Trials – Episode 12

(I started writing it last week, but due to unforeseen mental/emotional things I didn’t get it done until now so it’s really, really late.  Better late than never, but I still intend to get them out at regular intervals.  Enjoy)

Fallon and I just stared down at the cyan glow from the pendant.  I hadn’t seen it this bright since I came out of breach.  Fallon didn’t know that a pendant could glow so brightly.  It was like staring at a light bulb.  The pendant, Celtic cross like style as it was, lit up like neon lights, and the energy made the crystal casing warm with heat.  I looked up into her cyan bathed face and her back at me, both filled with utter confusion.  “You better hide that, Alira.  There is absolutely no way you can let others see that.  Oh my…”, she says, staring down at it again it awestruck wonder, and concern.  “No one can know”, she continues again.

“Alira, I’m going to go now.  You go to get something to eat.  I fear that if you don’t, with that much power coming out of you, that you’ll be in deep shit soon.  I really don’t know what all this means, but I really feel like I need to lay down now.  And, please…  Be careful.  You’re under the world’s watchful eye now.  I, I… I, I just…  Good night”, Alira says finishing when a very low tone in her voice standing in a slouchy position.  She closes the door behind her.  I take one last look at the pendant before putting it in the drawer.  I look at it nestled between the socks as its bright beacon fades to its original metal color.  I felt an unbearable sense of urgency.  I can honestly say, I’d never changed into my off-duty/civilianesque clothing so fast before.  I was worried now, that if I used up too much power, I’d end up with a terminal case of Tempest Sickness.  It is possible to do so much damage to your body’s metabolic system with your tempest, that you can end up going terminal.  Never being able to use your power to regenerate your own body ever again.  It can burn out nerves, demyelinate them from your toes to your brain leaving you a vegetable, destroy mitochondria in the cells in your body, and cause your body to suffer severe disruption of your physiological functions.  As a tier 3 terminal tempest sickness was most certainly fatal (life span decreases from there), though I’d last longer than a power, or speed user.  Healer, Power and Speed, in that order.  That was the order of time in which someone with a terminal case would last.  Terminal healers could last as much as 2 years, and rare cases lived much longer but on life support.  Power users averaged 3 – 5 months, and speed users were usually dead in 24 hours, sometimes instantly depending on when their field failed.  Speed users who die instantly never leave a corpse, just a very large crater and a lot of blood.  “Fine red mist”, they call it.  Well, they can move 25% of the speed of light at high-end.   Tempest sickness damaged bodies on the cellular level, the genetic level, in such a way that no healer on the face of this planet could revive you.  Being tier 1 cut those times in half to even possibly a quarter of that.

As far as I knew, there were no known “high-end users” of healing tempests.  No Angel-class cleric had been classed as a high-end.  Perhaps, I was a new type of healer… Perhaps even the first high-end user.  But as a healer, what did that mean for my body, for my life span?  As I walked down the stairs towards the cafeteria I pondered this…

“High-end powers short out the body, and reduce life span”, I whisper and mumble to myself, “But, there has never been an instance in which a tempests life was shortened by having more power.  Tier 3s were the shortest lived of all Angel-classes.  Tier 1 was the longest.  But the question still remains, will my power shorten my life span?”  I push the door open and enter, and this evening almost no one is here it seems.  I go through the line, numbly chumming over the details in my mind, hoping to decipher it all some how.  I didn’t even pay attention to what I got, but I knew it would be smart to opt for some of the chow that looked and smelled in some way like cat food.  I walked about in a daze.  I worried about Fallon for a moment, and I couldn’t help but long for her comfort right now, but there was none to be had.  I instinctually walked to the same table I always had, and when I arrived I saw Fuel sitting there, sombre, with a mostly empty tray.  I paused, perhaps, even hesitated a little bit.  Then I sat down.

“I see you are trying to emulate my superior tastes now, eh Lira?”, he asked.

“Perhaps”, I said quaintly, “perhaps.  Hey, I thought you had something keeping you occupied this evening?”  He chimes in while preparing to shovel a large utensil of food into his face, “It doesn’t run that late.   I usually finish after 6pm though, but tonight I was lucky. (Nom, nom.)  What brings you here?”   I make a humphing chuckle, “Um, I was hungry?  Why else would I be?”, I sarcastically inquired.  “Well, Alira… You look flushed, as if you just saw a ghost, and you look like you are eating your last meal.  You didn’t have that much on your plate at lunch, and you don’t look like someone who could really pack it away.  But, then again… We just met, and well… This morning… What’s up?”, he says candidly.   “There was an incident in the dorms this afternoon.  Crowder came to taunt me, and was harassing cadets.  Sheila, Fallon and myself.  He ran, scurrying away, but not before he threatened to report me, to the board I’d assume.  Sheila said that I’d likely be tested, and that I was in danger.  I swear, it’s starting to become my middle name”, I say contorted over my food while picking at it, and occasionally shoveling a few forkfuls in to my mouth.

“What did you say?  What did you do, Alira?”, he asks with a sound of concern in his voice.  “He pushed me… And… and…”, I say trailing off thinking about it.  “And”, Bueller says insistently.  “And I shoved him…  He provoked me, and I shoved him… That’s all”, I say while hiding my face from Fuel.  “With what, Alira?  What did you push him with?”, he now says commandingly leaning towards me.  “With my mind”, I say reluctantly, now facing Cadet Bueller but looking away.  His reaction startles me, as he now slams his fork down.  I look up at him and he has a stunned look on his face.  He puts his massive hand over his face, and then places both hands on the table to push himself up, “I’m sorry, Alira.  Pardon me, I will be heading back now.  It’s late”, he says clearly hiding something.

“Wait?  What’s going on… Bueller…. Bueller….”, I say, almost shouting in his direction as he walks away.  He waves with his back turned to me,  “See ya.  And… (he sighs deeply) I’m sorry.”  I swear I can hear him mumbling and whispering to himself as he rounds the corner, ‘So, so, sorry.  Really, really sorry.  Shit!’  I space out and walk to the window.  His response has unhinged my fears, now running rampant in my mind.  “Why was he sorry.  What for?”, I say while leaning over the windowsill looking out into the snowy courtyard illuminated with combinations of red-orange and blue-greenish mercury-halogen lamps.  Just beyond the trees and walkways was the stadium centered in between the three buildings.  I looked up and I could see the very faint outline of the force-field bubble glowing slightly blue below the moonlit clouds, back-dropped by the 30 story buildings marked with building numbers in jade and crimson for the Angel and Guardian Wings of the dorms.  Even with enough room in the central courtyard for a stadium, the buildings still towered over it.  It wasn’t as beautiful as the central courtyard, but it had a unique flair.  When I’d gotten lost I wondered about in it for a few moments.  The stadium was architecturally beautiful from the outside, and more “function over form” inside.  It was easy to forget when looking at its majesty, that the building was an object tied to such tremendous bigotry and bloodshed.

I return to my table and put my tray away, then leave the cafeteria.  On my way up the stairs I tried to contemplate what all this meant… What was happening to me?  To my body?… I’d never thought about my power in the way I was now being forced to.  To me, the degree to which it existed seemed like second nature to me…  But even so, I was surprised by the strangeness of what I’d observed with Fallon earlier.  The wound healed so fast that I didn’t even notice the wound closing, not that I could see it that well through my hand.  I was, once again, in unfamiliar territory.  The world always seemed like this… more strange to me than familiar.  I always create these tightly protected safe spaces to curl up inside of.  Well, apart from the years of monotonous field research before breach… It was a welcome routine following my many failed attempts to join NASA.  When you feel shunned and apathetic, monotony seems almost acceptable some days.  A life of purpose driven monotony, put there purposefully by me, to avoid the disappointment I felt with things in my life.  I used the world to hide in plain sight, because I was probably really afraid.  Moreover, I had more reasons to fear.  The feelings I’d developed for Fallon made me vulnerable, afraid the world would tear us apart, afraid we wouldn’t get to be together.  Afraid that I couldn’t continue to enjoy her company forever.

I slid my button up off, and kicked my skirt and shoes off from the bed.  Then with my toes I pulled my socks off with the help of the foot of my bed.  The feelings I had inside me were like those of a longtime friend that you’ve fallen in love with.  I felt inside me that it was like she’d always been there.  As I lay on my bed, I think about her and cry, worrying about any possible separation or distance between us either present or of foreseeable future.  I miss her, I can’t stand being away from her sometimes, and when she is not there I just ache.  Sometimes when we close as we can manage, all we do is sit there apart in silence.  In some strange way, just being with her in whatever way I can is soothing.  Why is love so crazy?  Why does it make you hurt so much?  The pangs in my heart, and just her being who she was had made her presence in my life precious to me.  I doesn’t matter what we do together.  It doesn’t matter if we sit there in silence.  I’d welcome her silence to never being near her, to never hearing her voice again.  She’d burrowed into my soul, and I wasn’t able to resist her.  I just can’t help how I feel.

Somewhere between the tears and clutching my pillow tightly, I became drowsy and passed into sleep.  Torrents of images plagued my dreams…  She was in my dream.  I dreamed that she’d contracted an illness and that it was going to kill her.  So I traveled a great distance to be with her, to take care of her.  In the dream there were demons of the world trying to take what we had, and people attempting to punish us for what we had.  In the end, she somehow got better, and I ended up staying with her… The dream just further reminded me of how precious she is.  The feeling in it filled with the fact that I felt I couldn’t live without her.  I woke in the morning, 15 minutes before reveille with tears in my eyes, and my pillow firmly clutched against my aching chest.  Emotions just flowed out of me, and out onto my pillow in the form of tears.  I laid there and sobbed until I knew I could no longer lay there and clutch my pillow.  “Why her?  Why now?”, I whisper to myself.  I’d only ever loved 1 woman like this in my life before.  Only once.  Sheila goes by banging on the doors as always, but she stops at my door and does not bang, but instead walks on.

Rolling from the side of my bed, I flip my feet off, and unwedge my panties from being rolled up a bit as I slid off the bed a bit.  My bra hurts fiercely under my bosom, so I flick the clasp in the front and chuck it across the room angrily.  Reaching for my night stand, I pull out a sports bra and slide it up my arms then over my head and shoulders.  It hurts a bit as I slide it over my aching breasts, and they don’t just hurt from my bra.  They are unfortunately, but unsurprisingly sore for reasons that make me shake my fist at the realities of having them growing on my chest.  Don’t get me wrong, my body makes me happy, but some days… some days.  Thinking about it, I sit there wondering for a moment what my life would have been like if I’d been cisgender, and never had to go through the things I did.  I thought about the torment, and pain I’d been through because I wasn’t.  I wish I could take myself and Fallon off to a world that was kind to those like us.  Some place where our love wasn’t forbidden, some place I wasn’t branded for being different.  This was not an uncommon morning thought routine for me.  I heard my keypad, and my door opens.  A hand reaches in and flips on the light blinding me for a moment, “Good, you’re awake.  I guess I forgot to bang on your door”, says Sheila.  I knew she was lying, but all I said was, “It’s no problem, I was already awake before hand”.

“See you at chow”, she says back and then shuts the door behind her.  I feel suddenly shocked when I realize she’d just seen me partially naked, and with tears streaming down my face and a pained look.

I pull out a fresh uniform and toss the one needing dry cleaning from the floor to our specialized room hampers on the ends of the beds.  I was in Alira-Land the whole time I got dressed, and I sped up because I heard the other students heading down to chow.  Angel Wing was almost always the first group at morning chow.  But, I was so spaced that I had to stop to think about whether I’d had a shower first.  I had, but I was it was as though I was in a dream and just did everything on autopilot.  As it had been more than a month since I’d been on this schedule, it made sense that I could do that.  I just couldn’t believe I’d gotten showered, dressed and ready all while in that state, and that I could hardly remember if I’d actually done it at all.  It baffled me.  Having assured myself that it actually happened I left.  Fallon wasn’t at the cafeteria.  She wasn’t there and I had a sinking feeling in my chest because of it.  The same one I get when ever she isn’t there and I am wishing she was, a similar feeling to any time I’d ever fallen in love.  Fuel wasn’t there either, and Sarah sat across from me and never said a word.  Just looked at me waiting for me to say anything several times, then resumed eating.  On my way to class, that was when I had the first sign that something was up.  There were guards by the doors of the class and some official inside.  There were curious students rubbernecking from lockers, and classroom doorways.  I walked in, and there was a Pontiff talking to Barclay, and about half the students sitting, while the others stood watching in confusion.  The pontiff and Barclay nod at each other, and the tall, sombre looking man walks up to me standing in befuddlement just inside the door.  “Roe?  Cadet Roe”, the man said, “I’m Pontiff Rosecrans.  You don’t know me, but I am the Municipal Judge of Aptitudes.”  I just nod thinking to myself that it didn’t seem this place was going to leave me alone.  This is my first week in actual classes and this is the second time I’ve been called out.  “We’ll be testing you, hopefully soon as the paperwork goes through”, he continues.

‘Shit’, I think to myself as I recall the events of yesterday in my mind.  “It’s come to our attention that you could be a paladin candidate, so we are going to test you.  While in a circumstance like this it’s not really normal, it’s not impossible for a tier 1 to be a tier 3 in something else”, he prattles on talking in an almost machine like monotone voice.  “Now”, the first major inflection I’d heard him use so far, “We’ll be likely calling you out to the field for testing sometime next week.  Prepare yourself, and don’t hold back.  I wish you luck, and God’s holy protection.  I shall take my leave now”.  I just stared at him as he walks out of the classroom.  As he leaves, the guards leave and escort him away.  “Fuck”, I mumble to myself indiscernibly.  The bell rings and the instructor clears his throat, “Everyone, take your seat in an orderly fashion”.  I sit down, and immediately notice that Fallon isn’t in class today.  Roll call is as usual, but when Barclay calls her name, “Rutger, oh, right…” he then taps something on his tablet and moves to the next name.  This feeling has me unable to focus, and now I am just plain scared.  I don’t know what to do.  The day comes and goes without further event.  Every opportunity I look around for Fallon’s presence, but I can’t find her.  My world feels so cold.  I looked at lunch, and then in the halls after class.  No where.  All I could do was lay in my room, awash in anxiety.  It was Saturday evening before I got the courage to go bang on her door.  I was terrified, and I just wanted to know that she was okay.  I started banging louder and louder, and nothing came.  I missed her horribly.  I felt like I nearly jumped out of my skin when Sheila, the Dorm Captain, came out in the hall to see what was going on.  “Sorry”, I said.  She tilted her head back and just gave me that “be quiet” look.

Finally, on Sunday after mandatory mass in the cathedral I saw her in our Sunday Uniforms, which looked like clergy clothing.  I ran from the door with an incredible spring of anxiety in my step.  She exits the side door into the courtyard, and I could see the mid day sun through the door as she did so.  I was running now, and as I reach the door I slam my body against the bar of the door that unlatches it so you can open it.  I skid sideways out of the door onto the cobblestone brick path directly outside.  The light is too bright, and I can only vaguely see a very startled Fallon in nun garb standing before me through the glare.  “Fallon”, I say.

“You shouldn’t be following me right now”, she says back to me.  As my eyes adjust more I notice something about her garb that is different from mine and the rest of the students…  She is wearing the purity garb, which has much more white, which you can’t see from the back, and it’s got a lot of lace.  I feel a cold sweat roll up the back of my neck a little bit.  “I am in isolated private study for a week”, she says in a very professional tone trying to hide the emotions bellowing just below the surface, “I can’t be seen socializing with everyone until I resume normal classes after next Sunday.”  Everything inside me is telling me to shout my love for her at the top of my lungs but I can’t.  I even stifle my breath a little, “I was worried about you when I didn’t see you in class, and when you weren’t at chow, and when you wouldn’t answer your door.”  I am out of breath now, even though I didn’t speak that as a single phrase.  I feel exasperated.  “I have to go, Alira.  I am not supposed to be talking to anyone right now.  I appreciate your concern, but you should not be around me right now”, she continues again.  I shiver a little now, and try to hold back my tears.  She can read my face like a book and begins to become shaken a little too.  She tries to reach for me, and makes a single step in my direction.  “I’m sorry”, she says then turns away from me and walks away with a brisk pace.  The sound of nun’s style shoes hit the cobblestone and deepen this sense of pain in my chest.  I want to chase her, but my feet feel as though they are glued to the pavement and I am unable to breathe in the brisk air deeply enough to ease the buzzing in my head.  I pull the door open behind me and head back inside and flow back into the flock of people still exiting the cathedral.  The place holds over 1500 people, so it takes a while to empty.

The main cafeteria here in the chapel is like a cafeteria inside of an older cathedral, and it’s ridiculously massive.  We are required to eat there after mass, and no other cafeterias are open on that day.  Well, except the satellite chapels, and the several other cathedrals in the citadel itself.  We all were required to eat at our respective chapels.  This one was just outside the triad of the Angel, Warrior and Guardian Wings.  There was literally some form of courtyard or strange street system between all the buildings.  The courtyard Fallon was just in is the Rose Garden Courtyard, and all its walkways are beautifully lined with reddish to greyish cobblestone brick.  In the center of the courtyard is a building where many of the nuns stay during private study.  No one knew why people were assigned there, but there was usually a reason.  They were only permitted to leave to eat, and to go to mass.  It usually lasted 1 or 2 weeks…  It’s not the place you want to be told to go, this is for certain.  Sometimes students would be sent to the nunnery and never return to class again.  I didn’t like this prospect at all.  I sat down with my food after contemplating all of this while walking through the meal line.  Sunday Mass lunch was probably the best food you’d eat anywhere in the citadel.  But the delicious food was not able to ease the anxious loneliness in my chest.  I was alone in a sea of faces, and the only face I wanted to see was hers.  I was awash in silence in the middle of a chattering crowd, and the only voice I wanted to hear was hers.

Monday came and went, and so did Tuesday and Wednesday.  All of which, without her.  Nothing about those days seemed to stand out in my mind, as I was far too preoccupied.  Fuel would sit with me with a silent Sarah next to him trying to get me to talk during chow.  We had rather idle conversations.  Little was said.  On my way out of class the Pontiff stopped me and told me that we’d be meeting at the stadium at 8am on Friday morning.  The news added an even colder dryness to the back of my throat in this seemingly empty hollow week for me.  I did little more than my classwork, and I was hardly able to eat at chow.  Every evening, to include that cold snowy Thursday I spent whatever time I had in my room.   By this point I didn’t even have the energy to go outside unless I had to.  I skipped dinner because I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t even enjoy the idea that Fallon was near by.  I sit my chair by the windowsill with the window open.  Leaning my head back over the chair and leaning back against the window I look up at the snow falling outside my window.  For a moment, I hear a window closing from outside and I become anxious hoping that it’s Fallon.  But I only stutter the motion, and stay in my chair knowing she hasn’t returned yet.  I wonder about tomorrow and tremble with fear a little, and a little with the cold.  Don’t ask me why I like sitting by my window in my bra and panties, but it feels refreshing and calming somehow.  Perhaps reminding me of the cold Minnesota nights when I’d sit on the porch, in my pajamas, watching the snow fall with my mom under one of Amma’s knitted blankets.  Even though the cold would chill me into shivers I still forced myself into this hypothermia because of the comfort it brought to me.  Because when I’d had my fill of the cold, I’d close my window as I was doing now, and crawl into my bed to warm myself and imagine the feeling of someone wrapping their arms around me.  Mom was amazing to me, but she was never a touchy-feely woman.

Some nights I’d pray angels were holding me to warm my fiercely chilled body, other nights those girls I had crushes on.  Tonight, I was wishing Fallon could be there to warm my cold body.  Wishing she’d embrace me while cradling my pillow had helped me sleep this week fairly regularly.  I don’t remember when I fell asleep, or the dreams I had that night, but I remember waking in my cold room to the alarm, and to Sheila banging on doors and wishing I could go back to sleep.  I didn’t want to wake this Friday.  I really, really didn’t.  My mind raced with many unpleasant thoughts.  I got up, like any day, stared at myself in the mirror for a moment, and then got going.  I can honestly say that I’d never piled that much food on my plate before.  The protein enriched food and all.  It was like a strange mix of cat food, gravy, some sort of biscuit imitation, and a faint artificial butter flavor.  I was totally expecting Bueller to say something to me that morning about my meal choice, but he was mysteriously absent.  The air of things sitting at that table reminded me of sitting at the pub/restaurant near Arecibo, just down the road from the dish.  I’d order nothing but hor d’oeuvres and drinks.  I’d always start with some kind of “food/meat on a stick” with a glass of wine, 2 shots of Jagermeister, and something with really high-proof mixed with a lot of juice.  I’d do the shots, and wash them down with the wine, then sip on the juice mix while I ate a relatively large platter of appetizers.  At this moment, sitting there eating I was wishing I had those drinks in front of me.  It’s a horrible feeling, and I was looking for any escape from it, but none availed me, yet again.  I finished eating and began walking to the stadium.

Everything I’d heard about the tests was ringing mercilessly in my ears.  Fear and dread, and all those things I felt when I first entered the arena washed over me like a cold sweat.  At the end of the hall the bright light is hurting my eyes, but I can vaguely see Rosecrans at the top.  I walk out into the light and try to shield my eyes from light as much as possible until they adjust.  Rosecrans notices me, and calls me forward, “Come down, Cadet Roe.”  He ushers me down to the field, and there is a retractable, 3-level set of bleachers extended from the walls on the red dot side of the field with many power users from the team sitting on them.  One of them is Cadet Captain Bueller.  When I look at him, he turns his face away.  Now I know what was up the other day.  Rosecrans turns to me now with arms cross as we are standing on the field recently cleared of last night’s 4 inch snow.  The snow and frost sparkles in the sun.  It’s still partly overcast and you can still see snowflakes falling lightly even though the sun is shining brightly.  “Cadet Roe, you are here to be tested.  This test is going to be grueling, and we are not going to be able to show you any slack.  If you truly are a paladin we are going to have to force it out of you.  There is no other way.  I’m sorry.  I wish you luck”, he says in his same old virtually monotonous voice.  I’d almost say his voice bothers me, but it’s just too toneless.   Raising a megaphone to his mouth now, “Captain Bueller, come on down to the field now!  You have been selected to test this candidate, and you are required to push him, um, her… You are required to push her to the limits with the best of your ability.  Any objections?”

Bueller walks down to the pontiff, “Yes sir, I do.”  “Oh”, he says, once again revealing that he doesn’t always talk in monotone.  “I feel that using me as the tester in this case would constitute an excessive use of force.  I am a High-End Warrior-Class cleric.  Its more than likely I’ll kill my opponent than ‘test’ them, your honor.”

“Objection denied.  You can not let your personal feelings get in the way.  If you do you’ll be punished by God before the eyes of all.  Devotion to God requires us to make sacrifices, and if she is truly worthy then no harm should come to her.  We must trust in his holy guidance”, the pontiff says in probably the least monotonous voice I’d heard yet.  Fuel grinds his teeth, closes his eyes, and takes in a deep breath.  I am very nervous, and shaken with anxiety, but seeing Cadet Bueller like that at least made me feel a little less angry about the arrangement.  With the push of a button, the Pontiff adjusts the field to be just in front of the extended bleachers, and begins to walk away towards a chair next to the other power team members.  Taking a seat in the chair he pulls out a stop watch and a whistle from his pocket.  I see the cameras slew and lock onto me and Fuel on the field and begin recording.  Since this isn’t a duel, our positions on the fields don’t really matter.  We just stare at each other.  The pontiff puts the whistle in his mouth and holds the stop watch up.  “I’m sorry, Lira”, he says to me.  “It’s okay, Bueller, I know it’s not your fault or decision.  This chain of events is neither of our fault, it’s just… Yeah…”, I say back to him hoping that maybe if he kills me it will help console any grief he may feel.

The Pontiff blows the whistle.  Fuel begins to power up, and I begin to prepare myself to brace against it.  I try to focus so that my flames will be the normal color.  And just like he did when we first met, he reels back his fist and charges it up.  I hold out my hands preparing for the impending blow.  He releases the punch and lunges at me at the same time, his energy crackling loudly in the air.  I push back with all my might, and as his fist begins to extend, a semi sphere of green flames is erected in front of me.  My feet slide back against the icy artificial grass and his arm is mostly extended, pushing against my field as hard as possible.  He is a little shocked it would seem as his power wavers and I can just barely see his expression through my wall of flames.  He powers up more, and pushes harder.  It pushes me back another 3 feet before I am able to exert force to stop him.  He how punches the wall again causing a little feedback in my flames and enough pain to make me fall to one knee.  It’s frigid out, but I am sweating trying to resist his assault.  He begins alternating very powerful punches, seemingly growing in intensity each time, and pushing me back 6 inches at a time.  My knee is beginning to feel very cold against the ground, and I can feel some cold liquid starting to permeate my boots and socks there.  1, 2, 3… But on the fourth one, I stop being able to control the color of my flame as well.  It shifts turquoise with the 4th and 5th punches… I am straining and my arms are beginning to show strain from holding up this semi-sphere of flames.  On the six punch my wall begins to stutter as I am trying my hardest to keep my flames from turning.  Some of the power users on the bleachers are stranding with astonishment at how I am holding back Bueller, and almost anticipating my imminent destruction when Fuel’s punch collapses my field.  My muscular system is being racked by the acidic burn as I am now on both knees trying to hold up my shield.  I am unable to keep the color green as it fades almost cyan at impact.  8… 9…  The punches stop for a moment as Fuel tries to power up a little more.  The Pontiff even looks a little stunned by the flickers of cyan/light blue in my flame wall.  A couple of the kids are cheering Fuel on now.

My whole body is shaking with fatigue and my wall is a shell of its former strength.  Bueller looks at me through the now apparent gaps in the field and says, “Lira, forgive me.”

Everything feels as though it’s in slow motion as the terror or his next blow wells up in me.  I can see him moving as though in slowed motion.  His fist, blazing with electrical energy and plasma moves forward.  It impacts my field and a shockwave of cyan extinguishes my flame wall moving out wards from his forward assault.  I feel this urge to scream well up inside me, but I do not scream.  Raising my body up with my toes, I thrust myself up towards standing and the 1 meter space now between me and the onslaught of his punch.  All is in slow motion still as I reach a position near standing.  I channel the feeling of the scream into my arms, past my elbows, and towards my hands.  A blue aura emerges around my hands…

I feel a tingling sensation in my arms, and feel energy flowing out of my back…

His fist is now an inch from my extended hands, placed to shield me, I begin to smell o-zone almost strong enough to make my eyes burn.

His fist makes contact and I can see shockwaves of plasma and lightening shooting down my arms towards me…

And then it happened…

From the corner of my eyes I see electrical arcs coming from the energy behind me and arcing towards the advancing shockwave.  They make contact, and begin to push back against his energy and a brilliant surge of blue energy and cyan flames begins to erupt from my outstretched hands.  I feel the energy of the punch go through me, but none of his field as my feet slide back an inch against the frozen turf.  Time resumes its normal pace.  My body is surrounded by blue plasma and cyan flames are burning from my hands feet and back.  I stopped the punch, cold.  All the students in the bleachers, and the Pontiff are standing staring in amazement and utter surprise.  Fuel is still pushing against my field when a strange arc comes off my body down my arms and out through my field.  The pressure stops, and my plasma field relaxes allowing me to see what just happened though it.  Bueller is doubled over in pain and is unable to stand.  I drop my field and begin to walk towards him, and he looked up at me, “What the hell was that, Lira.  Perhaps I should have asked you to go easy on me instead.”

“What in the name of God was that, Cadet”, says the Pontiff now running over to Bueller with a few students following.  I offer my hand to the Cadet Captain on one knee, and he accepts.  When he touches my hand I ignite my arm in flames which are 4 times more brilliant than before.  My flames are pure blue now with erratic speckles of green, turquoise and cyan.  His pain appears to immediately stop, and as he begins to stand I release his hand.  I stare at my new blue flames in puzzled amazement.  The Pontiff walks up to Fuel and asks, “Cadet, are you okay?”  “Yeah, she patched me right up.  Right fast might I add.  Never seen anything like it before”, he replies with an energetic peppiness in his voice.  I look up at the pontiff and my vision starts to go black, “Hey, who turned out the lights”.  I feel the life draining out of my body as I fall to the ground.  I black out and the last thing I can feel is the cold turf hitting against my face and exhausted body…

To be continued…