Chapter 128

                Despite the brash nature of both men, neither charged in recklessly. Vince and Roy circled one another, the room quiet aside from their shuffling feet. Both knew the other’s moves extremely well, between Hershel and Roy Vince had spent a vast amount of time training with the Daniels brothers. But this was different. Sparring was a place to make mistakes and learn, with nothing more on the line than the momentary pain a blow might inflict. Here, in this cell with a broken wall, there were real stakes, and nothing as trivial as a single point in the test. This was a chance to push themselves, to see who was stronger. That there was a room of Heroes watching their battle only added another reason to bring all they had, not that it was needed.

                It was Vince who struck first, capitalizing on his ranged advantage with a blast of fire that leapt across the room. Roy dodged, leaping back and slamming his feet into the ground so hard that the concrete fractured. Another shot from Vince, and this time Roy crouched down low to avoid it, dropping into a position like a sprinter on the starting line. That was the only warning Vince got before Roy pushed off, blasting forward like he’d been shot from a cannon and careening through the room. While he still wasn’t able to aim himself perfectly, Roy’s leaping skills had improved considerably over the past year. He landed within inches of Vince, who immediately leapt back. It was a good reaction, but Roy was a touch faster. Sweeping the bat around, he connected with Vince’s shin, hitting hard enough to decimate the bone.

                Instead, the blow simply stopped, all of its kinetic power flowing into Vince even as he continued to move backward. Rather than press the assault, Roy let him go, and soon the gap between them had reformed.

                “Surprised you didn’t chase me.” Vince’s tone was light, even as he stared carefully at Roy, watching for any sign of movement.

                “And juice you up? Fat chance. I know better than to attack when you’re ready for it.”

                “Then you might be out of luck. Between all the training and the fact that you’ve only really got kinetic on your side, I’m not sure how you’re going to beat me, Roy.” Vince altered his footing slightly, getting into a more streamlined position.

                “It won’t be easy, that’s true,” Roy admitted. “You ain’t the only one who’s been getting stronger though. That punch you used on the wall would have hurt like hell, but with all your kinetic used up I’m not sure you’ve got enough of the other stuff to take me down. I’m pretty used to fire after all this time, and I can take a lot of electricity. More than you tend to keep on you.”

                “That so?” Vince’s hand began to crackle, then glow, as sparks of electricity rippled off his fingers. Roy made a quick motion with his free hand, but otherwise remained unaffected by the display of power. Vince was still in the middle of charging up when he felt the sudden potent pain in his left leg. Risking a glance down, he saw gash above his knee, the skin around it already forming into a large bruise.

                “How in the… did you throw something?” Vince looked back at Roy, who was now tossing and catching a few irregular rocky shards in his left hand.

                “I may not come with a natural ranged attack, but if you’re strong enough everything can be a weapon. Including broken concrete.”

                It was then Vince remembered how Roy had reacted during his first assault, breaking the concrete with his foot and then getting into a position that allowed him to scoop some up, all without ever drawing suspicion. That was well-beyond unexpected. That was the sort of quick thinking that Roy generally eschewed in favor of just punching harder. Although he couldn’t be sure until they talked, Vince had a good suspicion that right now he was actually fighting two people at once: Roy and Hershel.

                “Not a bad plan,” Vince said. “One problem though: you can’t hit what you can’t see.” The room plunged into darkness once more as Vince stopped calling on his pilfered electricity and began to absorb the light.

                “Temporary measure,” Roy called. “We both know that if you’re absorbing light, you can’t take kinetic. And I’ve got a lot of concrete here.” He lifted his bat and drove it to the ground, shattering a section of floor into small, easy-to-throw chunks.

                Vince could see Roy’s movements, at least in a manner of speaking. Sensing the light he and Mary’s bodies threw off wasn’t quite the same as real vision, but it was a close enough approximation to get by. That was why Vince could tell when Roy had grabbed a handful of debris, and he was able to get down just in time as Roy began to hurl them about willy-nilly. He was taking a shotgun style of approach, and while a few bits did break harmlessly against Mary’s defensive telekinetic bubble, none actually came close to Vince.

                Roy was right that this tactic wouldn’t be useful for long, but it didn’t have to be. Vince only needed to buy enough time for Roy’s eyes to try and adjust. That turned out to be easier said than done, however, as Roy continued to fill the air with flying bits of concrete. While none of them were strong enough to do serious damage, Vince had no doubt they would make concentrating on the task at hand hard if he was hit by one. He dove about, keeping as quiet as he could, counting the seconds as he moved.

                It had only been a minute when a piece of concrete zipped by, clipping Vince on the shoulder and nearly causing him to lose focus. Roy was getting more accurate, which meant this strategy was too dangerous to keep using. Shifting from defense to offense, Vince darted forward, quickly closing the gap between he and Roy. From the way he was holding his bat Roy was clearly prepared for this and could hear Vince’s approach. He was ready, and as soon as he could see Roy would try to take Vince down. At least, that’s what Vince was hoping.

                Light filled the room once more, illuminating a curious scene. Roy was standing there, bat poised to strike, with Vince only a few feet away. Rather than have his fingers curled into a fist, however, Vince’s hand was open, the palm directly facing Roy. For a brief second their eyes met, and in that moment it was clear Roy realized what was about to happen. It was too late, though. There wasn’t even enough time to blink, which was extremely unfortunate.

                The blast of light caught Roy right in the eyes, his dilated pupils taking the equivalent of a flash grenade full-force. His free hand went to cover his face even as Roy released a string of curse words. Vince didn’t stop or hesitate, he knew too well how quickly Roy could recover. Blinding him had never been the real goal of this assault. No, all Vince really wanted was to buy himself a few precious, uninterrupted seconds. That was all he needed to build a powerful electric charge in his left fist.

                “Sorry Roy, I know how tough you are, so I’m going to have to put some real juice in this.” With no more warning than that, Vince struck his friend in the shoulder, releasing a blast of controlled lightning that he was positive would drop even the powerful Roy. Sure enough, Roy fell to his knees, eyes still closed and a small tendril of smoke rising from the spot where Vince had landed the blow.

                That done, Vince turned to Mary, waiting to see if she would enter the fray now that he and Roy’s match was over. When Vince met her eyes, Mary said nothing. Instead, she only shook her head and pointed behind him. Vince turned just in time to see Roy blinking away spots from his eyes and getting back to his feet.

                “Good trick. You managed to knock me over. But if you think I’m going down for good off a hit like that, then you have severely miscalculated how much damage I can take.” Roy yanked his bat up from the ground and pointed the end of it toward Vince.

                “I hope you’ve got a lot more up your sleeve, because I’m nowhere near done yet.”