Chapter 18 - A Little Taste

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 Deep breaths weren’t going to be enough to calm the nerves she felt now. Standing with the nineteen others in her Mayhem, Codi looked at the floor, trying to keep her concentration before the fighting started. Vasco had done all he could in the last two days, but now the time for talk and practice was finally over. With a long breath she forced herself to look up at the doors, past the forms of her competition. Above the door a counter descended.

“You feeling alright?” asked a boy to her right. Codi turned slowly and found herself looking into the mischevious eyes of the fighter who’d spoken to her in the lobby. His exoskeleton was largely black in colour, with two white stripes running down each arm. He grinned.

“I’m fine,” she grated, looking back to the door.

He leaned in closer, speaking conspiratorially. “Rumour has it we’re going to be doing a lot of climbing.”

Before she could ask what he meant by that, the counter above the door reached zero and the fighters began filing out into the arena, one by one. The massive voice of an announcer blared as each individual was introduced upon their entry. She stepped into line, following another girl wearing the earthy brown exoskeleton of the Orion academy into the doorway.

From Orion, Brya Stone!

Codi could hear the announcer’s voice clearly, and the girl in front of her stepped into the glare, vanishing from her sight despite only being a few feet away. A low roar filled the air and that was when she realised just how many spectators there were going to be inside the arena. Clenching and unclenching her fists, she began bouncing lightly on the spot. The attendant in the fighters’ corridor made a chopping motion towards the door with one hand.

From Brax-Delta Academy, Codi James!

She stepped through the film of light and the noise from the crowds hit her like a wave. Her eyes wandered up and around as she took in the arena construct for her Mayhem. Currently she stood on a kind of gangplank that protruded barely ten feet into open space, and that was the only real surface in the entire arena.

The transparent walls formed a colossal dome, and through them Codi could see the innumerable hoards of Gauntlet spectators. Level after level of seating rose on all sides, each one packed with cheering onlookers ready for their first spectacle of the day.

However, her concern was no longer with the crowds. The walls of the dome were covered in handholds, ranging from hoops to rods to little more than small protruding lumps. Higher up there were criss-crossing gantries that made the arena look like an overly elaborate conurbation of children’s monkey bars. Far below she could see the glittering blue mesh of gravitic netting, waiting to catch any fighters who fell.

Codi moved to her right, knowing she needed to get into position. Already the eight fighters before her were climbing their way around into evenly spaced starting points marked out by glowing red lines in the arena wall. Latching onto the nearest hoop, she set off to show off.

Yanking once with her right arm, she launched herself into a graceful back-flip before latching onto another protruding bar several feet higher. Whoops and roars from the crowd set her heart racing and she swung on. Airborne again, she kicked off one of the hoops and somersaulted as many times as she dared before landing on both feet, right in front of a red starting marker.

Codi grinned as the noise of the crowd swelled again, and she caught a glare from the girl who’d entered the arena before her. She ignored the other fighter, a feeling of elation washing over her. So much for stage fright.

Glancing to her left she spotted the black armoured boy making his way to the closest starting point in a less extravagant fashion. He landed about twenty feet away and flashed her a gleaming smile.

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