Blades & Barriers: Chapter 10

                Bayou struck first, vines whipping out from his body at both Bloodfyre and Unseelie. While the Wayward Wraiths leader dodged out of the way, Bloodfyre met the attack head on, his burning red energy flaring up and shaping into a wall. As the vines collided with his shield, they began to dissolve, falling to the ground in dead clumps that resembled wet ash.

                “Bloodfyre is the least surprising of the lot; with him what you see is pretty much what you get.” Angela was standing between Brett and Justin, speaking loud enough to be heard without actively shouting. “The energy he creates is corrosive by nature, albeit not to him. The intensity of how destructive it is can be altered based on what he wants, and while it can’t corrode other energy attacks it does stop them. So he can use it as a shield if we need an extra blocker, or attack with it if we’re going on the offensive. Supers with enhanced endurance can withstand the energy for longer than normal folks, but given enough time he could theoretically wear down almost anyone. The effects are pretty gruesome though, which is probably why he went for the full-on scary Hero persona. It’s hard to be family friendly with the kind of corpses he leaves behind.”

                From Bloodfyre’s back, the energy took on the shape of two giant hands, both of which surged forward trying to snare Bayou in their grasp. At the same time, the shield coming from Bloodfyre’s hand shifted in Unseelie’s direction, putting a barrier between himself and any surprise attacks she might try to launch.

                Despite his bulk, Bayou easily darted out of the way from Bloodfyre’s attack. As Brett watched more carefully, he realized that vines had spread out all over the area near Bayou, and they seemed to be jerking him in whatever direction was needed. It was no wonder he was able to relocate so quickly.

                “Bayou is where things get a little trickier,” Angela continued. “I’m sure you both thought he was a shifter, I did too, but we all just watched him get into costume so that’s obviously not true. As it turns out, Bayou is a plant manipulator. Now while he’s no Overgrowth, her power was insane even by our standards, his capabilities are still pretty impressive. Those vines come from seeds that he keeps tucked all over his suit, ones that he wills into sprouting and growing on command. What’s more, all of them have different capabilities, and he’s working on creating even more varieties all the time.”

                Bayou sent another set of vines toward Bloodfyre, but these didn’t hit his shield. Instead, they stopped a few feet away, and before his eyes Brett saw purple flowers suddenly bloom on the vines’ ends. Thick yellow dust began to shoot from each flower, and Bloodfyre immediately shifted to defense, eroding the dust particles before they had even the slightest chance of making contact with him.

                “Poison?” Justin asked.

                “More or less. He uses those for suppression. Apparently the toxins wreak havoc on the neurological system.  It’s temporary, and the damage can be healed, but from what I’ve heard it still hurts like all hell. There are other flowers as well, ones with more permanent effects. Obviously he’s not busting those out in a training demonstration though.”

                Brett’s eyes left Bayou and Bloodfyre, darting to Unseelie, who had skirted to the side of the battle. The tips of her hands were gleaming as she circled around, using their momentary distraction to find an opening to strike. From what Brett could recall, the media called those her Frost Nails, a cute term for putting impossibly sharpened ice on her fingers to act as claws.

                “I expected her to jump into the fray already,” Brett said.

                “She’s holding back for both of your sakes, dumbass,” Angela told him. “Once she goes in, the fight will be a lot more hectic. This way she allowed your teachers to show their stuff a little. But from the looks of her stance, I’d say the side-lining is almost- and there she goes.”

                Midway through Angela’s explanation Unseelie had bolted forward, racing toward Bayou. Before she made it within five feet of him, the vines whipped out from his shoulders and circled around her. They quickly closed in, only to begin falling as she sliced through them with those razor-sharp claws. However, while she dealt with the more obvious threat, Brett saw more vines snaking covertly along the ground. Unseelie made it one step closer, when suddenly the ground vines burst upward, wrapping themselves around her legs and pinning her in place.

                “I suppose this is where she freezes the plants around her?” Justin didn’t sound terribly sure of his own theory, and he seemed to be leaning forward as if he were scared to miss a detail.

                “She probably would, if she had ice powers,” Angela agreed. “But that’s just a rumor she feeds the media so that no one figures out her real ability.”

                “It sure looks like ice powers, what with the frosty nails she’s using to hack away at Bayou’s vines,” Brett pointed out.

                “Looks can be deceiving. The truth is, Unseelie is a material manipulator,” Angela said. “She’s just among the top-tier of that type of Super. The kind that can not only shape, control, and alter her material, but also take on characteristics of it.”

                Unseelie stared down at the vegetative wrappings keeping her in place, then looked over to Bloodfyre, who was already conjuring more energy to press his attack. With a shake of her head that seemed more like annoyance than worry, she reached around to her back and pulled out a large blade that seemed to be made entirely of gleaming ice.

                “Dang, she didn’t want to draw that. Unseelie has been trying to work more on her claw techniques, since those are easier to use covertly.” Angela held up her own hands, which had suddenly sprouted identical fingernail coverings to Unseelie’s save that these were made of golden metal. “Have to admit, I’ve given them a try as well, but I still have to use my armory if I want to get results in the field.”

                The blade in Unseelie’s hand seemed to ripple, and as she swung it down the whole thing stretched out like a whip, racing along the vines and easily chopping them to pieces. With her legs free, she resumed her assault. Unlike before, Bayou’s attacks didn’t even slow her down. Some of the vines had sprouted thorns that dripped with a viscous substance that was almost certainly poison, yet all they did was bounce harmlessly off her skin, which Brett realized had begun to twinkle slightly, like sunlight over fresh snow.

                “What the hell kind of material does she manipulate if not ice?” The question was spoken more for himself than the others, however Angela still answered all the same.

                “Diamonds. She’s a diamond manipulator.”

                Unseelie ducked a swing from Bloodfyre’s burning energy and delivered a firm kick to his midsection. Her boot was turned to more clumpy ash in seconds, however her sparkling foot remained unblemished as it landed just below Bloodfyre’s ribs. At the same time, she used the dagger-whip to slice through the air, taking off the vast majority of Bayou’s tentacles before the tip came to a stop mere inches away from his temple.

                “I think that will do for now,” Unseelie announced, drawing her weapon back to its original shape. “Interns, I hope you paid attention to our battle, but at the same time please understand that this was a demonstration of our basic capabilities and nothing more. You’ll need to see us in real fights to get a true sense of how we work and what we’re able to accomplish. For example, had this been a true fight to the death then Bloodfyre would have easily won, as he could fill the whole room with his energy and take us all down at once. The HCP is behind you, and while you still need to keep a careful hand, lethal attacks are something you need to prepare for. Both to endure, and to dispense, as the situation demands.”