Rules Of Engagement
4pm, 29th July (later that afternoon). Rules of Engagement
Max, Elsa and Kris sat around the large oak desk in the estate’s main study, their attention focused on the telephone sitting in the middle, it’s receiver on the hook, but Abdullah’s voice emanating from the hands free speaker. In the far corner stood Peter, not appearing to listen.
’So, it is one on one combat?’ Abdullah asked. ‘You will face only one opponent in each of the duels?’
’That’s right,’ Max replied. ’Just me and whatever one thing Macktidas wants to put up against me.’
’And guns of any sort are prohibited?’ Abdullah added.
’That’s right,’ Max replied. ‘I can only use basic weapons like swords, knives and spears, which I can throw if I want to, but no guns are allowed.’
’And the types of basic weapons can be any variation on a theme?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Swords with extendable blades or blades that can be fired as projectiles?’ Abdullah asked.
’He didn’t say,’ Max answered. ‘Macktidas just said no guns or the likes. The bouts are basically hand to hand combat. Not gun fights.’
‘What about armour?’ Kris asked. ‘Is that allowed?’
’No,’ Max replied simply. ‘Not even a little bit. I can wear whatever clothes I want, but no armour or exoskeleton as he described it.’
Kris nodded. Joe’s voice came on the line next.
‘And how should the weapons be dispensed during the bouts?’ he asked.
’He didn’t say anything about that,’ Max said, ‘but I figure we don’t want to just leave them lying around the place in case I trip over them or one of the bad guys picks something up to use against me.’
’True,’ Joe said. ‘We need to consider some form of provision system where we can feed weapons on request safely to you and not inadvertently to your opponents.’
The line went quiet.
’Max,’ Kris said, ‘have you ever used a sword?’
‘No,’ he answered, looking at her. ‘Never needed to.’
’Maybe it’s time we had some real weapons made and tied them into your training?’
’No,’ Max replied directly and without hesitation.
’Why not, Max?’ Joe asked over the line.
Max held a pause as he looked down at his hands.
‘Max?’ Joe pushed.
’Not yet,’ Max finally said, his head jerking up to look at the phone. ‘Just not yet.’
A slight pause followed and then Joe replied. ‘Very well. That decision is your’s.’
Another pause occurred as Kris and Elsa looked at each other and Max looked away. Abdullah filled the silence.
’It seems we have the information we need to more fully prepare for the arena,’ he said. ‘There is little more we can discuss at this moment and with some selfishness, for Joe and I here in New York, it is the middle of the night and we need some rest before convening with our colleagues at the United Nations in the morning, where we will outline our PR plan for bringing Team Max to the world. I will not go into detail, but suffice to say, Macktidas’ appearance yesterday has fuelled the already rampant fear and uncertainty of our fellow leaders and I do believe we literally stand on the brink of chaos. Our plan for Team Max is very much developing as our last chance at bringing the world back from that brink, so if you will excuse us, Joe and I must retire. We will call you tomorrow with whatever information we can pass on from our discussions. Ma as Salama.’
The line clicked dead and the room fell silent. From his corner across the room, Peter cast an eye towards Max and noted his pensive face. Elsa and Kris both rose and walked out together, discussing Joe and Abdullah’s United Nations mission, while Max remained seated, leaning forwards in his seat, elbows resting on his thighs and his gaze directed at the floor between his feet.
Instead of speaking or leaving, Peter simply held his silence and his vigil.