Chapter 54

                Vince waited patiently as Chad and Alex talked outside the cell. He didn’t know what they were saying, but the general subject was certainly a matter of how Alex was supposed to bring Vince down. It was strange to stand idle while someone was supposedly being handed the methods to his defeat, yet oddly Vince felt himself more excited than worried by the prospect. If Chad was right, this would end with a better understanding of his abilities, and what he should be working on. That sort of growth wasn’t usually pleasant, but it was necessary in an environment like this one.

                The door opened to reveal Chad and Alex walking in. The blond Super nodded up toward the observation window. “Just for documentation that this is a match between you and Alex, and I am only here in a consulting role, I asked Professor Fletcher to oversee us.”

                “Keep it civil, I’d rather not have to come down there.” Professor Fletcher’s voice crackled over the intercom, causing both Vince and Alex to give polite waves to their teacher.

                “Now then, this will be a simple sparring session, so breaks and pauses are perfectly allowed,” Chad continued. “This is not a match, merely a training exercise. That said, Vince, when it begins I would like you to attack Alex seriously, as if you are going for a win. You need to be giving it your best to understand the flaw in your techniques.”

                “Alex, can you handle that?” Vince asked.

                Alex grinned, adjusting something tucked in his pockets, and gave an enthusiastic nod. “Seeing as I can actually block energy attacks, I was going to ask you the same question.”

                “Alright then, but I’m going for just a knock-out,” Vince replied.

                “That will suffice.” Chad walked over to the edge of the room, exchanging a long look with Alex. “The fight begins now.”

                Vince didn’t waste any time, gathering a blast of electricity in his hand and aiming it at Alex. Normally, he might have given his sparring opponent a little more time to brace, but Chad had told him to take it seriously, and he was here to learn. If they wanted him fighting for real, then that was what they would get. The lightning danced in his hand as Vince fired, a crackle slicing through the air that was quickly joined by an unexpected scream of pain from Vince’s lips.

                The shot went wide as he collapsed to one leg, staring in shock at the small blade sticking out of his knee, still quivering with force from the throw. He looked up to find several more identical blades floating near Alex, who seemed ready to use them at the first sign of aggression.

                “That is your weakness, Vince. It’s the same one almost every absorber has to deal with. Your power is either offensive, or defensive, but it’s never both.” Chad pulled open the door and motioned for Brenda, who came in and went a bit pale when she saw the blade in Vince’s knee. Quickly jerking it out, she healed him back to normal, and Vince let out a long sigh of relief as the pain faded.

                “Okay,” he said, watching as Brenda headed out to check on the other sparring students, “I can see how that would work for a telekin- sorry Alex, anyone who can move things with their mind.”

                “Do you think I’d be unable to make such a throw?” Chad asked. “Or that other powers couldn’t be used to strike when you were attacking?”

                “But you use your abilities for offense and defense.” Vince pulled himself up slowly, testing his leg and leaning on Alex. It bore the weight fine, with no sign of any injury.

                “Our powers are very different,” Chad told him. “Ones like mine and Roy’s are akin to a suit of armor. They protect our bodies, while also causing harm to those we strike with them. Alex’s is more like a sword and shield. He can use it to strike and defend at the same time. But yours is different. You can only ever be expelling or absorbing energy. You have a mighty shield or powerful sword, however, you cannot wield both at once.”

                Chad was right; Vince couldn’t absorb and blast at the same time. Even at his most potent, during the rage-induced hallucination sophomore year, he’d had to drop the lightning and fire whenever he absorbed other student’s attacks. The only reason no one had ever tried such a simple tactic as the one Alex used was probably because his attacks were so big and flashy they drew people’s attention away from his vulnerable body. Except… one person had used a similar technique, now that Vince thought about it.

                “Shane cut my leg tendons when I tried to blast him in a fight,” Vince recalled. “It was just like what Alex did, he waited until I was vulnerable and struck.”

                “That doesn’t surprise me, Shane is easily as good as I, if not better, in assessing an opponent’s weaknesses,” Chad said.

                “Okay, so let’s try this the other way around.” Vince looked to Alex. “New match?”

                “Whenever you’re ready.” Alex headed back across the cell, and a moment later Chad called out for them to begin.

                This time, Vince didn’t go for the attack; instead he watched Alex’s movements, and those of the floating blades. One swirled around, trying to catch Vince from behind, but the summer’s training had honed his kinetic absorption reflexes, and the blade was stuck pressing harmlessly against him. Alex looked dumbfounded and Vince enjoyed a moment of triumph… until he realized he had no idea what to do next. He could charge Alex, though that would likely just get him tossed across the room. Whether it was telekinesis or the Force, Vince had never found a way to absorb whatever people like Alex and Mary used.

                “Wow… this is tough,” Vince admitted. “I’m used to leaning on my power for attacks.”

                “And perhaps that is what you should do,” Chad said. “Armor exists, and if you can focus through the pain then there are precious few Supers out there who could withstand your attacks. Alternately, if you can master your hand to hand skill or pick up a weapon, you’d be nearly impossible for most Supers to stop before you could get to them. And switching off on occasion or in dire need is certainly going to be useful. But you can’t lean on your power for offense and defense at the same time, that spreads it too thin, beyond your abilities. You’d be far stronger if you picked the sword or the shield, and then used your own skills or tools to compensate on the other side.”

                “You said almost all absorbers had to switch off, didn’t you?” Vince asked. “Is there a chance I’m one of the few who can do both?”

                “Anything is possible,” Chad told him. “However, to my knowledge those types are very rare. And I suspect you’d have shown signs of the ability by now if it were the case.”

                “Crap, I was sort of hoping I’d get lucky.” Vince nodded to Alex for a pause, and the blade floated harmlessly away from him, back to where the others were hovering around Alex’s head.

                “Vince, you have the ability to absorb more types of energy than anyone I’ve even heard of, and your storage capacity is incredible. There are countless absorbers who would kill to have the gifts you’ve been given,” Chad reminded him. “I have no doubt you’ll find a way to work past this weakness and come out the other side far stronger. And when you do, I hope I have a chance to test myself against you.”

                “Maybe one day,” Vince agreed. “If we both graduate, and it’s not such a big deal anymore.”

                Chad smiled, a touch too wide to conceal his own hunger for the bout. “I look forward to it.”