Chapter Seven—First Year: The Fight!
“Okay, Cali. I want you to be careful. I know
how good you are, but you're still giving up something like one hundred and twenty pounds and ten inches of reach. At least. This young man is good. He's the best fighter the Marine Corps has produced this year and traditionally they do produce the best fighters.” Tom smiled at Cali's frown. “I know you think Gator got robbed of the title. I don't know whether the blow was low or not. It doesn't matter. The truth is Gator would have lost the bout. That's why he wasn't upset about the hit. Now can you fight this jarhead without letting emotion get in the way?”
“Yes, Captain Billings.”
“Good. He's going to try to use his weight against you. Remember his background is Shotokan and Judo. So expect a mix of holds and hard blows. There'll be some soft blows as well, but he'll use mostly hard, trying to go for a knockout. Don't
let him hit you. One punch and you're toast. If you do take a hit, stay down. You could really get hurt. Do you understand everything so far?”
Buffy knew she couldn't tell the captain that even if Cadet Wilson hit her twenty times, it wouldn't put her down. Sometimes, she really hated being 'secret identity' gal. “Yes, sir!”
“Okay, looks the that Marine colonel has rounded up an Army ref. Why don't you head on in.”
Jack watched as the smack walked up the ring, easily sliding between two rope to enter. She was really was extraordinarily graceful, he thought. If she were fighting a guy anywhere near her own weight range, Jack would back her in a minute. But he'd seen the bruiser she was fighting. Six feet, three inches tall and two hundred and twenty-three pounds, Cadet Wilson was every inch a Marine. He looked tough and dangerous. Jack had put $500 on Buffy, getting thirty-to-one odds, mostly because he was the only one other than Captain Billings betting on her. He didn't really care about losing the money, Jack just didn't want the girl injured. He planned to talk to her more after the bout, assuming she survived intact. They were always looking for more good people in the SGC. While Jack didn't know if her academic background qualified her, he was sure he could put in a good word. He laughed at himself. I'm getting way ahead of myself, he thought. There was every chance Buffy was planning to become a doctor or an engineer, and wanted nothing to do with traveling to exotic worlds.
Jack winced as he watched Cadet Wilson go through a quick kata to loosen up. Damn, he thought, that kid has some seriously quick hands for someone his size. Hopefully, Cali, would at least make a showing of it before losing. At least he hoped so. Jack didn't care so much about the money as he did about the Air Force's pride and about his smack's safety.
Buffy looked across the ring at her competitor. His form wasn't bad, but he focused too much on the showy styles: the flashy strikes and big throws. His size, speed, and strength let him get away with it. In some ways, he was like a vampire. Even the good ones tended to show off way too much, their ego getting in the way. Buffy on the other hand, knew ten different martial arts. First with Merrick, and later with Giles she had distilled down the various forms until she had the most pure and effective moves available. That was one of the things that made her truly dangerous. Sure, she was strong and fast, but what made her an effective fighter was the inherent ability to learn moves in one or two repetitions, moves that might take another days or even weeks. Giles had once said she had acquired the equivalent of a lifetime's worth of martial arts training in the past three years. Couple that with the daily fights to the death, and she had more practical experience in unarmed hand to hand combat than any other human alive. The only thing she had to worry about in this fight was trying not to win too easily or injure the jarhead.
“You ready, Smack?” Joe was feeling good. The girl still hadn't done anything to warm up, other than a little bit of some slow movements. It was probably Tai Chi, he guessed. He was going to have to take it easy on her. If he broke her, he might get in trouble. Colonel McNamara had cautioned him to go full speed, but half strength. Joe wasn't going to hit her as hard as he could, but he thought a mouthy bitch like her should be able to take at least a three quarters strength blow, especially if he kept it to the body. That probably wouldn't even break any of her ribs.
“Oh, I'm ready.” Buffy smiled at the Marine, white teeth showing.
Oh boy, I'm really going to enjoy this, Joe thought.
The Army referee, a Captain Collins, gave them a brief caution about low blows and obeying any signals from him. After that, he gestured to the timekeeper who rang the bell.
Buffy bowed to Wilson, taking care not to take her eyes off of him. She saw him do the same thing. She slowly circled him, staying high on her toes. She reminded herself to stay slow. Then she had to remind herself not to get kicked in the head as Wilson leaped high in the air, driving a spinning back kick at her. Buffy dropped low, kicking out at his anchor leg, but just missing. Okay, that wasn't Shotokan or judo, she thought with amusement. Buffy recognized Taekwondo. So, Joe was holding out on us, she thought wryly. Okay, maybe he was the best fighter here, she thought, avoiding a series of fast, hard blows. At least of anyone not a Slayer.
Buffy blocked a spinning backhand, then launched her first strike, moving just a little too fast for Joe to block. It was a simple jab to the nose, without too much strength behind it, and while it didn't hurt much, it did succeed in its goal: pissing one Joe Wilson off.
Joe blinked in astonishment. That little bitch had just popped him one right in the nose, hard enough to make his eyes water. And after she'd blocked or avoided three combinations that would have put anyone else here down. He fought back anger. Down that road lay defeat, or so his first instructor had always said. Of course, he thought absently, driving forward to try to pin the small girl against the ropes using his body weight and failing as she effortlessly danced away, his first instructor had never had to fight this damn smack! On top of that, Joe was aware that she could have easily tagged him again in the back of the head if this had been a real fight, and not just a match, while he had yet to hit her. Damn she was quick.
Buffy was enjoying herself. She'd danced around for a bit, then popped the marine one, and then danced some more. She was going to hit him again on his next attack, a little harder. She'd decided that the best strategy in dealing with Joe was to make him beat himself. Get him mad enough, and he'd charge her, allowing her to use his mass and momentum against him. That wouldn't give away any hints as to her abilities. Buffy dodged a flurry of kicks and blows, staying just a half-second ahead of each blow, before answering with another quick strike to Joe's nose with her left hand. Just to make him madder, she slapped him across the face with her right, a deliberate taunt. Not that any of the onlookers would be able to tell. To them, it would look like he'd dodged the second hit, robbing it of most of its force.
Jack sat up straighter. Cadet Summers was doing much better than he'd expected. She had either blocked or avoided everything the jarhead had thrown her way. Jack had winced at a couple of the blocks she'd taken. No doubt her arms would be black and blue tomorrow. For now though, while she hadn't really scored a point, she hadn't lost one either. Jack still thought that the combo he'd just seen should have been scored, but the officials obviously didn't agree. As he watched, the tempo of the match continued to increase. Joe Wilson was firing off a dizzying number of blows, obviously trying to score just once. Jack had to admire his strategy. Obviously the young man knew that it would only take one solid hit to take Cadet Summers down. Jack was really starting to worry. Then he blinked. Summers had just scored a point!
Buffy blocked each of the blows Joe tossed her way. She'd managed to do so without giving away how outclassed her opponent was, but it had been difficult. Then in the middle of a dazzling series of pure strikes, Joe had left himself wide open. Buffy couldn't resist and took the opening, driving a spinning back kick squarely into his jaw and taking him off his feet.
“Two points, Air Force!”
Buffy grinned and did her happy dance. I just scored two
points, she thought, grinning. She watched as Joe Wilson slowly climbed to his feet. Uh oh, he looked murderously angry. Well, I did want to piss him off, she mused. And it looks like I got my wish.
Joe was furious. He'd just gotten tagged like a rookie by a damn female smack! Nothing he did was going to let him live this one down. Except one thing. If he put that damn girl in the hospital. Envisioning her spitting out a mouthful of those oh so white teeth, Joe lunged forward, planning to pin her in the corner and pound her.
Buffy saw him coming and stepped back, moving around the ring. He left himself so open, she had two or three opportunities to put him down. She'd decided to taunt him though, and gave him a smirk around her mouthpiece. His eyes narrowed further at this and he sped up. Buffy was just about to pop him one, when the foot she was planting slid right out from under her!
Joe saw his opponent slip on the mat where he'd fallen. He'd gambled that no smack was going to have enough experience in the ring to know to avoid a wet patch like the one he'd left. As she went down, Joe lunged forward, driving a hard elbow into the girl's ribs, backed by all his weight. He felt the air go out of her with a loud grunt. Joe moved as the referee pulled him back.
“Minus two points, Marines! Foul! Four points total, Air Force.”
Joe didn't care at that point. Even if the girl got up, she wasn't going to be dancing anymore. He watched the ref bend over her, asking if she was all right. Joe watched her as she got to her feet, then moved forward ready to finish her off.
Jack clenched his fists. The little rat-bastard, he thought. The marine had deliberately fouled his girl as she lay on the mat after slipping in the sweat from his take down earlier. Jack had seen the force of the blow and wondered if she was going to be able to get up afterwards. He felt his own ribs twinge in sympathy. She'd probably be lucky to get out of it with just a couple of cracked ribs. Jack watched the referee bend over Summers, wondering if the he was going to stop the fight. Then Summers got up.
Buffy was pissed! She couldn't believe that damn Marine jarhead, ass-licking, shit-eating bastard! He'd hit her when she was down. Buffy could care less about the two extra points she'd gained. Joe Wilson was going down!
Smugly, Joe watched the girl slowly get up. She seemed to be favoring her right side. I wonder why, he mused, laughing inside. Oh right, I broke her damn ribs. Clenching his hands, he bounced on his toes as Summers came forward. Oh, so she's finally coming to me, he thought. If I'd known it was that easy, I'd have fouled her earlier.
Buffy slid forward, unaware of the hypnotic grace of her movements. Unaware of how the world had slowed around her. She'd forgotten her audience. She'd forgotten her earlier pledge to be careful. All she could see was the hateful face of the man who'd just hurt her. And she did hurt. She had at least a couple of cracked ribs. Joe had come down with all of his weight on the elbow strike he'd hit her with when she was extended out in a fall and vulnerable. If she'd been an normal person, she'd be spitting blood right now from a perforated lung. Luckily, Buffy thought, I'm not a normal person. As one Joe Wilson was about to find out.
Watching the blonde cross the mat towards him, Joe lost his cocky smile. There was something... deadly in the graceful way she stalked him. Nervously, he wondered where that thought had come from. Her eyes were cold and something almost... alien seemed to be peeking out at him. Dammit, he told himself, she's just a little girl. Go get her, Marine!
Buffy blocked the first of a series of spinning backfists as Joe took the fight to her. As the second came towards her head, she leaned down, feeling the breeze of the blow over her head. As his body turned towards her, Buffy leaned forward and drove three hard blows right into Joe's midsection. Joe grunted, trying to wrap her up in a clinch to protect himself, all thought of hitting her gone. Buffy stepped back before he could grab her. Slow down, slow down, she chanted. Willing herself to slow, Buffy watched the world as it seemed to speed up again around her. Even as the referee stepped forward to declare her the winner, based upon her scoring her fifth point, Buffy leaped into the air, driving the heel of her foot around until it impacted Joe Wilson's jaw! The hapless marine flipped head over heels, landing in a heap, out cold.
Only then was she aware of the sound of applause. Buffy looked around in astonishment. All of her teammates were there, howling and applauding, Captain Billings right there with them. But they weren't the only ones. The match had drawn quite a crowd. There were dozens of officers, of all ranks and services, each of them applauding wildly. Hesitantly, Buffy raised her hands over her head. The applause sharpened. Without even a backward glance at her fallen opponent, Buffy stepped through the ropes and into the welcoming arms of her team.