The audience had lost none of its exuberance as the final contenders marched to the field. Both Jane and Lyle were wearing fitted suits of some thin material. Jane could only guess the purpose was for effect… what more could the suits do? If they made them resistive to fire or getting electrocuted… well, that was point of their powers anyway so it didn't make sense. Jane's suit was red and black, while Lyle's was yellow and white.
Those were the national colours of Zorgon and Godrid. So maybe the suits weren't just about the spectators but also for the dramatic investment the elementals had in this final victory. The suits could be magical, Jane supposed, but they felt ordinary to her.
In the middle of the colosseum was a metal perimeter – a flat, shiny disc. It must've been unearthed during the intermission. Its diameter was an easy twenty metres. Jane's suited shoes changed from muffled steps atop dirt to tamping against the metal, Silas mirroring her approach from the other side of the field. Their expressions were also identical, serious and wary beneath the black fringe of Jane's hair and Lyle's blonde spikes.
They stopped ten feet from each other at the centre. A hovering droid whizzed to float between them, its head visor interface lighting up.
"Prepare to ascend, combatants." Its mechanical voice announced.
The audience roared as the metal detached and rose steadily upwards. The stands lowering out of view, the clouds getting closer, and then they were surrounded by nothing but blue and flying robots that was filming them for live TV. Jane managed to crane her neck for a final look at the big screen, just as it cut to the two elementals. Chris and Blake in white and black, arms crossed and looking up. She wondered if they'd made any bets.
"On the Godrid side we have Lyle Zappos." The robot continued. "And on the Zorgon we have Jane Flame. Take your positions and begin at the countdown. May the best crusher win." It levitated itself out of harm's way before its screen began a countdown. Jane and Lyle both took ready positions.
3…2…1… the siren sounded.
Lyle's hair jolted in an instant, a quick flicker of sparks around his body. But he didn't charge up for a bolt, only enough to launch himself quickly at Jane. Her forearm countered his as she held strong, deflecting his first strike away from her body.
Lyle's body flickered again. His next punch came quickly, Jane forced it aside. She stepped back against another hit and then lifted her arm to block a kick, Lyle's leg blurred, connecting three times before he jumped into a punch that Jane caught with two hands and threw aside.
It was obvious from up close. Lyle's body was brimming with electricity, but he dared not take the time to charge up for a proper attack. He was making himself faster by speeding up his muscles and reflexes. The electric pathways of his nervous system – the Godrid lighting users style of physical fighting that Chris had spoken of.
He blurred and Jane was forced to step back, but she deflected every attack. She felt calm and focussed. She knew Lyle wouldn't actually kill her. This was a fight she could methodically do her best in. Not for her elemental, not for meagre prize money… but for her. To test her own skill against a strong opponent.
Lyle's moves were only getting faster. Him blurring and their fists connecting. Jane aiming punches and kicks that Lyle avoided, them kicking each other with both legs, jumping apart to separate and Lyle moving in again with determination. His quickening hits started to connect, a knock to the shoulder, a hit to the side. Jane grit her teeth and tried to keep her balance.
Her hand ignited in red flame and she arced her arm, Lyle leaned away. Jane punched and kicked, that flaming hand vshhing close to his body. Now he was on the retreat. Jane forced him back toward the centre of the dais and beyond. Her second hand ignited and red light blurred as Lyle swerved and blocked by hitting her elbow.
Suddenly he ducked with a blinding twist and swept her legs out from under her. Jane's fire leapt from her hand and hit Lyle when he pounced. He flew back with a grunt and rolled until the fire went out, getting up on one knee with a scorched mark at his shoulder. Jane got into a crouch as well.
Close-up isn't an option… it'd be too dangerous for both of us. The understanding crossed both of their faces.
Jane spawned a fireball between her hands, she launched it quickly but Lyle raced aside and ran in an arc. He was faster than all the other crushers. The fire exploded harmlessly behind him. Jane got to her feet and turned to keep her eyes on Lyle. Jumping into her strikes she fired red flamethrowers at him, scarlet streams that Lyle outpaced or skidded under.
His hand began sparking with yellow electricity. Jane fired another stream of red as Lyle skidded to a stop, firing two fingers at her. His yellow bolt zig-zagged beside the tongues of red. Jane fell aside to dodge his attack, the hairs on the left side of her body raising even from under the suit. After the lightning hit the metal behind her it left a hissing puff of smoke and then vanished. The air felt charged.
Jane whipped her head back and started running. Lyle ran too. Red fire blazed, streaking past loudly. Yellow lighting zapped, arrowing across the area. Red and yellow shooting paths while the two fighters weaved and dodged each other. Jane slid on her knees across metal, shooting fire from her hand. Lyle skidded away and at her side, firing lightning that Jane had to throw herself forward to avoid. She rolled away and got back to her feet, and they were moving again.
Jane stumbled, took a misstep. Yellow blazed dangerously close, she leapt backward and realised she was nearing the edge. They must be over fifty feet above the ground. Lyle was also near the edge, they launched their attacks at each other, embers and sparks raining down below. Jane took a step back toward the centre and that's when Lyle's attack got her.
A full bolt of yellow lightning to the chest. It was painful. Like a taser from all directions. The yellow lightning branched off her body like a tree, sparking against the metal ground. Her body froze up from the shock and she felt unable to move, only twitches… but she managed to keep herself from toppling over.
Lyle raced in close and all Jane could do was wait for the immobility to pass. The ringing in her ears and flash in her eyes. Lyle could see her resistance and fired another bolt straight at her. Jane gathered the last of her strength, and managed to shift her body away. She fell and the lightning zapped by above her.
On the ground she kicked her feet and flexed her fingers. I can move again. Lyle readied for another shot but Jane pushed herself up and away. She scrambled off but was back on her feet. Dishevelled, hair frayed, but still moving.
"I'm not out yet." Her hands caught red fire at her sides.
Lyle gave a brief smirk at her determination before jumping into a series of strikes that fired multiple bolts toward her. Jane side-stepped and rolled away from them, still facing her opponent. I should try that signature move again…
She put the fire from both hands together and began condensing her fireball. Lyle narrowed his eyes and began condensing his lightning as well, crouching as it went haywire, hitting the ground around him, intensifying in frequency as it began to change hue. Jane forced more energy into her explosive attack. The two stood powering up before launching at each other with their most powerful moves.
Jane gave a heroic growl as she thrust the attack forward, her red fireball colliding with Lyle's blue-lightning jab. For a moment Evan crossed her mind, but she dared not falter now. Her battle-cry became louder and she felt her hand burning. A strange explosion of invisible energy. The two of them separated with blinding speed. A flash and bang between them, but their bodies flew and skid across the smooth metal, quickly approaching the edge on both sides.
Jane flailed in panic, working her hands against slippery metal. They squealed against her speed, she huffed and grabbed in desperation. Her feet, then legs, then waist hanging over the drop before she finally stopped herself. Jane froze for a moment, her hair in her face, before releasing a sigh of relief. She quickly struggled and got herself back up. Lyle was also getting back to his feet.
This felt like the real decisive moment – not their strongest attacks, but the one that would follow.
Jane forced her body to race toward Lyle. He didn't have time to generate yellow lightning. He used electricity to blast off to meet her, aiming a kick instead. Jane crossed her arms into an X and Lyle's foot collided against it. He leaned in then backflipped away from her. Jane staggered aside then moved in with a flaming fist. Lyle turned and kicked the side of her head.
Jane saw stars and went down. Her body went unresponsive again, still exhausted from the bolt of lightning that'd hit her previously. Lyle's hand stopped by her face but he didn't shoot. Jane blinked blurrily, and it took a moment for her to realise she'd lost.
Lyle was crouched near her, heaving from exhaustion.
"The winner is Lyle Zappos." The resounding applause from below could be heard after the robot's announcement. Floating droids came in close now that it was safe to do so, wanting to catch the reactions of the combatants for live television.
Lyle's hand switched from an attacking posture to a helping aid. Jane took his hand and he helped pull her to her feet. The dais was already moving, lowering back to its place in the middle of the colosseum. Jane was still in shock, evidently. Each new happenstance surprising her as she stood by Lyle's side like a zombie.
"Good job, Jane." Lyle gave a genuine smile, achievement and relief on his face. Jane felt a smile forming on her face as well. It was over. She felt relief and pride. The dais grinded to a stop and she could see her two friends, Marine and Leaf rushing over.
"Yeah. Congratulations, Lyle." She raised a hand overhead to wave at her friends, and then to the cheering audience as well.