by Dan Swanson
From the journal of Lily DeLuna:
Doris was stooping on me like a hawk on a field mouse! That might be a pretty good tactic to use against a mouse, but not on me.
In fact, I’d noticed that neither Doris nor Ted was really good at this game. They were good at avoiding stationary obstacles, but not so well with things that moved. I could see that they were both rusty from lack of recent practice, but it was more than that.
With weapons like the gravity rods, there was no reason that either of them would ever fight hand-to-hand with a flying foe. It would be easier and safer to hover some distance away and shoot energy-blasts. So they didn’t have a lot of practice being in close quarters with other fliers, and trying to touch them with your hand… well, it just wasn’t something they had a lot of practice at. Of course, neither did I. But I do have a lot of experience flying my dad’s biplane into and out of very tight areas, and I had done a little (very little) formation flying whenever air shows would come to town and let me and Pop fly with them. Ted and Lily instinctively backed away whenever the got close to another flier, and then had to force themselves close enough to make the tag. If they thought I was a little reckless, their own natural caution would work in my favor.
I didn’t figure all of this out while Doris was diving on me, by the way. I didn’t figure it all out until later, in fact, but my observations had already helped me come up with a game plan. I waited until Doris got close, and I could see her starting to get nervous — it looked like I was going to let her run right into me! She slowed down just a little, and pulled up just a little, so she wouldn’t smash into me at top speed. As soon as I was certain what she was doing, I zoomed towards her, making sure I would pass underneath her. She missed the tag by a mile! By the time she was able to slow down, I was across the playing field.
“Hey! Great move!” Ted said over the radio. “I’ll have to remember it the next time we see the Hawks!” Doris said something, too, but I can’t repeat it here. I just smiled. Half the battle is getting the other guy to lose her temper!
Doris was much more cautious this time. She approached slowly. I flew away, changing speeds, then height and direction. She never overcommitted, and she steadily drew closer — when she saw which way I was moving, she could cut corners and catch up. She really did have a lot of experience, and she learned fast!
I had been gradually flying higher and higher, watching Doris carefully as she stalked me. She was focused on the direction I pointed the power rod. That was smart, because that’s the direction I would have to move, but I thought I might be able to surprise her. She had me pretty much hemmed in against the edge of the game area — I would either have to dodge by her, or go outside the area and lose that way, or get caught. At least, that’s what she thought!
I aimed the power rod over her head, and turned up the speed. Doris quickly moved to cut me off, and with a click on a button that she couldn’t see, I turned off the power rod — and dropped like a stone! As soon as I had fallen far enough to be sure she wasn’t going to be able to change direction and catch me, I turned the P-rod back on, and zoomed off to the center of the playing area. Aha, safe again! I slowed down, trying to figure out what I would do next. I didn’t want to give away all my secrets — I wanted to save a trick or two to pull on Ted.
Speaking of Ted, he was hollering at me through the radio, telling me what an idiot I was and how dangerous that trick was.
“Sorry, Ted!” I wasn’t, really. “That trick really wasn’t any more dangerous that flying around with a power rod that was built over ten years ago by a criminal scientist, I don’t think. Besides, you guys are super-heroes — I’m sure one of you would have caught me if I’d had any problems.” Ted didn’t buy it.
I was paying so much attention to Ted that I forgot about Doris. I figured she’d still be out of control, so I turned around to find her and plan my next moves.
But Doris surprised me. While I was exchanging pleasantries with Ted, she must have leaned back into a back loop and half-roll, and then she stooped on me again. That’s what I got for letting Ted distract me. I couldn’t get out of the way this time. I heard her laugh as she dived past me and just barely touched me!
I was horrified when I turned to follow her flight. She had been concentrating on me so much that she hadn’t stopped to realize what was behind me. She was going too fast to stop or change direction quickly, and there was a large tree right in front of her. I was sure she was going to slam into it at high speed and be seriously wounded. When she finally saw that tree, she moved faster than any person I’ve ever seen! She somehow managed to blast that poor tree to toothpicks with the gravity rod, and her force-shield protected her as she zoomed through the flying debris. That had been close! It was the single most astounding athletic feat I have ever seen, reacting fast enough to save herself.
Suddenly, Ted was screaming at her! And then he told us that the game was over!
“That’s what you think, Teddy-bear! It’s not over until we say it’s over!” Doris said. This sounded like it might be fun. I switched to channel fifteen. “Lily, are you there?”
“Right here, Doris! Hey, that was a great move; I never expected you to recover so fast.”
“Thanks, Lil. You’re pretty hot stuff yourself! Say, did you hear Ted pissing and moaning? What an old worry-wart! What say you hit him low, and I hit him high?”
I’m afraid I didn’t catch on right away. “Sure, Doris, but what do you mean? Do you actually want me to try to tackle him?”
“Silly girl! Shoot him! Hit him with your best shot. Don’t worry — his gravity rod can handle it!”
Doris was now speeding back towards me, as if she had missed the tag and was still it. Ted was flying closer, and he was still screaming, but with our radios tuned to channel fifteen, we could hardly hear him.
“OK, Lily, on three! One, two, three!”
We both spun towards a startled Ted, and we blasted him! I didn’t dare use full power, regardless of what Doris said, but I shot him with medium power, right at the knees. Doris was just a little farther away from him than I was, and she hit him in the chest. He tumbled backwards for a few feet, but then somehow regained control. Suddenly, our beams were no longer reaching him; he was somehow deflecting them to both sides. I switched back to channel three, and he was roaring with laughter! Doris was laughing along with him. Ted stopped laughing just long enough to gasp out, “OK, now the exercise is over!” And the three of us landed.
I turned off the power rod and took off the helmet, and walked to join the other two. Suddenly, my power rod was too heavy to hold, and it dropped from my grasp. Doris gasped as her gravity rod fell from her hand. I tried to move to pick up the power rod, but my feet seemed to be glued to the ground. Ted was laughing again.
“Gang up on me, will you? Well, miss wise guy–” That must mean me. “–and Mrs. Smarty Pants–” That had to be Doris. “–now I’ve got the upper hand!” He laughed, sounding like a cartoon bad guy; you know, “Nyah-huhn-haa!” He twirled an imaginary handlebar mustache.
Doris looked at me funny, and then said, “Why, Teddy-bear, whatever do you mean?” She couldn’t want me to use the radio, but the last time she used that phrase, she had signaled for a coordinated attack. I only had one thing I could attack with, so I wound up and threw the helmet at Ted as hard as I could. Meanwhile, Doris had pulled off her loincloth, and when my helmet distracted Ted, she snapped the cloth like a whip! It hit Ted in the hand, and it must have hurt, because he dropped his gravity rod, and suddenly we were both free! Doris yelled like a savage and tackled him!
I picked up our dropped weapons while Doris and Ted rolled around on the ground. They had fun for a few minutes, while I watched the sky. Finally, I stared whistling. Ted was so startled he stopped “fighting,” and Doris quickly rolled clear, jumped up, and put a foot on his chest. I walked up to her, took her hand in mine, and raised both hands over our heads. “The winners and new champions!” And we both cheered.
Ted had a big smile on his face. He knew better than to argue.
It would be daylight in just about a half an hour. I really needed to head back to my hideout and get some sleep. I wanted to talk to John Ross later today, and I wanted to be fresh and sharp.
We flew together to the parking lot, where I gave Doris a hug and said goodnight to Ted. Something strange, though — as I closed the door, I heard Doris whisper to Ted, “Business,” and Ted said, “Race you home!” But Doris was already gone. I wonder what that was all about?
End journal entry.