skonen_blades: (Default)
The studded club swung down and cratered the ground with a sound like a collapsing house. The Brinotaur’s muscles shuddered with the impact as it’s weapon hit the ground. To call it a club wasn’t entirely correct. It was more like a building with a handle. The creature was the biggest mass of flesh I’d seen down here in the under.

I had rolled to the side, pushed even further by the shockwave of the club’s impact. A wall of air like a giant hand swept me across the ground. I wouldn’t have survived a glancing blow and I’d be disintegrated by a direct hit. I needed to think of a way out of here fast.

It felt like I was in an arena but there didn’t appear to be an audience. The Brinotaur and I were in a circular room with a dirt floor about as big as an empty warehouse except the walls climbed up into darkness. A few support pillars lanced up into the blackness from the ground but I couldn’t see the ceiling. The Brinotaur seemed to know not to destroy them but I didn’t see how it could avoid it, being so large and clumsy.

I’d woken up here. I couldn’t tell if I’d been randomly selected from the other kidnapped humans or if this was punishment. The creatures here had an opaque system of governing that I couldn’t parse.

The Brinotaur, for instance. I’d heard of it but I hadn’t seen it yet. A mythical creature used as a boogeyman to our slave work force if we didn’t pull our quotas. My quotas were up and my quotas were fine. I’m not sure how I got here.

The Brinotaur tugged his weapon up and back onto his shoulder. It was an amphibious creature. A head like a bull but green and slimy with no hair. Gills fluttered under its ears. Mottled skin glistened, wrapped around his enormous muscles. It looked too big for the gravity here. Like merely breathing and rolling over would be a herculean feat but here it was, walking around disturbingly quick even if imprecise and hampered by its immense inertia. It must need a water source but there was none here in the room.

That’s when the ceiling exploded into light and the ocean came down from the sky.

skonen_blades: (borg)
The fight goes great for almost fifteen seconds.

The clank and thud of metal on plastic echoes around the cage studio. Small dents. A few scorch marks. This is the part of the fight that we can still both walk away from. Parries. Searching for weak sides, design flaws in the shell, testing peripheral vision.

I’m quick. He’s strong. Usually, quick wins. This guy, though, has training that plays to his enormous strength. His armour takes the hits as I look for a crack in the façade.

I find the crack and jam a needlepaw in there just before I realize that the crack is too big, too obvious. It’s a fake. It’s a trap. Quick also means too eager.

My tips hit a charge-vein. With my reflexes amped up like this, I can see the electrical charge crawl up my arm. Inchworms of blue light snake up and around my wrist. All of my servos lock up as the electricity slowly washes over my elbow and overloads them.

I get up my feet up and plant them on the big guy’s chest and push off just as it hits my shoulder. I land in an efficient roll but now my right arm might as well be a feather boa for all the good it’ll do.

This guy. Big, round, shapes of impact liquid armour coat all of his joints. He’s a new model, no sharp edges. Like a bunch of pillows with a video camera on top. Pillows that turn to carbon-fibre steel at a punch.

Ever since these fights started being targeted towards families a few months ago, the chassis designs have gotten friendlier. Designs that two-year olds won’t poke themselves in the eye with. Designs that can be mass-produced as toys for more profit.

I am mirror shards, guitar wire, and kitchen-knife puzzle pieces wrapped around razors and open-air tendongears. Suddenly, I get it.

The fight is fixed. I’m not going to win. Corporate won’t have it.

The big guy lunges, taking my moment of realization as a weak moment of fear. He’s wrong. I have no fear now. I'm going to lose even if I win.

My reflexes are hard to control. I shudder a little as his fist closes around my other shoulder. I hear it crush with a squeal of metal that sounds alive. We both go down, him on top.

He’s staring at me with his big red HAL eye above the bulbous armour.

Slow. Move slow. Slowly. I move one of my feet up. Slow. I snuggle my foot under one of the big guy’s pillowy armour pads near his hip. If I’m quick at all, it’ll harden to concrete.

I scream and whine to distract him. It works. His red eye is focused on my construct’s sensor array, feeding the view to the paying audience.

My toes are close to his spine now. I’ll only get one shot. I slowly make a fist with my foot as he puts a hand over my lenses. There's a crunch and my eye-feeds stutter and fail.

I open my foot quickly, pushing out my claws. The armour around his waist fluffs up and goes rock solid. My foot is destroyed. I heard that spine spit sparks, though.

He falls to the ground, paralyzed from the waist down, spine severed. My leg is ripped off, trapped in the folds of his activated armour.

Both of my arms are dead and I’m blind. Only one of my legs works. That’s okay. All I have to do is stand. Last one standing wins the bout.

I hop around the ring as the automated referee counts to ten. I win.

skonen_blades: (bounder)
Finnegan Sue was a pit fighter.

She wrapped her knuckles, mindful of her nails, and ran her sharpened tongue around her poisonous needled mouth.

Outside, the announcer’s spiel was cresting.

Too many chapters of her life were prefaced with the phrase “…and in this corner.”

She hummed a tune while she prepped. Her horrible lisp made a mockery of the lyrics she whispered to herself as the countdown in the top left of her field of vision closed in on go time.

Before tonight, Finnegan Sue had never been a main event.

Two kinds of fighters got headlined:

There were connected fighters with flashy, expensive augmentations entered into and bred for the top tiers. They had short careers. They had nowhere to fall to. Every fight was to the death up there and political maneuvering shed as much blood off the arena floor as on it.

And then there were fighters like Finnegan Sue. Heavy with scars, right moments and hundredth-of-a-second survivals. Long, exceptional careers of violence. Fights to first blood, fights to humiliation, fights to first break, and sometimes, fights to the death. The path of these fighter's careers was a slow, steady incline to a main event.

Finnegan Sue was nearing the end of her career. A win at this level as an independent and she could retire. All she had to do was kill this next fighter.

Sue checked the levels of her speed. She stretched the armoured tendons in her wide neck. The drugs were coursing through her now just as sure as they were coursing through her opponent.

The announcer was getting around to it.

“…the Russian ripcord, winter’s dog of war, the Siberian she-devil, the gutpunch from the gulag, Moscow’s murdering Maria, I give you….FINNEGAN SUE!!”

The crowd went wild and the doors opened.

Finnegan Sue flexed, breathed in, and ran to the light. She leapt into the arena in a forward roll that ended in a kneeling crouch with her nails fanned to hide her face.

After a respectful pause, she stood up straight, cueing the announcer to get on with it.

“And in THIS corner….” he started rattling on about the person Sue had to kill.

She tried to tune out what the announcer said at this point in every match. She liked seeing her opponent with fresh eyes. She had heard hints that her opponent had started out as a male and was not Free. He was a German.

For no reason at all, Sue thought of her long-dead mother. It was surprising and unsettling to think such a thought before a fight.

Sue hoped it wasn’t an omen.

The doors of the other side of the arena opened.

Every arena Finnegan Sue had fought in was round but they still called them ‘corners’.

skonen_blades: (dark)
The rules were simple. No time manipulation, no transmutation, and no spell could be used twice.

Morden the Uneasy entered from the west quadrant of the arena on a massive floating bed attended by golem slaves made from flower petals. The metal caps on the stumps of her legs glimmered with diamonds in the sunlight.

I sat high up in the private viewing box with my client and tried to pay attention to the match. The arena floor was projected real-time on the table between my client and I in hard light. Whatever section of the fight I was paying attention to would come up picture-in-picture on a baseball card floating to the left of the action.

It was an expensive AV setup in the most expensive seat in the house. If this gross display of wealth was meant to impress me and keep me off-balance during the wage negotiations, it was working.

Khallista of the Red Flame entered from the east quadrant of the arena, wreathed in the red fire of her clan and already whimpering from the recent focal drugs that had turned her eyes completely black.

There were better skilled people on the craftlist above me that could have done the job that my client was asking me to do. I wasn’t cheap but this client could afford the best. I figured if he wanted a fall guy to use as bait for a trap, he would have sought out the cheapest loser he could find so I was curious why he picked me. Not the bottom and not the top and not a particularly fast riser.

I warily accepted his offer of more details over dinner at a Magic Pit Fight in the hopes of allaying my suspicion.

Rowst the Unbelieving staggered in from the ‘blue’ north quarter. He was blindfolded and dressed in nothing but a small toga, stained by the sores covering his body. A perfectly circular halo of small glowing fairies crowned his bald head.

My client sat across from me in the shadows. Whatever air of mystery he was trying to create for me was also working very well. I was very curious about his identity. Courtesy wouldn’t let me ask until he offered to talk to about it so I sat back in silence and continued to watch the players enter the arena.

Shorelocke the Dread Shadow entered from the south to complete the roster. He was cut from darkness. There was an absence of light around him. He was like a person-shaped hole cut in the fabric of reality. His glowing eyes stabbed out in twin beams of white, eager ferocity.

These fights were not to the death. They were for rights and rankings. This was a championship round, though, and sometimes accidents happened.

My client leaned forward into the light above the projection on the table. I looked up to meet his eyes and froze with the words I was planning to say dying in my throat.

A Fixer was staring back at me. I’d only heard legends. His pale face and dark eyes marked him out as a rare purebred human but that wasn’t the giveaway. He’d released the glamour for me to see in this moment so that I would be suitably awed.

He flickered with possibility.

He was staying close to the dimensions surrounding this one so his changes weren’t extreme. The different versions of himself were very similar to one in this quantum thread. His hair length varied a little from second to second. A scar would sometimes pop up on a cheek and then vanish. His eyes would go through a gradient of the colours he was born with as the moments went by. It made me slightly nauseous to look at, like I had motion sickness.

Very occasionally, a woman would flash through his features or he’d disappear for a millisecond as he passed through a universe where he’d died already.

He leaned back in the shadows.

I composed myself and asked him the question I’d been wanting to ask him since I’d been contacted.

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because”, The Fixer responded, “you are unique. You know what you’re talking to, yes? You realize what I mean?”

I nodded. As someone that could extend their sense of self across an almost infinite number of dimensions as easily as a bird could extend its wings, The Fixer had a very special definition of unique.

We all have a double in almost every other universe. However, if you picture all possible realities as a spectrum, the differences between our universe and the other possible universes get more and more pronounced the further away you get from your universe of origin.

There are universes where I have a different haircut and a different job. There are universes where I am married.

Go further and there are universes where I was hit by car when I was six, for example, or choked on a chicken bone when I was seven. There are universes where my parents never met and I never came to be.

What The Fixer meant by ‘unique’ was that he had spread his dimensional-self wings and hadn’t found me. What he meant was that there was only one of me. Here. Only in this space-time continuum and only on this Earth.

I reeled. This was the end of one life and the beginning of another.

“You realize how valuable that makes you to my kind, of course. I only offered you a job to get you here.” He said. Languidly, he motioned with his index finger and I heard the doors lock.

“You are going to be added to The Zoo.” He said.

On the table between us, the Magic Pit Fight began to the crowd’s deafening cheer.

skonen_blades: (appreciate)
These are the battlewhores of Plentha. They are warrior concubines. They are dark blue with white eyes and dark red hair that they keep short. They are close in structure to athletic humans except for the extra set of arms and the tail. They have a crest of quills down the middle of their spines. The quills go up like the back of a cat if they’re startled or angry. The adults have mastered their emotions so this doesn’t happen. They fund an empire by selling their bodies for sex and death. They are wonderful killers and the best lay in the galaxy.
They get high off the smell of freshly mown terran grass.

This is the living computer of the Elexan Shield. It’s dressed in hanging chrome plates hiding thousands of long umbrella skeleton arms tipped with weapons. Its giant red eye scans like an old school Cylon Kitt for enemies. It was created to protect. It killed its creators and went freelance but it doesn’t kill for money. No one knows why it has accepted the missions that it has. Its treads are well oiled. It’s humming in anticipation.
It has recharge dreams of the death it has caused across the galaxy and shudders in shutdown sleep with android ecstasy.

This is the Grundle. The Grundle is part of a hive mind. The plural is the same as the singular. It’s giant and purple and dense like a bodybuilder carved from veined marble. Grundle can heat up. Grundle has no circulatory system. Grundle is in contact with all the other Grundle mentally. It has a planet of experience to draw on.
Grundle have no fear of death because they have no sense of self.

skonen_blades: (angryyes)
The Queen came out of the entrance on the far side of the arena floor like some sort of ravenous stick figure scarecrow on stilts, her blind deathrap of a mouth slavering thick deadly mucous. Her muzzle snuffled the air obscenely from underneath the rock hard carapace of her massive head as acid like hair gel dripped down and lubricated her jaws. It hung off of her in playful long wet strands. They flailed in the wind and sizzled in the dirt where they landed. Her second set of jaws lanced out, stretching in the dazzling sun. Her four arms clutched at the air like dancers as the giant misshapen top-heavy body found balance and settled back into a squat on her huge back legs. Her thick long serrated tail whipped around and stabbed impatiently at the walls. The spear-shaped one ton shovel head on the end of it lashed the dirt, sending fantails of soil up against the safety screens of the front row to their delight. The stalks on her back tasted the air for prey. For viable baby food. To give you an idea of the sensitivity of these stalks, it was like they were studded in bear noses. They soaked up cubic miles of surrounding scent. They blasted out long chemical scent paragraphs in response to what they smelled but no one ever understood those paragraphs.

No one ever understood because she was one of a kind.

She was three stories tall, six tons of fun, and a dyed-in-the-wool intelligent killer. Would have been top of the food chain if she wasn’t a sterile albino. She had gestated inside the body cavity of some subterranean pigment-free mammal that was like a cross between a white bat and a polar wolverine. The reformers that found her out there on that distant planet broadcast their find back to New Terra before being torn to ribbons. She’d turned out sterile and had eaten nearly every other living thing on the planet. She’d been in a lot of fights and was nearly insane with the need to have eggs but unable to do so. She was a queen of an empty kingdom. She was a queen without subjects.

Until now.

The white carapace on her head was emblazoned with garish squared off logos from Skemtex, 3M, Macinsoft, Coke and Sheen. Other logos took up space on her long arms and thick back legs. Like a living billboard of death, she paced around the perimeter of the arena, ravenous for the flesh of the crowd but unable to penetrate the energy screen to satisfy her endless need for fuel to make her heavy non-functional eggs. Deep under the arena, every morning, they’d shock her to sleep and take the next batch of eggs that she’d spent the night trying to nuzzle into sudden life. Every single one of them held sterile barren slime. Her screams echoed down the corridors, haunting them.

But here in the sun she had no need to restrain her rage.

She triumphed over whatever they found to put in the arena with her. The cloned Tyrannosaurus Rex just pissed on the ground when the lights came up and offered the queen his throat in a pathetic wolfish display of non violent submission. The queen was only too happy to tear his car sized head off with a stoccato four beat swipe of her claws.

Lions, tigers and bears. Armoured cats. Beasts from other planets. Her ferocity and cunning had outdone them all. She played with them before the kill. She was always fun to watch. She was exhibition only. She was a never fail warm up act for the events that people bet on.
She was alone in the universe. She was the best at what she did. She was a captive. She couldn’t have children. She was angry all the time.

Her virtual rider hit the left shockbit to make her scream and turn her towards the opponent door in preparation.
The portcullis on the other side went up and in walked a black hive queen.

It was to be another Chess Match.

There was never any doubt as to who would win in these. The black queens were entirely too predictable and just the fact of their fertility seemed to send the White Queen into a rage that had no equal or end until the opponent lay in pieces scattered around the ring. They had not had the years of combat that the white queen had. The black queens had soldiers to do their bidding in the hives and although ferocious, the black queens were not used to fighting a) their own kind and b) for the sheer pleasure of it.

It was always something to see, I’ll tell you that.

They set three black queens on her once. After the White Queen had killed them all in the most exciting half hour metrovision had ever seen, she’d thrown herself against the energy screens until she shorted out one of the quadrants and launched herself into the fleeing crowd. She took out sixty eight people before they shocked her to sleep.

The arena owners didn’t do that again.

Someone had hung a silver star on the thick acid proof door of her lair underneath the arena. Her screams were constant when she wasn't pleading mutely with her stillborn children to live. If she cried there were no tears.

She padded silently tiger like towards the other queen, baring her crystal teeth in a terrible rictus promising nightmarish death.



skonen_blades: (Default)

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