by Courtney Kraft

Time passed. It could have been a week, it could have been three. Psylocke wasn't sure anymore. All she knew was that she had been cooped up in that bunker for too long. With only one fight under her belt, and time passing so slowly, she realized quickly that she could be there for months before getting out alive or dead.

She was washing her face when a guard stepped into the fresher right next to her, and dragged her out by the arm.

"You will come when you're called," he bellowed.

She didn't bother to fight him. That battle was not worth her time. She was ready and anxious for the next one. During her days there, she excercised and stretched. She meditated and practiced patterns. She was preparing to fight to survive. Day after endless day, she told herself that she was the best. She was the greatest warrior in the galaxy. Now she just had to prove it to everyone else. Her body lacked nutrition though. She was not the only one whose nerves caused a temporary anorexia. Where she lacked in food, she made up for in sleep. She would sleep for long hours at night, expecting to be called at any time of day.

She walked down the dim hallway for the second time, taking slow, controlled breaths along the way. She was ready to fight, ready to beat any opponent no matter how big or strong or fast he was. It was set in her mind that she would survive.

The announcer bellowed again, but this time, she didn't catch the name of her opponent. It doesn't matter, she reminded herself. It's just another body.

The door opened before her. She had to squint again against the sunlight, and smile and wave again to the audience that remembered her from before. As her eyes adjusted, she peered across the sand field to get a glimpse of her opponent. She noticed that he or she was green in skin tone, but couldn't see much more detail. Her opponent picked up two small objects from the table, but she couldn't make out what they were.

She turned to the weapons on the table before her. They appeared deceptively clean. Small weapons means he's comfortable with close combat. I can handle that unarmed, but now I want something to keep a distance. She scanned the table. She would need something quick. Nothing that swings, nothing too heavy, something that can block and strike. Her eyes fell upon a pair of long sai that lay between a short sword and a mace. Her hands glided over them before she picked them up. She felt their weight in her hands. She hadn't used sai in a while. She flipped the sai in her hands from an offensive grip to a defensive one and back. Yup, I still got it.

Turning around with the sai in her hands, she smiled at the crowd. As she heading toward the center of the arena, the smile faded. There was no glamour this time. She just couldn't feel it. As she approached, she got a first good look at her opponent.

She wasn't sure if the creature was male or female. It was only slightly taller than she, with green, scaly skin and red eyes. Otherwise, it looked surprisingly human in shape. In each of its hands was an ulu, a small blade that curved to meet each end of a wooden handle. Psylocke had used those before. It'll try to get close^Ålots of fast, slashing motions Obviously either a skilled fighter or it had no clue what it was doing.

The reptilian creature scowled at her and started to circle. Psylocke kept her unblinking eyes locked on it. Keep its hands in sight. Then, the creature lunged at her. She side stepped and met the creature's three slash motion with her sai. She flipped the sai in her left hand to a defensive position, its longest prong protecting the inside of her wrist and forearm. The creature lunged again, slashing multiple times. Psylocke hopped back and blocked the third slash.

"Who are you fighting Psssssylocke?" is hissed with a sardonic grin.

Her brows furrowed. "What I'm fighting you."

The creature smiled at her. "Sssssso sssure?"

Then, before her eyes, the creature's skin started to ripple and fade. Long, violet hair grew from its head, and it's body took on a humanoid form her own.

Psylocke's jaw dropped as she saw herself standing only five feet away.

"Are you certain you aren't fighting yoursssself?" the creature asked in her own voice. The double jumped forward and slashed again. Psylocke hesitated, still in shock, then turned away from the strike, the double's blade catching her upper arm instead of her throat as intended.

Psylocke stepped back, clutching her arm briefly. Wine colored blood seeped through her fingers as the crowd cheered around her, some of them booing. She took a deep breath and faced her double. "Nice impression," Psylocke muttered. She thrust her right sai forward, hooking it into one of the doppelganger's ulus. She yanked it away, tossing it into the sand. She punched with her left sai, catching the double square in the nose. It fell to the ground, and Psylocke pounced on top of it.

"But you don't have my moves." She smiled and raised the left sai above her head to plunge it deep into the false Psylocke's heart, when its skin began to ripple again. In less than a second, it was Metieh below her.

She nearly dropped the sai. "Gija"

He kicked up his leg, bucking her off. She rolled into the sand, then jumped back to her feet, brandishing the sai.

"You're not real."

"Of course I'm real, Lieutenant. I know you don't want to hurt me."

Psylocke inched back. It even sounded like him.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but I didn't want you to run away."

"You know I had sworn to protect you. I would-" She suddenly cut herself off and shook her head briskly. "You're not real!"

"Strike then Psylocke if you're so sure."

She cautiously stepped forward.

His voice suddenly sounded so soothing, "All you have to do is close your eyes it'll be easier that way."

She closed the distance as she felt her muscles relaxing, here eyelids getting heavy. He had such a beautiful voice^Åshe bit down on the inside of her cheeks, trying to resist. He's trying to use the Force to get me to let down my guard. "That's exactly what you want me to do."

She lunged at him. He caught one sai in his empty hand mid strike, and swept the other away from him. He slashed back toward her again, this time catching her under the ribs.

Gasping in pain, she backed off again, feeling her warm blood run down her abdomen. If she spent too much more energy, she would loose a lot of blood as well. There was no time to dress the wound. She would have to end this quickly.

She flipped the sai in her right hand to a defensive grip. She charged at the Metieh double. He turned as she neared and grabbed her left wrist. He swung her hard around into his arms, but now, she was looking at

On To Part 2