BABEL was as subversive as the German underground has always been, but instead of attending rallies or designing computer viruses, she channeled her sedition into farce. Practical jokes, elaborate and bizarre pranks, shoplifting. Spontaneous acts of defiance against the State. Long rides through the Prussian countryside perched triumphantly on the roof of Erika's Trabant, goggles clasped to her face, arms aloft. Endless references to Mathias Rust in afterglow conversation.

Tiergarten was a massive park in the centre of Berlin, the green heart of one of the greenest cities in Europe. At such an hour all that green was all black of course, and the long avenues were basically deserted. Dieter and Bäbel skimmed down secluded paths on skateboards throwing a luminous Frisbee to one another chiding the occasional drunk, punk or hunk with business in the park. A halfmoon hung in the sky like some unfinished Death Star, barren light shinnying from fern fronds and the occasional expanse of pond. Planes lumbered in a velveteen sky. On floodlit lawns, families drank lemonade and lobbed slobbering sticks to their Dobermans.

<<Hard day at the office?>> Dieter said. They had just swung into orbit around a large fountain, and he was desperate to uplift her. He'd never seen her so despondent.

<<Nothing some aeronautics wouldn't help>> she said. Without further ado she began performing a series of flips, spins and backside airs on the fountain plaza. It was a lacklustre display, Dieter thought - unusually labored and he couldn't work out what was bugging her. He was about to put her out of her misery by suggesting they go home and do a line he'd been saving for such a night when, out of the darkness, rolled a posse of smashed glass and slurred obscenities. They were speaking in a tough variant of DDR Deutsch, Dieter noted, and given their overriding impression of whiz, he figured they were riding rollerblades.

<<Great. Rolleraiders.>>

At that general time Bäbel was accelerating towards the fountain base, a raised circular slab about a foot in height. She was getting ready to glide over the rim when one of the thugs smashed a beer bottle he'd been drinking and shattered her concentration. She careened into the slab and tumbled off the board, sprawling for a full meter across the pavement.

Just then the rolleraiders rolled into shot: they circled around Bäbel in a classic Shaw Scope attack pattern. <<Don't bother getting up, we can use you for jmuping practice>> one of them said.

But Bäbel did get up - she charged at the aforementioned skin and tackled him to the cobstones. <<You started this you>> she snarled <<little fucker.>>

The fallen skin just glowered for a moment, face all kinda catatonic. Then, whistling slowly, he pulled himself upright making special note his two skinned elbows, one reopened shaving wound, and dirt-stains to his pair of Katharine Hamnett jeans. Meanwhile, the rest of his crew looked on, just waiting-for-a-fight kind of.

<<Oh fuck>> Dieter said.

<<You stained my E180 jeans>> the skinhead said. <<Now, you pay!>>

<<I'll pay you out>> Bäbel said.

Sudden close-up on the skinhead's face: black eyes slanting, nervous vein ready to pop. <<No, you will pay in blood!>> And he leapt to his feet and in the same movement deployed a headhigh kick at our illustrious Bäbel. She caught it with consummate skill, twisted his ankle sideways and, doing a quarter turn, sent a kick of her own into the DDR gut. The hoodlum slipped on his rollerblade, landing in another embarrassing heap.

<<Not bad, not bad>> Dieter said. He was the one who got Bäbel into kung fu in the first place, and he was pleased by her progress. <<I never doubted you could dispatch this Punky Brewster. The problem is, what about his friends?>>

Yes indeed, what about his friends. There were about five of them, and they were all obviously cruising for a bruising, as the Germans were saying these days. Dieter sized them up. If it was four-on-two they could probably pull through. But six? Dieter grimaced.

Bäbel, on the other hand, was feeling a lot more confident. She held up her arms in a defiant "V" and said: <<So, who's next?>>

<<Die, you scum!>> the next contender screamed, a pudgy dude in an Oriental bandanna. He advanced on Bäbel with left and right hands flailing, legs forking, feet jabbing. Bäbel stepped back, ever vigilant for his first move. After a bit more kung fu tomfoolery he struck out, aiming a drastic chop at her chest. Just as fast Bäbel deflected him, dispatching his blow to the breeze.

<<Ah>> Dieter said. <<Smooth move.>> Close-up on Bäbel's face: the sweat on her brow, the arrogant little smile forming on her ultra-violet lips.

<<Your kung fu's good>> His Pudginess said. <<Your technique, exemplary. But you're nothing compared to the power of my knife!>>

A switchback knife emerged from his fist: silver and horrible. He weaved the air in front of him and it slithered like a metallic python.

<<Oh shit>> Dieter said. <<And all I wanted was a quiet ride through the park!>>

Just then one of the spare skinheads, breaking from Shaw Scope tradition, took some initiative and charged at Dieter. He caught him by surprise, and they fell to the ground fists flying, lungs groaning, mouths foaming. Meantime, Bäbel and her knifeman were ready to meet on the fields of praise. Lowering into a defensive crouch Bäbel breathed deeply, merged with the universe, dissolved cause into effect, chaos into order, subject and object... basically extinguished herself. From this point on, she and The Force were one. Misinterpreting her tactics, the skin lunged hard, a cinematic whoosh! (sudden closeup on the thrusting knife: the glint of steel, the terror of the prototypical moon). Becoming one with the lunge Bäbel swayed backward, avoided a messy gouge. <<You fucking cunt!>> the knifeman said.

From here on in, the fight was all theatre. More pissed now than sensible, the pudge went for another lunge. This one was clumsier than the first attempt and she had plenty of sway, spin 360 degrees on her heels, stick one leg like a rotor... and trip the fucker up. He fell flat on his face, next to the heap of a man Dieter had left.

<<I'm really pissed now>> the crestfallen said. He sprang back on his feet, tossing the blade from hand to hand. He screamed <<Hiiiiiyah!>> in the Asiatic style and jabbed hard directly at Bäbel, toward her heart. Bäbel siezed the knife midair, prised it from his fingers, tossed it over his head and using his kinetic energy twirled him round and round as a matador would do a bull. Her turn to turn offensive, she then screamed <<Hiiiiiyah!>> clenched her fingers into a stork beak shape stabbed once! twice! three times! (or were they action replays?) into the skinhead's crosseyed face. He passed out instantly, and slumped to the pavement.

The other skinheads, the ones who were conscious at least, decided that flight was better than further fight and made for the hills. Or rather the welfare flats which they called home.

<<Jesus>> Dieter said. <<Whoever heard of skinheads riding rollerblades?>>

<<Whoever heard of skinheads wearing Katharine Hamnett jeans?>> Bäbel said, starting to laugh.

CASSIUS CROON and other characters copyright Rob Sullivan 1996-2001.

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