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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 74: Brown 219
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Previous chapter: Slade 192
The computer obligingly showed them where the officer’s exercise room was. It was sandwiched between their quarters above and their galley below, and was a sizeable room. The ceiling was vaulted, which at first surprised Derek because all the ceilings were low elsewhere, but then he realized that their physical exercises would have had similarities to those from earth--throwing objects, jumping, and so on--because although they were smaller and shaped a bit differently, they were still humanoid in form. Indeed, some of the equipment was similar--barbells, a climbing wall, mats, a springboard--although of course it was all smaller.
“So,” he began, “how should we do this?”
“What do you mean?” Vashti answered.
“Always before,” he said, “we’ve been part of a large group--the other princesses, and then sometimes Lauren. We would start by picking sides and setting objectives, appoint someone to referee, and then begin. But here, it’s just you against me, and that hardly seems fair.”
In a teasing voice, she said, “I can go easy on you.”
“Oh, is that how it is?” he responded. “Well, bring it, then. What are the rules?”
“First person on the floor, back or belly, loses.”
He nodded. “That sounds fair.”
Without another word, they moved into the center of the mats and faced each other. They began to circle. Derek remembered that Vashti’s instinct was defense, so he decided to oblige by attacking. He rushed toward her, and struck with a jab.
She dodged it, which he had expected, but then surprised him, grabbing his arm and pulling it past her, using his momentum to toss his body over her leg. Realizing he was going down, he dove into a forward roll and back onto his feet.
“That was easy,” she teased. “I won already.”
“Your back was on the floor.”
“For less than a second!”
“Did we say it had to be on the floor for more than a second?”
Derek huffed. Obviously he hadn’t fully considered the implications of the rules. He also hadn’t realized the limitations of his own combat style. What Lauren had taught him was primarily intended to supplement the use of a weapon, particularly his chain and his knife, and to use if disarmed. It was mostly geared for kicks and punches, plus how to avoid being hurt. Vashti had learned a more fluid style, throws and pushes and such, using your opponent’s movement against him. His best shot at putting her on the ground was probably a leg sweep; she probably had half a dozen ways to floor him.
But for all that, he was better than she was. He was stronger, and he had been practicing fighting longer and in more situations. He had fought against Vashti and several of her friends before. He could win this.
“All right, then, that’s one to you. Continue?”
They resumed circling. Derek closed the gap more slowly this time, reversing the direction of the circle and making it just a bit smaller. It probably took a minute, but then Vashti moved to grab him again, and this time he dodged and put a foot behind her knee, and she went down backwards.
“Ow!” she said.
“Sorry,” he replied. “Didn’t they teach you how to land?”
“Yes, but I didn’t expect that.”
He nodded. “Go again?”
“Give me a minute?”
“Absolutely. Just let me know when you’re ready.”
They continued for about an hour, then found the shower. Derek thought they should have brought a change of clothes, but decided that it wouldn’t be a serious problem for them to return to their rooms half-naked, and donned his underwear and shoes to catch the elevator up one floor.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #443: Versers Acclimate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: