Supported by the willful ignorance of a wealthy upper class, Superpowers Inc. abducts the Mars Colony's undesirables and forces them to fight to the death. Outside another war rages as revolutionaries fight against the oppressive core of upper class colonists. Shady dealings have doomed the revolution however, and prisoners of war make excellent fodder for the Corporation's arenas.
I woke to find myself being dragged down a dimly lit hallway. I'd seen my share of dimly lit hallways, but this was one utterly unfamiliar. I couldn't remember where it was or how I'd gotten there. When the men holding my arms saw that I was conscious they allowed me to fall unceremoniously to the floor. A foot prodded my shoulder.
A second foot prodded a little harder, slamming into my stomach, negating what little progress I'd made at completing its request.
"Let's go! Kobish doesn't appreciate latecomers. You won't even get to fight for your life if you're not on time."
I wanted to ask who Kobish was. The part about fighting for my life was also something of a concern, but in my current state: hardly conscious, head pounding, and stomach pulsing in strobe-like waves of pain, I almost considered death a positive alternative.
I tried to push myself to my knees but a thick pair of rigid black handcuffs made the task nearly impossible. With an impatient curse, the guard to my right pulled a remote from his belt and clicked a button. The cuffs hissed, startling me, but they soon relaxed, and then fell off altogether.
The guard on my left then hauled me to my feet, and gave me a push down the metal corridor. Or at least, he tried to. The moment his palm made contact with my back, there was a crack, like he'd been shocked by static electricity. If the static electricity had been delivered via taser, that is.
"For fuck's sake... why didn't you tell me they gave him an Li injection?" He pronounced it ell-eye, using the letters like they were part of some classification.
The other man shrugged, and pulled another device from a pouch on his belt. At a press the device expanded from the size of a cigarette carton, to about the size of a placemat.
"Let's see here," and he whistled. "He's got Te-2. I don't think I've seen an injection clock in that high before. Li-18.... and Fr-32? What's Fr?"
The man who'd shoved me was still massaging his hand. "Probably stands for fucker. Little prick. Get moving!" He glared at me while he spoke, but I noticed he didn't try to do any more pushing. I acquiesced, and began to shuffle down the hallway.
The hall got brighter with every turn we made, and when we rounded the final corner I had to bring my hands up to shield my eyes. When they'd adjusted I let my hands fall and stared at the huge room on the other side of the doorway.
The first clue was the big open setup of the room. I could tell it curved in what was probably a big circle. The floor was covered in what looked like red sand. That wasn't really a surprise. It was easy to find red sand on Mars. You just had to go outside.
The second clue was the noise. The sandy area was surrounded by crowded stands of shouting colonists. I could feel the floor underneath me vibrating from the all the yelling.
By the time I reached the door I knew exactly where I was, and it was far too late for me to do anything about it. A booted foot connected with my back and I was sent stumbling into one of the many arenas at Superpowers Inc, the place where "earth-trash" went to die.
On the opposite side of the arena another boy was coming to the same realization. He looked younger than me, which was sickening, because I was only 18, and if he was here in the arena with me, it meant he was my opponent.
One of us was going to die.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEEEEEEEN!" a voice boomed. "OUR NEXT ROOKIE ROUND IS ABOUT TO BEGIN."
I frantically tried to recall the classifications my entourage had discussed on the way here. The rookie rounds were often compared to a virgin's first roll in the hay. Neither party really knows what they're doing, and it's special because it's the first time. And no matter what happens, you only get one first time.
Notice how that comparison begins to fall apart when you factor in the whole dying angle.
The man with the fancy tablet had said Te-3, Li-18, and Fr-something. Judging by my shocking encounter with guard number two, Li had to be lightning. Te was... something. And Fr was..... something else. Something apparently not even the employees encountered very often.
Not a very encouraging start.
The screens that lined the arena begin to flash with a countdown timer and I began to picture bolts of lightning flying from my hands.
I tried pointing at the ground while picturing the same bolts of lighting.
There was another depressing lack of lightning.
The timer hit zero, and my opponent, a stocky blond-haired kid began to run for me. He was younger, and a bit shorter, but I had no doubts he surpassed me in muscle mass. Not in a million years would I ever be described as "physically imposing." I was tall, yes, but that was all I had going for me. Even if neither of us managed to figure out our powers, this kid could probably just overpower me and try punching me to death.
Deciding it was better to look ridiculous than end up dead, I began flinging my arms out, hoping to trigger some kind of power. My crazy display succeeded in making my opponent hesitate for a moment, as he tried to gauge my threat level. It must have rung in at a pretty low level because he only stopped for a few seconds because resuming his charge.
He was close enough for me to see the fear in his eyes. And something that might have been reluctance, but there was no place for either of those here. His eyebrows furrowed and he began to scream as he ran, attempting to drown out the fear with pure, unadulterated anger.
And then suddenly, out of his mouth, came a beautiful tongue of fire.
I threw up my hands in token defense, but closed my eyes to wait for the end.
An end which never came.
I looked up to see the fire being deflected, as if by some invisible wall. When the spray of fire stopped, I stared hard at my palms, narrowing down my possible list of powers.
The boy began running again, and on a hunch I swung out my hand in a grand slapping motion. The boy ceased running, and began flying through the air off to my right.
Te-3. Telekinesis. And it was strong.
My opponent came to his feet, and began to charge once more. I swung my hand, and saw the boy brace, but nothing happened. He was within striking distance now, and he tackled me to the ground. My head snapped right as punched me, and back the other way as he punched me again. A third punch connected with my nose, and pain erupted as something gave. I screamed, but so did the boy. His right arm hung limp at his side, jerking intermittently; my lightning power had made a well-timed appearance.
I tried to sit up and press my advantage but the boy was back on me in an instant, his left hand covering my mouth and pushing my head into the sand.
The room began to blur. Spots danced across my vision. I flailed my arms, slapping at the boy's face, and pulling at his hand, but the attempts were feeble. I had no strength left to do any kind of damage.
But then, out of nowhere, came the knowledge that I didn't need any strength. Time seemed to slow and my blurry vision came into sudden, sharp focus.
The arm. The arm that was asphyxiating me. The boy had broken it, years ago. I didn't know how it happened, I didn't know how I knew it happened, but I knew it happened. I knew it with such strong conviction, and I also knew that, if I hit just right, I could break it again.
Slowly, like a zombie in an old earth movie, I reached out, twisted my hand just right, and tapped the boy's arm, just below the elbow.
I felt the snap.
I heard the scream.
I watched him fall off of me.
There was air in my lungs again, and I sat up. From my sitting position I lurched towards the boy, falling on top of him and pinning him down with my body. I placed a hand over his heart and tensed, desperately willing electricity to flow into it.
The boy tensed for a moment, spasmed for another, and then his heart stopped.