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Zeo Grey
The Greatest Show On Earth
Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:31am
174.18.15.13 (XFF: 70.192.119.56)

NRP: By request from a very special Bob I bring you the opening post of the Iron Hand Tournament Mission.


RP: Giles slid his data pad away and checked his watch then the calendar. It had been precisely three days, eight hours, and twelve minutes since the sign-up sheet for the Iron Hand Tournament had been issued to the public. Which meant it was exactly time for those mercenaries that had signed up to depart.

Activating his intercom unit the accountant took a slow breath then issued his message.

All mercenaries registered for the Iron Hand Tournament are to report to the garage for departure.

He repeated his message twice then turned the unit off with a precise snap of his wrist. The device spluttered a brief stream of white noise before grudgingly powering down. Giles’ lips curled. It was always annoying when technology did not work exactly as it should.

***

Cross looked up from his cards as the announcement rang out through Wade’s and mentally thanked the prim accountant. “Well boys. Hate to run out on ya but like the Walrus said: The time has come!” He tossed his cards down, collected the meager credit chits he had left and ducked out of the bar high-tailing it to the garage.

It was several minutes before his fellow players realized the highest denomination credits were missing from the pot.

***

When Axel heard the announcement he immediately stepped back from a punching bag filled with shock-absorbing gel and slipped his towel over his shoulders. Just as he turned to walk away the veteran spun and slammed a powerful right hook into the bag sending shudders through the gel as the bag rocked crazily on its reinforced chains.

***

Shade was the first in the garage. He had spent every spare moment honing his already prodigious skill for the tourney. As he strode towards the landing pad he saw Jim Sikorsky sleeping a porno mag draped over his face. Quirking an eyebrow the prototype reploid slid a finger under the spine of the magazine and flipped it into the air bringing his gloved digit back down with a hearty ‘THWACK!’

Jim jumped and let out a loud yelp. Once he was awake enough to realize what had happened the pilot glared at Shade. “What the fuck man? Why the hell’d’ja do that for?”

“There are a whole lot of mercs coming this way expecting to see a warmed up transport. I didn’t think you’d want to disappoint them.”

“Huh?”

“The Iron Hand Tournament?”

Jim’s face paled. “That thing’s TODAY!?” He leapt to his feet and shoved past Shade cursing in four different languages as he sprinted out onto the landing pad heading for one of the two Albatross transports. As if by magic Glitch appeared at his side and started heckling the pilot.

Shade snickered and shook his head as he watched the two old friends scream and wave their arms at each other.

***

By the time the mercenaries had all assembled in the garage Jim was cycling his chosen transport through its last pre-flight check and warming the main engines even as he bounced it up on its VTOL thrusters and gently taxied the transport so that the rear hatch faced the mercs.

“Well are you lot coming or what?” Jim demanded through the battered ship’s external speakers.

“Hell yeah! Light the fires and kick the tires baby!” Cross crowed tapping his sunglasses into place; activating the recall feature of his armor revealing the advertisements plastered across the gaudily painted plates.

Liska glanced at Axel and the big Russian shrugged. “Don’t ask me.”

***

Lexander Morningstar strode out into the brilliant sunlight and swept his muscled arms up into the air grinning hugely as the sound of a million frenzied fans’ adoration came crashing down on him reverberating through his body. Lowering his arms Lexander discretely activated the mic clipped to the lapel of his coat.

From above the various contributors to the event watched as the cyborg worked the crowd as perfectly as any holo-star. “Say what you will. That man is an amazing showman.” Celeste Gloomrel muttered, watching as various faces flicked across her monitor all literally hanging on ever word of Lexander’s speech.

“Indeed. He talks very well. But talking and fighting are two different things.” Marko Cygnus growled. The fact that Lexander had so calmly dismissed his fighter still rankled the bearded reploid and it showed.

“We will see.” Delacroix said, his tone utterly devoid of emotion. As he spoke the small man discretely checked his pda scrolling through the registered fighters. Betting was one of the few indulgences he allowed himself and even then it was a rare thing. But this was the Iron Hand Tournament. One of the few gala days that all of Delta City's citizens enjoyed from the richest to the poorest. It was worth relaxing his iron control slightly.

***

Jim banked the Albatross expertly and took a look out the side cabin window as he did. Below him the fair that surrounded Frost Coliseum fluttered in a million bright colors. The streets of Delta City were absolutely clogged with pedestrians gawking at displays of the latest technology, magic shows performed by actual mages, or stuffing their faces with greasy delicacies from around the world sold at street-fair prices by thousands of different venders.

Unidentified craft you are flying in a restricted area. Identify yourself now or prepare to be escorted to Efram’s Military Base for questioning.“ Jim quirked an eyebrow then rolled his eyes as two sleek Lock and Boeing LB-33 ‘Harrower’ jets slid smoothly into place on either side of the Albatross.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” He muttered flicking the IFF unit on and typing in the FR’s permit codes one-handed keeping the other on the stick. After a long minute the COMM crackled again.

Everything checks out. Your berth is bay 1154. Recommend you hurry, the pre-fight show is about to begin.

“Thanks.” Jim replied, waggling his wings before goosing the throttle and sending the Albatross rocketing across the sky. Below several children gasped, jerked on their parents’ hands, and pointed as the battered transport suddenly streaked away from the two jets.

***

Liska was the first out of the Albatross, pounding down the rear ramp before it had even touched tarmac. Even on the landing strip the mercenaries could hear the throb of the massive crowds and the booming music broadcasting over speakers set to their highest volume. Her eyes widened and she stopped dead. The gleaming façade of Frost Coliseum rose above her like something ripped straight from Olympus and transplanted into the heart of Delta City. Pennants of a thousand different Mega Corporations rippled on horizontal flag poles and brief shimmers of circuitry coalesced into massive multi-story screens that displayed Lexander’s face as he began winding down the opening speech for the spectacle about to begin.

Zeo paused by the younger merc’s side, looked up at the gigantic alter of capitalism, hawked and spat before pulling a cheroot from a pouch on his belt. Lighting it he took a heavy pull then tossed the sulpher-headed match aside. “Looks a lot different when you’re on the inside beating some bastard to pulp for the bloodthirsty fucks watching.”

“I don’t think it’ll be THAT bad.” Liska retorted, stung by Zeo’s callous remark.

“Uh-huh.” Zeo started forward and Liska abruptly realized that for the few moments she had stood enraptured by the Coliseum the rest of the mercs had flowed past her heading for the entrance.

“Sheesh.” She grumbled, double-timing it to catch up with her comrades. “Could’a waited…”

Vier grinned over her shoulder. “Probably could haff.” She agreed. “But we figured you vould figure it out for yourzelff.”

Axel held a hand up to hush the banter as he approached a bored-looking fight official standing in front of an ornate gate. “We’re the Freelance Reploids, signed up for the fight?”

“Name?” The official asked in a grating nasally tone.

“Axel Cossack.”

The official ran a finger down the screen of his tablet, tapped Axel’s name, and compared the on-file picture to his face. “Very good. Collect your vitals monitor and enter.” He pointed to a table set off to the side where two, much younger, humans were frantically searching for more weights to keep their paperwork from flying away every time a transport landed which, as it grew closer to the actual beginning of the tourney, was becoming more and more frequent.

Liska felt a sudden pang of fear as she watched the Freelancers in front of her go through the same process. She suddenly realized that she might end up fighting one or more of her fellow mercenaries, veterans like Axel, Shade, or Zeo who could chew her up like dry wood through a chipper. At that moment even Cross seemed suddenly intimidating.

“Buck up.” Liska started then blushed slightly and looked at Vier. The female reploid’s face was set in a cheerful expression that showed no signs of worry. “You vill do fine. No vorries eh?”

Liska nodded and, taking a deep breath, stepped up to the bored official and gave her name.

A sudden roar went up from the crowd causing Liska and several other mercs to look up just in time to see a band, glittering in their golden uniforms, break into motion playing a thunderous melody that was nearly overwhelmed by the shouting of the spectators.

Lexander Morningstar had finished speaking.

The Tournament was officially begun.

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