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Chapter 27

“Line up!” Shouted Prometh, standing in front of his class of six, “And pay attention!  I may be old now, and my hair may be gray, but I could still knock the life clean out of any one of you in a fight!  The Aquarians and Agrarians will move much quicker than I, I assure you! And not just that, they’ll have all their fingers!  Plus three of mine, which each put up enough of a fight to bring of them down with them!.”

Airomem was squared off against AJ, with another student on her left and right side, and two others on his.  An open door frame had been constructed between them, just wide enough that each of them could reach across to the other side without fully entering the frame, and a wall jutting out for a few feet on each side.

“Now, there are two entry points to our territory.  The Port, where Agrarians can attack, and the Starboard, where the Aquarians can attack.  As warriors, you have one priority- defend these two doors with your lives!  So long as they are not breached, we hold the advantage as they cannot overcome us with their numbers.  So use the bottleneck to your advantage! Of course, these two doors can be locked and braced, but that’s no guard against stubborn perseverance- only you can guard against that.”

“But what if they get through?”  Asked Airomem, “Won’t we have to fight them then?”

“You better pray they don’t!”  Exclaimed Prometh, “But we are prepared in the case that they do.  Each the port and starboard sides have three bottlenecks- the others must fight through all three doors to enter into the soft underbelly of our territory.  Each bottleneck empties in a larger room, so if they try to ram their way through, you can hit them with stun guns from the sides as they come through the door.  And due to their frequent wars with each other, it is almost never necessary to retake a room if we have lost it- instead, when one tribe senses that the other is weakened, they attack.  And the Agrarians or Aquarians will pull their forces back in defense, especially since they know that we won’t pursue them past the initial bottleneck.”

“And why not?”  Asked AJ, “Why don’t we storm through and kill them when they are busy defending themselves?  Why don’t we take their land and defend that as an offensive front?”

This is why,”  Said Prometh, pointing to the wall where a hand drawn map was plastered, “These are the schematics of the ship- found in an engineering book in our territory.  Written, mind you, which is good because I have yet to hear of an Agrarian or Aquarian that can tell a vowel from a consonant.  Now, as you can see, once you break past our bottlenecks into their territory there are many more points of attack.  Instead of defending two doorways, if we advanced we would have to defend six, then eight, then ten as the corridors fan out!  That’s why the Agrarians and Aquarians are always at war- there are dozens of entry points between them, so they have no strategic buffers.”

“But we could take them slowly, and we fight better then them!” Claimed AJ,  “Even you say that.  Though are numbers are far fewer, we have far more stun guns and better strategy, so our firepower is much greater!”

“True, true, I agree with you there.  In terms of weapons, we do have more stun guns, but they have plenty of knives- and while a knife will lose to a stun gun, a knife exists to kill, while a stun gun will only incapacitate.  But have you ever farmed, AJ?  It’s truly backbreaking work.  It would cost hundreds of lives and several years to make that territory advance, all so that we can just be farmers.  Instead, so long as we defend our entry points, we lose a life or two every year- most of them from guards being inattentive.  And even if we did take the land, we do not have the numbers to farm and support ourselves.”

“Rather, it’s far easier to demand tribute for the power that we provide,”  Said Airomem, and Prometh nodded, then he continued.

“But now, enough on strategy!  Stun guns set to low!  If you are struck, you are out and must clear out of the doorway.  Airomem and AJ, you are the keystones.  Akil and Helen, you are left flank.  Priam, Aga, you are right flank.  In this mock battle, AJ’s team will be trying to advance through the doorway.  Airomem, your team will be defending it like the bottleneck on Port or Starboard.  On my call you start, and remember your techniques!”

Airomem squared her feet as AJ crouched on the other side of the door, his eyes flicking left and right as he searched for a weakness, his freshly formed facial hair sticking out in odd directions from just underneath his chin. She held two stun guns, one in each hand, the blue light just barely visible under the low setting, the buzzing just at the edge of her hearing, and the vibrations traveling up her arms.  On each of her sides her flanks turned their stun guns on as well, just as AJ’s flickered to life.

Then Prometh blew a whistle hanging around his neck, and the mock battle began.

Airomem took a sharp step backwards as AJ jabbed forward, the edge of his weapon whiffing just under her chin.  On her right Aga swept in, trying to catch AJ off guard as he recoiled just in time, the blow catching air where he had been just an instant before.  And in her mind, Airomem recited her strategy learned from Prometh while she watched for AJ’s next move.

The keystone holds the formation together.  It is the keystone’s responsibility to plug the hole, to stand strong and open opportunities for corner attacks from the flanks.

And she took another step backwards, opening up space between her and the doorframe as her flanks moved forward to the walls in front of the door frame, using them as a shield to hide their bodies.  Together, they formed a triangular pocket.  A pocket where anyone who entered would be attacked on three sides- from keystone, who was to stop momentum, and from the flanks who dealt the finishing blows.

Without warning Priam darted through the door from the other side, barreling low so that Aga’s taser struck too high.  Then Helen arced down from the left, jamming the taser into Priam’s shoulder blade as he tumbled past Airomem, who allowed him past her without interference.  Stunned and disqualified, he now posed no threat.

But as she pivoted back to the keystone position her eyes widened, watching as Akil bent down with his hand on his knees just beyond the door, and AJ took a running start from several feet behind him.  

“Aga, Helen, strike low!”  She shouted as AJ launched himself upwards, arms flailing through the air.  Aga and Helen struck Akil at the same time as he passed under AJ, but now AJ’s trajectory was headed directly towards Airomem, his stun guns pinwheeling in blue streaks.

She grit her teeth as she staggered her stance, her bangs falling over one of her eyes as AJ descended without grace, holding both her tasers directly in front of her in single ourstrethed point.  They struck AJ directly in his chest as he crashed through them, his far larger body bowling into hers as they collapsed together, loose stun guns shocking them repeatedly on the way down.  She slid against the metal floor in a tangle of limbs, AJ’s body jerking with each electrical impulse, stars forming in her vision as the breath was knocked out of her chest.

And as she sat up, she heard Prometh start clapping to the best of his ability, a smile on his face.

“Well done.  Well done Airomem.  Had your tasers been on full power, this would have ended quite differently.  And AJ, though somewhat unorthodox, that move would be similar to something the other side would try.  And you cleared a hole.  I would declare a tie, but considering Airomem has no casualties on her team, she holds a slight victory – careful, Airomem, it appears that AJ gets sharper with each passing day!  Now, pick yourselves up, it’s time to go again.  This time, Airomem, you will attack.”

Chapter 28

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