“Gooooooooood Evening, Rush fans! The GOPR's Official Objective Announcer, Zhguar, here, and we’re coming to you - live - from the Orbital Coliseum! Tonight, we are in high orbit around Earth, where the Earth Global Conglomerate will host the launch of the 28th public season of Penitentiary RushBall!
“We've got a fantastic show-down for you, this evening, sports fans! We have the Earthling Humans that need -no- introduction, the AC3 Inner Alcatraz Hell-Dogs at home against that ever stout and strong Grolst team - the D45 System Disasters.
Joining me here tonight is Earth’s Official Announcer, Clive Huckle, and let me tell you - This planet and it’s people are thrilled and excited for the start of this season. Isn’t that right, Clive?”
“WOOooOhaw! That's right, Jhoogy, boy! We been waitin’ fer this game three long years! Tonight - after those three years in tha hole, big-time 7806 hits the field again, and boy I can’t wait to watch ‘im go!”
"Indeed. Tonight, the legendary inmate #7806 of the Hell-Dogs makes his return after serving his three year ‘suspension’ for the notorious concussion grenade incident in 2346. Holding more PLR records than any other player in its history, including: most points scored, most critical injuries inflicted, and most seasons survived, #7806 will try to put a stop to the Inner Alcatraz’s paralleled three year losing streak against this dominant Disasters defense.”
"Gol'dang! you know we, here, on Earth got our fingers crossed, Jhoogie-boy. We’re tired of scrapin' the bottom!"
"I certainly hear you, Huck. Let's see what they have in store for us... The home team will be entering the field at any time no– Oh! And Heeeeere they come!! Listen to that crowd, and just as expected... Earthling 7806 is leading the pack! It’s astounding how good looks after being out of a three year isolation for only two months!..... and look at how organized that team is! He’s certainly a home world hero for good reason, Clive. All fifteen of his on-field players look great and are taking good formation. It’s hard to believe this is the same team that finished dead last a season ago!”
"Oh - Jhoogy! I been waitin’ three long years fer this! I can hardly hold ‘er in! The Disasters ain’t got a prayer in heaven!"
“I can hardly hear anything over this audience, Clive! I don’t think I’ve heard a crowd more intensely emotional than Earth’s! Now - while we await the arrival of the Disasters on the field - allow me to welcome all 500,000 in attendance here tonight, and the trillions watching from around the universe, to another ... chaotic season .... of .... Penitentiary RushBall!”
Through the solid, hybrid structure of the orbital arena, the Disasters can hear the fallout of the crowd detonating over the return of their hero. In their holding cells, they aren't afraid. Twenty-four inmates are all lined up in cages, all waiting to be unleashed upon the field. Growling, spitting, chanting, bellowing, they shake the foundations of their confinement in ubiquitous defiance of the world that wants their defeat at the hands of their champion!
Minutes before war, Team Captain DGI57 is the only one quiet.
In his cell he's preparing himself for facing off with the most dangerous athlete to put on the helmet. Assuring himself that, since he'd posted the starting period's team, this eviscerated feeling in his gut... this totally foreign, bottomless hole in his stomach isn't fear. It’s only the barnacle roach he'd eaten this morning.
"TEN SECONDS YOU FUCKING DEGENERATE SQUATS!! I HAVE ORDERS FROM THE TOP THAT SAY IF YOU LOSE TODAY, YOU CAN COUNT ON ONLY HAVING YOUR EXCRETIONS TO DINE ON FOR THE NEXT WEEK!!" - A shout from the guard. Reassurance and motivation from the one that stands at the control panel that will set them free. Free into a battle for entertainment; to please an audience that wants their blood.
That’s the final call. The toll of the bell. DGI57 has been through dozens of these games, he reminds himself. With a glance side-long to his helmet, settled reverently upon the floor, he reminds himself, it’s only bad digestion winding his insides in knots. He hesitates a moment, the first hesitation of his life. He didn’t hesitate before he thrust his boss’s head into the incinerator, nor at the start of any other game... but ‘57 hesitates now for that helmet.
The helmet of the Team Captain is the only one without a mouth guard. The only one equipped with a tactical transmitter, and an LED read-out in the visor; it is the symbol of the penitentiary games. The moment before the lever is pulled for lock-down release, he reaches for it. He snatches it and with a fluid motion of resolve, he jams it with brusque strength onto the dome of his wide, bald skull.
The bars drop, and 57 is the first one out with armored fist raised for gateway to the field! He looks back to his teammates. Behind the visor, they can't see the doubt in his eyes, but they can see his pernicious chin, and his gnarled teeth... they can see the aggression trembling his bottom lip, before it drops and he lets out a shattering howl at them! A call and challenge for allegiance that is soundly answered before turning, and leading the Disasters' charge for the field!
Stadium lights blare, and the mixed crescendo of the crowd meet them with full force. The confused arena populace, half booing, half cheering gives them hate, vigor... it’s fuel all the same.
Twenty five inmates split when feet meet turf. The fifteen man starting line-up swaggers onto the field for their positions; the ten substitutions head over to the side-lines to meet medical units and League guards for confinement behind the protective glass.
DGI57 heads for center field where #7806 and the ‘Dogs crew are on the opposing side are waiting.
"What an exciting moment this is, Clive, I can't wait to see what these two teams have in store for each other! DGI57, a two year veteran leading this System D45 team, looks hard and ready! In for a triple homicide on his home planet, he’s seen a lot of action, and I can tell you, he looks fearless! He’s just now coming out to meet #7806 in the Dead Hex for the face off... ‘57 seems to have recognized 7806's tight forward formation - he’s ordering his team into a loose and staggered offensive stance! What a game this will be!”
Face-to-face 7806 stands well over DGI57 by at least a foot. The Earth’s champion stares down at his challenger from beneath his captain’s helmet.
That barnacle roach is really turning over now. He can feel the ‘indigestion’ weakening his knees, tensing his chest, but uses every muscle in his body to stand firm and look straight into 7806's visor.
The returning champ's shoulders, set with the orange plates on black metal framework, are leveled with a disconcerting calm... and then his squared chin quirks to the left. A sneering, lopsided grin cracks to show yellowed teeth(a few of which are missing). The blueish tint of the visor hides his eyes and what's really behind them... but there's no doubt in DGI57's mind that the stark amusement in that smirk is genuine. The ferocity of the crowd is for this hero, and DGI57 agonizes in doubt; yet he stands strong for his team... he and they both want to eat food this month.
"That's the countdown, Jhoogie! 10 seconds to ball launch! Here come the Ref floatin' out on his pod!"
No movement from the hero - nothing but the grin. DGI57 can feel sweat tickling down his spine... The crowd picks up the countdown to the opening game. They chant in haunting unison.
6... 5... 4... Fingers twitch with the suspense of the eternal seconds.
3... 2... Adrenaline roars, clouding his mind and steeling his limbs with naivety. He's ready.
The buzzer sounds and the ball is spat from the Official’s observation pod. 7806 still holds that portentous grin as DGI57 scrambles, takes the ball, and turns to meet his team. If the ‘Dogs want him to have the ball first - fuck it - he’ll take it.