Chapter 124

               “Remember,” Hank said, “people who are new to bulls think you just have to avoid the horns. Those that are a little smarter learn that you should also worry about the hooves and the shoulders. But the experts, matadors and wranglers from all across the world, they’ll all tell you the same thing: fuck the components, you should be avoiding the goddamned bull.”

*             *             *

                At first, it was hard to make out what was happening on the screen. The same debris and dust that had clouded the vision of the Sims was also making it hard for the cameras to get a clear shot. A faint buzz of surprised conversation still echoed through the room, many students shocked at Roy’s roof smashing gymnastics. It was only when the first Sim was violently jerked into the dissipating cloud that silence bloomed once more. They watched as green sparks lit the room, before finally coming to a stop. When Roy emerged at last, the room relaxed.

                “Do you think he can take them all?” Vince asked.

                “If he were going to fight them as I would have to, then no. Their abilities are too varied; even assuming one wasn’t able to incapacitate him, he would allow far too much collateral damage,” Chad said. “However, given that Roy has no intention of fighting them that way, I suspect his chances of success are much higher.”

                Mary jerked her head over to the blond young man, who was clearly waiting for her attention. “How did you know?”

                “I’ve been sparring with Roy regularly for some time. The sort of bodily control he’s demonstrated would very useful for… well it seems he’ll show the point for me.”

                On the screen, Roy had dug his bare foot into the gravel and bolted forward. Unlike his earlier jumps, he wasn’t going for height. No, this burst of strength was about pure, relentless acceleration. His body catapulted through the room and as he passed a yellow-lighted Sim he stuck out his bat, smashing through its legs without even slowing down. He finally stopped mere feet away from three of the other Sims, one sporting a red light. This was what they’d been waiting for, when Roy would utilize his hand-to-hand skills.

                Instead, Roy dug his feet in once more and rushed forward, a more controlled and definite movement than his leap. He slammed into the red-light Sim and kept running, pummeling its legs under his feet whenever they got in the way. The embrace lasted briefly, as the Sims legs turned to tatters and it lost its grip on the powerful Super. It took only seconds for Roy to re-orient, turning his charge toward the other two within reach. There was crunch so loud it echoed even over the camera as he crashed into another Sim, this one losing its footing and flying into the wall.

                “That’s it? He’s just barreling into them,” Alice said. “It was way more impressive when he actually fought people.”

                “No, it merely looked more impressive,” Chad corrected her. “What Roy is doing actually takes a tremendous amount of power and control. The Sims are trying to attack his footing or use his momentum against him, and failing at it. His steps are partially putting his feet into the stone, grounding him, while every aspect of his body maintains position, refusing to be knocked aside by the grasps of others. Despite his relatively small mass, Roy is emulating the threat of a charging train, crushing his opponents through sheer force rather than engaging them.”

                As Chad spoke, Roy flipped around to the last Sim and took off toward it. This one was quicker than the others, probably meant to demonstrate some sort of agility power. As soon as Roy got in range, it grabbed his arm and slammed its hip into his torso, a motion that should have sent Roy spiraling through the air in a text-book toss. Instead, the Sim was jerked downward as Roy tightened his stomach before the hip could land, pulling down the arm in the Sim’s grip and knocking it off-balance. During all of this Roy, kept running, and in moments the move that should have sent him off course had resulted in the Sim’s lower half resembling little more than broken electronics.

                “Why didn’t that toss land?” Vince said. “Even if Roy was running fast, that should have worked against him.”

                “It failed for two reasons,” Chad explained. “When the Sim grabbed him, Roy immediately contracting his core, pulling his arm down and shifting the spot where it needed to set its hip. At the same time, he continued pressing forward in the small window of confusion his technique caused, trampling through the Sim before it could re-orient itself.”

                “That’s… wow.” Vince said, marveling as he watched his friend take down the final Sim still in the room. “Roy and Herschel must have trained like crazy this summer.”

                “So it would seem,” Chad agreed.

                “I must be missing something,” Alice said. “Now that you’ve pointed it out, I can see how doing what he’s doing is really hard, but why bother learning it at all? Roy has always been a beast in Close Combat.”

                “How can I put this… let us pretend you were a regular human, and there is a large man who is angry with you. He drives up to you and gets out of his car to begin a confrontation. At this point, you are at a physical disadvantage, but if you have enough skill at martial arts you might still come out on top, or you could pull a weapon, or just run away. The man is easily more likely to win the fight, but you have a variety of ways to deal with him,” Chad said. “That is you versus Roy in normal combat circumstances. For what he’s doing now, envision the same scenario, only this time when the man drives up you he doesn’t emerge from the car. He doesn’t even slow down. He just plows right through you.”

                “Oh damn. Yeah, that is a big difference,” Alice conceded. She looked to the screen, where Roy was dashing through the hallways, trying to run down the remaining Sims on guard duty.

                “Especially when it comes to fighting multiple opponents,” Vince added.

                Chad nodded. “Since Roy’s powers didn’t lend themselves to taking out everyone before they were aware of the threat, his score will likely not be higher than mine. That said, seeing the amount of power and focus he is demonstrating, I must admit that it is possible he’s surpassed me in pure combat ability.”

                “Looks like the bar is set pretty high,” Alice said. “Let’s try to get it even higher on our turns.”