Chapter 271

                Not a field this time, which was a good first sign. Instead, Alice walked into an urban environment, different from where Vince had fought but not by much. The layout had shifted and there was a new variance of buildings. She was still in a city though, and once more with a ceiling that couldn’t quite be seen from the ground. Ideally, she’d be able to keep up the ruse of telekinesis, however Alice was prepared to play her full hand in this fight if needed. Presumably, Chad had already won his match, meaning he would be her opponent in the semi-finals, and Chad already knew what she could really do. There was an outside chance Chad had lost though, so Alice needed to keep making the smart calls and playing it carefully. However, a kept secret wasn’t worth a loss. Better to be outed as a gravity wielder than let this be her last bout.

                Alice’s new enemy was in sight as Victor called for introduction, and the woman didn’t waste a second in responding. “Bette Riggs, Ranged Combat major. You can call me: Barrage.”

                “Alice Adair, Subtlety major. I’ll go by Legacy.”

                Bette smiled, showing something dangerous in that grin. “Let’s have a good match.”

                Victor’s voice crackled once more. “Students, begin!”

                The smile had put Alice on guard, and that was a very good thing. Victor had barely spoken before Bette stuck out her right hand and fired off a glowing beam on a direct path for Alice’s torso. She leapt to the side, taking cover behind a post box, as the blast of energy shattered a window into countless shards.

                “Don’t worry, I can control the magnitude of these things and they’re all set to ‘stun.’ It won’t even hurt. I do have other settings, though.”

                Something struck the bottom of the postbox and sent it sailing up into the sky. Was Bette… was she angling these shots? Alice was already running, narrowly dodging the follow-up bolt as she hurled herself through a doorway and hid behind a wall.

                “Poor advanced minds. That telekinesis doesn’t help much against energy attacks, does it?” Bette’s voice was still in the street, not that it put Alice’s mind at ease. The woman was an excellent shot with those beams, only Alice’s readiness and reactions had saved her. Bette was defining the engagement, making Alice fight on her enemy’s terms, and that was the first thing Alice needed to change if she hoped to turn this match around.

                Floating Bette up right now was too risky; she could still shoot while airborne, possibly even curving her beams around to hit from other angles. Alice was going to need to get Bette distracted, if not injured, to try and weaken her concentration. Popping a joint would do the job, but getting line of sight on Bette long enough to create the gravity pulls might pose a problem. The minute Alice stuck her head out; she’d be a target as well. Her only shot was to sneak around, and for that, Alice was going to have to start showing her real power.

                Creeping along the wall, staying hidden from anyone peering through the windows, Alice quietly slipped out the back door of the shop she’d taken cover in. All that training on how to tail someone was coming in handy, as Alice kept out of sight and stuck to the shadows, tracking Bette only by the sound of her footsteps. Silently, Alice lifted off the ground, keeping hidden behind the nearby buildings as she circled around. This would be a surprise once; at most. Afterwards, Bette was going to start scanning the sky as well as the streets. Alice had to take her time, make the most of the opportunity. If she was going to show her power, then she owed it to herself to make the most of it.

                Finally poking her head out from behind the chimney of a brick townhome, Alice could see Bette’s back as her enemy scanned the road; obviously aware Alice had left her initial cover position. She was expecting a sneak attack, and rightly so, just not from the correct direction.

                Tempting as it was to strike fast; Alice held her position and lined up her shot. One surprise attack, she had to make it count. The arms were tempting, as losing them would hinder Bette’s ability to shoot, but Alice had no way of knowing if Bette actually needed to fire through her arms or not. No, better to take out her legs instead. Not only would it hurt like hell, it would also hinder Bette’s mobility. All the beam-attacks in the world didn’t matter if she couldn’t follow Alice and get a clear shot. Letting out a slow breath, Alice focused on Bette’s knees, carefully creating opposite gravity points that would be strong enough to pull everything out of socket without accidentally tearing the woman’s shins off. While it might be survivable, Alice could be disqualified for using that level of brutality on a fellow student, and she would understand the decision.

                Biding her time, Alice waited until she was sure of the amount of force and Bette was standing with her knees close together. Only then did Alice strike, and Bette’s scream was a testament to the attack’s effectiveness. Bette collapsed to the ground, face twisted in pain as she looked down at her suddenly busted knees. “Fuck! God damnit, that hurts. Are you kidding me with this?”

                From the ground, Bette’s eyes looked everywhere, catching sight of Alice just as she was ducking back behind the chimney. “You climbed up to a roof? Quiet little thing, aren’t you? Credit where its due, your clearly good at this. But I hope you don’t think I’m out of the fight yet.”

                Dragging herself quickly along the ground, Bette made it to a nearby bench where she pulled herself into a sitting position. Alice watched all of this from the chimney, ready to drop behind the townhome in a second if needed. Much as she wanted to press the advantage, something in her gut told her to keep playing this match carefully. Bette obviously wasn’t giving up yet, nor did she think the fight was over. Either she was on Nick’s level in terms of bluffing, or she still had some cards left to play. Cards Alice would probably prefer to first see while behind cover.

                Finally seated, Bette’s skin began to glow, lightly at first, then with increasing intensity. “Bring the pain, disrupt my concentration, limit my ability to move or shoot back. You’re way better than my last opponent. But you’re mistaken about something, Subtlety Girl. Losing my control doesn’t make me weaker. It makes me much more dangerous. Don’t worry though; I’ll keep it on the stun setting, just like I promised.”

                The air around Bette was burning brightly, so much so that it was hard to look at. On instinct, Alice dropped below the roof and into an alley between the townhome and a one-story residential. More cover than a chimney seemed prudent. Besides, if this next attack wasn’t avoidable, she didn’t need to risk adding falling injuries to whatever was coming.

                Just as the light coming from her seemed to reach critical mass, Bette leaned back against the bench and looked over to where she’d last seen Alice. “You want to play hardball? Okay Lander, let’s play.”