Chapter 21 - Hung Out to Dry

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 When Codi walked into the Brax-Delta coaching room, she couldn’t suppress a surge of awkwardness when she saw Vasco sitting waiting for her, alone. She hadn’t forgotten about her storming from the room, nor did she feel regret about the action. Her temper made her who she was. But with the revelation that the reigning Gauntlet champion was in her group, she needed him now.

“I hear you’ve been hiding in the training centre,” Vasco said, gesturing for her to take a seat.

“Seemed like the best place to go,” she returned.

“I take it you’ve looked at the groups?”

“Yeah.”

“Well?”

“I think I need to get practicing.”

He frowned. “Have you even been to sleep yet?”

“No.” Codi leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desk. “Let’s just skip the part where you tell me what an unpredictable little psycho I am and just get on with figuring out a way to get through the groups in one piece.”

To her surprise, he started laughing. “Some things never change. I guess what’s done is done. Now, are you going to sit there and listen this time? I could do without my top fighter storming out of the room again.”

Her eyes widened. “What…what did you say?”

“You heard me.” He nodded. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re all punching above your weight, but you’ve got potential to do a helluva lot more than that. If you’ll let me I can help you do it. But for once in your life bottle up your temper and listen.”

Codi’s mouth opened and closed like a fish but words didn’t come. All through the entire ordeal of joining the Gauntlet she’d wanted acknowledgment, encouragement; recognition that she was doing something right. And just like that, Vasco had delivered. My top fighter. The words sounded perfect in her head. So she relaxed back into her seat and did something she didn’t think she was capable of.

“I’m sorry about yesterday.” She held Vasco’s gaze with every word. “I was out of line.”

Now it was his turn to look surprised. He gathered himself quickly, however, and his mouth hardened into a determined line. “Then let’s get down to business.” He turned to the screen and pressed a button, causing images of the three fighters in her group to appear.

“I asked you in first because you landed the hardest group draw. You’re going to need every last second to get ready. Now I know you want to go out there and give everything you’ve got in every fight, but it’s not worth it yet. Varlin’s still out of your league – and everybody else’s for that matter.” The glimmer of a smile hovered around his lips. “But you only need to win two out of three to make it through to the knock-out rounds.” With another button push Varlin’s picture disappeared. “So for the moment we’ll focus on these two. Know anything about them?”

Codi shook her head, and also made a decision not to mention her run in with Varlin in the cafeteria. Right now she was on stable ground with Vasco, but she had no doubt that if he found out about her altercation he’d blow a metaphorical gasket.

“It’s just as well you’re not the only one who missed sleep last night,” he chuckled. “I’ve been doing my homework.”

For the next hour Vasco walked her through the two other fighters in her group, through their background, preferred styles, strengths, weaknesses, performance in the Mayhems, everything piece of information he’d managed to gather. The male, Yuri Drevok, seemed simple enough. He was a wrestler more than anything else, focusing largely on holds, grapples and throws. No physical powerhouse, he relied on strong technique, which had seen him through the Mayhem well enough. Vasco’s advice was simple: stay out of reach, don’t let him grab you, and make every hit you land count.

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