It was a pleasant afternoon, not too hot, not too cool. It was a day for friendly meetings, a day for possibilities. A crisp breeze carried the sounds of just such a meeting. Indy, Pippi, and Bez had met for a casual gathering. Bez and crew had been in the neighborhood for a mission, and after its completion, everyone had split off for some shore leave.
Bez was to meet Indy and Pippi at a park.
“Yeah! Gangway! Lemme at 'er!”
“Hehe! That's our Indy.” Pippi said.
“Senna, huh?” Bez asked, nodding thoughtfully. “Well, with your permission, I’d like to assist in her utter squelching!”
Indy let out a long loud laugh. “Yes! You are welcome to help out!” She said with a grin.
“Excellent.” Bez said, grinning wickedly and cracking her knuckles. “Been itchin’ to tromp a baddie. She won’t know what hit 'er.”
“Muahahahahaha!” Indy laughed. “And she’ll be hurting too much to want to know!” She grinned wickedly.
Bez's wicked smile took on a dark air. “Oh, indeed she shall…” She said, chuckling softly to herself.
Indy laughed again. “I’m going to enjoy this! Bwahahahahaha!”
“Oh, likewise, Indy, likewise.” Bez snickered. “Creeps like 'er need a good thrashin’, and we shall be oh so kind as to deliver it.”
Indy grinned wickedly. “Yes! I’ll tear her limb from limb!”
Bez chuckled. “Save a piece for me. It would hardly be nice of you not to share.” She added with a mischievous smile.
Indy grinned and laughed. “Sure! Then I can sit back and watch you give it to her a bit, too!”
“Heh! Wonder how much 'f 'er will be left when we’re done with 'er…probably a sorry mess.”
“Probably even the molecules will be too messed up to recognize!” Indy agreed eagerly.
Bez grinned sinisterly. “Oh, yes, I’m sure when we’ve given 'er what for, every single one of 'er atoms will be askew. And, just to be sure, Matrix could give what's left of 'er a thorough scan. I’m sure his results would concur with our expectations.”
Indy burst out into a fit of laughter. “Yes! I’m sure he would report that it looks pretty messed up!” She said between laughs.
Matrix had been off on his own, perusing through some local shops. Upon spotting the trio, he had made his way to them quietly, and joined into the conversation promptly.
“Hrm? Ah, yes…you two, versus one her…analysis: Annihilation. Total, complete, absolute annihilation.”
Bez smiled slyly, not at all put off by his sudden appearance. “Well, thanks for confirming our hypothesis, Mr. Spock.”
Matrix chuckled. “I see you caught the reference.”
Indy started, looking over at Matrix. “Wha!? Whew! You scared me!”
“He's not the only one.” Gretel said, entering the scene just as suddenly as Matrix had.
“Uh, eh?” Indy began. “Who else is here?”
“Hah! And smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” Gretel announced, displaying a camera.
“No way!” Indy exclaimed.
“Way.” Gretel said with a grin.
“Hehe!” NT joined the group.
“You too?” Indy questioned.
“I’ll get you for this one day!” Indy declared.
Gretel laughed. “I’ll be ready and waiting!”
“Uh-oh! Showdown!” NT said.
“Hah! This is gonna be good.” Bez said, grinning. “Have at it, you two!”
“Yeah!” Matrix whooped. “Go, go, go!”
“What's all this yelling about?’ Sigma said, as she, Thande, and Criterion joined the group.
“Showdown.” Bez said, humming a few snatches of “Showdown” by Electric Light Orchestra.
“Oh, goodness…” Sigma said, shaking her head.
Thande cocked his head, interested.
Gretel grinned wickedly. “Well?”
“Well, Indy?’ Gretel asked again.
“No pressure or anything.” NT added with a snicker.
Indy grinned and shook her head. “What are you gonna do, hit me with that?” She gestured to Gretel's camera.
“Oh, don’t wanna take me on?” Gretel challenged.
“Oh, a challenge!” Pippi exclaimed.
Indy looked over at Pippi. “Well, since you seem so keen on the idea, Pippi-”
“I never said that, I was merely making an observation.” Pippi interjected.
“And no, I don’t want to take HER on,” Gretel said, gesturing at Pippi. “I’m not timid, but I’m not a fool either.”
Pippi stifled a laugh and grinned. “So, which one of you is going to go first?”
“I don’t know, maybe we could do something like an arm-wrestle, or maybe we could go high-tech and get mobile suits or something.” Gretel suggested.
“Where are we gonna get mobile suits?” Indy asked.
“Heh! Well, now, WE may be able to assist in that department! But I have a feeling someone was expecting that.” Bez added with a sly smile.
“So, I suppose they could use the Brawl Suits, but those are a tad…brutish.” Matrix pointed out.
“Hmmm…” Bez mumbled, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. “They could use Spyders.”
Sigma laughed. “Even YOU don’t have access to Spyders!”
“You’d be surprised what I have access to, Sigma.” Bez said. “Eh, but I guess that wouldn’t work anyway. They’d have to learn the controls, and Spyders are expensive.”
“Well, why not use Kranixian armor? You and Matrix have tons of it lying around.”
“Ah!” Bez exclaimed, smacking her forehead. “Yeesh, why didn’t I think of that?”
“You were preoccupied with the Spyders.” Sigma replied, smiling.
“Huh. Well, then, what’ll it be? Suit up in the Kranixian armor, and you guys can have a veritable gladiatorial battle and come out none the worse.” She smiled wickedly. “More or less.”
“Oh, don’t listen to her.” Matrix said, waving Bez off. “The armor is perfectly safe.”
“I’m game.” Gretel said. “I’d love to try out that armor! It’d be sort of like the combat thing you guys did on the moon after ousting Cherie!”
“Okay, sounds good. I’m curious, let's go for it.” Indy said.
“Heh! Yeah, it sort of is. I suppose we could let you use Kranixian weapons, too, provided they were set to Spar. Then you two would be like a pair of Kranixian gladiators!”
Matrix laughed. “And we all know how much you love Kranixian dueling, Bez…”
“Oh, hush, Matrix.” Bez admonished. “So, suit up! Any color preference? We’ve full sets in red, black, white, and blue.”
“And you can duke it out old-fashioned like, without any weapons, or we can let you borrow some of ours. We have two broadswords, a pike or two, a battle axe, a falchion, a naginata, two pairs of double-knives, and…Bez, am I forgetting anything?”
“The mace and chain, katana, butterfly sword, billao, gladius, shaolin spade, glaive, kampilan, karambit, katzbalger, kris, kujang, kusarigama, panabas, pata, shamshir, and the sica.”
“Right, so if you want to use any of those, you can.” Matrix finished. “They’re all set to spar, so, even if you didn’t have the armor, you wouldn’t get seriously hurt. Maybe a few nicks and scrapes, but nothing I couldn’t patch up on the spot. With the armor, heck, you could set the weapons to Duel and still be fine.”
“All right, enough chit-chat!” Bez exclaimed. “Let's go!”
“Uh, right.” Indy said, utterly confused. “Well-um…I’ll try armor if Gretel is going to use a weapon of some sort. I’d rather not do anything with a risk of hurting myself-unnecessarily.”
“Yeah, the whosits and whatsits-um, you guys lost me some time ago too.” Gretel added.
Bez chuckled. “Oh, yeah, I can see how we lost you…we’re major weaponheads, so it makes sense that we went right over you.”
“Well, how about a katana, since that's the one we’re eventually going to nail Senna with anyway, right?”
NT laughed. “Oh! Because of Senna calling herself Kitana Melina as one of her silly aliases!”
“Right.” Gretel replied.
“A katana, eh?” Bez said thoughtfully. “You’ve chosen the samurai sword.”
“Hehe! Okay, katanas it is, and armor for me.” Indy said.
“Color?” Gretel asked.
“Uh, just your basic white, I think.” Indy replied.
“Cool, I’ll take blue.” Gretel said.
“Ooh, that’ll look nice!” Pippi said excitedly.
“Yeah!” NT agreed.
“You do realize I have no idea how to do this, right?’ Indy said.
“Neither do I.” Gretel said. “That is, I’ve only watched it on TV or in the movies.” She grinned wickedly. “But like that's gonna stop me from having a go at a good try!”
“I don’t think Gretel's gonna let you out of it, Indy, she's far too keen.” Pippi warned Indy.
“Um…er…ahem…dunno.” Indy mumbled.
“C’mon, Indy, imagine I’m Lady Une and you’ll do fine! You really kicked her sorry butt, or you were about to when Pippi and friends came in and then the police hauled Une's lousy carcass down to the big house. Oh, I wish I could’ve been there to help them slap-HAH! The cuffs on her!”
Indy grinned and burst out laughing. “You know about that?”
“Yep. Look, I’ll pretend you’re the witch that nearly killed me and my brother when we were little and-”
Indy shuddered. “How did I get myself into this?”
“Eeks! Look out, Indy!” NT exclaimed.
“You pretend I’m Une, and we should make a good fight of it.” Gretel finished.
“Unless somebody else wants to, NT, you really gave it to Cherie, why don’t you and Gretel-”
“No way!” NT exclaimed. “I don’t have a beef with her, so, no motivation.”
“Same here.” Indy said. “And I need a motive to even want to compete with anyone. A big motive. Besides, look at you Gretel, you’d beat me hands down in a wink. Anybody could see that. You’re just itching for it.”
“Well, I’d rather try this with someone who's keen, and I can see you’re not. Anyone else wanna take me on?”
“I’d be more than happy to fill Indy's shoes.” Bez declared with a wicked smile. “I don’t think you’re quite ready to take on Thande, yet. Heck, I’ve been sparring with him for years, and he still beats me easy.”
A small smile twitched on the edge of Thande's lips. “It is true.” He said, a slight note of amusement in his voice.
“No one's doubting that, Scaly.” Bez said, smiling. “So…think you can take me?” She addressed Gretel. “I’ll be using a billao.”
Gretel grinned. “Yeah, Thande has a slight advantage and could probably take us all on at once.”
Thande nodded slightly.
“So I’m going to be smart and not try to take him on.” Gretel continued. “I'm not ready for you either, but let's go for it, Bez!”
“Whew!” Indy exclaimed. “That's a relief.” She stepped back to join the others.
Gretel laughed. “This is gonna be fun!”
Bez grinned wickedly. “Fun indeed. Matrix, remotely call the ship so we can collect our gear.”
“Aye, aye, cap’n!” Matrix said with a smile.
Bez sighed. “Oh, Matrix, how many times must I tell you not to call me 'cap’n’?”
“Well, what would you prefer, Miss Marshall?” Matrix asked slyly.
Bez stuck her tongue out at Matrix. “Given the options, I’ll take 'cap’n’.” She said. “But don’t think this is over.”
Soon, the Nautilus landed in the park.
“Standard holographic cloaking procedures.” Matrix preempted Bez's question. “No one's going to come bothering the ship.”
Bez and Matrix headed into the Cargo Bay, and brought out the gear.
“All right, you wanted blue armor, right?” Bez asked, gesturing for Matrix to give Gretel the suit. “I’ll take the red.”
The two quickly put on their suits of armor, and took hold of their weapons.
“Okay, everyone step back a bit. Don’t want anyone getting bonked.”
The others stepped back, leaving a large circular patch for Bez and Gretel to spar in.
Bez smiled slyly. “I have more experience, so I’ll let you have the first move. En garde!”
“Cool.” Gretel said.
“You’re not worried Bez’ll cream you?” Indy asked, looking over at Bez.
“Nah, she probably will...but whether she does or not, will be all part of the fun!” Gretel answered. “Okay then, here goes!”
Gretel grinned and struck at Bez.
Bez grinned wickedly, quickly parrying the blow and delivering one of her own. “Ha-ah! C’mon, Gretel, bring it!” She taunted playfully.
“Here goes!” She struck again at Bez.
Bez dodged and laughed. “Good, good, not bad at all for a first-timer. Keep it up!”
The pair circled each other slowly as Bez continued to speak. “You know, with your katana, I’d recommend nice precise slashes-”
Bez lunged forward suddenly, slipping her blade past Gretel's katana and dealing a quick blow. She retreated quickly from the strike, repositioning herself.
“After all, samurai swords are rated by how many targets you can cut through in one slash. I’d venture to guess that one had to be a three, so getting a good slash at me would be a definite plus on your part.”
Gretel grinned. “Heh! Okay, here comes another one!” Gretel aimed carefully and slashed at Bez.
Bez side-stepped out of the katana's range. “Woo, good one!” She said with a sly smile. “But can you handle-this?!”
Bez leapt at Gretel, slashing down at her, and then bringing the blade up for two quick stabs.
“Ack!” Gretel exclaimed, attempting to dodge the blows.
She paused to catch her breath, repositioned herself, and slashed again.
Bez laughed wickedly as she dodged the slash. “Ha-ah! Alons-y! Come on now, let's tussle!”
She slashed several times before dashing quickly to the right and stabbing rapidly.
“Woo, can you keep up?” She taunted as she attacked.
Gretel grinned. “I’ll do my best!” She slashed at Bez again. “Hmmm…” She mumbled with a pleased smile. “I didn’t think this would be so light.” She slashed two more times.
“Hah!” Bez said, smiling dryly. “Light indeed.”
A fiendish glint came into her eyes. She slashed rapidly at Gretel, attacking with the speed of a berserker.
“Would you like-”
She sped up her attack, changing the pattern of her strikes. “to speed-”
She delivered a whirlwind of quick stabs. “it up?”
She dealt several quick slashes, feigned a stab to the left and then delivered a sharp blow to the right.
“Or is it still too slow-”
She whirled the weapon above her head and brought it down in sharp arc, catching Gretel's katana and knocking it from her grip.
“for your taste?”
She paused, looking at Gretel expectantly.
“I shan’t be attacking you whilst unarmed, so choose: regain your weapon, or surrender.”
Gretel blinked. “Wha? Wow! I had a hard enough time just seeing that! Okay, let's try this again!”
She grinned and went to retrieve her weapon. She returned at the ready, and then hesitated.
“Uh, on second thought, maybe I should quit.” She waved her katana off to the side, and then struck suddenly. “Hah!”
“Heh!” Bez chuckled.
She struck several times at Gretel.
“Trying to be-”
She feigned to the right, and then stabbed to the left rapidly.
She made a swift uppercut to the right and swept the blade down to the left.
She stabbed quickly at Gretel, drawing back at the last second and slashing diagonally.
She slashed at Gretel's face, deliberately missing it by a hair's breadth. In the same smooth motion, she flipped her billao in her hand and struck with the pommel.
“at that game!”
NT gasped and was heard making some sort of proclamation of not liking this a bit.
Bez flipped her billao back to its original position and repositioned herself. She struck swiftly several more times.
“Still wanna keep on?”
She dealt a swift diagonal blow that knocked Gretel slightly off balance.
“Or will you resign?”
Gretel laughed, nearly toppling as she regained her balance. “Oh, I’ll be a fighter about it and just keep on until one of us is down, even if it's me.”
Bez smiled devilishly. “All right then. I think you’ve had a sufficient warm-up. Now, it's time to pull out all the stops, the gloves are off, the game is on! I’ll try not to rough you up too much.”
Gretel laughed. “Yeah, give it a-”
She was cut off by Bez's sudden slash at her shins. As she moved to block, Bez flipped her billao, slamming it upward into Gretel's chin. She stumbled back a few steps, and Bez moved to deliver her final blow. She swept Gretel's feet out from under her, using her free hand to push her down and back by her shoulder. The force of her fall sent Gretel's katana flying from her grasp.
Bez looked down at Gretel, putting her hands on her hips.
“Still think this is 'light’?” She asked dryly, offering a hand to help Gretel up.
Gretel took it and was soon on her feet again.
“I didn’t break anything, did I?” Bez asked, stepping back and looking over Gretel.
“No, but I might have a bruise or two thanks to that bit at the end!” Gretel said.
Bez smiled sheepishly. “Eh, yeah, um…well, we’d’ve been here forever if I kept going easy on you. You’ve got some potential for dueling.”
“Tell that to my jaw.”
“Matrix, take care of the casualty, will ya?”
Matrix chuckled. “Yeah, yeah.”
He stepped up to Gretel.
“All right, hold still. This might feel a bit funny, but it's better than having a big painful bruise, right?”
He rubbed his fingers together briefly and then traced the bruise on Gretel's chin and jaw.
“Give it a sec, and it should be fine. One of the benefits of being a Mechanical,” He added, smiling as he wiggled his fingers. “Having built-in Regenerators. Bez won’t touch 'em, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the crew can’t benefit from the good old ship doctor.”
Gretel rubbed the spot where the bruise had been forming and worked her jaw. There was still a bit of sensitivity, but it was hardly noticeable.
“So, um…eh, sorry about that.” Bez said, dropping her billao. “Usually the blade is the only part people worry about in a bladed weapon, so…there aren’t a ton of safeties built into the pommel and hilt.”
“Now you tell me.” Gretel replied rolling her eyes.
Bez laughed sheepishly. “Um…better late than never?”
“Bez, we gotta go!” Matrix said hurriedly, as if he had just remembered something.
“Oh, what did you do this time?” Bez asked.
“Hey, I haven’t done anything yet, but we’ve got a high priority possible job-sounds pretty urgent.”
Bez looked at the others. “Sorry to have to bounce so suddenly. Eh, weapon and armor, if you please?” She asked Gretel.
Gretel shed the armor and handed Bez her katana. Bez collected her own discarded weapon, and Matrix picked up Gretel's armor.
“Well, guess we’ll be seeing you guys!” Bez called as she and her crew boarded the Nautilus. “And maybe next time we meet up, you can beat me!” She jokingly taunted Gretel as the on-ramp slid closed.
When they had gone, NT turned to Gretel, "Not cool." she said. "Not when you can really hurt yourself.”
Gretel looked back at her. “Yeah, I'd like to learn how to use various weapons, just in case I end up somewhere where I need these skills. But at least I got to experience what it's like.”
“You're not sorry you got into this? I would've been.” said Indy.
“No, it satisfied some of my curiosity. Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to hold a sword, and spar with people you'd known about and finally got the chance to meet?”
The response was a resounding “NO!” in unison from Indy, Pippi and NT.