Dean Blaine was already out of his chair before Dr. Moran’s voice whispered in his ear, letting him know that while the monitoring devices in the suit were toast, visual systems indicated that Roy was still breathing. As Vince and Mary left the room on screen, a new figure appeared, stepping through the hole Vince had punched in the wall and effortlessly scooping up Roy’s heavy body. Professor Wordsworth gave a quick wave to the camera, one of the few remaining ones still functioning after Vince’s lightning storm, and mouthed a sentence no one could hear. Apparently the nearby mics had taken damage as well. Thankfully, moments later Dean Blaine received confirmation that Roy Daniels was stable and about to receive healing.
Only then did he begin to sink back into his seat, pausing to give Titan a small, hopefully discrete, nod of reassurment. Even after Vince’s wall-punching antics, Dean Blaine hadn’t expected to see him whip out so much power against a human opponent. It would have been undoubtedly excessive if it were against anyone else, but as Roy had proven he was not a man who went down easily. Still, the amount of force Vince had begun using represented a new danger, one that might require specialized training if he was to wield it effectively.
That was a concern for later, however. At the moment, there were still ten students left standing in the trial, although that number wouldn’t hold for much longer. With the team of Amber, Britney, and Violet entering Professor Stone’s room and the rest nearing the point of having to turn on one another, soon the students would begin dropping rapidly.
* * *
“Why aren’t you fighting me?” They were out of the cell, back in the darkness, but with Mary’s telepathy there was no fear of being snuck up on by anyone short of Chad, so Vince felt comfortable having some lightly whispered conversation.
“Did you want me to?” Mary asked.
“Not especially.” The pain in Vince’s arm hadn’t subsided, but it had dulled somewhat as he grew accustomed to it. Between dropping all of his kinetic energy to earn the win over Professor Cole and the ridiculous payload it had taken to drop Roy, Vince was feeling rather drained. Of course he still had fire and some electricity, but with his injuries nagging at him using those energies effectively would be much harder than normal. “This just seems like a good time to strike, if you wanted the point.”
“Come on now, we both know that how you get those points is almost as important as the points themselves,” Mary said. “If I picked off a teammate when he was injured that wouldn’t be a satisfying victory for me or anyone watching. Sure, if we were the last two and I had to do it to end the trial that’s one thing; kicking you while you’re down is hardly heroic though. I’d much rather keep working together until we have to deal with one another. But I may take the lead on the next fight, since you’re not at the top of your game.”
That went beyond understatement into outright falsehood. Vince knew himself well enough to be keenly aware of his limits, and this battered he might be able to put up a good fight against a few of their fellow students; however the vast majority of them would be able to easily overpower him. If they stayed together, he would be a detriment to Mary, not an asset. And there was no way she didn’t know that.
“Actually, Mary, I think it’s time we went our separate ways.” Vince stopped a few feet short of a sharp turn in the dark hallway. “Maybe it’s better we handle the rest of this on our own.”
“Come on Vince, I know you’re feeling weakened, but together we can still-”
“I’m not sure what’s going on with you Mary,” Vince interrupted. “And I trust you enough not to pry. But between the battle against Professor Cole, refusing to take part in Roy and I’s fight, and now sticking with dragging me around… did you really think I wouldn’t notice? You’re holding back, working as support instead of going for the win. I’m not going to let you drag yourself down anymore trying to help me. That’s not the kind of victory I want.”
“Vince, you’re down an arm and you’ve used up a tremendous amount of energy,” Mary pointed out. “Is this really the time to try and strike off on your own?”
“As I see it, this is the perfect time.” Vince turned from her, heading down the nearby hallway that split off from their current one. “Feel free to come at me, since we’ve dissolved the team. I can’t do much to stop you now anyway. If not, then next time we see each other it will be as opponents.”
Some part of Vince was braced for an attack, one good telekinetic slam that threw him into a wall or broke more of his bones, but it never came. Instead, Vince was allowed to keep walking down the hall, until another turn took him in the opposite direction of Mary. He really didn’t get what was going on with her today. All the same, he was glad she hadn’t struck when she had the chance. Broken and battered though he was, Vince hadn’t yet given up on victory.
After all, it wasn’t like everyone else would be unscathed by this point.
* * *
Despite the effort claiming two points had taken, Alice was remarkably unhurt. She was feeling unexpectedly cheery about that fact as she floated along, glad not to be nursing wounds mid-battle for a change. There was something to be said for the Subtlety method, skulking around unseen and then striking from the shadows. In the constant run of Sim trials and city-wide battles, she’d almost forgotten the utility of stealth. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one employing such methods.
Alice had just entered a new hallway when the doorway behind was sealed shut with orange energy, the same energy that had begun to run along the walls, all the way to the next doorway which had also been sealed shut. It was like she was standing inside a tube of phosphorescent orange, with a lone man covered in the stuff a few feet away.
“This is new,” Alice remarked. “Usually you just wrap yourself in energy.”
“I’ve been trying to increase my effectiveness in close-quarters combat,” Thomas replied. “Although finding a suitable location and lying in wait did diminish the number of opponents I could engage.”
“And then you had the misfortune of getting me. That really sucks; I’ll buy you a beer when this is all over.” Alice shifted the nearby gravity, using enough force to slam Thomas into the ceiling without doing too much damage. To her surprise, he remained rooted in place, still looking at her through the armor of orange energy.
“Funny thing about gravity, if you have a firm enough grip on a surface you aren’t going to be thrown around by it. And the bond between the energy on my feet and the floor is unshakeable. So, Alice, I think it’s going to be me who owes you a beer when we’re done here.”