(Author’s Note: Days of Summer continues with glimpses of their activities over the course of several weeks.)
“Hah! Wii Swordfighting champion still, suck on that!” Kari whooped, arms raised in a victory pose after yet another win.
“Urgh… I suck something awful at this.” Grace sighed.
“You must practice, young Grace, and be more like your name to receive less pain.” Her friend said in a very poor approximation of the old martial arts masters of various films.
Kari was panting as she got off her bicycle in the Steel Bodies gym car park. “Oh… oh geez I’m worn out before we even started here…”
Grace was not in much better condition either. “Break… we’ll take a break. What are we doing here today, again?”
“Filling in…. forms…”
Groaning, Grace slumped over the handlebars of her bike. “I can’t even lift my arms at the moment, let alone a pen. Why are my arms tired anyway?!”
Pulling her helmet off, Kari dug around in her rucksack for a bottle of water. “So out of practice…”
“It’s a door lock.” Grace stated the obvious, giving the device sitting on her bed a questioning poke with a finger.
“It’s practice. We can work on learning how to pick them, without damaging real doors.” Kari’s voice came over the phone.
“And without getting arrested?”
“And without getting arrested! You’ve got the picks I sent too, right? And the little book?”
Leafing through the box it had come in, Grace nodded before realising how stupid that was to do over the phone. “Yeah, it’s all here I think. It’s a pretty stout box…”
“I thought we could mount the lock onto the box, make it easier to work with. You should have a bracket and some screws.”
“Yeah… so. Had any success yet?”
“Not yet, but that’s the fun! Pin tumbler lock, you will be thwarted. Then we can see about bump keys and other kinds of lock.” Kari laughed.
“Grace!” Travis called out from the kitchen. “Dinner!” There was no response from his daughter as he brought the plates through to the dining room. Heading to the bottom of the staircase, he raised his voice and called out again. “GRACE! Dinner!” Still with no response, he sighed and padded his way upstairs to knock on her door. With no response, he carefully opened it and looked inside. There was no sign of her, listening to music with headphones on or napping. Perplexed, he wandered downstairs to start looking room by room for her.
It was in the garage that he found her, and she was in the zone. His old punching bag had been taken out of storage and strung up, and the seventeen year old was busy laying into it with a flurry of fists and knees.
“Grace?” He called, the young woman letting out a yelp.
“Oh! Dad… sorry, I was practising. Welcome home!” She smiled, wiping her hair out of her face.
“Well, you can stop for now. Dinner.”
“*It makes a change to see Kari playing in the garden.*” Hikari said to her mother over a cup of tea. The two women were in the lounge, seated by the back window watching Kari hard at work with a skipping rope.
“*She has always been very energetic, the influence of the bloodline no doubt.*” Yamamiya Hiromi replied after a slurp of tea, the elderly Japanese woman dressed in more traditional garb to her long-Americanized daughter.
“*Moreso, lately.*” Hikari chuckled. “*She and her friend are training to compete in a self-defence competition of some sort, to do with the classes she goes to.*”
“*The blonde one? Grace?*” Her mother asked, before fixing her granddaughter with a long look. “*I hope it does not interfere with the family visit to my home.*”
Hikari shook her head quickly. “*Definitely not, Kari’s really looking forwards to it.*
Looking back outside again, Hiromi smiled as she saw the blond girl hop over the fence with a skipping rope in hand. “*Ah, to be young again.*” She said with a hint of regret.
“Mister Connor?” Grace called out to her tutor as he packed equipment away.
“Ah, Grace, good work from both you and Kari today, very much on the ball.” Nathan praised, easily lifting a heavy training dummy into a box. As Grace approached, it was easier to see the only hint that the man was anything other than ordinary: pale gold eyes that glimmered softly if they caught the light right.
“Thanks, that’s kind of the reason we wanted to talk to you.”
“We?” Nathan asked, no sign of Kari present.
“Kari’s off gossiping with the other ladies.” Grace laughed. “It makes up for her missing the omnibus of Talos- nevermind.”
“You had a question?” He reminded her gently.
“Well, we were talking about what you said last week, competing and all? If we were interested in doing it, we were just wondering what kind of extra training we could do to get in better shape over the summer? Oh, and if there’s any thing we should concentrate on eating or avoid.”
“Well…” Her tutor started, before looking thoughtful. “I don’t have any information here, but I could bring over some of the information I keep at the Tower.”
“The tower?” Kari asked.
“Unity Tower, in Skyway City. I work with the Unity Vigil in training the heroes there, providing meal plans and advice as well as combat and exercise training.” He explained. “If the information is good enough for heroes, it’s going to be more than good enough for your own needs. I’ll have them sent by to your house.”
“That’s great news, thank you!” Grace beamed, before adding “Could you send them to Kari’s house, actually? We’re hanging out a lot this summer.”
“Sure thing. I’ll see you next week, Grace. Take care of yourself, and don’t overdo it.”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow.”
“You overdid it, you know.”
“I know that now! Are you going to help, or are you going to mock?”
“Help, definitely help. With some mocking.” Grace said, carefully helping her dad up. “Just why are you moving all these boxes around the garage?”
“I thought you’d like the extra space for your training gear.” Travis explained, rubbing at the back of his thigh once upright.
“It can wait. C’mon Dad, let’s get you a cold pack for that leg.”
“I could do with a cold one too after all that lifting.” Her father added hopefully. “A medicinal beer.”
“If you’re good, Dad.”
Their legs pedalled furiously as they took the cycle path towards Steel Canyon, rucksacks on their back containing their gym kits. They were fairly proud of their speed too, until a man started to overtake them. Dressed in a form fitting purple and blue outfit, he carried a large package under one hand and was running at high speeds without any sign of exhaustion.
“Ladies!” The man said happily, a grin surrounded by a black beard that matched the carefully gelled crop of hair on his head. “Nice day to be cycling!”
“Thanks!” Kari called out.
“Zack Tanner’s the name, Zack’s Packages are the game. Here, take a card.” He said, digging two out of a small pouch on his belt to tuck into Kari’s bag. “Paragon City’s only ninja courier. Packages delivered on foot, fast, and defended by amazing ninja sword skills.”
“We’ll keep it in mind!” Grace said, puffing a little now as she tried to keep up the pace.
“Have a good day!” The man grinned, touching two fingers to his forehead. With an impressive kiai, the running courier lurched forth with a burst of speed that soon carried him far ahead of the cyclists.
“Oh, I have -got- to learn how to do that!” Kari exclaimed, before dropping her head down to cycle.
“Cold! Cold bath!” Grace yelped, before sticking her head around the door to look at Kari. “I think your water heater is broken, this water’s freezing!”
“I know, I ran it that way.” Kari said, before taking a long pull of water from a bottle.
“I wanted a nice warm bath!” Grace complained.
“Yeah, but Olympic athletes soak themselves in ice-cold water after exercising and competing, it’s better for the muscles. Helps them recover.” Kari explained.
“You go first then.” Grace slipped on a big fluffy bath robe before heading out of the attached bathroom.
“Alright then, I will. Miss Wuss.” Kari teased, before heading into the bathroom.
Grace waited a minute.
“AAAH! COLD!” Kari yelped, before dipping into her Japanese vocabulary to find some very choice crude words for the experience.
“Hey there Kari.” Travis Ritchie smiled at his daughter’s friend as he headed for the car. “Grace isn’t up yet, want me to unlock the door?”
“Hi Travis, it’s all right, I’ve got my key.” Kari smiled, digging the house key out of her pocket.
“And a big package too.” Travis said, pointing to the large parcel under her arm.
“These are some books that Mister Connor sent over for us to look at, training books and food guides for athletes and all that.” Kari replied.
“Well, good luck with the heavy reading. I’ve got to get to work now. Tell Grace there’s plenty in the fridge for lunch.”
“Will do, have a good day at work!” She called out before letting herself into the house. Setting the heavy package down, she quickly made her way upstairs and to the door into Grace’s room, knocking several times. “Grace, you awake?”
There was a sleepy, mumbled reply.
“Grace, our books are here? Y’know, the ones you got Mister Connor to get for us?” Kari tried the temptation approach.
“Got… ages before school… sleep more.” Her friend murmured through the door.
“Right… only one thing for it.” Kari said. Stretching a little in preparation, she opened the door and dashed into the room, leaping towards the bed. “PILLLLOOOOW SLAAAAAAAAM!” The yell filled the room, followed by a solid ‘oomph’ from Grace as she connected.
“Okay… now I’m awake.” Grace sighed after a desperately needed gulp of air.
“C’mon Grace, we’ve got reading to do and breakfast to make.” Kari grinned.
“What’s this?” Grace asked, looking down at the small, durable looking USB stick in her hand.
“This, is the Grace and Kari super-special computer hacking stick.” Her friend said as if that explained everything. Noting Grace’s confused look, she added “Well, one of three.”
“That’s a bit of a mouthful… what’s it do?”
“It hacks computers! Well, it lets us hack computers.” Kari said, before sighing. “Take all the mystique out of it, why don’t you? This stick here has an operating system on, you can plug it into a PC and it should load the operating system into RAM, so you don’t have to deal with passwords and all that to get into a system. Then you can copy files over to the storage USB stick that’s yet to arrive, shut the system down, and you’re in and out like that. Well, that’s the theory.”
“What’s the third stick do?” Grace asked.
“It’s got all kinds of programs on. Computer-y hacker-y programs. C’mon, get your laptop out, I’ll show you how it works.”
There was a faint click from the lock mounted on the box. With a hopeful look, Grace carefully worked the tension wrench over a little more as she held the half-diamond pick steady. With a solid thunk, the lock slid into the open position. Her eyes widening, she jumped up and shouted in joy.
“Grace, everything okay up there?” Her father called out from downstairs.
“Sorry, Dad! Just beat a game I’d been having trouble with!” She called back,
“That’s my girl, show those space aliens or asteroids who is boss!” Travis’ reply came with a chuckle.
“Urgh, elevator queues.” Kari huffed, eyeing the long line of people waiting to be transported about the Atlas Park Mall.
“Why don’t we take the stairs, then?” Grace suggested, adjusting the shopping bags hanging over one shoulder. “A bit of extra exercise wouldn’t hurt.”
“That’s the way to think.” Kari nodded, wandering over to the staircase. “Y’know, those free-running people do all kinds of tricks to get down flights of stairs quicker.”
“I don’t feel comfortable enough to do that yet. We’re still working on that part of our training…” Grace warned.
“Yeah, definitely… besides, in these heels?” Kari said, lifting a leg up to show her knee-high brown leather boots with the three inch heels. “I don’t feel like having these snap.”
“Walter… just why are the girls hopping back and forth over the fence?” Travis asked. He was in the Gray’s lounge looking out at their garden, watching Grace and Kari climbing over the dividing fence in a number of different ways.
“They were watching videos about parkour yesterday evening, some sort of exercise that involves getting about quickly, and generally looking like squirrels.” Walter replied, bringing over a glass of whiskey for his next door neighbour.
“They’re really getting into their sports, aren’t they?” Hikari smiled. “I was saying to my mother the other day it’s nice to see them out in the garden and being active. I bet so many children are just watching TV and playing games this summer.”
“I suppose. It’s making me tired just watching them though.” Travis chuckled.