“This could be a problem,” Lyndsey said, peeking around the corner.
Martoz looked concerned. “You think something could be a problem? You, who thinks ten to one is not a fair fight when you’re the one because it’s too easy? Let me take a look.”
The large Mugdaran man peered around her, and then looked Lyndsey right in the eyes. “This could be a problem.”
“Told ya so,” Lyndsey said, checking the charge on her blaster. “Got a plan or do we just charge in and pray for the best?”
“We stay right here and hope they don’t see us,” Martoz said sternly. “And if they do, we take as many of them with us as we can.”
Lyndsey looked up at the ceiling and then, her bright blue eyes twinkling, back at her husband. “Boost me up there. I got a better idea.”
“Tell me what it is first. I don’t want to have explain to Ana — or Val — that you got yourself killed.”
“If this doesn’t work, we’ll both be killed, so you won’t have to do that,” Lyndsey’s tone was flippant, but his mention of their wife and very young son were making her have second thoughts.
“I like the sound of this even less then. It’s my plan we’ll use then: stay here.” His tone had a finality to it that even the impetuous, temperamental Lyndsey rarely argued with.
She sighed. “Yeah, guess you’re right.” She touched the mjöllnir pendant she always wore and said a silent prayer for victory, strength, and courage. And then another for the gods to take care of her wife, son, and unborn daughter if she and Martoz didn’t survive.
Martoz checked around the corner again. The enemy soldiers were advancing on them. “How’s your weaponry?”
“Hands and feet are intact, got about a half dozen shuriken left, half a charge on my blaster, and my blades are sharp. You?”
“Less charge than I’d like, some sharp knives, and what the gods gave me. We might be able to take some of them with us at least.” He shut his eyes, very briefly, and whispered a prayer to his gods and ancestors for victory. He didn’t pray for strength or courage because to a Mugdaran those were seen as essential traits of being an adult, especially one who walked the warrior’s path. Needing to pray for them was seen as cowardice. In less tense situations, he and Lyndsey had engaged in what they termed “spirited debate” about this. (Everyone else called it arguing.)
Martoz ached to pull Lyndsey tight against his chest one last time, to say goodbye properly, but the enemy soldiers were advancing much too quickly. Instead he took the safety off his blaster and sat, expressionless, waiting for his foe to arrive.
Lyndsey, usually happy when facing danger, rushing into deadly situations with a grin and a laugh, sat with a cold expression on her face. She’d sworn an oath to one of her many sisters years before to not get killed on a Dagger mission. If she was going to have to suffer as an oath-breaker for all eternity, the foe who caused it was going to suffer in the present.
The Gristin soldiers saw them and opened fire. While Martoz fired back, Lyndsey strode forward, her katana in hand. “Any of you guys wanna fight fair?” she asked, having suddenly remembered that Gristins tended to be an old-fashioned lot, and tales heard at her grandfather’s knee of the old ways of Galfarran combat.
Martoz drew in a deep breath, resisting the urge to scream at his wife. She’d been the first to realize the situation was desperate and now this? He wondered, not for the first time, if on some level she was suicidal.
The ostilin who commanded the platoon loudly ordered his soldiers to cease firing. He walked over, and in Galfarran almost too accented to be comprehensible, he spoke to the small human woman. “You are a warrior?”
“That I am.” Her voice was clear and confident.
Martoz now had no idea what was going on, and from the chatter and confused looks among the Gristin soldiers, neither did many of them.
“What is the strange weapon you carry?”
“It’s called a katana. It’s from my father’s homeworld, Earth.”
“I have never heard of this ‘Earth’. Have I heard of your father?”
“Maybe. He’s Viktor Blue, Slayer of Drochslem and Hero of Culs III.” The pride in the young woman’s voice as she stated the titles her father so detested was unmistakable.
“I have never heard either appellation. What of your mother?”
“Renata Kavaliro, Dagger, inventor of the HIR87 maneuver drive.”
“Those I have heard of. They are what allowed us to reach this moon easily. And Kavaliro is a name I have heard, though not with ‘Renata’. Were they, of old, guardian faeshir?”
“Some still are, but I’m descended from Kalem Kavaliro, the last guardian of Polthaina.”
“Polthaina fell four human generations ago. Are you sure of this descent?”
“As sure as anyone can be of such things.”
“Are you as honorable as your faeshir ancestors?”
“I believe so.” Martoz was surprised, and a bit proud. His wife tended to sound cocky, almost arrogant, when asked questions like that. This time, she just sounded confidant.
“Then I accept your challenge of a ‘fair fight’.” He drew the slender blade he carried from its sheath on his side. The tall insectoid man brandishing a sword in Lyndsey’s direction looked so fierce that many would have quaked with fear. If Lyndsey was afraid at all though, it didn’t show.
The swords met with a clang and for a moment the two combatants were a swirling storm of metal, then the ostilin fell, clutching his abdomen. “You have bested me. The Spirits have spoken through you. You are the more honorable one this day. We will let you go.”
Lyndsey, now breathing a bit heavily, inclined her head. “Thank you. You fought well. Your honor must be nearly equal to mine. My husband is allowed to go too, right?” She tried to say that last part nonchalantly, but didn’t quite manage.
“He is. He is a very lucky man to have such an honorable warrior for a wife.”
“Thank you,” Martoz said, coming out from behind cover for the first time. “I know I’m lucky to have her, but it’s nice to hear someone else recognize it occasionally.” He was smiling, he still wanted to yell at Lyndsey, to ask her what she would have done if her challenge hadn’t been accepted — which, as informally as it was phrased, wouldn’t have surprised him — but he was proud of her.
Lyndsey, her usual self once more now that the extreme threat to her well-being was over, bowed deeply to the ostilin. “Name’s Lyndsey Katherine Kavaliro-Blue, by the way. In case you want to tell people who bested ya.”
“My name is Ostilin Krigthrikis do Vild’g and it was an honor to fight with you. Kalem Kavaliro lives on in you.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly as she and Martoz began walking away.
Once they were out of hearing range, Martoz grabbed her shoulder to stop her. “I’m glad you thought of that, but next time tell me before you do something like that, I thought you’d finally gone mad!” He yelled as he pulled her into a tight hug.
She smiled at him. “That would spoil all my fun though. You’re sexy when you’re mad.”
Both laughing, they walked on.