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January 14, 2009
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Hamilton Slade turned on his television to watch the events unfolding in his studio.  If all went well, by the end of the day he’d know the limitations of Dr. Sato’s new formula.  He might even have eliminated a rival or two from his stable of enemies.  He turned up the sound on his monitor so that he could hear the commentary.

“…ph Young was born in Cleveland, Ohio but now lives in New York, New York where she studies art, photography, and modern dance.  While Sylph has been involved in athletics in some capacity or other for as long as she can remember, she hasn’t played competitively for well over a decade.  Recent events have brought Sylph and her amazing physique into the public eye, although she still tries to maintain as normal a lifestyle as she is able.

“Miss Young- can you tell the studio audience what first stimulated your interest in bodybuilding?”

“Sure Mr. Brogan-“

“-Bulk, please-“

“-Bulk, then,” Sylph dimpled.  Slade snorted.  The ex-wrestler’s nickname had seemed appropriate when he was discovered, but next to Sylph maybe a better appellation would be ‘Tiny.’  Sylph was still talking and Slade focused again on what she was saying.  “…after seeing that first show, I talked with my folks about it and found out my Mom had been competitive before I was born.  I guess it just seemed natural after that.”

“But you never did compete, right?  Why was that?”

“Two reasons, really- first is that I put on so much mass, so quickly that I would have required an entirely new weight class long before I was old enough to compete.  Despite what fan-sites will tell you, no one really wants to see a bodybuilding competition where one of the girls on stage looks like an advertisement for Myostatin-Blockers-‘R’-Us.”

“I’m not too sure of that,” Bulk chuckled, “but you said you had two reasons.  The other would be?”

“Food,” Sylph laughed.  Slade had to admit she had a genuinely pretty laugh, girlish and light in almost direct contrast to her imposing physique.  “I have no willpower when it comes to food.  I was never able to maintain the diet for more than a month, let alone the six weeks minimum that most girls have to do.”

Bulk nodded sympathetically.  “I guess that makes sense.  How does your weightlifting affect your life, otherwise?”

“Well, it’s hell on the love life, that’s for sure.  I mean, no one wants to date a girl that might accidentally squash him flat during a moment of intimacy…”

“Why stick with it, then?”

“Are you kidding?  I love being strong- it’s a rush to really push myself and do something that nobody else can do.”

“On that note- you’ll be facing off against Miss Tetsuko Breckinridge today, a woman that is definitely the odds-on favorite.  You’re supporting the Agape Foundation, a charity supporting nonviolent social change.  Miss Breckenridge is supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.  Anything you’d like to say to your competition?”

“Good luck, Tetsuko?  ‘Cause I’m not gonna go easy, today…”

“You heard it, folks- sounds like Tetsuko’d better watch out!  It’s about time for our first event- let’s check in with the Vindicators to find out what to expect…”

The camera switched to Bulk’s co-host, one-time professional boxer Jacki Frazer.

“Thanks, Bulk,” Jacki smiled, “I’m here with four of our Vindicators.  Normally, Intranational Vindicators features contests of men versus men and women versus women.  Today, as part of a special treat, FOY decided that the competitors are powerful enough to warrant the full stable of Vindicators.  As a result, you will see both male and female Vindicators challenging our competitors.

“Before we set up today’s exhibition, the competitors were each allowed to choose several events and the Vindicators chose a couple of events.  The result is that we will be seeing six events before the Eliminator Gauntlet, two chosen by each competitor and two chosen by the Vindicators themselves.

“Our first event will be the Titanorb, one of Sylph’s picks.  The competitors will each get into one of the giant hamster balls behind me and attempt to roll over the scoring plates set into the arena.  Each successful score is worth two points.  To make things a little more difficult, though, the Vindicators will also be in spheres of their own and actively trying to prevent the challengers from scoring.  The Vindicators in today’s match will be Glacier, Rockslide, Ursula, and Harpy.

“Glacier- this is really your main event; any words for the competitors?”

The camera panned over and up to the tremendous slab of meat known as Glacier.  Even before his steroid treatments and the added boosts that Slade had provided him with he had been a large man- an amateur wrestler and a college football star until his drug use had gotten him booted from the team.  His tagline was that he was big as a mountain and as cold as ice, and Slade believed it.  Glacier nodded his thick neck, his Eskimo features making him look almost sinister.  “We’ve been gearing up for this match for almost a year, now.  No girl- I don’t care how strong- is going to make us look like fools on our home court.  This game is about more than just strength- it’s also about skill and positioning and maneuver.  My teammates and me- we’re gonna keep the rookies out of the scoring rings for the full two minutes, no doubt.”

                                                          *****

Tetsuko took a deep breath as they locked her into the ball and shook her blond hair.  She’d debated tying it back into a pony tail today but ultimately left it alone.  She stretched her arms and realized that she could touch both the top and bottom of the sphere easily.  She grinned- Sylph, much shorter than her, probably couldn’t and that would put her at a bit of a disadvantage in manipulating the quarter-ton spheres.

The buzzer sounded and Tetsuko leaned into the sphere allowing her weight to overbalance the sphere and get it rolling.  It moved surprisingly slowly, although the Vindicator’s spheres weren’t moving very quickly either.  She angled herself towards an open plate and felt the wheel shift direction ponderously as she picked up momentum.

Sylph was already nearly on top of a plate- how had she gotten herself moving so quickly?- but it looked like one of the Vindicators was nearly on top of her.  The Vindicator’s ball smashed into Sylph’s with a deafening crash, but not before Tetsuko heard the raucous blare of the point buzzer.  She frowned as she watched Sylph’s ball shift off the plate, using the momentum transferred by her impact with- who was it, Harpy?-to change direction and roll back towards the center of the arena.

Concentrating, Tetsuko saw that her path was clear and she pistoned her arms and legs to drive herself even faster.  She was barely a foot from the plate when she felt the bone-jarring impact on her back left.  Desperately, she threw herself to the right, but it was too late- her momentum carried her over the left side and around the plate without quite setting off the sensor.

“Not happening, Blondie,” Rockslide grinned through the bars of his cage.  Behind him she saw another wheel- the woman called Ursula- rolling around to flank her.  She flexed her arms and threw herself against the back of her sphere as hard as she could, causing the ball to nearly stop on a dime.  The two of them together could just about drive her wherever they wanted.

She heard the scoring buzzer again and glanced over to see one of the Titanorbs actually bouncing backwards over the arena.  Apparently Glacier had attempted to block Sylph directly and she had rammed him at full speed.  Tetsuko shook her head- that must have been like getting hit by a truck- how much had Sylph said she weighed?  Sylph had been nearly stopped by the impact, but had managed to roll onto the platform anyway.  In the meantime, Rockslide and Ursula kept coming around Tetsuko to force her angle just enough off so that she couldn’t land squarely on a pad and she was starting to get frustrated.

Another buzz.  Damn, the girl was just unstoppable.  Tetsuko looked at the clock and saw that she had about ten seconds more.  She grit her teeth and rolled for another platform, watching Ursula’s approach.  Just before Ursula could hit her, Tetsuko reached through the bars of the cage, tearing open the wire-mesh holding her in, and grabbed Ursula’s orb.  With a sharp tug and flex of her forearms, she hurled Ursula into Rockslide’s ball, effectively stopping both of them.  At the same time, the momentum of the swing spun her like a top and Tetsuko began to feel a little dizzy as the crowd seemed to flash by in a whirling phantasmagoria of light and color and sound.  The scoring buzzer sounded almost simultaneously with the time buzzer.  As her orb slowed, Tetsuko finally managed to look again at the scoreboard.

In two minutes she had scored once; Sylph had scored three times.  She grunted in disgust and waited for the referee to come unlock the cages.  The next event will be different, she vowed to herself.

                                                          *****

The next event was different- Sylph eyed the hanging rings with a degree of trepidation.  Rings hung suspended from the ceiling by thick chains and the competitors were supposed to swing from the starting platform to the finishing platform all the while avoiding the Vindicators who would attempt to grapple them and ultimately pull them from their tenuous purchase into the deep water below.  Sylph wasn’t particularly worried about the physical challenge of supporting herself on the rings-she could hold her weight up with one arm all day long, she knew, and so could Tetsuko-but she was short and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to reach over to the next ring.

The whistle sounded and she watched as Tetsuko swung gracefully from ring to ring, powerfully switching her position with speed and agility that left Flair hanging bemusedly behind her, trying to change directions so that she could catch up with the girl.  It was over almost before it began and Tetsuko waved to the wildly cheering audience.
Sylph held her ring and her breath and waited for the whistle.  As soon as it went off, she launched herself into the air.  She was pleased to discover that, with only a little stretch, she could in fact reach the next ring.  Angling herself towards the finishing platform, Sylph swung hard and grabbed the next ring.  Her opponent, the powerfully built Whippet, seemed to flit between the rings in an aerial display that Sylph purely envied.

Before she knew it, the taller girl had wrapped her legs around Sylph as she hung suspended between two rings.  Sylph grinned and shrugged her massive shoulders as Whippet released her grip on her own ring so that she could put all of her weight onto Sylph.  Sylph laughed.  The girl’s weight wouldn’t even slow her down.

She released her grip on the back ring and let their weight carry them both towards the finishing platform.

{sh-cr-r-r-k!}

“Oh, sh-!”

{Splash!}

At the nadir of her swing, still pulling forward, the bolt holding the chain from which Sylph and Whippet were both swinging tore free of the ceiling and both women plummeted twenty feet into the deep pool.  Whippet through herself away from Sylph as they fell, and broke the surface an instant later, grinning and holding up her hands in a victory salute.

After a moment, Tetsuko realized that Sylph hadn’t yet resurfaced and went to the edge of the pool to see Sylph running- running- along the bottom of the pool, her eyes tightly closed against the stinging chlorine of the pool.  As she hit the wall, she squatted and jumped, but couldn’t quite get the momentum to escape the water.  Tetsuko reached down without even considering and grabbed Sylph’s arm.  Holding onto a pole at the side of the pool, her grip dimpling the steel, Tetsuko gave a hard jerk and literally flung Sylph onto the deck.

Sylph coughed and sputtered for a moment before opening her eyes.  “Thanks,” she managed in a still slightly panicked voice, “I think you won that one…”

                                                          *****

The next event was the Pugil, one of the events Tetsuko had chosen.  Slade smiled thinly at the idea.  No doubt she had believed that her martial arts skill would give her the advantage here.  Unfortunately for her, Sylph had pretty extensive martial training as well through her father, and the aiki that she practiced was likely to be of more use than Tetsuko’s karate, if anything was likely to make a difference.

Actually, the contest had little to do with form, generally, and much more to do with the ability to project your mass against your opponent.  Since Sylph had nearly five times Tetsuko’s weight, he expected the art student to win this event easily.

“Mr. Slade,” a voice interrupted his reverie and he turned to see a rather severe young lady, her dark hair pulled back tightly and oiled down so that it gave her face the impression of some sort of deadly, predatory bird.  When she had his full attention, she handed him a thick folder.  He glanced at the contents, then back at the woman.

“Very good, Miss Lim.  Were there any difficulties?”

“None, sir.  You can proceed in good faith.”

“Excellent.”

Looking back at the television he saw that Sylph had easily won the Pugil event, having launched her opponent off his platform with a single stroke.  Sylph now had a clear advantage going into the Eliminator Gauntlet- nearly a twenty second lead, in fact.  He wondered if the next few events would change that.

                                                          *****

GunRun was an event that Tetsuko had figured would give her the edge.  Five weapons had been arranged at various stations on a gymnasium floor.  First Tetsuko and, now, Sylph had to run from station to station, grabbing each weapon in turn and attempting to hit a bull’s-eye before the Vindicator at the end of the course, Rapture, managed to nail her with a tennis ball fired from a pneumatic air gun.

Tetsuko grinned happily.  She had scored the full ten points on the GunRun, blasting the bull’s-eye from the second station with the slingshot.  Sylph was just getting ready for her run, but Tetsuko didn’t rate her chances as very high.  Although she hadn’t chosen this event, she was happy to have it- Sylph’s enormous bulk would make an easy target for the Vindicator on the podium.  She didn’t think Sylph could even completely hide behind any of the stations.

The buzzer went, starting the countdown and Sylph sprinted to the first station.  Tetsuko was shocked at the acceleration the girl achieved, getting to the first station while the first ball was still in the air and yanking the nerf crossbow into position.  She pulled the trigger, but the bolt flew wide as she jerked out of the way of another incoming tennis ball, then charged from behind her cover to the next station.

The Vindicator couldn’t target her fast enough while she ran, couldn’t even lead her by enough to make a difference, so he settled for pelting at her behind the barrier.  Sylph grabbed the slingshot and hauled bank on the thong.  As it turned out, she yanked back a little too hard and both titanium forks twisted and bent in just before the industrial strength rubber cup ripped in two.  Staring at the twisted wreckage in her hands, Sylph only barely managed to dodge the next shot with a twist of her hips that just about halved the target area she offered.  Tossing the slingshot aside in disgust, she rocketed off to the next station.

At the next station, Sylph grabbed the weapon and looked at it, trying to puzzle out how to make it work.  Holding the tubelike device in one hand, she examined it until she saw the button on the side.  One end was closed off, but the ammunition was saboted.  Quickly dropping the nerf rocket into the tube, she raised the device to her shoulder, batting the attached bipod out of her way, and depressed the button.  With a massive, juddering ‘whump,’ the missile soared away, completely missing both Vindicator and target as the recoil jerked the end up and to the side.  Growling in frustration, Sylph jogged to the next station, easily dodging two balls the Vindicator sent at her in desperation.

The next weapon was a mock assault rifle.  The intention was that the competitor hold it with both hands and aim with the scope.  Unfortunately for Sylph, it was clearly designed for someone with more natural proportions, as Sylph couldn’t achieve the correct grip no matter how she attempted to contort her self.  Instead, she held the rifle in one hand and fired from her hip as she dashed to the last station.

Finally, she thought, something she was actually good at.  The final stage was simply three soft rubber balls- one shaped like a small football, another like a tennis ball, and the last one like a basketball.  Grabbing the tennis ball, she hauled back, and let fly, but had to twist to dodge the incoming tennis ball at the last instant, throwing her aim off so that she threw high and the ball fell somewhere in the audience.  Without pausing, she grabbed the basketball and lofted it lightly at the target, but the Vindicator actually managed to shoot the ball in the air.  Amazingly, the tennis ball was fired with enough force to deflect the larger ball.  Sylph stared in amazement while the Vindicator readjusted his aim.  In frustration, Sylph grabbed the last ball and prepared to hurl it at the target just as her opponent, grinning wildly at her distraction, pegged her in the center of the chest.

“Ow!” she yelled.  That stung!  Growling, she spiked the football into the arena floor so hard that it burst and stalked off the stage rubbing her chest.
.
                                                          *****

Miss Lim nodded at her monitor.  Very good.  It was a shame they hadn’t managed to stick Tetsuko as well, but the one girl would do nicely for their purposes.  The competitors were taking a brief rest, now, and the Vindicators were in the back being prepped for their next events.  Now they would test the effects of their new program- both the one for the Vindicators and the one Mr. Slade was advocating for use on his rival.

She glanced at her watch, then pressed a button on her phone and waited for the person on the other end of the signal to pick up.  “We’re ready, Professor,” she said without preamble, “begin phase two.”

Shutting off her phone, she looked back at the monitors.  She hoped this worked.  She really did.  Maybe then Mr. Slade would pay more attention to her…

                                                          *****

Sylph and Tetsuko stood on the platform as the technicians fastened the steel harnesses to their abdomens.  These machines had been refitted, they were informed, the mechanical ripcords replaced with electromagnetic pull-switches that would cause their harnesses to release them from the overhead track and drop them into the deep water underneath them.  Sylph shuddered at the idea.  She had fallen in the water once already and the feeling of being submerged panicked her.  She realized she was already hyperventilating as Tetsuko looked over at her.

“Relax, Sylph.  You fall in and I’ll pull you out, I promise- just get to a side, okay?”

Sylph snorted.  “Sure,” she said with more confidence than she felt, “but I’m not falling in this time.”

Tetsuko beamed at her.  “That’s the spirit!  Let’s put on a show, huh?”

Sylph nodded as the whistle blew and the huge winch wrenched them up into place.  Grabbing hold of the hand-pedals, Sylph began pumping her arms as quickly as she could.  Not fast enough- not nearly, she thought.  The relatively narrow handles were incredibly awkward for her and Tetsuko shot ahead easily as her more normally proportioned shoulders allowed her long arms to achieve a more natural and effective grip.

Sylph shook her head in frustration.  This was not an event she would ever have chosen- it was stacked heavily against her.  She kept going, though, determined at least to finish the course.  Looking back through her legs as she turned the crank she thought she could just about see one of the Vindicators rapidly closing the distance between them.  Her own chest largely obscured her view and she grunted as she redoubled her efforts, but she was fairly certain that Harpy really wanted to get to her after the embarrassment she had delivered to the Vindicators in the first event…

Looking at the other side, she saw Flair rocketing by her, her lips pulled back in a rictus of concentration as she tried to close the gap with the blonde goddess who seemed to be effortlessly floating towards the finish.  Tetsuko was pulling away from Flair and would finish seconds ahead of Sylph easily.

Sylph felt a sharp tug at the small of her back and felt her eyes widen and she gripped the handles with sufficient force to warp the stainless steel grips.

“Swimming time, chum,” Harpy hissed malevolently and Sylph felt the harness release, leaving her dangling by the now bent and ruined handles.  Harpy looked distinctly nonplussed as Sylph pulled herself up to the actual track and quickly pulled herself hand-over-hand to the finishing platform.

“Crap,” she spat as she stepped onto the platform with Tetsuko’s assistance, “guess that one’s yours, then.”

Tetsuko nodded.  “Gives me a little lead, but not much- and the next event is one you chose, isn’t it?”

Sylph nodded.  “The WarRunner.  I think I’ve got the advantage on that one.”

The blonde grimaced.  “We’ll see,” she said tightly.

                                                          *****

Glacier hunkered down behind his padded barrier.  The new formula that Dr. Sato had given them during the break was already making him feel a little strange, almost like he was on fire.  He felt a cold sweat break out on his forehead and suppressed a convulsive shudder down his oversized frame.  He looked down the eighty-foot track, past his fellow Vindicators, Ursula, Toro, and Valkyrie, and examined the young woman stretching at the starting line.

As big as the ladies on his team were, these competitors were even bigger.  The blonde in front of him was as tall as he was and even more densely muscled.  He had faced her during Pugil and, while he had slowed her considerably, she had eventually managed to snake her Q-tip under his arm and literally hoisted all two hundred and sixty pounds of him into to the air and five feet off of his platform.  He’d barely managed to go limp before hitting the water and just avoided having more than the wind knocked out of him by that hit…

Get your head in the game, he thought to himself.  She might be bigger and stronger, but he and his teammates had numbers and teamwork on their side.  He dropped into his crouch as the buzzer sounded and the timer started.

Ursula charged in and met the competitor as they had practiced, but allowed herself to be driven back until she was parallel with Toro.  Dropping her weight, she lifted under the blonde woman’s hips and was shocked as she was almost absently shrugged off until Toro slammed into her as well.  Just like that, her momentum was stopped dead and the look in her green eyes was one of pure shock.  Rolling around to the side, Tetsuko ducked under Toro and with a negligent shrug tossed the fifteen stone prop forward fully over her head so that he landed flat on his back behind her with his breath rushing out of him in a violent explosion.

Valkyrie managed to slam her shield into the blonde woman’s shoulder, staggering her as Glacier charged forward, once again catching the tall woman at waist level and lifting with all his considerable strength.  He was surprised first to feel his arms go numb with the shock of the impact.  Moments later he felt considerable pain as his arms seemed to bend in on themselves, the bones compressing in an unstoppable crush as his muscles drove against her immovable abdomen.  Almost as quickly as the pain started, it was gone.  Her considerable weight was now supported by his arms as he started to push her back up the side of the wall.  It was easy- it was incredible!

Just as he got her up to the very edge of the pipe, she slammed both her feet hard into the side of the course and, once again, brought them both to a complete standstill.  With a roar, she bore down on him, driving him down to his knees.  She leaned into his body, bending him back on himself until he collapsed under her and she literally rolled over him and back to her feet in the middle of a now open path to the finish line.

Catching his breath, he looked down at his arms.  A huge purplish bruise ran the length of his forearms but was already fading.  Compression fracture? he wondered in shock, watching the bruise fade impossibly quickly.  He shook his head and slowly returned to his place on the course.

                                                          *****

Sonya leapt to her feet, cheering- it had looked like Glacier would actually manage to push Tetsuko out of the event, but then Tetsuko had turned it around at the last second.  While she liked Sylph, she didn’t think the huge girl had a chance of matching the athletic prowess Tetsuko had just displayed, and her heart filled with a certain primal glee.  Sylph was, quite simply, too big to maneuver around the Vindicators; she’d have all four of them on her in no time and they’d pick her up and drive her out of the pipe.

Sonya glanced over to where Sylph’s friends were sitting and saw that similar thoughts had obviously occurred to them as they leaned forward in their seats, watching the drama in the arena unfolding beneath them.

                                                          *****

Sylph had watched the previous match with mixed feelings.  The Vindicators had slowed Tetsuko considerably, and that was good as far as she was concerned.  It was weird, though.  Towards the end, Glacier had literally lifted Tetsuko off the ground and carried her bodily up a steep slope and nearly a dead run.  Sylph knew he was strong, but that was just patently ridiculous.  Tetsuko was nearly four hundred pounds- the size of an adult male lion.

She shook her head.  It didn’t matter.  He could carry a bull elephant on his back, for all she knew- it didn’t matter because he was never going to be in a position to get his legs under her.  As the whistle blew, Sylph darted off the line and dropped her shoulder just as Ursula hit her.  The impact was harder than she expected.  Definitely beyond the capacity of a normal human, she thought.  I wonder what they’ve been feeding them…

Ursula managed to swing herself over and around Sylph so that she was still holding onto the massive girl, but couldn’t manage to trap both of her monolithic legs at the same time and Sylph continued virtually unencumbered to meet Toro.  As he lowered his head and charged like his namesake, Sylph reached out and casually caught the large man by his shield, easily hoisting him bodily up over her head.  She didn’t even slow down as Valkyrie moved in, instead flicking Toro at the incoming amazon.  The impact was sufficient to knock both of them off their feet and Sylph continued on with only Glacier still standing between her and the goal.

Glacier had played football, but Sylph was like the Fridge travelling under full steam.  She plowed into his barrier and twisted her hips savagely bouncing him off the wall of the half-pipe so hard that he actually bounced nearly back to her, staggering and only barely managing to keep his feet as she passed him with a girlish grin.  Ducking low, she sprinted through to the end of the course nearly seven seconds ahead of Tetsuko’s time.

                                                          *****

Slade chuckled.  The formula appeared to be working- different than the one that he and Tetsuko had, but effective even so.  Dr. Sato reported that the Vindicators all seemed to be displaying both increased strength and aggression and, as a side bonus, apparently also a capacity to rapidly regenerate damaged tissue as evidenced from the multiple injuries that Glacier had sustained in his foolish attempts to stop both Tetsuko and Sylph in The WarRunner event.

He glanced down at the gate figures he’d been given.  This show had turned out to be a surprisingly good draw.  If his Vindicators could manage to injure either girl he was fairly sure that he could draw an enormous profit off DVD sales.  He turned to Miss Lim and gave the order, than went back to watching his television.

                                                          *****

Bulk turned to the camera and flashed his roguish smile directly at it.  “Welcome back after the break, ladies and gentlemen.  As we prepare the arena for the final event, let’s take a look at the show so far-“

“And what a show it’s been,” Jacki chimed in on cue.  “Underdog Sylph Young took an early lead over odds-on favorite Tetsuko during a decisive game of TitanOrb during which it seemed that the taller woman just couldn’t maneuver around Vindicators Rockslide and Ursula.  Tetsuko just barely avoided a shutout in this event through the highly unorthodox maneuver of actually throwing one opponent’s orb into another, thus clearing the way for this, her only score in the match.

“The next event- the Iron Jungle- was a decisive win for the taller Tetsuko, but not enough to fully offset Sylph’s devastating domination in the Pugil, where the younger girl managed to pick up a full seventeen seconds, giving her a massive advantage of fourteen seconds going into the GunRun.

“Tetsuko once again demonstrated what a finely tuned instrument her body really is by scoring against Rapture at the second station, while Sylph managed to successfully complete four stations before Rapture’s deadly accuracy finally put her down- ouch, folks, let’s see that again!  

“After assault, Sylph still had a decent lead- eight seconds advantage over her rival- but the tables finally turned during the Skyline, when Tetsuko successfully raced to the finishing platform a full ten seconds ahead of Sylph.  Although Harpy successfully disengaged Sylph’s harness, judges ruled that Sylph’s finish could be considered legal because she did not, in fact, fall in the water at any time.

“With a two second lead going into the WarRunner, Tetsuko pulled out all the stops in one of the most powerful and acrobatic displays we’ve seen on this program to date, finishing in eleven point seven seconds despite a powerful and coordinated attack by Vindicators Glacier, Ursula, Toro and Valkyrie.  All that hardly mattered, though as Sylph plowed directly through the course like the unstoppable juggernaut she’s seemed to be, finishing in a record-breaking four point eight seconds.”

Bulk nodded as the camera refocused on him.  “So Sylph goes into the final event, the Elimination Gauntlet, with a four point nine second advantage.  We want to take a moment to point out to our watchers at home something that our studio audience has already noticed- this event has been significantly reworked from its previous incarnations.  As before, competitors start by racing up the conveyor belts.  At the top, however, we’ve eliminated the zip lines and, instead, have an incline balance beam that the competitors have to negotiate to get to the cargo net.  From the top of the cargo net, competitors fling themselves onto the flexible poles over our own version of the Laurentian Abyss- competitors that fall in have to race through the water to reach the slowly descending ladder and scale up the sides to get back in the game.  From there it’s a short sprint to the next obstacle- a four-foot deep mud pit with Vindicators Valkyrie and Flair waiting for anybody to slip on the waxed planks spanning the gap- and given that Rapture and Rockslide are poised overhead to help tip competitors into the pit, they usually don’t have to wait long.  Once they break free of the pit, it’s a simple matter of sprinting down the slip-n-slide to the final barrier.  Simple, that is, except for the added obstacle of having to force their way against the pressure of the water cannons being brought to bear by Ursula and Harpy.”

“Simple, he says,” Jacki smirked.  “Miss Breckenridge- you were favored by bookies going into this match, but it seems as if you’ve only managed to break even.  Could you speculate how that happened?”

Tetsuko shook her head.  “Honestly?  Sylph’s proven to be a better athlete than I expected- I expected her to be strong; I didn’t really expect her to be fast or smart, and that made a huge difference.”

“How do you hope to counter her advantage in the upcoming event?”

“Well, the Elimination lets her start with an advantage, but the first few obstacles are really more my forte than hers- they depend more on speed and agility than mass and power, and I think I have a clear advantage there.  If I can overtake her, I’m confident that I can maintain my advantage even through the more strength-related challenges.”

“Well, there you have it, folks- Tetsuko is behind, but far from out.  Good luck, Tetsuko Breckenridge- we’re looking forward to seeing you in action again.”

“Thanks, Jacki- I can’t wait.”

                                                          *****

Ralf craned his neck, trying to see around the large, sweaty man in front of him.  Wade sat next to him, but his view was significantly less obscured by the troglodytic woman in front of him.  Kali sat on his other side, although saying that she sat was, perhaps, an over-exaggeration as she seemed to spend more time standing up and cheering than she did warming her chair.

The whistle blew and Ralf saw Sylph bolt off the starting line to the conveyer belt.  Her momentum carried her three quarters of the way up before the belt started to slow her, but she still made it up to the top just as the whistle went off for Tetsuko.  The taller girl bounded up the ramp like a gazelle, her considerable weight barely touching down twice from the bottom of the belt to the top.

Sylph was still in the lead as she made her way across the balance beam- they must’ve been wider than he had thought, because Sylph was managing to stay upright as she climbed up, however precariously.  Just before reaching the net, Sylph slipped and flailed to grab the net before falling all the way down.  Tetsuko had no such difficulty and landed on the net a full body length above Sylph.

Capitalizing on her lead, Tetsuko wasted no time scrambling to the platform and throwing herself at the flexible pole.  Surprisingly, the pole bent but did not flex quite far enough to get Tetsuko over the dry platform.  As she clung to her pole, Sylph finally attained the platform and hurled herself against her own pole.  Her considerably more substantial weight easily bent the pole until her feet touched down on the platform.

Twisting, Tetsuko managed to launch her body into the air as if she were throwing herself from a pole vault, landing just behind Sylph as the bigger girl set foot on the plank.  Sylph was nearly halfway across the mudhole when the inevitable occurred and Tetsuko smiled grimly as the plank snapped under Sylph’s prodigious weight, depositing both Sylph and the substantially surprised Rapture in the pit.  Sylph lost no time getting to her feet and starting for the other wall, but both Rapture and Ursula were on her before she could make any real progress.

Ralf was getting into the show when Wade nudged his arm and pointed at the large-screen monitors above the arena.  The monitors were showing a close-up view of Rockslide’s face as Tetsuko approached him.  His eyes were red.  And glowing.

                                                          *****

Tetsuko looked up from where she was balanced just as Rockslide lunged for her.  She dropped her weight and raised her guard, planning to redirect him off the plank, but the slippery surface of the warm wax provided no traction and she tumbled off the other side as Rockslide twisted and fell between Sylph and her opponents.   Rockslide was on his feet again even faster than Tetsuko and he dove for her, grabbing her wrists and pressing against her hands in a classic Greco-Roman test of strength and leverage, trying to force her to her knees by dint of his superior positioning.

Tetsuko couldn’t find her footing in the slippery mud and was shocked when Rockslide actually managed to drive her head completely under the surface of the warm goo.  She managed a slight gasp just as she went under, then felt the pressure on her arms increase as she was forced deeper into the pit.  Something grabbed her ankles and she felt her body inverted, her head still submerged.  She was beginning to feel desperate, now, as her inadequate air supply quickly exhausted itself as she struggled against her tormentors.

She tried lashing out, hoping to catch Rockslide or whoever it was that was holding her legs, but their grips remained firm and she wasn’t able to buck them.  Bright spots appeared in front of her eyes and her mouth opened in involuntary reflex, warm mud filling her mouth.  She felt a tremendous, silent BOOM, like an explosion in space, and the hands holding her arms released.  Her body, weak from exhaustion, tried to curl up towards the surface, but she had already lost her sense of direction and she couldn’t be sure where she was.

Strong fingers wrapped themselves in her hair and, with a painful jerk, yanked her head free of the mud with an audible POP!  She gasped, the warm, slightly sulfurous air instantly filling her lungs with blessed oxygen and struggled to get the mud out of her eyes.  Coming into blurry focus, Tetsuko saw Sylph’s arm suspending her head above the roiling surface even as Flair and Rapture tried futilely to topple the giant girl.  Rapture was actually drooling slightly, and Ursula’s bloodshot eyes appeared feral as she scrabbled to acquire a handhold on Sylph.  Sprawled against the far wall, Tetsuko saw Rockslide, one side of his face swollen as if it had been hit by a wrecking ball.

“Are you okay?” Sylph asked, anxiety etched on her pretty face.

Tetsuko spat mud.  “Fine,” she sputtered.  “What happened to him?” she jerked her thumb at the supine form of Rockslide.

“I, uh, I hit him,” Sylph admitted, cheeks reddening.  “He was holding you under and… and, well, it’s like they just lost it.”  She was still holding Tetsuko up with one arm, completely ignoring the savage Vindicators draped over her body.

Tetsuko nodded, feeling the mud slowly oozing down her back.  “Yeah- something’s definitely weird.  Come on- let’s finish this.”

Sylph nodded and waited until Tetsuko managed to shake off Valkyrie’s grip on her feet before letting go herself.  The competitors looked at each other, than back at the Vindicators.  Tetsuko grinned and cracked her knuckles in a display of pure, wicked dominance that, even in their adrenaline-fueled insanity the Vindicators could not fail to recognize.

“Come on!” Sylph urged, nodding towards the ladders set in the wall of the pit.

“Go ahead,” Tetsuko growled, “I’ll catch up.”

With her feet firmly planted on the ground, Tetsuko felt supremely powerful and she swiftly moved to catch both Flair and Valkyrie in her powerful arms.  Sylph shook her head and waded to the ladder, pulling herself up out of the pit hand-over-hand.  Tetsuko slammed the two women together with tooth-rattling force, crushing their chests so that the air whooshed out of them, leaving them bruised and dazed.  Without slowing, she hurled both women through the air to land just beyond the mud on the floor of the arena.

Turning, she saw Sylph reaching the top of the pit just as Rapture lunged out of the mud and grabbed onto the collar of her uniform.  As tough as the uniforms were, designed to withstand the prodigious growth either woman could achieve in full flex, they still couldn’t hold up against the punishment Rapture was now inflicting.  With a loud r-r-r-rip, the entire back yanked free, the stitching in the sides of the one-piece unitard giving way, leaving Sylph stripped to her homemade bra and panties as Rapture tumbled over backwards back into the mud.

Tetsuko leapt, her powerful quads propelling her fully out of the mud to land fully on the unbalanced Rapture and drive him hard into the mud.  As he struggled to gain purchase, Tetsuko reached down and grabbed him around the waist, wrenching his gut hard enough to make him retch as he struggled to get a breath.  Almost as an afterthought, Tetsuko tossed the large man backwards over head hard enough that he landed flat on his back on the far side of the pit, his eyes open and staring as he gasped and wheezed.  She refocused on Sylph as the girl made her way toward the finishing line and, ultimately, victory.

Tetsuko giggled at the nearly nude amazon sprinting just ahead of her towards the finish as she pulled herself free of the pit.  Obviously, Sylph had forgotten about the-

{Spssssh!}

-water cannons.  The blast was powerful, like being caught in the torrent directed from an open hydrant, and it managed to slow Sylph’s progress to a crawl as she twisted and tried to escape the relentless pressure.

Gaining her feet, Tetsuko jogged up, keeping an eye on Ursula as she tracked her with her own cannon.  Jinking first to the left, then to the right, she barely managed to see as Sylph finally managed to roll out of the direct line of fire of Harpy’s cannon, the jet of water still pouring out with enough force to catch the cup of her bra and blast it from her body.

Sylph gasped in shock and brought her hands up in a vastly inadequate attempt to maintain her modesty as she lowered her head and charged through the finishing paper a hair’s breadth ahead of Tetsuko.

                                                          *****

“Unbelievable!” Ralf crowed.  “She did it!  She won!”

He turned to Wade’s seat to pull up his companion only to discover the seat was empty.  Turning back to the stage, he saw Wade fighting his way through the crowds to meet his friend at the finish line.

How did he know? Ralf wondered.

As Wade reached the finish line, he handed her an enormous sweatshirt which the girl accepted gratefully.  Tetsuko strode up behind them a moment later and Sylph turned around to grab the taller woman in a crushing bearhug.

“Whoa, Sylph,” Tetsuko laughed as the girl swung her around, “We aren’t quite done yet.”

“Huh?” Sylph asked, looking baffled.

“Slade,” Sonya growled coming up behind them, as if that one name explained everything.  Sylph still looked confused.  “He tried to sabotage the event- that’s why those Vindicators were acting so strangely…”

Indeed, contrary to the usual custom, the Vindicators had all been hustled out of the arena immediately after Sylph had crashed through the paper at the end of the event.  While Bulk and Jacki were even now approaching the competitors for comments, the Vindicators were nowhere to be seen.

“What do we do now?” Sylph asked, slightly alarmed.

“Put on a nice face, girl,” Tetsuko whispered fiercely, “you won!”

“I’ll try and find out where Slade’s gone- meet me as soon as you two can tear free of the crowds,” Sonya added, ducking back into the audience.

                                                          *****
A VERY special thanks to :icondcmatthews: for this one. This piece took a shamefully long time for me to write (can you believe the last thing I wrote was 11 months ago?)

Before I go any further, I need to say:
Tetsuko Breckinridge, Sonya Gannon, and Hamilton Slade are all (c) :icondcmatthews:
Ralf is mine, but the inspiration (and much of the dialogue) was :iconrefaal:

I also want to thank both :icondcmatthews: and :iconrefaal: for their patience and frequent aid in getting me refocused when I got stuck. This story would never have been completed without them.

As for who really deserves the blame, well, I think that belongs to :iconjimmydimples: and cpbell0033944 over at Amaz0ns.com- some time ago, this thread ([link]) appeared and the two of them expressed an interest in seeing how Sylph and/or Tetsuko might do...

This, obviously, is the result. I hope you all enjoy!

ONE LAST NOTE: Thanks to :iconrefaal: for the picture of Sylph I'm using to preview this story.

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:iconrinjipantera:
RinjiPantera Featured By Owner May 17, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
What an action-packed chapter! I guess it was nice to see Sylph and Tetsuko come into an even wavelength with each other and find common ground and respect.

I knew that with Slade involved in some capacity, that he would try something. Nice use of a Gladiators like challenge. And yes, it was great to see the underdog emerge the winner. ^_^

Great chapter all around. Only one more for me to go through. :)
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:iconstmercy2020:
stmercy2020 Featured By Owner May 17, 2011
Thanks- this was kind of interesting to write; researching the different events and then figuring out how they would play out, and how much strength was worth vs. pure mass... physics are fun!
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