{PotGA} B & B: Chapter 9

Chapter 9


Dean Jackson watched carefully as the students maneuvered to find their seats. At the top of the auditorium, the seniors in their pristinely white uniforms were relaxed yet vigilant. Several of them were RAs this year, and so were still watching the younger students with a careful eye. 

Below them, the grey uniforms depicting juniors and sophomores covered the middle seats. Many of these students were just as excited for the new year as the freshmen but contained it with an appropriate amount of wariness. They knew to expect the unexpected. Today being just one example.

Lastly, the new students covered the remaining seats in a field of black uniforms. Apprehension and energy in equal parts could be literally felt emanating from this section of the room.

How many years had he stood in this spot, and how many times had he seen this sight? And yet, Herbert Jackson knew that no orientation could ever quite give as much information as it should. How can one describe the sense of pride at seeing so much potential before them, yet feel such fear that these faces would disappear before they were ready?

The old Ghost of the Battlefield felt his ridiculous nickname was all the more appropriate today. He could truly imagine the years creeping upon him. Maybe a decade more, maybe less, before he hung up his hat. Sighing, he turned his mind from such thoughts and refocused on the task at hand.

Time would move on, and life would continue to happen. In a program called the HCP, young men and women would find out who they truly were, and the price their dreams would cost.




Ethan stared around him at the mass of students. At first glance, there had to be anywhere from 50 to 70 freshmen sitting in the seats nearby. It was a tad overwhelming, if only because of how many fewer upperclassmen were also in the room. Around 15 seniors? That was insane! The drop out rate… he shook his head in worry. As he pondered this new information Ethan settled into his preselected spot, feeling the cold wood of the seat against his back. Barely a moment passed before he caught a quiet cough near him. Turning, his eyebrows raised in surprise as a very familiar figure settled into the seat beside him. 

Laughing softly, the exotic girl from the day before gave him a grin. “Honestly, your face looks hilarious that way.” She paused to copy his expression. Head crooked to one side, eyebrows raised high, tongue slightly out and a vague stare upon her features. She was absolutely adorable.

That same feeling of breathlessness hit Ethan in the chest, his heart speeding up and his skin flushing in embarrassment. He visibly shrugged and gave her a small smile in return, but the only thought currently running through his head was… “This is the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen. Why… why did she have to be in the HCP?!?”

Brushing her snowy braid over a shoulder, the girl held out a hand. “So, Mr. Impatient. We have not officially met. My name is Rachelle.”

Returning her handshake, Ethan finally felt his mind jumping back on track. “Eh, right. Sorry, I honestly didn’t expect to see you here. I’m Ethan.”

“A pleasure Ethan. And honestly, I’m a little disappointed you didn’t guess that I was a super. Most people do, you know, because of the…” Her hand motioned towards her eyes, which were once again in a state of subtle fluctuating colors.

Ethan shrugged again. “I don’t like to presume. I’ve met a lot of people who just like to appear unusual for the sake of it.”

Rachelle seemed to ponder that, before nodding. “It does seem fairly common here at the university, doesn’t it. Ah well, that much easier for me to blend in.” She opened her mouth to speak again but was interrupted by a powerful voice from the front of the classroom. 

“Welcome Students of Sizemore Tech! For those of you wondering why we’ve required all students to be here today, it’s just a bit of housekeeping. Don’t get too worried. Yet.” His opening statement was met with a flurry of worried murmuring from the freshmen, curious glances from the sophomore and junior classes, and several open grins from the seniors. 

“Now, as many of you might know Sizemore Tech was recently granted the appropriate grants and funding to increase the size of their on-campus dorms. Those staying in the Stangel and Randolph Hall dorm buildings are the first to do so, and I hope the improved conditions show the school’s desire to correct the issues the facilities have had in previous years. That being said, these new renovations have also provided the HCP with an excellent opportunity to change up transportation from the aboveground campus to the HCP below. The details can be found in the packets in front of you.”

Dean Jackson paused for a moment as the sound of people pulling out papers carried across the auditorium. “Later, I expect you to read such details on your OWN time.” The sounds froze, as people looked guiltily in his direction. “For the moment, I simply want the Senior RAs to raise their hands.” 

Ten white-uniformed students raised their hands at top of the seats. “Please take notice of these individuals. For the first year of our new accommodations, they have been approved to watch over separate floors. They should have led you here this morning. If you have any immediate questions concerning your housing situation, or if any emergencies might arise, they are your first point of contact.”

“For those of you still in separate dorms or townhouses, please understand that more student flats are being built but for now the top five floors of both buildings are all the HCP has.” He held up a key badge and ID. “Please keep in mind that all our students and faculty are still required to carry a combination biometric pass key and enhanced Sizemore ID badge at all times in order to access the underground facilities. A variety of elevators are situated throughout the campus for your use, but since last year it has been deemed necessary to change the locations of several of these. You’ll find the details in the packets as stated before.”

He glanced around the room, making sure to make eye contact with many of the students. “If any other pertinent details arrive on this situation you will be notified accordingly.” Clapping his hands together, he hid a grin as several of the students jumped at the sudden noise.

“With that being done, all upperclassmen are dismissed to their appropriate positions. If you happen to have the rest of the day off, I would enjoy it if possible. Your new classes start tomorrow.”

He nodded as all the other students filed out, and once the door had finally closed on the last one, he turned back to the wide-eyed freshmen. 

“And now ladies and gentlemen, allow me to welcome you officially into the Sizemore HCP program. I am Dean Jackson, head of the faculty and your professor of Ethics this year.”

It was at this point that something almost imperceptible began to emanate from the square-shouldered dean on stage. To the advanced minds in the class, any stray thoughts they had might have picked up on faded into a dense silence. The entire class felt themselves being weighed and judged, and most couldn’t help but feel as if they fell short. 

His voice filled the room, a gravelly roll that seemed deep and unstoppable. “You, the freshmen class of Sizemore’s Hero Certification Program, are about to be tested. I admire your dedication to a goal that will likely kill you.” 

Silence reigned.

The dean continued. “Do not mistake my words. Your time here at Sizemore will be far more challenging than you expect. Those more astute might have noticed the size difference of continuing classes. Each year, there will be fewer spots open in each class, and by graduation, only ten of you will remain.”

Gasps emanated from many of the students as they turned to look at the seventy-odd people surrounding them. Dean Jackson was pleased to see a few faces unmoved by his declaration. They were the ones he would keep an eye on.

“The statistics say that once graduated, at least one of you will die on the job in the first two years. Less than half of those ten will survive to retirement.” By now most of the freshmen looked sick, and that was the point. He hated seeing a person struggle for years to accomplish something they didn’t really want in the first place. Better they dropped out now and succeeded in a career they could make mean something. 

But he wasn’t finished. “For those few of you that remain, dedicated to your dreams of being a hero, let me warn you now. This journey will consume you. Everything you are will be dedicated to this life, and the gratitude of the masses might not be enough to cover the pain. But that’s not the point, is it?”

He breathed deeply, allowing a moment of respite from his overwhelming presence. 

“You see… if this seems to be an effort on my part to discourage you, well… you’re not wrong. But now let me tell you why I’m here. During my third year as a hero, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and so saved a number of lives from a collapsing building. Many of the rescuees thanked me that day, but the one I remember most was a young boy. He wasn’t crying, though his parents were among the dead. He wasn’t mad, though his life was forever changed. No, he simply walked up, shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘“Thank you for saving me.”’ That’s it. That’s why I’m still a hero.”

Looking down at the crowd of freshmen, many with a tear in their eye, Dean Jackson nodded solemnly. Now they understood.

“If you decide to remain, it must be for more than just fame and fortune. Find something deep within yourselves that calls for a better world, and then make that come to pass.”




Rubin was amazed. In just a few short sentences, the dean had torn down the freshmen’s expectations and then reconfirmed why many of them were here in the first place. No wonder his dad had demanded he attend Sizemore. Dean Jackson was a legend for a reason, and Rubin couldn’t wait to find out what awaited him this year. 

Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait long. As the Dean’s short speech wrapped up, he made a rapping motion on the podium, and two people wearing gym clothes entered from the side door near the stage. They both moved up to stand beside the dean and remained there with solemn expressions. 

On the right stood a tall and well-built man, with a shock of blond hair excellently styled. His blue eyes covered the students in front of him, and Rubin felt he could feel a twinkle of humor emanating from the man’s visage.

To the left was an equally tall woman, auburn hair wrapped in a tight bun behind her head. She was extremely athletic, amazonian even, with curves in all the right places and lightly tanned skin. As Rubin scanned her form, he almost shivered. Yep, no humor there. She was all business. 

Dean Jackson motioned towards both of them. “Freshman. Along with myself, these two individuals will be your 1st-year instructors here at Sizemore. I will allow them to introduce themselves.”

He stepped back, and the blond-haired man stepped forward. “Greetings students. My name is Adrian Steels. You can call me Coach Steels. I will be your alternate instructor this year. For those of you wondering what that means, allow me to explain. I’m sure there are a few of you whose abilities are less conducive to pure combat. You’ll be working with me to explore how those powers might be better used in a hero capacity. More will be explained when the time comes.”

Adrian then stepped back and the woman took his place at the podium. Her voice was steel wrapped in silk, sultry and predatory all at once. “You will call me Coach Langston. I will be your Close Combat instructor. While Coach Steels will teach you how to think with your power, I will teach you how to beat up other people with it. Our goal will be to tear you down physically, then build you back from the ground up. For most of you, we will not succeed. For some, we might just make Heros out of you.”



{PotGA} B & B: Chapter 8

Chapter 8


The combat cell shuddered, concrete flying in every direction as a body made impact with the wall. 

Harmony shook her hand, trying to remove the tingle still present from hitting something that you really shouldn’t. Grinning, she kept her eyes on Adrian as he climbed out of the indentation, shaking his head to remove bits of wall clinging to him.

“Hmph. Lucky shot.” He grinned back. Slowly circling each other, they gaged the distance and carefully watched each other’s movements.

A burst of air to her right was the only warning she had. Smashing down in a vicious elbow strike, she used the sudden turn to carry her momentum into a side flip but still wasn’t fast enough. 

Adrian slipped her elbow and grabbed her waist in an arm lock before directing her energy towards the floor, adding his own boost for good measure. 

She hit hard, gasping as the air was compressed from her lungs. Dancing back, it was Adrian’s turn to smile as his opponent pulled herself from a hole in the floor.

“So…” He paused to readjust the sparing wraps around his fists. “How do you want to handle the freshies?” 

Resting on her knee for a moment, Harmony considered the question. “Well, last year we did the good cop, bad cop routine. It kinda worked. Got any better ideas?” She jumped back to her feet, stretching just a bit to relieve the pressure of a bruised rib. 

“Yep.” The conversation paused for a moment, until the next impact reverberated throughout the entire underground level of the HCP faculty. “I was thinking of shock and awe. Heard through the grapevine that a couple of the other 1st year professors were doing something similar. Might as well try and see if it works.” 

Pausing as he adjusted to the stove sized fist flying at his head, Adrian missed the much smaller foot descending from above. For a minute afterward, everything was stars and pink ponies. 

Finally shaking off the concussion, he saw Harmony’s outstretched hand above. Grasping it, he was quickly leveraged to his feet. 

“So what, we fight each other in front of the whole class?” She shook her head. “I doubt they’d appreciate that until 2nd Year at best.” 

“Nah, I was thinking we’d split them up, and each takes half. Really put the fear of God into their freshmen hearts. Maybe you take the boys, and I take the girls? Ha! I can see their faces now!” 

Adrian’s infectious laughter caused Harmony to join in, and only after a  few minutes did they regain their breath long enough to start walking towards the showers.




Dean Jackson paused in the middle of his signature, reaching out to steady a pile of paperwork that had been edging towards the side of his desk.

It was pure insanity that he could be feeling the repercussions of the friendly sparring match between two of his instructors, but such was the nature of teaching in the HCP. Hell, he was just as bad before the years of being a dean had caught up to him. Now, he much preferred to let his reputation speak first. Saved more paperwork too.

Nonetheless, the small earthquakes had their reasons. Adrian’s sparring sessions were just one of the ways the faculty relieved stress and got back into the proper mindset for the upcoming year. Just that fact that Adrian was versatile enough to go up against all of them was impressive, not to mention the fact that he usually won. Secretly, the first year after Jackson had hired the slick-talking and charismatic hero Revert; they’d had a match themselves. The Dean won but it had been a lot closer than he would ever admit.

He’d been lucky with picking up Adrian. Really, it was all about timing. There had been a serious incident involving a lawsuit, and though Revert had been absolved of all charges, the stain of such a public event didn’t go away easily. Jackson’s offer of an HCP instructor position gave the Hero the perfect excuse to lie low for a while, and he really was an excellent teacher. The last two years had proven that.

Shaking his head from the contemplation he found himself in, Jackson returned to the pile of paperwork. It would be another late night. At least he wouldn’t have to do much with the students tomorrow. He’d been through so many orientations he could probably say them in his sleep. 

Still, he did enjoy seeing so many bright eyes focused on becoming a hero. Inevitably most would fail in that goal. Some would return to try again, but there was always something fascinating about looking out over a sea of fresh faces and wondering which Ten would be graduating four years later.

Herbert Jackson had been many things over the course of his life, but there was a reason he had remained as the dean of Sizemore Tech for so long. His fellow instructors and many of the senior students were aware, but eventually, even the younger classes would find out just how passionate their intimidating Dean could be.

When it came to being a Hero, Dean Jackson would accept nothing but the best. And he would do everything in his power to make sure that goal was accomplished.




The morning of orientation arrived far too early for Casey’s liking. Stumbling to the bathroom, he joined Travis as they brushed their teeth and brushed their hair loosely into place. 

Guzzling down a redbull as they awaited the clock to hit 7:30, Casey slouched on the couch watching his roommate and best friend pound out another dozen pushups. “You really think they’ll make us fight the first day?”

“It will be either combat rankings or pt.” Travis didn’t pause in his motions, steadily rising and falling as he responded. “Of all the advice I got from Terraform, one or the other is for sure on the first day.”

“Ya, but, like dude. Terraform is what, sixty? Surely they’ve changed things over the years”

“I don’t see why they should. I mean, it makes sense to weed out the uncertains right from the beginning, and both of those events will definitely cause a few to quit.”

“Really?” Casey looked a bit taken aback. “You honestly think people are that weak, just to give up on the first day?”

Travis stood up, shrugging as he plopped down on the couch. “Probably. This isn’t going to be easy man. You need to know that.”

“Ya ya. You know I ain’t about quitting. Only way you’re getting rid of me is if you jump out first, and we both know that ain’t about to happen.” Casey quickly finished the rest of his drink, and after crumpling the can down gave it a half-hearted toss towards the trash bin. 

It missed and rolled to the side of the kitchen, where it rested quite comfortably. 

Travis grinned and slapped his best friend on the shoulder. “I know that. I also know I’m going to physically drag you across the graduation stage if I have to. So why not save me some trouble, and get down and give me fifty.” He punctuated his statement with a shove, laughing as Casey grumbled from the floor. 

Only halfway through his set, the doorbell for the flat rang, causing both friends to jerk a bit. “I got it.” Travis walked over to the front door and opened it after peering through the peephole. 

A young man with a mane of red hair and a wide grin sauntered in, laughing as he took in the state of Casey just getting off the floor. “Well, that has to be a first. You guys legacy or something?”

Travis shrugged. “Nah. Just tried to research what we were getting into, ya know?”

The red-haired man laughed again, before holding out his hand to shake. “The name’s Kyiv. I’m your dorm RA and guide to the HCP facility today. If you’re ready to go, let’s head to the elevators. Yours was the last room, so everyone else is waiting in the lobby.”

Nodding in conformation, both boys scooped up their book bags and followed Kyiv towards the large double door elevators located in the middle of the 29 story dorm buildings. 

Turning the corner, they were confronted with a rather large group of about thirty-two other college-age students, both boys and girls excitedly discussing the day ahead. 

A sharp whistle pierced through the air, causing all noise to cease and all eyes to turn towards Kyiv’s tall form. He seemed perfectly relaxed, motioning for everyone to pay attention. 

“Alright folks, I believe that’s everyone accounted for on my floor, so listen up. I’m not going to repeat myself. First, we’re going to get on the elevators, and yes, they will fit all of us. Then, I want everyone to pay attention to the combination I punch into the floor numbers. That combination can only be used by someone from this floor, which you’ll all be biometrically keyed for some time this next week. For now, I’m your chauffeur, so don’t miss the scheduled lift times.”

He paused here, making sure everyone was paying attention. “Cool. Now, once we get down to the HCP level, we’ll be heading straight to the lockers. You’ll find a personal uniform there, and are required to change into it immediately. After which, we head to the auditorium. You can’t miss it, cause it’s immediately to the left of the lobby area. Find your seats towards the front of the room, they should have your name on them. Today is orientation for all you freshies, so pay attention and don’t screw around. Dean Jackson is a good man, but he isn’t really known for having an unlimited amount of patience. Alright, any questions before we get going? No? Excellent.” 

Kyiv called the elevators, which seemed to be waiting for that precise moment. As everyone began to move to follow him on, Kyiv turned to give a theatrical bow. “Join me, my fresh and delicious meat. Today, we descend to your destinies.” He then cackled as the students trooped on with quite the variety of expressions on their faces.



{PotGA} B & B: Chapter 7

Chapter 7


Acies sat comfortably tucked into the rooftop alcove, blue eyes locked onto the warehouse doors.

This part of Chicago lay near the old docks and was currently being repurposed away from its former industrial mindset. The new wave of hipster culture had made it a point to lock down many of the potential buildings for bars, clubs, apartments, and shops, along with whatever other business the evolution of changing times might bring. Politically, however, it was a lot harder to finance such a push by the new mayor’s campaign, so for now it was just a work in progress. 

Eventually, it would become a shining example of modern commerce in the city, but for the next four years, this would be the perfect location for training. The problem was, he still needed to find the funds to purchase it. While petty theft might have been an option for some individuals, Acies felt such an act carried too much risk on the off chance it might backfire. Plus, he was far too old and set in his ways. Even if he couldn’t call himself a hero any longer, by all that’s holy, he could still act like one. No, this called for a change of plans. 

Previously, he had wanted to set up a location, then draw in his target, then figure out the best path forward. But being here had already changed things. Getting others involved was almost inevitable. So… he shifted from his comfortable hidey-hole. 

Time to call on some old friends. Or new ones? Bleh, this crap was confusing. 

Two hours later found Acies slouching outside of a well-known bar on the south side of the city. This was a dangerous place for him. Not because he had any fear of being recognized but because the faces here might pull up memories he would rather do without. Though usually in civilian clothing, almost all those entering or leaving this place had the same hard look and vigilant gaze about them. This was a bar for active and retired heroes. 

Bill’s Sports and Grill Bar had been around since the 60s. It had endured the hard times and the peaceful years, largely due to the reputation of its founder and proprietor Bill “Ironsides” McGrath. All those who had worn the mask were welcome within its thick walls, and it was a perfect place to meet peers and discuss sensitive information. Acies was confident he could pass as a still-active hero but truthfully didn’t want to push it too far. Besides, the individual he was currently after always left about this time. His schedule never changed. Three fingers of whiskey straight and a quarter past six, he would walk out the front doors and head home. 

It was about that time when a young couple walked towards the building, coming fairly close to Acies’ position in the alley. The woman glanced in his direction, eyes passing over his form like normal, before frowning and murmuring something towards her partner. 

They both paused to take a closer look. 

Acies cursed mentally. It would not help things if he was found right now. Still, he needed that money, and he needed it yesterday. This was his best option, and he really didn’t want to try again later. 

Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait much longer.  

A man that could have walked right out of a 10 cent detective novel made his appearance, stepping through the bar doors and out onto the sidewalk. He situated his fedora, rearranged the grey domino mask on his face, gave a casual shake of his dark leather trench coat, and began to stride past Acies’ position. 

And none too soon, as the couple had almost reached his alley. Quickly but carefully Acies scaled the building beside him, from the dumpster to balcony to window.  Looking down, he saw the man and woman inspecting the area where he had so recently been standing. Too close. Acies would need to stay away from this area for now, till the time was right.

He continued to track the fedora-wearing individual, pausing once as the man below lit up a giant cigar. A small smile touched Acies lips. 

In a world of constant upheaval, Rodney Derrabon never changed. Literally. As if frozen in a picture, the man known as Nightwatch had operated for almost a century without fail. 

Course, Acies knew the real secret beneath the fedora. 

Seeing no deviation from the man’s usual route, Acies decided to skip ahead to the hideout and avail himself of a glass of bourbon that was undoubtedly hidden somewhere in the office. 

He had been sitting on the comfortable couch for a while by the time the front door opened but didn’t mind too much. Rodney really did know his alcohol. He took a sip, watching quietly as the man first checked each room, then relaxed enough to drape his trench coat over the desk chair. 

At this point, both revolvers were pulled from their shoulder holsters, each being checked before being gently set on the desk nearby. Finally, the dark-haired man collapsed into his chair, leaning back to remove his hat and gingerly run his long fingers across his scalp.

“You’ve got an excellent choice in bourbon Rodney. I knew that, I just didn’t think you’d keep a bottle of the best in your desk.” 

Acies voice was calm, pitched low and with no threat attached. He wasn’t too worried about Rodney’s reaction, but then again he hadn’t known him at this point. Thankfully, his instincts proved true.

Before the fourth word had been spoken, a revolver was pointed in his direction, no waver in the hand holding it. 

“I like to keep a bottle nearby just in case I get visitors. Case in point.” The gun motioned in his direction. “Now… who the fuck are you?”

“Why, I’m an old friend Rodney. From a long time away. Now, you might not know me yet, but I was very familiar with your predecessor.”

Rodney’s eyes narrowed. “Funny, he never mentioned someone of your description.”

Acies waved his glass in a shrug. “Yes, well, Charles always was a forgetful sort. In this case, literally. He had all the memories of our… adventures… wiped about a decade before his death. There are a number of reasons for that, but they are his secrets to keep.”

Carefully standing, Acies made sure to keep his hands in the open, though he continued to drink from his glass occasionally. He approached the desk slowly and slid a file across its surface.

“Just take a look at this. If it doesn’t pique your interest, I’ll leave, right now; and you never have to see me again.”

With his gun hand still focused on Acies’ chest, Rodney flipped the file open. Not even bothering to look at its contents, he simply placed his open palm down upon the papers within. At first confusion, then fear, then adrenaline flashed across his face. 

In a single lunge, he crossed the desk and smashed the glass out of Acies’ hand. “What was that!? What the fuck was that!?” His left hand was twisting the front of Acies’ shirt into a fist, and the barrel of his revolver was grinding into the lower jaw of the taller man.

Holding his hands wide and open, Acies stared straight back into the steel gray pupils of the man threatening him. “The truth, Rodney. The truth only a very few will ever be able to see. Now you know why I’m here. Now you know who I am. The question is… what are you going to do about it?”

Slowly, the gun slipped from its position, finally tumbling out of shaking hands. Tears filled Rodney’s vision, and he slumped to the floor in front of his desk. Acies remained standing at first, then carefully lowered his bulk to the floor as well. Before leaning back, he grasped a silver inlaid box on a lampstand nearby and fished a couple of cigars out. He cut and lit one, then handed it over to Rodney, who took it without looking. Then he did the same for himself.

Then he leaned back, slowly enjoying the taste of the tobacco, occasionally blowing out long streams of smoke.

Sighing, he spoke softly, letting the words form on his tongue before exiting. “It won’t be an easy thing. What we have to do. But it is necessary. We won’t be entirely alone. There are a few others I can surely convince.”

Rodney stared at his hands, cigar held between limp fingers. “Will it be worth it? Will it even work, this plan of yours?”

Acies shrugged. “It might. It’s the only chance we get though. I’ve already screwed that up, unfortunately.” 

Nodding slowly, Rodney felt his mind beginning to engage the problems they faced. “Shit. Today’s the start of the semester, isn’t it? Initiation and all that.”

With a grin, Acies flicked his ash into a nearby tray. 

“Yep. It sure is.”



{PotGA} B & B: Chapter 6

Chapter 6


The student flat was old and smelled like a dozen ripe socks. Lela Belaudon sighed in exasperation. She had expected the standard dorm situation when applying for college, but this was pushing it. Shoving her small stack of boxes further into the suite, she took a better look around. 

Besides the smell, it actually wasn’t too bad. A large hallway opened into a living room with a correspondingly tattered couch and lazy-boy. Connected to the side was a tiny kitchen with just enough space for a decently sized refrigerator, microwave, and oven. Virtually no countertop meant there would be a problem if they ever cooked a large meal. Tucked away into another room on the other side of the flat, an open dual sink setup allowed a large restroom mirror to reflect two simple shower stalls.

Last but not least, two separate doorways opened into the main sitting area, each leading to a bedroom with several bunks.

“Yep, this is college alright.” Lela blew a stray hair out of her face and considered whether it would be easier to just continue shoving her boxes across the suite or go through the trouble of picking them up individually. Thankfully, neither proved necessary, as a head popped out one of the open bedrooms. 

“Heya.” The tall athletic girl who waved casually while walking across the living room could only be described as tomboyish, with short spiked hair colored a brilliant firehouse red, occasionally interspersed with what looked like fresh snow. “The name’s Delphia. You one of my future roomies?”

“Yep! I’m Lela. Mind helping with a box or two?”

“Sure, no problem.” Delphia easily grabbed the largest box off the ground and began carrying it back to the bedroom. “You hauled all this up the stairs by yourself?”

“Well, my older brother was just dropping me off, and he didn’t have much time other than to say goodbye. I figured it would be safer just to make the trip in one go. Thankfully caught one of the elevators half full.” Just thinking about the past struggle of fitting all she had in that elevator added to her exhaustion. Thank goodness she didn’t have to walk up 25 flights of stairs.

“Ah,” Delphia nodded. “You must be native to Chicago then.”

“Yep. Told the rest of the family goodbye this morning. Hopefully, they’ll give me some time before coming to visit. I’d rather have found a school out of state, but… you know.” Lela squinted at her new roommate, unsure if she should say anything else. 

Delphia smiled back. “Heh, no worries. All incoming HCP students are required to room together, for safety and other reasons. Probably easier when keeping a secret identity.”

Lela nodded, she had figured as much, but it was always better to be safe than sorry. “So, you met our other two roommates?”

“Yep,” Delphia set the box down gently, pushing it the rest of the way into what was apparently Lela’s small closet. “They went out to grab a bite, said they wanted to explore the campus. You’ve seen the Market?” 

Lela nodded. She’d gotten the tour earlier in the year, and was fairly impressed with the size and scope of just the regular university. Due to being within a major city (one with its own fair share of history and wealth), many extra commodities had been added over the years thanks to generous donations by various alumni. 

Apparently, it was a common issue with many schools to have poor cafeteria food. The Market was just one of the many ways Sizemore bucked that trend and was certainly an interesting part of campus. Conveniently located at the juncture of the new Stangel and Randolph Hall dorms, the Market consisted of a collection of shops and food court style restaurant chains selling a variety of options. While most were your standard mall fare, a few legitimate places plus easy access to innumerable faux chain storefronts offered an attractive alternative from traditional dining halls. 

It was a popular place for students to hang out and socialize, especially since all the stalls accepted the college’s meal plans. To this end, large sets of television monitors had been placed throughout the food court area, providing a centralized spot for checking out events, getting reminders of specific dates, or just seeing tv clips and music appealing to the average college student. 

Thinking about it a bit more, Lela came to a realization. “I know I should finish unpacking first, but honestly hanging out sounds way more fun. Wanna join me?”

Delphia glanced around the room, but then shrugged and grabbed a light jacket off the back of her desk chair. “Sure, why not. I don’t feel like getting cooped up just yet.” 




“I can’t get this to stay on the nail!” 

A young man of average height shook aside a lock of black hair out of his vision. Staring frustratedly at the large framed painting beside him, Alphonso Acuna wondered once more why he had agreed to take his mother’s art to college. It wasn’t bad, in fact, the landscape scene could probably have sold for a decent amount back home. He knew she meant it out of love, but right now it was just annoying. 

“Here,” Rubin tossed him a fork from the kitchen. “Slide the middle tongs between the nail, and then use that to guide the painting down.”

Alph did so, and grinned as it fit perfectly. “Huh. Well what do ya know, it worked!”

Rubin just nodded sagely. “Not my first rodeo with moving.”

“Uh, not to interrupt or anything, but I finally got the X-station up and running.” The new voice appeared to come from below the front of the couch. Immediately after, a boy that would undoubtedly fit the role of a popular Cuban heartthrob jumped up from his crouched position in front of the tv. “You guys up for some split-screen? We got four controllers, so…”

Malachi motioned towards the mostly empty recliner, where only one spot was currently occupied by a guy who had recently introduced himself as Rueben. He waved back with an already spoken for controller and grinned. 

“Ya, come on guys. We need at least 4 to make it a challenge. Bot mode is just sad.”

“Right.” Malachi nodded sagely. “As my new companion so eloquently put it, the best way to make friends and test a man’s mettle is on the battlefield. Even if that field might be virtual in nature.”

Rubin and Alph glanced towards each other, then simultaneously shrugged and moved over to grab the controllers held in their direction. 

Only while taking a seat did Rubin’s eyes begin to sparkle with mischief. “Hey, I got an idea guys. Why don’t we make it worth something to win.” The other boys automatically perked up at the idea. 

“Let’s see, why not have the losers have first go at the cleaning schedule.” This was quickly met with unanimous approval and with a shout of “You’re on!” the battle began.




Ethan stared at the elevator doors, wondering if it really would have been faster to walk up the stairs. His arms were full with the last two containers he needed to carry to his dorm room, and he had hoped to skip the journey up the steps once again. Sighing, he decided to get on with it and turned quickly to move in the direction of the stairwell.

His sudden movement had happened quite unpredictably, which was likely why the rather tall girl behind him had no chance to move back before the inevitable crash occurred. A small gasp was all that could be heard as several boxes hit the ground and scattered their meager contents. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Startled, Ethan glanced up from the mess on the ground, and felt his heart just… stop.

Staring back with a bit of a perturbed look was the single most gorgeous girl he had ever seen. She was at least six and a half foot, with dark caramel skin and an athletic build. Long white hair was tied loosely in a single braid down her back, and her features clearly carried an exotic tint to them. 

What had caught his attention most though was the color of her eyes. They seemed green at first glance, but if one looked closer, they would notice a shifting palette hidden behind thick eyelashes.

“Well. Are you just going to stand there or are you going to help me pick this up?” Her voice carried the faintest of accents but Ethan thought he heard a hint of French layered in. Then his brain caught up to what she had said, and the young man blushed deeply. 

“Again, I’m very sorry.” He dropped his own containers to the side and quickly bent to help gather the odds and ends that had spilled. Together, they managed to shove most of the contents back in the box before yet more people arrived to catch the next elevator. At this point, the girl straightened to her full height and looked over her shoulder as she carried the boxes onto the waiting lift. 

“You should be more careful to look where you run off to, Mr. Impatient. Sometimes waiting is the better option.” Ethan nodded, chagrined, before starting in the realization that the elevator doors were closing and he was on the wrong side of them. He made a motion to grab his stuff, but the action was pointless, and he could almost swear he heard a giggle from the girl just before the doors closed in his face. 

Well, he probably deserved that. Shaking the vision of beauty from his mind, he turned to once again face the workout that was the 756 steps to his floor. Absently, he wondered if this was the best or worst thing about living in such a tall building. At least the option of exercise would always be available.