A loud shout of “Kiai!” broke the early morning quiet as the former cadets formed a line to meet their foes. An especially foggy and cold morning had met their wakening hours, and the four men and two women who now patrolled the loose barrier on the west side of town had heard the attackers approach. There was no doubt who the attackers were. They would, of course, be Bandits. Eric Fine’s men had taken to Manitou Springs and, for the past year and a half, harassed any person who came within their grasp. This was especially true of those who represented Red Rock Bluffs, or Council Bluffs, as most people called it.
“Form up!” called out the squad leader, Monty German. “Staff and long knife out, neutral stance!” he directed.
Without word, each member of his squad pulled the required weapon and stood calmly. These were among the warriors of the Bluffs, those who had both training and ability in martial arts. Martial arts no longer meant only foot and fist, nor did it limit itself to weapons. Now, martial arts included the power of the mind and spirit.
Out of the mists before the warriors charged four men, walking quickly. Monty looked behind them for more. The Bandits always traveled in groups of five. It was a good thing that Monty noticed, or he may not have paid any mind to the sound of foot on gravel behind him. As it was, he swirled his staff in an arc behind him.
“Circle formation.” He shouted coarsely, and his group formed a circle with their backs to one another. Monty’s staff whirled through the air and a loud snap rent the air, as it was blocked by a bat from the attacker behind him. He heard the clash of steel on steel to his left and knew the battle was on.
The thick fog hid nothing from sight any longer, as the close combat grew intense. Monty was used to close combat, even when he had been a cadet at the Air Force Academy. But since the Event, combat was different. Not only was one compelled to physically protect themselves by any means necessary, but one also had to prepare their mind to defend from psychic and mental attacks that whirled around at the same speed.
Natalee Ward had taught him well, and as he parried with his blade and swung with his staff, Monty reached out with his mind in a focused burst at the man’s head. The psychic attacks had the desired effect, and the man blinked. It was just enough for him to miss the block on the high arc of the staff. Within milliseconds, the staff cracked across the attacker’s left ear and he fell to the ground. Monty whirled his staff high, and cracked the man once more for good measure across the back of his head.
With his foe clearly unconscious, Monty turned to see one of his squad-mates defenseless on the ground and a man raising an axe high over her head to finish her off. Gathering all his mental prowess, he combined a skilled knife throw with a mental guiding push. The knife was too heavy for true effectiveness, but it was enough. The blade struck the man in his upstretched arm, slicing a deep red line before passing by into the ground beyond him. Monty leaped to run after the man, but the wound had caused him to momentarily drop the axe.
As Monty neared, the man let out a loud whistle and his friends retreated quickly into the fog. The warriors stood quietly, their breath gulped in and loudly exhaled. Monty helped his cohort up from her place on the ground.
“Thanks,” she offered. Monty just winked at her.
Turning to look for the one he had incapacitated, he caught a glimpse as the man ran off to the east. Apparently he had not been as unconscious as Monty had hoped. After a short pause, they dusted themselves off.
“Third one this week,” one of his mates mumbled.
Monty nodded. “Yeah, we better head to checkpoint for our relief. The council will want to know about the increased sorties.”
Gathering their small amount of equipment, the group marched back north.