“Okay,” she said. “I’ll go.”
“Excellent!” he clapped his hands together. “I knew you would see things my way!”
“How do I know you won’t power me down as soon as I get down there?” she said.
“I gave you no word to keep,” he said. “The way I see it, you have no alternative.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. Making a face, the point hit home. Of course he was right, she reflected, because he made no promises. Not that she would trust him to keep his word even if he had…
“I see you’re point,” she said.
With a sigh, she turned to face the stairs. At the bottom would be the hell she had left once before. Why was it that her life seemed to run in circles, everything returning to the start? Was there any chance of breaking the cycle?
[That is up to you to do,] Brooks whispered.
Slipping her arms into the scabbard, she put it on her back. As she stepped out into the sun, the silver in her jumpsuit gleamed. Looking to either side, she could see the drunken and stoned crowds. They all cheered her like the arrival of a beloved king.
Gambling away their money on the blood of others, she thought, feeling like screaming it at them. Not that it would have made any difference; as impaired as the crowds were, no one would have paid attention.
Feeling the comforting weight of her sword on her back, she started to step down. It was fight to keep her breath under control. However, there was no controlling her heart; it raced out of control as she descended.
Beads of sweat popped on her forehead, running down her face. Wiping her bangs away absentmindedly, she sucked in a deep breath. Breathing was the key, she told herself, or she was going to pass out from the anxiety.
Reaching the midway point of her descent, she could feel the first tickles of adrenaline. Her muscles started to tighten, preparing for the fight ahead. A shiver ran down her spine as she felt a chill fall upon her soul.
This is where everything began, she thought. And it may well end too.
[Not if you trust yourself,] Brown said.
Lady, don’t you see I have enough to worry about? Jesus!
[If you don’t trust yourself,] Brown said. [Then you will die right here. Is that what you want?]
Of course not! If what you say is right, and I still have my doubts, the entire galaxy is counting on me!
A single step was all it took. Feeling the clay under her boot, she closed her eyes. The sounds of the crowd faded from her mind. Images of friends who had died filled her mind. One single, solitary tear wound its way down her cheek, leaving a glistening trail behind.
She wiped it away with a gloved hand. Stepping out onto the arena were six gladiators. They closed on her position as she pulled her sword out. Behind her, she heard the stairwell close.
It’s show time, she thought.
She held her sword before her. Parallel to the ground it served as a notice. The challenge to fight had been accepted, it said. Twirling it around in her hand, she stepped towards them.
The gladiators moved towards her, their swords ready. With a deep breath, she launched herself at them. The first two attacked her, swords flashing. Moving like a woman possessed, she ducked the first man’s blow.
A woman moved at her, leaving her midsection open. Without thought, Kate swiped her sword across the woman’s stomach. With a scream of agony, she went down.
Kicking a foot out, she hit the first man in the knee. Crying in pain, he went to his knees. She swung at his head, turning to face the other four. Hearing it hit the ground she made her next move.
Spinning on her feet, she cuffed one man. The other gladiator that charged her met the end of her sword. Pulling it out of his body, she heard it slump to the ground.
The man she cuffed charged at her again. She leapt over his swing. Cart wheeling past him, she landed on her feet. A woman gladiator looked at her with a stunned expression. Impaling her, Kate killed her before she knew what hit her.
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