--------- Last Survivor ---------

--- Part 1: Who is the Strongest? ---

The roar of the crowd was becoming louder every second. From a hole in the center of the amphitheatre rose a lift platform carrying the four chosen hunters. As they came into view rising from unseen depths the crowd became even more excited.

Ash raised his arms above his head to acknowledge his adoring public. As defending champion of the previous Last Survivor battle series he was already odds-favourite to win. This opening first round match attracting levels of interest not seen since his triumph of last season's final round. He allowed himself a broad grin as he reveled in their adoration.

He glanced around at the competition spaced out behind him. The entry draw had been secret and separate changing rooms had meant no contact before the match itself. Now with the bright studio lights beaming down he could see what he was up against.

The HUnewearl closest to him was called Meow. They had crossed swords before, she certainly was quite a feisty one, but her determination had proved to be no match for his... flair. He liked the sound of that, flair. Of course tonight at his victory party, he would console her, buy her a couple of drinks and they would become better 'friends'. His grin turned to a wry smile at that thought as he moved his attention over to the next competitor.

The imposing form of the HUcast standing at the far end of the lift touched Ash briefly with awe. The guy looked like he could take it as well as dish it out. Ash had overheard his name when he was ushered into the building more than two hours ago, Mandroid, but that was pretty much all he knew about him. One to watch he was. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when the android tilted his head to stare back at him. He quickly moved his gaze on to the final competitor.

The last hunter, a scrawny young FOnewm, was waving to the crowd and basking in HIS glory. Ash tutted disapprovingly. This guy should earn his respect first! Ash knew little about this one too, his name was ActionJackson and he was a big fan of Ash's. He had approached Ash during the off season for his blessing to compete and now he had qualified for round one AND had gotten an opportunity to take on his idol.

The lift slowly came to a halt flush with the floor as the floor staff for the show indicated that they should move to the large metallic doors before them. The other three obliged, but Ash took his time, he knew how to play the crowd. With the deftest touch of a button on the photo-storage unit mounted to his forearm, a large sword materialised into his hand. He raised it high above his head in the manner of a conquering hero. Incredibly, the audience became even louder when they saw it: The Last Survivor.

His signature weapon, it was a replica, getting an original proving to be impossible even for him, but no one would care. Some others had used similar weapons in the previous season but they had faded from the memories of fans and so he had made the weapon his own.

After much insistent tugging on his arm from a cute little newman he sauntered over to where his impatient rivals waited in front of the massive doors leading to the VR arena. With a hiss and light clanking, the doors parted and they entered.