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Friday Night Fights

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In the lonely warehouses on the outskirts of town, far from the prying eyes of authority, people tend to take liberties with the law. Since few patrols actually make it out this far then one can often find the less savory sorts enjoying greater freedoms than the city of the same name can provide.

Many shady deals, underworld interrogations and the clinically detached disposal of bodies have been hosted by the dark and empty structures of better economic times. The numerous abandoned buildings and deep shadows provide the perfect backdrop for those who require more privacy than most when carrying out their nightly duties.

In addition, those same premises have recently found themselves home to the weekly matches between superhuman brawlers called, unimaginably enough, SuperSlams. Characters with strength and endurance beyond those of normal humanity who carried, as well, a less than sterling outlook on life. People not afraid to put their bodies and morality on the line for the entertainment of others and the sweet victory of prize money.

And nobody, in the short history of the dubious sport, could be said to have a faster rise to fame than Hellbound. A relatively unassuming individual who's strength and ferocity belied his mortal appearance, the combination of his fighting prowess and charisma led him to become a darling of the bloodied canvass surrounded by the electrified cage.

Cheers accompanied his latest conquest, which he was in the last stages of finishing off as the crowed howled his name. Stripped to the waist in his tattered jeans, Hellbound straddled his opponent with a fistful of the man's hair in his hand, one fist raised high to deliver another blow.

Sweat rained down his lean body, showering the mat and drawing sparks from the surrounding ironwork as he dropped the hammer of his hand. The impact against his foe's skull could be heard even above the cheering crowd, which of course only drove them to greater frenzy. He repeated the act two more times before accepting that the limp form beneath him wasn't about to get up any time soon. The stone-like, gray skin of the nameless, fallen opponent was cracked and chipped in several places. All indications of the solidity of Hellbound's blows.

He rose above the barely-conscious brawler and gestured to the crowd. Hellbound was their current darling and would remain so as long as he kept winning. So far, that wasn't a problem. He grinned viciously and reached down, grabbing the stony-man by the back of his neck and one shoulder, hauling him to his feet. A quick shift in his grip along with a second hand-hold and a heave brought the foe to be held aloft, the man's nearly lifeless form supported above Hellbound's head.

There was a wild cry from the crowd, a single toss and the stony-man crashed into the electrified cage, striking sparks and showering Hellbound with cascades of energy. He raised his fists, bellowed a response to the crowd and reveled in their adulation.

He loved it, he was born for this; the thrill of the fight and the love of his fandom. Hellbound strutted for the crowd and let swept them all with his gaze, not even wondering or caring who might be gazing back beyond those chanting his name.

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Jack sat in his seat below Melinda's, applauding delicately, part of a small gaggle of undead watching this performance. In a suit better suited to Edgar Allen Poe than a modern-day night on the town, he looked like a high-class Goth or vampire, the way most of them did. This wasn't the first time since he'd begun working with Melinda that she'd invited him out somewhere as part of her circle, but it was the first time she'd invited him out to something like this. It was hard not to be aroused by the spectacle, at least a little, but the inhuman nature of the two combatants kept it from being as enticing as it might be otherwise.

"Do you like what you see?" Jack felt Melinda's hand on his shoulder and felt...well, it was hard to say. What did a rat feel in the company of a snake? Or a housecat in a pack of panthers? She'd only taken him to her bed once, an encounter which had been as terrifying as it had been thrilling. That was, naturally, the way someone like Melinda preferred it.

"He's very talented," said Jack, the perfect picture of the jaded aristocrat of the night. "If you're asking what I think about the fighters themselves, well...I prefer something softer. More feminine."

"Of course you do, darling," she said with a warm smile. "Of course you do." She kissed his neck, then leaned back to do the same for the young lady behind her who was suddenly looking petulant. It was a relief to be out of that regard; Jack was profoundly glad he hadn't come from her stock.

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It was Friday night again. It was time for the fights. Moira had been coming to the fights as soon as she was allowed to get in the door. Her friends introduced her to it on her eighteenth birthday. Ever since the first blood-soaked, adrenaline-fueled fight she was hopelessly addicted to the sport. She was her Olympian father's daughter.

She hadn't started betting until about three months ago. Her first bet was on a newcomer named Hellbound. He was favored to lose his first match, but she went with the underdog and it paid off big time.

The group that came was small tonight: her, Stephanie, Jeremy, and Brendan. They were usually in a group of eight, but the attack on the bar last week left a few of them out of it.

The night did not disappoint. The first match was a little slow as both of the guys were green but it was something to get them started.

The second match was a bit faster paced, one guy looked like he was trained in some kind of awesome martial art that involved going all around, using his momentum to beat his opponent down with his feet. The other guy looked equally graceful and brutal as his style more about keeping the quicker man down by slamming his opponent to the ground and trying to keep him there. An hour in they had to call the match because neither of them were tired or hurt. SuperSlams had these fights once in a while to basically fill out the night when they had too little talent for the night.

The last match could of been a Freedom League free-for-all, but this is what she had been waiting for. The third match, featuring Hellbound. He and some guy who had more guts than brains were brawling it out in an electrified cage! Just as she had predicted, Hellbound easily beat down the stone powered goon.

"So are you going to try to meet Hellbound this time," Stephanie asked sarcastically, "or are you gonna chicken out like you've been doing for the past month?"

"Don't you worry," Moira shot back wth a devious smile, "I'm going to learn to fight like that one day. Hopefully tonight."

They all laughed, knowing she said the same thing every time.

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While Hellbound continued to encourage the crowd, the ref counted his opponent out. Unlike most organized fights, however, he did so from outside of the ring. This official wasn't an idiot, he had no plans to get into the ring while these two monsters beat each other's brains out against the iron bars of their cage. That may have limited his control over the fight, but it wasn't like he could stop them from mis-behaving anyway.

It was obvious to everyone that the stony-man wasn't about to get up from the canvass. He'd been put down savagely and, once the count had finished, his medical team rushed towards the cage door. The hum of electricity caused them to stop in mid-charge and shout towards the ring's control booth. They needed to get inside and see to their man, but they couldn't as long as the cage was still alive with lethal power.

A second later, the juice was silenced and the door popped open by remote. Hellbound had taken himself to his own corner and was relaxing against a turnbuckle, just watching the events unfold with a smug expression of satisfaction on his face. The bruises that'd been given to him were already fading away and it only took seconds for the fighter to recover from all but the worst of the opposing blows. By the time the medical team were at work, one could hardly tell that Hellbound had just been in a fight. He was sweaty and still breathing hard, but other than that he looked ready to start the whole affair over once more.

The med team worked their skillful ways and the beaten man on the mat was brought around, helped to his feet and presented to the crowd. He'd lost but he'd given the audience a good fight, so even though the sting of defeat was just now settling into his spinning head, everyone was happy with the outcome. The stony-man was okay and, in all probability, would be up for another match next week.

Hellbound allowed the mixture of catcalls, barbs and cheers to subside as his fallen opponent was led out of the ring before coming away from his own corner. A few more self-aggrandizing salutes to the crowd brought another round of chaotic chanting and he headed towards the ring exit once his foe had been cleared away.

Unlike the stony-man, Hellbound had no team to greet him as he stepped to the warehouse floor. He was alone in victory, apparently needing no support other than his own abilities. Most considered that to be an unwise decision as there'd be nobody present to help him to his feet should he lose a match, but so far that hadn't really been a problem. He was currently undefeated and the crowd parted for their champion when he entered the throng.

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"Go talk to him." The words in Jack's ears are like a sudden, delicate whip across his shoulders.

"I..." He turned and found Melinda's blue, blue eyes just a few inches from his. It was a moment before he remembered how to speak again. "You want...you want to sponsor him?" There was no other reason Melinda would want Jack and the champion to speak; only for matters as mundane as business. If she wanted the man for pleasure, well, she'd speak to him herself.

"Clever boy."Jack caught an angry glare from behind Melinda's shoulder, and wondered which one of the rivals he'd naturally acquired as part of her circle had talked her into this. "We'll talk again, once you've shown him how...profitable it can be, working for us. After all, that's one thing you already know well." She put a delicate hand on his shoulder and squeezed, the touch a predator's kiss to get him up and out of his seat. His undead heart pounding in his chest, Jack rose to his feet and headed into the crowd after the retreating champion.

"Fighter!" he called, looking a bit like Oscar Wilde. "A word, if you please."

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Personally, Hellbound wouldn't know Oscar Wilde from Oscar Mayer, but he recognized a Goth when he thought he saw one. The vampyre wannabes loved hanging out at places like SuperSlams and a number of the grittier locales that he tended to frequent.

"Autographs are ten bucks a pop, slick!" Hellbound called to his hailer. Looking past the excited, milling crowd he was able to pick the darkly handsome man out easily.

"An' you gotta provide your own pen."

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Moira took a deep breath as Hellbound went through the audience. Looking to her friends, they motioned her to go towards him as the group around him was getting thick. She took a mental count in her head, as if she were going to jump into a pool for the first time.

She quickly walked towards the brawler and her group of friends followed behind her. When she got there she was going to say something when a familiar voice came from the crowd. It was Jack. He was a bit more dressier than the last time she saw him.

"Hey, Jack," she pointed at him for the group to see, then waved, "What's up?"

"Don't you have something to do," Stephanie poked her in the side, "You finish what you started I'll go meet our friend," she snickered while walking towards Jack.

Moira looked to Jack and then Hellbound. She had gotten there and was standing right in front of him, but didn't know what to say. "Um, hi."

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"I can give you better than that," Jack replied with a ready smile. He walked up to the big fighter and clapped him manfully on the shoulder, unexpectedly strong for a guy who looked better-suited for lifting pretty little champagne glasses than pumping iron. "My name is Jack Faretti. I represent an investor who's very interested in your future as a fighter." He pointed up at the stage behind him, where some very pretty people watched their interplay with visible interest. Jack was focused enough on his desire to make a good impression on both the queen of the city and her potential business partner that it wasn't until just then, when he was looking back from the stands to the others, that he saw the new arrivals.

"Moira. Stephanie." Automatically seductive, Jack took Stephanie's hand and kissed it romantically, all dark, seductive flattery for the pretty little blonde. "It's a pleasure to see you again. I'm so glad to see you up and around again." Thinking quickly, conscious of Melinda's eyes burning into the back of his head, Jack spoke. "Why don't we all get out of here?" he suggests warmly. "We can give this champion the reward he deserves, and we can all get better-acquainted." With the sudden arrival of so many gorgeous women, it seemed to Jack to be an attractive offer.

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Moira nodded enthusiastically. Seeing as she would finally get to meet with her favorite fighter and her mysterious friend. Stephanie swooned at the man she very much had carnal feelings for. Brendan and Jeremy were talking with some other friends they had found in the crowd.

"Yeah," Moira agreed to the suggestion, "We don't have plans for the night."

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"Well hellloooo legs..." Hellbound took in Moira's form. It'd been that redhead he'd noticed watching his fights. Apparently she'd finally found the courage to actually talk to him.

"You know, for you the autographs are free."

He'd been so taken in by her appearance that it took a minute or two to realize what Jack had just told him. An investor interested in his future as a fighter? It'd sounded like many of the offers that he'd been receiving lately. Apparently his success had not gone unnoticed.

"Hey, Jack, I don't mean to tick off the skirt up there, but I don't do agents. I'm not really a contract kinda guy. It cramps my style."

He turned his attention back to Moira. The Faretti guy might have his own sense of style pulled together tight, but that's not the way that Hellbound swung.

"But if this little lady wants to come help me celebrate my victory, I'm all ears. Hi, Red. My name's Hellbound. I don't think we've been properly introduced and whatnot."

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Jack knew he couldn't go back to Melinda with a failure, not immediately, anyway. But who said a night on the town in civilian clothes with two lovely ladies and an interesting gentleman counted as a failure? "There's nothing wrong with style," Jack said, ostensibly to Hellbound but with his eyes all on Stephanie. "Why don't we all go celebrate your victory together?" he suggested. "My treat." He made a mental note to hit the streets later that night to get some money the old-fashioned way: by beating criminals to a bloody pulp and taking their wallets.

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"Well, thank you very much," Moira said as her cellphoned buzzed Personal Jesus covered by The Vigilantes (her favorite folk rock cover band). "Speak," after that she looked around Brendan and Jeremy were nowhereto be found, "alright we'll see you guys tomorrow." She hung up, "Looks like we don't gotta call a cab this time," she nodded toward Stephanie.

"So, where do you suggest we go," Stephanie asked leaning on Jack.

"Not any place around here," Moira suggested.

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Not any place around here? That kind of went without saying, seeing as how they were on the waterfront in the middle of nowhere. The only people to party with around here were the ones sleeping with the fishes. And once the mafia dumped you in the river with cement around your ankles you weren't much for conversation.

The problem was finding the right place, though. The girls looked like they'd fit in just about anywhere, but Jack was overdressed for most of the biker bars Hellbound knew about. Same went for a lot of the metal places, but there had to be someplace that could make them all feel right at home...

"Hey!" Hellbound's face lit up with an idea. "I know some dudes that still like to hold old-style raves out here in the woods. They had some posters up about something going on tonight, 'bet we could track them down. Party under the stars next to a big-ass bonfire? It'd be like our own little burning man."

The fighter was drenched in sweat, though, and that wasn't exactly the look he was going for at the moment. He motioned to the others to wait for him while he started moving towards the locker rooms.

"Just give me a sec to scrape off the dried blood, put a shirt on or something and collect my paycheck. I'll be right back."

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Moira smiled at the thought anywhere but here. She remembered a night when she had to wait for a cab by herself one night. Creepy things happened around here when there was no activity.

"Yeah, that'd be nice." She was clamming up still. She wanted to learn how to do something other than brawl. And who other than the man who had been been winning her money because of fighting to teach her. She just needed the right words to say.

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With Hellbound gone, Jack continued flirting with Stephanie, leaning close and whispering soft little nothings. He'd gotten her pretty deeply in the palm of his hand back at the tavern, and now that he was evidently her savior she still seemed quite interested in what he had to offer. He kept an eye on Moira, too, as was good sense, thinking carefully about all that had happened there. It was a very good thing no one had brought up anything embarrassing.

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It didn't take Hellbound long to get cleaned up and he could be seen returning from the locker room after what seemed like only a few minutes. His long hair was dark and still a little damp from the shower, his clothes had been changed into a slightly less torn pair of jeans and t-shirt and he was counting out a few hundred dollars as he walked. Apparently his prize money for the night.

He wasn't very well compensated for his time. Certainly the performance he'd given was worth more than the handful of cash the champ was going over, but he wasn't really in this for the money anyway. Well, not entirely for the money. Everyone needed a hobby and until his superhero career kicked off this wasn't a bad way to keep the landlord off his back.

"You guys ready?" He asked upon returning, the small sum stuffed into a front pocket of his jeans. "Someone else is gonna have to drive, but here's where we're going."

Hellbound produced what must have been a flyer posted in the locker room. It contained some clip art versions of a bonfire, glowsticks and a few other raver accessories. There was also a crude map of what looked like a riverside clearing not far from where they were.

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"Well, we just lost our ride," Moira shook her head at the thought of Jeremy and Brendan taking off with nary a warning but a phone call after they left. Looking at their group, she shrugged, "Unless Jack has transportation, we'll have to find another way."

Stephanie was too caught up in Jack to care about much of anything. Still leaning on him, she caressed the nape of his neck and listened to the sweet words he spoke to her. Taking a split second away from her pleasuring, she looked to Moira and mouthed the words, "Ask him." She then laid her head back on Jack's chest with a soft sigh of happy lust.

Moira smiled at her very unsubtle friend, then looked to Hellbound, "Uh, yeah. I was wondering," she paused for for an awkward second, "Maybe we should talk about this on our way there."

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Hellbound noticed the exchange between Moira and Steph, but wasn't sure what it was about. Just exactly what was she supposed to ask him, and why was she having problems coming up with the words? He wanted to tell her that a girl who looked like she did could ask him just about anything, but he knew that wasn't going to get them to the party any sooner.

Well... he supposed that depended on a person's definition of 'party'.

"So what do you say, Jack?" He asked the man in black. "You got a ride, or are we gonna have to ask the old lady up there for the keys?"

Certainly the term 'old lady' was simply a gross appellation rather than an accurate descriptive. The was no way Hellbound could know the true age of the undead queen who was watching their conversation.

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Jack's eyebrows went up so high that for a moment it looked like they were about to escape his face entirely. He mastered his surprise in a few moments, though, keeping his arm possessively around Stephanie's waist. "I took other transportation myself," he admitted, looking unruffled by the momentary lapse. He produced a cellphone as they talked, within minutes producing a dispatched cab for them. "Liberty Cabs; most discreet taxi company in the city."

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It had been a while since she had to take a cab anywhere. It wasn't that she was opposed to it, it was that she didn't think paying an exorbitant amount for a ride. "Thanks Jack," she would of given him a hug or something if Stephanie didn't have him all to herself. So she just nodded. She thought of somehow repaying him for the kindness. She looked to Hellbound with a look of content, "So, do you have a name or is Hellbound good enough for now?"

Stephanie was almost cooing her words in Jack's embrace, "How long do we have until the cab gets here?"

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Hellbound had been caught smoothing back his hair by the question. The unkempt mane was acting stubborn and not wanting to behave despite the dampness. It wasn't often that people asked him his real name, for the most part they stuck with his more public version.

"Hellbound usually does me just fine, and most people eventually admit that it fits, but my friends call me O'ren."

Which was strange as he didn't look much like an 'Ishi'.

"What about you? 'Red work fine for now, or did I hear your friend Jack call you something more official?"

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"Long enough for me to..." Jack whispered something in Stephanie's ear that made her blush and giggle, and Jack smiled. This kind of manipulation came easily to him these nights, easier sometimes than he really felt comfortable with. When the cab came, he led the way downstairs, masterfully carrying on a three-way conversation simultaneously. "I certainly hope that's not where we're going tonight," he laughed to Hellbound, "because the lady and I do have other plans. And you guys can just call me Jack; most people do."

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Hellbound was comfortable under Moira's scrutiny. After all, he tended to attract a lot of attention no matter where he went and his ego was large enough to accomodate. The fighter almost seemed to behave like some overconfident rooster who basked in the limelight rather than shrank from it.

As she made her considerations, though, he was performing his own assessment of Jack . Hellbound remembered the deceptively strong grip that the man had demonstrated and wondered what, exactly, was lurking beneath the human veneer.

O'ren himself came off as pretty human in most circustances, but he was certainly stronger than he looked. The shoulder had felt as solid as granite and about as dense during the brief period of contact and his performance in the ring reflected that strength.

As they walked, he held his arm out in an inviting way for Moira, almost as if it were waiting for her to step into it and wrap comfrotably around her waist.

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