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No one stopped the carnage. If Maddox had taken them to the church ruins, he might have prayed that it never ceased. Sol said brawling made him inhuman. Then so be it, because Gygar’s mouth salivated and eyes dilated from the sight of control unrestrained. Their mom wasn’t inhuman. She couldn’t fake hugs and kisses or the pain of bruises and heavy scar tissue. Their father a saint, enthralled by bouts of anger. Inhumanity was the seed. Virgin, Maddox, and Sol all fell to the lure of fighting, blissfully augmenting their bodies—and unless he followed in their bloodstains, he’d never be apart of the family or truly alive.

Solomon’s eyes glossed over with clarity drugs and enhancements only attempted to assimilate. Staring down an opponent with the upper hand is a black hole of ruinous possibilities, his mother had said.

He punched away to a tune stuck in his head from an old daytime gamma radio show.

Tabal feeble blocking attempts were being chiseled away quicker than she could set them up. The melee continued to descend, until his brutal temperament painted her arms and face with cuts to the bone.

Clashing fighters was an out of body experience, except you never truly left, just hid behind a more violent mask in hopes no one noticed that that was your true self. He took a few steps back, allowing Nirvana personnel to get her back into brawling condition. Walking was considered the finest state, and yet the unlikeliest possibility unless you had elite mods.

A tooth lay on the floor. His eyes couldn’t sway from it. Black and white flooded to the surface of the ground and the people, making the violence seem less surreal. Nirvana looked like an old photo of Lion’s Gate, water damaged with dull colors and burned with irregular spheres. Brawlers, and modifications changed. Styles became retro on a circuit dead with the last police up rise. Medics in gray carried his mother out of the ring, Mary’s skin a pasty black, slick with colorless blood. Maddox stood over her, reaching to his fist and removing a tooth from his bandaged left knuckle.

“S-Solomon is the winner…welcome to Nirvana, belzez!” The announcer shouted.

If he retold this match to someone in the future, he’d say the announcer brought him back to the remnants a brawl, when truly it was the thought that he just witnessed the murder of Mary through the eyes of his father. And it had been beautiful.

A few shadows to Solomon touched the stains on the ground as he faded into the crowd. No one was afraid to touch him, because outside the ring rivalries were supposed to be dead. No one respected that rule where he came from. Bouts ended with the coroner report. Even so, gangs gain mass followings and are revolutionizing the circuit. Making grudges into death warrants. He made a good number of kill list. Not necessarily kill on sight, but make sure he’s in line. Solomon fought all sorts—gang leaders, thugs, or the occasional lazy cousin henchmen. Each had some connection. One of the bodies always leads to someone with power.

The scanner-machine found him lingering near the exit. The arena reached near maximum capacity late into the night. Early morning sometimes is what the flyer he found in the gutter had said.

“Your hundred credits.” A card with a 0050 stamp slid from its wrist into its claws. “Haven’t seen somethin’ like that inna while. Tibal,” it pronounced Tabal off-syllable “is a premiere. Guess where you come from, people ‘r tougher.” The scanner about faced and rolled deeper inside. Eager fighters tipped it over.

He sighed, glancing at a vat of reactor containers, and went back to right its wheels.

The containers arrived three hours earlier. The address for Smiles Industrial was sprawled across the side in yellow. Black market surgeons bought stray anything from them. Illegal chip units or obsolete models that could be modified for use in the body Gygar peeked out from behind a bin, seeing Sol walk back inside. He could run home in an hour, or take the highway rail trailers. Jumping the tracks to get a free ride was a pastime that never faltered through the generations. It never took any creds to hitch a ride.

Chapter 3

Walking from city to city was a dangerous trip to spend your credits on. Be it day or night cycles, someone was vying to jack your belongings. Many people have seen a childhood friend from the third grade looking to stick you for a couple of credits and your clothes. Hundreds of tickets were written for being naked in public by the authorities. It was a sequence that offered a step up for all involved. The gangs, or solo vendors, got what they wanted and the law made their monthly quota. Even Trans, the city he and his brother resided in, had a law scale with broken hinges. It was easily tipped, tampered with and corrupted.

Solomon was in Saber territory, halfway home, hands in his pocket and his eyes aware of the unseen. His stride could be counted in two clicks of the tongue.

Steps tapped the ground. To his ears, steps tapped on the puddle of his world, gritty enough to come away tainted if you stayed too long. Whistles howled, the Saber call marching up from the gutters. If he started running, they would leap on him. Any signs of panic only enticed them to pounce. The land squid that used to be in the museum of vicious nature hunted its prey the same way. Squirt a blanket of ink into the air and see if they run. The ink only did damage when wind rubbed against the skin. The friction caused the body to heat up and shutdown. Collapse on the wounded and it’s a meal for legends.

He passed a bum on the curb, a black bag in his hands.

“Come back, child!”

He returned to where the bum was sitting. “Got a spare pint? Or any cred-cards you stopped using…I’m feeling bad. Cure me, help me, why not?” Deep wrinkles tied the corner of his eyes, stretched across his forehead.

Beneath the glow of a street lamp four paces down, Solomon’s bruises were dried purple and orange tattoos. “I want to be you. Your only worry is making sure water doesn’t soak through your coat when it rains. Look at my face. I worked for my credits. I don’t have anything to spare.”

The bum put the bag to his lips and tilted his head back. “Blow a ‘droid Harry. I work for it.”

“How? Posting behind dumpsters when you can get your hands a shank, ready to pounce?” Solomon flinched, hands almost ripping from his pockets to fight. Instead, he turned around and continued walking. He had to get home and check on Gygar. Sometimes their father came around looking to throw a few words around with his brother. Getting down in the streets was risky.

Feet tapped and he figured the Sabers were trying to make him run again. After a brawl his muscles were always loose, nerves calmed. Panic wasn’t a question.

The bum smashed the bottle into the side of his head. It didn’t break. Cracks formed in the glass and the bum bashed it over his skull three more times. A hundred shards reflected his face before they struck the ground and finely shattered. Glass sprayed into one of his eyes, and the aggressive form became a hinting blur of blackness. Blindly, he swung at air while falling, the sidewalk abruptly colliding with his face. He tumbled down a small flight of stairs into a narrow, tucked away underground hallway. A space reserved for transporting drug runners from city to city, because delivering the product on the surface streets was just shouting for police detainment. The bum’s bare feet kicked him from the throat on up. Solomon pushed against the bum’s ankle, and like stitches pinching flesh closed, he locked his fingers into a fist. There was little meat to cushion the single punch. The multiple snapping bones were withered petals on a sidewalk during rush hour. Solomon pushed himself up, head groggy, the seams in his vision unraveling. What seemed like minutes to him were truly seconds. He looked at his hand, the glutinous black fluid that replaced most of his blood didn’t stick, and crawl slowly over his skin like tar. It refused to gain traction and fell into a perfect puddle.

Braced against the steps, the bum dragged unhealthy breaths between quivering lips. Solomon crouched, face wincing each time his damaged eye twitched. His mouth opened to emit a bare whisper, then tentatively closed. He simply stared at the human stain.

The bum might not perish, but he would complete the transformation into a living skeleton while cradling a bottle at the end of a dark alley. Truthfully, he didn’t want Solomon’s credits, just a hint of human contact. Have it be violent or endearing, it did not matter. Something to know he was still alive and not just a stain melding with the streets.

A giggle climbed from the depths of Solomon’s jaded memories, reaching his shoulders causing them to tremble, like a silent craft flying above and shaking the earth. Many times he awoke in the gutter, credits taken from gang-brawlers who were afraid of his potential to usurp their power. Strangely, the thought never crossed his mind. Only Maddox. Only Mary. Only Gygar, each accentuated with a different drug he took to wash clean arduous responsibilities he had no say in accepting. The giggles manifested into laughter befit for a cartoon villain standing over a damsel tied to a rocket. The shadows cascaded his features, eerily generating a fatherly visage beside his own. A parasitic Maddox crept through his brain searching for a vulnerable spot to enforce the cosmic saying, ‘like father like son’.


------
Things that are done can be undone.


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