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Breed: Twenty-six


  01:14:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2133 words  
Categories: Breed

Breed: Twenty-six

?I know the tassles feel silly,? Linc said, ?but there's a point to them.?
?I thought we were sparring,? Ben said, trying to get his touch football belt to lay properly around his large waist.
?We are. But I want you think of this like football, not because it's a game, but because I think the structure will help you focus. One of the things that people new to soldiering tend to do is forget that half of a fight is defensive; they want to charge in, guns blazing. And you need to keep both aspects in mind if you want to get out of a firefight alive.
?To that end, the girls are going to start out on offense. They'll each take their shot at the same time, and boys, you dodge or defend. You get hit, you lose a flag. Lose two, and you're out. Hit each other, don't try to hurt each other.?
?I can handle any minor wounds,? Cris said.
?I don't think you should have told them that on their turn,? Ben said.
?Do you want us to coordinate?? Rox asked.
?No plan. Just go.?
?Sonya?? Mira asked, turning in her direction. ?Can I borrow one of your bombs??
?I prefer boomlets,? she said, forming one in her hand, ?if only because it's less likely to get me put on a no-fly list.?
Mira crouched, clutching the explosive tightly to her chest. ?Oh, crap,? Sonya said, as she realized what she was doing with it. The boomlet exploded in a cloud of smoke. Mira rose out of it.
?Thanks. That'll give me a little more oomph.?
?Oh, crap,? Ben said. Mira came running right at him. He held out his hands, and shook the ground. She had enough momentum she barely faltered. He turned his palms up to her, and the force vibrating out of them rippled her skin, but she kept coming, and tackled him to the ground.
?Valiant attempt,? Linc said, as Mira ripped one of the flags off Ben's belt.
?Yeah, she kind of unmanned me.?
?This feels kind of like shooting fish in a barrel,? Sonya said, creating enough boomlets to fill each hand. She started flinging them with abandon. Ben used vibrations to knock the balls of energy away, and Rui turned to a gas, so they fell harmlessly through him.
?Mommy,? Cristobal said as they landed all around him and started to explode.
In the confusion, Rox ran at Rui. He phased again, into a gas, but she leapt at him, anyway, falling into the dirt behind him. ?Nice try,? he said confidently. She dropped one of his flags into the snow.
?Looks like all of you didn't phase uniformly,? she said.
Irene opened her mouth and screamed. The scream was small and tinny, but piercing and all-encompassing. It made Ben wince, but only about the level of nails on a chalk board.
?Ah,? Ben said, then looked to Linc.
?Well, she kind of hurt our ears. But I'm going to say no points for that.?
She frowned.
?Part of the point of this experiment is to find our weaknesses, not to shame us for them, but so we can work on them, or where necessary, compensate. That's three hits and a miss. Gentlemen, what have you got??
Rui turned to plasma, and floated. Ben held out his hands and started the earth shaking. ?I have never felt less adequate in my life,? Cris said, standing between them.
Mira and Sonya had to put out their arms to balance due to the tremor; in defiance, Rox stood on one leg, with the other balanced against it. Ben glanced at Linc. ?This is a fart in a stiff wind, Tso,? he said, ?you'll have to crank it up if you want some flags.?
He started to shake violently, and in concert so did the ground. Sonya tripped, knocking into Mira, and they both hit the ground. ?Points,? Linc said. Rox was still standing.
Rui swooped down towards Rox, flinging pockets of burning plasma at her. She began to flip backwards, narrowly missing each as they fizzled in the snow. ?She's rubber in a glue factory,? he said, when she landed with her arms in the air and a grin on her face.
Cris tackled Irene to the ground. ?Sorry,? he said. ?Though you did nearly deafen me.? He helped her stand.
?Not bad, all involved,? Linc said. ?Not great, but you held your own. Ladies. Payback??
?Hell, yeah,? Rox said.
?I think we may have over-corrected,? Cris said.
?Just try not to get hit,? Ben said.
?Oh captain, my captain,? Cris said, with a little salute.
?I believe that was sarcastic,? Rui said.
?I changed my mind. Both of you get hit, as hard as you can.?
?Sure thing, boss,? he said, still floating over the field.
?Can I get a boost?? Mira asked.
Rox laced her fingers and turned towards Mira as she ran. Mira jumped onto Rox's hand, and Rox lifted at the same time.
?Crap,? Rui said, as she smacked into him in the air. Mira spun, so he landed on top of her as he extinguished. ?I didn't think anyone would be crazy enough to grab me on fire.?
?It's okay,? Mira said. ?I converted the energy. Feel like I could run a marathon.?
?Or leap ten feet into the air again?? he asked.
?Maybe that's just the thrill of victory,? she said, and pulled out his other flag.
Rui held his thumb up to Ben. ?All going according to plan!?
?Smartass,? Ben said. ?Get behind me, Cris.?
Ben and Cris started backing slowly down the field. ?Three of them left, and you have two flags.?
?I didn't realize this match came with a free arithmetic lesson.?
?Ladies, take this wise ass down a peg for me.?
?Sonya, crop dust him,? Rox said, and darted towards Ben. ?You won't hit me!? she yelled, without looking back.
?This is going to get bad,? Ben said.
?I don't know,? Cris said. ?I feel oddly safe right now.?
?That's because you're hiding behind me,? he yelled, vibrating boomlets away from them.
Roxy intentionally stepped on one of the bombs as she ran, and it exploded beneath her, launching her at Ben. She rolled beneath his legs. ?Oh crap, Cris!? he yelped.
?Might want to worry about yourself, there, big guy,? Rox said, yanking his flag.
?Son of a damnable airborne-? Irene dodged past him. ?Cris!?
She speared Cris in the stomach. ?It's a good thing you've got healing powers,? Linc said. ?And you're out. Fellas, that was not a terribly impressive outing. But what I'm going to do for you is this. Sudden death. They got to go first, so you get a chance to return fire. This is for all of the marble.?
?We can't numerically eliminate all of them,? Ben said.
?No, but they missed two flags. You manage to land two out of three hits and we'll call it a tie- or at least enough of a tie that I won't mock you for it.?
?We can do that, maybe,? Cris said.
?It's your endless enthusiasm that makes me glad you're on our team,? Ben said.
?Psst,? Rui said, ?I think he was being sarcastic.?
?Well... my 'Thanks' was facetious, anyway.?
?Get behind me,? Mira said. ?I can absorb and redirect whatever they throw at me.?
?And if I'm in the way, they'll miss,? Rox said.
?They got a point,? Cris said. ?So throw me over them.?
?What?? Ben asked.
?Like a football.?
?Okay,? he said, and took hold of Cris' arm and hip and tossed him.
?The hell?? Rox asked as he flew overhead.
?Got him,? Sonya yelled, tossing a fistful of boomlets at him. They exploded in a cascade of sparks, little flashes of pain before they were gone. Cris groped blindly as the air exploded around him, but managed to brush a wisp of hair off Irene's forehead before crashing violently into the ground.
?That was a hail Mary,? Ben said with a grin. ?Cause he's religious, and I chucked him like a football.?
?More incoming,? Rox said, trying to push past Mira to intercept, only for Ben to crash against Mira, knocking the larger woman into her path. Rui flew by. Sonya was still flat-footed from counter-attacking Cris, enough that she couldn't get out of the way. Rui's fireballs crashed against her foot before fizzling, but not before she launched another boomlet, this one larger, detonating in his stomach. His momentum carried him into her legs, and they both went tumbling.
?Point,? he said weakly from beneath her.
?It all comes down to those two,? Linc said.
Mira and Ben were still grappling. He had size on her, but every moment he channeled his strength he was feeding more and more of it to her. Mira pushed him, and it looked like he'd fall over. But he teetered back from his heels, and lunged. His moment carried the both of them back, with Mira landing on her back. And that was the moment he realized his error. She was in complete control, and had wanted his momentum moving in that direction. She caught him stomach-first on her feet, and rolled him back, using that momentum to throw him nearly as far as he launched Cris.
?Crap,? he said, skidding as he landed.
?What I do appreciate is you were willing to sacrifice your bodies to make the play,? Linc said. ?Sometimes, that's the only way through.?
?I chose poorly,? Chris said from the ground. ?Ah, it's definitely broken.?
?Well, fix it.?
?Can't,? he said, wincing on the ground. ?One, it's compound, and two, I can't concentrate enough to knit it back together.?
?You wouldn't want to heal it as is anyway,? Linc said, kneeling. He put his hands on the bone jabbing through Cris' skin. ?The first part's easy.? He shoved the bone down.
?That's worse,? Cris said, whimpering.
?Not yet it isn't,? Linc said. He put his foot in Cris' stomach and pulled on the leg to straighten it.
?Christ!? Cris yelped.
?Don't pass out,? Linc said. ?You're liable to bleed out in this field, and then I have to start the whole damned day over. Now breathe, and get it done.?
?Fuck,? Cris said, as his hands began to glow. His face crinkled in pain, and he started to fall. A man caught him that he'd never seen before.
?Let me help you,? he said. ?Now focus, on the sound of my voice. You can feel warmth in your leg, heat, it hurts, but it's a good hurt, like a spa after a run.? The light from Cris' hands became blinding, so he closed his eyes. When he managed to reopen them, the skin over the broken bone had sealed.
?Now the bone,? the man said. Cris squeezed his fingers into the flesh of his leg, and cried out in agony, as the heat seared into him. He fell back into the snow, gasping for air. ?You all right??
Cris put out his hand. ?Help me up, so I can put some weight on it to see.? Linc pulled him to his feet. ?It didn't buckle out from underneath me,? he said. ?Which is good enough. Also, not to sound ungrateful, but who the hell are you??
?I'm not sure how many of you have met Rafael,? Linc said, ?or Mr. Munoz, if you have any of his classes.?
?I teach English as a second language, particularly with a focus towards teaching and tutoring.?
?Too bad you didn't show earlier; you might have helped balance our teams.?
?Or unbalanced them,? he said with a smile, adjusting his glasses.
?He served with me in southeast Asia,? Linc said. ?I've trusted him with my life many times, and if there's ever anything you can't bring to me, for whatever reason, his is a good an ear to bend as you're likely to find.?
?But what the hell did you do to me?? Cris asked.
?What you were trying to do. My gift is... complementary. I help others. I helped you heal the leg. That's all.?
?Well, thanks.?
?That was a good spar, people,? Linc said. ?You'll sleep like puppies tonight, and you've earned it.?
?I was thinking about going to the protest, instead,? Rox said.
Linc sighed heavily. ?I know that's what you'd like to do, and I can't blame you for that. But Kean set a curfew for every minor on campus. I fought him, but he's in charge. And none of us can afford to openly defy him- not right now. So I think you should do like he asked. Signal boost, make sure the protest makes as big of a social media impact as it can. And keep yourselves safe.?

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