Chapter – XI
Sean was agitated.
In fact, those who knew him best, if anyone truly did, would know that inside he was fuming. As he paced around the combat cell, he kept asking himself why that overgrown lummox wouldn’t just surrender. He was laying flat on his face, completely without the use of his arms or legs. He had to know he was beaten. And for that matter, why wouldn’t the professors simply end the farce? His opponent was clearly incapacitated, and they gave no indication that rendering him unconscious was a condition for victory.
What Sean didn’t see in his pacing was Erik’s right hand twitching. It was subtle at first, the fingers jumping as though being poked by small needles. The tremors grew until finally he was able to ball his hand up into a white knuckled fist.
At roughly the same time, Sean suddenly turned back to his prone adversary. “Why? Why are you still struggling? Just give up so we can end this!” he all but shouted in frustration.
“NO!” Erik roared. And with a single fluid move, he pushed himself off the ground and into the air. Only Sean’s exceptional reflexes saved him from Erik’s descending fist. His body seemed to dart back of its own accord, and Sean thought he could feel the wind as the blow passed in front of his face before cracking the concrete of the floor. Shock was etched into Sean’s face as his opponent stood, drawing himself up to his full height.
But as Erik towered over his pale opponent, that shock drained away and was replaced by a thin smile. “Finally,” he said “an opponent worth fighting. Show me what you’ve got.”
Erik wasted neither breath nor energy with words. Instead he lunged forward and grabbed Sean by his arm, quickly spinning and hurling the smaller youth into the wall behind them. It was thanks only to Sean’s remarkable reflexes and extra-human physique that he wasn’t injured by the savage throw. Sean was able to contort his body so he hit the wall feet first and absorb the bone-shattering force of the impact. Erik charged as soon as he saw his opponent’s recovery, however this time Sean met him half way, loosing another strike at Erik’s leg as his full weight landed on it.
Instead of the leg going numb and buckling, Erik only stumbled slightly before continuing his charge. Sean slipped smoothly away from his powerful reach, and hit Erik’s arm with another pair of snapping blows. This time his hand only twitched, and Sean was forced to retreat rather than take whatever punishment Erik was getting ready to dish out.
As Sean switched to a more defensive posture, his lightening strikes gave way to a series of fluid evasive moves. He didn’t even attempt to counter Erik’s strikes. He had seen plainly enough that Eric was no longer phased by his crippling energy, at least what he could impart with a quick strike. No, his attention had now turned to avoiding even a glancing blow.
Up in the observation room, the students turned spectators were enraptured by the fight. Some marveled at Sean’s liquid grace, others gasped at every near miss of Erik’s fist. Others still, particularly those who were subtly trying to rub feeling back into limbs that were still in various states of numbness courtesy of Sean Kearney, hollered when it looked as though Erik finally had his elusive opponent cornered. But each time Sean managed to slip away, if only a hair’s width away from a sledgehammer blow.
The match had turned into a game of cat and mouse. Erik had all the advantages overwhelming size and power bring, while Sean had speed and agility on his side. The more astute watching, mostly being the upper-classmen, realized the extraordinary difficulty of Sean’s tactic. He had to be perfect in every dodge. He couldn’t afford to take a blow or allow himself to jump out of position. Every dodge had to be a carefully timed chess move leading to the next, because Erik only had to be lucky once to put his opponent down.
Suddenly, Erik’s wild flurry of attacks stopped. His broad shoulders heaved as he lowered his eyes and drew in a deep breath. “I am not my ancestors. I am in control.” He said, letting out the breath. He repeated the mantra several times before raising his eyes again.
“Hey, what’s up?” Robin said. “Why’d big, blonde, and hunky stop?”
“I don’t know.” Tom responded. “We saw his other fights, and he definitely gets more serious when the adrenaline gets pumping. But he was actually pretty restrained.”
“I think I know.” Max said, turning to Robin. “I met his parents last night and they took me out to dinner. I found out he gets his powers from his mom’s side, but she’s a powered. Well, on the way to the restaurant, she bumped into somebody, and they called her a…” Max’s voice trailed off and his ears burned red as he suddenly realized he was talking to a girl. “Well, let’s just say it was rude and she got angry. Really pissed, to be honest. Erik and his dad had to pull her into an alley and calm her down, but she still cracked a brick wall. Anyway, I think that might be what happened with Erik there, but since he has control over his powers, he’s calming himself down”
“Okay, I guess that makes sense.” Robin said. “Note to self, never steal a fry off his plate.”
“Yeah, we kinda came to the same conclusion.” Tom said.
Sean’s first instinct was to attack when Erik took his eyes off him and lowered his guard. But keeping out of the way of Erik’s berserk attack had been taxing. Even with his enhanced reflexes and superhuman physique, he was starting to bump up against his limits. So Sean took advantage of the momentary respite to get a quick breather of his own.
All too soon Erik raised his eyes and took something much more like a traditional fighting stance, and the match was back on. This time instead of an assault of wild swings and haymakers, Erik fought with something like strategy and timing. His style still depended more on power than finesse and technique, but he mixed jabs, kicks, and rudimentary combinations. Sean found himself reevaluating his opponent and his own strategy. The slower pace was less taxing on him, but he was no longer in control of the flow of the match. He was going to have to figure out a way to end this match and put this ox down before he got lucky.
While Sean was relatively distracted, Erik landed his first blow on his opponent. It wasn’t much, but a feinted jab to right forced Sean to slip to the other, right into the path of low a left uppercut. He turned away from the punch at the last instant, missing most of the punch’s power. Despite that, the glancing blow still cracked ribs and knocked the breath out of the pale-skinned youth.
Wincing, Sean threw an ineffective counter strike and quickly danced away from Erik. His mind made up and settling on the second riskiest plan he had, Sean drew upon his power. He waited for Erik to close, but injured he was unable to dodge with his usual fluid grace, so he focused on staying just out of Erik’s considerable reach. His normal attacks were the equivalent of love taps, taking almost no time to charge, and taxing him almost as much, but still enough to interrupt the nervous signals to his opponent’s limbs. What he had in mind was much bigger. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t even consider using this much energy, but considering how Erik shrugged off his earlier attacks, he was going to need to push the envelope.
Slowly his the energy coursing though his skin built, the hair on his arms starting to raise and small arcs dance a foxtrot between his fingers. When he finally judged he had enough, he darted forward to get inside of Erik’s guard. Rather than attack, he jumped up, and using Erik’s massive shoulders for leverage, vaulted over him. However instead of releasing the energy, Sean turned in mid air and landed smoothly behind him. Hopping up to get even with the taller student’s head, he spread his arms wide and clapped his hands over his opponent’s ears and released the pent up energy.
Erik’s body immediately went rigid and his long, now disheveled hair, stood on end. Sean landed in a crouch behind him, his arm holding his broken ribs. Like a great tree, Erik slowly began to fall forward, landing face-down with a thud.
In short order Coach Alex’s voice sounded in the cell “The winner, by knock out, Sean Kearney.”
“Well, shit! I thought Erik had him there.” Tom said after Coach Alex’s voice faded.
“Myself as well,” Peter said “I don’t have much experience, but I’m pretty sure Erik broke at least one of Sean’s ribs before the end.”
“Do you guys think he’s okay?” Max asked, memories of his own loss all too fresh in his mind.
“I don’t know him, but I… I think he’ll be fine” Robin said.
“What do you mean?” Max asked, looking warily at Erik’s prone form.
“Well, he’s got kindof a goofy look on his face, and I’m not sure, but I think he’s snoring.”
Down in the cell, as a gray uniformed healer approached, Erik had a small smile on his face that would have been familiar to his roommates and was indeed snoring.