“Please,” Akane begged. “You need this.”
“No I don’t,” I snapped back. “I’ve been doing perfectly well so far.”
“Against mindless zombies!” my roommate cried. “Not against intelligent, dangerous super-powered people who know how to exploit your weaknesses!”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not taking combat training, and that’s final.”
Flynn took a step forward, his fingers drumming against the hilt of his sword in consternation. “Ling, please, there’s no need to be so antagonistic about this. Just a few quick lessons. I’ll teach you myself, if you want.”
I glared at him, then turned my attention to Akane. “Keep your boyfriend out of this.”
She blushed scarlet and stammered something about how they totally weren’t dating, yaddy yadda yadda, you know how this one goes.
Flynn seemed to be at least as aware of this plot as I was. He ignored Akane in favor of giving me a steely glare.
I met his eyes without flinching. I took the full brunt of one of Derek’s death glares; Flynn’s mild annoyance was nothing.
“I thought everyone already went over this with you. The rest of the team has to be able to trust that you’re up to par.”
I waved my hand dismissively. “I can control concrete, and we’re in a city. It’s fine.”
The swordsman sighed. “You are really impossible, you know that? This isn’t shounen anime, Ling. The heroes don’t always win just because they’ve got cooler powers.”
“I know that. Don’t insult me. I know reality from fiction, thanks.”
“Really? Do you, really?”
Now it was my turn to give him a glare. It didn’t have much effect. “Yes. I know better than to think all it takes too win a fight is to take a few hits and then give a speech about friendship.”
He sighed again. “But you still think the good guys always win, just because they’re the good guys.”
I stood up a little straighter. “Maybe. What’s so wrong with that?”
“Fine,” he muttered. “We’ll do this the old-fashioned way.”
Then his face was an inch away from mine.
I was so surprised it took me a second to feel the open-palm punch to my chest.
I flew back under the force of the blow, literally lifting off the ground, but I managed to use the enhanced reflexes granted by the power package to keep my legs oriented, and land mostly upright a few feet away.
But Flynn didn’t give me a chance to recover. He charged across the training mats and launched a punch at my head. When I dropped down, dodging it easily, he used his leg to sweep my feet out from under me before I even knew what was happening.
I blinked, to see him slamming his elbow down into my face. I rolled to the side, which let me avoid his pile-driver by pure luck.
Before he could recover, I lashed out from the ground with a two-legged kick, utilizing years of soccer to my advantage. I caught him in the shoulder, sending him rolling across the mats, but he recovered almost as fast as I had.
He hadn’t drawn his sword.
I bellowed and bull-rushed forward, but I may as well have stood still for all the good it did me. Flynn dodged to the side as silent as a whisper, and tripped me up again without a word.
For the second time in as many minutes, I went sprawling, this time with my face grinding against the exercise mats.
But still, combat training or no, I was an accomplished athlete, and the power package only enhanced that. I was able to get my hands under me and use my momentum to flip back onto my feet, only skidding a last few inches before stopping.
But again, Flynn was there.
I guarded against the punch to my face, but it was a feint; he got me in the ribs with a lightning-fast kick. I was wearing my armor, as I always did these days, but it still made me stagger, and left me open for another sweep on my legs that sent me sprawling once again.
Wait. I was wearing my armor…
He tried the pile-driver on me again, but I used my power to grab my armor and move a few feet to the left.
Flynn didn’t seem upset that he had missed again. Instead, he grinned.
“Okay,” he said. “Now we can have a real fight.” He took a few steps back and fell into a basic fighting stance, waiting for me to get up.
He still hadn’t drawn his sword.
Tezuka’s name, he wasn’t taking me seriously. I might not be as bad as Akane, but I still don’t like being mocked.
This time when I charged, I did it with the full weight of my power behind me, launching me forward at speeds no human could hope to match.
If I hit him, he’d die.
And then suddenly, I was upside down, bits of plaster falling down around me, my back having slammed into the wall.
Akane pulled me out, brushing off the larger pieces of rubble as she helped me to my feet. “You didn’t react fast enough.”
“React fast enough to what?”
She gave me a look. “Flynn tripped you again and flipped you over his shoulder. It’s a basic move when someone is charging at you.”
“I…” I glanced at the swordsman, who was standing a few feet away, looking embarrassed.
“Uh, sorry,” he managed. “Not really sure what came over me.”
“I was moving…” I didn’t even know how fast I was moving. “How did you react that fast?”
He shrugged. “It wasn’t hard. It doesn’t really matter how fast you’re moving, when you’re running in a straight line. I knew where you were going to be, so it was easy to brace myself.”
“If you had training, you’d be able to do the same,” Akane noted. “And you’d know better than to do a charge like that in the first place.”
Tezuka’s…what did she think I was, a child? “Yeah, thanks, I got that,” I snapped.
“Hey, calm down,” a voice called from behind us. I turned to see Adam, dressed in a sharp leather jacket and carrying his briefcase of guns, walk into the dojo. “What’s got you all worked up?”
I rolled my shoulders, trying to stretch them out a little bit. “Flynn decided to prove a point. Violently.”
The bland baseline looked at the swordsman, bewildered. “Uh, okay. What was the—” Flynn opened his mouth to answer, but Adam held up his hand. “Never mind, I have a feeling I don’t want to know.”
“Men and monsters, you make it sound like I did something horrible,” Flynn muttered, miffed. “She’s barely even bruised.”
Adam ignored the man, instead turning his attention to me. “I came here to tell you the news. Assuming you haven’t heard it already.”
“Uh…” I thought back. Had anything noteworthy happened today? Derek had called an hour ago to say he was busy with Laura at some crime scene, but that didn’t have anything to do with me. At least, it better not. If Turgay got killed and Derek hadn’t seen the need to mention it, I was gonna be pissed. “That’s a negative. What’s up?”
“Necessarius made a deal to release Delia,” he explained. “MC just shot me a text five minutes ago.” He waved his hand. “One of her automated programs, I mean. I signed up for a couple newsfeeds.”
That named sounded familiar… “Refresh my memory. Who’s Delia?”
“The ave the ‘sarians captured when they tried to get the toy box back the first time.”
I blinked. “Wait, Soaring Eagle made a deal with Butler?”
He shrugged. “That’s what it looks like.”
Flynn appeared at my shoulder, handing me a bottle of water. I hadn’t even noticed him leave. I took it, and he sipped from his own. “What’d they give in return? No way the toy box is worth one bird.”
“That’s not the end of it,” Adam warned. “The aves gave up a dozen prisoners they got from that battle on the Ring. In return, they got, uh,” he checked his phone. “They got all their captured warhawks back.”
“That’s kinda interesting,” I admitted. “But I’m not sure why I should care. Sorry if that sounds cold.”
“The problem isn’t the aves,” he insisted firmly. He held up his phone for me to see. “It’s the guy they had deliver the trade agreement.”
It didn’t take me long to identify the man in the picture.
Green hair, clashing with his russet skin.
“Mitchel,” I snarled. I threw the unopened water bottle at a newly-installed speaker in the corner with all my strength, then turned on my heel and stalked out of the room.
I had some birds to catch.
Behind the Scenes (scene 175)
I’m having trouble getting Flynn as much screen time as he deserves. Well, he has plot threads later, it’s fine if he’s a little on the light side for now.