A man guiding miniature eclipses and a form clad in blue and shimmering gold struck in tandem, felling the dozen figures charging at them from the other end of the room, some using guns while others blasted away with powers, energy beams lancing eyes and hands.
Greg dodged and took cover, steering and angling his shots all the while. Vanessa, on the other hand, flew directly into the fray and slammed into the group with a spray of concrete, her power propelling her forward at break-neck speeds. Greg watched with appreciation as he saw Vanessa fight, like he had hundreds of times in the Vista HCP, but he could see the subtle differences in her style from senior year after only a few months in the field. As her power got sufficient traction on the ground to start accelerating her at hundreds of miles per hour, she struck with greater ferocity than he’d seen before, often punching, dodging, and counterattacking in one smooth motion while also blocking attacks that might hit his cover area. That kind of rapid, yet fluid combat would have been impossible for most strongman, even those with her level of strength, to replicate with any reliability and while Hero-grade speedsters had the speed they lacked the raw physical strength. Only Vanessa’s unique power of repulsion, combined with such propulsion that her reflexes were enhanced to keep up with the acceleration, could achieve this level of combat; often resulting in an arm or leg going flying from a torso.
It was impressive, but that didn’t mean Greg could just sit on his laurels and let his comrade fight all by herself.
Another Sim in photorealistic, synthetic skin jumped out and leveled a shotgun at him. Or at least tried to before Greg ricocheted three spheres off a wall and into the arms and legs of the brown-haired robot. He let four spheres materialize into a shield that stopped and then slammed a strongman Sim that tried to jump onto Vanessa’s back, rained down a dozen spheres blazing hot as plasma onto a group of blasters that hung back and were charging up an attack, in an obvious gambit to overcome her durability.
By comparison Greg’s ranged fighting style was disconcerting as most would see little more than a slight golden streak before bodies were dropped with smoldering holes torn through flesh. His accuracy was on par with Shane’s, and even beyond it at longer ranges, and he could redirect the trajectory of his spheres in midair while losing none of their momentum, it was really less aiming and more mentally picking a spot and then assigning a path of destruction for his spheres to take.
In a matter of seconds they had neutralized the wave of robotic combatants and looked over their score. Fifteen of the twenty-four Sims were still “breathing” while the ones Vanessa had knocked the limbs off of were completely still in a simulation of a combatant taken down with lethal force. Most of the ones that were still breathing were due to Greg’s almost impossibly accurate shots, because of course they were.
“Woo! That’s two for one.” Greg whooped with cheer and pumped his fist, all from the safety of his cover behind a mock apartment building. Which may have made others question his victorious bravado from such a position, but Vanessa, along with most Heroes, could appreciate the skill.
“Dammit.” Vanessa mumbled before nodding towards Greg. “Best three of five?” A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, something Greg had noticed was a little rare ever since she’d killed that guy in the park, as the thrill of competition took root in both of them.
They’d both had a day off and decided to spend it using one of the lower training facilities. The space could generously be called a mock subsection of a city block. The environment wasn’t as grand as the HCP’s mock city districts, forests, and other environments but it was still more than enough for Sim combat. Greg and Vanessa were under the, not unfamiliar for Heroes, mentality that they were also partially to blame for the casualties at the bank fight. Greg thought if he’d been a bit more skilled he could have taken some long-range shots to help his teammates and Vanessa felt that she could have dispatched her opponents with a bit more speed and helped Pulp subdue the super with shredding spheres.
Their expectations of themselves were, quite frankly, unfair and basically only could have happened had they either not been affected by the flash or had prior knowledge of what would happen. But they were Heroes, if they didn’t have unfair, if not completely unrealistic, expectations of themselves then others surely would, the responsibility they had demanded nothing less.
The fact that they knew this struggle would pay off one day helped as well. As the duo continued to grow in power and skill, they would eventually be able to reach and even surpass their current limitations, just as their parents had, and shorten the gap between themselves and those ever increasingly unfair expectations.
“You two have certainly been down here for a while.” The mature voice of Elizabeth spoke up from behind them. She was partially out of costume, no mask on to cover that long, ebony hair or brown and oddly unblemished skin for such an experienced Hero.
Both Greg and Vanessa turned to face the senior Hero, and thus missed when a Sim with broken legs under a pile of it’s kin finally squirmed free and tried to aim again. Elizabeth did notice however and raised one hand, shifted it into a cluster of shards, and flicked a few to impale that Sim’s arm to the ground, causing it to fully deactivate. It would have been faster to just impale it’s head, but she didn’t want to give the impression that it was okay to execute what most likely be a minimal threat; she’d seen a few Heroes get the boot for such actions.
Greg shrugged his shoulders with typical indifference at the impressive display. “It seemed like the productive thing to do; I always get farther when training against someone else.”
“And I can’t just sit still on my days off.” Vanessa said. “Especially when I know where I can improve.”
“You’re both right to feel this way after the bank incident.” Obsidian Wraith started. “This is why we train, to be better and ready for the next time we’re called upon to handle the really tough situations. As terrible as that day was, it gave you valuable experience in dealing with conflict that aren’t just singular Supers or small groups of Supers.”
“But you can’t keep doing this.” The older Hero continued to explain. “Not because I’m worried you’ll burn yourselves out, but because it’s inefficient.” Elizabeth then pulled out a tablet from behind her back, tapped a few times on the surface, and then showed them the screen. “I’m going to flex my authority as your mentor to assign you a new training regiment. Instead of trying to individually get stronger, I’m going to make you better as a team. But we’ll need to grab Shane and Amy to make get the most out of it. Where are they, by the way? I just got off my overnight patrol.”
“They went out with their mentors this morning.” Greg explained. “Shane just thoroughly crushed my pride as the most charismatic of our marry band and got over quadruple his usual pay from merchandise. In light of his sterling achievement he went to Land Scape Unit to haggle with their tech Hero and Amy tagged along to get a head start on ‘networking’.”
Elizabeth couldn’t say she was too surprised by the news, both of the kids were prideful and sought any bit of reasonable independence they could find. Taking the opportunity to start buying their own equipment and networking with other team’s interns was inevitable. “I just hope Jack and Rikki gave those two a proper warning. It was before you all joined, but we’ve met Trap-Master before and she isn’t exactly the easiest person to be around.”