Gunther glanced back to the field, and then turned back toward everyone watching him. “But here’s one of the major things you need to get out of this. Fairness is completely irrelevant. This is combat. Fairness is for games. The whole situation is unfair from the beginning. You’re all a bunch of heroes in training. Chances are, you’re not trying to kill them, but they are trying to kill you. Sure, some of them won’t be. Many, even. No matter how many jewelry stores a guy breaks into, he may still have a set of morals that means he won’t kill, but you know what? That doesn’t matter.”
Despite his topic, Gunther managed to sound slightly amused.
“It doesn’t matter because your average superpowered criminal isn’t well trained. No matter how much he might not want to kill, he doesn’t have the training to pull his punches. He won’t be fair because he lacks the skill.
“Other guys, the well-trained ones, won’t be fair unless it’s useful to them. If it’s useful to kill you, they’ll do that instead.
“That’s why rules are one blow and you’re down for so many of the fighters. Smart combatants go with their best chance that offers the least potential for injury, and you might not even know it’s happening until after it’s over.”
He paused, not saying anything for a moment.
“You need to follow their example–not in killing people, but by fighting intelligently. You’ve seen the news reports and watched the History channel, and seen stories where heroes fight and win against amazing odds. The people in those stories were amazingly skilled or amazingly lucky. You can’t count on luck, and you’re not that skilled yet.
“What you need to learn is how to fight, and when to fight. Personally, I try to only fight on my terms, and when I’ve stacked the odds in my favor.”
He stopped and waited, saying nothing for few moments longer than it felt comfortable. Then he said, “Got that? If you don’t learn anything else today, remember this: fights don’t have to be fair, and competent people stack the odds in their favor. Be competent. Now let’s talk about how you could have won that fight.”
Giving a small shrug, he said, “Now let’s be honest, I didn’t give you time to talk about it at all, but you made mistakes. First off, you could have controlled the battle field. Gifford controls wind. Keon’s got gravity generation built into his suit. At base levels of competence, you can make it harder to fly, and keep most of the opposing team in one place. If you can do more difficult things like suck the air out of their lungs or hit the opposing team with each other, you’re halfway to winning.
“Second, running to attack without coordinating it with a gravity strike that kept them in place was a mistake. Leaping to attack them made it even worse. All it takes to get you out of the fight is to get you off the ground. Leaping does half the work for them. If you’d run across the ground, you’d have been faster.
“Now let’s go into specifics…”
From there he went deeply into specifics. I listened for a while, but not the entire time.
I fell asleep.
For the record, this isn’t smartest thing to do in armor that allows you to move tons with a strong push.
I got lucky. I didn’t break anything.
I woke up on the grass, still in the Rocket suit with Daniel thinking, Nick, wake up, but move slowly, okay?
That was the most normal thing that had happened in the last three days. When we were kids, it seemed like most summer days had started with a telepathic call to action–sometimes even before I’d gotten out of bed.
I sensed amusement from him. He’d made the same connection I had, or more likely sensed me making it.
I moved you off the bleachers. He said. I got worried you might kick in your sleep.
Remembering Izzy waking up after downing the alien’s ship in New York, I couldn’t help but agree. She’d nearly destroyed the bench she’d been on.
I’d been one bad dream away from punching a hole in the bleachers and maybe hurting somebody.
I sat up, and then pulled myself to my feet.
Daniel, Vaughn, Jaclyn, and Cassie stood next to me. Gunther continued to teach the class.
“I think he’s going to be a while,” Daniel said.
I had been hoping to talk to Gunther. Plus Haley was in the class. Well, they’d be here all summer. Heck, I’d see them at supper.
Cassie grinned at me under her blue mask. “Let’s go. I’m sure Haley will be more excited to see you after you shower.”
Most of the upper classes had left already. Izzy stood a little behind the rest of us. I wondered if that was because she’d just come up, or if she still felt a little uncomfortable with the group.
Feeling stiff, I said, “No kidding, she can smell the Rocket suit on me hours after I last wore it.”
We walked off, talking about the fight, and our workouts. Izzy walked along with the rest of us, talking with Daniel and Jaclyn which didn’t surprise me, and with Vaughn and Cassie–which did.
As we came close to an opening in the rock, I asked Jaclyn, “So how did you take out Keon? I missed that completely.”
Shrugging, Jaclyn said, “It didn’t take much. He’s not as powerful as Camille, and I can run through her gravity. He couldn’t move quickly enough to keep me in his machine’s field for more than a second. I reached him, and I punched a hole in his armor.”
“Hey,” Jaclyn said, “it wasn’t hard. Besides, I gave him a chance to avoid it, and he didn’t believe me. Gunther’s rules didn’t say what I had to do against him to win, so I did what I needed to.”
Not long after that we walked into the rocky hill and the lowest level of the compound’s parking garage. From there we took an elevator up to our rooms. Once there, I took a shower, and put on normal clothes.
It didn’t surprise me to find Izzy in the room with Daniel as I walked out of the bathroom. He’d warned me telepathically during my shower. It was alright. I’d taken my clothes into the bathroom anyway.
They sat next to each other on his bed, not touching, but not by much.
They’d turned on the TV to SuperTV. SuperTV wasn’t much of a world news channel normally. They were more likely to cover Guardian’s most recent costume change.
The television showed a burning building, or buildings. It was hard to say. I almost asked where it was, but the bar at the bottom right said “Merv, Turkmenistan.”
That figured. After the death of Turkmenistan’s president for life, a superhuman group had taken over the country a few years ago.
To judge from the burning, all was not well.