Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 15 - "Against the Odds"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

the crowd goes wild

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Fantasy,Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2010-07-29 - Updated: 2010-07-29 - 1529 words - Complete

For Justin Black, a growing list of questions that had been quietly, yet very insistently, piling up in the back of his mind since they went back to the ship for lunch, all found their answers at the tip of Max’s finger as he pointed up at Bandit.

His missing friends. His friend’s missing boots. Even more pressing, his friend’s missing laser sword. Combined with Max not leaving any notice when he had seemed so excited about coming to this arena.

Justin knew a stacked deck when he saw one, and Max was clearly fighting a battle he was not meant to win.

“Max!” he shouted, having moved down as close to the ring as he could get, “Catch!”

Though there was one more level below the stands, he could see no immediate path to get below this one, so this would have to do. Wondering if some of Shades’ almost uncanny intuition wasn’t rubbing off on him, he now felt vindicated in bringing Max’s laser sword with him as he prepared to toss it to him. Seeing that he had Max’s attention, he threw it.

Unfortunately, his distance was even worse than he feared, and the weapon fell short of Max’s area, clattering to the floor and rolling away. Just like anyone else who was close enough to the ring to more closely observe his interference, Justin held his breath as Max made a frantic dive for it.

And even as Max returned triumphantly to his feet with it and fired up his radiant green blade, Shades’ own insight had the drop on everyone else’s as he wondered how Justin could possibly help their friend by getting him disqualified.

Sure enough, the entire arena came to an abrupt halt, right along with the fight itself, as even Max stood sheepishly at the results of his own reflexes and instincts. It seemed that now it would only be a matter of seconds before whoever was judging this contest regained their speech faculties to make it official.

It was in the midst of this awkward pause that things got even more complicated, as someone in the fighters-only section below Justin tossed a second laser sword into the mix, this time to that Ma’Quiver fellow. Though the audience went into a brief wave of murmurs, they almost immediately lapsed into an even more intense, more expectant, silence. Shades quickly noticed that all eyes turned upward toward a private viewing box, the same one that was adorned with the Nikopol sigil, wherein Bandit was apparently being held captive. A development he hardly found reassuring.

When the announcer declared that the fight would continue, he became even more suspicious, as everyone else’s response strongly hinted that nothing like this had ever been allowed before.

On the subject of allowed, though, his attention briefly shifted to Justin. Who at least had the presence of mind to try slipping back into the crowd, as a couple Red-Bands in this neck of the woods had clearly taken an unhealthy interest in him. Given that Shades still hadn’t figured out any plausible way to back him up against these sort of numbers, it was probably for the best that the guards’ interest quickly waned, along with that of anyone else who may have noted Justin’s position, as the match between Max and Ma’Quiver resumed in earnest.

And how. If nothing else, the crowd seemed to like it.

Shades hadn’t seen Max fight like this since his duel with Erix some weeks ago, moves that amazed him as much as anyone else witnessing this spectacle. Much to his dismay, though, this Ma’Quiver matched his friend’s swordsmanship stride for stride, proving himself as capable with a blade as he was unarmed. As the exchange of energy blades went on, the crowd became ever more passionate, approaching fever-pitch, as new odds were given, and a whole new round of betting began among the money collectors in the stands.

Shades found it harder to divide his attention between a fight he didn’t want to miss a second of, and the guards he feared might still have their eye on Justin.

Only to realize that he had largely failed at that last as Justin slipped right back in next to him, saying, “So, what’d ya think of that?”

“You mean almost getting him disqualified,” Shades cocked his head, “or letting the House know exactly where we are?”

“Hey!” Justin shot back, “It’s not like you were doing anything!”

“That’s because I was trying to come… up… with…”

Shades trailed off as he noticed that Ma’Quiver had backed off. Yet even as he wondered what tactic this difficult foe would throw at his friend next, he instead ran over to the edge and jumped clean out of the ring. Even as his mind started catching up with the fact that Ma’Quiver was now beating up on guards left and right, Max jumped across and got into the act, as well.

“What the hell are they doing!?” Justin screeched, his voice competing against the collective confusion of over a thousand people.

“…A plan,” Shades concluded, taking his cue from the same confusion. Tugging Justin’s arm for him to follow as he led them farther up the stands, toward one of the Red-Bands bearing the money coffers for this new betting frenzy, making a dangerous gamble of his own, bellowing as loud as he could against the escalating cacophony of the crowd, “Hey! Nikopol’s reneging on our bets! Those bastards just tried to rip me off!”

He approached waving bills, just like everyone else, only to snatch them away and whip out one of his stun-sticks at the last second, striking the Red-Band with the tablet, for this renewed frenzy of betting had him doing some thinking of his own, seeing as how things were about to get ugly.

“Good one!” Justin laughed, immediately catching on.

It only took a matter of seconds for the nearest gamblers in that section to fall upon both him, and the hapless fellow with the tablet for recording wagers. In spite of this, it was still Justin who slipped out of the dogpile with the coffer. Shades, meanwhile, had busted out one of his stun-sticks as he moved on the next pair, further along the row, closer to the Nikopol box.

He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but it at least looked like Ma’Quiver had joined forces with Max, though even if not, there would be no better opportunity to rescue Bandit.

The Nikopol with the coffer was paying so much attention to the violence engulfing his fellow that he didn’t even see Shades coming as he skipped across the backs of several now-unoccupied seats to the close the distance. One blow from his stun blade was enough to drop him, and a second strike took down his thunderstruck partner. A quick switch to its cutting blade made short work of the lock binding the coffer as he snatched it up.

For inspiration struck just in time, even as several guards in this section had caught the two of them as the cause of all this chaos, and were quickly moving in on them.

Opening the lid and holding the coffer as if it were a bucket of water, he pitched its contents into the crowd between themselves and the guards. A spray of coinage, and a fluttering wave of notes floating on the updraft. Followed almost instantly by a mad rush of people flooding the intervening space like a tide in fast-forward.

“What the fuck are you doing!?” Justin cried, watching all that money on the breeze. And just when he had found a solution to their financial problems.

“Giving these people a refund!” Shades answered. “What’s it look like?”

Shades sighed, wondering exactly when he started to get used to breakfast to battle.

Though Justin had to admit, it was making an excellent obstruction for the guards, solving one of their tactical problems. All the same, he hung on to his own coffer as he and Shades skirted the outer aisle, working their way toward the box where Bandit was being held. By now, Nikopol resistance was nearly nonexistent, and mostly incidental, as more and more of them found themselves bogged down in what was looking to be the beginning of a full-on riot.

As they neared the box, seeing it already vacated, Max and Ma’Quiver emerged from a stairway leading underneath the stands.

“Max!” Justin called out, “What the hell happened to you?”

“I’ll explain later,” Max replied, stepping up to the door, “but first I’m getting my friend back.”

“So these are your friends,” Ma’Quiver quipped, taking both of them in in a glance. “Our chances are looking better than I thought.”

“Alright.” Shades stepped up to the door, both stun-sticks fired up, figuring that with an ally of Ma’Quiver’s apparent caliber on their side, they just might be able to pull this off. “Let’s do this.”
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