly unsure of how to approach the topic of Angela obsessive and antisocial nature. Angela watched the large woman’s internal struggle as she thought of the best way to come at the issue. Angela waited patiently for the delicate way Kyoshi would approach the topic. Everyone always handled this situation with care and tried to be gentle with her. It didn’t help their ensuing arguments that they didn’t understand what this meant to Angela and her entire family. It wasn’t unhealthy, it was training that would save her life one day.

Unfortunately, Kyoshi was decisively lacking in tact at the moment, and had even downed a prohibited beer in preparation for this conversation.

“You’re not fat,” the tall woman blurted out, catching Angela by surprise. “I’m so sorry,” now Kyoshi was the one with her hand over her mouth. “I didn’t mean it to come out like that.”

Since this was not the topic Angela thought she was going to have to discuss with her larger dorm mate she remained silent. Eventually Kyoshi was able to gather her thoughts to begin an actual conversation.

“What I meant to say is that there is nothing wrong with you,” Kyoshi approached the situation much more skillfully. “Don’t try and say you know that,” she tapped her temple for emphasis. “Remember I’m a telepath.” Angela surprised herself with a smile which the other woman matched.

“It’s the stupid media and pop culture’s fault for driving a completely unrealistic version of what a woman should look like,” Kyoshi vented.

“Doesn’t seem like it’s much of a problem for them,” Angela motioned towards the two women who were getting dry humped by Seth.

“Those two…please,” Kyoshi gave them a dismissive gesture. “They starved themselves for two days to look that way.” This startled a laugh from Angela. Kyoshi grinned at the change in emotion. “You and I are never going to look like them, and I’m totally fine with that,” Kyoshi made the statement with ironclad certainty. “Our…endeavors…couldn’t be achieved if we looked like them. You and I are built of sturdier stock,” Kyoshi gave her own wide hips a pat, pausing briefly in a superhero pose.

“Yeah,” Angela giggled at the ridiculous posturing. “One good kick and they’d snap in half like twigs.

“Exactly. Plus, I know for a fact a few guys in the crowd are checking you out.”

“What!” Angel’s face went redder than a third degree sunburn.

“I know you’ve spent your whole life training, Angela, but try and let your hair down a little. This is college after all.” With a wink that would have made Becca proud, Kyoshi returned to her booth.

Angela sat in her seat for a few minutes contemplating her situation. <Maybe Kyoshi’s right,> she thought as she watched the golden-eyed beauty slide closer to her massive soon to be boyfriend. <Maybe letting out a little pent up energy tonight will clear my head for tomorrow.>

She’d read plenty of studies where some sort of release the night before showed positive results for athletes. Although the studies mostly detailed the release as sexual, something Angela had no intention of doing, the science was still sound. The empirical data and Kyoshi’s pep talk got Angela out of the seat and onto the dancefloor. It helped a little more that Angela convinced herself she was looking out for the now slightly inebriated Becca.

<Who knows, maybe this will actually be enjoyable.>

 

***

 

Kyoshi made her way carefully back to the booth, dodging the randomly placed tiki torches and lewd thoughts from various soon-to-be frat boys. It was one thing for drunken idiots to bang away on bongo drums, but it was something entirely different when they imagined themselves straddling you and playing your breasts in the same manner. Fortunately her companion for the night was intimidating enough that no one dared come near her. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, but combat skills, her unnaturally pale hair, and her golden eyes would give her away. Putting two and two together was possible for even these drunken imbeciles, and she didn’t want to get thrown out on an SI infraction before the first day. She finally breathed a sigh of relief as she squeezed back into the booth Mason was occupying 60% of.

“She good?” Mason asked, having discussed the subject with Kyoshi before she left.

“I think we’ve made some progress,” Kyoshi shot another glance in Angela’s direction; happy to see she was heading out onto the dance floor. “Her body image issues run deep, so please be supportive of her in any way you can.”

“She looks good to me…I mean…you both look good to me, especially you” Mason stumbled over his words hoping he wasn’t offending her.

Kyoshi let out a mental sigh at the man’s ignorant statement. It was innocent ignorance, but ignorance none the less. Mason was a kind hearted soul but he was also a man. A man who hadn’t dealt with the pressures inflicted on women by society and themselves. He’d never been ridiculed in high school because he was different. He didn’t endure the whispers, sideways glances, and abruptly ended conversations when you entered the room; and all because you didn’t conform to the perky cheerleader stereotype. Kyoshi’s own unpleasant past began to surface before she calmed it with a deep mental breath. Instead of fixating on it she decided to take the comment for what it was, a compliment.

Not wanting to talk about the issue she quickly searched for another topic. “So, what do you think these combat trials are going to be like?”

Mason thought the question over briefly before responding. “I think they’ll be pretty straight forward, but I’m learning they’re not so hot on assumptions here.”

Kyoshi nodded in agreement. The afternoon lesson had drilled into them Coach McMillian’s first rule in the most permanent of ways.

“What if you end up fighting me tomorrow?” she asked the question more as an afterthought than anything else, but the adorable deer in the headlights look Mason gave her was priceless.

Mason was silent as his mind raced, clearly projecting his thought process. Kyoshi thought the whole thing highly amusing. The giant man could probably laugh in the face of a tank before tossing it, but the thought of fighting a girl, especially a certain girl, made him extremely uncomfortable. Kyoshi felt a surge of appreciation that he was that concerned for her, but she was training to be a Hero, and a Hero had to overcome their own obstacles. Mason’s thought process echoed her own, another good sign, but there was something else underneath the surface.

She didn’t want to pry but he’d been quiet for way to long. She was beginning to get worried that she’d pushed him too hard. She pulled back a layer of his thoughts and was forced to mentally recoil. Everything went from a disconnected mumble to him shouting out his feelings over a subconscious megaphone.

There were two main thoughts warring against each other in that surprisingly sharp mind. First was that he liked her, he really really liked her. She’d already known this but hearing him think it was like a shot of adrenaline in her heart.

<Sigmund Freud be damned. I don’t care if he’s like Papa, I really like him too.> her own thoughts screamed out to him.

She also knew, and this was a big surprise to her, that she had the more forceful personality of the two of them. If someone judged a book by its cover they would assume that Mason was the possessive macho type. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact this meant that she was going to have to put down her claim before he spent all year dancing around his own desires.

“Yes, already!” She shouted over the music and bongo drums. “I’ll go to dinner with you this weekend. Saturday works good for me, pick someplace nice.”

Mason’s face went from shock to elation faster than Becca could run, and his thoughts only magnified the emotion. Kyoshi basked in the warmth for a few seconds longer than she should have before focusing on the second issue. It was a big issue, and that was a lot considering the emotional connection they’d just shared.

“Now spill,” she leaned in close. “You know who the alternative instructor is.”

Mason’s mind went from feeling completely at peace with the world to terror in a nanosecond. The memory of his unceremonious knockout was still fresh in his mind, and Kyoshi winced as she opened the tender wound. Mason didn’t want to piss off the mysterious woman.

<Well…well…well. Looks like you made it after all, kid. Congratulations on overcoming the first obstacle. Now prove to me you belong here,> the memory right before his knockout played out as an omniscient narrative as a smaller younger Mason looked up into the face of a masked Hero.

As far as Kyoshi could tell they were the same woman. It was tough to tell for sure with the black domino mask and military style fatigues, but she looked similar enough. One thing was for sure; Mason was filled with awe, admiration, and a little bit of fear on both occasions.

“You have to promise you won’t tell anyone,” Mason looked around and whispered like they were being surveilled. “I don’t feel like taking another uppercut from her anytime in the near future.”

Kyoshi shuddered with sympathy, but nodded. “I promise.”

Mason took a deep breath and gave another look around their immediate surroundings. “Our alternative structure is…Reaper.”

 

***

 

The sturdy oak table in the conference room was specifically designed to take the incredible weight its inhabitants placed upon it. Despite being manufactured for this specific purpose, Daisy swore she heard it groan under a ton of paperwork. Each of the instructors had built a fort of paper and files around their respective seats. The ramparts were so high that short people like Maria could barely see over it. Daisy was by far the best off of her peers, with only a foot tall stack of forms on her left. John was by far the worse, with piles stacked higher than the table on the floor to either side of him.

Daisy was already beginning to fondly miss the days where she’d only had to deal with the DVA’s paperwork. If time travel was ever invented, she’d make sure to take a quick trip back to give herself a swift kick in the ass for complaining over the minuscule stack her Hero persona had to deal with.

“Just thought you should know,” Grace caught her attention from the other side of the table. “Mason Jackson just told Kyoshi Schultz your identity.”

Daisy tried very hard not to get angry at the strongman she’d easily beaten earlier in the day. Now that she thought back on it, she never told him he couldn’t tell anyone who she was. She’d have to correct that tomorrow.

“If it’s any consolation he’s scared to death you’ll find out and knock him out again,” Grace added.

“Tomorrow should be fun then,” Daisy’s maniacal grin drew a round of laughter from the gathered Heroes.

“Don’t be too hard on him,” Grace gave Daisy a look. “Miss Schultz is a telepath with pretty deep penetration ability. If anyone in this class was going to get your identity out of him, it was her.”

“Speaking of being too hard on someone,” John chose this moment to interject into the conversation. “It has come to my attention that you threatened to punch a student through a wall with no guarantee he would survive the experience.”

It was Daisy’s turn to give Grace a look. There was no way anyone but a telepath could have heard that conversation. “You keeping tabs on me, John?”

“Yes,” he answered without hesitation, but dropped the subject as the final instructors burst into the room.

Unlike Daisy’s previous introduction to the HCP staff, she was not going into this situation blind. Sometime between humiliating 29 young Supers and sitting down at the conference table she’d done her homework on Marshall and Robin Kirk. The married couple had been the highlighted members of the Miami Knights during their twenty plus years of public service. When Robin got pregnant they decided to retire and were offered teaching positions at West.

“Sorry we’re late,” Marshall’s gruff terse response was unapologetic. “Something came up.” Robin wordlessly took a seat next to her husband. Her face was etched with worry, sadness, and exhaustion.

Marshall Kirk, also known as the Hero Demolition Man, was a top rate plasma elemental manipulator who served as West’s ranged combat instructor. Daisy had seen video of the 6’2” well-built man decimate an entire building with his energy blasts. She’d also seen him put a needle thin beam through a criminal’s eye at 200 meters. On most occasions his lime green hair matched the color of his plasma beams, but further research on Daisy’s part revealed his attacks came in a multitude of colors and lethality. As it turned out, his ability wasn’t the only lethal thing about him. Even a cursory glance at the man showed only the shadow of former happiness. Everything about his expression and body language screamed barely contained anger. The unpredictable emotion glinted dangerously in his amber eyes. This was not a good quality to have in combination with such a lethal ability.

Robin Kirk, the Hero Force Field to the public, was the opposite of her husband’s offensive and anger driven personality. While her pleasant features seemed to be permanently frozen in a “why God why” expression, all Daisy’s research showed she was usually calm and collected. Her nearly impenetrable energy fields were a defensive necessity, and had saved countless lives over the years. The retired Hero’s skill made her the perfect control instructor. Her waist length bleach blond hair, which any college girl would be jealous of, did not pair well with her sorrowful green eyes. Daisy didn’t know what it was, but something was not quite right with her.

<Don’t say anything,> Grace warned telepathically. <I’ll fill you in later.>

Daisy fully intended to figure out what had the historically composed Hero so down in the dumps, but quickly refocused her attention on the introductions.

“Marshall and Robin Kent, this is Daisy Meyers, the new alternative instructor,” Robin got to her feet to shake Daisy’s hand while Marshall just nodded his head in greeting. Neither asked the other for their Hero names. They were all professionals who’d done their due diligence on one another.

“Boss man!” Craig hollered from the end of the table once Robin sat back down. “Now that the introductions are done can I make my announcement?” John gave a resigned sigh and motioned for Craig to get on with it.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the West Private University HCP,” Craig stood with his arms outstretched to the staff like a circus ringleader. “I am proud to announce that this afternoon, Reaper and Shotgun struck fear into the hearts of the freshman class.” Eyes were rolling around the room, but the speedster continued. “The veteran Heroes valiantly faced the horde of developing hormones and remained undefeated!” he pumped his fist in celebratory conclusion.

“Does it count as “remaining undefeated” if it’s our first time,” Daisy’s comment and air quotes got a chuckle from most of the staff.

“Semantics,” Craig waved off her statement like an annoying fly. “The point is we won, they lost, and now they need to deal with it.”

“Thank you, Craig,” John jumped in before another torrent of verbiage could spew from Craig’s mouth. “We must get onto more pressing matters if we want to be finished at a decent hour.” That got everyone back on track.

“Tomorrow we have combat rankings,” John stated, as if anyone didn’t know yet. “The software formulas have been calibrated, the DVA’s updated standards have been implemented, and the matches are set; so we don’t need to worry about any of that.” It was always a good sign that things hadn’t completely derailed before the semester even began. “What I would like to discuss are some of the more promising students, and which instructors should be overseeing those matches tomorrow.” John reluctantly pointed at Craig to begin.

“Well it will be a good idea to keep an eye on Angela Martin tomorrow,” the folders in front of the speedster blurred as he produced the young women’s information. “She is the daughter of Seraphim and Hunter, and word on the street is that her shifted form is something fierce.”

“I have been privy to some footage of Miss Martin in her Shifter form. It is indeed “fierce”,” John’s articulation didn’t have the panache that Craig’s did. “Daisy, I would like you to oversee all her matches.” Daisy nodded, understanding the Dean’s train of thought.

She would at least be able to slow down the shifter until medical attention could be summoned or she could get into the combat cell to intervene.

“Well I have my eye on the Seth Aubrey kid,” Marshall went next without an invitation.

“He’s certainly gifted,” Daisy cut him off just as quickly as he’d jumped in. “But I doubt he’ll make it past the second round.”

“Bullshit!” Marshall sneered, the anger coming off him in waves. “The guy is a broad spectrum elemental manipulator. Do you know how incredibly rare that is? He can already control fire, water, air, and earth pretty well, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t pick up metals by the end of the semester.” Daisy sensed this was a macho “my classification is better than yours” moment.

“I said he was gifted,” Daisy reiterated with her own snarl. “But his head isn’t in the game. He’s more interested in chasing tail and getting drunk than being a Hero. When he does think about being a Hero it’s all about future political maneuvers and reputation building.” That shut up Marshall, but it didn’t cool him down. “Ask Grace if you don’t believe me.”

Grace got a distracted expression on her face before wincing. “Mr. Abney is engaging in carnal activities with multiple partners in the student union restroom at the moment, so I would be inclined to believe Daisy for the moment,” the telepath looked like she needed a stiff drink after what she’d seen.

Marshall grumbled his acquiescence but continued to glare at Daisy. <Doesn’t look like we’ll be getting along.> Daisy matched the slightly smaller man glare for glare.

“Well…” Maria Jumped in before things escalated between in glaring Supers. “I don’t expect this individual to make it far tomorrow, but I believe Bridgette Evans is someone to watch going forward.”

“If she makes it through tomorrow,” Marshall grumbled shifting through his manila folders to find the girl’s file.

“Miss Evans is listed as having enhanced sense,” Maria saved him the trouble. “It’s the basics at this point; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch but I think she might be a body control like myself.” A few staff members nodded in agreement as they reread the file. “Time and training will tell if it’s full body or just individual parts; so I’ll keep an eye on her tomorrow”

“Ten bucks it’s just her senses,” Craig challenged with a grin.

“Deal,” the two former partners shook on it.

“If we are finished gambling on the future of the Hero community…” John let the statement hang in the air, but the slight upturn at the corners of his mouth undermined his authority.

Grace took the opening to go next. “I’ll be keeping an eye on Jason Cook, and will also be monitoring his matches tomorrow.” Her statement was followed by a ruffle of files. “He is an advanced mind that tests high on telekinesis but low on telepathy.” Daisy wasn’t sure what Grace’s specialty was, but her excitement indicated she was enthused to have a more physical advanced mind in the program.

“I’m interested to see how Mason Jackson does,” Daisy tossed in her own two cents. “Any of us should be able to supervise him in his matches. He’s tough,” she fondly remembered how he’d stood up to her. “But I also think he’s got the guts to succeed here.”

“Strongmen always look good on paper,” Marshall took the opportunity to restart the glaring contest.

Daisy was about to ask the volatile man to step into the gym with her when Robin spoke. Her voice was soft but heavy with emotion, and she was brief. “It will be interesting to watch Teresa Shaw. A multi-species shifter is always a pleasure to have in Control. I can watch her if no one minds.”

“Of course you can, honey,” Marshall’s death glare dared anyone to say otherwise.

John nodded his agreement, jotting down the note before motioning for Willis to continue.

“Well I’ve got my money on Nathan Flynn going all the way,” the elder Hero slapped a twenty down on the table. “Someone who can copy powers is always someone to watch.”

“It takes the kid 30 seconds of concentration to get the ability, and then he can only hold it for an hour,” Craig disagreed, but not before he swiped the twenty at speeds faster than the eye could follow.

“That’s why we’re here aren’t we,” Willis’ dastardly grin made Craig reconsiders his comment. “Lock that cash away someplace safe, Craig. I said he’s my pick to go all the way, as in all four years. I’ll keep an eye on him tomorrow.”

“I’m not taking into account inflation on this,” Craig replied defensively. He had a feeling he was going to regret swiping the money so quickly.

“I will monitor Derrick Masters,” Dr. Sanderson’s selection of the only healer in the class was obvious. “His regenerative abilities are pretty impressive even if his range is limited at the moment to a few feet.”

The good doctor shot a glare in Daisy’s direction. <Seems like everyone wants to pick on the new girl,> her own expression was unyielding.

She’d faced this criticism before from other healers and humans in the medical profession. They all saw her as some boogywoman, an unnatural force of nature that had no place in the world. Their purpose in life was healing, so it only made sense they would dislike their deadly antithesis.

“Thank you Blake,” John made another annotation before pulling a thick file from the tall stack to his right.

He riffled through the pages for a moment before passing out a single sheet to each of the staff members. The document was on DVA letterhead, and had certain portions redacted with thick black marker. Whoever the tan, good looking girl with the 100 megawatt smile was, someone didn’t want people knowing too much about her.

“I would like everyone to pay attention to Anika Kemps tomorrow and throughout the rest of the year,” John’s voice held the command presence Daisy often heard during Patriot briefings. “Miss Kemps is in a state of limbo as far as the DVA is concerned,” this drew a few confused expressions from the staff.

“Our liaisons at the Department aren’t sure if Miss Kemps is the strongest adapter they’ve ever encountered or an entire new categorization all together,” John clarified.

This caused an interesting reaction around the table. New Super classifications were rare, maybe one a decade, and even then they were usually sub classifications. The last time the DVA came out with new classification were the technological brilliance subcategories a while back. Grace, Robin, and Maria leaned in intently, while Craig practically vibrated with anticipation. Willis sat back with a knowing grin on his face, probably already informed on the subject. Marshall huffed with discontent while Daisy remained pleasantly engaged. Her mind was already racing though.

A new classification meant a new possible threat. A new possible threat meant a threat assessment complete with detailed identification of strengths and weaknesses. This detailed report would then be given to Super’s like Reaper. The Super’s tasked with killing other Supers if they went rogue. The whole process brought back very unpleasant memories. Daisy took several deep breaths to slow her rapidly beating heart. She would die before she had an episode in front of that prick, Marshall Kirk.

“The identification quandary revolves around Miss Kemps’ adapting to Super’s she has frequent contact with,” John’s explanation brought Daisy back to the present, only to be interrupted by Marshall.

“Sounds a lot like Titan to me,” Marshall stated matter-of-factly. “So she adapts to other Supers. What makes that so special?”

“Miss Kemps doesn’t adapt like Titan,” John replied, a bit of irritation evident in his tone. “She doesn’t develop a defense to counter an attack. She develops their ability.”

“So she’s a power copier?” Maria asked much more respectfully than Marshall.

“That is the crux of the classification issue,” John continued. “If around another Super, Miss Kemp develops their ability permanently. She describes it as a “learning process”,” John read the statement verbatim out of the file. “Currently she has low level strength, durability, and speed. In addition,” John continued over the statement Marshall was about make. “She is capable of some pretty substantial kinetic blasts, currently classified at mid-level on an advanced minds telekinetic scale.” This stopped Marshall in his tracks. You never saw an advanced mind with strength and vice versa. The fact that this young woman had both was, by apparently now obsolete standards, impossible.

“The only other Supers in Miss Kemps’ home town were a low level strongman, a low level speedster, and a midlevel telekinetic. This supports Anika’s learning statement, and also makes the next few months of development critical.”

Daisy saw where this was going and wanted nothing to do with it. She already regretted using her ability on the woman yesterday without knowing. <No one else should possess this curse,> she resolved, not caring what John might instruct her to do. Luckily, they were on the same wavelength.

“Daisy, I would prefer you not use your unique ability around Miss Kemps,” John ordered to Daisy’s relief. “The information we have says that she needs to observe for months before her body adapts/learns the ability, and then after that she needs to be trained in it just like any other Super.” Daisy emphatically nodded her complete agreement. “Craig, I would like you to observe her tomorrow. You possess what she already has in superior qualities.”

“Thanks for the resounding rendition of my awesomeness, Boss,” Craig’s hurt expression didn’t fool anyone.

“The next few months will determine if Miss Kemps is really the first of a new classification or not. If so, she will be a very powerful but very confused young woman. She will suddenly be capable of many things, and without proper supervision and training there could be disastrous consequences. So,” John turned to Daisy and Craig. “I want weekly reports on her progress throughout the first semester. If she shows signs of learning a new ability she will need private sessions with either of you, and sessions with Dr. Johnson to ensure mental stability. If need be we can have someone watching her at all times so she doesn’t do anything accidentally.”

Daisy felt sorry for Anika Kemps. Supers spent years developing one or two abilities. The poor girl could literally drown in the hodgepodge of power; some of which could be complete opposites, require different triggers, or entirely different mindsets to control. She might just burn out like small flame suddenly doused with too much gasoline. It was theoretically possible she could be Powered in some of her abilities. Just because you controlled one doesn’t mean you could control them all.

“Is everyone clear?” A chorus of various acknowledgements answered John’s question. “I think we’re good for tonight then. I’ll see you al tomorrow.”

The room quickly emptied as the various Heroes took their leave. Soon it was just Daisy and John.

“You really think you need to check up on me all the time?” Daisy asked, kicking her feet up onto the now mostly unburdened table.

“Do you need to have that bottle of Vodka on your kitchen counter,” Daisy winced at the jab. John was not in a good mood.

“It isn’t open,” her reply was weak at best.

“I expect you to have your first appointment with Dr. Johnson this week,” it was a pointed reminder of Daisy’s agreement while instructing at West.

“Sure thing, Boss,” she tried to put Craig’s charm behind the statement but failed.

“Good night, Daisy,” with no ifs, ands, or buts, John left her alone in the conference room.

<Jesus! What’s shoved up his ass,> Daisy’s mental voice was more daring than she’d been a few moments before.

<Come to my office and I’ll fill you in,> Grace’s voice echoed through Daisy’s mind.

With a sigh, and a silent wish for a shot, Daisy quickly made her way to Grace’s office. The telepath’s room was pretty plain despite a few years of instruction under her belt. There were a handful of pictures showing a young Grace in costume, or her with some students she’d mentored. Bedsides that it was the standard furniture and a lot of paperwork. Grace put down her scribbling pen when Daisy entered and telekinetically shut the door behind her.

“So I assume the Dean wasn’t pleased with you after the meeting?” she asked, obviously already knowing the answer.

“Apparently something got rammed up inside him during everyone’s little spiels,” Daisy replied. “Let’s make this quick so I can get home.”

“Very well,” Grace’s face took on a very stern expression. “The Dean was unhappy with you because you were instigating Marshall.”

“First of all,” Daisy started defensively. “The douche was instigating me, so don’t put that all on my shoulders. Second, I barely know the guy and already he wants to sock me in the face like I called his wife a whore.”

“Marshall and Robin have been on edge for the last few months, and Dean Ditmar doesn’t want you making the situation worse,” Grace replied, her face still stern but with more than a hint of sadness.

“What do you want me to do?” Daisy was growing more exasperated. She was tired, hungry, and desperately just wanted to go to bed before she jumped off the wagon and into a bottle. “Blow the guy so he likes me?”

“No,” her wince indicated memories of Seth’s sexual encounters flashed across her mind. “I want you to know that their five year old son just developed abilities and is a Powered. He emits dangerous radioactive bursts randomly. Robin has to keep him constantly shielded so Orlando doesn’t become the next Chernobyl. The DVA has already deemed him a threat to national security and is building an underground bunker to imprison him in.” Grace’s face was flush with emotion. “I want you to have a little compassion.”

“Shit,” Daisy’s voice was soft. “Now I feel like a real asshole.”

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