Jegra stepped out of her chambers and tossed her long, brown hair over her shoulder. The wooden soles of her leather-wrapped sandals clapped against the sandstone floor as trumpets bleated a level above her announcing to the whole amphitheater her pending arrival.
She nodded at the two guards who stood at either side of her entrance, spears in hand, as they stoically protected the reigning champion from overzealous fans and other unwanted visitors. So they said. It was clear to Jegra that their real duty was to safeguard the Intergalactic Gladiatorial Syndicate’s prized possession at all costs.
Jegra’s matches always drew the largest crowds from all corners of the empire, and she garnered the most televid downloads in the system. All this meant more credits to the empire and more funding for the war effort; credits, of which she herself only ever saw a small fraction.
The guards nodded their heads ever so slightly at her passing and then, without saying a word, she turned from them and headed up the long corridor that led to the mouth of the arena.
As she walked up the darkened hall that led to the waiting area beneath the amphitheater, she took in the smell of the sweat and blood of fallen heroes that came rushing into her nostrils. In the stadium above, the roar of the crowd flooded into the narrow antechamber, becoming a cacophony that washed over her.
Other gladiators sat in the darkness, waiting for their turn to run out onto the field to try to claim some ounce of glory. When Jegra appeared, the other alien faces looked up at her to catch a glimpse of the famous Earther who had been a slave and then who, against all odds, became Gladiatrix of the Galaxy. Maybe, if they were lucky, they’d one day go up against her, perchance to claim the title of reigning champion.
As she walked past them they shifted their eyes away; they were simultaneously in awe of her and frightened by her. It was her curse to be loved and feared, adored, yet marked for death, all at the same time.
She ignored their fleeting glances and stood before the gate to the arena. She cracked her neck, rotating her head across her shoulders. She hopped up and down to get her blood flowing and listened to the uproarious noise of the crowd. It filled her with excitement and she made two fists and took a deep breath as she tried to bring herself back to a calm focus.
Once in control, Jegra adjusted her metal fish-scale bikini and threw her royal blue tunic over her shoulders.
Other than the tunic and chain mail, she wore a broad leather belt clad with feathers and other trinkets–souvenirs of matches she’d won, and a pair of armor bracers for deflecting lancing blades and arrows.
She fought most of her gladiatorial battles wearing the bare minimum; whatever armor she wore got so banged up it typically hindered her movement or fell off anyway. One of the downsides of being endowed with super-strength.
Besides, fighting half naked seemed to please the crowd. And in this sport, pleasing the crowd was everything.
When she was back on Earth, she’d never been the exhibitionist type. Hell, back then, she was so modest she wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a two-piece, much less a bikini. Now, though...now, things were different.
It had been a year and a half since her former self, Jessica Hemsworth, had been abducted by extraterrestrial poachers and sold off to slavers and then to the Gladiatorial Syndicate. It was here where she’d been given a strange injection–some sort of super-human growth serum and vaccination steroid blend all-in-one cocktail; it had quite literally transformed her into the She Hulk.
She was amazed by her transformation; her arms had grown thick and powerful, her legs became strong and muscular, and her every ab swelled with raw strength. Even her scant C-cup bra size ballooned to a full 42 J, and they weren’t just ornaments; her breasts could now literally deflect steel-tipped arrows.
She even increased in height by a full foot, going from five-foot five to six-foot five.
In fact, the strange substance had transformed her small, wiry frame into that of a voluptuous Greek goddess, something between Aphrodite and Hercules–sensual, yet, at the same time, as powerful as they came. She hadn’t gone up against a creature or being yet over whom she hadn’t prevailed.
With her new body and heightened abilities, she had quickly risen to the status of reigning champion in the gladiatorial games and garnered the favor of the crowd.
Not only that, but Emperor Dakroth of the Dagon Empire, and ruler of most of the known galaxy, had also taken a liking to her.
Captivated by her beauty and her fierceness in the arena, he had paid her numerous visits over the course of the year, treating her as his consort. She suspected, however, he secretly came to enjoy her company—for although he had sixteen wives from all over the system, none were quite like her.
In her mind, that was a good thing. The prudish, timid, cowering Jessica Hemsworth was no more. Only Jegra the Masterful, Jegra the Merciless, as they called her, remained. She smiled to herself and then rolled her head back across her shoulders, cracking her neck again as she limbered up for the upcoming match.
Golden light shone in through the mouth of the corridor. She strolled confidently up to the arena entrance. Pausing in the shadows, just beyond the cusp of light, she put her hand on the wall and closed her eyes as she listened for the announcer to call her name.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Lifeforms and Beings from every sector of the Dagon Empire, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the undefeated, reigning champion of the 75th annual Gladiatorial Games...Jegra the Masterful, Jegra the Merciless!”
Cheers and applause erupted throughout the stadium. Jegra stepped forward onto the sand covered arena and raised her arms to the crowd. As she appeared to all viewers, their cheers grew even louder until the din sounded like the thrusters of a royal battle cruiser breaking orbit.
Over the arena, ships hung in the sky as the richest purveyors of the sport watched the barbaric blood sport from their lofty, high priced, commercial space-yachts. They slowly circled Arena City, aptly named for its monumental size. It lay outside the largest populated area of the desert moon Thessalonica, the fifth and largest moon of Dagon Prime–the emperor’s homeworld.
Jegra dramatically swirled the silken blue fabric of her tunic, throwing it off to the side in an exhibitionist display of her warrior’s physique. She slowly spun around, arms still raised high, and smiled up at all the outlandish alien faces that stared back at her from the stands with fanatic interest.
A flying televid recorder drone, a black ball with several cameras for eyes, swooped down and zoomed in on her enormous chest. As the hovering camera ball panned up to her face, she winked at the crowd—which appeared on the giant amphitheater monitors—as well as the millions of televids across the empire.
The din of the crowd showered her with praise and adoration, and the applause continued with a renewed vigor as she stretched and flexed her muscles for them.
Jegra couldn’t help but smile. She had them eating out of the palms of her hands.
“Typical Terran,” a voice jeered just over her shoulder.
Jegra turned around to see who it was that dared mock her. When she spun, she found a glamorous, Bre’lal woman wearing purple shoulder armor, a metallic bra, and a matching purple loincloth.
In addition to the stylish outfit, which only champions were given, she had on knee high, leather wrapped sandals. Most glorious of all was her beautiful, forest green hair; it complimented her emerald skin.
That’s when Jegra realized that, somehow, she knew this woman. She squinted hard, and finally it dawned on her.
“Abethca Agnar?” Jegra gasped. Agnar had been the reigning champion of the arena, but she’d retired two cycles ago. “What in God’s name are you doing here?”
The crowd’s roar quickly died down to a low, bubbling simmer as they strained to hear the unexpected exchange.
“I’ve come to seek my revenge and reclaim my title,” Abethca announced, addressing both Jegra and the crowd, “by claiming your life!”
Her boast was met with raucous, displeased “boos” and catcalls from the crowd. Jegra raised her hand and silenced the audience.
“What in Helios are you talking about, Abethca?”
“Don’t play the fool, Jegra!” Abethca growled through clenched teeth. She shook with a broiling anger as she gazed menacingly at Jegra. “You killed my lover, the Angorian named Kel’Zellion, you vagina-toothed whore!”
Jegra gasped in shock. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember having fought any Angorians lately, and, she didn’t recollect anyone by the name of Kel’Zellion, a rather unique and unforgettable name, in her estimation. Yet clearly Abethca blamed her for his death, and either way, she genuinely felt sorry, and decided to act remorseful. At least playing the sympathy card would track well with the audience. “Kel...is dead? I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t act like you don’t know! You killed him! He died in the hospital due to the wounds you inflicted.”
“Enough! I’ve never fought an Angorian named Kel’Zellion,” Jegra fired back, her patience growing thin.
“You didn’t fight him,” Abethca snarled. “You slept with him. He had a heart attack and died before the doctors could do anything to save him.” A lecherous chuckle and murmur went through the crowd. This was better than they could have hoped for.
"A tragic story,” Jegra admitted, “if true.” And, sure, she felt bad that she had accidentally fucked someone to death, but that didn’t change the fact that she didn’t recollect bedding any Angorian, nor could she understand why Abethca was so hellbent on blaming her for something she clearly had no control over.
“I’ll kill you here, Jegra. You’ll see that for truth.”
“I see. If it makes you feel any better,” she continued, trying to smooth things over the best she could, “I don’t remember this Kel’Zellion you speak of, in bed, or otherwise.”
“What?! No! That doesn’t make things better. What’s the matter with you? I loved him,” she said, thumping her chest. “We were planning on starting a family together, getting out of this. But that’s all gone because of you.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” Jegra apologized for the umpteenth time. It was, without a doubt, possibly the strangest, most absurd conversation she’d ever had. And even as she was genuine in her apology, Abethca was so filled with green-eyed envy and rage that it wasn’t going to make a difference either way.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it,” Abethca barked angrily. “You ruined my life. Now, I’m going to ruin yours.”
The televid drone zoomed in on Jegra’s steady, brown eyes then panned over to Abethca’s azure eyes, which smoldered with unbridled hatred. The audience fell silent as they watched the drama unfold on live televid streams upon the giant monitors and across the system.
Abethca reached behind her back and pulled out two curved daggers. Smiling at Jegra with sinister intent, she informed her, “These are made of the finest korridium alloy. Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing they’re sharp enough to even cut through your thick hide, Jegra.”
“So, your plan is to exact revenge on me because your boyfriend cheated on you? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“How dare you! You’ll pay for your insolence!” Abethca lunged forward, slashing wildly with her korridium blades.
Sure enough, just as she had explained, they crackled on the air with a raw, untapped energy that was, in some strange way, exhilarating to Jegra. The fact that she faced a real challenger who was capable of hurting her raised the stakes and aroused her carnal nature.
A woman scorned fought for the honor of her murdered lover. This made excellent drama and Jegra was certain that tonight’s ratings would go through the roof.
Jegra shuffled back, evading each of Abethca’s swipes. As she parried, she asked, “Answer me one thing. If revenge is what you seek, why did you sleep with me?”
“Because,” Abethca replied, “I didn’t believe him when he said you were the best. I had to prove him wrong.”
“So, let me get this straight. You slept with me to prove to your boyfriend, who was cheating on you, that I was the inferior lover?”
“Exactly!” she said, taking another furious swipe.
“This is by far the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had,” Jegra said, leaping to the side. Abethca, stretching out her blade in a reverse rotation, barely grazed Jegra’s right cheek in a backhanded swipe.
A small, red cut opened up on Jegra’s cheek and a trace of glistening blood began to dribble down her face. She leapt back in shock and touched her cheek. Glancing down at the smattering of blood that dappled her fingers, she gasped.
The audience fell silent as they slid to the edges of their seats. In over a year, no one had drawn blood from the champion. Jegra, wondering if it was a fluke, kicked up a spear from a previous battle, broke the shaft across her knee, and pointing it at her own abdomen, brought the spear into herself seppuku style.
The blade broke off the wooden spear and the pole splintered as it rebounded off her virtually invulnerable abs.
Abethca cackled wildly as the camera orb floated down and zoomed in on her. “This is your champion?” she balked, unimpressed. “This pink-bellied Terran swine?” She cackled some more then spun around to face her opponent.
Jegra, who was weaponless, widened her stance and put out her hands in a grappling formation. If a year of knocks and bruises had taught her anything, it was how to fight.
Sure, she had learned it all the hard way, getting beat to a pulp by almost every contestant she went up against almost every single damned time. But, in the end, she always prevailed.
Perhaps it was this underdog charm that made her so appealing to the audience. Perhaps it was her desperate kills which revealed that every single fight was a fight for her very life. Either way, she had become the most watched gladiator in the past hundred revolutions.
But she knew her ability to win her bouts had more to do with her stamina and her imperviousness than it did any honed skill. The truth was, she could take a beating and outlast her opponents in the arena; their bones broke, whereas hers did not. Eventually they each went down and she was all that was left. The last woman standing.
The rules of the match were simple. Fight to the death. Last contender standing wins. And Jegra wasn’t about to let some random jealous girlfriend steal her thunder.
“Alright, sweet-pea,” Jegra taunted. “That does it. Why don’t you shut up and show me what you got?” Throwing up a hand, she waved at Abethca to come at her.
“My pleasure, you massive chested space-cow.”
Abethca licked her dark green lips and a crooked smiled crawled onto her face. Running a pink tongue across her white teeth, to Jegra’s surprise, the green skinned woman slowly faded into her surroundings, becoming invisible before her very eyes. Her vicious smile was the last thing to fade.
“Balls,” Jegra cursed as her deadliest enemy just one-upped her in the awesome abilities department.
“I’m going to gut you like a Targaedian fish,” Abethca spoke, as if out from thin air.
Jegra felt a lacerating pain tearing across her left thigh. She yelped as a bloody gash unexpectedly opened up on her leg, and, taking a couple of wild, aimless swipes with her fists, she tried to locate her opponent. All she met was the vapid air.
“Show yourself!” she demanded, hoping to goad her opponent into revealing her position.
But Abethca was smarter than that, and Jegra was met with a soft spoken, “I think not.”
Out of the blue, another cut opened up across Jegra’s back, right across her shoulder blades. She shrieked out in pain and staggered forward. Spinning on her heels, she took another haphazard swipe of the air around her but her fists came up empty. For all intents and purposes, Abethca was a ghost.
Jegra knew that if she didn’t figure out a way to beat her opponent in the next few seconds, she was done for.