Nick’s left shoulder came out of socket and his wrist exploded into bone fragments, barely contained by the skin wrapped around what had once been a solid bone. He stifled a cry of pain that even two weeks ago would have worked its way past his lips, using breathing techniques to focus through the initial blast of pain.
“Better,” he said, his voice low and strained under the considerable effort of not passing out from shock. He’d learned that he could communicate in two-syllable bursts. Any more than that and he risked throwing up. It had not been a pleasant learning process. “Heal.”
Camille obliged, laying her hand on his uninjured right arm so as not to make the process any worse than it already was. A few seconds later Nick’s brain was awash in pleasure as the chemicals designed to fight back pain suddenly found no injury to contend with. He took a moment to compose himself then addressed the small girl once more.
“Again. One finger, and only a light brush.”
Nick hadn’t chosen to train with Camille for the reasons he’d listed, and while no one would be shocked to learn he’d had ulterior motives, they might had been served a healthy dollop of surprise if they’d known what he’d had planned. Sure, some of it was close to what he’d told them: helping Camille to become a better close-ranged brawler. His real emphasis was on giving her the chance to improve an aspect of her power he suspected she’d had very little opportunity to use. Nick was making Camille injure him over and over.
The emphasis they were focused on initially was speed. The more damage Camille could impart in the least amount of time maximized her chances of taking someone down before they had a chance to counterattack. As they’d trained, it had become apparent that the level of touch she needed to sustain was also a hindrance; it took a solid grip to impart more significant injuries. So part of their training had become teaching her to leave larger wounds with a lighter touch. She had been making serious progress, and as a side effect, Nick’s, already healthy pain tolerance was growing by leaps and bounds.
Five broken ribs, a concussion, a splintered femur, and countless bruises later, Nick finally held up his hands to signal an end for what his body could handle in a day. Although Camille could remove the actual injuries, there were certain chemical processes in the brain triggered by the barrage, adrenaline and dopamine and dozens of other things swirling together into a cocktail that would render his formidable mind useless if continued for long enough. This lesson had come after the first day when they pushed as long as they could and then Nick slept for eighteen hours, dead to the world and any attempts at waking him. Some quick lying had convinced the others he’d merely had too much to drink the night before, but from then on both of them were keenly aware that certain limits had to be observed.
“Okay,” Nick said as he pulled his shirt back on. For the sake of convenience he only wore a tank-top and shorts during their fights, but soon he’d start adding layers to force Camille to work around them. “Good training session. While we’ve got time left, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“I’m all ears,” Camille replied. Nick wasn’t always the most upfront person, yet she had grown to trust that he had the best interests of the team at heart. Besides, his methods, while crazy and dangerous to him, definitely produced results.
“I had Mary stop by to end Roy and Vince’s sparring a bit early. She sent Vince back to Melbrook, and she’s currently walking the halls with Roy under the guise of getting an update as to where his skills are. What she’s actually doing is listening to both of our thoughts, waiting for you to tell her it’s okay to bring Roy in here.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because it’s time to let him in on your little secret.”
“Roy? Why on earth would we tell him?”
“Well, we don’t have to,” Nick said. “I have to say, I think he’ll figure it out anyway when you start breaking his bones.”
“I see. You want me to see if my powers work on him,” Camille surmised. Nick cheerfully bobbed his head in agreement; it was so much easier when he got to work with someone competent.
“Your ability is incredible; right now it makes you one of the strongest people in our class. There’s an unknown factor, however, one we need to test. Does your ability to impart wounds get reduced or even nullified by people with enhanced endurance?”
“I don’t know,” Camille admitted. “I was the only Super in my high school, and I’ve never tried it on someone like Roy or Chad.”
“Yeah, that’s what I figured. But if it can, if it somehow just creates the damage in spite of their ability, then your power is more than just incredible, it’s downright insane. To completely bypass someone else’s defense like that, well, you’re one of the smart ones. I don’t have to paint a picture for you of how big a difference it can make.”
“I understand; I just don’t know that I trust Roy to keep this secret.”
“He’ll keep it from the other teams, and I feel reasonably confident I can convince him that Vince is too naïve to be trusted with it. That said, we’re getting down to crunch time. Pretty soon you’re going to have to make a choice about which you want to protect more, your secret or Vince.”
“You already know what I’ll choose,” Camille said without hesitation. He did, too. The girl was many things, but dedicated was absolutely at the top of the list.
“Then let’s make sure that when the time comes, we know exactly what you can and can’t pull off,” Nick replied.
“Fine,” Camille agreed, making sure she thought about her agreement in no uncertain terms so Mary would get the message.
It evidently worked, because some minutes later the metal door to the training room opened, revealing Mary and Roy.
“Hey, guys,” Roy greeted. “What’s going on?”
“Roy, my friend, today we are going to perform a fascinating science experiment,” Nick told him. “If you’ll be so kind as to shut the door we can get things started.” Roy obliged the request, and Camille took a moment to mentally prepare herself. Then the door was closed and there was nothing else left but action and explanation. The conclusion would be that either Roy had an exceptional defense or Camille had an ability that would make many a previously unassailable Super cringe in fear.
It was time to test some limits.