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[personal profile] sunsetmondays posting in [community profile] mindcracklove
Six long, cruel months of waiting, plotting, and failing to write. And now it's done. *cheers* I haven't forgot about this series. It's come to be my baby and I'm very excited about what I've got planned for the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, my original beta BlueTwilight has since left the salad and thus the position of full-time beta for this fic is currently open. Blue did a wonderful job on the first few chapters and I'm sad to see her go, but for this chapter a huge thankyou to Silvercheers for betaing this chapter for me. She did a wonderful job with it and I'm always happy to work with her. <3

Chapter 4 - Taking Up Arms
"Town meeting."


"Dangerous ... gotta explore it."

"... our only lead."

The rumours had spread like wildfire through the night. Talks of a new discovery - something big - circled around the compound in hurried whispers and wild speculation. And of all the rumours passed around, only one thing was certain: change was beginning to stir in the peaceful waters of Mindcrack and these rumours were only just the tip of the iceberg.

Seth hadn't gathered much from the few overheard conversations between the people around him over breakfast. Everyone was far too tense and far too involved in their own routines and duties to pay him much mind. Any questions he did ask resulted in blank stares of feigned disinterest. Whatever it was that was going on, they either didn't know themselves or didn't trust him enough to share; which was fair enough, considering that he'd barely spent a night here, let alone talked with them enough to garner their favour.

BTC was one such Mindcracker who seemed rather intent on keeping him out of the know. His expression had been stoic and unreadable when Seth had asked him if he had any idea about what was going on. "I'm about as clueless as you. I'm only here to get you started on your training," BTC had deadpanned, though Seth found that hard to believe. BTC finding a sudden interest in the flowers that lined the gravel path after he’d answered didn't do much to strengthen his credibility. Seth dropped the subject; pestering him about it would only be a waste of breath.

"You do know why you're with me today, right?" BTC asked after several minutes of walking.

Seth looked up from the path and nodded. "Something something, self defence." When Guude woke him up this morning to brief him on where to find breakfast, among other important things, he had mentioned something about what his itinerary for the day would be. Unfortunately, Seth hadn't been paying too much attention, more concerned with picking the sleep from the corners of his eyes and trying to remember last night's dream.

"Sword fighting, to be specific," BTC confirmed. "You should already know by now that this place isn't exactly safe - it was agreed that you should be able to protect yourself as soon as possible. And this is where you're going to learn how to do it." BTC stopped and gestured at the area in front of him. A sizeable rectangle of sandy dirt surrounded by a couple of wooden benches laid claim to the title of training grounds. The ground, whilst flat, didn’t look particularly soft and any fall would certainly leave behind a bruise or two. To top off the rugged look, a wooden shack displaying an array of vicious-looking weaponry sat in the north-west corner.

Seth stared, wide-eyed and curious. "Sword fighting?" he echoed. BTC laughed and led Seth to the shack. As they approached, Seth noticed a small table already set up with what he assumed to be the gear they planned to use. That gear included some leather armour with a variety of confusing straps and buckles, some blunt wooden swords, a couple of especially smooth and straight sticks, and a single iron sword. They all looked well beyond Seth's skill level.

BTC arrived at the table first and gestured at the equipment. "First, we're gonna get suited up in the armour. It does restrict movement a bit, but not that much. Most don't leave the camp without armour on anyway, so it's best to get you used to working with it." He chucked Seth a chest piece and reached for the other.

Following several minutes of confused untangling and a short demonstration from BTC, he struggled to try and pull it on. After sticking his head through the arm hole for the third time, BTC came over to help him and then tightened up the straps.

The breeches were a little easier, more like pulling on a normal set of pants. The boots came on next, with a small struggle to bend over - courtesy of the rigidity of his new armour - and finally, he pulled the leather cap over his dark hair. BTC was right. The armour was tight but not too confining, although he did notice how warm he was getting. Sweat was already starting to tickle his skin under the thick leather. He took an experimental walk around while BTC confirmed that everything was attached correctly. Satisfied, BTC reached for the smooth sticks which Seth could now see were adorned with simple leather wraps to act as grips.

The two moved out into the open where BTC could begin the lesson. "Now," he began, "the most important thing when you fight someone is your stance. It's your foundation and a weak stance makes a weak fighter. You draw your power from your stance so it must be strong, but you must also remain light and ready to move." BTC stood, feet a shoulder width apart with his right foot a comfortable distance back from his left. His knees were bent and his body was relaxed but alert. "See? Try and push me over."

Seth gave BTC a hard shove on the shoulder. His body moved, absorbing the impact, while his feet remained still. BTC moved his feet back to a normal standing position. "Now try again." Seth obeyed. This time, BTC stumbled pack several paces. "See the difference?" Seth nodded. "Now, you try."

Seth did his best to mimic BTC's stance. It felt awkward and a bit cramped until BTC nudged his back leg further back.

"See. That's more like it," said BTC. Seth smiled awkwardly and BTC moved on with his next instruction.

The pair spent the next couple of hours going over several simple moves. By the time they stopped for a break, the sun was high in the sky, beating down on the two in an unforgiving haze. Seth stopped and wiped his forehead, his face damp and flushed. "Break?" he suggested. BTC nodded, also feeling the heat. Moving into the shade of the hut, Seth stripped off his amour while BTC fetched some water.

Wriggling out of the leather breeches, he heard someone walk in. "Nice pants," said a voice. Seth stumbled as he tried to turn around, almost tripping in his hurry. He looked up to find a tan guy leaning on the doorway. He tried to place a name as the man watched with a smirk.

"Pause," the man said in response to Seth’s failure. He strode over to Seth and traced a hand along his shoulders as he circled the man. "Need a hand getting out of those pants?" he asked. Pause playfully tugged at the waistband of Seth's pants and raised an eyebrow. Seth's face flushed a deeper shade of red and he finally pulled his legs out of the breeches.

"I… uh, I-" Seth began.

"Don't mind him," BTC interrupted, striding quickly in with the water, "he's like that with everyone." He gave Pause a stern look. "And give the new guy a break, guy. He only just got here."

Pause shrugged, slapping Seth on the arse as he walked over to BTC. "What? He's cute... But not as cute as you," he purred. He brushed up against BTC, only to be pushed away. BTC crossed his arms. Any further attempts at distracting him clearly weren't going to be tolerated.

Seth picked up his bottle of water, glad for the cool relief, while Pause and BTC bickered in the corner. Whatever was going on between the two, it wasn't his place to intrude. He was just as happy to ignore them and enjoy the break and think about the events of the past couple of days. The suddenness of it all had left him in a daze and he still couldn't come to comprehend just what had happened to him. The frustration of not being able to remember did little to help keep his head clear.

"You what, mate?!" Pause growled, cutting through Seth's train of thought. BTC laughed mockingly and Seth warily put down his water bottle, wondering if he was capable of breaking up a fight. But Pause's indignance turned into a playful grin as he picked up the nearest iron sword. "You wanna take this outside?"

"You bet I do," BTC purred. He mirrored Pause's grin and grabbed the iron sword he had shown Seth before. The pair made their way outside, flinging good-humoured insults across the warm afternoon air. Seth scampered to follow behind. His confusion was apparent, but he could feel the excitement charging between Pause and BTC with each taunt and display of bravado.

Out in the open, the first clash of iron swords echoed through the air. Pause had gone for a lazy swing from the side and BTC brought his sword up for a block that effortlessly swept Pause's sword down and out of the way. But this was only teasing. Unhindered by the lack of armour, each move only increased in speed and force, the other retaliating with vicious grace. The two were well matched and soon they circled around the bare dirt in a dance-like formation, spinning, slicing, and blocking to a rhythm only charted by the tenor of cold metal against metal.

Seth watched, entranced by the flowing movements of the sparring partners. Determination was set in each man's eyes, still lit by playful smirks and cocky grins. Perspiration gathered in the afternoon heat as Pause and BTC locked into a stalemate. They matched each other swing for swing and sheer force seemed to be the next move in the game. Muscles tensed and each hard block now drew a grunt.

Seth could see the strain on their faces but both refused to concede until BTC eventually caught the hilt of Pause's sword in a lock between the flat of his blade and his chest. Pause's arms shook in an attempt to break free, but BTC only held on tighter. While Pause was lithe and quick, BTC had the advantage of strength, but Pause refused to resign. Faster than Seth could follow, Pause twisted and spun, breaking free. This left BTC unbalanced and Pause was quick to sweep his feet out from underneath him.

BTC landed hard on his back, gasping for breath. Pause straddled him, holding his sword to his opponent's throat. Both breathed hard and a drop of sweat lingered on the tip of Pause's nose. "I win," he rasped, head cocked to the side. BTC glared and shoved Pause off of him. Pause remained sprawled out on the dirt where he landed and just laughed. With a huff, BTC collected his sword and marched back to the hut.

"Sour loser!" Pause called out to him. Propping himself up, he turned to Seth and said, "Don't mind him. He's like that all the time." Seth, still reeling from the intensity of the fight, ignored the comment and offered a hand to help Pause up. He gave Seth a short thankyou and then the tanned man brushed the dirt from his clothes and collected the swords that had been strewn across the dirt.

By the time the two had meandered over to the weapons hut, after a playful tussle or two in the dirt, BTC had already cleaned and stored the gear from before and was now leaning against the door frame, arms crossed and attempting to look uninterested. His attempt at a poker face did little to hide the hint of a scowl creasing his lips - one that only grew when the pair approached. It looked as though he was ready to drop straight back into the previous argument, minus the playful edge from earlier.

"So are you coming to the meeting tonight?" Pause asked. It was an innocent question, by Seth’s measure.

BTC’s scowl deepened, but he dropped his arms to his sides, defeated. "Fine. I will. But only on one condition: we send two guys out to run the rounds tonight. I don't want Baj going out alone, okay?"

"I can agree with that," said Pause, "the compromise is more than worth the risk." Seth assumed this had something to do with one of the conversations he had overheard at breakfast - important rounds that needed to be done but had no-one else to do them. Tension was running high amongst the group and this meeting that kept coming up appeared to be of utmost importance to everyone who'd come to call this place home.

The shorter of the two visibly relaxed at the agreement, though anyone could tell that he still wasn't entirely happy with the way things had turned out. With a perturbed sigh, BTC detached himself from the wall and glanced up at the sun. "I guess we’d better start heading in and grab something to eat," he suggested.

"Sounds good to me," said Pause, returning to a cheery tone.

After a short squabble over leaving the two iron swords unsharpened and unpolished, the trio made their way back to the centre of the settlement, BTC kicking up gravel as he continued to mope about the swords. Seth paid vague attention to Pause's idle chatter, keeping with monosyllabic responses and short grunts. The talk of this big meeting weighed over him and he wondered just what it meant. Whatever it was, it didn't seem like he was going to be a part of it. He briefly wondered whether that would be for the better or for the worse.

For the better, he aptly decided when he saw the grim expression on Guude's face when they walked into the dining hall of what was colloquially known as 'Town'.

~ ~ ~

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Date: Saturday, September 20th, 2014 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

That's all I have to say, I'm too sick to make words work. Pause is perfect, so's BTC.


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