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Alien Devil’s Match: Chapter One

Jalik

            “The one to watch all the way to the end is Jalik,” said the commentator from the box. “He’s got that warrior mentality that doesn’t let up until the final bell.”

            My Nazok opponent locked eyes with me in a split-second halt. His gray skin poured sweat from his brow into his deadly teeth, which seethed in anger at the jab that I just spent across his face.

            I marked his left eye as swollen and raw from the endless jabs my right hook landed. In a moment of decision paralysis, he paused just a second too long.

“Oh, that right hand from Jalik, right to the face again. Denzin has to be feeling it now!” The crowd roared in approval, and not a moment too soon as I dodged a hit to my breadbox.

The maneuver took me back a step too far, and Denzin stepped in with a jab to my back.

“That’s Jalik temporarily on the ropes.”

“Denzin’s been holding his own in this fight. He isn’t done yet, Bovy.”

The Nazok twisted to my right side, trying to distract me with his footwork. Too bad for him, he met me on my good side.

            I landed two shots across his middle, knocking him down to the ground. The ref put his hand across my chest to stop me from finishing him there.

 I looked up, and through the sea of faces, I spotted Ryrik, Black Star’s head of entertainment.

            “Take your time!” he commanded from his seat near the commentator box.

            The bell dinged, ending round eleven. We had a mere minute to regain our senses before the final round. Ryrik shot out of his seat and came to my side while Sakkar, my friend and close coworker, dabbed the sweat from my brow.

            “The people want a show, Jalik,” he said in his sly, opportunistic way. Breath from my lungs burned hot as Sakkar fed water to my mouth.
            “A show?” I wheezed from my stool. “No problem.”

            “Finish him slow,” came the voice of the owner of Black Star, Draven. I was tired. Dead tired. But hell, this was what I lived for.

            “You got it, boss.”

The dinging of the bell called us back into action, with the ref hot between us.

With only three minutes left in the final round, I could see sweat clouding Denzin’s eyes. A jab to his right jaw sent him back, eyes rolling into his head towards the rope.

I bobbed in place, watching him regain his senses. He was slowing down, and I was just getting started. Every solid inch was laced with sweat over my gray skin, making my muscles gleam. My dark gray tracery lined the sides of my arms, flexing with me while my opponent cooled his heels.

            “Nice recovery from Denzin. But the fight’s wearing him down. See how he breaks form, thrashing his weight into every punch.”

            The spectators around the ring swallowed their words to almost nothing. Somewhere in the haze, I could just make out their remarks apart from the din.

            Denzin squared up to me, throwing his right hook toward my ear. But I had my elbows high, protecting my face. The drawback from Denzin’s right arm gave me just enough time to line up my next shot.

            “Oh!” The sea of voices shouted as my left hook found his right ear, sending him to the floor.

“The thing about Jalik,” the commentator buzzed. “He’s got one of the most explosive punches in the game. It’s just a powerhouse of force you don’t want to find yourself in front of.”

            “And the heat he packs into his build.”

            “Yes, Jalik is a hell of a lot stockier than his competitor, but look how he moves in the ring. He keeps himself tight.”

            Denzin squared up to me again, the final seconds on the clock ticking like mad, the crowd losing their minds in the seats below. That final jab across my brow sent fury through me. I stepped into my next punch. One, two, cross to the left side.

            “Argh!” I heard him grunt. That left side had taken a hell of a beating all night. I made sure of it.

            I saw the rage gutting him to the quick. He threw his next punch wildly, his whole body heaving into the lunge. But he was no match for me. Not after eleven rounds to that left side.

            “Denzin’s barely hanging on!” With only seconds to go, I couldn’t waste a moment more of his time.

            The temperature in the room changed quickly when I set into my final attack to finish Denzin for the night. Hit one found his chest, throwing him back onto the ropes and then forward, nearly to the floor.

“Jalik throws right one, two, steps into a right hook and Denzin is powerless.” The ref tried to come between us, and Denzin dug his arms around me in a defensive maneuver. But there was no stopping me.

“That’s why they call him ‘The Train,’ gentle folk. Look at that speed.”

Denzin wobbled on the ropes, his head swinging like crazy while the shutters of cameras flickered in his sweating face. Finally, he lurched backward and hit the ground.

He was out cold.

The audience ate up every moment of it.

The final bell ended the match, and the ref came to me in the center, throwing up my arm to a wave of cheers from the crowd beyond.

“All folks of all kinds, Black Star Casino’s still undefeated heavyweight champion, Jalik Vanut!”

With my arm towering my victory in the air and the waves of approval from my fans beyond, I was fired up. It was irreplaceable, this amusement. Some called it sport, others barbarism. I called it freedom.

After the match, I found myself chest-deep in an ice bath, soothing my wounds and thanking Celestia for my lot.

Like my comrades, I helped run Black Star as Head of the Guards. Unlike my comrades, I won my wages with my fists. Breaking up fights, escorting drunks to the sidewalk. It was all in a day’s work.

They sat in offices half the day, passing off orders and signing their names. I imagine they had to be bored as fuck half the time. But hey, who was I to judge?

As I walked from the locker rooms back into the casino’s main lounge, I saw my fellow Vinduthi, all sitting in our V.I.P. booth. A round of freshly poured Slinta sat in front of Laux, our pit boss who oversaw the gaming tables.

Laux sat next to Draven, who was, as usual, surrounded by papers and percomms. He was a diligent boss, I had to give him that.

“Jalik!” He brightened as he saw me approach the table. He stood up and slapped me on the back. “Another fantastic win. Tonight’s crowd was insane.”

What started as a last-ditch effort to make use of the arena to entertain guests became something of my own pet service to the casino. Aside from my regular duties, it was like giving back, but with my fists.

Next to him sat Thelev, our VIP host, and Ryrik, already plotting the night’s next line of entertainment.

“I’ve got that troupe from the upper levels performing their contortionist routine all week, but after that, I’ve got nothing for stage B in the evenings,” Ryrik said to Laux, passing him his percomm.

“I think I’ve got a solution for that,” Draven answered for him. Without our crew running schemes night and day, Black Star could never be the top-tier establishment that it was.

Of course, it wasn’t only the casino we ran on Thodos III. This station would be nothing without the might of the great Vinduthi mafia, keeping law and order and anything else that could be bought, working to serve the beautiful conglomeration that was this space station.

“Boys.” Draven opened to address us just as Sakkar came to join us from the security control room. We were six Vinduthi, all kings of this station with our own ways and means. Together, we were what made this place the envy of Thodos III.

“We’ve seen a major turnaround since Conii made her latest attack on our slot pits. Since the remodel and the new improvements to our bar area last spring, we’re seeing a steady upswing in customers. Largely due to Jalik’s weekly exhibitions.”

“To Jalik!” Ryrik said, holding his glass high. While the others cheered in unison, I saw something playing in Draven’s mind.

“I know they were supposed to be temporary, but the numbers don’t lie. This is a cash cow we just can’t walk away from.” I couldn’t tell what Draven was fishing for.

“That’s fine,” I said, sitting back in my seat, the knuckles on my right hand wrapped in a nanite ice pack. “As long as I don’t have to fight every night.”

“Well…” Draven grinned. “I want to talk to you about that. This week only. I want to sponsor a championship fight between you and anyone up to the task on the station. Pay to play. Five nights and five fights. What do you think?”

“Winner takes all at the end?”

“Naturally, my friend.” I saw the smile playing across his lips. Five fights in five nights. I’d be a bloodied, battered mess at the end of it, but hey, I’d be a well-paid one.

“That’s not all I’ve got in the works this week, either. I came across something this morning. Something that will have the Black Star crowded every night.”

“Uh, Draven?” Laux asked. “Care to clue us in?”

“I’ve come across a solution to our entertainment problem, right under our noses. Boys, I’m bringing in some fresh talent.”

I nearly choked on my drink at the words. “I thought I was the entertainment,” I said, mocking a sheepish simper for them. Sitting next to me, Thelev responded with an ineffective punch against my rock-hard bicep.

            Ryrik piped in, his face buried in his percomm. “Draven, is this resume for real? She has no real experience.”

            “You’re just going to have to trust me on this one,” Draven said. His hand held up high, motioning for a dark figure standing by the bar to join us.

            “Here she is now.”


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