Carpathia III: Episode 30 - The First Trial
More than memories of home, the most prevalent thing in Jaze's mind was Toma. The last thing he heard from him was a cry for help just before he disappeared into the portal. He was sure that Toma must be on the moon somewhere and he hoped that he was alive. He had recurring nightmares of Toma as a sun-bleached skeleton out in the desert. Each time in the dream, he would come across it, the sand whipping over the dried bones and tattered clothes just before he woke up, drenched in sweat. This, more than anything else, kept him focused on escape, but he was sure he had to do it methodically. He would only get one chance at it and he wanted to make sure he took full advantage of the opportunity. The problem was, no apparent opportunity was presenting itself.
On this night, Mirage was giving Jaze a very tough workout. Normally, the more privileged ranks would sleep when it was cool outside, but Mirage decided that it was time to make Jaze practice with the sword and, in order to carry on as long as possible, he chose night practice. It was a hard practice and Mirage did indeed seem to be determined to run him into the ground.
Mirage: Okay, let's take a break.
Jaze immediately dropped to the ground and lay flat on his back. As uncomfortably hard as the stone was on his head, it was far preferable to the extreme workout that Mirage was putting him through.
Jaze: I'll take any break I can get.
Mirage: You're getting better. It's critical that you learn the basics and make them second nature, so you don't even have to think about them anymore. I think you have that.
Jaze: Why is this so important anyway? Nobody has tried to invade us or anything since I've been here. I really don't get the impression that we're under constant threat or anything.
Mirage: Constant threat? No, but it has been known to happen, I'm told. We have to be prepared for anything! You need to be worried about your trials coming up and it's time I told you a little about them.
Jaze: Trials? What trials?
Mirage: You are my second in command now, so you will have to pass three trials to prove yourself. Normally, it's two, but you're a special case, so you have three.
Jaze: Why am I so special?
Mirage: You'll find out. I can't tell you much about the first trial. I can't even guarantee it will be the first. I don't know when it's going to happen any more than you do. I just know it's coming. I can tell you this. Remember to keep a cool head, because I can guarantee, your opponent will not have one.
Jaze: So it's a duel?
Mirage: It is. For the second trial, you'll be with me and we're going to have a mock battle with another species here at the compound. As for the third...
Mirage looked up, past Jaze to somewhere farther away in the compound.
Mirage: It looks like I'll have to tell you later. Here comes your first trial now.
Jaze lifted his head and looked in the same direction Mirage was and it was instantly apparent what he was referring to.
Pestilence charged at him with his sword, a real one, held high over his head.
Before he could utter another word, Pestilence was already upon him. Jaze raised his foot and kicked Pestilence in the chest before he could bring his sword down onto his head. Pestilence tumbled away and Jaze hurtled backwards from the impact. Jaze grabbed his wooden sword, the only weapon he had.
He had little time to prepare himself, for Pestilence had already recovered and was making another wild charge. As he lunged with his sword, Jaze ducked down and to the side, swinging his wooden sword into Pestilence's chest. Pestilence stumbled as he swung and missed and Jaze's sword caught him in the ribs. Immediately, he turned around and faced Jaze again.
Pestilence: YOU TOOK EVERYTHING FROM ME!!!
Pestilence charged at Jaze yet again, swinging his sword wildly. With the initial shock worn off, Jaze saw this as an easy fight. None of Pestilence's actions had any strategy behind them. Everything he did was pathetically predictable. Jaze backpedaled, dodging each one of Pestilence's swings with aplomb. Once Pestilence overcommitted himself yet again in an attack, Jaze simply stepped out of his way, sending Pestilence staggering off his balance behind him yet again.
Pestilence: FIGHT ME, COWARD!!!
An absurd statement, Jaze thought, as though a blunt, wooden practice sword was in any way fair against Pestilence's real one.
Pestilence began his third ridiculous charge and Jaze decided he'd had enough. In between the ineffectual swings, Jaze swung his wooden sword up and caught Pestilence on the chin. With Pestilence once again off his balance and this time, within range of another strike, he brought his sword down hard on Pestilence's knuckles. His grip on his sword now loosened, Jaze reached for the hilt and wrenched it from his hands. Immediately thereafter, he thrust his knee into Pestilence's gut and then shoved him down to the ground.
Pestilence rolled over quickly, ready to continue the fight even without his sword, but as soon as he turned over, he was immediately confronted by the point of his own sword a mere inches from his face. For several moments, the two remained locked in a steely gaze.
Jaze: Go! And don't bug me again!
Pestilence skittered backwards, almost comically, on all fours until he was well outside the range of Jaze's sword, before he jumped up and ran back to the compound.
Mirage: Two trials left.
All city pictures from SimCity 4