Showdown: Part 3

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I try to scuttle away, but with my cast slipping and sliding on the wet floor, I can’t move particularly fast.  In desperation, I make a magnetic grab for the door, and just have time to think, “That’s not magnetic, it won’t work,” before I go sliding wildly across the floor towards it.

I’m covering my face to protect it from the daggers of glass showering around me, which is why I don’t realize that I’m magnetically dragging myself directly into Regina until our legs tangle up and she topples onto me.  She howls her outrage, and the storm shrieks in sympathy.  A pair of lightning bolts crashes outside, adding to the ringing in my ears, as she pummels my already bleeding arms and head with her fists.

“Vermin!  Cockroach!” she spits, scrambling free of me.  Clearly, the intervening week has done nothing to raise her opinion of me.  I roll out of range of her kicks and stagger awkwardly to my feet.

“What did I ever do to you?” I ask, and although I meant for it to be accusatory and maybe indignant, it really comes out sounding plaintive and even kind of whiny.

Fortunately, Regina is indignant enough for the both of us.  “You got me fired!  I came back from dealing with you and Darryl had someone else working and a note saying I was no longer an employee!  A note!”

This strikes me as more than a slightly unfair edition version of events.  “Even if you think the fight was my fault, which I do not, it didn’t get you fired.  Maybe if you had gone back that night, instead of running off and leaving the store unlocked, that wouldn’t have happened!”

She gasps, covering her mouth in shock like I’ve just sworn in church.  “Have you been stalking me, you cretin?  How would you know that?  You’re disgusting!”

And with that, she rushes me, shoes squeaking on the rain-slick tile.  I tense to block a punch, but at the last second she loses her footing and slips, slamming into my chest shoulder-first in a perfect tackle.  My cast betrays me again and I go over backwards, landing painfully among shards of glass and lumps of ice, with more hail still coming down around me.  I feel dozens of tiny needles digging into my skin, burying themselves in my flesh, but before I can even really process that, a piece of hail the size of a kiwi slams directly into my forehead.  The spike of pain that produces is instantly joined by its twin as the impact bounces the back of my head off of the floor.

I didn’t know that you could literally see stars outside of a cartoon, but bright lights explode in my vision and for a second, everything else greys out.  I don’t lose consciousness, though, which is good, because Regina is pressing her advantage.  She clenches her fists and squeezes her eyes shut, and lightning strikes barely five feet behind me, reaching through the ruined skylight.  In its aftermath, the hail intensifies.  I feel like I’m being beaten with billiard balls.

I grab for the door again, heedless of the razor cuts I’m receiving by pulling myself across the floor; anything is better than the bludgeoning I’m getting right now.  Regina snarls, though, and the door is lanced by another lightning bolt, and I lose my magnetic grip on it.

“At least I’ve made it out of the hail,” I think, right before another chunk of ice wings me in the shoulder.  I look up to see Regina advancing on me, scooping up another ice rock the size of a baseball and chucking it at me.  This one connects, too, and if it doesn’t hurt as badly as the ones from the storm, that’s probably only because she hasn’t gotten me in the head yet.

I’m at a total loss for what to do, so to buy time, I copy her: I grab the nearest lumps of ice and scramble to my feet to face her.  I’m starting to feel the damage now.  My head is throbbing from its abuse and my entire back is a symphony of razor pain.  The glass shards stab me when I move, so I just stand stock still, glaring at Regina.

She glares back at me, her diatribe stopped for the time being.  For a moment, we hold that pose, two combatants locked in the world’s highest-stakes snowball fight.  It’s a ridiculous image, and even through the chorus of injuries, it still conjures up a half-smile from me.

This raises a fresh rage in Regina, who shouts wordlessly, hurls her iceball at me and scrabbles for a fresh one.  I dodge, offering bitter thanks to whoever set this up for at least not giving her precision control over the winds.  Her power, like mine, seems to be largely intuitive, and her control is broad-based but difficult to direct precisely.

In fact — I dodge another thrown ice missile and sling one back, scoring a hit and earning a yelp from Regina — in fact, it’s never occurred to me to wonder exactly how she can do what she does.  I put it down as superscience or magic and went about dealing with the effects instead of thinking about the cause.  And right now, the tiny bit of smarts I have left over from the intelligence boost is shouting at me internally.

It’s got its work cut out for it.  In addition to not being all that quick a thinker ordinarily, I’m also currently under attack, in quite a bit of pain, and possibly suffering from a concussion.  The funny thing about pain is that it really focuses the mind sometimes, though, especially if you understand that an unfocused mind will lead to more pain.  Not getting hurt any more is a spectacular motivator.  My brain grabs all available processing power to solve this problem, momentarily dampening the pain as it works to show me a solution.

It’s not instantaneous, though, and there’s a lot going on, so here’s how it plays out.  As Regina and I are trading off with iceballs, I’m thinking about the weird way her lightning messed with my magnetic grip on the door.  When she slams a solid hit into my good knee and I drop onto the floor again, I barely feel my cast cracking, because I’m remembering that every time she cranked up the storm’s fury, it was accompanied by a blast of lightning, even after she knew that that was completely ineffective against me.

And so when she sees me lying prone again and presses her advantage, racing towards me with a chunk of ice in one hand and a knife-sized shard of glass in the other, I don’t even try to get out of the way.  I just raise my arms to catch her on the way in, guiding her weapons past my head to crash uselessly into the floor.  And as her weight crashes down on me, driving me onto the constellation of glass embedded into my back and awakening a new cacophony of screaming nerves, I focus everything I have into making the strongest magnetic field I can and applying it to her, sticking it to her like a web.


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