Trial By Fire Round One: Scar vs Kei
Round One: Clash of Assassins
Scar met Kei’s glare, staring back at the older Irken as they both balanced themselves almost effortlessly on their respective branches. She was waiting for an answer from him, something to justify what she never would have suspected. Kei had known him for a long time, but she hadn’t known him since the Serpent’s Circle, she hadn’t seen what had been done to him. Ever since Scar had replaced Fury all she’d been was just another ‘get well’ card on the table next to a hospital bed.
So where did she get off shouting at him like he’d done something evil?
“Well?” She placed her hands on her hips. “Last I checked you have a wife and kid to be taking care of, so why the hell are you here?”
He was taking care of them the best way available to him. What was her excuse for leaving her super powered demon of a husband to come here?
“Don’t try the silent treatment with me, Rine; I know it’s you under that helmet!” Kei pointed up at him. “You have five seconds to give me something to go off of here.”
“I do not recall owing you anything, Kei,” Scar growled. “Least of all my motives.”
He couldn’t tell her. His wife and daughter would die if he blabbed it on live TV like this. He loved Kei like she was family but ever since this fight had started he had to take every feeling and emotion and just push them to the back of his mind, burying them so he could do what had to be done.
“Well maybe you owe your mom an answer about why I’m about to have to cut her second born down.” Kei said before working her way up to his level, easily navigating the branches until she was crouched along a branch several feet away from him, one leg out stretched to her right and her hand gripping the hilt of her wakizashi in preparation for resuming their battle.
“What I do is my own business, and I do not have to justify myself to one who reeks of hypocrisy.” Scar showed her the tip of his forearm blade as he spoke, just in case she attacked. “Do not presume to lecture me, not while you’re the one leaving a husband and numerous children behind for this, numerous children who will be quite mad at me after this.”
Usually he wouldn’t bother with dialogue, but in his defence Scar wasn’t usually placed in a fight to the death with somebody he knew personally.
If she was surprised by the sudden lack of regard for their history, Kei didn’t let it show. She crossed her arms and flashed an amused smirk. “You’re so sure you can win? Well-” She was cut off by Scar swiping at her, the blade fully extending out of his forearm and nicking her cheek as she leaned back. In the same motion the woman swung down under the branch she had chosen as a perch.
Kei hung under the branch by hooking her legs around it and drew her wakizashi. With a single chop she severed branch Scar was standing on, parting it from its trunk several feet past where he stood. Scar promptly crashed down through the tangle of fuzz towards the murky mirror below, but not before managing to find Kei’s leg and pull her down with his weight alone.
Kei yelped as she lost her grip, and Scar slammed her against the tree trunk before continuing on his way down through a number of weaker branches which snapped under his weight. Kei went after him for a moment after, dazed by her impact and unable to move to save herself. Suddenly she felt something wrap around her and seemingly cradle her, stopping her descent and leaving her upside down.
When her vision cleared Kei saw that she’d become entangled in another of the long drapes of fuzz and had stopped a mere ten feet from the water, sparing her a death by drowning and/or strangling. By some miracle the fuzz hadn’t found her head, but had merely been in the right spot for her body to get itself ensnared through its momentum alone.
Scar on the other hand seemed to have fallen right into the water, as Kei could see the bubbles rising from the surface a few feet away. If he was under the surface then the fuzz had taken hold him already and dragged him to the bottom. It would be a slow death, and thinking on it made Kei pause to picture her dear friend Skullene watching it on a television set somewhere, seeing her son plunge into the depths never to return.
It had to be done; it was him or her and she certainly wasn’t ready to die today.
Pushing aside even the concept of feeling guilt, Kei began to cut herself free of the fuzz that tried to grasp her around her exposed neck and managed to free herself in short order. The assassin gripped the fuzz with one glove clad hand and twisted her body to look over her shoulder, down towards the water as the bubbles slowly stopped rising.
Kei shut her eyes and sighed. “...Skully’s gonna kill me for that.” She whispered before something shot out of the water and past where she was hanging. “What the-”
THWAP! THUD! A grappling hook latched onto a hanging branch, and the cable it was attached to went taught as a form shot out of the water with strands of wet fuzz gripping him before tearing. Scar sailed up past Kei, showering her in water droplets. She saw that the cable was somehow fed through his metal arm...what couldn’t that thing do?
Scar used the cable to swing back to dry land and rolled in the fuzzy grass before standing up, and the hole in his forearm which the cable had been fed through sealed. He lifted his helmet and spat out some water before setting the headgear back into place.
Scar wiped some sludge from his visor just as Kei landed a few feet away from him, drawing her katana. In the same motion used to draw her weapon the assassin tried to take her foe’s head off, something that any human knowledgeable in sword fighting would call a perfect example of how to use the deadly blade. Scar hastily blocked by raising his right arm in a clumsy defence, and quickly grasped for his knives. By the time Kei brought her katana around for a second strike at his waist he had succeeded in freeing his combat knife.
Now they had returned to their exchange of blows using blades, stabbing and swiping at one another, lashing out like rabid animals. At first it began with a jab to test each other’s defences, but all too quickly they reached a point where both of their feet rarely stayed on the ground for more than the span of an eye blink. Kei now saw the more familiar style that the Rine she knew had used over the years: a mix of acrobatics similar to hers and the use of multiple blades sprouting from his arm to counter her attacks from the front, sides, rear and above.
The camera drones eagerly recorded every second of this as they circled, going unseen by one another so as not to distract the audience. This right here was a scene right out of an action movie; Kei darted in close and sliced at Scar’s legs only for him to perform a handless back flip and sweep a leg out at her as he landed. She fell, losing her weapon in the process, but flipped back onto her feet in the time it took for her foe to rise and ducked under a knife blade before lacing the fingers of both of her hands together and slamming them into Scar’s ribs. He recoiled, his heightened sensitivity to pain serving Kei, who took the few seconds of space to grab her katana back up.
It truly was a sight to behold, watching as the two pulled out all of the stops. Both displayed astounding endurance to still be on their feet and going all out at this point in the fight, and neither appeared to be stopping. Nearly a minute into the battle Kei could see that Scar’s chest and shoulders were beginning to rise and fall noticeably faster. His jacket and helmet hid the more obvious signs, but she could tell that Scar was quickly growing exhausted.
Kei may have been out of the loop for the most part, but she knew about how Scar had been put through at least three levels of hell in prison. The experience would have had long lasting effects on his body, especially on his stamina and pain tolerance.
At that point it hit her like a brick to the face: all this time he had been holding back, not out of some concern for her safety but because he had to conserve his energy or run the risk of tiring himself early in the fight. Up until now most of his moves had been chosen to use as little effort as possible, but with the two of them locked in combat like this he had to go all out just to keep up. Scar was an assassin like her, but he just didn’t have the same stamina. His body wasn’t crippled, but it was perhaps permanently hampered, rendered a shadow of the near perfect construct combining strength, speed, agility and reflex.
It was such a shame too; Rine Gamble always had the potential to be better than her, his mother and his brother, but now he was broken, damaged and beyond repair. The best that Kei could do was put him out of his misery and let him die with some dignity.
It was almost inevitable, given his declining performance. Scar was too slow to avoid a stab from her wakizashi, which Kei wielded as an offhand weapon and made a shallow cut in the side of his neck as he stumbled. This gave Kei the chance that she needed to lunge forward, twist her body in mid leap and stab her katana forward, tilting the blade up a bit to get under his rib cage.
Scar’s whole body stiffened as Kei’s katana impaled him, entering through his abdomen, passing through his chest cavity and scraping against meat and tissue before she felt the tip glance against the back of his rib cage and stopped it there. The next second he released a strangle groan and dropped his Karambit knife. Kei saw some blood drip out from the bottom of his helmet and knew that she had landed a fatal blow.
With a sigh she eased her blade out, holding the bloodstained katana at her side as Scar collapsed to his knees and clapped both hands over the wound on his stomach. Scar tilted his head down, watching as the fuzz eagerly writhed and twisted to absorb the liquid. More of his blood stained his shirt and hands while pouring down his front and dripping onto the ground beneath him.
Scar’s PAK medical systems may have been faulty, but they still informed him of the damage: obvious exterior wound, heavy bleeding, a couple ribs broken by the Veniran made Katana but by all miracles she hadn’t cut open his stomach, intestines or even his heart. If he could stop the bleeding, induce a blood clot or...no, he’d need something more than that.
“I’m sorry, Rine.” Kei said as she twirled her blade once, flicking blood off of it and then sheathed her wakizashi so she could rest the katana’s hilt in both hands, preparing to deliver the finishing blow. “I’ll make this quick.” She whispered and locked her eyes with his, intending to commit this moment to memory so she could never forget.
Kei swung her blade, aimed perfectly for the neck to give Scar a clean decapitation...unfortunately he knew she would aim there and positioned his metal forearm between her blade and his flesh. Scar lunged forward, metal shrieking as he wrapped his hand around the katana blade and moved towards Kei, his grip sliding down the length of the blade as he got in close and rammed his knee into her abdomen hard enough to lift the older Irken off of the ground and send her flying back, a little vomit and blood flying from her mouth before she landed and instinctively curled up on her side, groaning.
The only thing that saved Scar in the following moment was the fact that Kei was old, and with age her body was slower to recover from such trauma. And the only thing that saved Kei from Scar immediately stabbing down into her neck was that his blood loss made it hard to aim. Kei twisted her body to the side as Scar’s blade jammed itself into the mud next to her; she kicked out, her foot struck something solid and Scar lost his balance as she scrambled for her katana.
She barely got her hand around the hilt before a crushing grip closed in around her wrist and then her neck. Scar was on his feet again, and swung Kei up as high as he could reach while keeping her sword hand held out to her side. Kei’s airways were closed off, and she hadn’t had time to suck in a breath. Darkness began to creep in from the corners of her vision while Kei’s free hand fumbled for one of her plasma pistols. Before she could free the gun from its holster Kei was swung back down, crashing head first against the ground with a pained cry.
It was over at that point. By the time her vision had cleared Scar was straddling her waist, his metal arm reared back, the torn sleeve revealing glimpses of the prosthetic as it glimmered in a thin beam of sunlight that had somehow pierced the canopy of green overhead. Kei couldn’t find her weapons, and even if she’d had the clarity and strength to bring them to use it would be too late, even with the second of hesitation that Scar allowed himself to experience.
All she could do as the world faded from view as turn her eyes towards the sun one...last...ti-
This time Scar’s blade buried itself into Kei’s chest, aimed precisely at the right spot so as to make her death instantaneous. Now it was not two of the galaxy’s most feared killers duelling in the middle of a swamp, now it was just a young man looking down at the clouded over eyes of a woman who had been as good as part of his own family for the longest time. The sun faded as quickly as it had come, and Scar could hear the light tapping of droplets of water against his helmet as he remained where he was with his normal hand still wrapped around Kei’s throat and his forearm blade at the center of a growing stain of Irken blood on Kei’s chest.
Only after he was fully certain that she was dead did Scar give himself the luxury of relaxing and withdrawing his blade. He slowly stood up, swaying on his feet and clasping one hand over the stab wound in his abdomen.
“The crate,” He whispered. “The crate.”
Scar slowly stepped away from Kei, but paused to glance back at her corpse. Seeing her lying in the mud, unmoving and bereft of life pained the assassin almost as much as the thought of his family being in danger.
Kei had endured so much, conquered enemies and situations that would have killed ten thousand other women in her position. She’d been a potential pilot, an invader, a slave, an assassin, a pirate; she had lead an adventurous life and married a man who later became a demon before they had little demon children of their own. And after all of that, all of those memories and victories, close calls and escapes...she’d died at the hands of some two bit, glorified, half insane hit man who was barely worthy to lick the dirt from her boots? No last words, no defiant last stand or going out in a blaze of glory...just a pained whimper followed by a sudden darkness?
None of it made Scar feel right. This entire round had been more of an emotional struggle than a physical confrontation, and he had entered this tournament to avoid these sorts of situations. Of all the people in the universe, out of every killer and psychopath it had to be one of the few he didn’t want to kill.
But there was no time for mourning, no time for tears or last rites. Scar left her amidst the mud and fuzz, unable to look back as the green tendrils slowly began to reach out and find their newest food source.
“Yeah, might wanna get that looked at.” The drone drawled as it followed Scar. “You’re lookin’ like crap right now, to be honest.”
Scar reached the crate with some difficulty, his return to the patch of mud and shallow water not nearly as graceful as his first arrival. He knelt down, groaning in pain as he set a hand on the bio-scanner and watched as it glowed green, gave a pleasant chime noise alongside a ‘click’ to signal that it was unlocked and opened with a pneumatic hiss as the contents were exposed to the now heavily falling rain.
There were candy bars in brightly coloured wrappers. Alongside the junk food were a couple cans of soda with the brand of the Empire on it. Besides the ‘provisions’ there were some bandages that were quickly becoming useless, thanks to the rain.
And right at the top of the pile was a single sticker in the shape of Kei’s face.
Scar’s shoulders began to shudder and shake. Then his whole body bowed as he gripped the crate and tilted his head down. The drone had to get in close to hear what was coming from the speakers of Scar’s helmet.
Scar laughed as he picked up the sticker and set it in his PAK, sounding as if he really did find the situation funny.
Scar laughed as he then violently kicked the whole crate into the water and watched it sink.
Scar chuckled softly as he looked down at his bleeding abdomen and then to his right hand. The metal was being washed clean of filth by the rain by this point, in just a few moments he enacted his plan.
Scar shook his head and managed to bring himself under control
“Um...I’m guessing you were expecting real medical supplies in that crate.” The drone said, somehow shuddering from the very rare experience of hearing Scar laugh. On that note, the drone realized that Scar was now completely silent, which was rather eerie after his hysterical response to what may have been the final nail in the coffin for his self control. “...hey, you alright?”
Scar slowly turned his head towards the robot. “I’ll require a more suitable place to treat my wounds.” He answered. “A shame about the crate, but I brought my own medical supplies for a reason.” And it would be an even bigger shame to have to waste it at this point.
“Well don’t you worry about that,” The drone said, presenting the big red button it had shown him before. “This’ll transfer you to somewhere you’ll have more time to work on your wounds. Sorry that the supplies were...um...shit, but they didn’t exactly list the contents of the crates when they reprogrammed me.”
“Just give me a moment.” Scar said calmly, sending a command to his prosthetic arm.
Immediately the mechanisms inside began to vibrate at a high enough frequency to begin producing heat. Another mental command sealed every heat vent built into the limb as the temperature slowly rose until the outer armour covering the prosthetic began to heat up too. Once he’d collected a sufficient amount Scar expelled it through the port in which his forearm blade was located.
“Is that for what I think it’s for?” The drone asked. “Because I think you’re using that to cauterize your wound.”
“Smart drone,” Scar replied, pulling up his shirt and taking a breath as he pressed the red hot blade to the area of the stab wound.
After the wound was fully closed and the bleeding had stopped, Scar only needed a minute to straighten himself out.
He smoothed out his coat and pulled a fresh glove on over his right hand, as the original glove had been torn up by the various blades that Scar had sprouted from his prosthetic along with the sleeve of the red shirt he wore beneath his jacket. Now with the coat buttoned up to cover his bandaged torso and the sleeve pulled back down to cover everything past the wrist Scar looked relatively presentable, as though he hadn’t suffered any injuries at all, emotional or physical. To anybody who hadn’t been watching his round it would look like he had come out without a scratch, where on the contrary his body felt like he’d just been run over.
With the second hand medical treatment out of the way, Scar folded his hands behind his back and nodded to the drone. “Alright...I’m ready.” He reached out with one hand and pressed the button, causing him to be teleported away from the world of ‘killer fuzz’ and to gods knew where.
Hopefully it wasn’t another bloody swamp, fuzzy or otherwise.
Trial By Fire Round One: Scar vs Kei
Rine Gamble has discovered that his family is threatened by an unknown party, and the price for their well being is that he enter Trial By Fire, and should he win he is to demand a prize according to their terms. He has accepted this deal and thrown himself into the flames to protect that which he treasures most...and now must deal with a woman many years his senior and many times the warrior of any of his past foes. To survive his first day, Scar must defeat the greatest assassin of his era and prove himself her better.
Round One: Clash of Assassins
Once the flash of headache inducing pink light that often accompanied the process of Irken designed teleportation faded Scar’s first action as a participant was to fall to one knee and draw his blaster from beneath his coat. The assassin held the weapon to his chest in both hands while a single red eye opened beneath the light filtering visor of his helmet. Once he’d regained his bearing the Irken began taking in his surroundings and scanning for an immediate threat.
Scar had appeared in a dimly lit enclosure, and for a moment his vision needed to fully adjust in his good eye before he had a clear view of his environment. He stood in a forest of some kind, and to his surprise it felt so....normal, mundane. It reminded Scar of any of the terraformed woods from Outer Irk’s countryside where he and Makena would take Sylvia for picnics.
The grass had an odd texture to it, but as he enhanced the vision in his optical implant and lifted his helmet to have a good look he realized that the grass at his feet was perhaps the least abnormal thing about this forest. In the place of leaves and fruit was just...fuzz, lots and lots of tendrils of soft fabric. The foliage was composed a series of darker shades of green, and it appeared that the source of darkness itself was rather a mere lack of sunlight, which was mostly blocked out by a thick canopy of branches up above. The fuzz appeared to be woven so tightly in some areas that it formed a roof through which no light could enter.
As Scar took a moment to relax he could only marvel at this discovery. If he were to view it from the window of a vessel or in a photograph he would assume it to be that of a traditional colony worthy planet suitable for your basic terrestrial species. Yet underneath it all he could tell that something was just wrong...
Deciding to quickly put his concerns to rest, he knelt and pulled off the glove of his real hand before brushing his fingertips across the grass...and immediately withdrew his hand when the green blades broke into thousands of strands each and began to reach for him, managing to wrap around his fingers before he pulled his hand back, too quick for them to tighten their grasp. The tendrils wove themselves back into a single mass, and there appeared to be no further reaction to his touch, fortunately.
Scar looked to his hand, covered in a light layer of sweat brought on by wearing a thick leather glove in the heat of Arbitrium for even a few minutes and his brief clash with the slavers before his arrival. He decided that it would be best to gain a full analysis of this eco-system before proceeding and so held his hand up to the low branch of a tree where the green ‘fuzz’ began to reach out and entangle his fingers before moving down towards his knuckles and palm.
During this process Scar’s optical implant worked in conjunction with his PAK’s medical systems, both mechanisms forming a live anatomic report detailing the interaction between his body and this strange organic fur. After a minute he finally had something to explain the nature of this fuzz. Words scrolled across one side of his vision while a two dimensional image of his body was presented.
Local florae specimen began to apply minor electro-molecular bond with epidermal surface.
Analysis indicates a continuous but minimal loss of body fluid at site of attachment. Advise limiting direct contact with local florae specimen designated: Fuzz.
Scar quickly elected to pull his hand free, or tried to. After some struggling he sprouted a blade from his bionic arm and cut his hand free with a single stroke. The strands seemed to go limp and fell apart and fell from his fingers.
Scar quickly made a mental note: don’t touch the damn fuzz.
With that out of the way Scar pulled his glove back on while finally taking notice of his drone, which was rather comically ensnared in some of the fur of what passed for a waist high bush and struggling wildly with his tiny thrusters to escape. Shaking his head, Scar slipped his helmet back on and assisted the drone by cutting it free. He then carried it out of the underbrush, noticing how the strands made no effort to latch onto him despite having him in their midst for the better part of a minute. It seemed they only reacted to a direct contact with a source of nutrition.
Once they were clear Scar set the drone at shoulder height and released it, seeing the metal shell dripping with water that had no doubt attracted the grasping fuzz. “Are you quite done making a fool of yourself?” He asked. “Quit wasting my time and tell me what I need to know.”
The drone sighed. “There’s some long speech by the Tallests that I’m supposed to share with you including the terms of the contest and some extra info about a crate full of supplies they’ve sent your way. I’ll make it simple: This whole planet’s eco system is derived from fuzz, and anything wet like the sweat on your hand they’ll latch right onto and hold on as long as they can. After a while they start breaking you down and devouring you...so don’t fall asleep in this shit, it’ll turn out bad for you. Ten minutes stuck in a patch of this stuff will do you in, and you’ll still be alive for about ten more minutes after that.”
Scar nodded, remaining patient through the drone’s rambling due to it actually having some useful information to add to his earlier analysis of the fuzz. “And my opponent?”
“Given your background history, I think you know her.” The drone’s eyes began to project the holographic form of a tall Irken woman clad in a form fitting black and red suit. Her outfit came with a built in hood over her head, framing a dark green face with red eyes, several faded scars, some wrinkles that did little to mar an otherwise attractive appearance...
For a moment Scar felt the world go still as he gazed upon the familiar figure.
No...dear gods, anybody but...
“Kei.” He whispered.
“Called it,” The drone said humorlessly. “Your objective is to kill her...oh, and that crate I mentioned has a complimentary sticker in it, a shitty gift by that Purple guy who wanted this to be a glorified version of his failed sticker contest.”
Scar ignored the drone, deep in thought about this new development.
Why would Kei join this? She was an infamous assassin who had fortunes to her name and a family of her own. Was she threatened into this like he had been? No...her family was made up of Vycans, and it would be a miracle for anybody to successfully blackmail that particular clan with an even bigger and almost omniscient vycan watching over them.
She must have joined willingly, but why?
Then again it didn’t matter. She didn’t matter. Her motives didn’t matter.
What did matter was that one of them was going to die now, and it wouldn’t be him.
At first tracking Kei was relatively simple: she had either experimented with the fuzz like he had or wound up caught and cut some of it away to free herself. He’d found a clump of dead fuzz on the ground that had been cut cleanly from its roots. If any blade could cut so cleanly it would be Kei’s infamous katana.
Scar knelt, examining a set of boot prints that his optical implant highlighted near the clump of dead fuzz. It was definitely the size and fit for somebody of Kei’s size and gender, and she obviously had been here only minutes ago based on the lack of degradation.
Kei had arrived on the edge of what seemed to be a swamp. Tufts of fuzz stuck up out of the water and swayed back and forth while beneath the mirror-like surface he could see more of the green tendrils coiling around; the fuzz certainly thrived in this environment, given how it must have been receiving constant nutrients.
The reason why the swamp had not been drained of water was because there appeared to be a slight current indicating an entry and an exit point for the water, so the fuzz didn’t just drain the whole place dry.
Overhead the canopy had thickened to the point where he would have confused this for a cavern, had he been deposited here, or he might not have noticed the underwater fuzz and could have ended up being caught, dragged down and suffocated.
So....yeah, again: don’t touch the damn fuzz, especially if it’s underwater.
Scar noted a number of branches hanging low over the water with drapes of green hanging from them and several large roots sticking up out of the water that would make advantageous perches and swinging positions to traverse the swamp without stepping down into the water; this was fortunate, as anything that set foot in the deeper water wouldn’t last long. Fortunately supply crates, such as the one bobbing along in the water didn’t seem to catch the attention of the fuzz below.
Damned delivery companies, you can never count on them these days to find a more convenient location to drop their packages.
Scar hopped from the shore of the swamp and perched himself on one of the twisting, thick roots that stuck out of the water. A quick glanced warned him of some strands of fuzz reaching up to grip his mud soaked boots and encouraged him to move quickly to the next improvised stepping stone until he reached one large twisted pathway hanging high enough over the water that Scar managed to hang himself upside down and snatch the small crate up.
Quickly relocating himself to a shallow patch of land, Scar took notice of evidence of a recent presence. Several prints around a much deeper and square shaped one...shaped like the crate he was holding. The position of the boot imprints told him what he needed to know: Kei had found the crate and casually kicked it aside once she found that she could not open it herself due to the crate being designed only to open at his touch.
How did he know this? Because it had his name on it-not his real one but his code name, and a bio-scanner which reacted to his touch, however he decided that rather than claiming his provisions now he’d leave them in the secure crate until his round was finished.
“Tell me something,” Scar said to his drone as he set the crate down in the mud far enough from the water that it wouldn’t be at risk of falling in again. “What sort of eco system is this?”
“The particular one that you are in at the moment isn’t artificial, if you were wondering.” The drone answered, bobbing back and forth behind him with what seemed like a care free attitude. “It is all organic and natural.”
“So if this is a natural environment, should there not be specimens of animal that evolved in it who have adapted to this fuzz?” Scar asked, pressing the crate down to make sure the mud would keep it fixed in place.
“You’d think, but here’s the thing: This fuzz is comparable to a weed.” The drone informed the assassin as he moved on, leaving behind the patch of shallow water and muck to leap up and latch onto another branch. “It happened to reach here, and anything that happened to be here at the time moved on. The fuzz just needs to be hydrated to survive, and as you can plainly see it gets tons of water all the time.
“Interesting,” Scar muttered as he perched himself on the branch and reached into his PAK. “Do keep going.”
“Well I-” The drone was covered in a clump of fuzz thrown by Scar, and took a couple moments to shake the dead strands off. As a side effect of covering the drone Scar had also plunged his area of the swamp into darkness due to the little machine being his only current source of visible light. “Hey, watch where you’re throwing that stuff!”
Scar raised one arm, his hand clenched into a fist to signal for silence while placing one finger from his other hand over the front of his helmet in a ‘hushing’ gesture. The drone backed off and cloaked itself, prepared to record a super violent fight sequence. It dimmed all of its lights and adjusted the camera built into its body in order to pick up every detail in the darkness of the bog. It picked up Scar’s outline perched on the tree, arm still raised and head bowed a bit.
After nearly a minute of silence the drone caught sight of a flash of light coming from the side, outside of its vision. It was a blast of plasma that snapped the branch Scar was using as a perch clear in half just a few feet closer to the trunk from where he sat. The branch plummeted into the water below and was lost amidst tangled wet fuzz, and yet Scar remained floating in mid air, in the exact same position he had been in before as though gravity didn’t apply to him.
Suddenly the drone noticed that Scar’s form began to glitch a bit, almost like...a hologram! Scar had a hologram emitter listed in his arsenal, and the drone could now see that the device had been fixed to the trunk of the tree and had been projecting an exact copy of Scar, who had used the few moments of darkness to relocate himself to somewhere even his drone didn’t know of. This strategy had revealed the location of Scar’s opponent and had given the assassin the chance he needed to strike!
Kei held back a curse as she realized three things.
Firstly: That she had been correct and Scar had set a trap.
Secondly: It wasn’t the trap she had thought it was.
And thirdly: She’d just wandered into it.
Kei had suspected that Scar had been setting her up when she spotted him just perched right in the middle of the swamp she’d been scouring. Unwilling to get close to him to utilize her blades for her preferred form of assassination, she had elected to test her theory by firing off one of her plasma pistols. She hadn’t thought that he would utilize something as simplistic as a hologram emitter...or as expensive as a hologram emitter that small that actually worked, for that matter.
As soon as she had fired Kei had started moving, but kept one eye on the spot she had fired from. The swamp had fallen silent as Kei held her breath and pressed herself against the trunk of a tree while at the same time balancing on two of its roots. The tree was all that separated her from the water below, and she had seen just how firm a grip the fuzz could have if she even dipped a foot into the murky depths. Kei blended in perfectly with the dark setting and managed to avoid stirring even the bugs that began to gather around her.
The single word sounded choked and warped, a deep voice with evidence of electronic tampering to distort the tone. It was enough to set her one edge as she glanced around without moving her head, her antennae tilting this way and that way in an effort to determine to source of the noise.
“Kei.” There it was again from a different direction, the exact same word in the exact same pitch, tone and everything.
Kei shut her eyes and listened as the word began to repeat itself, coming from different parts of the general area around her. She lowered herself down a bit, pressing her back into the damp trunk of the tree and taking notice of a few strands of fuzz beginning to worm their way around her right ankle. Kei remained still, calling upon her years of training to maintain her posture and silence.
“Kei.” Her eyes opened as Kei realized something...
There were only two sources of the voice stating her name. One of them was located in a tree not several feet from where she had fired off her first round, and the other was relocating, using the noise from the first voice to cover any evidence of it moving through the trees.
Scar was on the move now, but he didn’t know exactly where she was yet.
It brought Kei a slight sensation of relief to know that she had managed to evade full detection after all. Even in her age she was still one of the quickest and quietest Irkens in the galaxy, and she could turn this match back around so that she was the one stalking Scar. He knew where she had been when she fired, but now she could predict the path he was taking through the trees.
Kei resisted the urge to smirk, knowing Scar’s game was a basic one to make her panic and break from cover. However something struck her as odd about Scar’s strategy. It seemed a little too obvious compared to his reputed methods of assassination. He was like her: direct and without theatrics of any kind. Why was he playing around like-
There was a sudden movement to her right. Kei’s eyes widened and her wakizashi shot free of its scabbard as she swung at the shape which had entered her vision. She believed it to be Scar’s helmet reflecting some light, but instead of cleaving through flesh Kei’s blade sliced through a small orb shaped device hanging in mid air. The two halves of one of Scar’s remote controlled drones plopped down into the water.
“Shit.” Kei whispered, and launched herself from her hiding spot, chastising herself for her amateur mistake.
Scar had distracted her, made her think he was trying to spook her while he was really waiting to flush her out. He was stringing her along until he had the proper chance to end her, and she was falling for it every step of the way. The drone had been sent once he was close enough to see if he could make her panic...and damn him it worked. The drone hadn’t even been the source of the voice, she had just been so on edge that the moment she saw any target she’d reacted without thinking.
Kei sheathed her wakizashi in mid leap, nimbly moving along any surface available to her while pulling away from the grasping tufts of fuzz quickly enough that they didn’t slow her down. Soon she found dry land-well, soggy and muddy land and listened carefully. Scar no doubt had his eyes on her, so now she had to find him and put an end to this game of cat and mouse.
Luckily Kei was no stranger to the dark; her eyes had easily adjusted and could pick out the slightest movements, and her antennae could pick up any noise and pin point the source of it in short order. Putting these two senses together Kei could find Scar easily; she had just been more focused on remaining still and silent as possible until now, as even so much as glancing around or sticking her antennae out might have revealed her.
The need for stealth was gone, so now she just needed to worry about keeping her head attached to her body.
Wrapping her fingers around the hilt of her katana, Kei looked around and twisted her upper body a bit. Her feet slowly pivoted in place, propped up on her toes and digging into the moist ground. The Irken woman was in the perfect position to free her signature weapon of its sheathe and bisect/decapitate/dismember in a single move.
Kei listened for any noises in the branches up overhead and found nothing yet to be alarmed about...which unfortunately only served to increase her sense of anxiety and a slight hint of fear that she buried deep. Fear came with the job, it had certainly saved her life in the past and was more than justifiable when Kei was facing an opponent who she couldn’t even see...in a way she thought of this as a way of seeing things from the perspective of more than a few of her own victims.
Kei’s katana was exposed so quickly that even a trained eye would have trouble keeping up with her movements. The middle aged assassin spun herself around as a form flew down into her vision.
Kei’s katana was forced down towards the ground, pinned by a boot before she could position it for a swing. She heard the noise of a blade being drawn and quickly took one hand off of her katana hilt to whip out her Wakizashi in time to parry a knife, diverting a stab away from her midsection and briefly leaving the form of Scar open to a counter attack. Kei stabbed forward to plunge her shorter blade into Scar’s torso, but he lifted his foot from her katana in the process of leaning back and executing an agile handless that ended with the assassin landing on his feet in a perfect defensive posture.
Kei had heard a good deal of Scar, and knew that for his size he was light on his feet...she didn’t know that he was that good. She sheathed her wakizashi and grasped her katana with both hands, facing Scar as he faced her with just a combat knife.
Now that Kei had a good look at Scar she had to admit that he was bigger than she’d expected. Most assassins tended to be less on the muscular side and more on the thin and flexible side. She briefly noted some of the green fuzz hanging from his left hand and realized the source of the noise. Scar had tangled himself in a bit of the stuff while jumping down and torn out a handful with his weight, which had been the cause of the loud ripping noise that had tipped her off in time to react.
Kei half expected him to talk again, to try and taunt her into action, but instead he spent a moment facing off before producing a smaller, more curved knife in his other hand and going on the offensive. Kei’s katana gave her the advantage of longer reach, but Scar’s knives allowed him to attack in greater succession and didn’t seem to shatter under her katana; his knives must have been Veniran made or something, that was one of the few types of blades that were both a blessing and a curse to have on the battlefield...a curse if you were the one facing them that is.
Whatever the explanation, Kei quickly found herself back pedalling and either parrying or dodging Scar’s barrage of stabs and slashes. She realized with a growing sense of dread that in this particular scenario Scar would win after wearing her down for a few minutes. Her katana was harder to maneuver into position for parrying than it was for Scar to simply jab or swing at her, so Kei couldn’t keep defending and hoping for an opening to present itself. Her only option was to make one of her own.
As Scar came in for another attack, Kei performed a back flip instead of blocking like he expected her to. She landed against a tree trunk about six feet off of the ground and pushed off, using the tree to launch herself higher up and over Scar’s head. Her body twisted, displaying that age had done little to impede Kei’s preferred brand of acrobatics which she often mixed with combat.
As flashy as the move was, it was also effective. Kei landed right behind Scar, who was still turning to face her as Kei swiped her katana at his neck. For anybody else it would have been a killing blow, but not for Scar it seemed. The assassin simply raised his right arm and let Kei’s blade dig through the fabric of his coat only to meet solid metal with a loud ‘clang’ as the katana was stopped.
For a split second Kei was frozen in place, her katana held against Scar’s arm...a prosthetic arm of considerable design if it had been able to hold back her blade. The next second Scar rushed forward, his arm generating sparks as it shrieked along the length of Kei’s katana and then tried to slice her exposed throat. Kei leaned to the side and avoid the knife, receiving a nick on the side of her neck and a tear in her hood as she rolled away.
Kei rose to her feet and tore the damaged hood from her outfit before falling into a stance again, facing Scar. “Cute toy you have there,” she nodded to his arm, and to her growing displeasure she didn’t receive a response from the helmet clad assassin. “Are you going to give me the silent treatment all night?”
Scar spun around, the Karambit knife in his left hand hanging on his pinky finger while gripped between his thumb and index finger was a shuriken that he threw in a horizontal throw, a mere flick of the wrist for him. For a woman who dodged lasers regularly this was easy enough to intercept; Kei brought her katana down and deflected the shuriken into the ground at her feet. Scar threw a second one that she managed to twist out of the way of, letting it hit a tree behind her.
“That all you’ve got?” Kei smirked before Scar held up his right arm and pulled back the sleeve, revealing the gleaming metal prosthetic beneath and the slight dent in its plating that Kei had made.
“Wait for it.” He said while pressing two fingers down on the underside of his forearm...and Kei heard a noticeable ‘beep’ coming from the shuriken she had just deflected and instinctively dove away from it just before the weapon exploded. The detonation was small enough that she wasn’t sent flying back, and weak enough that she didn’t end up being shredded by shrapnel; however her effort to get out of range put Kei closer to the second shuriken as it exploded and showered her with fragments of wood.
Kei covered her head with her arms and remained on the ground, and for a moment thought that the worst had passed before the tree behind her began to lean in her direction.
“SHIT!” Kei managed to get up and began to dive out of the way when the tree crashed down, blocking her from Scar’s view and seemingly crushing her-if only he could be so lucky.
Scar checked through the tree carefully, keeping watch against both the reaching strands of fuzz and for Kei possibly surprising him. After confirming that she was not dead or even present beneath the tree Scar retrieved his hologram projector and audio recorder from where he’d planted them in the other trees, knowing that they could still be useful in a place like this, supposing that Kei was slipping enough in her old age enough to fall for them again.
Once he had retrieved his gear Scar quickly relocated to the upper branches of the trees and cut away any fuzz that tried to latch onto him-the stuff was clingier than ever now that he’d had a roll in the mud. Only after he was certain that he wasn’t being watched Scar pressed himself against the trunk of the tree and reached up to take off his helmet.
Kei had just managed to get out of the way of the falling tree and had wound up being snagged around the neck by some hanging fuzz. Feeling it tighten around her like a noose, she quickly chopped through the strands with her wakizashi and tugged the rest away from her neck before seeing the low branch from which the fuzz hung.
Seeing that it would make an excellent place to hide so she could catch her breath, Kei quickly leaped up and grabbed onto the hanging fuzz, using it to pull herself up onto the branch and then tug her arms free, careful not to let the fuzz wrap around her head. Without her hood the fuzz seemed more prone to grabbing for her neck and face; she made a mental note to take Scar’s coat after he was dead and see if she could make anything out of it until she was out of this damned wood.
As Kei pressed herself against the thankfully moss free trunk of the tree she caught Scar climbing a nearby tree in the corner of her eye. Keeping to the shadows wasn’t hard, and as long as she kept herself from making the same mistake that her opponent had by getting caught by and then ripping some of the fuzz silence wouldn’t be an issue. She followed him up away from the ground, carefully negotiating the branches of her respective tree until Scar came to a stop.
This might be her chance; he was probably coming up here to catch his breath. She could slit his throat and be done with it if she could get close enough!
Kei gripped the handle of her wakizashi, knowing it would be more reliable than her katana for this job. She slowly and silently drew the smaller blade out of its sheathe before resuming her climb. As she got closer to Scar’s level she noticed him doing something with his helmet, and then heard heavy breathing, like he was winded from their brief bout.
He’d taken his helmet off; good, that would make it all the easier to end this without any further trouble. She peered out from between the curtains of dark green fuzz, curiosity guiding her as her eyes settled on the true face of Scar. He didn’t see her yet, focused more on pulling a flask from his PAK and gulping down some of the contents. The young man was sweating a bit, but his breathing seemed to be more derived from pain than from exhaustion; he was taking controlled breaths, keeping them as quiet as he could and remaining still.
“Fucking hell...” He whispered, the voice ringing bells in Kei’s head as she realized just who she had been fighting this entire time.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” She spoke aloud, causing Scar to stiffen before quickly pulling on his helmet and drawing his knife. “Rine?!”
Scar stared down at Kei as she moved into the open on a lower branch where the fuzz didn’t provide her any cover. “Shit...” He whispered.
Kei hadn’t been supposed to find out. He was supposed to kill her and just be done with it.
“I know it’s you, Rine.” Kei growled, sheathing her wakizashi as she balanced herself on the branch without grabbing onto anything else. “What the hell?! You’re Scar?! Why the hell are you of all people in this tournament?!”
This whole fight had just gotten a lot more complicated than it needed to be.
End of Part One
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