The previous day.
I caught sight of my new teammate as he fell onto the couch. He had silver hair and orange eyes. I briefly wondered if he wore color changing contacts, or if that had been a result of his injection.
My appearance hadn't changed. I was still the same tall skinny kid with hair that looked black but was actually dark brown. My friends wouldn't believe me even when I had my mother confirm it.
My mother... I never really appreciated her until it was too late. She could make almost as many Lord of the Rings and Star Wars references as I could. She encouraged me to develop and share my talents. She was annoying, but that was because she cared enough to make me get up and do stuff.
And then in an instant my entire family was taken from me. Because of some id-
"It's not polite to stare" said the new kid.
It took me a moment to get back to the present and make sense of what he said.
"Huh? Oh.. umm right sorry." I stuck out a hand, "Welcome to Area 50. I'm Visp," I turned to gesture at Tiamone, "And he is Tiamone. I guess he's kinda busy with his power, so he doesn't want to be disturbed."
Apex took my hand and shook it. Tiamone opened one eye, saw we had a new arrival, sighed heavily and muttered,
"Screw it." He stood and joined us, "How's it going umm... what's your name?"
"Apex. Care to explain what the hell is going on around here?"
I shrugged. "I've been here for about ten minutes."
Tiamone rolled his eyes, "Guess that means the honor is mine."
"As you both know, this is Area 50. It should come as no shock to hear that there are 49 other areas that we will have to face in battle. The battles will start out as solo battles. One of us versus one of them. If you win a battle, our Area goes up in rank. If you lose, you die. The amount by which our rank increases, depends on how quickly you won, how close it was, etc. Once our Area hits a certain rank, we become eligible for team battles. Our entire Area versus a whole other area. Obviously, the better we do in solo fights has an impact on our performance in team fights. The less of us that die in solo battles, the more of us there are in a team battle. Solo battles are random and are not based on "skill level." You could end up with an easy challenger or with one of the top fighters. Team battles are matched up by rank, so we'll get pretty even opponents. That make sense?"
Apex and I nodded. Tiamone walked over to a monitor in the wall.
"This is a responsive unit. This is where you check your fight schedule, our team rank, and where you make purchases."
"Purchases?" I asked.
"Yes. People place bets on the games. We receive part of the winnings, which we can use to buy things approved by Superpowers Inc. Furniture, games, books, clothes, etc."
"These freaks certainly go out off their way to make sure we're comfortable before we die" Apex muttered.
"Yeah. Well. Here's how you check your schedule." He showed us a few different ways to check. One could check their personal schedule, the team schedule which showed the matches of all our Area members, and a view that showed only the next match, regardless of whose match it was. According to this view, the first match would be...
Tiamone frowned and entered a few commands.
"Hmm... it's not a glitch. And it looks like Apex has a match shortly after yours. That's odd. Usually they give you a few days rest before shoving you into a match. Your opponent is... Rex. Let's see..." he keyed a few buttons and brought up a full profile of my opponent.
ATTRIBUTES: 5'8'', 180 lbs.
POWERS: Tr-31, Cl-12, Br-11
There was also a picture. It showed a medium height well-muscled male with unkempt hair, ripped clothes, and wolverine claws coming out of his knuckles.
Tiamone hit a few more keys and brought up an in-depth description of Rex's powers.
TR-31: Transformation. Combatant has the ability to turn into a range of animals and beings. This does not include human beings, and/or the replication of effects.
No-17: Noxious Gas. Combatant can emit various harmful gases with a variety of effects including but not limited to: Carbon Monoxide, Methane, Chlorine, etc.
Br-11: Battle Rage. Combatant enters into a battle rage. While in battle rage, combatant possesses increased speed, strength, and reflexes, and feels little pain.
I was worried. Actually... worried was an understatement. I was terrified.
But I was gonna meet this guy in battle nonetheless.
I stood. "Ok. I'm going to the training room for a few hours."
"Good plan" said Apex, "Now pull up my opponent. I wanna see my first victim."
The training room branched off of the "common room." If you kept walking straight when you first entered Area 50, you'd come to the doors of the training room. The training room was much like the room that I had first tested my powers out in. It was empty except for a computer monitor.
"Computer. What training options do I have?"
"Options include mobile and non-mobile obstacles, active enviroment obstacles course, power-specific training, random combatant simulator, and power-specific combatant simulator."
"Better start simple. Non-mobile obstacles please."
Targets began to appear around me. I took a deep breath, lifted my hand, and began.
Two hours later, I was leaning against the wall. I was sweating, and I smelled of burnt plastic. I had exercised my Lightning and Telekinesis powers pretty well and was starting to head for the door when I remembered my third power.
Rex had Br-11 which was battle rage. Was mine similar to that?
"Computer can I have a description of power Br-45?"
"Br-45. Generation 1 power. Production discontinued. No recorded description. Number of times injected: 1."
I almost screamed in frustration when I read "No recorded description" but then the last line caught my eye.
Number of times injected: 1.
That couldn't possibly be right. I had just had it injected this morning... so for that to be true I'd have to be...
The only one...
But that didn't do me much use if I didn't know what the heck it did.
Then for the second time, I remembered the piece of paper in my pocket. I took it out and unfolded it. It had a single word. It was hard to read because the page had been crumpled in my pocket, but I could discern it.
I hadn't gotten any sleep. All I could think about was my match and my mysterious power.
After reading that word on the piece of paper, I had tried exhaling while envisioning fire-breath, or ice-breath, or something cool like that. Nothing had happened. I told Apex and Tiamone about it, and they said that I probably just had a low synchronization with it. I just had to keep practicing.
Practicing would have been great if I knew that something was actually happening.
I was woken at 9:45. My match was at 10. I'd have just enough time to make it to the arena. Apex and Tiamone bade me good luck as I left.
Maybe for the last time I thought.
You can't think like that I mentally scolded. If you don't go in there with a will to win, then you won't come out alive.
I reached the arena and was ushered in by a guard. The arena was an empty ring surrounded by huge stands. As I took my place in a small circle, I was hit by a wave of boos and jeers. The stands were by no means full, but there were enough people in there to give me a headache when they all yelled at once.
An announcement boomed out "Ladies and Gentlemen, please conclude all bidding. The match is about to begin!"
My opponent was already in place. Even as a human, he looked like an animal. A countdown began, the cheering and jeering getting louder as the countdown neared zero.
"Three! Two! ONE!!!"
The match began.
My opponent exploded into action immediately, dropping to all fours and morphing into a panther. As he leapt, I leveled my hand at him and let loose with small bolts of electricity arcing from my fingertips. I didn't want to come out with all my guns blazing just yet. I had to keep him guessing as to how much I could do.
The lightning blasted him backwards and he fell to the ground. As he stood up, he morphed into a bull elephant and charged me once more. I stuck to smaller bolts of lightning and as they shot out, Rex morphed into something long and thin. My attack hit him, but didn't cause any damage whatsoever. As he flew towards me, I realized why.
He had morphed into an electric eel.
I made a swatting motion with my hand, but I was too late. He had already looped around me. The slippery skin began to morph into scales, and with a sinking feeling, I knew what he was trying to do.
Rex, now a boa constrictor, began to tighten around me. I struggled and squirmed, but I was wrapped too tightly to move.
But I couldn't give up. In practice I had only used my hands to shoot lightning. But why should my power be limited to my palms and fingers? I concentrated hard, and my skin began to crackle with static. One particularly loud crack stood out among the rest, and from the pain that I felt, I could tell that was a rib breaking.
I almost lost my focus, but was determined not to die here. The electric field around me grew in intensity and I could feel Rex loosening his hold. He morphed into a human and swung a punch at me. I went for style points, and without moving my hands, I used my telekinesis to stop his fist cold. Then I began to unleash a barrage of invisible punches into his stomach and face.
His nose broke under one of the blows, and then it happened. Rex's eyes grew red, and he seemed to grow. He let out a roar and with a wrench, he broke free of my telekinetic hold. His mouth was foaming as threw an impossibly fast punch.
I didn't stand a chance. The punch literally threw me backward. He was in Battle Rage.
As he stalked towards me, I uped the ampage on my lightning and began to throw balls of electricity at him. They collided with him time after time, but had no effect on him. He was in front of me again, and I was down once more under a hail of blows.
I concentrated my remaining energy into one hand. It glowed and crackled with an intensity that nearly blinded me. As fist after fist slammed into my chest and face, I gathered my strength into a lunge and knocked Rex off balance for an instant. Then I placed my charged hand over his heart and released.
His feet left ruts in the floor as he was blasted backwards into one of the stands. The crowd was roaring, and for a moment I thought that I had won.
But then Rex's smoking body twitched and jerked, and after a moment he crawled to his feet. I had tried to stop his heart with a blow that should have killed him. But that didn't matter, because he was far from dead.
I tried to take a step, and almost collapsed on myself. My leg didn't feel broken, but it certainly wasn't up to being stood on. One of my eyes was swollen shut, my nose was bleeding, and another rib had been broken under Rex's barrage. I was in bad shape. I couldn't take another session like that. Luckily, it looked he was in the same condition. My blast must have shocked him out of his battle rage, because his eyes were no longer red. He began to stomp towards me, and I crouched, ready for him to morph and spring at me.
But the the charge never came. He simply lifted his hand and kept coming at me. It didn't look like anything was happening, but then the air in front of his hand seemed to shimmer, and I realized that he hadn't played all his cards yet.
He was gonna gas me.
I backed away until the solid wall told me that I had gone as far as I could. I was out of lightning, and I didn't have the strength to launch my telekinesis. There was nothing I could do but wait for the end.
But the end never came. After a minute of Rex and I facing each other with no fainting from me, I grew confused.
It seemed like his gas didn't affect me.
And then it hit me.
The word on the paper wasn't breath.
It was breathe.
I could breathe this stuff. My mind raced, and I grasped at one final hope. It left a lot to luck, but there was nothing else I could do. I began to stumble towards Rex, who was coming to the same conclusion that I was. He stood his ground though and seemed unconcerned at my approach.
When I was about teen feet away, I took a deep breath, deeper than any I had ever taken. I inhaled for a good 30 seconds before I felt my lungs fill. Then in my last desperate act, I exhaled sharply and raised my hand to the entrance of my mouth. I snapped my fingers and created the tinniest spark.
But it was enough.
My breath caught fire as it left my mouth, ignited by the last spark of electricity that I had. It hurtled towards Rex, who barely had the time to recognize what was happening.
He caught fire rather quickly and began to scream. He dropped to the floor and rolled back and forth, but I was still exhaling and I didn't stop exhaling until there was no "air" left in my lungs. By the time my lungs were emptied, Rex had long since stopped writhing.
The next few minutes were a blur. They started with the crowd exploding into cheers, and a few minutes, hours, or days later, I was stumbling into Area 50. I almost collided with a girl with bushy brown hair.
Girl? When did we get a girl?
She turned to look me and her mouth opened in a silent scream, and then she fainted.
I looked at her dumbly for a moment then turned to look at Apex and Tiamone. I gave them a shaky thumbs up, then my vision grew dark, and I joined the new girl on the floor.