Chapter Sixteen—Buffy vs Carter
Colonel O'Neill's residence
Buffy finished with, “Túpac Amaru's death ended the Incan empire in 1572. Following that, the Incas ceased to be a civilization, instead devolving into loose collections of people, whose ethnic traditions can still be seen today in the Quechuas and Aymara people of modern Peru.”
The Colonel applauded. “Excellent job, Summers. I'll let you know what I think of the rest of your report next time we meet.”
Buffy nodded, thankful that she didn't have to do any more public speaking. After a shaky start, it had gone surprisingly well, especially in front of people she wasn't familiar with. Buffy hadn't wanted to let the Colonel down, so had done her best, which had been more than good enough. She focused back on the Colonel as he began to speak again.
“Anyone have any ideas for the rest of the day? It's a little cold for a walk, but we could head over to the park and work some of that BBQ off. Or I could light a fire and we could watch some TV. I think there's a hockey game on...”
Daniel darted in with, “We could discuss the book some more. Pax Romana
is a fascinating bit of literature. Did you know it tells some fascinating stories of a supernatural...”
Colonel O'Neill shook his head. “Uh uh, Daniel. The only person who would find that interesting would be you. And maybe Carter.” Buffy saw Major Carter give a small head shake that the Colonel also saw. “Make that just you. So we won't be doing that.”
The big guy spoke up next. “I have a suggestion, O'Neill.”
The Colonel gave him a quick look, then asked, “What's that, Murray?”
“I have long desired an opportunity to test the mettle of Buffy Summers in combat ever since hearing your story of her great victory. That would be most entertaining and should pass the time quickly.” Buffy could feel Murray's eyes on her for a moment. Ever since meeting his eyes in the kitchen, she had been hyper-aware of his gaze. Moodily, she decided it was probably a Slayer thing.
Looking up, Buffy saw Colonel O'Neill start to say something, then catch himself. After a second, he said, “I don't think that's the best idea. You are pretty good, Murray
, and I wouldn't want Cali to get hurt.”
Buffy didn't want to hear that. Did the Colonel actually think some overgrown escapee from a Kid Rock concert could take her down? Well, actually, he probably did, she thought. Murray was enormous. He had to weigh at least two hundred and eighty pounds, not an ounce of it fat. Add that to the effortless way he moved, and he was probably some bad ass fighter. And Buffy would only be able to use a small percentage of her physical abilities if she sparred with him. Not that the Colonel seemed likely to even let her try...
Sam heard everything said with interest. She was pretty happy that Jack had nixed Daniel's idea. She would have been okay with watching a hockey game, but it would have bored Daniel to tears, just as his idea would have bored everyone else to tears. She actually thought Teal'c had the best idea so far. However, Jack didn't seem to be giving it a chance. She decided to intervene.
“Sir, I have a suggestion.” Sam watched amused as Jack made a shooing motion towards her. She just stood there patiently.
Finally, he said, “I know I'm going to regret this. Carter, what is it?”
“How about I spar with Cali? I'll be careful with her. Then if everyone thinks it's safe, she and uh, Murray could do a little sparring. Would that satisfy you?” Sam carefully kept her expression neutral. Any hint of triumph would just make Jack dig in his heels. And Sam really wanted to see just how good this girl was. Jack had raved about her several times during staff meetings to the point he'd bored everyone but himself and Teal'c.
Sam knew just how good she, herself, was. She had a black belt and a lot of practical experience in hand-to-hand combat, several times taking down men larger and stronger than herself. Cali, while probably quite good, certainly lacked any practical experience, not to mention she gave up six inches and forty pounds to Sam. Sam would be careful to not embarrass the girl.
Jack eyed her with an odd expression on his face. “Do I understand you correctly, Carter? You want to spar with my cadet?”
“Yes, sir. It should be educational.”
Sam didn't like the gleam in Jack's eye just then. It too closely resembled the look he got when he was about to pull something nasty over a Goa'uld. “I agree with you, Major. It will be quite educational. All right, I think that's a grand idea. Let's give Summers a few minutes for her food to settle, then we'll head outside. If that's fine with you, Cadet?”
Cali smiled and stated, “Sir, that would probably be a good idea. I am so full that I thought I was about to burst earlier. I don't suppose you have any video games, do you?”
Jack grinned. “Well, I might just have something like that. Let's go kill some alien invaders, folks, then we'll see how Carter stacks up against the Zoo's best.” With that, he led the way into the game room.
Sam slowly followed, thinking carefully of what she had just seen. It wasn't like Jack to back someone who wasn't a member of his team. But if he really thought Cali was that good, he might. Sam wondered exactly what she was getting herself into...
Buffy stood facing Major Carter in the Colonel's back yard. It was closer to two hours later than one, since she and the Colonel had needed a couple of final death matches to determine the Mario Kart champion. Unfortunately, Colonel O'Neill had won, raising his hands in triumph to the amusement of Buffy and his other guests. Now it was sparring time.
Buffy surveyed the back yard. It was plenty spacious, with a few trees and bushes here and there. Fortunately, here by the house there wasn't much snow and the footing was good. Buffy had carefully walked around testing it. No slips here, she thought, a ghost of a smile touching her lips as she thought about her match with Joe Wilson those many months ago.
Buffy thought about the coming matches. At first, she hadn't wanted to spar with Murray, realizing that she would need to hold back or risk injuring him, something that might be difficult to do, depending on just how good he was. From the way the Colonel acted, he must be extremely good. Add to that the way he gave her the wiggins, especially since their exchange of looks in the kitchen, and Buffy had been ready to avoid him completely. However, she'd changed her mind. Buffy was confident that she could take Murray down and keep her secret safe.
Major Carter, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. Somehow, Buffy didn't think the Major had anything against her. She was probably just used to being the best woman around, and playing with equal standing against the boys. Plus there had been some subtext between her and the Colonel. Buffy wasn't sure what it was, but she wondered if there was some friction because of Article 134. She hoped not because she rather liked the idea of the Colonel dating her mom.
Still, despite all that, Buffy had been less than happy with the way that the Major had assumed that it would be Buffy who lost to her. She seriously doubted Major Carter was any better than Joe Wilson had been, at least not substantially so. But the Major had actually had the gall to say that she would “be careful” with Buffy. That attitude was going to change...
Sam limbered up, glad that she had worn fatigues today. Her first instinct had been to get dressed up for the BBQ. Sam had had to take a moment and examine her motives before she was able to pinpoint exactly why. Finally, she decided that it had something to do with finding out that Jack had gone out on a date with Cali's mother. Technically, two dates, since they'd apparently had an off-the-cuff dinner the night after Christmas. It embarrassed her when she realized she was jealous.
Sam knew that any relationship with Jack was forbidden by their presence in the same chain of command. Additionally, neither wanted a transfer to another command partially because of just how important their work was, and partially because they truly enjoyed
their work. So a while back, Sam had put her feelings towards Jack in a cupboard and carefully locked them away. She'd even thrown away the key and had succeeded in forgetting about them.
At least Sam had thought she had. Until Jack became involved with Cali. That had bothered Carter a little, but she hadn't given any thought to why that was. Heavens, she liked the girl, after all. But when Jack dated Cali's mother, Joyce, Sam was no longer able to pretend there wasn't something bothering her.
Sam carefully considered her actions so far today. She wanted to make sure that sparring with Cali wasn't another jealous reaction to the interest and pride Jack had for the girl. With a sense of relief, she realized that wasn't the problem. Then Sam almost grimaced as she realized the reason she was doing so was just as bad, although not involving a certain Air Force colonel.
Sam had always been at the top of anything she engaged in. Intellectually, she had few rivals. She was
brilliant. But still, she'd pushed herself to excel in other fields as well, especially physical ones. She'd finished number one in her class both in her grades and on her physical performance. She had slipped to second on her military performance, but it still had been more than enough to give her the number one overall position in her class. Sam realized that she had wanted to test herself against Cali for some time now because of just how good Jack boasted she was. And now she had her chance.
Finished limbering up, Sam took a second to watch Cali as she glided gracefully through a slow motion kata of some kind. After a moment, Sam recognized Tai Chi, an eastern art of exercise and meditation. Wow, she thought, Cali's good at that. The slow, graceful movements were almost hypnotic. For a moment, Sam wondered if she had made a mistake...
As Buffy completed Step Up to Seven Stars
, one of the last Tai Chi katas, she decided that was enough of a warm up. Facing Major Carter, she waited for the Colonel's signal to start. Smiling easily, the Colonel said, “Okay, we're not here to kill anybody. No eye-gouging, low blows, or other fouls.” He grinned at his own cleverness.
Buffy almost grinned with him, but the look of concentration on the Major's face kept her serious. The Colonel finished with, “Be careful, ladies and begin at my signal.” He gave each of them a quick searching look, then said, “Bow.” Both Buffy and the Major bowed to each other. His hand flashed down between them. “Begin.”
Buffy fell easily into a stance, waiting for the Major's first move. She didn't have to wait long. A flashing kick seemingly came out of nowhere, which Buffy carefully slapped aside, throwing the Major into an awkward stumble. Buffy had absolutely no intention of attacking the Major. That way lay badness. She'd be content to just block stuff. At some point, she might do a throw or two, possibly flipping the Major over to where the deeper snow had piled up against the fence. The last thing Buffy needed to do was embarrass a superior officer, even one as nice as Major Carter. She'd had it drilled into her head by other cadets how much of a mistake that would be. Buffy concentrated on that idea as she continued to block blows.
It turned out the Major was good. Very good, really. Better than Wilson had been, and far smarter and more experienced. She was at least a black belt in Judo and had quite a bit of Jujitsu and Aikido experience. She was definitely as good as Captain Billings. But therein lay the problem. The Captain had been good enough to stay with Buffy while she was going slow. However, as soon as she got distracted, Buffy had knocked him into next Tuesday. She worked on staying focused so as to prevent a repeat of that fiasco. In the meantime, she continued to evaluate Major Carter's form.
Her kicks were excellent, just slightly off-center, as were her strikes. Actually, the more Buffy sparred with her, the more she realized that the culprit was the Major's stance. She was using a modified migi-shizentai stance, which left her a bit too extended to the right. Then the Major tried an uchimata throw, attempting to use her greater height and weight to toss Buffy. Unfortunately for the Major, it required that she get Buffy to commit her balance to the front. Since Buffy was being for the most part defensive, it was ineffective. Additionally, Buffy was careful to keep Major Carter from getting one of her feet between Buffy's, which was the beginning of the blow. Buffy was so concentrated on stopping that particular move, that she almost fell prey to a Tai otoshi throw. But again, the Major had no forward momentum to work with and Buffy once again blocked the attack.
Buffy could tell Major Carter was getting frustrated. Whether it was with her own inability to land anything or because Buffy wasn't attacking her in turn, she didn't know. Still, it was obvious that Buffy needed to figure out a way to end this. Possibly with a submission hold. That would be safe. Then Buffy saw her chance.
As Major Carter abandoned throws and locks in favor of throwing a hard strike with her right hand, Buffy slapped the Major's arm hard with her right hand, driving her arm further to Buffy's left, out of line with her body, and putting the Major slightly off-balance. In the meantime, Buffy stepped into the Major's body on her right side, circling behind her, and bringing her right arm across the Major's chin, high enough to avoid a choke hold, since the last thing she wanted was to strangle one of the Colonel's friends. With her left hand, Buffy caught two fingers of the Major's left hand as she flailed at Buffy, and twisted them backwards. As Major Carter realized what had happened, she tried several different tricks to get the holds released, with Buffy countering them all. Finally, she tapped Buffy arm with her right hand, signaling to be released...
Sam stepped away from her opponent, hoping the color on her face could be attributed to exertion, rather than embarrassment. Because she was
embarrassed. Sam realized that she should never have stepped in the 'ring' with Cali. She had been completely outclassed. As good as Sam considered herself, the girl, who had been so careful not to hurt her, was light years better.
It had taken Sam a couple of minutes to realize that Cali wasn't going to attack her. Most likely that was because of Sam's rank, but it had to be at least partially because she didn't believe Sam could stand up to a hit from her. As the fight had progressed, Sam had started to feel a great deal of frustration. No one
was so good they couldn't be hit, with the possible exception of Teal'c. But then again, Sam had been holding back a little, worried about going all out in what was, after all, a friendly match. However, Sam had seen what she thought was an opportunity and had dropped her softer attacks in favor of a lightning fast strike to Cali's face. If it had landed, they would probably still be trying to revive her. Not that it had even come close to landing.
Carter truly became aware of just what a tactical mistake she'd made in challenging Cali when she was knocked off-balance by the young cadet after attempting that hard strike. Not far off balance, but far enough that Sam had been unable to rotate with Cali as she slid behind Sam's back on her right side. Sam had felt the lightest breeze from Cali's breath in her ear, then an arm seemingly made from rebar had come across Sam's chin, immobilizing her.
The disbelief that Sam had felt over how easily she had been locked up had only increased as she realized that the girl was being careful not to put her under a choke hold. Sam had at least been glad that she would be able to break free easily enough since you couldn't really keep someone under a hold like that since there wasn't enough leverage. Except it hadn't worked like that. When Sam had reach back with her left hand to grab Cali's arm and break the hold, Cali had responded by grabbing Sam's first two fingers in her fist and bending them back, making it impractical to resist further. In a life or death situation, Sam might have been tempted to throw her body forward, which would have broken Cali's grip at the same time as it dislocated Sam's fingers. However, with the only thing on the line being Sam's pride, she wasn't going that route. So she had tried a couple of less damaging things. When those had failed, she'd tapped out and had been released.
After the match ended, Sam had caught the briefly apprehensive look on Cali's face before she hid it from view. It amused Sam. She probably thinks I'm going to hold a grudge, Sam thought. Well, she might not have gotten into the fight for the right reasons, but Sam was a gracious loser.
“Cali, that was amazing. I take back everything I ever said to the Colonel. You are every bit as good as he said.” There, now Jack can't say I'm not supporting his smack, Sam thought smugly.
It was Cali's turn to blush. “Thank you, ma'am.”
Sam smiled. “I want you to show me that last move you did.”
Cali stiffened. “Permission to speak freely, ma'am?”
Sam stilled. “Certainly, Cali. Go ahead.”
With careful courtesy, Cali began, “Ma'am, you're focusing on the wrong thing by wanting me to show you how I subdued you. The reason I was able to get the better of you so easily was because of your stance and attacks.”
Sam raised her eyebrows in interrogation. “Really? Go on, please.”
Looking relieved that she hadn't been stepped on, Cali said, “Your stance is slightly off-balance. Not much, and I doubt it has affected you a great deal, but it's there. And your attacks seem to be intended for a much taller person, almost certainly a man. Your first instructor was a man, correct, ma'am?”
Sam nodded. “Yes, but that was actually well before BCT, when I was high school. How did you know?” It was interesting that Cali had figured that out just by analyzing Sam's style. Sam hadn't expected someone so young to be able to make those judgments.
“Ma'am, most people seem to think that stances, strikes, and other moves of the various arts are set and written in stone. That they are one size fits all and intended for everyone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Conventional teachings emphasize these points after shodan and even into nidan or sometimes sandan. It's only after that point, you begin to learn what martial arts are really about. That every single person has their own stance, their own strikes, completely unique to them.”
Carter stared. “Cali, just what dan rank do you have?” After the way she'd been handled, if Cali was any less than a nanadan, Sam would be surprised.
Cali looked thoughtful. “Well, I don't really know, ma'am. Not officially, anyway. I've never been tested by a master of any of the various schools. Unofficially, Giles never really placed that much emphasis on belts. He did train me in everything from Wing Chun to Taekwondo to Shotokan karate, ma'am.”
Jack had gotten up from where he was sitting on his back porch. “You don't have any
belts, Summers? In any of those different disciplines?”
She shook her head. “No, sir.”
Sam's brow wrinkled in thought as she contemplated what Cali had said. “I have heard something about the philosophy you brought up. That everyone has their own unique type of martial arts. Why exactly do you think that people are taught the way they are?” She had already arrived at a theory and was trying to see if Summers had the same one. Sam waited to see what Cali came up with.
Cali shrugged, then said, “Ma'am, the answer is that because of just how close to impossible it is to teach a student the true path until they've developed the tremendous self-mastery necessary to travel down it. That does not typically happen until they reach those belts. I could demonstrate a proper stance for you if you would like, ma'am.”
Amused by Cali's use of one of the seven responses, Carter acquiesced. “Please, Cali.”
Cali moved Sam around until she was in the exact position Cali wanted her in. The resulting stance felt slightly awkward to Sam, as her muscles tried to adjust to it. Sam could tell that if she stayed in it too long she'd be a little sore tomorrow. Still, it felt interesting, as if her body was just slightly more balanced.
“How does that feel, ma'am?”
“Slightly awkward. But I imagine it's going to take a while to get used to it.”
“Yes, ma'am. It is all about muscle memory after all. Try an uchimata throw from this position, ma'am.” Cali lined herself up again Sam for her to practice on.
Sam gripped Cali solidly and did the throw. The stance made it that much easier to slide her foot between Cali's and pivot her body, throwing the light cadet easily. Actually... it felt really good. Sam was unable to get back into the stance afterwards and Cali had to show her again and again before she was able to reliably resume it after a strike or throw. Finally, Sam tired of it.
“That's enough for me. Colonel?”
The man in question held up his hands in a stopping gesture. “Not me, Carter. I'm too old to learn new tricks. Daniel?”
Daniel shook his head. “I'll stick to hiding behind you guys when danger threatens.”
Sam realized that Daniel didn't realize what he'd said. However, Cali did. “Sir, you get a lot of danger up there in Deep Space Radar Telemetry? You know, you never did say what your specialty was.”
Daniel opened and closed his mouth like a fish for a second, before Jack rescued him. “Oh, all kinds. The food fights in the cafeteria are particularly fierce. They even scare me. And Danny here is a doctor of monotony. You'd realize that if I had let him talk about that book.”
Cali grinned. “I'm sure they do not scare you, sir.”
Sam noticed that Cali wisely did not comment on what Jack had said about Daniel's specialty. Sam was glad since it meant that she didn't have to try to figure out another cover story. She reminded herself to talk to Daniel about spending too much time with Cali. He sometimes had too much of a tendency to speak before thinking when he got excited.
“All right, kids. It's been fun, but it's time to head in...” Jack said, before being interrupted by Teal'c, who wore an expression of fierce concentration on his face.
“O'Neill, I have not had my chance to challenge the young warrior.”
Jack looked nonplussed. “Well, Murray, it's getting late. I wouldn't want for Cali to turn into a pumpkin.”
Teal'c looked unhappy. Then Cali said, “I'll spar with him, sir. It'll be fun...”