This story is the companion to my piece "Bonus Round!" I hope you enjoy both!
Ratchet tumbled to the side, barely avoiding getting crushed by a huge spiked ball; the orb embedded itself in the metal floor.
"Woah! A close shave there on Ratchet's part!" the announcer's voice rang through the speakers. "Remember, folks: in this challenge, he takes one hit and it's game over!"
The Lombax sprang to his feet and whipped around to see the red-scaled Agorian struggling to dislodge his weapon from the panels. Ratchet trained his Negotiator's sights on the hulking alien before pulling the trigger. As soon as he noticed, the Agorian shrieked in terror as a huge missile flew at him, the impact and resulting explosion sending him flying over the arena wall like a living red cannonball.
Ratchet smiled to himself as the crowd roared, putting away his weapon. "Piece of cake, right, Clank?" he said to the small robot currently fastened to his back.
"Yes, but there is still one more round to go," the silver bot replied, pointing up at the glowing words on the stadium monitor.
The Lombax snorted. He'd already defeated dozens of these Thugs. How hard could one more round be?
"Laaaaadies and gentlemen!" the announcer's voice cheered. "Our little killer here has done well so far, but how well can he do with no weapons?
Confusion flashed across Ratchet's face. This wasn't in the rules!
"Thaaaat's right! Ratchet will have to win this round with nothing but his wrench!
Clank turned to look over his friend's shoulder. "Ratchet, this is clearly a trap! We should leave now!"
The Lombax shook off his reservation. "No way, Clank! We've come too far to quit now!" he said, pulling out his oversized wrench. "I can do this!"
Clank looked around nervously as the segmented gates chugged open like giant, hungry mouths. "Just be careful!"
Ratchet took a deep breath.
"Aaaalrighty, it seems our challenger has accepted the terms by means of not running away! Round 5 starts..." The voice paused for a long time before continuing. The Lombax slowly readied his weapon. "Now!
A single, tiny, large-eyed robot slowly hovered through the gateway, waving its skinny, electrocuting arms around; Ratchet was completely thrown off guard. The audience laughed at the sight.
"Ratchet, what is wrong?" Clank asked, craning his mechanical neck to see.
"Um..." The Lombax looked at the audience for an answer, but received nothing but amused smiles and a distant shout of "kill him!"
"It's one guy," he answered. "Like, one of the little ones."
"Oh." Clank finally managed to get a look at the robot. "Perhaps I overreacted."
This was by far the strangest thing he'd seen in the arena, but he wasn't one to pass up a free round. He lifted his wrench above his head, preparing to smash the machine.
"Alright, victory, here we co--"
He was cut off as a huge red blur slammed into him, knocking him off his feet. The crowd reacted to the impact with an "Ooh!" He grunted as he hit the floor with a thunk,
the huge form landing on top of him.
The force detached Clank from his back, sending him skidding across the arena floor.
"Oooh! A great hit from Maurice! He was so close, too!" the announcer shouted. Ratchet looked up and saw the toothy smile of "Maurice," yet another Agorian, towering over him. "Well, folks, it looks like this match is ov--" He stopped midsentence. "Wait...the judges say that was not
a hit, but a tackle! The match goes on!"
Maurice looked furious. "Wot?" he shouted in a cockney accent to the air.
The Agorian growled and grabbed the stunned Lombax by the wrist, lifting him up to eye level, which for the huge alien was about six feet off the ground. His face seemed more red, if it were possible.
"Olright, Lombax, Oy've had enough of yew!" the red alien bellowed, punctuating his sentence with a claw to the Lombax's ribs. Ratchet let out a yelp.
Maurice stared blankly for a moment before he realized what was going on, a grin appearing on his face.
"Heheh, wait a minute..." he snickered, stroking the yellow-furred creature's underarm.
Ratchet snorted, biting his lip hard as his face burned red. Maurice guffawed at the reaction, along with the rest of the audience.
"Wot, is the Lombax ticklish?" he mocked him.
Ratchet snarled, tightening his grip on his wrench; he reared back and took a swing at the Agorian's head. To his surprise, the attack was cut short by a green beam of energy snagging his wrist, causing him to drop his weapon. Suddenly, the green laser snatched him out of Maurice's grasp, sending him tumbling across the floor.
"Son of a -- Quark!" he shouted, getting dragged down the arena, eventually coming to a stop at a rickety-looking robot. He just couldn't catch a break.
The skull-faced machine stared at him with neon orange eyes, a large tractor beam generator rumbling on top of its head. It hovered its huge, scythe-like blades over his chest, preparing to cut into him. Ratchet tried to free his arm from the buzzing energy, but it was too firm.
The Agorian finally caught up with him, brandishing his wrench. "Oy! You tryna' take me 'ead off?" he shouted as he tossed the weapon over his shoulder. "And yew!" he said, pointing at the robot, who stopped and retracted its menacing blades. "Don't you put a scratch on this one! Oy ain't done with 'im yet!" Maurice got down on his knees and took the Lombax under the arm.
"Hey! Lemmie' go!" he growled, struggling between the tractor beam and the brute's grasp.
"Not so fast, yew," the Agorian said, moving his face closer to his opponent's. "Since Oy can't 'urt you, Oy guess this is the next best thing."
He dragged his claws down Ratchet's soft underarm. A squeak of laughter escaped him before he could try and hold it in. Maurice chuckled.
"Oy'm gonna' enjoy this, Lombax."
He began circling his finger around the Lombax's ribs, sending jolts though his body. Ratchet tried as hard as he could to contain himself, but it proved harder and harder as the Agorian added more claws to the mix. His face blushed red from strain, lack of air and embarrassment. His body reflexively convulsed with every pass of his tormentor's fingers, his heels sliding uselessly on the metal floor in an attempt to get away."Stop, stop!"
he mentally screamed. "Why is this happening?"
Maurice seemed to peg down the most sensitive part -- just in the crook of his armpit -- and focused all his attacks on the point. The Lombax shook with silent laughter, giggling escaping his gritted teeth.
"Uuuum, Maurice seems to be...tickling
...our challenger..." the announcer's confused voice said, fading off. "Is that even legal
Suddenly, the Agorian dug into his ribs, totally breaking the Lombax's already weak hold on himself. He was sent sprawling around, exploding with laughter. The alien pinned his shoulder to the ground as he increased the intensity of his assault.
"Geeahaha! Stahahawp ihihit!" he cried, flopping around desperately. "Stahahap, nahahaw!"
The speakers clicked back on. "Ooookie-dokie, folks! I just got back from the judges," the announcer said.
Maurice stopped and looked up expectantly, still grazing his talons ever-so-lightly up and down the Lombax's sides; Ratchet breathed heavily, squirming under the teasing, and hoped with all his being they decided in his favor.
"It seems that tickling is, in fact, a legal move, as created by Cerus the Cheat three years ago! Ah, what a battle that was...Carry on!"
The audience cheered in approval. Ratchet's breathing turned into panicked gasps; legal? How could tickling
The Agorian tormentor chuckled, looking down into his captive's wide eyes. "Looks like yew're gonna' be 'ere a while, Lombax!"
Ratchet shook his head anxiously as the Agorian's fingers inched closer to his side. "N-N-No, no! Wait, I can -- I --!" he stuttered, hopelessly searching for something, anything he could say.
His rescue came in the form of a buzzing sound to the side; Maurice's approach halted as they both looked to see what it was. The tiny microdrone from before slowly hovered near, electricity jumping between it's little claws. Ratchet had never wanted to be electrocuted so much in his life.
His head fell back. "Uh-hugh, finally," he groaned. He could get hit just once and get out of here at last.
The crowd gave a collective, disappointed "Awww..."
The announcer chimed in. "Weeeell, folks, all good things must come to an end, and this little show is no exception! One hit aaaand..."
The microdrone touched it's prongs to the Lombax's belly, but instead of the painful jolt of energy he expected, little bolts of static jumped around the soft surface, tingling as they traveled. Ratchet yelped in surprise.
"Heeee's...out? No, waaaait a minute, everyone! It looks like our little friend here has decided to join the party!"
The audience cheered on the robot as it scraped it's metal claws back and forth on the Lombax's midsection, tickling lightning bouncing about. Ratchet couldn't help but giggle.
"H-Hehey! Wait! D-Dohohaw! Noho!"
Maurice, seeing his chance, took his fingers to the Lombax's ribs. Ratchet cried out in ticklishness.
"Nahahahah! Pleahease, pleahease!" he begged, thrashing miserably in his grip, unable to stop the Agorian's clawing or the drone's zapping.
Suddenly, a sharp object grazed his bare sole.
"Ahaug!" he shouted, looking down the length of his body to see the rickety, tractor beam wielding robot gently stroking his feet with it's blades.
"Oh ho ho!" the announcer's voice cried. "It's seems the thrasher has picked it's time as well! Is it weird if I enjoy this? No?"
Ratchet's whole body was under attack, claws and prongs and electricity and blades stroking and buzzing all over, and him powerless to stop any of it.
"GHA ha HAAAH! Plea-hease, sta-HAWP! May-HAKE it STAHAAAAWP!" he screamed, writhing under his attacker's hold. "I-HI can't ta-hayke ihihit!"
The Agorian repositioned himself, locking his captive's arms in the crooks of his knees and using both hands on both sides. Ratchet's cheeks blushed red, tears running down his face as he laughed uncontrollably. He kicked his feet around, but the thrasher just tracked them with its blades; it was the same case with the microdrone's prongs and his torso. He tried to pull the Agorian's legs off from around his arms, but the hold was too strong. Nothing he did helped him lessen the sensations at all, but he couldn't stop himself from trying desperately to escape.
"Yea, that's roit, Lombax! Just troy and get away!" Maurice chuckled over his victim's cries and the sound of electricity. "This is payback for eeeeverything yew've done!"
"Excuse me, sir," Clank's voice spoke calmly underneath the noise.
The tickling stopped all at once; Ratchet collapsed from exhaustion and relief, gasping for breath. He managed to get a look at his companion, though his vision was blurred with tears. The short, silver robot looked almost comical standing up to the huge Agorian hulking over him.
"Would you mind releasing my friend? We have much to do."
Maurice stared for a moment before bellowing with laughter along with the crowd. "Can Oy wot?
" he shouted.
Clank just blinked his green eyes. "I asked if you could please let my friend go. We--"
He was cut off as Ratchet's assaulters ignored him resumed their torment with double the energy, causing the Lombax to burst out laughing.
"EE-AH-HAHAHA! NYAHAHAAAAH! WAY-HAIT, WAIT!" he cried even louder than before. "PLEA-HEASE LEHET ME GOHOHO!"
The Agorian's claws slid up and down his fuzzy sides and chest, occasionally digging into his ribs or hips. The microdrone sent static jolting though his belly, making his back arch with every bolt. The thrasher's blades relentlessly stroked all over his feet, taking every chance it got to slip them in-between his claw-like toes. He could hardly even breathe.
Clank continued to try and convince them to stop with the occasional "Sir, please desist; we really must leave," or "Sir, you are causing my friend great discomfort."
They ignored him every time, seeming to only be encouraged further by every request.
"Wot do yew think, lads? Should we stop?" Maurice taunted, not slowing down for even a second as he dug into the Lombax's pecs, making him jerk weakly.
"Pleahease...! Staha...stahahap...!" he laughed quietly, his convulsions slowing, tears still flowing.
Time seemed to get slower. Maurice's claws excruciatingly sliding from his chest.
The sensations slowly began to decrease in intensity, until he could barely feel them. He was vaguely aware of fingers jabbing into his ribs, buzzing at his belly and a sharp object gliding over his foot. Everything began to go dark.
"Uh-oh! It looks like our challenger can't take the heat!" the announcer proclaimed.
His head finally fell back, limbs going limp. Everything went black.
"Oh-hoooh! Aaaand he is out!" the voice said. "That is by far the strangest treatment of a challenger I've seen around here in a while, folks. Okay, no, that's a lie; I've seen weirder."
Maurice stood up, releasing the unconscious Lombax. The microdrone hovered away and the tractor beam cut off, dropping his arm to the ground.
"If there isn't a rule against tickling here, I'll be surprised if Maurice didn't just create it!"
The audience cheered and laughed. "Kill him!" an overzealous fan shouted.
Maurice chuckled and took Ratchet by the arms, lifting his limp form up onto his shoulder; he looked down at Clank.
"So, uh..." he began, grinning sheepishly. "Where do you wont 'im?"
Ratchet's eyes flicked open, immediately giving him a view of a metal roof, indicator lights blinking. He sat up with a moan; his whole body ached. He realized he was sitting in his ship, laying in the pilot's seat.
"Ah, you're awake," Clank said from the passenger seat, putting his tablet in the glove box.
Ratchet looked through the window, seeing nothing but space, stars whizzing by.
"Ugh," he groaned. "What...happened?"
Clank giggled: a strange repeating "Mm-hm" with no particular pattern of pitch.
"You passed out," he answered. "But Maurice carried you back."
The Lombax blushed bright red, remembering what had happened; he instinctively hugged his slightly sore midsection.
"He's quite nice. He has an excellent singing voice, too," the robot continued. "He told me he wants to be a pop star some day."
Ratchet eyed him suspiciously, tapping the touch screen in the middle of the dashboard. "Riiight...so, where are we going, exactly?"
"Back to Metropolis, I thought you may want to take a break after this...ordeal."
Ratchet touched something else on the screen, causing the ship to stop and take a hard left. The destination now read "Agorian Battleplex."
"The Battleplex? Ratchet, I don't think it's a good idea to go to another arena," Clank said.
"Aw, come on, pal!" Ratchet said, grinning as he took hold of the steering wheel. He pulled the accelerator back; the engines whirred to life. The jets blasted at full power, launching them deeper into space.
"Where's your sense of adventure?"