Energia

Chapter 16: Will of Iron (Energia: Titans of Verità)

Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)

Anna took her stance across from the Russian, firmly guarding her chest behind her arms. Twenty feet in front of her, Alex crossed his arms, smiling with clear confidence. He left himself wide open, which was more than enough to get under her skin. A hush fell over the remaining candidates, who all leaned in towards the battle. The only sound was the gentle hum of their armor’s power and the hammering of their hearts in their ears.

She realized that, in her excitement, she hadn’t come up with any sort of plan. Not that she could plan for an opponent like this. Just this once, she’d have to take Tommy’s advice and wing it. It was oddly thrilling.

Melcroft stood up and raised an arm into the air. “READY?!”

Her cheeks ached from smiling. Every muscle in her body yearned to charge him. It screamed at her, desperate to let the ecstasy of combat fill her again. She could feel her fingers trembling. She forced herself to stay still. This was still a test. If she attacked him before they were given the word, it was likely that she’d be sent home. But the wait was killing her!

“FIGHT!”

The calm died instantly as all hell broke loose. Alex bore down on her in a single leap, aiming a full-powered kick at the side of her head. She barely managed to recognize and block the blow. The satisfied tingling shot through her body once again, accompanied by a wave of agony.

She didn’t have the time to bask in it. Before she could move against him, Alex had swung his body around and planted his feet firmly right in front of her. Then his arms became a furious typhoon, which he aimed directly at her. Even in an E-Suit, his movements were absurdly quick! Out of fifteen, which were only half of what he could throw at her within a single second, Anna could only block two of them. The others breached her defenses like massive bullets.

In a split-second decision, Anna caught his oncoming fists in both hands. The impact rang through the room like a tower bell, making their ears ring. His eyes widened as the vortex between them suddenly died. Before he could break free, Anna pulled him close and drove her knee into his stomach with all the power she could muster. Then, as his face twisted into red agony, she brought her head down onto his own like a hammer on a nail.

Alex fell straight down in a blur. His body into the metal, leaving a deep hole lined with shredded steel just a few inches away from another, much smaller pit. Blue sparks flew through the newly severed power track in the floor, and the remainder of the line went dark.

Several jaws fell from the stands. One of the judges leaped down from the stands and started towards the hole. For a second, Anna felt a bitter excitement. That couldn’t be it, could it? Part of her didn’t want it to be. The other, far more desperate part, disagreed with her.

As seemed to be the theme for the day, Anna’s hopes were immediately dashed. Before the judge could get to the hole, Alex grabbed onto the limp shards and used them to pull himself up. Small sparks flew from the joints of his E-Suit, which had lost its helmet in the impact. A thin trail of blood ran from beneath his hair and to his mouth, which was twisted into a long, thin smile.

Anna barely had time to react before he was on her again. He grabbed both of her arms, then threw her over his shoulder. She landed with a painful thud, which sent jolts of pain all throughout her spine. He didn’t let up, using his insane strength to lift her back up and over the other side. The impact deepened one of the holes that one of the previous battles left. He pulled her out of the pit and aimed to throw her again.

In a split second, Anna curled her knees and landed on her feet, though the force still punched a pair of holes through the steel. Using all the strength in her frame, she gripped Alex’s arms and threw him over her head, using his own grip to support her. Unfortunately, the attack was less fruitful than she had hoped, as Alex let his grip go and managed to break free of her own halfway through the arc. He flew through the air and rolled gracefully on the ground, returning to his feet in an instant.

She tried to block his next punch, but she was far too late. His fist took her right in the center of the chest, sending her sliding backward. By the time she came to a stop, she had reached the lip of the hole Alex’s body left earlier. Her breastplate clicked, and she felt the grip loosen even more than before. But the thrill of battle dulled her thoughts. She didn’t pay any attention to anything aside from her opponent.

Anna reached down and ripped the pulled a metal plate from the ground. It tore from the rest with one powerful pull, and just in time to stop Alex in his tracks. He looked at her, clearly stunned. What am I doing? Anna asked herself as her arms swung the plate like a baseball bat. Alex tried to block, but the sheer size of the shredded plate, which was larger than either of their chests, proved too much. It hit him with a loud crack and sent him flying into the wall, creating a small imprint of his person as he collided with it.

A toothy grin crossed her face. Oh. That’s what I was thinking! Now emboldened by her new weapon, Anna rushed him, swinging it once again like a cavewoman with a club. Alex stepped in, parried the weapon with one fist, and sucker-punched her stomach. The force of his deflecting maneuver was too great for her, and it sent her knew weapon through the air and to the other side of the room.

With the impact of the blow, Anna stumbled back, giving Alex ample room to strike again. His attack approached in slow motion, and her attempt to guard felt even slower. Anna tried to predict the fist’s destination, but her vision was clouded by pain and adrenaline to think clearly. Her confident smile never wavered. Her E-Suit would-

A small click rang in her ear, snapping her out of her rush. Her breastplate fell from her shoulders and straight down to the floor. Anna’s heart stopped. She tried to grab the plate, blinded by sudden panic and desperation. Then, just as her guard vanished, Alex’s fist sunk into her stomach.

Pain unlike anything she ever felt shot through her body. She could feel her bones crack and her organs flatten against the sheer, unstoppable force of the blow. The taste of copper immediately filled every corner of her mouth. All sound except for a quiet, distant ringing filled her ears. Then, when the fist stopped and the force caught up with it, she shot back like a bullet, skidding across the ground. She could feel her clothes and skin tear as she slid across the metal. A thick trail of blood followed closely after her. Her vision went red, then gray, then black.

A loud gasp escaped from all members of the crowd. The judges immediately shot up, clear terror in their eyes. Melcroft’s smile vanished for the first time. Alex froze where he stood, his smile replaced by a wide-eyed stare of sheer horror. At the other end of the room, Anna lay completely still in a slowly growing pool of blood.

An eternity seemed to pass as she lay there, as still as a stone in the forest. Each breath brought excruciating pain. She coughed violently, wetting the floor with a thick, crimson liquid. Her body tried to move, but the remaining plates of the E-Suit felt like they weighed more than a cruiser class starship. Her vision came in and out, letting her see the panicked judges desperately rushing towards her. Tommy stood at the edge of the stands, shouting something she couldn’t hear.

Get up, she thought desperately. Stupid body… You can’t die here! Not like this!

Anna fought with all her remaining might to push herself up. The pain brought tears to her eyes, which then freely flowed down her bloodied face. The judges tried to stop her, both with words and with force, but she didn’t pay any attention to them. To her, they were planets away. Only Alex, who stood frozen on the other side of the arena, was still on the same astral body as she was.

Though shaky, bloody and hardly breathing, Anna stood up once again. She took a small, slow step towards him, fist raised into the air. “I told you…” she groaned coarsely in spite of the pain. “I’m going to… to…”

Her knees toppled beneath her. Two of the judges, the short man in green armor and the tall woman in yellow, caught her as she fell. She could feel all of her senses fade into black. Win, she repeated silently. I’m going to… She raised her hand one last time, reaching desperately towards her opponent. Then everything went black.

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