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Sunderland College [1.2 – First Taste of Battle Clothing]

“Sorry I’m late!”

Simon looks up as a young man rushes up to him.

“And you are?” he asks.

The young man bows. He has a well-kept moustache and beard – impressive for one so young – and a garish suit which he evidently thinks is fashionable. It is undeniable, however, that he is tall and attractive: short brown hair, glittering hazel eyes and a finely-honed body. “I am Zaphod – I was supposed to be with the rest of the group, but I ended up getting lost on the way.”

Simon politely decides not to ask how Zaphod managed to get lost walking down two straight corridors and nods. “Alright. Everyone else will have already selected clothes by now, so just head out and take this t-shirt.”

Zaphod nods enthusiastically, takes the t-shirt and rushes outside. Simon sighs.

A few minutes later, the rest of the group make their way out. They seem to be having problems.

“Hey, hey, whoa, watch the hair!”

“Sir!” Cassandra demands. Simon looks up.

“What?”

“This creepy person was watching us all get changed!” Cassandra explains angrily. The group turn their eyes to the young… person. They’re androgynous, with a shock of mid-length blond hair and a winning smile which is doing them no favours right now.

“My name is Clocksworth Clocksworth.” the person explains. “I’ve been in the group this whole time, but nobody noticed. And hey, wouldn’t you kill to watch Cassandra and Ten get changed? Oh my god, I was so close to seeing their massive t-”

“Stop that sentence there before somebody punches you.” Simon says. “God’s sake. Clocksworth, just for causing us all some irritation, you can take the skirt. Now get outside.”

As the group walk out to the training field, Phillis turns to Clocksworth.

“So are you a guy or a girl? Sorry to be rude – well, I’m not that sorry actually – but I just really can’t tell…”

Clocksworth smirks. “Babe, I can be whatever you want me to be. Feeling like a girl right now though, if that changes things…”

Phillis doesn’t dignify the strange pervert with a response.

The group gather in front of Simon. He’s stood in the middle of the training field, which is large and spacious. Next to him, a young woman is stood, wearing a blouse and skirt, with some mocha-coloured slippers.

“Alright, we’ll begin the fights shortly. Firstly, does anyone know what a combat referee is?”

Everyone is silent.

“Basically,” Simon explains. “Lauren here will be watching the battle. She’s got the Ward Aura Slippers, which as some of you may know, protect you from lethal physical harm. Her job is to stand near the battlefield and use the aura of her slippers to prevent you all from killing each other.”

“Nice to meet you guys.” Lauren says, giving a little wave.

“So, what I’m hearing here,” Donovan says with a grin. “Is that we can unleash the true might of our inner darkness without any drawbacks or lasting harm?!”

Simon pulls an awkward face. “Y-yes… but that really doesn’t mean you can go all-out. These are just practise matches, after all. Now then, shall we begin the fights?”

Everyone nods excitedly.

“Right.” Simon says. “Everyone else sit on the benches there… Cassandra and Jackson, you’re up first.”

“If you’re as competent as you are pretty, I don’t see you having problems.” Xilog murmurs.

Cassandra winks at him and heads up onto the field, grinning from ear to ear at finally getting to have a real fight. She has chosen the duffel coat. Jackson also steps onto the field, wearing some black boots that are pulsing with power.

“Who do you think is gonna win?” asks Aubree, observing the pair. Everyone not fighting is sitting on some benches a short distance away from the field.

“My girl Cass has got this.” Ten grins.

“A harlot like her? I think not. Jackson will claim victory here, should he tap into the darkness of his soul!” Donovan announces.

Anastasia, trying to fit in, decides to hit the group with a hilarious double entendre just like Cassandra and Ten did. “Oh, man, if she’s such a slut, I guess she already knows, what, uh, getting fucked feels like..?”

This remark is met with silence. Anastasia shrinks back and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone.

“Alright, the rules are simple – knock your opponent out of the field or knock them out, and you win. Keep it clean.” Simon explains.

“How do we-” Jackson begins, and Simon quiets him.

“It comes naturally; just allow the energy in the clothing to fill you, and they’ll transform into Battle Clothing. You’ll know what to do soon after. And with that… begin!”

 

*

 

Cassandra closes her eyes, and in an instant, the clothes grant her power. The duffel coat transforms into a stony, grey-coloured coat with large, imposing cuffs: the Stone Layer Coat. Jackson’s boots, meanwhile, become plated metal sabatons: the Steel-Capped Kickers.

Cassandra opens hostilities by slamming her palm into the ground – pillars of stone erupt up around Jackson, narrowly missing him. He dodges aside and charges past the pillars.

“Huh.” Cassandra murmurs. “Psychic pillars. I like it… just gotta get better at aiming them.”

Jackson dashes forwards, and a pillar rises from the ground underneath him, slamming into him and sending him crashing onto the ground. He clambers to his feet quickly as more pillars arise, but they’re coming more slowly; Cassandra seems distracted, almost dizzy. He rushes to her and before she can act, he delivers a powerful kick.

It’s a kick delivered with the force of a truck, empowered by the Steel-Capped Kickers, and Cassandra is hurled across the training field. A pillar rises behind her and she slams into it – a painful process, but her well-timed pillar has prevented her from being knocked out of the field.

“Woo!” yells Jackson, flushed with the thrill of newfound power. He continues the assault, chasing Cassandra, but she clears her mind and creates a barricade of two pillars. Jackson leaps at the pillars, kicking them as hard as he can; a minor crack runs down one of the stone pillars. He feels his legs twinge with pain, and then a vibration in the ground makes him realise that another pillar is about to erupt up beneath him.

Jumping backwards, Jackson avoids the pillar and delivers a fierce kick at maximum power; the pillar slams into the other two weakened pillars, and all three pillars are flung backwards at Cassandra, who yelps and dives out of the way, narrowly avoiding the attack.

With her head rushing, Cassandra sees the metal boots of Jackson striding confidently towards her. He leans back to kick her out of the field as she lies on the floor; for the brief moment that he prepares to kick, he’s off-balance.

Cassandra focusses her efforts and launches a pillar out of the ground, skewed at a 45 degree angle, hitting Jackson in the back. He’s launched over Cassandra and lands painfully on the ground, a metre or so out of bounds.

“Stop!” yells Lauren. “Jackson is out – Cassandra wins!”

Cassandra clambers to her feet and staggers off – the pillars all over the field crumble to dust, and she begins to feel better. She sits besides Ten and they squeal together.

“Congrats! You did great!” Ten says.

“Thanks!” Cassandra replies, flicking her hair back. Donovan tuts loudly and turns his face away from the two girls.

“Alright, next up, Ten and Aubree.” Simon commands.

“I’m up.” Ten says. “Here we go.”

“You’ll be fine.” Cassandra replies.

Aubree seats herself next to Boo, and pipes up almost immediately, grabbing Boo’s clothes and admiring them.

“Hi! Sorry, you’re really cute, I love this top!”

Boo shyly wriggles out of Aubree’s grasp, blushing fiercely. “Oh, uh… um, thanks.”

“No problem!” smiles Aubree. “I want to be a designer, as well as a model, so it’s cool to look at what styles people like… I mean, I have a unique style myself, but I also think that stuff that professional designers do can be really cool, so I hope the stuff I design at college can help me become a professional too!”

“Uh, sure.” Boo replies. “Aubree, right?”

“Yeah!” Aubree replies. Boo points to the field.

“You just got called to fight.”

“Ah, awesome, I totally missed Simon saying that!” Aubree says. “Right, I’m gonna go do my best now, and see what these boots can do!”

 

*

 

Ten and Aubree stand on opposite sides of the training field. Ten is wearing a skirt, whilst Aubree has gone for the boots, like Jackson.

“Ready? Begin.” Simon says.

Aubree’s boots transform into the Steel-Capped Kickers. Ten’s skirt becomes metallic and silver, and a row of sharp spikes surround the edge of the skirt. As Ten focuses her power, the skirt begins to spin like a buzzsaw: the Sawblade Skirt.

She laughs aloud. “Oh… yes, I like this.”

Aubree charges forward, but Ten is ready. As Aubree goes to kick, Ten lunges, and the spinning saw slices into Aubree; she screams and leaps back. No blood has been drawn, however, thanks to Lauren’s Ward Aura Slippers.

Ten continues the assault, dodging past Aubree’s opening kicks, trying to get in close to allow her saw blade to do damage. Aubree, meanwhile, seems to be less focused on the fight, and more interested in testing out her new boots. She kicks the ground with one foot, and the knockback launches her a little way into the air.

Staring up, Ten watches as Aubree lands on the ground forcefully, then giggles to herself in excitement.

“I could’ve done that.” mutters Jackson.

“But you didn’t.” Phillis replies, smirking.

Confused, Ten decides to continue the fight. “Hey, Aubree! Your opponent is over here!”

Aubree doesn’t turn around, and instead slams her foot into the ground in a different way; a clump of clay is launched from the ground and slams into Ten’s face, knocking her to the ground; the saw on the skirt bites through the ground, but it screeches as if damaged somewhat. Ten leaps up and slows down the spinning of the blade to check for damage. It’s a little crumpled, but the blades are still relatively sharp.

Infuriated, Ten charges at Aubree, sliding her foot around and tripping Aubree up. The girl hits the ground hard, and then pops up with a cry of shock. She turns to Ten as if seeing her for the first time, and kicks out.

“Sorry, I got distracted!” she cries.

“No kidding.” murmurs Ten, dodging past the kick and pulling the Steel-Capped Kickers towards her skirt. Sparks fly the moment that the boots meet the spinning saw, and whilst Aubree panics, Ten heaves forward and throws her, and she lands, dazed, just outside of the training field.

“Stop! Aubree is out – the girl with the great arse wins!” Lauren shouts. Simon glances sidelong at her.

“That wasn’t even remotely close to professional.” he sighs.

“I’m wearing a corset under my shirt, do you really think I’m professional?” Lauren grins. “Relax, I’m not going to risk my job like this. I was just kidding.”

Ten returns to the bench, flushed with victory.

“That was great!” Cassandra trills.

“Yeah…” Ten replies. “I’m really tired out now though… sheesh. Right. I’m OK.”

Cassandra and Ten turn their attention onto Phillis.

“Hey.” drawls Cassandra. Phillis doesn’t react.

“Alright, next, can Boo and Eiden take to the field?” Simon calls.

“Hey!” Ten says, more forcefully. Phillis turns.

“Mm?”

“You wanna sit with us? We’re pretty friendly.” Cassandra smiles. Phillis shrugs, keeping his eyes trained on the field.

“Not really. I’m not a piece of meat to be ogled; my nudism is a serious choice, and I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to become a Bombardier.”

“So are we.” Cassandra says. Ten nods in support.

“Good for you.” Phillis says, and continues watching the field as Boo and Eiden take their positions. He makes no moves to continue the conversation, and Cassandra and Ten sigh and stop speaking to him.

 

*

 

“Alright, you two; begin!”

Eiden adjusts his mask and his boots transform into the Steel-Capped Kickers. Simon observes this and shrugs. “The boots are popular today.”

Boo, meanwhile, is wearing a plain white t-shirt, and once the power of it flows into her, it transforms into… a plain white t-shirt. However, it is swelling with energy: the Powerful Pullover.

Eiden charges. Having watched the previous two fights featuring the Steel-Capped Kickers, he’s confident that he knows what to do with them now. He kicks the floor as he runs, propelling him forward several feet far faster than running would have done. He aims to deliver a strong kick, but holds himself back a little; Boo is shorter and frailer than him, and he doesn’t want to injure her too badly.

With her eyes locked on Eiden, Boo knocks his oncoming kick aside with one hand, and punches him squarely in the chest with her other hand. The punch feels like an explosion, and Eiden is hurled twenty metres backward, slamming into the wall of the college, undeniably out of bounds.

“I…” he groans. “Wh-what the hell just happened..?”

“Well, that was decisive and quick.” Lauren chuckles, grinning at Boo, who shies away from the attention the group is now giving her.

“Holy shit.” Phillis murmurs. “So this is the power of Battle Clothing firsthand…”

“Incredible! Your dark energies allowed you to end the fight as quickly as it began!” Donovan crows. Boo takes a seat on the bench and smiles to herself.

“I, um, used to do karate back home. The top just made me a lot stronger than usual, I guess.”

Eiden limps off the battlefield, and after a few minutes, is seeing clearly again. He sits beside Aubree, who begins to lean on him and play with his ripped jeans.

“Um.” he mutters. Aubree looks up in surprise.

“Sorry! I got too close, didn’t I… I apologise. I just love your clothes! You’ve got such a cool style, it’s really amazing, it’s kinda similar to some of Lindsay Stunne’s work, but like, way better, since it’s not watered-down fake-cyberpunk silliness. Very cool, I approve.” she replies, talking faster and faster.

Simon points to the field. “Next up, Xilog and Donovan.”

“No worries…” Eiden says, not sure how to respond. “Uh, hey, I was wondering. What’s with those tattoo designs? I like to add designs to my mask, so these caught my eye.”

“Oh, these!” Aubree laughs. “Well, I used to get tattoos of all sorts when I was a kid, but it’s been so long, I don’t remember what they all meant. That one there was for my first pet… that one was celebrating the defeat of Ledraun… um…”

“Ledraun?” Eiden asks.

“Do you not remember? Well, it’s a long story… so, you know the Top Bombardier, Estelle, right?”

“Uh, I do,” Eiden replies, watching as Xilog and Donovan step onto the field, preparing to fight. “But mind if we talk later? I want to pay attention to all the fights so I can get a measure of everyone.”

 

*

 

Simon nods. “Begin!”

Xilog has chosen the shorts, and is shirtless. The moment he focuses his power, the shorts transform into colourful shorts and red boxing gloves, huge and weighty, appear on his hands: the Boxing Shorts.

Donovan, meanwhile, has gone with the duffel coat, which promptly transforms into the Stone Layer Coat.

“Prepare yourself!” he cries at Xilog. “For you face the might of my shadowy pillars of doom! The balusters you once counted on to hold up your ancient cities now fall under my command, and now there is no recourse but to be crus- oof!”

Whilst Donovan is monologuing, Xilog cuts to the chase and runs over, punching him squarely in the stomach. Donovan is sent flying backwards, but brings up a pillar to prevent himself flying out of the field entirely.

“Now he’s stealing my moves,” mutters Cassandra. “What a joker.”

“He deserves to lose for calling you a harlot anyway.” Ten replies.

“It’s true,” Cassandra smirks. “But only you and me get to say it.”

Donovan jumps up and creates a pillar underneath himself; he stands atop it, looking for all the world like a statue atop a podium. Xilog is unbothered and dodges as a pillar rises up next to him – he jumps onto it and is brought up to face Donovan.

Xilog’s stare is piercing; even Donovan is a little shaken.

“What’s under it?” he asks, throwing a heavy punch. With limited room to dodge on the small pillar, Donovan is forced to lean back, narrowly avoiding the blow, but too close to the edge of the pillar for comfort.

“What is it that you mean?” he asks. Xilog continues talking as if Donovan hadn’t replied.

“That alpha male act you have. It’s evident that you act this way for a reason, but I must know why you feel it necessary to bluster. Your personality is conscripted into being dark, and brooding, and simultaneously overblown and overconfident.”

As Xilog talks, he doesn’t let up his assault. His punches miss, but Donovan is teetering on the edge of his pillar. He brings up another pillar of stone behind him and jumps back onto it, safe. Xilog steps onto his old pillar, and continues throwing powerful blows.

“There’s no overconfidence to be had! This is the way I am – this is how the darkness made me! I cannot be analysed, and I cannot be answered for!”

“Everything can be analysed.” Xilog responds. He lunges forward to issue an unavoidable punch, but the pillar under him crumbles to dust and he falls, the floor several metres below. Another pillar slams out of the ground at an angle, but before it can knock Xilog out of bounds, he punches it with all of his might. The pillar splits down the middle and shatters; Xilog lands on the ground, still able to fight.

“You survived my initial attack, hm?” Donovan calls from atop his pillar. “Well then, taste fear as I crush you with my ultimate technique – Triple Pillar Pandemic!”

Two pillars erupt from the ground on either side of Xilog, at an angle so they grab him like a pincer. Struggling to move his arms, he can only watch helplessly as another pillar arises from in front of him and slams into his bare chest, knocking him well out of bounds.

“Stop!” Lauren calls. “Alright, Xilog is out and Donovan is the winner!”

Donovan’s pillar lowers, and he steps off it, satisfied with his performance. Xilog gets to his feet, evidently unbothered by his loss, and more pleased with getting to experiment with interesting types of Battle Clothing. He sits down, allowing a brief smile to cross his face.

Donovan takes a seat next to Aubree. “Good day, Aubree.”

“Hi!” she replies, smiling radiantly at him. “You have some cool clothes, and that special move was super cool!”

“I’ll take you under my wing sometime as my Dark Assistant; I will show you the real power of Battle Clothing.” Donovan grins.

“Sounds like fun!” Aubree says.

Anastasia turns to her left and sees Zaphod watching the fights quietly, not speaking to anyone.

“Um, hello. You OK?” she asks.

Zaphod turns to her and nods. “Yeah. I just really love watching all these fights! Everyone’s so cool.”

“Yeah, I love seeing Battle Clothing in action. Everyone’s talented.” Anastasia says. “Besides that Clocksworth guy.”

“Where is he, anyway?” asks Zaphod.

Anastasia pulls a face. “Under the bench, staring up Ten’s skirt.”

Awkwardly, Zaphod shakes his head. “Oh dear… he really is a creep. That’s bad.”

“Yep.” Anastasia agrees.

“Next to fight, Phillis-” Simon says.

The minute he hears his name called, Phillis walks up, flaccid dong swinging in the light breeze. “I dare any and all to challenge me, to test their mettle without the need for clothes!”

Simon sighs, staring anyway but directly at Phillis. “That’s really not how this works. Anastasia, apologies, but would you mind fighting Phillis?”

Phillis shrugs. “I mean, she can wear Battle Clothing if she wants. It won’t help her win.”

With an audible sigh, Eiden leans back on the bench. “What the hell is that guy’s issue?” he murmurs. “I hope Anastasia shows him the might of Battle Clothing. He deserves to be taken down a peg or two.”

“No kidding.” Xilog replies. “And yet the bravery at casting off your gifted strength, giving yourself a severe disadvantage… it gives the same quiet confidence of one fighting against an uncaring government. The battle against a system.”

“Uh, sure.” Eiden replies.

 

*

 

Phillis, in all his nakedness, grins brazenly at Anastasia, who is wearing a striking black dress.

“Begin!” Simon barks.

Phillis remains motionless, waiting for Anastasia to come to him. Anastasia transforms her dress, and it becomes longer and more glittery. She feels a weight on her left leg, and discovers three knives of differing lengths tucked into her garter – one large and weighty, two smaller and more likely used for throwing: the Garrote Garter.

She draws the heavier knife and runs at Phillis. He easily dodges her first two slashes, and drives his knee into her stomach brutally. Before she can regain her balance, he punches her squarely in the face.

“Ooh, that’s nasty.” Cassandra remarks. “He fights hella dirty.”

“He’s got to, surely?” Eiden replies. “He fights dirty, or he loses. That’s the weakness of not having Battle Clothing. Watch – even fighting dirty, he isn’t going to win this.”

Anastasia slashes her knife around, keeping Phillis from getting any closer. He takes a few steps back to get out of the knife’s range, at which point Anastasia grabs one of the throwing knives and hurls it at him. He only just sees it coming and tries to dodge, but the knife slams itself into his right shoulder.

Phillis roars in pain and rips the knife out – again, with no blood drawn. He charges at Anastasia, who lunges with her knife. Phillis knocks the knife out of his way and kicks Anastasia in the stomach, hard.

She gasps. “Please stop…”

“Stop!” Lauren yells.

Phillis pretends not hear her, and delivers four punches in the chest and face in quick succession. A final blow to the side of the head sends Anastasia crashing to the ground, completely dazed.

“Stop!” yells Lauren. “Phillis, we said play fair!”

“Hey, I play as fair as I feel I need to. I won, didn’t I?” he replies. Simon glares at him.

“He’s going to be trouble.” he murmurs to Lauren. She nods.

“I’m not a form tutor though, so I’m not the one who has to worry about it.”

Phillis goes to sit down, and Lauren helps Anastasia back to the bench, where she sits, completely out of it. Cassandra, Ten and Aubree sit by her, offering their support and help.

“Finally – Clocksworth and Zaphod. Let’s go!” Simon calls.

Ten, having tired of helping Anastasia, sidles over to Simon.

“So, you’re the form tutor we’d get if we attended Sunderland, right?”

“Yup.” Simon replies, deadpan.

“And do you… punish your students if they screw up?”

“Please stop. You’re at least a decade too young for me.” Simon replies.

“I am?” Ten says, somewhat surprised. “You don’t look a day over twenty-five.”

“And you’re all 15 or 16 or whatever – about a decade too young for me.” Simon says, with irritating correctness. Ten sighs, winks at Lauren, and goes to sit back on the bench to watch the final fight.

Xilog sits by Eiden. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Eiden replies.

“You intrigue me. Your clothes, your demeanour… it suggests you have many secrets to hide. Isn’t that why masks were worn? To hide identities?”

“Perhaps.” Eiden says. “But mine isn’t for that. There’s not much interesting about me.”

“If you ever want to discuss stuff, I will listen.” Xilog says.

Eiden nods, somewhat confused, but realising that Xilog is trying to be friendly. “Thanks.”

 

*

 

“Right, let’s get this done.” Simon calls. “Clocksworth and Zaphod, begin!”

Clocksworth, stuck with the skirt, transforms it into the Sawblade Skirt, whilst Zaphod gains access to the Powerful Pullover.

“If I remember right, this makes me really strong!” cries Zaphod, leaping into the fray and throwing wild and inaccurate punches at Clocksworth. “Strong strong strong!” The young pervert ducks under a punch and leaps into Zaphod, slashing with the spinning blade of the saw. The pain is too much for Zaphod, who is forced to retreat. As Clocksworth advances, they seem to have a change in mood, and the sawblade stops spinning quite as furiously.

Zaphod capitalises on the shift by punching the ground with a mighty force, splitting the very earth asunder, knocking Clocksworth into the air.

“I see why half our budget goes to repairing the training fields now.” Simon says, with his face in his palms. Lauren chuckles.

Before Clocksworth hits the ground, Zaphod body-tackles the pervert, knocking them several metres forward, sliding along the ground, and coming to a stop outside of the bounds.

“Stop!” Lauren shouts. “Zaphod wins, Clocksworth has been knocked out of bounds!”

“Alright.” Simon says, turning to the group. “Now that you’ve all had a workout and got yourselves a little beaten up, we’ll be taking a break for lunch. After that, we’ll be having a more sit-down-and-study lesson, so you can take some time to recover.”

He looks over the group, looking worn out, but happy.

“You can either choose Social Relations or Clothing History to go to after lunch. Choose what you like, and enjoy the lessons. This marks the end of my segment.”

The group give a polite clap, and Simon nods. He and Lauren walk away, talking about this and that, leaving the rest of them to re-enter the college and make their way to the lunchroom. There’s plenty of places to sit, and plenty of food to go around. There’s an hour or so before the set lesson begins.

 

New Battle Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 081] Ward Aura Slippers

Formation: Slippers + Augment Patch

Effect: Protects all nearby combatants from physical harm to a degree

Drawback: Does not protect the user, combatants can be knocked unconscious

 

[No. 004] Stone Layer Coat

Formation: Duffel Coat + Power Patch

Effect: Lets user send waves of stone pillars from out of the ground

Drawback: The more pillars out, the more mental strain on the user

 

[No. 073] Steel-Capped Kickers

Formation: Boots + Power Patch

Effect: Renders user capable of dealing incredibly potent kicks

Drawback: User’s legs will take some of the impact

 

[No. 061] Sawblade Skirt

Formation: Skirt + Power Patch

Effect: Turns user’s skirt into a spinning buzzsaw

Drawback: Draws on user’s own energy to spin the saw

 

[No. 028] Powerful Pullover

Formation: T-Shirt + Power Patch

Effect: Hugely increases user’s physical strength

Drawback: Massively decreases user’s intelligence and charisma

 

[No. 058] Boxing Shorts

Formation: Shorts + Power Patch

Effect: Gives user large boxing gloves and strong punching ability

Drawback: Cannot be worn with tops or coats

 

[No. 034] Garrote Garter

Formation: Dress + Power Patch

Effect: Gives user several daggers in their garters, of varying length

Drawback: Daggers cannot break but also cannot be replaced

Sunderland College [1.1 - A Strange and Sundry Class]

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