You know, I’ve decided Tuesday is the new Monday.
Monday is always so chaotic; it doesn’t matter if I had the duty the day before (it’s not like the Admiral has weekends off!), there’s this problem or that. It’s like the universe has decided that Monday is when all the fecal matter will hit the rotary impeller, no matter what!
I don’t remember what the day was I left on this damn mission. Bet it was a Monday, though.
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Chapter 10: A Three-Hour Tour
An APV was an uncomfortable way to travel.
Short for Amphibious Powered Vehicle, it was a strictly utilitarian creation with no luxuries and little comfort. Three people was pushing the limits of its capacity, and the waves on the Ponchartrain Bay were pounding at the tiny craft.
“Good thing none of us are prone to seasickness,” joked Kendra.
“Speak for yourself,” answered Evan, turning so she could see his face. She noticed, then, his pallor. “But the medicine helps. Not talking about it helps more.”
“Sorry,” she replied. “How much longer?” she asked instead.
“Five more minutes to Lake Borgne,” answered Jamey, piloting the tiny craft. “Once there, I can open her up and get some speed on; it’ll be another hour or so until we can make landfall in Mississippi. We have to get beyond their patrols, which stick mostly to the area around the coast. We’re going to head out into the Mississippi Sound and land on one of the islands.” Jamey checked the radar then continued. “We keep a couple old fishing boats stashed out there. After a couple hours, and a quick change of ID, we’ll simply motor into Gulfport and open our instructions. Nothing to it.”
Kendra was impressed, and said so.
“Been doing this for a while,” said Jamey.
“He’s been doing this,” corrected Evan. “This is my first insertion into the Confederacy, and if I have anything to say about it, my last.” He was a pale green now.
“I’m sure Director Talbott considered every aspect before selecting you for this mission,” lied Kendra in what she hoped was a reassuring tone. She really didn’t want him to get sick in here!
“So, Evan, how long have you been working for OutLook?” Maybe if she kept him talking…
“Three years next October,” he answered.
“And what do you do?”
“I’m primarily a forensic accountant, but I have a smattering of legal training as well.”
“But you’re a field agent?” Her voice couldn’t contain her surprise. To her mind, accountants were little old men with a monk’s haircut, half-moon glasses and a permanent squint.
“You’d be surprised at how fiercely people protect their books,” he countered. “I have to be able to access the records, and most of the companies I have to look into are pretty clever about isolating their systems. I can’t just hack in remotely, you know?”
“I guess,” she said. “You’re up on hand-to-hand?”
“Three forms of karate and gold gloves in boxing,” he replied proudly. “Haven’t had to use much lately, but I’ve stayed in practice.”
“Uh-huh.” Kendra was dubious. In her experience, practice didn’t substitute for field use, but maybe he was more than just a seasick accountant.
The conversation pretty well died there. Jamey kept them posted on their progress but that was about it, as Kendra lost herself in thoughts of Cass and Evan concentrated on not redecorating the cabin.
Chapter 11: Keep the Beat
Cass, in her borrowed gi, took two steps into the studio, stopped, bowed to Master Cordova, then straightened. She was pleased to note a small smile on his face; she’d guessed right.
“Welcome to my dojang,” said Cordova in a cultured voice. “Agent McAllister told me that you were interested in attending a few sessions while you were here?”
“Not exactly,” answered Cass. “I need to keep in practice, but I already have an art that I am familiar with. Capoeira? Do you know it?”
“I am aware of it,” he answered. “I don’t know anything about it. Perhaps you could demonstrate a few moves?”
Cass thought for a moment, then nodded. “I’ll need my music – do you have a playback system in here?”
By way of answer he pointed to a terminal she hadn’t noticed in a far corner.
“Just a minute, then,” she said.
Capoeira, while a martial art, is intimately tied to music. The game is almost always played to a musical background, usually a rhythmic, percussive melody accompanied by the chants of the capoeiristas waiting their turns. While solo practice is not forbidden, it is discouraged, as the art is best expressed in a pairing, and this is what occupied Cass’s thoughts now.
“Mac,” she called over her shoulder. “I need a partner. Are you up for something different?”
“I don’t know, all I’ve learned is Hapkido not your capo-whatsit so I’d be totally at a loss and that wouldn’t be good would it?”
“I suppose not,” said Cass. “Master Cordova?”
“I could try,” he replied. “May I see you at practice first?”
Cass considered while fiddling with the controls. “I can run through some of the moves,” she decided. “It won’t be as representative of the dance, though.”
“Dance? I thought this was fighting not a dance what do you mean a dance?”
Cass had to laugh. “Try to keep up, Mac!” She approached the center of the dojang. She knelt, both palms on the floor, one leg extended, as the music began.
“I chose the Angola for the tocque,” she said, standing fluidly and stretching. “It’s a basic tocque for demonstrations of equilibrium and strength.” While talking she had placed her hands on the ground again and was rocking back and forth. Then she began a series of moves, stylish and graceful. She executed leg sweeps, rolls, flips, all in a strangely flowing manner, almost in slow motion, but the power, the potential behind each move was apparent.
The initial sequence took a few minutes.
Cass stood fully. “Ready, Master Cordova?”
“Ready, Mistress Cassidy,” he answered. “Is there an opening ceremony?”
“I’ll show you.” She lowered herself to the ground, balanced on the balls of her feet, then extended her hand. He copied her, clasping her hand.
“Just do what moves you feel you need to avoid my attacks,” she said, beginning to rock again. “This is called the ginga. It’s the basis of just about every aspect of the art.” As she spoke she kicked at him, which he instinctively blocked.
“You don’t block, you evade,” she corrected. “Try something.”
He watched a few seconds then launched himself at her. Without breaking the rhythm of her moves she side-stepped his attack, coming around behind him and striking him with an elbow to his back as he passed.
“The ginga allows you to attack or defend,” she clarified. “You don’t absorb the attack, you allow your opponent to show an opening then you attack yourself.”
“I see,” grinned Cordova, allowing his body to move to the tocque’s beat. “But what if I do this?” He swept his leg out towards her. To his shock, she flipped backwards on her hands out of his reach, landed on her feet and immediately resumed her ginga.
“Esquivas,” she said. “Evade. You want to try again?”
He shook his head. “Why don’t you attack inst-”
Before he could finish she had started turning cartwheels, careful to stay out of his reach until she had circled behind him. From her hands, still upside-down, she pushed off towards him feet-first. He blocked the kick, but her head impacted solidly with his chest and he fell back, converting the fall into a roll. She followed with another forward flip, this time connecting with her feet and knocking him onto his back. The sequence ended with her sitting on his chest, feet pinning his arms to the ground. She grinned, gathered herself, and bounced up and over his shoulders.
“Impressive,” he said, new respect in his eyes.
The sparring continued for about twenty minutes, neither being able to totally subdue the other, though Cass dealt far more punishment than she absorbed. When the music ended she stepped back and wiped the sweat away from her eyes.
“Well done, Master Cordova,” she said. “You were picking up on it pretty well by the end.”
“Please,” he responded, “Call me Jason. Or I’ll be forced to keep calling you Mistress Cassidy.”
“Fair enough,” she laughed. “Cass.”
“Oh boy I’m so glad we’re all friends here now, you know that was just amazing Cass I couldn’t believe my eyes and when you took down Jason -”
“I’m still Master Cordova to you, Agent McAllister.”
For once, Mac didn’t have anything to say.