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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 32 - The Other War

04/03/3061 SLS Shanghai, Lan Zhenzhu (Terra RC -122.574, 1768.831, Strana Mechty RC -154.874, 1.022)

Built within one of the Shanghai's six 500 meter diameter GravDecks respecting Feng Shui principles was The Eight Way Temple. Each of its eight approximately 200 meter long arcs was arranged in a way to satisfy the Bagua with elements of wood, metal, earth, air, water, and fire represented in their appropriate positions just like the seal of the ship that housed them and served as the center of the arrangement.

Meandering within the garden ('Zhen') compartment was Dexter Calloway and his team of Fortunate. This unintentionally symbolized a new beginning if you cared for such things; which he didn't even if he had realized it. Instead he just preferred the plants and blue-green(-teal) color palette that reminded him of Fortuna's oceans and his Gardener ship that sailed atop them.

He looked at his watch '09:00', “Where are they?”
A freshly showered Ronell and Erika entered from the adjacent compartment. He stopped and looked at the gathered group and thought about them for a moment. They would not blend as well into the new assignment but it would have to do though. The pair took up positions with the rest of the task force, “Since we are finally here,” he looked at the late arrivals, “I am going to give you our new assignment.”

Confusion arose in several of their faces, “I know you have questions but please wait for me to finish.”
The Rasalgheti did so waiting patiently for him to finish, “Instead of inciting difficulty with Clan Jade Falcon we will be working with the Goliath Scorpions to cause trouble for the Snakes. The Scorpions are tentative allies of both Falcons and Wolves, rivals to the Snakes. They need to make a choice and whatever side they choose will accomplish a similar objective. To that end we will be going to Tokasha, the latest battlefield in our eternal struggle and one of the most industrialized worlds in the Kerensky Cluster. We will leave in two weeks, you can continue to stay on the Shanghai or if you are interested in going to a different station ask me and I will ensure you get a shuttle ticket. Now are there any questions?”

Erika raised her hand, “So you will not need me to steal anything?”
“Not necessarily, Erika. Tokasha has a thriving underworld. We will need someone capable of navigating it. I have called in several Burrocks to join our group that are familiar with the names but are known to the Patrol and Dark Caste. As outsiders you can move more readily than they.”

Ronell joined the conversation, “Will we have weapons?”
The Rasalgheti looked around, nodding in agreement. All had some kind of combat experience fighting against the Clans and most had lived in the slums of Solaris which had much in common with Tokasha. They knew what kind of characters they might encounter, people that acted a lot like themselves. Tokasha's wilderness was also filled with with hostile wildlife as the Hell's Horses and Ghost Bears before them felt they were more useful alive to eat Bandits and runaways rather than use Warrior Caste resources to hunt them down. Arming them however would bring greater dangers to himself and his bodyguard Bryce. “Nothing big...” More questions followed and they spent almost an hour in the garden going through the logistics.

Several compartments away eighteen men and women stood atop a circular disk of polished metal wearing gray uniform gis illuminated by a set of suspended spherical lights. Among them were Faye Freelander and Claude Goulet who stood opposite one another with a sheathed Jian in their hand. The Jaguar had recently arrived with other Mandrills(/Jaguars/Burrocks) covertly recruited by Joseph Kline.

“I missed this.”
“You are such a romantic, Claude. Almost un-befitting a Clan Warrior.”
“Perhaps I should remain a Bandit then? or become a Wudang Warrior Monk.”
“Would be a great loss for the Fire Mandrills and myself if you did.”
“Strong arguments Faye. Sure you do not feel the same, quiaff?”

Before she could answer the bronze gong along one wall was rung, filling the space with a hollow yet overwhelming sound. Eighteen Wudang and Mandrill Warriors unsheathed their swords and went about the paired exercises. They started slow gradually increasing tempo until they were at full speed using both the sword for cut and thrust and its weighted sheath as an impact weapon and parrying device.

Their dual wielding method made the Wudang Warriors very deadly in a Circle of Equals and was demonstrated in their Aerospace combat tactics with wing-men supporting one another. It was not helpful to an Armored Marine boarding action or defending against it. The Clan was notoriously poor in Elementals reliant on the Burrocks for their close combat and mech support. This deficiency limited their territory in the Homeworlds. Aboard the ship the Newts were worse due to the terms of the Mongoose Exile's adoption into Clan Cloud Cobra.

Once the slow exercise was complete sixteen stood around a pair of Warriors in the center. Claude Goluet, the but elite Mandrill Marine with no fewer than thirty close combat kills in his short career, stood facing Sebastian Francaix, with more than a fifteen kills in a Circle of Equals either up close or in his Scytha. This was the first time Claude was actually fighting a truly experienced Cloud Cobra Warrior. His FireNewts had been 'Uncarved Wood' with no prior experience in combat arts but were willing to go against the Tao of the Clans by seeking power beyond their caste.

However, before him was the Shanghai's Champion that EcKhan Loew asked answer any Clan Warrior's call against the Shanghai. Both men bowed and waited, the gong rung and before it was even settled Sebastian launched forward with a like an uncoiling serpent. Claude dodged kneeling to pick the punch at the elbow and throwing his opponent nearly four meters across the circle.

The Warrior ducked and rolled snapping up on the defensive as the Mandrill launched a series of incredibly fast punches which were parried and countered with equal vigor to the amazement of the onlookers, Several strikes got through the guards of both men with audible impact.

They separated to catch their breath and feel out their foe with their opening moves complete circling one another in a wide stance with ready hands outstretched in the Bagua style. “You have studied our ways Claude. How curious?”

Claude smiled, “Or am I just 'aping' you, Sebastian.”
Sebastian attempted a front kick that was stopped by a solid Chasse frontal bas to his lead leg causing him to lose balance and fall backward from the impact. He rolled out before a follow up axe kick came down on this chest. While on the ground he kicked the back of Claude's knee causing him to crumble forward and forcing him to use all his athleticism to avoid the crescent kick that created a palpable breeze in its wake.

Once more the combatants circled one another catching their breath and feeling the cumulative effects of the earlier strikes. Claude was the aggressor this time leading with a long distance kick followed by rapid steps and solid boxing. Sebastian dodged the strikes parrying them just enough to avoid their impact and angling for a grab on his larger opponent's arms.

He got it but it did nothing for him as Claude headbutted him dazing and bloodying the smaller man who was not expecting such a vulgar attack nor the neck throw that had him sitting on the floor with his opponent at his back. With poetic grace Claude set up a cobra clutch securing his opponent's arm and neck before transitioning into a triangle choke which resulted in Sebastian blacking out before Claude released him.

The Cobra came back with a coughing fit resting on the floor for a bit before standing and bowing to his opponent who did the same. “We have much to share with one another. It has been an honor to share this circle with you.”

“No hard feeling, Star Commander Francaix. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

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