Written by TS Luikart
The aristocrats in the crowd booed as Padaxan’s dirt-crusted turbine throttled into the arena. It was a wonder the gravtank managed to get airborne with the heavy thermite chains dangling from all sides.
Padaxan flung an obscene gesture at the rich seats. No one had any trouble seeing it; Padaxan was one of the few barking mad enough to ride in an open cockpit. The cheap seats roared their approval. Tomorrow morning they’d be scraping obsequiously at their desks and from behind their counters, but in the Circuit bleachers it was safe to disdain their betters, and the louder the better.
The fighter hammered his blood-crusty console with a closed fist, deploying massive forward spikes with a great ka-CHUNK that jerked his vehicle. He yanked a cracked handle and a bent-and-dented gravitic disc-plate two meters in diameter fell into place behind them. More cheers from the benches. His turbine was as simple as they came, destined for brutal close combat, grabbing and slashing, battering and pounding.
He strapped on his mask, ghoulish leather attached to a hose that was more tape than whatever it had been before. He slowly turned the octagonal metal handle that opened the canisters under his seat. The hissing gas was a cocktail that heightened…well, everything…but it would also knock him out after too long, so best to get this show on the road.
Padaxan glanced to his left and jumped — there were rocket pods on the side of his turbine! A recollection flashed, of commanding his thralls to salvage them from a fallen Rhine Belt foe. He grinned. Something new for the crowd!
The Outworlder hadn’t surveyed his competitors. He never did. What did it matter? Big or small, sleek or ironclad, if he could hook ‘em the job was done. He cleared brown dirt from his scope and read their starting positions. Fine. He noticed a trio of wires protruding from a large-caliber hole — recent damage? He couldn’t remember — in his console. He yanked them out and threw them overboard. Nothing changed, so apparently they hadn’t been critical.
He knew the enemy tanks would be slick and spotless, either the cause or effect of unlimited funding from corporate scum. The fringe mining corp that sponsored Padaxan didn’t give him scheisse, only legitimacy to fight in the arena. They got a cut and he kept most. Truth be told, they were astonished he was still alive.
For Padaxan, it was the favor of the crowd or bust.
Time to go.