Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Untitled Gladiator Story Fragment

The darkness of the hypogeum is cool and quiet; restful. This is my time to relax before the show. Then the hot sunlight washes over me.

I step into the arena with my eyes closed, taking a moment to listen to the crowd, feel the hot sand between my toes, smell the leather and metal and sweat and blood and shit of the Colosseum. The building looks new; imperial masons keep it that way, replacing stone and concrete as centuries wear it away, but the structure of the thing is ancient. Three-thousand years of history holding up the sweating, farting asses of Rome.

"Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant!" I salute to Caesar in unison with my opponent. Then we acknowledge the audience.

My opponent is Staberius; the dumb, grandstanding, glass-jawed bastard. He's been pissed at me lately and out for blood, gods know why. He raises his rocket-caestuum for all to see; titanium fists the size of his head, with armored forearms and spools of cable extending behind the elbows. Stupid crowd pleasing gimmick weapons, but who am I to judge? I ignite my plasma-siccae and hold them skyward. The short, curved plasma-blades are not very impressive in the noon day light, but the crowd responds nonetheless.

And now it's time.

I want to strafe and circle; size my opponent up and approach cautiously. But fuck that, I’m gonna put on a show.

So instead I charge full speed, blades blazing. Staberius barely gets his guard up in time; my right sword glances off his left forearm. Before I can attack again, his other caestus comes up hard enough to buckle my ribcage and send me sprawling.

He could finish me right now. But instead he backs off, playing to the crowd, giving me a chance to stand. The grin he flashes when I do tells me he's ready to end this; he's shown how good and honorable he is, so he has nothing to gain by dragging it out any further.

This time nobody charges; we circle each other, neither wanting to make the first move. But I know Staberius. I know that if I just wait, he'll get anxious, and worry about the audience getting bored. And that's exactly what happens.

He brings up his right caestus and fires; I deflect the rocket-fist with both swords, sprinting now to close the distance between us. He swings it around and I jump high to avoid getting tripped up in the cable. He thinks he has me; sets his feet and fires the left straight at my face. But Staberius is nothing if not predictable; I tuck my head down and it glances off my shoulders, only ripping some skin away.

I hit the ground at full speed and roll; Staberius is not quick enough to get out of the way, and we both end up in a heap on the sand. He can't effectively wrestle me with both hands off somewhere on the other side of the arena. So before he gets them retracted I’m above him, and drive both my swords deep into his chest.

The crowd is cheering, and Caesar looks pleased. My owner's gonna be pissed at having to pay for a dead gladiator, but that's his problem. I’m just here to put on a show.

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