“Match point! Place your bets!” The crowd in the taproom shuffled and murmured.
“How much did you make?” asked Drake as I entered the amount of glimmer I placed on the winning Trials team.
“g500,” I said. “If they take the match, I stand to make about g2,000.”
“It’s a poor practice, gambling,” said Telrik.
“What’s the harm?” asked Miranda. The Awoken Hunter punched her own numbers into the table’s terminal. She sat next to Arianna, and minus the shock of red hair on Arianna’s head, the 2 could have passed for sisters. Miranda’s own smooth pate glistened in the omnipresent violet haze of Reef, which could be seen even in the enclosed space.
“It disrespects the effort made by the contestants. The Crucible is about training for fighting the Darkness. This,” he said, gesturing at the huge screen across the room, “is showmanship.”
“As if you’ve never shown off,” said Arianna dryly.
Telrik merely shook his head.
“And this isn’t really the Crucible,” said Miranda. “This is the Trials of Osiris. The Reef is hosting these, so their rules.”
At mention of the Reef, I saw Arianna glance at the crowd of Awoken across the room, clustered away from most of the Guardians present. They seemed to have less reservations about placing bets on contestants, but they pointedly kept physical distance from anyone with a Ghost floating nearby.
“And Telrik, don’t tell me you don’t want to see King’s Ransom get their asses whipped,” I said. Up on the screen, the countdown to the next round began.
“I don’t want to add to their cut if they win,” he said pointedly.
“2% is not a lot,” I countered. “How else are they going to get Guardians to put a feed up?” I leaned back and put my boots on the table in an attempt to display //nonchalance. “You said yourself this is a good learning exercise. C’mon, they’re losing anyway.”
The match began, the light of Sol blazing over the Mercury arena. We watched through the eyes of Fernanda-24. Syphis – the Awoken Titan – and Ronald the Hunter dashed ahead of her.
“For a Titan, he’s quick off the starting block,” said Telrik.
The team ran to their left, along the edge of the arena.
“Far entrance of the shrine,” murmured Arianna. “If they guess-”
Ronald’s head exploded and his Ghost floated over his destroyed body, drawing a gasp from the crowd in the taproom. Syphis leaped back and a round skipped off the column beside him. The feed whipped around as Fernanda-24 changed course, heading back the way she came. Her motion sensor lit up red from 2 angles as the enemy team closed. Another blue skull lit up her HUD as she reached the central entrance: Syphis was down.
Another Warlock met Fernanda-24 as she cleared the threshold into the shrine. Fernanda-24 pointed her weapon and fired, the hand cannon booming out 3 rapid shots. Blood spurted from the Warlock’s arm as he leaped into the air and made a gesture. A ball of Void energy ripped its way into reality and hurtled into the screen. There was a flash of Light, followed by Darkness.
“Ooooooooh!” roared the crowd in unison. The countdown on the screen began.
I reached for the terminal. “Guess I’m walking away with some glimmer.”
“It’s not over,” said Drake.
I made a dismissive gesture. “Sure it is, you just saw it.”
“Rez!” shouted someone in the room. The screen lit up.
“Oh, not again,” I groaned. “I thought she burned that earlier in the match!”
Fernanda-24 ran out of the shrine, past another Warlock that had clearly just had her dancing interrupted. She raised a Fusion rifle, but Fernanda launched a grenade of Solar fire into her face. The Warlock fell back, her shot went wide and she vanished into a cloud of ash. A red skull flashed into existence.
The crowd cheered or booed according to their bets. Tables were pounded and drinks were spilled as excitement filled the room. Fernanda slid on her knees to Syphis, her Ghost already in hand.
A sniper round slammed into her, but the Light of Sol had put another layer of energy over her, deflecting the first shot. Syphis came back to life and without a moment’s hesitation extended his hands, a wall of Void Light encasing them both.
“No!” I leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, not wanting to see the end of it. Still, I could only look away for a moment.
Both members of the King’s Ransom ran out of the bubble shield, bringing a piece of it with them. The red skull fell away from the screen as they raced towards Ronald’s Ghost, firing at the sniper. The Titan ran for cover, but he was gunned down as he fled. A moment later all 3 King’s Ransom soldiers were on their feet. They turned in unison and met the 2 Warlocks – 1 freshly revived – coming after them with a hail of gunfire.
“It’s JEOPARDY!!!!” yelled the announcer, and the room exploded into excited talk and cheers. “Match point, 4 to 4! Jeopardy bets are 20-1! The King’s Ransom card has 7 wins and 0 losses! Place your bets!”
I snatched the terminal from the table and //angrily punched in my numbers. “Morc,” cautioned Arianna. I ignored her and put my glimmer down.
The next match took less than a minute.
“5-4! Payment is due! Next match for the King’s Ransom announced in 2 minutes!”
I threw down the terminal and glared at everyone at the table, daring them to say a word. I noted Miranda was smiling.
“What makes you so happy?” asked Drake.
“I just won g18,000,” she said, chuckling.
“You bet on King’s Ransom?” spluttered Telrik.
“What did you lose, Morc?” asked Arianna.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. I took my own Trials amulet out. “Ebony, do we have our match set up yet?”
“Just received word,” said Ebony. “Our next match is-”
“Next match!” shouted the announcer. “We’ll have live feed from both teams! The King’s Ransom, at 8 wins and 0 losses, will face a team with 8 wins and 0 losses: the Valherjar!!!!!”
I dropped my Trials amulet on the table. “Oh, come on!”
“Hmm, whom should I bet on?” asked Miranda as Arianna and Telrik stood to their feet.
“Come on Morc, we need to get to the arena,” said Telrik as he slung his rifle over his shoulder. Then he stopped and looked at me. “Wait, what did he mean when he said live feed from both teams?”
“Uh, I’m sure it was a mistake,” I said hastily. “Ebony, transmat me to my ship, will you please?”