--In the locker room of the Grand Cross-Galactic Budokai Tenkaichi Arena
The medical droid removed the last bit of shrapnel from Shrek’s back. "Watch it will ya? Ow!" It wasn’t deep, but damn if it didn’t hurt.
"My apologies, sir,” the medical droid said. “This unit wishes no harm to you. My primary purpose is rehabilitation of contestants.”
"Well, I'm not feeling rehabilitated and I’m not a contestant anymore, now am I?" Shrek tried to turn around to smack the little robot but the ache of his body and the bandages wrapped around his torso hindered him.
"The GCGBTC extends--”
“The what?” Shrek interrupted.
“The GCGBTC, an acronym for Grand Cross-Galactic Budokai Tenkaichi Committee,” it explained. “They are the organizers for the tournament and were the ones that contacted you requesting your participation.”
“Oh, well why didn’t you say so?” Shrek rolled his head, sarcasm dripping in his tone. “That makes perfect sense.”
“I’m glad to hear that, sir. As I was saying, the GCGBTC extends medical care to all participants. It is our wish that you leave here with the best--"
"Yeah yeah." Shrek stood as the droid finished patching him up. "Just give me my reward so I can be on my way.”
Shrek couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here or why he’d decided to participate in this dumb tournament. But what he did remember was someone had told him he’d get a monetary reward for participating and a wish granted if he won. Either way, he would get something out of this whole ordeal.
The droid didn’t hesitate, responding, "Right this way, sir."
Shrek followed the mouthy robot through the locker room as he tightened the towel around his waist. He looked around as he walked, searching for any signs of the woman who beat him in the tournament. He’d have liked to give her a piece of his mind before leaving. If she were unarmed of course…
Other competitors sat around tending to their wounds, some by themselves and others with aid from robots. A young girl was bandaging herself up in a corner alone. Apparently she had refused the complementary medical service.
A man with considerably broad shoulders stood in his own corner with two tournament officials. He held a straight posture despite the evidence of pain he must have been in. His clothes were torn in places and he had a few burns on the bare skin that Shrek could see. He remembered this guy had gone up against a kid that could control monsters. He’d lost quickly in that match and he didn’t look happy about it. At least he was saying as much to the officials standing in front of him.
“Creatures should not be allowed in battle. What honor is there having pets do your fighting? Tell me!”
But that wasn’t any of Shrek’s business.
He continued out the locker room, following the droid until he reached the arena clerk to be paid for his participation.
Wrapping up her arm, Vin watched the green ogre leave the locker room following behind a short robot doctor. She recalled declining to speak with the weird thing when it offered to give her medical aid.
Vin was more than capable of taking care of herself.
That said, Vin’s bell was still rung. The dizziness she felt was gone, replaced by a headache just behind her eyelids. Her vision became spotted as she finished wrapping her last wound.
Her fight with, what was his name? Spider-Man? He’d sounded like a joke, but the kid wasn’t messing around. She was still gauging his strength in the ring when he surprised her with some kind of electric shock. It dropped her guard and left her open. Spider-Man webbed her to the wall and that was it.
She kept playing the fight over in her head, thinking about every mistake she’d made. Her stupid mistakes costed her and now she’d have to return home with nothing.
She rested her head on the steel lockers, hoping the cool metal would soothe her head.
What am I going to tell Elend? ‘Sorry, I didn’t win so our world is doomed?’
She still couldn’t recall how she’d gotten to the tournament, but she remembered agreeing to it. With what they were promising her, she couldn’t turn it down.
Thinking about it made her head hurt worse. She focused on the pewter still in her system, burning just enough to weaken the drum in her head. Better to leave some in case she needed it.
She considered burning more when the other contestant in the locker room started yelling again, “Clearly, you don’t make the decisions around here. I have no need for you!”
Vin had ignored his outbursts earlier, but now he seemed like he was done arguing. The man gripped the organizers in each hand and threw them into the far wall, cracking stone.
She could hear their bones snap.
Vin, taking mental stock of her metals, observed the man now floating in the air. She heard the organizers call him M. Bison before he decided to smash their heads in.
Bison’s pupiless eyes found hers, sending a chill down her back. “Ah, Venture was it? Tell me, did I scare you just now?”
Vin couldn’t explain it, but she could feel his power. His purple aura surrounded him as it drew further out into the locker room. He landed on his feet again and approached her slowly.
“No.” Vin burned her bronze to see if the power she felt from him was allomancy, but no result. Bison wasn’t an allomancer. He was something else.
“You certainly seem the contrary. I will make you an offer. You have talent for someone so young,” Bison said, raising his hand to her. “Join me. I have plans to claim this arena for myself. You could stand by my side.”
“You do realize they’re going to send security? I think they can handle you.”
Bison’s grin turned into a frown. “But what about you? Can you really afford to deny me?”
Vin braced herself, but just as Bison took another step, the locker room door opened.
Shrek felt exposed as he loomed over the female clerk’s window. She was small, even for human standards, and staring intently at her computer.
“Hello,” he said, “So, question. How do I get home? I don’t remember how I got here.” He had tried to ask the droid the same question before it scampered off, but he couldn’t get a word in edgewise with it droning on about regulations and the history of this place.
The clerk giggled at his question, but didn’t look up from her computer screen. Shrek almost thought it was cute. But it made him miss his wife, Fiona, back home. And that’s where he wanted to be.
“Look, I got places to be, lady.”
“It's best not to ask too many questions, Mr. Shrek,” she said. “The GCGBT Arena likes to keep its secrets, ya know? We don’t even fully understand how it works.”
“It’s just Shrek. Mr. Shrek was my father,” he corrected her. “And what do you mean it has secrets? It’s a building.”
“I’m not at liberty to say, sir. I’m just told to respect the building and keep my badge on at all times.”
Shrek read her badge.
Julie Dressa. GCGBTA Clerk.
Nothing unusual about that. But hadn’t he heard that name before? Had the droid told him? He looked up and down the hallway and realized he was having a hard time recognizing anything he saw. The hall was littered with items that he knew, but the names escaped him.
The clerk cleared her throat. She was smiling up at him and holding out a slip of paper. “Here’s your check. It’ll auto-deposit into your world’s currency when you get home.”
“Home… right. But how do I--”
“Follow the blue arrows until you reach a transfer box.” She pointed left down a curved corridor. “Anyway, just step inside and you’ll be home. You won’t remember how you got there, so expect some significant confusion. Your body will be altered to its original state. I’d advise taking it easy for the next twenty-four hours.”
Okay, now she was starting to sound like the droid.
Shrek took the check but hesitated. “And… if I don’t? What will happen?”
“Just take it easy, sir. The body can only endure so much trauma, ya know? The effects of the transfer box linger, so you’re going to be uncomfortable for a spell.”
Shrek forced a smile back and followed the blue arrows, hoping he could walk off the chill down his spine.
After a few minutes, he finally saw what the clerk had described, a booth with a curtain drawn on each side. The dead giveaway was the large print reading ‘Transfer Box’. Shrek drew back the curtain and squeezed inside.
He really didn’t know what to do after that. Shrek had never been in a booth because he’d never found one big enough. This one fit surprisingly well, he realized.
Inside the booth, the walls were covered with safety tips, most of which Shrek ignored. At the bottom of the long list were two buttons.
A blue button that read ‘Home’.
A red button that read ‘Verse City’.
“Well, that really narrows it down,” Shrek said. He went to press the home button, but a loud sound thudded outside the booth. He peeked his head out and noticed he was next to the doors of the locker room he’d left earlier.
Strange, he thought. He had walked quite a ways from where he started.
Looking at the locker room, Shrek remembered he was only wearing a towel and bandages.
His shirt had been riddled with bullet holes and blood, so he had tossed it. His pants and boots were fine, but he had forgotten them after taking the shower they recommended. The droid said it wasn’t because of his ‘odor’, but for the healing properties the water had.
It was best to go back for his things. He could grab them quickly and satisfy his curiosity about the sound at the same time. He was sure he could find his way back to the booth anyway.
Vin braced herself, but just as Bison took another step, the locker room door opened. The green ogre entered gingerly despite his size, but froze when she and Bison noticed him.
He met her eyes first, then saw the two figures crumbled on the floor.
“Sorry, just came back for--” the ogre started to say, but was cut off as Bison’s purple aura flung him into the adjacent lockers.
Vin rushed to help him, but her heavy feet wouldn’t move. This was the second time she’d been surprised today.
Bison seemed pleased with himself, the edges of his mouth creasing into a grin. “What were you saying about security?”
Vin threw her bag at her side, metal coins scattering the air between herself and Bison. She burned steel, hurtling coins towards him.