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Sunderland College [3.4 – Jackson vs. Paris]

In the model’s lounge, Eiden and Aubree are relaxing on one of the sofas, getting a drink.

“You alright? You had a bit of a funny turn out there.” Eiden says.

“Yeah, I’m OK.” Aubree replies. “I thought I saw someone I recognised, but it wasn’t. Silly old me!”

“Fair.” Eiden says, buying the ploy. “Uh, hey, I wanted to ask about your dad. Obviously I get that you might not wanna talk about it, so no worries if not.”

“It’s nothing too bad.” Aubree says, fiddling with a small beetle in resin that she had in her pocket. “He and my mother, um, divorced. But I still see him a lot! He inspired all my creative side, since my mum doesn’t like it. She wants me to be academic.”

“I see.”

“Except, since he’s the one that inspires me, and now he’s here… the pressure’s on, you know? I want to show him that I’m doing my best and succeeding, just like he always taught me! …I’m hoping that if I keep doing well with my designing, he’ll show me what he knows about…”

“About?” Eiden asks. Aubree glances around the room suspiciously, then leans in and whispers into Eiden’s ear.

“Little secret: my dad’s a Patchworker. I’m hoping that if I do well, he’ll show me some stuff about Patchworking.”

“Oh, that’s so cool, you have a- uh, hold on.” Eiden starts, then turns.

He falls silent as the announcers start up, and, realising the next match has begun, the pair head to the windows to observe with everyone else.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen!” Lauren shouts above the crowd. “We’re reaching the late afternoon now, but we’re ready for the other semi-final match now!”

“Our combatants this time are, firstly, Jackson Slacall, who you may remember used his Bluster Bottoms to great effect in his first fight. He’s a strong contender – those pants are homemade, but I had the chance to look over them during lunch. They’re designed to a professional standard; this kid knows his way around clothing, that’s for sure.”

“His opponent is Paris Duvoir, son of Dexter Duvoir, who as we know is using the Swift Scarf! He’s proved himself twice already and won’t go down without a fight!”

Paris’ eyebrows lower thunderously. “One day,” he hisses to himself. “They will introduce me as ‘Paris Duvoir’. Not ‘Paris Duvoir, son of Dexter Duvoir’.”

Jackson is standing on the field, feeling the air swirl around him. He glances around the stands, but he can’t see the person he’s looking for. “…Ah well. I’d best put on a good show, anyway.”

“Alright, folks, let’s get it going.” Hector says. Down on the field, combat referee Alarna strides up to the edge of the arena and glances at the two fighters, looking at each other with fierce eyes.

“Begin!” she shouts.

Paris walks towards Jackson, with a lazy smile. He has his scarf around his neck, and his eyes are trained on Jackson’s eyes, not moving or blinking.

“It feels intense. But he looks so calm.” murmurs Boo.

“He’s scared.” Xilog says. “They’re not calm footsteps. They’re wary ones.”

One moment later, just as Paris reaches the halfway point of the arena, he launches himself to the side as Jackson releases a huge blast of wind. Landing, catlike on the ground, Paris grins at Jackson and runs at him.

“The Swift Scarf is truly unmatched. Jackson tried to fake him out, but to no avail.” remarks Hector.

“Did you really think opening the battle in the exact same way would work out in your favour again? I watched your fight!” Paris yells as he runs at Jackson. Jackson observes him for a few moments, then darts forward to throw a punch.

“No,” he says, watching with no surprise as Paris predicts and avoids the blow. Paris goes to counterattack but Jackson leaps back to avoid any further combat. “But I also watched your fight. I’m just seeing what you’re capable of.”

Somewhat thrown by the stark response, Paris stumbles for a moment, but rights himself shortly afterwards. Flicking his hair out of his face dramatically, he readjusts his scarf and begins to run at Jackson once more, keeping up his assault. He dodges every counterpunch Jackson throws, and manages to land a couple of hits on the young man’s body.

“What is Jackson doing?” Anastasia remarks. Mia, Eiden and Aubree don’t have a particularly good answer.

“Uh, taking hits?” Aubree says.

“Hm… I’m wondering if that piece of clothing requires time to charge up power.” Eiden says. “I… feel like I’ve seen these designs. Jackson was working on them during some of the time that we were working on my mask.”

“Like the Inner Heat Jumper? Building up energy inside, which is released in one huge blast?” Mia suggests. Eiden nods.

“Then why was he able to release a huge blast at the beginning of his fight? He hadn’t charged up at all.” asks Aubree.

“Ah, but he had.” Anastasia says, grinning. “Look at how he’s moving. Throwing punches without really putting much energy into them – all the focus is on his movement. He’s jumping, running, leaping…”

“Movement. Yeah, look!” Eiden says, pointing. “The more he moves, the more violently the Bluster Bottoms are jiggling. It must be trapping air particles whenever he moves, ready to release!”

“I don’t know what he intends to do, though.” Mia shrugs. “Paris can still predict and dodge any attack. He’s going to have to think of a really good strategy if he wants to pull it off.”

Down on the field, they can see that Jackson is thinking the same thing – his movements are quick, lithe, but his face is serious, obviously grappling with what possible strategy could overcome an opponent who can predict any move.

 

*

 

October 31st, 1991

 

As the stone door slides open, the group stare in horror as a mummy comes ambling into view, gurgling and possessed by a strange form of life. A patch on the chest glows brightly.

“The rumours are true!” Lott says, darting back as the mummy comes forward. “A patch applied to a mummy wrapped in Original Cloth really does bring it to life!”

“So it seems…” Elysia replies. “Everyone get back. I’ll hold it off.”

The group head through the stone door, into a large chamber. Elysia raises a hand and part of the clothing on her wrist transforms into a sharp blade and quickly extends towards the mummy. The creature screeches and tries to go for Elysia again, but she has already entered the room. The moment she jumps into the circular chamber, Axis and Gloom heave the doorway closed once more.

“OK… that thing probably knows the layout of the tombs better than we do.” Gloom mutters as he listens to the groans of the mummy at the door.

“We don’t have much time until it finds another way in here, then.” Ellis replies. “But this… why is this room so empty?”

As their torches scan around, they realise that it is quite true. Besides a small raised hexagonal platform in the centre of the circular room, about the height of a step, there is nothing of note.

“This is strange indeed. Every room in a pyramid is intended to have a purpose. Although, now we’re underground, perhaps that’s not the case.” Axis muses.

Lott heads to the centre of the room. “And then there’s this little platform. Do you think something was here, and has since vanished?”

“That’s likely.” Lucas replies, watching as Sarah wanders over to stand next to Lott. “Then there’s those symbols on the wall there. Maybe the purpose of the room isn’t what’s in it, but what’s written on the walls. Perhaps there’s a hint about how to safely de-patch the mummy; that bit there looks like it’s about Patches.”

Elysia and Ellis, the ones most familiar with heiroglyphics, walk to the walls. Just as their torches begin to scan over the strange lettering, Lott and Sarah stand on the raised hexagonal platform. It begins to sink into the ground, and Axis feels a strange rumbling below his feet. “Gloom-”

“Yeah, I felt it too. Lott! Sarah! Get back!”

There’s a clattering from above, joining the rumbling from below to create an orchestra of fear. A gigantic stone weight drops from the ceiling of the room, which Lott and Sarah only just manage to avoid by leaping to safety. The impact shatters the gigantic rock in two, but it also activates the second trap. The circular room’s floor, split into three equal-sized segments, collapses entirely, sending the group tumbling even deeper into the pyramid’s underground with a crash of stone and dust.

In the first segment, Elysia and Ellis land relatively safely, finding themselves in a deep room. Above them, a large chunk of the weighted stone drops after them, and Ellis screams. Elysia curses, then readies two huge fabric blades on her arms. She jumps up and swings her arms as fiercely as possible, just as the rock falls; the rock is sliced in two, landing harmlessly with a thud on either side of the two women.

For a moment, there is silence. Elysia looks around and realises that there is no exit from this tiny room that they have now fallen into.

“My god.” Ellis whispers. “Thank you, Elysia… but now what do we do?”

“We wait. Either the mummy will find us, thus revealing a hidden exit from this little trap, or we get help. And we pray that nobody else was injured.”

In the second segment, Lott and Sarah hit the floor much harder than the others, and Lott collapses onto the ground. “Argh!”

From above, the other half of the weighted stone begins to topple into their room. Sarah shrieks and tries to pull Lott to safety.

“Save yourself!” Lott shouts, knowing that his legs can barely support him. They feel broken. Sarah grips him tightly.

“Absolutely not! Come… on!”

The weighted stone falls into the room.

The two lives are snuffed out instantly.

In the third segment, Lucas and Axis tumble down amongst the rocks and destroyed floor, but Lucas’ eyes flash and their descent begins to slow: Gloom’s Control Labcoat is, as usual, helping them out immensely.

“Thanks.” Axis replies as they reach the bottom safely. Lucas nods as he looks around the room.

“No worries. I really hope everyone else is OK… we need to find a way out of here.”

“That might be a good start.” Axis says, pointing at descending staircase in the corner of the room, somewhat covered by the rubble all around. “If we shift these rocks, we can see where this goes.”

“Good idea.” Lucas says. The pair begin moving the rocks. A figure, impossible to see in the darkness, watches them from the stairs.

 

*

 

“Ah, the scarfed savant strikes again!” Donovan says as he, Boo and Xilog watch Paris dodge past Jackson’s latest punch and kick him in the side of the head, sending him crashing to the ground.

“It is not going well for Jackson. He’s not been hit too much, but he’s not landed a single hit on Paris yet.” Xilog says. “This is… vexing. The Swift Scarf seems to have no weakness in a one-on-one combat situation. It cannot be overcome, and any possible approach can be predicted or avoided with surgical precision. Is there any way to trick it? Can one trick a piece of Battle Clothing as you would a mind, or would…”

Boo taps Xilog on the shoulder, disturbing his reverie. “You were muttering again.”

“Apologies.” Xilog replies. “Let’s see… we have to continue supporting Jackson, even if he’s going to struggle, but… I want to think of a way he can win.”

“There’s no shame in supporting a losing team!” Donovan grins. “So long as our burning spirits rise up as one and avenge the loser afterwards!”

 

*

 

Cassandra, working in the gym, looks up as her phone buzzes. She puts down the dumbbells and flips open her phone to find an SMS message from a contact labelled “Bestie Bitch” – it’s Ten.

 

Hey. Wanna go pub later?

 

Cassandra stares for a moment. The anger she felt earlier that day has dissipated, and she knows that Ten had a point. Begrudgingly, she types a reply, and tries her best not to come across as annoyed.

 

Can do. Just at gym, will be done by 4. Good?

 

The reply comes instantaneously.

 

Y, see you then.

 

Cassandra smiles to herself. Arguments between herself and Ten never last long, and she’s pleased that this one is already over. It had been a very quiet day without her.

 

*

 

Jackson looks up as Paris barrels towards him, and he only just manages to dodge. However, Paris delivers a swift follow-up punch that knocks Jackson backwards. Jackson stumbles, unable to stop his backward momentum, heading closer and closer to the edge of the arena. Paris watches carefully, and Jackson readies a blast of the Bluster Bottoms.

The force of the wind propels him forwards, away from the edge, and he uses the additional velocity to throw a heavy punch at Paris, who sees it coming and is already moving to negate it. He grabs Jackson’s outstretched fist and pulls down quickly, using Jackson’s speed against him by hurling him into the air and suplexing him into the ground with a heavy slam.

“Oh, that was brutal.” Boo murmurs. “I’ve done that to my fair share of, uh, karate friends.”

“Karate friends?” asks Xilog.

“Well, I did karate, but… nobody really talked to me outside of the lessons. They weren’t friends, just…”

“Karate friends.” Xilog says. “I understand.”

“Does one not think that the ‘suplexing people into the ground with all the energies of evilness’ might have something to do with that?” Donovan asks, and Boo smirks briefly.

Paris goes to grab Jackson, but Jackson kicks out; he doesn’t hit Paris, but he forces him to keep his distance. Once Jackson is stood up, he faces Paris with a smile. They’re in the far corner of the arena, with Paris stood nearer to the edge and Jackson closer to the middle.

“What do you have to grin about?” Paris asks.

“I’ve won.” Jackson says. Lifting a hand, he prepares a huge storm of wind that begins to whistle around him, whirling faster and faster.

“Jackson seems to be delivering an even more powerful gust of wind than before. It’s almost a small tornado…” murmurs Hector. “What is he planning?”

“How?” asks Paris, standing very still and letting his scarf flutter in the breeze. “Anything you do, I can presciently avoid. It’s only a matter of time before my victory.”

“I’ve been thinking hard this entire match.” Jackson says. “How do you defeat a piece of Battle Clothing that can predict any move from a single opponent?”

“You don’t!” shouts Paris into the wind, which is drowning out his words. Jackson’s voice, meanwhile, is being magnified by the windstorm he is now ensconced in.

“Oh, you do. Your ability is to predict my moves, and then dodge. However, it doesn’t matter whether you predict this next strike or not…” Jackson booms, lifting a hand and pointing it right at Paris as the wind reaches fever pitch.

Paris sees the attack coming, and already understands what Jackson has done. He tries to run anyway, and the wind launches itself at him. “…Because you can’t dodge an unavoidable attack!”

The blast of wind is huge, and it is physically impossible for Paris to get out of the way in time. With nowhere else to go and nothing to do, Paris is caught by the wind and dragged into the air, being deposited at the edge of the stadium, just below the crowds, fully out of bounds. The wind subsides, and Jackson takes a large breath, satisfied.

“Absolutely brilliant thinking from Jackson here!” Lauren shouts as the crowd cheers. “Fan favourite Paris Duvoir has been defeated, but will that performance be enough to wow the judges? Let’s find out! Hector?”

“Yep, I’m getting them in now. Lesse, Jackson won the victory point… and the efficiency point… Paris won the style point, the skill point, and… oh. Jackson won the performance point. 3-2 to Jackson – Jackson is in the final!” Hector reports. Jackson heaves a sigh of relief as he re-enters the stands and heads to the model’s lounge. He spots Paris up the corridor.

“Hey.” he says.

Paris eyes him angrily for a moment, but the hatred fades almost instantly. “Hi. You… you were very impressive. And your clothing is ornate and powerful… who are you?”

“Just a guy.” Jackson shrugs.

“I would very much like to get to know you further.” Paris says, eyeing Jackson’s Bluster Bottoms with evident envy. “Model and designer in one… you definitely have an interesting parentage.”

“You aren’t my type, sorry.” Jackson says, smirking.

Paris blusters incomprehensibly and goes red. “I’m not- I wasn’t- why would you!”

“Kidding, man.” Jackson replies. “Let’s get to the lounge already, shall we? I don’t have much time before the final.”

“You’ve done well to beat me.” Paris says. “I doubt anyone else could pose a threat.”

“You’ve not met Eiden.” Jackson replies, and as he opens the door of the model’s lounge, Eiden, Clocksworth and the other girls congratulate him.

“Thank you, thanks so much.”

“Hey, Jackson. Are these the clothes that you were designing whilst we were doing the mask the other week?” Eiden says. Paris glances up at the figure of Eiden Darrow, still wearing his Spider Snood and mask.

“Yeah, it is. Thought I’d been subtle about it.” Jackson says.

“I didn’t see much, but I recognised the wind patterns and stuff you were drawing. I’m still very interested to learn how you know all this stuff. You design like a pro.”

“I, uh… I guess.” Jackson says. “But hey, we’d better prepare for the final.”

“Suppose so.” Eiden says, stepping aside and allowing Jackson to approach the table on the other side of the room, where refreshments have been placed. Paris nods at Eiden.

“Well met.”

“You did good too. I’m still really fond of the Swift Scarf… too bad I can’t wear it with my Snood.”

“Indeed.” Paris grins. “I look forward to this final. From what I’ve seen of you and Jackson, it will be a most interesting fight indeed. For now, though, excuse me. I… may have to ring my father and do some damage control.”

Without saying anything further or waiting for a reply, Paris exits the lounge, pulling his phone out of a pocket.

Eiden glances at the arena, in full view through the large windows of the model’s lounge. The final is soon. As much as he likes Jackson, only one person can win the competition. Eiden’s eyes narrow. I can do this.

Aubree notices Eiden’s expression. “Man, he’s going to give it his all, isn’t he..?”

“Looks like it.” Anastasia says. “What did you expect, though? Both Eiden and Jackson are very invested in this competition.”

“Eiden doesn’t even want to be a model.” Aubree mutters as she flops on one of the sofas beside Anastasia. “I wonder what’s inspiring him to fight so hard?”

Anastasia glances at Eiden, then at Aubree, then back to Eiden.

“…Yeah, it’s a mystery.” she shrugs.

 

[Unregistered] Blade Pelisse

Formation: Custom-Made + Augment Patch

Effect: Can create blades of fabric at any point on the cloak

Drawback: The longer the blade, the more energy required to create it

 

[No. 025] Control Labcoat

Formation: Labcoat + Power Patch

Effect: Allows user to manipulate energy and forces

Drawback: User cannot manipulate two different types of energy simultaneously

Sunderland College [3.3 - Eiden vs. Zaphod]

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