( I decided to break things up a little and write a small story. I had ideas for where this tale could lead – but may never finish it. I still thought it worth a share. )
Siren always hated the arenas. They reeked of hydrolic fluid and booze, and the all too bright lights were only amplified by the wafts of synthetic clouds created by the various brands of vape smoke that puffed out in various waves from the packed house. It hurt her head and irritated her sensitive eyes.
If it wasn’t for Solus she couldn’t see any feesible reason why she’d even enter a place like this. But Solus was her world. And he needed her. So here she would be.
Although the twins shared much with each other, including their ruged good looks and keen intellect, this was definitely one thing they didn’t see eye to eye on.
Solus loved the fights. Siren couldn’t stand them.
She flashed a smile and her admittance card to the large bear of a man named Sal (who was far more jovial and docile outside of the arenas) that guarded the backrooms and slipped away from the abrasive crowd into the quieter side of chaos behind the scenes.
The first stop she made was the Pens. Inside the thick clear polyresin pens were a various collection of fighers waiting for their matches.
She noticed Solus was entering Dibs into this bout. The stocky little creature was at the lower end of the weight restrictions for this level – but what Dibs lacked in weight he made up for with speed and agility. Not to mention the carbon steel hooks which arched forward on his deadly feet. In standby mode he looked especially ferocious with preprogrammed animation of chomping those razor teeth and shifting his weight back and forth, back and forth.
His programming. The thought soured her mood even more.
Siren hated seeing them like this. Off leash Dibs seemed like another creature entirely. He had a personality. He was aloof and playful. Curious and attentive. After she worked on his repairs or took time to upgrade him she always reveled in the way he’d seem to parade around at her feet testing out his new capabilities. Never once was she scared of him at home.
She instinctively pulled her hand to a place of safety behind her back and took a breath before heading to the Infirm Holding pens to face what she was sure would be another type of sourness waiting for her. Picking up the pieces.
Solus was waiting for her, pacing as he often did. His silver white hair was cut short and spikey and he always wore it as if it had been ruffled into perfect position on accident rather then by choice. “It’s Arc.” He muttered with an irritated motion of his hand to the covered bed off to the left. “it’s the same problem every time, he gets one charge off and can’t build up enough conductivity for another go at it. And they put him up against Tyro of all things! That tank is insulated and heavy – he shouldn’t even be in the same weight class!”
He was worked up. He hated to lose. Thankfully it didn’t happen very often.
Solus was a top teir player for the underground battles and due to his skill for inquring the right matches with the right fighters he brought in a fair bit of money in prize fights. It was enough money for Solus and Siren lived in a nice place, had good food, and could reinvest into repairs and new additions to his arsenal.
But not all repairs could be made.
“How bad?” Siren shouldn’t have even asked. She could tell even before she reached the table that it was about as bad as it could be. Still she couldn’t stop herself from reaching out, pulling away the tarp of a sheet and surviling the damage. It was a mess of fur, metallic bent pieces and synthetic bone. The mangled heap (what little was left of it) was splattered and dripping in the dyed watery red fluid of Arc’s hydrolic fluid. It smelled acrid and coppery.
It did it’s job in the arena’s – it looked and smelled as close to blood as they could mimic, which was why every fighter had to have the same mix blend. The rules tried to make it seem like it was regulated for fairness – but they all know it was to make the savage battles far more entertaining. It catered to the carnal nature of the event even if they couldn’t get the look exactly right. The blood fluid was always a bit too watery. A bit too orange. But it might as well have been the exact same thing to Siren. It usually meant the same either way.
Her heart knew even before her head did. And her mouth was last to finally catch up with a delayed hiss of “..Shit. He’s completely demolished.”
“Yup. He’s done. There’s nothing left – I didn’t even get a chance to neural-link his training sessions. Tyro tore him to bits and his system died well before we could get him back here. I should have retired him a year ago.”
“It would have been kinder.” Siren couldn’t help the coldness in her tone.
“Look, I only have one more fight tonight – I pulled Melee and Slash out tonight. Once Dibs gets done we’ll cash out and go someplace to talk. There are a few things I really want to talk to you about.” He glanced over at his watch seeminly oblivious about her comment and realized with the raising octaves of the ambient music that another match was about to commence. The lights in the ring were brightening as the house lights grew ever dimmer.
“Hopefully he fares better.” Siren muttered as she watched her brother dismiss her with barely another thought. She stared daggers at the back of his head as his lanky form slid back into the entertainment of the arena area.
She wondered how similar she would look to him if she chose to wear the same spiked floof of a hairdo. Instead her hair hung at mid-length, usually tagged back in a loose but relatively behaved braid. It was far easier to keep it out of her eyes if it was tied back. She treated her hair like an unruley prisoner. Some days she wondered if she should just shave it off and be done with it. The ultimate of low-maintainace hairstyle.
“Tyro is on fire lately. Just last week he jumped three standings.” The voice was the give away. Kent had the linguistic charm of a bard, but the accent of a backalley dealer. He had all the lilt and smoothness of a charmer but often the coy casual wordplay of a biker. “The talk is that Jace found a backalley source coder who is bloody ruthless. He managed to program some sort of assassin code. Leave nothing standing sort of deal. Must have paid a bloody forture for something like that. I told your brother that Arc was too outdated to take on Tyro in a deathmatch. But you know him. The arrogant ass that he is. Thinks he can outsmart and outbeat everyone.”
“Yeah, that’s him.” Siren shook her head ran her hand over a patch of wet fur which was quite cold to the touch now.
Arc had been a stoic sort. He had a feline body shape and a personality to match. He was a quiet companion who would spend hours of his free time watching her from tall perches. His bright neon blue eyes would stalk her like a silent shadow. His loss felt more sharp and painful then some of the others for the very same contributing factor into his demise.
Arc was an older model. He had many matches in the Arena under his belt and many times in Sirens company at home and being repaired or upgraded. She knew him, inside and out. And he was around long enough to know her inside and out as well.
She would miss those eyes of his more then she thought she would. It already hurt and the loss for her had only been moments old.
There was only enough bits for a small disposal in their home workshop. His scraps would be decommisioned through incineration and what metal bits that are left would be remelted down into his final nameplate.
What little was left would make for a small nameplate. She would probably force him to put some more effort into it. Perhaps recreate the electric blue of his eyes in the colour of his name.
It was a pointless, meaningless and sentimental act that she forced Solus to continue dispite his arguing that it seemed stupid. Perhaps it was her own petty little way to make him feel something for these creatures. Afterall, she shouldn’t be the only one to feel this horrible about the losses.
She struggled to figure out something to say that felt appropriate in some way. A goodbye that was grander and more substantial in its weight. She gave up and only landed on four meaningless but throat clenched words. “You can retire now.”