“That will be 2 golds and 6 silvers,” requested Mrs. Barmek.
“Even with the Crew Discount?” asked Arsha.
“Beef went up drastically,” explained Mrs. Barmek.
“Oh, yeah, the beef crisis,” remembered Arsha as she handed over her cash.
“Ahem,” called a voice. Arsha and Mrs. Barmek turned to see a woman in blue-violet. She had skirts that had a diameter of her height multiplied by 1.5. Her top, however, looked like it belonged to a belly dancer’s outfit. “I am Vioazira, the blue-violet princess of Chizara and the sea-animal leader,” she introduced. “Arsha, the battlefield has been set and your opponent is waiting.”
“Ah, good, I’ve been waiting!” cheered Arsha. She turned to Mrs. Barmek. “Wish me luck!”
“Go out and win!” bid Mrs. Barmek. Arsha and Vioazira vanished in a flash of blue violet light. Mrs. Barmek then saw Bashoon come in.
“Hey, Mom, where’s the Captain?” asked Bashoon.
“Off to her fight,” replied Mrs. Barmek.
“Already?!” yelped Bashoon as she dashed to the intercom on the wall. “All hands, Captain Royana is about to start her round! I repeat, Captain Royana is about to start her round! Get some seats and snacks!” The Endeavor’s crew dashed for the nearest screen to see the bout.
“This is it!” cheered Megumi as everyone crowded into the Gateway room.
“No shoving!” snapped Emily as Tanisha bumped her. “There’s plenty of room!”
“On screen!” called Richard.
“Just after this is your bout, right, Sir?” asked Prowl.
“You got it,” confirmed Optimus. “So, let’s see how this, er, balances out.”
“Wait, is that what’s going on here?!” protested Bumblebee.
“Dude, spoilers!” called Jazz.
“Oh, frack! Sorry!” gulped Optimus.
“SH! SH! Here comes the judge!” hissed Teletraan. Vioazira appeared as Arsha and Vicky climbed up the poles of the old circus tent.
“I am Vioazira, the blue-violet princess of Chizara and the sea-animal leader,” Vioazira introduced herself to the camera. “The combatants are ready for their first bout! Representing T-H-3-T-H-R-3-3-R-3-4-L-M-5, we have Captain Arsha Royana of the Mid-realm’s capital of Largandra! Representing W-4-N-D-3-R-L-U-5-T, we have Vicky with home turf advantage! The fight will be a test of balance! Each combatant will try and stand on the rope above me while balancing a foot tall stack of books, all of equal sizes. Arsha shall balance the books on her weakest tail while Vicky will use her arm. Whoever stays on the rope longer is the winner! No other supports may be used and the combatants will NOT bounce the rope on purpose to interfere with another player’s progress.” Vioazira looked up at the left platform near the top of the tent where the tightrope was set up. “Vicky, are you ready?” she called.
“Ready and waiting!” cheered Vicky.
“Arsha Royana, are you ready?” Vioazira asked Arsha on the other platform.
“Aye, aye!” replied Arsha.
“Then take your books!” declared Vioazira. The two ladies did so. “Now, onto the rope!” The ladies went forward and the rope strained and bounced under the two ladies’ combined weight. They did what they could to steady themselves until they went still, briefly compensating by leaning a bit to one side or the other.
“Come on, Captain!” called Mrs. Barmek on the Endeavor. “Don’t lose it now!”
“Oh, PLEASE win this one!” begged Megumi.
“Oh Primus, do you see that?” gulped Jazz. “She’s leaning too far!”
“If she goes any further, she’s gonna fall,” muttered Prowl.
“My fellow Cyber-Ninjas, easy,” assured Optimus. “Look at her foot. It’s following her head, bringing the rope beneath her as she balances.”
“I can barely see anything with all her skirts!” grumbled Strongarm. “There’s no way she can wear that in combat! Her legs won’t go high enough for a kick! Although, I will say, she’s putting her other tails to good use, adjusting them so she can stay balanced.”
“Is this some Cyber-Ninja convention?!” griped Ratchet.
“They ARE a little more observant about bodily movements than most bots are,” chuckled Ironhide. “I guess that’s what happens when you learn the art of assassination.”
“Er, can we NOT use that word here?” gulped Optimus.
“Hey, who’s that on the floor?” asked Bumblebee.
“Er, is that from our universe?” asked Bashoon as she pointed to the mysterious figure on the circus tent’s floor. The rest of her crewmates asked around, but gave no definitive answer.
The answer was definitive for the Vortex Riders. “CAAN!” yelped Megumi.
“We gotta stop him!” called Tanisha.
“Easy,” assured a voice. Rosadera had arrived. “They will not be in any danger from outside interference, I promise you.”
“Come down from there!” shouted Caan. “I have need of you, Arsha!”
“This is a battlefield for the Verse Vs. Verse Rumble Royale!” called Vioazira. “Leave at once!”
“Not until I have Arsha!” snapped Caan. He then leveled his gun and fired! The shot was absorbed by some unknown shield. “What the?!”
“Wait, how is Caan surprised about the shield?” asked Richard.
“Yeah, shouldn’t he have seen that coming?” quizzed Alesandro.
“Whenever we interact with him,” replied Rosadera, “we tend to blind him to the future.”
“That’s a mercy,” sighed Megumi in relief.
Caan was still firing at the rope, but the shots were still absorbed. “Your attempts to interfere are futile,” declared Vioazira. “The bout is still on. All we can do is see how it plays out.”
“Lower that shield, NOW!” barked Caan.
“I don’t think you understand who’s in control right now!” snarled Vioazira. “The round has not yet been declared over. Now, leave!”
“When Vortech returns,” hissed Caan as he called a rift home, “you will come crawling to me!”
“Vortech is DEAD!” snapped Vioazira as he left. “Insolent Dalek!” she snarled. “He just HAS to go to these extremes!”
“Well, that’s him all gone,” muttered Megumi.
“For now,” mused Alesandro.
“Megumi,” called the Brigadier’s voice as he came up. “I have news that may concern you and Hiro.”
“We’ll discuss this outside Hiro’s cell,” declared Megumi, feeling the urgency. “Excuse, Minna.” She got up and followed the Brigadier to Hiro’s cell in the brig. Hiro was kneeling in traditional Japanese fashion with his eyes shut. She cleared her throat.
“Emily has told me,” he answered, not opening his eyes, “that I’ve made a remarkable physical recovery. She’s just not too sure about my mental state. To be frank, I would be insulted if she thought I would get through my wife’s death in any speedy fashion. Are you here to offer condolences by Flora’s urging?”
“I’m here by the Brigadier’s request, actually,” replied Megumi. “He said he has news that may concern us.”
“…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be so suspicious,” muttered Hiro. “What does Lethbridge-Stewart want to say to us?”
“I know how the Skaro Daleks were freed,” explained the Brigadier.
“We weren’t watchful enough, that’s how,” dismissed Hiro. “Now, my wife and unborn child paid the price.”
“No, you were very watchful of them, just not of Caan,” countered the Brigadier. Hiro then gave him his full attention, as did Megumi.
“Why mention him?” asked Hiro.
“Because he’s the one who gave the Skaro Daleks the means to remove the explosives from their old shells,” explained the Brigadier.
“…What?” whispered Hiro.
“Caan had surreptitiously given the Skaro Daleks the means to return to their old shells and told them about the Emperor Dalek you created and named Davros,” continued the Brigadier. “They know Davros is still the same man in a wheelchair.”
“I…Impossible!” dismissed Hiro. “There’s no way he could have known!”
“Caan has another Dalek turned human on his side,” countered Megumi. “She was probably a communications Dalek. She could have easily found how you lied to the original Skaro strain. …Hiro?” Hiro trembled in unbridled fury. His wife and child, his future with them, his plans to rule with an Empress and Princess, all gone because of a former Dalek.
“CAAAAAAAN!” Hiro roared with all his grief and loathing of the creature. He roared so loud that it caused his head to hurt. He passed out from losing so much air.
“Megumi to Emily! Medical emergency!” called Megumi over the comms.
Arsha and Vicky were still staying on the rope, trying to keep their balance. “There’s no shame in quitting,” called Vicky.
“Are you kidding?” asked Arsha. “I’m just getting warmed up!”
“Oh really?” snarked Vicky.
“Yeah, really!” taunted Arsha.
“Trying to whoa! Whoa! WHOA!” Vicky had lost concentration during her attempt to taunt and lost her balance.
“SWEET ONES!” yelped Arsha as she fired a spell at Vicky to slow down her fall so she’d land safely. Vicky wiped her brow and looked up.
“Thanks!” she called. She then recalled the terms of the bout. “Dang it!” she muttered.
“This contest is over!” cheered Vioazira. “The winner is Arsha Royana! Arsha, you will be returned to the bridge of your ship. Vicky, though you have suffered a defeat, know that it only brings as much dishonor as you feel necessary. Would you care for an interview with Blancalmarem and Nemengra?”
“Thanks, but I gotta hit the road,” replied Vicky. “Still, that was a good fight! Keep on winning, Arsha.”
“Thanks,” bid Arsha. “Good luck on future endeavors. Maybe we’ll see each other again.”
“Maybe,” mused Vicky. “Who knows? See ya!” She left the tent. Following a few seconds after was the starting of a motorcycle engine. The motorcycle then made a noise indicating that it had sped away from the tent. Arsha was then returned to her ship, greeted by her bridge crew and Goblin Ensign, and congratulated on all sides. Just then, Shalvey got something on her console.
“Captain, the Ark and Vorton wish to extend their congratulations to you!” she called.
“Tell them I happily accept and…!” directed Arsha happily.
“Captain,” called Malak, “a ship is approaching us.”
“A ship?” asked Arsha. “Can you identify it?”
“Running matches,” reported Malak. “…Match found! It’s the Nemesis!”
“Red alert!” ordered Arsha as she removed her hairpiece. “Advise the Ark and Vorton that an enemy is approaching us.”
“They’re already raising shields and charging weapons,” reported Shalvey.
“Lock weapons onto the enemy vessel,” ordered Arsha.
“Weapons locked on target,” replied Malak. “…Strange. They’re not doing the same.”
“Are you sure?” asked Arsha.
“Captain, Megatron’s hailing you,” called Shalvey.
“Me?” asked Arsha.
“You, Megumi, and Optimus, all by name,” confirmed Shalvey.
“On screen,” ordered Arsha. Megatron appeared on screen. Judging by the fact that he was on a chair styled after the Decepticon Symbol, it was easy to believe Megatron was on the Nemesis’ bridge. Optimus and Megumi appeared as well.
“I understand your concern,” assured Megatron, “but I promise I’m not here to fight. I only wish to negotiate.”
“On what, visitation rights for Vorton? Forget it!” snarled Optimus.
“I’d guess the release of Hiro,” growled Megumi.
“You are correct,” confirmed Megatron. “I have a Decepticon of equal value to Hiro. I propose an exchange, the bot for the leader of Shocker Rift.”
“…Give us until Optimus finishes his bout,” answered Megumi. “We will have your answer by then.”
“His bout?” asked Megatron.
“The three of us,” explained Optimus, “are in a multiversal fighting tournament.”
“…And First Place Prize is?” quizzed Megatron.
“Not any of your concern, if the winner between the three of us is careful,” answered Megumi.
“Very well,” finished Megatron. “We’ll be outside Vorton’s weapons range. Tell me your decision once Optimus finishes his bout. Oh, Optimus?”
“Yes?” Optimus asked in a careful tone.
“Good luck,” bid Megatron. The call ended and the Nemesis moved outside Vorton’s weapons range while still remaining in visual range.
“I’ll go tell Hiro about this development,” declared Megumi.
“I’ll keep watch on the Nemesis,” replied Arsha.
“I gotta go practice with my bat’leth,” finished Optimus. “See you all later.” The call ended.
“Mr. Nazay,” called Arsha, “take up an observation position. Make sure we’re facing the Nemesis. Shalvey, Thangred, Malak, I want all sensors working correctly as we monitor the Nemesis for any activity.”
“Aye, Captain,” confirmed Nazay.
“How will we be observing Optimus’ bout?” asked Thangred.
“It will still be on the main screen,” replied Arsha as she returned her hairpiece back onto its usual position, “but I need you three to give a little more attention to your jobs at this time. You may still strategically look up to see how the bout is progressing.”
“Aye, Captain,” replied Malak. Everyone did their jobs with naval precision.