Monday, March 25, 2013

Spanner 20.2: The Team Challenge

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 20: Stand or Fall
Part 2: The Team Challenge (Final Revision)

21 october 2014.
Charmian, outgoing Student Council President, says: “I kept telling you, Bart, and you kept ignoring me, and now you’ve fallen into her trap the way I said you would. I shall watch her destroy you, and then I shall never see you again.” She flounces away scornfully.

Bart, Tournament Leader, yells after her: “You’re just another woman, Princess! At least I’m a Man!” Team Valiant jeer at her. She pointedly ignores them.

Team Bremelo meet in the gym. Shira says, “We all know how they’re ranked. For this Team Challenge I need to fight first rank.”

Her teammates gasp. Kio is calmest about it. “How do we know you can take her, Shira?”

“Yeah,” says Polly, “Kio’s every bit Bart’s equal.”

Shira gives them her trademark cockeyed smile. “You may be his equal, Kio, but I’m his opposite. Didn’t you guys watch me in the virtual dojo? You know I totally own his style.”

Marina asks, “But what about the other ranks?”

“Let ’em guess.” Shira winks.

Bart’s fighters in order of rank: himself, Beck Skeever, Rex Corson, John Paine, Scotty Walker. Mobley coaches them in the punishing training system Revolutionary experts developed for prison-industrial boot camps and Texas football players, involving obstacle courses, high-speed body collisions, and heavy weights both pushed and pulled long distances.

The Shelley twins and Blair siblings argue their right to fight based on the intensity of Bart’s hatred for them; even Kio relents, with some persuasion from Colette. Today the Bremeloes use free weights using low weight at high speed with high repetitions till the muscles reach exhaustion.

In the boys’ locker room, the Valiants avoid looking at each other in the shower. In the girls’ locker room, the Bremeloes can’t take their eyes off each other, which freaks the Valiants out. Shira tells the boys, “You better get used to seeing us naked, ’cuz that’s how we’re gonna fight.”

“You’re crazy,” says Akane.

“Sweaty skin’s hard to hold onto,” Jennifer explains. “The weather forecast for Friday says rain, and that’ll give ’em an even slicker surface. That’s why nudefighters fight nude.”

“Don’t forget the other reason, Jen darling,” Shira says.

“Fanservice as a deadly weapon.” Jennifer winks.

Team Valiant leave school early so Colonel Green can hold a long political rally involving flag-waving, patriotic chants, declarations of Sacred Manhood, and fervent glossolalia. The Bremeloes stick around after school to sign autographs; not all the fighters signing for their fans are fighting on Friday. The gossips get much traction out of Shira putting her signature on Ruthie’s half-exposed breast.

Spiekerman watches the team get treated by their classmates like a rock band and gets annoyed. He looks at Shira strangely. “Team... Bremelo.”

She grins. “As in fat ugly bar sluts who prey on drunken sailors in squid bars near the Bremerton base? Mm-hmm.”

He stares at her. She smiles ironically. Polly sneaks into his empty private office to steal the hair trimmer he uses to trim his buzzcut.

The greediest, giddiest, and most unscrupulous students start placing their bets now.

22 october 2014.
Team Valiant do a workout that doubles as a rally in front of the bombed-out arena, annoying construction workers still racing desperately to finish it before an arbitrarily early reopening date decreed by both SPEC and Nike. Inside Dictel Stadium, Team Bremelo stretch, run on the track, and do that plyometric workout familiar to martial artists but so strange to power fighters like the Valiants; they find themselves attracting a cheering crowd in the stands despite not even trying.

Falconer returns to rally the Valiants standing at attention in the Student Council room (no girls allowed). “Remember that you are fighting to reclaim our honor, regain your Manhood, and score victory for our Revolution and Our Nation. Beat that filthy whore into bloody pulp!”

The Valiants raise their right arms to the Flag in salute. “We will not fail America!”

Team Bremelo’s five chosen fighters join Colette, Kio, and a gaggle of cousins in Karen’s hospital room. After the obligatory ecstatic hugs, Jennifer declares, “Karen, we’re dedicating our victory to you!”

The girl with the violet eyes looks at her. “We are?”

Connor says, “That, and we’re fighting for all those kids bullied by Team Valiant and their so-called revolutionary friends.”

Jennifer adds, “And for all the women and children they raped and beat up in the name of their alleged manhood.”

“And all the teachers made powerless by their own union so its leaders could make a quick buck selling out the schools to economic predators.”

“And all the working people being brutally oppressed so that a few rich vampires can indulge their Egoism.”

“There’s a lot of people pinning their hopes on us.”

“We gotta win this for them.”

Shira says, “We female fighters especially got something to prove. Their goal’s to kill us and rape our corpses in front of the world, just to earn back their lost Man Cards. That’s why Karen’s here, remember?”

The girl looks at Karen (who winks at her) and then Shira. She slumps into Shira’s embrace and sighs. “Such a burden we have to bear...” She perks up. “I promise I’ll fight fair, no powers.”

“Let’s just make sure we don’t kill anybody, okay? We don’t need to feed the System any more martyrs.”

When news of the Team Challenge reaches the hardcore gamblers and professional bettors, they argue over the odds and throw around an ocean of money.

23 october 2014.
The arriving storm announces its intentions with light drizzle. This time Team Valiant take Dictel Stadium for their training. This close to fight time, they decide it’s time to spar. Their practice fights are almost as brutal as regulation Tournament fights; Mobley browbeats the fighters and insults their manhood whenever they fail to be violent enough. The stands attract mainly administrators, political-pull teachers, the few students sufficiently conservative and uncowed, but especially Party operatives in business suits waving their Man Cards and badgering the Valiants to earn theirs.

At the top of the stands, the KCUF sound crew install a ring of sound cancellers as a preventive measure: some of the tonier neighbourhoods within hearing range are notorious for litigious residents. Some students skip class to watch.

In Team Bremelo’s virtual dojo, the fighters can kill and maim each other yet come back unharmed to fight again — but to prepare for this Team Challenge they spar with virtual Valiants constructed by fight scouts so they can learn to defeat the real ones using finesse and style rather than the brute force the Valiants and their bloodthirsty fans prefer. When they feel ready, they return to the gymnasium to do their final series of exercises in front of packed stands; first the Shelley twins lead the team in the exercises the ninja do, then Shira, Kira, and Cory lead them in the dancelike exercises developed for their more exotic style, capoeira. After final stretches, they head off to the locker room to thunderous cheers and adoring squees.

Outside the stadium, strains of Viking metal seep through the curtain of sound cancellers surrounding the field. Charlie switches her phone to walkie-talkie mode. “Amon Amarth’s blasting us, Steve.”

“Sorry, babe,” Deth Pussy replies. The sound cancellers adjust their position and range; soon, the Viking metal falls silent.

“There! The lawyers shall remain unbugged.”

“No prob!” When Alex gives her word, the KCUF crew return to their rented trucks to offload the holographic projection equipment for the victory party.

The Bremelo practice of showering coed in the girls’ locker room has become the subject of excited gossip, so they lock the access doors to prevent pre-fight paparazzi. Shira and Kira have a special hatred of paparazzi; their battles with them are legend. The girl with the violet eyes is unusually calm and smiles in anticipation of the fight. Colette looks at her with concern. “Are you sure you wanna go through with this?”

“Absolutely certain.”

“You know they might kill you.”

“They’re already dead and they know it. Besides, I’m not afraid to die.”

“You know, even before you lost your name, you were the strangest person I ever met.”

“Good. Most aristocrats would rather bore and annoy you to death.”

Polly says, “I hear your lovers have a nasty habit of dying on you.”

The girl smiles ironically. “I used to pick unstable boyfriends I could rely on to commit melodramatic suicides so I could torture myself.” The smile grows into a gleeful grin. “Now Shira’s happy to torture me so I won’t have to torture myself.”

“Ohhh, so that’s why you stole Coach Mobley’s paddle.” Everybody laughs. Shira winks.

The Valiants leave early to be lionized to the Party faithful as America’s longed-for great white hope. Students, teachers, tutors, and principals go home gushing and arguing over tomorrow’s big fight. After sixth-period gym class, after Charmian strips naked and turns on the shower, she’s not surprised to find Shira still there, still nude, waiting. She gazes at Shira’s body, blushes, and allows herself to smile. “I don’t think I have to tell you how beautiful you are.”

Shira beams back. “Oh, you can tell me all you want.”
“I know why you’re here.”

“I need to make love to you.”

Charmian’s eyes go wide, she blushes deeper, her body begins to tremble with fear and longing. After a long nervous silence, she says, “You know, I always had fantasies of losing my virginity to another girl.”

Shira runs to her, sweeps her into a hard embrace, kisses her as passionately as she can; Charmian’s body surrenders, her mind gives in to her body, she moans and screams; Shira kisses her neck, bites her ears, sucks and bites her breasts, bites and kisses her nether lips and penetrates her tongue deep into her cunt, reducing her to helpless violent bliss — then she covers the nearest bench in towels, lies the delirious woman on it, and does it all over again.

The girl with the violet eyes slips in just to watch her lover make love to another woman, even a former enemy. Able to observe from outside instead of directly participating, she studies the way Shira makes love to Charmian, the passion energy love and even violence with which she worships the Student Council President’s pale elegant body with her own — and to her utter astonishment it turns her on intensely.

At last, the bookmakers publish the official odds. Team Valiant are a known quantity with a known win-loss record. Team Bremelo are new, unknown, untested, and unpredictable, but their fighters are skilled and hungry.

The bookmakers and professional bettors lean strongly toward Team Bremelo. But most bets go overwhelmingly toward the sentimental favorite: Team Valiant.

In a last act of desperation they attempt to destroy the girl with the violet eyes in her own dreamspace. First to appear is the shade of Alan Fleer: he shouts curses on a name that has nothing to do with her as he fades away forever.

Walter Brinkman’s first reaction upon seeing her is shock and disgust at her casual nudity and his powerlessness to change it. Drusilla Becket directs a cold murderous glare at her, enraged at her own failure to keep this insolent young woman from becoming her mother’s child at last. Luke Everson tries to murder her with his own look of holy hatred, yet betrays his frustration at his inability to save his predecessor from Rebel Styles’ Charm and his failure to keep the demoness from making this girl her mate. Reynard Currie surrenders to his lust for her and signals his intention to rape. Peter Ross sadly shakes his head.

She does not put up her Repulse field. She does not cancel out the light. She stands before them, naked and unarmed, and smiles.

Behind them, a giant appears in full superhero regalia. His costume is red, his helmet and trunks are blue, the Imperial Star shines on his chest, and his windblown cape hovers behind him like an ominous black cloud. Henry Becket can crush her under his big black boot. He can crush her with a single thought. Behind him, his ghostly body reaching high into the sky, his head hidden in the clouds, the imperious towering Ego of Roger Steele Becket, ever more digital, ever less human, hellbent on her destruction to avenge his own murder.

She does not put up her Repulse field. She does not cancel out the light. She stands before them, naked and unarmed. Her smile tells them that not even ending her can improve their plight.

Shira and Kira are not there, but the Synarchs feel their presence everywhere. They believe they can hear the twins’ mocking laughter echo in the wind.

24 october 2014.
dictel stadium.

This is the long-delayed final fight of Tournament 2014 at Bangor High. The winner will rule the school and the suburb itself. The loser... but Tournament Leaders never think of such things.

Two styles face off today: Nudefight vs. Revolutionary Force. Heavy cold rain soaks the turf and softens it into mud. The late-afternoon sky is dark enough that the floodlights automatically switch on. Lightning briefly lights up the sky; shortly after, thunder rumbles loud. The stands are too suspiciously full, enthusiastic, and lit up by camera flashes and glowsticks for a mere high-school fight-club rumble. Helicopters, blimps, and camera drones beam down spotlights that search the stadium and broadcast the event from their cameras to the far corners of the television world. For these are no ordinary high-school fight clubs because of their team leaders: the faithful son of a revolutionary Patriot Hero — the scandalous daughter of SPEC’s most implacable enemy and herself the most implacable enemy of Tournament.

Massed students form a circle around the fighting arena and take their sides. To the east, nearest the school: Pretty Team, the Student Council remnant, the Valiant Team support crew, the Fleer sisters, and the colorless Lance Walker sitting this Challenge out. To the west, facing the school: the Team Bremelo fighters not fighting this Challenge, the alternate members and support crew, the student clubs and subculture committees, the whole Student Union with their faculty advisors, all the cheerleaders not named Karen Kubota or Charmian Fleer, and the entire Bangor High school band in their bad-weather uniforms and bearing their instruments, alongside the Bremeloes’ own team band wielding kazoos, vuvuzelas, berimbas, and several kinds of drums: snare, tom-tom, bass, jembe, conga, doumbek, taiko. The stands are packed with parents, employees, student support from elsewhere in the district and the college, Stylers from the city who managed to somehow get in, fans of Shira and the girl with no name from anywhere and everywhere, news cameras, gangsters and paparazzi; in the luxury boxes, the SPEC company executives, the Corporate sponsors, the sports-network color commentators, and the all-important bettors who put up the money prize.

Fighting for Valiant Team, dressed in identical uniforms of T-shirt and striped sweats, numbered from bottom to top rank: Scotty Waters, John Paine, Rex Corson, Beck Skeever, and Bart Green, the reigning Tournament Leader and Head Boy of Bangor High. Shira represents Team Bremelo as team leader; the elegant and intimidating Jennifer Blair, her deceptively wiry brother Connor, an overeager Robert Shelley, and his beautiful scary twin sister with no name fight without rank in their unorthodox team style; The boys wear thigh-length athletic tights with their fighting gloves and boots, but the girls follow their now infamous team policy by wearing just the gloves, boots, and kickboxers’ padded head protectors, but nothing else at all. The Valiant side are disturbed, shocked, offended; but most disturbed are the fighters who swore to beat these beauties to a bloody pulp. A freaked-out Scotty complains to Jennifer, “Jesus blessèd America, girl, why do you girls always gotta fight naked?

She looks up at the rain falling from the sky, rubs her rain-drenched chest, grins at him mischievously. “You’re not supposed to get a grip on us.” She winks.

Christie yells at the Valiants, “You know what Oliver says about Thomas and Blair?”

“What?” they answer together.

“Don’t let those girls fight naked, or you’ve already lost! You’ll never beat a nudefighter in a million years!”

Bart points at her. “He’s wrong, Christian! We got Jesus America on our side, and they got nothing!

Rob points at the Head Boy, winks and smiles, taunts: “Famous last words, Barty boy!.” The girl with the violet eyes fixes him with a sustained death glare to unnerve him, and scares the rest of the team into greater frenzy. Shira tests out the knuckle guards on her fighting gloves by punching Jennifer’s, one hand and then the other.

5:00. The teams form lines at the center of the circle; the team leaders face off between them, Bart with a terrorist’s death glare, Shira with that look, as match referee Terry Mobley watches them nervously. The crowd’s cheers grow so loud no human voice can be heard on the field; horns and woodwinds blurt and bleat, vuvuzelas taunt, guitars and berimbas frantically pluck, the drums frantically beat and then settle into a cadence in 8/11 time.

Everybody assumes Coach Mobley’s paid to cheat, so they expect him to get knocked out by one or more fighters or someone on the sidelines. Everyone expects the naked Team Bremelo girls to get ravaged and near-raped by woman-hating male fighters offended into madness. The Bremelo side sound a long sustained “Wohhhhhh...”; everyone else holds their breath.

The mouthpieces go in. The head protectors go on. The fighters scramble around and take their positions. Coach Mobley holds the starting gun straight upward and fires.

The fighters scramble around, looking for the first blow to strike. Bart decides to take out his enemy Rob first: he throws an uppercut and a mid-kick; Rob rolls between his legs, reverse kicks his tailbone, and laughs. Shira takes on Scotty; she dodges, he flails, she hides under his nose, he spins and gets dizzy, she roundhouses him in the temple and sends him reeling into the crowd at the edge. The wohs turn to cheers and the drummers pound their drums rapidly, then return to normal as he bounces off the line back to Shira: he throws a knockout uppercut, she grabs his arm and wrenches out his shoulder; he spins around holding his useless arm, she kicks him in the tailbone, breaking it, sending him reeling back into the Valiant camp. He tags out to watch Bart and Rob in stalemate, and Lance runs in.

Lance Walker: no personality, competent fighter. He unleashes a flurry of blows that would defeat a normal fighter, but is shocked to find Shira’s moves as slippery as her skin; hook-sweep, he falls down and rolls back up; spinning roundhouse hits his jaw and he sprawls back knocked out. Valiant support drag Lance off, the cheers and drumrolls resound; the girls push Connor out, the fighters regroup, and the wohs and the cadence resume.

Rob against Beck, Jennifer against Rex, the nameless girl against John as the team leaders stand aside. Beck trades a barrage of punches with Rob while his sister pummels a John irrational with the need to save his Manhood by beating up this naked girl hammering him with kick after kick then punch and laughing. Rex knows what Jennifer’s capable of, keeps his distance, and circles her warily. Bart joins Beck to gang up on Rob and send him limping out of the arena; but his twin kicks John over to Jennifer so she can land the knockout blow: cheers, squees, drumroll; Valiant support drag him off and wake him back up with Epsom salts, then kick him back in: John kicks at Jennifer, she parries and sweeps him onto the ground; Rob does a mid-air somersault and lands his feet on Johnny’s head; Shira whirls a spin kick into his jaw, and he flies unconscious into the Valiant side. Even again.

Bart launches another ferocious attack on Rob; his sister and Shira attack him from behind, kicking both his kidneys at once, then run away to sneak a kiss to the delightful squees of their fangirls before they return to fight Rex and Beck. Jennifer somersaults and launches herself to spear Bart in the back with her feet, and Rob throws Bart and lands him hard. The girls push Rob out so they’re even again.

Three on three, boys against girls. All screams, cheers, squees, and chants fall silent. Everything is obvious now, everything is clear: Bart Green, Beck Skeever, Rex Corson, the hard core of Team Valiant, defending Revolutionary Manhood and the God-given sovereign right of Jesus America’s chosen — Shira Thomas, Jennifer Blair, the girl who scandalously rejects a name, the strange and unorthodox heart of Team Bremelo, fighting for far more than just Tournament victory, the hopes and hearts of countless thousands of ordinary people and especially women riding on them, the ones America always scorned and to whom it forever denies its Dream. Bart Green, son of a terrorist; Beck and Rex, brothers of gangsters — they face down three implacable enemies, young women who are rebels, champions of their sex, and known lesbian lovers: Jennifer Blair, bearer of the burden of legend at only fifteen; Shira Thomas, most unpredictable of nudefighters; the girl once known as Leila Renata Shelley, who renounced her name and her aristocratic status with it in brazen defiance of all the Revolution stands for.

“I take Blair!” calls Beck. He waves out the other fighters: he’s making a personal Challenge within the Team Challenge, a duel with a fighter of fearsome reputation he believes will not only prove his supremacy (including over Bart himself) and avenge the lost Manhood of ten thousand and fifty-two dead. Beck Skeever and Jennifer Blair circle each other; he dances around her with unbearable anticipation, she eyes him calmly as the rain washes the mud off her slick white skin. He’ll show him the true superiority of a Man, the thinks; she’ll teach him with his fists how a nudefighter wins.

First blow is his: he rushes her with a jab; she dodges in and butts him aside, tripping him to the ground. Back up: he grabs her arm, she slips out; he bear-hugs her from behind; she whips her head back to sting his nose and then wrenches her slick body out of his grasp. He throws a roundhouse kick, she ducks and kicks his tailbone; he throws a left hook, she grabs his arm, wrenches him to his knees, calmly holds him in this painful position. Rex tries to attack her; Bart spots Shira and holds him back. Jennifer twists Beck’s arm out of its socket, making him howl; then she wrestles him onto his back, traps his left leg in her leg scissors, twists him onto his side, and breaks his leg with a loud and audible crack.

Lucy, Christie, Kelly, and a dizzy Lance run out to drag Beck away. Jennifer stares down Bart and Rex. She grins in mocking triumph, thrusts out a defiant right fist in the gladiator’s salute, checks out with Mobley, and returns to the Bremelo side, to their thunderous drums, girlish squees, and mocking horns.

Two Valiants left: Bart and Rex. Two Bremeloes facing them: Shira and the girl with no name. In open defiance, to enrage their remaining enemies, they share a passionate kiss in front of the whole world; the Bremelo side gleefully answer with howls and squees. After the kiss, the nameless girl steps forward to call, “I got Corson!” The girl waves the team leaders aside: this is personal.

Rex roars in rage, “You tried to murder my brother!”

She raises her right fist near her face. “And you wanna eat my fist?” She thrusts it out into the gladiator salute — shocked gasps on the Valiant side, ecstatic squees from the Bremelo side — he rushes her raging like a bull; she hops aside and brings her fist down to hammer the back of his head; he falls down, rolls a distance, grabs the back of the head with both hands, screams in pain, bounces right back up to charge her again. She awaits him in the ninja’s defensive stance. Her face is utterly calm. He pops out his mouthpiece to yell, “I won’t get beat by a naked girl!”

She taunts back, “Your funeral!”

He seethes with rage at this implacable enemy, this woman so shameless, fighting him contemptuously nude. He uses his Patriot’s holy hatred of women as fuel for his fight. He wants to rip that beautiful naked flesh to hideous bloody shreds scattered in the mud. He pops the mouthpiece back in, angrily wipes the mud off his mouth, grimaces ferally, and runs at her again.

Right uppercut: she pivots away. Left claw; she spins behind and side-kicks his knee: pain, howl. Vicious right hook: she parries, slips in, front-kicks him in the midsection and sends him sprawling backward into the mud; he back-rolls to his feet, plants his soles in the mud, attempts a hard running tackle — she grabs his shirt and falls back to throw him over and behind him to a hard landing; he tries to take her while but gets her head in his face, hard enough to break his nose — he stands up holding his nose and howling; she back-kicks his gut, then leaps up to catch his neck in her thighs to throw him down hard again. And she laughs.

He bounces back up, rushes her again; she dodges and parries, brings her head up into his nose and breaks it, hits him from random directions, somersaults to catch his neck in her thighs and throw him; he leaps back up but receives a high kick to the temple — he staggers back holding his head, stumbles and falls short of the Valiant line; Lucy and Kelly drag him out of the circle berating him. Rex Corson is now out. Mobley scores the knockout to the girl with no name for Team Bremelo.

Drum thunder, blowing horns, cheers and mass squee: one Valiant remaining. The girl with no name checks out with the ref, exits the circle, and leaves Bart to Shira, his opposite.

The team leaders face off at last. Both their sides raise their voices and horns to deafening levels. Shira signals the drummers to pick up the cadence; they switch time to 7/8. Flash in the sky; again thunder speaks.

The two duellists take their starting positions. Bart takes defense stance, hardens his muscles, draws on the energy of his team, and emits a low growl. Shira dances around, focuses her intensity to laser sharpness, and almost visibly projects her energy out so that her aura ripples like a mirage. Mobley gets between them, raises the capgun, and shoots.

Bart unleashes a lightning jab that would stun or knock out any other fighter. Shira dodges inside and hits his jaw with a rising elbow smash. He hits her with a left hook; she spins around and slams him with a roundhouse kick. They both fall. They roll over, face each other, then quickly get up and rest for a few seconds. The drums beat faster.

He punches, kicks, jabs, and grabs air. Shira flits around him like a mad pixie, hammering his head with elbow smashes and quick punches, pricking him to greater fury. He throws harder blows, trying to knock her out in one blow. She flits in front of him, dodging and parrying, till she seems to disappear before everybody. A rising back kick sends him stumbling backwards. By pure will he stabilizes his body onto his feet. He finds himself fighting three of her flitting about, landing punches, teleporting at will, laughing and laughing; with every punch she lands, his vision grows blurrier and blacker and his rage grows more irrational — faster beat the drums; the thunder answers.

He rushes her. She dodges his tackle. He spins around, catches her in a bear hug, tries to crush her; she rakes his eyes, snaps her head forward to shatter his nose, corkscrews down, snakes out of his grasp. Involuntarily he raises his hands to his bleeding face. She grabs his shirt at the shoulders, backflip double kicks him, knocks him flying into the air...

All breaths catch, all perception of time slows down — Tournament Leader and mud-clad Challenger hover in mid-air, floating over the destroyed field — Barton Green lands on his back with a sickening thud, and Shira Thomas spins in air to make a perfect landing on her feet.

Shira stands straight. Coach Mobley refuses to touch her at first. She shoots him a hard glare accusing him of cowardice. He shudders in shame, hurries over, clasps her right hand and raises it high to signal victory. She tilts her head back and lets out a blood-curdling ululating Apache war cry.

The moment they dreaded has come at last.

Shira Thomas, enemy of Tournament, is Tournament Leader.

Barton Green, the great white hope, has fallen into nothing.

Polly runs out to her with the hair trimmer. The Bremelo side erupt into movie-Indian war cries, horns sing and vuvuzelas wail, the drummers beat BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom... Shira holds the trimmer up high, howls, then runs grinning to Bart’s unconscious body and shaves all the hair off his head in a mock scalping. War cries turn to howls of triumph, drums thunder, horns and flutes sing delirious victory songs, vuvuzelas mock the fallen with their roar; the Valiant side rush in to save Bart but can’t get through the surrounding wall of Bremeloes till Shira is done, Bart is completely bald, and the Bremeloes retreat.

Shira suddenly finds herself lifted high by teammates and friends determined to carry the new Tournament Leader on her victory lap like a conquering hero. They lift up Leila, then the rest of the Team Challenge fighters; still cheering, tooting, drumming, they carry them out of the arena, onto the football field, then out of the stadium, running on concentrated adrenaline through the college campus toward Evergreen Park. The defeated side pick up their wounded and scamper away. The techs and guards run to the entrances and open the gates to let Team Valiant, families and friends, faithful friends, political operatives, and now-bored TV people escape from the place of their humiliation, out through the gates, out to the parking lots, into their cars and out of the campus to the farthest corners of the city of Bangor, until they’re gone. Now it should be twilight, but the storm has turned it to light.

Nick finds his way through the celebrants to Shira, one question weighing on his mind: “Yo, Team Leader, there’s a line of people out there stretching for blocks. What should we do with ’em?”


He winks. “Damn right.”

She gives him a beautiful grin and then takes his bullhorn to give everyone the word:

Let the Ravers in!

on to the next...

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Copyright © 2013 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

[Revision 4 Final, 3/25/13: Double-length installment expanded from 20.5 R2 and heavily modified for Fourth Revision continuity.]

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