“Holy cow, why are they all so damned big on Ganymede?” muttered Oscar Gunn as he prepared to step into the ring. This wasn’t his first fight, not by a long shot. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be his last fight either. His opponent for this one was huge. Hell, everyone on this moon was big, even the women, the kids, and the dogs. Weight class? No such thing on Ganymede. Why couldn’t he fight jockeys, midgets…sorry, little people, or maybe even ballerinas? Oscar always knew he could knock out a ballerina. But such is life as a bare-knuckle fighter. Ballerinas, little people, or jockeys didn’t climb into the ring on Brahe Station.
Oscar was surprised there was even a fight ring at all. A true one with three ropes and a flexible canvas floor for good footing. It even had the right dimensions: six meters per side. On most stations, they used chalk to mark out the ring on cafeteria floors. Here on Brahe Station, they had a real gymnasium with bleachers, spectators, and a referee. The large inhabitants of Ganymede put a lot of effort into staging fights. They liked to watch combatants batter each other for their entertainment.
Brahe Station was neat and orderly as far as space stations go, giving the impression of being a safe harbor. But Oscar knew that wasn’t the case. Not at all. The nickname for the station was “The Hall of Nine Hostages” and it was the seat of the O’Neil clan. The O’Neils loved mining aluminum, fighting, and taking hostages. Oscar wasn’t from a rich family, nor did he have an immediate family at all, so he hoped they wouldn’t take him hostage after this fight. Why would they? The O’Neils would have to wait a long time before anyone in the solar system gave them a lunar dollar for Oscar Gunn.
Oscar held onto the rope and looked across the ring beyond his opponent. One of the O’Neil’s endless line of hostages was sitting ringside. He had been pointed out to Oscar earlier in the day, a member of a wealthy asteroid-mining family. While there’s a certain distinction to being taken hostage by the O’Neils, Oscar didn’t envy him one bit.
He leaned his head back and whispered over the crowd to Sean O’Neil, the promoter. He was also a big man but he’d begun to shrink with age. For some reason, people aged faster on low gravity moons. Oscar thought it should be the other way around but then again, he didn’t know much about physics. As an eighth grade dropout on Earth, he had learned everything he needed on the streets and in the ring. “What’s my take on this fight again?” he asked.
“Twenty-five percent of the house,” said Sean O’Neil. “Like we agreed to over the SpaceNet. It’s the standard here.”
“We agreed on forty,” said Oscar. He was lying of course. But the fight promoter was lying too. There was no actual standard, and they hadn’t talked about the percentage. It was what you could actually get. On his first fight back on Earth, the promoter in Winnipeg had only given him fifteen percent. He had simply accepted that one, assuming that everyone was just as honest as he was. But when the promoter handed him a pitiful hundred-dollar lunar note, he vowed to always be careful to settle the percentage before the fight started. And the best time was right before he stepped into the ring because there would be no time for the promoter to think about it. Usually, he ran a one-man operation, acting as fighter, promoter, manager and cutman. But on Ganymede, you had to go through the O’Neils. So you had to play hardball.
“Twenty-five percent?” said Oscar, twisting his mouth into a frown. “That’s ridiculous. I’m outa here.” He picked up his fight bag and made motions like he was going to walk away. That would have been a disaster for the O’Neils. Not that Oscar would really do that, of course. He’d never get off Ganymede alive if he walked away. But negotiations were like a poker game and you had to be willing to bluff.
“I guess maybe it was thirty percent,” said O’Neil quickly. He had the look of all the O’Neils, with shifty, rat-like eyes.
“Thirty percent to fight against a monster fighter like that?” sputtered Oscar. He pointed across the ring at his waiting opponent. “You gotta be kidding me. Do I look like I ever lived on the belt?”
O’Neil paused and looked Oscar up and down. “You’re solid, I’ll give you that. But I’m not sure you’ll give my cousins their money’s worth tonight. I tell you what. I might be willing to go forty percent but only if you let my boy knock you out. What do ya think?”
Oscar knew what that meant. ‘Knockout’ meant he’d end up close to dead. Or maybe even dead. If he let that hulking guy connect with even one punch it might be the last punch he ever took.
“I don’t take dives,” said Oscar. He glanced to the bleachers and saw most of the O’Neil clan. They were tapping their feet impatiently. He had the advantage right now. But he couldn’t overplay his hand. He simply waited the promoter out.
“God above all of us,” said Sean O’Neil in disgust. “I should take some of this mutton under my shirt and fight you myself. Forty percent! Ya jus’ wanna fuckin’ spit on me, don’t ya?”
Oscar knew when to shut up. The negotiations were working, although he knew the promoter could have dozens of O’Neil thugs here in seconds to take care of him. And before long he’d be pushed through an airlock. But then again, if that happened the fight would have to be called off. So once again, he said nothing.
“You’re a greedy bastard, aren’t ya?” asked O’Neil. But his voice carried with it a small bit of respect.
Oscar almost smiled at that. What was that old saying, something about how it takes a bastard to know a bastard? He decided it was time to finally say something.
“I’ll give you a good show.”
O’Neil shook his head and grimaced. “Not the show they really want. What they really want is to see my cousin rip your head off of your shoulders. Is that what you’ll give them?”
“How ’bout I catch the morning shuttle and move on?” said Oscar, stepping back from the ring.
“How ’bout we take you hostage?” countered Sean O’Neil. “If you don’t bring in any money, we’ll make you a slave for our house. It’s always nice to have a slave to clean the toilets.”
Oscar cursed under his breath. O’Neil had been getting ready to cave.
All through the gymnasium, rowdy voices were getting rowdier. The impatience of the crowd was the only card he held right now. He had been risking a lot to play hardball with the O’Neils. They might have had pretensions of being a fine house, but when it came down to it, they would always be a pack of thugs under the pressurized dome.
The crowd continued to get louder. Catcalls began pouring out from the top bleachers. O’Neil looked around, taking in the whole scene. Finally, he turned back to Oscar and ran a hand through his thinning gray hair. “Okay,” he sighed. “We’re all here for a little bit a fun tonight. I’m not trying to be the bad guy. We like to be friendly to one another on Brahe.”
Oscar swallowed hard and waited.
“Thirty-five percent. That’s the best I can do. You gotta leave me a little meat on the mutton.”
Oscar knew when to grab onto a lifeline. “Okay,” he said, trying to sound reluctant, even though he knew he had won. “Thirty-five it is. But you’ll have to throw in a corner man. I’m on my own.”
The promoter nodded his head. He looked over into the crowd and whistled. A teenage O’Neil came out of the crowd and ran over to the two men. Oscar didn’t like the look of the kid. He had the same rat eyes as all of the O’Neils, but he also looked eager to please. Oscar knew he could never trust him. He was an O’Neil after all, but he only needed to trust him for as long as it took to finish this fight.
“He’ll do,” muttered Oscar.
The promoter shook Oscar’s hand and smiled with relief. He went over to join his clan in the bleachers. Would he still be smiling when the fight was over? Definitely not.
Oscar handed the boy his bag. “Don’t let this out of your sight. Keep it right next to you at all times. Got it?”
The teenager nodded and smiled. He was definitely a smiler. A real people pleaser. Or maybe he was just an idiot and that’s why the promoter had picked him for the job.
Oscar gave him a stern look. “You’re in over your head. If you knew what was going to happen tonight, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be far away.”
The boy continued to smile. “I’ve seen plenty of fights and plenty of fighters. What makes you so special?”
“You’ve never seen me fight. I’m going to give them something that no one on Ganymede will ever forget.”
The smile left the boy’s face and Oscar chuckled to himself. He had gotten the boy’s attention with that one. Maybe he wasn’t such an idiot after all…
Wayne Faust has been a full-time music and comedy performer for over 40 years, playing in 40 states and overseas in England, Scotland, and Holland. His funny songs have been heard on the radio all over the world and on the Internet. While on the road, he writes science-fiction and has over 40 stories published in various places, including Norway, Australia, and South Africa. He’s published two full length books, “Thirty Years Without A Real Job,” a fast-moving and entertaining memoir of his life in show business, and “12 Parables,” a collection of short stories. You can find more than you’ll ever need to know about Wayne on his website at http://www.waynefaust.com
Charles Eugene ‘Chuck’ Anderson is a painter and writer who lives in Colorado. Chuck’s stories can be found at madcow dot press.
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