Sometimes in the world of video games, the completely brutal moves we see done and shaken off like they're an inconvenience are drummed into our head as such, and we forget about the damage a simple punch in real life can cause. We're going to go back to some basics here. _____ "What the hell?" shrieked Lili. "I have to fight Marduk? When the hell was that posted?" "Last week with the rest of the announcements. Why didn't you keep up on them?" Asuka asked. "Look, I- that is, I... damn it! FLETCHER! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME I WAS FIGHTING THIS WEEK? FLETCHERRRRRRRR!!" she took off upstairs like a human tornado. "I wonder if she knows it's in an hour?" Julia asked. "Well, if she doesn't, she will soo-" From upstairs, they heard the screech: "WHAT? AN HOUR?! ARE YOU SHITTING ME?? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE PREPARED IN ONE HOURRR??!" ".... she knows." "Let's get a good seat at the pit! There is no way I'm missing this. Get the crew together! We're gonna go watch a demolition derby." They settled into their seats with a few minutes to spare. "This should be fun" said Julia. "And short." Marduk entered the arena first, an imposing hulk of a monster, wearing green decorated wrestling like trunks that ran halfway down his thighs, and equally decorated kneepads. "I think he's got his name all over everything so that he knows it's his" remarked Christie. The group laughed. Alisa did not join in. "Query. Is it correct to take pleasure in another's suffering? There is a likelihood greater than 95% that Lili will not win this fight. Are we to enjoy this?" "Well," said Julia, "She's done some pretty lousy things over the time we've known her, and she acts all high and mighty, lording her wealth over people like it is supposed to make her a better person. Every once in a while, in life, people just need to be knocked down a peg or two. It's called getting one's comeuppance. Is it right? Probably not. But every once in a while, being wrong just feels right." Lili entered next, dressed in white sneakers, blue jeans and her sleeveless tanktop. She looked pale, like she was going to be sick. "Looks kind of like a dead fish!" Asuka noted. "Dead meat is more like it" said Xiaoyu. "I know she isn't my favourite person, but I don't know if even she deserves this." Marduk grinned at Lili, very much the cat to her mouse. He came towards her. Her eyes went wide and she quickly rolled past him. She tried formulating a plan. She would have to knock him off balance and then chin him with her knee, possibly more than once. She almost didn't dodge the wild haymaker he threw at her. She rolled under his arc past him again. She nearly did not make it, as she felt the air whoosh onto her face from the wild miss. As he lumbered toward her again, he took another swing. It clearly takes him a moment to catch on, she thought. This time, however, she rolled right into his legs, knocking him off balance. He let out a surprised shout and pitched forward, nearly on top of her. She had quickly pushed off with her legs on him, moving her out of the way and simultaneously pushing him over in the other direction ever so slightly, but it was enough for her to clear the path of his descent. She sprang to her feet with an acrobatic handstand, and as he lifted his head and got to his hands and knees, she landed a picture perfect knee strike to his jaw. It made him see stars momentarily and knocked him upright to his knees. Lili punched him in the face a few times, but those were fairly ineffectual, and served mainly to bring him out of his loopy state. He shook his head to clear it, grinned evilly at her, and then landed a blindingly fast right cross under her left eye. Her head whiplashed hard to the side and back, and she immediately went unsteady, her legs threatening to quit holding her up. She wobbled and her eyes half closed, her mouth hanging open slightly. Marduk stood up, and shook his head again. "Ya had a nice try there, girlie, caught me pretty good. But I'm in a hurtin' kinda mood, and since you's here and all... well, this be the wrong place and the wrong time for ya. I gotta admit though, I's impressed you took that good a punch and you still standin'. I's dropped bigger people than you with less. You take a punch good. I like that." He jabbed her int he face, her head snapping back and forward again. "Lucky I gives 'em pretty good." Another jab under her eye, another head snap. Her arms dropped to her sides, her legs wobbling. Marduk's voice began to sound like she were underwater, the sound from the arena bring muted and drowned out. "Come on, show me summa that fire you had earlier. Or has I doused it?" Another jab. White light flashed in her field of vision for a moment, and when it stopped, everything looked fuzzy and slightly glowing. "I'm impressed you ain't fallen yet. You're tougher than you look, little one. But it's time for you to go down now. Bow to me!" He drove a punch into her abdomen, which threatened to disgorge her lunch from earlier. She fell to her knees, sitting on her calves. She hadn't been aware she was still standing, her head trying to recover from the first punch, let alone the ones after. Her arms hung at her side. "You beat already?" Marduk asked her. "Ain't that a shame. Well, I guess there's only really one thing left to do now. I'm kinda pissed about that whole knee thing, so I's gonna have to do some work of my own with my knee. You're gonna love this. Hope you still got that wheelchair handy from the last time I injured ya, cause I'm goin' whole hog this time." He wrapped his left arm around her, and picked her up off her knees into a side-slam position. From here, simply dropped to a knee, crushing her with a backbreaker. The pain brought Lili out of her dazed state, and she squealed in response. She flailed a little, trying to fight out of it, but Marduk hung on to her. "Hell no, we's just getting started!" Marduk stood, holding on to her, then hoisted her upward and dropped her with a second backbreaker, right to the lower back. She arched backward in pain. "Aaaaahh! Oh God, oh God..." Her back tingled a little, like a slight electric shock had been applied. Marduk stood again, and delivered a third backbreaker. "Unnnnhh..." Lili moaned, weaker than before. Pain shot through her spine, into her arms and legs, fingers and toes, radiating all over her body. She didn't know where she was at this point. "I hope she's learned a valuable lesson!" said Christie. "But probably not." "Yeah, well, maybe one of these days, it'll sink in" said Julia. But Marduk wasn't finished yet. He stood up, and yelling out again, heaved her up and dropped her with another backbreaker. Lili's body arched backward and spasmed in fiery pain. It felt like a hot knife was being rammed into her spine. She winced hard, screwing her eyes closed. A tear streamed out of her right eye. "Unnhnhnnn..." she softly moaned. Marduk picked her up and slammed her with another one. Lili arched backward again and then passed out from the electric pain, hanging lifelessly over Marduk's knee. "Alright, the fight is clearly over" said Christie. "Come on, this is unnecessary now." "Yeah," agreed Julia. "I wanted her to get beat, and she has been. This isn't needed." Marduk picked up Lili, holding her unconscious body in his arms. Then down he went again, with backbreaker number six. "What the fuck!" Julia shouted. "She's clearly unconscious! What the hell is that asshole doing?" "Even I can't stand this display" said Asuka. "I don't care who this is happening to, this isn't right!" Genuine concern was in her voice. "That's what, six?" asked Xiaoyu. "Come on, enough is enough." Alisa watched, emotionless as ever. She did not look it, she never did, but she was calculating wildly. Marduk smiled wickedly. He stood again, holding Lili's body in his arms like she were a baby. He rocked her back and forth, like he were shushing a child. Then he hit another backbreaker on her already beaten back. Her spine bent backwards unnaturally yet again, but this time there were two distinct, loud wet pops, as a couple of the discs in her lower back cracked and herniated. He held her there for a moment. "Fucking hell!" said Julia. "We need to do something! Someone needs to get that guy out of there. He needs to be locked up or something! This isn't cool anymore. What can we do?" "I don't know, but I do know I'm not going in there!" Christie said. "I'm no fool!" Alisa leapt into action, and jumped off the bleacher she was sitting on. She activated her back mounted thruster, and took a flight path into the pit. She was not quite quick enough to prevent an eighth backbreaker, three of which Lili had taken while unconscious. The damaged discs in Lili's back split farther, touching nerves in her back. When she woke up, she would be in intense, constant pain, assuming she could still feel anything and paralysis had not been inflicted on her. Marduk stood with Lili again, his back to Alisa, preparing to do it yet again. "Craig Marduk." she projected her voice slightly to be heard. Marduk turned around, Lili still in his arms. Her face was pale, probably from the excruciating pain she had felt before unconsciousness took over. "It is over, Marduk. She has been defeated. Now enough of this." "Ha!" he sneered. "What makes you think you can stop me from breakin' this little barbie doll right in half?" "This does." She snapped her arm downward, a chainsaw blade slinging out from her forearm. She aimed the running blade directly at Marduk. "Enough of the backbreakers. She is damaged quite badly enough. Put her down, and leave the arena." Marduk dropped Lili unceremoniously onto her back. She grunted with a quick, short exhale as she hit the ground and a small burst of air left her lungs quickly. She lay completely motionless, save for the rise and fall of her chest and stomach when she breathed. "What the hell are you?" asked Marduk. "You ain't human, clearly.." "I am a robot, created by Dr. Geppetto Bosconovitch. You will stand down." "Awright, awright, no more backbreakers, I gotcha. I'm goin'." As he turned to leave, he kicked Lili in the head like he were kicking a soccer ball, giving her a concussion. Her head snapped sharply to the side, and lay at rest like that. "Wasn't a backbreaker." He spit on her derisively and left. Alisa scanned Lili as the rest as the group of friends joined her and Lili in the pit. "She is extensively damaged. Two of her discs are cracked and herniated. She has a concussion, severity unknown. It is possible she may not remember this event." Alisa carefully scooped Lili up in her arms, effortlessly, calculating how to do so exactly without causing further injury. "I will take her to the medical pavilion, and stay with her until she regains consciousness. I will be better able to assess her then." Alisa left, engaging her flight thrusters. Everybody else looked at each other, feeling slightly guilty for not helping now. "Guys," Asuka said, breaking the tension. "I think we just got out-humanized by a robot." The rest nodded guiltily. "She made a good call. I'm proud of her for doing it... and I'm a little ashamed of myself for not. I taught that girl well... too bad I don't seem to have learned from it." _____ Lili woke up groggily in her hospital room. Instruments were beeping and twittering all around her. She looked around carefully at everything as if she were experiencing it for the first time. "Hello, Lili." The voice made her jump a little, but she couldn't do much win the back brace she was in. Lili looked in confusion at her. "Do you know who I am?" Alisa asked her. Lili studied her face, and then shook her head. "I am Alisa Bosconovitch. Do you know where you are?" Lili looked around. "I... I know these things... it's a hospital?" "Yes. Do you know why you are here?" "I... no.. I.. I don't." She attempted to shift, but couldn't. "Why can't I move?" "You are in a back brace. Your spine is damaged. You have a minor herniation of two of the discs in your back. Do you feel any pain? Mostly in your legs." Lili thought for a moment. "I.. no.. no pain." "Can you feel your legs at all?" Lili put her hands on her thighs. "Yes, I can." "That is good, you have not been paralyzed then. The medication is in full effect. It will help you manage your pain." They had given her quite a dose of morphine when she was admitted. It was still working its magic on her, evidently. "But who are you?" Repeating questions, thought Alisa. She filed that away, and repeated the same answer she had given Lili earlier. Seven times they went through the same ten-minute routine. Lili finally broke it an hour and a half later when she retained Alisa's name. "Alisa" she said. "I have something I need to tell you." "You remembered my name." she said. "It's... it's coming back, slowly." Alisa mentally checked off her concussion as mild. "I need to tell you... thank you for helping me." "You are welcome." "I want to say I don't know what I would have done in that position... but the problem is, I think I do know. And maybe... maybe it isn't acceptable anymore. Dare I say, Alisa, that... I like you. You treat me like... like I'm a person. And I appreciate that." "Your lack of camaraderie may be attributed to your predisposition. You tend to think you are better than everybody, and as such, they reciprocate with negative feelings." Lili smiled. "I know you're not just saying that to be mean or spiteful. From you, it's just a cold, hard fact." "I am not capable of spite." "Then dare I say, Alisa... that you make a better human being than I do. Imagine, me having to learn about compassion from you. That's really quite disheartening when I think about it." Alisa clearly appreciate the compliment. "I believe," Alisa said, "that it is not that disheartening. I believe that if you can learn compassion, then you can be a better person than you are now. It is not too late, Lili. Amends can be made, if you wish them to be." With that, Alisa left the room, leaving Lili thinking about everything that had happened that day.