Chapter 9 - The Calm Before

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The reinforcing servos in the exoskeleton let Codi leap a dozen feet into the air, soaring up and over Lucas to avoid his attack. Landing, she bent her knees with the impact and whirled, only to find the burly twin bearing down on her again. He stooped and wrapping his arms around one of her legs and driving his shoulder into the pressure point of her hip.

Codi knew she was going to fall. Instead of trying to halt the inevitable she caught Lucas in headlock and jerked a knee up hard into his midriff as they went tumbling to the floor. With a growl of exertion she grabbed his body armour with her free hand and pulled, heaving him up and over from her position on the ground and slamming his body against the mats. She let go and pushed hard against the mat with both hands, the force lifting her straight back to her feet again. Turning around again she had just enough time to register Lucas’s motion before his foot smacked her in the stomach.

The impact fired her backwards head over heels at least thirty yards before she managed to roll to her feet, hands akimbo and ready for the next onslaught. Lucas grinned and came at her again.

The introduction of the exoskeleton into the training regimen had changed everything. Codi now fully understood how matches could last so long in the Gauntlet. The body armour protected her from what would normally be disabling injuries and aided her movement in every way.

Lifting the Hacktors, staffs and bolas was almost laughably easy; things didn’t hurt much anymore. Oh sure she could feel it when someone smacked a clenched fist across her jaw or drove a knee into her stomach, but it took repeated punishment to make any sort of impression in the exoskeleton’s defences.

“Alright, that’ll do for today!” Vasco roared, just as she sent Lucas flying into a set of nearby dumbbells with a dropkick to the chest. Codi looked at him eagerly as he examined the portable computer he carried. With the introduction of the suits their spars had taken on a form much closer to the Gauntlet itself, where fights could be decided by the amount of impact force imparted between opponents if neither competitor achieved a knock out or yield.

“Well…” Vasco lolled his head from side to side. “That was a pretty close one. Until that last little exchange Lucas was in the lead. Landing on those dumbbells pushed you ahead.”


“But-,” he looked at her pointedly, “the dumbbells weren’t technically part of the arena.”

“Oh, come on!” she exclaimed. “Gimme a break once and a while.”

“I’m not really big on giving breaks.”

“Just let her have it,” Lucas laughed as he picked himself out of the mound of weights. “It was a nice move.”

Codi smiled triumphantly at their instructor. Vasco looked from one to the other then shrugged.

“Fine, fine, chalk up a win for Miss James.” With that he pressed a button and turned the computer off. The group gathered around as he continued. “You’re all off the clock for now. The friendly is in two days, so we’ll take an easier day tomorrow. As for tonight, there are some snacks and drinks in the cafeteria. Relax, have a bit of fun and get a good night’s sleep.”

With that Vasco turned and strode from the training centre. After a moment the others followed, but Codi trailed behind as they laughed and joked. One by one they split off to their respective rooms and she gratefully closed the door, letting the exertions of the day wash over her. The room hadn’t changed much under her occupancy, still a fairly barren cell-like affair. Only her small collection of personal possessions on the bedside table, the unmade bed and scrawled notes on the desk showed her presence.

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