The Aftermath Academy - CH8 (Pyrrha)

It’s the final match of the day and my opponent is five two with pink hair streaked with blue and a simple metal rod as tall as she is. She’s smiling, abuzz with happiness. Her emotions are clearer than anyone’s I’ve seen all day. She’s been defeated by a teleporter named Mohinder and won against a technopath and a space manipulator. Her abilities are… energy bubbles? I’m having a hard time picturing this in action, but that’s what’s running through her mind. She’s really looking forward to this fight.

“Hi! I’m Allie,” she says. “I’m looking forward to sparring with you today.”

“Hi Allie, I’m Pyrrha,” I say. “I look forward to sparring with you as well.”

The buzzer sounds and for a moment all of Allie’s happiness is gone. I get an overwhelming sense of pain and grief that paralyzes me. Then my body rips apart. I watch my legs fall out in front of me as my top half falls backwards, entrails spilling out in between. My arm separates in twisted strands, shards of bone springing out everywhere. Allie hasn’t moved an inch.

It lasts a split second, then I’m standing whole and confused, Allie as happy as ever as she brings her rod down towards my face. My armor springs up to cover my face and her rod bounces back up.

What the fuck was that?! An illusion? But those have never worked on me before. I’ve always been immune to all powers within the confines of my armor. Besides that, mental abilities are rare to begin with and most people who have them are terrified of getting caught using them after what The Butler did to Reacher.

Allie interrupts my speculations with a clear bubble, not unlike a soap bubble in appearance, but the size of my head. It floats in front of my face and I move to brush it off, then light blasts out of it, blinding me. I stumble and Allie tries to slam her rod into the back of my leg, but I know it’s coming and move out of the way. I’m not sure if I even need to, but arrogance is a good way to get killed someday.

I blink several times, trying to clear my vision. Another bubble has slid up to me, but this time the armor brings down tinted lenses. This one doesn’t light up though, it just runs into me, and promptly explodes.

The force of it flings me backwards, which is a difficult feat to achieve. I tumble over and then stand, tearing my attention away from the bizarre start to the match and focusing on a counter attack. Allie is protected by a full body bubble barrier, no doubt how she survived her own explosion. I summon Samson to my hand and strike out.

Samson should cut straight through, but the bubble catches it, only cracking. Incredible. I push Samson downwards and the bubble’s integrity is compromised. Allie throws herself lithely out of the way of Samson’s path and the sword cuts into the ground. I summon James into my left hand and try to pierce her with him. But as James extends, it’s caught into a bubble and its normally near instant expansion slows to a crawl within the bubble.

Time? Allie’s ability is nothing if not diverse, I’ll say that much. Great reflexes and fighting ability as well. She condenses another bubble around James and lightning flashes in the bubble, electricity shooting through the sword. My hand is protected by the armor though.

I sense that it’s just a distraction and move Samson back up to block Allie’s rod. There’s a tiny little bubble at the end of it and I realize I should have just dodged as Samson cracks in half and disappears. This is not a good day for my swords. I try to bring James back to its normal size, but it’s stuck in the time bubble’s effect and is barely responding to me.

I let go of James and dodge out of the way as Allie strikes with her rod again, another tiny bubble at the end. I consider whether I should take a glancing hit on the armor, just to confirm whether she can damage it, but it’s a risky plan. I decide to keep dodging for now, looking for an opportunity to attack.

Every time I think I have an opening to counter, Allie pulls out another trick like a smoke bubble, or a giant water bubble, to either blind me or slow me down enough for her to reposition. What’s more, my power drain isn’t working on her at all. It took a few minutes to realize it, but Allie isn’t even slightly weaker than when we started. That or she is just so off the charts to begin with that she’s just been toying with me. If she starts to weaken before I can beat her then I might be able to extrapolate backwards, but I suspect it’s option number one.

If she’s just immune to being drained, then I don’t benefit from dragging this out. It’s even more puzzling though. If she really has that sort of immunity, why are my empathic abilities working on her at all? Not that it’s doing any good. Even knowing what she’s about to do, her actions are so fast and well performed that I’m still having difficulty wresting control of the flow of the fight away from her.

It’s looking like a bit of a stalemate until I feel an inner click. Samson is healed and James’ dismissal finally registered in the time warped space. Allie tries to strike my armor with another of the little force bubbles at the end of her rod. But this time I don’t try and dodge, instead reaching past and grabbing her rod with an armor clad left hand and directing the bubble into my shoulder blade.

Fuck, whispers a hateful voice as the scales of armor on my shoulder crack. Fissures run down the entire left slide of my body, but the armor holds its integrity, which fortunately means my body isn’t ripped apart by the attack. Allie’s eyes widen as I materialize Sampson within her guard, cutting her hand off. Pain springs in her mind, distracting her ability to use her power well, and I strike her down with James.

After MediKate is finished bringing her back to life Allie smiles at me broadly, full of joy, and tells me “That was fantastic!”

I stifle the pinpricks of hatred welling up from the armor as it repairs itself, and the continued apprehension from not knowing what happened at the start of the fight, and give her my best smile. “That’s one of the most impressive fights I’ve ever had. You’re a very talented opponent.”

Allie beams up at me, no resentment or bitterness at having lost, full of pride at how well she did. This is exactly the sort of girl I came here to work with and I’m filled with hope for my time here.