Chapter 122

                “Deathblow, you say?” Professor Cole certainly didn’t sound like someone who’d just lost a match against her students. She seemed more curious than defeated, really. “Mr. Reynolds, I know you’re generally not one to overstate your abilities, however I’ve also seen your matches in the past. Forgive me if I’m somewhat skeptical that you could impart enough power in a single punch to put me permanently down for the count. Especially with such a rapid transition from absorbing to unleashing different energies.”

                Vince stared up at her, uncertainty written plain as day on his face. “Um… are you asking me to try and kill you, ma’am?”

                Professor Cole chuckled, shaking Roy slightly as her tendrils moved with her. “Nothing so dire as that. As a student, you are constantly growing, and I will admit that it’s possible your capabilities exceed what you’ve demonstrated in the past. However, victory over a professor is no small accomplishment, and I can’t in good conscience allow you to take it without proving you have the power you’ve claimed. So let’s make this simple, Mr. Reynolds. I’d like you to unleash the attack you would have used to kill me on the wall. Exact same parameters as before, go from absorbing light to throwing a punch. If you can do sufficient damage to the wall, I’ll admit that I would have been knocked out, if not killed. Do too little, and we resume the match from this moment, with Roy captured and you open for a counter. Fair?”

                “Hang on,” Roy yelled down from his captured position in the air. “Vince uses up his energy, you know. If he burns up power just to prove a point then he’s not going to have it for the rest of the trial.”

                “Power he wouldn’t have if he’d used it to stop me in the first place,” Professor Cole countered.

                “It’s okay,” Vince said. “She’s right; I’d be down however much power I used to defeat her. It’s not fair for me to claim the win but keep the energy. Managing my resources is part of what I have to keep up with in combat, so this is part of my training.”

                Walking slowly, Vince made his way over to the opposite end of the room, as far from the others as was physically possible. “Mary, could you put a shield between me and the rest of you? I’m going to use kinetic energy and I don’t want anyone to get clipped by debris. Also, is it clear on the other side of the wall?”

                “The labyrinth’s entire structure is incredibly reinforced, Mr. Reynolds. You’d need a tremendous amount of power, more than even Mr. Daniels could manage, to put so much as a crack on the other side.”

                “It’s clear, Vince.” Mary paid the teacher no mind as she made her way over, putting a barrier of mental force around Vince and his section of the room.

                “Thanks Mary.” Looking down at his right hand, still balled into a fist, Vince let out a long breath. “I’ll darken the room for ten seconds, then stop absorbing and throw my punch. Is that long enough, Professor Cole?”

                Professor Cole stared at him, watching Vince’s every movement carefully. “I think that will be sufficient to recreate our scenario.”

                With a nod, Vince made a small cupping motion with his left hand and the room went totally dark once more. They stood there, unable to see anything, until ten seconds had passed as the light came back in a sudden surge. Thankfully, it hadn’t been long enough for their eyes to fully adjust to the darkness, so they were all able to see quite clearly as Vince swung his fist forward and connected with the wall.

 *             *             *

                The noise was so loud Alice almost lost her concentration, which would have been exceptionally poor timing as she trailed the footsteps of a fellow student through the hall. It sounded like an explosion, which narrowed the possibilities significantly, and on instinct she tensed up. Was it another attack? Had something gone terribly wrong? Floating in the darkness, she waited for the lights to come on or an announcement to be made. After thirty seconds drifting there, Alice finally accepted that nothing had gone too far off the rails and continued stalking her prey. Whatever had just happened, evidently it wasn’t enough to stop the trial.

                Although she was quite curious to know what made such a noise, Alice had other concerns to deal with first. Even as a Subtlety major, she wanted to get her score as high as possible before only tough opponents remained.

*             *             *

                No sooner had she heard the noise than Camille knew what the source was. True, there were technically others who could have caused it, however she had no doubt in her heart that it was Vince. Only he was foolhardy and determined enough to end up in a situation where that much power was necessary. Really, she just hoped he hadn’t gone and gotten himself disqualified by using too much force, though that seemed unlikely. Strong as he grew, Vince never seemed to revel in causing others pain. At least, not unless they deserved it.

                With an ear tilted upward, waiting to hear if there would be an encore, Camille resumed her trek through the labyrinth. It seemed a good bet that Vince had just done something that would make standing out much more difficult for everyone else, so she needed to rack up all the points she could.

*             *             *

                Dean Blaine was out of his seat, knuckles white as he stared at the television screen. They’d missed much of the battle, Vince had been absorbing even the light that night-vision cameras looked for, but what was displayed on the screens now more than made up for it. All around him, he could hear the chatter of the watching Heroes, normal stoic fronts all abandoned as they excitedly discussed what had just happened.

                If there had ever been any hope for these students to escape the nickname Class of Nightmares, Vince had just smashed it into pieces.

*             *             *

                Light streamed out from the room, into the previously dark hallway. Vince pulled his hand back and uncurled his fist, staring in dumbfounded shock at the massive hole he’d just punched in the wall. Pieces of concrete were smashed and embedded on the other side of the hallway, a few causing cracks in the previously smooth surface. Turning around he put on his best unassuming face and looked Professor Cole in her unusually wide-eyes.

                “That took pretty much every bit of kinetic energy I had. Was it enough?”

                Slowly, Professor Cole began to nod as she lowered Roy back to the ground. “Yes, Mr. Reynolds, I can say without any shame whatsoever that a punch like that would have certainly overcome my defenses. Your deathblow stands, and you are officially the winners of the match. But where on earth did you get so much kinetic energy?”

                Smiling with relief, Vince pointed over to Roy who was slowly getting his bearings as the cloth tendrils released him. “I’ve got a very strong sparring partner. That was really just a bunch of Roy’s punches being thrown all at once.”

                Professor Cole looked from Vince, to Roy, to Mary, and back to Vince again before she started shaking her head. “Well, I did ask you to show me how much you’d all grown. I must say, you didn’t disappoint. As one of your educators, I am filled with pride at the fact that you three managed to score a win over me, no matter how strange the tactics you used were. Congratulations to all of you. Now get back out there while I go help myself to some catered food, and perhaps a well-earned drink.”