The noise down in the pit was almost as loud as the cheering and booing from the crowd. You could hear bits and pieces of conversations, could see what people were doing and talking about. It made it harder for Anausa to retreat into his head and complete the walk back to his quarters in peace. The other fighters cavorted with half-nude men and women. They ate miniature feasts. A few of them talked to their adoring fans who were either lucky enough or privileged enough to visit them in the pits. They fought, some playfully, some seriously. They laughed and shouted and bled like they were invincible, immortal.
They were. At least for a little while. At least so long as they kept winning.
There was time. He could stop by the infirmary and check on the boy. It was an unnecessary indulgence, more about his own fears and fixation on the process than about some sort of misplaced concern for Raiden. He wanted to see the process from beginning to end. It didn’t matter that he had just given Raiden his second loss in a row and that he wouldn’t survive his third. There was no reason to remind the boy of that and to tell him he should quit now while he still could.
“Hey, Ana!” a voice called out, loud and deep and full of a cold cruel mirth. “That was a Hell of a fight! That dumb little bastard didn’t stand a chance!”
Anausa winced. It was Brick. Loud and obnoxious and swaggering as ever. Utterly dedicated to letting the entire world know how great he was. Anausa had already decided to ignore the man entirely, but he had closed the distance between them, had circled around to stand between Anausa and the walk to the infirmary. And he’d brought the cyborg AC/DC with him, too.
“It toyed with it. It enjoys watching them suffer.”
“That he does! He’s a sick fuck, ain’t he? Like the Doctor. Taking them apart and playing with them and leaving them for someone else to put back together.”
Anausa drew back instinctivey, sizing up the two figures before him. Brick stood a head taller than him, a broad creature of muscle and fat and bone. The cyborg was the opposite, thin and spindly, sexless, plastic and metal and glass. Brick overpowered his foes, able to deliver a merciless beating and able to withstand any onslaught. AC/DC was quick and lithe, its strategies inscrutable and alien. Brick could be defeated by bleeding him, fighting cautiously and tiring him out. AC/DC would fall prey to unpredictability and changing tactics, to identifying its weaknesses and attacking them to the exclusion of everything else.
But they wouldn’t fight in the pit. The management frowned upon it. Grudges were supposed to be settled in the arena, where there was money to be made. “I’m busy, Brick,” Anausa said. “Do you want something, or are you just wasting my time?”
Brick’s mouth spread into a broken toothed grin. It’d been a long time since he’d lost, and he liked to wear the scars of his battles as a reminder to his enemies that his body was rarely replaced. “Not at all, Ana. Not at all. Just being friendly. Please, let me move out of your way.”
Brick mockingly bowed and spread his arms as he stepped aside. AC/DC watched Anausa for a moment through the various lenses and sensors on its face and moved quietly aside with no flourish. Anausa stood still for a moment, waiting for some further insult to issue forth from between Brick’s lips. When none came, he began to leave. Brick called out after him, “Have fun looking at the bodies, Butcher.”
Anausa stopped mid-stride. Only for a moment, but they noticed. As he walked towards the infirmary feeling his face flush with anger, he heard AC/DC’s synthetic voice and Brick’s low laugh. “It doesn’t like being called ‘Butcher.’”
“No. No, he most certainly does not.”