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World Fighting Carnival - Tunnel Underneath

One of the Necroids walked down the tunnels alone, holding the fake power stone copy in it's skeletal hand. As soon as it turned one of the dozens of corners of now-defenseless corners, though, it was immediately brutalized by Daren's cleaver in one, single hew, spraying the walls of the tunnel in oil, sparks, and mechanical viscera. The Cleaver was barely stopped by the machine's physique either, slamming into the ground and creating a small crater from the intense impact, cutting the very edge of the blade into the ground. Daren himself and unfortunately poor Arianna were also showered in artificial gore, covering their clothing in black gunk.

"Really Daren?" Arianna asked.

"Sorry, sorry. I was just really thirsty for some gore, even if it was from a machine," Daren apologized. He reached into the Necroid's brutalized remains and pulled out the glowing red orb it held with very little of a fight.

"But look! We finally got the--"

"That's a fake" Arianna immediately deduced.

"... Wha--"

"If they extracted the power stone already, through an airtight security system that would've taken us hours to crack, why would they trust one single robot to carry it out safely completely without any sort of unmarked or protective container? A robot you destroyed in just one swing. Carrying a stone that would've supposedly given it a colossal boost in power. A stone that probably would've exploded your entire arm the second you touched it."

Daren looked at Arianna with a rare frown, then back at the fake Stone in his hand, then back to her, repeatedly.

"I mean it looks like the real stone."

Arianna just gave Daren a glare.

"Alright, alright. I'm not complaining though," Daren defended. He stuffed the fake Power Stone into the pocket of his coat. Might come in handy later.

Suddenly they both turned their heads in the direction of a loud but distant explosion. Sounds of further conflict. Arianna engaged her drones and saw through one of them an entire party of Nomads was now down in the tunnels, also fighting another Necroid model. Likely also a fake, but Arianna counted four heads among them. Heads she had on file: Auri Auclair, robotic wanderer (currently sans her cyborg companion); Jaden Raldo, wannabe ninja/rapper; Florian Wessington, heir to MDL (high priority); and... Izzy. Very good chance they were there for the exact same reason Ari and Daren were. Arianna decided they could be useful...

She turned back to the butcher.

"Daren, you keep going ahead. I'm gonna take a brief detour," She instructed.

"What? But-- Eh whatever. Okay," Daren shrugged. He continued heading towards the vault.

World Fighting Carnival - Tunnel Underneath (Elsewhere)
Feat: @Punished GN@kamen evie@Drag

The second Necroid was already being harried by Oh-Seven's assault. Given how easily Daren had brutalized another one, the entire small group of Nomads probably could've handled the Necroid they attacked all by themselves with little effort. But still, to support the illusion of goodwill, Arianna ordered a small handful of her drones to mob and assault the Necroid model, pecking and scratching them and bombarding them with modulated robotic screeches. And then they exploded, enveloping the robot in a blob of fire and shrapnel, leaving nothing but scorched remains.

Arianna then "conveniently" made her appearance, dropping down from the rafters above, her mask erect and concealing her face.

"That stone's a fake, no time to explain. You guys going after Oh-One too?! Cmon! He's already at the vault, he's just up ahead!" She introduced herself briefly to these "complete" strangers. She gave Isabella a quick and knowing glance. A subtle gesture to keep their little deal a secret for the time being. She then turned around and started running, expecting the rest of them to follow her.

World Fighting Carnival - Tunnel Underneath - Vault

It wasn't too long of a jog to the main vault in the tunnels. Daren was pretty sure he saw another Necroid sulking around, but knew that they were just a distraction and decided to make it someone else's problem. Ari seemed of the opinion that everyone and they're grandma knew what was going on in the tunnel's just below and were going to be making a beeline towards the vault, so he decided to not waste time and to make it someone else's problem. Two birds, one stone!

Daren finally reached the main vault, and saw a silver mechanical figure standing before the large console. Despite being a robot they seemed to be handling the security system by hand, and looked completely distracted by it.

Daren smirked and raised his cleaver. This seemed like an easy victory...

World Fighting Carnival - Maintenance Room

The small woman in a jacket leaned backwards, facing upwards at the roof, covering her face in her hands as she let out a loud exhalation. The giant butcher loomed over their failed gladiator, once again face-down and under multiple straps binding it to a chair. Not just the back of their head, most of their plates of armor were removed and placed on a neat, clean table right next to them in the filthy garage room. All along SYM-24's exposed back muscles were abrasions and steaming flesh, still undoing the brutal exertion it underwent in their second and final match. The butcher worked with various tools, casually pulling, tweezing, and picking at various parts of the creature's disgusting anatomy. His expression was still much more cheerful than his partner's, casually humming to the tune of 'Mr Sandman' through grit, smiling teeth. All the other auxiliary staff were absent.

"One Job, Daren. One job and we blew it." the girl groaned, muffled through the sleeves of her jacket.

"I mean, technically not? All we had to do was observe him and collect data, right? If anything it's Ulric's fault." The man countered, not breaking pace with his delicate work.

"What're we supposed to tell Ivory?"

"She'll understand. Cmon Ari, we screwed up on worse. Right now we just have to fix up Fido. I'm sure Ivory thought of some sort of backup plan. Who knows, maybe there'll be another chance at getting it?"

As if divine intervention, Arianna's jacket suddenly began to loudly chirp mechanically. A notification from one of the drones. Immediately she pulled the hood up, quickly erecting a metallic bird mask covering her face. Inside the mask, several holographic images were generated; Data charts, status metrics, and surveillance footage of over a dozen or so robotic, birdlike drones. Most of which were watching the ongoing fights above, a few hung around in high-interest locations watching the crowds. One in particular had been assigned to watching a certain particular figure, resembling a robotic skeleton. They observed the mysterious figure constantly, sometimes X-raying through thick stone walls, thermal readings, and even echolocation, making sure it was always on top of where they were and what they were doing.

After throwing the most recent match, Arianna witnessed them with one of the other competitors -- Olivia and Xolys, she noted. Though the drone was unable to properly capture audio of their conversation, the two of them walked down, first into the maintenance tunnels -- Giving Arianna a brief chill up her spine at the thought of how close they would've come to them -- And then into the security vault, which had been mysteriously opened and disabled. Every other security measure was disabled as well, letting them walk through unbothered...

Arianna immediately sprang to her feet, and started violently shaking Daren's shoulder, causing him to nearly drop a scalpel into his "patient". His smile faltered for a brief second in surprise and indignity.

"Daren! DAREN DAREN! Cmon!" She anxiously stumbled over her own words, trying to communicate the sudden opportunity God had just dropped into their laps.

"Wha? Ari slow down I'm--"

"COME ON! Now's our chance! The Vault! It's open!" She excitedly exclaimed, excitement and desperation completely overwhelming her. Despite being smaller than his hulking frame she managed to pull him up onto his feet as well and started running out the door. He briefly looked down at the still restrained and armorless SYM-24, then the open door. He shrugged and started rushing after Arianna, grabbing his cleaver with one hand as he charged out and down the maintenance tunnel halls. Probably should be leaving their contest-losing squash all alone, but he knew a chance at swiping the Power Stone was infinitely more important. Plus he was egging for a good fight.

Meanwhile, Arianna was microtasking all of her drones, recalling them to her position. Setting them to assault mode. All across the stadium, those with keen eyes noticed black birds flying down from the rafters, around corners, and even one out of a popcorn machine, flying stealthily yet hurriedly through the doors and halls of the stadium until they caught up with their operator.

. . . . . . . . . .

Not even a moment after they had left, SYM-24 had begun to twitch and writhe, before freeing their bound right-hand. When Arianna had suddenly shoved Daren, his scalpel had made an ever-so-small incision in one of the creature's restraints. With that small freedom, they suddenly began to violently twitch their upper arm, until all the restraints on their arm had broken free. They easily snipped apart the rest of their restraints using their clawed fingers, and they struggled back to their feet, despite both overexerting themselves much earlier and now having their entire back exposed for surgery. The beast was now free.

Did they rush along with their compatriots, helping them to complete the sole objective they were created for?


They had a score to settle.

Interactions: Two Strangers and a Familiar Face (@Kamen Evie)
World Fighting Carnival - Maintenance Room

The Demon Rider slipped into the room with little fuss, but him suddenly announcing his presence was of little concern to the small team of engineers and scientists, who paid him a brief look before turning their attention to the more precious matter at hand, finishing up the maintenance on their little project.

The flying SD card hit the poor woman right in the face, yet she managed to scramble and cup it in her hands.

"Ow! Who told you we'd be down here?!"

The tall man sat up and put aside his whetstone. He smiled warmly at Izzy, yet still notably clutched the grip of his blade. His own way of letting him know he was on thin ice being there.

“Here’s the data from the kid’s little bout.” His tone was tensely professional, mostly restraining his disregard for everything about this room and everyone in it. “She was telling me about some robot trying to take the stone… is it one of yours?”

"Robot? No," The woman answered, gently rubbing her nose, "You should know by now Horizon does not deal with robotics, Isabella. Besides, did you see the first round? That guy's opponent was a robot trying to take the stone," She said, pointing over to the still heavily-restrained Justice Rider knockoff.

"Although, I have noticed something among the contestants that definitely seems a bit seedy," She explained. She awkwardly leaned to the side of her seat, holding her arm out and twisting it to show the screen to Izzy. On it was the tall, cold and monotone figure buried in a trench coat and a hat.

"This guy here caught my eye. I don't know where I've seen him before, but I've definitely seen him. It'll take me a bit before I can prowl Horizon's database for what I need to know. When I find it, I'll tell you," She promised, pinching the SD card Izzy gave between her fingers and putting it in her pocket.


Both of their heads turned in the direction of their Superstar being released from his bindings as the successful maintenance team backed away. The creature stood up, shook it's limbs and rolled it's neck. Back in action. SYM-24 simply walked at a normal pace towards the garage door, cutting between Izzy and their two handlers.

And as they crossed, it's head cocked slightly to the side, and it shot a death glare at Izzy through it's helmet. Without a word, they lifted the garage door from the bottom, slipped to the other side, and gave the Demon Rider one last look before shutting it and walking back to the venue.

The man stared at the door perplexed, before turning back to Izzy with a stupid grin.

"I think he likes you," he muttered.

Interactions: Two Strangers
World Fighting Carnival - Maintenance Room

Right now all the other fighters were celebrating and cooling off from the first batch of intense matches, back in the reception room. A few sulked off to parts unknown, too cool for sharing the same hall with their fellow round one winners.

Horizon Rider, on the other hand, sat in a small maintenance garage. One among dozens that had been bought out by Horizon for the event and placed under heavy security, if for any reason it stood out from any of the other identical storage sheds in the halls beneath the stadium. A small group of scientists made busy work in the garage-turned lab, focusing all their efforts on the restrained and sedated SYM-24.

Despite their best effort to make an effortless show in the first round, their debut match wasn't as effortless as the false Rider had made it seem. While any actual damage was superficial, their shoddy robot opponent still managed to deal some damage to the unit's armor and outer carapace. Damage that, unlike with most Nomads, couldn't heal with a short breather and a quick meal. Several plates of armor-like shell had been replaced and set aside. Replacement shells had been set into place, and were currently being drilled back in with metal bolts. The creature made no response. Despite being biological in nature, the unit was essentially offline. They also output way too much energy in the killing blow, and their reserve Ki was now well below three-fourths. A metal tube attached to their back, channeling raw extracted energy into them.

Secondly, SYM-24's back head was now wide open. The mechanical integration was fully exposed, and being manipulated and repaired by a scientist very gingerly pressing metal shock rods and relocating various parts. While the first match was a resounding success, it definitely overstepped boundaries, both damaging the arena and coming within a hairs width of killing a bystander. Now the engineers were busy on reworking his 'inhibitor unit', limiting how much he would do without proper activity.

In the middle of the wretched miracle of science, sat the two spectators from earlier. They hadn't done any actual work on the model, the hulkingly tall one simply sitting and whetting a massive blade in his hand, while the other fidgeted with the sleeve of her strange jacket.

"That was way too close of a call, even for the Fighting Carnival", the shorter woman said, "If butchering people in the crowd was an option we could've just sent you,"

"Aww, don't make me blush. How goes the half-time show?" the man responded.

The woman had a direct feed of the Reception Room a few floors above them. Again, it was a colorful storm as all the various Nomads -- The ones that hadn't been weeded out of course -- Intermingled and recovering. Her little birdie showed her quite the scene; There was a commotion at the bar, and a tall figure in a trenchcoat manhandling a small woman by the staff she held. The tall one, she had a bad feeling of... Something about them was definitely off. Mechanical, yet trying to conceal themselves in some way. Never let down by a hunch before, she started quietly through Horizon's reports and access. It might take a bit, but she had the feeling she had seen something like that somewhere before...

SYM-24 slowed himself down just enough to look like he just "narrowly" dodged the dozenth or so fist their opponent threw at their head. Their opponent was a simple machine, a robotic humanoid with boxing gloves, likely built for this very occasion just as SYM-24 had. Yet while SYM-24's entire existence was meant to conceal his true nature, the opponent was blatantly robotic, just a slew of metal boxes welded and motored to one another. SYM-24's fighting ability was his own, yet he noticed just outside the ring the machine's creator stood, using a metal controller to relay orders and techniques to their toy. Their attire was one-dimensionally formal and fancy; a short-sleeved button up shirt, cheap shorts, and slicked back hair. A barely-cooked attempt at trying to take pride in their appearance. The very notion enraged SYM-24 to his core.

With an actual modicrum of effort, SYM-24 would have finished the fight within a minute. But after an entire morning of standing in the middle of hypersocial crowds, enduring endless torment of flashing cameras and microphones being shoved into his face, he wanted to savor this one single instance of violence that Horizon accepted as long as possible, before he went back to the corner waiting for the next round.

Now, ten minutes in, SYM-24 was beginning to get bored. He did his best to prolong the fight as long as he could, and to provide the illusion of being a good sport for the sake of the public perception. The "fight" so far was a series of dodged attacks and superficial blows. The opponent lacked any special techniques beyond just basic yet machine-precise punches. The crowd, at least, was entertained by the performance going by their cries and cheers.


the opponent announced, before beginning to beep, hum with noise, and rigidly twitch it's entire body. Given that they announced the same move just two minutes ago, it was safe to say that virtually every trick the machine could muster had been spent.

No more games, then.

After revving up, the opponent threw a barrage of bullet-fast punches at Horizon Rider, who effortlessly bobbed and weaved in between each individual strike. Out of a counted fifty punches, not a single one had made so much as physical contact with their target. With the last punch thrown, the machine's arm lingered in place for half-a-second. In that instant, Horizon Rider finally made a decisive offensive. They grabbed the forearm, squeezed hard enough to lightly crumple the metal in their arm, and then threw them overhead and behind.

The boxing robot had crashed into the iron-link wall of the arena, falling onto the soft padded mat as their creator looked on in sudden shock and anxiety. Quickly flicking switches and pressing buttons, the robot managed to flip itself rightside up again and back on it's feet into a fighters pose.


the robot announced. Behind the arena walls, their creator began to mash and flick their controller with enough speed and complexity that they began working up a visible sweat, despite being safely outside the arena and in a cushy chair. The robot began swinging their arm in a windmill pattern at incredibly high speeds, then lunged towards Horizon Rider, swinging down the full force and speed of their strike right at their skull.

Horizon Rider narrowly sidestepped the descending fist, then stomped directly on top of it, kicking it into the ground and pinning it under their three-toed foot, knocking the machine forward as their arm was stuck against the ground, struggling for freedom. The opponent's master visibly began to panick, and once-again fiddled at his controller for the next response.

The machine was now defenseless, it's only option being attempt to raise and throw a single fist with their unbound arm. SYM-24 effortlessly caught it in his palm, and crushed it. With one jerking motion, he ripped off the grasped limb, and tossed it behind him.

Horizon Rider then raised their arm, and from their wrist a brilliantly glowing red blade emerged, shimmering amid the blinding overhead lights. Focusing for a brief moment, the blade grew even larger and hummed even louder, barely outsizing his physical body. The crowd screamed with excitement. Though pointlessly uttered to a nonthinking machine, Horizon Rider mumbled one word.


And then, the match was over. Horizon Rider swung his blade down, easily bisecting not only his artificial opponent, but the arena floor behind them, the cage fence keeping them in, and just barely extended long enough to cut the remote controller right out of their creator's hands. The opponent's handler nearly fainted, falling onto their backside in absolute shock and horror.

The crowd exploded with a mixture of cheers, screams, and even 'oooh's as SYM-24's actions had clearly stepped over the line, and came literal inches away from harming bystanders. Nevertheless, the match was over, and the reaction of the crowd was too rich to disqualify him.

Looking down one last time at the discarded and leaking remains of their opponent, SYM-24 turned around and walked off the stage, barging past the small paparazzi of photographers and reporters hoping for a word of commentary.

And just like that, he was gone from sight.

Reception Room

Already countless contestants were intermingling with each other, before the tournament proper had started. Some chatted amicably to pass the time, others were up and in each others' faces, looking like they were about to start the fight a little early. Given the small stray attacks flying about, a few actually were getting things started early. A few contestants soaked in the attention of the crowds of bystanders, striking poses and giving the reporters and hype-men a buffet of their own egos. Only a small sliver had the reserve to keep to themselves until the actual fighting began.

One such was Horizon Rider.

Even in an entire room full of martial artists and obnoxiously-colored individuals, Horizon Rider stood out due to his strange appearance, but moreover, due to his strange mannerisms. Whereas everyone else was loudly declaring their presence and hogging a nonexistent spotlight, Horizon Rider just stood there, absolutely motionless. At most, his cold reptilian eyes behind his glass helmet glanced about at all the fighters, sizing up the competition. A few reporters tried shoving their microphones in his face and asking them about themselves, any information, only for them to completely ignore them, pretending as if they didn't exist. SYM-24 had no patience for anything other than his prime objective:

Claim the power stone and crush anyone who dared stand in his way.

Above him, up in the rafters, a robotic raven eyed them, like a hawk, watching their every action.

Arena Stands

The main event hadn't even properly started, and already the arena was absolutely packed, people having traveled from all across the world to watch the greatest fighters alive lay the absolute smackdown into each other. The Carnival received only more attention abroad, being broadcast on every sports channel so that everyone back home could get a front row seat to the impending carnage.

In the stands sat two disguised figures, a man and a woman. The man was much taller and wider, and was busy gorging himself on two drumsticks big enough to beat someone unconscious with. Strapped to his back was an absolutely massive violin case that blocked the view of the poor spectator behind him, who was nevertheless too terrified of the man to protest. Next to him sat a woman, much smaller and hunched over. Both wore black coats and sunglasses that significantly concealed any personal details. The woman clutched the side of her glasses, observing the direct feed observed of their company's contestant, Horizon Rider.

"Howzit Goin'?" The man asked, his mouth full of meat.

"They're fine so far..." The woman relayed, "But definitely a bit boring. Probably would've been beneficial to hire some agents to answer all the questions people have on them and throw the reporters off. We might've made enough cash to buy the Power Stone if we just prepared some merchandise for this guy... How much longer 'till the tournament starts?"

"Not too long, should be less than an hour," the man replied.

And so they waited.
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