"All right, enough jibbajabba, foos!" the dark-skinned man with the mohawk shouted to the prisoners. He entered the arena and stood between the two fighters. "I wanna nice clean fight and all that jazz. Now kick some ass!"
The opponents went to opposite corners of the mat and started warming up with stretches, kicks and punches. Then the buzzer sounded.
They approached each other until they were separated by a meter. Broker bowed and then moved into his opening stance. Declan pulled off his shirt and flung it away to reveal a six-pack that rivaled even Broker's muscular stomach. Declan's skin was leathery and scarred from middle age and a lifetime of hard knocks, but Broker was impressed nonetheless. Declan stood still, waiting for his opponent to make the first move.
Broker moved in swiftly with a hammer punch that Declan deflected with one arm. Broker smiled and plowed his other fist into Declan's stomach... and dropped his jaw in surprise when his hand hit what felt like steel. Declan smiled back. "Pugilist Champion, five years straight," he said, following up with a left jab that caught his opponent in the jaw, drawing blood.
There was a brief flash of anger but once again Broker returned to a calm state, moving into a new stance. Declan followed with a stance of his own but Broker was already in motion with a sweep kick. Declan dodged it with a jump but was rammed by both of Broker's fists. He stumbled back slightly, the bruises already forming on his chest.
Broker came at him again and Declan sidestepped the blow, clipping Broker in the right ear with a fist. Broker's face was flushed with pain and anger. He swung around in the opposite direction Declan had expected him to move in, catching the older man in the stomach with his knee, then landing open-handed strikes on the sides of Declan's neck. Declan rolled backwards to avoid further damage as Broker moved toward him with a series of kicks meant to break bones.
Declan was back on his feet again and barely dodged a kick meant for his ribs. He grabbed a hold of Broker's leg, backhanded the younger man in the face and then kicked the man's standing leg out from beneath him. Broker flopped backward onto the mat. Declan, still gripping Broker's leg, began dragging him across the mat. The convicts were cheering and laughing as the anger surged through Broker like lava erupting from a volcano.
Something metal smacked into Declan's head and sent him skidding across the mat on his stomach. He stood up in time to see Broker rushing toward him, his face flushed with anger. At the last second, Declan dropped to one knee and plowed his fist into Broker's groin. The man's reddened face was filled with shock and pain as he doubled over, grabbing his crotch and falling to his knees.
Declan stood over him and raised his fist. "Do you yield?" he asked.
Broker scowled at him for moment and then let out a laugh. "I yield."
Declan took a cautious step backward as Broker stood up, still laughing. "You win," he said, the skin of his reddened face rippling briefly to reveal something unnatural underneath. Declan thought he was seeing things, and felt an uneasiness in the pit of his stomach when he was struck from behind by something metal again and crashed forward onto his face. Broker stood over him as Declan lay there rubbing his bruised head.
"I gave you a chance to back down but you refused. I told you to think about it but no, you're just like all the others. An imbecile," Broker said. "You should have paid more attention to what I was saying, Captain. This was a fight to the death... and you won."
Declan suddenly realized what Broker was talking about and his eyes widened in horror. "No..." I will take your cousin's place in the Arena. If you beat me, you and your men go free.
"Only after the fact do you finally realize the consequences," Broker said. "You win. But you didn't beat me... you beat your cousin. You and your men will remain here to work in the mines. As for this waste of flesh you've claimed blood ties to..." he said pointing to Ian.
A beam of light flashed in the room. Ian looked at Declan with concern and incomprehension at the horror on his cousin's face. The tears began streaming down Declan's face as Ian suddenly realized he could no longer breathe, and looked down at his stomach to see that it was no longer there. Where flesh should have been, there was only air, a single gaping hole through his mid-section instantly cauterized by intense heat.
He looked back up at Declan and mouthed his cousin's name with a look of sadness that shattered Declan's soul, and then he collapsed.
Declan, his face streaming with tears, yelled out his cousin's name. The prisoners, who had been laughing only moments before, were silent now, and backed away from the body. Declan leapt to his feet, sheer rage driving his bruised body, and locked his hands around Broker's throat. Broker grabbed Declan's arms and pulled them away with ease. He gripped Declan around the throat and lifted him up like a rag doll, grinning at him briefly before tossing him aside like so much trash.
Declan finally saw the metal object that had struck him during the fight and had murdered his cousin. Floating a foot from Broker's right shoulder was a hovering metallic orb with an iris that made it look like a giant eye. "Congratulations, Captain. I hope your honor is still intact. Your cousin's insides are certainly not," Broker sneered. The orb's iris slid open and beam of colored light shot out, and Declan faded into unconsciousness.
Broker put his hands on his hips and turned to the prisoners. "Would anyone else like to challenge me?"
The men all stood where they were, keeping their heads bowed.
"I didn't think so." Broker turned and began heading for the exit. "Remove the body and place the Captain and his men in a holding cell. I want them up bright and early tomorrow to work the mines," he said over his shoulder.
The dark-skinned man with the mohawk waved for several of the men to grab Ian's body while several others grabbed a hold of Declan's.
Zethys watched the procession as the two bodies, one living and one dead, were silently carried away.
He turned to the woman chained by the neck to his dais. "I'm starting to think this fight was rigged! What do you think?" he asked. Her head lolled to the side. He had gotten carried away during the fight and had accidentally broken her neck in the excitement. "I'm glad you agree with me on this." His bubbly laughter echoed in the now empty chamber.
Outside, the three Ghosts from Nova Squadron watched the prison from afar.
"Scan complete. The Cerebrate is here. Let's go."
They entered the dropship awaiting them, and its stealth engines hummed to life as it lifted them off into the darkness of night.
In Memory of Ian Anduin.
2444 - 2500
May God Judge Him With More Understanding Than Mankind Did.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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