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stanley.lieber's picture

852 words by Stanley Lieber

Tommy and his group made their way over to the 9th green.

"This is the 9th green," Piro announced. "Please stack your lunches, or line them up neatly along the outer edge of the training area. It would be appreciated if you could put the lunches into your gear bags, if there is no extra room along the tree line. It will be a while before we are ready for a snack."

Most of the boys complied.

"Now, if there are no preliminary questions, we can begin."

"Sir," Dante interrupted.

"Yes, Dante?"

"Ralph isn't here."

"Isn't here?"

"He hasn't caught up with us yet. I think he spilled his gear bag in one of the sand traps."

"I see."

Piro dispatched a pair of camp counselors to fetch Ralph.

"Now. Tommy, please attack Dante with your hanbo."

Hesitantly, Tommy rose to his feet. His camp uniform flapped in the cool breeze. Standing in the darkness, he could no longer make Dante out against the tree line.

So, improvise.

Tommy lunged wildly, waving his hanbo around like a parade flag. He ended up taking three or four steps towards where Dante ought to have been standing. He was starting to wonder if he should adjust course when he felt what seemed to be a hand brushing against his visor, which caused him to blink uncontrollably. This disrupted his movement such that he fell directly onto his face. A beat later, and Dante had tripped over his own hanbo and fallen on top of him.

"Saru mo ki kara ochiru," Piro said, extending an arm towards Tommy to help him up. "I see the problem. Because of the darkness, you are both effectively blind."

"No shit," said one of the other boys.


"Actually," Tommy ventured, "Because of my visor, if I had enabled the functionality, I would be quite able to see in the dark."

Piro was not impressed. "Yes. That explains your fall, then."

"I tripped! What do you want from me?!"

"Get up."


It went on in this vein for several hours. The nine boys finding any and every excuse to fall on their asses, and Piro obliging them happily. I don't know about the Agency, but I was certainly getting my money's worth! At a certain point, the two older students returned with Ralph in tow. It had taken them quite a while to coax him out of the sand trap.

He had lost a contact.

"Ralph. Please. Attack Tommy with your hanbo."

"My...? Oh. I left that back at the cabin."

"I see. Here, you may use mine."

"Oh. Well... Sure."

Ralph assumed an offensive posture and then tore off running towards Tommy. Only, Tommy wasn't where he had been, moments before. Nothing was where Tommy had been. Ralph looked around. It was nearly pitch black. All he could distinguish in the night was the tops of the trees. He could not even see his own feet.

Ralph's optic revelation was interrupted by the unlikely sensation of his left arm being wrenched fully out of its socket. Tommy had somehow entangled his arm with his own short staff. As Ralph cried out, Tommy sank deeper into his stance, fully applying the technique. At length, he released the pressure and fell back into a defensive stance. Ralph collapsed into a coil on the ground, writhing and spitting, nursing his damaged limb. Through his tears, Ralph could just make out Tommy's silhouette, skylined against the clouds above the trees.

"Oh bullshit," said Ralph. "I quit!"


Towards the end of the training session, Piro began to pick on Tommy.

"Tommy, with me."

"Again? But I've gone the last fifteen times in a row."

"What can I say? You're good at falling. Let's see if you can keep it up even when you're tired."

"It's a shit parade and you're riding the big float," said one of the other boys.

Piro triangulated the reverberations and then pointed directly at the source of the remark.

"You're next."

In the middle of Piro's sentence, Tommy launched himself into the air, a full-body tackle aimed squarely at Piro's chest. He could feel himself making contact even before it happened. On this, his first day of training, his confidence as a fighter was already on the rise. Even at the physical stuff, he was a natural.

Piro stepped lightly out of the way of Tommy's assault, digging his fingers into the slim space between his visor and his face. He twisted Tommy's body around in a spiral, somehow gaining the leverage to flip himself over Tommy's back. Next, the equal and opposite reaction: Piro's movement sent Tommy hurtling over his head and into a tree. The boy went limp and collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

"We're finished here for tonight, boys. We'll meet on the 9th green again after the cookout tomorrow. Twenty-three hundred hours, sharp."

Immediately upon Piro's departure, Dante was on the case. He stood over Tommy's inert body and started to take down his trousers.

"Come on guys. We'll give him a Scottish Samurai while he's asleep."


To be continued...



kelson.philo's picture

I never, ever, want to live

I never, ever, want to live in Tommy's world.

Ugh. Well, at least Tommy

Ugh. Well, at least Tommy was having a good day before then...

stanley.lieber's picture

Pain is learning!

Pain is learning!