Star :

Prologue: Gladiator:

It was the third to last battle of the night in the arena, one of the low points in the traffic. This fight was reserved for new or incompetent gladiators. T.K was relatively new, and he'd never had the money to get really good instruction, or to train his Digimon in any other setting then in the arena itself. He stood upon a ledge 180 degrees from his opponent's in the small, almost empty, circular arena.

"Patamon, hang in there! Your opponent is tiring!"

The rookie-level Digimon had never stood a chance, and T.K had known this when he'd chosen the battle. It was dishonest, immoral, and not really fair to his partner Digimon, and, while he knew this, such was his living.

Normally, he chose battles he could win, but sometimes it was more profitable to choose a ridiculous battle and put up a good fight.

"That's what you always say!"The small Digimon said.

Patamon of course, had caught on. Luckily, at least he understood, as well. This was T.K's way of making sure there was food to eat for both of them. As Patamon got pummeled pummeled yet again by the opposing Digimon, a Champion, who's partner was a boy of somewhere around seventeen years of age, T.K checked his watch.

4 minutes, 20 seconds total he thought, need to hang in there for forty more seconds. I need to do something NOW if I want to manage five minutes.

A plan formed in the boy's head, and, risky as it was, the boy knew he could always forfeit immediately if it failed. Watching his opponent's Digimon careful, he waited for the Digimon to prepare to strike.

He's gonna try to finish it. As I thought, he's getting ahead of himself.

"Dodge, now!"

The larger, heavier tried to tackle Patamon, rather than using some special attack. Patamon pushed off of the ground back as hard as he could, landing just inches from where his opponent landed, hitting the sand hard. The crowd gasped.

"Boom bubble!" The light Digimon cried, spitting out a bubble of air, pushing the Champion down a little more into the sand of the arena. The weight of the Champion was an enormous disadvantage, as it was hard for him to escape the sand. The crowd was laughing as they watched the large Digimon driven like a wedge into the ground.

"Again!" T.K shouted.

"Boom bubble!" Patamon had caught on to the idea already: Even if he wasn't actually hurting his foe significantly, he could waste HOURS this way... and by the time hours were up, the Digimon's partner would probably have surrendered purely to spare his Digimon the humiliation of being pummeled by a rookie.

"Boom bubble!"

The seventeen year old boy raised a hand for his opponent to stop, and then called out, "I forfeit."

Patamon turned slightly, avoiding hitting the Champion with the third attack. It was clear to T.K that the Digimon was thrilled, and the fifteen year old had to admit to himself that he was thrilled, too. He watched as his Digimon exited the arena sandbox, the derogatory term used by some of the more skilled gladiators to describe the smallest of the several sand-based battlefields. He exited to the door behind him, where he would enter the locker room. He got out of the rather ridiculous looking arena 'rank 14' (the second lowest Arena rank, made up of the competitors that were 15-25% from the bottom., T.K was rated around 17% from the bottom) attire, and got into his normal clothes.

Leaving the locker room, he entered the main room for competitors, which was, even at this hour, rather loud, several youths checking the tables to see how much they're sponsors were paying for any given match, possible to figure out what ranks they should post against or what challenge posting they would take, or perhaps to figure out how much they were to be paid at the end of their fight.

The exit to his arena was directly between the desks reading 'sand, 14' and 'sand, 15', above them. The 'sand' represented the terrain of the battlefield, and the numbers represented the ranks that used that desk. Walking over the desk, he asked the receptionist, "Where are the pay-charts for Aver Space Transportation?"

"Third to the left." The receptionist said, rolling her eyes. Apparently, this was asked a lot.

T.K ran his hand down the postings, searching for 'Rookie, Win, Sand'. Finding it, he searched for 'IT 2, RK 7, CH 12'. The square in which the row and column they intersected on represented his pay for the round, the only competition he'd been able to get today.

1.83 Credits per viewer. Pulling a small piece of paper, an automated printout with the number of tickets sold for this round, plus the number of season and day ticket holders present at the round. The paper also contained some other numbers, including the number for the round, but the only number that mattered to him was the number of viewers.

263 viewers.

Something around 450 Credits. It'll pay for a room and food for... Well, since it's a low estimate, 7 days, if we estimate a room at 50 and 20 total for a day's food. A whole week! And that's not including the arena pay... which is … 2 ranks and 1 level, which is equal to seven ranks, so .7 times 263... Somewhere around 150.

Walking over to the receptionist, his presented the piece of paper.

"480.92 Credits. Add another 184.10 Credits for the arena fee... 665.02 Credits" The receptionist said, extending her hand for his card, so that she could add the balance of the day's round to it.

The boy removed the card from his pocket, and the receptionist quickly scanned the card.

"Have a good day." She said, smiling warmly.

665.02 credits. Somewhere around 9 days worth of food and 9 days in a real room, rather then having to sleep in the Arena Pit.

T.K walked down into the loud Arena Public Entrance, past the two security guards flanking the entrance to the competition rooms. One of the walls was a screen, replaying a recent match... His.

"Largest upsets!" The top of the screen read. The bottom right said '2nd ', the bottom right said '2 ranks, 1 stage' and between '2nd' and '2 ranks, 1 stage', it said "Takeru T. (win|RK 14) vs. Milo K (lose| CH 12)"

The boy laughed at the irony of when he had walked downstairs. Second largest upset of the day. Well, it was news coverage, even if it wasn't the most impressive feat... Or even the most impressive feat of the day. Still, having more people hear about him meant more people who would show up for his next match. With 9 days without having to do anything impressive, he could choose easier opponents... This could be his break.

T.K waded through the crowd, reaching the front desk.

"You're here to see the last battle of the night, correct?" The man behind the desk asked

"Right."

"Go right ahead."

This was one of the nicer perks of being a contender: You got in to each round free. T.K really only watched the last battle because of this, because, while the round was the most watched of them, it was almost always entirely showmanship.