Chapter 44

Most eighteen-year-old men would feel at least a bit self-conscious to be eighty percent uncovered and coated in oil at a crowded costumed social event. Then again, Roy Daniels had never been especially similar to other people his age. Perhaps that was why as he took a tour around the dance floor, sipping on a beer, he savored all the looks and glances people were throwing his way. At no point did the idea that anyone found his costume, or the large amount of well-muscled body that it exposed, to be in any way unattractive cross his mind. Roy’s ego had undoubtedly taken a hit at his loss to Chad some weeks earlier, but that was only the part of his esteem tethered to fighting. When it came to his looks, that mountain of security was still utterly unmoved.

Roy pulled up to new vendor in order to refresh his beer supply. He’d done a few tours of the room now, and had selected the five women that he felt were at the top of the attractiveness scale. Roy had shown patience, and it had paid off, because three of those women had arrived after he had. It was always important to make sure you waited to find the best, because if something better came along and you were already mid-game, it was a huge pain in the ass to start over. Roy was willing to do a fair few things for new tail, but working harder than he absolutely had to was not one of those things.

“I totally thought that line would work,” Nick’s familiar voice complained as he and Alex joined in the line behind Roy to purchase drinks.

“Traditionally ‘nice shoes, want to fuck?’ is used as a joke, not a real line,” Alex explained to him.

“Still, I felt the slap was a bit much,” Nick added, rubbing his cheek.

“I take you girls... er, that you’re striking out with the girls?” Roy asked with a half-turn, catching himself mid-sentence with the belittling terminology he was accustomed to using. Mary had left no wiggle room for that one; it was fully off-limits.

“Striking out is such vulgar terminology,” Nick replied. “It implies that we’re playing a game, which would make these women prizes to be won. I think we can all agree they’re intelligent, independent beings who deserve to held in higher esteem than that.”

“You do realize there aren’t any girls in earshot, don’t you?” Roy asked.

“Oh. Yeah, them hoes be shutting us down,” Nick shrugged.

“Word,” Alex seconded.

“I can’t say I’m surprised. Nick, you’re wearing sunglasses at night in a party, and Alex is dressed up like someone from a sci-fi movie,” Roy pointed out.

“Chicks dig the shades,” Nick shot back.

“That’s why you’re standing in line with another guy right now?” Roy countered.

“I don’t see you doing much better, Romeo,” Nick said. “You’re waiting in line by yourself.”

“I’m choosing my target carefully,” Roy told him. “There’s a lot of talent here tonight. I want to make sure I’m getting the biggest piece of chicken on the table.”

Nick and Alex responded with very questioning, very confused looks.

“It’s a southern metaphor,” Roy explained.

“Dude. You’re from Chicago,” Nick said.

“Hershel is from Chicago. I’m from the deep south.”

“That makes, quite literally, no sense at all,” Nick said.

“Word,” Alex seconded again.

“Look, I don’t have to explain myself to you guys. The point is I’m picking the best girl here to go home with. That’s the only reason I’m solo right now,” Roy said, stepping forward as the boy in front of him finished setting his money onto the counter.

“So that’s it, huh? You’ll just pick the best one and of course she’ll go home with you?” Alex asked.

“Yup,” Roy said as he selected his beer.

“This I’ve got to see,” Nick said.

“Feel free,” Roy agreed. “Just keep your distance while the master works. As for me, I’ve picked my target, so it’s go time.”

*          *          *

“Looks like I wasn’t so wrong after all,” Michael chuckled. Vince couldn’t reply, unfortunately, since Michael had frozen him almost totally solid. The only part of his body still exposed was the top half of his head, allowing him to breathe. And, of course, to stay conscious and suffer. The rest of his body was caked in inches of ice. The only thing keeping him from hypothermia was the slow pulse of heat he was releasing all across his body intermittently. Vince only had a few lighters’ worth of fire in him, though, and his reserves were running dangerously low.

“You look kind of silly,” Michael commented as he surveyed his work. “I think it suits you, though. It’s like a living piece of art, a testament to what happens when you take on Michael Clark. I feel like you’ve learned your lesson tonight, haven’t you?”

Vince stared at his bald tormentor, unsure of exactly how Michael was expecting him to convey surrender.

“Oh, right, froze your jaw there. Okay, I’ll make it simple. Just blink twice to show me you understand, and I think we can finally be done with this.”

Vince locked eyes with Michael. The smart thing was to blink twice, get free, and come at Michael again on another day. A day when he wasn’t totally helpless and fast running out of energy, a day when he had a real chance at taking this cock-bag down. It was the most basic strategic decision he could have been presented with.

Vince didn’t blink. His eyelid didn’t even twitch.

“That’s a shame, Vince; I really thought you and I had come to an understanding. I guess we need to continue the education, though,” Michael sighed. He pulled back his fist and focused his energy.

“I have severe doubts that this is a sanctioned match,” said a deep, male voice from behind Michael. Before Michael was able to turn and see who the speaker was, two beams of orange energy had snared him. One wrapped around his forearm and the other grabbed his torso, yanking him up into the air.

“Who the fuck are you?” Michael spit, jerking and twisting his arm to get free.

“My friends call me Thomas,” the speaker said, stepping into Vince’s view. “I have a feeling you won’t be counting yourself as one of those, though.” Thomas was a dark-skinned male, one Vince recognized from gym and their Ethics class. He was dressed as a Native American, and both of his hands were outstretched, a beam of orange energy emanating from each one.

“I’ve got him restrained,” Thomas called out. “You guys check on his victim.”

Vince heard three people approaching behind him. He would have turned to look if he’d possessed a full range of motion. As it was, all he could do was listen.

“He’s not a victim,” Michael yelled. “We were just having a fight.”

“An unsanctioned fight, in the middle of an alleyway where anyone could have seen you using your powers, and where it looks like you’re tormenting him after having won a long time ago. Yeah, this seems real legit,” Thomas said calmly

“I think he’s okay,” called out a deep female voice. “Violet’s going to weaken the ice so we can pull him out.”

“I wouldn’t be averse to a little help here,” Thomas called back. “He’s still struggling, and this guy isn’t the number three rank for nothing.”

“I’ve got to work on the ice and we’ll need Camille as soon as I’m done,” said a new female voice, presumably Violet.

“That just leaves me,” said the original female voice. She walked past Vince as she approached Michael. It was a girl he easily recognized from class. Thought she was dressed as some sort of Viking woman, the tightly braided hair pulled back gave her away as Stella, the girl in class that always asked questions without raising her hand. She strode right over to where Michael was struggling a foot or so off the ground and punched him in the throat. His twisting and jerking was immediately replaced by rasping and choking for air.

“That was excessive force,” Thomas chided her.

“No, it was the best solution,” Stella argued. “If I’d said to let him down and we’d fought him all honorably then he would have used his full power, so we would have had to do the same, and it would have caused a lot of property damage as well as creating a damn good chance we’d all be outed as Supers. Sometimes the only option is a quick punch to the throat.”

“I’m almost got him over here,” said Violet, still behind Vince. He wasn’t sure what she was doing, but he could feel the ice behind him cracking apart and giving way. All at once a chunk of it fell away and Vince felt himself tipping backwards. Two pairs of arms caught him and laid him down upon the pavement. His energy almost completely depleted and his life out of danger, Vince did the only thing he was capable of at that point.

“Thank you,” Vince mumbled weakly, and then passed out into sweet oblivion.