Blades & Barriers: Chapter 19

                “Okay Bloodfyre, that’s enough.” Moments after Unseelie’s voice rang out through the training room, the red energy swirling all around Brett vanished. For the first time in several minutes, he could see clearly, and the first sight he caught was Bloodfyre standing a few feet away, sweat glistening on his forehead. Evidently sustaining his power for that long took a serious toll. It was either that, or Brett hadn’t realized how much energy his mentor had been using.

                “Barrier, you can drop your shield as well. Take a breather before the next bout. Dwight, do a heal on Barrier and Bloodfyre please.” Unseelie nodded to the man wearing an almost identical suit to Danny’s, although without the constant smile on his face, who immediately walked over to Bloodfyre and put a hand on his shoulder.

                At first, Brett had tried to resist the healing between tests. He’d worked hard on his stamina and was perhaps a bit prideful about it; Brett could sustain his shield for hours if needed. But as time wore on and they threw more and more at him, he’d seen the wisdom in taking the restoration when it was offered. The point of today was to test how much his shield could withstand at its best, not how long he could keep it working for, and testing that thoroughly meant he needed to be in tip-top shape. Dwight was a slight fellow with droopy eyes, but the man’s ability to heal was top-notch. Not only did he take away physical damage, he also left everyone he touched feeling like they’d just taken a long, relaxing nap and awoke feeling refreshed. Evidently the caveat was that Brett would sleep like the dead when he finally passed out, but for the moment the healing left him energized. While these DVA assets might not be as strong as Heroes, Brett was beginning to realize they were plenty capable.

                “So it looks like you can’t break through either,” Unseelie told Bloodfyre. Her tone was surprisingly detached, almost annoyed, really. Brett wondered if perhaps she wasn’t too fond of seeing her team fail to put even a dent in some lowly intern. “That makes a full torrent of bullets from Hammerspace, every poison and thorn Bayou could conjure, some slices from me and my sharpest blades, and one laser cannon we borrowed from Gearbox. None of it managed to get through or even move him back.”

                “My shield is hard to move against my will.” Brett wasn’t entirely sure what the etiquette for speaking out of turn was, however given that this was ostensibly about gathering information on his ability, it seemed prudent to offer up whatever he knew. “I don’t think it bonds with the ground or anything, I can still plant myself on rough terrain and rubble. It just stays put.”

                Unseelie and Bloodfyre exchanged a brief look, then Bloodfyre glanced to Brett. “That’s something we’ll look into later on, because it might be pretty damn useful. I have to say, Barrier, your shield is really living up to its reputation. By the end of that match, I was putting everything I had into breaking through and you didn’t seem bothered at all.”

                “My gift isn’t especially versatile, but it is strong,” Brett replied.

                “No question about that.” Unseelie picked up a small clipboard from the ground and ran her finger along its surface. “With Bloodfyre done, the next one up is supposed to be Panic, but she’s working with Gunk in the other room right now. Plus we’ll want to give Barrier a chance to change after that. Danny, any word from our guest?”

                “Last update came during Bloodfyre’s attack. Looks like he’s been dropped off and Hammerspace is showing him inside. Should be here in a couple of minutes, at the most.”

                “Alright then, everyone take a brief break. I’m going to check in on Bayou and Gunk to see how their assessment is going.” With that, Unseelie took her clipboard and walked out of the room. Danny and Dwight both fell into polite conversation, so Brett took the opportunity to approach Bloodfyre.

                “Am I doing well? Unseelie doesn’t seem especially happy about all the attacks I’ve been able to stop.”

                Bloodfyre’s forehead crinkled, and moments later a small, sharp laugh escaped his lips. “Sorry, I’ve been working with her for so long sometimes I forget how she comes off to new people. Don’t worry, Barrier, you’re putting on a great showing. So far you’ve proven immune to every physical attack we can throw at you, and that’s saying a lot. We’re not a team known for our gentle touch. Unseelie is just worried because she likes to know everything, including the breaking points of her team members. Not knowing how much your shield can take scares her, because she’s afraid she’ll ask too much of you. If that happens, you could get seriously hurt, or even killed, so Unseelie isn’t going to be content until she knows your limits or is convinced they’re so high it’s a moot point.”

                That made sense, and it certainly lined up with the speech Unseelie had given the day prior. Trust and knowledge appeared to be the cornerstones of her leadership philosophy. In spite of the seemingly chaotic way she charged into battle, at least from the videos Brett had seen, Unseelie appeared to be far more analytical than Brett would have expected.

                “I’m happy to cooperate as much as I can, but what I said yesterday was the truth: my shield has never been broken. My dad’s either. I don’t know what can crack them, if anything even can,” Brett said.

                “It’s fine. Your power is what it is, and what it is seems damn amazing to me.” Bloodfyre clapped Brett roughly on the back. “Unseelie probably won’t let it go, she’ll keep bringing in other Heroes to see how your ability interacts with theirs, but I have a hunch that after this next test, she’ll at least be comfortable using you in a physical capacity.”

                The door opened once more, and Unseelie stepped through, followed closely by Hammerspace. Behind them was another figure who had to stoop slightly to fit through the door. At the sight of him, Brett felt his stomach tense. It was a silhouette and costume that were impossible not to recognize, not for a boy who’d grown up immersed in the lore of Heroes and certainly not for anyone who’d seen the news since last year. Were they serious? Did Unseelie really want to find his limits that badly?

                “Barrier, Bloodfyre, Danny, Dwight, allow me to introduce you to our guest.” Unseelie gestured to the massive slab of walking muscle, as though there were any way they hadn’t noticed him already. “This is Titan, currently a team member of the Gentle Hammers, and he has graciously agreed to come and assist us with Barrier’s training.”

                Titan lifted a massive hand and gave a brief wave to everyone in the room. “Nice to meet you all.”