Proxathlon

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Agent Nasani felt the impact on her chest. The freefall suit could withstand a beating, but the human catapult formed by Team Artemis smashed Nasani so hard her weightless body was sent back to the periphery.

Thirty seconds.

The crowds standing on the arena's inner surface went into a frenzy. The Proxima supporters counted down the beats as Nasani gasped for air, waiting for Coach Sklep to fly closer. Sliding up her faceplate she yelled, "I can't get to the centre."

Sklep clasped her by the biceps. "Suspect's tissue sample came back positive." The dread in his eyes confirmed her worst fears.

Phero Virus.

Genetically engineered to wipe out an entire society, the bio-weaponised retrovirus attacked the neural system, incapacitating healthy humans within days, rendering them brain-dead within weeks. Stubbornly airborne, mutatious, and deployed during the Great Solar War, Nasani knew of this virus's capacity for devastation from studying the glorious Proxima Capital Archive. Judging by her senior agent's dismay, this banned pathogen seemed to have caught the PSS off-guard. "We believe the entire Artemia team's been infected."

"Then stop the tournament," yelled Nasani.

Nasani and Sklep look down towards the core, just in time to witness the first proxathlete make it into the valve.

"Impossible now," Sklep said as he shoved Nasani back into the spherical arena. "Do everything you can to stop them."

Nasani plunged back into the sporting void, reassessing her game plan. Social infiltration now redundant, her assignment as an information extractor had changed to that usually assigned to the Assassination Corp. Nasani hailed her Proxima team members who immediately flew to her vicinity. They were followed by members of Team VEMA, her counterpart leading the way.

"What's happening?" asked Charleston, a spy from VEMA.

"No time to explain," she yelled. "I need to get through to the next stage."

Players from both teams agreed; few knew what the stakes were, most wanting to win the prestigious Proxathlon.

"Offensive catapult formation," cried her teammate.

"No," yelled Charleston. "With both teams colluding, we'll be disqualified."

With time bleeding away, Nasani glared at the spy, "I don't give a roid's ass if we get disqualified. Get me through that valve."

Charleston winked back at her, "Ladder formation. Perfectly legal. Get there faster."

The Proxima and VEMA teams dispersed, using the clasp and swing manoeuvre, and each other's centre of gravity, to haul towards the arena's centre. Once passing the halfway zone, the red freefall suits representing the VEMA, joined up to form a human rope. Team Proxima, with their green suits, formed a spearhead, using it to barrage through a defensive phalanx put up by Team Jupiter.

As the scattered bodies grabbed each other to form clusters, Nasani began climbing the human rope, pulling herself from body to body, irrespective of colour, each leap increasing her velocity. Once she felt her momentum reach a potent speed she let go and dove towards the valve. As soon as she made contact, Nasani positioned her body into the chamber. The valve, positioned in place by two structural tubes running along the arena's polar axis, hissed with escaping air. Nasani braced as a jet of air flushed her into the northern tube. She knew she was able to breathe, but she held her breath the entire twenty-second trip. Suddenly, she panicked, realising she forgot to activate her suit's pressurisation, but when deep space greeted her, no alarm systems threatened her.

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