The second part of this growing epic is up and running.
They were placed near the front. Pyrotechnics from the arena blazed high, fireworks careening towards the rafters and bursting into arrays of coloured light. Heavy rock music groaned against the speakers as the two combatants took their places on the mat. When he and Minnie found their seats, the crowd was already chanting the champion's name.
Clarke looked at the men in the ring and shivered.
The man he bet against was seven feet tall, black metal grafted onto his pale flesh. Sharpened teeth bared themselves from underneath an obsidian half-helm covering the man’s eyes and nose. Bulbous muscles from years of steroid therapy and muscle-growth hormone use pushed against a full-body harness that was riveted in place. Black cords fell from his scalp and were fastened into his chest. The giant seethed and drooled and paced around his side of the arena.
Squatting in the corner opposite him was Crotchrot. Scraggly grey hair fell in tangles across his unshaven face and the sides of his head. His body, nearly gangrenous in colour, was waxed and wiry in contrast to the champion’s hulking mass. Brown leather with tassels was what he wore on his legs and for a vest. Iron bracers sat on his forearms and calves, hiding the barely-used rocket thrusters that were buried into his limbs.
Minnie couldn’t contain herself when she saw him. “Oh my gods oh my gods oh my gods I’ve never been this close before!” she squealed, clapping like a true fan would.
Tense, Clarke folded his arms. He wanted to say that he had been closer before, far closer, but that was a surprise to save for later.
A man too fat for his tuxedo stood between them and announced: “Now begins our final match of the evening, ladies and gentlemen! Get your tickets ready, because this face off is going to knock your face off!” The crowd squealed with anticipation.
He gestured to his right, “In this corner, The Challenger! The Ghost of Oldville! The original Rocket Man himself! Weighing in, parts and all, at only two-hundred and sixty-one pounds: CRRRRRROTCHROT!”
A mix of cheers and boos met him. The challenger waved a hand limply at them. From his space in the crowd, Clarke nodded solemnly to himself. He forgot how light the old man was.
The man in the tux shot a finger at the behemoth to his left, “Aaaaaand, his opponent! The Death Valley Dragonslayer! Hero of the Skulltown Rebellion! Weighing in at seven hundred and fifty-five pounds: RRRRRAGEMAN!”
Rageman reared his head back, stretched his arms out and roared triumphantly. The auditorium met him, roaring back.
All except for Minnie, of course, “BOOOO!” she cried, aiming a flipped-bird at the giant, “Crotchrot for life!”
A bell rang. The announcer ran out of the way and let a referee come in. Slowly, Crotchrot rose to his feet and stretched out his arms and back. His face tensed like it hurt so much to do. Rageman lumbered towards him, still seething and slobbering all over the mat.
Crotchrot launched his offensive. Wheeling his arm back, he rushed the goliath and spun a clenched fist over his head. Near the giant, he let the first punch go, slamming it into the champion’s left breast. The blows he dealt to Rageman were quick and fierce. Hard jabs and straight kicks to the monster’s body barely fazed Crotchrot’s opponent. A stray uppercut to the champion’s jaw sent a loud clang ringing through the arena.
The next punch came like a bullet.
Steam burst out from Rageman’s elbow as he reeled back and caught Crotchrot in the jaw. The old man flew and bounced off the mat. His back hit the edge of the ring. Rolling onto his side, he forced himself up just as the giant was on him. Seized by the same massive hand Rageman had struck him with, the challenger was lifted into the air and thrown against the ground behind the giant. He bounced again. Rageman followed and seized him once more for another throw.
Clarke rang his hands together. Use your mods, he thought, biting the inside of his cheek, Come on, old man, use your mods. There’s no honour here, so get up.
Turning his head right, he scanned the audience howling with delight as Crotchrot was thrown around like a ball. He saw children in Rageman shirts clumsily applauding their hero. A buxom woman with dyed green hair jumped up, holding a ‘Rageman 3:16’ sign. Swarms of spectators clapped and pumped their fists with each blow. The crowd was against him.
All except for Minnie, of course, but when he looked to her he saw the same bloodlust her eyes that he saw in theirs. No doubt she remembered his fighting history more than anything else, his many clashes with Cain The Able, Loverboy Jones, The Living Dead, and Brother Doom. It was clear she remembered the hits, the throws, the sound of broken bones, a world of steam and blood and pain.
But Clarke remembered another man; a veteran from the Great War who smelled of tobacco and brought him comics for Christmas. Clarke remembered a man who smoked too much and laughed his pain away. Clarke remembered a man no-one wanted.
Clarke remembered his Uncle Arnie.
See you next time,
EDIT: May 23, 2012. Edits!