Place: New Sicily, 4th planet.

Time: One year ago.

Situation: Battle for New Sicily's planetary Shield, First New Roman Shock Troops versus Seventh Horde Orcish Warriors.

Intercepted communication between squadron commander and his soldiers:

A calm voice: "...hey Merc, can you give me some cover over here?"

"Hee Haw! This is great! What was that sir, cover? Coming right up; one order of whoop ass."

All of a sudden the air is filled with Densium bullets as a group of Mechs threatening the squadron leader get turned into scrap metal.

Corporal Pal runs over. "Hey, Merc! Those new bullets you got are really doing their job."

The calm voice, again: "Merc made them himself after he found an old manual dating back to old earth. I think with a bit more training he might come in handy with the rest of our equipment. By the way how's the leg? It's looking better than Pyro's burns."

Pal: "Yea, he thought he could burn everyone around without getting himself involved. Well, the doctor said he could fix him up, with the right equipment."

All of a sudden the crack of the sound barrier and the feel of something moving fast moved between the two warriors. They looked up and saw a headless Mech a few meters away, toppling over, with its toaster-like head bouncing away down the cracked old concrete sidewalk.

Pal: "That was a good choice to assign Venus to sniper position, sir!"

The battle rages on...


A year later, in a little known bar on the outskirts of some town.

"Hello Colonel, what can I get you?"

"That's retired Colonel, so just call me Max. How are you doing Victor?"

"Well, beats living day and night in a swamp infested hell hole. Yourself sir?"

"I've been working on a project indirectly involved with the "new" government. Which is the reason I'm here. I'm looking for a few good men. Interested?"

"Always sir. What's the mission?"

"No mission. I want you to put together a team of five for combat, but this will be a sort of arena combat."

"You mean like a war game?"

"No, this is using live ammo. The object will be to pit yourselves against other teams. Every time you drop an opponent, you receive points, called Battle Honors. If your strategy helps you get a hit you get Battle Honors. If another team drops one of your guys, they get, you guessed it, Battle Honors."

"What do I do with Battle Honors?"

"First of all, just for signing up, you and all your team immediately receive an increase in citizenship from 3rd grade to 2nd grade. Secondly, when you reach a stage where your total Battle Honors earned reach a new set level, your status increases. The Battle Honors can be spent to get stuff like training for new skills or even equipment upgrades from sponsors; that will depend on what's available. You may also use these Battle Honors to help heal some non life-threatening injuries. This package also comes with full benefits, and the chance of dying is much lower than in the field." A pause. "The only question is, can you put a team together?"

"When do you need an answer?"

"In two days I'm heading for Earth, I mean, New Rome. Meet me at terminal 5-A at 0600 with your team. Victor, this could really help both of us. So show up with a winning team."

"Yes sir."

Ten minutes later: "Hey Pal, you still alive?"

A Yawn, followed by a grunt. "Yes sir, just itching for something to do. Why, you got something?"

"Get the squad together by 1800 tomorrow here. We'll discuss this further."

"Yes sir."


Next day, 1830, same little known bar.

"So what's the mission this time? I haven't burned anything in over a year and time's a wasting!"

"No mission gentlemen. This is our calling. We are invited to be part of a new sport centered on gladiatorial combat, but with real ammo. We go up against other teams for money and bigger and better toys."

"What's in it for us?"

"In return for forming a team, we get upgraded from 3rd class to 2nd, and if we do well enough, we move up from there. The big thing is it gives us a chance to prove our worth, and it's something we enjoy doing."

"Well you count me in, I'm already getting an itch."

"Me too, sir."

"Where do I sign?"

"Do I get to bring my bagpipes?" Laughter.

Sergeant Victor raises his mug. "Here's to Team Alpha!"


2 months later, a loft apartment. Crates litter the large living room floor.

"Woo! Look at this Suit!" Pyro hefts a shimmering red-gold shoulder plate from its foam cocoon. Team Alpha shines out from it in glowing, threedee letters.

"Are these Suits Marauders? Cripes, we coulda used those against the Bugs two years ago." Merc cracks open the cerametal chest-piece to look inside.

"Wait a minute. This suit has no upgrades. All the slots are empty!"

"That's right, mister." Victor tosses a helmet to Venus. "These suits are shiny and new, the best money can buy, but they are basic stock. Upgrades will have to be earned by dropping your opponents and earning Battle Honors."

"The sight reticle on this helmet is kludged, boss," says Venus, helmet on, looking out of the apartment's window. "The range scale is way off!"

"That's right, Venus. In order to please the crowds, your weapons, which are also the best money can buy, have had their ranges shortened by force field generators." Victor looks around at his people. "No one is going to pay to watch Venus decapitate someone at 4,500 meters of range."

"That means..." Pal hefts his Blaster Rifle. "We're going to have to re-learn our weapons, just like rooks out of Basic!" He smiles. "Cool!"

"Pal, you're way too enthusiastic," mutters Venus, still looking out the window.


3 months later, in a ruined city block in Atlanta, New Earth.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to New Earth's first airing of Injurius Games! Tonight's first match will be contested by Team Alpha, Team Slosh Beer, Team Sun and Team Red Shirt. The main sponsor of this tournament is Useless Components..."


As the siren goes, all the teams start to move forward. Let's listen in to Team Alpha.


"Ok Pyro, move towards Sun. Pal, you move with him. Venus, set yourself up to help us Merc and I will move towards Slosh."

"Roge, Pyro out."

"Understood. Pal out."

"Hey Pal, you see that guy moving towards us. I'll flank him and you keep his attention tuned to you. He's got the chain gun moving with him, but he might not get into position in time to help. If opens up, you need to take care of him."

"Pal, Rogeo."

"Go go go! I got you now. Now Pal Now."

Pyro floods the target with bright green plasma. As the acrid smell of plasma fills the zone, screams of pain ring out. Pal also blasts him, but leaves his side open. A golden, sun-colored suit bounces off a crumbling wall before hitting the ground.

"We got him Pal, he's out for the count. Pal Look out beside you!"

A buzzing sound from a minigun, and the air around Pal is filled with lead. Pal staggers, bright blood oozing from a dozen holes in his Suit.

"Pal's hit! Venus, can you help...."

"Done." A supersonic crack, followed by a metallic ringing. "He's hit but still mobile. Can you get him, Pyro?"

"He's mine. Hey Pal you okay?"

"Yea but you go, I'll just slow you down."

"Hey buddy, you hurt my Pal, now I hurt you. Don't you know, you can't hide from me?"

"Watch it Pyro, You'll have to expose yourself to get him."

Pyro runs around a rusted water tank, and blasts a huge ball of nuclear fire towards the Sun Team minigunner.

"I got him sir, got him good. No, it can't be; he must be down to his last breath but ..."

Again, the Sun minigunner's weapon burps out a thousand bullets, ventilating Pyro's suit. Pyro drops like a stone, not moving. In the Team Alpha medlab, his vital signs go flat.

"Medic! Medic!"

"Sorry, but the medic may only enter after the battle is over"

"Venus, you got a line on this guy."

"Yes sir. If he moves I'll nail him." Venus, unlike the other members of Team Alpha, has a deadly quiet voice. No trace of emotion.

Pal's excited voice cuts in: "No sir, I think I can get a grenade on him."

Victor's voice replies: "If you move a bit closer you can get it through the window and make it easier."

"Good idea sir."

Pal edges to the window in a burned out building, palms a frag grenade, and tosses it through. It bounces between the Sun minigunner's legs, beeps, and detonates with a loud Crump. The Sun minigunner is flung into the air, hits the ground hard and doesn't get up.

"Got him! You were right sir that did the trick. How are you guys doing?"

"It's just not fair Pal," grunts Merc.


"Because after we lit them up, they decided to do a full attack on the Red Shirts. So now we've got to run after them."

Enough chatter," Victor barks. "Ok Merc, you see those two guys. Shoot them first then I'll go and sweep up."

"It's a go"

As Merc fires off an extended burst into a pair of Sun Gladiators, a shot rings out and hits him. The energy from the sniper's flechette punches it right through Merc's chest. In the Team Alpha medlab, Merc's vital signs take an alarming dip.

"Hey Merc, good shooting, now get out of the way before you get hit again. Where did that come from?"

Merc coughs before answering.

"It looks like it came from Team Red Shirt's sniper. But I'm not moving. It's easier to shoot if I don't move." Merc steadies himself against a burned-out car.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes sir. Now you go and get those guys and maybe Venus can plug that sniper."

"Moving into position," from Venus.

"Ok here we go. Charge!"

The Lieutenant charges and shoots the two opponents Merc had lit up previously. One goes down and Victor moves into contact with the other.

"That's it sir, put that sword through his heart. Look out, the plasma gunner is moving on your position. Venus, Pal, can you move on him."

"Venus, Negative. I'm setting up on the sniper from the Red Shirts."

"I can't get there in time, sir! But I'll launch a grenade."

A grenade soars out of Pal's backpack, and detonates over the Red Shirt team plasma gunner, who ignores the rain of shrapnel.

"I hit him but he took no damage."

The Red Shirt plasma gunner unleashes a glowing stream of plasma, getting both Victor and the other warrior. Although the Lieutenant is left standing, it is quite clear that some of the damage got through his armor.


Later on...

As the battle ends, medics rush off carrying the limp bodies back towards their entry points to apply any treatment or to just cover the body.

Team Sun got 2 "kills": Pyro from team Alpha and the sniper from team Red Shirts. Their chain gunner died from his injuries and the lieutenant got a leg injury, which can be fixed with the points they gained.

Team Alpha and team Red Shirt both got 7 Battle Honors: 3 eliminations at 2 points each plus 1 point awarded for the Lieutenant's idea to get the chain gunner of team Sun with the grenade. Although Pyro and Merc both went down (Merc from another shot courtesy of Team Red Shirt's Sniper), they both lived, although Pyro will be out for 2 matches due to the severity of his injuries. Merc only needed to have a new plate added to his skull, which was done for free.

"Thank God I don't know too much, or else I might have lost it. Say, where did I park my hoverbike?"

The points were awarded to each individual with the extras awarded to Merc, Lieutenant and Pal.

Lieutenant Victor got an Auto-Doc and learned how to shoot and move his new Blaster without disturbing his shot.

Pal got new types of grenades, and he's developed a way of guessing what his commander wants and can relay orders.

Merc got a lighter bolt for his minigun: he can now shoot even more; he also learned to repair his and his teammates' equipment.

Venus is now a more accurate shot.

Next time they fight, they will need to bring in a temp for Pyro, but they have a list of guys who could fit the bill.

It's now time to go and celebrate at Morituri Bar and Grill.

Merc: "I'm going to ask the Red Shirt sniper to buy me a drink. He owes me at least that much for letting him shoot me twice."


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