"Introducing the new girl... versus--BOOONE-SAAAW!"
Didn't like the sound of that.
Also didn't like the sound of my head cracking against iron bars, or the feel of a blade-laced fist against my chest, but what are you going to do?
The attacker hit me fast and hard. Edges bit through flesh as my skull and back slammed into the cage. Air rushed out of my lungs; it was a struggle just to keep afloat.
Whoever they were, they were hard all over--as if they were armored. Power-suit? Maybe. Scales, or plated flesh? But they felt sharp--like they were covered in porcupine quills.
Adapt, I heard a voice in my head say.
I threw my knee for their stomach. Felt something soft and yielding give beneath it.
They stumbled back, giving me a chance to assess. I shifted my posture and clenched my fists, letting details about my attacker flood into my brain.
Around my height. Blood-red eyes, dark hair, pale skin. Girl by the looks of her--dressed in a jacket and jeans. Gnarled, bone-like portrusions surrounded her face and jaw, each inch of them barbed with wicked points. Her fists were engulfed in the same greyish-white extensions--blades that had sprouted out of her knuckles and fingers.
As I watched, the portrusions grew with a low crackle and creak. They were emerging from her skin--ripping through flesh and muscle. That's when I noticed that every visible inch of her skin was covered in a network of deep scar tissue.
She grimaced, then grinned. A pair of fangs gleamed from inside her mouth.
I touched my chest where she had cut me; the bleeding had already stopped, but I could feel where the puckered flesh would leave a scar.
"Bonesaw, huh," I said, wheezing--acting like I was still significantly hurt. "They call you that on account of you looking so pretty?"
Her grin turned into a snarl. She leapt at me, swinging her bladed fists down for my head.
I stepped back--let her over-extend herself--then slipped to her flank, catching her bone-wrapped wrist in one hand. Hard, sharp barbs cut into my palm as I grabbed it along with her shoulder and swept out her right foot.
She went down with a howl. I kept my hold on her wrist, slammed my foot down into her shoulder, and used it as leverage.
With both hands on her arm, I pulled.
Her shoulder slipped out of its socket.
She shrieked. The crowd roared, rage mixing liberally with excitement; I released her arm and stepped back. Bonesaw struggled to get to her feet, but by the way she was clenching at her right arm, it was clear the fight was over. She hissed and lurched away, getting ready for another charge.
When she did, she favored her left side heavily. I flanked her and grabbed her dislocated shoulder, shoving hard. Again, she shrieked and tumbled to the ground.
"It's over," I told her. The audience continued to cheer and jeer; I heard someone steadily clapping behind me.
"Bonesaw," Voodoo Jones said, his voice cleaving through the sounds of the audience like a battle-axe. "Stand down."
The red-eyed girl snarled and spat, but did as she was told. She limped away from me, throwing back a hateful glare.
I frowned. I didn't enjoy the words I used against her; I didn't enjoy the way I had hurt her. But you did what you had to do to survive. I liked to think that when this was all done, I'd be able to do something for her--for the other people here. But what could I do?
I focused my attention on Voodoo Jones. One of his men was opening the cage; the spectre-like figure who seemed to rule this place stepped forward, holding his hands out to me in a gesture of friendship.
"Wonderful," he said. "We'd be happy to have you, my child. Tell us; what is your name?"
"You can call me Sally," I replied. "Sally Bruiser."
"Welcome to the Stix, Bruiser," Voodoo Jones said. "I think we can find a place for you."
"I don't like this," Sumerset said. "You're surrounded by a crapload of powers. Class 5s, probably, but Bonesaw sounds like she might be a solid Class 4. If they suspect anything--"
"Then you call down all the fury of Epoch," I cut him off. "They can probably be here in minutes."
We were nestled away in one of the hotel's rooms on the upper floor; all of Voodoo Jones' 'precious children' got their own. There were quite a few of us--apparently Voodoo Jones was building his own street army.
I had spent the last few minutes whispering every last detail of what I had seen so far to Sumerset, who, I noticed, was growing more and more pensive with each word. "You don't even have a lead on finding this girl of yours, yet," he said.
"Gina," I said, and nodded. "I'm going to start asking around tomorrow, I think."
"Just be careful, kid. Remember the safeword."
I remembered. Sumerset had set it up so with just one word, the software he was monitoring this channel with would proceed to set off a myriad of alarms--including a distress signal sent straight to Epoch's number, along with my coordinates.
"I'll be fine, old man. Go to bed," I told him.
"I already napped," he said. "I'll stay on the channel for now. Anything sounds wrong, I'll wake you up."
"You're going to listen to me sleep?" I said. "Creepy."
"Lot less creepy than watching," he said. "Besides, I've got TV down here."
"Tell me if Justifier makes the finals," I said as I yawned and fell back to the bed.