Schmidt held the gaussgun to her chest, eyes closed, practicing her breathing. Calm, she repeated to herself, calm calm calm…
When the Akari warrior saw her she froze and her breathing went to hell. Jesus Lord it was huge.
The Akari locked onto Schmidt and lumbered towards her, 2.5 meters of articulated chrome battle armor, servos whining and thumping as it approached. The beast stopped a meter away, gazed down at the human in her relatively simple combat armor, free of mechanical or cybernetic boosts. It cocked its head thoughtfully.
“Hyooooman, you are greeted by Akari,” its vocoder grated.
Calm, calm, calm. She did not want the thing to read her fear.
“Akari, you are greeted by Human,” Schmidt returned, gasping for air. It couldn’t kill her yet. Not yet. Not outside the Arena.
“Hyooooman, your armor is simple. Your firearm primitive. Cede this combat and Akari will be merciful/swift in your defeat! Akari will even grant a kill-bonus of 2000 Arena credits to spend as you will. Take this deal, Hyooooman.”
“If I kill you I’ll earn ten times that amount. Besides, how can I spend Arena credits if I am dead?”
The Akari paused, clearly confused. Schmidt waited patiently while the thing (no doubt) verified the translation was correct. Finally, it gave up.
“Hyooooman, rephrase the confusing words.”
“Humans are not resurrected upon death in the Arena.”
A long pause while the Akari processed this ridiculous statement. It tried again.
“Hyooooman, rephrase the confusing--”
“If you kill me, I stay dead. Inside the Arena, out here… it doesn’t matter. Humans are new to the Unity Of Worlds; our race cannot afford to purchase the,” Schmidt fairly spat the words, “resurrection technology you older, more established races use so casually.”
It was then their conversation was interrupted by the Arena’s three-minute warning. Both Human and Akari looked up at the lobby’s giant countdown timer reflexively.
“Hyooooman, question: why risk permanent death when—“
Schmidt waved the alien away as she jumped down from the bench, gaussrifle slung over her shoulder, headed for the Arena.
The Akari warrior found Schmidt less than 20 seconds into Deathmatch and instead of killing her instantly it… froze.
Perhaps it was a glitch in its targeting servos, maybe it was wonder at the tiny primitive human who risked permadeath playing a game with its galactic betters.
It was only a few milliseconds, but it was all the edge Schmidt needed to line up the gaussrifle and fire a single hypersonic 5mm round into the thing’s head: killshot.
The Arena’s klaxons hooted, the scoreboard showing Schmidt’s prize: +20000 Arena credits plus another +2000 for headshot bonus.
She wasted no time celebrating, instead shifting to jump from her sniping hidey-hole down into a holographic corridor where—
Schmidt never saw the nova missile that obliterated her and two other players, fired from across the Arena by a player named 3BEM of the Oemicular race of Tau Ceti 3.
She was dead, instantly.
Schmidt awoke naked, in a gel-tank, gasping for breath but unable to get enough air via the breather clamped in her teeth. Calm, calm… she forced herself to relax and take slow, deep breaths.
The lid of the resurrection tank slid back and Banks was there, holding a towel.
Schmidt split the gel and sat up, spat out the breather, accepted the towel. She used it on her face, neck, hair.
“Twenty-two thousand credits,” Banks smiled. “Good job.”
“Yeah, but I died pretty quick after that.”
Banks shrugged. “Win some, lose some. This time it’s payday. I’ll say it again: good job.”
Schmidt smiled, threw the towel back to Banks as she climbed from the gel, dripping. “Well, whatever… Arena 223 is dead to us. What’ve you got next?”
“Arena 1140. Thakkerin run, never met any humans.”
Schmidt smiled. “Perfect.”