The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]

The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by eberron.

go child. go and bring me more canvases. the world.. no... the multiverse shall become my art.

[color=#P4914]Ironjaw sat up with a jolt and instantly regretted it as a jabbing pain coursed down the side of his head. "Ahhh, blimey, what the hell happened?" he muttered as he pressed a hand against his temple. Suddenly remembering what he had just seen, Ironjaw looked around. The first thing he saw was that his clothing, for being just an orange slave jumper suit, was still on his body. The second thing was his rifle laying on a crate next to him, along with a packet of jerky and a note. "Seems someone here isn't out to kill me yet." Ironjaw thought as he opened up the note.[/color]

"Um.. hello there. My name is Dr. Franz von Schuster. Thank you for helping me earlier. If your reading this you no doubt are wondering what happened. Well, erm, as I was pulling you up from the side of that hole, one of those rocket sharks managed to stay intact long enough to explode right below us. You took a rather hard crack against the floor and blacked out. I know I could have just shot you then and there but... well... I could use an ally to help kill some of the others. That dragon looks like she'd be tough to kill by myself. If I'm not around then I'm out gathering some kind of food. I figured I'd leave the jerky for you to show you I mean no harm."

[color=#P4914]"Hmm, someone to help me with that damn dragon and an easy kill for later. Sounds like the perfect ally." Ironjaw mused to himself as he idlely ripped a piece of jerky and swallowed it whole. Just then, he caught sight of someone moving his way. Just as he was about to fire a warning shot, he relized that it was Franz returning with what looked like more bags of jerky. "So the good doctor returns." Ironjaw called out with a slight smirk, not wanting to seem hostile towards a potential ally.[/color]

Franz returned the small smile. "Glad to see your awake. You were doing alot of tossing and turning while you were out. Must have been some bad nightmares." As he sat down, Franz noticed Ironjaw's grey skin start to go paler. "Seems like theres more to it then a simple nightmare. If you don't mind me asking, what did you see?"

As Ironjaw recalled what he saw, Franz felt himself grow just as pale as the shark. "I see. This may not bode well if what you saw is true and not just a dream. You must have tapped into the mind of whatever this entity that captured Thize is. We might all be in more danger then we are just by being in this game." Franz sighed. Not only was he in a fight for his life against seven other beings, now there was an unknown person that could appear out of nowhere and turn him into something out of his own nightmares.

[color=#P4914]"Warden!" Ironjaw suddenly cried out, causing Franz to jump. <font color="#6D1C05">"What do you mean? What can that clock do?"[/color]"He might consider this.. Artise.. person a bigger sinner then me or you and try to go after him." Ironjaw thought for a moment. "Warden isn't made of flesh so maybe it'll make it harder for the Artise to do anything to him." "Besides," he thought to himself "It could also end up killing Warden and saving me the effort of having to do it." Ironjaw stood up and shouldered his rifle. "If we're going to deal with this threat I'd suggest we find Warden. I'd rather not have him trying to kill us if and when this Artise freak shows up."</font>

Franz nodded and stood up, though in his heart he had hoped to avoid Warden as much as he could. "I hope that clock has fixed himself. Can't bare going back into that slaughter house looking for gears again." he thought as he walked over to Ironjaw. "Well then, lead the way."

High above, a lone figure watched as the human and shark headed off deeper into the building with his one good eye. What was once a handsome fish-human was now nothing more then a mass of scabs, out of place limbs and a face half covered in a massive scar, his left eye missing completely. "Soon master," Thize muttered "I will bring you more to paint with. I shall make master happy."
Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by SeventeenthSquid.

Eriz wiped off her upper arm with a towel she had found amongst the myriad crates and boxes of the storehouse. The sheet of mucus parted slowly under a firm scrubbing from her aux-arm. She felt like retching just knowing that Guillemet's foul excretions were sullying her father's beautiful work. She scrubbed harder. Guillemet sat on her haunches a few meters away, still daubing at the streams of goopy tears and snot that ran down her face.


Eriz didn't reply, having realized by now that Guillemet was much more interested in the sound of her own voice than anything she had to say. Finally managing to scrape off the last of the gunk that was obscuring her illustrious family history, she threw the sodden towel on the ground and started to incinerate it with her laser.

Guillemet heard the laser powering up and instantly stopped blubbering, snapping her face up to stare at it intently. She watched with intense concentration as Eriz burned the towel to a crisp and ground the ashes into the ground with her hydraulic foot. She never could resist a good laser! All maudlin ravings forgotten, she sprang to her feet and bounded over to Eriz, grabbing the laser arm with both hands and pulling it closer to her face.


She let go of the emitter and sprang back, not even noticing Eriz had cocked a metallic fist back in preparation to punch her in the throat. She dove into the drifts of “useful” scrap she had accrued from the warehouse in her orgy of trap-building, throwing pieces of detritus into the air in a maelstrom of creative enterprise.

Eriz gingerly sat on a stout metal crate and watched the mad beast work. She appeared to be trying to build a power supply from six toasters, an aquarium, a jar of unknown fluid and a can of old coins. Eriz sighed to herself.

“Milady,” came Telt's voice. “I do not mean to sound rude but I wish to broach the subject of your death.”

Eriz was mildly startled by this before remembering that she had, in fact, already died once today. Telt hadn't mentioned it, but it was, after all, programmed to be unobtrusive. She had been rather busy trying to assemble an assortment of traps without dying, a feat to write home about given Guillemet's take on explosives handling. She still wasn't really sure if she wanted to talk about it.

“Right, um...” she began. “Look, I think we can both agree that there are things going on here far beyond what we are capable of understanding.”

“Now milady, that's no way for a Sauthai to talk. Everything can be explained,” it replied. That was the way it was programmed to talk, she thought. Everything can be explained? She had just drowned in blood, experienced what she could only describe as literally the afterlife and then come back to life. There was no room in the Sauthai world-view for events like this.

“No, Telt. Where we're from, everything can be explained. We come from a place with natural laws, where if you drop a stone, it falls to the ground. Where if you die, you stay dead. Telt, I died today. I have no doubt of that. I died so that whatever that horrid thing was, it could talk to me. And then I came back, spitting up blood. Do you really mean to tell me that you can explain that?”

She felt anger rising in her, anger at Telt for not being able to comprehend the situation she found herself in. But, she thought, it was only doing what it was programmed to do. It didn't know any better. It wasn't actually alive, she had to remind herself. Just because you can talk to it, doesn't mean it can think.

“Milady, perhaps recent events have lead you to act rashly. If you think calm down and apply logical processes to these events-”

“Telt,” she interrupted, “revert to passive mode. Deactivate personality routines.”

“Passive mode engaged.”

She sighed again and idly kicked at the scraps of material littering the ground. Telt was a good construct, but nothing more. It was horribly out of its depth here. Its programmers had made no allowances for situations like this. She had no use for it now.

“ERIZ!” came a bellow that demolished the air of quiet contemplation Eriz had managed to obtain. “ERIZ LOOK AT WHAT I BUILT!” Guillemet shouted, jumping up and down again, holding a contraption over her head. Its outer shell seemed to be cobbled together from the chassis of two toasters, joined at their base. Small gurgling tanks of fluid covered its sides, coils of wire looping around and through them. She bounded over and held it out to Eriz.

“YOU SHOULD STRAP THIS TO YOUR BACK AND PLUG IT INTO THE LASER. IT'LL GIVE IT A LOT MORE ZAP! AND A LASER WITHOUT ZAP IS LIKE...” She paused, tapping her chin with one hand. She stuck her tongue out and looked back and forth, deep in thought. The device slipped from her hand.

Eriz caught it before it could hit the ground. Guillemet looked down in surprise.

“NICE CATCH!” she shouted before snatching it back and running around behind Eriz, already pulling out an assortment of welding and joining tools to attach it to the back of Eriz's sauthorn. Eriz turned with her, standing up from the crate and trying to keep her front facing Guillemet as she ran around, surprisingly nimble given her bulk.

“No!” Eriz shouted. “Put those down, you crazy beast!”

Guillemet continued to try to place the device on Eriz's back as she rotated, the two madly circling one another for several moments while Guillemet screamed about “AMPERAGE AUGMENTATION” and “PRODIGIOUS ZAPPING POTENTIAL.” Eriz finally stopped turning and stuck out one arm. Guillemet slammed into it with the force of a runaway train (full to the brim with SCIENCE) and brought the two crashing to the ground in a heap. The device skittered across the floor to land in a pile of aborted mines.


“Well,” Eriz replied, pulling herself up from the ground and inspecting her arm. It was now splattered with a small layer of dragon blood. “Maybe you should stop being such an overbearing ass and ask me before you try to tamper with my armor.”

“WOW.” Guillemet said as she stood up. “WOW. I WASN'T AWARE YOU WERE SUCH A SUPERCILIOUS CUNT. I THOUGHT YOU APPRECIATED ME. WE HAD SO MANY CHILDREN TOGETHER, ERIZ. SO MANY BEAUTIFUL, INJURIOUS CHILDREN.” As she said the last sentence, tears started to form at the edges of her eyes, running down her face to mingle with the blood that streamed from her broken nose.

Oh no, thought Eriz. Just what I needed.

Guillemet burst into another squall of wailing and crying, tears, blood and mucus ejecting themselves from her face at a frightening rate as she enveloped Eriz in a reptilian embrace.


Guillemet, absorbed by her sorrow, failed to notice Eriz's lack of retaliation as she embraced her armored body.

Eriz was, once again, completely and totally dead. Thousands of metal spines had pierced her heart from the inside, exploding through her body in an instant of total, explosive mayhem, stopping just short of the inner skin of her suit.


Oh no, Eriz thought. Oh no. But even as she floated in the crimson void, she felt strangely different from the first time she had visited it. The total, abject terror that had consumed her before was gone. Now she just felt... something she could not easily describe. Annoyance? Frustration? But tinged with a desire to understand what was happening to her.

Still though, once was enough for a day, she thought. Can't a girl catch a break?


The voice was exactly as it had been before, totally flat and devoid of any emotion or emphasis. But... had it actually repsonded to her thoughts?

Can you understand me?


But... you can hear me?

i can no more understand you metal girl than you can understand an ant that crawls across your path

schiing, the intake of metal-sharpening breath.

and that is why i am so utterly fascinated yes enraptured yes even one could say in love

What! She screamed in her head. In LOVE?

your kind cling to biological imperatives yes the drives to eat reproduce sleep excrete


you see love only as the connection formed by your desire to breed


i am flattered oh so flattered but you read me wrong


like a book that has lost its pages to an inferno but the book was written in another language


and written on a paper that you cannot see and suspended in a place you cannot exist

Your metaphors leave something to be desired.

metal girl if i thought in your style i would find humor in your comments

Enough stupid games, she thought. The thing was obviously in a talkative mood. Maybe she could get some answers.

Why did you bring me here again? Why bring me here at all?

the one you called the coach is an interesting artist who is working in an interesting medium


one i have worked with myself before although in different ways

You mean the battle? It's not art. He's doing it because he needs money. We're some kind of sick entertainment for... I don't even know what. Whatever watches this sort of thing.

the blind worm that writhes in the muck makes art without knowing it does so


metal girl you think in such a literal linear fashion it fascinates me to no end


you will find that often the world will not conform to the rules and edges you impose upon it


and often you will be forced to let things be

The noise she had heard so many times earlier returned as the thing struggled to express its emotion-roughly-anologous-with-amusement. It faded away quickly, though, before getting very loud.

You're getting off track. You never told me why you brought me here.

just the sort of thing i would expect the metal girl to say yes just the sort of thing that makes me love you


you are too perfect yes i could not have asked for one better than you for my piece


The laugh-analog returned.

metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl metal girl


i am often misunderstood by your type they think of me as some rude sculptor


one who takes the shells of what once was and makes silly mockeries of life


maybe at some point in the past i thought such things were art but no more no more no more


the child reacted very poorly to my presence yes it interpreted it all wrong so wrong

The child? Who is the child?

you likely gave it some name but names are meaningless yes totally meaningless


your kind loves names so much but what have names ever done for them nothing


he was slight and pink and webbed and it disgusts me to speak in such a literal manner


but your kind is incapable of any subtlety any at all and that is why i love you

Thize. His name is Thize. What did you do to him?

i sought to show him the true beauty within his form but he reacted very poorly as your kind are wont to do

My kind? Thize is nothing like me.

silly metal girl still oh so literal thinks her kind means her species her genetics


an amusing throwback to the tribes of the dusty plains where passing genes was all that mattered

What did you do to him?!

i showed him true beauty and told him to give me material for my art

What, bodies? You told him to go out and kill for you? That's disgusting!

metal girl metal girl metal girl when will you learn


if it was meat i wanted i would take it just as i have taken you


so literal so metal yes you are the perfect little metal girl the paragon child


except you hid from your sun your one shame so sad so awful you knew you had failed

You don't know what you're talking about! You said yourself you can't understand me! What did you DO TO HIM!? WHAT DID YOU WANT HIM TO FIND!?

always seeking answers i suppose it is your way the metal way the way you were taught


metal girl so often i am seen as a creature of meat not meat like you are meat but


obsessed with flesh with blood with death with that which i lack completely and do not understand


metal girl i love you so much because i am a metal being as well


a voice like a blade a mind like a block of metal dense dense dense and very inorganic


you understand so very little and yet we share so much


many think i am little more than a butcher an artful shaper of meat


in the past perhaps i found joy in such things but time is vast and i am vast and the void is vast


i told the child to bring me canvases with which to work my art


i told him everything would become my art


i work on large scales

Eriz felt herself falling. She couldn't move. She did not feel the wind across her naked body but her inner ear told her she was falling, faster and faster, dropping through the infinite crimson void.

Suddenly her muscles spasmed and she could move. She flailed for a moment, wheeling through space, turning head over heels, still feeling no breeze but knowing she was dropping incredibly fast, unhindered by air resistance, still accelerating. She spun and spun, trying to arrest her movement but finding no purchase in the empty void.

As she spun she caught a glimpse of something far below her, so far away that despite her rapidly increasing speed she couldn't discern it coming any closer. She caught glimmers of light in the edges of her vision. Light off metal. Huge blades floating in a vast expanse of nothingness, constantly scything over one another, shearing, casting huge purple sparks, disappearing and reappearing and disappearing again in a mad cycle of whirling light. It extended down as far as she could see, a massive pyramid of whirling deadliness.

She had no reason to believe it did not extend downward forever.

What are you? she thought as intensely as she could. What is your name? Where did you come from? WHAT DO YOU WANT?


i am not one for names but there are those who call me the Artiste


a crude and pedantic title given out of necessity


i am like you and unlike you


the sun is rising

Eriz fell into the mass of blades and was cut into an infinite number of pieces.


Eriz awoke to a stabbing pain in her ribs that winked away almost before she could realize it was there. She gasped and spluttered. I guess coming back to life is something I'll never get used to, she thought. Guillemet loomed over her.


She held up what appeared to be a stethoscope, albeit a stethoscope a good decimeter across and studded in metallic nodules.


She grinned, a truly horrifying sight on her mucus-and-blood smeared face with a smashed nose.


Eriz sat up in one quick motion, pulling herself to her feet. As Guillemet opened her mouth to continue, Eriz spoke, cutting her off.

“Guillemet. We're in tremendous danger. Thize. He's coming.”

Guillemet cocked her head to one side quizzically for a moment, and then burst out laughing.


“No, Guillemet, look. The reason I keep dying is something is talking to me. Something that can literally kill me and bring me back to life whenever it wants. Something incredibly powerful. And whatever it is, it did something to Thize. I don't know what but I'm sure it's nasty. He won't be like when we last saw him. He's been changed.”


Her rant was cut off by an explosion from the outer mine perimeter. The two immediately spun to face it, but whatever had set off the explosive was gone. Most of it, anyways.

A long, pink fleshy arm writhed on the ground. Its skin tone was unmistakeably that of Thize. As the two watched, it flailed back and forth for a few moments, spewing blood, before flipping onto its hand and scuttling away, growing multitudinous faceted eyes as it did so.


Eriz could only stare at the scorched splatter of blood. She knew what the Artiste wanted. It wanted chaos. Bloodshed. Fighting. Utter unpredictability and the fear of death. The essence of mortality. So it had given Thize the tools he needed, lacking competent combat skills of its own, to give it what it wanted.


Several minutes earlier, a man watched them from a safe distance behind a crate, whispering quietly into a phone that he held over the stump of his neck. A dial tone sounded for a tense few second before someone picked up the phone.

Yves. What the hell do you want.”

A chorus of feminine giggles tittered in the background. The man on the other end of the found tried to stifle a laugh and failed. Yves heard him cover the speaker with his hand, obscuring the sounds with static. A few second later, the other speaker returned.

“I'm busy. Make it fast.”

Dali I'm so sorry to bother you but some people have broken into the Master's warehouse!”

There was a rapid clattering on the other end of the phone, more female laughing and the sound of running footsteps. Dali was with the female members of the cabal again. They never paid any attention to Yves. He blamed Dali for giving him such a shitty name. Yves. He wasn't sure if Dali was even pronouncing it right, but then again, who would possibly correct him? Of course Dali took the best name for himself. He was the head honcho, after all, and he was in charge of dealing with all the minions. The Master never cared even slightly about them past their usefulness to it. Didn't even bother giving them names or identities after it wiped their minds. Left all that shit up to Dali, that egomaniacal fuck.


“Please sir I don't know I just-”


“Yesyesyesyes Dali I'll get right on it but please sir they've got so many guns and hammers and there are bombs everywhere if I try to get any closer they'll blast-”

Yves. Let me put this in the simplest possible terms. If you don't stop those fucks from messing with the Master's storage, you will face a more horrific possible fate that anything could imagine. The Master's been killing people for a long, loooooooooong time in a hell of a lot of ways.”

“Yes sir I understand I'll get right on it sir.”

“GOOD! Call me back when you've found out more.”

Dali hung up. Ungrateful ass. He asked so much of poor Yves. He just wanted to go home and put a plastic bag over his neck stump and look at Ithelli's ass. It was such a nice ass.


He crept around the edge of the crate and ran quickly to another just as he heard an explosion in the distance. Shit, he thought. Shit, shit, shit. Now I'm screwed. The bombs are going off. This is how it ends.

He thought of Ithelli's ass and awaited the end.

It did not come, and the two strange beings in the central safe-zone of the minefield seemed distracted. Now was the perfect time to snap a few shots with his phone!

He pulled it from his pocket and started taking pictures.
Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Flummox.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Hobbesy.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Flummox.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Hobbesy.

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw picked himself up, a twinge of pain running through his body as it protested the action. In retrospect it wasn't much compared to the pains he'd known before, but the situation in which this pain existed worked upon his senses. Nevertheless, this shark wasn't one to let such things keep him down. His mouth broke into a toothy grin as he stood up, showing that he was still as cocky as ever.

“Right mate, you have any idea which way to go then? There’s no telling what that clock is trying to crucify now. We’re only stuck in a warehouse full of sinners for him to work his magic on.”

On the last sentence Ironjaw’s mouth curled from a simple grin into a snarly smile, a glint forming in his beady eyes. This caused the doctor’s skin to crawl. He was hardly used to communicating with the xenos scum surrounding them, much less exotic experiments. Still, to his questions Schuster honestly had no real answer. He hadn’t considered sticking with the terrible demon known as The Warden, his sense of flight winning over his admittedly smaller sense of fight. His only response was to place one hand on his chin, a signal that there was much to ponder on the whereabouts of Ironjaw's prey. He hadn't long to think on the subject before his thoughts were cut off by an explosion in the distance. It didn't take long for the hybrid to voice his opinion.

“Hmm, looks like some poor bastard decided to give us our answer. Why don’t we go pay those trouble makers a visit, and ask if they’ve seen our nasty little friend?”[/color]

While Schuster couldn’t exactly say he was excited about going towards any action, there was a comforting strength to be found in going there with his new found ally, even if he wasn't exactly his first choice for a friend. Pulling his revolver out of its holster Schuster flicked open the cylinder. Giving a brief check of how many rounds had to be fired, he snapped the cylinder back into place only after giving it a satisfying spin.

“Of course, my shark comrade. I am not sure this is the wisest choice, but I have a feeling you will know what you are doing." The last sentence caught Ironjaw's attention. A weak smiled appeared on Schuster's face, and he continued after a slight awkward pause. "It is certainly much better than waiting for death to find us here, no?”

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw nodded to Schuster's question, and was the first to move, though starting with a slight limp. He quickly steadied himself, however, and motioned for the doctor to follow. Giving a slight look of worry, Schuster nevertheless went along. It would seem the path towards the direction of the blast was clear, though one could never tell what may happen in circumstances such as these, nor what traps could be waiting in the dark for their chance to be sprung.[/color]


Thize gave a snarl, his face twisting with a combination of agony and sheer disgust.

"What utterly pathetic creatures, to think their toys could hold back the grand plans of the master."

The thought alone that they would attempt to sculpt his body the same way the Artiste had, blowing off limbs, shredding his torso with shrapnel. It was an absolute disgrace to the work of the Master, and an affront to Thize's very existence. He would have to show them the ropes, teach them that there was no way anything they could even aspire to be be as brilliant. The only question was, how? It could easily be said that Thize was a genius, as well as the most beautiful work to grace the multiverse, but could he truly spread the gospel of the Artiste in such a fashion that plebeians such as Eriz and Gullimet would understand?

A simple disembowelment would not work. He could not expect his new pupils to understand such magnificence by merely seeing an example. He would have to bring others to them, so that they could partake in the creation of art themselves before graduating to the side of his master. It would be the only way to let them experience just how inexperienced they were compared to him, how ungraceful their touch could be compared to his own. Yes, this would be an excellent plan, a grand scheme the Artiste would be proud of.

Thize's mind raced, what subjects would be the best for his students to experiment on? What was near enough that his lesson could be made quickly? The answer came to him suddenly, clear as sunlight on a warm Summer day. The shark hybrid and the human. Yes, it was genius! The dragon and the robot would surely know what to do with such simple forms, the Artiste would be pleased by his creation's wit. Thize's limbs suddenly began to regrow, bone extending from the shattered stumps left by the explosion. Ligaments and tendons snaked over them quickly, followed by a padding of muscle and heavily scabbed skin. His new limbs were limber and long, perfect for scampering about and scouting for Schuster and Ironjaw.

Grasping the metal skeleton of a stacking rack Thize began to climb. His thoughts were awash with dreams of chronic cruelty, of blood and gore. It didn't take long to spot the approaching silhouettes of a two humanoids. Thize's mouth twisted into a sickening grin, a row of needle like teeth shimmering from the lamps above him. He would have to stop the two fools before they found themselves in Eriz's minefield.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by SeventeenthSquid.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by eberron.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by ~ATH.

The Most Gruesome and Magnificent Warden of the Sixth Ring of Inferno was feeling very out of place at the moment. There was the literal feeling of loss he felt at no longer being in his appointed position, then there was this battle. The nature of this battle's existence was simply excruciating. He had seen more chaos occur in this warehouse than ever during his near-infinite lifetime of order. And it made him furious. He had to regain control, somehow.

So, the first thing he did was abandon his foolish idealistic quest of allying with Eriz and Franz. His damaged arm dropped to the ground, and another arm started glowing a dark reddish, greyish, something, aura. The aura flowed smoothly, meticuously, towards the box of gears he still carried. The gears rose up, and started whirring, to Warden's one-second-per-second beat. They collided together, forming no sounds other than a perfect clinking of gears coming together. His discarded arm broke apart, and the salvagable parts joined the new arm. And, lo, his arm was complete. Finally. It was terribly inefficient, dragging that thing around, but he had continued to believe that it would serve him good in the long run.

Franz von Schuster would not be swayed, he could see that. He could hear every frantic whisper Franz made towards Eriz, despite lacking ears. He could see whenever he shook his head behind his back, but more than that, he could feel that he would never ally with him. The ripple at the end of his timeline became just a little bit clearer, as he learned that he has had experience with demons or otherworldly folk, and he would never trust them. Yes, he was a lost case. Yet, Warden had persisted in trying to ally up with him. Why?

Eriz Col-Myel was more frail than her armor would seem to imply. She was a warrior, yes, but perhaps not much of one. The Warden had thought she would be a bit more malleable than Franz, but this wavering weakness was her undoing. She seemed more trusting, yes, but at the same time, less. More importantly, she was scared, even if she didn't show it or know of it. He could see that now. And his visage, designed by the one and only Prince of Darkness to be terrifying, did not help matters much. She was also a lost cause. What error in judgment caused him to pursue this alliance? Why did he not simply ignore them?

He blamed it on the chaos and moved on.

The one in front of him, prancing about with his head so insufferably high, the impossibly clean godcat, was the anomaly here. It was much more of a pressing concern to him, the concept of a God. This one did not feel like the divine power he had very rarely glimpsed from afar, but did it have to? Was it possible that this cat was God's true form? And if so, why was he not prostrating himself before Felus at this very minute? The reason was simple. Felus was not God, nor was he a god. He could feel it. Simply the fact that he had a visible file immediately denied his godly status, as gods were not below him, yet the cat was undeniably more than just a cat. He was most likely something demidivine, an offspring of a god, or perhaps a former god itself. As he dismissed its godly status, its power seemed to dim a little. How peculiar. He would look into this further, but for now, he was satisfied that his analysis was correct. He mentally filed away information on the cat. It fluttered (in a manner of speaking) into a mental cabinet of "The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon!", as infuriating as that title was.

There were 4 other folders. Two were branded as sinners, and the other two were enigmas. He would have to find more information on them.

"Felus. We need to find the one called Guillemet, and the one called Thize."

"Ugh, not Guillement. She's a pain in the ass. I don't know about the other one, though. Is he a contestant?"

"My information on those two is lacking, and this troubles me."

"Yeah, I guess we can find them along the way..."


[color=#P1914]"Look! There it is!"

Indeed, the demonic clock was busily floating between warehouses. It seemed to be looking for something, while following a cat. Ironjaw was actually a little bit nervous, a feeling very unbefitting of him. I mean, come on, he was a shark. He had to look intimidating, especially in a battle like this. He shook off this alien feeling, and made to approach him. Ironjaw slinked closer, in a manner once again unbefitting of a shark. Then, it was close enough, but Warden seemed to be very distracted. Eventually, he just called for him.

"Yo, clocky guy!"[/color]


[color=#P1914]"I don't know if you've heard, but there's this other demonic thing... calls herself the Artiste... and, well, she's a sinner! One of the worst I've seen!"[/color]

"You are a sinner, and sinners lie."

[color=#P1914]"Uh... no, really! She kills people and puts them back together, all for the sake of art!"[/color]

"She is capable of reviving the dead? If you are correct... Such a thing is unheard of! Why, this sin truly is the greatest sin of all! It is... heretic!"

[color=#P1914]"Yeah, so could you maybe take care of her?"[/color]

Warden zoomed towards the warehouse with the undeniably demonic presence, leaving Felus behind. He had approved of the corpse-tree structure, but now that he knew it interfered with life itself, he knew that the Artiste needed to go down. Once in the warehouse, he could feel that this presence was unmistakably stronger than before. Perhaps this was due to the fact that they had now trespassed into his property. Suddenly, the demonic presence started wrapping itself around his mechanical body - a fact he was only aware of as a mild observation. Two demonic forces clashed briefly, and nothing at all happened. A guttural moan echoed through the warehouse, and Warden could not make out what it said. Warden was annoyed he couldn't see the Artiste. He could feel its presence, he could even hear it, but he couldn't properly analyze it.

"Artiste, please present yourself."

A shrieking, more demonic energies.

"Further noncompliance will only brand you as a sinner. Make no mistake, I will have a way to find you."

The groans turned to laughing, and gave an air of absolute smugness.

"Very well."

Warden brought up a fist, aimed for the gruesome body tree he saw earlier, and let his arm loose. It hit the base, and the sculpture wobbled dangerously.

The guttural voice gave way, to an odd, somewhat snobbish voice.

what are you doing have you no appreciation for the arts

Warden's perceptions were suddenly transformed, and he saw everything the Artiste saw. He saw corpses everywhere. Horrifyingly mangled corpses, fitted in a strange unexplainable way. Only a handful could even be recognized as human, the rest were nothing but mutilated flesh. One, fitted with diamond eyes, stared right at Warden.

look at these beauties

"Where is this?! Where did you take me?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"

this is my gallery

"Unacceptable! You will take me back!"

you poor metal thing without a soul you have no appreciation of art so let me teach you

"Show yourselves! I demand it!"

A corpse of a human with legs more than 10 times the normal length floated up and batted playfully at Warden's face. He struggled to get his gears moving again, and he panicked when he didn't budge one bit. He could be losing valuable nanoseconds at this point. He cursed the Artiste, and placed him even higher than the Coach on the Sinner's List.

"Everything you do will be reflected in how much I torture you in the end. Give up now."

what is art to you soulless demon

"Art is frivolous, and your art is forbidden. You will be taken into the deepest bowels of my ring, for the sin of heresy."

heresy is a meaningless term when there is no god

do you see a god here no there is no god only me

and i am beyond godliness

"Enough! You have just now confessed to the sin of Greater Heresy, your words are meaningless."

you just dont understand

whatever happened to that old body of yours anyways

do you remember your old self no you dont

The Artiste laughed again, and its presence departed Warden's body. Warden awoke on the ground, his gears now furiously grinding. The minute he realized he was back to reality, he finally thought to slow down, and evaluate his time span. He found that no time had passed at all during the conversation. He calmed down and took this time to contemplate. The amount of sinners kept rising, and he felt powerless to stop them. He felt out of control. Truly, he needed help. He needed his minions. He needed his life back in control.

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw took in this whole interaction with a stoicity that was perhaps just a little bit forced. He was not willing to come any closer than the boundaries between warehouses. He was confident this would cause him to be outside of the Artiste's range. It took him by surprise when the Warden suddenly stopped turning and fell to the ground. He was about to turn away, declaring a victory, but the sound of gears immediately stopped him. And the guttural pseudolaugh of the Artiste made him turn right the fuck back around.

As soon as the Artise stopped laughing, a chunk of the roof broke off and fell on him. He felt the painful sting of death, and he was in the void once more. No voice came this time, and he was left floating, wondering just what the hell did the Artiste think she was doing anyways.[/color]

see i can kill your allies at any time

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw was taken by surprise, and he wondered what the Artiste was talking about. He turned around, and saw a frozen conglomeration of gears. He then realized the horrifying fact that the Artiste wasn't talking to him. He was simply being used as a demonstration. This struck him deep to the core. He was fucking tired of being pushed around by everybody, of nobody caring about him. He tried to scream out in rage, but when he couldn't, he only collapsed in a fetal position. Warden's voice rang out, only further reminding him of his inability to call out.[/color]

"He is not an ally of mine, he is a subject of my torment. You will cease the killing of my subjects."

death is my toy death is the canvas which i use to express the greatest of lifes mysteries

The bloody mess that surrounded him cleared a little, showing a view of Warden's deactivated body and the goopy mess that used to be Ironjaw. Then, ex-Ironjaw oozed around and reformed itself into a complete Ironjaw. Warden watched this transpire with a watchful eye socket, and he saw. The Artiste certainly worked in unusual ways. Ironjaw stood, utterly bewildered, looking at his own body, and it was as if he never died. Warden saw this in the shark hybrid's timeline as well. Yet... Ironjaw's death was fresh in his memory. This was impossible. This was... incalculable. So, his mechanical brain simply deleted this from his database, as such an event would have caused a catastrophic error in his programming. He didn't even recognize his own body, or rather, his programming refused to allow him to. Lucifer certainly equipped him well. As it were, Warden only saw that the Artiste prevented Ironjaw's death, and he saw an opportunity.

"This sinner, the one called Ironjaw, has been taken under my custody for torturing. He must be punished for a lifetime of murder, and heresy against his superiors. Eternal torment, it seems, is possible under your powers."

yes most wonderful it seems you are starting to understand

"If you are capable of bringing them the punishment they deserve, I will allow you to do so. You are something beyond death, like me. That is clear. I will make you my minion, and you will do my bidding."

foolish warden you are like an ant to me and i think you are one lovely ant

you are metal like me yes you will be a great one

do you understand art now do you wish to work with me

we can make such great things together soulless one

"I... will help you if you help me. Allow me to bring you the sinners."

The world collapsed, and Warden woke up, surprised to find his gears completely intact and already whirring at a second-by-second rate. Warden knew what he had to do. Warden made his way onwards, totally ignoring Ironjaw.

[Image: 6xGo4ab.png][Image: sig.gif]
Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by SeventeenthSquid.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by forkinyoureye.

Lord Paradise Wrote:
Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by eberron.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by SeventeenthSquid.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by SeventeenthSquid.

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw watched the Warden leave with an audible sigh of relief. He had thought that the construct would be able to help him with the problem of the Artiste. Unfortunately, their brief conversation had proven to be only excruciatingly painful and accomplished neither of his two goals: namely, removing either the Warden or the Artiste. Instead they seemed to be working together. As if he didn't have enough fucking problems already.

He sighed and pulled himself up off the floor where he had been laying crumpled in a small ball. Despite the terrifying transformations that had wracked his body only minutes earlier, he felt no lingering pain. If anything, he felt refreshed, ready to go, ready kick some ass! Not that any ass really needed to be kicked right this moment. He looked around for a moment wondering where that little human had gone. Frank, or... Fonz or whatever. As he wondered this, the human's head poked over a crate, his eyes wild and startled.[/color]

“Ironjaw!” he shouted. “What the fuck was that!”

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw stood from where he was sitting and dusted himself off, looking around for a moment for the plasma rifle which he had dropped when the ceiling had fallen on him. It was a little banged up but still looked fully functional.

“God damn Artiste thing. She dropped the ceiling on me.”[/color]

Schuster stepped out from behind the crate and eyed the chunk of fallen concrete. It was extremely large and could clearly have easily crushed even Ironjaw's powerful physique.

“Damn comrade you are tougher than I had thought,” he said, tapping a finger against his chin.
[color=#P1914]Ironjaw just grinned at him, despite how uneasy he felt inside, and shouldered the rifle.

“Look, lets just get the fuck out of here. I don't want to be around this awful place anymore. That damn tree gives me the creeps.” He indicated the huge dripping sculpture with a thumb over his shoulder, unwilling to even look at it. Schuster nodded in fervent agreement and the two turned away to head back the way they had come, into the Coach's warehouse.[/color]

“Looks like your plan did not work, comrade,” Schuster began as they walked.

[color=#P1914]“God damn clocky bastard. So inconsistent. Gets all up my ass about 'sinning' and then lets the biggest fucking sinner there ever was off scot-free. I'll tell you mate, the sooner that spinning lump of shit spins his last the happier I'll be.”[/color]

“Warden gives me the creeps as well,” Schuster replied with a shudder. “Reminds me of many things I saw between dimensions.”

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw looked at the man and raised an eyebrow. “Between dimensions? You're a little more well-traveled than I thought.”[/color]

Schuster shrugged. “It is a long story. Perhaps later I will tell it to you. For now, we have other-”

He stopped and spun. “Comrade, did you hear that?” he asked in a strained whisper. Ironjaw, who had not, in fact, heard that, looked around and saw nothing but stacks of crates.

[color=#P1914]“No,” he replied. He hefted the plasma rifle cautiously in his huge arms. “What did you hear?”[/color]

“Something moving. On top of the stack,” he said, indicating a nearby stack of crates. Ironjaw stared at it but failed to see anything out of the ordinary. Just another pile of moldering crates and boxes. He didn't hear anything, either.

[color=#P1914]“Comrade, have you been drinking?”[/color]

Schuster shot Ironjaw a look of annoyance and cautiously edged around the stack, revolver in hand. He sliced the pie, checking carefully around the side of the pile. There was nothing to be found there but more crates and debris. Sighing and wiping the sweat from his brow, he holstered the pistol and rejoined a rather smug-looking Ironjaw.

[color=#P1914]“I told you, mate. Nobody there.” A big toothy grin covered his face. Schuster just looked pissed off and edgy.[/color]

“I swear I heard something. This place, this place is making me fucking crazy. I am jumping at anything.”

[color=#P1914]“Hey, better cautious than dead, eh?” Ironjaw laughed.[/color] Schuster smiled weakly, his face still pale and sweating.

“True, true. I suppose it is better to think one hears noises and find nothing, than to hear a noise and find its source.”

[color=#P1914]“Right. Now, let's get a move on. We've got to...” his voiced petered out as he realized he actually had no idea what exactly they should be doing right now. “Get to safety,” he finished lamely. “We need a good spot to hole up. Make sure nobody can sneak up on us.”[/color] Schuster nodded in agreement.

As the two walked on, Schuster felt a twinge creeping up his back. Survival instincts grown during his stay in the place-between-dimensions were alerting him that something was very wrong here. He felt watched and vulnerable. Stalked. As they wandered the warehouse, the feeling grew and grew though he could never find any concrete evidence of anything following him no matter how many anxious glances he threw over his shoulder.

[color=#P1914]“Ah!” bellowed Ironjaw. “This looks like a pretty good spot to set up shop!”

They had come to a small clearing in the forest of shelves. A large metal container, likely at one point used for shipping but now fallen into rusted disrepair and filled with drifts of moldering paper and assorted random objects sat in the center of the space. Schuster estimated that the clearing was about fifteen meters across: small, but pretty much the most open space they'd found in their wanderings. The open space meant less of a chance of being caught by surprise. More time to spot anything approaching.[/color]

“Yes comrade, I would agree. If we clear out this container we could probably fortify it for defense with little trouble. Construction materials are plentiful here,” he said as he indicated the many stacks around them. [color=#P1914]Ironjaw nodded and walked up to the container, peering inside.

“It's full to the brim with shit, of course. But we could get that out pretty easy.”[/color]

Schuster suddenly felt the feelings of unease strike with renewed vigor. He frantically searched around him for any sign of the malevolent presence he sensed but found nothing. It was impossible to ignore, though. He slid the revolver from its holster and held it ready in both hands. Ironjaw looked back from clearing out the container to eye him with confusion.

[color=#P1914]“What's the matter, mate?”[/color]

“Something is following us...” Schuster whispered back. “I know it is here.”

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw slowly reached for his rifle, making as little noise as he could.

“Where's the fucker at?” he whispered after he retrieved it and slunk towards Schuster, who was still looking in every direction.[/color]

“I do not know... it is there, though, I know it is.”

[color=#P1914]The shark-man shouldered the rifle, annoyance and anger apparent on his broad face.

“Look, you crazy bastard, there's nothing there. Again. Now quit dicking around and help me clear this box out.”[/color]

Schuster stared into his beady eyes. “No,” he said. “There is something here. It will kill us if we are not careful.”

[color=#P1914]Ironjaw laughed. “Really? REALLY? Then SHOW YOURSELF YOU BIG SCARY BASTARD!” he yelled, throwing both arms into the air and spinning around. Panic crossed Schuster's face and he ran to get the rusting hulk of the container between him and Ironjaw, who continued to laugh at his unease.

“Look, there's nothing here!” he shouted to Schuster. Schuster did not come out from behind the crate. Ironjaw stood in the open for a moment, arms still raised. He began to feel rather foolish and sheepishly put his arms down. “Schuster!” he called. “Come out! It's safe!”

Schuster did not come out.

Ironjaw walked back towards the container, pounding a meaty fist on its side. It rang with a metallic emptiness. “Schuster, come on. Quit fuckin' around.” He began to feel uneasy.

He rounded the side of the container, rifle in hands, to see nothing there. The uneasiness built to a feeling of cold dread in the pit of his stomach.

“Schuster?” he called quietly. He did not really expect a reply.[/color]

“He's up here,”[color=#P1914] came the unexpected reply. The voice was slimy, grotesque and muffled. Like a human whose throat was full of the stuff at the bottom of a lake. Still, though, he recognized it.


He looked up.

Thize was perched on top of the container. At least, Ironjaw assumed it was Thize. The thing held a struggling Schuster in a multi-limbed grip, scabrous fingers wrapped tightly around his limbs and face. Ironjaw couldn't tell at a glance how many limbs the thing-that-was-once-Thize had, tangled as they were in a mass of protruding bone and oozing scabs.[/color]

“Aren't I beautiful?” [color=#P1914]the thing crooned as it straightened up on a half-dozen legs. Standing on the crate, it loomed over Ironjaw, a horrific apparition of spidery limbs with the squirming Schuster clasped at its core. At the top of this mess of nightmare biology was Thize's face, its once-handsome features smashed, cut and shredded into a mess of scars, scabs and uneven ridges. A single human-looking eye peered from a mass of scar tissue. A clutch of glimmering orange lenses watched unblinking from where his other eye had been, appearing to have just blossomed from huge welts on his face. Ropy strands of pink and crimson fluid ran down his face and swung below his head, some dripping into Schuster's hair.

Ironjaw immediately fired a blast from the plasma rifle and flung himself back. The shot, poorly aimed in Ironjaw's haste to get away, blasted one of Thize's countless arms off. The shattered limb spewed black and pink ichor through the air.[/color]

“Is that all you can do?” Thize laughed, his voice burbling and breaking.

[color=#P1914]“What the fuck did she do to you?!” Ironjaw replied from behind a stack of crates.[/color]

“Made me beautiful. Made me understand what it means to be alive. Please...” His voice dissolved into sobs and wretching. [color=#P1914]Ironjaw carefully peeked around from behind the crate to see the misshapen creature crumpled atop the cargo crate. Schuster lay unmoving, wrapped in disembodied arms beside him. Thize wept into a few hands.

Leveling the gun, Ironjaw swept around the stack and shouted to Thize. “What the fuck are you trying? Think I'm going to fall for this shit?” The horrifying shape lifted its swaying head and locked its dozens of eyes with Ironjaw's.[/color]

“I saw what it means. What everything means,” he choked out. Finishing that sentence, he collapsed into another fit of sobs.

[color=#P1914]“Shut up!” Ironjaw bellowed, now thoroughly infuriated. The thing that had been stalking them for so long, that captured his comrade, was acting like a fragile little girl. If there was anything Ironjaw hated, it was weakness.

“Quit your BLUBBERING!” he screamed as he advanced. He grabbed a low-hanging arm and pulled Thize from the crate, slamming his head into the concrete floor. Ironjaw lifted a booted foot and brought it crashing down into his skull with a savagely satisfying stomp.[/color]

Thize spat blood and teeth across the floor, head still pinned under Ironjaw's tread. “Please...” he started before dissolving into spluttering tears. [color=#P1914]Ironjaw growled under his breath and stomped again, this time on Thize's chest. More detritus spewed from his mouth.

“What the FUCK have you done with Schuster?!” he began, punctuated with another stomp on an extraneous arm, snapping it clean in half. Thize howled and squealed. The wound sprayed ichor over Ironjaw's arm and face.[/color]

“I... I need to take you and him to her... to show her the truth... PLEASE.” Thize's voice was strained to the point of rising several octaves, breaking far past a normal human limit. [color=#P1914]It sounded truly horrific and served only to infuriate the raging Ironjaw further. He raised Thize up off the ground to bring their faces level.

“You're not taking me anywhere, you PIECE OF SHIT!” he screamed, slamming Thize onto the ground. Bellowing madly, he grabbed a limb with both arms and swung Thize like a human flail, smashing his ungainly body into the container. He heard countless frail bones shattering as the misshapen thing slammed into the metal.

Ironjaw attacked unrelentingly. He pounced directly into the central mass of Thize's limbs, punching through their shattered remains to slam blow after blow into the twitching fish-thing's body and face. Each hit threw up another puff of blood as Thize was literally torn apart under Ironjaw's huge fists.

When at last the hulking shark-man stood up, Thize was dead. His body lay absolutely demolished against the container and splattered out across the floor. Ironjaw breathed heavily under a fume of blood. It dripped from his fists. It soaked his clothes. It ran down his broad face into his mouth.

He bellowed in wordless rage, the scent of iron so deep in his mind he could think of nothing else.

There was no reply. He sank to his knees and sat for a moment, wiping blood from his eyes. It was at this point that something occurred to him.

In his blind rage, he had forgotten entirely the entire reason he was here. To kill another contestant. To move to the next round. And Thize, he was a contestant. And Thize is dead.

Sharp pain spiked through his right shoulder. He grunted and tried to turn but something pinned him from the left, then pulled him back down hard. The back of his head slammed into the floor, stunning him for a moment.

As his vision swam back he saw the face of Thize staring down at him, again radically reorganized. A single eye blinked from the center of his face. Three smaller eyes were arrayed across his forehead. His mouth lolled hugely wide, tongue hanging down past a massive protrusion of razor teeth. He held Ironjaw down with multiple spidery limbs to each of Ironjaw's own.[/color]

“Didn't think I'd go down that quickly do you?” [color=#P1914]he said as neon saliva dribbled from his tongue to land on Ironjaw's chest. His voice was strangely smooth compared to its previous choked quality. It took Ironjaw a moment to realize there was a small mouth, its lips perfect blue and unmarred, nestled at the back of his hugely gaping maw. Thize cocked his head to the side, awaiting a reply. Ironjaw groaned and tried to fight free but Thize's countless arms held him in place. [/color]

“That would be insulting. But I don't care. I don't mind being insulted anymore, you see. This isn't about me anymore.”

[color=#P1914]“You crazy bitch,” Ironjaw coughed out. “I hope your master chains you up in the darkest hell.”[/color]

“Hell? HELL? What do you think this is, a joke? I'm not joking around, Ironjaw. Not anymore. No more stupid games. I've decided you and the Russian aren't worth my time. I'll teach the girl myself.”

[color=#P1914]Hearing this, Ironjaw struggled again but to no avail. Thize's arms possessed a wiry strength that had been entirely absent previously.

“Please,” Ironjaw growled contemptuously past rows of gritted teeth. “I ate you alive. I'll do it again.” With that, he kicked out with both legs, arching his back and powerfully bucking at Thize's grip. Some of the arms lost their lock and Ironjaw rolled hard to the left, breaking dozens of fingers and springing free.[/color]

Thize's mouth stretched even wider as he screeched, a horrific sound halfway between a ramjet and a dying cat. He leapt backwards and gathered his arms together for another lunge. [color=#P1914]Ironjaw charged headlong, rushing straight towards him. Thize sprang high into the air, passing over Ironjaw's head and latching countless limbs onto his arms, legs and back. As he arced towards the ground, he pulled hard, hurling Ironjaw to the floor.

His grip now was like iron. There was no escaping the grasping limbs. Ironjaw thrashed and bit but could not avoid being hoisted into the air. Suddenly he jerked forward and felt himself soaring through the air, flailing his arms for balance.

He managed to fall somewhat upright in a stack of cardboard boxes. Their contents seemed relatively soft. A strange blessing, he thought. What good luck. He saw the twisting mass of Thize hurtling towards him and rolled to the side, falling down the stack to the floor.

Thize perched atop the stack and looked down at him.[/color]

“You are tough.”

[color=#P1914]“You are weak,” Ironjaw spat in reply.[/color]

Thize's huge mouth curled into something like a beatific grin.

“I was. No longer.” With that, he catapulted suddenly into the air, high above Ironjaw's head, nearly touching the ceiling of the storehouse. He arrowed down towards Ironjaw, limbs forming a point in front of him.
[color=#P1914]Ironjaw, seeing this coming for several whole seconds, casually stepped to the side and allowed Thize to slam into the concrete in a bloody jumble of splintered limbs.

“Nice jump. Pretty high.” He kicked a mangled section of arm back at the barely twitching Thize. His neck was clearly broken in countless places. His skull was shattered, exposing his brain. Ironjaw doubted this would slow him down for long, so immediately ran off through the crate maze.[/color]


Eriz and Guillemet crouched in the center of the trap-field. Around them was a small safe-zone of crates full of odd parts and machines. Beyond that was the standard storage-building crate stacks, but filled with deadly traps. In the boxes, under the shelves, overhanging the walkways, countless deadly bombs, blades and spikes lurked.

“Do you think he's coming back?” Eriz nervously asked her companion.


Eriz did not immediately reply. She had had little time to think about the insane episode she had recently experienced in the domain of the thing that called itself the Artiste. It had told her little but terrified her greatly.

“Well...” she started, her voice wavering. “I think so. It wasn't entirely clear.”


Eriz filled Guillemet in on her current relationship with the Artiste, sparing only the details about how terrified and helpless she had felt during most of their conversations. Guillemet listened with rapt attention until she finished her story.


“I guess... that's one way you could put it.”

“DAMN GIRL I DIDN'T THINK YOU HAD IT IN YOU,” she said with a huge toothy grin.

Eriz let out a static-edged sigh and went back to surveying the perimeter. She knew that the first sign of an approaching being would be traps going off, but she couldn't stop herself from trying to spot Thize's return.

A blood-curdling bellow suddenly sounded through the warehouse. She immediately rose to her full height, hammer at the ready, laser arm poised high over her head as she scanned around her. Her suit showed no movement, though, and none of the traps had been set off as far as she could tell.

“THE FUCK WAS THAT?” Guillemet growled nervously next to her.

“Sounded male. Probably Thize. But possibly the shark-man.”

The two stood warily for perhaps a minute, slowly turning back-to-back to watch every inch of the perimeter. Their concentration was interrupted by a huge crash in the near distance.

“Getting closer,” Eriz muttered under her breath.

Moments later they saw a strange spidery figure spring into the air near the source of the sound. It flew up, almost scraping the ceiling with its numerous flailing limbs before pulling together into a tight point and speeding down towards the floor. It vanished behind the numerous stacks of crates but a loud thud echoed through the warehouse.

“By the Ship,” Eriz whispered, “was that Thize?”


Suddenly an explosion boomed through the warehouse. Crates flew into the air in a burst of light and smoke on the outer edge of the trap perimeter, accompanied by a loud bellow like the one they had heard before. As the yelling came closer, it gradually started to form audible words.

[color=#P1914]“LET ME THROUGH THE PERIMETER, HE'S RIGHT BEHIND ME!”[/color] the voice, clearly Ironjaw's, shouted.

“Um...” Eriz looked at Guillemet.


Eriz upped the amplification on her speakers and shouted to Ironjaw.

“There's no way we can turn off the traps! Stay back!”

[color=#P1914]“Damn it, girl! If I stay here, I'm royally fucked!”[/color]

Eriz thought about what Ironjaw was saying. If Thize killed him, the round would end. No matter what happened here, someone was going to die. She did not particularly dislike Ironjaw but... better him than her.

“Sorry, there's nothing we can do!” she shouted back.
Guillemet arched her long neck to look her in the face.


“It's just the truth,” she replied glumly.

Guillemet seemed about to reply when a second explosion sounded, very close to the first. Both immediately turned to see Thize's spidery figure launched into the air, trailing bits of limbs, molten skin and flame as he arced up and back down. A third explosion followed shortly. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. Getting closer.

“Oh no,” Eriz said softly, shocked. “He's coming through the field.”

“JESUS CHRIST. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. WE ARE SO FUCKED RIGHT NOW, I THINK HE'S LITERALLY INSUPERABLE,” Guillemet replied. Suddenly a realization crossed her face. Hope rose in Eriz's heart; could Guillemet's mad genius pull through? A grin bisected the dragon's face.

“I JUST REMEMBERED I CAN FLY!” she shouted as she leapt into the air. “SORRY ERIZ. NO HARD FEELINGS BUT YOU'RE A LITTLE HEAVY. GOOD LUCK! I REALLY HOPE YOU DON'T DIE!” With that, she flew up near the ceiling and then away from Eriz, towards a far corner of the warehouse.

Watching her last hope flee, Eriz stood still in the center of the minefield. Explosions like the footfalls of giants grew closer and closer, until debris were pattering off her armor like rain. Twenty meters. Fifteen meters. Ten meters.

Thize flew over the last row of crates, propelled by an exploding mine. He was blackened and charred, missing huge pieces of flesh and trailing boiling blood, smoke and fire. His huge mouth, like that of a deep-sea fish, was gaping monstrously. He had far too many eyes.

A Sauthai fights, the battle-master in the back of her head screamed. Fight or die, it's the Sauthai way!

When I fought, I failed, she thought. Memories of beatings, staffs and swords and fists and knives and clubs and blood, mostly her own. A huge metal hand ramming into her sternum, feeling it even through so much metal, lifting her off the floor and slamming her onto her back. Memories of a war-host assembled under Nalahai's huge central dome.

Why do we fight? the commander bellowed to his troops. TO LIVE! they answered as a single being.

Why do we live? he raised a massive sword over his head. TO FIGHT! the host roared. Light flashed off countless face-domes.

Thize arced through the air towards her, creeping slowly along his trajectory. Flames rippled languidly behind him. His mouth stretched even wider.

We fight because we must, her father told her. Your mother died fighting so that we could live.

She fell heavily to her knees. Her hammer lay forgotten next to her. The laser arm drooped by her side. Thize's outstretched hands were a meter from her, reaching with huge claws.

I am no Sauthai, she thought as his claws scraped at her face-dome with impossible slowness. Warrior. It means warrior. I am no warrior. I am a coward.

Moments before he crashed into her, both figures vanished. The only evidence they had ever existed at all was a brief woosh of air rushing to fill the vacuum left by their departure.

A headless figure stepped out from behind a crate at the edge of the safe zone. He held a camera phone, forgotten, by his side.

“Holy shit,” he whispered in awe.


you did not really think i would just let you give up and die did you metal girl


to go through all that trouble just to see you throw your life away would be such a waste such a waste of a perfect metal girl

Eriz found herself laying on her back, still encased in her sauthorn. Crimson space, warmly and evenly lit by something she could not see, filled her vision. She sat up slowly, warily looking around her. She was in the center of a large disk of glimmering silver metal, maybe thirty meters in diameter. At its edges was merely more red void.

She suddenly heard a clattering noise from the edge of the disk. She sprang to her feet, grabbing her hammer from where it lay beside her.

A hand reached over the edge of the disk. And then another. And another. And still another, and more, until a dozen hands held the edge of the disk. Suddenly a shape swung itself up from below, landing on countless splayed limbs. Thize.

“Are you here to finish me off?” Eriz asked, voice trembling but feeling strangely courageous.

“No,” he replied. His voice seemed totally normal despite the riotous changes that had overtaken his body. The gaping fish-maw she had seen earlier was gone, replaced with a vertical row of four human-looking mouths. Only the topmost spoke. “I'm here to fight you. Like we were always meant to. Two come in but only one can leave, the Master told me. Me or you.”

Of course. That monstrosity wouldn't really have been trying to save her. For all its talk of love and admiration it seemed hell-bent on inflicting as much misery as it could conjure up on her. She gripped her hammer with both hands and raised it to her shoulder, readying for the charge she was sure would come shortly.

“Get it over with,” she growled at him past gritted teeth.

“There's no rush,” he replied, folding his multitudinous limbs under himself and sitting down on the smooth metal of the platform. “Time doesn't pass in here unless it wishes it to. We will emerge from this space at precisely the moment the Master desires us to.”

Eriz, confused, kept a tight grip on her hammer and did not move from her combat-ready stance. Thize fixed his eyes (two now, thankfully) on her and raised a hand, gesturing for her to come towards him.

“Would you like to talk?”

The question came out of nowhere and confused Eriz even more. “A-about what?” she stammered, lowering the hammer slightly.


“Why? Why are you suddenly so friendly? Don't we have to fight to the death?” she asked cautiously.

“Who says the two are mutually exclusive? I'd like to know more about you before we finish this.”

This is insane, Eriz thought. But then again, is it really any more insane than anything else that had happened to her in the last few hours? Not really.

Fuck it, she thought. She walked over and sat down near Thize, near the edge of the platform. She left a few meters distance between them, though. She certainly didn't trust him.

“It changed everything,” Thize said suddenly. “Meeting the Master, I mean. Everything. What did I care about before? It's almost hard to remember. Swimming? Bubbles? Style? Fish puns? Do any of those things even mean anything? How could I have cared so much about such trash? They just seem so trivial, so pointless...” his voice trailed off as tears welled up in his eyes. The lower part of his face fell off, taking with it his bottom three mouths. He eyed the fallen piece of face with a morose look as it evaporated into crimson steam. “None of it seems to matter anymore. I just want to be closer to the Master now. Nothing else has meaning.”

Eriz, incredibly confused by his sudden glut of words but realizing she should probably just roll with it, took a moment to reply. “What did it do to you?”

Thize looked into her eyes, the ragged flesh of his chin already smoothing over and bubbling into new forms. “It showed me everything,” he said. “Every person. Every planet. Every universe. Every physical law, every kind of truth, every flavor of beauty. And... and...” He broke into ragged sobs, fat glowing pink tears running down his face, which had morphed itself, she realized, back into its original fish-mutant state.

“And... what?” she answered.

“And now I can't remember it,” he choked. “And will I ever know it again? Was that one my one chance? Was it a test? Did I fail?” His voice was wavering, broken.

“It told me that you reacted poorly. I don't know what that means, though.”

“Poorly? Poorly? I just wanted to keep knowing, to never forget. Everything. Every single thing. It knows everything, you know.”

“Everything? I doubt that,” Eriz said. “It told me itself that there are always more unknowns.”

“To you, yes. To me, and you, and all the other blind worms. But not to the Master. Everything, metal girl. Every single thing. I knew it too, for a short time. So short.”

“And how do you know it was really everything?”

“Because I knew everything. I knew that I knew everything because I knew everything.”

“That's...” she pondered how forward she should be with such a clearly unstable creature. “That's pretty circular logic.”

“You would understand if you had known what I had known.” He sighed heavily. “And now everything just seems so meaningless, so pointless. I have seen true enlightenment, metal girl. Nothing else could ever come close.”

“You keep calling me that. Picked it up from the Artiste?”

“Yeah, it... well, it fits. Better than you know. The Master, it's got plans for you. Lots of plans. Me? I'm just another failed project. A stupid, stupid reject. Reacted poorly.” He seemed about to break into tears again but managed to recover. “It was never about the bodies, you know.”

“Its art?” she queried.

“Yes. The bodies, the sculptures, that's all secondary. Like pencil shavings brushed off a desk once the piece is finished.”

“Then what is it about?” she asked, dreading that she knew the response.

“The lives that used to be in the bodies. It works in lives. Sometimes just one, or two, maybe a little group. Sometimes a city, or a whole planet of lives. Sometimes more. The bodies are waste. Sometimes little diversions but never the focus of the show.”

“And right now, we're center stage.”


“I feel ready to perform,” she said suddenly, startling even herself. Thize just calmly nodded and rose on his many limbs.

“You changed your mind. I am glad. You are no coward. Your father would be proud.”

“How...” she started before trailing off, remembering what Thize had told her. He looked at her with anticipation. “Give me a minute,” she said, walking across the platform.

“Of course. Take your time.”

Eriz stopped at the opposite edge from Thize. She held her hammer out in front of her and began to sing.

One must understand a few facts about the Sauthai. To a Sauthai, combat is everything. They are literally bred for battle. A program of eugenics and genetic modification centuries in the past has adapted them for their specific brand of combat. For a Sauthai, bulky musculature and intense physical fitness are pointless or even detrimental. All that matters is grace and reaction time.

Her ancestors inserted special glands into their bodies. These produced huge quantities of adrenaline and other chemicals, allowing the people who would become the Sauthai to reach superhuman speed and agility in combat. In the southern countries the kyelz speak of Sauthai catching bullets in the hands, dodging shells and fighting in close quarters with a horrifying ease that escapes description. And all the while, over the clamor of the battlefield, they sing.

Suitsong, it is called. She learned to sing it even before she could speak. Suitsong has no words and no meaning. It is the catalyst used to trigger the deadly trance all Sauthai enter during combat. It is a song of war and only war.

As she sang, her voice shifting high and low, following a strange cadence, she stamped a foot. Then the other. Slowly the rhythm became faster and faster, the song higher and more frenetic. Her singing voice was not beautiful, but the haunting, warping tones of the suitsong had a strange quality that many found entrancing.

Eriz could almost feel the chemicals pumping through her bloodstream. The red glow of the void grew brighter as her pupils dilated. Her heart beat faster and faster, following the rising tempo of the song. Everything seemed to slow down.

She raised her hammer in one hand, still singing. She pointed it at Thize and retracted her aux-arms, the traditional sign of the challenge. He nodded.

She charged.

The sky around the platform suddenly filled with a dense cloud of windmilling blades. Fat bolts of purple lightning flickered between them and shone off their mirror-bright surfaces. Thize ran at her, glints of purple glimmering off his eyes and glossy skin.

They met in the middle of the platform under the churning maelstrom. He reached out with several arms, grabbing for her arms and weapon, but her momentum was simply too great. She crashed into him shoulder-first, then brought the hammer up from below in a devastating sweep. She felt ribs shatter under the impact as he flew back and slid across the platform.

Never let up, the battle-master screamed, push your attack until there is nothing left to push!

She came bearing down on him with all the force of a crashing meteor, raising her hammer high over her head and singing at the top of her lungs, the song almost a feral scream. As she brought it down, Thize rolled to the side. She swept it after him but he sprang over it with lethal agility, latching onto the haft of the weapon with several arms while others grabbed at her arms and shoulders.

Eriz felt herself dangerously destabilizing as Thize tried to pull her to the side, straining to move her massive form. The song wavered, her voice tremulous as she struggled to keep her balance. He jerked all his limbs suddenly, and she stumbled. Three legs wrapped around one of her own, tripping her, and she fell with a tremendous metallic crash to the ground.

Her leg twisted badly as she fell, her knee wrapped in arms. Her own mass worked against her, wrenching the joint.

“Motor six-two-four, code seven,” the suit's voice intoned. Critical loss of function, she knew instantly. Motor six-two-four. Secondary motor, right knee.

Thize sprang back. As she pulled herself to her feet a new limb sprouted from his chest like a fleshy vine. Rapidly it grew to a length twice that of his other extremities, and at its tip a huge glimmering blade reflected the sporadic purple light of the chaos surrounding them.

Thize regarded this new addition to his body with an awe bordering on religious fascination, holding its gleaming edge near to his face and stroking it with a finger. The finger fell to ground, sliced in half. He grinned.

The suitsong rose rapidly in pitch and tempo as Eriz charged again, thundering down on Thize with her hammer cocked to the side for a sweeping blow. The charge was slowed by her damaged knee, though, and the attack was obvious. Thize ducked smoothly under it and lashed out with the new blade, slashing across her chest. It scored deep in the ornamented metal, cutting a long groove diagonally across her chest but failing to fully pierce through the thick layers of armor.

She spun, trying to keep Thize in front of her, but he moved with a smooth liquid grace on his many limbs. Every time she swung her heavy weapon he dodged it and counterattacked, adding more deep gashes and scratches in her sauthorn. Luckily none had yet pierced through its many layers, but she was sure that soon his blade would find a thin point and break through. The suitsong became more frantic.

You can't always win by being the strongest, the battle-master shouted. Sometimes one must rely on the drive for victory alone to finish a fight! To a Sauthai, failure is not an option!

She swung again, a low sweep this time, aiming to shatter some of his legs.
Thize nimbly sprang over it as he had so effortlessly before, slashing the blade down at her shoulder. It glanced off the articulated plates, shearing off a few slivers of metal. Eriz found herself dangerously out of position, her hammer far to the side, exposing her body.

Thize, seeing this opening, landed his evasive dodge and followed with a tackle straight at Eriz's chest. His body collided with hers, his limbs already latching onto every hold they could get. The impact nearly knocked Eriz to the ground but she managed to stay upright, song building in intensity.

Thize leveled the blade with her belly, its point seeking the small gap between overlapping motive plates and angling upwards towards her heart.

With a sudden shrieking chorus Eriz dropped her hammer and enfolded Thize in a crushing bear-hug, feeling bones snapping like twigs under her hydraulic grip. Pumping adrenaline obscured everything but Thize's face, flawless, just as it had been before his transformation, in front of her.

She stepped forwards, holding Thize against her chest.

“Motors four-nine-nine, four-nine-eight, four-nine-five, code seven.” Abdominal motion systems. His blade had made it through the outer plating.

She fell forwards, the bright metal of the platform rushing towards her. The suitsong reached a screaming climax.

773.24 kilograms of metal, carbon composites and meat can fall with a lot of kinetic energy. Thize's head shattered like an eggshell as it was crushed between the jutting sternum of her armor and the unyielding metallic floor. His chest folded in on itself with a sickening crack. Blood and brain splattered across the floor. The song ended.

beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful

The blades overhead spun faster and the purple arcs flickered madly.

to think i even doubted you for a moment metal girl what a fool i was

Eriz pushed herself off Thize's smashed corpse with her arms, slowly levering herself off the smear of pulped fish-man and standing up. Her movements were stiff and cumbersome, hampered by her armor's damaged motors. They were in the center of the platform, she noticed with detached curiosity. The battle-trance chemicals were wearing off. Her mind felt slow and fuzzy. Thize's blade was still embedded in her abdomen, its long arm drooping to the floor where it met with his crushed chest.

Thize's limbs, splayed like those of a smashed spider, began to hiss and bubble, dissolving slowly into crimson mist that diffused into the redness of the space around them. As they boiled away, his pulped body slowly reformed itself, pooling together into a mass of reddish-pink skin, raw and new looking. His head was the last to reform, pieces of skull floating into the air and settling together like a macabre puzzle before skin grew over them.

Thize opened his eyes, looking up at Eriz from where he lay on the floor, naked and whole and mostly human again.

oh dear it looks like he is still breathing who would have thought that


you will have to deal with that i suppose only one can leave alive only one

Eriz pulled the blade from her abdomen with both hands. As it wrenched free, a dribble of clear fluid ran down her armor, then a gush of bright arterial red . On the end of the blade, blood glimmered in the sporadic violet light. It clattered to the floor. She felt suddenly light-headed.

oh come now this is not the time for such things you have a duty to do metal girl

Thize smiled up at her from the floor. His face was utterly calm. Eriz stumbled, catching herself before she could fall. She found herself reaching unsteadily for her hammer. She could not see her injury but its cold numbness seemed to be spreading across her torso.

good good good beautiful now do it rise metal girl your sun awaits

Thize lay perfectly still below her, a beatific look fixed on his face. She felt suddenly disgusted, seeing him laying there unmoving when he had fought against her so hard. The hammer was in her hand now. She raised it to her shoulder.

do it

She waited, expecting Thize to leap up, to suddenly attack, transforming into some newer and even more horrific form. He did not move. Sweat ran down her face in streams, the interior limbs of her face-dome rapidly sponging it away.

waiting for something metal girl maybe for someone to take your picture

She took the hammer in both hands.

finish it

She raised it over her head.


She brought the hammer down as hard as she could.



I'm dead now, aren't I? For good?


She actually had the guts to do it. I guess you were right in the end. No surprise there.

of course

Before I go...

you wish to remember



Thize remembered.


She awoke in darkness. Switching her dome's display confirmed she was in some kind of container, surrounded by musty cardboard and other random detritus. The Coach's warehouse, of course. Her body ached but the cold nerveless feeling that had clung to her abdomen was gone.

A minute later, she stood in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the huge building and looked at the ruin Thize had inflicted on her armor. Deep slashes crisscrossed her chest and arms. The abdominal plates were ruined, bent out of shape. The motors beneath were in even worse shape, not responding to any queries from her central processor. Her right knee bent stiffly and slowly. The damage would require mending. She could only hope that the injuries she had sustained were truly healed.

At her feet lay her hammer, pushed from the container along with a slough of debris as she had struggled out of its confinement. As she bent to pick it up, a strange glint caught her eye. She pulled it from the pile of junk where it lay half-buried and immediately noticed a bizarre addition.

One end of the hammer seemed to have been melted, oozing in irregular blobby patterns around an object that had evidently been forced into the molten metal before it was allowed to cool.

The unearthly edge Thize had impaled her with shone under the warehouse lights, jutting like the blade of a scythe from one side of her hammer. An object she had carried throughout all of her adult life, the symbol of her Sauthai warrior's pride, now perverted by the Artiste's strange whimsy.

She sighed a sigh of sheer exhaustion and sat heavily on the ground. At least, she observed, it was very sharp.

Re: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round One: Storage Park!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pharmacy.

I am goign to fucking start on this postand finish it as soon as possbile sorry for being a terrible writer

post start 3/28/13
post deadline finish IDONTKNOW BUT IWILL TRY
RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
”—But my guy’s a total lameoid!” complained T.J. “I wish he’d die already. At least Fries—“

“—Thize—“ corrected Linc between sniffles.

“—At least Thighs got to be all cool and scary before he bit it.”

“Be quiet, TJ,” snapped Coach, tapping his fingers against the arms of his chair. “Be happy with the battler you have.

“There are plenty of other kids,” he added after a thought, “Who don’t have any battlers at all.” This sent Linc into a new wave of hysterics.

“All I’m saying,” says TJ, “Is that he hasn’t done anything. He just snuck around avoiding fights. Can I at least give him a glimpse of the Void next round, so he goes crazy and kills everyone?”

“You should be happy!” said the Coach, glancing uneasily at the phone. “Axys is using strategy. He’ll probably win.”

“He’ll get in second, maybe,” boasted Ron. “But once he fights Ironjaw, he’s going down.

“Hey Ron, could you do me a favor?” asked TJ, his voice the insincere saccharine of diet cola.

“Yeah, Teej?”


But Ron could not stop hitting himself, for he had no motor control over the third arm sprouting out of his mouth. He grappled with it helplessly as TJ laughed.

“Come on, kids,” grunted the Coach, brushing the arm off. “Friends don’t inflict body horror on friends, remember? It’s disrespectful. Settle down for a minute. I’m waiting for a very important pho—“


The Coach put a hand to his chest, closed his eyes, opened them, and moved the hand over to the receiver. As he pulled the phone to his ear the gathered orphans could hear the tension in the squeak of the curly wire.

“Coach here.”

The kids couldn’t hear the voice on the other end, but the shiiiiiiing sound was distinctly audible, ringing throughout the multiverse.

“Yes, that was me,” continued Coach nervously. “I’m, um, I’m running one of those what-do-you-call-thems. A Last Man Standing?”


“Contestants got away from me. Honestly I’m new at this.”


“No, I don’t know how valuable. But if you tell me how valuable I’ll write that down in my notebook and pay you back just as soon as this thing starts—“


“Well, I don’t see how that attitude’s going to solve anything. I don’t suppose it makes any difference to you that all the proceeds are going towards a school for orphaned youth?”


“Okay, okay, I understand your concern. Yes. But right now I’m cleared out just for the fines on the damage done to my own unit, so if you give me just a couple of multiversal metamonths I’ll be—“


“Alright, alright, no need to get testy. I’ll have the money in an hour. I’m not even going to tell you what I’m going to go through for your peace of mind, but I’ll have the money.”


“I didn’t mean anything by that. I need to go call someone who will get me the money so I can get you the money, okay?”


“Yes. I’m hanging up now. Bye.”

The Coach hung up and wiped his brow with a rag.

“Are you gonna be okay?” asked Flo.

The Coach smiled insincerely. “Should be. I just need to make one more phone call and then we can start the next round.”

The Coach picked up the phone again, wincing a bit, as though expecting a bread knife to leap out of the receiver in the general direction of his eye. He consulted a little black book and pressed several keys on the phone.

Several seconds passed, then he put the receiver back down again. “Funny,” he said, addressing the kids in the way he was known to do when actually talking to himself. “Three rings and a click. Well, I guess it makes sense they would change phone numbers pretty oft—“

”You don’t call us,” came a voice from behind another armchair—an armchair one far too expensive to have originally been part of the landscape of the Coach’s house. ”We call you.”

The Coach lowered his eyes. “My mistake,” he said. “I’m new at this. My cousin—“

”We know.”The chair swiveled. The man’s wrinkles all carried gravity, like a map of the roads he had traveled. His general demeanor suggested that he had a chronic illness but had tamed it and taught it some tricks. His suit was ostentatious but tasteful. ”We know many things, Coach. We know about the orphanage and the Realtor, and now your trouble with the Artiste. Not exactly reliving the glory days, no?” He didn’t speak with any sort of accent—the concept of an accent being probably meaningless in this place—but his voice resonated a differently, as though the sound was coming from a layer of mold that had gathered an inch or so below the universe.

“We’re all getting older,” said the Coach. “But you know we also have the Fight-A-Thon going, so, given a little time—“

”I’m glad to hear you’re confident. We’re confident too. We’re confident you can pay us back by, say, the end of the third round. And then make your three hundred thousand on top of that. And should you exceed that goal, well, you may find yourself in a position of great power, and we hope you’ll remember us.”

The Coach nodded. “Sure. Just like that?”

”Just like that. We aren’t so sinister as your movies would make it out to—“

“Are you a bad guy?” asked Ron.

The man glanced in Ron’s direction and offered a paternal smile.
”Yes,” he decided.

“Cool. Me too. When I grow up.”

The man chuckled.
”On that note, come to think of it, maybe I oughtn’t be so ‘good a guy’ in this case. Our confidence is not quite unlimited. So let’s discuss collateral.” The man produced a cigar, considered it, and pocketed it again. ”Not around the children. Secondhand smoke—there’s bad guy, and then there’s bad manners.” He chuckled again.

“I don’t have much,” admitted the Coach.

”That’s relative. As it so happens our organization is also running a… contest. Along the same lines as yours, more or less. We have enough characters to see us through, but we’re aware that things can happen. So we’d like to keep one of yours, just in case.”

The Coach blanched. “Yeah, um, see, the thing is… my kids picked out those contestants, and I think it’d just—“

”You might get him back later. Or we could arrange a trade. No promises, of course. A lot can happen.”

”Yeah, well, uh, the other thing is. Less contestants means less rounds, right? Which means less time to get the money. Doesn’t seem like a smart investment on your part… if you don’t mind me saying so.” The Coach scratched his head nervously.

The man smiled and raised a hand.
”I perfectly understand your concerns. But six rounds should be more than enough if you’re taking proper measures to monetize your battles.” He paused for a moment, affording the Coach an opportunity to attempt to study his face. Then he added, ”A word of advice on that front. You stand to profit off of ad revenues and broadcast subscription fees, true. But the real money is in merchandising, Coach.”

”Merchandising,” the Coach repeated emptily. All this was going a bit over his head.

”Toys. Video games. Glow-in-the-dark comforters and wall posters. Use your imagination. One spoiled rich child is worth five hundred adult viewers, if you know how to catch their interest.”

”Merchandising. Alright.” The Coach nodded a little too eagerly. “So, cards on the table: I give away one of my kids’ contestants and start, uh, merchandising, or I can’t pay back the Artiste, and—“

”—And the Artiste lacks our characteristic restraint and lenity with regards to debt.”

”Yeah.” The Coach turned to T.J. “So, T.J. You still wish Axys were dead?”

T.J. pouted. “I never said that,” he insisted.

* * * * *

The “KFAT: Axys” toy line never got off the ground.

Had it, the cardboard-and-plastic package for the basic model Axys action figure would have come with a handy sheet of Fun Facts, which would have read as follows.

Fun fact! The plural of Ax is Axes. The plural of Axis is also Axes. The plural of Axys is Axesys!*

Fun fact! The past tense of Access is Access. The past tense of Axe is Axed. The past tense of Axys is Axwuz!

Fun fact! It’s a common misconception that Axys was stolen away from his homeworld and given blade arms by scientists. This is not true. By the time the scientists found him, he already had blade arms.

Fun fact! Axys absorbs negative emotions through his “tail-hand” feature. Placing multiple Axesys around your bed will prevent nightmares, bed-wetting, and buyer’s remorse.

*Buy more Axesys to properly simulate Axys’s “Illusory Doppelganger” and “Split-Energy Duplicate” features!

Axys would never get a eulogy, but these toys made it all the way to the focus group phase.

Three versions of the Axys trading card were made for the $300,000 Fight-A-Thon Living Card Game (LCG). The first and most widely tournament-used version's ability reads “Place Axys in the dead pile. Each of your opponents must search your deck for a card called Ironjaw and place it in his dead pile.” This ability has been hotly debated by fans and widely criticized based on the implication that Axys could beat Ironjaw in a fight, which seems laughable in retrospect.

The second card has the following ability: “Multiple Axesys may be placed on the field at one time. During the Recruitment phase, Reduce Axys’ Strength by 1 to lower the cost of any Axys card by one. While there is more than one Axesys on the board, all Axesys have a Defense of zero.” This second Axys is often included in “Jawbreaker” deck builds as an exploit in order to get more copies of the first Axys on the field.

The third Axys is one of the few cards in the otherwise meticulously balanced CCCKFATLCG to occupy the “Never-Used” tier in competitive gaming parlance. The text on the card reads as follows: “If the Coach is on the field, search your deck for all Axesys, go out onto the street, and give them all to the first person you see who is smiling. If you can’t get anyone to smile, try giving them one of your Ironjaws.”

CCCKFATLCG can be bought at your local niche gaming store.

Axys had started thinking long-term. Rampant bloodlust and internal darkness aside, it would do him no good to kill Ironjaw or any of the others. Either way, he would just be a rat running a maze—and that was an undignified position for something that was less a rat and more of a monkey that was also a lion with sword arms and an arm tail. No, he would have to kill the Coach, and probably all those kids, too—there were no two ways about it.

Now, the Coach, as far as he could tell, was powerful—too powerful to contend with in terms of power, as far as that went. But he wasn’t, it seemed, very smart. Axys was very smart, comparatively speaking, which was to say, not very smart, but not not very smart by a long shot. As for the kids, they were kids, which was to say, not very smart at all, which was a notch less very smart than simply not very smart, even.

Axys spent a while crouched between two boxes munching on the negative energy radiating from the other battlers and convincing himself that he was very smart and could absolutely defeat the Coach without relying on anything so disquieting as cooperation. All he needed was a plan.

Without going into too much detail on monkey-lion-thing thought processes, which are utterly alien and beyond the average reader’s ken, the plan eventually came.

And so it was that having glutted himself on the negative energy of his peers, Axys found a nice quiet storage unit (occupied only by several kilos of narcotics maturing surreptitiously under a woolen afghan, and Axys) and made a duplicate of himself, dividing his energy in two. This left him with a fair amount of energy to spare, so he made it a trifecta (for those counting at home, yes, that’s six sword arms). All three Axesys raised their arm tails in unison and continued to gather negative energy.

All that lovely fear and doubt and pain as well as the general despair that leads one to lock all one’s things up in an austere metal room and keeps these storage parks in business. It’s all negative energy. And it was coming through quite clearly, without the interference one usually gets from positive energy cross-patterns—love and good nights’ sleep and the blissful satisfaction of buying 300KFAT merchandise.

By the time the bubble burst on Thize, so to speak, there were one hundred fifty one Axesys occupying the storage unit. Three hundred and two sword arms.

“Uh,” said the Coach, glancing over at the man with whom he’d just struck the bargain detailed above. “I’m not sure which one is yours.”

”The original one,” offered the man, his tone suggesting that he had a busy schedule to keep and no time for tomfoolery, even though time had been suspended entirely.

“The real one,” said the Coach. “Right. I, um. I’m not sure which is the original one is the thing.”

”This is why it’s often considered good form,” said the man, allowing himself a slight smile, ”To label your Axes.”

He meant Axesys.

Time stoppage aside, it took a handful of multiversal metahours to clean up the mess.

Axys’ plan had been to confuse and disorient the Coach with his army of duplicates (polyplicates?) while he killed all the children and escaped the battle. It almost worked except that it was dependent on the word “while” which generally assumes movement through time. And this is why it is never, ever fun to play games with omnipotent types.

After which the remaining contestants, utterly devoid of closure from the previous round, were teleported unceremoniously onto a city street. “Hey, friends,” called the Coach, his enthusiasm rendered a bit insincere by the bags under his eyes. “Welcome to Toyetic. I’m not much for cities, myself, but as they go, Toyetic isn’t bad. Lotta money, water on four sides, nice architecture, far as that goes. Low crime. Big.” He shrugged.

“Anyway, here’s the thing, though: Toyetic stayed out of all the wars. They aren’t on any earthquake lines or hurricane paths. All the monsters have stayed clear of them. So, city planning got a bit lazy.”

The Coach tapped his fist against the wall. A little concrete chipped off, ruining the fresh-out-the-package façade of the city. “The workmanship’s all shoddy. And the buildings fall over, not down, so they knock over more buildings. There are gas mains running under darn near everything, the sewers are full of methane, and the cars, well, let’s just say they weren’t built to go near fire. So be careful with the place.” The Coach attempted to wink and learned in that moment (as did his contestants) that he did not have a good face for winking.

“Anyway, I’ve fitted you all with these neat little satellite watches—“ the Coach paused here for a moment, as though waiting for the contestants, held paralyzed as they were, to look down at the blinking displays wrapped around their wrists. “—Yeah, these little watches that’ll lead you to six safehouses where—oh, right, yeah, six. So Axys is gone for now. He might come back later. I don’t think so, really. But anyway. I’m gonna be scattering you all over, but these safehouses are full of cool stuff for you. Weapons, vehicles, robot suits, different outfits for you to wear. All really neat moveable-parts choking-hazard plastic kinda stuff. Well, these aren’t plastic, they’re real. You can use them to kill each other or just play around.

“You’ve been doing okay so far.” If the Coach had ever been a good motivator he was not now showing it. His weakness—offset by his position of absolute power over the contestants—was palpable. “Keep at it. We’ll make it through this.” It sounded like a prayer, which was ridiculous, because who did the Coach have to pray to?

“And remember we’re doing this for the kids.” The Coach rotated out of existence into elsewhere, and the remaining contestants found themselves elsewhere as well.

RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
A toy store.

"Mom, can I get this Axys action figure? It's the new one, with the laser eyes and energy drain! And it even talks! Listen!"

The kid pressed a button strangely located on the posterior, and it gave off a tinny "Enough of your damn fish puns."

"Charlie, don't you have enough Axes dolls?"

"It's Axesys, Mom! Everyone knows that! And they're action figures! I swear, you are so uncool. So can I get it? Huh?"

The mother nursed her growing headache, and fingered her purse for those last few aspirin pills. A thundering crash echoed throughout the toy store, and she dropped the pills. Cursing, she looked around for the source of the noise. Her son ran up to her and held her hand.

Someone screamed. It was the keening sound of someone dying. Not that she'd know what it meant.

She held on to her son's hand as tightly as possible.




Warden ticked, and he tocked, but otherwise, he did not move.

He was contemplating the Artiste. Why had he agreed to join him? He was a foul despicable being who toyed with living creatures' bodies, and reveled from the depraved sight of blood. He was a heretic of the highest caliber, surpassing even the Coach and the other contestants. Yet... he willfully joined him. He could blame mind control, but a part of him knew what happened there.

He had seen the Artiste as a higher planar entity. As a ... god. Who could help him.

He was a heretic.

Somberly, he stopped ticking. He no longer deserved to be the Demon's Clock, the Harbinger of Pain, or the Great and Majestically Intimidating Warden of the Sixth Ring. Now, he was just an ordinary heretic. He frantically looked around, expecting a severe smiting, but nothing happened. With an eerie calm, he began surveying his location, and considering his new situation. The organic side of his mind rose up at last, and quashed the mechanical side, which was now useless. He could think clearly again. Yet, he was so utterly confused. He had not actually made a successful thought in... a very long time. Was it 100 years? 200? Either way, he was totally lost. But he felt like he could breathe again. Even if he didn't have lungs. Damn this accursed metal body!

He was currently in an uncomfortably narrow yet clean alley. People passed by the entries, but did not so much as glance his way. He remembered the Coach saying something about a watch. He looked down, and discovered a watch, awkwardly attached to one of the gears of his lower left arm. The strap was dangerously close to being shredded, so it was fortunate in a way that he decided to stop his mechanisms. He plucked it off with another arm, and wrapped it around the arrow protruding from his face that would normally have indicated the time. Once he made sure it was secure, he decided to start moving his face once more. It felt alien to him.

Now... as for the Coach. He may have thrown away his duties, but he still did not feel at all amicable towards the Coach. He realized uncomfortably that the Coach was probably the same as the Artiste, which would have made him another god. His mind rejected the idea, but... he needed answers. He needed guidance. He went through his mental files, and found a set of rules, as announced by the Coach himself. It had been categorized as Unimportant, due to his rejection of the Coach. Now, however....

He remembered that he was supposed to kill the other contestants. Thize had already died, at Eriz's hands. Axys had been spirited away, by the Coach, he assumed. That left five more. He supposed that maybe it was actually not all that necessary to kill the contestants, but the Coach had ensured that it was the only way out of this competition. And he so desperately wanted to leave. He needed his sense of control back. Without it, he felt so pathetically lost.

His regular tick-tock was back, but it was not right. It was not calibrated to the proper time. He would have to fix it. He floated off in search of a working clock.


Meanwhile, at a water processing plant.

A worker scratched his chest. The suit they had put him in was uncomfortable as fuck. And it was a gaudy orange, on top of that. He couldn't wait to get off his shift in 10 minutes. If today were a normal day, he would have been home 15 minutes ago. Maybe with an ice cold beer in front of the TV, watching football. But no, he had to have plans.

He looked down at his watch. It was time. He walked over to a drinking water filtration area, took out a packet from his suit, and poured the chemical in it, whatever it was. It smelled like someone threw up all over roadkill. Trust him, he would know. He chuckled a little bit at the memories. He carelessly tossed the now-empty packet over his shoulder and went outside to his pickup truck. He looked in the back, ascertaining that he still had the boxes filled with clean bottled water, and he drove home at last.

Now he would finally be able to pay off his debt and leave this town.


Caring little for whoever saw him, he departed the alley, and headed right. He ended up in front of a gigantic toy store. He noted that people were looking at him in shock. He was about to excuse himself into the store, when one of them piped up.

"Whoa. Is that the new Digital-Analog Warden Clock Mechanism I've been hearing about?"

"It looks really expensive. And kinda scary."

One of the employees, who had also been staring in shock, chose this moment to become Employee of the Month in one fell swoop.

"Why, yes, this is indeed the Digital-Analog Warden Clock Mechanism. Just got it in yesterday. It's a top-of-the-line model that can tell time down to the exact nanosecond. It floats on... magnetism, and it can be fitted in your wall just as easily. Only $300,000."

"Gosh. I'd certainly like that."

"It's gruesome, yes, but I bet my son would like it."

"Isn't it just a little bit off, though? My watch says it's 15 seconds slow."

Warden had been uncomfortably scrutinizing the people who were inspecting him, and none of the crowd seemed to have committed any sins, with the exception of the employee and his minor displays of greed. He supposed it didn't matter, because he was no longer worthy to punish sinners. At the comment of his watch, he chose to speak up.



"May I see that watch? I will perform the necessary calibrations on myself."

"It talks!"

"Wow! I thought the price was a little steep, but it actually seems like a bargain, for this fantastic invention!"

The one with the watch nervously showed his wrist to Warden, and Warden clacked back 15 ticks, and resumed his rotation. The feeling of finally being on the right time was so very satisfying. Never again would he lose track of time. He may not be the Demon's Clock anymore, but he was a clock, after all. He had the right to tell time. While he was relishing in the unusually organic feeling of pleasure, a very rich-looking gentleman actually wrote a check and handed it over to the employee, who looked like he was about to die from glee. This customer then pompously indicated Warden to follow him. Having nothing else to do, he followed.

He was, of course, deep in thought. Why did he feel so wrong when his time was only off by 15 seconds? Could it have been his mechanical brain fighting back for control? And there was the employee, who had swindled the rich man out of his hard-earned money. It was such a flagrant display of greed that he ought to have punished the man right there and then. He didn't even need any instruments, his claws were plenty sharp enough. The urge nearly overpowered him, and he had to fight himself for control. Something bristled inside him, and he turned around without thinking.

The rich man had noticed, and he yelled, "Hey! You turn around right this instant! I will not allow you to deprive my son of a birthday gift."

To which Warden said, "I am NOT a gift."

Red rage boiled over, and he punched the wall besides him. It exploded forth, collapsing this entire side of the store. Debris hit the next building, and that one collapsed as well. Lifelines flickered out before his metaphysical eyes, and at each one, he felt more and more shattered. The lives of the dead spoke to him, and they all said:

"Heretic. Heretic. Heretic.

You have sinned. Present yourself to Lucifer for dis-assembly.


You have proven yourself unworthy of the Greater Demon rank, and you are now nothing but a common imp.


He was a sinner. His body shuddered, and started dropping gears. Frantically, he ran off to the roof of the nearest intact building, dropping a trail of gears, and even one arm.


A light blinked.

It was coming from the watch.

It spoke to him.

And it told him to get up.

But it was just a machine. Why would it tell him to get up?

Get up.

He was worthless. He was lower than a machine.

Get up.

The light showed him the way.

He tried to move, but he could not.

The watch moved a gear. It guided the way.

Slowly, he started moving.

But he was so tired.

He went to sleep.

The turning intensified, and a gruesome skull finally rose up, tick-tocking on a rhythm indepent of time itself.

Curses. This was an inauspicious situation. He had been left on this rooftop, missing many of his gears. He checked his mental database, and found that his mechanisms had last been interrupted when he spoke to the Artiste. The Artiste would surely suffer for this memory loss.

A watch blinked, and he knew where to go.

He followed the light.
[Image: 6xGo4ab.png][Image: sig.gif]
RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]

Guillemet rolled her eyes and sighed. Two minutes ago, she had made a serendipitous discovery that Toyetic was not known for their compliance to OSHA – especially with regards to walls and as every dragon worth their immaturity would do, she abused that empirical information for fun and profit – namely vandalism.

And put your hands up! And s-s-stop...whatever the heck you are doing!”

“GWARWRRGHHH GRAWHH GRWHAR,” Guillemet had no idea what that meant and honestly could care less. She had made another discovery that if she pressed her nails in a specific angle and dragged it so slightly– the walls made a decent albeit unorthodox substitute for a writing surface. Not exactly a discovery she would deemed as “scientific” - but let's face it, had she done anything scientific since the beginning. How embarrassing.

She attempted to scrape some self-perceived science-legitimacy back by working on some open math problems. She had made some mild progress in regards to how prime numbers are distributed and she probably need to call up some people in order to work on some generalizations that could be rigorously proven. Then, she got bored two seconds ago and had briefly considered drawing phalluses. However, Guillemet was not willing make a terrible impression ever again (her ass still stings). Which was why she was biting chunks out of the nearby wall.

Truly, that was a wise decision on part of Guillemet.

“It's rude to talk with your mouth full!” The singular police stammered. He was an uniformed man whose complexion was as white as Wonderbread and probably as nutritious as one, too. His limbs looked snappable, his face looks punchable – not to mention his posture was horrible. This man was trying his best to maintain control over this situation (and himself) and was doing an admirable job of doing so – but let's be honest, he just was not appropriate for this job.

“YEAH, SAYS YOU AND WHAT COUNTRY.” A shroud of asbestos started to form around her head, greatly increasing the chances of cancer within her vicinity.

“Says good taste!” He paused for a second to collect his thoughts. “And my mother!”

The comeback was honestly terrible by all accounts. Guillemet burst into laughter.

“Hey, y-you have the right to remain silent!” It was pretty clear he was aiming to shoot, but the problem was where he was trying to shoot at. “And you are certainly not using that right now.”

As a mistress of truly useful knowledge, Guillemet had briefly pondered why there was only one cop sticking her up – why he did not had backup – in fact, why there was barely anyone on the street; well this part of street anyway. She had postulated the lack of wars and other cultural conflicts might had dumbed down the security of this place but that seems highly unlikely. She had a higher suspicion that the man's charisma was so unpalatable that no one wanted to deal with him. He probably had no friends either. Guillemet started to feel a bit sorry for him.

She was also honestly getting a little bit bored.


The dragon paused for a while as she took in everything that had happened. As much this event spanned many universes and she did saw some lady tenderized a horrible mess of a fish-man into even more of a horrible mess, the entire thing was pretty ridiculous. She had an itching thought she should be freaking out considering she was thanatophobic and her life was at risk ,but this was just so hilarious. Entertaining, even. She had to give the Coach-man some credit.


“Sharks? Midgets? Death? A-and what's cats go to do with this!?” The policeman's pronoia was like the rest of Toyetic – shoddy, poorly built, and certainly very amusing to see it break down. Guillemet hated to miss the show but she had better things to do.

“IT'S COMPLICATED.” She shrugged. “I'M LEAVING.”

“Nothing is complicated and you are certainly not leaving!” The gun was pointing at everywhere but Guillemet. A spectacular disaster. “You are coming with me!”


“I have a gun!” The police was visibly shaking at his knees as he realized that the suspect he was detaining was a goodly two and a half taller than him. “You don't!”


“What? That is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous! You can't breathe a science. You can't breathe a concept!”

“WELL, I CAN CERTAINLY PROVE THAT TO YOU,” the dragon's face crumpled into a horrible sneer. “BUT IT AIN'T GOING TO BE PRETTY...”

“E-excessive force against the law is illegal! Very illegal!”

But did Guillemet cared about the rules? Hah, no – unless they had been rigorously proven. By science. She never really cared much for the people in their little cute uniforms – they were a nuisance and as far as she could tell, they were no different – even if they came from cities with the consistency and attitude of Chinese knockoff products. She reared back her head – something was glowing inside her throat.


It glowed like Chernobyl. It shined like Cherenkov.

“Or I'll-I'll--”

The policeman's threats was drowned to silence by the ominous humming. Her head was arched by an angular halo – double arrows facing left, double arrows facing right. It buzzed in her ears and hurt her brain – but oh, it was wonderful. It felt wonderful. She was honored to be born, bearing this power.

“--I'll shoot!”

Try me, Guillemet cackled. Oh she laughed.



The Elder of San Francis was slightly confused.

Did she shoot? No, the roof of her mouth was still brimming with the menace of Moore. She would had knew if she pulled down the trigger (so to speak). She would had felt it. If the policeman had shot, she would had felt the impact on her scales. Or a window or some body falls down in the distance. However, there were no such suspicious noise, but why?


Oh. Right.


He shot himself in the foot.


What an idiot.


“OH FUCK'S SAKE, THAT'S JUST AN EXTREMITY.” Guillemet started to waddle over to the fallen policeman, as she doled out a certain amount of pity towards to his self-inflicted state but she judged him unworthy of consuming her energy to fly over. She glared at the policeman. Then she glared at his gun. It was approximately three feet away from him, making her honestly wonder if Toyetic actually trained their police forces effectively. She had tentative agreed on “probably no” and the man on the ground was certainly not helping her disprove the suspicions.

“A WOUND ON AN EXTREMITY DEFINITELY FEELS EXTREME,” he screeched. It was certainly amazing that the police still managed to quip despite crying and holding his injured foot in a painfully comical fashion. “I AM GOING TO CONTRACT TETANUS. MY JAW IS GOING TO LOCK UP. AND I AM GOING TO DIE.”

“BULLETS DON'T RUST THAT EAS--” Guillemet glanced at the gun, realizing the reddish platina on its surface. “LISTEN, I'M KIND OF SORRY OF WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU SO I'M GOING TO DUMP YOU AT SOME HOSPITAL. THEN I AM GOING TO LEAVE. CAPISH?”

“Aren't you a giant freaky dragon?” the policeman sniffed melodramatically. He frowned. “Aren't you also part of the Mafia too?”

“YOUR QUESTIONS ARE STUPID AND SO IS YOUR FACE,” the dragon snarled as she lodged the man between the spines, whether he liked it or not. She glanced at his clothes. TPD the words screamed on his back. TOYETIC POLICE DEPARTMENT the little caption beneath it helpfully pointed out.

SILVESTRIS the line on his breast said. Guillemet rolled her eyes. What a stupid name.




“HUH.” Guillemet glanced at the little beeping band strapped onto her right-wing. She was surprised she hadn't realized she was wearing a watch – probably because a certain omnipotent force strapped it on for her – but more likely, she wasn't exactly paying full attention to the round transition and who could blame her? The potential explosions were certainly more enticing than warehouses full of junk. “SO?”

“Toyetic had been serving the Watchers for centuries. We were waiting for them,” Silvestris blinked in awe. “We were waiting for you.”
RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]

T.J., his vocabulary evidently too limited to express his displeasure, attempted to emote by scrunching his face up comically, every line of his face contorting into a thousand gibbering frowns. The Coach stared him down, waiting for one of his more predictable protegés to cycle back into the Bargaining phase.

"But my other character didn't even die right! You took him away! It's not fair!"

The first-time grandmaster sighed. The little guy had a point, and he wasn't willing to disclose his real reasons for denying him--he was worried. With his burgeoning audience exposure and certain disreputable organizations watching him, breaking the format seemed and unconscionable act of arrogance. He satisfied himself with the rationalization that the greater good would be to deny T.J. now and reward him with all the battlers he wanted once the orphanage reopened.

Instead he said, "How am I supposed to know that you aren't just going to throw this one away, too? Or that everyone else won't start killing their own contestants and bringing in their own, hmm?"

"Because I promise. Anyway, no one's going to come up with a battler better than Hashtag-One, so they won't even try?" A little upturn at the end of that last sentence betrayed T.J.'s insincerity and sent him spiralling out of Bargaining into rote Depression.

"I don't want to hear any more about this," snapped the Coach. "What does 'No' mean?"

"'No' is meaningless to our kind," recited T.J., brightening up a bit. "Ultimate power is the final alchemy, the quicksilver that turns 'no' into 'yes.'"

"'No' means 'no,'" countered the Coach, inviolably, the force of the assertion shaking saints out of the sky and sinners out of the earth. Several clusters of intrauniversal chaos-stuff, culled by the introduction of "no" into local physics, surrendered their cosmic inscrutability and formed universes. T.J. sulked and stormed out.

* * * * *

Linc intercepted him on the sidewalk, still dabbing surreptitiously at his remaining tears. "How's it feel?" he asked.

T.J. leaned in towards Linc's ear. After double-checking to make sure nobody was around, he whispered, "Crappy." Linc shuddered at the profanity.

"Why should we care what he says?" spat Linc. "He isn't even our teacher anymore. This battle was our idea in the first place."

T.J. shrugged weakly. Linc hadn't heard the Coach's tone back there; he had. "I guess," he offered.

"Why don't you just put the new guy in before Coach notices? He's basically a toy anyway, he'll fit right in to the new place."

T.J. glanced over his shoulder and beyond infinite infinities to the city of Toyetic. "I don't think I could take him that far," he admitted. Semi-ultimate power was just a dumb rock.

"How's this?" asked Linc, cheering up. He pulled out his skateboard. "I give us a ride over there, and we share the character."

T.J. growled. He wasn't a fan of the S-word. Still, it wasn't like he had a skateboard.

The F-word weighed on the orphan's tongue for a good half minute before he forced it out his lips. "Ffffffffffffffiiiiiiiiiiiiine."

* * * * *

Having heard the stories of what happened when battle hosts got careless, they decided not to restore Brawler to consciousness at all before taking off. Instead they left a note.









When Cockfighter Brawlmite came to, this note was taped to his head.

RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]

Edit: Whoops. Though squids reserve was void.
RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
Eriz's armor wheezed and clanked as she staggered between the towering buildings of Toyetic. Alarm lights blinked on and off inside her face-dome, illuminating her head with angry red and orange glare. The watch, attached to her wrist with two pieces of thick gray tape (it was far too small to fit over the bulky arm of her suit) bleeped as she staggered towards the coordinates it marked. Her first priority, of course, was getting to the safehouse. While other contestants might be fighting and killing each other already, all she wanted was a bit of comparative safety and a chance to get her armor back into fighting shape.

Her right leg dragged stiffly, its primary knee actuator wrecked by Thize's blade. The motors in her chest were inactive as well, giving her a jerky, crippled gait. Every heavy footfall created another cracked patch of flimsy concrete and her dragging right leg left deep score marks. She had already fallen once, crashing through the wall of a house, much to the surprise and dismay of its inhabitants.

Well, some of them. While his parents screamed in terror and fled their rapidly collapsing home, their young son ran out into the alley, waving what appeared to be a tiny model of her, holding a blood-spattered hammer with a distinctive jutting blade.

This was far from the strangest thing Eriz had seen in the last few hours, so she just took it in stride. She was past even trying to make sense of what was happening to her. All she cared about was trying to get out.

Since the encounter with the family in the now ruined house, she had seen few people on the street. She stuck to back alleys, but her damaged suit made a horrendous racket as she made her clumsy way through the city. A few times she glimpsed furtive faces in upper-story windows or peeking around corners, but they always vanished before she could get a clear look at them.

The state of the city appalled her. While it appeared on the surface to be clean, well organized and fastidiously maintained, the shattered pavement left by her steps and chunks of masonry ripped from buildings when she staggered against them attested to a truly awful level of workmanship.

It was a wonder they even managed to build buildings this tall, she thought as she scurried in their shadows. These things would collapse under the slightest strain. Almost like...

Almost like they were planned that way.

The thought occurred to her early on in her stay in Toyetic. The Coach has mentioned the city had manage to avoid the disasters that commonly afflicted civilization on her home planet: namely, warfare and earthquakes. Orexies had both in abundance. Sauthai built accordingly, with massive sturdy domes anchored on heavy foundations and supported by plenty of stout pillars. Armor plating and thick layers of concrete sheltered them from bombardment. A Sauthai city, her people had often bragged, was built like a Sauthorn: ready for anything, any time.

Toyetic was about as far from a Sauthai city as anything that could still be called a city could get. In other words, the perfect place for a brawl of unprecedented destructiveness. She figured she could probably bring down one of the monolithic towers with nothing but her suit, her hammer and its unearthly blade.

The aforementioned blade had proven an absolute menace in the city of Toyetic. With Thize's spindly arm behind it, it had managed to penetrate the layers of hardened metal and composite of her armor with little difficulty. With the motors of her Sauthorn driving it, it cut through the walls of the buildings around her with impossible ease. An accidental graze while turning her torso would shear a pillar in half. A simple drop of its tip towards the ground would score a groove half a meter deep in the concrete. She took to carrying it over her shoulder, blade down.

The watch buzzed. She stopped in the middle of another alley that seemed just like any other, edged on both sides by tall, nondescript buildings faced in gray plaster that (poorly) mimicked natural stone. Ten meters, it said. She looked more closely around the alley, but saw nothing that would give away any sort of hidden safehouse.

She sighed. She pretty much knew where it would be.

She swung her hammer in a heavy sweeping arc, smashing into the wall of the building on her right, towards the indicator on the watch. It exploded in chunks of shattered plaster and timber, caving with barely any resistance. She stepped inside as the building's power failed, its interior suddenly filling with gloom. Her visor brightened, its light amplification systems kicking in to bring her face to face with...


Her face-dome stared back at her, framed by arcing aux-arms stretching up behind her head. A gauntleted hand, armored in blue steel, held a huge hammer engraved with Sauthai sigils, one end melted and fused, a wicked blade jutting from its mass.

The her-that-was-not-her fell over backwards, splitting in half as it hit the floor. Chips of plaster splattered across the cracked tiles.

A thin man with large, buggish glasses peeked out from behind a counter.

“Oh.. oh” he stammered.

Eriz looked from the shattered replica of her to the man, then back again. Behind him, a shelf collapsed, cascading dozens of boxes and cartons onto his head. Several spilled over the glass top of the table, which (of course) immediately broke into hundreds of razor-sharp shards.

A carton rolled across the floor to rest at her feet. She stretched an aux-arm down to pick it up and brought it towards her face, turning it right side up.

$300,000 Fight-A-Thon Official Battle Drinking Game!” its brightly colored logo exclaimed in garish font. A bottle of amber liquid slipped out as its bottom ripped out to smash on her metal toes. Eight little glasses, barely large enough to hold a swallow, tumbled after to shatter around her. A pamphlet fluttered sadly after them, its vibrant illustrations showing a very familiar group of eight individuals around a table, the bottle between them.

She dropped the carton just as the main managed to dig his way out of a mound of statuettes, mugs, shirts, hats, pastries, sports equipment and countless other objects she could barely even guess at. All emblazoned with faces she recognized only too well. A broad, grinning toothy face. A leering, upside-down skull. A plain-faced man with a light scarf around his neck and a hat perched crookedly on his head.

A glimmering, smooth dome with a crimson sigil.

She slowly raised her hammer, taking it in both hands.

“What is this,” she asked, her voice harshly modified, crackling with static. “You think this is a joke? You think I'm fucking laughing? You think I'M HERE FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT?!

She had always known, of course. Kill or be killed, for the enjoyment of an unknown, omnipotent audience. But this? But this? Cheap cotton T-shirts with Sauthai symbols, ancient symbols with hundreds, thousands of years of history and meaning drawn on them in flaking acrylic, sold in twelve packs in shops that caved at the slightest touch? This was something else.

Eriz had felt many emotions since being dropped into this contest. Terror, of course. Panic. Uncertainty. The pumping blood-rush of kill or be killed, the thrumming pulse of Sauthai war-song. But now it was much simpler. Now she was just mad.

She rushed the man, who scrabbled madly at the pile that still clutched at his legs. He screamed incoherently, shouting at the top of his lungs about something she was past caring about. She slammed her hand into his throat and pulled, hoisting him bodily out of the morass of merchandise. He kicked and flailed, face rapidly purpling. Disgusted, she threw him to the floor. He lay whimpering at her feet.

She knelt down, awkwardly bringing her impassive visage towards his thin, sweaty face. His bug-eyed glasses had fallen off, smashed as he collided with the floor. Tears and snot ran down his face as he gibbered incoherently.

She raised the watch to his face, tapping its face with her other hand. He stared at her, eyes glazed and uncomprehending.

“Where is it,” she growled.

He shook his head violently and shrieked some more.

“It says five meters. Where is it?” she repeated, more forcefully. He finally seemed to grasp what she was saying, and waved his hands feebly, trying to point but shaking so badly that he seemed to be pointing at everything at once.

She grabbed his wrist with her right hand, feeling the frail bones under the thin, pasty muscle. She could snap it so easily... the temptation was almost overwhelming.

“One more time. Where is it.

“D-d-d-down,” he stammered. “Sub basement. Please. Just let me goooo....” His voice trailed off into sobbing.

“What's down there?” she asked.

“I don't know! They never gave me a key. Please, please, I swear I'm telling the truth! They never told me! They said, they told me, they said don't go down there! C-company secrets!”

Eriz stood, releasing the man's wrist. As she rose, he sprung for the door. A foot placed lightly in the small of his back pinned him neatly to the floor, arms and legs scrabbling like a cockroach flipped on its back. She bent down and hauled him easily over a shoulder with one arm, pinning him in place. His screams echoed down the street as she walked to the back of the store and down a staircase into a musty storage room piled high with merchandise, most of which bore the “300k F-A-T!” logo in neon colors.

In the back of the room Eriz found a heavy door, sealed with a few bulky padlocks. Its thick steel construction and massive bolts implied something very valuable. The watch was buzzing madly now. One meter. She tore the door out of the wall with her other hand, its thick hinges tearing out of the shoddy plaster with barely any resistance. As it clanged to the ground, she stepped down a tight staircase and out into an echoing space.

She stood for a moment in darkness, the only sound the man's terrified whimpers. A hum built in the background, like a huge electrical system powering on. Bright halogen lights suddenly sprung to life in the ceiling, casting stark white illumination onto a huge chamber straight out of her father's workshop. Racks and racks of tools and weapons gleamed in the light. She recognized them all at a glance; laser emitters, huge coil-barreled railguns, hundreds of tools designed to fit on an aux arm. Stacks of exterior plating, molded to fit on the exterior of a Sauthorn, glimmered with Sauthai sigils. Workbenches and storage lockers stretched on to the far wall, which must have been one hundred meters distant.

Awestruck, she staggered down the last steps. The man on her shoulder had ceased his simpering entirely, apparently equally awestruck by the armory buried right under his shop. She walked to the nearest storage locker, a huge, gray slab-sided thing, built in the proud Sauthai tradition of unflinching sturdiness. She pulled it open and dropped him inside, slamming the door shut. She wedged a long wrench-arm into its handle, barring it shut.

“Got air holes?” she asked, voice lacking the static that had made it so harsh before.

“Um... yes. Yes. I'm fine. I'll be quiet,” the muffled voice from inside replied.

“Can you see out?”

“No, no I can't see anything, please, I won't watch anything, just don't kill me!” he squealed.

“Just stay quiet,” she growled before turning back to inspect the equipment arrayed around her. All seemed of the highest quality, and as she limped between stations she was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of it all. Far more than she could ever use herself. At a final station, between racks of extra aux-arms and a massive projectile cannon longer than her Sauthorn was tall, a little scrap of yellow paper caught her eye.

She plucked it off the bench and lifted it towards her face.


A and I really love your work. Magnificent, heady stuff. It was an honor to work with you, but we unfortunately must depart on business for a little while. Looking forward to next time. I'm sure you are too.


She sighed and let the paper drop to the floor. She had more pressing matters on her mind right now. Namely, a few motors in her suit that were entirely scrapped. Luckily, she had seen several of the exact model she needed throughout the shop.

“Suit, open exterior and interior locks. Full breach.”

The suit beeped its acknowledgment, and moments later a few loud pops echoed through the shop. The front of the suit hinged forwards, then the inner layers slid out, folding outwards and retracting. For the first time since being pulled into this world, she felt the outside air on her bare torso. She pulled her long arms out of their sleeves as the arms slid down, then levered herself out of the suit entirely, dropping onto the hard concrete of the floor.

She retrieved a little tool from a bench and went behind her suit, popping off the aux-arm rack from its socket. She found a harness in a cabinet and slung it over her shoulders, then attached the rack to its socket on the shoulders. Their input plugged into her spine, and she waggled them each in turn, testing the connection. Satisfied, she began collecting tools and parts to begin her repairs.

Luckily the room was well heated. Her “benefactors” had seen fit to provide her with just about everything she could need, save clothes.

RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
A strip of brilliant blue light from what could only be a sky-dome assailed Brawler as his eyes slowly opened, and he could only squint and wait until they adjusted. When he could see clearly, he sprang to his feet and found himself in a dirty, overgrown alleyway between two skyscrapers—and had to wait again as his eyes adjusted once more to the dark grey wall he was now facing.

He’d been sedated. His eyes grew wide with panic as the realization settled in. He’d been sedated and left in this arena with no knowledge of who he was fighting or why he was fighting now or which arena he was in—no, that was wrong. He could smell something like paper on his snout. Pulling it off and reading what he could, he relaxed only a small amount, but it was enough. Heart still pounding, Brawler forced himself to snap out of it and tackle one question at a time.

First, and most importantly, why the hell was he in an arena now? Last he remembered he’d been on a tour with Channel Eight, resting and recovering from the battle in Three-Rivers Stadium, told he wouldn’t have another for several weeks. Had he not seen the note and it’s familiar—though quite oddly written—instructions, he might’ve assumed he’d simply fallen out of the company van. Of course, none of that answered his question, and it looked like nothing in the immediate area would do that for him, so the best he could do was push that one out of his head for now.

The next question was a matter of what arena he was in. The walls around him were made of a grayish-brown plaster, and flakes of it fell occasionally, speckling the dirt around Brawler and sticking in patches of weeds. The sound of an air conditioning unit buzzed somewhere above him. From where he was standing, this seemed to be a pretty standard cityscape, if a bit shabby… until he saw the road.

As he turned to take in the environment outside of his alley, still not entirely prepared to walk out, he first noticed, with a good bit of horror, the building sitting across the street from him—if ‘sitting’ could mean slumping over in defeat and covered in gaping wounds as it waited for death to finally overtake it. Closer to him, he could see the numerous cracks and dents in the road where something—he wanted to believe it wasn’t one of his opponents—had torn up the pavement. He looked down at the note and decided now would be a good time to deduce the nature of his competitors.

Brawler immediately assumed that these descriptions had been donated: unless his agent was being cruel, only a very young fan would think that this was at all helpful. And while he adored the children, as they did him, the first line led him to believe that the kids who submitted this were products of bad parenting… unless this was truly a fight to the death. All at once the glint in Brawler’s eyes changed to evoke nervous perspiration. He would have to kill again.

He pushed that awful thought out of his mind for a minute to look over the minimalist synopses of his opponents. Confidence in his benefactors waning, he couldn’t tell if he was seeing spelling errors or names. But, with that in mind, there was one that he recognized. And it confused him immensely.

Clok was one of the first battles he’d truly lost: an oversized timekeeping device with tired eyes and a handlebar moustache doesn’t look or sound intimidating in the least, and it certainly doesn’t evoke the kind of foe who runs (or, rather, rolls) after you at blinding speeds and stabs you in the chest repeatedly. So, he surmised, these were either long-time fans who thought him evil simply because he’d defeated their idol, or he should look out for a more aggressive Clok with a darker color palette.

The others, of course, were even less helpful. Cats had a ridiculous undying appeal, and the demographic for dragon girls had only recently started to wane. Girls in armor, even, numbered at least two dozen. The word “Tinas” narrowed it down quite a bit, as that was clearly a name, but it was one he’d never heard before. But most confusing of all was “Ironjaw (smell).” Ironjaw was a name, of that there was no doubt, but… did he smell? Or was he actually a living smell? More abstract creatures were all the rage these days but… naming a smell “Ironjaw?”

With no more certainty than before and a bit of a headache, Cockfighter Brawlmite felt defeated, and decided there was nothing more he could do trapped in this alley. So he did his best job of folding up the note and started into the road.

His first steps outside were tentative: whatever had torn up the road like this could easily still be there. And if it was Sciince (obviously the dragon girl’s name), she would probably be hidden on a rooftop, waiting to ambush him as he walked into the road. But no: the sight that greeted him as he stepped onto the often chipped and torn sidewalk was quite a bit more terrifying.

Sticking up over the sill of an electronics store’s broken window, accompanied by a soft whimpering, was a mop of blond hair—if Brawler wasn’t mistaken, human hair. As he approached, preparing to hop over the low sill, he saw a fleshy, pink nose and a clearly human profile. He expected the worst.

What he got was Ward. Practically bathing in his own profuse sweat, the young man was scouring the closed shop for a working device to call the police with—not in his right mind, he’d only thought to check the shelves. He’d tossed aside at least five devices before he heard the small creature land on the carpet right next to him.

Needless to say, looking at the thing that had just come in did nothing to calm Ward, and he backed up a decent bit, continuing to make unintelligible noises as he crawled backwards toward the door. Brawler, meanwhile, had no idea what to make of the live human who’d somehow ended up on the battlefield. To himself, he made an expression with an inexplicable resemblance to a man sighing and cracking his knuckles, felt the poorly-folded ball of crinkled paper in his hand, and prepared to ask some questions.


Just above the outer atmosphere, quite far above the underwhelming Toyetic skyline, a pragmatically-designed sphere of off-white metal stirred, answering a distant call.

For centuries, it had kept time seamlessly, waiting impatiently for this moment to arrive. There were two years left on its internal clock, it knew, but there was no doubt that its kind had finally been called. The wait may not have been over, but damn it if it wasn’t close enough.

With some concentration, and a groan miraculously audible though the vacuum of space, it began to descend.

RE: The $300,000 Fight-A-Thon! [Round Two: Toyetic!]
reserve time.