Name: Benjamin Gold
Genetic Identification Code: NY0511240650671
Physical Health: Superior
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Education: Doctoral Candidate
Occupation: Lieutenant, United Commonwealth of Colonies Fleet Reserve
Criminal History: N/A
Citizen Status: Confirmed
Location: London, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The ringing of metal against metal was a common sound in a city. The great cities of Earth used to be filled with those sounds. Men used to climb the meter-thick steel beams like their ancestral primates. They’d used welding torches, jackhammers, or a plain old mallet to secure the foundations of the skyscrapers. But that was the past. In the present, multi-limbed droids scurried up and down construction like spider monkeys on their anti-grav systems. Depending on the type of contract they fastened the duro-steel beams into place, or spit out the nanites that would literally grow the building from the ground up.
Benjamin Gold, Ben to anyone who knew him, thought a lot about the past. He’d minored in history for his undergraduate education, and that same history built the foundation of his doctoral program. Ben looked out at the city of London and wondered what those men who’d built the Empire State Building would think of the world today.
“Hey, you’re up.” A man in lightly armored smartcloth nudged Ben’s shoulder, pulling his attention away from the skyline of the United Commonwealth of Colonies planetary capitol.
Towers two kilometers high were quite a sight to behold, but Ben needed to focus. “Thank you,” Ben nodded to the man. He grabbed his helmet and his Nano-blade before stepping into the ring.
<You should have been paying attention to his last fight,> Ben chastised himself as he placed the protective headgear over his face. <You’re going into this blind.> It was never a good idea to go into a fencing match blind.
Ben had been fencing for fifteen years. His father put his first blade in his hand at eleven and paid the best coaches in New York to teach him. At the time, Ben had hated his father for it. Spending two hours a day learning forms and avoiding the deadly edge of a Nano-blade wasn’t something a preteen was fond of. It took years for Ben to see the wisdom of it.
Fencing was a gentleman’s sport. Not only did it condition Ben’s mind and body, but it welcomed him into society. As the heir to the Gold Technologies fortune, Ben had a prominent part to play in that society. He had responsibilities and his family name to uphold. One of the easiest ways to earn honor and prestige was in the fencing suites throughout the Commonwealth.
“Welcome gentlemen.” The proctor inclined his head to both competitors. “Standard rules apply if neither of you have any objections.”
Standard rules were the universal fencing statutes. Even someone new to the sport could figure them out. The most important part of standard rules was that it was to first blood. It usually made for quick matches. Such rules made sense; no one had time to waste.
Ben surveyed his opponent. The man was hidden behind his armor and helmet, was a medium height, and had a lithe frame. His reach wasn’t anything special, but with his helmet on Ben was unable to see his eyes; which he had to guess were just as calculating as his. Ben hadn’t been paying attention for the last few matches, but this man had won all of them. It took considerable skill to remain in the ring at a place like this.
Modern fencing, just like its predecessor, favored agility over brute force. They weren’t barbarians hacking it out with broadswords in medieval Europe. Ironically, Ben would have looked more at home on those ancient battlefields with the giant weaponry.
Ben stood considerably taller than his opponent at two hundred and twenty centimeters. His broad shoulders looked like he could carry a half dozen duro-steel support beams on them, and his legs were thicker than most tree trunks. Ben looked like a big, lumbering giant waiting to have his Achilles heel cut by a faster, lighter opponent.
That’s what Ben wanted his opponent to think.
Ben stature was the result of the best in vitro enhancement money could buy. His body was stronger, his mind was sharper, and he was much faster than someone his size should ever be. He’d been training his enhanced fast twitch muscles fibers for fifteen years to take down opponents like the one in front of him.
“Ready─” The proctor began the countdown.
Ben sent an electrical current through his Nano-blade, forming the metal into a meter-long rapier, and assumed an On Guard position with the blade in front of him at chest height. He balanced his body weight evenly over both feet; but instead of having his feet turned at right angles in the classical style, Ben favored having his back toe positioned so it was slightly forward.
Ben’s opponent took a different approach. Instead of forming a traditional sword, the shorter man’s Nano-blade uncurled into a loose whip. Ten meters separated the two combatants, so the man felt comfortable to plant his feet at shoulder width with his left slightly farther back than his right. He moved the whip in small circles next to his body.
<Confident, maybe overconfident,> Ben mused, as he evaluated the man with experienced eyes.
The invention of Nano-blades revolutionized the fencing world, and modern combat. The blades were capable of adjusting their shape; which meant a modern fencer needed to be proficient in multiple weapons’ disciplines to stand a chance. It was a sport where it took years to become proficient and a lifetime to master. In actual combat, the sharp blades could do incredible damage in the hands of the right person.
Of all the weapons in a fencer’s arsenal, the whip was the most complex. Ben needed to take this opponent very seriously. <He wants to control the engagement.> That much was clear from the man’s stance.
“─set─” The proctor raised his arm with the next step of the countdown.
Ben tried not to betray his intentions as he leaned his weight forward onto his toes and bent his knees. <Speed is the key.> He just hoped his opponent was underestimating him.
Ben’s concentration settled. He entered a mental state of peace and control. The first lesson taught to any fencer was to fight without emotion. Emotions made you reckless, and recklessness led to mistakes. In a friendly contest it would only result in a scratch, but in real combat you could lose your head.
“─Begin!” both Ben and his opponent were moving the moment the proctor finished with “B”.
<Damn he’s fast.> Ben shot forward like an arrow, just as his opponent whipped his blade out in front of him. They’d both read what the other was going to do and it was only Ben’s enhanced muscles that saved him.
Ben slid left, missing the bladed edge of the whip by a centimeter. Before his opponent could pull it back, Ben executed his own thrust. His Nano-blade went underneath the whip, and for a second it looked like Ben had miscalculated. With a quick, practiced motion of his fingers Ben’s rapier transformed itself into a hooked scythe.
Now Ben was in an advantageous position. With a quick twirl of his wrist Ben wove his scythe around the whip, and put its bulk between the whip and him. All this happened in a single step, and when you were 2.2 meters tall a single step covered a lot of space. As Ben took his second step his opponent reacted. Seeing that the whip was a poor choice his opponent reconfigured it into a curved saber, but it was already too late.
Ben’s scythe was still between him and the saber’s edge. His opponent would have to retreat and reorient the blade before he could begin to counterattack. There just wasn’t enough time. Ben was already inside his guard, and the next step in his plan of attack was unconventional enough that his opponent didn’t see it coming.
Standard rules stated that the match was to first blood, but a little known fact was that they didn’t specify what had to draw that blood. People just always assumed a match was won with a weapon. It was dangerous to assume anything in any activity that involved spilling blood.
Ben’s fist rocketed forward aiming for a space six inches behind his opponent’s face. A muscular-skeletal system five times stronger than the average human’s made contact with the light piece of headgear. Ben’s opponent’s head snapped back with a CRACK as the other man was picked up off his feet and thrown from the ring. He collapsed with an audible oomph as the wind was knocked from his lungs and his helmet fell from his head.
That was went Ben noticed three things. First, his opponent wasn’t a man at all. It was a distinguished looking woman with her short hair tied up in a tight bun. Second, Ben knew the woman; it was his boss. And third, he saw the scarlet liquid begin to drip from her nose onto her upper lip.
“Ma’am.” Ben’s mind blanked, but his body automatically snapped to attention. “Attention on deck!”
“For the love of…at ease, Gold.” The woman waved away the military protocol as she wiped the blood from her nose. “People have been telling me for months that you’re a demon with the blade. I just needed to see it for myself.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Ben relaxed his stance enough to technically obey her order, but he firmly clasped his hands behind his back and kept his eyes on the far wall. He had just punched a superior officer in the face, and wasn’t taking any chances.
Ben didn’t look around but he knew a lot of the other men and women in the room were adopting similar positions. This fencing suite was for junior officers, and Ben’s boss was a Commander, a full two pay grades higher and at least twelve years more experienced than anyone else.
“Go back to what you were doing; this is your lunch break.” The Commander waved off everyone with an irritated expression. She’d never been one for strict military drill and ceremony. “Gold, give me a hand.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Ben quickly sheathed his Nano-blade and offered the smaller woman a hand.
She got to her feet, rubbed her jaw, and moved it experimentally. “I’ll remember to put in your fitness report that you hit like a battleship at ramming speed.” Ben didn’t know if she was joking or not because of the wince. “Relax, Lieutenant, this was a sanctioned match. You aren’t in trouble. If anything, I’m impressed.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
She rolled her eyes at Ben’s continued strict adherence to protocol.
“Anyway…” She bent over to grab the helmet Ben had punched off her head. “The other reason I’m down here is to inform you that you have a scheduled meeting at 1300 with the Department OIC, so I’d hit the showers before you’re late.”
Ben’s eyes widened at the news, his black pupils almost completely overtaking his pale-blue irises. This was a big deal. Ben was only a Lieutenant in the United Commonwealth of Colonies Fleet Reserve. He only had to serve one weekend a month until he finished his doctorate, and then he would start his six-year service obligation; with an opportunity to move back into the Reserve after three years of active duty.
Most reservists hopped a shuttle into space once a month to complete qualifications with the fleet stationed in the Sol System, or more likely on one of the warships they were mothballing or refitting. Through his father’s connections, Ben had been able to swing an appointment to Fleet Headquarters in London. It was in the Personnel Department for the First Fleet. The fleet permanently stations to protect Commonwealth interests throughout the Sol System. On paper it seemed like a simple job, and more than one active duty spacer had talked down to him because he sat behind a desk all day long. But none of those people dealt with the promotions and career progression of several million spacers and infantry. Compared to the goliath that was the Commonwealth Armed Forces promotion system, Ben would take crawling around in the mud and firing a weapon any day.
<And that’s just my section.> Ben knew that the Personnel Department dealt with much more than just promotions.
All of that meant that the Department OIC was a flag grade officer, an Admiral. A mere Lieutenant having a personal meeting with an Admiral was something that never happened. Ben tried to read the Commander’s expression for some clue of what was going to happen, but she revealed nothing.
“You better get to it, Lieutenant.” Ben didn’t need any more prompting. He ran toward the showers.