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alderwitch

Schoolyard Brawl

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"...So, you can see how you might be able to help Erin. I mean, it won't do any good if you hold back and if she hurts you, she'll feel just awful. But no one's better at control than you," Alex reasoned out earnestly up at Mike, whom she had dragged down to the gym for sparring. She was clutching his gym bag and held it out with a pleading expression, "Please, you can teach her how to make sure she doesn't hurt anyone."

As emotional blackmail went, it was pretty darn impressive if mitigated by the fact that Alex wasn't hiding the manipulation at all. She clearly wasn't going to let it go until Mike yielded on the matter.

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Mike gave his friend a beleaguered look and sighed uncertainly. He knew she was right of course about not having to hold back against Erin and he certainly was one of the few students or teachers for that matter who could handle a punch from her if she did go all out. In fact before even coming down here he had decided to go along with the plan but still felt the need to put up at least token resistance.

Finally he shrugged, "Ok, Ok enough with the puppy dog eyes I'll do it." He then glanced around "Here or downstairs? I mean if we go all out I don't think the walls are up for it." He said with a considering look.

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"She's meeting us here. Go change and then when she gets here, you can decide where its going to be." Alex said firmly and smiled at him as she handed him the gym bag that she'd packed against his wishes. "I'll wait out here while you do."

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Mike jogged quickly over to the boys lockers and changed into his school uniform crudely stuffing his other clothes into the gym bag afterwards. He wasn't that fond of the form fitting uniforms personally he always felt a bit naked and exposed in the tight material but it was comfortable he had to give them that.

He shouldered his bag and headed back out to wait with Alex for Erin to get there.

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Erin showed up not long after Mike was finished changing, walking into the gym with only a plastic water bottle. She'd already changed into her workout uniform too, her hair pulled back with the matching headband. She looked more peaceful than she had an hour ago. She smiled at Alex and gave a smaller smile and a nod to Mark. "So, Summers said it would be good for both of us if we work out together. But I'm not sure we won't give this place a beating he wouldn't appreciate." She looked around skeptically at the all-too-flimsy cinderblock and rebar walls of the gym.

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Mike gave Erin a lazy wave as she approached. "My thoughts exactly." He said "I think downstairs would be a much better call just in case."

He paused as he began to turn towards the nearest exit "Uhm do you know if we even have access?"

He knew Erin had had alot more training than himself since arriving but his only trip down to the Doom Room was with Magni for his placement testing. He didn't even know if average students had access or if there was some kind of schedual or what.

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"Mr. Archer gave me access so I could train without breaking the gym," she told him as they headed for the main building. "But since we're actually an official team now, I'm pretty sure we all have permission to use it. I hate it down there, but it's the safest place to use all your strength, that's for sure." She tucked her bottle under her arm as they walked into the main building and over to the metal-faced elevator that led to the basements. Flipping open a panel next to the doors, Erin put her face close to the wall and opened her eyes wide as a light shone into them. The elevator door slid open and, blinking, she walked into the elevator and held it open for the others.

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Alex nodded her agreement with Erin's statement and followed them in with her bookbag over one shoulder as she intended to get some reading done while her friends pummeled each other. "You've had the same access, you just never bothered to use yours."

She informed Mike as she stood in the elevator, "Which you would know if you bothered to listen to any of the school stuff involving your meta-abilities."

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Mike gave Alex his standard 'yea yea, sure sure' handwave as he followed Erin into the elevator.

As it started to descend he asked Erin "So? Summers suggested this? Seems like there are other more experianced students for this kinda thing." It was clear from his tone that he hadn't put together that this was supposed to help him as well yet.

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"Yeah, he said I should work out with you specifically, that it would be good for both of us." Erin tapped her foot as the elevator descended through a number of basements. "You need to hit harder and faster, I need to hit not so hard, or something like that. I'm hoping we aren't going to be able to hurt each other too badly, and maybe we can pick something up from each other." She shrugged. "If nothing else, getting a better idea of how we fight when we both aren't really distracted by other things." She stepped out of the elevator and walked into the sterile white corridor. She'd been very relieved to find out that the business with one bank of lights turned on at a time had just been a trick to scare her the first time, and that the lights generally turned on all at once.

Their steps echoed as they walked the long corridor, finally stopping at the heavily reinforced steel doors to the doom room. A palmprint scan got them into this room, which was blank and black. "Simulation Wander zero-one," Erin told the empty room. A moment later everything shimmered and reformed into a training room simulation. Various metal punching targets stood near one wall, heavy bags, a high-tech treadmill and a few metal chairs lined another. The middle of the room was empty and bare. "If there's anything you think we need," she told Mike, "we can add it now."

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Alex found an out of the way spot and pulled herself up to sit on some sort of pommel horse out of the way. The air in front of her skin shimmered as her forcefield went up and she pulled a book out of her book bag.

"Just ignore me. I'll get out of the way if you get too close," she assured them and promptly stuck her nose in her book.

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Mike shifted uncomfortably at the mention of his need to hit harder or fater or whatever, though he supposed this was what the headmaster had meant when he said they had made a choice that day at the stadium. If he was going to fight he really should know at least the basics of how to.

He glanced around the room at Erins question and shrugged, "Not if we're just supposed to spar. I think all we need for that is the two of us and a place that can take one of us getting flung into a wall approaching the speed of sound." It wasn't any idle boast just fact Mike was intimately aware of his and somewhat by proxy Erins abilities.

He shook his head to try and clear the stray thoughts for a moment then looked up at Erin "Ready when you are."

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"You go first," she told him. "Hard as you can. If I go through the wall, we'll just tell Summers it's not going to work." Erin took a defensive stance, her hands raised to block, feet poised to move. "Even if you hurt me, I'll heal up in just a minute."

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Mike steeled himself for a moment longer then came at her at speed and with surprising power behind his punch powering through her attempts to block or weave out of the way. Despite the power of the blow however it was controlled and well aimed to hurt but not maim as it impacted Erins midsection.

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The punch took Erin solidly in the midsection, making her gasp and wheeze for just a moment. It looked like it hurt. She stepped back for a moment and held up a hand, catching her breath and making sure she wasn't going to do anything really unfortunate. After just a few seconds, she stepped forward, nodded, and hit him back, but doing her best not to actually break him with the hit.

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Mike grunted slightly at the impact but didn't slow down as he fired off a series of jabs trying to break past Erins defenses to no avail. It was clear that while he had prodigeous strength and very fine control his actual combat training was all but non-existant.

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Erin dodged the series of jabs, then suddenly dropped to the floor as though someone had cut her strings. She lashed out at Mike's body with both feet, once again trying only to bruise. Her color was up, but she was still obviously in control of herself and her reactions in a way she hadn't necessarily been at the baseball stadium.

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Erins kick connected with a meaty thud and Mike winced at the impact but stood fast. He brought one hand down to grab at her foot but she skirted out of the way before he could secure a grip. Mike warrily eye'd Erin, He knew he wouldn't be able to take too many more hits that hard and she easily avoided all of his clumsy attacks. He tried desprately to think of some way to even up his odds a bit.

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Erin tumbled out of the way of his grab, coming back to her feet out of arm's range for either of them. "This can't be what he wants us doing. We both know how all this works. Maybe something different." She raised her head to consult the room. "Simulation Wander zero four, daytime." Suddenly the training room disappeared, to be replaced by a panorama of rooftops and city skyline. Some rooftops were close together and near in height, others were further apart or higher up. The pommel horse Alex was sitting on was replaced by a power cabinet of equivalent size.

"Maybe this will be better," she told him. "I had to fight a couple of flyers in my placement tests. It's a lot more challenging someplace like this. You want to keep going?"

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Mike paused for a few minutes to catch his breath while looking at the new set up. He turned back to Erin and shrugged, "I'm not entirely certain what the point of this is?" He said somewhat exasperated.

"I mean we know you're the better fighter, and to be frank I don't see any control issues." He said plaintively.

He took a few steps closer to Erin and lowered his voice as if there were ears other than Alex around. "You're control is basically fine, you know how hard and where to hit." He wasn't sure exactly where her control issues came from but he had a feeling it was not something sparring was going to work out. "I mean it wasn't that you didn't know what you were doing when you hit that kid at the Baseball game." Mike was clearly nervous about brining the subject up but smacking eachother around wasn't going to teach either of them much of anything. "Something made you DECIDE to hurt him." Mikes emphasis was clear though he didn't wish to offend her Erin had to know that this wasn't something punching him or a target dummy or whatever was going to solve.

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"How am I supposed to know?" Erin retorted. "I thought it was a stupid idea. But what was I supposed to say, "no thanks, Headmaster, but I'm not going to take your advice because it's dumb?" She clasped her hands together behind her back, her voice low and her words sharp. "We obviously have different styles of fighting. I decide to fight. You decide not to fight. When there were thousands of lives at stake, I decided to fight, and when my own life and everyone else's was at stake, I decided to fight. You decided to disarm him, and it turned out that he had another weapon to use. Maybe if I hadn't hit him, he wouldn't have ended up in the hospital. Maybe if you had hit him, he wouldn't have almost shot Edge."

She took a step back, deliberately. It had been a rotten day, and there was no point in taking chances. "The school people would rather I do it your way, that I avoid taking the shot if it might hurt somebody, even a bad guy. Those are the rules and I want to get along here, so I'm learning it. But if I'm stepping back, you better start stepping up. I know all that BS about how you might hurt somebody, but this isn't a game and these aren't normal humans you're fighting anymore. We can hit at each other all we want and it doesn't mean anything. But if either of us flakes out in a fight, somebody could die."

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Several emotions flashed across Mikes face as Erin let loose. He had been trying to get to the point gently but clearly had pushed too hard. He wasn't the most empathic person buet even he could see Erin was upset by his comentary.

Mike took a deep breath and let go of his own anger at her words, it served no one to escalate this further. He then carefully considered his words well aware that more care was needed here than with their physical sparing.

When he finally spoke it was in a carefull tone not angry but unrelenting, "True enough, but someone will die if you can't keep it together."

Mike shrugged "You don't want that on your conscience, you can try to convince yourself they deserve it but the fact is powers don't make you judge, jury, and executioner."

Mike turned and made his way towards the door sending a message to Alex as he went 'I'm sorry I can't do anything here this whole thing was a mistake.'

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Alex had scooted off the file cabinet and she stood in front of the door with her hands on her hips.

"Cut it out! Both of you!" She said firmly, "This is an exercise. You're friends!"

Rather than tilt her chin up, she floated up so that she didn't have to crick her neck to make her point. "You're both talking about things that are hurting each other and it's not cool. Erin, you do need to learn how to control yourself when you lose your temper. Someone could mess with your emotions and then you'd end up hurting the very friends you're trying to protect. You already know this. As for you, Mike, walking away isn't going to help things. You can't just give up when things are hard or scary. That's not the person that you wanna be. It's not the person you are."

She folded her arms on her chest and frowned at him, "Now turn around. Clearly you both have things to say to each other, but don't just accuse. Explain why your side is imporatant."

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"Why should I have to explain myself to him, or to you?" Erin demanded, turning to face Alex. "I spend fifteen goddamn hours a week in therapy and three times that in training to fix what's wrong with my fighting. What's he doing except being a coward who won't even try?" She looked at Mike. "You haven't even been in here since your placement test, right? I know I'm not supposed to kill people, I know it's wrong. But are you any better than me if you know you could kill someone and you just cover your ears and try to pretend it away? But you're right about one thing, we're not going to learn anything here today. End simulation," she snapped at the empty sky. The rooftops vanished, leaving them all standing, or floating, in a blank-walled room.

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Mike paused at Alexs' interuption and turned in the face of Erins rant standing unflinching. When she paused he fixed his eyes on her, his mought a tight line.

His voice was like iron when he spoke, "You are not the only one who has had bad things happen to you Erin."

He seemed to want to say more on the subject but held himself back taking a deep breath "I know exactly what I can do if I don't keep a rein on my temper, I know exactly how capeable of killing I am, I know no amount of pretending or avioding will change that." He dropped his eyes and his voice slid out almost a whisper "And I would give almost anything so you don't have to."

Mike looked up a defiant glint in his eye, "So you can call it cowardice if you like, or foolishness, or whatever else you think it is that I hold back for but know that I am not pretending anything."

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