Chapter 6 – February 2B

Rune glanced at the other end of the strip. Geri Masters, talking to a thin boy who looked as scared as Butch was confused. Hair like an enlarged Brillo pad, thick dark beard; if he were shaved bald, he’d be a skeleton with flesh. Rune couldn’t remember facing him, but the way Geri was talking to him, he must be from Hillcrest.

Butch and the Hillcrest skeleton finished hooking in, met at the center of the strip. The director (an short, stout woman with short brown hair, wearing a blue blazer and sneakers) grabbed the skeleton’s blade, held it straight up and placed a metal weight on its tip. The scoring machine’s white light flashed, then went out; Butch’s weapon passed the same test. Butch and his opponent then touched their blade tips on each other’s silvery lames, red and green lights buzzing in response on the scoring machine.

“He almost looks like he knows what he’s doing out there.” Rune thought how if you didn’t know Coach Dan, his words would have sounded sarcastic, demeaning.

After the competitors retreated to their starting lines, and saluted, the director called for the bout to begin. They approached each other slowly, tentatively, Butch’s steps short and lurching, the Hillcrest skeleton’s longer and smoother. A spasmodic attack from the skeleton — Butch stepped back, swung his blade across his body, parrying his opponent. The skeleton lunged again, and again, the third attack finally powering past Butch’s parry — the scoring machine buzzed loudly.

Rune looked over at the machine. White light — the attack had landed off-target.

“Distance, Butch.”

The widening of Butch’s eyes was evident even behind the grey metal of his mask. “What’s that, Mister Jimmy?”

Jimmy blinked. “It’s just Jimmy. You’re letting your opponent get too close, watch your distance.”

“Oh! Thank you.”

The director glanced at Jimmy, who nodded in response. There were limits to how much coaching was allowed during a bout.

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