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Super Sunday Smackdown: Duel of the Fates

February 27, 2011

I mentioned in the last entry about how Star Wars influenced my earlier writings.  In case you didn’t believe me, here’s a duel between a human and a giant snake/turtle-like alien using crystal swords eerily similar to lightsabers.  It comes from First Contact (1995) which is the second earliest novel I have posted.  The writing sucks, but you can see what I mean.

Before you get into that, here’s a rundown of the combatants:

Lieutenant Amanda “Manny” Rosaro

Age: 29

Bio: She’s a platoon leader for a group of some kind of space marines or whatever.  Kind of a ripoff of “Aliens” there.  As far as humans go she’s pretty tough and trained in all sorts of weapons and martial arts.  Against an alien, though, that’s not much good.

Captain S’Olonny

Age: ?

Bio: He’s the captain of an alien ship that wants to collect human “bio-energy” (kind of like souls) to take back to his dying homeworld, S’Parnia.  He’s about 7 feet tall and has the head of a cobra, the shell of a turtle, and arms/legs more like a human.  He’s a seasoned warrior who’s especially skilled in using his S’Zai crystal sword.  (Basically if you take Breetai from “Robotech” and mix it with a Klingon this is what you get!)

Now, can you guess how this plays out?

#

Manny was led to a large, empty room that looked like it was a cargo hold. The alien captain stood in the center of the room, with the scientist standing next to a rack that held something. The guards led her over to the captain and he smiled at her. He motioned the scientist over to translate for him.

“It is time for our battle. You and I will fight to the death with the traditional weapon of warriors: the S’Zai,” S’Olonny gestured to the rack and Manny wondered what a S’Zai was. S’Olonny went to the rack and pulled something out. It was a gleaming sword made entirely of some crystal that seemed to blaze with a green fire. Manny gulped, having hoped that they would use knives or guns, or something she was more familiar with. S’Olonny smiled and then pulled out a blue S’Zai for Manny. The guards undid her restraints and she held it in her hands. The sword was heavy, but when she swung it experimentally it felt good in her hands. The sword was made of blue crystal and she saw that it was carved entirely from one crystal, there was no evidence of having been manufactured from separate ones. The S’Zai was beautiful and when she ran her finger across the blade she saw that it could be deadly too. The edge was extremely sharp, and so was the point. She hated to think what would happen if she was hit with one.

“Let’s get on with it,” Manny said and raised the sword. S’Tallen stepped back to the rack and Manny kept a close eye on him. S’Olonny held his sword at ready and they assumed fighting positions.

Now was time for Manny to put her plan into action. As S’Olonny charged at her and swung his blade she dove out of the way and scampered out of his reach. He quickly recovered and lunged at her. This time she didn’t have time to get out of the way and blocked his swing with her S’Zai. The blades met with a grating sound and then Manny spun away from S’Olonny. He came back at her and this time she was ready.

As he swung at her she gathered all of her strength and then leapt into the air. She pulled up her legs and she flew right over him as his blow came up empty. He fell on his knees and turned, expecting her to be at his throat. Instead, she landed on her feet a short distance from him and then turned and began racing across the cargo hold. S’Olonny wondered what she was doing and the guards brought up their weapons.

S’Tallen was standing by the rack, watching the battle, when all of the sudden he saw Manny racing towards him. He wasn’t sure what she was doing and he looked around for a weapon, but there had been only two S’Zais. As he was about to flee she reached out and grabbed him, with her momentum carrying them both to the floor. He flailed about him, but then a strong hand pulled him up and he felt something cold at his throat. Manny stood a little behind him with one hand grabbing the back of his tunic, and the other holding her S’Zai to his throat.

“Now, let me and my men walk out of here or else he gets it!” Manny shouted. S’Olonny stared back in shocked silence.

“You! I took you for a true warrior. You are a coward!” S’Olonny bellowed and S’Tallen translated.

“Yeah, and when have you aliens ever played fair? You attacked us unprovoked! That’s cowardice! Now let me and the others go or I’ll kill him!”

“You realize that if you kill him, I’ll kill you,” S’Olonny hissed.

“Of course, but what do I have to lose? He’s important to you, I know that he is. But he’s not important to me. Now I want my men and I to be able to take a ship back home. Now!” S’Olonny stared at her and then motioned for the guards to lower their weapons. He dropped his S’Zai to the floor, feeling like a fool. He had let this human take advantage of his weakness, his sense of honor. Now there was nothing that he could do, except one.

“I’ll let your men go. A ship will be prepared for you. Now, when will you release him?”

“Will the ship have an escape pod?”

“Of course.”

“Then when I’m out of your ship’s weapons range I’ll put him in the escape pod and you can pick him up.”

“How do I know that you aren’t lying?”

“What choice do you have?” She replied coolly and walked past the guards and S’Olonny. He watched her leave and then smiled. She was tricky, but he could play dirty too. He motioned the guards over and then gave them orders.

***

Manny confidently walked to the cells where her men were being held. S’Tallen staggered ahead, the point of Manny’s S’Zai grazing against his shell. They stopped and Manny waited for the doors to open. Slowly one door hissed open and before she could react, S’Olonny shot out of the cell door like a bullet, his S’Zai poised to kill. He swung down and Manny had no choice but to push S’Tallen aside and swing her blade to block the attack.

Sparks flew as the swords clashed against each other and Manny’s body reverberated from the force of the blow. She staggered backwards, but S’Olonny was not about to let her rest. He came at her again and she struggled to block him. The S’Zais met again and then Manny swung hers upwards. The swing was weak and S’Olonny easily deflected it. She stumbled back and threw her S’Zai up in defense once more.

S’Olonny’s mind burned with anger and hate as he furiously assaulted her, not letting her take even a few seconds to dart away from him or to regain any strength. He would drive her back as far as she could go, and then he would mercilessly strike her down. The corridor soon ended and Manny’s back was against the wall. S’Olonny went for the kill, but she dodged and wearily rolled away from him and into an adjacent corridor.

S’Olonny gave her no time to think, though, as he lunged at her again. She felt herself tiring and knew that she could not last much longer against such an attack. She looked for a way out and saw a lift at the end of the corridor. With her last strength she turned and ran for the lift and slapped the button. When nothing happened she slashed the doors with her S’Zai and the doors rumbled open. Seeing S’Olonny running at her, anxious to carry the fight to her, she stuck the sword in her belt and then jumped down the shaft.

S’Olonny cursed and stood at the lift door for a few seconds, looking down the shaft and trying to catch a glimpse of his opponent. Then he hurried to find a way down. He ran for an emergency stairway and impatiently gave the computer his access code. The doors, painted to blend in with the walls, parted and let him through. The emergency stairs were designed in case power was cut or the ship was boarded. He ran down the stairs a few levels and emerged in a similar corridor. He hurried to where the other shaft was and ordered the computer to open the doors. He looked down into the darkness, searching for Manny.

Manny was falling quickly, and she hoped that she found something to break her fall. As she free fell she tried to think of a way to stop herself. She flailed about with her hands and then her left hand hit upon something, presumably some kind of power conduit. She grasped it with her one hand and then felt it burn as her momentum carried her down. She reached out with her other hand and gripped the conduit with her right hand. She jerked to a stop and for a few seconds hung there. Then she began climbing back up, looking for a floor where she could get off. She finally spotted one and then cautiously jumped to the ledge. Her hands caught the metal of the ledge and she groaned as she pulled herself up. She lay there, panting for a while. Then she stood and hacked the door open. She stepped out into a darkened corridor and instantly had a bad feeling. Little did she know that she was in the very bowels of the ship, on one of the last floors that were not inhabited by anyone and were used by no one other than officers and bio‑energy storage technicians. To conserve power the floors’ lighting was kept dim.

As she moved along, she heard heavy footfalls approaching rapidly. She saw a large dark form coming straight at her, almost as if she were in a nightmare. She turned to run, but her legs felt like lead. She looked back and saw green fire coming for her. She pulled her S’Zai and with grim determination turned to defend herself. Sparks jumped as the battle continued unabated.

S’Olonny was once again driving Manny back, and this time she knew that she would die. She desperately fought back, but S’Olonny easily turned her blows aside. One of his own struck Manny’s arm and blood gushed from the wound. She screamed and blindly moved backwards until the corridor ended and the green fire filled her vision. S’Olonny swung downwards and she ducked down. To her surprise a door opened and she scrambled to her feet and sprinted through the door.

She saw that she was standing on a metal catwalk surrounding several lantern‑shaped containers that were enormous. She didn’t have time to admire the scene as S’Olonny pressed his attack. She was growing weaker and could hardly stand. She feebly warded off his swings and slowly edged backwards. Her feet dragged and she could feel the end coming. Still, she kept her sword up and valiantly fought on. Another of S’Olonny’s swipes hit her, this time tearing open her side. She screamed in pain and her knees buckled. She pitched backward and fell against the rail of the catwalk. She threw her S’Zai arm in front of her face and S’Olonny slashed at her. With one final swing the crystal blade of Manny’s S’Zai shattered. There was a horrible sound as the blue flame died and the catwalk shook. The railing collapsed and Manny’s barely conscious form tumbled into the dark abyss below. S’Olonny stood at the rail, a grin on his face. He turned away, knowing that his enemy was destroyed.

#

Now tell me that isn’t inspired by the Vader-Luke Skywalker duel on Cloud City!  Damn straight.

Tuesday I’m going to tell you how the right words make all the difference

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4 Comments
  1. LOL inspiration at its best.

  2. “She’s a platoon leader for a group of some kind of space marines or whatever.” Sounds like a movie pitch to me.

    I can see where the inspiration comes in. But at least Manny didn’t make out with her sister.

    Here’s a thought: when a race/species/whatever in a book has a certain ritual or type of weapon, should the writer have to justify how that custom evolved? I remember the book “Quozl” by Alan Dean Foster and the near-fights the Quozl got into because when they REALLY fight they get some kind of berserker blood lust. Lucas never explained why the Jedi would ONLY use a lightsaber — a weapon that by necessity limited their ability to fight, even though they were kind of a galactic police force. (Lucas never also really explained the exact role of the Jedi, as I recall, either– were they a police force, or an independent group, or what?)

    I actually liked this story, though. It had potential

  3. Looking at this made me think I should try bringing it back again. I tried in 2000 but got bogged down in details and in 2008 I was in the wrong place mentally and so it morphed into this whole other thing.

    This was from back when writing was still fun because I didn’t have to think about “the audience” or query letters or anything. So if I try again I’d like to stick as much to the original as I can and maybe get some mojo back.

    Anyway, I think the Jedi were supposed to be galactic samurai with the lightsaber being their samurai sword. Where they seemed to fit in was sort of as an autonomous agency to maintain galactic peace. So they get sent in to mediate disputes or command forces or whatnot when things are going wrong.

  4. Oh – yes. Definitely picturing the Bespin scene. 🙂 Love Star Wars. I would keep reading.

    Fellow crusader. Nice to meet you!

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