Monthly Archives: January 2016

Respawn, Pt. 6

Anausa spun on his heel and lobbed the drone’s core at Brick’s feet. The brute’s eyes went wide as the makeshift weapon sailed towards him. He turned and tried to run, lost his footing, stumbled, scrambled away. Anausa advanced cautiously, uncertain how great an explosion to expect, unwilling to risk Brick surviving the blast. If it killed him, fine. If it weakened him, Anausa would finish him off with his knives. If he was knocked off-guard, Anausa would press the advantage. And if he was utterly unharmed and ready to fight, then Anausa would adapt and overcome.

The core detonated with a wave of heat and sound that shook the thoughts from Anausa’s skull, but his training was too great for that to stop him. Battle was a part of him. Instinctual. Programmed into the very core of his being. As the crowd gasped in surprise and cheered in delight, as Brick roared a litany of curses, Anausa drew a pair of knives and leapt into the air. He came down on Brick’s back and sunk them to the hilt into the monster’s back. “Arrogant,” Anausa thought. “All that armor on your front and nothing here? Did you think you were invincible? Did you–”

A hand clamped around Anausa’s throat, fingers digging into flesh like a vice, cutting off his breath. He barely had time to register shock or pain before he felt himself go flying through the air head over heels, his back slamming into the ground. Above him, the beast roared in fury and pain, gauntleted hand curling into a fist and drawing back to come crashing down upon him.


Respawn, Pt. 5

Anausa liked to think of himself as being completely in control of his emotions. The things he had seen and done in his life had affected him, of course. He was not so arrogant as to think himself immune to all outside influences. But he could control how he reacted to external forces, and he prided himself in his cool, clinical detachment. He never felt anything he didn’t want to. Now he felt rage bubbling up within him, threatening to consume him, to spill out of him uncontrollably.

He didn’t want to feel these things. He couldn’t stop himself from feeling them. He grew angrier still. Brick’s ugly grinning face filled his vision, even from across the arena.

“Stop it,” he thought to himself. “Anger’s not useful now. Anger makes you stupid. He wants you to lower your head and charge like a bull, so don’t. Think. What’s the last thing he would expect now?

“That I would play to the crowd. That I would match his act with one of my own.”

Anausa looked to the sky and gave a wave of his hand and a snap of his fingers. A drone flitted down and trained its camera on him, broadcast his face for the entire arena to see. The crowd didn’t know how to react, half of them roaring their approval, half of them whispering to each other in confusion, in surprise, in excitement. This was something new. Anausa the Immortal never played to the cameras in his matches.

“Closer,” he said, his voice a bark. He cast a single glance towards Brick and saw a look of animal confusion and stupidity on the other man’s face. Good. It was working. “Closer, damn you!” Anausa snapped a the drone, and the little machine darted within arm’s reach. Like a striking snake his had snapped out and grabbed the thing by its rotors, held tight as it struggled to get away from him.

He ignored the shocks the machine gave him as it attempted to free itself. He ignored the cuts its rotors put on his hands, his arms. He snapped it in half and rooted around in its inner workings to pull out its battery. Perhaps Brick was telling the truth. Maybe he knew the reality of Anausa’s past. But Anausa was still smarter. He recognized the drone as repurposed military hardware, powered by a core that would output enough energy to last for years.

It would make a fine bomb.


Respawn, Pt. 4

Skull Lord died messily. Anausa decapitated him and nearly took his shoulder off with the follow through. Anatoma put up a good fight, but she couldn’t match Anausa’s endurance. Anausa persisted as he always did, cold and detached, fighting cautiously and patiently, avoiding injury.

And then he fought Brick.

Even over the roar of the crowd, Anausa could hear the bellow of the man’s taunts. “Hello, Butcher.”

The man towered over him. He normally fought bare-handed and unarmored, like some kind of an ancient gladiator, but tonight he was wearing thick leather and crude metal plates. Wearing the synthetic fabrics and smart metals of modern combat armor was against the rules of the arena, but nothing forbade the use of “antique” gear. It was considered more a costume than anything else, but Anausa understood its purpose right away.

It’d be hard to pierce. It’d be difficult to cut. It would make bleeding and wearing down the big bull of a man all but impossible. Brick wasn’t an intelligent fighter, but he wasn’t a stupid one. He’d know better than to chase a quick and nimble enemy around the arena. The longer the fight took, the smaller the arena would get as the walls were pushed in by death traps. And the closer the two of them had to fight, the more likely Brick would be able to win simply by catching Anausa and choking the life out of him.

“No? Nothing to say, Butcher?”

“Don’t call me that,” Anausa said, his voice the hiss and rattle of an angry serpent. Brick’s lips split like a wound into his sharp-toothed shark’s grin.

“I’ll call you whatever I want. I was there, Commander. I know what you are. I know why you ran. And once I kill you, everyone else in the system will, too.”

Brick raised his hand and a camera drone flew done to film him up close. His sneering face appeared on the vid screens, five stories tall, every pore and scar and drop of sweat broadcasted for all to see. The crowd went wild. “I am Brick!” he bellowed. The crowd roared. “I am a warrior! I am a fighter! I am a killer!” He paused, licked his lips like he was savoring the words he was about to speak. He pointed at Anausa. “But that man, Anausa, Anausa the Undefeated, Anausa the Immortal, is a monster! I tell you, he is to be hated! He is a creature more evil than any that has ever fought in the arena! And before I tear his head from his body, he will tell you himself of his sins!”


Respawn, Pt. 3

The boy was already awake when Anausa walked in to the infirmary. He was confused, his reflexes slowed and his mind addled. Standard side-effects of the respawning process. It took him a minute to realize that Anausa was standing over him, silently observing him.

“You come to gloat?” he asked, his speech slurred, his words thick in his mouth.

“No. Not gloat. But Raiden, you’re done. You can’t fight again.”

“Fuck off.”

“That was your second loss. You lose again, you don’t come back.”

Anger flashed in the boy’s eyes. He pushed himself up in his hospital bed, lips pulled back in a crude imitation of a snarl. He looked small. Defeated. Kept alive by machines, an IV in each arm, the massive computers along the walls of the room instructing the nanites in his blood and his tissues how to put him back together into an acceptable semblance of the person he used to be.

Anausa had seen countless young men and women like this, barely alive, more fight than sense in them. Broken and eager to return to the fray. “So I won’t lose,” the boy spat.

“Yeah,” Anausa said, irritation and an edge beginning to creep into his voice. “You will. You can’t compete with the–”

“So my next match will be a tune-up fight. I’ll win, the clock will get reset, and then I’ll be coming for you again.”

“Your next match will be someone else’s tune-up fight. They will kill you and move on, and that will be it.”

“I’ll get matched up with Diamond or Bomber or someone like that.”

Anausa shook his head. The boy was stubborn, but maybe he’d see reason. “No, you won’t. There’s money in a fight like that. It’s not exciting enough. Waste of resources. They’ll pit you against The Doctor or Stardust, someone that will make a show out of you.”

“Get the fuck out of here,” the boy shouted, still playing at being intimidating. “Get out of here before I fuck you up.”

Anausa said nothing. He looked down at Raiden, sniffed disinterestedly, and shook his head. “Fine. I tried. You’re not bad, Raiden, but that won’t cut it at top tier. It’ll just get you killed. I was trying to do you a favor.”

“Well, don’t do me any favors!” the boy shouted at Anausa as he turned to walk away. The curses and the insults continued as he walked down the hall, but he paid them no mind, just as he paid no mind to the doctors and the nurses and the droids that watched him nervously as he made his way out of the infirmary.


Respawn, Pt. 2

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.”


Respawn, Pt. 1

Happy New Year! Let’s do some of that pulp goodness I was talking about back in 2015. Ready?

The bloodlust of the audience was a palpable thing, a scent thick enough you could taste it, wet and heavy and metallic on the tongue. It was raw meat. It was blood pounding at the temples. It was a bassline so heavy that it reverberated in your chest, filling the empty space around your heart. It was the word of a god grown ravenous.

KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL HIM

Anausa let his eyes drift upwards, let them take in the crowd. So many faces. Men, women, children. All of them grinning, their teeth as white and sharp as sharks’. Underneath him, Raiden moaned softly, nose broken and teeth missing and eyes swollen shut. In a different world, he would have let Raiden go to heal up and return to the arena sometime in the future. But that was millennia ago. Now life was cheap and death was meaningless and god had spoken.

KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL

Anausa obliged. He reached behind his back and freed the dagger from its sheath. Lupara pulled her opponents’ throats out with her teeth. Brick smashed their face under his heel. The Doctor dissected them. You had to have a ritual. You had to give the crowd a reason to care, to not just want to see a fight, but to want to see you fight. The dagger was part of his ritual, but only a part. Really the crowds came to see him for one reason and for one reason only: Anausa never died.

He hauled Raiden up to his feet, the other man limp in his hands like a stuffed animal. He slid the dagger under the man’s chin, punching up into his brain. Raiden kicked a little, but that was less than animal instinct. That was the last throes of a broken machine being acted upon by outside forces. Then the body went limp. Whatever was in it that had been Raiden was gone.

Anausa let it fall to the ground. The crowd cheered wildly, screamed his name, but he paid them no mind. That was part of his ritual as well. The distance. The apathy. They loved him despite it. They loved him because of it. They loved him because they could cheer at his victories with the same intensity that they could eagerly await his inevitable defeat.

A mechanical hiss shook Anausa from his thoughts. The silver insects were coming out of the arena floor, forming a stretcher to carry the body away through the door Raiden had entered the arena from. He always watched as the bodies were taken away. He tried to imagine what it would be like on the day that it was him atop the machines.

He tried to imagine what it would feel like to undergo the process that would bring him back to life.


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