There was a small break before the next match while Professor Fletcher delivered Camille to the infirmary for healing. Both teams were locked in their room, ostensibly so that neither could receive outside influence. In reality it was a precaution to stop them from going at it without supervision. So far everyone had kept their cool, but Professor Fletcher knew that watching a teammate get pummeled could provoke some unexpected reactions. By the time he returned and was ready to resume the competition, Team Two had already selected Will as their nominee.
He was only in the cell for a few seconds before Alex entered, giving an awkward wave of greeting to his friend.
“Let’s not try and imitate them, if possible,” Will said in lieu of a hello.
“Agreed. I think both of us are smart enough to know when to call it quits.”
“True. Then again, I would have said the same for Camille.” Will was working hard to keep his emotions in check. Rooming with Thomas, Stella, and Violet meant Camille was a frequent guest in his home. In spite of being on different teams, he had taken no joy in watching Sasha administer such a ruthless beating. Not for the first time he found himself a bit thankful that his ability didn’t require getting too up close and personal with a foe.
“She’s a strange one,” Alex said. “Most of the time I can feel her terror from yards away. But when things get truly scary, that’s when she practically explodes with fearless determination.”
“We’ll all go visit her in the infirmary when this is done.”
“Students, are you ready to begin?” The voice crackled from the PA, and both boys nodded their agreement rather than respond verbally. “Then this match has begun.”
Alex struck first, telekinetically smashing Will back into the wall. He then pinned his opponent to the ground under a sustained blast of force. Will might have all manner of technology at his disposal, but Alex had no intention of giving him a chance to use it.
“You’re trying to make me surrender,” Will grunted from under the invisible bulk pressing upon him.
“As painlessly as possible,” Alex confirmed. He didn’t want to hurt Will, but his team couldn’t take many more losses. One more and all they could do was tie. Two more and it was done.
“Good plan,” Will complimented. “Unfortunately, you got the wrong opponent.” Will made a sort of clicking noise against his teeth, hammering out a strange sequence of notes. Alex’s vision blurred and his concentration disintegrated as the room filled with a high-pitched squeal. The floor seemed to be trembling as Alex fell to his knees and pressed his hands over his ears.
“Sonic taser,” Will explained as he pulled himself to his feet. He tapped a small device on his belt that had a small LED light glowing green. “I installed a verbal switch for just such an occasion. Good thing I did, too. Otherwise you would have trounced me.”
Alex was shaking now; he felt like his bones were going to vibrate out of his skin. It took almost more than he had just to mumble a strained, “How?”
“If you’re wondering how you can hear me, it’s because the sound isn’t actually that loud. It’s merely precisely calibrated to attack various parts of the inner ear. If you’re asking how I can stay unaffected, it’s because I put dampeners in my own ears before I ever came to the cell. You really should give up, by the way. While this shouldn’t do any damage that can’t be healed, the effects will continue to get worse the longer you are exposed.”
He was telling the truth. Alex could barely handle being on his knees anymore. Much longer and he would collapse to the floor in a curled up ball. That would mean losing, and they’d already given up two fights. Alex could feel the weight of the others’ gazes, their hopes resting squarely on his shoulders. He had one shot to turn this around; the only question was if he could manage enough concentration to pull it off. Alex forced himself to take slow, deep breaths. It wasn’t easy: each gasp was like swallowing magma as the sound seemed to shred across his lungs. He kept going. This was what he had trained for. This was what separated people with powers from Heroes.
The only one more surprised than Will when Alex began to rise from the floor was Alex himself. He’d practiced this technique a few times in private; however, this was the first real trial it was getting. His body began to settle down, though he’d likely need a session with a healer before he was truly back to normal.
“How...” This time it was Will’s turn to ask a question in shock. His confusion only grew at the crunching sounds from his waist. His sonic taser fell to the ground uselessly, its final death note briefly ringing across the concrete interior before sputtering out completely. Will felt himself slammed to the ground once more, but this time the mental weight was so heavy he had to make an effort to breathe.
“You said it was unfortunate I got you as an opponent; well, I can say the same right back to you,” Alex declared. “I spent almost a year dating a girl who can enchant people with her song. That sort of thing got me wondering if there was a way to negate that type of ability. I figured that if I could reflect all the sound waves coming at me then that might do it. It’s really hard; I’d never have thought I could pull it off in actual combat.”
“But... telekinetics... can only... touch things... that are solid,” Will wheezed out from the ground.
“Good thing I’m not telekinetic then. So, how long do I have to keep you pinned before you do like we promised?”
Will’s excellent mind raced through a myriad of options. He still had a few gizmos that could turn things around, but none of them could be reached or aimed while he was pinned. Besides, if Alex really could knock aside something as intangible as a sound wave, Will wasn’t sure anything in his arsenal would be able to connect. No, there was only one logical conclusion to reach, and Will Murray was a logical man.
“The winner of this match is Alex Griffen,” Professor Fletcher said, making the first victory of Team One official.
Alex released the pinning pressure and helped his friend up from the ground. “Sorry I broke your thingie.”
“A risk of bringing tools into battle,” Will replied. “Besides, it gives me the chance to make some improvements.”
The two shook hands and departed, leaving the cell waiting for its next set of competitors.