Chapter 95

                As the fire faded away, Vince could see a slight bit of searing along the concrete wall. Given the absolute torrent of flames he’d released, he was hoping for something a bit more impressive. Then again, Vince didn’t actually know how much heat it took to melt concrete; though that was something he made a mental note to look up. With a minor exertion of effort, he reabsorbed the excess heat in the room and prepared to strike again.

                This time, he went with electricity. Rather than simply gathering what he could and throwing a bolt, Vince stood still as he drew out the absorbed energy from within. All of it was being concentrated into his right hand, which was already starting to glow and crackle with small sparks racing between his adjacent fingers. Vince had worked tirelessly over the years to control how much energy he let out in his attacks and how much he pulled in when absorbing. Focusing his power, being able to fire a bullet instead of a cannon ball, giving himself non-lethal options, all of it was what had allowed him to finally feel comfortable with an ability that had run wild for so much of his life.

                Today was different, though. It had to be. The last trial had shown Vince a little more of what the world would be like when he stepped outside of Lander. Innocent people couldn’t always be removed from the battlefield. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Vince had understood that, but being confronted with it had still knocked him off balance. Even more so when Dean Blaine had explained to them that there would be times they had to willingly let people die, in order to save the greater number. Vince had hated that class, hated sitting there and listening silently as the system was explained. Not because he thought Dean Blaine was wrong. No, Vince had loathed it because his mind kept flashing back to the trial, and the more he did the more he understood that the system was probably right.

                Vince’s entire hand was glowing now, yet still he pressed on, condensing more and more of the absorbed electricity into one spot. There was no part of him that relished the idea of taking life, not even that of a criminal. No… that wasn’t true. Vince almost lost focus, but pushed past and kept gathering the energy.

                The truth was that there was a part of him that relished it. For as hard as he’d tried to deny it, the sessions with Dr. Moran had forced Vince to accept that the anger rearing its head when people he loved were in danger wasn’t coming from nowhere. That rage lived inside him. It was a fury born of loneliness and despair; of being tossed aside at birth, being shunned by those who took him in, losing the only parent he’d ever had, getting abandoned by the first girl he’d ever loved. Part of Vince was angry, furious, at the world for taking away every chance at family he’d had for so long. He didn’t want it to be true, but his own tendency toward violent reactions at the mere prospect of someone he cared for getting hurt proved it was. Vince had lost too much too early, and now he couldn’t stomach the thought of parting with anyone else.

                Small bolts were beginning to arc off his hand, zapping seemingly random spots in the air. Though he wanted to add in more energy, Vince sensed that he’d reached the bottom of that well; this was all the electricity he possessed. He’d need to start gathering more before training, this wasn’t nearly enough to truly push his boundaries. But it would have to do for a start.

                Taking careful aim, Vince picked a spot on the wall and conjured a memory of the Sims from their last trial. He needed to be accustomed to attacking human faces. He needed to make peace with what he’d be tearing from the world. Vince had decided that there would be no more innocent casualties around him. No more friends, no more civilians, no more Heroes. Dean Blaine was probably right, it was impossible for a Hero to save everyone. Vince knew that was true, so he’d made his choice. He would continue trying to help criminals when he could; showing them mercy, giving them a chance to mend their ways. Lives on a wrong path weren’t inherently lost, Vince still believed that to be true.

                However, when the crucial moments came, when the life of a criminal was weighed against that of an innocent, Vince wouldn’t allow himself to hesitate. He couldn’t afford to, and neither could the people who’d be counting on him. The faster he could end those conflicts, the better chance of no one being caught in the crossfire. That was why Vince was doing this training, remembering what it was to take away the control and the filters, to truly unleash hell.

                Because there would certainly be times when he would only get a single chance to stop his enemies. So he had to make sure that one shot would be enough.

                The bolt that flew from Vince’s hand was brief, lighting the room for a fraction of a second. It was dense as a tree trunk, however, and struck the wall with a mighty crack that left Vince’s ear’s ringing. Gray dust and shards of wall flew outward, and Vince instinctively leapt back while covering his mouth. Slowly, the dust cleared to reveal a small crater in the wall with scorch marks emanating outward. Vince approached carefully, noting that the size of the dent was about twice as big as one of his fists.

                “It’s a start,” Vince muttered. That level of attack might have been able to bring down a Super with enhanced endurance, though it was iffy. Roy seemed to be shrugging off more and more with every trial they went through, and there were bound to be criminal Supers out there stronger than him. Vince needed more power, more energy, and he needed to be able to unleash it all in a single blow. One strike. One attack. One chance. That could be the difference between a lone grave and a dozen.

                When this was over, he’d work on absorption. Chad had been right; Vince was spreading himself too thin between offense and defense. Now that he’d re-oriented his thoughts, Vince had started to realize how powerful an offensive weapon his absorption could be. Without even thinking about it, Vince had beaten the super-speed user who killed Sasha solely by absorbing. In the moment, it had been fury and instinct, but that wouldn’t, couldn’t, keep getting him through. He needed to take in more, faster, from further away. Steal everything they had, steal the very blood from their veins, and then turn it back on them. That was how he’d keep everyone else safe.

                Letting out a long breath and re-focusing, Vince clenched his left hand. This time, he’d try kinetic.