Chapter 38

Chad was fast, to the surprise of exactly zero people in or around that room. As soon as the signal was given, he leapt forward, pushing off on the toes of his right foot and surging toward his opponent with fluid grace. Only Sasha could have matched his reaction speed, and she would have fallen woefully short of copying his technique. He didn’t go for anything fancy, no showy maneuvers meant to dazzle the eye. Chad knew he had the barest of windows to end this fight quickly, so he put his efforts into the quickest punch there was: a simple jab. Angela was powerful, but her physical body was as frail as a human’s. If he could land the blow, if he could just be quick enough, then he could win this fight. It was all a matter of speed, and Chad was fast.

Just not quite fast enough.

Less than two feet away from her, he suddenly lost sight of Angela as a golden shield materialized inches in front of him. A lesser Super would have careened into it head first, however Chad kept running, dashing up the golden surface and executing a backflip with his built-up momentum. He was back on his feet and able to reorient only seconds after the shield had appeared, but seconds was too much time to give someone like Angela.

The shield floated to the side, revealing that where Angela once stood there was now a figure covered head to toe in golden armor, positioned in the same stance Angela had been in moments before. Golden weapons began manifesting around the figure, each floating in the air, well within reach, and each giving off a soft glow from the entire surface. Swords, flails, maces, polearms, daggers, all popping into the air and then appearing to wait.

“You almost got me before I armored up,” Angela said, her voice echoing from the armor’s helm.

“Still too slow, unfortunately,” Chad replied, his eyes steady as he surveyed the entire field.

“Don’t worry, I know just the exercise to sharpen your speed.”

At those words, a short sword sliced into the ground where Chad’s foot had been an instant before, a golden trail following its nearly imperceptible movements. Only Chad’s exceptional reactions and speed had allowed him to dodge the attack, and even then he had no time to revel in the victory. Next was a mace coming for his head, then another sword going after his arm. Internally, he knocked up his perception speed another notch. The remainder of the weapons were already flying at him as Angela began her full attack in earnest.

 *              *              *

“What the hell is that?” Violet wondered, face now actually pressed to the glass instead of hovering near it, as she watched Chad move with mercury’s grace around the barrage of golden weaponry doing its damndest to tear him apart. “Does she produce internal energy like you, Thomas?”

“It seems similar,” Thomas agreed. “But my energy must remain connected to me. Hers seems to function independently.”

“That’s because it isn’t just energy,” said a new voice, stepping into their little group. Shane DeSoto looked down at his sister and best friend’s battle with a somewhat unsettling smile. “My sister can create what she refers to as sunlight steel, though the name is a misnomer. She can condense any light into physical objects, ones of incredible strength and durability. And, as if that weren’t enough, she can also control their movements. Her limit used to be three moving ones at a time, but as you can see her time at Lander has definitely improved her skills.”

“That’s incredible,” whispered Alex, eyes transfixed by the glowing spectacle of battle before him. “Although, I think I’ve seen something like it before.”

“Almost seems unfair,” Will noted. “An ability with such tremendous versatility, presenting a powerful defense and offense, leaves very few openings. I don’t see any way for Chad to overcome these obstacles.”

Shane opened his mouth to correct Will’s observation, but someone else beat him to it.

“Don’t underestimate Chad,” Vince said. “He’s a lot stronger than you think. We never see his full power, because he doesn’t try to flaunt it or intimidate us with it. I think pretty soon this fight will be a lot less one-sided.”

 *              *              *

It had taken a few moments longer than it probably needed to, but Chad was a man of precision. This was not, as some might conjecture, a byproduct of his ability. His precision was, in fact, a necessary trait he needed to develop in order to use his ability. Other people could make errors here and there, be inexact when using their powers, and the consequences were minimal. His power was his body, and that meant anything he did wrong would physically impact him immediately. It could be fixed, of course, however battle didn’t always provide time for such readjustments. Better to do it once and right, which was why he’d kept jumping through Angela’s attack even after he’d figured out her general pattern.

She was skilled enough to vary up her attacks in general, but no one could mentally keep track of so many objects without falling into some semblance of a pattern. Chad knew that he would have a span of about three seconds to act in, after the next polearm spun towards his torso. When the blade affixed to a long shaft sank into the wall where he’d been standing seconds ago, Chad seized the opportunity. He’d practiced this technique in secret many times since his first bout with Angela, focusing on speed as well as precision. Even with his skill and practice, he still barely completed the augmentation in time to dodge the next dagger coming for him. But he didn’t dodge, even though he had the time.

Instead, he blocked, and the attack halted as Angela took in his new form.

“How’d you pull that off?” Angela asked from across the room.

“I eat a tremendous amount of minerals and supplements daily, so much so that it would be toxic if I let them interact with my organs. It is a pain, but the upside is that it means I have enough raw materials to do remodeling, when called for,” Chad replied. His speech was slightly garbled, due to the protrusions of bone wrapped around his cheek.

All along his body, an armor of his own had sprouted. Unlike Angela’s, it did not cover him fully; however it did run along each limb, and it covered much of his head, neck, and torso. It was white as bone, because that is exactly what it was: an armor of bones that had grown out from his skin in seconds, sprouting from countless holes so that it was sectioned enough to allow for his usual graceful movement. On his left forearm, a golden dagger was wedged less than half an inch deep into the boneguard he’d blocked it with.

“Tough as my skin and muscles are, your weaponry can still pierce them. Bones allow for much greater concentrations of carbon, though. They won’t cut so easily.”

“You’ve gotten better,” Angela complimented.

“Just wait.” Chad drew back his foot, the concrete scraping away as the armor on his foot tore across it, and prepared for his counter-attack.