Chapter 45

               Elemental Fury followed Gale as she moved away from the barrier, spreading themselves out with each step. Birdsman’s summons floated back over to him, hovering a few feet above his head. Titan watched all of this with careful eyes, keeping track of as many Super’s positions as possible. By his guess, when things started, he wouldn’t have much margin of error to work in.

                “Clearly, you did well on the first two assessments,” Gale said. “Your strength and endurance are still renowned to this day. However, there is more to being a Hero than brute force. And there is more than one way to be taken down. For the last portion of your exam, I think we would like to see how you fare against a myriad of threats, ones you cannot simply punch your way through.”

                All five members of Elemental Fury were facing him, spread out in a three-quarters circle. When it came, it would be fast and coordinated. These weren’t a bunch of kids or amateurs, this was a seasoned team used to working with and relying on one another. Titan’s eyes quickly swept his surroundings. He’d done all the prep work he could; now what remained was to see if it would be enough.

                “So, to test how you think on your feet, we’ve decided to do the trial of AMBUSH!”

                Gale screamed the last word, and Titan dove toward the floor. He barely avoiding the blast of wind as his fingers raced across the ground. Quickly rolling to his feet, he looked up to see where the next attack was coming from. Unfortunately, it was at exactly that moment that his world went black. There was no light, no shapes, not even so much as a spec of movement, despite the sounds of motion he could clearly hear around him.

                The darkness meant he wasn’t able to see the next of Gale’s attacks, which struck him in the chest and lifting him off his feet. No sooner was he in air than the humming clatter of footsteps filled his ears. Spring was racing around him, and Titan’s mind flashed back to the sash she wore that clashed with her outfit. He thrust his right arm up in the air, barely avoiding it being wrapped up as Spring turned his legs, left arm, and torso into a tightly coiled cocoon. The she was gone, and in her place came the thundering sound of wind screaming in his ears. He was being lifted off the ground; up into the air, by what he could only assume was a localized tornado.

                Blind, bound, and stuck up in a tornado. He had to hand it to Gale: this was a damn good way to neutralize a strongman. Any single one of these could have slowed one, all three together was going to bring down almost anyone with that power set.

                “According to the rules of this trial, if Titan is held for a consecutive minute, then it is over.” Gale didn’t bother saying words like “win” or “lose” since no one technically won an assessment. Besides, there was no need to. If he hung in the air like a trussed pig for all the world to see, there would be a very clear winner here, and it wasn’t him.

                “Feel free to struggle,” Gale said, the wind carrying her whispered words directly to his ears. “It will make for a better show. Fair warning through, that cloth of Spring’s was taken off a tech-genius, and it can hold back a charging elephant. Even if you slip free, you’ll still be blind and suspended in the air. You’ve lost, Titan.”

                “You know, if I’m being perfectly honest, I really wish I could,” Titan said. “I’ve got nothing against you all, really I don’t. Sadly, I can’t roll over today. Too many criminals out there watching, waiting to see if they should be afraid of me or not. And, however small the chance might be, there’s also the possibility that my boys will see this. Sorry Gale. Really I am.”

                Titan didn’t know if the words would reach her, he had no power that let him transmit speech through tornados. All he could do, all he’d ever been able to do, was hit harder than everyone else. Of course, that didn’t mean he hadn’t picked up a few other tricks about how to do that well.

                First, and worst, was the cloth. He really hoped Spring had a way to repair it, because otherwise he was going to feel downright guilty about what was necessary. That’s what happened when you brought tools into battle, though. Titan stretched his limbs, slowly spreading the fabric apart. He was as gentle as he could be, but the sound of a metallic ripping still reached his ears once or twice. There was definitely some angry shouting coming from the ground as it fell away from him, that much he could tell.

                Next came the wind. If it were an advanced mind he was facing, he’d have been in a much worse position, but tornados were easier to handle. Gale couldn’t just grab and hold him up like someone with telekinesis. She had to buffet him with wind, which was inherently imprecise. Sure, if he were constrained it was doable, but once he was free it was different ballgame. Titan stuck out his limbs, catching different parts of the winds that sent him spinning about. His rotation increased as his stability fell; he was jerking and dancing about in the tornado, bobbing up and down rapidly. Gale struggled to maintain control, to keep him centered, but after a few seconds the inevitable happened: Titan’s hand made contact with the ceiling. As soon as he felt the rough concrete, he punched, sending him hurtling through the air, across the room, and out of Gale’s hurricane.

                Though he hadn’t planned on it, this surprise thrust also had the added bonus of moving him faster than Misdirection’s illusion could keep him blinded. Titan landed hard, but quickly scanned the room. The large black orb that had been wrapped around his head was making a beeline for him. It was fast as thought, just not fast enough. As soon as Titan saw Misdirection, he reared back his right arm, the one he’d filled with debris when he first dove to the ground, and threw it at her. It would be hard enough to bruise and bleed, but he hoped he’d held back enough not to seriously injure her.

                Misdirection let out a yelp of pain as the rocks struck and her focus was shattered. The rest of Elemental Fury faced their opponent, uncertainty creeping into their faces for the first time since he’d stepped in the room. The man who was supposed to already be out of the fight was standing there, unharmed, with his eyes unwaveringly trained on them. Despite the politeness he’d shown them, each felt a kernel of fear form in their gut.

                These five weren’t the first to find themselves sensing their mortality as they stared down a man who was called unstoppable. It was instinct, the kind that lived in the primitive part of their brain and told them when they’d drawn the attention of something far more dangerous than them. It was old, it was impossible to ignore, and most of all it was correct. They were right to be afraid.

                Titan’s counter-attack had begun.