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Trial-By-Fire: Young Blood Chronicles

Round One: I Am Not a Boy

Samsa blinked and gasped.  Warm, moist air rushed into his respiratory sacs.  Everything around him was a mix of murky earth tones and a lurid shade of pink.  The air smelled of decay and brackish mud and some cloyingly sweet nectar, and was quiet except for some sort of mating insects.  He shook his head to clear it and then looked around more slowly, taking it all in piecemeal.  It was a swamp.  A swamp full of some kind of pink, fluffy plant.  “Where am I?” Samsa asked aloud, not really expecting an answer.

He got one.  “BEEP!  You are on the Planet of Fuzz.  Welcome to Round One of Trial-By-Fire!”  Samsa turned to find the camera drone he had dealt with earlier.  Of course it had teleported in with him.

“Why did you beep just now?” Samsa asked.  The voice was bad enough without the voicemail-message beep, which was louder than necessary by an order of magnitude.

“BEEP!  I am required to always answer the contestant when a question is asked of me!  I provide the minimum amount of companionship to ensure contestants who are not insane do not go insane!  At least not from isolation!  The BEEP is a prompt!”

“Oh... okay.”  Samsa liked having companionship, but the drone's voice was... well, he wasn't that desperate just yet.  He turned around and immediately tripped over something nearly his own size, falling into the smelly mud face-first.  Coughing and spluttering, he wiped his face off and looked at what he had tripped on.  “Whuzzis?” he mumbled, forgetting for a second that -

“BEEP!  CONGRATULATIONS, CONTESTANT!  You have found your CAAAAAAAAAAAAARE package!  That marks your first objective for round one... coooooomplete!”

“Objectives?” asked Samsa, and then he immediately gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut against the -

“BEEP!  You have three objectives this round!  Objective the first: Find your care package from the Tallest, and the sticker located within!  Objective two: Find your opponent!  Objective three: your opponent is dead!  Once all of those things are true, I am empowered to teleport you to the location of the next round!”

“Okay.”  Samsa was now looking over the box-shaped object he had tripped over.  It was box-shaped because it was, in fact, a box.  A gunmetal-grey box made out of something sturdy enough to be dropped from orbit.  It had been right in front of his feet and half-submerged in mud, so he'd missed it at first.  He wiped mud off the top and sides, looking for an opening.  He found hinges.  Wrong side.  “This was a really easy objective,” he said, enunciating the last word carefully.  He remembered it from a book Rith Zith had read to him once.

“Yeah, well, you got lucky, Blacky!”  The droid pointed at Samsa with one claw and made a sweeping gesture with the other.  “All this tournament's contestants got teleported in here somewhere, but not all of them got teleported in practically on top of their care package!”  Samsa found a latch, then another.  He popped them both loose, and the box opened itself with a hiss of hydraulics.

Inside, on the very top, was a sticker.  It was a little cartoon of the button Samsa had pressed to teleport out, complete with “glow lines” around the button built into the sticker, laid flat across a sheet of wax paper.  Samsa peeled it off and stuck it to the middle plate of carapace on his forehead, smiling and sticking his tongue out.  “D'aww!  Let me get a close-up shot of that for the highlights reel!”  Ignoring the camera for the most part (as he usually did in the Filter arena), he threw the wax paper into the swamp and dug further into the box.  There were a roll of bandages and some other stuff he recognized as first aid gear, or “nurse stuff” as he thought of it.  He didn't know much about them other than that most of it went directly on wounds and vaguely in what order, so he left it as it was.  Beneath that was paydirt – ten compartmentalized boxes covered on one side only in plastic wrap.  These he recognized, too – MREs.  Meals ready to eat.  Not Samsa's absolute favorite food in the world, but he wasn't picky, and he was hungry.

Samsa tore the plastic wrap off, triggering a chemical that heated some parts of the meal and chilled others.  In just a few seconds, he could smell the hot cheese bubbling.  “Yeah, those MREs can sustain an adult Irken with a  PAK for ten days or more!” the drone bragged.  “Even an adult PAKless Irken has an easy three days of food there, so you should be fine... oh, you're hungry now?  Well, that's no problem, it shouldn't take too long to find... your... opponent.”  The droid was temporarily dumbstruck by the ferocity with which Samsa was attacking his plastic food tray.  “Jeez, kid, you'd think you'd never eaten before – AAH!”  A drop of sizzling cheese spattered onto the drone's lens.  “I'm hit!  Mayday!  Mayday!”  The drone spun wildly out of control for a moment before it realized it had a tiny windshield wiper equipped.  By then, Samsa had finished the first MRE... and started on a second.

Samsa didn't stop until he had polished off three of the ten MREs, well over 2000 calories.  Satisfied, he belched loudly for the now-speechless camera drone and pushed himself up to his feet.  He walked to the other side of the box and pushed the lid closed, then shoved the whole thing up onto dry land with a few grunts of effort.  “Uh... alright... so, kid, how about we find that opponent of yous?  She can't be more than a couple miles, they wouldn't have teleported anybody closer to you than her...”

“Later.”  Samsa flopped down on his back in a short, grass-like patch of the pink vegetation.  It was soft and comfortable, and the source of the sweet smell.  He yawned.  “Nap first,” he said, turning his head to the side, and found himself looking unexpectedly at the skeleton of a small rodent-like creature.  “Hunh.”  He reached over and plucked a diminutive rib off the creature's torso, noticing the way the pink threads grew among the bones and out the eye sockets.  The rib was only about the size of a comb's tooth, although of course curved.  He rolled it around between his fingers, then shrugged, popped it into his mouth, crunched down, and closed his eyes.

* * *

“Hmph.”  Kroe stepped her way around another shrub of pink fuzz.  That stuff was nasty, and ever since she'd seen a dying bird-thing caught in it, she'd been giving it a safe distance.  She stopped, looked around, looked up just to be safe.  Absentmindedly, she scratched at the fading bruise on her neck where Mor's chains had dug in the day before.  That hadn't been fun.  Now she was in the damn tournament, though, and she'd just have to make the best of it.  “How much further to that care package?” she grumbled to her camera drone.

“You've been going the wrong way for miles!” The bot said, flailing its tentacles in exasperation.  Kroe just made a “yap yap” motion with her hand in response, her other hand fishing for her antennae-phones.  Maybe she could listen to some radio instead.  “Well, at least we're near your opponent.”

“Say what now?” Away went the headphones.  Kroe took another close look around.  Nothing.  She climbed a stunted, pink fuzz-studded tree.  Looked around again.  “Ah-hah.”  She leapt out of the tree, hit the soft ground in a crouch, padded forward, sticking to the dry spots to minimize noise.  Brushing past some bushes, she came into view of what could only be her target.  And a box.  An opened box.  He had opened her package!

She pre-emptively shushed her camera drone (which, to its credit, was making no sound except the quiet whir of its propulsion drive), and stalked forward, sticking her tongue out in concentration.  It was a small guy, roughly Irken in shape, although she couldn't be sure because of the black armor he wore.  He was prone on the ground, belly-up, which was odd, especially since he was in that pink fuzz.  Was he stupid, or... maybe already dead?

She was close enough now to look closely.  He was alive.  His chest was rising and falling.  Definitely Irken, too.  She could see pale green eyelids.  His eyes were closed, his breathing was regular.  He was asleep.  In the fuzz.  “Wow...” she whispered.  Small guy, big head.  The pink fuzz had actually tried to dig in on his hands, feet, one side of his face, apparently without much success on those armor plates.  It was digging in a little on a small vulnerable spot on his throat, and some of the threads were reaching toward his eye sockets, which also seemed exposed.  “What's his name?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Samsa.”  The drone's voice was very much not a whisper, and Samsa's eyelids started to flutter, purple eyes cracking open.  Kroe grumbled and drew her gun.

“Hey, Samsa.”  She pointed the gun at him and gave him a soft kick to the ribs, drawing a grunt of discomfort and surprise as he snapped fully awake.  “Caught you napping,” she said mockingly, and squeezed a laser blast right into his forehead, just above that stupid sticker  She was expecting to burn a hole right through his head.  Instead, all she got was a ruddy brown glow from his armor's forehead plate as a circular patch of it was superheated.  Samsa started thrashing in pain, too, first stiffly as he ripped the pink fuzz loose from his body, then more wildly.  Grumbling, she put her foot down on his chest to hold him still (or still-ish), and fired again into his forehead, this time getting some tangible results.  Specifically, Samsa shrieked in pain and his forehead plate shattered from the heat.  “Nice,” she said, lifting her foot.

The mistake nearly cost her her life.  Samsa was up on his feet in a matter of seconds, and still directly under her, his eyes level with her stomach.  Wicked claws, pink threads still clinging to them, slashed upward with killing force.  Kroe was fast, and that kept her from being disemboweled, but a claw still caught her across her inner forearm, spattering rust-colored blood along a nearby tree trunk.  Kroe cried out a half-formed profanity and staggered back, firing a few wild laser shots.  One struck Samsa in the shoulder and he yelped and ducked behind some foliage.

Kroe steadied herself and took stock of her situation.  That guy's armor, whatever it was made of (ceramics?), was pretty effective, even against laser blasts.  His claws were lethal, too.  She checked her arm wound.  Good news; she could still use her hand just fine, although it stung like a bitch.  Bad news; the wound was a bleeder.  She'd have to end this quickly.  At least he was small, and didn't seem to have any ranged weapons.

“Excuse me,” a quavering voice said, not too far away.  Kroe's antennae folded back.  He sounded so young.  The small body, the big head and eyes, the voice... she was fighting a Smeet.  Well, if they thought she'd be squeamish about that... well, okay, she didn't find the idea pleasant, but she'd do it if she had to.  “Are you my opponent?”

“Of course I am,” she snorted.  “I shot you twice in the head, didn't I?” And you didn't have the decency to die, she added mentally.

“Okay, good,” the voice said, and Kroe blinked in confusion.  After a few seconds, he added, “I don't want to have to kill people who aren't my opponents.”  A moment passed, and there was a rustling, off to the side of where Samsa had been talking from.  Kroe trained her gun on the spot, but after another second, Samsa burst from the foliage a distance away from where she had been aiming.

As she wheeled around and fired more laser blasts at Samsa, another part of her brain was taking stock of him, filing information away for later.  His forehead had a blistering burn on it – that laser shot had hurt him through the armor, but it was just a flesh wound.  A plate from his shoulder was gone too, and the burn on the exposed wintergreen skin there was less serious – maybe he had taken that plate off himself.  There was an intensity in his eyes – this kid had seen no shortage of fights.  When she stopped firing wildly and took a half-second to steady her aim, he brought up both arms in front of his face and took a laser blast on the forearm that could have otherwise hit his eye and killed him.  “Shit,” Kroe spat, and drew the knife from her boot, switching her gun to her bleeding off-hand.

She swiped her knife at his eyes as he drew close, and he ducked under it, slashing at the meat of her thighs.  Kroe jumped up and back, letting Samsa's momentum carry him under her, and came down with a boot on his arm, dragging him entirely to the ground.  She slashed at the back of his neck... and the knife scratched harmlessly along it.  Samsa must've felt it, though, because he let out a wail and his free hand raked across her shin, tearing through the rubber of her boots, the synthetic cloth of her tights, and the skin underneath.  “Shit shit!”  Kroe's leg flinched back, letting Samsa push himself up to his hands and knees.  She fired two more wild laser shots onto his back before he pushed off on all fours into a sloppy tackle, spilling them both into the swamp water.

Foul water splashed across Kroe's face, and she spat it out, kicking blindly to get Samsa away from her.    She was rewarded with a grunt of pain and the sensation of something cracking against the toe of her boot, and pushed herself away.  The water sizzled painfully against her skin where it was exposed – her hands, her face, her wounds.  She wiped her face and looked up in time to see Samsa get ready to pounce, and held him back by slashing her knife at his face.  He flinched back, and she put two plasma shots into his chest, shattering a piece of his armor when they hit in roughly the same spot.  He yelped and fell back into the water – which was only burning him where his armor was gone, she noticed.  In fact, it had seemed to cool off a couple of other places where he'd been shot.

“I'm going to kill you,” Samsa said, in a tone that suggested killing her was some unpleasant chore that he knew he had to do, like math homework.  It sent chills down Kroe's spine, although she'd never admit it.  He leapt forward and she slammed him square in the chin with a kick, shattering another piece of armor along the right side of his jaw and knocking him back into the swamp water.  She HAD him now and it was a clean shot and she brought up her gun...

And the shots went wide, sending a cloud of steam hissing up a full meter from Samsa's exposed chest and head portions.  “Triple shit,” Kroe said.  The pain and the blood loss were affecting her, and her coordination was suffering.  She had to get some distance, apply some first aid to herself... but Samsa was already back on his feet.  Kroe turned, holstered her pistol, and ran, the slash on her leg slowing her only a little.  It wasn't enough for Samsa to outpace her, but it was enough that the shorter Irken could more or less keep up.

Salvation came in the form of an outstretched branch at what was, for her, waist height. She vaulted over it, grabbing it with her good hand as she did so.  She pulled it along behind her for a second, and just when the resistance peaked, she let go, shaking off the feeling of pink fuzz trying to cling to her wet palm and fingers.  The branch snapped back, and Kroe glanced behind her.  Samsa had been quick enough to duck, but the branch had caught him in the antennae and shattered some of the armor on that, leaving him howling in pain and disorientation.

“Enjoy the taste, kid,” Kroe chuckled, finding a tree and climbing it.  The tree wasn't entirely overtaken with fuzz, so it would be high ground and a relatively safe place to bandage herself up as long as the branch she picked was stable.  If Samsa started climbing the damn thing, she'd feel it, even if she didn't see him.  “You did some damage, so I can't end this quickly.  I'll have to drag this out.  And that means I'm gonna make you suffer. “

* * *

Over twenty-four hours had passed since the first skirmish between Samsa and Kroe, although Samsa had no way of knowing it.  At the orphanage, he'd been too young to learn how to tell time.  Later, he lived in the Filter, which was built on a small moon of Devastis.  The “day” on that moon was very long, and natural light was slim, so Samsa had never had a proper day-night system on which to tell time.  The Filter ran on Imperial Standard time, but to the gladiators it made little difference.  Samsa's only internal clock was based on the time it took him to get hungry again after he filled up on food, and of course that depended on how much he had eaten.

Most of the MREs were gone.  Samsa had sneaked back to the care package whenever he'd gotten the chance, grabbed one, and scarfed it even faster than usual.  The second time Kroe had caught him, and the third time she'd been waiting for it.  The pizza pockets from that particular meal were scattered in the mud now.  Then later Samsa had caught Kroe eating one of the meals and nearly taken her foot off with his claws.  At some point Samsa had gotten another meal in peace, and noticed that at some point Kroe had made off with another of the meals herself.

Not that the stalemate had just been over food.  The two of them had spent most of the last day only vaguely aware of where the other was, jockeying for location.  Whenever Samsa threatened to close in,  Kroe would shoot at him and force him to dodge back into the trees.  Whenever Kroe tried to get herself to a properly defensible location, Samsa would already be right on top of her by the time she got there. The sun had set and risen again on the Planet of Fuzz, and no decisive wounds had been inflicted.

But the stalemate couldn't last forever.  One of them would make a critical mistake, and soon.  Samsa knew it.  He was a child, but he wasn't stupid, especially not in the realm of tactics.  Kroe was wounded, wounded worse than him.  And her main advantage was having a gun, but it couldn't last forever.  Samsa had already found a laser battery lying in the dirt, acidic-smelling smoke wafting up.  She'd fired at him again since then, but maybe this battery was her last one.  Meanwhile, Samsa's carapace had already half grown back in the places where it had broken, and he had no ammunition to run out of.

But only on the surface did Samsa have all the advantages.  He was dead tired, and Kroe... wasn't.  Her beat-up, decrepit old PAK didn't seem to work (it lacked the quiet bubbling sounds Samsa would hear from most of the Irken gladiators), but the knife girl (as he thought of her) was as tireless as a bloodthirsty crowd.  He also got hungry faster than her, faster than any other Irken he had ever met, and food was scarce.  She could outlast him if it came down to that.  His forehead wound was an issue, too, even if it wasn't life-threatening.  The stinging pain was always on the edge of his mind, and the broken, blistered skin occasionally wept jade-green blood and banana-colored pus into his eyes, threatening to temporarily blind him.  The carapace growing back was no help here – it was slowly growing down over the offending wound, rubbing against it, and itched terribly.

Samsa peered out from behind his cover, careful not to let the pink fuzz rub against his forehead wound.  It was dangerous, but as long as he kept moving, it wasn't gonna kill him... but he'd gotten it on his forehead wound a while ago, and it was a world of pain.  The flags of his antennae scraped against  the back of his head, the armor pieces on them dragging them down flat against his skull now that some of the lower segments of antenna carapace were gone.  There, fifteen meters dead ahead, he saw the rippling-light effect of Kroe's camera drone.  Both bots had cloaked themselves and shut up once the fight started, but for whatever reason the stealth cloak wasn't perfect.  Where Kroe's drone was, Kroe couldn't be more than a few feet away.  And she didn't know that this time, Samsa had brought more than just his claws and teeth to the fight.

He had closed half the distance to Kroe's bot when the woman herself leapt into view.  She had rusty orange bloodstains on the bandages decorating her arm and leg, and her skin was blotchy from water irritation, but her grin bespoke cruel confidence.  “You're goin' down, kid!” she taunted, drawing her gun.  Samsa responded with a low hiss and flicked out a roughly triangular black shape from his right hand.  The shard, a broken-off piece of his own carapace, flew straight and embedded itself deep in Kroe's jacket, piercing a few millimeters into her skin underneath.  “Ugh, what?” Kroe winced as more rusty orange welled up around the black-on-off-black, but she squeezed off a few shots at Samsa, only scoring a glancing hit on a spine on his back before he ducked into cover.  She sucked in a breath and yanked the shard out.  “This stuff is just going to ruin my day, all day, isn't it?”

That may as well have been Samsa's cue.  He leaned out from the shrubs and threw another improvised shuriken, this time aiming for Kroe's big mouth.  She spat another curse and leaned her head out of the way, but her left antenna lagged behind, and the shard hacked right through it an inch below the flag.  It was a lucky shot, but it left Kroe screaming in pain, so Samsa wasn't going to complain.  He dashed forward, kicking up mud as he closed the last few meters between them.  Still screaming, Kroe started shooting at him.  His bicep and ribs lit up in dull pain as the plates over them were flash-heated by laser fire, and Samsa dropped into a slide, taking advantage of the wet ground.  Kroe made another impressive leap before he could get close enough to slash at her, and aimed down at him, sticking her tongue out.

The shot missed.  That could've killed me.  I was lucky.  Samsa dug a hand into the soft ground, halting his momentum and allowing him to pull himself up into a crouch and turn a quick one-eighty all at once.  Kroe ended her leap in a combat roll right out of Basic Training, pivoted, and squeezed off a couple more shots at Samsa, but he was right on top of her again.  A shot went wide and hit a high patch of pink fuzz on the tree, igniting it.  Turned out that pink fuzz not touching anything wet was highly flammable... and it burned with a cyan flame.

Samsa grabbed the barrel of her gun and jerked it forward, ignoring the burning heat from touching the business end of the thing.  Kroe pitched forward, caught off-guard for a second.  That second was all Samsa needed to sink his teeth into Kroe's left forearm, biting down with bone-crunching force.  She drew her dagger, now beyond pain, beyond screaming, and took a stab at Samsa's eye socket.  That saved her arm... or at least, most of it.  Samsa came away with a chunk of bloody flesh and a splinter or two of bone, and a blade tip against his temple – a killing blow for anybody else – scratched against  armor and glanced off harmlessly.

“What the hell are you?” Kroe asked, staggering back.  Samsa saw her eyes flicker toward the gun at his feet, where it had dropped from her limp hand.  She would try and go for it again.  He couldn't relax yet.  He chewed twice and swallowed, dropping into a stance half-remembered from the Vortian Rin Kan in the arena two days ago.  Kroe gritted her teeth, and her fingers on her good hand tensed against her dagger.  “I asked you a question, kid.”

He thought back to the words, the words he had heard so many times since the fighting had started, the words the guards had said, the nurse had said, the audience had said, so many opponents had said.  So many dead opponents, dead by his hand.  By his tooth and nail.  “I'm not a kid,” Samsa mumbled.

“What was that?  Speak up, I can't hear you past that wad of MY FUCKING ARM in your throat.”

“I'm not a kid!”  Samsa shouted, and Kroe charged him.  The words had seemed unkind at the time – to say that he wasn't Irken, that he was a beast, a monster, not even a person.  But what was being a person?  Was it being like Kroe, cruel, self-absorbed, a bully, just as vicious as him, but using a gun?  If that was what being a person was about, it suddenly didn't seem so important.  “I'm an ANIMAL!”

He ran forward to meet Kroe, a hurricane of spinning claws, his exposed skin flashes of lightning against the black-green storm clouds of his armor.  Kroe leaped over him, using her height and agility.  But it was the same trick again.  Time for the other surprise he had brought for her.  He had picked the longest threads of pink fuzz he could find, handling them only with his hands and other still-armored parts of his body.  He'd soaked them directly in the mud and muck and swamp water until they were stained olive drab and smelly and swollen up to twice their usual thickness.  And then he had tied them all together, knotting and braiding them all into a crude length of  thin rope which he'd wrapped around his belly for safekeeping.  It wasn't much, but when she had been expecting just claws, it made all the difference in the universe.

The loop of rope wrapped around Kroe's ankle and yanked mid-leap, pulling her off-course.  It wasn't much, maybe a decimeter or two, but it was enough that she hit the ground in a heap instead of a roll, and without nabbing her gun.  “Fuckshitcockfucker!” she said frantically, grabbing for her gun, but the bad landing had cost her just enough time and rattled her head just enough that Samsa was able to kick the gun into a deep puddle before she got to it.  He turned on her, but she had her dagger out, forcing him to step back with a wild slash before cutting herself free.  “You want to be an animal, fine!” she snarled.  “You'll die like a fucking dog!”

Samsa stepped forward, ready to parry a blow from her dagger with his carapace-plated arms.  Instead, he got a swift kick between the legs.  He gasped and his upper body snapped forward.  Blood spilled into his eye from his forehead wound.  Kroe pulled back her leg, grinning at the bits of armor plating dropping from his groin, and kicked him again in the unarmored shoulder, dislocating it and spinning Samsa around.  A third kick to the calf knocked him to his knee and broke another plate, and she hopped into the air, bringing her foot down across the back of his head, smashing more carapace and driving his face into the dirt.  He coughed burning mud out of his mouth, but his efforts to get up were aborted when Kroe put her foot down on his uninjured arm.  “Not even a PAK to fuck up, that's a shame.  Well, kid, it's been... protracted.”

“What does protracted mean?” Samsa asked from the dirt.

Kroe blinked and hesitated in stabbing her dagger downwards.  “Means, like... long.  Stretched out.  Longer than it had to be.”

“Oh, okay.”  Samsa suddenly thrashed backwards, stabbing the spines on his back up against Kroe's leg.  She hissed and shifted, and he was up.  It was just like the beginning of the fight, only this time it was two exhausted, blood-soaked, wounded contestants kept going only by their last adrenaline surges.  The outcome was nearly the same, too – but this time, Samsa had been aiming for her arm.  His claws pierced behind the wrist and burst up between the two bones of her forearm.  The force of the blow and her knee-jerk reaction (pull away from the thing that is injuring you) worked together to toss the knife straight into the air as it dropped from Kroe's limp fingers.

“COCKSUCKING... son of a bitch...” with one last gasp of effort, Kroe brought her elbow of her other arm down on Samsa's collarbone, breaking another piece of armor.  The shock against her wound on that arm meant the attack hurt her more than it did him.  “I didn't come all this way... to die here...”  Samsa's fingers tightened on one of Kroe's forearm bones, squeezed, and pulled, dragging her down to her knees.  Samsa tilted his head back, leaned away from Kroe, and caught her Bowie knife by the handle in his mouth as it fell back down.  “Hey, nice catch.”  Then Samsa's head snapped forward again.  He whipped his head from right to left, using the knife in his mouth to slash her throat.

Samsa spat the knife out and stepped back.  Kroe sagged forward one inch at a time, her eyes dull, her mouth still working but unable to produce any more sounds.  Blood streamed from her forearms and her throat.  Finally, she finished whatever last obscenity she had chosen, and dropped forward like a marionette whose last string had snapped.  Samsa, meanwhile, was popping his shoulder back into place, and finally letting the tears of pain fall.  He looked around reflexively to scan the crowd, as he would at the end of many of the battles he had fought sober, but there was no crowd.  Instead, the sky was blocked out by billowing smoke, leaving the spreading blue flames to provide a ghostly faerie-fire light across the swamp.

Just when Samsa had thought about how there was no audience, the camera droids decloaked, reminding him that there, in fact, was a bigger audience than ever.  Kroe's camera, which had tentacles and a camera lens built like a single detailed eye, stayed back, letting Samsa's bot with his cheese-grater voice and his little pair of claws loom right in Samsa's face.  “Hey, great work, Blackie!  You met and killed your opponent, and you got the sticker... hey, you didn't lose the sticker, did you?  That's important!”

“Kroe picked it up,” Samsa said, and held out the knife.  At some point, she had picked the singed sticker off whatever shard of forehead carapace it had stuck to, and restuck it along the pommel of her knife.  “S'mine again now.”

“Yes, yes it is.  Good contestant.”  Again, the done produced the hard-light hologram of a button.  “Well, press this whenever you're ready to go on to the next world.  If you haven't pressed the button in twenty-four Irken Standard hours, I am obligated by my programming-”

“I'll press it now,” Samsa said, interrupting.  His stomach grumbled.  “Actually, in a little while.  I'm hungry.  Food, nap, button.”  Ignoring the bot's complaint to its counterpart about how meatbags were always hungry, he thought.  Off to his right was the “care package” and its last MRE.  On his left was Kroe, no longer conscious, her heart weakly beating for perhaps only seconds longer.  Fresh meat, skin-on and bone-in, marinating in its own blood, or a last box of hot, cheesy 'people food.'

Samsa turned left.
Trial by Fire Round 1: Versus Kroe
Hold your Bat Boy, touch your Bat Boy,
No more need to hide...
Love your Bat Boy, save your Bat Boy,
Don't deny your beast inside.

Bat Boy: the Musical, "Hold Me, Bat Boy (Reprise)"

Ah.  Had time to spare this evening, a little bit, at least.  And just enough energy left to proofread properly before submitting.  About 5450 words all told.  Satisfies the minimum length requirement, doesn't drag on too long.  Good length for a round 1.

Let me say that oreog has been a fantastic opponent, helpful with any questions I had.  She DID give me permission to use her character's point of view, if anybody's wondering.  I've been told that's something I should make sure my opponents are okay with these days.  I was a little stumped on how best to use Kroe as an opponent at first, but eventually the inspiration flowed.  She's a good character, and Oreog's a good artist, and I won't be mad if she wins.  Y'all should check out her version of this fight if you haven't already.

I told you all Samsa's opponents would influence him, and I'm sorry to say Kroe is NOT a good influence.  Her words and actions have sent Samsa on his first step towards a path of embracing his savage nature.  Will he be swayed from this path?  Well, let's see what future opponents look like.

Trial By Fire (c) :icontrial-by-fire-oct:
Kroe (c) :iconoreog:
All else (c) me.
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Name: Lux Cipher

Species:  Unicorn

Gender:  Male

Age: 27

Cutie Mark: A prism shines down a rainbow of light, in which a 5-pointed star is silhouetted.

Description: An elegant, well-proportioned unicorn, a hair on the tall and slim side, with a solemn-looking face.  He has a coral-pink coat, whitish mane, hooves, and tail with pearlescent shades, and yellow eyes.  He wears his mane and tail short, but they are thick and luxurious, and he has a matching mustache and beard.  His eyes, unnervingly, seem to be always wavering back and forth, casting doubt at all times as to what he's looking at.

Occupation/History: Lux is the scion of a unicorn family with a history of work as royal servants, sometimes as guards, but more often in civilian capacities like translators or code-breakers.  Lux himself works as a Canterlot librarian, but during his rebellious teenage years, he picked up one lasting habit – his practice of Discordianism.  He was a faithful member for years before celebrating Discord's return – and then mourning his quick recapture by the Elements of Harmony.  During these events, he gained prominence, and when a schism formed in the church at Discord's “rehabilitation,” he was thrust into a leadership position.  The majority of the church celebrates Discord's newer, kinder persona, while a large splinter sect led by Lux still wait for the “real” Discord, or scheme to bring him back.  Balancing his day job, church responsibilities, and a relationship with fellow splinter Discordian Fig Newton has taken its toll on Lux as of late, and he's beginning to fray under the stress.

Personality: Lux is, unlike many librarians, very outgoing and friendly.  He's quite charismatic and wins friends quickly, and in fact has so many friendships that he doesn't value most of them.  He's not afraid to be flamboyant, even camp, in his mannerisms.  He's terrible at his job (no organizational skills whatsoever), but keeps it by keeping the favor of his superiors.  Sometimes he dozes off when other people are talking at length, especially when he's otherwise sleep-deprived.  He's quite intelligent but sometimes lacking in common sense.  He loves to be the best and the center of attention and will actively work to keep it that way.

Abilities: Lux has talent with light magic, enough that it would at least be a factor to even experienced combatants.  He can blind foes, and to an extent cast illusions – but he's more in his element dispelling them.  His magic can also reveal hidden things of all sorts, including stripping away invisibility or other stealth spells, and with sufficient power, changeling magic.  He's a gifted public speaker and charismatic enough to be a leader.  
MLP OC: Lux Cipher
Here's a new OC that I just came up with when inspiration struck me incidentally.  I wanted to name a pony after Lucifer.  After some thought, I connected a few ideas together and this character gelled.  Another of the major ideas was about the Discordian cult and the schism it must've suffered when Discord was turned to "good" by Fluttershy.  Also, I decided at some point I wanted a gay pink unicorn.

MLP (c) Hasbro
Character (c) me
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Trial By Fire: Young Blood Chronicles

Audition Round: Hey Freak

Oh, the ring.  How he hated the ring.

Samsa squinted through the bars at the arena, his eyes starting to adjust to the bright lights out there.  He hated the way those stadium lights reflected off his carapace.  Or, more often, how much they didn't reflect.  It seemed like his carapace absorbed everything sometimes, and light was often no different.

They brought out the Plains arena today, which was especially bright, with no real cover to provide shade.  Samsa hated the Plains arena; it was his worst one, and not just because of the brightness, although it was definitely the one he could least camouflage himself in.  He hated more the lack of cover or obstacles to exploit.  They had to get right to the fighting.

He couldn't see his opponent, just the similar darkened entrance room across the arena where his opponent would be, but he hated him.  He didn't know the man, but he knew he'd opted to fight Samsa earlier than he had to.  That was reason enough to hate him.  It would ruin Samsa's day, and get the other guy killed.

He especially hated the woman next to him, the Planet Jacker standing a full foot and a half taller even when he stood up straight.  She was a slaver working for the Filter, here, bringing in new gladiators, but she was also most often the “handler” for Samsa and the other class champions.  She'd been champion herself, once.  Samsa could only see Gobi's golden eyes and a strip of lavender skin between the cowboy hat and the gas mask, but he could tell she was smiling.  He hated everything about the Filter, and she loved it all.  She'd won a thousand battles and stayed on working here because she loved it so much.  She terrified him.

“That's yer cue,” she said, turning to look at him.  “Git on out there.”

Samsa's black-armored hands clenched on the bars of the window.  “I don't wanna.  I hate this.”  His voice came out quavering, swallowing up the “I”s.

Gobi made a dismissive noise.  “The Filter's great stuff.  Ya just hate yerself.”

She was half right, Samsa admitted, feeling another pang of, despite everything, hunger.  He hated what he did to the people out on that ring most of all.  He didn't remember much from the orphanage, but he remembered learning that killing people was wrong.  But the people in charge of the Filter made him kill.  When he wouldn't, they withheld food.  And when Samsa was hungry, he couldn't control himself.  Other Smeets his age could control their hunger.  Why wouldn't he hate that about himself?  “M'not going out there,” he murmured finally.

“Oh yeah you are,” Gobi replied smugly.  A shining steel hand flashed out from under her duster, clamping firmly against the carapace on his right upper arm.  Samsa had almost no time to squirm before Gobi's other, purple-fleshed hand flicked out, a syringe prepped to go.  She knew I wouldn't go, he realized, as her practiced hand slid the metal point between the plates of his carapace, piercing the skin of his inner elbow.  The syringe was all ready.  She knew.  “This'll just make ya remember what ya love,” Gobi said, still smug.  She was always smug around Samsa.

He hated the needle.

* * *

Rin Kan shaded his eyes against the stadium lighting as he stepped into the arena.  The young Vortian's blue skin and the brown leather of his vest shone in the light, catching the eye of every one of the arena's patrons.  Good.  He was sick of being disrespected, ignored, left behind.  That kind of treatment had left him struggling with debt until eventually he wound up bought like cattle.

Rin's arms dropped to his sides.  Well, if he was going to be cattle, he would be a bull.  His arms bulged as he tightened the grips on his weapons – a pair of wicked knives, curved almost to the point that they were sickles.  For the first time, his squat stature had worked in his favor, landing him in the Medium class rather than the more difficult Large class of gladiator fights, and the first two battles had been pretty easy.  The champion was supposed to be tougher... but he was just a child.  A child!

Speak of the little devil, he was coming out of his respective entranceway now.  What people had said was true – covered in black armor, head to toe.  Well, people also said you could break through the armor with a good blow.  Rin settled into a fighting stance – arms extended, legs wide, one blade diagonally in front and one behind - as the announcer called finished his spiel and signaled the start of the fight.  He'd given up listening to Moze's “color commentary;” it was generally of an insultingly crude disposition, and besides that didn't generally include any useful strategic information on his foes.

For a moment, Samsa didn't do anything after Moze called for the start of the fight.  He just stood there, arms limp, looking around the arena.  As he finally locked eyes with Rin Kan, Rin's eyes narrowed, but Samsa's purple orbs were wide and unfocused.  What's wrong with him?  He seemsconcussed or something... Rin started to relax his stance, but snapped back into discipline when Samsa suddenly charged him at a dead run.  “Hey freak!” Rin shouted, goading him forward.  “Taste steel!”

Samsa pounced, his clawed bare hands poised to rip into Rin.  Amateur, Rin sneered.  He hopped to the side, and brought his rear blade up to intercept Samsa's throat in midair.  He saw, heard, and felt Samsa's carapace breaking apart under the force of his blow – glossy black splinters fell around the edges of the knife, and the vibrations of the break travelled up the blade and into his arm.  Rin could taste victory, for an instant – but then Samsa tumbled in the air, grabbed Rin's forearm, and dug in with his talons, dragging them both to the ground.

Rin screamed in pain as the Irken's armor-backed claws ripped into the tendons of his arm.  His hand unclenched uselessly and the knife bounced away.  He hit the ground hard on the shoulder of his wounded arm and his bulky horn bounced against the grassy dirt.  He tried to scramble up and get his other knife into play, but Samsa was back up on all fours first, and he pulled himself onto Rin, knocking him flat on his back and pinning his good arm.  Rin tried to follow up his scream with a roar of anger, but Samsa's mouth flashed open, and suddenly Rin's voice fell silent – as the armored Irken reared back up with a mouthful of flesh and windpipe.

When Rin realized his throat had been ripped out, he tried to swallow – but couldn't.  That part of his body was gone.  His vision started to fade.  It had been over in only a few seconds.  How?  I got him right in the throat.  Samsa reared his head back to swallow, exposing his throat again, and Rin saw the truth – a gaping plate of armor was gone, but Samsa's wintergreen flesh underneath was unmarked.  Somehow the armor had absorbed all the force of his blow.  Wish I'd had armor like that, Rin thought, lying his head back on the grass... he was suddenly very tired.

* * *

Samsa stared at the floor.  It was lushly carpeted, not what he was used to.  He wanted to hate it, but couldn't, even though it belonged to Partch and was part of his office.  Partch ran the Filter.  He was the Tallest Irken Samsa had ever seen in person, and he was terrifying.

Samsa was lined up with the three other Champions.  On his left, Rith Zith sat with his tail coiled, his spade-shaped head bowed respectively.  The Small champion was a weird hybrid of Meekrob and Vortian, and didn't look quite like anything else Samsa had ever seen, but he was nice.  He cared about Samsa and wanted to best for him.  On his right, Taboo picked at her nails with apparent disinterest, but her jaw was tense.  The blue-scaled, tattooed Soltecian woman was the current Large class champion, and she usually ignored Samsa.  Looming behind her was a monstrously large Planet Jacker with an Irken PAK incongrously sticking out of his forehead.  Piledriver was actually the PAK's personality, not the Planet Jacker's, which explained why the slouching Planet Jacker wore the PAK legs like a massive set of Irken antennae.  He was also nice enough to Samsa, but he really only cared about himself and took little effort to hide that.

Opposite the room stood, or sat, the top brass of the Filter.  Partch himself sat at his desk, his spiderlike hands clasped.  The old businessman was almost bleached of color, and looked thoroughly dead except for his slow blinking once in a while.  Appearances were deceiving; Partch was, despite every effort from nature and, occasionally, his gladiators, quite alive.  He was flanked by two tall Irken women in fur coats, one leaning against the wall of the office, and the other sitting cross-legged on the side of Partch's desk.  They looked casual, but they scared Partch as well.  They weren't there to amuse Partch; they were there to protect him.  On one side of the desk stood Moze, the announcer and another ex-Champion.  He was a grinning mass of pits and scars dressed in suspicious-looking leather, and his fingers were twitching at his side on his remaining non-transplanted hand.  On the other side of the desk, Gobi leaned against the wall, arms folded calmly, and next to her stood Stepp” the arena's general manager and the only one in the room who couldn't defend himself in a pitched battle – which was probably part of why he was always so nervous.  Stepp was speaking now, and had been for a few minutes, but most of it had gone over Samsa's head.

“And that's basically the gist of it.” The chubby Irken gestured to the small robot that had been floating next to him.  It resembled nothing more than a football-sized Spittle Runner ship, with its maroon metal frame, propulsion systems along the rear and underside, and a pair of primary 'claws' on its lower front that could be used to grip or secure itself to a perch.  The robot's similarity ended with the cockpit – instead the thing had an elaborate camera lens.  “The Tallest want one of our best for Trial By Fire, but just one – they said they didn't want to encourage contestants to form any alliances.”

“And the winner gets a wish!  AND A POSTER!” The droid was very enthusiastic, but his voice was like a cheese grater straight to the antennae.  Stepp and Samsa both winced.   “All you have to do is fight your way through several skilled foes without dying!  On various planets!  So, who wants it most?  Don't all shout at once!”  There was an uncomfortable silence that follwed.

“Look...” Rith spoke first.  “That prize sounds fantastic, it really does, but... I can run the numbers.  I'd probably die out there.  Only one contestant will survive out there.  Here, I'm a big fish in a small pond, and I'm content with that.  I'm comfortable.  Count me out.”

The Piledriver nodded in agreement, his “antennae” rattling across the metal life-support tank on his back.  “With all due respect, sir, I've GOT my wishes already!  I'm treated like a warrior-king here, and all I have to do is fuck up 3 meters of musclehead once or twice a week?  The Filter is the best life I've ever known!”

“The chances of victory are remote,” Taboo added.  “Many unknown variables to consider.  The Filter is the devil I know.”

“I'm disappointed, but I understand.”  Partch's voice was cold and biting as a winter gust, but without malice.  He was being honest; there would be no punishment for this decision.

“That's a shame.  What about you, blacky?  All you gotta do is push the button.”  To Illustrate the point, the droid created a hard-light hologram from its camera lens.  Now, floating in front of it, translucent and glowing, there was an actual big red button for any gladiator to push.

“Samsa wouldn't want to...” Rith began, but then he saw that Samsa had, indeed, stepped forward.  “...I stand corrected.”

Gobi chuckled.  “Atta boy.  You're better off here, but if'n you wanna show some backbone, you've picked the time to do it.”  Piledriver clapped and whistled encouragingly as well.  “Remember, though, you've got to fight for real this time.  I won't be there to drug you and make you want to fight on this planet.”

“That's for the best,” Partch said.  “The boy fights better without the drugs.  Anybody else would've been killed in yesterday's fight, Gobi, and that Vortian could have been spared for another day.  It's damned inefficient is what it is.”

“Boss-man's right,” Moze chimed in.  “Ten seconds of fighting and two minutes of the freak eating a guy isn't good television, Gobi.  Probably best we let the medium champ slot open up for a while.”  Samsa sighed and walked towards the droid, approaching the hologram.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do, Samsa?” Rith asked plaintively.

“Mm-hmm,” Samsa said, scratching at his throat.  The new carapace plate was still growing in, and it itched.

“You could die.  I mean, you could die here, but there... Samsa, you're going to die.”

Samsa blinked back tears.  “Mm-hmm.”  He raised his hand, tried to stop thinking about the fact that somebody would be sad if he died after all, and pressed the button.
Trial By Fire: Young Blood Chronicles Intro
"Hey there little freak you remember me?
We were never introduced properly.
Hey you gonna cry?
You don't look so tough in the light of day,
But we ain't gonna murder you right away..."

Bat Boy: The Musical (London), "Hey Freak"

Well, here's my entry for :icontrial-by-fire-oct:.  It's late, but I was unable to access deviantart starting mid-afternoon on Saturday.  It was pretty nerve-wracking.  Luckily, the OCT already announced they were accepting late entries today, so I'm safe at any rate.

This first chapter is downright emo.  It'll pick up a bit now that Samsa's out of the Filter, the arena where he's been growing up.  The contest should give him reason to express a much wider emotional range.

Invader Zim (c) :iconnickelodeon: :iconjhonenplz:
Trial-By-Fire (c) its owners
All else (c) me
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Name: Samsa

Age:
Irken equivalent of 8 years old

Height:
3’10/ 117 cm

Weight:
roughly 60 lbs/ 26 kg

Gender:
Male

Species:
Irken Defective, no PAK

Physical Description:
Samsa is a relatively tall Irken Smeet with large, medium-purple eyes and very pale green skin. However, his Defect causes him to grow a glossy, blackish-green, segmented carapace that covers him from antenna-tip to toe, except for his eyes. It can break off, but grows back fully in about two days. The carapace mostly hugs his body, but forms a few thick spines on his upper back, and enhances the sharpness of his natural claws and teeth (and, for the claws, makes them longer). Samsa can't wear a PAK because of his Defect, and doesn't normally wear clothes; the carapace covers everything up.  If Samsa’s carapace is broken, shards may remain attached to his skin, usually in places where the bone is directly under the skin like knuckles, shins, jawline, brow and upper cheeks.

Bio:
Samsa was left on the doorstep of an orphanage in neutral space as an infant. It's not really clear whether he was just a Defective natural born Irken, or some sort of experimental cross-breed. At any rate, he was healthy, so they kept him. When he was a toddler, the orphanage shut down due to insufficient funds (neutral space often being poverty-stricken), and the orphans were taken by the slaver Gobi to the Filter gladiatorial arena. Samsa was the youngest orphan, and the only one who really took to the fights. When he wouldn't fight, they'd give him mind-altering drugs or neglect feeding him before the battle to bring out his urge to feed. He's been undefeated since he was old enough to move from Small to Medium class at his arena.  The Filter isn’t the most famous arena of its kind, but Samsa would have some degree of notoriety as a gladiator and child warrior – any character familiar with the gladiator scene may recognize him, and he would turn up on a web search in-universe.

Personality:
Smart and a quick planner, but still very childlike in his thinking. He has trouble controlling his instincts, but this could be either from his Defect or from his upbringing - what is clear is that his Defect makes him hungry almost all the time. He mimics people a lot. He has no formal education, but Rith Zith, another size class's champion, is quite fond of him and teaches what he can. He's self-conscious of his appearance, but not as much as he could have been - growing up in a gladiator arena exposed him to a lot of other freaks.  Samsa is basically kind but impressionable – some of his personality will be defined by characters he meets during the tournament.

Strengths:
Samsa's a great fighter, and not just because nobody wants to hit a child. He has animal savagery and cunning beyond his years. He's been forced into enough fights to not start crying when he gets hurt. His Defect is his best ally in combat; the shell breaks on a hard impact or if Samsa has muscle spasms, but it resists fire, cold, electricity, acid, cutting... he can also use the broken pieces as improvised weapons, since they form sharp edges. Samsa also has strong jaws and the ability to digest things like chalk and bone that most stomachs couldn't; he needs this, because he has a fast metabolism and his armor needs a lot of nutrients to grow.  As pieces of armor are broken off, Samsa also gets lighter and therefore faster.

Weaknesses:
Samsa is still a child, pre-pubescent both mentally and physically.  He’s not as strong as a young adult of his own size could be, lacking sufficient muscle mass.  He’s mostly incapable of abstract thought and can be tricked provided it’s not a trick he already knows.  He’s afraid of needles and losing control.  He has a complex over his cannibalistic tendencies that could probably be exploited given enough time to interact with him.  He’s got a small but present soft spot for motherly types and mild-mannered intellectuals.  Almost all of his combat experience is with opponents of nearly the same size as him.  His Defect could also be turned around as a weakness; it could weigh him down in a liquid, breaking too much armor on one side could unbalance him, and so forth.  Finally, some purely mechanical weaknesses: he’s got no PAK and therefore none of the benefits most Irkens enjoy, and he’s got no ranged combat capabilities as of the beginning of the tournament.

Miscellaneous:
Samsa has no weapons at the start of the tournament, but is clever enough to make simple weapons out of his own carapace shards and could scavenge weapons from his opponents.  The coloration of Samsa's carapace changes slightly depending on his diet.  Make his carapace any color you like as long as it’s very dark!  Also, child soldiers are a horrible thing and I don't endorse them.  Cannibalism is cool, though.
Trial-By-Fire Application: Samsa
:icontrial-by-fire-oct:

This is my application (and updated reference) for the Irken Samsa.  Some information has been updated from his last profile, but other than the weaknesses section he's pretty much the same character.

Ravenpuff was kind enough to draw Samsa back when I first released information on him! ravenpuff.deviantart.com/art/S…

Irkens, Invader Zim (c) Jhonen Vasquez, Nickelodeon
Samsa (c) myself
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Name: Stormare

Species: Griffon, Duskraptor Clan

Gender: Male

Age: late 40s (in human terms)

Cutie Mark: None (Griffon)

Description:  Stormare has a formidable build, packing an awful lot of muscle onto what's really only a medium-sized frame for a griffon.  His bird features draw from the black hawk-eagle (orange eyes, mostly black feathers with a short back-pointing crest, small white speckles on his crest feathers and silver-grey bars on his wings, silver-grey hooked beak), and his cat features include brownish fur and a black tail tuft (based on the darker range of fur colors for a lion).  He has a set of scars on his forehead - claw marks above his right eye and the middle of his forehead that continue diagonally back.  His expression is usually serious to the point of dour.  He wears a thick-strapped leather harness on his chest, holding various metal flasks and vials.  On the middle of his back he carries a big, scary-looking sword called a terbutje (essentially a wooden paddle with jagged obsidian 'teeth' inserted all up and down the thin sides).  Due to consuming the Draft regularly for over half his life, he essentially hasn't aged since around his twenty-first year.

Occupation/History: Stormare is chief of the infamous Duskraptor Clan of griffons, who lived in the Stonetalon Peaks (a harsh mountain range on the borders of Equestrian territoy).  While some of the Stonetalon griffon clans were open to negotiation with outsiders, the Duskraptors were purely warriors, hunters, raiders, and horse-eaters.  Red Velvet became the first pony in two centuries to gain the clan's respect and become an honorary member (and the first non-pegasus ever) by showing them how to create the Draft, a process they adopted enthusiastically.  This was a great boon to them for years, but they fueled the Draft with much more frequent and lethal raids on the other griffon clans, and this forced them to ally against the Stonetalons, and they received Equestrian aid in this endeavor.  This is the troubled time Stormare has inherited from the previous chief, Kier.  As Kier's oldest son and an accomplished warrior, Stormare was the natural griffon for the job, but he wasn't ready to lead in such desperate circumstances, and the rest of his clan have been killed or captured of late.  Stormare plans to redeem himself by rescuing his clan, and to that end, no price is too great...

Personality: Stormare is very serious, to the point where he couldn't be funny if he tried and often doesn't get jokes at all.   When he finds something funny, often it's something nopony else finds funny (sometimes other griffons get it).  He's naturally intimidating, and bristles quickly when provoked, but that's mostly a front – he actually has very good control over his temper and doesn't get any angrier than he lets himself get.  In fact, he's very calm, exceedlingly patient, and a little bit melancholy and withdrawn, an introvert by nature.  He doesn't like to lead, but takes affront at any suggestion he's not a good leader.  He's creative by nature and envies Equestria for the way sculpting the natural world is part of their culture.  Overall, he's actually a pretty good guy who happens to be from a culture of killing and eating sentient beings.

Abilities: Stormare's a world-class flier, his raw muscle giving him great strength and allowing him to reach speeds most griffons only dream of.   His shorter, broader wings give him surprising lift and force without sacrificing cornering.  It's rumored that thanks to the Draft, he can perform a Sonic Rainboom, or something like it.  That strength and speed combine with plenty of skill and experience using his beak, talons, and the magic sword he inherited to make him a very dangerous fighter.  Although not intellectual by nature, he's literate enough and knows his way around chemistry (he brews his own Draft, like most Duskraptors).  He's a competent leader, although he's really just versed in leading his clan in combat – he has almost no experience in dealing with the long term.  His natural magic is mostly typical for griffons – based in passively enhancing his own abilities – although he's also quite gifted at cloud manipulation.  On a related note, he's an accomplished creator of cloud sculpture, creating elaborate works of art that vanish within minutes – one of the gentler heirlooms of the Duskraptor culture.
MLP OC: Stormare of the Duskraptors
Hey, remember when I used to post stuff?  Well, I did a thing.  Meet Stormare, from Red Velvet's past days with the Duskraptors.  Except... this doesn't look so 'past' as much as 'present!'  Could I be planning to bring Stormare back for the storyline of Red Velvet Runaway? (Hint: yes, I am)

Stormare's a member of the fairly common "Proud Warrior Race Guy" character archetype, but there's a lot of wiggle room in that trope, so I made it unique and interesting where I could.  If you have any comments or criticisms, feel free to let me know.

Oh, and he's named after actor Peter Stormare.  All of the Duskraptors are named after Germanic or Scandinavian actors, because I said so.

MLP (c) Hasbro
Characters (c) me
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deviantID

avatarjk137
Justin
Artist
United States
Current Residence: Florida?
Favourite genre of music: It isn't the genre, but the quality that matters.
Favourite photographer: ...HUH?
Favourite style of art: anything that actually involves drawing things.
Operating System: Windows.
MP3 player of choice: Zen Nano Plus. iPods are lame, run-of-the-mill drek.
Shell of choice: Cardboard Carapace.
Wallpaper of choice: Changes at least weekly.
Skin of choice: Mine.
Favourite cartoon character: Toughie. Maybe Zim.
Personal Quote: Your life is measured by how happy you are and how happy you make others.
Interests

Journal History

Time for a new journal!  I'm feeling somewhat better on that subject, thanks to everybody for your support.

Been a while since I got into a good old IZ OCT.  :iconresisty-uprising-oct: looks like just that.  Irkens only, just like the first Blood-Sport, but for a different reason: this time, the plot focuses on a forced survival tournament the Resisty is holding with their prisoners of war after successfully taking back the Empire.  It's a really neat plot opportunity, even if you're only going to do it as a "what-if" for your main plotline like I'm going to.  I'm gonna enter Kizzo, an OC I haven't given the spotlight to yet (trust me, she'll be in her element).  It's not happening for a while still (no admissions deadline yet), so just because you're in Blood-Sport doesn't mean you have no time for this.  Go check it out.

Not much else going on.  I'm still judging the third Blood-Sport, still in PGO if I survive this round's eliminations.  I'm still struggling with Tumblr addiction.  I'm no longer employed, but I stayed long enough to make about two grand, which will go toward my grad school career (I've applied, and I'm working on the stuff the English department needs from me).  Still playing DnD and other tabletop games, still hanging out with my friends at the local college.

I'm also in the closed beta for Mechwarrior Online, which I think will soon be an open beta.  If you guys played the Mechwarrior series before, or just have a decent gaming PC and think the idea of strapping yourself into a 100-ton robot and shooting other guys in 100-ton robots sounds fun, go check it out and reserve yourself a username at mwomercs.com/  The game's free to play, but uses a system where you can spend real-world money to buy mechs of your own more quickly.

Well, I'm gonna go make dinner.  We're trying a recipe for spinach and mushroom quesadillas.
  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: Homestuck song mashups
  • Watching: Gravity Falls
  • Playing: Mechwarrior Online
  • Drinking: Iced Tea

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:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2014
This just makes me think Metal Fang vs Red Velvet
www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfkR5o…
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:iconavatarjk137:
avatarjk137 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2014
Heh.  I like it.  Thanks for the link.
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:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2014
Yar welcome =D
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:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014
Did I forget to tell you I finished the final reaction image a while back? I think I forgot to tell you I finished the final reaction image a while back.

I finished the final reaction image a while back.
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:iconavatarjk137:
avatarjk137 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014
:P Sorry, I saw now.  It's great!  I've just been off-balance computer wise between Blood-Sport, college stuff, and my laptop being busted.  I put all my Red Velvet stuff on hold until the laptop is fixed.
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:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Ah, oki ^^ Well, at least it's all done and ready now for when things got balanced again.
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:iconavatarjk137:
avatarjk137 Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Yus.  Thanks again for all your hard work!
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(1 Reply)
:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2014
email, check!
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:iconavatarjk137:
avatarjk137 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2014
Got it!  Looks good!
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:iconravenpuff:
Ravenpuff Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2014
:la:
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