Predators, by their nature, prey on the sick, the old, the lame and the newborn. It is a function of maximizing gain and minimizing risk.
Quinn was doing his best to stay in the middle of the herd. The sick, old and lame are inevitably pushed to the edges of the herd where they are most exposed to predation and sacrificially protect the core of the herd. The herd does not care about the individual, it cares about perpetuating the best of the species.
Kelly Andrews first noticed Quinn when Quinn’s squad was playing soccer. Torvaldsen’s military was big on soccer, very big.
Soccer does not require protective equipment. It does not require a special field or hoops or a paved surface. It does not even require a high quality ball. Some of the games were played with gallon milk jugs with about a kilo of sand added to make them move funky.
The military leaders drank the koolaid. They believed that soccer taught aggression, tactics, spatial awareness and was an easy way to condition troops. The koolaid also required small teams so there was no place for non-performers to hide. Four-on-four if there was no keeper or Five-on-five if there was. The fields were small, roughly twenty-five paces long by ten paces wide.
Quinn thought soccer was the stupidest game ever invented. Why would anybody willingly handicap themselves by pretending they could not use their arms.
Quinn might have had a slightly rosier view of the game if he hadn’t been playing on his partially healed ankle. The partially (and poorly healing) bones of his fused ankle shrieked with pain every time he put side load on his foot or it impacted the ground.
To not handicap his team, Quinn drifted away from the flow of play. Frankly, Quinn could not even kick the ball. He could not stand on his injured leg while kicking with the other, nor could he kick with his injured foot. The best he could manage was a feeble bunt.
Quinn was able to hide his infirmity for a long time because he was an exceptionally gifted field commander. He could visualize where the play was going long before the other players had a clue. Had he been in good shape, he would have jogged or walked to the proper place and collect the ball and scored. As it was, he ghosted away from the flow of play and was never close to the ball. Ever.
That worked fine until one of his team’s players shanked the ball and dropped it in front of Quinn. Quinn’s competitive instincts kicked in before his brain could over-rule the idea. Quinn stumbled out of the gate, crabbed up to the ball and then delivered a feeble kick.
Kelly smiled a feral smile. He knew who his next victim was going to be. But first he had to confirm what his eyes told him.
Kelly whistled the game to a stop. He told one of the players on the opposing team to go to the sideline. Kelly took his place.
Kelly whistled the game back into action.
A few minutes later, Kelly was crossing the field behind Quinn. Quinn was slowly walking up-field, looking up-field where the play had moved.
Kelly timed his stride so he was able to give Quinn’s questionable ankle a little “love-tap” on the way by.
Quinn dropped as if hit between the eyes with a hammer.
After that, Kelly, who was the lead PT instructor for Quinn’s squad, took every opportunity to kick Quinn’s ankle.
They could be on a march and Kelly would sneak up on Quinn and kick his ankle.
They could be doing jumping-jacks and Kelly stalking the ranks.
Quinn’s enraged ankle swelled up to two-and-a-half times its normal diameter. Quinn grit its teeth and developed a supernatural ability to anticipate Kelly’s presence.
Events came to a head when Kelly started training the squad in hand-to-hand combat.
A good instructor would have chosen a sparring partner of average stature and ability to demonstrate the moves he was training them on.
He would chose two basic moves that were easy to learn. He would teach them hands-only and bayonet moves. Livingston County did not expect any given soldier to prevail in battle, only that they absorb enough hits before dying to turn the tide in Livingston County’s favor.
Of course Kelly did not choose just any sparring partner. He chose Quinn.
Quinn danced and turned and shielded his ankle. He took hits on his thighs. He took glancing hits to the head rather than over-react and expose his ankle.
Kelly lost his cool. Every parry that Quinn turned made Kelly angrier.
After three, frustrating minutes, Kelly called time. “I am done with you.” Kelly dismissed Quinn.
As Quinn walked away, Kelly slide-tackled into Quinn’s weak ankle.
Dusting his hands together, Kelly said “And that is the final lesson. Never, never turn your back on an enemy who is still capable of hurting you.”
“Combat is not about fighting fair. This is a direct order. The fight is not over until one of the parties is dead.”
And with that, Kelly aimed a vicious kick at Quinn’s temple.
Quinn turned his head and the heal of Kelly’s boot abraded the skin from Quinn’s forehead as it passed by.
Reaching up, Quinn grabbed Kelly’s knee and toppled him backwards. Working his way up Kelly’s body, scrambling and dragging himself by upper-body strength, Quinn paused to give Kelly two blows to his testicles, blows with the force of steam engine pistons.
Straddling Kelly, Quinn started punched him in the throat. Old Griz Greenfield and Kirk Osborn were big proponents of throat punching. The throat is soft and missing high still hits high-value targets. Aim for the nose and hit a forehead and you are likely to bust your hand.
Kelly tried to protect his neck by dropping his chin.
Quinn knew a little bit about punching. Punch through the target. Rotate your shoulders and recruit core body strength. Take most of the impact on the index and middle finger.
Kelly’s chin shattered under the impact.
In a fight, three seconds can be an eternity. It took other instructors fifteen seconds to recognize Kelly was in trouble and to come running over.
It was not soon enough.