Laserwatch II: Arena

~ a written anime action series | I |

Exen, keenly reposed in newly coursing adrenaline, rises to the sound of extraterrestrial cheers. He surfaces to a bright, sunlit surface. Defying his expectation, it isn’t that hot. The air is, in fact, comfortable to him. He’s not himself, because he doesn’t know where he is. But this of course, excites him further. The sand whips up and around him while he surveys the locale. An arena. All around him, in a circular standing of rising noise, he sees the crowd. They appear to be from all over, multiple worlds certainly, perhaps even multiple universes. Exen finds himself enthusiastic to be able to perform among so many different folks.

Armed with nothing but his wrist, a pair of Chuck Taylor’s, and a ripped Metallica “Ride the Lightning” shirt, he knows what is to come next. Exen also wears a nice pair of jeans, part of him now regrets putting them on this morning knowing they are about to be ruined. Clearly, this will be a fight, he thinks to himself. A battle for show. A gladiatorial bout with some nightmarish creature, perhaps two. Stereotypical, but still – he had to be honest, he liked this type of thing. He had never actually fought in an arena, but secretly always wanted to. Now it seemed he would get his wish. Whether I want to or not.

Exen notices the variety of weapons and armor lining the edges of the field of battle. Everything from swords, spears, axes, to daggers and flails. Peasantry. From the corner of his eye, Exen sees something approaching one of the cages hidden just below the edge of arena. A lion’s head. He can hardly believe it. Start ’em off slow, makes sense. The bars open, and the beast rises to a renewed cheer from the crowd. But as Exen readies himself into a fighting position, he notices something about this lion. It is a man, a humanoid figure standing upright on two legs. It’s a goddamn Lion-Man. And he also recognizes the crowd isn’t simply cheering, but chanting – “Lion-God, Lion-God, Lion-God”. Oh shit, he has a following here. Exen recognizes a third and equally startling aspect to his surroundings, the garishly decorative blood stains in the sand all around him. To the death then. Against Lion-God, the Undefeated.

“You will be dead soon, Man. Any parting words?” The Lion-God shouts out, still crouched on one knee taking in the crowd’s fanaticism.

“They shouting your name? You are really some kind of god? Pretty wild.” Exen responds.

Lion-God stands quickly and reveals the full length of a whip from his back, unraveling it and cracking it against the ground. The sand shutters into the air around him and cascades down into his fur. He wears very little armor, sandals. A loin cloth. Exen chuckles to himself and bends his knees to position. This guy will never forget this fight. Or rather, remember it.

Exen sprints from his position in the center of the arena to the left-most side of the circle, eyeing a smallish shield. He slides down and picks it up readying his wrist. The Lion-God is already there, he is quicker than Exen anticipated. Leaping high above, he readies the whip behind his head. Exen fires a short burst into the sand just where he is about to land, the resulting storm of sand grains whipping up directly into his Lion-Face. Simultaneously, Exen rolls forward underneath his fast falling form and slams his shield down onto the ground behind them, hoping to catch the tail of the Lion or the whip. He traps the whip, holds it taut. Upon touching down and trying to bring it back under his reign, the Lion-God is frozen in place and unable to pull it from under the shield.

“What weapon do you wield, wizard!” Lion-God roars while turning around and using both hands to pull on his precious whip.

Exen releases the shield, throwing it directly into Lion-God’s mid section. It connects and he can hear his Lion-Breath explode out of his chest. He turns and stands quickly, looking to run out of range but before he can take a step he feels leather constrict around his ankle. Exen pulls his leg but is unable to move out from the Lion-Whip’s grip.

“Looks like the cat, has my –” Exen begins.

“Shut your fucking mouth.” Lion-God retorts instantly. Even with the crowd noise, Exen hears it clearly, painfully.

Lion-God suddenly pulls him in with his left, the whip hand, rushing forward as he does. Exen jumps forward into an airborne somersault, jerking the whipped leg up and into the air first. As he turns and Lion approaches, he brings his sword online and slashes across the whip holding his ankle. Unable or unwilling to stop his momentum, Lion-God continues running straight towards Exen. Exen, now having completed the somersault, faces him and lies in wait for a moment. In dagger-form, Exen rises up and brings it slashing across Lion-God’s throat as they collide.

It happens so quickly, the crowd roar is delayed. They are not quite sure what has happened, why Lion-God and the Man are held fast in such an embrace.

“H-how?” Lion-God says weakly into Exen’s ear, blood filling his mouth.

“Rest now, warrior. Good fight ya?” Exen returns calmly. Holding him up by his chest with his left arm, he feels the Lion-body go limp. The head bobs and the whip releases from his paw, dropping onto the ground. The crowd roars with ferocity seeing the new victor.

So much for loyalty to local legends. Exen drops the body lightly onto the ground and turns around. He pumps his fists into the air and looks out among the strange folk while awaiting the next challenger.

~

While in the midst of reassessing his fondness of blood sport, Exen notices several steel doors rising around him in the circle. He stands near the middle and all three equidistant sides, he sees three forms step out from the darkness. One wields a spear and shield, another a two-handed hammer, and the other has two swords. Lizard-Guys eh? Cold-blooded customers.

Exen glances around, turning 360 degrees as he looks to each.

“Clever girls.” Exen says loudly and as dramatically as he can.

“We understand the reference,” Spear says

“But it’s neither funny nor especially applicable to the situation,” Double Sword claims. A forked tongue splits out between each syllable.

“C’mon, what more do you want?” Exen complains.

“You could’ve said we are ‘three cool customers’ or something, you know, because we are cold blooded” says Warhammer sincerely.

“I thought that! Oooh man. Y’all probably don’t believe me but it’s true,” Exen is practically leaping out of his shoes. He looks around and scans the weapons encircling him quickly.

Double Sword and Warhammer charge in. Spear stands and readies a throw.

Exen shoots a grappling hook directly to his right. The magnetic grapple reaches his chosen target, a greatsword. While Sword and Warhammer close in, he pulls the grapple in fast, greatsword in tow, and splits the double-team – running directly in between them. He ducks and slides while the greatsword slaps into his awaiting hands. Startled but resolved, Sword and Hammer each bring their weapons to bear upon him. But Exen and the sword is ready with the block, crossing their weapons over its blade while he struggles to retain his grip against their combined strength. Without hesitation, he puts all his power into moving the sword closer to the Swordsman while bringing his legs around to sweep at Warhammer’s planted feet. He figures the bulk of the Warhammer would make him a little easier to topple. But Warhammer releases his warhammer and leaps into the air to avoid the leg sweep.

Exen smirks imperceptibly. Just as planned.

He continues to bring his leg around, digging in and kicking sand up into Double Sword’s purview while he shoves his greatsword hilt into his scaly chin. Stunned from the strike, the sand splashes up into his face. Exen turns to his back and leaps up and toward Warhammer who is still in the air. He lurches toward his exposed chest, punching his fist onto the spot a bit to the left. I hope their cold hearts are in the same place.

He fires one shot, point blank, straight through his chest – minimal thickness but maximal focus. The warhammer drops from his hands and by the time his feet touch the ground again, he is gone. The crowd roar rises to a maximum. Exen rolls out of the fray between the two and faces Double Sword again.

“Nooo! What have you done, demon!” Double Sword exclaims, his composure regained.

In the distance, Spear finally throws his shit. Exen’s strategy worked, interlocking in battle with the other two delayed Spear’s long range attack until now. His guess of their sincere camaraderie was correct. But there would be no mercy now, he had just killed their blood brother or sister.

His aim is true. The spear’s trajectory is heading directly towards him, and Exen has about 3 more seconds to dodge. In his blind rage, Double Sword sprint towards him. To maximize his speed the swords are down at his sides. Exen doesn’t move at all, instead he waits another moment, for the perfect moment. When the time is right, he jumps, turning his body just a bit out from the kill-zone of the spear’s blade and kicks out with his left leg at the falling pole of the spear. The speed and technique of his kick twirls the spear violently – and directly into the path of Double Sword.

A moment later, two swords fall into the sand. Two empty hands grip the end of the spear protruding from its chest.

“You bast-ard,” Double Sword says weakly. He falls backward onto the ground but remains partially upright.

“Nice throw,” Exen calls back to the thrower as he turns back, trying to get his words over the increasingly obnoxious sounds of the audience.

“This is not over,” Spear, now armed with only a shield, calls back. Spear sets its feet, ready for the fight of his life.

“Nah, I actually think it is. I’m bored now,” Exen responds with an extremified blast from his wrist, full amplification and visibility of the beam.

Spear’s eyes widen and it raises the shield to defend against the impossible attack. The crowd screams in fear as much as revelry. The blast of energy slams into the shield and throws Spear up and away, into the stands, out of the arena altogether. The audience clears out in an ensuing chaos.

“Alright! Let’s go! Calling out to whatever gods may be in this world – send out the next one!” Exen shouts. “Or don’t, I could leave now,” he continued, pacing about.

~

Dusk has fallen over the field of battle. The ramparts of the arena have almost entirely emptied. Only a few superfans remain. Exen tries to make out their forms in the growing darkness. Soon enough, he recognizes another form coming from the sky above.

A cloaked figure seemingly glides down from the darkness of the new moon. It lands on a spire on the edge of the arena. Exen psychically activates Engagement Mode, generates a HUD featuring an iso-map of the surrounding area. With night vision, he zooms in and can clearly see the Man… Bat’s form? It wears a black mask, like a motorcyclist’s helmet almost, but with giant hairy ears protruding from it. Gigantic, leathery wings undercut its arms. It wears some kind of cloak. Crouching on this pillar, it looks to be checking the time on his own watch.

Suddenly, the lights go out. Or rather, the computer-enhancements Exen was just using all disappear while he blinks away the confusion. His head and body and arm are wracked with burning, internal pains. It is like nothing he has ever felt before.

“That was an electro-magnetic pulse, an EMP, not so uncommon on your world – but very uncommon here,” a robotic and menacingly amplified voice calls out from above him. It is getting closer.

Exen opens his eyes and sees a bulky figure flying down to storm his sanity. He activates his shield. But nothing happens, he is launched backward by the force of the Bat’s powerful kick. Then, he is accosted once more and in the air, flying higher and higher with the Bat’s flapping ascent. His claws dig into Exen’s shoulder through his ripped and now blood-stained Metallica shirt.

Exen chops his hand through the shirt, releasing him from the hold. He finds himself falling into the night air. No functionality, shit. Exen stops his mind racing like it does, thinking of solutions – of exit strategies, escapes, tactics for advantage – of survival. Instead of stopping on a solution, he closes his eyes and enjoys the open air and the rare uncertainty of the predicament.

When he opens his eyes again, he is fast approaching the arena ramparts. He angles his body such that he looks like he will crash down just inside the seating area. But right before he passes the edge of the fence surrounding the rampart, his hands shoot out and grab the edge. It hurts immensely and he breaks bones in his hands and fingers but holds on with everything he has. The momentum of the rest of his body violent shifts down on this hinge and he double kicks through a small window in between the wall and the fence his grips. He flies through and lands inside, under the arena itself.

Exen hits the ground and rolls, slowing his movement, and slams into the wall. Semi-amazed he is even still alive, Exen pauses. Sweet move. Exen stands, looking around him. He sees bodies, in chains, on the ground, on the ceiling. The whole room is bodies, on every single square foot of the room, chained down. Not dead, simply unconscious. Animal humanoids, all of them. These are the arena pit fighters. In the corner is a small screen, the size of a phone. Exen walks over to it and bends down. It is a smart phone, plugged into the wall. On the screen reads “Battle Simulator.exe 256,893,158…” The numbers continue down the length of the screen, scrolling seemingly endlessly. Exen unplugs the phone and puts it in his jean pocket. All around him in the room, deep breaths and bodies swell against their chains. Roars, yawns, and hisses resound through the hallways leading throughout the building. Exen runs out of one of the openings the fighters had emerged from. He walks out into the brisk desert air and sees his final challenger there waiting for him.

The masked Bat-man stands there waiting in the center of the arena, his tattered cloak fluttering in the night wind.

“You haven’t been playing fair,” the robotic voice proclaims. “I wouldn’t expect you to, knowing the weapon you wield. It’s legend reaches even this far. This isn’t my world either, I traveled here specifically to meet you.”

“I have a mutant Batman secret admirer? Or do you just admire the device, and not the wielder?” Exen responds sincerely.

The Bat’s mask mechanically retreats from his face, revealing his grotesque Bat-face. Baring its teeth, his small black eyes remind Exen of the shades from some of his oldest nightmares, or maybe just some of his old comics. The mask retreats into his suit, he removes his gauntlets, casts away his cloak. The Bat stands before Exen.

“We fight now, Man on Beast. No tricks, no tech, no lasers. Just us.” Bat pounds his chest and shrieks in a pent up fury. “No other rules, but we’ll know when it’s over. If you are able to defeat me, then I’ll get you back to your ship and on your way back to your home planet.”

Smiling in full, Exen responds not with words but by readying his tiger stance.

“Shall we begin.”

They fight for 23 minutes. The Man is overpowered, without the superior instincts, reflexes, and senses of an animal, the Bat soon gains the upper hand. However, Exen didn’t earn his wielder status by losing to Batman, au contraire.

~

On the flight back, Exen reads some old comic books with a new appreciation. ~