Roy hadn’t gotten faster, not technically. His speed could be raised, but that was through arduous training of both he and Hershel. Improving in a matter of seconds was beyond even his potent abilities. No, Roy wasn’t any faster, but he was also no longer holding back. Without that barrier of caution of slowing his movements, Roy’s assaults were engulfing, relentless waves of violence crashing against the barrier of Chad’s defenses.
The blond Super shifted to the side, turning what would have been a punch to the stomach into a glancing blow off his hip. Even with the diffused force, Chad could still feel the blow radiate through his body. He’d spent a lifetime reinforcing his bones and muscles by fine-tuning their composition, but it was clear after the first punch that a direct blow from Roy would injure even Chad’s durable form. In exchange for taking the hit, Chad gave back one of his own, slamming a fist directly into the same spot on Roy’s torso he’d been hammering away at for several minutes.
A soft grunt of pain escaped Roy’s lips as he tried to counter, only to find that Chad had slipped out of range in the brief window after he dealt the blow to Roy’s ribs. Even giving it his all, Roy had trouble keeping up with Chad’s movements; the damned guy was as slippery as a greased pig rolling across a plastic tarp. Still, he was managing to give back some pain, even if it was only a little, and that made this into a genuine fight.
As Roy sucked in a breath and contemplated his next move, he realized that his change in strategy might have come too late. The ribs were definitely bruised, possibly on their way to broken. Once Chad had them good and cracked, all he’d have to do is land a solid punch and Roy would lose his focus due to the pain. Being woozy around Chad would basically be the same as giving up, he knew far too many tricks of incapacitation for Roy to have hope of surviving the encounter. That meant any damage he needed to do had to happen in the next few exchanges. Roy probably had one attack, maybe two, more that he could take before his ribs shattered and Chad had a weak spot to exploit.
Roy ignored the protests of pain as he gulped down a lungful of air. One direct hit. If he could just land one direct hit, it could change the tide of battle. Chad might be quick and smart and have every other advantage there was in a brawl, but Roy Daniels could swing a goddamned fist like few others. He’d just have to make that be enough.
* * *
“Will there be any explanation to go with that wildly cryptic statement, or are you just going to leave it there?”
“I thought a student of Subtlety like yourself would recognize a hint when she was handed one,” Abridail replied. “You’re trying to pump me for information that I can’t give, so this is me meeting you halfway.”
“By telling me I have no destiny?”
“No, that people like you have no destiny.” Abridail leaned in a bit closer, despite the fact that there was technically no need to whisper. “While this is nothing more than a pet theory of mine, you’re not the only one who fits the criteria. You’re not even the only one in your own dormitory.”
“Interesting.” Alice filed the fact away, deciding the mull it over properly when she had the time. “Maybe we should try something different. You’re sticking firm to the not telling me about my mother thing, but you indicated that you know quite a lot more than just where she’s been all these years. What can you tell me?”
“A great many things, about a great many people,” Abridail said. “Though only a fraction of a fraction of which would concern you. Some of it you would find exceptionally fascinating. For example: How many uncles do you think you have?”
“So far as I know, none. Then again, given that my father apparently lied to be about my mother being dead, it wouldn’t be that shocking if you told me I had one squirreled away somewhere.” Alice hated the fact that her father had fallen so far in her esteem that the idea of him covering up another human’s existence was readily believable, but he really had no one to blame but himself for that.
“Oh, they’re far from squirreled away. In fact, two of them are among the people you see most frequently. I mean, you do have Control and Subtlety classes five days a week, after all.”
Alice tilted her head back, and eyes narrowing as she stared at the invader in her mind clearly trying to peddle bullshit. “Are you telling me that Professor Hill and Professor Pendleton are my uncles? Fucking hell, you’re just some nut job aren’t you? Some dick of a Super that goes around jumping in people’s dreams and telling them things they might desperately want to hear just to fuck with them.” Her exasperation was quickly turning to anger, and around them the attendants of the spa seemed to blink out of existence as the sound of thunder could be heard echoing on some unseen horizon.
“I’d appreciate it if you backed me up here. It’s why I waited for you in the first place.” Abridail was staring not at Alice, as she’d initially thought, but past her. He was looking at something over her shoulder and as Alice turned she caught sight of a familiar figure, once she’d have recognized even if it weren’t abnormally short.
“He’s telling the truth, Alice.” Mary took a few steps forward, away from the door she’d come through that Alice was certain hadn’t been there moments before. “Nick figured it out a while back, and I overheard it from his thoughts, but I didn’t want to say anything without having solid evidence. Good as he is, sometimes Nick leaps to conclusions.”
“Wait, hang on, my teachers are my uncles? How is that possible? And how are you here?” The anger faded quickly from Alice as confusion retook its spot at the forefront of her mind.
“Someone must have put your hands together a while back. I sensed the moment Mary’s mind was linked to yours, and knew it would only be a matter of time until she found her way here.” Abridail finished off his smoothie, then rose from the bar stool, pausing only to smooth out his crisp suit jacket. “Now that she’s here, we can finally begin in earnest. Are you two ready to go sightseeing?”
“That depends. Where are you taking us?” Alice asked.
“Oh, we’ll be staying right here, safely in your mind. I merely want to share with you something your mother has been looking at all these years,” Abridail said. “If you’ll permit me a little more freedom to shape this world, then I can take you to see the futures.”