The noisy crowd was muffled in the locker room. Giant Slayer, the team’s captain, was anxiously standing by the door. Harpy, the vice-captain, was going over strategies with the rest of the team. “Now, if they call for Standard, we'll be using Jumper to pull opponents to Golden Eagle and Giant Slayer, while Everest and myself guard our flag,” she said. “Now, if it’s Maze, we'll use Jumper and Giant Slayer, that is if Jumper’s new sprinters are ready. Zander?” Harpy was addressing a tall man in a burned and stained lab coat who was moving between teammates adjusting their gear.
“They're equipped, but they’re not tested” Zander said. “They should increase his mobility by around 15% but he should avoid getting them hit since I haven’t found the time to shield them.”
“Jumper, keep that in mind. If your sprinters break, we won’t be able to use you. Slayer,” Harpy said turning to the captain. The captain did not respond. “Slayer,” she said more forcefully. Still no response. “Frankie!” she shouted.
“Harpy,” the captain said, not looking at her. “While we’re in the stadium you need to call me Giant Slayer.”
“So, you’re finally listening,” Harpy said. “Good, because you need to pay attention. This is important. Remember, you’re not invincible.”
“Please listen to her, I’m getting tired of repairing your equipment because you want to show off,” Zander said.
Frankie ignored the criticism directed at him. He looked longingly out of the small window in the door. Harpy sighed, turned herself to face him and asked, “This is about Sledge, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Frankie said fanatically. “He is the third-biggest Heavy in the league and he’s been single-handedly responsible for the Snow Bears winning streak. He is also the first to use two great swords simultaneously in two decades. I can’t wait to fight him.”
“Look,” Harpy said, putting a hand over her eyes. “If you want to fight him so bad, we can call for elimination, but I doubt they’ll pair him against you. You have a reputation for beating Heavies. Your best bet is to go through the events and stick to our plan.” She gave him a stern look, “You always like to go off on your own and forget about strategy.”
“Don’t be too hard on him, he is the best player on the team, and we should be able to hold out against these guys while he fights Sledge,” said a small woman with a pretty face, purple eyes, and extremely thick blond hair.
“Eagle, it doesn’t matter how good he is, he needs to stick to the plan. He is the team’s captain and needs to set a better example.” Harpy said.
A buzzer sounded. Ashley turned to the team and said, “Alright everyone, battery test. Weapons on.” Everyone picked up their weapons. Despite the outside being plastic, they were all fashioned to look like real weapons. They hummed as they were switched on. “Be careful, I don’t want anyone stunned before we get out there. Pick up the rest of your stuff and let’s go.” Everyone grabbed the pieces of their remaining armor and made their way into the hallway that led to the field. Frankie led the group with a big smile on his face. The day was bright and clear as they entered the team’s box. The large monitors on either side of the stadium read “Anunna versus Snow Bears”. Harpy stood next Frankie. He was electric with anticipation. Harpy sighed before saying, “Please stick to the plan, this should be an easy win for us if you can keep yourself under control.”
Frankie smiled at her and said, “I’ll do my best, but I make no promises.” He put on his helmet, a large flashy piece of armor that was adorned with decorative horizontal lines. It covered his head leaving his face exposed. Harpy looked like she was about to say something else but was interrupted by the announcer.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen. We have a great match for you today. The Snow Bears are having their best season since their 2081 team won the A-rank championship.” There was thunderous applause from the crowd.
“All right, pay attention, this will be the first time we get to see these guys up close,” Harpy said.
The announcer started calling out the top five players of the opposing team to general applause. After the first two it was Sledge’s turn. “Now, the destroyer of men, the human tank, everyone put your hands together for the Snow Bears first year Heavy, Sledge!” A huge man charged the field. He stood nearly seven feet tall and looked to be almost as wide. He wore heavy armor and a helmet with a long black visor that covered his face. He carried two swords, each around five and a half feet long with lighted purple strips that ran their length. As he walked onto the field, he lifted his swords to the crowd.
The announcer called out the remaining members of the Snow Bear’s top five. When he finished, he said, “The Snow Bears have been on a winning streak lately, but tonight they may have met their match. May I present to you Anunna! Please welcome the team captain, he’s been known as the never-ending storm, the one-man army, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest men to play the game, Giant Slayer!” Frankie ran onto the fields with his arms lifted in the air yelling, jumping, and striking poses for the crowd. Women could be heard screaming when he took off his helmet revealing his thick sandy blonde hair. He bowed to his fans.
“Show off,” Harpy said.
After Frankie had taken his place on the field, the announcer said, “And now Anunna’s vice-captain, the vicious, the legendary, Harpy!” Harpy put on her helmet, a simple unadorned piece of armor that covered her face and dark hair. Unlike Frankie, she did not try to excite the cheering masses as she walked to the line. Despite her indifference, the crowd cheered as if she were. When the crowd grew quiet the announcer said. “Now for the beauty of the team, the fighter who comes down like a blinding ray of light, Golden Eagle!”
When announced, Golden Eagle ran onto the field with her blonde hair billowing out behind her. She was holding a sword in one hand and shield in the other. Before reaching the line, she tossed both in the air and performed a turning flip. When she landed, she was facing the opposite direction with her arms raised and caught both her weapon and shield. A loud torrent of applause came washing over them. She wore no helmet, instead she wore a circlet to keep her long hair out of her face.
The crowd grew silent. After a moment the announcer said, “Now for a man who truly lives up to his name, a man who's literally too big to ignore, Everest!” Everest walked slowly, holding his monstrous great sword in one hand and quietly waving to the crowd with the other. He was easily the tallest man on the field, standing just over eight feet tall, and his super heavy armor made him look much bigger. His helmet left the bottom of his face uncovered with a tinted visor covering his eyes. He had two lighted strips on the top that swept over his head.
“Last of Anunna’s top five. He has the fastest mouth in the whole league and legs to match. The lightning offender, Jumper!” Jumper didn’t even wait for the announcer to finish but ran onto the field flipping, posing, and waving to the cheering crowd. After a few moments he joined the rest of the team and stood bouncing on his new sprinters. He wore the least armor of any of his teammates, and all of it was white to contrast his black skin. He wore only enough to protect his torso and thighs from direct blows. “Let’s hear it for Anunna!” the announcer said as their sixth player, Axel ran on to the field. His armor was plain and made his stocky build even larger. He carried a single two-handed sword. Not being in the top five, he didn't get an introduction.
As the announcer spoke the sides of the field shifted back allowing the teams to return to their boxes, leaving a platform in the middle and a clear pool of water underneath. Long poles topped with camera like devices raised around the platform. “The first of our three events today will be three versus three Blind. Captains, pick your players.”
Frankie started to get excited, but his face fell when Harpy looked at him and shook her head. She then shouted, “Eagle, Everest, Axel, you're up.” He returned to staring wistfully at Sledge. “Quit pouting, they'll use him eventually.”
The three selected players made their way to the platform as their information flashed on to the screens on either side of the arena. “Now for you first-timers, allow me to explain the rules,” the announcer said. “Players from each team compete to see who can knock their opponents into the water. The winning team is the one with players left on the platform. Not an easy task as our sensory negation drones will be randomly depriving the players of one of their senses for a short time. The drones can negate sight, hearing, and touch. Now, let’s play Blind!”
A buzzer sounded to begin the event. Golden Eagle charged forward towards the closest opponent, who jumped forward, ready to attack with both of his weapons. Golden Eagle drove the edge of her shield into her opponent’s left shoulder, throwing off his attack. She then slipped behind him and brought her sword down on his head. As her opponent recoiled from the blow, she put her foot on his back and kicked him toward the edge. He stopped just short of falling and started to turn around. As she charged to finish the job, she caught sight of something moving very fast out of the corner of her eye. A second Snow Bear flew straight into the first, sending both men off the edge and into the water. Golden Eagle turned in the direction the man had come from and saw Everest smiling. She was about to speak when everything went black. The announcer said, “It looks like the drones have knocked out their sight just as two of the Snow Bears were knocked out. Can they still win this round?”
Axel could be heard pounding on his opponent’s shield. “Follow the noise, like we trained” Everest said. They slowly made their way toward the fighting. Their sight came back in a blinding rush. Axel’s opponent caught his sword and gave him a kick. Axel was disarmed and sent stumbling towards Golden Eagle. Both nearly fell over each other. With one massive push the Snow Bear heaved both over the edge and into the water.
The world became silent, the last of the Snow Bears stood still, looking for an opponent. Everest moved silently behind him. The smaller man didn’t notice him until it was too late. A savage strike sent him flying over the edge. When the sound came back the crowd was cheering loudly. Everest lifted his hand and waved nonchalantly to the crowd. He slowly walked back to the platform that lead to his team’s box. After the crowd died down the announcer said, “It’s Amazing! Everest wins it with a final powerful blow. He took out all three opponents in possibly the shortest round of Blind we’ve seen all season. Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like the Snow Bears may have some trouble winning this one.”
“Good job Everest. You should be proud,” Harpy said.
“It was nothing really,” Everest said as he moved to the back of the box.
Axel and Golden Eagle made their way back to the box, dripping with water. Harpy turned to face them. “Axel, watch your footing: Eagle, you did well,” she said.
“It’s not fair, that guy should have fallen. Evey, you took my knockout!” Golden Eagle said.
“I’m sorry. Next time I’ll throw my guy somewhere else.” Everest said.
“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?” Golden Eagle said. Her accusation sounded more playful than threatening
Everest looked up and away and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Eagle, call him Everest not Evey, we’re on the field.” Harpy said as Golden Eagle gave Everest a playful punch in the arm.
Axel took his place, cursing to himself and shaking the water out of his armor. “I can’t believe he hooked me like that, I’ll find that runt and kick his ass,” Axel said in his strong southern accent.
“I wish you could’ve seen your face when that 'runt' threw you. You were all…” Jumper threw his arms into the air, waving them wildly, and pretending to scream. “If you wanted to swim so badly you could’ve waited till we got back. I’d knock you into a pool myself.”
“Bastard,” Axel said. After staring Jumper down for a moment, the two started laughing.
“What a great first round, let’s hope the next is just as exciting. This next event is always a crowd pleaser. Get ready because next up is Maze,” the announcer said.
Walls started to rise around the surface. More platforms rose from the water to connect with those from the first game. A wall with a door rose between the platform and the players. “The rules are simple, both teams will pick three to five players to enter the maze. There are three podiums. If one team manages to activate all three platforms and keep them active or eliminate all members of the opposing team, that team wins the event. The catch is any player eliminated can’t play the rest of the game.”
“All right Jumper, Eagle, Everest, you’re in. Slayer, I’m pretty sure they’ll use Sledge, so this may be the best time to get it out of your system. Eagle, watch his back. Everest and Jumper, stick together.” Harpy said.
For the first time during the match Frankie seemed to be focused. “All right, finally time to see if this guy is all he’s cracked up to be,” he said.
The door to the maze opened. The chosen team members walked inside and when it was clear no one else would enter, the door closed behind them. The sound of the crowd was muffled by the red walls of the maze. A layer of polarized glass overhead kept the players from reading the monitors to see who else was playing. The announcer said, “Now that the players have been chosen, let’s play Maze!”
A buzzer sounded and Frankie ran down the corridor to his left with Eagle close behind. He paused for a moment and listened to the crowd. “Come on Eagle, I have a good idea where he’ll be,” he said.
“How do you know he is playing in this game?” Golden Eagle asked.
“The crowd told me,” he said. They raced down the corridors. When they came to a corner, Frankie would kick off the walls in order to conserve his speed. Golden Eagle kept as close as she could, but only managed to keep him in view.
Suddenly two opponents appeared around a corner. Both moved to attack. Golden Eagle raised her weapon, ready to defend. Frankie in one swift movement, grabbed the sword arm of one of his opponents and fell into a sliding position. As he slid, he hooked one arm around the other opponent’s leg. He stood up and pulled both opponents off their feet, smacking them into each other. Golden Eagle lowered her weapons and jumped over the tangled mass to follow her captain.
They came to an empty room with a large podium in the middle. In the middle of the podium was a large lighted tile, big enough for a person to stand on. Frankie looked around the room, checking the other three entrances. He closed his eyes, concentrating. Golden Eagle took the chance to run forward and hit the tile with her foot. Immediately the platform lit up red. She turned around and saw Frankie disappearing through the door on the right. She sighed and ran after him.
The crowd was roaring as the announcer said, “It looks like both teams have activated a podium, and two of the Snow Bears are out. What else would you expect from Giant Slayer?”
Frankie stopped at a fork at the end of a corridor. Golden Eagle stopped behind him and asked, “What’s wrong, why are you stopping?”
He raised his hand for silence. He looked to the left, then to the right. He took the path to his right, sprinting faster than before. Golden Eagle followed. The corridor was empty as they ran. The announcer said, “And down goes Jumper, what a savage hit.” Frankie made an excited noise and started running faster. They took a left, then a right, and another left. The announcer said, “And another of Anunna’s players goes down.” Frankie took a turn to the left and Golden Eagle could see pure delight on his face in the moment before he disappeared around the corner.
They ran until they came to a second room. Near a door to the left lay Everest, across the room sat Jumper; both appeared to be unconscious. In the middle of the room, standing next to the podium was Sledge, on either side of him were his teammates. Sledge spotted them and hit the tile on the podium, it lit up blue. “I was hoping to run into you,” he said.
Frankie looked ecstatic and said, “So what are you waiting for?” With the discussion over the two men charged each other. When they met the room seemed to shake.
Golden Eagle watched until she realized the other two opponents were moving in on her. She rushed the one on the left and was able to knock him off his feet. Frankie continued to assault Sledge, who appeared to be losing ground. Sledge attempted a counterattack. Frankie ducked and weaved, laughing as he went.
The ground lurched. Sledge seemed to be shaking the floor every time his foot fell. Frankie started losing his footing. Sledge pressed the advantage. Golden Eagle was having problems, her opponents had a much easier time dealing with shaking. They charged. She was able to dodge the first. She struck, knocking him out. The second struck her torso, knocking her prone. Frankie had adapted and was starting to press back on his assailant. Sledge was panicking, his attacks becoming wilder. Frankie easily dodged them and pressed on.
Golden Eagle got to her feet and noticed her opponent had turned to attack Frankie. She ran to stop him, but he was already too far away. Frankie noticed the new enemy. He refocused, turning to attack him. Suddenly, the new opponent grabbed his head as blood poured from under his helmet and Frankie’s right leg flailed around like a windsock in a storm. Frankie fell to the ground, shrieked in pain and then lay still. The announcer said, “How did Sledge make that strike? His sword looked too far away?”
If you enjoyed this sample chapter and are interested in the book you can find it here
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MZ79XGS (Free with Amazon Prime)