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Sunderland College [3.3 – Eiden vs. Zaphod]

“Alright.”

Aubree stares at the field, the imposing figure of Eiden beside her, held up by his spidery legs. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah.” Eiden says. “I’ve got it all planned out. I just have to make sure I can deal with his speed… and we’ll be fine.”

“You can do it! I’ll be cheering you on all the way.” Aubree says. “Semi-finals… it might be a small competition but that’s still pretty cool. Let’s see how far we can go!”

She hugs Eiden, who squirms awkwardly, unused to such contact. He briefly puts an arm on Aubree’s shoulder and smiles at her. “Yeah. Let’s do it!”

 

*

 

Anastasia and Zaphod are on the other side of the arena, also moments away from the beginning of the next match. Zaphod stares at the field, a faint smile on his face.

“You look confident.”

“I don’t feel it.” Zaphod said. “But if I keep looking confident, and keep smiling, it’ll help me be confident, I think. So I’m gonna hold my head high!”

Anastasia grins at Zaphod’s distant look, and nods. “I look forward to it. Good luck, Zaphod – if you win, you might be able to win the whole competition!”

“We’ll see.” Zaphod replies. “Time to go…”

 

*

 

The two figures walk out onto the field. Everyone’s had a chance to see what they can do, and they’re both quite strong. Nobody is certain who will win, but everyone in the class has their own ideas; keeping quiet, not sure who everyone is supporting, the class watch in anticipation.

“Everybody welcome our competitors! We’ve already met them in previous matches, so let’s just get right down to it! On the left, with the Spider Snood – freshly repaired, props to his designer – it’s Eiden Darrow!” shouts Lauren.

“And on the right, with the Rocket Heels, we’ve got Zaphod Smith. These students have performed admirably so far. We’ll see how they handle each other.” Hector finishes.

Down on the field, the combat referee, Alarna, nods. “Begin!”

Zaphod and Eiden begin to move, both incredibly focussed on the match at hand. Zaphod initially doesn’t blast off, and Eiden skitters towards him with the speed afforded to him by the Spider Snood. The minute he’s about to reach Zaphod, the young man prepares the Rocket Heels and blasts into the air. Eiden’s spidery appendages aren’t fast enough to catch Zaphod, and the blast of the boots hits him with a wave of heat and light, momentarily stunning him.

Zaphod has carefully aimed his launch – he’s not travelling directly upwards, but instead has flown past Eiden, reaching the top of the open-air stadium, at the edge of the arena where Eiden started. Eiden, trying to keep an eye on the figure above him, chases him down, hoping to catch Zaphod as he falls and end the fight quickly. Preparing his limbs, he watches as Zaphod begins to fall.

“Come on, Eiden!” shouts Aubree, then claps a hand over her mouth. “Oh! Sorry, Anastasia. That’s not to say that I’m not supporting Zaphod too, but obviously I’m Eiden’s designer and, uh-”

“It’s OK.” grins Anastasia. “It’s just a little competition. Cheer as loud as you can for your model! Come on, Zaphod! You’ve got this!”

With a smile, Aubree turns back to the window and continues to watch the fight.

Zaphod plummets with a grin, and as Eiden rears back and readies two limbs to strike out, he blasts off once more, heading back into the air, in another direction. Eiden grunts in annoyance, preparing to chase Zaphod down once more.

“Zaphod’s strategy is pretty interesting here, folks!” shouts Lauren.

“He’s keeping himself in the air, luring Eiden around on the ground – looks like he’s trying to get Eiden to go out of bounds.” Hector remarks. “I’m not confident in that strategy. Eiden’s a sharp combatant.”

However, Eiden has not quite noticed what Zaphod is trying to do, and is doggedly chasing him across the arena. Zaphod grins and watches as the spidery figure below attempts to keep up with his blistering aerial movement. Zaphod drops once more, ready to continue luring Eiden, and charges up the Rocket Heels.

“Not this time.” Eiden mutters, and with a leap, he uses his limbs to launch himself into the air. At the moment that Zaphod is about to blast off, Eiden grabs him with some of the Spider Snood’s limbs and hurls him in another direction; the blast of the Rocket Heels coupled with the change in direction has Zaphod on a collision course with the ground outside the battleground. With a desperate blast of the heels, Zaphod manages to hurl himself onto the ground of the arena, safe. He takes a deep breath.

Eiden lands on the ground with all of his limbs intact, and Zaphod can hear him moving inexorably towards him. He wills his body to get up.

“Please, Zaphod! You have to get up! You’re not done yet!”

Eiden advances.

 

*

 

“You are Mr Phillis Singen-Stevens, first-year student of Sunderland College?”

“Possibly.” Phillis shrugs. “And?”

“And you threatened the Practise Model Competition by tampering with the model’s clothing!” says the competition official. The door behind them opens and another figure walks into the administration office.

“Phillis. We meet again.” Maxwell Pinnacle replies.

“Headmaster.” Phillis says, not quite respectfully, but not completely dismissive.

“I understand that Phillis has acted rashly. I am not claiming that he should be exempt of punishment. However, one must understand his position; his father was recently killed, and it is suspected that…”

He falls silent. The official looks at him, waiting for him to speak.

“It is suspected that the Anticloth has risen once more. The way that his body was Marked…”

“I identified it.” Phillis said hoarsely. “My dad. Killed and Marked by the Anticloth. By the living proof that Battle Clothing should be lost to history and never come back.”

“My goodness.” the official murmurs. “I’m sorry, Phillis. I didn’t know. Are you getting proper mental health treatment for this?”

“Phillis has been seeing a psychiatrist outside of college hours. I offered to let him stay at home when he first discovered this, but he refused. He is at college of his own volition.” Pinnacle explains.

“I see. So, headmaster, what would you recommend?”

“Phillis.” Pinnacle says gently. “I understand that your life has been chaotic, especially as you have grown older and begun to understand what it was your parents battled all their lives, and what they lost their lives to.

“In some ways, you must feel at home in the chaos. You lost control of your own life and destiny, and so you regain control in these small ways. Your nudism, your attempt to Mark young Eiden, this mid-competition stunt…

“But you cannot continue causing this chaos to escape that which is trying to pull you in. You cannot hurt others because life has hurt you. As such, we will not punish you for these acts… but I recommend that you take three weeks away. You may return for the Hallowe’en festivities after half term. For now, though, please… take some time for yourself.”

“I don’t get a choice, do I?” Phillis mutters.

Pinnacle nods. “But I assure you, young Phillis, it will help. You need time to come to terms with this, and up to now, you’ve been refusing to give yourself that time, instead devoting yourself to the mission you think you have. The mission can wait. Your mental health comes first, so I must enforce this.”

For a few moments, Phillis, Pinnacle and the competition official sit in the silent room, all lost in their own strange thoughts.

 

*

 

Zaphod feels Eiden’s approach before it happens, and pulls himself to his feet, just in time to avoid the first limb slamming into the ground where he had just been lying. He turns to Eiden and all he sees is a mass of moving limbs, completely surrounding his avenues of escape.

“Nowhere to go.” Boo says with worry. “Oh no…”

“Nowhere to go… but through.” Xilog says. “It’s his only option: watch.”

Zaphod comes to the same conclusion as Eiden and runs forward. Eiden begins to surround Zaphod with his limbs as the Rocket Heels begin to charge up. Eiden prepares his sharp attacking limbs to destroy the boots, but Zaphod only performs a small blast, which takes less time to charge and take Eiden by surprise. The blast pushes Eiden back, and he is knocked aside as Zaphod blasts to safety.

“Oh, an excellent play!” announces Lauren. “Zaphod has regulated the level of the boost in order to take Eiden by surprise, but it was still strong enough to get him past! And now he’s taking the time to eat some… nuts?”

“Ah, the nut bag. The most popular snack for frequent Rocket Heels users, probably popularised by Estelle Weatherby in the late 90s.”

Zaphod eats as much as he can before Eiden turns and begins to charge at him, moving with all of his limbs in a skilful, almost mesmerising manner.

“Christ, Eiden, you went from wannabe edgelord to genuinely really creepy.” mutters Zaphod, preparing to blast off. He sits and waits for Eiden’s approach, however, his eyes sharp and more focussed than they’ve ever been. Eiden doesn’t see the determination in Zaphod’s face, and is only looking at his feet, hoping to trap his legs with all of his limbs and destroy the Rocket Heels.

“What’s he doing?” asks Jackson to the girls who are watching with bated breath.

“Oh, I see… Zaphod’s noticed that Eiden has been going for his legs.” Anastasia says. “If I’m right… he’ll blast off in a second.”

Mia observes the battlefield with a smile. “Ah, I think I see.”

“Not yet…” murmurs Zaphod to himself, trying to stay calm as the first two of Eiden’s limbs wrap themselves roughly around his legs. As Eiden jumps forward and lands on all of his limbs, rearing up monstrously before Zaphod, he nods to himself. “Now!”

He blasts off as Eiden continues to truss up his legs, and Eiden curses in annoyance. He’s holding Zaphod’s legs too tightly, and can’t let go – he is dragged along into the air by the blast, and the pair of them are airborne, with the out-of-bounds area of the battlefield below them.

Zaphod grins as he grabs the limbs around his legs and begins to pull them off.

“Down you go, Eiden!”

 

*

 

Lucas Gloom stops walking as he and Elysia take the road from the college into central Macew. “Hm… Elysia, what’s the date today?”

The young woman gets out a well-worn planner.

“October 4th, 2004.”

“Of course.” Gloom breathes. “I’ve just realised when he’ll attack the college. Hallowe’en.”

“Why Hallowe’en?” Elysia asks.

“I’ll explain on the way to our lodgings. Just think about the events of 1991 for a second; we must be missing something.”

Elysia begins to imagine that fateful night, trying to piece together everything they’re missing. It all comes back in a flood – the darkness, the death, the tragedy.

 

October 31st, 1991

 

“God, it’s freezing.”

“It’s Egypt, Sarah.” Lott replies in his annoyingly cheerful tone.

“Yes, but we’re in the middle of a tomb under the earth. I don’t think we’re going to catch any rays down here.” Sarah mutters.

Lucas Gloom turns to the group. “Alright, this is the entrance that they told us the mummy came out. Paranormal investigation team, please stand still so I can take a headcount.”

Everyone comes to a stop in the dank tomb, feeling the chilling wind blowing through their outfits. It’s dark, lit only by several electric torches and a single firelit torch – Lott’s, which he claims he brought for authenticity.

“Lucas Gloom, yes, we’ve got me. Elysia Prim.”

“Here.” Elysia says. She’s a tall, thin and imposing woman. Her eyes sparkle with a calculating wit, and her ruby-red lips are twisted into a faint, but definitely present smile. Her hair is long and brunette. She wears a custom-made piece of Battle Clothing as well as a cape, and with the way it shimmers around her, it’s clear that it holds an arcane power.

“Alright. Sarah Cobalt.”

“Right here!” Sarah answers. She, in almost comical juxtaposition to Elysia, is short and stocky, with a bright, rounded face and a wide smile. Her hair is shoulder-length, curly and blonde, but she has dyed some of the curls nearer the front a frosted blue. She wears a comfortable jumper of burgundy and matching, loose-fitting trousers perfect for exploration.

“Lott Blue.”

“Yup.” Lott says. He’s a floppy-haired young man, the youngest member of the group, who developed a passing interest in ghosts – or more accurately, the unattainable Elysia Prim – and uses his infectious grin to keep people entertained. His clothes are typical fare, jeans and a t-shirt, as well as a jacket.

“Axis Gascoine.”

“Present.” Gascoine replies. He’s a tall, well-built man who is the oldest of the group. His hair is greying despite being just twenty-seven, and he has an immaculately-groomed short beard and moustache. He wears a full suit, with the Power Patch in plain sight on his breast pocket.

“Ellis Price.”

“Here.” Ellis smiles. “That’s everyone!” Her voice has a Welsh tinge, and she’s pretty, if a little plain-looking. She has the tired eyes typical of the mother of a young child, but the gleam in those eyes evidently shows that she lives for exploration, paranormal or otherwise.

“Alright, we have everyone. No getting split up now.” Gloom says. “We have to solve the mystery of this walking mummy and set things to rights here.”

They begin to walk into the darkness of the tomb, keeping their torches trained on the walls and path ahead, all on guard.

“This isn’t how I imagined it when you suggested a holiday to Egypt.” Elysia says.

“Hey, it’s nice to get together again. Since Ellis and Axis started focussing on their historian careers, how long has it been since we last solved a mystery?” Gloom asks.

“A long time indeed, Gloom.” Axis rumbles at the back of the group. “Having a wife and kids does that to you.”

“Mm.” Ellis agrees. “My son and daughter are a handful. And Diego said he might want another…”

“Oh, really? That’d be interesting.” Elysia remarks.

“One’s enough for me.” Axis says.

“Hold up! Look over there!” Lott yelps, interrupting the group as he waves his flaming torch at the wall to their left. There’s a crack, and there’s a soft breeze blowing through it.

“Nice catch.” Gloom says. “Behind this wall might be the place that the mummy’s been hiding… let’s take a look. Everyone stick together… Axis, mind helping me push this section of the wall aside? I think it’s a secret doorway.”

Axis moves over to help. Lott watches in anticipation as they begin to heave at the door together.

Elysia’s eyes flash as she turns to the darkness that they were walking through, and she lifts her hands, standing in front of the group. “Look out, something’s coming!”

 

*

 

Eiden begins to drop, but his limbs wrap around Zaphod more quickly than Zaphod can pull them away, and the pair are locked in a tight embrace of combat as they plummet together.

“I’m not giving up!” Eiden shouts above the noise. He twists and tries to shift his weight so that Zaphod will hit the ground first. Zaphod, however, is too wriggly and keeps his arms by his sides; the limbs wrapped around him will technically hit the ground before he does, and he hopes to claim victory by doing this.

“Oh, god, this is getting close.” Xilog says, watching the match with a vigour oft-unseen.

“I’m making a call! The dark gods have informed me… Zaphod shall be victorious!”

“I think Eiden’s got this…” murmurs Boo. “We’ll see.”

Eiden goes on the offensive with seconds before impact, battering at Zaphod’s body and face with his limbs, hoping to get free and leap back to the battlefield in the nick of time. Zaphod, meanwhile, charges the Rocket Heels. Eiden sees what he plans to do and pulls back on the limbs wrapped around Zaphod’s legs.

It’s timed perfectly. Zaphod blasts off at a diagonal angle as Eiden flips into the air, freeing himself from the boy’s clutches at the last moment. Zaphod slams into the ground hard, creating a small furrow and lying, unconscious, on the ground, so close to the battlefield, but still out-of-bounds. Eiden opens his arms and his Snood limbs stretch out. They hit the ground before Eiden does, absorbing virtually all of the impact and allowing him to gently land out-of-bounds.

“Still counts as my win.” he decides, walking to the battlefield and watching the cheering crowd with a wide smile behind his mask.

“Alright, Eiden won! Technically!” Lauren shouts. “Let’s take a look at the judges… how did we do?”

“Let’s see…” Hector says. “Alright, Eiden got the victory point… he also got the style point. Zaphod received the efficiency point and… ah, also the performance point. And the skill point… goes to Eiden. Eiden wins!”

With a relieved sigh, Aubree collapses. “Thank goodness!”

“You should go congratulate him.” Anastasia says. Aubree nods, and excitedly dashes out of the model’s lounge.

Down at the stadium, Aubree comes screeching into view, halting just before she collides with Eiden. “Eeeee! You did it!”

“I sure did.” Eiden says. “Boy, that was exhilarating. Zaphod’s being looked at by the nurses now, so I’m gonna check on him afterwards.”

“Well done!” Aubree says, hugging Eiden. Still not quite used to it, Eiden can do nothing but smile awkwardly and pat her on the head.

“Thanks. I’m feeling pretty tired out now… let’s head up to the lounge and grab a drink, huh?”

“Sounds good to me.” Aubree says, and the pair begin to walk back to the model’s lounge. Some members of the crowd are walking around the corridors as they head up, and Aubree turns as she spots one in particular that she thinks she recognises. It’s all too familiar; the jeans, the snood, the vengeful stare.

Corrine Primero does nothing but stare at Aubree as the pair cross in the corridor, and Aubree can do nothing but watch her walk away. The message is clear: “you are not safe anywhere.”

“You alright?” Eiden asks. Aubree nods.

“Y-yeah. Let’s get that drink already.” she replies, feeling quite shaken.

Sunderland College [3.2 - No Small Amount of Chaos]
Sunderland College [3.4 - Jackson vs. Paris]

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