“So you fight in a few days,” Jeremy says. “How is this different from fighting in a few weeks?”
“It’s sooner, for one thing,” Rachel says.
She sits down on the bed and places her hands on her temples. “I didn’t think I would fight so early.”
Jeremy leans against the metal wall, clicking one of the blades in and out of Rachel’s knife. “What did you plan to do while waiting?” he asks.
“I don’t know. Practice sword fighting, watch the other fights and try to learn from them, etcetera.”
“Rache, you’ve practiced for months. You’re ready for this. This is just nerves, you’ll be fine.”
“You’re right, I guess. Still, what are the odds?”
“One in eight.”
“That was rhetorical, by the way.”
Rachel rests her head on the pillow. “To move on to the quarterfinals, you need to win three fights in the next seven days,” Jeremy says. “Do that and you’re golden.”
The next morning, Rachel rises to the sound of a ringing phone. She crawls out of bed and stumbles over to the phone, groggily picking it up and placing it to her ear. She releases a large yawn before mumbling out a greeting.
“I’m calling to remind you of your appointment on Faust’s show,” Ysabel says on the other line.
“Wuh?” Rachel mumbles.
“As clearly stated in the information packets that arrived earlier today,” Ysabel says as Rachel notices an unopened manila folder lying next to the phone, “Introductions for any given week’s fighters start at one o’clock, sharp. It is currently twelve thirty.”
“What introductions?” Rachel groggily mutters.
“As stated in the packet,” Ysabel says, “At the beginning of each of the first eight weeks, the eight fighters competing in that week are interviewed by Faust. While following interviews are optional, first appearances are mandatory.”
“Right,” Rachel says. “The interviews. I read about those in the packet.”
“The packet sitting unopened next to you?” Ysabel says.
“How do you know that it’s unopened?” Rachel asks.
“I know everything,” Ysabel says quickly. “Clean yourself up and be on your porch before the hour is up.
Ysabel hangs up the phone. Rachel quickly showers, dons her costume, and exits the bathroom. She walks over to the glass door before pausing. Jeremy lies on the floor by the recliner, as still as a corpse. He clutches Rachel’s knife in his fist, gripping it like a dog grips a bone. Rachel thinks to herself that he must have rolled out of bed during the night.
“Jeremy!” Rachel shouts, and he awakens from a deep slumber.
“What?” he mumbles.
“I’m going out. I’ll be back in a few hours,” she says.
Jeremy closes his eyes and returns to his nap. Rachel exits the metal room and sits down on the porch chair, awaiting her teleport.
After several minutes of waiting Rachel finds herself sitting on a chair in a dressing room. She curses herself for being startled and begins to look around the room. A glass mirror lies behind her, covered in lights, and a television showing Faust sits above it. Faust silently monologues to a large crowd. The TV repeatedly cuts to the audience laughing at his jokes, before returning to him smiling at their approval.
Spread around the dressing room are seven other fighters. Rachel’s opponents. Men and women wearing blue caps and jackets emblazoned with the Tournament’s logo dance around the fighters, touching up their hair and makeup for their interviews.
They pull a man wearing sunglasses and spandex out of his chair and usher him out the dressing room’s door, onto the set where Faust waits. The man appears on the television screen, walking out while waving to the crowd. He shakes hands with Faust and sits in a chair next to Faust’s desk.
The man’s stylists move on to other projects. Three begin styling Lupei’s beard, making it perfect for the audience.
Rachel looks around the room, sizing up the other fighters. A woman wearing a green dress, a handsome man in a fancy suit, a man wearing a parka, a cowboy, Silvano, and a giant. Rachel frowns. There is little she can learn from her enemies.
The giant, Heavyweight, sits in the corner. Aside from the gauntlets with his weights attached, he wears the same garb he will wear later that day during his fight with Helios. His chair buckles under his weight, and looks like it could fall to pieces at any moment. He stares at his reflection, gazing into the black steel. The stylists quietly converse with each other, arguing over who has to do Heavyweight’s makeup.
After a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, they shove a young woman over to the behemoth. “Um, Mr. Heavyweight?” she mumbles. “We were, uh, wondering if you could remove the helmet so that we could, uh, do your makeup?”
Heavyweight turns and looks into the woman’s eyes. She skittishly backs away while apologizing.
“I don’t need any makeup either,” a voice near Rachel says. She turns to her left, where Silvano rests, his cane at his side. “There is little you can do to erase the damages of time.”
Rachel studies the cane. It is made of mahogany wood engraved with twisting symbols and designs. The cane has a silver head shaped like an eagle. Silvano turns and looks at Rachel. “Hello there,” he says. “Jackal, was it?”
“Jackrabbit,” Rachel corrects.
“Forgive me,” he says. “Names are sometimes hard to remember when you get to be my age.”
“It’s okay,” Rachel says. “I barely remember the name myself.”
Silvano chuckles. “Did you chose your name, or did they chose it for you?” he asks.
“They chose it for me,” Rachel says. “You?”
“I chose mine.”
“Yes. I’ve always been fond of the name. Far more than Sage, at any rate.”
“What’s wrong with Sage?”
“Nothing in particular. When they first gave me that name, after the first Tournament, I actually was quite fond of the name. It’s just far less fitting than it was when I was young. Or when I was less old, if I’m being honest.”
“I am no longer the man I was, all those years ago. My health has declined, as have my magical abilities. I can no longer truthfully describe myself as Sage. I much prefer the name Lazarus.”
“Because, at this point, I am little more than a corpse. A dead man walking, if you will,” Silvano says with a chuckle.
Silvano looks around the room, eyeing up the various fighters. “Out of all the people in this room, who do you think would be easiest to fight?” he asks.
Rachel thinks for a moment. “The man with a beard,” she says.
“Why?” Silvano asks.
“I don’t know. He looks kinda stuck up. In my experience stuck up people are the easiest to outsmart.”
Silvano chuckles. “Not the old man with the cane?” he says.
“I watched one of your fights, the one with the woman who blew everything up. I know you can fight.”
“Ah, yes,” he says. “That mess.”
He stops talking for a moment, deep in thought. His grip around his cane tightens. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says, his voice hiding anger.
“Sorry to bring up a sore subject,” Rachel says.
“No,” Silvano says, regaining his composure. “It is what most people think of when they hear my name.”
“Tell me,” he says, changing the conversation. “Do you think that you could beat me, if we happen to come across each other during this Tournament?”
“That depends,” Rachel says.
“On whether or not you’re still as strong as you were way back then.”
Silvano smiles and extends his hand to Rachel. “I believe that a fight with you would be very interesting. I await a chance to test my hypothesis.”
“Likewise,” Rachel says while shaking the old man’s hand.
The man with the sunglasses exits the stage and the man in the parka replaces him. Rachel searches the table with the mirror, looking for a remote. She finds it and unmutes the television. She begins listening to the interviews. The stylists walk over to her, and after much complaining, do her hair and makeup.
Rachel looks into the mirror, at an unfamiliar face, and frowns. This is the first time she has ever worn makeup. She makes a note to wash the makeup off as soon as she returns to her room.
Over time, the dressing room exits as Emerald and Gunslinger give their interviews, leaving only Rachel, Lazarus, Helios, and Heavyweight. The stylists walk over to Heavyweight in a large group, bunched up to hide their fear.
One of them is shoved to the front of the herd. He gulps and rouses all the courage he can muster. “Mr. Heavyweight?” he says. “It’s time for your interview.”
Heavyweight calmly exits the collapsing chair and walks out the door to the stage. The stylist releases a sigh of relief before falling into what remains of Heavyweight’s chair.
Rachel turns to look at the television. Heavyweight has reached the chair on stage. He sits, his large body sinking into the cushions. “So, Heavyweight,” Faust says. “Can you tell us a little about yourself?”
Heavyweight says nothing. Instead, he stares into the distance. He thinks of events far in the past, of days when life was simpler. This annoys Faust. “What’s the matter?” he asks.e
“You do speak nglish, right?” Faust asks. “I mean, I know that people from the Outlands tend to be a tad bit dumb, but this is a bit too literal.”
The crowd laughs at Faust’s joke. Rachel doesn’t find it to be that funny. “Come on big guy,” Faust says. “Gimme something. What are your powers? What do you do for a living? What do you plan to wish for if you win?”
“What,” Faust asks as he stretches over and places a finger on Heavyweight’s helm, “Lies beneath the mask?”
Heavyweight grabs Faust’s wrist, snapping it and pulling Faust over his desk. The audience members scream as Heavyweight grabs Faust by the neck, hoisting him in the air. Faust reaches into his pocket, retrieving a silver revolver. He fires six shots at Heavyweight’s throat, each one bouncing away like rubber balls.
Heavyweight is teleported away by Ysabel and Faust falls to the floor, landing on his back. He crawls back behind his desk. “Sorry about that,” he says to the audience.
A small stream of blood pours from his shoulder. He notices this and covers it with his hand, applying pressure. “I appear to have accidentally shot myself,” he says, grimacing. “Please excuse me for one moment while I go get some quick medical attention.”
He walks off stage and back into the dressing room. The stylists hurry over to him, stripping off his jacket and redoing his makeup. Ysabel appears, with the woman wrapped in shawls from the previous night in tow. “What the hell was that?” Faust yells at Ysabel. “Why did you wait before teleporting me away?”
“I believed that a brief altercation with one of the fighters would bring in good ratings,” Ysabel says. “Was my assumption incorrect?”
Faust pauses for a moment before smiling. “Good thinking,” he says. “But don’t do it again. The same stunt won’t work twice.”
Faust turns to look at the woman wearing the shawls. “Well?” he says. “Are you going to heal me sometime today?”
The shawl woman places her hands on Faust’s shoulder. “I need to remove the bullet before I can close up the wound,” she says. “This is going to hurt.”
“Whatever,” Faust says. “Just get it over-”
Before he can finish complaining, the woman rips a small piece of metal from his shoulder, handing it to one of the stylists. Faust shouts a few curse words. The woman returns her hands to the wound and a green glow emanates from them. The bullet hole closes up, healed completely. She moves to his wrist and neck, removing the cracks and the bruises.
Her work done, the woman turns to look at the fighters. Her eyes lock with Rachel. For a second the two stare at each other. The woman ducks her head and stares at her feet as she walks away.
“Good as new,” Faust says, sardonically.
The stylists replace his jacket and button it up. “Send Mao out in two minutes,” Faust says. “I need time to make jokes about my poor aim.”
Faust exits, returning to his fans. Ysabel and the woman leave and Lupei follows Faust soon after, leaving Rachel alone with Silvano.
Silvano smiles. “What?” Rachel asks.
“How exactly did Faust shoot himself?”
“With the gun,” Rachel says in a deadpan voice.
“The gun pointed at Kysely?”
Rachel realizes what Silvano means. How could Faust shoot himself when the gun was pointed in the opposite direction? she wonders. “Ricochet,” she says. “He was hit by one of the bullets bouncing off something.”
“Bouncing off what, exactly?” Silvano asks.
“I don’t know,” Rachel says. “Something offstage, maybe?”
“Meaning that Faust missed? At that close of range? And with such a large target?”
“Did you see Kysely before he was teleported away? Not a scratch on him. Do you know what that means?”
“Heavyweight is bulletproof.”
Silvano is almost giddy with joy. “A bulletproof warrior,” he says. “I hope I can fight him. It’s been far too long since I killed someone unkillable.”
Rachel thinks over the quick scuffle between Faust and Heavyweight. “What if the bullets bounced off Kysely’s helmet?” she asks.
Silvano frowns. “I suppose that could be possible,” he concedes. “Still, I’m intrigued by the masked man. I’m willing to wager that he will be of great use to me.”
Eventually, Lupei’s interview ends. Rachel is ushered onstage, leaving Silvano alone. I suppose it would be wise to describe the talk show stage. The circular stage is made of dark brown wood and sits in the center of a large round room. On the stage lies a desk with The Not-So Late Show With Faustino Nash printed on its cover. Three chairs sit at a thirty degree angle to the desk. The stage is surrounded on all sides by the audience and spins slowly throughout the night, allowing people on all sides of the room to gain a glimpse of the conversation.
Rachel walks down a path through the crowd, trying hard to ignore the hungry eyes of the Tournament fans. She looks up and notices that the glass ceiling shows the blue ocean. Rachel realizes that the studio she stands within lies beneath the sea under the stadium.
Rachel takes her seat next to Faust. “Good to see you again, Rachel,” Faust says.
“Nice to see you too,” Rachel mumbles. “How’s your shoulder?”
“It’s been better,” Faust says while feigning pain. “Still hurts, but I think I can deal with the pain until the show is over.”
The audience shouts words of sympathy for Faust and a sly smile emerges on his face. “Today isn’t about me, though,” he says. “Today is about the stellar fighters of A Block, yourself included. Tell us a little about yourself, Miss Botterill.”
“My name is Rachel Botterill, I’m seventeen and from City 19,” Rachel says.
She notices the crowd staring at her and gulps. “I guess you knew that already,” she says.
Rachel stares at her feet. For a moment, there is silence. Faust breaks it. “So, what did you do before the Tournament?”
“I, uh, stole things,” she says. “I enjoyed the challenge.”
“You probably shouldn’t admit to felonies on national television,” Faust says, “But, if we got rid of every fighter with a criminal record we probably wouldn’t have a show.”
The audience laughs. “So,” Faust says, “What can you do?”
“Do?” Rachel asks.
“Powers, weapons, training, etcetera. What can you do?”
“I don’t really have any powers,” Rachel says. “I have a sword though, and some boots…I had a gun but they took it away.
Faust smiles. “Seems you’ll be an underdog,” he says. “Don’t worry. Every Tournament needs an underdog. In the past, a few have even managed to give us some good fights.”
“Yeah,” Rachel mutters.
“Do you have any past experience with the Tournament?” Faust asks.
“Not really, I only found out about it a few months ago,” Rachel says.
“I find that hard to believe.”
The two sit awkwardly for several seconds. Rachel feels the crowd staring at her, analyzing her every word.
“Let’s imagine everything goes right for you,” Faust says, changing the topic. “You give us some massive upsets, win seven to ten matches without losing more than one, and become the fourteenth champion. What do you wish for?”
Rachel hasn’t thought much about the wish. For her, the important thing was the Tournament. Something extraordinary that could help hold off the emptiness of life. “I don’t know,” Rachel says. “I haven’t really thought about it that much.”
Faust laughs. “You’d be surprised how common that is. A lot of people don’t know what they want, they just know that they want the fame and the honor.”
Rachel begins to feel nauseous. She makes the mistake of looking at the crowd. Hundreds of eyes stare into her soul. Rachel realizes that the number is a lot bigger than a few hundred. If the Tournament is as big as Faust says, hundreds of million eyes are all staring at her. Rachel throws up.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Jeremy says.
“It was bad,” Rachel says. “I didn’t know what to say and looked like a complete idiot.
“You also ruined Faust’s suit.”
Rachel glares at him. “Sorry,” Jeremy says. “Think on the bright side, no one’s going to remember your interview. All they’re gonna remember is Heavyweight choking out Faust.”
“I doubt that.”
The two are in Rachel’s room. Rachel sits in the recliner, waiting to watch Silvano’s interview. Jeremy sits on the bed.
On the television screen, Silvano exits the dressing room, joining Faust center stage. “It’s an honor to have you here,” Faust says. “Seriously, can we get another round of applause for this legend?”
The crowd claps and Silvano takes his seat. “So,” Faust says, “What brings you back to the Tournament after all these years?”
“I’m here for my wish,” Silvano says.
Faust and some of the crowd laugh. Silvano makes a fist around the head of his cane, the veins on his hands looking like they could burst from rage. “I don’t get it,” Rachel says.
“The winner of the Tournament is supposed to get a wish,” Jeremy says. “They never gave Sage his.”
“The rules for the first Tournament forbade killing Sage won by killing his opponent, so they refused to reward him. They allowed killing in later Tournaments because of the backlash stripping Sage of his victory caused, but they never gave him the wish.”
“I wasn’t joking,” Silvano says. “I am here for what is mine.”
Silvano loosens his grip on his cane. “I am not a young man,” he says. “I was 73 years old when I fought Bombshell. Thirteen Tournaments have passed since then, yet I still live. Originally, I was going to use Maia’s power to restore my youth. That was stolen from me.”
Faust looks uneasy. Bringing up a controversial subject like Silvano’s wish could hurt the ratings. “Don’t worry,” Silvano says, reassuring Faust. “You were born after my victory. I have no quarrel with you specifically.”
“I should have died years ago,” he says. “Yet I persist. Months ago, when it was announced that I would have a chance to fight again, I finally found out the reason I’m still alive.”
“When I die, I don’t want it to be in a bed, counting away the days until the reaper finally comes for me. I want it to be in battle.”
“There are two outcomes to this Tournament. Either I die fighting for my life, finally alive after all these years, or I will win, and become immortal. I think that is a worthy way to end my story.”
Later that day, Rachel tunes into the first fight of the Tournament. Heavyweight v Helios. The television shows two men sitting at a desk in one of the boxes at the top of the arena. The Tournaments commentators.
One of them is Faust. The other is a man is around forty. He wears a green suit covered in medals. His hair is short and his face is clean shaven. A stern expression covers his face and deep bags lie under his eyes. One eye is green, the other is scarred and golden.
Rachel gasps when she sees the man sitting next to Faust. She’s certain that she saw Rompaye die two days previous, yet he appears to be alive and well. Before Rachel can dwell too much on this contradiction, Faust begins speaking.
“Hello, and welcome to the first battle of the Fourteenth Triennial Golden Valhalla Tournament,” he says. “Thank you for turning into what is sure to be one of our greatest Tournaments yet.”
“My name is Faustino Nash. I’ll be your host the next few months. With me today is my friend and co-host, champion of the Seventh Tournament, General Arastoo Rompaye the Third. Or, as you know him, Legion!”
The stadium full of fans erupts in cheering. Legion bows his head. “Hello,” he says. “It’s an honor to be here.”
His voice is much softer and soothing than it was on the boat, but Rachel still recognizes the deep baritone. The man on the television is the same man who brought her to the Tournament.
Rompaye. The name that Ysabel called the man, Rachel wonders if Legion is the brother of the man who died. For a second, she thinks that the man from the ship has come back to life, but dismisses the idea as impossible.
The circular arena with the stone tiles descends from the heavens. Surrounding it is a forcefield bubble, to protect the audience from the attacks of the more powerful fighters. Inside the bubble two men stand, staring each other down. One with a helmet and chains and the other with white and orange armor. Heavyweight and Helios.
“Today we have a very interesting duel for you guys,” Faust says. “Maolius Lupei, head of the Helios Solar Exploration Project and one of the richest men alive is here, fighting under the name Helios and sporting a new suit of armor he himself designed.”
The crowd cheers. “Fighting against him, we have one of the biggest monsters we’ve had in the history of this Tournament. A gargantuan psychopath with connections to the terrorist group Ragnarok and a dozen murder convictions. His real name is Marek Kysely, but I personally think that the title Heavyweight is much more fitting.”
The bell rings and the battle begins. The two warriors fight and Rachel realizes how out of her league she is. Outmuscled, outskilled, and outmatched. When the Heavyweight and Helios are teleported away she collapses into her chair. Faust prattles on about the fight but he sounds likes he’s underwater. She stares at the screen, at the ruins from the battle.
“Rache?” Jeremy says. “You okay?”
“I’m going to die.”
“No, you aren’t.
“I’m going to die here. These people are going to kill me.”
“You need to calm down.”
“I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. don’t want to die,” she says, repeating it over and over again as fear fills her mind.
“Rachel!” Jeremy shouts.
He’s bent down on his knee, his hands are on her shoulders. He stares into her eyes. “You are stronger than you know,” he says.
Her fear begins to dissipate. Not completely, just enough for her to think rationally. “What am I going to do?” she quietly asks. “How can I beat them?”
“How do we pull off heists?” he says. “We come up with a plan. Figure out how to beat everyone in this Tournament. Let’s start with Sage.”
“Lazarus,” she says.
“He told me he prefers Lazarus. I talked to him before my interview.”
Rachel pauses. She looks down at her knees, her mind lost in thought. “When Faust shot Heavyweight he ended up hurt. Lazarus said that the bullet ricocheted off Heavyweight, and that he’s bulletproof. I didn’t believe him. I believe him now.”
“How can I beat a man that can take so much firepower,” she says. “How am I going to beat Heavyweight?”
“You have that cool laser sword,” he says. “We tested it, that sword can cut through anything!”
“Probably! When you fight him the first thing you have to do is run up and stab him, right in the chest! That’ll hurt him.”
The fear and nervousness still remain, but Jeremy’s kind words have calmed Rachel. “We’ll figure a more developed strategy after this fight ends,” Jeremy says.
“Ends?” Rachel asks. “Didn’t it already end?”
“Not quite,” Jeremy explains. “Each fight is split into several rounds, lasting around seven minutes apiece. After each round, the fighters are teleported away for a few minutes and given a chance to catch their breaths. What you just witnessed was only the first round.”
“How many rounds are there in a fight?”
“Fights go on until one of the fighters can’t continue without dying. The most rounds I’ve ever seen is four. Hell, most fighters don’t even last a single round before being pulled out.”
“You really aren’t helping with the whole “unending terror” thing I’m feeling.”
Faust and Legion sit above the arena, enthralling the audience with every word. Faust has just finished a five minute long recap of the fight. Legion taps his fingers on the desk in front of him, sighing every time Faust opens his mouth.
The arena rises in the air, out of the stadium. Murmuring spreads through the arena, as the audience asks each other why the arena has left. Faust answers their question.
“You may be wondering why the arena has left the stadium,” he says. “Don’t panic, this is all according to plan. I’d like to take a moment to introduce a new feature of our Tournaments.” As you all probably know, the winner of the last Tournament was Seong-Su Schuyler, or as we like to call him, Dreadnought.”
At the mention of the last champion’s name the crowd cheers. For them, Dreadnought is a hero, a great man who deserves their respect. Their opinions of him are incorrect. More on that later.
“Dreadnought, being the great man that he is, was selfless with his wish,” Faust says. “He didn’t ask for money or power. He wished to be capable of changing the rules of the Tournament, so that he could improve the Tournament that he so dearly loved. This is one of those changes.”
Legion, having had enough of Faust’s rambling, places his hand over Faust’s mouth. A quiet scream fills the arena as Faust tries to talk. “We change the arena between rounds now,” Legion says. “New arenas keep fights interesting and force fighters to come up with strategies quickly.”
He removes his hand from Faust’s mouth. “I was getting to that,” Faust grumbles.
“You talk too much,” Legion says.
A new arena rises out of the sea and floats up to the top of the stadium. It descends down, taking the place of the previous arena. The new arena is much larger than the previous one. It reaches to the stands, and stretches high into the stadium. In total, its forcefield bubble has a diameter of 80 meters.
Instead of being in the middle of the arena, its floor is sunk an extra twenty meters lower. This provides room for the arena’s most prominent feature, the tall redwood trees that stretch to the sky.
“This, my friends, is the Redwood Arena,” Faust says. “The first of the 13 new arenas we have designed.”
Heavyweight and Helios are teleported into the arena. Immediately, Helios falls to the ground, flat on his face, and releases a small sound, like that of a screaming chipmunk. Heavyweight doesn’t react. His vest and pants have been replaced, but the chain remains broken. Helios’s helmet remains shattered, and clotting blood covers his eyes.
Suddenly, fire shoots out from Helios’s hands and feet. His thrusters lift him up into the air. He levitates, meters off the ground, ready to fight again. His thrusters are good as new, repaired between rounds. Almost good as new, at least. Heavyweight does not care about Helios floating. His chains are long.
The bell rings and the fight resumes. Heavyweight swings his remaining weight at Helios. Helios narrowly dodges as he flies towards the top of the arena. He rises higher and higher as Heavyweight futily attempts to hit him. Within seconds Helios reaches the tops of the trees.
“What’s a matter, Heavy?” Helios yells. “Your chains aren’t long enough? Too bad, ‘cause my guns work fine.”
Helios fires blast after blast at Heavyweight as he tries to swing his chains high enough to hit Helios. The flames spread, igniting the trees around them. Soon, a scarlet blaze has engulfed the forest, and black smoke pools at the top of the arena.
Helios begins coughing as his lungs fill with smoke. He begins lowers himself down slowly, hoping to escape the carbon monoxide. Suddenly, sparks begin falling down from his left boot. With a last boom, fire ceasing to shine from his foot, and he drifts down towards the flames.
“Piece of crap suit,” he says as he places his hand behind his shoulder. “If you’re not going to help me survive, then you may as well help me blow up this bastard!”
He rips off the generators on his back and throws them down into the flames. When they hit the flames, they explode into a massive fireball. Helios falls down into the flames, covering his face with his hands. Neither fighter is visible to the audience. After a few minutes, the fire peters out.
When the smoke clears, Helios lies face down on a pile of charred wood. Heavyweight is nowhere to be seen. Helios slowly presses himself up. He looks around, at the piles of rubble, and smiles. “I win. I win!” he shouts.
He spots the end of Heavyweight’s chain and slowly crawls over to it. “What now, big guy? Not so strong anymore!”
A hand grabs his foot, tripping him. Heavyweight rises from the rubble, angrier than ever. He grabs Helios by the throat and lifts him into the air, strangling him. Heavyweight grabs his head with his hand and twists, breaking Helios’s neck.
Helios turns blue and disappears, teleported out of the arena, leaving Heavyweight alone among the rubble.
Rachel sits in her chair, unable to move. “Rache?” Jeremy says. “You okay?”
“I am going to die,” she says.