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Making it Big Time
Written by Amethyst Mare for TyVulpine
"Well, I would like to ask about what sort of duties I will need to perform in the course of the job," Ty asked politely, shifting uncomfortably in his smart black trousers and plain, sky-blue dress shirt. It was not his usual attire by a long shot, but he knew he certainly looked the part for the interview... If only he knew what that interview was for, it would surely help him snag a much needed job in a new city.
"We find you very intelligent, Mr Vulpine," the interviewer continued, sliding the signed disclaimer sheet back across the desk as if he had not heard Ty speak at all, his blue eyes unerringly sharp under a mop of blond hair. "You have impressed us greatly today."
Ty sighed deeply, slouching in the stiff-backed chair, a cheap knock-off from a discount shop, Ty reckoned. What could he do? His hands were tied in empty pockets - he desperately needed this job, whatever the job actually was. But they would not tell him a single detail about what he would be expected to do and he was beginning to fret that something less than desirable went on behind closed doors in this 'business'. Or perhaps they were taking advantage of a newcomer to the city and it was no better than a slave-wage job?
"Would you like to join our company as a trainee, Mr Vulpine?" The interviewer said, smiling pleasantly. Ty studied his face, noting the hint of afternoon stubble on his chin as if his interviewer, whose name he could not even recall, had not had the opportunity to shave that morning. A late night, maybe.
"I would very much like to join your company - for a trial period." The interviewer's eyes narrowed marginally, but he made no comment. "I would like to propose a trial period of one month, as I know so little about the job, to determine my suitability and whether this job is suitable for me."
"As you wish," the blond haired man replied smoothly, rising to shake Ty's hand. "Are you available to start immediately? We like our employees to participate as much as possible. It's all the better for wages, as I imagine you can tell."
"Of course, if you could tell me what I'll need to wear, I'll - "
"Oh, that will not be necessary," the interview cut across, with what could have been interpreted as a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips, finding some private amusement fleetingly entertaining. Ty frowned, an uncomfortable prickle running down his spine.
"If you would be so kind as to follow me, please," the man said, holding the door open for Ty, who inched through with an apprehensive murmur of thanks.
Nobody said anything about an immediate start meaning...well, immediately. A day's notice would be normal, right? Or more? Great, now that I've walked through the bloody door, what the hell is going to happen?
But I need the money.
Thoughts in turmoil, Ty sighed deeply, resigned to doing whatever tasks lay ahead of him, no matter how terrible they may be. There was something unique about the financially desperate: they would do anything, stoop to any levels, in order to stay alive, kicking and breathing. Wincing, he ran his fingers through his short, chocolate-brown hair, striving to banish thoughts of the ever present porn industry from his mind. Although...it would not be so bad to be a male porn actor, would it? He grinned, knowing that would surely be true as long as he was not asked to be a gay porn actor; he had his preferences after all, like any other person.
The interviewer led Ty to a small room that looked to be in every aspect a laboratory; it had the clinical atmosphere, metal tables bolted to the floor nonetheless, teetering stacks of equipment that he could not hope to understand and, most noticeably, a row of glass vials containing a gently bubbling liquid that shimmered. The kaleidoscope of colours contained within changed too rapidly for the human eye to discern a single one from the chaos. What more could any mad scientist want?
"Now, if you would just stand over here for us, please..." Ty's interviewer muttered distractedly, positioning Ty beside the table. "I would like you to drink this. You, ah... You will be a tester, of sorts."
"Wait! What is this...stuff?" Ty said in alarm, eyeing the vial that was offered with an expression of severe distaste. "I don't think -"
"Just drink it if you want to be paid. It will not harm you, as stated in the papers you signed earlier and read quite thoroughly."
Seeing no other option and trusting that this strange man would not do anything to harm him - friends had known where he had gone for the interview - he cautiously accepted the vial, lifted it to his lips and drank the entirety in a single, shuddering gulp. The 'potion', as Ty settled to call it, slid smoothly down his throat, tasting faintly of the standard, discount shelf bottle of orange juice. The nondescript taste caught him off guard and he smiled sheepishly at the man (he had to get his name at some point), shrugging nonchalantly at the lack of effect it had.
"So what is supposed to happen? I really...don't feel...anything..." Ty started, shaking his head in confusion as a deep-seated fogginess washed over his mind, rendering him off-balance and staggering across the room like a drunkard.
Something was wrong with his mouth, his lips had become rubber, he thought hazily, collapsing on to his side. His skin felt cold, icy cold, and rippled - rippled? - as if some horrific creature was crawling beneath it, having burrowed into a host body to feast upon the banquet of human flesh. With his head lolling sideways, disconnected from his neck for all the support he was able to give it, Ty mumbled incoherently, frantically, arms flailing in a search to find anything solid and statutory to latch on to, to retain some semblance of what was real. He was vaguely aware of people rushing around him, babbling at a rate that could put an auctioneer to shame, before he was grabbed roughly about his arms and legs - carried out and tossed unceremoniously into the back of a company van like a bag of rubbish.
He convulsed violently, twisting and writhing frantically as a subtle prickling sensation like thousands of needles being jabbed into his skin became utterly overwhelming, the tickling upon his nose forcing him sneeze violently several times in quick succession. His eyes shot wide open as a smattering of grey hair appeared on his face, spreading with a greater speed than he could have imagined, if he had been imagining turning into something...else, something with fur. Ty gargled unintelligibly, clawing at the impenetrable sides of the now speeding van, and yelped wildly, the front part of his face bulging out obscenely to form...
Is that a...snout?
Not having the opportunity to feel more than fleeting shock at this revelation, Ty suddenly found his torso elongating, muscles contorting beneath the surface to make way for new bone in the region of his hips. Bones cracking and rearranging themselves into unheard of, hideous shapes, Ty howled in pain, his new muzzle pressing against the cool, comforting metal interior of his temporary prison. His spine lengthened slowly, extending out from his mutated, half-changed form, and fluffed up with a thick layer of bushy, grey fur like a fox's brush. Ty kicked out, the first spark of fury igniting as the pain faded to a manageable level, yelping in surprise when not one but two pairs of feet slammed into the side of the van, rocking it violently.
He had four legs like an animal - what the hell? Throwing all of his weight into a roll, he just about managed to scramble to all four of his large, canine-like paws, swaying woozily in a struggle to comprehend the information that was staring him in the face. Covered in fur, standing on four legs but still with use of his arms? To confirm the fact, he rotated his arms Glancing over his shoulder, afraid of what he might see, Ty gulped at the thick tail protruding from his hindquarters, which flicked lazily back and forth with a mind of its own.
"Quick! Get him out, into the stadium! Now, damn it!"
The back doors of the van crashed open, the sharp light blinding Ty and allowing a lanky man to dart in and grab his arm, hauling him ineffectively towards the exit. His eyes narrowed and he knocked his attacker to the ground with a strength that he would have been unable to muster before his change, backing away until his rump pressed firmly against the smooth, padded interior. Swearing, the man rolled and scrambled upright.
"Get out, lord damn it - do you want to hurt yourself, you confounded -"
"Fuck that - what's going on? What the hell have you done to me?" Ty snarled, baring his canines brutally, pinning his pointed ears back as they brushed the roof.
He had not been that tall a few moments ago. Despite his original transformation, his new muzzle had been a good couple of feet below the van's confines, allowing him to still move somewhat. But, to Ty, it was as if the walls were steadily closing in, shrinking until he groaned, pushing outwards with his large paws in an useless attempt to gain himself some literal breathing room. Lashing his tail anxiously, Ty crouched as low as physically possible, giving a high pitched whine and struggled to inch towards the exit, his flanks gradually and painfully compressed by the narrowing walls.
"Get out and stop whining," the man said unsympathetically, stepping to the side to allow Ty to crawl out, much of his fur roughed up in the wrong directions, which he found strangely uncomfortable and aggravating.
Huffing at the bright light, which was a shock to his sensitive eyes, Ty stumbled from the van and landed solidly on the ground, small stones crunching under his large, feral pads. He wriggled his toes, fighting to regain some sense of direction as he had the uncomfortable notion that he was on a ship at sea, swaying and rocking until his stomach rejected its contents in a not very desirable manner. Ty swallowed hard, blinking rapidly and leaning against the somehow much smaller van for some semblance of support, although his new strength pushed it a grating couple of feet over the rough ground with a protesting shriek of abused tyres.
"Yes," the man noted casually, watching as Ty carefully, functionally, regained his bearings. "It might take your eyes a while to adjust now - being a fox-taur, as it is, you'll see better at night. Nocturnal species after all. I'd read up on your species' strengths and weaknesses if I was you."
Yeah, I'll read up on my bloody species, Ty snarled vehemently to himself, giving the man a searing glare that made him shift uncomfortably and clear his throat nervously. Just after I kick your sorry behind to -
"Through here, please," said a prim woman with small glasses that gave her the appearance of working in a library or office of sorts (having her dark hair scraped back into a tight bun did not do her any favours either). She tapped him politely above his left foreleg, inclining her fair head towards a large set of grey double doors, which seemed to lead into an arena of some kind; it rather reminded Ty of a football stadium, but the woman went on before he had opportunity to ponder further. "Down the tunnel and stand still until you are fully grown: we will come for you then. Please stay calm, merely standard procedure, Mr Vulpine."
What else can I do? Ty shook his muzzle, craning his head back over his shoulder to look in a combination of awe and disgust at his new body, every inch of which was sculpted. If he had not been so unnerved at the thought of what could happen to him now - some sort of twisted experiment? Lab tests? - and furious at those who had taken it upon themselves to mutate him, Ty would have been impressed with his new body and sleek, healthy fur coat.
Lolloping rather than walking sedately, Ty clumsily followed his 'guide' of sorts, thankfully not led like a dog on the end of a leash, into an expansive stadium many times the size of the average, traditional football pitch. Open to the elements, Ty's stronger eyes picked out the distinct shapes of hawks circling the arena, wheeling over the red seats in search of prey they would not find; they were only there to keep away birds, after all, and their handlers were grouped together on the other side of the field, ignoring Ty's presence completely. Ty swept his gaze around the stadium, awed into a submissive silence by the astonishing size; he could not begin to speculate upon the number of people it would hold. But what was the event they would come to see?
"Your growth will be quite rapid from here so please try not to move around too much," she continued, patting him absently on the flank. "You may experience some disorientation and queasiness - this is to be expected."
"I'm going to...what? Come again?" Ty shook his head against a wave of dizziness, his skin twitching aggressively as if agitated by an insistent insect. Ignoring him, as seemed to be the trend of the day, the woman readjusted her glasses with a small, knowing smile and strode away, heels clacking against the linoleum within the tunnel.
He flexed his muscles experimentally and glanced about, noticing how everything seemed smaller than before; the difference was incremental but noticeable, although Ty could not fathom why. Why....why indeed... The handlers for the birds of prey had paused in their conversation, their eyes fixed expectantly upon him as if they were waiting for something to happen. Ty lifted his head, blinking blearily, the stadium spinning sickeningly.
His paws tingled with a thousand pins and needles, the delicate hurt making him moan and reach down reflexively to rub the cramps from them, the action causing his stomach to roll once again. Hackles rising at the eerie sense of standing in an ascending elevator when his paws were quite staunchly placed upon the ground, short claws digging into the turf, Ty gulped, chancing a look down to find that the ground was a great deal further away than it should have been. His eyes grew as wide as saucers and his breath came in short, flustered gasps as his muzzle rose higher and higher, twenty feet high, then fifty and much further.
Muscles swelled and rippled beneath his thickening coat, bulging out obscenely before smoothing into defined tone as his new body aligned itself in appropriate proportion, leaving the fox-taur with a deal of natural muscle in his legs and a subtle amount in his torso, enough to be toned without appearing as if he spent every day lifting weights. Dazed, Ty lifted one hind paw, stomping it into the turf with a resounding thud that he swore made the foundations of the stadium shake from the impact. His fur flattened against his hide and a deep, unheard sigh came from within as he settled into his once more new and utterly final form: the changes had run their course.
There was a sense of solidity to being on all fours yet still having the use of arms, Ty noted curiously. His pads were incredibly sensitive, allowing Ty to feel the minute particles of soil and blades of grass being compressed, tickling the black soles almost imperceptibly. He couldn't find the will to be fearful for his situation, however, finding only awe in his current demeanour; the way Ty saw it, from a higher position, nobody that he had encountered so far that day was in any position to threaten him in any way.
"It seems that your transformation is complete at what I would approximate to be around one hundred and fifty feet, most impressive, Mr Vulpine," came a booming voice through a megaphone. Ty assumed it would be loud to a human ear anyway; at his size, it sounded like a pleasant murmur invoked over some distance.
Ty glared at the speck of a man, clad in a white lab coat, sunlight glinting off his rounded spectacles. He snarled, pinning his ears flat against his skull, and lowered his body into a crouch, poised to lash out given ample and just opportunity.
"Transformation? Transformation! And what makes you think you have the right to change people into, well - bloody anything!" Ty growled furiously, snapping his teeth. "I could step on you right now and nobody would be any the wiser. In fact..."
"Hey now! Don't do anything like that!" The man backtracked hurriedly, stumbling over a seat in the stands in sudden fright as Ty raised one forepaw threateningly. "I assure you that you will have the necessary vial to revert back to human form after you have finished work tonight - it's not permanent."
"After work?" Ty questioned suspiciously.
"The job is to fight others like yourself for entertainment - like a wrestling match but more freeform," he said rapidly, eager to placate the angry fox-taur as quickly as possible. "You'll mostly be watching today but will fight a few bouts with the newer taurs, just to find your feet. Everything is well observed and we have safety measures at hand to ensure that no injuries occur."
Surely, Ty snapped mentally. If you're going to turn people into beasts - giant beasts! - left, right and centre, the least you can fucking do is make sure they don't get hurt!
"Mr Vulpine? Are you prepared to continue with your trial period as a part of our company?" The man queried, peering up owlishly.
"I suppose so," Ty grumbled. "I signed the contract for now. What can I do?"
"Wonderful! Now, you'll want to get used to your form before the others arrive. Walk around, experiment a little - a guide will be sent to you shortly, another taur, of course. Until then, you only have to shout if you need anything, I am sure that one of us will be able to hear you." Ty bit back a snappy retort, watching the man trot away chuckling to himself at his scarce wit.
Yeah, real funny, dude, he thought, a twinge of annoyance making his hackles twitch as if to rise threateningly.
An excited howl erupted from the stadium tunnel as a ruffled red fox-taur charged on to the field, yipping madly as he grew rapidly, far more quickly than Ty had. He skidded to a halt - for it was definitely a male - and kicked up clods of earth, the staff who followed at a distance, swearing angrily at the rips in the turf. Seeming to notice Ty for the first time, he yelped loudly, his white tail tip batting the air furiously.
This better not be my guide...
"What's this? Fresh meat?" He yelped, half-rearing from the ground, his front paws sending reverberations through the soil as they crashed down, reminding Ty of the race horses crossing the finish line in a tightly packed group, hooves pounding the firm earth incessantly. Still, his ears swivelled back in annoyance at the antics of what he assumed was his, admittedly smaller, 'work colleague', so to speak.
"Fresh meat? Is that how you put it around here?" He snorted, breath misting lightly in the cool air like a miniature cloud. The fox whined, holding his paws up to stave off Ty's fierce stare.
"Whoa there, I didn't mean to offend," he placated quickly. "Name's Mike and it's always nicer to see a friendly face than a pissed one, so chill out, 'ey? You're new, so Secretariat will be along soon to act as your guide for tonight, no worries."
"Who...is Secretariat?" Ty asked cautiously, unable to deny a spark of curiosity despite his best efforts to suppress it; Mike barked happily, his soft, hazel eyes glowing as he settled down on his pale belly to speak more comfortably.
"He's one of the other employees here, a horse-taur and a damn good fighter alongside that. He's usually assigned to act as guide to the new employees, kind of like a mentor. You don't want to get into a bout with him while you're this inexperienced though - you wouldn't have the chance of getting a bonus."
"That sounds all right, really," Ty mused, following Mike's lead and settling down to rest with some difficulty; his paws just didn't seem to move in the same way as feet and having four was even more confusing. "Nice to know I'm not being thrown in the deep end here, or am I? And how do you get a bonus?"
"Hah, money tempts them all doesn't it?" Mike smirked, stretching his arms lazily. "You get a bonus when you win a bout - that's a fight or a match with one or more taurs. Pay isn't bad to start off with though, it's more fun than anything else for me. Beats working behind the counter in the damn supermarket at least!"
Yeah...I bet... Ty thought, shaking his muzzle in disbelief at the job he had taken. All things permitted...he would not mind staying on at all. The two taurs turned their muzzle sharply as a cluster of human sized, taurs loped into the arena, shooting up to their macro heights with a slick ease and pace that inspired a twinge of jealousy. Mike yelped, a wide, toothy grin spreading across his muzzle as he gestured at the approaching group with welcoming, open arms.
"Would you look who it is! Twosome is back! Up for a threesome, Twosome? 'ey?"
"Shut it, it's 'Kyle', not bloody 'Twosome', you half-wit," an odd looking taur grumbled, the much repeated joke wearing his nerves dangerously thin.
The subject of the ill-joke was indeed a twosome of sorts; he was a taur composed of two forms and, if mythology had a place in the modern world, would be called a griffin. His upper body was that of a golden eagle, feathers lightly lacing his arms though not thickly enough to allow flight. A pair of impressive wings protruding from his shoulder blades, however, might permit airborne activity, considering their massive wingspan, which cast a shadow over the remainder of his tawny, lion body. Every inch of him radiated masculinity, from the defined muscles beneath his feathers to his polished talons, which were in lieu of what would have been his front paws. Ty quailed inwardly at the prospect of fighting such a taur, especially without any training whatsoever!
But it was the transformed person who was not a taur that caught the majority of Ty's attention. A tall, turquoise 'person', with a long, thick mane of blue 'spines' (although they fell over his shoulders like hair),strutted among the taurs, laughing and joking as if he knew the majority as good friends, clapping the shoulder of the griffin taur jovially, although the griffin clacked his beak, eyes betraying irritation. He - for it certainly appeared male in figure alone - had a pale yellow muzzle and underbelly that complimented his figure and a short, black beard, which would have made him easy to distinguish if he had not been the only large being walking on two legs. Locking his warm, green eyes upon Ty, he padded over with a welcoming, easy smile.
"Erm..." Ty mumbled, looking the strange, brightly coloured thing up and down, forgetting pleasantries. "Who and what are you exactly? Didn't they give you the same freaky thing to drink or something? You look..."
"Yeah, yeah - I know," the blue creature laughed, stooping to collect his glasses from a plinth nearby; the lenses were as big as windows and Ty had previously mistaken the frames for some kind of modern art sculpture before. "I'm KC, the commentator here. This, ah, form is based on an echidna, with some colour commentary added in to the DNA splicing."
Pushing his glasses about so that they sat comfortably upon his narrow muzzle, smiling crookedly as he saw that Ty was quite overwhelmed by everything and had little idea of what he meant. He patted Ty's back reassuringly, rolling his shoulders to release the built up tension in the muscles there.
"Don't worry about anything, tonight's just for you to get used to the way things are done around here. You'll likely have a couple of bouts with the newer taurs to ease you into the job, nothing too strenuous. Try to keep our loudmouth fox friend quiet, all right? And out of trouble, if at all possible," KC grimaced, saluting Ty comradely as he strode away, his stride becoming livelier as he approached the growing crowd of taurs.
"So you must be Ty," the equine taur finally said levelly, looking over Ty critically.
"I must be Ty: who else would I be?" He replied, feeling foolish, although his response only earned a smattering of laughter. The equine's eyes narrowed and he stomped a hoof into the turf.
"Hmph, bit of a wise guy, are you?"
"What? Hell no!" Ty said hurriedly, leaping to his paws. "I didn't mean to come across like that!"
"Then maybe don't walk in here like you know everything, kid," the equine snorted. "I'm Secretariat. You've got to learn on the job here, otherwise you're gonna get hurt and nobody wants to see blood on the ground. Not much of it, at any rate."
He pricked his ears, the roar of an oncoming, unleashed crowd evident even at the taurs greater height. Ty glanced about nervously to watch the crowd pouring in, chattering excitedly and pointing with slack jaws to the taurs as they took their seats, much as a crowd attending a football match would. The freshly minted fox-taur wondered briefly if their fights would always be this well-attended; if he had lived in the city for longer, perhaps he would know the answer to that question, but he was a 'newbie' in all aspects.
"Eurgh," Mike groaned, pacing back and for. "It's going to start soon. I bet I get bloody pummelled again."
Hope I don't... Ty said privately, following Mike's lead to stand with the other taurs at intervals around the edge of the arena. Presumably they would be a buffer to prevent the fighters reaching the crowd in case the fights became rowdier than normal, although Ty would have to wait to discover whether that inkling was true or not. It seemed that every seat in the stadium was occupied within a matter of minutes, the throng pouring in from several entrances, all cheering exuberantly as KC leaped jovially to a podium, microphone at the ready.
"Ladies and gentlemen," KC boomed, throwing his arms wide, his voice easily carrying with the aid of technology above the thirsty roar. "You've been waiting long enough for another Taur Tournament, and it is certainly not my place to keep you waiting upon ceremony, so allow me to present our first gallant, young fighters: Michael the fox-taur and Katrina the cheetah-taur! Although I am assured she will fight a clean one tonight for your entertainment!"
One of the few females padded forward lightly, her fur darkly patterned like a King Cheetah, closely tailed by Mike, who muttered something barely coherent and explicit about what he would do to KC if he said his name wrong one more time. The cheetah-taur had a defined muzzle that could have been sculpted by a professional artist, her eyes large and an alluring amber shade, which was matched by the bandeau top keeping her modest. She exchanged a high-five with Mike as they took up position, facing each other and dropping into a fighting crouch, awaiting the signal. Her long, black and fawn tail lashed the air eagerly and the stadium held its breath as one.
Ty couldn't keep his eyes off her.
KC smirked, perhaps knowing something that Ty could not, and raised his arm high, the two taurs locking eyes, icy determination solidifying in their skulls. When his arm fell, all hell broke loose.
Launching herself forward with a vehement snarl, Katrina powered into her first attack, fists swinging, although they were competently caught by Mike's large, paw-like hands. Mike's colourful swearing was audible as she slammed her paw into his foreleg viciously and followed up her attack by pouncing upon him in the next instant, forcing his weakened leg to buckle helplessly. Ty's pelt quivered, muscles yearning to leap to Mike's aid as he was borne irrevocably to the ground.
"It can be unnerving at first," a nearby wolf-taur commented casually, leaning back on his haunches as if preparing to spring forward as soon as his name was called. "Don't worry, they're not hurting each other - it's only their size that makes it seem worse than a normal wrestling match, chill out."
Mutely, Ty nodded and shifted uneasily, a dark grimace shadowing his muzzle as the fox-taur was shortly pinned and yelping his surrender. Baring her teeth in a feral smile, Katrina offered her hand to Mike, who took it gladly, allowing her to pull him back to his paws, assistance that he seemed to dearly need as he was badly winded from the quick, brutal bout. He staggered back to the edge of the arena, swaying unsteadily, one paw rubbing his temples in rhythmic, soothing circles.
"Are you okay?" Ty whispered, reaching to steady Mike. "I have to do that?"
"Yeah, I'm good..." He replied, sitting on his rump, which looked so comical that Ty could not prevent the bubble of laughter that erupted in a snort, although his mirth was quashed as soon as Mike shot him a dark look and continued. "And yes, you also have to do that. Good luck."
Ty swallowed the lump in his throat loudly, an anxious shiver running down his spine like a droplet of icy water. The sensation of his fur fluffing up marginally when he was nervous was still new to the fox-taur and he self-consciously tried to smooth it flat over his chest, growling softly when it refused to lie as he wished it to; Mike snickered, curling his own brush around his haunches comfortably and looking perkier as KC seemed ready to begin the next match. Ignoring the cheers of the crowd, KC held his hand high for attention.
"Next up, we have a new fox on the circuit, ladies and gentlemen, going by the name of Ty Vulpine. Give him a round of applause, if you please, he's looking nervous over there!"
A burning flush swept over the fox-taur, who struggled to look at anything else - anything - but the screaming, hollering, stamping crowd, his sharpened eyesight picking out the smallest details on the roughly hewn turf. And yet they were impossible to forget, so Ty bravely raised his muzzle to the bright lights and deafening din, shyly waving in acknowledgement, which only served to fuel the cheers with fresh energy.
"Damn! I wanted to be next - I'm pumped! C'mon, bump me up, KC!" The wolf-taur protested, bouncing on his paws like an eager child. "C'mon!"
KC frowned but beckoned the wolf-taur into the centre of the arena anyway, seemingly reserved about allowing him to fight, which made Ty wonder if there was something he should know about the apparently friendly yet energetic wolf. But the crowd would not be denied.
"And joining him in the ring, we have our old friend, Fray! Hopefully the old dog won't be up to new tricks tonight to fox our newcomer! Ty, up here to face your first opponent, don't keep us waiting."
"Just do your best, Ty, it's only for practice at this stage," Mike said quietly, giving Ty a much needed shove to his rump to propel him into motion.
Numbly, Ty padded across the turf, facing Fray, who was lapping up the attention from the crowd like it was what he lived for. His eyes were bright and burning with energy, muscles shifting under his thicker, dark grey to black coat; Fray was perfectly formed as a taur, light on his feet and a great deal more experience than Ty, to say the very least of the differences. What chance did he have? Ty fought to retain his nerve, reassuring himself that Mike had lost the first bout after all and nobody had cared about that, because there had to be a winner and there had to be a loser. He would have the opportunity to redeem himself later, Ty thought determinedly, shifting on his paws for better balance, lest Fray's first attack be as quick and furious as Katrina the cheetah-taur's had been. Focusing on the two taurs, KC lifted his hand slowly, then let it fall, once more.
Fray howled and leaped at Ty, twisting to the side as if to strike his flanks but missing as Ty sidestepped, whirling in a sudden flurry of instinctual behaviour, his pointed canines gleaming. Angry that his first attack fell flat, Fray tried to engage Ty up close, kicking his forepaws into Ty's hind legs in a tactic similar to that which Katrina had used to fell Mike so quickly. Ty grunted heavily at the sudden burst of pain that shot up his legs, half-falling and looking up in despair to see the wolf-taur descending upon him already, fighting to pin his legs underneath his bulk.
But, being smaller, Ty managed to keep his legs flailing enough for Fray to be unable to get a firm grip upon even one wildly thrashing limb, eventually landing a solid kick into the wolf-taur's exposed ribcage. Fray groaned as he rolled away, doubled over and holding his pained gut, the feral stomach being a vulnerable place for most taurs to be struck in the course of normal combat. Sensing this, Ty got his paws back beneath him and sprung at the bulkier wolf, slamming both hind paws into Fray's stomach, at which he gasped breathlessly, muzzle moving in silent curses. A glimmer of pride and hope seeped into Ty and he thought that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't do so badly in his first fight as he had initially thought. Maybe.
That was part of his undoing, however, as Fray scrambled to his paws again, snarling viciously at the one who had dared to fell and humiliate him so in front of his crowd. His hackles rose and he dived at Ty, seeking to close his hands about his throat or lock his arms about Ty's chest, landing a brutal blow to the fox-taur's windpipe. Taken aback Fray's sudden change in demeanour, Ty was forced on to the defence again, sidestepping and blocking the unruly barrage of fists, paws and body slams, cursing the soreness in his neck that was making it difficult to breathe.
Fray would not be denied for long, however, and his greater experience showed as he combined his attacks at a rate that Ty could not hope to match at this stage, grappling with him and crushing his fists into Ty's torso repeatedly until his arms were grasped in an unyielding, iron grip. Twisting the fox-taur's arm behind his back at a cruel, painful angle, Fray growled dangerously and snapped his teeth at Ty's throat, catching only fur and missing skin by a scant breath. Ty's anger flared.
Who was this wolf-taur to fight so uncaringly, giving him no chance whatsoever to adjust to the arena, just seeking a rapid-fire victory? Was he so two-faced that he would play the part of a friend on the sidelines, only to reduce himself to the demeanour of a beast that cared no more for the male he chased from his territory to starve than the rabbit he killed for his own bloody feast once under the swing of an audience?
Ok, enough dodging and defence, Ty thought grimly. Now I'm serious.
The kick between his forelegs caught Fray unaware and the second clawing of his torso's belly even more so as Ty wrenched himself free with a tremendous feat of strength. He rounded on Fray furiously, pummelling his muzzle and forearms, gaining ground with every step, his confidence and will to win soaring higher than he thought imaginable. Balking at Ty's unprecedented advance, Fray stumbled, crashing to the ground as Ty leaped on top of him, his hands and paws slamming down upon his skilfully to render him helpless while the tremors from their impact shook the stadium.
"And the winner is our newcomer, Ty! An amazing first bout for a newbie - I expect we have great things to see from you, Mr Vulpine!"
Ty blinked. It was over? He had won? Slowly, he moved back, hesitantly offering Fray his hand to assist him back to his paws - that was the right thing to do, wasn't it? Swearing, Fray slapped away Ty's hand, pushing himself up without aid and stomping away, gesturing very rudely at Ty over his retreating shoulder. Shrugging, the fox-taur followed suit, returning to his side of the arena and smiling slightly at the wide grins that welcomed him from Mike and Katrina especially, who looked at him with a sudden appraisal for the potential he held in the arena.
"Dude, that was awesome!" Mike yelled, clapping Ty on his shoulder as his previous defeat and angst was forgotten. "Fray was psycho, dunno what the hell happened there. Seriously though, you done this before, 'ey?"
Ty shook his head no, dumbly, wondering how on earth he had been able to best his opponent. Fray stood alone, sullen, not allowing the taurs who were his friends to boost him up and refused to engage in the usual banter, a despondent and dark expression clouding his muzzle. Regardless of his defeat, he had a lot more experience than Ty and the fox-taur assumed glumly that, if he remained an employee, Fray would have plenty of opportunities for a painful revenge the next time they were matched up.
"Is Fray normally like that?" He asked, giving voice to the question preying on his mind and folding his hind legs to sit like he had seen Mike do earlier.
"I saw her looking at you, kid."
Both Mike and Ty turned in surprise to see Secretariat pawing at the turf, muscles twitching as if to shake off a particularly annoying fly, although Ty has a sinking feeling that the fly was a good one hundred and fifty odd feet tall with grey fur and a fox muzzle. Huffing a moist breath that could have been a disdainful sigh, Secretariat snorted and stomped the ground, tossing his mane like a proud colt in the field.
"What, you think you can just strut in here like you own the place - like hell! Eyeing up the ladies like pieces of meat to nibble, it's the most you could do, after all."
Ty was speechless: he had not been looking at anyone! And he certainly hadn't strutted into or around the arena at all - more like stumbled in, yelping and flailing. A smaller equine-taur with a jet black coat and traditional white, horse markings touched Secretariat's upper arm lightly, his large eyes beseeching and the white rim showing.
"Secretariat, man, what's gotten into you. Cool it, he didn't do any of - " He began calmly, though his nostrils flared fearfully as Secretariat turned on him, cutting him off abruptly.
"Yeah, yeah, well you weren't looking, were you? I saw him and by god I'm going to fucking do something about the brat, chop him down to size, like."
KC started as Secretariat trotted up to him, lifting his hooves high so that he was practically prancing in a show-off fashion, snatching the microphone unceremoniously from the shocked echidna.
"I challenge Ty Vulpine to the next match," he said with a note of derision, very clearly and loudly, his voice reverberating around the crowd, which, uncharacteristically, had fallen into hushed murmurs at the unexpected change of events.
"Uh, well..." KC said, scratching the back of his head and glancing about for objections. "If you take it as another practice round, Sec, there's no reason not to. Do you agree to the rules that the first one to be pinned for five seconds is the loser for this round and this round only?"
"I agree," the equine smirked. "This will be delightful."
"Um...Ty? Dude? You've got to go up, it's the rules," Mike said unsurely.
Having not said a word since the beginning of this exchange, Ty shook his head, making as if to back off and surrender prematurely, although Mike grabbed his arm to stop him from losing face. Ty tried to open his muzzle and say that he couldn't possibly do this, that Fray had been more than enough and his muscles ached too much to hold his own against the veteran taur, that he had not a stray shred of hope. Katrina stepped around Mike to look Ty square in the eyes and he was unnerved to see the amber embers sparking into fresh life.
"Give him hell."
Bolstered fractionally, Ty smiled softly, inclining his muzzle in acknowledgement and took a steadying breath, mentally psyching himself up to give this match his best shot again. Feeling a deep dread as if he was a doomed prisoner walking to the gallows, he slowly paced to meet Secretariat, not without a forced air of leisure. The equine only nickered mockingly, prancing on the spot to warm his muscles up, although, as a flight animal, he would always be prepared to launch himself into action at less than a moment's notice. Ty knew he would have to watch out for that and the likely stamina this horse had.
"Ready, Ty?" KC asked, not hiding his concern for the new fox-taur going up against such an opponent.
"Ready," Ty murmured in assent, crouching in readiness for Secretariat's attack. That was one thing he could keep in mind; the equine could not crouch like he could, but those legs would be -
KC's hand signalled the beginning of the bout and Ty was caught unaware as Secretariat whinnied, springing forward to clout the fox-taur on the side of his head. Ty's head spun as he backed off quickly, losing ground to gather his wits, but the horse advanced like a freight train, unstoppable. He reared up high, lashing out with his deadly front hooves, slamming them into and bruising Ty's shoulder terribly; the fox-taur yelped in pain, striking out blindly at his assailant and clipping his side in a lucky blow hard enough to throw Secretariat off-balance.
With a harried snort, Secretariat fell back to all four hooves, muttering incomprehensively but permitting Ty a few seconds breathing space to gather his wits. With bile rising in his throat, Ty fought to keep his stomach down, pain rocketing through his limbs like lightning in a solid form. He had already ached terribly from his first bout and without time to recover, Ty felt greatly weakened. Glancing about to see Mike and Katrina cheering for him and egging him on from the sidelines, Ty was encouraged to know that perhaps his standing with the crowd would increase, even with his inevitable battering.
Stubbornly, Ty twisted and body slammed the equine, shoving him across the arena as he staggered, Secretariat fighting to regain balance even as his look darkened and his tail whipped the air. The horse came on again with increased caution, whirling about to buck, his hooves landing squarely upon Ty's flank; the fox-taur howled from the ricocheting pain, two of his ribs having cracked. It was excruciating.
But he refused to give in.
The full repertoire of moves in Secretariat's practised skill set were somehow not enough to subdue the fox-taur, even with his broken ribs that grated every time he moved. The equine's rage flared as he gained no advantage over the fox-taur on the defence, craving the need to break his bones, feel them snap under his palms and diamond-hard unshod hooves. If he had been some more powerful mythological being, tongues of fire would have been shooting from his nostrils and licking at his hooves. Just what could he do to get through to this damn runt?
Every move that Ty made, from the slight shifting of his weight to a blocked punch, infuriated the horse-taur to greater heights, his skilled attacks battering every inch of Ty until onlookers wondered how he was still standing. The cheers of the crowd turned against Secretariat, chanting for Ty instead of the old favourite, favouring the new challenger who refused to be beaten despite the odds stacked against him. Snorting heavily, Secretariat spared them an enraged glance, showing them what he would do to the one who had the nerve to remain standing when he wanted him on the ground, his concentration wavering as bloodlust obscured his rational thinking. Knocking Ty down with a well-aimed swipe at his skull, Secretariat neighed triumphantly, aching to pummel Ty's body further and end the bout in his own way.
Ty saw the flicker of betrayal in the horse's eyes as he leaped, a great shadow falling over the wolf-taur as those fists came down and down... And Ty kicked out with his hind legs in one last, desperate attempt to evade the beating, sending the astounded, furiously snorting horse over his muzzle to land heavily on his side, hide rippling as his organs were smashed into the ground by his own weight. Propelling his sore, aching muscles into action, Ty staggered upright and dived upon Secretariat, snarling wildly as he forcibly restrained the equine's long, thin legs with his forepaws. He kept from being kicked for long enough to allow him opportunity to bring a hind paw down on that arched, writhing equine neck in a final, decisive move.
Crushing his hind paw into Secretariat's windpipe, Ty panted and lifted his muzzle victoriously to face the frenzied screams of the crowd, chanting his name.
"Thank the heavens that runt was able to handle himself down there," the blond haired interviewer from much earlier that day commented from a lavishly decorated, private viewing box that overlooked the arena.
"Only a minor complication," the dark haired individual commented, sipping casually from a glass of ruby wine. "He reacted badly to the rogue cells this time round - the next vial will have the altered strain for his next appearance here, Byron, do not concern yourself."
The interviewer, Byron, snorted, raising his hand in an exasperated gesture before allowing it to fall back to his side helplessly. What could he do?
"The other employees know something is up," he said bluntly, only for the stony-eyed man to ignore him completely, his gaze roaming through the fine print on the papers, which were conveniently spread out for his perusal.
"And what of those who may or may not be infected?" Byron inquired, hesitance in his blue eyes.
The man at the desk cast a disparaging glance at the last of the taurs taking the potions to shrink and leave the arena; they clustered together in small groups, as if afraid of something that they could not see, yet their senses screamed was a threat. Poor things...they could not comprehend why they, even his cronies, all found themselves giving the tightly restrained, shrunken equine-taur such a wide, cautious berth. He smirked, signing the stack of papers with a sickening flourish.
"They will be dealt with accordingly."