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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Fight for the Right 

The bit more than two weeks went past. Plans were made and changed and reformatted and all the while Zaria, Galatia and their friends trained. Each day brought them more strength and surety with their young bodies. Zaria had confided in the girls what they were planning on doing. The girls were at once thrilled to be working with the legendary heroes and somewhat apprehensive of what lie in wait inside the Castle. 

Harmony had also been put in the loop hence their practice now centered on listening and anticipating. She was determined that these girls would work as a team using unspoken commands and instinct.  

Eventually it was announced that thirty-two students would be chosen to assist with the retrieval of Hope and Amy. It was no secret that the bodies had been lost inside the Castle along with the bodies of twenty-five Marines and they had determined that their attempt at recovery shouldn’t be a secret either. This decision had been made based upon several factors but the biggest reason had been simple; if their expedition disturbed Alti enough to make her suddenly reemerge, they didn’t want to catch the Family off guard. It was better if everyone knew that someone was haphazardly poking a stick into Alti’s bee hive.

They made choosing the student participants simple. A simple contest of staffs was initiated. Seven winners would be chosen from each of the top four pre military grades and the last four would be chosen personally by the Sisters, one from each class.

The Martian school system was set up slightly differently than that of Earth. Children went through thirteen years of regular schooling. When they had completed their regular schooling, they all served in the Marines or in the Amazon Marines in the general infantry for two years before they were allowed to choose a career field and either go to College or simply go to work. Those that chose to stay in the Marines were given the opportunity to move to another career field within the Marines at that time. Children were not considered to be adults until they had completed this fifteen year schooling cycle. There was no such thing as graduating early. Exceptionally gifted children were simply challenged harder so that their full potential might be reached. Mars had no truly slow children. Those that displayed less aptitude for some things were simply given other things to do.

They had no child obesity problems; they had no diseases such as ADD in children or adults and they had no problems with anti-patriotism. Their children were strong willed, confident and proud at the same time, they were also polite and respectful. Mars was no utopia it had its problems but they were not caused by weak family units or lack of education.

So it was that the contests began. Everyone was eligible and of course everyone wanted to go. Classes were suspended until the winners were chosen.

Even at the onset of the games many were surprised that Zaria and Galatia and their friends were making short work of their opponents. They had trained very hard in the past few weeks and they wanted it worse than anyone else. Zaria and Galatia could not lose; if they did the Sisters would have a heck of a time explaining why they were coming anyway. So they fought with an abandon that scared many of their opponents. The competition became fiercer the closer that they came to the top of the pile. But the girls fought hard and at the end of each school day they trained hard. Harmony was careful not to tire them out. They needed their rest and strength. But she drove them as hard and as much as she could.

The mothers of the girls all came together and worked out an eating and sleeping plan that accommodated their training. And each night Galatia slept with Zaria. They did nothing but sleep after a few long kisses but they slept peacefully and awoke each morning refreshed.

Finally their class of three hundred and seventy-nine had been whittled down to only fourteen contestants. Six of those contestants were Zaria, Galatia and their friends. They had made it this far on mostly desire alone. Now they faced six of the very best staff fighters in the school.

Because these last fights were so important each one would be fought individually. The winner of each fight would go to Uranus with Queen Faith, Solace, Dura and the Marines. And it had been rumored that the Sisters would also be journeying to Uranus to help recover their sister’s body.

The contestants drew numbers from a hat to determine who they would fight and in what order in which they would fight. First up, Ediva would fight a boy that towered above her by nearly a foot by the name of Shane. Nadia would fight the cat like Patricia. Zaria would fight Sherry the class champion. Lacy would fight the psychotic April. A boy by the name of Baylor would fight Jana, his match in every way. Rachael would fight the incredibly strong Jerry and last up, Galatia would fight Jillian, a girl that reminded her of Varia.

Tensions and anticipations were high as the final fourteen contestants of their age group stepped onto the field. They would be the second and last group to fight today. The previous group had been their junior class. It had been no surprise that Zaria’s younger sister Mable had beaten all of her opponents to be chosen not only to go on the trip but also as the class champion. Galatia’s sister, Jean had also won enough matches and then defeated her final opponent this afternoon to be chosen to come on the trip.

Galatia thought it was strange that before she had her memories restored she had always thought of her sisters as being the best fighters in the school. It was an eye opener to realize that she had probably been looking through the eyes of pride. They were good that was not in question but they were not any of them class champions.  But she was still proud of them. They had been mean to her but they were still her sisters.

Since she had spoken with her mother several weeks ago she had no more trouble with her sisters. They actually were treating her fairly well. It was clear that Peace was still a bit bent but all Galatia could do was apologize and she had already done that. If Peace didn’t want to accept it then she didn’t have to. At any rate Peace and Joy would be fighting tomorrow for the right to go to Uranus. Galatia hoped that they were good enough to beat their opponents.

The announcer brought her out of her musings. Ediva’s name was being called out. Ediva’s head snapped up. She turned to look at her friends and returned the confident smile that they gave to her. She spun on the ball of her foot and approached the ring.

The fights were all done in a modified Amazon style because not everyone was an Amazon it was therefore not right to have Amazon ceremonies that generally accompanied these types of fights. The ring was a ring only in name it was in fact an octagon shaped demonstration field that had bleachers set up around it. Amazon Guardians stood at the tips of each of the eight points to officiate and to protect if necessary.

The rules of the contest were simple. The boundaries were set by lines of imbedded blue rocks. If a contestant stepped over the blue line with any part of their anatomy they were automatically disqualified. If they lost any part of their staff over the line it was removed from the ring entirely and they would have to fight without a weapon. No consideration was given for chivalry or sportsmanship but this was not an invitation to cheat. Cheating was grounds for an automatic disqualification and the judges determined what constituted cheating. It was not a fight to the death but the contestants were expected to fight as if their lives depended upon it. The contest was over when either a contestant was unable or unwilling to continue or if the judges called it. And finally, killing, maiming or malicious blows were strictly forbidden.

The judges for this round of fights were the three women of the Amazon Council. Faith and Solace were also in attendance but they were only here to observe. They had stopped in for a few of the matches earlier in the day so their presence here now did not attract any special notice from the majority.

Ediva had reached the ring and was entering. Her opponent Shane had entering from the other side of the ring. The Amazon Guardians flipped their staffs to battle ready and held their position. The match had begun. The opponents circled each other. Ediva was short but the staff help equalize the difference. Shane had been calling out challenges to her for over an hour. He was either certain that he was going to win or he was trying to convince her that he was certain to win. Either way it annoyed Ediva. She was a proud girl and she would show him that size did not matter when you carried a big stick.

Shane stepped in and swung towards her head. His hands were in the center of the staff so his reach could be out distanced. Ediva stepped to the side and grabbed the end of her staff and delivered a very hard pool cue style shot to his stomach. Shane’s body convulsed for a moment and when his head came down in the inevitable reaction to being jabbed that hard in the stomach, Ediva slid her hands down the staff to stop near the center. She spun the staff so that the end that she had been holding struck Shane on the top of his head. She followed that move with a simple counter strike that brought the opposite end of the staff up to strike him under the chin. Shane had a tough jaw but three strikes in a row had completely bewildered him. He had thought that she would be an easy mark.

Before he could think, Ediva had switched grips and had swept his staff aside and was delivering a disarming blow to the top of his forearm. It was a very hard strike. The entire stadium heard his arm snap. Shane howled in pain and doubled over. He had not asked for mercy and the judges had not called the match. Ediva did not hesitate, Harmony had not taught them to hesitate, and she brought her staff around again in a broad swing and caught him in the side of the jaw. His head and then his body snapped around and did a hundred and eighty turn but he was still standing, still holding a staff and no-one had called the match. She struck him behind the closest knee and he went down… on his face. He put out his hands to catch his fall and his broken arm snapped fully free and became a compound fracture. Shane passed out from the pain. The match was over. Ediva had won.

Once it was over she quickly knelt beside Shane and tried to staunch the bleeding. EMS was on scene in seconds but it still took some time to stabilize Shane’s arm.

The crowd had been silenced by Ediva’s win. It had not been expected. A month ago this little girl didn’t know the first thing about the staff. Suddenly the afternoon matches had become much more interesting.

Next up was Nadia and Pat. Nadia had speed on her side but Pat was also quick and she was also flexible and she incorporated a lot of different kinds of moves when she fought. They called her cat lady for a reason. The only good news for Nadia was that the staff was Pat’s least proficient weapon.

Pat entered the ring and wasted no time circling her opponent. She stuck fast and hard. She ran at Nadia and at the last second she launched herself into the air to flip over Nadia’s head. As she passed she struck Nadia with a slightly deflected blow to the back of her head. Nadia spun and lashed out catching Pat with a glancing blow across her back before she spun to face Nadia. The blows came fast and furious. Neither gave ground nor did they connect with anything but wood. This was quickly panning out to be a contest of wills and stamina.

Several minutes of nonstop battle went on before they suddenly broke apart. Both were sweating but not yet breathing hard. Nadia was however starting to show signs of fatigue. Her staff was held just a hair lower than it had been and her shoulders sagged a bit as well. Pat was keenly aware of these signs. She smiled… even that looked like a cat.

Pat started to circle Nadia. She spun her staff in a cocky self-assured manner. Nadia wasn’t intimidated. She watched and slowly turned in a circle allowing Pat to take the long road around her. Nadia knew that she was tiring as well. This contest would be decided soon… the sooner the better for Nadia. The more that it dragged out now the worse it would be for her. Suddenly Pat struck again. Four quick blows aimed at Nadia’s legs followed by a succession of blows aimed for her head. These weren’t truly meant to be landed they were to keep Nadia busy and to wind her a bit more and hopefully to make her begin fighting by instinct alone and make her forget to actually think.

Suddenly Pat spun sideways in the air and struck for Nadia’s ribs and connected but Nadia had seen the move before. She knew that if she allowed the strike to her ribs that Pat would leave herself open for a thrust shot to her chest and upper abdomen when she came back down. If Nadia stayed in position, timed it right and didn’t flinch too much when the strike came to her ribs she could hit Pat in a sensitive area below the arm pit and render her incapacitated.

The spin began and the strike to Nadia’s ribs was hard and painful, it easily cracked a few ribs. But Nadia was not giving up. As Pat’s feet came back to the ground and her staff was pulled away from the blow so she could reload for a strike to the head to finish off her opponent, Nadia turned her hips to face Pat and struck out with the point of her staff at the tiny area under the arm that Pat had crossed over her body. She struck with everything that her body had left in it. She would have one shot and she knew it. If Pat were allowed to deliver the next blow it would most likely fell Nadia if not make her unconscious.

Nadia’s blow landed just as Pat’s staff came down. Nadia threw herself into a tuck and roll away from the head blow. It bounced off of her shoulders as Pat was thrown back by Nadia’s strike. Pat dropped a hand from her staff and tried to keep her balance. The blow had driven all of the wind from her lungs and she was having trouble bringing more in. Her vision swam and she dropped to one knee and finally collapsed in pain onto her side. Nadia was still standing albeit crookedly and leaning heavily on shaky legs. The judges called the match and EMS personnel rushed in to collect the contestants. Nadia had won but she also had at least cracked some ribs.

The next contestants on The Strike is Right were the much anticipated Zaria and Sherry. Over the past several weeks Zaria had been regaining her Xena like strength and against Sherry and the staff she was going to need it.

Both young women entered the circle spinning their staffs. They were matched for height, weight and even look. Two sets of baby blue eyes tried to stare each other down. They struck at the same time and a fast set of blows ensued. Their strikes were only meant to test each other. They backed away from each other only to charge in again. They struck and spun and struck some more. Blows were landed but neither looked as if they were hurt or if they had even noticed.

The blows became harder and faster and then came the kicking and the punching. This was a battle between truly well matched opponents. The audience was on their feet cheering loudly. But the contestants heard nothing. Zaria leapt over Sherry’s head and twisted in the air and brought her staff down on what looked like Sherry’s unprotected shoulder. She did not strike for the head because the blow could kill Sherry if she did. But Sherry surprised her by bringing her staff up to protect her exposed upper body. The blow was hard enough or it might have found a weakness in the staff but either way it broke Sherry’s staff in unequal halves and drove her to one knee when the partially deflected blow came down onto her shoulder.

Zaria was not required to give quarter, but she did. She took a step away from her opponent and allowed Sherry time to assess her own situation. Zaria came around to the front side of her opponent so that Sherry knew that she would not be attacked from behind. Sherry tried to lift her shoulder. It was broken and would not move.

“Zaria” She whispered. Zaria took a step closer so she could hear her opponent. “I would be no good to you if I went to Uranus. It will take months for this to heal. You and Gabrielle need to go and you need strong fighters at your side.” Zaria looked shocked and then smiled minutely. “Not everyone knows and had I not fought you I would still be skeptical. But you are Xena, and that can only mean that Galatia is Gabrielle.”

“You got us figured out. Please don’t tell everyone.” Xena asked.

“Don’t worry. Your secret is safe. But you should know that others are figuring it out.” She smiled and they both noticed that the judges were becoming impatient. “Fight me… let me go out fighting. If you are to take my crown and deny me this trip to Uranus then let me go down fighting… not on my knees.” Xena nodded and stepped away from Sherry. Sherry got to her feet in a surge of energy that was fueled by will alone. She tucked the thumb of her injured arm into her belt and raised one half of the broken staff.

Even with a broken shoulder Sherry fought like a wild cat. Even so, Xena let her tire herself out a bit by simply staying out of reach and parrying the broken staff away. She tried not to make it look easy and even made a few mistakes that allowed Sherry to connect with her body. Only the most skilled of fighters would notice the deceit. Xena waited patiently for the prefect opening and when it showed itself she took it. A single strike to the head left Sherry on the ground unconscious.

When Xena returned to the bull pen with the rest of her classmates she gathered them all around her, including Baylor and told them all to try and not to break any bones. It did no-one any good if they debilitated their opponents in such a manner. Xena stressed control and precise blows. Later she would tell Galatia all that had transpired.  

Next up was Lacy and the not quite right April. Xena’s admonition was not feasible when it came to fighting April. The woman turned into a rabid animal when she was faced with an opponent in the circle. She jumped and spun and twisted and all the while she screamed and snarled and hissed while she was striking and landing blows. She reminded Xena and Gabrielle of Callisto. The girl was both scary and good and the only way to beat her was to literally beat her.

Lacy was over matched and she knew it. She fought hard and landed dozens of blows but she couldn’t stop April. The girl really was like a rabid animal. Lacy was certain that she had managed to break a few bones in the hope that the pain would slow April down, but it was like she had no nerve endings whatsoever… she just kept coming.

April was inflicting pain on Lacy as well. But Lacy had decided to be stubborn and would not go down. There was blood flowing with the sweat down both heads and welts were cropping up everywhere. The contest came to a pivotal moment when Lacy got lucky and struck April’s hand. It broke and fell disengaged from the staff. Lacy handily disarmed her and struck to render April unconscious. The blow never landed as April threw her entire body at Lacy and the two contestants hit the ground together. The battle degraded into a brawl.  Shortly after the tussling began the judges called it to a stop. It was a draw but neither girl would be going anywhere but the hospital.

The fight between Baylor and Jana was long and bruising. But thankfully they both had more control than the previous contestants. They would come away with a good many bruises but no broken bones. The judges eventually called the match when both contestants were panting heavily and staggering. It would be another draw. Either they would both go or neither would go. It was now in Faith’s hands to decide.
Rachael and Jerry would be next. Their contest was a quick one. Rachael stayed out of his reach and inflicted a great deal of pain. Her only hope was to wear him down without getting hit by him. She did well for several minutes and it looked as if she could keep it up she just might win. But fate had a different idea for the outcome of this particular contest.

Rachael was striking and running and generally staying clear of Jerry’s reach. But he unexpectedly surged forward just as she was making a dart in of her own. She came to a screeching halt and lost her footing in the loose sand and went down on her butt. Jerry’s staff came down in a bone crushing blow onto her staff. Her arms shook with the blow and buckled. He kicked her in the jaw. The blow threw her back onto her back. She was momentarily stunned and hence she lost her grip on her staff. Jerry quickly took advantage and placed his staff on her throat and called for judgment. It was granted. He had won fair and square and neither of them had taken severe damage.  

Last but not least Galatia would fight Jillian. They were evenly matched in nearly every way. Galatia had only one advantage… she had been swinging a staff for a lot longer than Jillian. They traded blows for several minutes. Neither was landing anything on flesh no matter what they did. It wasn’t until Jillian attempted a thrusting blow and her foot slid out further than she wanted in the sand that Galatia was able to press the advantage. She spun away from Jillian and struck behind her over extended knee. The blow did not bring her down but it did force her to bring her other foot forward to keep her balance. Galatia spun again and delivered a foot sweeping blow that threw Jillian to the ground on her back. Galatia slapped Jillian’s staff out of her loosened grip with her own staff and brought the tip of her staff back around to stop on Jillian’s throat. But Jillian was not done.

Jillian slapped Galatia’s staff away from her throat and sprung from the ground to lunge for her staff. Galatia dove over the top of Jillian’s lunging body and managed to push the loose staff further away from Jillian’s outstretched hand. The staff rolled onto the blue line and was snatched up by a Guardian.

With the staff out of the picture Jillian did a couple of back flips away from Galatia. Now Galatia had a choice to make. It would be the sporting thing to do for Galatia to toss her staff out of the ring. But it would also extend the competition and frankly her body wasn’t yet up to snuff. Jillian couldn’t help but notice the indecision on Galatia’s face. She took a step closer to her opponent.

“What are you going to do?” Jillian asked.

“I have to win Jillian. I have to go to Uranus and The Queen has enough decisions to make already. I don’t want to injure you to secure my seat.” Galatia was torn.

“I will not just lay down for you. I don’t care who you are. You need to earn this spot.” She made it clear that she knew who she was fighting.

“Fine… have it your way.” Gabrielle tossed her staff from the ring and when Jillian averted her eyes for that split second to watch the staff cross the line Gabrielle leapt into the air and landed a kick to Jillian’s chin. Jillian had seen it coming but had not had time to react. She flew back and landed hard. She was momentarily dazed when her head struck the ground. Gabrielle wasted no time delivering a blow that knocked Jillian out.

XXXX

The next day after the final competitions between the upper classmen; Zaria and Galatia quietly met with Faith in Harmony’s home. The final list of those that would be going to Uranus was completed. Among the winners was Galatia’s older sister, Joy as well as Zaria’s older sister. From their class those that would be going were Zaria, Galatia, Ediva, Rachael, Baylor, Jana, Jillian and Jerry. At the last minute Faith added Patricia’s name to the list. She really had liked the way that the girl had fought. She added another person from the senior class as well. The total was thirty-four students and twenty-seven Marines.  These numbers did not include eight of the parents to help with the children, two squads of Amazon Guardians, the three grandmothers and the Sisters.

They would all leave on the newly commissioned Amazon Queen II in fourteen days.