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January 22, 2021

Sidewalk Outside Satyr Stadium, 9:30pm.

 

 

And there it was.

 

The most stupid fucking thing that could ever exist.

 

Wind whipped its sharp breath once through the street, almost as if it had been reading his mind, rifling the edge of his dark hoodie enough to slip the hood from around his features.  Gloves were pulled off, then the Navy beanie as the normally clear kelly green slid from the massive goliath he was looking up at.  It was brazen, and arrogant, and apparently unstoppable. 

 

Bare fingers rifled through his hair a moment before pulling the skullcap back on and over his ears.  He’d barely broken a sweat in the last five miles, cold gelling what little there was almost immediately on the back of his neck.  Hood pulled back up, gloves back on, fingers interlocked to reach high above his head in a languid stretch before thoughts returned to continuing his run.  Even the layers under his zip-up had done nothing to elicit more of a sweat.

 

He didn’t know why he came… strike that.  He knew exactly why.

 

Hiding for so long. Forced to hide for so long.  Hunted.  His presence a death sentence for the woman he loved that was now out of his reach again if she ever mentioned what he was to those around her.  Now, what the world hated and feared was on display for all to see.  The blood, the infection… splattered all over the ring like it was a fucking joke.  Money passing between hands to see who had the bigger fangs, and cheered in bars like a goddamn super bowl.

 

Lips pursed, tongue running across a canine.

 

Apparently it was okay now to pretend to be powerful and also be infected.  He’d needed to put his eyes directly on the pompous monstrosity for it to be real.  It blew the door wide open for every single fear the population had about the infected.  For the Vanguard to have all the fodder they needed to continue its rabid hatred, for the those that came to him terrified and hunted to have more demons to run from.  More suspicions and fear for some, less threat for others to think the whole Were infected community were fluffy toys to be bought and sold in swag stores.

 

The question was, what would he do about it.

 

Kneeling, he adjusted the laces on his right shoe, retying it before dusting off the knee of his black Adidas running pants.

 

This was a fucking nightmare.

 

Few, if any had the eyes he did… every weakness, strength and point of entry locked into his brain before turning them back to the sidewalk to decide which direction he wanted to go.

 

A Colosseum worthy of an empire, a modern day Caesar.  Two thousand years ago it took sixty men and twenty three stab wounds to take down a god.  He only needed one well-placed bullet.

 

 

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A singular breeze froze Pandora to the core.  Fingers gripped her long coat and tightened its collar around her face.  She needed a break from the confines of the church.  One would think someone damned by God himself wouldn't find comfort within the walls of one of his holy houses.  Yet something about having Rome and the other bible thumpers around gave her some strange sense of security.  Mostly because that damned fire magus or whatever he was could snuff out a life faster than one of those candles he lights.  

 

Yellow eyes scanned the street with each step.  She hadn't heard much from the Order since taking refuge.  Yet something inside her knew to stay ever vigilant and to keep that trusty sword in her hands.  

 

I don't know why you put yourself in danger like this Pandora.  Being on the Order's hit list means "stay out of the street and don't be stupid."  Not, "let's go out and get ourselves killed."

 

If I wanted to know your opinion, I would ask for it.  

 

Fair enough.  The biggest issue with that is you're an idiot and I'm trying to keep us alive.

 

This is where I say fuck you and go to your corner.  I can handle a walk. 

 

I just thought I should voice my concerns.

 

Noted, now fuck you and go to your corner.

 

A bent over figure caught Pandora's attention and those eyes squinted.  Looked to be out for a late night run, but it was a wee bit cold for that.  Gaze shifted to that of the mountainous stadium nearby.  Satyr Stadium.  Mindless violence in her eyes.  It seemed the world was slipping back into the old ways.  Gladiatorial combat minus the weapons.  Head shifted beneath the hood atop her head as she approached the figure noticing a rather familiar looking face.  A man she hadn't seen since her freakout and disappearance from the world for years.  Granted she never forgot a face and this beauty of a were-man would be impossible to forget.

 

Fingers unlaced from the collar that obscured her face as she drew closer.  "Mr. Morgan?"  Voice was soft as she came to a stop several feet away, hands deep in the pockets of her coat.  "It's a bit late for a run.  Everything alright?"  Eyes again shifted to the stadium and a thought came to her mind, a disturbing one.  "The last time we spoke you were running a self-defense class to teach people to fight against the supernatural.  I really hope you aren't thinking about fighting in these barbaric games for small minded people."  Gaze returned to Kai, frown slowly crossing her painted lips.  She couldn't exactly tell him not to do it, hell not like they were friends or anything.  A shiver later and her gloved hand returned to holding her collar around her mouth, nose running ever so slightly.

 

Why do you care Pandora?  You know a part of you wants to see these barbarians fight each other.

 

I've seen enough violence in my life, I don't want to willingly watch it.  Dealt enough blows myself.

 

Ah, but I wish to see these monstrosities fight.

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He couldn’t say it didn’t tempt him.  To let loose completely with the intent to fight without abandon was always something that seemed attractive.  Accepted for the brutes they were… not hiding, or running.  He was different though.  If he threw a punch, even once, there was no turning back.  He’d come so far, and the thought of disappointing those that he’d counseled and supported all this time was the one thing that was holding him back.  Did that mean that a shred of humanity still existed?  That he was unwilling to go back?  Or was he unwilling to let himself hurt others?  All of the above? Weres were Weres.  Problem was he had been trained before he was a Were...  He would kill things.  There were no bells in the world that could be rung to call him off.  It was, just a bad idea.  This whole thing was a terrible idea.

 

An odd thing about his old habits, they never stopped ticking.  Each rustle of movement in a radius around him was always a blip on his radar.  Add to that mortal sense, Were ones on top of it made life sometimes unbearable.  Especially scents and colors, they were enough to send him over the edge.  Someone was coming close, someone the cat recognized

 

"Mr. Morgan?"

 

The vibrant green moved in her direction, never forgetting a face.  Names were fleeting, especially after what had probably been several years.  Hers though, had been unusual, and at a poignant point of his growing practice.

 

"It's a bit late for a run.  Everything alright?  The last time we spoke you were running a self-defense class to teach people to fight against the supernatural.  I really hope you aren't thinking about fighting in these barbaric games for small minded people." 

 

His eyes followed hers back up to the giant building.

 

“Never too late for a run.  Pandora, isn’t it, if I remember correctly.  Please, call me Kai,” it was so easy for him to smile, to look cordial, to feel cordial.  “I’m still helping people, moved closer to Manhattan, expanded my practice quite a bit.”

 

Fingers went up to pull down the hood, adjusting his wool scarf and tucking it neatly before pulling the hood back up.  Sigh was quiet.

 

“Honestly, I hope the thing fails miserably.  All the work I’ve done… somehow I know though it won’t.  Probably will be wildly popular.  Demystifying the dangerous.  I’ve got my work cut out for me I think.  What are you doing out on this incredibly fine evening?”

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There was two days still until registration was open. Six days before the last construction was complete. Couple of weeks until the grand opening. ……and just a few days before he lost his fucking mind.

 

He was practically living at the stadium these days. This endeavor was costing them a fortune. Between the security needs, reconstruction, mana wards, huge stock of antivirals in the event of audience or fighter exposure, staff hiring, bar stocking, re-reconstruction when the barriers failed early tests and all the ridiculous electronics installed, this place was bleeding money and yet Gaspari still thought it was more than worth it.  So…… no pressure at all to deliver a successful opening night. No wonder the Senior Capo was stressed. It didn’t help that lately there were lurkers outside the stadium CONSTANTLY.

 

Let them register early…. let them take a sneak peek….let them have a job…. let them be a distributor…. let them show him a good time so they could get tickets to opening night… which….. surprisingly or perhaps not…. was sold out. It could hold 30,000 but they only had 10 thousand for sale for the opening night. A precaution to see how the place held up under the first real altered fight. The limited tickets had made it an "exclusive" show that a population that had been without big entertainment for so long, scrambled for.

 

Then there were the ENDLESS inspections. By the feds….by the medical board….by ARMA… by Bakkhos security….fuck…. there was nothing that existed anymore on the god-forsaken planet that had been checked over more than the stadium.

 

Car parked to do the night inspection and work on the damn books and instantly the groan came seeing two figures lurking. Of course. He had started coming later to avoid the daytime public gawkers but seemed they had gotten savvy and were coming all times now. Black 'Cuda rumbled to a stop as he stepped out, hand stuffing in his black leather bomber pocket to pull out the ring of forty odd keys that all went to something in the stadium. He really needed to put a cord or something on the access door one so he wasn’t constantly fumbling to find it as he came each day.

 

Keys jingled slightly as he walked past the two figures. Careful not to make eye contact. He used to be real friendly, play the pied piper role to a tee... but then he got grabbed, caught, stuck outside making explanations for over an hour every time. It was a huge waste of time. Instead he had gotten more abrupt and usually mistaken for a basic security guy. Tired words came as he walked by them, heading for the massive steel side doors more than 30 yards down the sidewalk that required the key and his hand print.

 

No…. we are not taking registrations early…..

 

Keys jingled as he flipped the ring around.

 

No….. there are no early tours of the place…… No…… we don’t need to fill any jobs at the moment…. Yes….we are really opening next month….. No….. we currently don’t need any suppliers…

 

Fingers found the nondescript key as he kept walking, hoping the rattled spiel would appease.

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Some wise man once said the eyes told the story the rest of the face couldn't.  Some bullshit like that.  It was probably her father if she was going to be completely honest, but as Kai turned to look at her that's where her own yellowish eyes looked themselves.  Straight into the windows of the soul because even though he was a handsome man, she remembered her first and only lesson with him.  Were-peeps were dangerous.  Not that he ever really gave off that vibe to her, she had to be ready.  Hell, several years had passed and for all she knew he was a member of the OL.  A stupid thought, but one had to keep their mind open.   "I'm glad you're still a good person in these shitty times."  She cleared her throat and looked back to the stadium.  A long pause as she stared at it.

 

 "I was born and raised in Ireland.  I still remember when the dragons attacked and the fight to survive very clearly.  Mindless violence just to live and keep breathing.  All of the people I hurt and now look what we've come to."

 

Pity parties are not attractive Ms. Chapel.  

 

"I hope they fail too.  Humanity has survived, and after everything, we're going to go back to this."

 

Humanity is fickle and drawn to senseless violence.  For as long as humanity is around, wars will be waged, people will be needlessly killed, and I will revel in it.

 

This is why I never let you out of your cage.

 

Remember, I always have more control than I let you believe.

 

"Now is the best time for me to be out.  Not as scared of what goes bump in the dark as I am of what goes bump in the Light."   Pandora drew to a silence as another joined their reconnection.  Granted they weren't exactly close before, but it was technically just that.  He removed a set of keys from his pocket and it took her a moment to realize where he was going.  His words drawing a furrowed brow.  "Here's a question you might not hear very often since you seem quite accustomed to those other ones.  Why don't you go fuck yourself."  Pandora's lips drew into a tight line as she gave a quick glance to Kai, but returned a piercing glare to the other man's back as he moved towards the building.

 

As I've said time and time again.  I have more control than you know.

 

As I tell you time and time again... Stop doing that.

 

I'm only saying what you were thinking, let's be real here.

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