Bring on the Ruckus
Christian R. Bonawandt
From the corridor, only the thick red curtain separates me from the eyes of about a hundred thousand fans. If not for their cheers, I would hardly know they were there. It's a little disheartening not being able feel their presence, to smell the mixture of sweet sweat and stale beer. That was the only thing I liked about being a cage fighter or a ring brawler. Sure, the promoter paid in peanuts and nobody gave a rat's ass if you busted your nose or rib; you took the hits and if you were left standing, they gave you some bonus cash -- just enough to pay dinner, a woman and a bed for the weekend.
Not like in the UFL -- Ultimate Fighters' League. An inch thick, airtight shield of the strongest mega-strength polyplastic money can buy separates me from the crowd now. Or rather, separates them from me. You see it's the seats that are encased, not the fighters. I can bash my opponent's head into the ceiling above a fan, leaving a nice pool of blood dripping around them as a souvenir. It's all about them, the fans, after all. I'm just the medium for their excitement.
Sometimes it really feels like my name. I was born Ronro Gestron, but I didn't feel alive until the day I took on the name Ron Ruckus.
The full avatar is Ron Ruckus, the Raging Bull. My people, the Kelitzer race, are called a race of assassins. We're renown for our deadly cunning and infinite patience. Not me. I wasn't blessed with those gifts. I have the temper of a chimera in a thorn bush, and about as much cunning.
I learned that I couldn't control my rage when I went for martial arts training. My senseis, Master Okinawa and Master Maebi Laytera, couldn't teach me their arts. I was too stubborn to sit still and meditate and too aggressive to master their techniques.
But I was also too stubborn to quit. They sent me to boxing champion Allen Rugged. Under him I learned how to dish out a serious beating using only my knuckles.
Again, my temper was a problem. I did great as long as I was on the offensive. If I got backed into a corner, I was lost. I hadn't the patience to block until I had an opening. I could deliver a vicious combo of hooks and jabs like few had ever seen and even less could handle. But it wasn't enough.
Knowing my eagerness to learn, Rugged sent me to his friend Argo Frust, a manager and trainer of professional wrestlers. That was when I really learned to fight. Let the opponent give me a few right hands and, when he's good and tired, I could pick him up over my head and throw across the stupid ring. Of course, I never forgot how to dish out those killer hooks, and I developed an uppercut that broke more than a few necks.
Meanwhile, my senseis saw my potential for body hardening. They trained me to fight under raging waterfalls, in the freezing cold with little more than briefs on, under the blistering sun, inside a sauna fully dressed. I also practiced taking punches from fellow students and chopping the most outrageous amounts of wood and brick with my bare hands and other parts of my body. The end result is a bastard who can and has taken sledgehammer to the ribs, stood up, and broke the SOB's skull with one well-placed elbow. I can't remember the last time I blocked a punch -- a swinging axe, maybe, but not a punch.
All the patience in the world can't stop me now.
I am the Raging Bull, Ron Ruckus. I charge any and all of my opponents like a rhinoceros. I attack and don't quit until somebody's on the ground. More often than not, it's them.
But this isn't about me.
They are introducing my opponent now. Ji'gan Tore, the minitor -- nine-foot-six, one thousand-fifty pounds and tough as hell to knock down. I've fought that guy dozens of times since joining the UFL. Hope the iron hip I gave him last month holds up. I'd hate to cheat the fans by breaking it too early in the fight.
No doubt he's holding a mace longer than my whole body with a studded ball bigger than a piece of airline luggage. It's the one weapon allotted to him for the fight. That means he can't gore me with his horns. He'd rather swat me around the place like a kid kicking a puppy anyway.
My allotted weapon is built in. A foot-long spike used to protrude from each forearm, semi-parallel to the backside of my hands. I had to lock my wrists and fingers to release them; it hurt like hell, too, and they're good for little other than hard jab. Ji'gan broke them both in a fight five months ago. Snapped them like twigs. Since then I had a cyber-doc weld metal replacements over what remained. It wasn't sanitary, but anything more would be considered bionic, and those ain't allowed. But, man, does the crowd go nuts when see me climb to my feet and whip out those bad boys.
"Ruck-us, Ruck-us! Ruck -- "
A sudden silence falls like a skipped laser disc when the first riff of my music hits. Some local garage band wrote some song about a bull on a rampage and UFL bought it to use as my entrance theme. It's fast, has a lot of bass and the drummer has no mercy on the crash symbols. I guess I like it.
Right on cue with the front man, the audience screams the first four words of the song, "Bull on a rampaaaaage!" and then goes crazy.
Right on cue, I charge headfirst through the curtains and make a B-line for Ji'gan. He whacks me dead in the chest with that mace. I flop like a fish snared and yanked from the water. Letting my legs flail, I tuck and land in a disguised somersault, continuing to roll until I lose momentum. The audience doesn't need to know that I planned that hit. They don't need to know that I landed without hurting myself. All they need to know is that Ji'gan Tore smashed my ribcage with a mace and I stood up.
I lock my wrists and knuckles. The crowd's screams fill the arena like an open floodgate. The brief pain of the blades is drowned out by the invigorating cheers. For a second, I feel like a god.
But this isn't about me.
Christian R. Bonawandt is an avid supporter and writer for speculative fiction Webzines. His work has appeared on ShadowkeepZine.com, Outer Rim and Aphelion Webzine.
Read another story by Christian - "The Trap"
Published by permission of the author.