Was this the fight that Coop Sabre was looking for?
Coop gave up trying to find Sam in the crowd, instead focusing on the fight ahead. A chorus of boos and confusion filled the arena when they announced his name, emerging from the dressing room with his new bat slung over his shoulder, those boos remaining but a few scattered cheers erupting as well. Compared to the hostile, mostly alien crowds he was used to, any sort of warm response was a welcomed change. This was night and day, though. The fighting pit was small, perhaps two-hundred people scattered in the seats, a chain-link fence keeping the crowd away from the ringside area.
Everything about this place oozed drama, which meant a filthy old boxing ring sat in the middle of the fighting pit, along with drooping strands of barbed wire in place of ropes. There was something so visceral and raw about the setting, reminiscing about when he started out. Coop rolled in underneath the barbed wire, an errant barb snagging onto his jacket, forcing him to tug free from it. Inside the ring, he unzipped the jacket and tossed it outside. Just an old, sweaty white tank top served as armor between him and further scars. The scars that lined his body were, in part, old ones, from back when he fought here. There weren’t fancy regen tanks then, just blood, gore and the roar of this crowd.
Speaking of, the crowd roared at the sound of distorted synthrock over the speakers, lights flashing and Ramirez emerging from behind the curtain, chain slung over one shoulder and the taped together tubes hoisted up over his head. Coop didn’t even have to guess if Ramirez was a favorite or not. The crowd told him everything he needed to know.
The scarred up combatant rolled the collection of tubes into the ring, reaching under and pulling out whatever tools were under there, littering the ringside area with them. Coop had faced down the toughest aliens in the galaxy. He wasn’t afraid of a step ladder or some stray lighting rigs. Ramirez stomped up onto the apron, holding his palm up and then running it along one barb, bright red blood running along his hand while the crowd erupted even louder. He wiped it against his forehead like a ritualistic war paint, staring down Coop.
“You ain’t ready for this, pretty boy,” he barked.
“Bring it.” Coop spun the bat in his hand, preparing himself for the bell.
In a flash, the bell rang, Ramirez spinning the chain in his hand like a lasso, with a flick of his wrist, shooting it toward Coop and flicking it back, just coming short of his face. The crowd gasped while Coop laughed at the display. This guy was good. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand. Ramirez followed up with another, Coop moving his head out of the way, then another, this one kissing his left shoulder with a sharp sting. The warmth of blood oozing from the fresh wound woke him up; this may be a show, but this guy meant business.
“Looks like pretty boys bleed red, just like the rest of us,” Ramirez goaded, rushing in before Coop could retort.
This time Coop was ready for it, knowing this wasn’t just a show. His bat rose up to meet the chain, it wrapping around the barrel. Seeing an opportunity, Coop tugged the bat with all his might, staggering the long-haired man forward, rotating his hips and driving the heel of his shoe into Ramirez’s gut.
Ramirez doubled over, hair flying out and obscuring his face. Coop kept the momentum up, bringing the bat back around and smacking him across the skull with a sickening crack that echoed through the arena. A hush fell over the crowd while Ramirez crawled toward the corner, still gripping onto the chain. A buzzer sounded overhead, Coop looking around confused, an energy swarming around the ring and him knowing immediately what happened: they’d electrified the barbed wire with explosives. He knew because this was where he got the idea for the exploding barbed wire for Guy in the first place.
“Shit,” he muttered under his breath.
Turning back around, Ramirez was hurt and in trouble, but his instincts hadn’t failed him. In his hands he gripped the bundle of tubes, catching Coop unprepared square in the forehead. They shattered across his skull, shards of glass and powder erupting and clouding his vision. He clenched his eyes tight, attempting to minimize the damage, but the pain was just the same, staggering him backwards.
A jolt of pain ran through his back, another explosion ringing out, this time louder and more intense. The heat from behind, mixed with the sting from the barbs, was overwhelming. He sunk back into the wire, knowing it would take a few more minutes before it recharged. His head hurt. Now his back and shoulders were throbbing, and the explosion had scorched him. The explosion made his ears buzz and reduced the pit sounds to just a disharmonious gargle. Coop’s grip on the bat didn’t relent. The chain untangled and Ramirez reeled it back in while he fought back to his feet.
Swinging the chain and staggering toward Coop, Ramirez was a bloody mess of a man. He shouted something at Coop, although it blended into the rest of the discord. With the flick of his wrist, the chain flew at him, Coop, dropping down and narrowly missing the blow. Ramirez dropped his knee down across Coop’s neck, screaming out. The blow flattened him to the mat, his neck already burning, now throbbing. What followed were a torrent of blows from the balled up chain across Ramirez’s fist, Coop screaming out while blood dripped from his skull and obscured his vision.
“That’s what you get, you prick.” Ramirez’s voice punctured through the chaos.
He rolled out of the ring, under the barbed wire, Coop still writhing in pain, unable to follow where his opponent had gone to. He staggered forward on his elbows, dragging himself forward toward the bat just in time for Ramirez to roll back in, another set of tube bundles in each hand. Forever the showman, Ramirez played to the blood thirsty crowd who were crying for more, while Coop watched his own pool on the mat beneath him. Out of sheer instinct alone, Coop drove his heel into the man’s knee, kicking his leg out from under him. Ramirez fell to one knee, regaining his composure and looking to bring the bundle down across Coop’s face. Coop acted fast, bringing the bat up and clashing against the bundle, shattering them in the brute’s face.
“Agh! My fucking eyes,” Ramirez cried out.
“Fuck you,” Coop used the bat to push himself back up to his feet, spitting at the bloody Ramirez.
The bloody and battered combatant in a rage whipped the chain around the ring, almost catching Coop in the knee. It created distance, Coop in the corner while Ramirez fought to his feet, closing in. With a wild flick he shot the chain at Coop’s head, Coop ducking out of the way and the chain slapping the top electrified wire, wrapping around it and the charge traveling down the length of the chain to his body. Ramirez screamed out in agony, dropping the chain while he gripped at his singed hands.
“You bastard!” he cried out, still struggling.
Coop glanced back and saw his opening, looking out toward the ring post where the electrified charge box sat. Jackpot. Choking up on the bat, he hacked away at it, freeing it from the flimsy tape they affixed it to the ring with, leaving him with the charge box, some tape, and a strand of barbed wire attached to it. Ramirez struggled on the ground still, Coop holding his bat up high and letting out a war cry. It confused the crowd until they saw what he was doing; Coop was wrapping the bat in the barbed wire, having flicked the switch off on the charge box, walking from one side of the ring to the next, jerking the other end free. With some of the tape, he fastened the box onto the taper where the grip met the barrel. Holding it up high, he flicked the switch into on, power surging through the bat, the familiar warmth temporarily blocking out the pain.
Ramirez rushed forward with the bundle of tubes, Coop shuffling to the side, Ramirez turned around and found himself on the receiving end of the butt end of the bat, bloodying his nose and adding to the gore-soaked bout. Coop took a mighty swing with his new bat, smashing Ramirez across the chest with a smack and a boom, sparks showering both men and driving Ramirez back into the ropes and triggering another explosion.
Arms tangled up in the barbed wire, Ramirez was a bloody mess with his arms outstretched like something from a passion play, dropping the bundle of tubes to the mat. Coop brought the bat up high into the air while the crowd was abuzz, ready for the finishing blow. Coop snatched the bundle up and leaned it against Ramirez’s chest, the barely conscious man shaking his head and pleading.
“No,” he cried. “You fucker!”
Cooper smashed the bat across the tubes, clenching his eyes tight to avoid the sparks and glass flying out, feeling their sting on his flesh. When he opened his eyes, the crowd was silent, as was Ramirez, who drooped down, freed from the wire and slumped over in a heap, the fight over. Coop thrust his fist into the air, the whole pit erupting into cheers, glass bottles ricocheting off the fencing in between the stands and the ringside area.
Coop dropped to his knees, blood seeping from his arms, shoulders and forehead, staining his white shirt a deep shade of maroon in multiple places. He leaned in to check on Ramirez, who was still breathing.
“You okay?” he asked. “Ramirez?”
“You got me, pretty body,” he muttered. “You fucking got me.”