CHAPTER I - Introductions

Crimson sat in a low squat, sitting on her haunches in the middle of a darkened room. Blue lights glowed from each corner of the room, casting very dim light, almost making no impartment on the total darkness, as rain lashed the windows so harshly, one would expect them to shatter. What was hidden in the darkness was a sparse, small room. A single bed, with a bedside table in between the bed and the wall. One standing locker and one foot locker for her belongings. Crimson sat on her haunches in the middle of the room, the inner sides of her feet touching, her knees apart, her tail swishing gently, her eyes closed, her mind likewise, sat meditating, thinking of events past, and events to come.

Crimson was of Skaarj decent. Skaarj were built like a person, though much bulkier and muscular, and were very reptilian. Skaarj were covered in a scaled skin again much like a lizard's. The weakest Skaarj would match the strongest human bodybuilder. The Skaarj had a war filled past, and that is the way they preferred it. Their elders believed that their race was to become the masters of all, and that all other races were inferior, without exception. Any other race, therefore, was to either serve the Skaarj with utmost respect and constant gratitude, or be simply slain.

But Crimson was not fully one of the Skaarj. And because of this, she was cast from her clan, disgraced, abandoned, and too young to remember any of it. It was her own father, during his say on some war torn planet, who became a lover to one of the Gen'Mokai. A weaker species, intent on a prosperous existence through democracy and a well worked economy. They could fight when needed, but it wasn't a way of life or their first choice, as it was the Skaarj. Crimson's mother and father, after having born a child, were in quite a bad situation.

The child's father, being the cowardly dog that he was, decided to abandon to baby, leaving it to rot, or be eaten by something bigger. He then turned his weapon on his partner, silencing her forever, killing her in the name of the greatest race, making sure his name was not tarnished within his clan. Escaping a sure death, had any of his clan found out.

Crimson, on the other hand, had a lucky streak. She managed to adapt rather quickly, eating whatever she could find, thinking in her infantile mind that this was the norm. She had not known anything else in her short life so far, and so this was not a hard time, just living as normal.

After many months of living like this, a Gen'Mokai patrol found her, gnawing on a handful of grass. Even the warriors of the Gen'Mokai didn't have the kill-all instinct the Skaarj did, for if they had, Crimson may have perished there. But the patrol collected the baby, bringing it back to their city and before the Elder.

It was quite evident that this child was not a Skaarj, yet not one of their own either. The Elder decided to spare the child's life, raising it isolated from his society. When she was old enough to go out on her own, the Elder sent her away, bound for Earth, a planet known throughout the galaxy for housing many different species. Due to a treaty signed immediately after the Human/Skaarj wars, no Skaarj was allowed to set foot on Earth again, but with some talk, the Gen'Mokai Elder convinced them that Crimson be allowed to make home on Earth, being that she was not a pure Skaarj.

And so there she sat. Her tusks smaller, her muscular, bulky frame toned down to a much more slender form, her hoarse voice more smooth, her claws not as prominent, her mind having the ability to work logically, to sit in a meditative state and think, and to be able to explode into a blind rage. But one trait still remained, implanted deep within her from her pure brethren.

A fiery passion to restore her honour and sit amongst her clan. To be counted as equal and fight alongside her brothers and sisters. She had decided that she would not lay her life to nothing because of what her father had done.

Crimson raised from her meditation. This seldom happened, but here it was. She had once again looked into the Pandora's box of her past, and now she was far to riled to sit calmly. She switched the lights on, which slowly glowed into life. She found it much better to come out of a meditation this way instead of into a harsh burst of light blaring into her eyes. She reached the door and opened it. There were automatic doors that opened with a pneumatic hiss as you approached, but Crimson had outfitted her quarters with more historic features. No holographic projectors, nothing automated, just time tested dependability. She felt it reflected her life.

She stepped out of her quarters and into the gently lit corridor. It was wooden, wallpapered with a light blue-grey top and a darkened blue-grey shade below. To her right was toward the living area, where her and her team would spend any time together. The first thing she had to do when she signed up for the tournament, was to apply for a sponsored team. The team watched her through her qualifying rounds, then set her through their own trials to test her further. Then she was allowed to join, the team called the Death Walkers.

Her team's accommodation was simple; The entrance opening to a single communion area, one hallway leading away, and from that hallway was the team member's living quarters. Six rooms in total, six warriors on the team. At the end of that hallway was one more room, the team's flag room, where the team kept their flag and any trophies they had won. These rooms, and the way it was laid out, took up an even, rectangular space. Constructions like these were purchased by any new teams, and were built off the main hallway, creating a very orderly and easily produced housing for the tournament competitors.

She walked into the communal area. Axil Sharp, the team leader, was in the room, watching the latest matches on the television set up in the room. Sharp fought under the name "Mr. Blonde". This was a tribute to one of Sharp's favorite movies, a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece called 'Reservoir Dogs'. On infamous scene was where on criminal, codenamed Mr. Blonde, began torturing a captured police officer, cutting off his ear with a straight razor. Sharp had done quite the same in the arena, when one of his bitter enemies, known for cheap shots and cowardly acts and was generally hated by the crowds. He was crippled on the floor during a one-on-one match, and Sharp pulled out his small knife concealed in a boot holster, re-enacting the movie scene almost step for step...

This one him the Crowd Pleaser award, landing him a decent cash award. Since that day, the name Mr. Blonde stuck with him.

Sharp was six foot, muscular but with a bit of flab hanging on him, very short hair and a handlebar mustache, leading to a large, very intimidating look. He was in his civilian clothes now, wearing a white tee-shirt and blue jeans, and a pendant of a wolf's claw around his neck. He looked at her, and she quickly brought up a sloppy salute, acknowledging him with 'sir'. He smirked and went back to watching the match reports. She didn't have to be formal and upright, especially after the day's end, but Crimson figured it didn't hurt to pay extra respects, being the new girl on the team.

Crimson sat down at the computer terminal, the one other piece of electrical equipment the communal room. This computer was connected into the Tournament network. It allowed teams or competitors access to current match reports, and allowed fighters to sign up to matches. Obviously Crimson didn't worry about signing up for matches, that was Sharp's job. Besides registration and recent match statistics, which was freely available, people could pay to be allowed access to old records, in depth team statistics, old and recent match videos, arena layouts, and allowance to the public internet. Crimson logged in to check the one thing she checked every day. The only reason she was in this Tournament.

The Skaarj Empire had decided to sign up to the Tournament this year. The Elders of the Empire saw the tournament as an opportunity to kill countless more victims, albeit in vain as they were always 'respawned', but also as a chance to show any creature that hadn't seen or heard of the Skaarj to know the fear of their wrath. Crimson knew that if she bested them in the Tournament, the closest she would ever get to a pure Skaarj without being torn asunder, then she would be accepted into her clan through a rebirth ceremony, able the shed her unworthy, tainted, half-breed body.

Iron Skull, the Skaarj team named in regard to their clan, had not done anything interesting or out of the ordinary. They won two matches, one against The Corrupt in a straightforward team death match, and one slim victory in a capture the flag match against Firestar. They also defended their warrior Guardian against Firestar's Bloodrite challenge. A bloodrite challenge is one of two types of matches one team can make directly to another, without needing approval from anyone. The challenging team will pay the defending team a sum of money, based on the performance of the defending team's team mate they selected to fight for. If the match is won by the challengers, the warrior they chose will then be signed over to their team. If the challengers loose, they lose their money, and their pride. The other match is a one on one match, with a large bet wagered on the outcome. If matches are seen as high-profile enough, then Liandri commonly broadcasts the matches. Otherwise, they will mostly go unnoticed, save for an announcement of a successful bloodrite challenge.

Crimson logged off the console, satisfied. She got up, turned to leave, pausing only a moment to watch the match replays Sharp was reviewing. She continued on her way back down the hallway, towards the team's Flag room. She reached the room and extended an arm to depress the plate in the middle of the door, to open it. Before she pressed it, a hand grabbed her wrist and tilted it upwards and away. She looked towards the person. Tom White met her eyes. White was aliased as Petrol. When he first joined, in his spare time he would brew up a concoction more potent than anything served in the tournament bars. He would sit in the corner, selling his drink to the other competitors. As word got around, people eventually started saying to friends that they should 'ask for the drink that tastes like petrol'. Liandri eventually ended up offering to buy the drink from him for hefty price. White refused, and Liandri corp said it was that or taking a dirt nap. White accepted the now much lighter offer.

White was another member of the Death Walkers. He was a veteran, and while he didn't have any designated rank or position, he was a very close member of the team. He was a bald man, standing almost five-nine, who had quite a beer gut but was still very fit, and very strong. He usually wore a bandanna of some design, his favorites being the camouflage or the black and white one, over his bald head.

"You ain't allowed in here yet, Vermin. You gotta earn it first."

Crimson sensed the distaste when White had spat "Vermin". She had a feeling White didn't like her bloodlines. But, she just needed to give time to get used to it, to know each other. No point in overreacting, her goal would be crushed before she had a chance to move towards it. She understood what White had said. She had only been in the team for seven days. She hadn't fought in a single match and could barley remember the team members' names. She'd have to prove her worth by fighting alongside them in conflict before she could enter the Flag room, and cast her view upon their flag upon it's pedestal, and the glistening glow of the trophies the Death Walkers held. Which, incidentally, amounted to none at the current moment.

White and Crimson met eyes again. It was a challenge. Crimson broke the gaze, lowering her eyes, accepting White's dominance in the team. A wise move if she wanted to remain in the team. It wouldn't help to anger a veteran of the Death Walkers. It was odd, Crimson mused, despite all the technologies, the laws upon laws, the governments and leaders, humans still act, at there core, as very primal beings. If she had stayed her stare, intently and unwaveringly glaring back at him, then he would have gone away with more negative feelings towards her. That could lead to more and more hatred, slowly snowballing, all because of these primal instincts.

She shook her philosophical inquiries from her mind. Her team's first match was in a few days, and she needed to show she was up to the challenge of being in this team. She needed the taste of blood.