Chapter 43

               As Owen and Granite got situated in the center of the room, the others pulled off to stand behind a clear barrier that had been erected in one of the corners. While each was probably capable of handling themselves in a fight, there was no need to take silly chances. After all, when two strongmen went after each other, there was bound to be some shrapnel and collateral damage.

                “Listen, before we get started, you’re basically invulnerable to raw force attacks, right?” Owen whispered. The censors should bleep out any discussion of power weaknesses in the video feed, just as they would an identity slip, but it never hurt to be extra cautious with this sort of information.

                “Worried you won’t be able to hurt me?” Granite asked.

                “No, I’m trying to make sure I won’t accidently kill you.” There was no taunting in Owen’s voice, no signs of trash-talking. He was being as sincere as he could possibly be, because if Granite was hiding a secret weakness then this minor annoyance could turn tragic all too quickly.

                The rocky face stared at him for a long moment, reading the big man’s intentions. When he spoke again, it was in a softer voice. “If you’re just throwing punches and kicks I’ll be fine. Breaking the rocks apart, even turning them to dust, that doesn’t stop me from regenerating. As long as you’re not hiding a way to actually destroy them, I can take whatever you dish out.”

                “Thanks. That’s a big relief,” Owen said. He still couldn’t exactly run wild in an enclosed space like this, but now it meant he wouldn’t have to be extra dainty. Given the size and density of Granite, he wasn’t sure he could have pulled that off in the first place.

                “Whenever you’re both ready, the room is clear,” Gale called from her corner. Ostensibly it was her letting them know they were safe to proceed, but in reality it was her way of telling them to get the damn show on the road.

                “You good to go?” Granite asked.

                “Ready when you are,” Owen confirmed.

                Granite gave a nod, then stood up tall and began to speak to those watching on the other end of the cameras.

                “We will now commence the offense portion of the power assessment. Titan’s goal is to break through my durable body as much as possible, incapacitating me if he’s able. This portion of the assessment will be timed, lasting only two minutes. Since this is purely testing his destructive potential, I will not be fighting back. If, at any point, I feel I am in genuine danger, I am allowed to call ‘stop’ and the assessment will be halted. Titan, are you ready?”

                “Hell yes,” Titan replied, giving his knuckles a good cracking for emphasis. A little showmanship wouldn’t be such a bad idea here and there.

                “Then let the assessment begin!”

                The words were scarcely out of Granite’s mouth when Titan’s first punch connected. It was a straightforward jab, directly to the massive slab of rock that constituted Granite’s torso. There was barely time to register what had happened before the several tons of stone that composed Granite’s body were hurled backward, slamming into the wall with enough to force to crack both it and Granite.

                “Holy shit,” Spring said, eyes widening as one of the strongest, heaviest Supers she knew got chunked across the room. “That’s a hell of a punch.”

                “We’ve always known Titan was strong,” Gale said, working hard to keep her tone neutral. “It’s part of what he’s renowned for.”


                As she spoke, Titan walked over to the wall where Granite was pulling himself back into a standing position. The big stone man had barely gotten to his feet before he felt another blow to his torso. He was pinned against the wall as Titan drove his fingers forward, burrowing each digit into Granite’s chest.

                “This doesn’t hurt you, right?” Titan asked.

                “Well it doesn’t feel like a fucking Thai massage.” Granite winced, more at the language than discomfort. Even though it would be bleeped, the bleep would still be there, and Gale was going to ride his ass hard for swearing on camera.

                “Just cry uncle if it gets too bad.” Titan lifted the stone giant up, using his drilled grip on the torso, and began slamming him violently into the wall, over and over as concrete and pieces of Granite rained down at his feet. He kept this up for nearly half a minute, then flung his fractured opponent across the room, slamming him into another wall.

                “Okay… that kind of sucked,” Granite coughed out. Even as his body reshaped itself, he could see Titan’s approaching footsteps. “Credit where it’s due: those stories about you weren’t all talk. You hit pretty freaking hard.”

                Titan grabbed Granite’s leg, gripping so hard that cracks shot through it. “Hitting hard isn’t that big of a deal. Lots of Supers can do it. What makes a good fighter is how well you think through your battles. Also, and I say this as nicely as I can, you haven’t even seen me hit hard yet.”

                With that, he swung the massive stone Super over his shoulder like he was doing little more than throwing a sack of flour; smashing Granite into the floor. Like with the wall earlier, he continued the assault for some time, creating all manner of craters and debris in the previously immaculate floor. Eventually the leg came off in Titan’s hands, so he went back to pummeling Granite’s torso across the walls, then changed it up a few seconds later.

                At long last, Gale’s voice rang through the training arena. “Time’s up!”

                Titan stopped mid-blow, standing up and giving a small bow to his opponent. Then he handed back the stone arm that he’d been using to attack Granite’s head. Granite accepted the appendage begrudgingly, pulling himself slowly back together now that the onslaught had finally ceased.

                “You really don’t go halfway with your attacks, do you?” Granite asked.

                Titan flashed him a smile that made Granite feel uneasy in the pit of his reforming stomach. “You might be surprised. Maybe one day you’ll see me in a not-so-friendly environment.”

                “Well, I hope you can get as well as you give,” Granite said. “Defense is next, and I know who you’re going against.”

                “Let me guess: Gale.”

                “Ha! You wish,” Granite said, shaking his large rocky noggin. “No such luck, old man. We’re putting you against our heaviest damage dealer. You have to survive Birdsman.”