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War and Peace In Mind, Chapter 19: Don't Panic
Sky High

Don’t Panic


“So, I trust you all have come to some kind of terms with your most recent battle?” Ms. Olsen said to us shortly after Principal Powers left. “Because you know that you will be grilled on it over and over, both by your fellow students and the school board.”

We all looked at each other warily and then back up at our teacher.

“I think so,” Will ventured.

“Well, at least you’re not overconfident. That’s primarily what I was worried about. Young heroes tend to need their… sense of superiority taken out of them. It’s obvious you’re all a bit more practical than my typical group of students. Excellent,” she said crisply. “Hopefully our lessons in the next couple of days will give you some additional insight into both yourselves, and what to expect.

“Now, as a general rule, I will not be giving tests in this class.” Zack started to cheer, then shut his mouth at Ms. Olsen’s glare.

“I will instead be doing a mind-scan to determine what you truly understand about the material I’ve presented to you. I find that to be a much more efficient and practical way of determining what you have retained and comprehended than any essay question. I will be doing this throughout our time together, which will also give you some practice in performing your mental defense techniques,” she said with a strange smile.

Basic Mental Defense was a freshmen course, one that everyone at Sky High took in his or her first week. Unless you had actual psychic powers of some kind, there was only so much you could do to defend yourself against an evil telepath or a mind-scrambler ray, but there were a few tricks everyone learned. The simplest was to imagine a wall around your mind. A strong psychic could get around or break through it eventually, but it would definitely slow them down. And for those of us who were non-psychics, that was the best we could do.

It was just the idea of having even a teacher poking at our brains at regular intervals that made me uncomfortable. On the other hand, maybe she wouldn’t want to dig too deeply into my head. I wasn’t always necessarily comfortable in my own mind; I doubt she would be either.

“On to our first subject, the Hero Mentality and the lure of power. There are many things we will be covering in the following days; the desire to help the helpless, willing self-sacrifice, the sublimation of yourself into your heroic identity, things that, while noble, are not unique. Any hero, super or not, feels this way. Heroic bystanders of disaster, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and many others share these heroic qualities. What obviously separates us from them is our powers.

“Our powers are both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. With them we can take on tasks of truly Herculean proportions, to alter world-shaking events with less effort than it takes some people to breathe. This is our one true advantage over all the other mundane heroes of the world. Conversely, the existence of our powers is what leads to the creation of supervillains.

“Super-powered people, in general, like using their powers. Powering up tends to give one a sense of, for lack of a better word, power. Most people like powering up; it’s fun, it gives a sense of confidence, control, or rightness that just can’t be duplicated any other way. You certainly wouldn’t want to give up your powers, even if they occasionally cause you grief, because your powers are so very much entwined with your own identity.”

I caught myself glancing around at the rest of my friends during that lecture. It hit pretty close to the bone, though I wasn’t the only one who was squirming in my seat. Magenta in particular looked both uncomfortable and thoughtful, mirroring what I must look like.

“It is this feeling of power that can create any person of an evil bent. People with power sometimes grow fond of it and want more. And those with none or very little often want some of their own. Apply this to super-powered people, and you get supervillains. Someone who likes their superpowers too much, and the attendant temporal power it engenders-. That means the more mundane power we super-people have, Mr. Cramer. The fact that we are bound by different laws, have less responsibility and penalties for our actions in return for our service to the people does give us a fair amount of power that has nothing to do with our extraordinary abilities.”

Since Zack had barely opened his mouth to talk when Ms. Olsen answered his unspoken question, he snapped his mouth shut again and looked a little confused.

“Strengthen your mental walls Mr. Cramer, you’re practically shoving your thoughts in my face. I should have to work for them, not have to shut them out,” she chided gently. Zack nodded, wide-eyed, and stared fixedly at his desk for a second

“Better,” she nodded. “As I was saying, when someone likes both their superpowers and temporal power too much, you tend to get supervillains. Specifically, you get megalomaniac supervillains with insane overconfidence in their powers and intelligence, with little ability to recognize their own weaknesses. We’re not certain of why this correlation between love of power and breakdown of morality occurs, but it has been proven time and time again over our history.

“It has even happened to those who are trained to be superheroes. The most recent examples of this are Royal Pain and Baron Battle. Cool your mental fires Mr. Peace, there’s no need to burn me out of your mind. I’m not prying.”

Back in my freshman year, they had told us to make our mental walls into an image we could easily hold onto. I obviously chose a firewall; it was easy for me to remember and maintain. And I hoped to hell it was giving her a headache right now. I wasn’t going to let her know how much that bothered me… at least any more than she had already figured out.

“It’s a little rude to talk about Warren’s dad, don’t you think?” Layla asked tightly, raising an eyebrow. I owed her one for asking that for me; I was busy keeping myself calm. I couldn’t keep going off the deep end every time someone started talking about my dad, no matter how much it angered me. It was a damn obvious weakness that I broadcasted to the world every time someone made a comment about it. I had already had more than one occasion of having my weaknesses shoved in my face, and I didn’t want this to become another one of them.

“It’s necessary Miss Evans. Most supervillains are self-taught, or perhaps apprenticed to another of their ilk at best. We rarely get to see the process that leads someone to take on the villain mentality. I’ve made a study of superheroes-turned-supervillains, including extensive interviews and mind-scans. Two of my subjects are Baron Battle and Royal Pain. Technically that makes two people out of the same class of Sky High that went villain, and that made me wonder if there was something internal that triggered both of their transformations.

“When a superhero goes to the bad, we want to know why. And we want you to understand it too, because it could allow you to stop one of your co-workers or yourself before your make a bad decision. In Baron Battle’s case, it was a classic love of power. After interviewing him I have concluded that it was a purely internal decision. Possibly it could have been stopped or even reversed if it had been both recognized and addressed right away, but even that is uncertain.

“In Royal Pain’s case, her turn to villainy happened initially from the other end of the spectrum. She had little power to begin with, and desired more of it. Eventually that took over all other aspects in her life, and she turned her own powers to revenge to get it. Possibly if someone had recognized how very badly Royal Pain was taking her status as a Sidekick, her descent into villainy might have been stopped.

“However, many super-people have very strong wills; it’s what gives us the ability to use our powers effectively. Swaying them from their path can be difficult; it’s why supervillains never seem to stop unless captured or killed.”

She paused a moment to look each of us in the eyes, whether she was trying to gauge our reactions or read our minds, I didn’t know. I mentally held onto the picture of the firewall anyway; let her get past that if she was so damn eager to know exactly what I thought on the subject of my father. If I couldn’t control my thoughts on the subject, I could at least control my expression and powers. It almost felt like she was picking at me, trying to get me to react or at least comment. But today wasn’t going to be a good day for that.

“Now, on the opposite side of power, you have people who either hate or are indifferent to their powers. Some people simply fade into the citizen community, taking no sides in the super-powered conflict. Others end up getting recruited by supervillains. For those that dislike their powers, or are indifferent but care little for how they’re used, a powerful supervillain can offer a lot. As a villainous sidekick, they are given an identity, protection, and the ability to be a part of something greater than themselves.

“Villains sidekicks get the same kind of craving for power their supervillains do, but can only do it by basically giving up their own will. They get what they want in exchange for their service. It’s why so many of them end up as punching bags for their villains. They’ll put up with anything to keep their new identities.

“And finally, you have those who not only hate their powers, but despise them and everything that comes with them. Sometimes a person’s powers are very hard to control, possibly even turning on their wielder and causing them emotional distress or even physical harm. If these unstable super-people aren’t picked up by super-villains or find some other way of coping, they often do something very drastic.

“Some have been known to commit suicide. Others have gone stark raving mad and gone on rampages that have to be seen to be believed. The Vulture Lord and Carrion King were two that fell into this category. The former was active a few years ago; he could control avians, particularly vultures, but his control was linked to his emotions. Since he had a very troubled mind, things did not go well. If you will, recall the film The Birds. Imagine that, on a scale of a dozen square miles.”

Magenta was a big horror fan, and had forced us to watch more than one movie that had given Zack nightmares. That had been amongst them, and we all winced at the thought.

“Now, despite the fact that I don’t give tests in this class, I’m not permitted to have a paperless classroom. I would like you all to use the remainder of the period to begin drafting an essay on your own interpretations of power and its use in the superhero world…”

Zack would have groaned if Magenta hadn’t thumped him in the ribs. Ms. Olsen pretended not to see and rattled off the rest of the specifications, then retreated behind her desk so we could write. I noticed something odd that kept distracting me. Every few minutes someone’s head would snap up almost violently. They’d stare at our teacher for a few minutes, and then go back to their work. I wasn’t looking forward to my turn.

Your mind is not at all like your father’s, Mr. Peace, I heard a faint voice in my head. I snapped my own head up and glared at her, mentally bringing up the firewall again.

Then again, most children’s minds do not resemble their parents. It’s a conceit for them to think their children are anything like them, simply because they sprang from them.

Out of my head now, I thought very clearly. There was a faint pressure along with her mental voice, like someone was digging or prying, and it was far from comfortable. Not to mention I wasn’t interested in knowing the intimate details of the inner workings of my dad’s mind.

You’re fairly good at keeping your walls up. Only Miss Evans and Miss Patterson are better at it. Then again, women tend to be better at this kind of thing. And if you’re not going to let your walls down, make sure you put your ideas in this essay. I need to know your thoughts on the subject of power, one way or another.

You do realize that I’m going to be testing you on a regular basis, Mr. Peace. I sense no undue instability in you, but with your history and heritage, it’s going to be hard to convince others of that. I’m sure you’re well aware of all of this, but I have to make it my business to report the truth.

Reporting to whom? I thought back. This was a hell of a weird way to talk; I was getting faint pictures along with her words.

My superiors. The Bureau, of course. You’re the first offspring of a known villain to pass through Sky High. Considering what kind of damage your father did to the superhero community in general and your mother specifically, you can understand their caution. Most are greatly in favor of your entry into the superhero world, but some are still… wary.

I felt a flash of anger when she mentioned Mom, but stopped myself. You’re baiting me, I accused.

How easily are you swayed by my thoughts? You shouldn’t be at all. The opinions of another person mean nothing unless they have some power over you.

You’re a teacher, and you work for the Bureau. Call me crazy, but I think that puts you higher up on the power scale than a senior in high school, I thought back.

It’s good to know where I stand, then. I’m not going to try to hold you or your friends back Mr. Peace. It’s just that you will be facing the realities of superhero work far sooner than your friends. Unfortunately there are those within the Bureau, and even active heroes that will always be prying at you for weaknesses. You, of all people, cannot afford to show them that. You must show them you take responsibility for your power, always.

I gritted my teeth a bit and nodded, returning to my work. This class was going to be interesting… as about as interesting as an all-day Gauntlet run when Boomer was having a bad day.

No one else at school knew why we were all cramming into the auditorium during first period on Wednesday morning. The teachers were as mystified as the students, and the curious collection on stage of the principal and heads of the science, psychology, and physical education departments didn’t do much to enlighten them. The fact that my friends and I were sitting in the front row instead of with our classes also didn’t bode well. Anyone with half a brain could figure out that we hadn’t been in class for the last two weeks, and some people had to be wondering what we were up to.


Powers raised up her hands for silence as the last class filed in, and the hall monitors arranged at the doors nodded at her to signal that everyone was present and accounted for.

“I have a very important announcement to make to not only all of you students, but to the staff as well. I hope you will understand exactly why things have fallen out the way they have, and consider it with all due gravity.

“Royal Pain’s attack last Homecoming left a deep mark on the school. You’ve been working harder than you ever have before in response to that, and now it’s time to know the full truth behind the changes at Sky High. It wasn’t just it was time for a change, or to make you better heroes, though those were certainly part of it. It was to prepare you, to prepare you to fight against supervillains from Royal Pain’s Supervillain Academy.”

Whispers swelled in the auditorium, and Powers spoke again before they could gain any more momentum. The teachers in the audience looked shocked, even more so than the students, and some were starting to look a little pissed too.

“From the moment she left Sky High the first time until her defeat and capture last year, she had been building, funding, staffing, and recruiting for her academy. Pacifying Sky High last year was not the beginning of her plans, but the culmination of them. During her twenty-three years as Royal Pain, she made very extensive plans for her academy, including contingency plans to carry on in the event of her capture or death. Her academy is getting ready to graduate a whole class of supervillains in the spring. We’ve been preparing you to fight against them.

“Now, we know this because of the assistance of the three students that Royal Pain had recruited as minions. After Royal Pain’s capture, however, Lash, Speed, and Penny turned from allies to liabilities. In the past few months, two attempts have been made on their lives as part of a lethal graduation exercise from the academy.”

Gasps sounded around the auditorium, and a few people turned pale.

“In the attempts, Lash and Speed were poisoned and one of Penny’s clones was killed. We knew Royal Pain would make yet another attempt, a much more overt one, on this year’s Homecoming night. Due to the possibility of spies at Sky High, we could not put them under the protection of superheroes or even teachers. If we revealed we knew of the existence of the academy, they could attempt to step up their own program and launch attacks against you, the students, en masse. It was a difficult decision, but I asked students here at Sky High to defend Speed, Lash, and Penny.

“Some of you may have already figured this out, considering who’s been absent from class the past two weeks, but allow me to explain. I needed the best team for the job, a group with diverse talents and a close friendship, as well as some creativity and experience in real combat. There was only group that fit that description; the students that defeated Royal Pain last Homecoming: William Stronghold, Layla Evans, Magenta Patterson, Zachary Cramer, Ethan Howard, and Warren Peace.”

We stood up briefly when she called our names, but we didn’t wave or anything. It would have looked unforgivably arrogant, considering what this assembly was about. Louder whispers echoed around the auditorium, and most people were staring at us as if we had lost our minds. Well… being thought crazy was better than people hating us. I think.

“Last week, Royal Pain’s academy sent six of her students, as a group, to try to kill Speed, Lash, and Penny. I have some video of the event, so you can see the kind of opposition you’ll be up against. Royal Pain managed to recruit the children of supervillains, as well as finding several first generation super-powers to populate her school. These are the next generation of supervillains, and these are the people you’ll be most likely to go up against as heroes.”

Powers explained where the fight had taken place, and then started the tapes. She had edited what she could, but some parts had to be left in, otherwise there was no context. She talked about each of Cutter’s crew as they came up on screen, explaining what had happened to Will with Bloodtalon, how Layla was using her powers on Skybolt, Cutter’s teleporting, Ethan and Magenta’s attempts to get Bruin and Viper…

I didn’t watch the screen; I was half turned around in my seat, watching the rest of the students. People watching had become a hobby of mine before I had met Will and the gang. Being aware of my environment so people couldn’t try to sneak up on my to do anything stupid or cruel had become a habit I hadn’t bothered to break. I wasn’t the best at it, mostly because people were also very aware of me in return; I didn’t tend to blend into a crowd very well. But with people’s attention on the screen, I could get a pretty good gauge on what they were thinking of this whole situation.

And it wasn’t good. Nobody was panicking yet, but they weren’t going to accept this calmly either. Everyone had a little bit of fear on their faces; some were much worse off, particularly former Sidekicks. People actually cheered when Magenta stunned Bruin, but some were gasping in shock when Viper tagged her. Several of the stronger former Hero-students had looked particularly freaked out when Powers had described Bloodtalon’s attack on Will. I don’t think it had ever occurred to them before that they might be the primary targets in a fight.

People winced when Painbreaker tagged Zack, though several looked intrigued when they saw the light bomb-tactics we used to initially blind her and Cutter. I was thankful that Powers had cut out a lot of the audio portion of the tapes so she could talk over them. Whatever Layla had said to Will, for example, didn’t need to be broadcasted.

When some people actually screamed, I didn’t need to look at the screen to know they were watching the confrontation between Cutter and I. I swallowed hard as some people shot me shocked glances, actually pulling away from our group. If the teachers hadn’t been so adamant about students keeping their seats, some of the people in the rows behind us might have tried to move away. I turned to stare at the floor, and Magenta put her hand briefly on my shoulder in comfort. My hands and arms were heavy with heat-haze, and I took a second to exert enough control to power down, shooting Magenta a grateful glance. I think if I had powered up accidentally there might have been a panicked exodus.

Will’s dramatic punching out of Skybolt and crash through the roof to help rescue Zack and Magenta didn’t get nearly as much of a reaction, despite the fact that Skybolt had looked pretty bad after Will had gotten through with him. A super-strong punch delivered at super-sonic speeds was something to behold. But then again, anyone could punch someone, even if the results wouldn’t have been as spectacular. My own powers were a lot more flashy and distinctive, and the results looked a lot worse, even if the actual damage probably wasn’t even life threatening.

I had to force down a surge of raw envy towards Will. Even after the rage-inducement, people were still looking at him with a combination of sympathy and respect. Everyone else got sympathetic looks too, rather than the jealously I had been expecting. I realized they had seen most of us get our clocks cleaned and barely carrying the day. They were probably just grateful it hadn’t been them. Me, people were looking at with fear. More so than usual even. And of course, they hadn’t seen me get hurt, or help Magenta. Even Speed, Lash, and Penny looked a lot more self-sacrificing than I did on the tapes.

Well, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing now, isn’t it? Making people afraid of you? the practical part of my brain demanded. And besides, people are used to being scared of you, now it’s just a matter of degree. I kept staring at the floor, trying very hard to not do anything people would misinterpret. Like twitch in the wrong direction.

“Those are the kinds of people you will be going up against. Ruthless, violent, yet very much given to the same weaknesses that we have been teaching you about all along. Far too eager to talk, a little too easy to divide, and far less inclined to help each other. Royal Pain never understood the kind of willpower that drives heroes to their acts of courage, and those who teach at her academy never will. This is how we will beat them, by being heroes, because they cannot understand that we will always do what’s right, and we have the strength, not only in and of ourselves, but of our friends fighting by our sides, to win!

Ok, I was impressed. And so was the rest of the school, to judge by the spontaneous cheering that broke out. People were still afraid, but Principal Powers’ speech had given them a little heart back. I looked down the row, and to my surprise spotted Speed, Lash, and Penny, staring at Powers with stunned expressions on their faces. I guess they never thought they’d be praised for doing anything right… That had to be a new experience for them.

The cheering eventually died down as Powers signaled for quiet. Maybe there was something of a hysterical edge to the applause, but better that than a full-blown panic.

“We will be having parent-teacher conferences here in two days, after we break the news to the school board. I have no doubt this will be rather… difficult for the rest of the superhero community to accept. However, please do understand that this changes nothing here at Sky High. Even if you don’t like the fact that we kept this information from you, it does not change the fact that there will be a whole class of supervillains out there that will be coming for you. And they have been fed Royal Pain’s vendetta against Sky High, which gives them personal motivation to strike and strike hard at anyone who passes from our doors.

“Be wary, be ready, but we will get you prepared to face them. All you need do is be willing to put forth the good effort you have thus far, and you will prevail.”

Well, that silenced a lot of questions on peoples’ faces. Particularly those on the teachers’ faces. They didn’t like being left out of the loop, that’s for sure. The rest of the assembly went pretty smoothly, with a few quick questions from teachers and students both that silenced a lot of people’s accusations that Powers had been holding out on them. A few people were looking pretty rebellious, but there were a lot more with determination and purpose on their faces now. When Powers finally dismissed us all to get back to class, it was with the feeling that the school was not going to spontaneously combust from the effects of fear.

Our group, however, didn’t get too far. Powers gave us twenty minutes to get back to class, but made us linger in the auditorium for a bit, something that made me suspicious. My suspicions that were born out when, about five minutes later, nearly all of us were tracked down by small groups of people wanting to talk. Power Club presidents, I realized when Paul Fierre, the president of Pyro Club, flagged me down tentatively.

Power Clubs were organizations for those with similar powers and interests. For instance, Pyro Club was for those with fire powers. There were people in there that could make fire, control fire, shape fire, talk to fire, or turn into fire. It was supposed to help people develop their powers and learn more about their quirks. In previous years it was just a way for Hero students to unofficially audition potential Sidekicks. This year the Power Clubs had ended up forming the core of several super-teams.

I had had a standing invitation to join Pyro Club since my freshman year, but hadn’t bothered initially out of principle. And I hadn’t bothered after just out of spite. My dad had been in Pyro Club, therefore, I refused to join. I was probably one of the most powerful pyrokinetics in school, but Power Clubs were as much social clubs as scholastic groups. I didn’t even like most of the people in them; most of them were preppy, social-climbing jerks. Layla called them elitist, even though I knew she occasionally joined in some of Plant Club’s community service projects.

Paul Fierre wasn’t as bad as the last three presidents I had dealt with (I had to refuse their invitations to join in person before they’d believe me. And when I refused, I did so rather… spectacularly). He had taken my initial refusal at face value, and he didn’t do as much of the false smiling they all had. He didn’t try to pretend like we should be friends either, just because we both had fire powers.

His own power was pyromancy, divination through fire. It might have landed him in the Sidekick class; except he had accurately predicted the powers of everyone in the gym during Power Placement, including people he had never met before. And he predicted every car-drop and panel-pop Boomer had tried to pull on him. Boomer had been impressed against his will, and Paul had gone into Hero class.

“Warren! Hey, I had some questions for you, if you wouldn’t mind,” he asked, looking absolutely serious. Though Paul didn’t keep a smile plastered on his face like his predecessors, he usually kept up a cheerful demeanor.

“What?” I asked shortly. I had no idea what he could be wanting from me. Or what any of the other presidents wanted from the rest of us.

“Look, a lot of us seniors… had a lot of trouble adapting when we started these groups at the beginning of the year. I mean; our groups ended up being half Sidekicks, er, rather, former Sidekicks. Principal Powers insisted on that, that we had to integrate our teams. And um… well, we haven’t been doing so well in our Gauntlet runs. But obviously you have, and you have four former Sidekicks in your group. And they’re obviously doing great for you-,” he said breezily, waving his hands as he tried to make some kind of point.

I hadn’t even realized that there had been rules about the composition of the super-teams. But when I thought about it, it made sense. The Hero/Sidekick division was still very much with everyone, even though we were slowly trying to move away from that mentality. If people had been left totally on their own to form super-teams, some would have been all Hero-students, and other would have ended up being all Sidekicks. And the Sidekick groups would probably have ended up failing their Gauntlet runs and possibly getting killed out there in the real world.

That, obviously, would not look good for the new system. But former Hero-students apparently just didn’t grasp the concept of trying to find ways to make their former Sidekick teammates’ powers fit in and be useful. Our group hadn’t had any issues with the power level of our group, because we were already half Sidekicks. And we hadn’t had issues with our Gauntlet runs because Ethan had been making training programs for all of us.

It was making me a little angry though, that Paul was going on like I had the rest of the group under my thumb. Probably assuming that just because I was a senior (not to mention a senior pyrokinetic, he was a bit of a power snob) I was in charge.

“Why aren’t you talking to Coach Boomer if you’re having problems?” I asked when he took a breath. He might not be as falsely positive as some, but Paul still had the tendency to babble like a brook.

“Um, well, I was thinking that perhaps, if you like, my group could go up against yours, and maybe you could give my Sidekicks a few tips. Get their confidence up a bit. I mean; your Sidekicks were doing so well on those tapes…” he trailed off a bit as I smiled a very small evil smile. Paul might mean well, but he was an arrogant ass. And he was going to get his team very dead with that attitude. Powers said we had fans; that people looked up to us. That gave us power, but this was power I wasn’t afraid to use, Ms. Olsen’s lecture notwithstanding. It was time for an attitude adjustment.

“It’s not my group. It’s Stronghold’s group. If you want to schedule Gauntlet time, you talk to him,” I said with a straight face. He looked from me to Stronghold in shock.

Will Stronghold is your team leader? He’s just a sophomore!” Paul exclaimed in shock.

“He’s the one that defeated Royal Pain. And he’s the most powerful kid in the school,” I pointed out with patient logic. It took Paul a second to wrap his mind around that concept. “And if you want your… Sidekicks to get better training…” I suddenly had an idea, a very wicked idea. “Hey Popsicle! Do you have a minute?”

Ethan looked over at me and waved, and politely extricated himself from two other presidents, from Water Club and Amorphous Club I thought.

When Ethan walked over to me, I introduced him to Paul and gave him a quick, unseen wink before we started talking.

“How much did you charge us for those training programs you made for all of us?” I asked him. Ethan was a little confused, he knew I was up to something, but I hadn’t had time to brief him on my little idea. He was smart though; I knew he’d figure it out.

“Paul needs some help training his Sidekicks,” I said carefully. I saw the lightbulb go off in Ethan’s head, and his smothered a grin as he got it.

“Oh, those. Um… twenty dollars… I think,” he said tentatively.

“I thought it was forty, I mean, after we started doing the group Gauntlet runs…”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. The full training program for a month was forty,” he said with more conviction, nodding firmly at Paul.

You did all the training programs? I… Well, I see. Ah… then on behalf Pyro Club, and of my own group and Anita Vernandez’s group, could I hire you to make some programs for us? I… think we need some individual time getting our… kinks worked out before we go up against your group,” he said a little hesitantly, though he stuck out his hand for Ethan to shake. The look on his face was priceless; he was so absolutely flabbergasted that little Ethan was responsible for our training…

Ethan shook hands with him to seal the deal, and then wrote out his phone number and e-mail address for Paul on a scrap of paper. We both waited until Paul briefly talked to Will, and then finally left the auditorium before breaking down laughing. Everyone else shot us weird looks, particularly the remaining presidents; I don’t think they had ever seen me laugh before.

“Awesome idea Warren,” Ethan said when he could breathe again.

“You don’t have to do it, let him figure out his own plans,” I told him, still snorting a bit.

“Oh no, I’m going to do it. Have you seen anyone else’s scores for their Gauntlet runs? I have, I try to keep up on all of them. Ours in the highest, and that’s really scary, considering how little experience we have,” he informed me. I got over the rest of my laughter in a hurry, and looked at Ethan a little oddly.

“Seriously?” I asked, even though it was very clear Ethan was telling the truth.

“Seriously. And if they pay for my programs, I think they’ll be more likely to pay attention and use them. Thanks for suggesting it by the way; I think I would have done it for free if you hadn’t said anything. They really do need the help. I think it’ll make them better heroes too.” With that Ethan gave me a wave and went back off to the other two people he had been talking to.

Is it actually possible to outsmart yourself? I thought as the rest of our group convened ten minutes later. The presidents had finally trailed out of the auditorium, and Will had a weird expression on his face, somewhere between smug and astonished.

“I think I just filled up our Gauntlet time for the next two weeks,” he said, sounding a little dazed. “I have groups from Strength Club, Flight Club, Electric Club… nearly everyone that was here!”

“Pyro Club’s going to want to get into the act too, once Ethan finishes with their training programs,” I added. Ethan took a second to explain that, much to everyone’s amusement.

“Was there anyone who wasn’t here? Those are the people I’d be worried about,” Magenta pointed out.

“Umm… I don’t think anyone from Psychic Club was here, Acid Club, Deceiver Club, or umm… Real-Shifter Club,” Layla said after a second. Psychic Club and Acid Club were pretty self-explanatory. Deceiver Club was those that had powers to confuse, like Rob, the Carbon-Copy Kid from Will’s class, or others that could create illusions or cloud memories. And Real-Shifter Club was a tiny club of those that could transform themselves or others into non-living things.

Some of the clubs were very tiny and very specific, but as long as you had at least five members, you could claim you had a club. Some kids considered being in a Power Club or two as a mark of status, no matter what type, so there were a truly ridiculous amount of them. The fact that we were only missing four (and maybe a few others from the really obscure end of the spectrum) was pretty impressive.

“Eek. If Psychic Club decides to get mad at us… that could be really, really, really bad,” Will said, looking worried.

“I hear you there, man,” Zack said with a shake of his head. “We could all end up going-.” Zack made a circling gesture near his temple in the sign for crazy.

“So, we go find them and make nice,” Magenta said impatiently. “Powers said a lot of people are looking up to us. If they aren’t, then they probably think we’re a bunch of stuck-up teacher’s pets.”

“And we can’t afford dissention in the ranks once we graduate,” Ethan pointed out, straightening his glasses.

“Yeah, crap from school tends to stick with you,” I offered. As I, and the rest of them, have reason to know.

“I have no problem making nice,” Will said hurriedly, putting up his hands to stop our half-formed protests.

“Yeah, and after that we have to go kick some senior butt in the Gauntlet!” Zack said enthusiastically.

Yup, definitely possible for him to outsmart himself. On an hourly basis, I thought with amusement.



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