[[ From Bones of Starlight: The Enfolding Abyss – Prologue ]]
“They’ve recruited you for training onboard an Alpha?” Soleil tossed the volley baton end over end in one hand, the shield spaces around her flickering on and off. Draig’s was resting on his shoulder as the two descended into the workout basement.
“Yeah,” the lad replied, “I’m leaving in two weeks for the base off-planet from Foshan.”
“That’s very remote.” They emerged into a warehouse-style basement with extremely worn wooden floors. Nothing else was laying out in the room, four exact pillars upholding the expanse.
“It’ll be like any other orbit station.”
“So this might be the last time you spar against this upstart scrub?” Soleil moved the baton to light the traditional octagon block pattern.
“Don’t call yourself that, just because you haven’t won yet. You’re not an upstart.” Draig effected a front-to-back shield rainbow while they loosened up.
“I’m still supposed to be too young for this. I’m aware when my status affords me dispensation.”
Draig held the baton end up in ready position from his zone. “There are ways to earn it.”
She was used to being smaller than he, and just now she felt more so. “Thanks for daring to duel me all this time.”
“You’re welcome. For what comes next!” They faced off, the younger girl already in a learned stance. Things started off chivalrous, an urbane dialogue allowing each others’ finesse to stand out. With their batons they manipulated the brightly contained hitpoint between the two of them and produced shielded areas with different rebound formulae. Some of her moves had evolved from training, and he saw how she used a heavier baton for counterbalance.
They ramped up movement, and her pattern went bonkers, as if she were using three effects instead of two. The hitpoint did weird things with his shield placings, like brushing them at tangents. He noticed she was attracting specific feints, which he gave some but not all.
There was a moment when Draig realized something had been achieved, that his shield now acted differently. Under activation, it was ragged with rippling holes, and her ability to achieve damage inside his shielding went from nowhere near his, to completely unfair. Only, he was smiling. He thought he might have just learned something.
Afterward, he asked what she did, and she replied. “I used instrument harmonics. Tone and tempo to match the technology. And programmatical geometry. And persistent point-slinging. I was not allowed to get distracted if I wanted to test my theory, because of how annoying you are.”
“It’s my edge. I think you just found yours.”
Soleil’s face was confused. “What’s that?”
“The sudden and complete dismantling through study.” He weapon saluted her. “It’s been an honor.”