Masochism Tango

“By the sacred chalice, who let the Death Kitten back on campus?”

The cadets who recognized the voice of Lieutenant Commander Enwin Ilyad, the first year ethics professor, immediately straightened to attention in the semi circle they stood around the edges of the courtyard. In the middle, the two red heads in uniform continued almost as if they didn’t notice — Amelia Waterhouse in a cadet uniform, and Diziara in the red of the command division. Metal echoed through the small space as bat’leth struck bat’leth and the two women grinned at each other between the V of their blades.

“I even checked in all official like,” came the reply from Diziara as she twisted her torso just a little to show off the visitor badge that was near her combadge. She and Amelia drew apart, circling each other and twisting their blades as both considered their next attack. “Just visiting my daughter while Corey deals with the tin plates at HQ.” A couple of cadets attempted to stifle laughter.

As she half turned her attention to Ilyad, Amelia lunged at her, and metal echoed through the courtyard again. Mother deflected daughter’s attack with grace and winked at the crowd, only to get a secondary attack for which her defense was much less graceful.

“Quit showboating, Mama.” Amelia grumbled as the two women circled again.

“We have an audience child.”

Indeed, the bat’leth duel quickly amassed a collection of curious Starfleet Academy cadets. Perhaps it was the uniqueness of the weapon; or its lethality, or the difficulty involved in wielding it properly. Maybe it was the reality that one of the combatants could be seriously hurt in the process. For the sophomore Intelligence-track cadet named Caterina Lena Edanza, it was both the brazen rule breaking and the morbid thrill of real danger that had drawn her in. The fact that Lieutenant Commander Enwin Ilyad was put off by it was an added benefit for Kate. Good God did she hate his class last year.

“An audience who wants to see us show them how to use a bat’leth correctly,” Amelia replied. She closed the space between them again, backing her mother towards their audience, and sending cadets scrambling out of the way.

“A visitor’s pass doesn’t cover bat’leth fights in courtyards, Commander,” Ilyad spoke up, though he stood watching the progress as Diziara counter attacked and pressed Amelia back across the courtyard in turn.

“The weather is too nice to stay in the gym, and it’s been too long since I last did this in Golden Gate Park, I don’t know the security patrols anymore,” Diziara dismissed, trying to sweep Amelia’s feet out from under her. Amelia only just evaded and countered with a strike that sent Diziara’s bat’leth clattering to the pavement. Amelia’s boot landed on top of her mother’s blade as she braced her own along the length of her arm.

Kate’s expression twisted into an approving smile. Although Amelia was in her class, the two hadn’t interacted much before that point. Nonetheless, Amelia did stand out in a crowd. Her academic gifts and combat ability were hard to miss. On top of all that, the tall, upbeat Amelia sported an attractive, exotic look from her mixed heritage. Intrigued, Kate crossed her arms and waited to see what would happen next.

“We can take it back to the gym, or find somewhere off Academy grounds to continue, sir,” Amelia offered with a smile. Diziara directed a sidelong look at her daughter as she stooped down to collect the discarded weapon. Amelia’s grin widened as she lifted her boot to allow Diziara to take it.

“Sometimes you are too much like your father, child,” Diziara quipped, resting her bat’leth along the length of her arm as well.

Ilyad sighed and shook his head. “As long as no one gets hurt, you may continue. But if anyone gets hurt.” He directed a pointed look at Diziara, and she directed the widest of smiles at him in return.

“You’ll rat me out to my husband and let him deal with me.” She laughed, and Amelia bit her lip to keep from laughing herself. Ilyad shook his head and walked away.

Kate turned her head to watch Lieutenant Commander Ilyad walk away, the 19-year old’s raven-haired ponytail casually moving across her shoulders in the process. Interesting family, she thought to herself as the banter continued. It was then that she noticed the medical cadet to her side. She guessed his nervousness stemmed from being the only medical person in the immediate vicinity, based on the uniforms everyone was wearing. It seemed he was afraid he might be called upon to help if one of them did get hurt.

“Relax, kid,” Kate commented to the freshman, just loud enough for him to hear. “It looks like they’ve been practicing this for years. It’ll be fine,” she added nonchalantly with a smirk. “But… have you ever seen someone hit by one of those things?” she added, trying to knock the nervous cadet off-kilter. “Man… it isn’t pretty. Talk about gore…”

“Okay, now that the killjoy is gone again, who wants to try?” Diziara paced in front of her audience and her eyes skimmed the group. Some cadets moved to put others between them and the senior officer who had the look of a lioness on the hunt. She raised her finger, moving it around following her eyes. “You. What’s your name?” The cadets surrounding Kate parted as if repelled by magnets and left her in Diziara’s sharp gaze and her finger pointed straight at her.

The look on Kate’s face was nothing short of thrilled. “Oh… I am so down,” she said in a low tone that was reminiscent of panther’s purr. She stepped up without even a hint of hesitation and offered Diziara her hand to shake.

“Cadet Caterina Edanza,” she said by way of introduction. “But everyone calls me Kate. I’ve seen you around, Amelia, but I don’t think we’ve been introduced,” she added, then shaking Amelia’s hand firmly. “So! Where do we start?” she asked in an almost chipper tone. “Pointy edges out, I’d guess?” she asked rhetorically, extending her arm for one of the lethal devices as if it were a child’s toy.

Diziara laughed, and held her blade out with the handle pointed towards Kate. “That’s generally the best starting position. Handle with the darker leather goes in your right hand. Amelia, come here and be a good practice dummy.”

“You want a dummy, grab Lunz. He’ll stand quivering behind the blade, rooted to the spot, no matter what Edanza does.” Amelia winked at Kate. “But I can go easy on her until she gets a feel for it, if that’s what you really mean, mother.”

Kate took hold of the weapon as indicated, which she found to be a bit lighter than expected. She guessed that the weight would make it a very fast weapon in the hands of an expert user.

She smiled as she got used to the grip and the feel of it in her hands. “You don’t need to go easy on me,” Kate eventually replied back to Amelia without taking her eyes off of the weapon. “Just don’t kill me. There’s too much paperwork involved,” she quipped dryly, without too much apparent concern.

With that, Kate did her best to emulate the stance she had seen the other women using moments before. Her experience with kickboxing led her to place her feet a bit too close together, but nonetheless her stance was powerful, athletic and had some bounce to it, as if she was ready to pounce. A knowing smile stretched from ear to ear, and her ponytail hung forward as she waited for her first instruction.

“Lay it on me, Cadet. I’m ready,” she dared her classmate.

“I have half a mind to tell you to plant her on her ass already,” Diziara muttered softly to Amelia as she circled around behind her. “Kate, was it? While you don’t seem the sort to wait in the shallow end of the pool, on account of my having to pretend to be a respectable officer here–” Diziara paused dramatically, and laughter spilled among the audience– “I am obligated to start you with the basics. So, blocking — it is best to hold the blade with both hands, and try to turn it perpendicular to the attacking blade. If possible, try to angle it to deflect the blow away from your body.”

As Diziara spoke, Amelia slowly swung her blade towards Kate, anticipating she would raise hers to meet it.

Kate grasped the blade as directed and raised it very rapidly, meeting Amelia’s at a ninety-degree angle. The sound of metal on metal rang through the courtyard. A half-smile escaped Kate’s lips. She smiled not because she thought this was going to be easy… but because this was going to be fun.

“Oooh, Mommy like…” Kate muttered to herself as her eyes locked with Amelia’s. The blade felt strangely familiar in her hands, perhaps because of the ergonomic placement of the handles relative to the blades. She momentarily flashed back to memories of fencing training she had to undergo at boarding school, and how much she disliked it. She hoped this martial art was less wrapped up in form and protocol and more slashy and stabby.

“Do we follow anything like right-of-way, like in terran fencing? Do I need to attack now?” Kate went on to ask with a curious expression and a twinkle in her eye, as if she really wanted to. She couldn’t think of a single thing she would rather be doing right at that moment other than tangle with Amelia with lethal weapons.

Amelia and Diziara both laughed in unison.

“You think Klingons follow dainty little gentleman’s rules when it comes to combat?” Diziara clicked her tongue and shook her head.

“Fencing is a bunch of pretentious gits playing with metal toothpicks. A game.” Amelia twisted her blade, pushing Kate’s away before she swung again — she moved faster than last time, but it was clear she was still holding back as she waited to see if her classmate would block.

Their blades clashed together with another, even louder clang!

“Agreed,” Kate replied, still smiling devilishly. “I hated fencing. I’m loving this!”

Kate decided it was her turn to take a swing. Oblivious as she was to proper form or technique, she decided to try keep their weapons engaged at one end and swing the other end up from below as a kind of sneak attack. Her move was clumsy and unpracticed, yet aggressive and rapid. The look in her eye as she attempted to slash her classmate was one of sheer thrill.

Amelia countered with her blade angled to deflect Kate’s swing up and away as she pirouetted to the opposite side. As she moved past Kate, turning as she moved to keep her eyes on her opponent, she swung her bat’leth around and the flat of it caught Kate across her backside as Amelia giggled.

Kate jumped from the unexpected contact to her backside. That wasn’t a move you ever saw in kickboxing! She was so surprised that she was forced to let out a startled sound and jump, turning bright red in the process.

“Oh… so that’s how it’s going to be?” she asked as several of the onlookers began to giggle. Kate was smiling and giggling right along with them as she charged. Clumsily, but with great enthusiasm, Kate dove forwards with her blade extended in front of her, as if she was looking to land a serious strike.

Blade met blade with a loud clang, and Amelia stepped in close with a grin ear to ear.

“You said not to go easy on you,” Amelia quipped, then lowered her voice, “which is practically an invitation to flirt.” She winked as she pushed Kate back with her full strength — a strength one would not expect from such a wispy frame were it not for the infusion of Klingon genetics.

“Funny you should say that,” Kate quipped back between breaths. “This is how all my dates usually end…”

Immediately after that statement Kate ratcheted the weapon up over her head and swung downwards with tremendous force. The swing was inelegant, but did have the benefit of brute force. The clang of the weapons when they met was deafening, sending sparks flying in all directions. Kate immediately wondered if she chipped the blade in the wild attack. Suddenly feeling guilty, she raised one hand and stepped back. Once out of striking range she examined the borrowed weapon for chips or rolls on the blade.

“I’m sorry, I may have banged it up a little. Did this one have sentimental value?” she asked as she carefully felt the edge with the side of her finger. “I’m sorry if so…” she added with a note of remorse.

“It’s a weapon, it’s meant to be used. It can always be sharpened and repaired,” Diziara explained with a chuckle. “Besides, my favorite weapon is this one–” She lifted her right leg, and nudged the cuff of her uniform up past the top of her boot to draw a d’k tahg from the sheath tucked there.

“I thought your favorite was a broken beer bottle in a bar, Mama.” Amelia grinned wide as her mother directed a look at her. “At least, that’s how Uncle Jack tells it…”

“This one’s legal in Federation space, child.” Diziara tucked the blade back where she’d drawn it from.

“My mistake, I forgot you have to pretend you care about legality since you’re in front of all these impressionable young cadets.” Snickers moved through the audience, and Diziara shook her head.

“Remind me to put you in your place later when we don’t have an audience.”

“You can try.” Amelia’s face was covered with a shit eater grin, and Diziara rolled her eyes as she turned back to Kate.

“I’m sure the bat’leth is fine, may I see it?” Diziara held out her hand.

Kate, wide eyed and winded, moved a strand of hair that had been dangling in front of an eye behind her ear and smiled. “Yes ma’am,” she said softly, feeling somewhat self-conscious about all the eyes on them at that moment. She handed the weapon to the Commander and took a step back, placing her hands behind her back. “It is an excellent weapon, thank you for letting me spar with it,” she said, her eyes darting from Diziara to Amelia. Her glance seemed to linger on Amelia a bit longer than they should have before blinking and flashing the younger woman a mischievous smile.

“We need to do this again, I think,” she said to Amelia with a subtle wink.

Diziara looked between Amelia and Kate a moment and the corner of her lips quirked upward as she inspected the bat’leth silently. “I can push an update to Don’t Forget the Anchovies to add bat’leth training, if you want to help Kate further familiarize herself,” Diziara directed at Amelia, before turning her attention to Kate again. “Nothing a little sharpening won’t fix, certainly no worse than I have done to it when sparring with this hellion here.” Diziara grinned at Amelia, and Amelia returned the grin in kind.

“That sounds great, “Kate said with pursed lips and a barely contained, flirty smile. “I look forward to getting better at sparring with you, Amelia.”