He arched his brow and gave me a ‘are you scared?’ look. I hadn’t been giggling with nerves or fear, I just couldn’t believe my luck. Even if it turned out that the bloke had the most amazing gift in the history of the universe and beat me within a second, I’d still be a happy girl just to get one shot in.
He positioned himself at the Northern point while I took the Southern. Still he was mistaking my giddiness for nervousness. “I already told you there’re no points for being a pretty girl. You really should’ve run along home. I tell you what, I’ll give you one more chance to leave with your pride still intact.”
“And while I appreciate the warning, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ignore it.”
“Fine then. We duel until one of us is floored.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Well if you really must embarrass yourself...” Although he made the movement so fast that it was a blur, my mind registered his left hand rise and his fingers twitch and admired as beautiful blue sparks of electricity came predatorily toward me. But I didn’t move out of the way. The sparks invaded my body with such aggression that I was suddenly zooming backwards and landed awkwardly on my back. God it hurt. Like a burning hot sizzling fire spreading through my veins. It took a lot for me not to cry out.
Seconds later I bounced to my feet, feeling a little frazzled and slightly unsteady. Jared was laughing like a giddy kid in a fairground.
“Thanks for that,” I said.
“For putting you on your ass?”
“No. For this.” In a movement faster than his I expelled the sizzling energy from my body, sending blue electric sparks identical to his soaring at him. Although he made a dive to the right, his shoulder was briefly caught.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed. He then watched carefully as my fingers prickled at the air around me, drawing and manipulating energy to manifest my favourite weapon. A silvery-blue energy whip materialised in my hand.
“You’re a Feeder,” Jared realised.
“And you’re electrokinetic.”
He seemed to be talking more to himself as he added, “You can feed on the energy around you; absorb it and control it. Very rare.”
“Again let me thank you for allowing me to absorb that power of yours. I have to say, I prefer this though.” I flicked my whip in his direction, teasingly. “I can shape the energy into lots of different weapons. Bolts, beams, balls, but I like the whip best. It’s more fun.”
“It is,” he agreed with a nervous smile. “But it’s not going to do you much good against high voltage electricity.”
I snorted. “As you Americans say – duh! You’re forgetting that I can practice electrokinesis now as well.”
“So you’re planning on defeating me by using my own power against me? Sounds a little like cheating.”
“Oh I’ve no time for pretty sparks. I can do something much more interesting than that.”
“Oh yeah?” Doubtful, his expression said.
“Yeah,” I said as I let the whip fade away. “Feeding on energy means that I can tap into the natural energies, which means...I can do this.” I absorbed more energy into my palms and then sharply released it as a blast of air. The gust of wind swept him up like he was no more than a leaf on the ground and sent him crashing into the wall behind him. “By natural energies, I meant the classical elements; air, water, fire and earth.”
Jared was on his feet in seconds, looking somewhat bemused and confounded.
“That wasn’t even full force,” I told him. “Are you sure you want to do this? I tell you what, I’ll give you one more chance to leave with your pride still intact.”
He wasn’t pleased to hear his own words coming back at him. Unsurprisingly, the blue sparks headed for me again. The strong sizzles in the air told me that this discharge was double the voltage of the last.
One single, sharp step to the left took me out of the reach of the electrical discharge. I enjoyed the sensation of my palms sucking in energy which I used to generate a blast of fire. It tingled as it left my hands. I could have burnt him alive but I settled on simply setting his clothes alight. Then I took a brief, morbid moment to enjoy his dismay before easing more energy into me and sending a long swish of water at him, calming the flames. And drenching him.
“You alright, Commander?” My tone was mocking. “You’re looking like something off an appeal poster.”
Totally peeved now, Jared growled as he raised his hand high and projected a massive lightning bolt. The voltage was so high that there was a ripple in the air. But I’d pre-empted him.
I squatted on the floor, slapped my palm to the ground on my right side and raised my arm over me to then slap my palm on my left side. Simultaneously I had tugged at the surrounding energy, making a beautiful silvery-blue energy shield appear over me like a tent. The lightning ricocheted off the force field, slamming into the eastern wall.
Before Jared could act again I sprung up in less than a blink, remoulding the energy from the shield into a silvery-blue ball. I blasted it at him. He moved fast, but not fast enough. It struck his arm.
Trying to appear unfazed, he emitted another stream of blue sparks but using both hands this time. Wow he really wanted to hurt me. And that really would hurt.
I pounded my foot twice on the ground, absorbed the energy of the Earth into me and let it sprout out as a mound of earth that rose speedily in front of me, building a protective bolder. Jared, relentless, was zapping the mound of earth when I darted out from behind it – my energy whip back in hand – and cracked the whip around him, pinning his arms to his sides. I yanked hard on the whip, bringing a tied-up Jared toward me. Just for fun, I cracked the whip again, making him slam once to the ground before I then let the whip fade away.
I looked down at a coughing Jared and arched a brow. “Now who’s the pretty girl?”
Although he appeared a mixture of nettled, flabbergasted and stupefied, his mouth twitched slightly in some form of dark amusement.
I offered my hand to him but he bounced independently to his feet, still staring at me. He seemed undecided whether to be extremely exasperated or pleasantly surprised. Either way, there was some respect there in his gaze. It was hard for me not to look smug considering the way he had dismissed me earlier. But I didn’t give him an ‘I told you so’ look or a quirky grin. Disconcertingly, I was actually more caught up in this little silent exchange of respect than I was in the glory of having won the duel. He might be a chauvinist, but he was a gorgeous one.
“Didn’t I tell you she was fast?” said Green as he joined Jared.
Slap-head came next. “Definitely a disguised Pagori on crack,” he decided as he clucked me. “Know that you can practice on me with that whip anytime.”
Jared didn’t look amused by that and squared his shoulders. “Could you all return to the line while I consult with Commander Sherman and Commander Norton.”
“And I thought my gift was cool,” said Slap-head as we joined the end of the reforming line below the spectator’s box.
I glanced up at Sebastian. Grinning with satisfaction and pride, he saluted me. I smiled.
“I’m Max, by the way,” Slap-head told me as he held out his hand.
I took it. “Sam. I prefer to call you Slap-head though.”
He laughed. “Whatever turns you on. Hey, Feeders are really rare. I heard that most Feeders go crazy and die after a few years because all the energy overwhelms them.”
Distracting me from responding, I caught Jared swerve and meet my eyes. His expression was thoughtful. For a small moment I thought about smiling at him. I’m actually not much of a smiler so that was odd.
“Good luck,” said the thorn-exhaling Keja vampire who suddenly appeared on my right.
I win a duel and suddenly everyone’s nicey, nicey. I simply nodded.
Finally the three commanders came to stand before the line of potential recruits. Jared’s gaze settled on each one of us for a few seconds before he spoke. “Between the three of us, we have selected three of you to join my squad. The rest of you will be required to return home imminently.” He walked to the front of the line and then began a slow walk passed the recruits. He stopped in front of the Pagori with the power to deflect and pointed at him with a congratulatory look on his gorgeous face. “Well done.” Next he stopped at Max and pointed. No surprise there – Max’s power to cause sensory deprivation was really good. Then Jared came to the end of the line, standing between myself and the thorn-exhaling Keja. He looked at each of us, then slowly raised his hand, extended his index finger...and pointed at the Keja.