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Three Thousand a Fight, Two Loss Limit (1)
Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:43am

NRP: An introductory CD. Have a few snapshots of Ben's life.

At first, all he heard was buzzing, followed by a low, pulsing roar. It took a moment of listening for him to realize it was the crowd. So that was what it was like, being knocked unconscious. He opened his eyes, frowning when it took his receptors a moment to come into focus.

The first thing he saw was his opponent's back, arms raised and hands clasped above his head in celebration of another victory.

He heard the roaring vanish in a gasp and sudden hush as he rolled slowly to his feet, finding most of his joints still in working order even as his systems struggled to compensate for the hammering he'd taken. His left shoulder and torso were battered, his opponent's strikes cutting through the flimsy armor he'd been issued to leave damage perilously close to his power core.

One of his ears dangled by a thread of synthetic flesh, testament to the power of the blow that had rattled his systems so badly. He wasn't certain how much of the rest of his face had been torn, exposing his metal skeleton, but from the sound of the crowd, he was sure he must have lost at least some.

His opponent had turned by now, surprise evident on his blocky features. Then he smiled, gap-toothed and unfriendly, and spread his hands, fingers flicking lightly in invitation. "Come and get me," said his posture, and the announcers' voices erupted in excitement.

His lips peeled back from his teeth in an even less friendly grin. Who was he to refuse?

In the next moment, he launched himself across the pit, closing the space between them in less than a second. He threw his fist almost before he commanded it to and felt a satisfying crunch of armor around his knuckles. His other fist flew after the first, this one striking his opponent's face as his first hand withdrew.

The other Reploid staggered under the assault, flailing one arm up defensively as he attempted to regroup, but he only continued to retreat. Abandoning his token effort at defense, he launched a strike at the challenger, gaze focusing in relief and triumph when the blow landed. The expression faded almost at once, however, when their eyes met.

The challenger's face was still cast in that rictus grin, even as he pushed past his opponent's fist to deliver a vicious hook that sent him reeling. He clamped his arms around the larger Reploid, temporarily stopping the hail of blows, and restrained a shudder at the feeling of his arms straining against their imprisonment.

The challenger gave him little respite, however, rearing back his massive, bear-like head and butting him in the face. He staggered, and the head came at him again, then again, a jackhammer against his skull. His tenacious grip lasted nearly ten seconds before the bear broke free and he attempted a retreat, only to find he'd retreated as far as he could.

The bear pressed his advantage with a flurry of punches, so lost in the rhythm of his fists that he didn't hear the crowd -- didn't hear the announcers -- didn't hear the frantic voice shouting, "Stop -- STOP!" -- until two other Reploids gripped his arms and dragged him away. He struggled at first, then relaxed when his gaze came into focus on the body of his opponent, slumped against the cracked wall of the pit, the armor that protected his chest concave.

"Enough," he said, and the Reploids released him to return to their posts on either side of the arena.

The crowd was silent, the announcers conferring softly with one another and the referee. He looked at his prospective agent, brows lifting, and the human, short and round, scurried into the ring, shaking his head and wagging the stringy ponytail that caught up his thinning hair.

"Jesus Holy Christ, Ben, you coulda killed the guy!" he hissed.

"I recall you telling me that was an acceptable risk -- one I needed to be prepared for," Ben grunted.

"Yeah, only if it's an accident, buddy --"

A rustle drew their attention back to the announcers, one of whom was standing now. The referee's eyes were on Ben, one hand resting across his mouth. Ben returned his gaze, arching an eyebrow, and he looked away.

"The winner!" the announcer barked, hand stretched toward the bear. His opponent was being wheeled out of the ring, a medic silently bagging a few broken parts that lay scattered on the floor. "In a major upset -- dethroning the ten-time city champ -- Benjamin Damascus!"

The crowd roared. Ben blinked in the sudden wash of sound, craning his head around the arena for a moment and resisting the impulse to take a step backward.

"Give 'em a wave, Ben," he heard his manager say, just on the edge of his consciousness, and he lifted one hand, giving it a brief shake before clenching it into a fist.

Then he walked from the pit, out of the glaring lights and into the subdued, metal-lined hallways that led to the waiting rooms.

"'Kay," his manager was saying, jogging to keep up with his long strides, "You know you only won that 'cause the guy was stupid. You can't go takin' hits like that and expect to last long in this business."

"Then I will have to improve," Ben broke into the man's speech, rubbing thoughtfully at his chin.

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying --"

"Relax, Mitch." Ben set one huge hand firmly on the small man's shoulder. "It's only natural to want to improve at something one enjoys."

"Sure, sure -- we'll have to arrange some training time --" He broke off, peering up at the much taller Reploid sharply. "Wait, so you're staying on?"

Ben paused and looked silently at his hands for a moment, tracing the path from his activation to where he stood. The emotions that raged in him through the fight lingered, an exultation he had never before experienced in a psyche he thought he had understood. He glanced up and met the eager eyes of his would-be manager, clearly already anticipating the money he could bring in.

"I think I will."

He looked at his agent, and the man was frowning. One hand rubbed his sallow cheek, warping the flesh with its uneasy movement, and he looked at his fighter, mouth tightening. "Then I guess I better tell ya ... you weren't supposed to win."

Ben's brows lifted.

"Well, lookit, you were fighting the champ -- most fighters don't start at the top, yaknow."


He spread his hands. "Fact is ... the guy who was supposed to fight him dropped out at the last minute -- we couldn't cancel the match, the financial consequences would be devastating." The small man looked away, heat rising into his face as sweat broke out across his brow. "They tol' me to go find some fodder for him."

"Fodder, is it?" A grim smile curved Ben's lips. "Then I suppose I should apologize."

"N-no, you won it fair and square. You're the champ now. Somehow." He ran his hand through his thinning hair, then ran it through again. "We'll have to work out the details later."

Ben looked over his shoulder toward the arena, where the crowds screams were only now beginning to die. "I am afraid," he said slowly, consideringly, "that if the champion wants his crown returned, he will have to fight for it."

    • Rare and Priceless (2)Benjamin, Fri Nov 13 5:46am
      "Benjamin! Come here at once!" Ben paused at the familiar bellow, setting down the vase he was carrying -- a priceless antiquity, irreplaceable and full of historical significance, he was told --... more
      • The Way of Things (3)Benjamin, Fri Nov 13 5:49am
        The old man's voice had grown weak, a bare, rasping whisper that drifted fitfully through the halls of his home, but Ben could still hear him. He rose to his feet from where he had been packing away... more
        • Greener Pastures (4)Benjamin, Fri Nov 13 5:55am
          "Well, at least you're going out with a bang ..." Ben glanced up at the undeniable note of misery in his manager's voice, and he smiled, zipping the duffel he'd been packing. "You'll find someone... more
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