Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 07 - "Away From Home"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

fighting stance

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2009-01-02 - Updated: 2009-01-02 - 2266 words - Complete

It wasn’t until the door to their room was securely shut behind them that Max saw Shades’ previously hurried, impatient façade crumble into a look of unabashed relief.

There were times when neither of them thought they would make it. Even though the guards in that sector were preoccupied with both the boat mess, and their own injured comrades, it was still difficult trying to slip into a restroom unnoticed. Everybody noticed you when you were almost ass-naked. Just throwing on pants and shirt and shoes in the confines of a public bathroom stall felt like a race against time. Then they moved on to another restroom where people matching their former descriptions hadn’t been seen. Along the way, Shades stopped at a booth and bought both of themselves hats, and Max some sunglasses.

After hiding out at a café for a couple hours, they stopped at a beauty salon. In the catalog, Max got to see just how strange and exotic he could really be made to look, but settled for a major trim-job instead. All the way, he had tied his headband around his arm, concealing it under his sleeve. The whole way back to the hotel, they both watched each other’s backs constantly.

Yet as relieved as Shades was that the Management was still unaware of their hideout, his relief was no match for Max’s at seeing that Bandit was still there. And Bandit was tremendously happy just to be reunited with his companion after being all alone in that room all day. Still, Shades couldn’t believe they somehow managed to escape, fearing what might happen next time.

And he understood there would be a next time.

While he went first to shower and clean himself up more thoroughly, Max practiced his new kata in the middle of the room. Hard speed-punk blasted in his headphones, for neither of them dared to play it on speakers, lest a stray guest complaint draw unwanted attention. Like the stuff he had heard the day he first met Shades, this music had same basic (and bass) quality he had heard at Bankshot. Unconsciously, he had picked up the rhythm of the songs as he moved, which would provide Shades with more proof of Master Al’s assertion that if you can fight, you can dance, and if you can dance, you can learn to fight. Though so far, even after more than six years of training, his own dancing still left something to be desired.

Bandit sat on Max’s bed, watching his boy train with casual feline curiosity. For him, it was enough that Max was back, even though he returned smelling of the alien odor of chlorine. It was the time Max, and even Shades, spent here that allowed him to endure their absence.

Though focused on his forms, Max’s lingering edginess about their narrow escape was such that he jumped in spite of himself when he saw the bathroom door open out of the corner of his eye. Shades stepped out, dressed in a complimentary robe, a towel draped around his shoulders. He was pleased with both his friend’s rapidly evolving form and his enjoyment of the music he shared. That the release dates of many of these songs were no problem here in the Sixth Dimension, despite the fact that more than half of them were dated after his disappearance, and he suspected he would never quite get over the thrill of listening to the future.

“You might want to wait for the hot water to build back up a bit before you take your shower,” Shades told him. Even almost two weeks after the dirtiest week of his life, he still felt a newfound appreciation for washing up. He could see that his friend was very enthusiastic about learning new techniques, already assimilating both moves and vocabulary, and there was a finer point of Shorin-ryu that he wanted to demonstrate for Max while they waited. “I see you’ve been practicing your kata while I was in the shower.”

“What?” Max asked, removing his headphones. He was really looking forward to taking another shower. Though his parents, and a good number of Outlanders, had spoken of them, there was no such thing in the Islands. The closest thing was people standing in a stall and washing up sometimes when it rained, so to him it was amazing, not to mention refreshing.

“I said you might want to wait a bit before taking your shower. In the meantime, there’s something I want to show you.”

“What’s that?” Max could already tell that his friend’s teacher, this Master Al, was very knowledgeable about martial arts, just based on the things his student was teaching him. Although his first teacher had been Grampa Reno, Robert said that he had also learned from several other masters in the course of his wanderings. That same wisdom now encouraged him to expand his own knowledge and understanding.

“You’re getting that front stance down faster than anyone else I’ve seen,” and Shades had watched a few of his fellow students storm out of Master Al’s dojo in frustration over the subtle intricacies of stance and form, lacking the patience to cultivate and perfect it, remembered how long it took him to get the hang of it, “but there’s something important that I think will help you.” Max was a lot like himself, a lot like how Al described himself as a student, always needing to know the how and the why of a form or technique before it fully sunk in. Had always said that a great teacher learns as much from his students as they learn from him, and in Max, Shades saw an opportunity to take both of their training to the next level.

To that end, he was about to show Max a very important attribute of this stance. For in Max’s fighting earlier, he was inspired to show him something sensei had once taught him. He assumed his stance in front of Max, telling him, “This is something my teacher once showed me, and I think you’ll find it useful. Try to push me.”

“Okay.” Max stepped up and shoved Shades, who shifted slightly on his feet.

But never gave an inch.

“Now try one of those powerful roundhouse kicks you’re so good at,” Shades said. “Oh, and remember to come from the right. Just trust me on this one.”

Max stepped back, then jumped in with an arcing kick like the one he swept that guard off the boat with earlier. Shades’ arm block not only stopped Max in mid air, but moved right into shoving him flailing aside, where he crashed on the bed, startling Bandit. As far as Shades’ ability to defend was concerned, it would hardly have mattered which side Max attacked from; Max, on the other hand, had a choice of either landing on the bed, or being knocked into the room’s small desk.

“I didn’t know you were that strong…” Max muttered as he got back up.

“I’m not,” Shades told him. “And fortunately, I don’t have to be.” Seeing the confounded look on Max’s face, he laughed and continued. “You have little leverage when you’re up in the air like that, but I draw my power from the earth itself.”

“I see…” As Max ran back through that, he realized what Shades was talking about. During his time with Justin, he had been only slightly dismayed at the gaps he could see in his own training, and his scuffle with the guards had only reinforced his confidence. However, against a trained opponent like Shades, he began to see the limitations of having only a panther to grapple with. Apples and oranges, as Shades would have said. He had become stronger and faster over those five years, enough so to take down those guards— stronger and faster than them, yet not that much more skilled than them, he realized— but in this new sparring partner he had found new ways to challenge himself.

To truly resume his training. And for that he thanked his new friend. A challenge. And he found he liked it.

“I’ll show you another little trick he taught me,” Shades said as he stepped up to Max. He planted his foot on one of Max’s, then shoved him, sending him sprawling back onto the bed. “Pushing off the ground like that,” he explained as he helped him back up, “I can put my whole body behind my attacks. Try using a front stance.”

Max assumed his stance. Again, Shades tried to push him, even stepping on his foot like before, but this time Max found he could push back. He suspected that Dad would have taught him at least some of this had his training continued, but he was grateful for this little revelation Shades had given him, for he could now see holes in his jumping attacks which he was previously unaware of.

“Even though you’re bigger than me, I could still push you around because I was grounded,” Shades explained. “This stance gives you really strong balance and footing, so it works really well both defensively and off—”

Shades was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Shades said quietly, gesturing toward the pack where Max stashed his weapons. “Don’t make a sound, but be prepared. Let me do the talking.” He walked over to the door and checked the peephole.

Guards. Of course.

“Open up!” his muffled voice commanded.

“Just a minute!” Shades called out in a Deep South falsetto. “Ah ain’t decent!”

The only place Max had ever heard such a dialect was in the animé Shades had shown him, so all he could think of it as was an “Osaka” accent, but his friend’s cartoonish tone left him trying desperately not to laugh aloud.

“Ah cain’t ansah the do’ raht now,” Shades piped up. “Whadda ya’ll want?”

A picture popped up under the doorcrack.

“We’re with Security, ma’am,” one of the guards said. “This man was involved in an incident that injured five of our officers. Have you seen him?”

Shades examined the picture, a composite sketch of Max, fortunately before his haircut.

“Have you seen this man, or a man seen with him wearing wraparound sunglasses?” a second voice added. “Or a big black-and-white panther? It’s very important.”

Max had reached into the bag and armed himself to cover the door now that Shades had stepped away from it, but he wasn’t sure if he could aim, he was laughing so hard.

“No, mista, ah’m afraid ah haven’t,” Shades told them, “but you fahn young men keep at it!” He wondered for a moment if women really did find disgusting slobs like that attractive. Though he found it more than a little disconcerting that he was being identified by his shades alone. And Bandit, too. “Ah’ll be sure ta call ya if ah see anything.”

By now, Max had grabbed a pillow to muffle his laughter, and hoped it wouldn’t come to a fight.

“Okay, ma’am. Thank you for your cooperation.”

“Anytime, sug!” Shades added for good measure.

There was a long silence after that. While Max tried really hard not to smother himself, Shades collapsed on the other bed, exhaling a long sigh of relief. Bandit just stared at them.

At last Max removed the pillow, asking, “Shades, do you always do stuff like that?”

To which neither of them could help laughing.

“It’s all about being able to improvise,” Shades told him after he caught his breath. “I used to do routines like that when people called to complain about Sandy’s band. Pretty good, huh?”

“Hell yeah!” Max replied. “What now?”

“Now we get our act together.” Max would have to learn the limitations of brute force in this place, that it was ingenuity and resourcefulness that kept you from disappearing around here. Alone, Shades would have disappeared sooner or later, but now that he was teamed up with Max, they had become a force to be reckoned with. Still, he feared there would be a crackdown coming. A measure of just how much trouble they were in. More than his own, paradoxically. “That was too close.”

Fortunately, the guards didn’t come back, and after a few minutes they were finally able to regain some measure of composure. After that, they practiced for a couple minutes before Max went in to take his shower. Before he went, though, he told Max to practice like he had in Paradise, until it stuck in his head and was second nature. He could see that underneath Max’s carefree façade was the discipline of a warrior. The way Max trained, as if preparing to face the entire Security force himself. There were definite differences, and Max’s training was clearly incomplete, but his native style definitely bore a strong resemblance to Karate, appeared to be the Sixth Dimension’s answer to his world’s martial arts styles.

Master Al had told him that you had to practice a technique at least ten thousand times to truly understand it, and it was only after years of training that he had seen what his sensei meant. It made him wonder how many times Max had practiced those moves back in Paradise.
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