Blood and Steel

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Fiction, Science Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

Cyberpunk Boxer


Something a bit different this week. I belong to a Cyberpunk Writers group over on facebook, and once a month they go with an image prompt. This is the one for November. Overall I like how it came out, a bit of backstory implied with the character, and someone I might come back to again, either as a protagonist or an antagonist. Anyway, hope you enjoy the piece and as always, comments are welcome.

“You ready for this?” Tommy asks me as he straps the leather bands around my fists. Staring down at my skeletal metal arms, I nod, not trusting my voice. My shoulders still itch where my prosthetics are grafted to my body, it and my artificial leg souvenirs from my time in service. Sure, they were paid for as part of my discharge, but it turns out no one wants to hire you when you look more like a machine than a man. I pick up day work here and there, offloading trucks and ships coming down from LEO. Hardly enough to pay the bills, not enough to keep Fiona in private school.

I stand up, swaying a bit as the internal gyros in my left leg kick in. Tommy’s another vet, his eyes emotionless glass these days, his face looking like chocolate left out in the sun, all runny and misshapen. He’s the one that got me this gig, a bit of blood sport the too rich like to spectate at.

Tommy leads me out into the ring, a makeshift affair in the middle of a cleared out warehouse space. The noise, a dull roar in the manager’s office I was using as a lock room, now near to deafening. I want to run, to get away as far as possible from this place, from these monsters. I picture my little girl’s face then, remember it’s her birthday next month. I step under the ropes and into the ring.

My opponent isn’t in the ring yet, and that sets the butterflies in my stomach fluttering. I’m used to being the champion, not the challenger. Been a while since I’ve been on the other side.

“Who’ve they got me up against, Tommy?” I ask. My eyes roam over the crowd, all black tie and evening dress except for the heavily armed guards looking after the quality. Any one of them could buy and sell me a hundred time over.

Tommy shakes his head. “Let’s see if I can find out.” He disappears into the crowd, leaving me all by my lonesome. I launch a flurry of blows into the air. Some in the crowd cheer, but I notice the crowd’s attention is focused on something else, something coming from the loading dock. The crowd parts, and I feel a shockwave under my feet as whatever it is approaches. I still can’t see it through the crowd, but the way it splits apart, the fact that conversation dies where my opponent passes does nothing to stop those damn butterflies.

Tommy reappears and shakes his head. “It’s not good.”

“Not good? What do you mean?”

He doesn’t get the chance to answer. My opponent pushes down the ropes and steps over them, his heavy hydraulic-jacked enhanced legs pushing down on the mat. His arms, like mine, are wrapped and strapped, but where mine are baseline functional, his are armored chrome. He stares out at me with chrome eyes, and when he smiles I get a glimpse of steel teeth. He bangs his metal arms together then lifts them up high, a primal scream ripping from his throat.

Tommy grabs me by the back of the neck. “Walk away.” I can see the fear in his eyes, taste my own in my sweat.

I shake my head, force a smile on my face. “Fi’s got a birthday coming up. Just… look, I know you don’t want to, but bet my usual for me, will you?”

Tommy wants to cry, I can tell, but the artificial eyes won’t let him. He nods and steps back into the crowd. An announcer steps into the ring, but I don’t pay him any attention, keeping my eyes on my opponent. I’ve fought some big guys in my time, and sometimes they’ve put more than one in the ring against me. I haven’t always won, but I’ve always managed to walk away. I swallow hard, let Tommy fit the mouth guard between my teeth.

The announcer’s done. I smack my padded hands together, dance forward, keeping on the balls of my feet. My opponent comes on like a bulldozer, head tucked between his shoulders and leading with a big right hook. I slip under it, jab my left into his ribs. It’s like hitting a side of frozen beef, jarring my body. He doesn’t even flinch, and it’s all I can do to get back out of reach of the left cross he propels at my head. I’m slow and he’s fast though, and it clips my ear.

The big guy grins at me, but it’s the smile the butcher has for the lamb. He moves in close. I aim a few jabs at his head, but he doesn’t bother to block, doesn’t bother to dodge. I might as well be punching the heavy bag back at the gym for all the results I’m getting. Bastard’s probably even more metal than me.

I stay in too long, and his big left catches me in the solar plexus. The air comes out in a great woosh and I’m down on the mat. I have enough presence of mind to roll out of the way, to get back to my feet however unsteady.

There’s no ten count in these fights, no tapping out. You go until you can’t fight, can’t get up, can’t go on. The big guy stamps down hard where my hand just was, follows it with a kick. I take it on my hip, but it sends me sprawling against the ropes. I’m lucky it caught me in the metal leg, otherwise I’m pretty sure he’d have snapped my femur. As it is the leg’s a bit wonky, the internal gyros struggling to maintain equilibrium.

He comes rushing at me, and I dance away to jeers from the crowd. They want blood on the mat and I’m not obliging them. He comes at me, big arms wind milling, and I do the last thing he expects. I step inside his reach. One of his big arms crashes down on my shoulder, right where the metal joins the meat. My body shudders, and I feel my flesh knee buckle but I keep my feet. I drive my metal knee up hard, follow it with a double clap to his ears. He howls, shoves me away hard against the ropes. His chrome eyes fix on me, lips curled back into a snarl. I’m hoping he’s hurt as well as angry. His hands drop to his groin, and I’m guessing I did some real harm there. I don’t give him space to breathe, but go back in. I keep my hands up to guard my head, focus instead on delivering kicks with the chrome leg. He lunges a hard left at my head, but I slip away from it, aim a couple of hard kidney punches that connect solidly. The big man’s mouth opens into an O of pain and he kicks back at me. It catches me in the metal leg and I go down again, but I’m moving, rolling, and he’s having trouble keeping up. Blood drips from his ears and he’s having trouble walking. All the metal in the world doesn’t help you when you’ve got a pair of bruised balls.

“Finish him!” Tommy yells at me, and I nod. My entire body hurts, and weariness washes over me. All I want to do is lie down, but I know if I do there’s nothing to stop the big man from squashing my head like a grapefruit under a hammer. And who will mourn for me? Maybe Tommy, a bit. My daughter? My ex?

My lips curl back in a snarl. It’s my turn to come in. The big man offers a few jabs, tries to keep me at bay, keep me off balance. I have the measure of him now, and it’s like he’s moving in slow motion, each motion telegraphed from light years away. I keep up on the balls of my feet, slip under his attacks. I jab hard at his face, and he flinches, and then I slip around behind him, lock my metal arm around his neck. He tries to tuck his chin down to his shoulder, but I’m too fast and the metal arms hold fast. He slams his entire body back, but I’m braced for it and all he manages to do is bruise my back, my arms are still locked in place. He reaches back, tries to claw me off, but my grip is firm, my resolve strong.

He grows limp, but I hold the choke until the announcer steps into the ring.

“Let him go, son,” he says. It’s then I notice how quiet the crowd is, stunned by my win. I get up, the right leg shaking so bad I almost fall over again. I raise my hands up in the air as the announcer declares me the winner. I step over to Tommy, his face still frozen in shock.

“Didn’t expect me to win?” I slump onto the stool he puts in the corner, my entire body aching and drained, even the parts of me that are metal. Damn phantom limb syndrome that no one can figure out.

Tommy shakes his head, a smile cracking his façade. “Come on, let’s get your winnings and get you home.”

I nod my head and close my eyes. With any luck I wouldn’t have to fight for another month.

  1. Tom says:

    Superb story. The tension builds masterfully. I was connected to this character, as I really feared for his life. Glad he rose to fight another day.

    • Thanks! One of my long time faults is that I tend toward Boring Invincible Heroes, so this is a way for me to try and break that habit. Plus, fight scenes are my weakness in that I love writing them.

      As always, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Just watched Warrior last night. After watching that, this flows in my mind really well. Hope you return to this story. I’d love to see more.

    • Hey there Jennifer, If I do, it will probably be mostly outside the ring than in. There are only so many ways to tell a fight, and some of that gets repetitive fast. Still, he’s an interesting enough character I might get back to him… at least to give him a name.

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