Vanessa Marino, Leonine
One year ago — October 2015
Beyond the gate, the crowd cheered as the fighters did their thing. The waiting room where I was however was as silent as the grave. A little under two dozen of us waited, avoiding eye contact.
Friday nights were the days when the Arena opened its doors to its exclusive clientele and we’d be made to fight for their entertainment. The idle rich and immoral craved sensation and there was nothing they found more interesting than freaks beating each other bloody.
And it wasn’t like we had a choice, we weren’t people, just property of the organization. Since the chimerization process that had turned us into monsters for the crowd’s enjoyment didn’t work well on adults, our masters had acquired us as children. Crushed by debts, my folks had sold me away in exchanged for a clean slate nearly a decade ago…
“And the winner of the match is… Taurus!” The announcer called, the crowd erupting into wild cheers and giving a strong ovation to the winner.
A few minutes later, the gate opened and our friends walked through. Mark, or Taurus, came in supporting Isabelle or Canis. Neither of them looked good, Mark’s chest being covered in nasty scratches and bite marks. Isabelle however looked worse, her shoulder out of its socket and the initial signs of bruising already appearing all over her body.
Although Isabelle was a girl like me, nobody would have guessed that by looking at her; A side effect of the performance drug we were given so we’d fight harder, longer and better was masculinization. As such we’d never undergone female puberty…
“Izzy, are you alright?” I asked getting up to Isabelle’s side. I knew she wasn’t but it was the only thing I thought of.
“No… It hurt so fucking much.”
Her eyes became watery and she started to cry, the sobbing occasionally interrupted by a pained whine from her injuries… I escorted her to the bench and gently I wrapped my arms around her and licked the gash on her head. It was one of those things I just sort of did, a side effect of chimerization.
Jacob and Lisa got up and took the first aid kits, going to Mark and Isabelle’s side and got to work patching them up. Although we were enemies in the arena, we’d all grown up together. We were the only family that we had.
A few minutes later, the booking agent came down to the waiting room. I didn’t know his name, just that he was responsible for choosing who would fight whom.
“Fighters.” He announced. “Change of plan, the boss decided to book a feral match at the last minute.”
Ferals was the name they used for non-human chimeras, they were the worst. Over the years, a few of us had died from Feral matches. ferals were killing machines, they only stopped when you were dead or they were…”
The booking agent looked around, scrutinizing us one by one, trying to choose who to sent into the pit. His gaze lingered on Carlo and I felt a knot form in my stomach. Carlo had underperformed for the last few weeks and more than once the organization had used feral matches as punishment…
I knew Carlo wouldn’t have survived had he been sent.
“I’ll go.” I said, standing up.
“Vanessa, you can’t…” Izzy said said, holding my hand.
“Someone has to, I can handle it…” I told her, gently pulling my hand away. Beside, if I fought, it’d mean Lisa wouldn’t have to that night as she wouldn’t have any opponent…
“A crowd favorite fighting a deadly beast. Yes, that’ll be perfect.” The agent said. I followed him to the Gate and he let me though.
The arena was a simple pit surrounded by bleachers and covered with a thick cage to protect the spectators from any potential danger. As I came into the arena, I made sure to wave to the crowd and bow. If I hadn’t, the whole group would have been punished.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer began. “our next contest will pit crowd favorite Leonine against our most deadly, vile and monstrous creation so far. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Lacerator!”
The cage door opened and the creature came out. The Lacerator looked like nothing on earth; having six limbs, two for walking and another two with scythe-like blades attached to it. It had a thick spiked carapace on its back and a long armored tail that ended with a wicked spike.
The Lacerator was smart enough not to charge at me immediately, instead carefully advancing and gauging my reactions. I did the same, trying to figure out its weak point. The carapace was going to be a challenge as the only weapons I had were my claws.
The Lacerator finally charged and I ran back, running on the wall before reaching the cage dome on top of the pit. The chimera hit the concrete wall of the pit and I jumped down behind it, grabbing its tail with all my strength and dragging it with all my strength, sending the beast crashing down a few feets further.
It let out a weird hiss at me, its mandibles clacking against each other as it went back to watching me.
It changed its strategy, instead slowly advancing toward me, swinging its scythe from side to side to create a constant chopping arc in front of itself. I ran back up to the top of the cage and it positioned itself underneath me, ready to catch me when I’d fall…
So I threw my shoe at its head. That got it to stop for a few seconds and I let myself down, swiping at its face, ripping an eye out before leaping backward to avoid its tail, which narrowly missed impaling me. I quickly kicked my other shoe off and got ready for it again.
It went back and I could see prepare another charge again.
A second later, the Lacerator leapt at me but it didn’t reach me, instead a white blur for lack of a better descriptor crashed into it, making the Chimera fly away from the impact.
The next thing I knew, there was a girl only a few years older than I was standing over me, Having just appeared from the blur. She had short black hair, tanned skin and wore a big comfy blue hoodie.
“SalutEstCeQueCaVaPasTropBlesséEnPassantMoiCestTachyon.” She said to me, speaking ridiculously fast. Not that I understood the language she spoke.
“Tachyon, English!” Another person said, I looked up to the crowd and saw a middle eastern woman wearing a scarf around her and wielding pistols on both hands, shooting the security enforcers in a calm focused manner.
TheLegionSayAreYouAlrightYouLookHurtDoYouNeedADoctor?” She said again. Although she spoke English this time, I couldn’t follow her.
“Tachyon!” Nusaybah called.
“OhRightWellSorryButIGottaGoHelp.” She said before zipping away faster than my eyes could follow. She went through the crowd and soon most of it was left down and cuffed. “Tada!” She said, making Nusaybah sigh.
Tachyon got going again and went through the rest of the building. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Lacerator get moving again but Nusaybah riddled it with bullets which made it stop dead.
“Are you alright?” She asking coming down the stairs and coming to my side.
“I’ve been hurt worse…”
She nodded and gave me a hand up, which I took.
“Police will be here in a few minutes. How many of you are there?”
“You mean chimeras?” I asked. She nodded. “Eighteen.”
“Alright, let’s get them.”
I guided her to the waiting room. The agent froze when he saw her and she shot him with her pistol, the guy collapsing and convulsing for a moment. It was clear she wasn’t using standard bullets in her guns.
“Come with me. We’re getting you out of here.” She said.
Nobody moved however. The idea of getting out was so foreign, they didn’t even seem to believe it. I heard shouting, the crowd was in a panic, there was gunfire too.
“Get up!” I snarled. “We’re out of here.”
That got them up and they started running.
A pair of security enforcer burst through the door and I charged at them. I tackled the first one and held him from the back, my claws against his throat, holding him hostage which got his friend to stop. With my hostage frozen, I snagged the baton he had before throwing it at his partner’s head. That done, I drove my hostage’s head into the concrete wall.
“Impressive.” Nusaybah answered.
“I’ve been doing this forever.” Was all I said.
I took the keys from one of the guard as well as his baton before running to the exit with the others, Nusaybah following us, guns raised and alert to any danger which she efficiently shot down.
Outside, only a few meters from the service dock was a big moving truck that was waited for us, marked with the forgettable logo and name of some small off-brand moving company. The inside however was arranged into a sort of living room built for comfort.
“The truck will bring you somewhere safe. Somewhere the Syndicate won’t be able to find you. Somewhere where you’ll be taken care of and helped.”
The others shared an uncertain look before climbing into the back of the truck one by one. I however didn’t budge.
“What are you waiting for?” Nusaybah asked looking at me.
“I’m not going. I’ve spent the last ten years of my life in a cage, I’m not going away to hide in another one.”
“What are you going to do then?” She asked, not even trying to convince me not to.
“I don’t know how, but I’m going to find whoever’s responsible and stop them. I’ll make sure this never happens to anyone ever again…”
“I might be able to help you with that.”
“Have you ever heard of a place called Ravenhold?”