Physical training was a bitch. Well, physical training was always a bitch, but today seemed to be extra special. The mood in the giant gym didn’t help, and that only seemed to make the situation worse. Seth huffed and puffed as he rounded the corner of the track and started sprinting back down the straightaway. The lactic acid in his muscle burned, and he was sure one wrong step would put him flat on his face and unable to get up.
A lot of choice four letter words floated through his mind as a black and blue blur passed by him for the millionth time. It passed him again maybe fifteen seconds later, and again another twelve seconds after that. Becca was streaking around the track like a mad woman, but that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was the lack of high pitched motivational yells she freely dispersed when she finally slowed down. Now, whenever they stopped for a water break she would walk off alone and drink in silence.
Seth saw her lose her challenge match to Emilia Scarborough this morning. He was sure it was tough on her. It was the first match she’d fought since the ranking challenge at the beginning of the semester, and she only had two more challenges before she was locked out until after winter break. Still, Seth didn’t think she was in an awful position. Sure she could move up a few spots, but he didn’t think she was in any danger of getting cut. That was pretty much what everyone, including Anika, was telling her; but the blue-haired speedster could be incredibly stubborn at times.
<She’ll get over it,> Seth had bigger things to worry about, specifically the high probability that his legs were going to fall off.
“Jog for one minute!” Coach Meyers yelled, and everyone slowed to a crawl.
Seth didn’t think it could hurt even more to run slower. They’d started the gym class with their usual five mile warmup. Seth had definitely noticed improvement in his time. Running a minimum of twenty five miles a week would do that to a person. Usually they moved onto something after that, but not today. When they finished, Coach McMillian just pointed at the track and shoed them away like a group of lost puppies. They’d been running ever since.
<At least they’re mixing it up,> Seth had been grateful when they moved into intervals. But that appreciation had evaporated half an hour ago.
They jogged for a minute, sprinted for two, jogged another minute, sprinted for three, then they had to do a mile at their assigned pace, followed immediately by another two minutes of sprinting; that was just what Seth could remember. Everything had blurred together into one long, torturous unending moment of leg pain, and he wasn’t the only one feeling the burn.
Every few minutes you could hear someone slow down, peel off the track, and puke all over the gym floor. Seth had done it himself once or twice. When the coaches started pulling out the people who were falling way behind Seth had a glimmer of hope they were reaching the end. Then the door opened, a few grey uniformed upperclassmen walked in, they were paired up with the weary freshman, and proceeded to mop the floor with them. In one case an advanced mind picked up Simon Skylar and literally dragged his face back and forth across the mat. Seth didn’t want his ass kicked, so he kept running.
“Sprint,” Seth started pumping his legs as hard as he could as his demonic slave-driver’s voice echoed through the space. “Get to the finish line and you’re done.” That was all the incentive anyone needed to pour every last ounce of effort into the final surge.
“Good job,” Coach McMillian was the only one to congratulate them. “You’re going to need your endurance for your final, so get used to this.” The class was too tired to groan.
“Let’s go, you’re burning daylight,” Seth had a comeback ready, but he was struggling to retain enough oxygen to stay conscious.
He looked over to see what Carson Long was up to. They had a ranking challenge scheduled for after class. Thankfully, he looked just as worn out as Seth, and a little green on top of it; so at least things would be even.
“Next station!” Coach Meyers hassled everyone until they got to the large space next to the pull up bars. Today, it was filled with what looked roughly human-shaped wooden mannequins.
They reminded Seth of the combat dummies he’d used back in his martial arts classes as a kid, but these one’s looked like someone had taken a mini-chainsaw to parts of them. He quickly learned out why.
He was still examining the dummies when soft whizzing sounds hissed all around them. Seth turned just in time to see a three inch throwing knife imbed itself a good quarter inch into the head of the wooden dummy. “Jesus Christ!” a quarter of the class was taking cover as the knives rained down all around them.
“On your feet,” both coaches yelled simultaneously at everyone who’d taken cover. Seth watched as Coach Meyers glanced in his direction, made a flicking motion, and a second later a knife thumped into the wood six inches from his eyeball.
<You’ve got to be shitting me,> Seth wanted nothing more than to run from the knife flinging lunatics, but he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.
“Blades!” Coach McMillian was moving among them, stirring sweaty air with the powerful wake he created with his movements. “These little bits of sharp metal can be your best friends, or your worst enemies; it all depends on how much you respect them.”
“You’re all lucky enough to learn from one of the best,” Coach Meyers continued as Coach McMillian stopped outside the freshmen group. “Coach McMillian is a bit of a connoisseur of this art form.” One second their close combat coach was standing with his hands clasped in front of him, and the next he was rolling twin daggers between his fingers.
“I was actually a Weapons major when I graduated from the HCP,” confused, tired stares showed that most didn’t understand what he was saying. “If you end up choosing to study the discipline sophomore year then you’ll learn more about these marvelous instruments. Today, we’re just going to be teaching you enough so you don’t stab yourself in the eye.” The coaches smiled mischievously. “But the most important take away from this is that if you are in hand-to-hand combat with someone your fists aren’t your only weapons.” The daggers vanished just as easily as he’d summoned them. “Let’s get started.”
Despite the intimidating and awesome introduction to the bladed weapons, they spend the next thirty minutes on rudimentary forms.
“I want you to stab and reset into your starting position; slash, and reset. Go,” the coaches wandered among them, correcting stances and showing proper movements to thrust and slash at the wooden dummies.
“You’re building those fast twitch muscle fibers and muscle memory,” Coach Meyers yelled. “Engage quickly, efficiently, and then reset. This is about form and speed more than power. You can bleed out just as thoroughly from a hundred tiny cuts as you can from a slashed jugular.”
“Think of it as a dance, a deadly dance,” Coach McMillian was really getting into the class. He practically danced from person to person.
After thirty minutes they took away the dummies and proceeded to the combat circles. Once everyone was teamed up, Coach McMillian gave them all another knife.
“We’re going to try a simple maneuver,” Coach Meyers instructed as she lined up across from the close combat coach. “Don’t half-ass this,” her stare discouraged anyone from thinking of attempting it. “These blades are sharp enough to cut, but not enough to do any real damage; so you’ll have a little sense of urgency if you know what’s healthy for you. Do exactly what I show you,” the coaches went back and forth, both explaining and demonstrating the move.
Seth didn’t think it looked too difficult. It was a good was to stop someone who way trying to stab you in the gut. Seth watched as Coach Meyers thrust her knife forward in slow motion. Coach McMillian slide a few inches to the side, used his free hand to push aside her knife at the wrist, and then quickly flicked his knife over the top of her hand. The coaches weren’t kidding when they said the knives were sharp enough to cut; a thin streak of red, and a slow trickle of blood fell off the back of Coach Meyer’s hand.
They gave the freshmen a few minutes to practice in slow motion before doing it as real life speeds. It was a good thing that most of the school healers were on standby, because several people went down on the first iteration.
Seth executed the form exactly how he’d been practicing. That was a mistake. It was one thing to bat aside a halfhearted attempt at a stab, but trying to stop Ashely Bates from thrusting her knife into his gut when she moved like she wanted to impale him was something entirely different. Seth was only partially successful at parrying the attack. He took a decent gash to the side, and didn’t even get to slash her on the top of her hand.
“This attack works best against hesitant attackers,” Coach Meyers spoke up as the healers ran around patching everyone up. “If you’re able to counter their attack, and inflict some damage, they might think twice about trying to fight.”
“So it’s pointless to use against a committed criminal, or a Super who is a veteran fighter,” Seth grumbled, wondered why they were learning it at all.
Before he could react, Coach McMillian was standing next to him. “You’re learning it because it’s a good foundational technique, and a good one to use if you want to dissuade people from fighting you. Getting someone to surrender is infinitely better than having to fight them,” Seth was properly chastised by the time the healer got around to fixing his side.
Twenty minutes perfecting that technique, and another forty minutes working on two more brought them to the end of the class. Seth and Carson were the first to get a full heal from Dr. Sanderson, with the rest of the class eagerly awaiting an end to their stinging open wounds.
Seth could feel the excitement in the air. Word of what went on in the locker room had spread, and nearly the entire class was going to be watching. Seth didn’t care, it would be better if he put Carson in his place in front of everyone. Then he’d be able to enjoy Liz’s company all weekend.
Most of the class moved in a solid black block towards the observation room, with Seth and Carson at the head. Seth could already hear some people taking bets, and was pleased to see that the odds were about equal. Carson just looked pissed.
A quick look at the giant screen in the center of the room showed Seth what cell they’d been assigned to. Carson was the first out of the room, walking with furious purpose. Despite the mentally draining physical training class, the number ten ranked freshman was ready to fight.
“I’d like to request to bring something in to the match,” Seth stopped next to Coach McMillian.
“An elemental manipulator asking to bring a weapon into a challenge match; that’s unusual,” the coach eyed him with interest.
“Not a weapon, Coach; just this,” Seth plucked a water bottle off the bar next to the entrance.
Coach McMillian smiled, probably already understanding Seth’s strategy. “Approved, now hurry up before you forfeit.”
“Yes, Coach,” Seth took off at a run, feeling none of the pain that had been radiating throughout his entire body less than ten minutes before.
Before Seth knew it he was locking the combat cell door behind him. Carson was already there, pacing back in forth on his side of the room.
“I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this,” the number ten ranked freshman went straight in to the trash talk. “I’m gonna mess up that pretty face of yours.”
“You think I’m pretty,” Seth cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “Does Kimberly know that you think of me that way?”
Carson face heated up, and he growled an unintelligible response. So Seth pressed his advantage. “I think a bunch of the other guys do. The way you and your two buddies hang around with eachother; people are bound to start talking.”
“You’re a shit stain, Abney. I’m gonna burn off your eyebrows, and pound your face until you look like a jellyfish,” Carson threw a few practice jabs to emphasize his point.
“The way you keep focusing on my face isn’t helping your case, buddy,” Seth calling him buddy seemed to do more than attack his sexuality. “Plus, I’m fireproof, so I doubt you’ll be able to burn off anything. You might want to rethink your strategy.”
What Seth said wasn’t entirely true. When he was manipulating fire he was fireproof, but when he was focusing on air, water, or earth he could definitely be burned. It was one of the weird quirks of his power. He was only immune to the negative aspects of the element while he was manipulating it. As far as immunity while he manipulated multiple elements; he honestly didn’t know. He’d never been in a position where he had to test that theory.
<There’s a first time for everything,> Seth didn’t know if this would be the time, but he was prepared to try if it was necessary.
His plan for dealing with Carson was pretty straightforward. Step one, don’t get hit. Carson’s strength was getting in close and obliterating his opponent. The only people who could stand up to his violent onslaughts were very durable Supers. Everyone else had to deal with him with ranged attacks. Range was Carson’s weakness, and as far as Seth knew, he didn’t have a way to counter that yet.
Seth had a few ideas about how to take Caron down, but they were only theories; and Seth always had to keep in mind that he couldn’t be as lethal as he was capable of being. Sometimes having to hold back and fight smart was a pain in the ass.
“Welcome to today’s challenge match between twenty second ranked Seth Abney, and number ten ranked Carson Long,” Coach Meyers sounded disinterested as she read the rules they’d already heard at least half a dozen times.
Seth didn’t bother to glance up at the glass separating them from the observation room. He couldn’t see them, but he knew the entire class wanted to see how this match played out. The once downtrodden playboy against the loud mouth jerk; half the people watched were hoping that they kicked the crap out of each other.
As the clock started to run down, Seth kept his attention on Carson. Seth had been watching him in physical training for a long time, so he knew his style. Carson was an accomplished boxer and kick boxer. The two fighting styles meshed well with his powers, so he stuck with them. He wasn’t nearly as good as a professional, but he would hold his own in an amateur league. Coach McMillian had spent a lot of time working on Carson’s reactions with him, and they’d definitely paid off since the initial rankings. The kid with the explosive punches was going to be harder than ever to hit.
The clock hit zero and Carson advanced confidently. He only made it a few steps before Seth forced him to roll to the side as a fireball the size of a basketball went flying past his head.
<Keep him at a distance,> Seth threw three more fireballs to keep Carson off balance.
The tempo of the fight was clear. Seth was completely on the defensive, and even the simplest tactician could tell you that you didn’t win a fight by playing defense.
“Come on!” the constant setbacks got to Carson after a few minutes. “Stop dancing around like a little chicken and fight me,” all he got for a reply was a fireball that singed his hair. “Damnit!”
Then Carson did something different.
Instead of trying to get closer to Seth he drove his fist into the ground. The punch was all kinetic, no fiery explosions. A jagged chunk of concrete rose a few feet into the air. Still squatting, Carson did a complete one hundred and eighty degree rotation and nailed the chunk of debris with a quick kick. Part of the weakened concrete crumbled on impact, but they section that didn’t rocketed straight towards Seth.
Now Seth was the one diving out of the way.
Carson took advantage of the hesitation and advanced. He dodged one haphazardly thrown fireball, and another. Seth was on his back now, scrambling backwards like a crab as Carson juked around his attempts to create some distance.
Carson was nearly on top of Seth now, a look of triumph on his face as he reared back his fist. One more step to the side to avoid a small, last ditch fireball, and Carson would be able to punch Seth right in the…
<Gotcha,> the frightened look on Seth’s face transformed into a grin, just as a blast of air knocked Carson right off his feet.
“What?” a surprised snarl escaped Carson’s mouth as he fell on his hip, his fist smashing harmlessly into the ground away from Seth.
The ground still splintered, sending concrete shrapnel into both of the combatants, and a small burst of flame would leave a mark on both of their uniforms; but Carson’s attack had done a lot more damage to the room then Seth.
“Son of a…” Carson was scrambling to get back onto his feet, murder in his eyes. Seth had made him look like a fool with that little maneuver. The fight was far from over, but the embarrassment at being literally swept off his feet was something Carson wouldn’t be able to forget.
Unfortunately for Carson, the fight was already over. He just didn’t know it yet.
Before Carson could finish his sentence a quart of water forced its way into his open mouth, lodging itself into his throat, and blocking his windpipe. Seth watched as the other Super’s eyes bulged in surprise. Carson was able to get to his feet, before the oxygen deprivation began to set in. Then the panic started.
Carson’s hand instinctually went to his throat. The fear of drowning was something primal that was infused in the human mind. That was why waterboarding was such an effective torture technique; but Seth didn’t even need the board.
Carson was thrashing now. He was desperate for air, and he was trying to scoop the water out of his mouth with one hand, while reaching for Seth with the other. Seth quickly put some distance between himself and Carson.
“Just tap out, buddy. This can all be over and you can take in the sweet air of defeat,” anger replaced the fear in Carson’s eyes, but there was nothing the other Super could to about it.
Seth could see Carson’s limbs weren’t responding anymore. He’d already gone through all of his adrenaline reserves, and he’d used up all of the oxygen in his bloodstream. His vision was growing hazy, and his motor functions jerky and uncoordinated. The fight was over the second the water lodged itself in mouth. Carson was just too stubborn to accept it.
Carson tried to crawl towards Seth at the end, but even that was beyond him. Carson’s powerfully built, broad shouldered, 5’10” frame was nothing compared to the might of the contents of Seth’s water bottle. Eventually, the number ten ranked freshman slipped into unconsciousness and defeat.
“The winner is Seth Abney,” Coach Meyers’ voice was void of emotion as Seth extracted the water from Carson’s throat, and stepped back so the healers could revive him.
Seth was out the door before Carson was conscious again. The explosive boxer would be pissed, and the best thing for everyone involved was for Seth and him not to meet up for a few days. <Good thing it’s Friday.>
By the time Seth reached the observation room the rankings had already shifted. Seth had usurped Carson’s spot at number ten, and Carson had fallen to number sixteen. Most of the class was still there, and a good number of them offered him their congratulations.
“That was smart fighting,” Becca’s compliment was a little lackluster, but Seth knew it came from a good place. It was just hard to be happy for a friend when you’d just lost your own match earlier in the day.
“Carson was overconfident,” Seth replied. “Something I know a thing or two about.” Angela was at the fringe of the circle of people surrounding Seth. She gave his comment a nod. “I had him reveal his counter to ranged attacks, I made him think it worked, and then let him get in close.”
“Why’d you let him get in close?” Mason asked. “What if he got a lucky hit in?”
“It was a chance I had to take,” Seth shrugged. “I’m still not great at water manipulation, so I had to get him in close. Once he got close, he thought he’d won. I just swept the leg, stuck a cork in him, and that was that.”
Seth finished his recap just as they were exiting the elevator to the student center. They’d changed, but most hadn’t showered. After being tortured all afternoon the last thing they wanted to do was spend any more time in the vicinity of their coaches.
The student center was pretty crowded so they exited through the high-tech fake wall one at a time. They didn’t draw any attention until they were exiting the building. “Seth!” Seth was feeling pretty good after the win, but that voice was the only thing that could make him feel any better.
“Hey, Liz” he held his arms open for a hug, but she stopped short.
“You smell like day old shit,” she declared unceremoniously. “Take a shower, and then you can put your hands all over me,” Mason coughed uncomfortably, and Becca blushed bright red at the suggestion.
“Yes, ma’am,” Seth just grinned. He headed home and straight into the shower. Five minutes in Liz joined him, and they used up all of the hot water.
After a few knocks, and a vocal complaint, Seth and Liz retired to his bedroom; which had already become their room. Seth nearly tripped when his feet got tangled in one of Liz’s double D cup bras, but he was able to recover. Stumbling around like an idiot when his super sexy girlfriend was sprawled out on his bed like a porn star was unacceptable.
Half an hour later Seth crawled off Liz, breathing hard, and needing a glass of water.
“That was amazeballs,” Seth wasn’t the only one breathing hard.
“Thanks,” Seth grinned, and gave her another kiss. “So how was your day?”
“Same old, same old,” Liz shrugged, not moving to grab any of her clothes. “Classes, homework, making plans, you know how it is.”
Seth nodded, and then had a great idea. Or at least he thought it was great. “Speaking of making plans, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” He wasn’t looking but he could feel her freeze on the bed.
“I didn’t have anything planned,” she answered casually, or at least she tried to. Seth could tell she was tense.
“Well, if it isn’t an inconvenience, would you like to spend it with me?”
Despite two sessions of mind blowing sex, Seth felt like he was asking her out for the first time. He could feel his heart pounding, he was sweating again, and he knew he’d opened himself up to fresh rejection. The long silence that stretched after the offer didn’t help.
“I’ll have to check with my dad,” Liz replied tentatively. “But if he says yes then I’d love to.”
Seth smiled as he turned to face her. Liz was smiling too, but it was a different type of smile. Every time Seth had ever laid eyes on Liz she was cool, confident, collected, and commanded the entire room. She had that innate ability that drew everyone in, and it wasn’t just her world class body. This time, her smile was meek. It was the total opposite of what he’d gotten used to, but it was still good. Seth couldn’t pinpoint why, but this smile meant more to him. It made him feel more. He felt stupid thinking that, but he couldn’t help how it made him feel.
“Great,” he eased himself back into bed, where she quickly nuzzled up against him and placed her head on his chest. “Now we need to decide what we’re doing this weekend; starting with dinner.”
Uncomfortable…that was the best way to describe what Mason was feeling right now. First it had been the shower. Seth and Liz had gone and wasted all the hot water, among other things. Mason had to spray the tub down with bleach infused spray before anyone else would step foot in it. He bit the bullet and took the first cold shower so Kyoshi would have a little hot water.
Now, him and Kyoshi were getting changed in his room and had to listen to Seth and Liz going at it.
“Yes…Yes…YES!” Mason kept his eyes on his feet as they rhythmic thumping and orgasmic yells easily pierced the thin townhouse walls.
“It would have been a better idea if we went to my room,” Kyoshi pulled on a pair of shorts, blushing at the moaning coming from across the hall.
Mason and Kyoshi alternated rooms, and tonight was Mason’s room’s turn. Mason liked his room. While both of their king size mattresses were large enough to handle their larger frames, they had different tastes when it came to firmness. Kyoshi liked harder mattresses, so when they spent the night in her room Mason felt like he was sleeping on a slab of concrete. He preferred a softer, memory foam mattress. It helped him sleep better, but he would never complain to Kyoshi about it. The key to a good night sleep was having her in the bed beside him. The bed itself was a secondary concern. He’d sleep in a pile of dirt as long as she was with him.
Still, that didn’t help their current situation, and it forced Mason to second guess himself. He wanted to ask Kyoshi a question, but it was very personal and potentially embarrassing. The worst part about it was that Kyoshi knew he wanted to ask her something, but she wouldn’t pry into the details until he asked her. A relationship with a telepath had a tendency to be frustrating like that.
“Umm…Kyoshi,” Mason stumbled, trying to find the words. She smiled back at him, and waited for him to ask. “Is that what you want?”
Mason gestured in the general direction of Seth and Liz, but kept his eyes on the floor. His cheeks felt red hot as the blush filled his face. Making a man with skin as dark as his blush was a remarkable thing.
“Like that…” Mason stole a peek at his girlfriend. She was blushing and smiling akwardly. “No Mason, I don’t want that.”
Mason released the breath he’d been holding, and looked up into her golden eyes. “Why not? They sound like they’re having fun.”
“I’m sure they are,” Kyoshi shuddered as she received a little telepathic feedback. “But they’re just fucking, Mason.”
Kyoshi’s language took Mason by surprised, and didn’t help his confusion. “I don’t get it.”
“You are the sweetest man I know, but you’re also a lumbering lunk sometimes,” Kyoshi smiled, placing a hand gently on his cheek and caressing the day old stubble.
“Ok…” Mason was no closer to understanding.
“Any guy can fuck a girl, Mason,” Kyoshi explained. “Get on top or behind her, press all the right buttons, and get them where they need to go. It’s all about achieving a release, not necessarily about connection.”
“They sound like they’re connecting,” Mason’s statement was punctuated by a euphoric scream.
“Half of that is Liz’s personality and the other half is theatrics. She’s probably watched a little too much porn, and knows that is what Seth likes to hear,” Kyoshi brushed aside Mason’s comment.
“You know what porn sounds like?” Kyoshi blushed again, but didn’t answer the question.
“We don’t fuck, Mason,” Kyoshi waved her finger between them. “Because if we did you’d probably break half the bones in my body,” Mason looked terrified, but Kyoshi just smiled. “What we do is make love, you big idiot,” she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him in close. “We engage in a deep connection that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.”
Mason’s smile could have lit up a cloudy night. Kyoshi knew just what to say to put him at ease. He kissed her softly, but still conveyed the essence of everything they’d just talked about. An undeterminable amount of time later their lips disengaged.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Kyoshi fanned herself, trying to cool the flush in her face. “You push all the right buttons quite nicely. But I don’t want you to think because I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs that I’m not enjoying it.”
Seth and Liz were quiet now. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Mason smiled, finally pulling on the t-shirt he’d been holding for the last few minutes.
“Good,” Kyoshi pulled her hair into a ponytail and gave herself one last look in the mirror. “Just a heads up, I need to go shopping this weekend. I need to buy a new dress for Thanksgiving dinner. What I have here won’t live up to the cold weather.”
Mason nodded, mentally preparing for a few hours spent wandering Orlando’s various malls. “Does it really get that cold in San Francisco in the fall?”
“It can get chillier than most people think, but nothing close to New York,” Kyoshi pulled back a few stray hairs before giving herself the ok.
It took Mason far longer than he was proud of to figure out what she was saying. “You’re coming home with me for Thanksgiving.” A big smile split his face.
“Of course,” Kyoshi smiled when she saw how happy he was. “You’ve already had to meet my parents, so it’s about time I met your grandmother.”
“She’s going to love you,” Mason started rambling excitedly. “She’s going to drag you to meet all her friends, and she’ll want to show you off at church, and she’ll want you to be honest about her cooking; so don’t think about lying.”
Mason spent the entire rest of their time before dinner letting Kyoshi know what she should expect from the only other woman in this world he loved as much as her.
“Thanksgiving,” the single word elicited a mass groan from the gathered staff; Daisy included.
Everyone was gathered in the conference room, a room she had quickly learned to despise. It wasn’t the people, or the room itself that irked her. It was what the room represented; lots and lots of work.
No one in the room was a stranger to hard work. In fact, they were experts on the topic. It was the type of work that was irritating.
“I already submitted and got my leave approved, so don’t try to rope me into some extra bullshit, John,” Marshall Kirk bellowed.
Daisy pushed away the ever present mountain of paperwork so she could see the people in front of her. Previously she’d been using it as a protective barrier so she could doodle in private. She had a pretty good cartoon of a dog chasing a cat going, but she wasn’t going to miss Marshall blowing his top.
“I’m not trying to unapproved your leave, Marshall,” John’s infinite patience was holding strong. “I just want to confirm everyone’s plans, and have the contingencies in place.”
“I’m leaving after my classes on Wednesday and that’s that!” Marshall folded his large arms in front of him and stopped listening.
Daisy looked over to see how the better half of the faculty couple was fairing. Robin Kirk looked happier than Daisy had seen her in the past few weeks. Part of the reason Marshall was being so bullheaded about this leave issue was that they were going to see their Powered son over the break. He was in a special holding facility halfway across the country, and they hadn’t seen him since he’d been moved in. The radiation the young boy gave off made him a walking Chernobyl. Through no fault of his own he was sentenced to a life of living in a bunker built specifically to keep him contained.
“No one is disputing that, so let’s move on,” John motioned for them to go around the table.
“I’ll be working at the Soup kitchen in my Hero persona,” Grace informed. “So I’ll be in town if anyone needs me.”
“I’m having dinner with the family, but can be there in a flash if something happens. No guarantees I won’t puke on you if you call me after dinner,” Craig patted his belly for emphasis.
“I’ll be out of town with family,” Maria didn’t elaborate more.
“I’ll be sampling the fine delicacies of Napa’s vineyards with an old colleague,” everyone rolled their eyes at Miles.
“You’re going drinking,” Daisy cut in. “Don’t make it sound fancier than it is. Being shit faced is still being shit faced,” the retort got some laughter from her colleagues. “As for me I don’t have any plans, so I’ll just be at my house.”
“No way, Jose,” Craig butted in. “Chrissy would castrate me if she found out you were going to sit alone in that plain house of yours. You’ll be eating with us, and that’s the end of that,” Craig crossed his arms like Marshall, but looked more like a pouting kid than a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Mind if Topher tags along?”
Things had been steadily progressing with Officer Christopher Phillips after the incident at Sprout, and Daisy being cleared of any charges. He was the only person who really wanted to spend the holidays with, but he had to work at least half the day. Security for the parade was a big deal.
“Sure Chris can come,” Craig lit up. “It’ll be good to have another man to watch some football with.”
“I will remain to tend to the healing needs of the HCP and the local Hero teams,” Dr. Sanderson didn’t even look in Daisy’s direction. He was sitting calmly in the same room as her though, so that was a step in the right direction.
Dr. Johnson wasn’t present, but John must have known what the psychologist’s plans were because he moved on without him. “I’ll be staying nearby as well, so we will have a quick reaction force in place in case there is an attack on the school or the surrounding area. Maria, you’ll be on standby. Marshall, Robin, and Miles will be called only if we can’t handle the problem ourselves.” If the majority of the Supers at the table couldn’t handle the problem then they would be calling in more than the three retired Heroes.
“Now that the plan is finalized let’s move on to the semester finals,” John looked for Grace to start.
The other HCP professors went through what they had planned for their final exams. Daisy had to admit that some of them were downright ingenious, and they were all better than her finals back in the early days of the HCP. Each and every one of Daisy’s finals had involved beating the crap out of someone else.
“Craig, Daisy,” John interrupted her memory. “How are your preparations progressing?”
“One of the three foot tall stacks of paper in front of Daisy was dedicated entirely toward the semester final. She and Craig had started putting in the initial forms at the beginning of the semester, and wouldn’t be done until long after the event was completed. It was one of the larger finals to organize, since it involved challenging forty-six Supers and judging their efficiency.
“Everything is on schedule,” Daisy fielded John’s question. “The crews will be in to finish the arena over the break, and then we can start programming the finer aspects of the challenge.”
“Good to hear,” John gave them an encouraging smile. “I look forward to the Freshman trial every year.”
“Do you love it enough to take some of the paperwork off our hands,” Craig barely made a dent in the pile as he picked up a fistful of papers and waved them at John.
“Moving on,” John shut Craig down without even glancing in his direction. “How does our retention look?”
“Looks like we’re going to lose three or four due to grades,” Craig read off a sheet of paper. “We might lose a few after the final, but it’s been years since anyone quit this far in.”
“I doubt anyone from this class will throw in the towel,” Daisy added her two cents. “They know quitting is not an option.”
“Very well,” John took note of the students whose academics wouldn’t make the cut. “Than our last piece of business before the weekend is for me to thank all of you.”
“Your thanks is much appreciated,” Craig made a theatric bow. “But what I would really appreciate is a pay raise.” John shot him a good natured scowl and Craig shut up.
“It has been an interesting year so far, with new students, new faces and old friends,” John inclined his head in Daisy’s direction. “I’m thankful that I have such a committed team to help me mold the minds of young Heroes. I should see you all again before you go, but if for some reason I don’t; Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s return from this short holiday ready to finish the semester strong.”