Chapter 48

              The small pieces of debris near Titan’s foot began to move first, followed by the larger chunks as the wind picked up. Across the room, he saw the others pulling in the clear barrier and attaching it to the wall. Whatever Gale was conjuring up, her own team knew enough to take precautions, which meant it was likely to be a doozy.

                “You’re powerful, more powerful than I expected, I’ll give you that.” Gale wasn’t bothering to use her wind-whispering or whatever she’d done when he was in the tornado. She belted these words through the air, for all those watching at home to hear. “But you’re reckless; you take too many chances that could get people hurt.”

                “No disrespect meant, but sometimes we have to take risks to get the job accomplished. It’s not something I do lightly; it’s just something that occasionally has to be done.” Titan noticed that the fervor of the wind was still increasing; he’d had to raise his voice mid-way through the reply to be heard. His already burned and torn jeans were flapping against him furiously.

                “I disagree; well laid plans and execution can minimize risk and overcome any obstacle.”

                “Looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree.” Titan readied himself as he saw her eyes shift about the room. She was buying time with the conversation, which had been fine for the first few moments, but Titan had no intention in getting swept up in whatever she was planning. If he went into the air on her terms, with no other teammates to worry about, there was no telling when he’d finally hit the ground again.

                As quickly as he could, Titan raised his right foot high off the ground, pointed the toe of his reinforced boot downward, and thrust it into the concrete below. Unlike with his shattering stomps against Spring, Titan wasn’t trying to spread the force out and let it ripple through the stone. Instead, he wanted it all concentrated in a single point.

                A might crack of splintering concrete filled the air, audible even over Gale’s  storm, as Titan’s foot sank through the floor past his ankle. Fast as he’d moved, he was still barely in time. The blast of wind that struck his chest was tremendous, so powerful he could feel his boot trying to slip off as he was lifted up. Thankfully his foot covering held, and he remained rooted in place.

                Gale struck again and again, furious blasts coming at Titan from nearly every direction. He lowered himself down to the ground, digging his fingers into the floor to help solidify his hold. Even with appendages literally jammed into the concrete, it was all he could do to stay in place. If they’d built their training room from weaker material he’d have been airborne already. The assault was incredible, which meant it also had to be taxing. Using abilities didn’t come free; they wore a person down like any activity, and even someone like Gale would only be able to keep it for so long. Of course, the ground would also only hold for so long, so neither of them was in a perfect situation.

                Finally, Titan noticed there was an increased gap between the attacks. He chanced a glance up and saw Gale, eyes still blazing, but with a noticeable sheen of sweat on her forehead. As a trained Hero, she surely had plenty more left in the tank; however, the all-out assault had definitely left her drained. She was probably trying to think of another way to come at him, to negate his strategy of rooting himself. At that moment, she was more focused on what she should do than on what was actually happening, and that was what Titan had been waiting for throughout the entire match.

                His left leg, the only appendage he had not thrust into the concrete, shifted back as he braced his foot against the corner where the wall and floor met. The first two times he’d used his trick of blasting off the walls, he’d been sure to keep the range very limited. Gale was smart, she had a keen eye, and given her powers she was probably great at visually gauging distances. She’d floated herself high into the air and far enough way that she’d be out of range if he replicated the technique. Which was precisely the reason Titan hadn’t let her see how strong his jumps could really be.

                Titan’s right boot was in tatters as he soared through the air, it had been dug in too deeply to get extracted when he propelled himself up. Only his near-indestructability had saved his foot from a similar fate.  As he raced toward Gale, he saw the shock in her face as she realized he was easily going to reach her. With her abilities, she might have still been able to re-direct him or dodge; that was why he’d waited until her mind slipped away from the battlefield. It probably made a difference of less than a second in her reaction time. One second… that secured her loss.

                His arms grabbed her before his body could make impact, moving in slowly to cushion the blow. As soon as Titan had a grip on her, he spun around in the air so that his back smashed into the wall, sparing her from a very painful, and likely bloody, sandwiching. The two tumbled to the ground, where Titan landed on side, Gale still clutched in his large hands, saved from yet another impact.

                “Unless you’ve got some kind of ultra-resistance that would stop me from squishing you, I think we can both agree that you’re down,” Titan said.

                “That was a beyond idiotic maneuver,” Gale snapped. Her voice was firm, but Titan could feel the slight shivers racing through her body. It was no doubt a mix of nerves and adrenaline dumping through the body, a sensation that he was all too familiar with. “If I’d managed to stop you, you’d have been completely in my domain.”

                “It was a risk,” Titan admitted. “But it paid off.”

                “That is not the point! It doesn’t matter that it happened to work; it was a stupid, dangerous maneuver. You would have lost if it didn’t.”

                “No, I’d have just been in a shitty position. I’d have figured something else out, though. I’ve got a lot of practice. Now are you going to admit that I got you so we can be done with this ridiculousness?”

                Gale’s face reddened beneath her mask, but she gave a small nod. “I concede that you could have taken me out of the fight. You successfully subdued every member of Elemental Fury in the ambush, providing a strong showing in your assessment. Should we every require someone of your… talents… we will contact you.”

                Titan smiled, then set Gale carefully on the ground. He pulled himself up next, giving a polite nod to the others that were emerging from the barrier. “You guys put up a hell of a fight.”

                “That means so much coming from you.” Gale barely managed to slip enough false-sincerity in her tone to cover the venom in her voice.

                “I get it, you still don’t like me, or you think I’m dangerous, or whatever.” Titan lowered his voice to a point that he hoped wouldn’t be picked up by the audience at home.

                “I worry that you’re reckless, and that you take unnecessary risks. Our town already has enough Heroes doing that, the last thing they need is an idol to hold up of an example of how that type of thinking works.” Gale’s own tones were dropped as well, which no doubt looked suspicious to the viewers, but was still better than them being overheard.

                “You know, I’m getting real sick and tired of you making all these assumptions about me. First it was that I’m a media whore, then it was that I was reckless; I don’t even want to know what you’ll come up with tomorrow. Let’s be real clear, you’re the one who pushed this event into being, so think hard before you accuse anyone of being spotlight hungry, and as for the reckless thing…” Titan grabbed her shoulder a pointed across the room, where Spring was freeing Granite with some sort of spray-can solvent.

                “I brought down every member of your team, and not one of them has more than light bruising. My entire power is built around hitting so hard I take people out of the fight, and none of you need so much as aspirin, let alone a healer. Think long and hard about that fact next time you want to call me reckless.”

                Titan released his grip and walked across the room to help with Granite, leaving a silent Gale staring at him from behind.