"With pleasure." A cocky grin spread across Darien's face, and he stepped towards Skylar and held out his fist for a fist bump. "Bring it, Sky."
"Just try to keep the fight close," Skylar teased him, knowing that the insult would get under his skin.
She was right. Skylar could see a muscle in his jaw pop, and he // withdrew his fist and stepped into a fighting stance. "If you can keep up."
Myra vaulted over the ropes surrounding the arena and settled on one, balancing her weight carefully as she let her legs dangle. "Ready, set, fight!" she called out, and immediately Skylar and Darien jumped into action, moving closer to each other and circling each other in a mesmerizing, dance-like rhythm, each waiting for an opportunity, a small gap in the other's defenses.
Finally, Skylar found one. She launched herself towards Darien, swinging at his side, his face, his ribs, his chin. He deflected each one but stumbled backwards, and Skylar delivered a crushing kick to his side. He staggered two steps to the side but then transformed his momentum into a counterattack, swinging so quickly that his hands were a blur as he attacked from every angle until Skylar slowed down and missed an open-handed hook from the left that connected on her cheek with an audible slap
Myra flinched at the sound and squirmed where she sat, a smile spreading across her face. "You guys are even," she called out, knowing that would motivate them to pick up the pace.
They exchanged a couple more blows, neatly swinging and parrying, jabbing and blocking, continuing until Darien grew impatient and swung too hard towards Skylar's head, a perfect-form hook that Skylar dodged. She retaliated with a brutal uppercut that connected perfectly and then kicked Darien firmly in the chest, knocking him onto his back. She was on top of him in a split second, pinning his arms to the ground with her legs and holding a mock knife to his throat.
"Surrender." She smirked as Darien squirmed, and eventually Darien rolled his eyes.
"Fine. You win this one." Darien grunted, and Skylar stood up and offered him a hand, which he accepted.
He rubbed his cheek, which was already starting to turn black-and-blue in splotches. "I'm going to feel that one tomorrow."
"In my defense, you did take a knockout swing at my head a few moments before I gave you that." Skylar vaulted over the ropes around the boxing ring and walked back over to where Myra was. "What else is on the agenda for training today?"
"Arm strength training." Myra was already powdering her hands and preparing to deadlift. "Nothing super heavy today, you're supposed to train at 80% of your personal best." Myra slid two 10-pound weights onto either side of the deadlift and then squatted down, gripping it with both hands and staring straight ahead. Skylar folded her arms across her chest and watched as Myra grunted and straightened, lifting the weight to waist-height and then standing there for a few seconds before dropping it and stepping back.
"Your turn, Skylar."
Skylar added two 5-pound weights to either side and then did the same thing, squatting down low and staring straight ahead. She curled her hands around the cold metal bar, which weighed 40 pounds by itself, and then stood straight up. She held the weight at her waist and counted aloud until her arms started to tremble, and then dropped it as she stepped back.
"5 seconds, Darien. Beat that," Skylar said with a wink.
"Easy." Darien had taken it a step further and wrapped his hands like he did for boxing, then slid a ten-pound weight onto the bar. He squatted down, the muscles in his legs popping, and then gripped the bar so hard his knuckles turned white. He stood straight up and Skylar counted for him, deliberately making the syllables slower so that he dropped it on the count of four.
"That's cheating! You totally counted faster for me," Darien complained as he unwrapped his hands.
Skylar smirked. "Yeah, you're right." She noticed the look on Darien's face and quickly added, "Sorry, I was just trying to be funny."
"Whatever." Darien's brown eyes were stormy, and he brushed past Skylar and Myra towards the door.
Skylar and Myra exchanged a glance. "Should I go talk to him?" Skylar asked after a few moments of silence.
Myra shook her head. "Let him cool off for a few minutes, and then apologize again later tonight. He just needs space."
"Should we go check on Rae?" Skylar asked, changing the subject.
Myra nodded. "I don't get why she's exempt from these practices," she said as they walked out of the training room and down the hall towards Rae's dorm.
"Probably because they need her to work on her specialized skill area. She still has to do some exercise so she can hold her own, but it's not her position on the team. She's a badass coder. I couldn't do a tenth of the things she can do with a computer."
"I guess. I just feel like they treat her like she's some special asset and the rest of us are just typical grunts."
"That's not how it is, Myra. We all have our skill sets, and that's why we make such a great team."
"I know, I know. I just want to feel like I'm doing something special and that I'm irreplacable because I'm so tired of feeling like I'm not doing anything meaningful. That's why I'm doing this in the first place, anyway, and I wish that they did a better job of recognizing that."
"For sure, dude." They rounded the corner and reached Rae's door. It was painted silver, and a bronze placard hanging on the door read "Rae Beckett, Team 406 Coder". Skylar knocked a few times, the knock ringing out through the hallway, and then the door swung inwards to reveal Rae standing there, her multicolored hair pulled up in a bun.
"How was training?" she asked, crossing the room and sitting down at her desk, where the familiar black coding terminal was pulled up, covered in lines of text that matched her multicolored hair.