Praetorian Guard outpost.
The main hall of the outpost was packed. Guards relaxed against desks,chatting quietly. The main topic of conversation? The Priority Alpha. Rumours abounded as to what it was about. A scouting mission? Spying? No one was even half right…
The doors flew open.
The Praetorian Guard stood sharply to attention as the general swept into the room,followed closely by Ginger.
He came to a halt in front of them.
They exchanged glances. This wasn't protocol for briefings…
"I suppose you're all wondering why you're here today.Well, the reason is simple. I need a volunteer. We need someone for an incredibly dangerous mission. Someone brave, someone strong, someone who is ready to stand in the line of fire, to lay their lives down for others, to stare death in the face, and not back down.Who will step forward and take up this challenge?"
Every lombax in the room put their hand up.
"O…K. In that case lets try this a different way. There will be a trial by combat. The last lombax standing will be given the mission"
He turned to Ginger as the Guards squared up cheerfully.
"Everything is in order?"
"Yes General. I stayed up all night making sure every piece worked"
"Calculations?" The General had to raise his voice over the din.
"Double-checked" Ginger nimbly side-stepped a flung lombax. "I have the utmost confidence in this"
"Good. Time is running out for the lombaxes. We need to leave this god-forsaken rock as soon as possible" said the General,gently nudging a dazed Guard in the direction of the infirmary. "If we screw this up…"
"That won't happen, General. I promise you"
They watched the fight in silence. It was hard, brutal, and, in a short amount of time, out of the ranks of the Praetorian Guard only two remained standing. The General noted, with a complete lack of surprise, that they were both females, who tend to be faster and stronger then the males. One was Captain "Iron Liz" Sharr, the other a petite Corporal whose face was obscured by a helmet knocked askew.
They circled each other, searching for openings. The general couldn't help but wince at the sight. Iron Liz was seven feet tall and built like a tank, with muscles you could crack rocks on, whereas the Corporal was barely five foot, slender, delicate,and looked like she could be knocked over by a sneeze. She didn't even have a weapon! Iron Liz made the first move, charging like an Agorian, swinging her wrench in a crushing blow… that missed.
General Cross blinked. He hadn't even seen the girl move! The Corporal was now running around Iron Liz, raining punches on any exposed areas.
"That's the Mosquito Tactic!" Ginger whispered. "I read about that! It's very hard to pull off!"
The General nodded. He was familiar with the tactic. The idea was to disorientate your opponent, leaving them open to the attack of your choice.
It seemed to be working. Iron Liz was flagging, the constant punches wearing her down.She would have been beaten then and there, if the Corporal hadn't tripped over a chair that had been knocked over in the fight. She pinwheeled her arms frantically, dropping her guard. This gave Iron Liz the opening she needed, and her wrench swung down, slamming into her opponents shoulder. The corporal yelped and dropped to her knees, tail lashing in agony. Iron Liz ran forward to finish the attack, howling a war cry. What happened next was so fast the General nearly missed it.
The Corporal dived between the Captains legs, rolled, turned, and kicked Iron Liz's legs out from underneath her with blurring speed.
The Captain hit the floor like a tonne of bricks, tried to rise, and slumped, defeated.
The General shook his head in wonder. He hadn't seen fighting like that since Alister Azimuth had been General!
"Guardsman! Step forward!"
She limped towards him, cradling her arm, helmet still at an awkward angle.
"Soldier, in all my years in the Praetorian Guard that has to be some of the best fighting I've ever seen. Fix your helmet, Corporal. Lets get a good look at our champion!"
The young Corporal complied…
The General stifled a groan, as he found himself looking at the Praetorian Guards most famous (or, to be more precise, infamous) recruit.
It wasn't that Jasmine Cain was a bad Guard, on the contrary. It was just that she had the robust sense of humour of the kind that puts a landmine under a cushion for a laugh. Grown lombaxes cowered when she entered a room, knowing they were in for a gauntlet of joy buzzer hand-shakes, kick-me signs and endless, endless practical jokes. She was also one of the most recognizable Guards. Black fur, while not unheard of, was not common, either. Her slight build and delicate facial features meant that people tended to underestimate her.
It was not a mistake they made twice.
She gave her trademark grin, crinkling the thin scar that looped around her muzzle, silent testimony to an old fight.
"Ah…very good, Corporal. Report to the Research and Development Department at 1900 hours tomorrow. You will be briefed on your mission there. I'm afraid I can't tell you anything more till then. This is highly confidential"
Jasmine gave the Guard salute, down on one knee with her fist over her heart, amethyst coloured eyes sparkling.
"You won't be disappointed, General!"
"We'll see…" he said quietly, as she left. He shook his head.
Damn. He thought to himself. Just my luck. It could have been someone like Captain sharr or Lieutenant Styker, but no, I have to get Corporal bloody Cain! He growled quietly to himself. Brash, disrespectful, too overconfident for her own damn good! And we're trusting her with this mission! Still, she is well trained, a good fighter, good under pressure
He cast a thoughtful glance out the window. He could dimly see her slight shape disappearing into the snow.
She might just pull this off after all.