This story was written for the Writer's Anonymous "What's In A Name" challenge, to write a story in which the name/s of one or more characters played a significant part in some way.

Readers familiar with my AU will (might) remember that in it the canon nicknames were all given by Don. The only one of his teammates who doesn't have one is Jason.

Readers not familiar with my AU, or even Battle of the Planets, don't need to know much - this story is set pre-canon, during a high-powered summer camp which has been set up to select the team which will become G-Force. Not that any of the characters know that at the moment. They all think they're here for a fun two week mixture of science and physical activity...


Manipulations

"Seriously, Don, what's with the nicknames?"

Don turned slowly, giving himself a moment to think. It would have been Jason who asked. Jason, who was possibly as bright as he was. Who'd got the attention of the summer school staff running those weird simulators, just as he had. Who was a damn good driver, even if he couldn't pilot his way out of a wet paper bag. Who'd shown himself to be a seriously good martial artist, in previous sessions just like this one. Who he hadn't planned to give a nickname to, not yet. He was saving that for an occasion when it would be useful, might give him an edge in one of the head-to-head contests they'd started introducing. He wasn't sure whether the plan was for there to be a sole winner at the end of the course - it was very obviously competitive - but if there was, it was going to be him... and that would involve him besting Jason. Which was going to need some careful planning, and not tipping his hand too soon.

"What's it to you?"

"Something I don't much like."

Don opened his mouth to say something else nonspecific and stopped. The other ten students in the gym stood in silence. Sensei Roberts was regarding him with a fixed glare. Sensei Roberts had a particularly good fixed glare. Don did not want to be on the wrong side of Sensei Roberts. He mouthed 'sorry' and looked respectfully at the floor.

"If you're all ready, then," Roberts said with a heavy dose of sarcasm, "the next exercise is sparring. Change partners every two minutes. Go."

No instructions on who those partners should be. Don had stopped asking what the challenges were for several days ago, following a heavy hint from one of the staff members that nothing was as arbitrary as it seemed. So if they weren't being paired up, or told how they should pair up, that meant that the instructors were interested in how people chose to pair up.

Well, then. They'd see that he'd figured out who his main opposition was and wasn't someone who went for the easy option. Don turned to Jason, raised his eyebrows, and indicated the far corner of the mat. And either Jason had come to the same conclusion, or he was happy to follow Don's lead. Don rather suspected the former.

"I want you to stop it," Jason said bluntly as they faced up to start sparring.

"What?"

"Are you two here to chat or to work?" Roberts did not sound impressed.

Don glared at his partner as he raised his gloves for the start of the bout. He was here to work.

Two minutes of high speed sparring left him still not sure entirely how good Jason was. He hadn't felt outmatched; then again, he hadn't felt entirely in control either. At some point he'd have to push it. Not right now, at the start of a session.

At the front of the gym, the instructors were engaged in quiet, earnest conversation, glancing round at the waiting participants. Decision reached, Roberts stepped forward. "Well, aren't you all a well-behaved set of students? Let's change that up a bit. Be less polite. Tell your next partner what you think of them. Change to your left."

Don't react. Others weren't as controlled - there was definite murmuring. Don stepped left and found himself facing Karen. Nice enough girl. Good fighter. Not a match for him.

"I think you need a nickname," he said.

She raised her eyebrows. "I think you need taking down a peg or five."

"Feel free to try."

She glared, readying herself for the start of the bout. Don thought about what he'd seen of her fighting style so far, what her stance suggested now, and grinned. "Sweeper, is it?"

The bout started, and that was exactly what she tried. Three variants, one after the other. She'd have been better off mixing it up - he knew what was coming and that made it relatively easy to counter. He waited his time, put in a sweep of his own, and landed her satisfyingly on her backside.

"Nah," he said, as the end of the bout was called. "Swept."

Definitely no friends made there from the glare he was getting, but he wasn't worried about her. And it wasn't much of a nickname, if he was honest with himself. He'd not mention it again and chances were she'd decide he wasn't such a bad guy.

"Change to your left."

Next up: Marco. Okay fighter, good pilot, into engineering. Easily led. Mostly by Todd, whose martial arts weren't at a level to even put him in this group, but he'd cheerfully gone along with Don when asked. Was that what ISO were looking for - good followers? Maybe, but they'd need leaders too, and Don knew exactly which he intended to be.

"Well then, Sidekick," he said. "Think you've got what it takes to step up?"

Marco responded with some generic trash talking. Don paid it no attention at all. He wasn't going to get riled - he was just going to move round the room making it entirely clear to everyone that this game didn't worry him at all. If it worried his opponents, well, that was a bonus. It didn't matter much in any case. Nobody in here except Jason could touch him at sparring.

Two more rotations - trash talking at the not particularly personal level appeared to be what most people had chosen, but he'd long since got over losing his temper when someone pointed out he was short - and he faced Jason again. He'd rather expected it to stop at that point, maybe a reshuffle since there were several people in here he hadn't fought yet. But no, it was gloves up for the start of the next bout.

"Don't do it," Jason said.

"Do what?"

"Nicknames. I said don't."

Don raised his eyebrows. This was Jason's idea of telling people what he thought of them? Trying to stop him from doing something harmless, just a bit of fun, in a situation where they were supposed to be being less than polite? Or was it just him trying to call the shots, get Don to do as he was told?

Like hell.

And he had the perfect nickname all lined up.

"Well, I'm sorry about that," he drawled. "Tailspin."

Jason's eyes narrowed. "Don't say that again. I'm warning you."

"Tailspin. You know what it means, don't you? You do it often enough in the flight simulator."

He barely heard the call for the start of the bout. Jason had indeed been holding back. Now he wasn't. And he had significantly more reach than Don, and man did Jason care about nicknames for some reason. What was that about anyway?

And then he was so busy trying not to be bounced off the walls that he stopped analysing it.

The next thing he was fully aware of was Sensei Roberts yelling "Yame!" at full volume - not for the first time, he thought - and someone else dragging him backwards away from his opponent. He stopped resisting. Since his head wasn't instantly kicked off his shoulders, he rather presumed that someone had done the same for Jason.

His right eye hurt. Rather a lot. He could still see out of it, though he wasn't sure how long that would be true for. He suspected it looked pretty much the same way Jason's left eye did. He didn't remember landing anything. Didn't remember getting hit, either. Around them, the circle of other students, wide-eyed, suggested that bout had looked rather different from the outside, too, to the extent that everyone else had stopped and watched. Probably because he and Jason were now nowhere near the corner they'd started in. He wasn't sure if that was good or bad.

"What part of 'no strikes to the head or face' did you two not understand?" Roberts didn't sound remotely impressed.

"Sorry, Sensei," Jason said. "It was an accident."

"An accident."

"Yes, Sensei. I stepped into it."

"Indeed. And you, Wade?"

He glanced at Jason, but the other's face was impassive.

"Yes, Sensei. Stepped into it."

"Very well. I'm sure it won't happen again. Will it?"

"No, Sensei," they said in unison.

"Now both of you go to Medical and get your eyes seen to."

.

"Damn, you're quick," Jason said as they waited in the medical centre. "I figured I'd put you on the floor and get you to back off."

"Back off?"

Jason grabbed him by both shoulders, swung him round. "I am going to say this once only. My name is Jason. Now are you good with that or are you going to be stepping into kicks every time we spar?"

There was a bleep and "Wade, room 2" appeared on the screen. And this was not a hill worth dying on. He'd have to find another way.

"I'm good with that, Jason," he said, and headed to the door.