Final Finale, Finally!
“I still think this was a bad idea. You getting anything yet, Michael?” Sean Tannen shifted uncomfortably in his hiding spot as he whispered the question to his teammate, eyes and ears straining for any sign of approach from the other seven teams.
“Less than a minute til the goal opens up. Everyone is on their way. And a lot of our classmates believe that dirty, dirty minds will keep a telepath out of their thoughts.”
Sean suppressed a startled chuckle at the last line, forcing himself to focus on the network of roots he was growing throughout the devastated simulation room at the labyrinth’s center. “Does that work?”
“As far as not letting me know what they’re really thinking? A bit. As far as keeping me out of their heads? Only for the ones who can imagine things that make me nauseous.”
Sean did chuckle softly this time, glancing over his shoulder as he did so to reassure himself about the proximity of the incredibly powerful Team 1 and 2 captains. “What do you think our odds are?”
The words were barely out of the plant-manipulators mouth when he heard the chime indicating the goal was about to open. Sean tightened his fists unconsciously, and the ground all around him flexed slightly in anticipation of the fight that was about to start. But as Sean was looking out towards the entrances on his side of the room, his teammate suddenly spun in their hiding place to face back towards Collin and Amelia.
Sean turned as well, and felt his eyes widen with shock as he saw the sudden appearance of Team 8’s captain directly between the top 2 sophomores. Before he could do anything else, his team’s captain was simply gone.
“Shit!” Sean echoed Michael’s sentiment, his mind racing even as the vast network of roots in the area responded to his power and surged up towards the Hispanic teleporter. How the hell did she jump straight here?
Michael’s attack was faster than Sean’s, but neither was fast enough to prevent a startled Amelia from vanishing the same way that Collin had a moment ago. Teresa had just enough time to droop from the effort it had obviously taken to teleport the highly resistant, top-ranked sophomore; then the dark-haired girl was smashed to the ground by a telekinetic blow and entombed by grasping plantlife.
A much louder chime sounded, but Sean kept his attention on Teresa as he jerked her trapped form wildly about, trying to keep her too disoriented to attempt to teleport to freedom. Several long seconds later, the struggling form captured by his roots went limp.
“Incoming!” Michael’s shout was accompanied by several crashing sounds in the distance, the opening volley of a telekinetic barrage at a dozen suddenly in-bound opponents. Sean spun again, keeping low in his cover as counter attacks from Rorie and Lisa pelted dirt and debris into the small shelter he shared with his teammate.
The ground across nearly a quarter of the massive room shifted and pulled apart, as the heavy-set sophomore sprung his trap on half of his class at once. Roots and vines grasped and pulled at his opponents, but they all fought back with their own abilities. Sean was a truly formidable opponent when he’d had time to prepare his battlefield, but his power was being overmatched by sheer numbers and cunning teamwork.
Too cunning… “Mike! Find Cat out there and hit her, she’s helping coordinate!” Sean punctuated his harshly whispered order by slashing a small blade against the back of his arm and dragging a live cutting across the crimson fluid that spilled out.
Seconds later, the combined attack was briefly driven back again by the sudden onrush of a tree growing at an impossible speed to hundreds of times its normal size.
“She’s… she’s not in the room. We need to fall back. We’ll score and then try to protect the goal until Ames and Collin get back!” Michael added his own offense to support Sean’s, his telekinetic blasts proving far more effective with such a massive distraction so readily available. “We, SON OF A BITCH!”
Sean turned in time to catch what had drawn yet more profanity from his teammate, just in time to watch a smirking Ramòn get blasted away from the goal post. A smirking Ramòn waving empty hands at the pair from Team 2 before rolling on the ground and taking off at a dead sprint.
“Well, looks like 8 just got all of their scoring in.” Sean started to follow Michael as the telepath, cursing, led the way towards their next cover point closer to the goal post. After a few steps, he stopped with a manic grin on his face. “You cover the goal as best you can, I’m going on the offensive.” The plant-manipulator tossed his own metal ball to his teammate as he spoke.
“Unexpected, is the word you’re looking for. And we need unexpected if we want to salvage anything out of this. Wish me luck!” Without waiting for a response, the heavyset boy dashed out to where his animate plant-life was fighting a losing battle against a dozen Supers, and began to pour every ounce of his energy into reinforcing the grasping roots and vines, while dragging another clipping through the blood still oozing from his forearm.
Zach Snyder paused for a moment to offer a wide-eyed stare at the level of destruction being wrought by the battle between animated plants and ten or so of his classmates, then shook his head and continued to sprint after Scott around the outskirts of the battle. The skinny youth flushed with embarrassment for a moment as he realized he had lost the count while gawking at the massive engagement, and could only hope that his teammate hadn’t been similarly distracted.
“Split!” The hissed instruction from Scott drew a sigh of relief from Zach, as the latter boy turned towards the middle of the room and continued to run while his teammate skidded to a halt and began to arrange magnetic projectiles around his arms.
Zach briefly marveled at how quickly he’d desensitized to some things, not even flinching at the sonic booms and mild overpressure waves that swept past him as Scott opened fire at the grand melee in the distance. Good thing he’s a great shot with those things. Human railgun has GOT to be challenging to skirt around the lethal force penalties.
Zach’s train of thought was cut short as he noted a dark grey silhouette skittering towards his teammate on four limbs, and the boy immediately altered his course to intercept the powerful opponent. Susan either didn’t spot Zach’s approach, or was a little too confident in her ability to weather his assault as the Shifter was smashed into the ground by one of Zach’s kinetic flails. Before the powerful woman could respond, the followup shot sent her tumbling through the air and away from the two long-range attackers from Team 3. All right, we’re making noise. Get it done quick Erin!
A few cracks in the earth beneath Zach’s feet provided the dark-haired boy with all the warning he needed, focusing his power downward and triggering the small concussive blast that allowed the skinny youth to do a passable imitation of flight. Twisting in mid-air, Zach launched a flurry of whipping blows at the exploding ground as grasping vines and roots attempted to pursue him into the sky. Zach winced as his landing was, once again, less than perfect; but this time he managed to roll with the heavy impact and came back to his feet with no broken bones. And a Shifter about to fix that for him.
Zach barely managed to deflect the first two swipes from Susan’s skeletal form, backpedaling frantically to try and build up enough distance to land a powerful enough hit to send his opponent flying again. Or give Scott enough room for a clean shot.
Both of Zach’s hopes seemed to be in vain, as Susan switched between pursuing on two limbs and four with a fluid grace that he’d NEVER imagined that she possessed before, and neither had his teammate if the wide shots from Scott were any indication. Her rictus grin drew ever closer to him as his desperate attacks lost more and more force, and finally a glancing blow through his kinetic flail sent him tumbling to the ground in a daze. Zach struggled to reorient himself in time to fend off the finishing blow he was certain was about to fall, and he flinched when he heard the sickening, wet, *CRACK* that would likely be followed by a spike of pain from a newly broken limb.
Instead, it was followed by a sepulchral scream of pain and surprise, and Zach finally managed to eyes focus enough to see a blurry vision of Susan stepping back, one hand clearly mangled.
Wait, blurry… Elation proved a great motivator to get Zach back to his feet, as the blur moved to pursue Susan with a fluid grace that easily equaled the skeletal Shifter’s.
Erin’s form flickered in and out of visibility, occasionally dropping completely into absolute void as she danced about her powerful opponent. Susan scrambled, skittered, and swung repeatedly, but was forced ever further backward by incredibly precise blows from the matched batons wielded by Team 3’s captain. Zach waited until the fight was about twenty feet clear from him, then lunged forward and swung both hands in a tight, sledgehammer motion in the Shifter’s direction. Erin dropped to the ground an instant before the kinetic flail would have intersected her indistinct form, and Susan never saw the shot coming. A second ghastly scream, this one holding an equal part anger to the surprise and pain of the earlier one, trailed off into the distance as Susan was launched nearly to the other side of the titanic ‘plant vs everyone’ melee.
“Can you walk?” Erin was directly in front of Zach before he’d even recovered his balance from his own attack.
“Of cour-…” Zach’s attempt to respond and wave the concern away dismissively was interrupted by his traitorous legs buckling and nearly sending him face first back to the ground.
Team 3’s captain responded with her usual grace and reflexes, easily catching Zach and hauling him over her shoulder. “Scott, part 4!” Erin’s shout received a quick affirmative from the team sniper as she progressed their plan on the fly to account for Zach’s injuries.
“I can still fight, just give me a minute to get my bearings back.”
“We’re headed for the perimeter, far side. You’ll have all the time you need to get back on your feet, and probably all the fight you can handle too. That’s only about half the class fighting over here, after all, and I couldn’t spot Ames OR Collin in the brawl.”
Zach gulped softly at the idea that the two most powerful sophomores were unaccounted for, but forced a wry, confident tone into his voice as his captain continued to carry him off. “Great, so let’s go find one or both and take them down!”
Erin chuckled softly in response, but didn’t offer any refusals to the idea.
Tara crouched in her hiding place and watched what little she could of the massive battle where Sean seemed to be trying to take on the whole class by himself. She hadn’t seen what happened to Amelia or Collin, but the sudden absence of BOTH top-ranked students in the vicinity of the goal led her to believe that one of the class’ teleporters had to be involved. Or both. Be and Teresa working together would be more unstoppable than Collin and Ames, just a different kind of unstoppable.
Movement in the section the tech-genius was supposed to be monitoring with Eloise drew her attention away from the giant melee, and she shifted to try and get a better view of who was approaching. Her quiet movements proved unneeded, as a string of rapid fire gunshots quickly drowned out any small sounds that Tara might make, and she winced as she heard the accompanying *plick* sounds the bullets made when they impacted with Gerard’s shields. So Team 4 is here. Tara continued to wait and look towards the taller ruin where Eloise had set up, waiting to see her ghostly teammate make the appearance that would signal – There she is!
Tara mashed down on one of the buttons on her belt, and was almost instantly rewarded with pained shouts, coughing, and the sounds of the three members of ‘Team Blond” scrambling away from the gas-mines she had concealed in the area they were approaching through. A few more shots rang out from Eloise’s position, but those were cut short when a wave of kinetic force smashed into the lower levels of the building and sent the ghostly sniper plummeting from her perch. Tara’s heart leapt into her throat, and she whimpered slightly as she spotted Eloise flicker between invisible and visible, and most likely shifting between fully and partially tangible, as the white-haired girl tried to find a place to arrest her fall. Tara’s whimper grew louder when a piece of falling debris clipped off her teammate’s head and sent the girl falling limply the last dozen or so feet to the ground.
“Alright, we got her!” Jon’s voice didn’t sound nearly pained enough to have recently experienced one of Tara’s debilitating concoctions, and she cursed herself inwardly as she remembered that their team also included a healer. “Antoin, get up there and make sure she’s stable before we head for the goal.”
“Look out for Tara, she’s gotta be around somewhere too.” Gerard’s warning caused the redhead to sink a little deeper into her hiding spot.
Ames is gone. El is down. It’s just me. I’m all that’s left of Team 1 right now. Now or never, Tara. Moving as quickly as she could, Tara unsnapped the secure case on her lower back and slid the heavy-duty injection gun out, and forced her fingers to slot the glowing pinkish-white vial into place before they could start shaking. No second thoughts. You are a genius. This will work exactly the way it’s supposed to. One deep breath, and then Tara brought the injection gun directly over her heart and stabbed it into her chest.
Her lungs sucked in a deep breath, seeking to scream at the unexpectedly sharp pain, but before she could begin to exhale the pain was gone. Everything around her seemed to shift, a turn of her head noted that the tumbling debris around Eloise’s nearly collapsed building seemed to be falling in slow motion. Perfect, it works!
Tara was up and out of her hiding place in an instant, legs pushing hard enough to launch her all the way to the side of the building she had chosen for her own hideout, one outstretched arm easily arrested her momentum as she reached the window and observed the locations of her three opponents. Antoin was a few steps away from Eloise, Jon was in the back and guarding Team 4’s rear, and Gerard was looking almost directly at her. The redhead launched herself from the window, landing next to Gerard before the muscular blond could open his mouth or form one of his barriers. A flick of her wrist sent a dart sailing towards her first opponent’s throat, her enhanced perception watching the tiny projectile as she had time to wonder if it would land before he could get a shield up. What seemed an eternity later, it did.
A second dart was already flying towards Jon’s back as Gerard immediately began to slump from the powerful doze of tranquilizers that had just been introduced to his carotid artery, and Tara was in motion again before Antoin could turn to investigate the *thump* she had landed with. Got about 2 minutes before this stuff kicks my ass, got to use it.
The tech-genius Super retrieved Gerard’s objective ball as he was finishing his fall, then covered the distance to Antoin in a few bounding strides before the healer could properly digest what he was seeing.
“Give… Up…” Tara was a little surprised at the way her voice sounded to her sped up perceptions, and had to focus to keep herself from giggling. She held up the ball she had liberated from Gerard to give herself something to focus on as she wrenched Antoin painfully to the ground with a strength her small frame didn’t normally possess. “Heal… Eloise… and… I… only… take… one…”
Antoin grimaced in pain, and tried to fight his way out of the lock, but Tara simply twisted his hand sharply back and forth, bones breaking both times as the healer put himself back together almost as rapidly as his enhanced opponent was hurting him. Finally, in painfully slow-motion, Antoin nodded his assent.
The ten seconds or so it took to drag Antion back to Eloise’s unconscious body seemed to take minutes, but finally the white-haired girl was blinking herself awake and starting to sit up from her prone position. Tara didn’t wait any longer, and Antoin found himself lifted off the ground as the redhead expertly hip-tossed him into the pile of rubble before collecting her teammate and bolting for the goal post.
“Tara…? What… the… fuck…?”
Tara didn’t respond, instead depositing Eloise at the post and forcing the two balls she carried into it and motioning for her teammate to do the same. Once all three scores had been counted, Tara took in a breath and spoke again.
“We… need… to get… to… cover… Gonna… pass out… in about… minute…”
The white-haired girl’s eyes widened at that news, but she nodded and immediately turned to scan the battlefield. No words were exchanged as the two girls headed off perpendicular from both the rapidly recovering Team 4 and the rapidly winding down battle of plants vs sophomores.
Tara snapped a few darts at targets she spotted, smiling to herself as she managed to get each of her shots off before Eloise could bring her pistol to bear to fire a taser round, and smiling especially wide as she caught a very surprised looking Ramòn cleanly in the face with a concentrated dose of her specialty mace. Need to remember to send him an apology card or something.
The two girls made it into a relatively clear area, and Eloise pulled Tara down towards a partially collapsed storm drain that the redhead hadn’t even spotted. Tara staggered slightly as the duo crawled into their cover, and tried to offer a reassuring smile to her suddenly nervous friend as she suddenly collapsed in a boneless heap.
As far as test runs go, I think I have to call that one a succ-… The blackness that swept up to claim her interrupted her last thought.
“So, how’d they do?” Kathryn Jilles looked up at the unexpected voice with a frown on her face, drawing an expression of mock surrender and raised hands from Harold Weaver. “Hey, it is technically my job to ask about this stuff. Oversight and all that you know.”
“Yes, Mr Weaver, I DO know. I just hate being reminded that you’re here at all.” Kathryn sighed and tapped at a few keys on her computer. “Setting aside a few last minute grades that are still showing as ‘incomplete,’ I have to say that this is one of the most impressive classes of Supers I’ve ever had the privilege of instructing in the HCP.”
“You mean they aren’t ALL this amazing?”
The Dean smiled coldly at the mocking hint she caught in the Oversight Chair’s tone, and more than a hint in his mind. “Believe it or not, Mr Weaver, we really DIDN’T stack the deck with a bunch of ringers when we found out about this Oversight bullshit.” The smile widened a little at the wince she caught from the man as he realized she was reading him. “Truly exceptional is far more often the norm for the Supers that make it past the first year in our programs than anything else.”
“I apologize, Dean Jilles. Remember, this is all a bit new to everyone outside of the program.” The petite woman’s smile grew a little warmer as she felt at least a trace of sincerity behind the apology, even if it was immediately followed by an excuse.
“Now if this crap had been pulled about ten years ago when I was still the Focus Instructor? Good God but THAT class was a trainwreck. They’d have stripped our certification so fast it likely would have combusted on the way out.” The Dean kept a deadpan expression on her face to match her tone for several seconds before the blond man started laughing, and she joined in.
“And how did everything else turn out?” Genuine worry this time, and…
Ah, the REAL reason you’ve been hiding in our facilities all day. You were worried that the attack on Overton would actually work. It was a struggle not to laugh harder at that thought. “Turn on the news, Mr Weaver. A few minor disturbances, a little bit of collateral damage, and a few criminal Supers who just wouldn’t surrender. No other casualties on the day.” The Dean did chuckle again at the palpable wave of relief she felt from the man without bothering to use her ability. “Honestly, Mr Weaver, I admit it would have been more than a bit of trouble if we’d been caught by surprise and forced onto the defensive.. But give Heroes time to prepare the battlefield?” The expression on Kathryn’s face turned decidedly predatory. “Give us that prep time, let the Heroes go on offense instead? We’re unstoppable.”