MeleeMan's Decision

((Continued from Electown topic))

MeleeMan arrived on the net at the spot indicated by the coordinates GladiatorMan had given him. Warily, he scanned the net left and right with his fiery eyes. The area seemed devoid of viruses, but deteriorating husks remained here and there... almost as if somebody had wiped out all of them in preparation of his arrival. "Hey? You there? Get your skirt out here!" he roared into the air. The words began to roll together by the end of his yell and a sharp pain rose through his throat. He shuddered and coughed, then held his coat closer to himself for warmth.

Almost no smoke was rising up from his gauntlets now. Whatever fire lit up his eyes and fueled his gauntlets was dying down due to the sickness. "Damn it all... Quit screwing around, Jackass! Do I look like I have time to stand around waiting?!" he coughed, then rested on one knee.

Slowly a shadowy figure that had been crouching nearby some viruses rose up. His body was that of GladiatorMan's, but he looked almost entirely different from when MeleeMan had last seen him. His armor was removed entirely and he wore only his body-suit and brown leather armor. Several slashes marked his body and his eyes were wide and flaming... they had been before, but it was as if they'd become wider and more alive. The navi's face was at first expressionless, but soon brightened into a warm smile, clashing with the bits of virus data that had splashed all over his body when he'd killed them.

"Greetings!" he called out, then moved quickly towards MeleeMan. "I know it's painful now... I was in that sort of pain as well. But I'll explain things quickly and then get you help, my friend."

MeleeMan shot GladiatorMan an irritated glare and slapped away the arm that had offered to help him up. It took a lot of time, perseverance, and effort to become MeleeMan's "friend;" GladiatorMan and he were on no such level. "Sorry, buddy, but I barely know you. What the hell's gotten into you, anyways?"

"Purpose. Fulfillment. Joy, really," he chuckled, brushing his bloody spatha against his bodysuit with a swift motion. "I hate to speak about these things while you suffer so, but it is necessary. I'm going to present you with a difficult choice, but it's one that will benefit you. It's one I struggled with myself before accepting and I've thanked myself every day for accepting since."

"Well, grats to you, but I'm still dying over here. Can you speed it up?" MeleeMan grunted, shuddering inside his coat.

"Certainly," GladiatorMan responded with a quick nod. "I'll explain it as simply as I can. We were both created to be Bloodhounds. The Mafia gave birth to us, unknown to our operators... we skipped the newborn stage and went straight to learning about fighting. This was the Mafia's intention. Now that we've become familiar with combat and learned what the net is all about, the Mafia wants us back. The poison that acts within you will only respond to violence; you now, quite literally, thirst for battle. Without conflict and exertion, you will die."

"Oh great... Wow, screw this. You're telling me I'm a member of the NetMafia?" MeleeMan asked dubiously. He knew Rania would flip if she heard any of this and was already trying to think of how to rationalize it to her.

"No, not exactly. That choice is still yours to make. I can see the thoughts going through your mind... This is where the choice comes in. At this point, you reach a crossroad. On one side, you continue your sickly life and face permanent deletion as your body withers away. Rania may know why if you choose to tell her, or you can protect her from the truth. Either way is acceptable."

"Acceptable to who?!" MeleeMan growled, but as another coughing fit came on, he decided not to let his anger show any further.

"The Mafia has not forsaken you, MeleeMan. This suffering was all part of their plan. Join me in the Bloodhounds. Since coming to the Bloodhounds, I've found everything I'd ever desired from Amelie's care but was always too meek to ask... Not that I assume meekness is a problem of yours," he chuckled. His eyes cast a bright light across the dark surface of the net, seeming to express his excitement. "I spend my days fighting now. Almost every waking moment I spend in glorious combat. My sword and shield are constantly in use. I feel strength building... accelerating at a rate like never before."

MeleeMan made to interrupt him, but GladiatorMan wouldn't allow it. He kept on speaking as if in a trance. "In the Bloodhounds, my one purpose is to fight. Other joys are also offered to me. I receive payment that I can use to afford new weaponry. Women... The company of women is guaranteed to me. I am also my own man. In no fight am I restricted by my operator; he does as I ask of him and we live in mutual respect of eachother's wishes, never interfering and always cooperating. Of me, he asks nothing but my strength. It's a beautiful feeling, MeleeMan... It's like I've been invited to live in the world of the Gods."

Rania's navi wanted to make a snappy comeback, but he couldn't. Wasn't this what he'd always wanted? How many times had he and Damascus tried to heckle Rania into ever-more challenging ventures, allowing them to test their strength? Almost daily he'd complained about the lack of excitement and rigor in his lifestyle. Weren't the Bloodhounds willing to provide him with the proper avenue for this sort of thing?

"The program, designed by my good friend PantheonMan, yielded several offspring just like us. Of them, you are now the only one who has yet to accept this gracious gift," GladiatorMan explained, kneeling to face MeleeMan.

MeleeMan turned his head and spat onto the ground, then bared his teeth. "Ha! Gift? What gift, something you can smoke?" he smirked, then coughed dryly. "How is being born to like something and then getting it a gift? And are you saying you only like fighting cause they told you to? That's a sorry way to live your life."

"You're not understanding, I think. I know we're both stubborn individuals. I was stubborn too, when they approached me... Amelie was a good girl and she didn't deserve that kind of trouble. But still, they are humans... innocent girls with a lifetime ahead of them. They'll forget and in their hearts, they will forgive. She will never know, and even if she did, wouldn't she be happy that you've discovered your true calling?" GladiatorMan inquired, looking earnest.

"Ha. Happy? You think she'd be happy that I left her to go do whatever the hell I want? Who would be?" MeleeMan grunted.

"She's a sincere girl as well. I'm sure she only wants what's best for you... and this is it! This lifestyle..." GladiatorMan assured his companion, pressing one hand to his shoulder. MeleeMan shrugged it off again, keeping his rebellious attitude.

Although he acted in his usual stubborn way, MeleeMan was torn inside. On one hand, he admitted that GladiatorMan had a good point. That kind of lifestyle was exactly what he'd been asking for. Furthermore, it sounded like that was the only way he was going to recover. But...

"What about Amelie? Maybe she'd forgive you... but what do you think her life's like now?" he asked, grimacing.

"I was a navi to her, MeleeMan. That is all. She has so many friends... a rich, fulfilling life... I was but a cog in the machine of her daily routine," he admitted. "She won't miss me for long. She'll build a new navi and keep on."

MeleeMan smirked, feeling something warm inside. Something triumphant. Whatever it was, it separated him from the navi in front of him... and he decided with his old fire extinguishing, that was a flame he needed to feed. "Huh... So we were in pretty similar situations... Rania and Amelie aren't that different," he muttered. "Cept, there's one difference. Women can't resist me."

"... Come again?" GladiatorMan asked, drawing himself up and looking offended.

"Well, you seem convinced Amelie won't mind losing you, but I'm the perfect male specimen. Everybody knows that," MeleeMan laughed, rising back up to his own impressive height. "You think she can stand to love but lose or whatever that writer said? Nah, I have an obligation to her now. Too much time away from me and she'll shrivel up just like I am. You can't go from having the perfect navi to using anything else."

"I believe you're blowing this out of proportion," GladiatorMan sighed irritably. "Amelie was upset at losing me, I'm sure. Rania may be as well. They are strong, however; they'll recover. Amelie will give up looking for me soon, and so will Rania you."

"Wrong, chump. Hell, if I was Rania, I'd devote the rest of my life to trying to find... uh.... me," he coughed, then crossed his arms across his chest. "Amelie may be willing to lose you, though. After all..."

GladiatorMan smirked, gripping his hand across his spatha more tightly. "After all, what?"

"Well, losing you and losing me... They're really not comparable. You're no MeleeMan," the fiery navi spat, then readied his fists for combat. He wasn't going against his programming now, but it wasn't the fighting that had set his flames back up. Perhaps all he really needed was to feel a purpose... and if that purpose was protecting Rania, it would serve just as well. "You know, you don't think of a navi protecting their operator too often. Most people would just interpret that as cleaning viruses out of a toaster or something. But maybe there's another purpose just as important that you've neglected... If you're willing to betray her, how can you really protect anyone?"

"You're living your life for someone else then? Fine; there's not much left of it. I'll show you what it means to live life for yourself," MeleeMan's new adversary grunted, readying his sword.

"I'm all about me. You're all about you, I get it. But you know, a guy as great as me... it'd be a crime if I only lived for myself. I can do enough living for Rania and about twenty other women too, if they like," he guffawed, slamming his fists together energetically as the two approached for a head-on collision.

((Continued in Electown topic))
((Continued from Electown topic))

Metal clanged against metal as MeleeMan pounded his fists against GladiatorMan's shield knocking him back across the virus husks that he'd created himself. The spatha-wielding navi was surprised to find that MeleeMan could have recovered so much strength after arriving in such a state of weakness. He was being put on the defensive. "Good show, MeleeMan! This really does show a strong sense of self from you, doesn't it? You're fighting to protect your life now!" he jested from behind the defense of his shield.

"Screw you, pal," MeleeMan responded, not letting up in his attack. "I'm not protecting myself at all, I"m bullying somebody weaker than me."

"Weaker? Let's see about that," GladiatorMan smirked, lowering his shield. Vengefully, he thrust out his sword for MeleeMan's throat. The big navi ducked, however, and the sword only knocked his helmet, sending it flying from his head and clattering in the distance.

MeleeMan's gleaming, fiery eyes looked into GladiatorMan's own with disgust. They'd seemed pretty similar, but in the end, their purpose was what had separated them. He remembered his talk with Damascus earlier... if he were to fight all day just cause it was what he wanted to do, he'd be nothing more than a lazy child. A grown man has to deal with all kinds of things... even nagging operators. In this light, he was really the one going through more hardships, no matter how strong GladiatorMan claimed to have become.

"You know, if Rania and Amelie are similar," MeleeMan grunted as he moved from side to side to dodge sword thrusts, "she's not any happier with you leaving. Well, you're not me, again, so maybe she's not as bent up. But still, selfishness is only for guys who can't bear the burden of others, right? Maybe I shouldn't be talking, but it seems like if you live only for yourself, it's kind of a bitch way of living."

"Ha! Listen to you talk. I know more about you than you may think, MeleeMan," the gladiator navi guffawed, not relenting in his onslaught. His dark hair glistened with sweat, but he showed no signs of stopping. "I was obedient for the time I was with her. Now that I think of it, you were a fool. You were incompetent in the execution of the simple tasks that she presented you and defied her at every turn. Perhaps you aren't really worthy of this lifestyle I've acquired? The best thing to do may be to end you here."

"What lifestyle, masturbation? I'll let you get it off yourself. Me, I'm going to find a nice girl to do that sort of thing for me. Go ask ParthenonMan or whoever to do it for you," MeleeMan guffawed. He felt a new strength surging through him. It was the same thrill of battle that drove GladiatorMan on, but with an added element: urgency. Just knowing that Rania could be nervously waiting for his return gave him a power that his opponent didn't have.

"You really are thickheaded. You're several parts more mouth than muscle," GladiatorMan growled, bringing up his lion headed shield. Grinning, he released a tremendous wave of flames from the mouth of the shield and watched as his foe was immolated.

... "Heh," MeleeMan responded simply, moving through the fire and bringing down his clenched fists like a club. GladiatorMan's shield exploded into shards of metal, to the surprise of its owner. "You know what? I think I just got another goal for myself. Why don't I drag you back to your own operator? After all, not really fair that just one of us guys gets to live this swingin' bachelor lifestyle, is it?"

"What?!" he growled. He'd meant to say something more rebellious, but now there was an actual growing fear that he'd be made to account for what he'd done. With a renewed sense of urgency, he swung his flaming spatha for his opponent. MeleeMan deflected it with one fist and drove the other into his opponent's gut, knocking him back.

Walking forward confidently, MeleeMan stepped one heavy boot onto his defeated opponent's face. "You've come to a crossroads, chum. You scurry off with your tail between your legs and get 'stronger' with your Bloodhounds, if that's what you want... or you go back to Amelie and we come up with a better story about why you left. She doesn't have to know about this, and honestly, it's better if she doesn't. It's sorta pathetic."

GladiatorMan looked up from his grounded position, enraged. "Burn in Hades!" he growled, grabbing MeleeMan's leg and trying to twist him down. At that moment, MeleeMan released a tremendous flame from one of the boots, scorching the face of his opponent and inciting a hideous yell.

"You first," MeleeMan laughed. "But seriously, I changed my mind. It's better for Amelie if you disappear. She's a tough girl with a great rack... She can do a lot better than you. Now, sorry, but I've got a real life to get back to," he finished, jacking out of the net and leaving GladiatorMan clutching his face while laying on his back, alone on the floor of the net.

The navi that was left may have felt some regret... but it had been paved over with malice and vengeful spite. MeleeMan may have saved himself and looked cool doing it, but he'd sown the seeds of desperation in another fighter. GladiatorMan vowed that the disgrace wouldn't go unavenged. MeleeMan had found another purpose besides fighting, but GladiatorMan's had gotten his own: he would defeat the man that had insulted him and make the life he cherished as miserable as possible.

But first, he'd go back and let his face recover.

((Jacking back out))