Chapter 13

Vince woke up an hour or so later in the healing clinic. He blinked as his eyes adjusted to the lighting and stretched slowly to banish the discomfort that had accumulated in his back from sleeping on the hard bed.

“Oh thank god, you’re finally awake,” said a female voice to his right.

Vince pulled himself up to a sitting position and looked over. Resting on an identical bed was a tall girl wearing a black uniform similar to his. She had the lean, firm look of a track star and held herself, even while sitting, with a sense of poise and control. The most striking feature about her, though, was the bright pink steaks running through her otherwise dark hair.

“Was I out long?” Vince asked.

“Given that you were pretty much a hunk of solid ice when they brought you in, no, I’d say you slept an appropriate amount,” the girl replied as she smirked.

“Solid ice, huh?” Vince said. “I seem to have recovered pretty nicely.”

“Heat lamp and some healing. It’s a dynamite combo,” the girl quipped. “I guess sleep is part of it, too, but damn it was boring having no one to talk to.”

“Sorry about that,” Vince apologized without being sure why. “Why are you hanging around here, though? Didn’t they heal you already?”

“Yeah,” the girl said. “But they told me I had to rest in here until this afternoon at least.”

“Why?” Vince asked.

“Some bullshit about fifteen broken bones needing to rest for a few hours even with healing,” the girl explained. “I’m Sasha, by the way. And before you say anything, I know it’s an old woman name, so keep the jokes to a minimum.”

“I wouldn’t have dreamed of it,” Vince lied. “My name is Vince. How’d you break fifteen bones?”

“I lost my fight,” Sasha replied with a shrug.

“Well, that does make a certain amount of sense,” Vince said agreeably. “What type of ability were you fighting?”

“Some chick that can turn into solid steel,” Sasha said.

Vince let out a low whistle. “That’s a good one.”

“Yup, especially when she waited until I was charging her at super speed to do her little shift. Kicking steel at a few hundred miles an hour... yeah, it kind of sucks,” Sasha said. “So, how about you? I know you were fighting an ice dude, but what do you do? And while we’re not on the subject, but I’m still going to ask anyway, who does your hair?”

“I absorb and redistribute energy, like absorbing the flame from a match and then shooting it out of my thumb. As for the hair, my genetics are my stylist,” Vince said.

“Sweet ass,” Sasha said. “So if you can pack away the fire then it must have been one hell of a fight with you and Frosty.”

“Um, sort of,” Vince said awkwardly. “I kind of forgot to charge up before coming in today, so I was working with less than I would have liked.”

“Hey, no need for excuses. We’re both losers here,” Sasha said. She pulled out a lighter from the back pocket on her uniform and tossed it over to Vince.

“I don’t smoke,” Vince said.

“Which makes you look way less cool when standing around outside, but I didn’t give it to you so you could light up,” Sasha said.

“Then what’s it for?” Vince asked.

“You used all your energy in the fight, right?” Sasha said right back.

“Well, yeah. Did I tell you that?” Vince was growing more confused.

“No, but I figured you wouldn’t have been a guysicle if you had any juice left. So I thought you might need a recharge,” Sasha explained through her transparent exasperation.

“Oh, I couldn’t,” Vince said quickly. “I usually drain all the energy and fuel when I do it, so your lighter would be useless.”

“It came in a pack of twenty for five bucks. I’ll be okay with the loss. Besides, I’ve never seen that ability before. I’ll trade a lighter for a show,” Sasha said.

Vince wanted to protest more, but the truth was he did feel stiff and listless. He remembered how draining the matches had made him feel a bit better the day before and his aching muscles throbbed again. Vince had spent nearly all of his life with at least a little energy stored up. He was beginning to wonder if the recent constant fatigue had been not a side effect of the experiments done to him, but rather a side effect from constantly running on empty.

With only slight trepidation, Vince flicked the lighter on with his left hand. With his right he reached out to it, forging a connection to the energy leaking out from the metal-topped plastic container. The flame jerked toward him and began flowing in. The lighter had far more potential energy than a single match, so it took a few seconds before it ran dry and the light of the flame vanished. Vince stretched again, noting that the soreness had definitely decreased. He also felt a bit more awake and alert. The lighter had packed significantly more juice than half a pack of matches.

“That was pretty cool looking, I have to admit,” Sasha commented.

“Thanks,” Vince said. “I think I needed that more than I thought. You want the lighter back?”

“Keep it,” Sasha said. “Dead lighter isn’t much use to me, you know?”

“That I do,” Vince agreed. “So, are they going to tell us when everyone is done fighting, or do we just rest until we feel like we should go?”

“Oh, you’re free to go anytime,” Sasha told him. “If you hurry you might still catch the last of the boys’ matches.”

“What about the girls?” Vince asked.

“Those wrapped up, like, half an hour ago. My roommate already texted me some of the rankings,” Sasha said.

“How’d you do?” Vince couldn’t imagine a girl with super speed had faired too poorly.

“Nineteen out of twenty-two,” Sasha said glumly. “That steel bitch took me down in the first round. Even Julia did better than me.”

“That sucks,” Vince said. “Is Julia your roommate?”

“Yeah, and number fourteen in the ranking,” Sasha said. “She made it to the second round, but then she got put down hard. They couldn’t really dock her too many points for it, though. I mean, the broad who beat her did wind up ranked number one for the girls.”

“Who was that?” Vince asked out of curiosity.

“I haven’t met her yet,” Sasha said. “But Julia told me it was some telekinetic girl named Mary.”