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Bruiser

Eva's heart thumped steadily in her chest as she ran towards the nearest lifeboat chamber. Once she got there, she instinctively stopped off to the side to catch her breath. Although her breathing was a bit labored, she realized that she was barely tired. 

In fact, she had pretty much caught her breath already.

That's weird, she thought. I could've sworn I just ran a mile, but I'm not even sweating… What the hell's going on with me?

Before she could think much more about what was going on with her, there was a sudden uproar which took her attention. 

It looked like a couple of people were fighting over a lifeboat. Their argument almost got into blows before one of the station's crewmembers got in between them and calmed them down. 

Since things had quieted down, Eva took the opportunity to look around the room.

It was a semi-circular design that followed the curved, minimalist look as the rest of the station. Like the respawn room, it looked as though it was formed out of a single piece.

There were a half-dozen portholes equally spaced along the wall. They were circular in nature, and were about 8 feet in diameter - plenty of space for people to get in and out of the lifeboats. 

They didn't behave like the other doors in the station, however. Instead, they were split into bladed segments, like the aperture mechanism in a camera lens, and opened and closed towards the center. They even made superbly satisfying SWISH sounds, which delighted Eva to no end. 

On the other side of the port-holes were piloted lifeboats on standby, their interior lights glowing a dark blue.

She watched as crewmembers ushered about a dozen panicked people into one, followed by one of the crewmen. They all secured themselves into bucket seats that were arranged in rows facing forward. 

Meanwhile, the crewman dashed up to the pilot's chair at the far end and fastened himself quickly. He frantically tapped all sorts of controls and powered up the small vessel. 

Both the porthole and lifeboat then sealed themselves before the boat rocketed down its launch tube and out into open space.

Although Eva couldn't see it, an entirely new lifeboat swiftly slid into place from somewhere above. It clicked into place before the porthole reopened, allowing another set of people to frantically escape. 

She found the whole process efficient and marveled at the design. The sheer precision and speed allowed the station's evacuation protocols to occur like clockwork. It only took mere minutes for a pod to get filled, ejected, and swapped out. 

A station this size could have dozens of these chambers on every deck to ensure everyone got a chance to get away quickly.

She suddenly pictured all manner of ways this was all mechanically possible, from precise loading arms to huge magazines filled with lifeboats. The thought suddenly struck her as odd. When did she care that much about mechanical design? Not that she didn't like nerding out on gadgets, but she never really cared about how they worked.

She never really cared about the technical inner workings of her mobile phone, for example. All that mattered was that she could use it however she wanted to. But suddenly and out of nowhere, she found herself wanting to know how it worked...

Whatever. I'll figure it out later, she thought as she dashed to a lifeboat. Right now, I oughta get the hell outta this tin can.

However, she was suddenly stopped by a neanderthal-like bruiser before she could get any closer. He held up a large, meaty palm right in front of her.

"Sorry sweetheart," he said flatly. "This boat's full, so get spaced."

She took a quick peek inside the lifeboat and saw a couple of seats still open. She looked back at the bruiser and sized him up. He was like a gorilla; barrel-chested and with rippling muscles. One of his biceps was as big as her own head.

She recalled that he was one of the men involved in that argument a few minutes ago. This must have been why it started.

"I'm not your sweetheart," she retorted, "and I go where I want."

She tried to get past him, but he quickly got back in her way and put a hand on her shoulder.

"I don't think you understand, lil' miss pissypants," he said firmly, "this behind me is Nightmare's boat, and you ain't gettin' on it, no matter what, no matter how, unless you got the ok. Ok?"

The bruiser gave her a firm shove, which pushed her back a number of steps. 

In her old life, she would've simply accepted the situation and walked away. She was meek and weak, and let herself get pushed around by everyone stronger than her. It was easier and safer than fighting back and getting seriously hurt.

But things were different now.

Her eyes darkened as she recalled the time Nightmare and his goons ambushed and killed her in the game. She was in the middle of a hugely profitable mission, one that took weeks of planning and days to execute properly. 

Everyone thought it was impossible to do solo, but she believed otherwise. She had figured out a way to do it just by herself, and streamed it from start to finish to prove it. 

Well, almost.

Nightmare stream-sniped her with the intention of ruining her attempt. It was something he loved doing, and she was only one of his many victims. 

He and his goons suddenly showed up right when she got to the most critical phase of the days-long mission, and griefed her relentlessly. She fought bitterly to defend herself, but they severely outnumbered her and kept her from achieving her goals. 

The mission timer ruthlessly ticked down, and because she was busy fending them off, she failed the mission. 

She had to eat her promise of soloing it while they laughed at her failure. That was a grudge that she had held on for a long time, and it served as kindling for a flame that threatened to consume the galaxy.

That little shove was the spark that lit that flame. And she welcomed the warmth it promised. Her heart thumped heavily in her chest as she resolved to stand her ground. 

"First things first," she said, "no-one pushes me around."

"Then I'll just have'ta put you down," sneered the bruiser in response.

He was a simple man, and loved the simple things in life. Nothing gave him more pleasure than to indulge in violence. He grinned at the prospect and rushed forward, with the full intention of killing her. He reared back a meaty fist, and imagined driving it into her face. 

He wanted to see her blood smeared all over his knuckles, to feel her skull crack on impact.

Simple things.

He poured every ounce of power into his velocity and skillfully threw his punch, but to his surprise Eva stepped forward instead, her eyes shone with pure hostility. 

She crouched downwards and ended up just underneath his swing, and grabbed him with both hands. She quickly spun into him, summoned up all of her strength, and turned his own unstoppable momentum against him. 

In the blink of an eye, she threw him neck-first into the ground, which resulted in a loud and satisfying CRUNCH. 

All within the space of a second.

The rest of his body slumped into a heap on the floor. Even if he wasn't dead, there was no way he was going to get up by himself. 

Not that anyone even tried to help him. Everyone was still processing that a fight just happened, much less that it was already over. Some showed surprise and shock at how quickly and easily someone her size was able to take out a muscle-bound freak like him.

Even she was shocked. She was little more than a beginner at Aikido - honestly that was the only move she was confident in using. But what really surprised her was her strength. 

She was far weaker in her old life, and because of that she decided not to hold back. She figured she could throw him to knock the wind out of him, and then pin him down by locking an arm. 

She didn't think she'd end up owning the idiot bruiser in a single move!

Eva looked down at her body and realized that she was taut and athletic, more than she ever had been her whole life. She then curled a hand into a fist, and felt a power radiating from within her. It was something she had never felt before in her life.

She felt... courageous. Confident.

Dangerous.

"Looks like I've got a seat open," said a male voice behind her. "You can have it if you want. Though, I mean you basically took it, to be honest."

She spun around and saw a smug, but attractive blond guy in his 20s stepping halfway into the Nightmare lifeboat. 

He was wearing a pressure suit just like her, except he somehow found a pair of shades and was sporting it. He had on a half-cocked grin that was filled with arrogance, and she felt absolutely compelled to wipe it off.

He threw a thumb at his chest in proclamation, "I'm the legendary Nightmare. And you are?"

"Not interested," she replied snidely.

The station rocked again from another shell impact, which shook everyone else back into action. In contrast, the two of them continued to stare each other down. 

He looked at her with unbridled lust, while she looked back with unending derision.

"You sure?" he asked as he eyed her figure up and down. "Seems like a huge galaxy out there, and a babe like you could use a man like me to keep you warm."

When he said the word 'babe', she immediately felt as though numerous slugs crawled across her skin at the same time. She valiantly fought back the urge to vomit, and instead turned around and gave him a cold shoulder in response.

A predatory grin spread across Nightmare’s face.

Yeah, you stay nice and quiet, little girl, he thought. You quiet types end up screaming loudest.

Meanwhile, Eva's thoughts were equally dark, but her face was plastered with disgust.

So that's Nightmare, huh? What a massive creep. I'm definitely gonna perforate his core and space his disgusting ass.

But as she cursed Nightmare’s name and future in silence, she also quickly realized something. 

Wait a minute! If he's here, then that means I'm not the only player.

She quickly looked around and found a number of others who also wore the same medical pressure suit that she and Nightmare did. Even the bruiser was wearing it. 

A thought suddenly raced through her mind.

Is everyone who just woke up a player, too?!

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