Written by Fyrwolf
Published on the 3rd August, 2008.
Author's intro: "On a recently conquered planet, near the edge of the Kriken empire, a group of warriors debate amongst themselves..."
Trace sat quietly, listening to those who had already acquired their status argue back and forth. They couldn't seem to agree on a specific course of action. And, none of them had yet to come up with the right answer to this development. Finally, Trace could take no more.
"Honored brothers, I am lesser than thee, and I have been listening to your discussion with great interest, for I too am a hearer of the message, and I would like to know how your direction would lead me. However, since no decision can be reached in this matter, may I be so bold as to present a suggestion?"
There was a pause as many of the honored mumbled amongst each other; it was highly unusual for one without status to speak at a gathering, though they all knew Trace would soon gain his status. He was one of the greatest fighters amongst them.
"Very well", they finally answered. "You may present your proposal to the honored."
"Thank you, honored. It seems to me, this matter is much simpler than many seem to believe. All of us here have heard the message, though none of the others, even some honored, did not. Therefore, we must have been chosen by those that sent the message. If we have been chosen, then it must be us who go to investigate what this 'ultimate power' is, and how we may obtain it."
"We know that, lower one, but that still leaves several problems!"
"If I may continue, honored one, I have not yet finished explaining. If we are all to go, and discover this power, and secure it for the Kriken Empire, we still have those problems you spoke of. Only one may gain status from a deed, therefore, who among us would gain status for this? The simplest solution is that only one of us will go on this quest."
Suddenly, Trace saw that the honored and lessers in the gathering understood where he was going, and that they liked it.
"So, honored, I propose that the greatest amongst us hearers should go to discover what this ultimate power is. Of course, the fastest and surest way to discover the greatest is through mortal combat."
"Trace, the simplicity of your plan shows wisdom beyond your status. We are all in agreement with the lesser's plan then?"
The room answered in one voice: "So be it!"
The arena was about a full square kilometer. It was all stone, with massive chunks of rubble providing natural cover and high points. Surrounding the arena were the stone bleachers, all filled with Kriken spectators. A duel was not something to be missed, especially when there where so many fighting. There were twenty six warriors standing in the arena; all of the hearers. Trace was standing in a circle with the rest of the hearers, waiting for the cry to sound. He could see the faces of the others clearly; some were scared, some thinking, all excited. Good, he thought to himself. The excited were more prone to mistakes, he found. Almost two thirds of those in the circle had already gained their status, but that didn't bother him. It would make it that much sweeter when he brought the arrogant fools down.
Suddenly, the cry sounded, a shrill piercing shriek that filled the air. Trace immediately fell backwards and began dashing away on all fours. Some of the other Kriken did the same; but two of them charged at each other, slashing with viscous talons. Several others began firing at each other with power beams and energy rockets. The carnage at the circle didn't take long, fifteen of the twenty six now lay dead. Trace was climbing one of the pieces of rubble when he noticed a shimmer in front of him. He let go of his hold on the rock, and brought his Imperialist to bear just in time. As he fell, the blast from his weapon went streaking right through the head of the hunter that had tried to ambush him. He hit the ground on all fours in run; looking for the highest point. From the high point he would be able to pick off all the others, even if they used their chameleon-like skin to try to evade him, as his ambusher had just attempted.
He found the spot he was looking for, but before he could get there, two of his opponents came up on him. One was also on all fours, and began striking out to slash him in two; the other was standing, blasting rockets. Trace recognized the standing one, but that didn't matter, in a duel there are no friends. He lunged at him and slammed his claws into him hard. They both crashed to the ground in a heap of tangled limbs, but Trace knew that the other was now among the dead. Suddenly, he felt a firey pain as the other Kriken managed to rake his claws across Trace's back legs. He whirled on the attacker, and brought his arm up to launch a rocket. Normally, a Kriken can survive a blast from an energy rocket, but not from a foot away. Trace began his dash again, leaving the two corpses behind him.
He was up on the high rubble in a moment, and began scanning the battlefield. He counted quickly twenty one bodies; that left four combatants still on the field. He spotted two of them instantly, they were slashing at each other with their claws, both looking severely tired and wounded. Trace could tell that both were already dead, they just wanted the other to fall first. He searched again, to find the other two survivors. The first wasn't hard; he was making a mad dash towards Trace's location. Trace brought his Imperialist up, and lined up on the moving hunter. One shot, one kill. The second and last Kriken was a different story altogether. Trace couldn't spot him anywhere.
Suddenly, a red streak went sizzling past Trace's head so close that he could feel the heat from it. He fell to a crouch, and quickly sent a responding shot at his enemy. His shot was a clean miss, but now he knew where the other was. Slowly moving to his left so he could get a better shot, he could just see the tip of the other's head bob up and down; he was moving too. Trace was keeping careful sight on him, and so he was completely surprised when he found that his own terrain wasn't as stable as he had assumed. His foot had landed on an unstable rock, and he went tumbling down off his perch to land on the arena floor. His enemy saw this, and immediately stood up and began firing at him.
It took Trace only an instant to recover from his fall; he was up and running for cover before the other Kriken had even fired his first shot. Still, as he moved the red bolts from the other's gun were getting closer and closer to hitting their target. Trace dove through the air to land behind a large stone. Instead of staying under cover though, he hit the ground in a roll, and came out on the other side of the rock and swung his own weapon into position. He could see the other's face, the expression of triumph at first, changing to confusion and then terror all in an instant as the red bolt issued forth from Trace's gun and into the other's chest. He fell onto his back with the force of the blast, the look of terror frozen on his face.
Trace stood and walked over to his last enemy. He wasn't quite dead yet, but he was fading fast. He turned his horrified face towards Trace.
"Lesser, find the weapon, honor us all in our death."
Trace considered this for a moment. "Yes, honored, I shall find it, and there will be honor in the memory that you too were a hearer. But the honor of the power itself, that is to be all mine."
The dieing warrior choked one last breath.
"I would expect nothing else."
Trace looked away from the now dead body to examine the field. The two other combatants that where fighting each other were both dead, as Trace had predicted. He was the victor.
The roars and shrieks of those in the audience where deafening. They all began to pour into the arena, towards Trace. The lessers and honored alike lifted him up high into the air, and began standing on top of each other's shoulders. Soon, they had formed a sort of column of bodies, with Trace at the top, and all the Kriken where now shouting in unison: "TRACE, TRACE!!"