There was always a certain rhythm or flow to a fight, and anyone could see it. As a spectator it was easier but with enough training and experience you could see it even while you were the one fighting. If trained properly, a person could remove any discernible pattern from their own fighting style, make it variable and adaptable to an opponents.
This was something Shane’s grandfather had mercilessly drilled into both him and his sister–training them almost since childhood. Other children may have resented him for it; but no one could argue with the results.
None of that helped however. While Shane was fighting Rikki in the training room–he could already tell he was going to get his ass kicked.
To an untrained observer it might have looked like they were evenly matched. With Rikki gradually wearing him down with superior tactics and experience. Shane even believed it a little himself during the start of the fight.
The way she able to dive down towards him and then pivot smoothly kept him on his toes and from grabbing her with her own shadow. Landing the occasional glancing blow when Shane wasn’t quick enough. And small weights around the room would rise up and soar toward whenever he backed up too far. But Shane either dodged or used his own shadow as a shield for those.
When Rikki lifted an arm towards Shane, he felt his own shirt contract around his chest before being violently flung back. Her power and how much she’d been holding back had become clear after that.
She was an Animator.
If it was just standard telekinesis then Shane would’ve just felt an invisible force push him back or wrap around him. Not his clothes suddenly contracting and dragging him around.
Animators were a little uncommon among Supers, they could control inanimate objects by infusing them with their energy and then giving them commands. It allowed for more fined tuned control than what most telekinetics could ever have. The really powerful ones could even use their objects as an extension of their own body.
Shane rolled with the motion and quickly got back to his feet. He didn’t know her range but it was probably larger than the room.
So instead of trying to make some distance, he decided to set her up.
Four shadows leapt from under the training equipment near the edge of the room. Rikki easily weaved around them with her usual grace. But the few seconds she spent dodging was more than enough time for Shane to spring his trap.
He wasn’t out to actually hurt Rikki, just pin or trap her. So when every shadow in the room came to life and rushed her, they were slowed ever so slightly after being thickened into tendrils.
Unfortunately for Shane, even one second was enough for a Hero like Rikki.
He felt his shirt constrict again right before being yanked up and forward–on a collision course straight for Rikki herself. The sudden movement almost breaking his concentration on the shadows in the room.
Just as his shadows were about to catch her, Shane was stopped not even two feet from Rikki as her cape flashed forward.
Shane was floating a couple of meters off the ground, only a few inches from in front of the armored hero. Her cape had him around the bottom of his head and neck, not choking him but squeezing enough to get the point across.
He might have kept going with his shadows; but Shane considered using such a deadly power blind far too dangerous for a training session.
“Death blow.”, she said after letting her cape unfurl, her tone surprisingly light and breathing even. Granted, neither was he–one of the many advantages of having purely mental based powers. “Now come on, I think the others will probably be back in a few.”
“Agreed.”, with that Shane let his shadows shrink back into their origins. The relief visible on his face as the inky blackness in his eyes receded. It wasn’t much, but pulling together and maintaining so many shadows at once still took a toll.
After being lowered back towards the ground, and letting him straighten out and tuck back in his clothes, they exited the sparring square. Heading out of the gymnasium and down the hall.
“So.. an Animator huh?”, Shane questioned as they made their way back towards the meeting, “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the chance to see what you can do, but why not just choke me out with my own shirt?”
“Hmmm.”, Rikki placed her hand on the chin of her helmet in mock-thought.
“Probably the same reason you stuck with trying to grab me instead of just sending a torrent of blades my way.”, her accent had a weird mix of Brooklyn and something else Shane couldn’t quite place. “It was just a little sparring anyway, and we both still needed to be at least semi-presentable for the meeting.”
“Meeting seems like a strong word, aren’t we just going to do standard introductions before showing off what we can do?”, Shane asked.
“Close, but no cigar, Shadow Man.”, Rikki admonished as they turned another corner.
“Okay, first of all; my hero name is not, nor will it ever be, ‘Shadow Man’.”, Shane tried to argue before what he saw in the meeting room made him stop short.
Rikki’s retort of something about, “The Silver-Age appeal of classic names.”, fell on deaf ears as Shane focused on the three strangers now entering from the south door with Maria in tow.
The most eye catching of the trio was the unusually tall girl in quasi-army fatigues who was floating across the ground. Her arms folded and straw-brown hair tied into a ponytail.
In the middle was a rather stout guy with what looked like golden, not just blonde, actually golden hair that reached his shoulders. His bulky frame still visible despite his leather jacket.
The one trailing behind with Maria was the most average looking of the three by far. She had jet-black hair that was barely long enough to neatly frame her face.
The lean figure she had trained in the HCP not as striking as the young man in front of her, but still noticeable through her rather plain long-sleeve shirt and jeans.
“Alright, now that we’re all here, things can finally get started!”, Jack exclaimed with a clap and a little spark of yellow energy.