Daylight 02

The room that we were all led into was the sort of place that I would have expected to see in an old, pre-cape comic book. The walls were some sort of rubberized plastic that was heavily cushioned, the floor was almost the same material but with less of a bounce and more firmness to it. It was wide, probably about 200 feet across and the ceiling had to be almost as high. There were large blocky protrusions spaced haphazardly around the floor and on the walls as well. Cover? Probably. Everything was very uniform grey too. All in all, it was fairly impressive if also fairly cliche. All it was really missing was a fancy computer to run it and shout out the 'Danger Level' or something.

Or projections, but I could take care of that particular deficiency. They'd all be white - and the exact same type of enemy - but hey, it would fit the aesthetic.

"Please tell me that you have a fancy AI controlling the hidden settings for this gym?" Tammi said. She set the puppy I had given her down and I figured that was my cue to start getting into character myself. Tammi was already doing it after all, so I should too. I'd also have to remember to call her 'Aerial' now instead of 'Rune'.

I let the dogs pop with showers of luminescent glitter, then started deciding which minions I was going to go with first. The flyers…I'd probably want to be mobile, but maybe if I stayed on the ground first it would throw them off? Was this a free for all or a team thing?

"Sadly, all you have is me," Dragon's voice said, a soft chuckle coming from hidden speakers around us. "There are no excessive settings for the sparring facility, it's just a padded room. The only real tinkertech here is the cameras, to allow for capture of multiple angles of the fights which help with after action improvements; the kinetic dampener under the floor, to assist with any falls; and the forcefield over the door and spectator window, for safety from Blasters and high level Brutes."

Battery waved down at us from the room behind the frosted glass on the second floor. She reached over and pressed a button I could just barely make out next to the window and her voice came from the speakers as well. "I'm just here to make sure you kids stay out of trouble. Don't mind the peanut gallery."

Waving back to her, I turned my attention to Aegis and Kid Win. "So are we going at it as two vs. two or a brawl?"

Aegis tapped the lip of his mask and shrugged. "Let's start with a brawl and then we can switch to a team fight. While there aren't all that many human Masters in Brockton Bay, it never hurts to be prepared to fight against even your allies in a worst case scenario. And," he paused and smirked at Aerial, "people do switch sides sometimes."

"Ha. Ha. Ha." She rolled her eyes. "Just for that, I'm going to kick all of your asses." Then she clicked her heels together and she was hovering, her knees bent as she was pushed against the air itself, her arms extended far to either side. The grimace on her face did rather spoil the illusion of badassery she had been trying for and her near immediate flailing before getting her balance back certainly didn't help either.

Aegis just snorted as he craned his head up. "Need some help there?"

"Shut it! I'm used to having a platform asshole. You try keeping your balance with just two combat boots and a pair of heavy wristbands!"

Kid Win frowned, stepping onto his hoverboard and lifting off a few inches. "Uh, Aerial, are you sure that's how you want to want to use your power? There's got to be easier ways to rebrand."

"I got this; I just need practice," she grumbled.

I held both thumbs up and gave her my flashiest smile. "You're looking great! That's a huge improvement!"

"I look like a beached dolphin," she muttered.

Aegis laughed. "If this is an improvement then I'd hate to see what happened in your previous attempts. And by hate, I mean that I need the video immediately."

"Aegis, that is unkind," Dragon chided. "That said, if there were masks involved it could help your image quite a bit to release it. I could get you in contact with a consultant…"

"I hate you all," Aerial declared. She finally managed to straighten up and glared. Then she sighed. "There was a lot of spinning in midair. And floundering. And some falling. I'm pretty sure I only didn't faceplant because I panicked and jerked everything upwards - wrenched my shoulder really good with that flop. Dragon, send the details to Luminous."

Kid Win moved his hoverboard higher. "Luminous?"

"Purity's rebranding too," I said. "That's going to be her new name. Are you ready to start?"

Aegis looked down at me. I didn't have to see his eyes to know that his eyebrows were raised. "You're not going to get a Pegasus out and join us?"

"Not just yet." I grinned. Let's see how fast they were. This room was big, but they were all very close.

Aegis shrugged. "Okay, then. Your choice. Everyone ready?" He took to the air and hovered a few feet from Aerial and Kid Win. All of them were only about 6 feet off of the ground and within 15 feet of me. This was too easy. "Annnd…Start!"

Six Knights popped up, two beneath each of the others. Even as one Knight jumped onto the shoulders of the second and leaped onto the hero above it, I was bringing out more. Twelve Knights now and three Knights leaping onto each hero before the first had even finished its jump.

Aegis was unable to do anything as he moved to dodge too slowly and was dogpiled to the floor, swamped under my Knights.

Kid Win shouted, trying to grab his pistol. One of the ones on Kid Win popped as he flipped his board sideways and shot through the bottom of his holster, but it didn't help him. The others got him an instant later, bearing him down to the ground as well and the one he had popped was already replaced.

Aerial did marginally better, but not by much. Her telekinetically-assisted punches were able to pop the first two, but she overbalanced and as she spun head over heels in mid-air, the third one landed on her as a fourth jumped onto her as well. Together they were able to bear her to the ground and dogpile her only a few seconds after Kid Win and Aegis had fallen.

I popped all of my minions and let the others, now showered in glitter, look up at me as I leaned against one of the rubber protrusions buffing my non-existent nails. "Round 2 anyone?"

"Holy shit," Kid Win muttered.

"Damn, girl," Aerial said, shaking her head. "I knew I was right to be scared when a wave of angels flowed over a roof heading towards me. You are legitimately terrifying, you know that right?"

Aegis chuckled. "We are in an area that heavily favors her and vastly underrated how quickly she could call her friends for assistance. That was a good learning experience. For the record, I should have been able to punch through at least one of them before it caught me. What's the durability of those ones, Hardlight?"

I stuck my tongue between my lips as I thought for a moment. "I want to say…slightly more than a handgun but less than a rifle? I didn't have the Knight template when I did power testing."

"Hold up," Kid Win said, raising his hands in a 'T'. "Since when can Aerial punch harder than a bullet!?"

She shrugged and held up her hand, showing him her closed, gloved fist. "I have brass knuckles on. I don't normally keep a charge on those, but I can charge them quickly, because they are so small and right on my hands already. Good for fine tuning flying maneuvers and for empowering punches. Normally, it's not something I would use since it would hurt like hell, but Hardlight's minions don't actually hurt at all, if you manage to break them; so it works on her stuff and maybe a few other projections. The metal balls you'll see once we get to actually have a fight longer than seconds will be my actual main attacks now. The brass knuckles are just for last ditch stuff and self-righting."

Aegis nodded. "And I'm sure that having a teammate who can heal any injuries you get accidentally punching something that you shouldn't certainly helps. Why don't you keep the knuckles powered all of the time? That seems like a useful tool for maneuvering."

"Flexibility," she said. "If I leave them uncharged I can always throw something big if I need to."

"I hate to interrupt," Dragon said. "But if you all want to get some real work done before Luminous and her team need to leave, then you should really get back to it."

Aegis took off, hovering about ten feet up this time. "Thanks, Dragon. Hardlight, I get that you can dogpile us easily, but let's try for something different this time okay?"

I nodded and pulled up a Pegasus, climbing on as the other took to the air as well. "That's fine. I was mostly just curious if it would work against you guys."

"Oh it worked," Kid Win said. "I'm going to have the bruise on my ass to prove it."

"Sorry," I murmured sheepishly.

Aegis counted us down again and the sky was suddenly alight with movement. I pulled up three more Pegasi to surround me and sent another two to harry Kid Win as he tried to shoot them while flying for cover. Aerial surged up to the ceiling, while I tried to keep track of Aegis as he flew behind me. I was able to get a Pegasus into his path, but he punched it and it disintegrated into a spray of glitter.

One of the ones I had on Kid Win was able to flip his board with its horn just before he popped it, leaving him flying right into the path of the second unicorn's horn. A light bump on his chest had Dragon announcing that Kid Win was out.

Meanwhile, I had tried to get another Pegasus behind Aegis as my mount kicked away from him, but he was too fast and too strong. The Pegasus popped as did its replacement. I was about to kick around and fly towards him instead when my mount disappeared from under me along with both of my entourage.

I yelped, falling from the sky. A Pegasus appeared below me, but it popped almost as soon as it came into existence. I reached for another one, but before it could appear, Aerial was below me, catching me in her arms, and then tapping me on the head with her fist.

"Hardlight out!"

I groaned as my girlfriend laughed and kissed my temple then left me on the ground as she went back up to stand awkwardly in the air again, her legs spread wide, and knees bent. Aegis cocked his head at her. "How did you do that? I didn't see anything hitting the projections."

She grinned, snapped her fingers and he jerked forward, grunting. As he righted himself, rubbing the back of his head, he glared at her.

"What? I said I had metal balls I would be using to attack with. It's not my fault if you focused on the brass knuckles."

"Those are dangerous, Aerial."

"You're a Brute. I was only hitting Hardlight's projections and I kept them away from Kid Win entirely. No harm, no foul, no danger. You're just annoyed that I'm a former villain and I'm the last one standing against you."

"Am I now?" he said. "How about a wager: 50 bucks says you can't knock me out before I get you."

"Aerial -" Battery started to say over the speakers, but she was immediately cut off as Aerial nodded, a huge grin on her face.

"You're on!"

Battery's groan was all the more audible because of the loudspeakers. "Aerial, as I was trying to warn you, because of Aegis' power, you have to have him held down or all four limbs incapacitated at once for him to be considered 'out'. He's hustled you."

She raised a finger and slowly lowered it as the smirk dropped. "I don't suppose that those rubber things on the ground are loosely connected?"

"They're the projectors for the kinetic dampeners," he said, the laughter behind the statement evident even from the ground. "You'd have better luck tearing off the door."

"You. Are a jerk."

"Nah, I just like movies and popcorn. Those are expensive now!"

I walked over to Kid Win and sat down next to him as he adjusted a few wires on his hoverboard. "So, Aegis does this a lot?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. He's gotten almost all of us I think. Clockblocker beat him though, Clock's power is kind of a hard counter to any one-on-one spars. Anyone that needs to be in melee range at least. Vista almost had him."

"How?" I asked. That was seriously impressive considering she didn't have any actual combat use for her ability besides twisting projectiles around back to their source.

"Switched distances enough that he got confused and then made him run smack dab into the projectors at full speed. Guy broke his nose, and his arm and his leg from it. If she hadn't freaked out over hurting him, she probably would have won by getting him to do it a second time. She really should have known better than to worry…The PRT doesn't let non-Brutes actually hit things in here. Not with Dragon watching us from time to time and adjusting Armsmaster's KD program on the fly if it's needed."

That made a lot of sense. It also explained why Dragon was listening in instead of just Battery. If she had to make sure to fine tune things for new capes while Armsmaster was busy then her being around wasn't just good timing, but planned. I'd have to ask Armsmaster if we were annoying him or the Guild by giving them extra work one of these days.

If I could figure out how to bring it up without sounding like a whiny teenager…

And if the city settled down. It should settle down soon. We'd take out Kaiser, Alabaster, and Krieg in the next few days. Then Dad could come home. And then…then everything would be okay again.

I bit my tongue hard enough to taste blood as I clenched my fists. Above us Aerial shouted out as Aegis got close enough to knock her arm backward and kicked her foot sending her into a spin.

Brockton Bay would be okay. It would all be better when Kaiser was gone. Everything was going to be better.

Everything was going to be fine.

I bit my tongue harder, not really caring that a glowing puppy was sitting on my head, or that there was blood in my mouth.

Everything was going to be fine.