Chapter 137

                Alice wasn’t moving nearly so quietly this time as she floated down the hall, drops of blood from still closing wounds and her own ragged breath making her much easier to track. She knew these were problematic, but with no bandages, medicine, or access to a healer there was little that could be done. Blood would fall, and heavy breathing was simply a side-effect of trying to ignore two broken limbs. Besides, she’d leaned on surprise a lot during this trial; it might be good to show the watching Heroes how she fared on even footing.

                The sounds of steps came from nearby; soft, steady, and instantly recognizable. “Camille?” Alice called.

                “Yeah. Alice?”

                “You know it. Is Vince with you?”

                “Nope. I beat him.”

                It wasn’t exactly a shocker; Alice knew how dangerous Camille could be. But beating Vince was no small accomplishment in its own right, and her esteem of the damage absorber raised by a few more notches. “According to Mary, that makes us the final two.”

                “Hang on, you beat Mary?”

                Right… to anyone who hadn’t seen the battle, that might be something of a shocker. After all, Mary’s telekinetic power was nothing short of incredible, a fact that made losing her from the HCP all the harder to swallow. Alice couldn’t deal with any of that just yet, for the moment she needed to focus on getting through to the end of this trial. Thankfully, it seemed only one more fight stood in her way.

                “I won,” Alice replied. “Saying I beat her might be disingenuous. But I won. Which means it’s down to just you and I.”

                “The healer and the Subtlety student. If anyone was taking bets on this, we’ve definitely screwed up their pool.” Despite the cheerful words, Camille’s tone was dead serious. They both knew what was about to happen, and they were both worn down. Mentally, if not physically. Making it this far was a big accomplishment, but neither would slack at the end. They both wanted to be the last, to truly beat the odds and cause an upset. While the overall winner would come from the point total, there was a lot to be said for being the last Super standing.

                “I’m sure we’ve surprised a few people by pulling this off. Let’s make sure to finish strong,” Alice said. “You ready?”

                “Sure,” Camille agreed.

                “Good, me too.” Alice floated slightly further back, making sure there was ample distance between herself and her opponent. “So I guess, here we go!”

                With that, both of them flew into action. Camille dashed to the side as Alice dramatically increased the gravity in her area. She wasn’t going for anything fancy like a ceiling capture; all Alice wanted was for this to be done. Quick as she was, though, Alice’s injuries were still muddling her head, dulling her reactions. Camille managed to get out of the area just in time, continuing her sprint as she zigged and zagged toward Alice.

                Fighting back an initial instinct of fear, Alice forced herself to stay calm. She was slower than usual, and that sucked, but it didn’t change the obstacle before her. When a tactic failed, the best method was to switch to something else, she’d learned that lesson in combat and Subtlety many times over. So, if Camille was moving too quickly for Alice to pin her down, then she wouldn’t try to. Alice couldn’t be quick and precise, which meant her next best method was to be the complete opposite.

                Alice floated higher, pressing herself against the ceiling and wincing as her broken limbs made contact with the rough stone. She shrank her own area of warped gravity down as small as possible, then turned her attention to the hallway around her. It was a big space, plenty of room for Camille to dart about. But that didn’t mean she was safe by any means. Lifting her hand, Alice focused with all she had and began to increase the gravity around the entire hall. It was hard, the area was already bigger than what she usually worked with, and adding in the mental exhaustion of hauling around so many injuries only made the task more difficult. Her hand, and gravity, never wavered though. Alice couldn’t risk Camille making her way over and leaping up. One touch from that woman would mean the end, and Alice wasn’t ready to be done just yet.

                The sound of stumbling was the first cue that it was working. Alice grinned in the darkness, taking heart in the noise and continuing her efforts. Another stumble, then a trip, then an unmistakable thud. Camille had fallen, and before she could even entertain the idea of rising once more Alice narrowed her area of focus and cranked up the gravity around Camille. There was struggling, defiant and unyielding, but all the heart in the world didn’t give Camille enough raw strength to lift herself from the ground.

                They stayed like that for three long minutes. Camille fighting to rise with all she had, while Alice did everything she could to stay focused and maintain her gravitational hold. She wasn’t sure she would make it, honestly. Her vision was beginning to get blurry, and it felt like her whole brain had been dunked into a pool of water. In the end, despite all the tricks and tactics they’d employed over the trial, it came down to a test of simple endurance.

                When the lights suddenly flashed on, it surprised Alice so much that she nearly dropped to the ground, catching herself mid-fall and floating down gently. Seconds later, Dean Blaine’s voice came over the intercom.

                “Alice Adair has defeated Camille Belden, and is officially the lone remaining student in the trial. Both of you, please take your exits so you can be checked over by our medical staff and properly congratulated for your outstanding achievements.”

                A sense of relief flooded through Alice’s veins, which was a welcome respite to the constant agony she’d been dealing with. Camille pulled herself up from the floor, took one look at Alice, and appeared as though she might faint.

                “Holy shit Alice! What in the living hell happened?”

                “Don’t ever let anyone tell you Thomas can’t put up a good fight,” Alice said.

                “No one would.” Camille bolted over, moving almost as fast as when she’d been trying to defeat Alice, and laid her healing hands on the wounded woman’s neck. “You couldn’t just beat me, could you? You had to do it while looking like you just walked away from a car accident.”

                The sudden absence of pain was so intoxicating that Alice nearly forgot to respond. “I… yeah… guess I wanted to put on a good show.”

                Camille pulled her hands away, and Alice tested her limbs. Everything was whole and functional once more, although she was probably going to sleep like the dead with the toll that had taken on her.

                “Come on, I’ve got a lot more people to heal and I think you’ve probably got a crowd of Heroes that are even more interested in you than they were before.”

                “Psh. I’m hot, I can fly, and I’ve got Subtlety skills. You think they weren’t already in love with me?” Alice threw her arm around Camille, and together the two of them made their way to a doorway that was sliding open. Even with Mary weighing on her mind, it was hard not to be in good spirits. She and Camille had made it to the end, Alice had been the final one standing, and both had done well enough to at least be sure they weren’t in the bottom of the scores.

                Most importantly of all, the trial was done. They’d made it through their next-to-last semester. Only one more to go.