Chapter 272

                The massive blast of light tore through the city, shattering windows and setting off a few security alarms, a detail no doubt meant to make sneaking around more difficult. Alice was glad she’d dropped down, there was no way the chimney could have protected her from that wave of power. Bette was probably expecting her to go tumbling off the roof, unaware that Alice could float rather than waste time climbing. It was a hell of display, but once the light show faded Alice was ready to get back to the fight. Unfortunately, Bette wasn’t done yet, apparently.

                Bolts of energy were peeling off of her, dozens of beams firing in every direction as she sat there calmly on her bench. “I can’t bust this out very often, you know. Usually we’re working as a team, so I’d risk stunning the others. On the rare occasions I’m surrounded by enemies though, it’s a nice trick to unveil. Feel complimented, I’ve only had to use it for one-on-one fights twice before.”

                This was bad. Alice couldn’t even risk sticking her head out with how many wild shots were going at once. True, Bette was stuck, and eventually, she’d probably run out of energy, but how much damage would be wrought before that happened? It wasn’t just about winning, it was about showing her skills as a Hero, and Alice was pretty certain nobody would be impressed by her letting a block get assaulted while she played it safe and ran out the clock.

                Taking a deep breath, Alice mentally stepped back and broke her task into smaller sections. First and foremost: she needed to see her enemy. Until she could warp the gravity around Bette’s exact position, Alice couldn’t retaliate without putting the whole area at risk. At most right now she could float Bette up or pin her down, neither of which would help would the firing energy. So, how did she get line of sight without risking taking a stray shot?

                Well, they’d gone to all the trouble of installing alarms in fake stores. Maybe they’d added other details to this city too. Warping gravity nearby, Alice collapsed part of the wall of the townhouse and jumped inside. She was in a living room, with a couch nearby. Furniture was a good sign, so she kept going, racing around and throwing open doors until she found what she was after: a bathroom. More specifically: a bathroom mirror. Popping it off the wall, Alice floated the mirror behind her, back out to the alley, and positioned it so she could see around the corner.

                It was shaky and not at the best angle, but Alice could finally see Bette again, even as more blasts were firing off. Damn, this woman would be a hell of a scorched-earth style Hero, and she probably knew it. That would explain why Bette looked so unbothered by all the collateral damage. First part was done, now onto the next task: how to incapacitate Bette.

                Tossing Bette up and spinning her like Alice had Nathaniel was tempting, but it would just give her a better vantage point to shoot from, and concentration disruption clearly wasn’t a reliable tactic here. Even if Bette was bluffing and she did need to focus on the attack, she’d already had her knees knocked out of socket and was keeping up this pace, so dizziness might not be an unsurmountable hurdle. No, Alice either needed to knock Bette completely unconscious, or stop her from damaging the city while she wore herself out.

                Now that she was seeing the whole scene, Alice noticed that while every piece of glass near Bette was shattered, nothing else seemed to be that affected. A few chips of paint here and dinged doors there, but the damage was very limited. It made a certain amount of sense, if these bolts were meant to stun, then they couldn’t be strong enough to crack brick or stone without doing the same to any person they struck. Pinning Bette and calling for a capture victory would be simple enough, however it would require three more minutes of this attack continuing. If there were people here, then they’d be taking multiple shots as they lay helpless, and it was possible the injuries would pile up. Her other option would come with a higher amount of property damage, but it would keep Bette contained. Of course, it would also show off much more of Alice’s power. At this point, however, that seemed like a trade worth making. If nothing else, at least it would be a chance to demonstrate just how effective Alice could really be.

                Shifting her focus, Alice started with the debris. There wasn’t much, Bette had done a good job keeping her energy level controlled even as she let loose. That was fine, though. Alice didn’t need debris, she could make her own. Collapsing the wall of the very store she’d hidden behind, Alice created a flow of gravity that dragged the bricks and assorted other materials into position. Bette barely had time to register the sound of a cracking wall before she found herself being quickly surrounded by various materials. They wound around her, forming a barrier between Bette and the rest of the city, absorbing her strikes before they could travel more than a few inches.

                “Walling me off, now that’s not a bad idea. But just because I’ve been playing nice, don’t forget I can hit harder.” Bette raised a hand, clearly planning on blasting a hole in the wall. Before she got the chance, the bench under her gave way as Bette found herself suddenly pinned against the ground, unable to lift her own limbs. Even talking was a struggle, as she worked to squeeze out every word. “How… the… hell?”

                “You’re not the only one who can play hard when properly challenged.” Alice stepped out from behind the alley, letting the mirror fall away. Cover had been smart when she was on the defensive, now that she was seizing control it was time to be seen. Today, by the Heroes watching, and one day, when this was all real, by the people she was protecting. They needed to know that a Hero was there, and that meant everything would be okay.

                As she walked, Alice continued building up the wall around Bette, reinforcing it in case any wild, powerful shots ripped through. To her credit, Bette hadn’t escalated the power of her barrage; the energy was still set on stun. Wild as the attack seemed, Bette was still training to be a Hero. She knew where the line was.

                 The three minutes seemed to take forever, as Alice waited, tense and ready to respond. Rogue beams would fire upward into the air, unimpeded by the wall, and a few of them curved back down half-heartedly. Bette was hoping to get lucky, but she couldn’t see Alice through the barrier of debris. At last, Victor’s voice came through the speakers.

                “Three minutes of capture have passed, making the winner of this match Alice Adair, of Lander. Let’s get some healers out to the field now; I don’t think Bette will be able to walk this one off.”

                The crackling energy died down, and Alice released the pinning force of gravity. She also ripped the makeshift wall in half so that Bette would be easier for the healers to reach. For the first time since the match started, they were looking each other in the eyes again.

                “You’ve got some neat tricks for an advanced mind. Guess that Subtlety major was a good choice.”

                “It suits me,” Alice agreed. “That was some assault though. How much longer could you have kept going if I didn’t seal you off?”

                “A pretty damn long while. I may not have the most unique ability in my HCP, but I do have a ton of energy. It’s what got me here in the first place.”

                Across the room, a door opened and staff came running out to heal Bette, so Alice backed away to give them space to work. Her mind was already off this match anyway, thinking ahead to what came next. She’d probably be fighting Chad, or someone who was strong enough to defeat him.

                Either way, the next match ahead of her was going to be a tough one. Alice just hoped her luck held. She was halfway through Intramurals now. It seemed a shame not to go ahead and win the whole thing.