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the Mini-Crusher-Tournie - 16. Collateral

Jane's anaesthetic was re-applied. Her teeth were looked at. Healing radiation was being burned into her flesh, bones and skin by one of the medical droids. It was forty agonizing minutes before the elementals could address the majority of the crushers. To Jane it felt like an eternity. She was numb and underneath… petrified.

She sat on the edge of her hospital bed. The treatment room was all white and smelt of disinfectant. Sectioned curtains and shiny metal cabinets on wheels. The two rival elementals stood, hands on hips and arms crossed respectively. The younger elemental Zac stood off to the side, looking dismayed. Around them were fourteen of the crushers that'd been made for the tournament – Evan and Leaf were missing.

"Just tell us Blake!" Marine's voice was watery. "Is Leaf alive?"

"And what about Evan?" Claire inquired with narrowed brows.

"Listen up you whiny children. Leaf Sprout is in a very serious condition… but he's not dead."

"What?" Ophelia sounded angry from the edge of the group. She stood near Shiro, who although just as monstrous, appeared emotionless and indifferent to her. While she'd seemed chastened before, now in a medical gown like Jane, she was clearly annoyed.

"She wanted him dead, Chris!" Marine pointed with outrage. "Shouldn't she be punished for that!"

"I don't understand…" Jane murmured. "I saw… we all saw him get ripped apart. How could Leaf not be dead?"

"He was ripped apart, Jane." The hooded Chris explained. "Ophelia slashed apart all organs in his lower torso, as we saw. She didn't shred his chest or brain however, and this is what saved him. Leaf and his bits were put in a preservation cryotank. Although he was pulled apart like that, he was only left lying there without super-advanced medical agents for under twenty seconds. With the brain and heart preserved, he's floating in super-advanced amniotic healing fluid, which will keep him alive and in tact enough for us to recreate his body."

"Thank god…" Jane felt relief cascading through her.

"Even with all this medical equipment, we'd have a real fight keeping him alive were it not for the regeneration his cells already have from his power. His regeneration is nothing special compared to other Sprout clan members, but believe me it's making a world of difference in keeping him alive and assisting with the regrowth, alongside the healing chemicals."

"Wow." Lorac murmured.

"You guys really can heal anything…" Marine stared and then sighed in relief "My friend's alive."

"I mauled that plant freak!" Ophelia snapped. "The hell you mean he isn't dead!"

The other crushers stopped gazing in wonderment and they all gave the grey-tinged girl averse looks. The quiet ruse of hers was just that, she was actually angry she hadn't killed Leaf. What a horrible girl, Jane's fists clenched.

"You were barely conscious in that state, right?" Victor spoke up. "Why do you care?" Like Jane had suspected, the black-haired Victor had been grinning arrogantly before at the sight of her beat up.

"Ophelia." Chris's voice was reprimanding. "We both made it explicitly clear that deaths weren't allowed in this tournament. I know you can't control your actions in that state, but intentionally meaning to kill is a serious violation."

"This is ridiculous!" The girl spat, she whipped around and stormed away from the group. A few seconds passed and Chris turned back to the other crushers.

"I must implore you all to forgive her."

"No way, she's nuts." Lyle stated angrily.

"Shedim is an experimental species of mine. Over the millennia, I've indulged in many crusher experiments. What my research and feedback has shown me is that although Shedim have much darker and malevolent natures than humans, they do possess the faculty to keep that part of themselves in check. However, it's harder than it is with humans. There's a portion of my human crushers that are bad, but proportionately Shedim as a species need extra strength to overcome their nature. Which means that if Ophelia had been a human crusher she may not be the way she is now. They possess more anger and darkness in their hybrid brains, and it's extra work for them to overcome that. A personal challenge. So keep that in mind."

"But she really is awful." Blake pointed out with a hand stroking his beard.

"Yes." Chris agreed.

The crushers were thoughtful as they processed. Jane's face was turned away, imagining her friend Leaf floating in that viscous fluid while his inner organs were stitched back together.

"Now onto Evan." Blake began, him and Chris both had stern expressions. "Evan Powers is dead."

The crushers all stared. Jane felt something heavy and thick settle into the air around them. Her thoughts had been completely elsewhere, she hadn't even been thinking of her opponent at that moment. And then Blake said something that surely he'd misspoken.

"Evan's dead?" Claire repeated. Several of the eyes flickered to Jane's blank face.

"He died immediately when Jane's condensed fireball exploded." The words were like distant echoes. "That much concentrated fire at such a short distance, the impact and temperature was enough to burn well into his body and organs. All of them."

"And so we must have a talk. Jane." Chris and Blake were both zeroing on her. She looked down at her lap and fat tears fell onto her medical gown.

"Jane…" Marine was aghast.

"I… killed Evan…" She couldn't process it. All she could feel was the enormous wave of confusion and guilt.

"Yes." Chris continued with a reprimanding tone. "So we need to go through what happened as well as your motives and what you were thinking at the time." When there was no answer Chris continued with the proficiency of a prosecutor, arms behind his back "When your fight commenced Evan quickly had the upper hand. He caused you a lot of physical damage, but you were still coherent enough to use your power to the best of your ability, as evidenced when you separated from each other. When the two of you were no longer in close quarters, that was when you prepared for your final attack. Jane?"

She felt herself minutely nod, in her mind's eye she was replaying her fight as well.

"As this was the second round of this tournament, you were aware enough of Evan's abilities to know that he didn't have the capacity to protect himself from fire. Instead of shooting fire you opted to use your talent for an explosive burst – which is fine. However…" the black-robed figure closed his eyes as he paced in thought "You spent a goodly amount of time powering up your attack, you seemed to make it as strong as you physically could before you unleashed it, at close range to your opponent."

"Chris…" Jane felt like she was going faint.

"My first question is this, Jane." He stopped and turned to her. "What motivated you at that moment? As you charged your attack, was it anger? Retribution for the pain and injuries he'd caused you in his attempt to win?"

Jane shook her head as she cried.

Chris's eyes were like a hawk "Were you angry, Jane?"

"No." she blinked her wet eyes and tried to remember. At that moment in time she'd only thought of winning. Thought of the most effective method of keeping Evan from hurting or possibly killing her. She couldn't remember feeling anger at Evan at that point, or any point of her fight, only the regular type of obstinate anger she used to create red fire. "No." she said again, more confidently, eyes on the wall as she replayed the fight in her head.

"The way I see it, you either intended to kill him or you were overcome by a murderous emotion, which is malice aforethought. Even in a circumstantial instance. Us having full knowledge of your biology and the extent of your powers."

"No!" Her voice was louder and panicked as she continued to cry. "I was scared. The reason I went all out was because of fear. He was hurting me and I wanted to end the fight. I wasn't thinking logically, I was just thinking of me and my fear… in that instance."

"Maybe so, Jane." Chris turned a fraction, red-tinted eyes still on her. "But the fact of the matter is, an attack a fraction of the one you used would've effectively beaten Evan without injuring him to a point we couldn't heal. Evan knew he wasn't immune to your fire, which is why his urgent and vicious physical attacks are completely understandable. It was his only way to win. You had your distance and Evan couldn't approach you while you had that fire, yet you took a good portion of a minute to condense that explosive to be as strong as you could. Strong enough to kill."

Jane felt detached from her body, she looked around at the teens watching her. The Godrids who didn't know her so well, even the Zorgons… Lorac, basically everyone except Marine was looking at her as if she was like the bad ones. Creepy Joy, silently murderous Shiro, narcissistic Victor, enraged Ophelia. They looked at her as if part of her wanted to kill. That was when Jane was overcome, she put her face in her hands and started sobbing loudly.

"Stop it!" Marine yelled, fear in her voice. "Jane was scared, that's why she did it! She wasn't thinking straight! So what? You're the ones who forced us to fight in the first place! She's not a killer!"

As Jane continued to be inconsolable, Chris sighed "Very well." This talk was over for the moment.

"All things considered," Blake began, sounding relatively chipper "We will have to recap and talk about the semi-finals at another time. So clear away you lot."

Copyright © 2020 Invnarcel; All Rights Reserved.
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