Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Blue Nexus #92 - Live from Light-Years Away!

Previously in "Blue Nexus": Kyle, Brenda, Sandy, Phoenix, and Leley arrived on the distant Xenomark VI on the hunt for the dangerous organization the Trask, who have placed massive intergalactic bounties on their heads. They arrived at the central city and split up to cover more ground, but after a series of planned bombings, were forced to face the music and begin their plan in earnest: Kyle and Sandy headed off to the main arena to participate in a tournament while Brenda, Phoenix, and Leley continued the search for the Trask, who, it turns out, are the ones running the entire tournament! 

            Kyle and Sandy vaulted forward once their panels came to a sudden halt, flying into an empty stone room. Kyle braced himself and rolled along the ground before springing back to his feet. Sandy did the same, but with a bit more grace. Kyle brushed himself off. The room couldn’t have been larger than ten by ten by ten feet. Sandy leaned back against the wall nearest her, checking it, then shook her head.
            A single light hung high over their heads. The room was small enough for there to be few shadows save for the far corners. The paneling from the other rooms was gone, instead replaced by the stone that consumed all four walls.
            A light thrumming of some techno-type music sounded through the walls just a bit. Kyle and Sandy exchanged a look before returning their attention fully to the walls that trapped them.
            One of them vibrated for a second before a small pod burst through, then two arms shot out of it and two tablets appeared.
            “Please place your hands here,” the pod said.
            “Um?” Sandy asked.
            “Put your hand on the tablet,” Kyle said. Sandy was probably in for a rough time in the tournament.
            They did as the pod asked and then were blinded for a moment by a sudden flash. The pod pulled the tablet away and held it up for the two to see.
            Kyle and Sandy’s faces appeared on the tablet. Kyle blushed, knowing that it’d be on full display for the arena to get to see. Sandy groaned.
            “Great, now my mugshot is in the Trask’s database,” she muttered.
            “Could be worse,” Kyle said. “It could…ah, never mind. Tell you later.”
            “Please just wait a few moments more for your lots to be drawn!” the pod exclaimed.
            “Lots?” Kyle asked.
            “Fighter numbers are randomized,” the pod said. “Would you like an explanation of the Trask Tournament rules?”
            “Yeah,” Kyle said. “Please.”
            “Rounds are to last a maximum of ten minutes,” the pod said. “Each fighter is allowed whatever weapons they wish to bring into the ring. Battles are ended either via knockout, death, or a ringout. Ringouts automatically qualify a fighter for death by whatever means necessary. If a fight goes beyond ten minutes, a bounty will be placed on the fighter, starting at whatever price our dear Trask deems necessary. This includes the final battle.”
            The pod stopped. Kyle relayed the rules to Sandy, whose face grew increasingly with concern.
            “Anything else?” she asked, and Kyle asked the pod.
            “Fighters will not fight those from their own planet until the later rounds and only if the Trask deems it so,” the pod said, “all other rounds shall be randomized.”
            “Out of curiosity,” Kyle said, “how many Demi-War Gods are fighting in the tournament, so far?”
            “Registration will wrap within the hour,” the pod said. “And there are currently twenty-four Demi-War Gods registered for battle.”
            “Twenty-four?” Kyle repeated in English. Sandy swore at that.
            “We hope you enjoy your time with us in the tournament and the Trask thanks you for participating. You shall fight in two rounds of combat today if you survive!”
            “Wait!” Sandy exclaimed, but the pod vanished behind the wall. Kyle tried to follow but was met with solid stone. He punched the wall and part of it shattered before immediately reforming.
            “Damn it.” He flicked his wrist and turned back to Sandy, who had her hands rested on her hips and her lips pursed.
            “Twenty-four Demi-War Gods in this thing?” Sandy asked. “And how many other regular fighters?”
            “At least two,” Kyle said. “It can’t all be Demi-War Gods.”
            “It might,” Sandy said. “The Trask probably knew you’d be fighting in it.”
            “Probably,” Kyle said. “But if it’s just one at a time I think I’ll be okay.”
            “The fights are randomized,” Sandy said. She rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Yeah, sure. Kyle they’re going to put you through the ringer. I doubt I’m even going to be fighting at all.”
            “Well if it keeps everyone’s eyes on us, right? That’s the plan.”
            “The plan isn’t for you to die.”
            “I’m not going to die,” he said, and a sudden wave of nerves claimed him. Twenty-four…He grit his teeth and then rested his hands on his hips as well. “Let me try contacting Phoenix, keep him in the know with all this.”
            He tapped his earpiece, but all he got was static in his ear. He grit his teeth even tighter and tapped it back off.
            “Ah, jeez,” he said. “Just ate static.”
            “So it’s just you and I, then?” Sandy asked.
            “Guess so, unless they plan on watching,” Kyle said. “Which, given the popularity of this thing, may not be that unbelievable.”
            Sandy shrugged and leaned against the wall. “Just can’t believe how chill they are with people dying in this thing.”
            “Oh, true. We have to keep everything in the ring”
            “That really won’t be easy.”
            “But it’s what we’re going to do.”
            Sandy grinned back at Kyle. “I know.”
            Kyle sighed, a little bit of ease washing over him. But the nerves remained settled in his body, giving him little shakes in his hands. He could sense some of the energy around them in the arena. Some of it was settled, some of it ran wild. He glanced at Sandy.
            It was impossible to read how strong and capable she would be against some of these guys. She’d been hiding her magic power the entire time. It’d been a few months since they last saw each other and Brenda swore that Sandy kept up with her magical training and improved immensely, but…
            The more Kyle looked at her, the more he still saw that same girl that’d grown up with him. The same girl that he played lacrosse with, that would chase him through the halls. Obviously her looks were different: instead of sandy blonde hair it was now a deep purple. Her muscles were larger but also far more toned and her face had a definite seriousness to it whereas before it was far more playful.
            “Sandy,” he said, his voice soft. She glanced at him, eyebrows raised.
            “If you do have to fight,” Kyle said. “Please—”
            But he was cut off by a blaring alarm and the light overhead shutting off instantly. Sandy leapt to her feet. Kyle flared his aura and Sandy stepped closer. The roof overhead opened up and the ground beneath them started to rise. Kyle curled his hands into fists.
            A low rumble became louder and louder the higher they rose. Kyle recognized it instantly as the low roar of a crowd.
            Their platform stopped at a long hallway. The rumbling now sounded like an earthquake and the roaring was practically deafening.
            Kyle held his hand out. “You ready?”
            Sandy took it, squeezing tight. “Yeah.”
            He grinned and the two started off together down the tunnel. Blinding lights obscured their vision up ahead until they reached the end of the tunnel and a massive domed arena opened up to them. There had to be at least two hundred thousand people jam-packed into the arena. Dozens of screens of varying sizes floated all around the stands to give a clear few of the fighting ring down below: a flat stone square with a steep, pitch-black drop-off.
            Sandy and Kyle reached the end of their path then turned left, where a small blue section labelled “Earth” was. Kyle gestured at it and they took up their spots their, leaning against a turquoise railing. Kyle glanced around. They stood in the center ring; above and below them were the fans, cheering and chanting in various tongues. The rest of the ring, Kyle observed, was comprised of other fighters. Some sections had nearly ten entities in it, while others had just one. Likely, Kyle could sense, these were the Demi-War Gods.
            A blacklight fell over the ground and a pillar of smoke erupted from the center of the arena. When the smoke cleared and the crowd fell to a hush, a flamboyant alien stood in the middle with what appeared to be a microphone in his hand.
            “Now wasn’t that a spectacular battle?” he asked.
            “We missed a fight?” Sandy asked.
            “Probably a few,” Kyle said. “There have to be over a hundred people participating in this thing.”
            “Yeah, but, why we were just sent up now?”
            “Next up in our rapidfire opening rounds we have a treat for you all, a rarity if ever there was one!” The crowd fell for the taunt and started cheering. Kyle tensed. “We’ve got for you, appearing for the first time on Xenomark VI, away from their planet, an Earthling! A Zanderia member, no less!”
            “Oh, great,” Sandy muttered.
            The blacklight fell upon the two of them and the screens changed to show them. Kyle and Sandy both straightened up.
            “Up now is one of the Earth’s most deadly combatants, Violette!”
            A chill ran down Kyle’s spine. He froze, eyes wide with terror and shock. Sandy bowed her head, sighed, then chuckled.
            “Awesome,” she muttered. “Been looking for a good fight, you know?”
            “Violette,” Kyle said. “You…are you…”
            “Gonna be just fine?” Sandy raised her head and grinned. “You know it.”
            And an instant later, faster than a blink, she was gone.

            Brenda vaulted over another rooftop and caught herself on a barrier she’d put up just a second ago. She pulled up, rolled over it, and sprinted along another tall rooftop. With a flick of her wrist another barrier, a curved one this time, formed and she dashed along it. She propelled off, flying briefly through the air, before landing precariously on a ledge.
            The assailant she’d been tagging finally took a break to catch their breath. She couldn’t identify what type of being they were, but they were rather nimble and pretty quick with their hands. They easily escaped from every explosion they caused around the city, and Brenda hadn’t been able to spot them until she caught notice of a blur in the crowd.
            For the last few minutes, though, this bomber had been slowing up, probably growing tired. Their moves were sloppier, too. Darting through alleys at a much slower pace, not bothering to try and lose any trails in a crowd.
            The bomber peered over their shoulder then sulked back into the alleyway. Time to strike. Brenda leapt off the roof and shot a barrier down at the bomber silently. Before they could move or do anything the barrier crashed around them and they were slammed to the ground. Brenda slowed her fall then approached, slowly.
            “Who sent you to cause the explosions?” she asked. “Talk and you’ll go free.”
            “A mage?” the bomber asked in Brenda’s native tongue. “Here?”
            “What member of the Trask was it?” Brenda asked. “And how much did they pay you?”
            “Enough,” the bomber said. “You wouldn’t know who it is, mage. If you did, you’d be dead.”
            Brenda pressed the barrier down more and sent some sparks through it to give the bomber a little shock.
            “A name.”
            The bomber grinned. “I’ll tell you in hell.”
            Brenda’s eyes widened and she blasted healing magic through the barrier but it was far too late. The barrier cracked upon impact with the explosion and smoke filled it, but the bomber was gone in a flash.
            She released the barrier. “Damn it.” She touched her earpiece and a bit of static came through. “Phoenix? Leley?”
            “Got something?” Phoenix asked back.
            “Yeah, I think I found out who the bomber was.” Brenda leapt back up to the rooftops.
            “Got a taste of his own medicine. Decided that was more important than talking about the Trask.”
            “Wonderful.” Phoenix sighed. “Where are you now?”         
            “Probably three miles south of the arena,” Brenda said. “I could probably get to wherever you are pretty quick.”
            “Nah, that’s a good distance for now. Leley fanned out west and I can take the eastern parts of the city.”
            “And the north?”
            “I’m getting the feeling that’s where the Trask is going to be actually located at. But we can’t just go running in there without something. They won’t lift the bounty if we just ask them.”
            “Right,” Brenda said. “Leverage.”
            “Which that bomber really would’ve provided, but, now we know, can’t depend on those kinda guys.”
            “I have a feeling most of the Trask operatives are going to be like that.” Brenda surveyed the city a bit. “I’ll keep my eye out, though.”
            “Good, and Shindari, don’t do anything rash, okay?” Leley asked this. Her voice was sharp, commanding. Brenda grinned.
            “Of course,” she said, and tapped her earpiece, silencing the Zanderia.
            She leapt up and took off a bit more, headed deeper south. A few hills broke the city up a bit, and mysteriously, some massive houses were built atop them. Perhaps the Trask actually lived out here.
            She looped around them once before landing on a building nearby, one that appeared rather modern but a bit rundown due to a lack of caring on the owner’s part.
            The hills stretched about a half-mile wide, and appeared to be their own section of the city. The architecture was vastly different compared to the other places, far more luxurious and vacation-like. A massive pool sat at the top of one hill while more resort areas lined the rest of the hills.
            The streets were rather empty, though. A few guards posted at street-corners and on some rooftops, but not too large a presence. Several crafts and vehicles lined the streets and some sparse, well-dressed people stood near them.
            One in particular caught Brenda’s attention. Her magic flared for a moment, coming loose out of a moment of unclear, unfathomable rage.
            Walking along a street-corner flanked by two massive alien creatures whose power rivalled that of the Six Pillars of Magic, so they were likely Demi-War Gods, walked Heinrek, or, as Brenda had known him, Master Heinreck. He vanished behind one of the buildings and then reappeared against headed for one of the hills.
            Brenda sighed but it came out choppily, her body shaking with unbridled fury. She watched as he vanished into another building along the hills, the two Demi-War Gods going with him. Her focus untightened and she saw all of the resort for what it truly was: a playpen for the galaxy’s worst monsters.
            She balled up a fist and red sparking magic arced from her hand. Much as her rage fueled her, she couldn’t ignore that gleeful little voice in the back of her head that was so prepared to bring ruin upon their world at long last.

            The ringmaster turned toward Sandy, his hand extended. Sandy put both of her hands up, fists clenched, the crowd ate it up. She smiled wearily. Lord, how many people were there in here? She could barely hear the ringmaster’s own thoughts.
            In fact, she didn’t. His voice echoed above her for the people in the stands to hear but it didn’t bounce back down onto the ring. Instead, it came as a complete surprise when her opponent materialized in front of her;
            A beefy pale looking alien man with long pink hair and slick skin, as well as a third arm growing out his back that poked over his head, smirked at her. His eyes were level with his wedged nose and he had wide rosy lips. He said something but Sandy heard it as just a deep, booming voice in a foreign language.
            “This is gonna be awkward, I guess,” she said.
            The ringmaster nodded to both of them and said one last word before vanishing just as her opponent had arrived.
            He, Sandy presumed, chuckled and then slapped his bare chest and a yellow aura burst around him, arcing energy across the arena. Sandy stepped back from the sudden burst. It was natural energy she her magic wasn’t able to exactly pick up on it.
            “Here we go, then,” she muttered, and ignited her own magical aura, sending her own power out to try and match his. His eyes flared and he moved, with incredible speed.
            But Sandy saw him. She flooded her magic into her eyes and saw his moves even before he made them. She stepped back, placing her weight on her back foot and her power into her right hand, and stepped around him, slamming him in the back with an open palm. He stumbled forward but retaliated. Sandy flipped back, flicking her wrist along her belt.
            Her bow appeared in her hand in an instant and she flicked her wrist again, straightening it out into a pole. She whirled it in her hand and fell into her learned pole-stance.
            The pale alien beat his chest again and more energy flew away, but was little more than a gust of wind against her. He sprinted at her again, telegraphing his movements all too well. Sandy jabbed at his arms and managed to poke the third arm, that was about to wallop her, away and ducked away then slammed the pole into his chest. He stumbled back and Sandy flicked her wrist, casting her magic to change it back to a bow then slid under the alien’s legs and pulled the string back, her magic creating a purple arrow on the string.
            She heard a whistling from behind her and her magic kicked in, instinctually moving her away. She leapt back and a force of yellow energy swept back around. Her instincts kicked in again and she hit the floor, and more yellow energy flew overhead.
            Sandy swept her legs around and loose the arrow, catching the alien in the shoulder. He snarled and snapped the arrow in his shoulder. Sandy sprinted forward, pulling the string back and casting two arrows onto the string. She leapt forward, toward the alien. The two waves of energy reappeared.
            She leaned her weight back and released the arrows. Their power slammed into the energy and the two forced caused a bit of blowback to the two fighters. Sandy contorted herself and managed to catch herself on her feet.
            Her opponent cleared the gap pretty quick. She dropped her bow and used bow arms to block his attack, flying across the arena and hitting her back hard when she landed. She slammed her fist down and dragged it through the stone of the arena.
            She braced her foot behind her and sprinted forward, ducking under the coming fist of the pale alien. A blast of yellow energy followed it and obliterated part of the wall across the gap. She slammed her fist into his gut then rode her momentum to turn her fist under his square chin and hit him as hard as she could. Still in the air she wrapped her legs around his neck and flared her power to the max to slam him onto the ground.
            The monster shoved her off. She flicked her wrist and a katana appeared in her back hand. She pulled the katana back then flung it down at the beast, impaling his arm clean through the wrist and locking his hand in place.
            Sandy hit the ground on her back again. The alien pulled the katana out of his wrist and roared. Sandy spun to face him, then clenched her fist, shooting her magic into the katana to gain control of it. The pale alien peered at it, confused, then the blade turned on him, lightly cutting him across the face and buying Sandy just enough time.
            She crossed the distance fast and rammed her shoulder into the alien’s solar plexus, then caught him in a head-lock and choke-slammed him to the ground, bumping her own butt on accident but still bringing him to the ground. She jammed the katana through his hand again, locking him in place.
            The alien struggled for a moment but she adjusted her grip to a sleeper hold. She blasted her magic to keep her concentration tight on her position and, within just a few moments, the pale alien went limp.
            Sandy relaxed a bit and released her magic on the katana. It and the bow shrunk back down and she ran her hand over her belt, activating the magnetic pull on both that summoned them both to her backside. The ringmaster materialized into the center of the arena again and said, through a thick foreign accent,
            The crowd roared and several pods with lenses—cameras?—appeared. Sandy smiled at them but didn’t have long, as she vanished back to the balcony with Kyle.
            He laid a gentle hand on her back. She leaned against the railing, finally letting out some controlled breaths.           
            “That was pretty damn awesome, dude,” he said. “Didn’t know you could do half of that.”          
            “Honestly?” Sandy asked. “Neither did I.”
            “Wanna know the best part?”
            Kyle pointed to one of the monitors that flew by, and Sandy recognized a familiar Earth logo on there.            
            “Wait…no way,” Sandy said. “They’re…broadcasting to Earth? Everyone can watch the fight?”
            “Someone probably hacked a satellite or something,” Kyle said. “But yeah. Now everyone back home gets to watch us put our necks on the line, live for their viewing pleasure.”
            “You know there’s probably some people that’re gonna be sickly into that.”
            “Oh, for sure.”
            Kyle chuckled, which let Sandy do the same. That is, until she asked her next question,
            “Say, Kyle…was that guy a Demi-War God? Like at their level, at least?”
            Kyle’s smile vanished, and was replaced by a grimace. “No. He wasn’t.”
            Sandy bowed her head. “Fantastic. And we have to face twenty-four of those guys.” She sighed and raised her head to the arena. “But at least everyone at home gets to watch. Hope they have their popcorn ready.”

Next time: A team-up several months in the making goes down at the tournament while Brenda prepares to risk everything in order to destroy the Trask in "Blue Nexus #93 - The First Hit"!


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