Jul. 25th, 2014

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The next morning I stood outside what had once been called the Cooler, Atlanta's ice skating rink. It was brick and oval in shape and rose at least four stories, stretching into the morning sky for what seemed like forever. Buildings this size were rare in Atlanta. Magic had a way of eating and collapsing anything past two stories.

A hundred yards from the Arena was a wooden tower and perched atop was a set of mounted machine guns and cheiroballistra. Tall enough to cover nearly the whole of the parking lot and close enough to cover the roof of the Arena. I also spied the distinctive red and black uniforms of the Red Guard. In the highly competitive field of mercenary work, there were few corporations and among them, the Red Guard were the best. From every report I've read and every encounter I've had with them, they've earned their pay and reputation. Looks like blood sport paid well though, as the Red Guard charged a premium.

OK, enough rumination. I stepped over a two-foot wide, fluorescent while line (obviously marking where the Red Guard's responsibility began and ended) and headed for the service entrance. I doubted the fighters were expected to enter through the front doors.

I quickly found the check in and gave my name and team to the woman working the checkin desk; Red Guard, again, and someone high in the chain of command, if I didn't miss my guess.

"'The Fools'? Is that a description of your team's intelligence or your need to amuse?" She asked me with a completely blank face.

I smiled, completely friendly-like. "No clue. I wasn't part of that decision."

"Fair enough. Go through those doors and I'll have someone meet you to escort you to your team's rooms," She said, eyeing my three duffles worth of weapons. "And just to be clear, there is no fighting outside of the sand. During a match, you guys can try and kill each other all you want. Outside of one, stay out of each other's way. That clear?"

"Crystal."

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Andrea Maria Nash

August 2014

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