I spent an extra day as THIS IS HUGE. This the third and final part of The Upset. Hope you enjoy.
Arnie used to live with Clarke and his parents after a fire took his apartment. On the insistence of Clarke’s mother, it was only until he could find a home of his own, but soon they had grown used to living together. The basement became his, a den populated with old magazines and antique cassettes. Clarke remembered going down there to hear music long-forgotten and to rife through his uncle’s effects, hearing stories of days gone by.
It was Christmas Day when war was declared. Sparked by an attack on Stockholm from the Colonial Liberation Front during the preceding week, the World Union announced its intent to retaliate. It was a time of dark decisions. Weapon development bans were lifted across the globe in order to battle the growing strength of the C.L.F.
Fifty long years after the last modified man was built, human weapon production became legal once more.
He remembered being a boy of eight, sitting in the kitchen as his mother begged her brother not to join. Pleas turned to threats and threats to pleas again. Nothing could dissuade him, though; Arnie’s decision was final. He wanted to avenge those lost and fight back the C.L.F. Young Clarke thought he was brave; no-one else shared his enthusiasm.
Arnie walked out of their home a man; four years later, he returned as something else.
His skin became greenish from the fluids circulating through his body. Iron bracings covered his arms and legs. His skeleton and muscles were modified and reinforced in order to withstand his implants. He lost weight; his face had grown gaunt. His eyes stayed the same, but they were grim and told only horror stories.
Clarke’s mother couldn’t bear it. She tried to love her brother as she had before, but every smile she sent his way was dipped in anger and fear.
Meanwhile, the world changed. Promises were made to make modmen like Arnie into productive members of society. Many put their blades to work in harvesting grain or at lumber mills. The strongest were given tasks of heavy lifting, or hired by construction site managers. Field medics, their arms augmented with so many pneumatic drills and buzz-saws, found work in factories.
But there were those who brought the war home with them, those who had seen so much strife that they could not live like people anymore. For them, the Federation was formed, what some called a fighter’s league and others a tournament for the damned. This was a place for weapons to become weapons again, for humanity to be set aside in favour of brutality.
When Clarke found a Federation enlistment form in Arnie’s room, his mother threw a fit. The words ‘monster’ and ‘lunatic’ were slung at the once-man until he could take no more. Fire fled his eyes, his shoulders slouched, and his mouth twisted. Clarke’s mother was crying at that point. She fell onto the ground in a heap, his father hugging her around the neck.
Arnie packed his bags as she was led from the room.
Even for his age, Clarke understood nothing. He stood there and watched Arnie, his hero, put his magazines and cassettes and clothes into so many boxes and cases. He heard his father belting at him to go upstairs. Defeated, Clarke made his way out. As he left, the boy looked back and asked to know why his uncle was leaving.
“Because I’m like crotch-rot, kid,” the old man answered, casting one last glance at the boy, “Nobody wants me.”
It was then that Clarke realized he was standing in that arena ten years after that moment. It was then that he remembered that he was one of two in a sea of thirty thousand men and women who did not chant against his uncle. His senses returned to him as he saw the beating Arnie was put through.
After tossing his prey around, the hulking champion put his uncle, who the public knew as Crotchrot, in a chokehold. The monster called Rageman yowled as the crowd cried for more. In his massive hands, the giant held the challenger down and squeezed his neck. Crotchrot winced and tried to pry the bony sausage-like fingers from off of his throat.
Clarke ground his teeth together. He cast one last look at Minnie, the madwoman at his side, and faced the mat. Taking in a deep breath, he screamed his uncle’s name.
Arnie’s eyes snapped open.
A stream of fire burst from his forearm. Wheeling it up, he aimed the blaze at the titan’s mouth. It shrieked and let go, stumbling back and seizing its steaming face. The crowd screamed in shock. The referee scrambled and ran to the giant’s side as it tossed and screeched in pain. Arnie rose, looking around the arena until he stopped. The gaunt warrior focused on the exact spot where Clarke stood.
Clarke could feel the electricity in the air. Murmurs and the odd set of boos bustled. Minnie turned to him wide-eyed. He paid her no mind. His attention was directed to the stage, and Arnie Cambpell’s attention was directed right back at him.
In seconds, he remembered. Anger and confusion covered his face as Arnie looked at the man his nephew had become. “Came to watch an old man die?!” he called out to him.
With Minnie gripping his arm and asking something he could not hear, Clarke straightened up and bellowed back: “I came to watch one win!”
Behind the old man, the champion screamed. With one hand he threw aside the referee and howled. Whirling round, he faced the exposed back of his opponent. Hissing and spitting with fury, he charged. The crowd’s cheers rose again. Minnie screamed. Clarke tensed.
Arnie lowered his head and shut his eyes.
His leg blossomed in flame.
Time seemed to slow as his old friend spun. Rockets in his leg burned the air as he wheeled the kick at the champion. Minnie’s nails dug into Clarke’s arm. The crowd held its breath.
And Clarke smiled.
See you next time,
EDIT: May 23, 2012. EDITS! By the way, The Upset remains one of my favourites.