John looked up at the scores as he handed in his assault rifle. As per normal he had scored around average in his team, his score evenly spread over the different weapon categories, while most of his colleges outscored him by specialising in specific weapon types. Firearms, however, were not John's speciality. He was looking forward to the next training session much more.

Two hours later John was wearing a gi, facing off against a team mate called Paul. The two of them had spared regularly before and know each other's styles well. Paul was cybered for speed, flowing with grace and with mind numbing reflexes. John had a different advantage. He was a better fighter.

As the sensei called the fight, Paul streamed forward, fists and feet lashing out as John backed away. John stayed on the defensive till he saw the opening, and then neatly sliced Paul's feet from under him, landing the scoring blow before Paul could recover. The two friends grinned at each other and John helped Paul back on to his feet.

The second round went to Paul, a lightning blow to the sternum followed by the pulled blow to the neck. John called the round.

The third round was closer, lasting fully as long as the two proceeding rounds and John finally pulled through to a finishing blow. The two of them shook hands and marched off to the changing rooms, practice finished for the day.

As they changed, Paul looked across at John, surprised at the scowl on his face.

'Hey John, what's wrong?'

'Nothing.' John shook his head.

'No seriously. What's wrong?'

John just shook his head again.

Paul studied his friend for a moment and then changed his tack. 'Two out of three, to you, kung fu boy. Beers are on me.'

John looked up. 'What?'

'It's our day off, and the beers are on me. Let's go out.'

John paused for a moment, shrugged and smiled. 'Sounds good.'

The music was loud, pounding into the pair of men as they sat at the bar, both of them having sunk several drinks already. They were loudly discussing a particular young lady they'd spotted earlier.

'I'm telling you, John, she was giving you the eye!'

John peered over his glass. 'No way. You're drunk. I'm drunk. They're just laughing at us.'

'No way, John! She was out for you!'

John looked up at his friend. 'She just a women sitting in a...,' he swung his arm round with drunken exuberance and stopped as it swung into something. He looked up into the eyes of the girl they had been discussing.

'Care to dance?' said the girl.

The evening carried on a high for a while, John and the girl dancing, going back to the bar, dancing again, a couple more retreats to the bar and then to one of the sofas at the side of the club. The girl, Sara, was leaning comfortably on John's shoulder as they pulled on drinks. And suddenly John's mood plummeted like a stone, with the speed normally only managed by drunks.

'I never met my parents.'

Sara looked up, startled.

'They died. And then the training. Years and years of training. And don't even like the job. All I wanted was a family. All I want is a family!'

His fist slammed down on the table, all the empty glasses jumping into the air. He looked up and realised that Sara was staring at him. 'Um. Sorry,' he said lamely.

Sara got up and left.

'...and then she got up and left.'

Paul looked at his friend closely as they got out of the taxi. 'I never realised you missed them so much...'

John match his gaze for a moment. 'Always.' The eye contact broke. 'Let's go to bed.'

Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories