Imperial War Museum
Lambeth, London Metroplex
Sunday 16th April, 2051
The old war museum, now become the palace of an urban gangster warlord, hums with activity as the time for the big fight nears. In the center of the main hall, a caged ring has been constructed. Around that, several hundred people mill – or hover near their comfy seats in the V.I.P. grandstand at one end as they circulate and “network” like busy bees.
In a curtained off area, the Lazarus team is clustered around their fighter – Mac – as the final minutes count down. He’s stripped to shorts and boxer’s hand wraps, nothing more. The marquis sticks his head past the curtain. “Fifteen minutes, mate.” Then he’s gone again.
Mac subconsciously reaches to confirm the time on his pocketwatch and sighs as he finds it not in it’s customary location. “So, how do I look guys? Think I can take the old one-two roundabout? Pac, did your stitch job ever heal up properly on my back?” “It should be more than ready for you to take a beating!” Pac says grinning and giving a thumbs up. Able looks the robot up and down. “Looks a little horrid back there – Pacoy isn’t exactly a master of fine stitching – but it’s holding. You’ll just look even more fearsome.” Pitbull sticks a lit cigarette in the corner of Mac’s mouth and stands to the front of him. “Yeah, dude you’re good. Especially with the smoke hangin’ from your face, you look like you take no shit.”
Mac smiles wistfully. “Shame, I had always hoped to have that unblemished charm.” He fusses with the cigarette before breaking into a grin. “Pitbull, don’t you know these things could be hazardous to my health? So, refresh my memory… was it round two? And you lot went to the bookie, yeah?” "All taken care of, Mac. Down in two, We cash in on your bruises, it’s a win-win.” Pacoy nods. “Nah. They make these outta seaweed now. You’ll need to go to Mexico to get real cancer causin’ tobacco now. I got a pack. Burro Fuego’s. They taste like cat shit, but that’s Mexican tobacco, right?” Pitbull growls, chuckling as he lights his own. Mac doubles over with laughter. “Can’t say as if I’ve ever tasted cat shit, but you’re the expert!” Able shakes his head. “Naw. That’s just tobacco. The false stuff has a different aroma – more pleasant.” “Nah, those Black Sobra- uhh- Sobeh- Somedah- fuggit. Those cigarettes that the Bey gave us a while back were damn good. If that was cat shit, then I’d own eighteen litter boxes, if y’know what I mean.” Pitbull laughs again. “18 litters boxes, huh?” Pacoy thinks for a second, “Maybe we should invest in an alamid farm after this gig.”
The Marquis ducks in past the curtain again. “Anyfink you need, mate? Show’s on in 10 minutes. They’ll announce you first, as the challenger, then the other guy.” Mac looks at the Marquis, eyes wide. “Any chance of getting a monogrammed souvenier towel? Never been in a proper match before. Well, ‘proper’. If I get fussed up in the fight, I want to be seen by my own doc, not anyone else. Is that okay?” The Marquis grins, “Sure, no problem. Your own sawbones and no-body other. I’ll get you a towel, too. Imperial War Museum stock, good stuff. You know the rules right? No killing, and a count of ten is final. I’d tell you not to kick the other bloke in the nadgers but he ain’t got any…”
Able looks over at Pitbull. “Who that agrees to a fixed match does?” Pitbull guffaws as he takes another drag off of his smoke. “Well, Mac. Looks like your fighting a eunuch! And Abe’s gotta point. We’re now gettin’ into WWE shit tonight!”
The Marquis grabs a Queen Anne chair, turns it around and sits astride it. “Tell you, there’s a lot of scratch getting blown on this fight. See, it’s a way to give out bribes to those as needs them – easier to get caught in gambling on a bare-knuckle fight, y’see, and as good as handing ‘em the dosh if they know who’s gonna win and when.” Mac sighs. “Do we have any assurance that the other banger isn’t going to lay down if I tap him? I was hoping this was going to be more of Jerry Lewis if I do say so myself.” The Marquis laughs. “Don’t you worry about hurtin’ the other guy, mate.”
“Ah, c’mon. He can’t be much bigger or broader than me, and I’m sure Mac could take me if I got a wild hair up my ass.” Pitbull smiles as he folds his arms into his chest, smoke clenched between his teeth.
Marquis Deeds blinks, “They didn’t tell you, did they? Bugger me. Mate, you’re fighting some pro Yank pit fighter they’ve brought in special-like. Name of Samehdi, he’s like SoCal champion or somefink like that.” Pitbull shrugs. “Never heard of him, but he sounds like he might know some dudes we know. Just watch, he’s gonna be like five-three, ninety pounds of angry little dude.”
Mac blinks several times, then scrabbles in his pocketwatch to do a quick search, his face growing paler by the second. “No, they failed to mention that part…” More searching ensues on the watch as Mac’s lips draw tighter as he reads aloud. “Usama Safar, aka Samedi – born in Night City but lives in SoCal now. Recently became local pit-fighting champ in a bout in which he defeated a former military cyborg. Looks like he paid a bonesaw to stuff him with Cybernetic pit-fighting augments.” He makes some gestures and flicks through some footage.
He glances at Able, then snaps the pocketwatch closed and shoves it back in his pile of clothing. “It’s been nice knowing you gentlemen. If he hits me with a Zombie-Maker, I’m done for. I don’t think I can take one of those. He’s a speed-fighter, to boot. At least I won’t have to look out for his feet, or him trying to grab hold and tear my stitches.”
“He ain’t gonna kill ya, Mac. He’s gonna hurt, but I doubt he’s dumb enough to beat you to death.” Pitbull growls, the humour drained when the information was laid out to him. Deeds grins, “You guys want me to put some extra on for you? It’s 1 to 2 for Samedi’s win, but you’ll get 10-1 on Mac here lasting past the first round.” Pitbull pulls out a fist-full of cred-chips. “$2K that Mac makes it to round two. Mac, I know you got this shit.”
Able smiles as he steps forwards to follow Mac out the room. “Well, at least it shouldn’t be too hard convincing the crowd that you were outma..” As he speaks, Able’s hands begin to twitch – hard. He doesn’t quite get to the end of the sentence before his body has hit the ground, twitching in a full-body seizure, his body-morphic implants going haywire with renegade signals, switching him rapidly between multiple different faces, hair colors, and body shapes, not all of them particularly connected to one another.
Deeds shoots upright in shock, “What the fu—?!”
Mac attempts to wipe the shock off his face but only succeeds in forming a scowl. “The more I think about it, the less my confidence in myse—-” He stops and drops to one knee, checking Able’s vitals. “He’s fine, I think. This is why I have to make it to round two. Guess I needed a reminder. Just… a bit more shocking than I was expecting. Deeds, pal, what’s the max we can put on me making it to the second round?” “I’ll sit with Able, Keep an eye on him and all, you worry about not getting your CPU Casing smashed all over the ring: I have plans for that hardware!” Pacoy deflects the drama.
Deeds does a double-take, “Huh, wha…uh, ten grand. What’s up with your pal?” Pitbull looks at Able in shocked confusion. “Abe? Abe? Is he gonna be alright?”
Able’s spasm passes, but he seems disoriented, unable to speak – and all of his limbs flop uselessly as if they’ve been disconnected from his nervous system. Mac looks Deeds square in the eye. “He’s having some health issues, and I’m going to be making it right. Is that ten grand a person? Or overall?” He pulls his credit stick from his pile of clothing. “If it’s per person, I want to put a full ten on me making it. I have a feeling I’ll need it to pay some bills if I come through.” Deeds gulps, “I think it’d better be infull, Mac me old mucker. You’ve already got five large on Samedi’s win, so all told this’d bring your take to near 25 grand.” He holds up Pitbull’s two thousand. “Any more and old Tony might think you’re taking the piss.”
Mac shrugs and re-buries his credit stick. “Had to try. If this pays off, I may not need the cash anyhow. Certainly won’t if I lose. Can you get Pacoy a feed so he can watch the fight?” Mac begins testing each of his limbs, making sure nothing’s frozen up on him, a sudden fear after observing Able. “I assure you: The last thing we want is Tony’s piss,” Pacoy says, “Would half that be more reasonable?” Deeds nods, “Sure, but Tony knows this is a loss fight for him, so you’ll be ok. It’s all about the infuence the moolah rolling out buys.”
Just then a booming voice fills the whole central hall. “Ladeeees and Gentlemen, welcome to Sharktooth’s Palace! Tonight we bring for your entertainment a pugillistic contest between two fighters from across the pond. First, in the red corner, we have the pride of Night City and a member of the infamous Lazarus Group – the fast and furious MAC THE KNIFE!”
Deeds pushes Mac towards the curtain, “You’re on pal!” as somewhere the P.A. begins playing a familiar tune. Pitbull laughs. “Infamous? We’re infamous?! I didn’t fuckin’ know that! And Mac the Knife! I can’t-I can’t even!” Pitbull guffaws in hysterics.
Mac stumbles forwards before grinning to himself, shaking his head and jogging forward to the ring, to make his circle. He practices some punches and his footwork, making nice with the audience as he sings along to the song. The audience yells, whistles and stomps as he walks up to the ring and swings up into his corner, then an expectant hush descends again.
The M.C.’s voice booms again: “And in the blue corner, the Champeen of SoCal, the zombie-maker himself, the Baron of Beatdowns, the Lord of The Underworld…SAMEDHI!!!!” At that, a large and muscled figure begins to stalk towards the ring, slapping his fist into his hand over and over, a predatory grin on his face. When he reaches it, he crouches then jumps straight up and over the top rope to land with a thump in a perfect landing in his corner. He turns to the audience, his hands raised high, and the beginning of Hells bells tones out.
“Heh! He looks like a crackhead. At least “Big Balls” isn’t playing." Pitbull growls, smiling as he lights another cigarette.
Mac forces his mouth to stay closed as he mutters into his embedded cellphone, “Oh. Oh this is just wonderful. Pitbull, can I count on you for some tactical support here?” “Aim for his head if the opening comes. Alternate between body and head shots. See what you can learn of his technique from there.” Pitbull growls, still smiling as he narrows his eyes. Mac smiles weakly. “Is that before or after I get blinded by a right cross? Pac, any insight onto his cyber that I should be aware of?” “He’s a killer. Don’t worry about holding back – he’s damn near bullet -proof, and his fists are going to be hammers. Avoid them!” Pacoy advises. “Dance around him if you gotta. If you know any neat kicks to throw in on him, do ‘em. You get caught in arms length and I get the feeling it’ll hurt a fuck-ton.” Pitbull growls.
The referee, in traditional black and white striped body armor, climbs into the ring and motions to the two fighters to approach. Mac looks down disparagingly at his feet, then up at the manmade killing machine in front of him. “Yeah, that’d help if I had studied kick boxing. Maybe. Maybe it’ll work. Golly, I really need to take Anita dancing when I get back…” He bounces towards the center of the ring.
The referee is miked up, so the whole hall hears him say, “O’right you boys, oi want a nice clean fight – and any eyes gouged must be handed back afterwords. Now, go to your corners and when the bell rings come out fighting.” Mac offers his fists to Samedhi in a traditional boxer’s salute, smiling politely at him, before he heads back to his corner.
The MC intones: “Here’s your main event. Fifteen rounds of 30 seconds each, with a knockout or judges decision to decide the winner. Let’s get ready to rrrruuuummmbbbllleeee!!!!” DING
Mac comes out of the corner, floating like a classical boxer, fists up. Unlike a classic boxer, while he’s working his feet, he finds himself slipping into an uncharacteristic level of calm as his internal processors begin spooling up, feeding extra energy to his joints and muscles, spurring on extremely rapid movement. He jukes to the right and strikes out with his off-hand, but the strike gets knocked away by Samedhi’s forearm. However, his right hook catches Samedhi unawares, but not so-much-so that he isn’t able to dodge out of the way.
Samedhi grins at the first flurry, then moves back a step, watching carefully. Pitbull’s eyebrows go up at the diplay of speed. “Well. That was impressive.”
Mac bounces on the balls of his feet, surprised to be enjoying himself. “Come on, buster, lets dance, yeah?” He steps forward in the same pattern, but instead of throwing a left punch, he aims a kick at his opponent, following up with a right uppercut. Both fail to make a meaningful connection, like most private detectives. Redoubling his efforts, Mac comes in with a right jab, followed by a quick left uppercut. Both connect with weak thuds, and Mac’s grin is cut short as he feels Samedhi make a connection.
Samedhi accepts both blows as his right fist lashes out at Mac’s right biceps with crushing power. With an audible crack, Mac’s shoulder is dislocated by the force of the blow and Mac is sent reeling back almost four feet.
All pretense of humor drains from Mac’s face as he refrains from howling out loud like a Victorian specter. He glances down at his useless arm, then back at his opponent. “Hey Pacoy… did you know that my arms could dislocate? Because I just found out that was a thing that can happen.” “I brought tools, buddy.” Pacoy assures Mac.
Oddly, instead of stepping in to finish Mac, Samedhi turns to play to the crowd, wasting precious time as he parades with his arms held high, and the crowd goes wild…except for some very sour-faced people in the VIP seats.
Mac spits and waits for a second, running the numbers, watching the man soak up his faux-glory before he dodges forward, wincing as his arm moves about. He brings his left arm back, swinging it forward with all the strength freight train with it’s brake lines cut loose, driving his reinforced knuckles into the back of Samedhi’s skull, ringing his bell and primally enjoying the trickle of blood that is visible from beneath his ear. Mac winces as he comms back to his team. “May not have been the best move, but this dunderhead has irked me something fierce.”
Samedhi staggers forward one foot, then shakes his head and swings around, growling. All trace of a smile is gone from his face as he stands stock still for a second, then bursts into motion towards Mac. Pacoy notices the signs immediately of course – a back-alley boosterware that gives him a rough version of Mac’s own altered sense of time. “He’s Juiced up, Mac!” Pacoy warns, “You just incited some roid-rage!” “He’s going to be even stronger and faster now,” Pacoy continues, “Keep dodging!”
A straight right slams towards Mac’s face, a potential killing blow, but Mac desperately moves aside just in time. Mac stammers out a swear in Russian as he backpedals, hands up defensively, as he tries to get away from the furious Californian. He shakes his head to clear it as he begins circling his predator, trying to keep him off guard.
Samedhi gathers himself visibly as his corner staff shout at him, then leaps into the air a full nine feet up and across the ring at Mac. Mac skips out of the way of the Samedhi-bomb. “Right, right. Guys, uh, what do I do? How badly did I mess this up? I don’t want to die!” He tries to keep his balance. “Mac, his armor has gaps check them out,” Pacoy comms excitedly, pointing out the various flaws in the cyber-thugs armor. Mac backpedals, bouncing on his feet as he does. He does his best to look for the gaps in the armor. “Oh, that’s good news. He’s not a perfect murder machine. I’ve never been able to hit a target that small!”
The referee steps between the two fighters briefly, and whispers something to Samedhi that his mike doesn’t pick up. The big pit fighter angrily pushes the ref away, but he stops and visibly gathers his wits again before advancing. “Pit’s woman made the same comment!” Pacoy’s grin can almost be heard over the comms, “Don’t worry about winning, just stay alive!” Pitbull grimaces. “Do I always have to be the ol’ butt-monkey? Seriously. Can we go back to making fun of Wormies’ creepiness?”
Mac dances back and forth a bit, looking for an opening, trying to evaluate the best chance to disable his opponent’s arm. “Heck, Worm is on another continent – where is the fun in that? Besides, Wormies sex life isn’t anything anyone wants to think about!” Pacoy answers. Mac sighs into the comms. “Not going to lie – when his fist was coming to my face, the only image I could see was of old busted-nose.” Pitbull laughs, despite his eyes not leaving the fight for fear of losing sight of all the action.
Samedhi moves fast, grabbing Mac behind the neck and hugging him close as he punches his left into Mac’s abdomen – but it looks far worse than it feels. As he holds Mac close he whispers, “I’m dead if we fuck this up, so let’s dance. Kick me in the knee, then punch me in the ear again.”
Mac struggles to break away from Samedhi, kicking at his knee which does little more than shift their positioning, allowing him to get a weak left hook to connect with his opponent’s ear. Surprisingly, to Mac at least, the big fighter throws himself sideways, tripping over Mac’s now outstretched leg to sprawl on the canvas. The crowd gasps and cheers as he stays down, seeming groggy, for three whole seconds before rising again — and giving Mac a sly wink as he does. Mac massages at where he was ‘hit’ with his good hand, chuckling under his breath into the comm-net. “Guys, this is… absurd… the numpty just winked at me…”
Now Samedhi begins to circle with Mac, occasionally closing to send out a fast blow that somehow doesn’t connect. The seconds tick by… Mac attempts to give as good as he gets, despite having only one good arm. Samedhi finally, in the 26th second, gives a nod and steps forward in earnest, his fists raised. He spins, crouches, and sends an elbow strike at mac’s midrift.
Mac steps back and swings downward at the offending arm, misjudging it’s location and missing horribly before recovering. Samedhi swiftly counters with a head-butt aimed right at Mac’s nose, which Mac narrowly sidesteps. Mac, apparently tiring, swings at Samedhi’s arm again and fails to connect. Samedhi replies with a blistering uppercut, which connects with Mac’s jaw just as he is rising back from his own punch, starting a trickle of blood but not doing any more than stunning the detective some.
Mac staggers back, head reeling as he extends his good arms to try and regain his combat posture. He ducks forward to feint and swings at his opponent’s leg, but the coordination seems to be fading from his left arm. Samedhi swings and brings a fist around into Mac’s left ribcage, but again Mac’s speed saves him. There are only two seconds of the first round left and the crowd are on their feet. Mac grins in spite of himself. “Pit, Pac, hows it looking from out there?” “You and Able are both still breathing, so beating the odds, I’d say,”Pacoy answers.
Mac arcs his arm out, then snakes it back in for a cock-eyed cockney uppercut, catching Samedhi with a glancing blow to the jaw, leaving his torso unguarded. Samedhi takes the blow and answers with a short right counter into Mac’s ribcage, punching the smaller man back a yard with the power of his blow. Mac groans, feeling his internal components straining, beginning to disrupt the power flow to the rest of his extremities. “I can’t take much more of this guys…” He blinks repeatedly to shake off his eyes from irising closed. He steadies himself with one hand on the ropes.
Just then, the bell rings, a crystal DING! signalling the end of the first round. Samedhi bows to his opponent and stalks back to his corner. Mac attempts to throw a weak salute as he stumbles back to his corner. “How’d I do, coach?” His speech is beginning to seem less crisp and elegant, compared to his normal verbocity. Pacoy frantically works to set Mac’s damaged alignment’ “Just a few more seconds, and it’s payday.” Pitbull stands next to Pacoy. “You’re doing good man. Take a punch next round and fall, but be convincing about it. He can hit you in the chest or the head, but if he gets you in the arm no one’ll believe it.” Mac winces out of reflex as Pacoy works on his arm. “What does candy have to do with this? I could use a seven course meal right about now. What was it we had at the Ottoman that one time…?” Mac groans. “He darmn near took my arm off last time. I’d believe it if he knocked me out with one of those.” Mac looks at Pacoy and Pitbull. “Right. Time to pull a Wormwood and go hit things with my face, yeah?” “I wonder what that loveable creep is doing right now…” Pitbull ventures off, as he lights another cigarette.
The high-quality artificial bones in Mac’s arm and ribs snap back into their proper place under Pacoy’s expert hands well before the next round begins. Two bikini-clad lovelies parade around the ring holding cards on high – “Round Two” is about to begin. “Ding!!!”
Samedhi bounces out of his corner on the balls of his feet, his face set in a determined look. Mac gawps at the girls for a moment, then slaps his face with both arms, rotating his right one slowly. “Thanks, pal. I owe you.” He grins at Samedhi as he starts his bounding way to him.
Mac bobs, weaves, and takes a few good shots at Samedhi. One shot to his jaw leaves him overextended, allowing Samedhi to shove him along. This gives Samedhi just enough time to use his cybernetic enhancements to get a small leap up in the air, bringing a harsh elbow into the back of Mac’s head, causing him to collapse forward into unconsciousness.
The referee rushes forward and counts mac out, as the detective groggily writhes on the canvas. The crowd rises to its feet and cheers as Samedhi does a victory parade. Unseen by any, Sharktooth Tony flashes Pacoy and Pitbull a toothy grin and a satisfied nod.