When they landed, the runway crew had the mobile stairway next to the plane practically as soon as it stopped—which wasn’t until it was inside a hangar.
Larry followed Lim down the stairs, stopping as they met the greeting party. It didn’t include any midgets.
It did include a woman, and three men in tuxedos.
Larry guessed the woman was his age—mid-twenties. She had a wide smile, and wore what he would have thought of as a business suit if it weren’t pink, and didn’t include a mini-skirt.
“Welcome to the Metafight Games, Mr. Mori?” She looked up at Lim for confirmation.
“And, you sir, you’re a late entrant, and I don’t know your name. What should I call you?” She held a pen and a notepad.
“I’ll be wearing the Frog suit, so call me Frog,” he said.
Isaac mouthed the word, “Frog,” as the woman, said, “Thank you Mr. Frog. I’m Cheryl Sundstrom, please let me know if you need anything. I’m here to assist the contestants with any problems they might have.”
Larry nodded, thinking that she sounded very careful, and very polite. On the other hand, he’d bet that at least half the contestants had to be supervillains. That encouraged politeness.
She continued, “Oh, one more thing, does your armor need to be assembled? If it does, we can have it carried to your rooms. You’re welcome to accompany it if you wish.”
Larry thought about it. “Yeah, sounds like a good idea.”
“Thank you very much,” she said. “Good luck.” She gave him a smile. It was very professional.
Then she left.
The men in tuxedos started to unload the plane. Larry watched them. It didn’t take long before they had everything on a wagon pulled behind a white vehicle that wasn’t much larger than a golf cart.
Larry and Isaac followed it toward the hangar’s back entrance.
“Seriously,” Isaac said, “frog? If you needed help with the name, we had half the flight.”
Larry shrugged. “It’s Man-machine’s armor, remember? He designed this version for jumping. I painted it green after I fixed it up. Thought I was being funny. I didn’t have time to repaint before we left.”
Isaac shook his head. “Better you than me.”
When they stepped out of the hangar, the luggage hauler stopped, and one of the men pointed out a golf cart parked behind the hangar’s metal walls.
“I’ll drive you over,” he said.
The drive didn’t take long. They passed several different buildings, all of them white, made of concrete, and shaped like boxes. It would have felt sterile if that were all, but palm trees ran alongside the roads, and well mowed lawns surrounded each building.
People walked down the sidewalks in bathing suits, talking and laughing.
In a few minutes, they entered the dome. Metal doors rumbled upward as they came close, and then they drove inside, the vehicles’ engines humming.
They rolled along next to the curved wall, passing steel beams on the left, doors and hallways on the right. It wasn’t well lit. The overhead florescent lights brightened the hall enough to see, but only barely.
It reminded Larry of the Death Star, and a little bit of the Abominator moon base.
They stopped. Their driver said, “We’re here. Your suite is just past that door, and your keys are on the table in the main area. If you want to wait, they’ll be done soon.”
By the time he’d finished talking, they’d already moved the luggage inside, and were starting the boxes that contained the Frog’s pieces.
“Sure,” Larry said. “We’ll wait.”
Barely five minutes later, they were standing in the suite. It contained two bedrooms, a common area with a kitchen, and a workshop. When Larry had looked it over on the way in, it appeared to have everything he’d need—even if he had to do fairly major repairs.
Isaac picked up his key. “No offense, but I’m glad we each get our own bedroom.”
“Yeah?” Larry put his own key into his pocket. “Planning to have someone over?”
Lim raised an eyebrow. “Here? Best case scenario I meet an heiress with a taste for bloodsport. Worst case, I end up in bed with a supervillain who kills the both of us. My advice, keep your mind on the fight.”
As they talked, he pulled a piece of paper out of his jacket, and wrote on it with a pen. Then he held it up. It read, “I need to check for bugs.”
Larry read it. “Yeah? Well, thanks for the advice Mr. Mori. I think I’ll step outside and take a look at what’s out there.”
He indicated the front door with his thumb.
Isaac started shredding the piece of paper. “Good idea.”
The door was at the front of the common room. Larry opened it, and stepped into the hallway. He’d expected it to look like the other hallway. It looked like a hotel—bright white walls with a white carpet, flecked with gray and brown.
And here he was wearing a mask. He’d stepped out to make it easier for Lim to do what he needed to, but he felt pretty silly right now.
As he considered stepping back inside, a voice behind him said, “Rhino?”
The voice sounded familiar. He turned around.
A man was stepping out of the door next to his, and he recognized the guy. There wasn’t any point in pretending differently.
“Alexis, good to see you, man. How’s Viktor?”
Alexis walked over and gave him a hug. When it was over, Alexis stepped back and said, “Doing well, I think. He’s back in Russia. He sends letters.”
Alexis looked exactly the same as the last time as Larry had seen him—dark skin and hair, and a crooked smile that made him appear perpetually amused. He wore a flightsuit with a Cuban flag on his chest.
“You’re still in Cuba?”
“Protecting my homeland from the American menace,” he said, but he was grinning. “Are you here to compete?”
“You got it.”
Alexis pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket. “Let’s see who you’ll be fighting.”
“I’m not listed as the Rhino. They didn’t know what I was going under till half an hour ago.”
Alexis nodded. “There’s only one empty space. If they put you there, you’ll fight someone named Rook.”