BRUISE CRUISE -------------- Nodding as she looked at the incomprehensible piece of art, Holly Brockler feigned a lot of interest as she listened to her new companion. She had met the dashing young man early on after the cruise ship pulled away from the dock, and took a liking to him within minutes. "Don't you agree?" asked Matthew, taking a sip of champagne as he turned to look at her. "Oh yeah, it's real...enchanting," answered Holly with a grin. "So you were saying, you're a fighter?" Matthew laughed. "Barely. I mean, there is a reason why I'm attending." Holly's eyes changed very slightly as she looked him over one more time. "Oh yeah?" "I'm the guy who gets a ticket for the famous floating arena," replied Matthew, "and then sprains his ankle boarding the ship." "If it's gonna happen, at least it didn't happen while you were in the middle of a fight," said Holly. "Would you really hit somebody who just sprained his ankle?" "Maybe." Holly smirked. "Depends on whether or not I like their face." After an awkward pause, she added, "I'd just put YOU in a sleeper hold." Blushing slightly Matthew looked down at his drink and began to say something, but was cut off by the ship's PA system. "Matches begin in 30 minutes. All participants, report to the waiting area in 25 minutes." "That's my cue," said Holly, shrugging with a smile before heading to a lower deck. ----- As the participants began to assemble for the competition, Holly went to her small cabin to take a shower and get changed. Thinking of Matthew, she added a little bit of eyeliner and glitter makeup back to her face and upper body. She knew she would sweat most of it off, but had a good feeling. Pulling on a short pair of red spandex briefs and matching sports bra, Holly used some oil to add some bounce and sheen to her curly dark hair. Stepping back out of her cabin in a pair of thong sandals, Holly was pleased to see Matthew nearby. He looked a little lost, carrying a water bottle and peering through the passing crowd of formally-dressed spectators and combat-ready fighters. Holly snuck up behind him, and then tapped him on the shoulder. "Wha-?" Matthew turned around, then smiled. "Oh, hey, I was looking for you." "We've got that in common," said Holly, realizing only a few seconds later how little sense she had just made. "I mean, that I was looking for you too." She smiled a little more broadly and a little more desperately. Matthew laughed. "I just wanted you to have this. You've got to stay hydrated before your big match, right?" He offered the bottle of water. Taking the bottle, Holly replied, "I'm hoping for match-ES, thank you very much." She took a sip of water, and grinned. "Thanks." "Please, hang onto it." Matthew shook his head as she offered the bottle back. "It's not like I'll need it, up in the audience." "About that..." Holly took a small half-step closer. "I'm fighting as an independent, but I was wondering if you wanted to be my...y'know. Cornerman?" She continued before Matthew could answer. "You don't have to head down to the ring or anything, it just means you can be my date to the fighter's banquet at the end of the week." "That's a real weird way to ask someone out," said Matthew, chuckling. "My answer is...yes. I will proudly represent miss Holly Brockler to whoever is sitting next to me in the crowd." Holly leaned forward and gave Matthew a quick peck on the cheek. "Cheer for me, Matty." She quickly stepped away, jogging slightly to catch up with the crowd. ----- Deep within the bowels of the ship, the audience gathered in bleachers that loomed over a shallow pit of water. At its center was a raised platform. Holly and the other fighters waited in a lower set of bleachers much closer to the water, with staircases leading down into the combat area. Holly's mind wandered a little as she sat through the brief opening ceremony, sipping water occasionally as she stood up and stretched now and then. "Amy Periwinkle, you are summoned to Poseidon's ring." An eager young girl in a ponytail and a purple swimsuit hastened her way into the ring, performing two high kicks before dropping her heel as she went into forward splits and raised her arms to the cheering crowd. "Katya Alzar, you are summoned to Poseidon's ring." Jogging down the stairs and towards the ring, the russian brunette wore white three-quarter pants and a pink tank-top. She raised a fist as she got on the mat, and executed a short shadowboxing combo of elbows and punches. "Begin!" Amy's soles bounced on the mat as she and Katya circled around each other. The swimsuited girl advanced with a sweeping roundhouse kick more than once, her foot finding only empty air as Katya hopped back each time. While Amy was clearly on an adrenaline rush, Katya's eyes were far more focused, studying the girl with every missed attack. Amy's next kick missed the mark, but Katya had moved to the side rather than retreating. Before her opponent's leg pulled back, Katya shot a hard punch into the girl's thigh. Driven by the close proximity, Amy only curled her leg back before lashing out with it again. Katya ducked down, throwing a left-right hook combination into the same thigh. Wincing as she set her foot down, Amy began to attack with her other leg. Katya cut off the attempt with a hard downward-spiking punch near Amy's hip. The swimsuited fighter cried out, leaning down instinctively to cover her pelvis. Two punches struck her ribs, before another cracked against her face and dropped her into the mat. Amy kicked her legs up as Katya advanced, looking worried as she kept her hands high and ready to grapple. Katya knelt down, catching one of Amy's legs under one arm. Then, she began pounding punches into the swimsuited girl's bare limb, beating bruises into the flesh as Amy tried and failed to squirm free, crying out in pain as her leg was battered. Once her opponent was completely overcome with agony, Katya dove forward with a hard right hook. Climbing onto Amy's chest, Katya punches her in the face again, and pushed her knees down onto the girl's shoulders to trap her arms and leave her completely defenseless. Amy struggled and squirmed, and after a few moments she looked up at Katya and shook her head as her eyes grew wide. Her lip quivered and began to speak, but was cut off by her opponent's fists. Amy made unintelligible noises as Katya pounded on her face, not letting her finish a single pleading word. The swimsuited girl's body writhed as her legs kicked wildly in the air and against the mat. Katya continued slamming her fists into Amy's head, not stopping until the girl's struggles had become a series of spasms and shudders. Immediately, Katya shifted to pull Amy into a seated front face lock. Her opponent made a series of gurgling noises as her body shivered unsettlingly, otherwise limp and unable to fight back. Once foamy drool ran freely from Amy's gaping mouth, Katya released her and stood up, celebrating her first-round victory over the spreadeagled and unconscious body of her opponent. ----- "Holly Brockler, you are summoned to Poseidon's ring." Standing up, Holly paused for a moment as she felt a little fuzzy. "Fighting out on the open sea," she thought, kicking off her sandals before stepping down into the ankle-deep water. Its cooling sensation made her feel better as she moved towards the raised mat. "Not sure I'll do this again soon." "Mason Wade, you are summoned to Poseidon's ring." Muscular and moustached, Mason Wade was a muscular man dressed in red briefs and wrist wraps. Aside from his thick moustache and wild hairdo, his body was otherwise smooth and slick, glistening under the lights overhead. Once he was on the mat, Mason performed a few bodybuilding postures and flexes, receiving a kind reception from the crowd. Holly sneered a little bit, before taking a few steps towards Mason and mimicking his poses with a goofy look on her face. The crowd cheered just as loudly for her show of defiance. Holly grinned, her own body glowing under the lights as she knew she could feel Matthew watching her. She blinked a few times, surprised to see Mason offering a handshake in response to her mocking posturing. "I've gotta focus," she thought, "mind's wandering...I'm getting carried away." Holly shook Mason's hand, and both fighters locked eyes for a few moments as they smiled a little unkindly at one another. They both walked a few feet away from one another, before turning and taking their battle stances. "Begin!" Charging in with two midriff kicks, Holly pounded an elbow down into Mason's arms as he covered his face with them. She leapt into the air, turning once and throwing a spinning elbow to bust through. Instead, she found herself stumbling forward as she completely missed her mark, still dizzy from her airborne spiral. Mason grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her closer, but Holly's trio of knee-lifts allowed her to break away. With a confused and concerned look in her eyes, Holly threw a kick towards Mason's head, connecting as he turned to face her. Mason staggered to one side, and Holly fell straight back onto her posterior. "What the fuck?" she thought, shaking her head as she stood up, but losing only a fraction of the cobwebs. "Balance is off, feels like a sponge is soaking up my brain...why?" Recovered from the shot to his skull, Mason closed in on Holly as she retreated a few steps. Throwing an elbow strike, she realized her muscles were growing slack and rubbery. She elbowed Mason again, before struggling to land three kneelifts against his gut. Mason laughed, shrugging off her blows as her strength was all but gone. Holly looked at him, wide-eyed, and then yelled as she put all her might into one more kick. Her foot slapped against Mason's body, and the muscular fighter simply roared and flexed his arms at her in reply. Holly managed to take a step back before Mason grabbed hold of her, grappling with the hawaiian girl and lifting her off her feet. He raised her into the air, making a show of delivering a simple bodyslam. After a hard landing, Holly rolled over and crawled to her hands and knees, nearly exhausted before she could even get to her feet. "Something...wrong..." Cold sweat clung to Holly's skin as she tried to focus her vision on Mason. "I can't..." Forcing her eyes wide open, Holly crouched slightly and raised her hands, getting into a grappling stance to try and slow her pace while keeping on the defensive. She was breathing hard, her mouth slightly open and her brow furrowed in worry. Mason looked to the crowd, gaining some loud support before he too lowered his stance and reached forward. Before she knew she had been lured into it, Holly's fingers laced with Mason's, and the two fighters engaged in a test of strength. Holly looked anything but confident, and quickly was pushed down to her knees by her muscular opponent. Mason held her down in the humiliating position long enough to feel satisfied, and then swung his head down to butt into Holly's. The hawaiian girl's arms flailed wide as her hands were released, wobbling on her knees and stunned. Mason reached down, hugging his opponent up off her feet for a moment before turning and slamming her. Holly got to her feet, doubled over, and fell down as soon as she tried to raise her head. "Was it...th-the..." She crawled forward, looking up to see her water bottle and sandals by the staircase down to the ring. "Oh no...h-he...the water, he..." Mason's arms slid under and around Holly's shoulders, pulling her to her feet in a simple full nelson hold. Normally able to escape such a situation, Holly was helpless, realizing that her water had been spiked. Mason planted his feet, and then leaned back, lifting Holly into the air in another show of his strength. Kicking her bare feet in the air weakly, Holly was suspended in the full nelson and saw the crowd. Specifically, even through her haze, she shook the cobwebs long enough to see Matthew cheering for her opponent. A sad look coming over her face, she began weakly shaking her head and stammering, "Nuh...no...no, no, no..." Holly lowered her head, gritting her teeth as embarassment and sadness filled her mind. Mason walked forward with her a few steps, raising her higher and grinding her shoulderblades together until she began to moan. Then, he tossed her into the shallow water outside of the ring. She still hit the floor hard, rolling through the ankle-deep water, and crawling her way back to the ring drenched. Mason grabbed a handful of her wet hair and pulled her back into the ring, locking her head under his arm as he stepped back. Raising her into position for a vertical suplex, Mason then tilted Holly forward until her legs sank down. Grabbing her shins, Mason went down to one knee and began folding the hawaiian girl in a muscle buster hold. Her entire body trapped and bent forward at her midriff, Holly could only weakly beat her fists against Mason's back as she moaned. While her waist, hips, and neck were all increasingly aching, Holly's greatest pain was still the feeling of foolishness that ran through her mind. She had trained for the Poseidon Cruise, and thanks to the drugged water, she was spending her first match as an exhibition of another fighter's strength. Mason stood up, releasing one of Holly's legs to swivel her around and across his shoulders. With one hand under Holly's chin and another under one of her thighs, Mason military-pressed the struggling girl overhead. Holly wriggled, pulling at the wrist beneath her jaw and kicking her legs, but was helpless as her opponent carried her to the middle of the ring and began pumping her body up and down like a set of weights. Drops of water rained from Holly's body as Mason raised her up and down. When he finally slammed her onto the mat, Holly gave a loud and tired cry of pain as she hit the floor hard, slowly rolling over onto her stomach as she clutched her back. Sitting down next to his fallen opponent's head, Mason pulled Holly into a seated headlock that twisted her neck and left her clawing at his shoulders and back as her legs kicked wildly behind him. The hawaiian girl struggled for breath as Mason's muscles crushed her skull from every side. Her cheeks were pushed together as her face turned more and more red, choked noises sputtering from her mouth. Mason did not even look down at her as she grew weaker. Holly's eyes began to glaze and roll up, and foamy spittle collected on her lip as she drooled and gurgled. Her body spasmed a few times, otherwise limp on the mat. After giving Holly's head one last squeeze, Mason released her and stood up. She was complete unconscious, splayed out and unmoving even as Mason planted a foot down on her face and flexed his arms for the crowd, stepping away to continue showboating as attendents came and dragged Holly away. ----- The door to their cabin opened up, as the jovial couple stepped inside. Matthew and Mason were laughing, freshly returned from the semi-finalists' banquet, two days after Mason's first-round domination of Holly Brockler. "We'd better get an early night," said Matthew. "I can't do much to help you at this point." "No more water bottles?" Mason laughed, then blinked a few times and shook his head. "I feel ready for bed. Must've had too much of the lasagna." "I do too," said Matthew, sharing a quick embrace with Mason. "I'll be right out." He headed into the washroom, closing the door with a self-satisfied smile. After a few minutes, Matthew came out to the sight of Mason fast asleep on the bed. "Damn, hon," began Matthew, "You WERE ready to..." Matthew peered closer, and saw Mason's eyes still half-open and fluttering. "Mason...?" A foot smashed into the side of Matthew's head, throwing him into the wall before he crumpled to the floor. Scrambling back towards the bathroom door, he looked up and saw Holly Brockler advancing towards him, teeth gritted as she said, "Looks like you aren't having as much fun, this time." "But...h-how did..." Matthew continued scooting back away from his assailant. "Same shit you gave me," answered Holly, nodding towards Mason's now-unconscious form. "You sneaky son of a...I LIKED you!" "It wasn't...it wasn't anything personal," stammered Matthew, now backed right into the bathroom. "I just wanted him to win!" Matthew scrambled to his feet and reached for a glass cup on the sink, but missed the mark as Holly yanked him back and elbowed him across the face. Looking up at her in fear, he said, "W-What are you going to do to me?" Holly glowered as she cracked her knuckles and leaned back to close the bathroom door. "I'm gonna make sure you wake up feeling the way I felt after my match with your boyfriend." Matthew began to plead, and Holly reared back and threw the first of many hard punches.