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21 October 2015 @ 05:33 am
_Trouble in Paradise_ part 2  

And then the senior ranking match. They lined up according to how the instructors ranked them at the end of their junior year. Roughly a hundred students. Sensei Ikku had placed Ra'd at the top. Then the seven Action Trainees, including the three women. Then Ebsa, Paer, some men he'd never met . . .

Ebsa snickered, when he was sent to the seventh mat. I dare say Ikku would like to forget I exist. Not enough aggression for his precious Action Teams. Or maybe it's the clostuone label that he won't accept as better than his neartuone and withione brutes. I think the poor man is going to have a very bad year.

The old Sensei had been replaced halfway through the last Spring semester. Poor Arvi! Blamed for the actions of his stupid students. I think I'm about to really miss him.

In theory each mat ought to have had twelve or thirteen candidates. Ebsa's had twenty.

He was called out for the first match, and centered himself. Reached for the Speed and ducked and blocked an impressive and fast whirlwind . . . got in two blows. Two more. A leg sweep to dump the man. The whistle blew. He bowed, and was sent back into the waiting group. Paer handled a big slow man easily. Then Ebsa face another man. A long series of blocked blows, then he sped further and hit the man at will. The whistle blew. Back to the group, to watch two well matched men duke it out for the full three minutes. Then Ebsa was called out again to face a third man . . . So, that's the game, eh? Wear me out then turn me over to the Action Trainees. He slid up three tiers of Speed and danced around the man, poking him. Whistle. He fought six more men, then they called Paer out.

Oh. Crap.

Paer eyed him, eyes crinkling. She knows I don't want to hurt her, don't want to even hit her.

Professional. I am going to be professional. I will beat her, and then I will beat three other women, then four men. And then face Ra'd.

I'm toast.

They bowed and both reached for Speed.

It was a beautiful and deadly dance, this much Speed. He was careful to pull punches and kicks, watched out for Paer's superior craft as he beat her speed. Jumped over a leg sweep, punched her ribs, blocked a strike, rode a kick, caught and twisted—slightly—the leg. Ding. Three minute bell.

The judge stalked over to Ikku for a low voiced, and by the body language not agreeable, chat. He stalked back and sent Ebsa back to the group and Paer to the eighth mat.

Use your Speed, Paer!

Ebsa dispatched the other nine men in the group, and was finally sent to the eighth mat.

Just as Paer limped painfully off to the aid station.

Oh Hey was laughing.

Right. Professional. I'm not going to try to hurt him. I will pull my punches, same as always.

First he was called out to fight Faod, one of the rare women Action Team Trainees. They have three, which they say is unusual. I suspect that the number of men in the advanced group will increase, after today, restoring the usual balance.

She had only a single level of Speed and a simple leg sweep—at higher speed—won the first bout.

Then Ra'd and Oh Hey. A nasty snap. Ra'd stepped back quickly, as Oh Hey clutched his arm. The Sensei glared at Ra'd and sent Oh Hey to the aid station.

Ra'd failed to look Ebsa's direction. Just as well. A thumbs up would get us both in trouble.

Then Ebsa against Edke. Ed grinned and looked like he wanted to grapple. Fat chance. Ebsa fired up and hit him at will. For the whole bloody damn three minutes.

Four bouts later he was dirt tired and facing Ra'd.

Ra'd looked disgusted and scowled at Ikku. Then back at Ebsa. Bow. Center. Reach for Speed. All of it. All the way. Instinctive action and reaction, shifting back and advancing, spinning, diving, rolling, hard blow—it was nearly impossible to pull enough at this speed. The low toned whistle. Ebsa managed something close to a bow, then reeled back to the wall and slid down to sit. The lights were strobbing oddly, and he didn't seem to be hearing very well. Something cold and wet against his mouth. He swallowed. Managed to grab the bottle and take another swallow. Sounds started percolating through again.

". . . vindictive and stupid. Hyper focused on your precious Action Team trainees and trying—deliberately—to harm one of the finest fighters to walk into this Dojo. I am ashamed to have you as my teacher. Mister Ikku."

Oh, Ra'd. You bloody proud fool.

"You will call me Sensei."

"You do not deserve the honor." Ra'd knelt down beside Ebsa and peered into his eyes. "I think you are all right."

"I will be. Now stop being an idiot." Ebsa's eyes focused briefly behind Ra'd. "Oh, tell me that is a hallucination."

Ra'd stood and turned. Bowed to Isakson.

"I came to observe." The old man crossed his arms. "These are the people who claim to be the successors to the Warriors?"

"Yes. They lack anything to compare themselves to."

"You three did well."

"We do not allow spectators on the floor." Sensei Ikku stalked up. "Nor do we tolerate insult to the institution you are the guest of."

Isakson straightened, looked Ikku up and down. "The boy fought—and won—twenty-five bouts. Arguably twenty-seven. Certainly those two were close. But since Ra'd had fought only nine bouts it is easy enough to rank them. Not that a fool like you will. You see only your foolish 'Withione' pride, and discard honor for political gain. You will never recognize a man pushed to his limits, and never losing control, never losing his temper, never losing his awareness. He is a Warrior. You, I wipe from my shoes." He turned and stalked away.

Ikku growled.

Ebsa drank.

"You are not supposed to drink until you are done."

"I am done." Ebsa tried to take another swallow, gave it up as a bad job and gave up.

He woke up in the infirmary. The medic looked at a screen full of gibberish, and nodded in satisfaction. He removed a few tubes and needles and sticky tabs. "You're good to go. Please don't do that to your glycogen levels again."

"Good plan." Ebsa staggered out of the cubical and found Ra'd and Paer waiting for him. "What time is it?"


"Did I hallucinate Isakson insulting Ikku?" He eyed Paer, but she didn't seem to be limping.

"Nope. And Idjit was declared the winner—since he was the only person you didn't beat." Ra'd sounded . . . happy?

"I didn't beat you or Paer."

"The hell you didn't. Everyone saw the way you were treated. The deliberate bias in the scoring."

"There was even some booing." Paer eyed him worriedly. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"No. I suspect I'll be missing the morning run . . . I'm hungry, I don't care what they loaded me up with intravenously."

"Oh." Paer looked around, flagged a guard. "Get a car, we're going out for a late dinner."

The guard eyed their karate gear, shrugged and steered them toward the nearest street as a car pulled up.

"So . . . what's up with Ikku? Last year I thought he was a good teacher."

"I suspect someone's been talking to him. Actually, it may have been the Action Subdirector. Now the former Action Subdirector. I heard he'd . . . visited over the summer." Paer frowned. "But I always thought he was fair."

Ra'd snorted. "That was before Acting XR Director Iffi chewed Ujmw out over the criminal actions of Arvi's Action Team trainees, and then got the chop himself. Before the acting XR Director tried to dump the blame for the raid on Arvi, fired him and promoted Ikku. Before the new XR Director suggested that perhaps he ought to find some replacements and get them trained before we wound up in a shooting war? I think by the time the blame fest was over, the whole Action Subdirectorate decided that the public spectacle was all our fault. I don't know why Ikku decided to blame everything on Ebsa, instead of me. I suppose he thought getting rid of a clostuone would be easier." Ra'd shrugged, winced.

Ebsa eyed him.

"Yes, I'm a bit bruised. And so would you be, if I'd been able to land more than a couple of blows. Your Speed even impressed Isakson, Warrior."

"Hardly that." Ebsa snagged a nice sugary fruit juice from the fridge in the car.

"No one else has the right to bestow that title. You're stuck with it."

"What? From a contest?"

Paer snickered. "Did you know the crawlers have continuous vid recordings? So if they lose a team, there's a chance they can find out why. My poor Dad! Anyhow, Isakson has seen all."

Ra'd grinned. "Nobody would actually believe you stuck your arm in a T'-Rex's mouth, if they didn't have documentary proof. And Paer . . . just as well she wasn't there, what everyone said about what she did to a T-Rex . . . "

"I haven't been back to Paris, yet." Paer hunched her shoulders. "I'm going to put it off as long as possible. Maybe the memory will fade a bit."

Ra'd laughed out loud.

A breakfast full of carbs and protein later, he wanted nothing but his bed. Unfortunately it was Ra'd who steered him into it, not Paer.


He staggered out three hours later, and did make the two kilometers distance. Barely under the maximum time allowed, but he didn't puke. Had to count that as a win. Went back to bed for most of the day.