The roar of the audience drowned out Ben’s scream. His blood splattered across his arm as the titanium shard sliced through his body armor, hitting bone. He stumbled away, but Ivan loomed in close, his brown eyes wide and wild, breath smelling so strongly of blood that it overrode Ben’s deadened senses. “You gotta do better, kid,” the huge man said in a low voice. But before Ben could react, Ivan’s fist loomed in close too. The meaty battering ram slammed into the side of Ben’s face, splitting the skin.
Gasping and stumbling away, his ears ringing, Ben regained his footing. He shook his head, flinging blood and spit, and put his fists up like Rice had said he should. He struggled to form the tungsten carbide shield. It clenched into solid form a moment before Ivan hit him again. Ivan’s titanium coated fist hit the shield and rocked Ben backwards. Ben stumbled, booted feet heavy in the sand.
Instead of dodging around the tungsten carbide shield, Ivan pummeled it with titanium. Sparks exploded off of the metals. The audience screamed its approval. Ben winced, gripping his arm and reforming the shield against every strike. He focused on the metal. Ivan could hurt him, but the metal could kill him.
His instincts trumpeted warnings, but before he could retract the tungsten carbide, Ivan left the titanium. The metal pressed Ben’s shield as the huge man ducked around and smashed a bare knuckled fist into the side of Ben’s head again. Ben crumpled to the sand, darkness seeping into his vision and muffling the roar of the audience.
He could barely hear Ivan’s words as the man crouched over him and muttered. “Soma doesn’t do you much good when you don’t have a fighting instinct.”