Chapter 60

Unlike Close Combat, the Weapons class’s first test didn’t involve three students teaming up against one. Instead, Professor Cole wanted everyone to be alert for an attack from any direction, so she threw in three people at a time and let them battle to see who lasted the longest.

“To refresh any of you who forgot from yesterday,” Professor Cole yelled on Tuesday morning, the second day of her testing, “I will allow you to use the entire combat cell as your battlefield. Corner to corner, and the ceiling too.”

The students watched her stalk through the concrete room, eyes attentive and various weapons clutched in their hands. Professor Cole had a habit of throwing needles at people she felt weren’t paying attention. It served to ensure her students were alert through every lecture.

“Jump around as much as you like, just remember that, for this exam, only blows stuck with weaponry count. Make sure you don’t kill your classmate; I’m looking for visible contact, nothing more. Sharp edges have been tipped with foam specifically to help make sure we don’t have any such accidents. As I call you, I’ll assign you a number of hits required to take you down. Doesn’t matter if it comes from one opponent or two, once you’ve been struck that many times you are eliminated. This should all be review, so I assume there aren’t any questions.”

No hands went up or voices rang out, so the professor continued. “Let’s get started. In the next bout I want to see Violet Sullivan, who can take three hits, Roy Daniels, who can take four hits, and Will Murray, who can take one hit. The rest of you, into the observation room.”

Most of the class filed out, however Roy, Violet, and Will all separated into different corners of the room. Professor Cole took the one unoccupied by a student. Yesterday the first group had expressed concern about her getting caught in the battle, to which she laughed for a solid two minutes straight. She was there as a safety measure to make sure no one accidently struck a killing blow.

Roy took a few test swings with his bat as he found his starting spot, doing his best to get warmed up. The weapon Professor Cole had obtained for him was darker and thicker than the one he’d bought from the sporting goods store. Roy knew there was a difference in weight, but at his strength level it seemed rather minimal. He just had to be careful when taking shots at his opponents, Will was all human and if Violet wasn’t in dense mode she could be delicate.

Will didn’t fiddle with his odd weapon, nor did he swing it about. He’d been doing regular maintenance on it nightly; if something was going to go wrong then it would, no last minute spot-check was going to stop it. Violet merely swung her spiked chain idly, assessing her opponents like she was picking out a steak at a restaurant.

“Begin!” Professor Cole yelled, sending all three into action.

Violet immediately took to the air, floating toward the ceiling with surprising grace. Will darted forward, putting some distance between himself and the corner he’d been standing in. Roy walked out of his corner casually, bat held in his left hand as he kept an eye on both opponents. He could reach Violet with a well-timed jump, but that would allow her ample time to counter-attack with her spiked chain. Instead, Roy set his sights on Will. This match would be easier when there was only one opponent to account for.

With no preamble, Roy charged across the room, quickly closing the gap between himself and Will. Violet tried to reorient so she could take advantage of the scuffle, but Roy was faster on the ground than she was in the air. Will made no move to get out of the way; he stayed put as he watched several hundred pounds of Super bearing down on him. Then, when Roy was three steps away from being able to use his bat, Will pressed a button on the side of his staff.

A dense, white fog exploded out from the device, engulfing both men instantaneously. Roy stopped his assault, quickly pulling into a defensive position and stepping backward. Losing sight of someone like Will was dangerous, physical frailty be damned. This worry was immediately proven correct as Roy felt a light shock on his left ribs, an undeniable hit. Rather than stay put and risk more attacks, Roy abandoned his defense and ran blindly out of the fog. He emerged without taking any more attacks, only to catch a foam-tipped dagger, attached to a chain, in the shoulder.

Violet smiled down at him, clearly proud of her reflexive strike at his emergence. The smile stayed in place only until Roy grabbed the base of the dagger in his off-hand, then leapt toward her. She tried to reposition and use the blade at the other end defensively, but Roy knocked it away with the bat and still managed to get a solid hit on her thigh before gravity took hold and sent him back to the ground. At least he let go of her weapon upon landing; for that much she was thankful.

She was still trying to recover when there was a sound like a firecracker and something struck her stomach. Glancing down, she saw a foam-tipped blade falling away from where it had struck her, quickly being pulled back to its source by the metallic wire at its base. That wire ran all the way to one end of Will’s staff, where it slid back into its hidden compartment. It was clear she’d now been struck twice; what she didn’t know was if that gizmo could shoot more than once. Knowing Will, it was highly likely.

Violet was a trained combatant, and despite her occasional bursts of temper, she knew how to calmly assess a situation. If she kept playing defensively, Roy or Will would pick off her final hit. Better to go for a full-press offense and try to take at least one of them down. With nothing more than a thought, Violet sank to the ground, lightening the density of her weapon as she did. Since actual damage didn’t matter, a case made evident by the foam protections put on all blades, then it wouldn’t be an issue if the daggers were too light to do damage. Halfway to the ground, Violet used her punch-fly technique to thrust herself forward, barreling toward Roy. He brought up his bat, but she and her nearly weightless weaponry were too quick. He struck the first dagger cleanly away, however the second got in a little too close and he hit the chain instead of the blade. This caused it wrap around the bat once, dragging the foam-tip of the dagger across his chest in the process. If Violet had been a little more conservative in her charge, she might have been able to recover and take Roy’s last hit. Unfortunately, her burst of speed had brought her too close, and before she could reorient Roy’s bat took her in the arm.

“Sullivan, you’re out,” the professor yelled.

As Violet floated back to her corner, she noticed that Will had used the cover of her attack to sneak around behind Roy. He readied his staff to strike just as Roy finished untangling her chain from his bat. Then, with no warning at all, Roy dropped into a squat, spun around, and swept his bat at shin level.

“Ow!” Will yelped as the metal cylinder struck his leg. Even going gently, it was hard for Roy to swing an implement without doing some damage.

“And that’s Murray,” Professor Cole called from her corner. “Roy Daniels wins this trial.”

“How did you know I was sneaking up on you,” Will asked, rubbing his leg.

“Truthfully, I didn’t,” Roy admitted. “It was just sort of a hunch. You were all over this battlefield, using every distraction to your advantage. Sneaking around while I fought Violet seemed like something you would do, so I opted to try a wild attack just in case. It was more luck than skill.”

“Predicting your opponents actions is not an ability to dismiss lightly,” Will told him. “It’s how I stayed in the fight so long.”

“Guess there might be some truth to that,” Roy agreed. “Good fight, by the way.”

“That it was. Next time I’ll be sure to make it harder to win.”

“Same to you,” Roy said, giving Will a quick grin.

Both headed off to the observation room, clearing the combat space for the next students to undertake their trial.