The fur-covered Nightmare Beast came straight at him: four massive legs supporting a seven-tonne body mostly covered in battered blue composite armor decorated with scratched and gouged advertising logos. Its rider, a tiny Quyth leader dressed in matching blue armor and carrying a long lance, was screaming at the creature. The beast's hooked, armor-covered pedipalps were almost as big as the legs. Those pedipalps reached forward, twitched, ready to grab prey and drag it to the vertical maw of jagged, black teeth.
Beneath his black and crimson helmet, Poughkeepsie Pete smiled. Most people said Nightmare Beasts looked kind of like spiders or crabs. To Pete, the thing looked like a giant tick.
Ticks ... nasty somethings born to be squished.
This was the moment the stadium crowd had waited for, that he had waited for - one heavyweight squaring off against another in a battle that might leave one of them dead. That might prove true, but if so, it wouldn't be Pete's mount left broken and bleeding on Smithwicks Arena's packed dirt.
Kill one of mine, will you? Let's see how you bleed.
"Bess, rush ."
Pete's thighs pressed in against the leather saddle. He felt the power generated by the 6,500 kilos of muscle and bone beneath him. Ol' Bess quickened her pace. The T-Rex - the only one of her kind in the sport of Dinolition - leaned into her sprint and roared. Pete's fingers tightened on the war hammer in his left hand.
The nightmare beast closed in for a head-on collision, its single eye looking out through the thick bars of a protective visor. Pete unhooked his armored left boot from the saddle's stirrup.
In that moment before contact, Pete knew the crowd ate up the spectacle: an alien creature bedecked in sparkling blue armor collision-coursing toward a thirteen-meter-long beast covered in glistening red composite plate.
Scant meters before the crushing impact, Bess effortlessly shifted right so the two monsters would pass side by side. The little Quyth Leader reacted well, swinging his lance to drive the point into Pete's red-armored chest.
Pete swung his left foot back and over Bess's body, coming out of the saddle, letting the right stirrup carry all of his weight - the lance tip hissed through empty air where Pete had just been. Right hand on the saddle horn, Pete wrist-whipped his war hammer in a short circle, bringing it down on his opponent's lance, snapping the long weapon in two a good meter from the tip.
Pete's strike against the lance was more distraction than disarmament, keeping the Leader from recognizing Bess's simultaneous move. The T-Rex drove her wide, armored head down hard against the Nightmare Beast's rear left leg - plates of blue armor bent and spun free to expose the black and green carapace beneath; black liquid sprayed out in a cloud as the leg snapped.
Screeching with pain, the Nightmare Beast turned sharply, spinning in place like a disc anchored by three still-functioning legs. The creature thrust its blocky head forward and bit at Bess's neck. Jaws that opened side-to-side rather than up-and-down snapped together. Most of the jagged, black teeth scratched harmlessly against Bess's sparkling red armor - doing little more than scraping a gouge in the logos for Junkie Gin and Madek's Hover-Repair - but two teeth drove through a seam in that armor and dug into the soft flesh beneath.
Crimson blood flew. Bess reared back, the six-tonne T-Rex roaring in pain. Pete timed the momentum of her lurch, right hand on saddle horn and right boot locked in the stirrup. The one-meter tall, armor-clad man waited until Bess regained control before he kicked his left leg back over the saddle and clicked it home.
"Bess, bite !"
Pete's mount lunged down with all the power in her massive frame, but this time instead of using her head as a battering ram, she opened wide her jagged maw