And now, the exciting conclusion to this great story…
Sergeant, yes sergeant.”
Okay, this will be a battlefield rules tournament. That means the only limits are, no death blows, and no breaking of bones. Anything else is allowed. Each session will consist of two 3 minute rounds. If there is no tap and no knockout in the 6 minutes, the combat instructor and I will decide who won the session based on effective striking, control of the opponent, and positional dominance. Is that clear?”
“Sergeant, yes sergeant.”
“First pairing, number 1 and number 22, front and center.”
The two ladies hustled to the ring and stepped in. The combat instructor was already there and immediately started the match.
22 was bigger and stronger but 1 clearly had a better understanding of the techniques that they had been taught. After about a minute of feeling each other out, 1 went to work and just before the end of the first round, she clamped on a standing rear naked choke from the jujitsu training and 22 went to sleep.
“22 is eliminated, 1 advances to the next round. Next up 19 and 27, front and center.”
Two big men entered the ring and the second match looked very different from the first. There was no feeling out period, these two men did not like one another and the match got very physical very quickly. They battered each other for 5 minutes with no clear advantage one way or the other. Then suddenly 27 executed a spinning back fist and landed it square on 19’s jaw and he hit the mat unconscious.
“19 is eliminated. 27 advances. Next up 5 and 30, front and center….”
Match after match the sergeant paired fairly evenly matched recruits one after another until only two remained in the first round.
“Last pairing of the first round. 15 and 29 front and center.”
Xasl smiled to himself as he recalled the techniques 15 has used in the past. Apparently they would be settling the question of who had more skills right here today. He entered the ring, and bowed to 15 before letting his focus settle in. When the combat instructor started the match, Xasl slipped into defensive mode knowing that 15 would advance and press expending a great deal of energy trying to establish that he was the better fighter.
Xasl, slipped and blocked and moved for a minute and half until 15 got frustrated and made a mistake leaving a big opening. Xasl brought his knee up hard and watched as 15 curled over in pain and backed off. He pressed the advantage and struck with six straight punches and then a turning round house kick that struck cleanly on 15’s jaw. He was unconscious before he hit the mat.
“15 is eliminated, 29 advances.”
In the second pass every match was a mismatch, as the sergeant paired speed and finesse against strength and brute force. Sometimes the strength and brute force would overcome the speed and finesse, and sometimes speed and technique won. But none of the matches went to the second round in the second pass. While in the first pass there had been six decisions.
At the end of the second pass, he was paired up with 1, and he made short work of her as she tried to move immediately into jujitsu figuring she had a better chance there. Unfortunately for her, he anticipated that and brought a knee up hard as she went for a two armed take down. She caught it full in the face with her momentum going directly opposite his. It was nearly two minutes before she had recovered enough to leave the ring.
And the matches went on. One after the other opponents fell, and his focus became more complete with each round. Finally it came down to the last pairing.
“For the furlough day. 27 and 29 front and center.”
This would be a real challenge. 27 had a considerable size advantage and Xasl had noticed how much faster he was when faced with a fast opponent. In every match so far, 27 had ended it with a sudden knock-out. That right hand of his was lethal as were his knees and his left foot.
The sergeant started this match and stayed in the ring to be able to stop the match more quickly in the event someone was injured. They bowed to each other and squared off.
The two men moved around the ring throwing cursory punches and kicks testing each other’s guard for a full minute. Then 27 made his first move coming in hard with an incredible display of technique throwing one after another with speed and force. It was all Xasl could do to block and slip for the next minute. Then the big man slowed down a little and Xasl countered slaming and blasting at the big man’s guard. Back and forth it went for 4 and ½ minutes. Then Xasl had an idea, he moved in throwing a series of kicks and spinning techniques but leaving himself open to a takedown. It was not a big opening, but he had seen the big man analyze and move on openings with other opponents and he was pretty confident he would go for the take down.
Sure enough 27 saw the opening and went for the two legged takedown. Xasl was waiting for the move though and brought up a kneed as hard as he could. Grunting as he felt the knee strike true into the big man’s face. 27 staggered backward but to his credit he did not go down. Xasl jumped on the opening though and threw technique landing more than he was missing with at this point. Finally he landed a turning round kick solidly to the big man’s jaw and he fell to the mat just before the call for time came.
27 had been by far the best opponent Xasl had faced, but he had made a mistake and Xasl was able to squeak out a win.
“29 wins and is awarded the furlough day. 27 is eliminated. It was a good day of work by everyone, there will be no drill this evening.
Squad leader form up your squad and take them back to the dorm for an evening of relaxation.”
“Sergeant, yes sergeant.
Squad 1 form up!”
Xasl helped 27 to his feet. He was impressed by how quickly the big man had recovered and was fully functional again. This was a man he would definitely like to have by his side in battle.
“You did well 27. You had the match won, and I baited you knowing it was my last chance to win.”
“I almost didn’t fall for it, but I was not as sure as you apparently were that I was ahead on points. You have definitely got some serious skills squad leader.”
“As do you 27. I hope we are assigned together when it counts. I would love to have you by my side if I have to fight for my life someday.”
“The feeling is mutual squad leader. Congratulations on your win, it was well and fairly earned.”
27 fell in and Xasl went to his position at the front of the squad and gave the order to move out.
That evening, Xasl heard the movement again on the other side of the wall and knew 15 was probably planning to get his final blanket party in. Tomorrow was testing and then graduation two days later.
Xasl got up and shook his head as he stretched out and walked around the wall to see who they were planning to attach tonight. As he stepped around the corner, he suddenly had a very bad feeling and dropped to the floor just in time to avoid being hit by a bed rail. He swung into action immediately and chopped a leg at the knee hearing a scream as he moved on to the other two people who were coming at him with weapons. 15 was there with a knife and it looked like 25 there with some sort of stick. Xasl ran toward them turning at the last second and threw a flying side kick to 25’s chest. He felt the contact and then turned and curled in midair hitting the ground and rolling right to his feet already executing a turning round kick. 15 ducked and rolled out of the way coming back to his feet with the knife still in his hand, but he did not see 1 flying toward him and she landed a side kick to the side of his head knocking him off his feet. In an instant she was on his back on the floor with a rear naked choke secured.
Xasl moved in and kicked the knife out of his hand then turned to face 25 who was getting back up still struggling to get air in his lungs once more.
“Stand down! Now!”
Xasl stopped mid stride at the sound of the sergeant’s voice, and was pleased to see 25 do the same.
The lights came on and everyone could see the sergeant with two security guards in tow.
“Arrest him, him and him.”
The sergeant indicated 15, 25 and 19 who was the one who’s knee Xasl had broken at the beginning.
“19 and 25 will need medical assistance. 15 will recover. 1 and 27 return to your sleep stations. I will take your statements in the morning. 29 with me.”
Xasl followed the sergeant out of the dorm and down the stairs to the main floor then across the compound to the command center. The whole way the sergeant was silent and Xasl grew more and more concerned as he went. As the squad leader, he was responsible for the incident. The only reason to take him to the command center would be to set him back and make him repeat some portion of basic training, or to kick him out of the service. He could only hope to be set back, he really had no other options any more. His tools might or might not be returned to him, but he could not afford to pay for the uniforms he had received on entry into the service so he would be buried under debt if he were sent home.
They reached the door of the command center and the sergeant knocked twice and waited for permission to enter.
Xasl followed him in and saw all the brass there. This had to be dismissal, no way they would have all these officers here for anything less. His heart fell and he thought back trying to figure out how he could have avoided the incident.
“Sergeant Wils reporting as ordered with Private Xasl.”
“At ease Sergeant. Private Xasl approach.”
Xasl stepped forward toward the man wearing the insignia of a Colonel and the uniform of a command officer.
“Sir, Private Xasl, reporting as ordered.”
“Attention to orders! Private Xasl, on the recommendation of Sergeant Wils, and based on the excellent performance reports we have had and reviewed over the last month, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Corporal.
You are further ordered to leave basic training today to enter training as a weapons master. We will be accelerating your course as you are needed to join my staff and we are departing on a classified mission in two months.
Congratulations Corporal and welcome to my command.”
As the officer spoke he removed the recruit insignia from Xasl’s collar and replaced it with corporal’s insignia.
“Sir, thank you sir!”
“You are most welcome. Return to your barracks and collect your things, the sergeant here will get you to the star port and provide you with your orders and the tickets and vouchers needed to get you to your training center on Aleron. I will collect you there in one month, so dedicate yourself to learning how to handle the weapons systems.
“Sir, yes sir.”
Xasl stepped back then executed an about face and marched back out of the command center his head spinning.
“Congratulations. You will be aboard the command ship on the first mission of the coming war. Here are your orders. I am very proud of you Corporal Xasl.”
“Sergeant, thank you sergeant.”
“You can drop that formal crap now, you are no longer a recruit. I am simply Sergeant Wils now and I work for a living, so do not address me as an officer.”
“Yes s… Okay. Did I hear correctly that you recommended me for promotion?”
“Yes, you heard correctly. You turned the squad around when I made you squad leader. You stopped the blanket parties, and you brought the whole unit together. That is leadership. Moreover, you out performed everyone else in the squad at every critical skill. Except for the three who were never going to make it anyway, you turned this unit into a model unit and made me look very good.
I’m proud to have known you Xasl, and I would be honored to fight by your side someday if fate allows it.”
“Thank you. I would like that very much, I think.”
Then they fell silent as they entered the dormitory and Xasl had to collect his things in the dark. But his brain was still busy trying to take in the change in his destiny.
Corporal Xasl. Imagine that. I wonder what is next.