Though it was easy to forget them, the GHH hired not only heroes, but typical office workers - amongst which were job interviewers, in charge of evaluating the aforementioned heroes. Blandine LeJeune, the petite, wrinkled brunette sitting at her desk, like every weekday morning, was one of them. Though it was the first day of July, the sky was grey and morose.
She worked in a crowded office with such a limited budget that it had been judged acceptable to let interviewees show off their abilities in the same room they had their actual interview. "The risks were laughable, compared to the costs - the numbers say so!" It was all about statistics and figures and ratios and quotas ; ultimately the occasional half-repairs cost them less than having a proper room for tests, so they brushed aside any counter-arguments. The GHH believed more in testing aptitudes on the field anyway, hiring now and firing later should it come to light they weren’t up to snuff after all. Simplistic, rushed interviews were well enough.
LeJeune had three meetings scheduled between 8 and 9 ; two sixteen-year-old girls, former classmates who'd graduated together, and an unrelated boy of the same age. Their schools had provided files for each of them, as was standard procedure - the first page of which was a straight to the point profile ; full name, ability name and description, other skills, notable flaws and their grade average standing in for a rank.
The one thing these sheets never came with, however, was photos ; an omission that, over time, had become her game at work - when the kid came in, Blandine would try and guess which of the files was theirs, solely based on appearances. Today would be especially easy ; 50/50 chance for the girls, whose profiles were starkly different.
The first of the two entered. Instantly, LeJeune called her bet ; Catherine Yuu, the C rank. It was blatant how uptight she was ; whereas an S or A student would comfortably pass any interview without even trying, anyone who knew themselves or their ability to be lacking would be on their best behaviour - exactly like that girl. Every inch of her face had been forcefully stretched ; foundation was brushed all over her toffee skin in little patches, hiding imperfections so thoroughly that she looked unnaturally clear-skinned. Her haircut a business square, freshly cut the day before, brushed flat until not a single strand of hair stood out of from block. Her expression was strikingly symmetrical too ; An anxious, overbitten, V-shaped smile, stretching just a little too high - and eyes open so wide that her grey irises drowned out her pupils, giving her a haunted, panicked look. Her eyebrows seemed taped in place. Blandine could tell just how much effort the girl put into keeping up this uncomfortable getup. She looked so focused that she was probably holding in her own sweat. Not just a C-rank ; an overcompensating one.
Catherine mechanically walked towards the desk, and sat at the designated plastic chair in front of the desk, immediately shoving her hands in between her thighs, as though trying to asphyxiate them - all the while her cheeks puffed out and blushed, as though she herself was lacking air. ‘Well, won’t this be quick’, LeJeune figured. ‘5 minutes of mumbling, a ‘We’ll call you’, and done with’.
- Hello!” Aw, what a cute voice. Maybe she did have a chance. Interviews were strictly regulated, always cut into three sections. First, the candidate introduced themselves - it served to see how they handled themselves. Second, they showed off their ability in a predetermined test. Third, a back-and-forth between LeJeune and whatever twerp she happened to be cooking up - often turning out to be the most boring part of an already boring process, punctuated with ‘Well’s, ‘Um’s, and the repetition of what their introduction. The only entertaining part was the second ; in her four years of working for the GHH, the petty woman had witnessed plenty of catastrophic mishaps. From a kid whose ability was "singing a soothing lullaby to put opponents to sleep" who had shrieked at such high decibels that the windows cracked, walking out not only not getting the job but with a damage fee ; to another whose ability to rot away plants had somehow been so messed up by their stress that they had instead greyed away all of LeJeune’s hair (her contract covered that risk, so she was compensated). It was unlikely anything like that would happen this time, however ; ‘Heavily limited temperature manipulation’. It appeared those limitations had more to do with Catherine herself than her ability.
”Introduce yourself.” LeJeune started a countdown on her phone, hidden from view under her desk such that nothing gave it away. Catherine started without hesitation. “My name is Catherine Yuu. I am a sixteen-year-old graduate from the Herring Heroic Private College, but I began my studies in District 17’s public GHH institute, wherein I studied from age four to age eight. Over the course of my student years, the grades I received were as follows : 18 Ss, 22 As, 57 Bs, -” She continued, speaking clearly yet unbelievably fast, for exactly three minutes - giving all of the recommended information in detail, within the ‘ideal speaking time’ defined by the higher-ups - and LeJeune knew all too well how often those recommendations changed. Good lord. The interviewer gulped, and shuffled through her papers to shove away her discomfort. She hated teacher’s pets… but she couldn’t just disobey procedures and turn them away out of spite. Her only remaining hope was for Catherine to trip on the second part of the interview, maybe set the succulents on fire. Sadly, no cacti were harmed ; Catherine performed admirably in heating up an ice cube to a mildly warm water, and answered the lowest handed of questions with the same aptitude and reactivity. The old woman was left to fulminate behind her desk, her opinion of the girl scrambling back and forth every other moment ; she ultimately decided to remember her as annoying. At least Catherine’s profile had made her seem like she could have been interesting ; that much couldn’t even be said about the next girl.
Junie Shards, born Jean Shards. Exemplary straight A student from Herring… that was about all. She entered ; honeyed skin, long, straight and reddish-blond locks, a juvenile but elongated face. She, too, looked excessively panicked, enough that had she come in first, the interviewer might’ve assumed she was Catherine. Sheesh, had schools gotten so hard on students that even As were this stressed? Perhaps it was just a trait of private hero academies. The tall, lean girl sat, and crossed her legs while putting on a silly, toothy smile - likely the best she could force out given the circumstances. She desperately looked at the woman behind the desk, with a pleading, terrified look in her eyes. Cute. Alright, maybe she wasn’t so bad either. “Hello, she said.
- H-Hello.” The first aspiration had been followed by a long silence, as if she’d never heard “Hello” before and just repeated whatever sounds she’d just heard. ‘She’d better not be one of those fish-eyed kids who spoke in short - clumps of - words space out by - needless silence...’ LeJeune held in the urge to gag by readjusting her round glasses. “Introduce yourself.
- O-Oh, okay! - I’m. - Junie! Junie, Shards. Yeah. I’m very motivated, and, - I’m
sixteen, and I - I studied in Herring,” The interviewer wanted to tear her hair out. By the end of that pity party of an introduction, the interviewer was scared to even look at the clock on her screen. Time for part two. She brushed the file over a second time. At least her ability seemed fun.
The user summons a sword-like beam of radiant, energy.
The blade disappears should xe let go of it. No other person can hold it.
It has shown capable of slicing 95% of tested materials. (see page 6 for details.)
It leaves burn marks along its cut.
No maximum usage time.
She envied the job of whoever was tasked with naming people’s abilities when they had them registered ; it seemed laid-back and entertaining, which was more than she could say about her own lot. The protocol she’d been given to test out Junie’s blade was simple. Throw a few throw-away pieces of rubbish into the room, measure Junie’s reaction times and efficiency in cutting them all in half in midair. It was similar to most abilities that involved shooting out projectiles or cutting things. Sometimes, debris fell on the crappy appliances around her office, breaking them for good and forcing the budget department to finally replace it ; therefore, LeJeune was quite fond of these kinds of abilities. She asked Junie to wait for her a moment, as she left through the back door to a communal storage room. She soon returned with a full cardboard box of needless junk. The second part of interviews almost always called for targets ; over time, the GHH had coined up ways to gather excessive amounts of junk - lost toys and clothing from schools, bits of broken furniture from run-down office buildings, or the confiscated belongings of imprisoned villains. Small warehouses housed it all in each of the GHH’s employment offices ; they were so full that one could have made quite the quick cash selling some of their contents - many tried. LeJeune had herself been tempted, but she’d seen too many of her colleagues try, fail and end up with their properties confiscated in turn, contributing to the vicious cycle of trash-theft, to even try.
The specific box that she picked up for Junie’s interview was nothing remarkable. Soft foam balls, sports balls, paper balls… lightweight, throwable things. Cocking her head to the side, she gestured to Junie to get into position, and began emptying the contents of the box into the air, pulling from her long lost memories of playing baseball as a child.
Immediately, it was as though Junie Shards had become a completely different person. The sword spawned in her hands at the speed of light, and she swung it across the room so precisely and so swiftly that the mesmerized interviewer couldn’t even see it - her eyes fixated instead on the consequence of the swings, an even number of half-spheres laying orderly on the floor, every ball cut in two symmetrical parts. Even as she threw in more and more targets, smaller and more misshapen over time, even a full plastic doll - the ace up her sleeve meant to trip the girl up - Junie didn’t break a sweat, or make a noise, or miss a beat. She performed perfectly, and the box was emptied in record time. It took her a good ten seconds to switch back to her nervous, clumsy girl self, blinking thrice out of her focus. “D-Did I do - well?” Oh, don’t even TRY that crap. LeJeune sighed in exasperation.
She barely tried with her questions, still caught up in Junie’s intensity - slashing everything thrown at her in a show of flashing lights… Abilities had long lost their lustre to Blandine, but every now and again, one of the kids she dealt with would reignite that old fascination. Didn’t make the job worth it, but it was something.
Finally, came time for the last interviewee of the hour, a boy named Felicio Shaw. He was an A from District 17. LeJeune scanned through his sheet ...oh. Well, that was unusual. He came in before she could finish reading further into his file. He casually strolled towards his chair, head cocked slightly forward. Finally some of the characteristic nonchalance she expected from As. Ironically, that insolent attitude helped relieve LeJeune of some of the envy and spite Junie’s awe-inducing ability had built up inside her. He was a relatively skinny and short, though still round young man, with a flat military cut, an open shirt and baggy pants, his left eyebrow shaved as per the trend, drawing further attention to his right eye. His toffee skin was smooth and lightly freckled ; His eyes, too, let that youthful, mischievous excitement show through. he would’ve looked no older than twelve, if not for his light hint of a stubbly moustache. “Hey!”, he opened, before she could even take the initiative. He’d set the tone for the rest of his interview ; He spoke without complex or care, clearly unaware of the actual quotas - lest he was purposefully avoiding them. Just as he made sure not to mention - well, ‘that’. Perhaps it was a sensitive subject - or he’d had to deal with it so long, he didn’t see it as something worth bringing up, not as big a deal as the sheet made it out to be. Either way. He was much more sympathetic than the previous two, and put the interviewer in a relatively good mood - for her standards, anyway, which were that of a woman that hadn’t smiled in half a decade.
When came the second part of the interview, however, he sunk in her esteem just as the other two had. Instead of entertaining her a bit, he just handed her an official document : the testification that he had, in fact, already passed this part of the interview back in his school. The GHH allowed for it, to accommodate kids in difficult situations. However, as it often led to cheating, it was made difficult to set up : families had to plan years before the graduation if they wanted their kid to pass the ability test early. Typically, only disabled or otherwise compromised students troubled themselves with it - and apparently, so had he, much to the interviewers’s frustration. She robbed the paper from his hand, mentally hissing at this casual smugness. Oh, she was going to ask him such stupidly specific questions to make up for that. His electric manipulation could’ve one shot that stupid flickering ceiling light and finally lead to it getting replaced, but no, he was just too much of a special snowflake to give her that much. Well fine. She wouldn’t hold back. He’d hate it.
“Name your three biggest qualities.
- Pre-planning, adaptability and reactivity, I reckon.”
- No such thing, miss. If there’s anything I’ve to work on, it’s self-reflection.” And the bastard thought he was funny, too. He was more exasperating than the previous two combined. She shot him a stare.
”Your profile indicates you were gravely injured in 12520, in a dispute between classmates, and were hospitalised as a result. You lost the use of your left eye and, temporarily, your ability. Have you completely recovered or do side effects remain? What of the other person involved?” His expression instantly darkened, to his interrogator’s silent satisfaction. He looked to the side, and retorted.
“My ability works and I can see fine. Just read over the report I gave you.” She let go. She didn’t actually care much.
”It states here you ‘use the toilet excessively.’
- Bladder problems… ain’t fun, but they-
- ‘haven’t proved a major issue within his school life.’
- ...Do you even actually need me to be here?” LeJeune didn’t bother to answer. The clock neared nine now ; she closed off the interview. As Felicio left the room, Blandine was further convinced of her life motto : Hating teenagers.