The prospective customers strolled past our cages, looking over the wares on display. Some of us were purchased directly out of the enclosures, others were gathered together to be auctioned off in larger lots. As the hours passed, our numbers slowly dwindled and other groups were brought in to replace depleted stock. From what I could gather this was the yearly highlight of the slave market, and suppliers and customers had come out in force.
I gazed around the chamber, taking in every feature of my surroundings, trying to think of a way to escape. But everywhere I looked were more armed men. Many were the bodyguards of customers, but also prevalent was a large security force for the auction itself, dressed in black and green combat armor. A dozen scenarios went through my head, but each mental simulation ended in a hail of bullets. I decided I would have to wait and hope my chances were better wherever I ended up.
Eventually the fat man who seemed to be in charge of the whole show waddled in front of our enclosure, accompanied by two guards. The crowd in the enclosure pressed back away from him as he gazed in. “Let’s take that one, that one, those three,” he said as he pointed out his choices.
The guards opened the enclosure and began pulling out those selected. Among the first was Barker. “And those few, that will make a nice mix. And… that one, too.” My heart felt ready to jump out of my throat when he last pointed to me.
As one guard grabbed my collar and yanked me forward, I felt a tug on my arm. “He’s got a little friend,” the guard laughed as he looked down. I looked back, and there was the silent kid clinging to my arm. “Scrawny little guy,” the guard said. “The state of ‘im, almost hafta pay ta get rid of ‘im.”
The fat man shrugged. “Bring the kid, too. We’ll tack him on as a bonus.” Each slave was chained to the next, then the line was pushed along towards the center stage, the kid still clinging to my arm as we went. The customers laughed at the sight as we were herded through the crowd. I tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let go. The rough, strange faces laughing and sneering as we passed were bellows to my growing anger.
We passed another enclosure, this one lined with gruff men, half of whom were sticking their arms in and making catcalls. With horror I saw the enclosure held a group of green jumpsuited women. They huddled in the back, shrinking away from the grasping hands of their tormentors. One of the guards had even taken a break from his duties to taunt them. The large man wore the same combat armor as the others, but he had removed his helmet to reveal a black haired head decorated in scars. As we passed, I heard him hiss, “Come ‘ere, ya bitch!”
I don’t recall making a decision. It was just the inevitable result of the fury spiking through and shattering my calm. My free hand reached up and grabbed the back of his combat armor, pulling him back and with all my strength slamming his head into the bars of the enclosure. I let go, pulled my arm back as far as the chains would allow, then slammed my fist into the side of his head.
I pulled back for another blow, but a jolt of pain shot up my back, forcing me gasping to my knees. The guard behind me pulled the taser off my back and kicked me in the ribs. I struggled to get up, but strong arms held me down. A hand grabbed my head and forced my gaze upwards. “You little bastard!” shouted the guard I had attacked, blood dripping down his forehead.
“Stop!” the auctioneer shouted, putting a restraining arm on the guard. It had only taken a few seconds, but already there was a large ring of spectators gathering. “Shit,” the auctioneer swore, looking around at the faces. “Nobody’ll buy him now.”
“Then let me beat him to death,” the bloodied guard hissed.
The auctioneer looked back and forth between us, then around at the crowd. A shrewd, calculating look lit up his eyes. “You’ll get your chance,” the fat man answered. “Bring him.” The fat man pushed off through the gathered crowd and made once again for the stage. The guards pulled me to my feet, marching the whole line along behind. “Unchain him,” the auctioneer said when we got to the stage. The guards did so, but kept a strong hold on both my arms.
The auctioneer mounted the stage and spoke, his voice projected across the chamber. “Good evening, everyone. I hope you are enjoying yourselves.” There was a small chorus of acknowledgement from the crowd. “It seems here we got ourselves a fighter!” This comment was followed by laughter. “And never let it be said I was one to forgo the entertainment!” Cheers rang out. At a nod from the auctioneer the guards pushed me up onto the stage.
“On the one side, we have this vicious young slave. 1.85 meters, weighing in at, oh, eighty five kilos. And on the other side,” as he spoke the guard I had attacked mounted the stage. He had removed his combat armor and now wore only black and green pants. “1.95 meters tall, weighing in at one hundred kilos, our Viper’s very own, Jax!” More cheers.
“How long can the kid last against this seasoned combat veteran? Place your bets now!” The vidscreens overhead changed to display hurriedly made odds. I knew there was no real chance, and glancing at the odds displayed confirmed that everyone else knew it too. There weren’t even odds listed for me winning, just how long it would take for me to die. The favorite seemed to be under two minutes. As the bets came in and the fat man stepped from the stage, I heard him whisper to the hulking guard he had named Jax, “draw it out past 5 minutes and we just might come out ahead from this whole thing.”
I glared across at the man, angrily seething. If I was going to go down, I’d hurt him as much as I could before. I was ready to smash the monster’s face to a bloody pulp. As soon as the auctioneer shouted “Fight!” I rushed him. He was ready for me.
My first wild blow glanced off his shoulder, but I doubt he even noticed. He swung his meaty arm and connected with my already bruised ribs, knocking me off my feet. I landed, rolling to try to get back on my feet as fast as possible. I came at him again, and this time connected with his stomach before he again knocked me to the ground. I got up and tried again.
It quickly became apparent he was just toying with me, allowing me to get the odd hit in just to make it seem not so lopsided. This only further inflamed my anger, and I came at him with more ferocity. This time he didn’t even bother letting me get in a hit, just let a full swing slam into the side of my head. I landed on my back again, but this time the man didn’t give me a chance to get back up. His fist came down for another blow to my face, and I was just able to avoid it. I tried to get up, but he kicked me in the side sending me sprawling. Apparently he was done playing around. I scrambled away, trying to fight through the pain and think of something. He let me up once again as he turned to the crowd, raising his arms to bring on more cheers from the crowd.
I was still furious, but anger wasn’t helping. If I kept on like this I wasn’t going to last much longer. I forced myself to try to calm down, to put the anger aside and think clearly. The anger felt so right, so justified, that it was hard to do. Breathe in. Breathe out. The man’s every swing was full and heavy, but slow. And thinking back I realized the blows that hadn’t connected had carried him a little too far forward. If I could just…
He came for me. I moved to strike, but just before I swung I jerked back. His fist swung out too far, and I grabbed his wrist and pulled it towards me. I let the momentum close the distance, driving my elbow into his throat. Shock and pain flashed across his face, then his bulk toppled to the ground. I followed, landing on top. I pulled back and punched his scarred face again and again.
He was down, and I had the upper hand. Now was the time to hurt him. Now was the time to make him pay. Now was the time for letting my anger free. But when I reached for it, it was gone. I wasn’t angry, and I couldn’t be angry. I tried to summon up everything that had happened to me that day, the stench of the ship, the humiliation of the slave market, the abhorrence of trading human lives like cattle. Everything that had led to me attacking this man. But it didn’t seem to matter, not when I looked down at the bloodied face of the human being I was trying to pound into pulp.
There was surprise in his eyes, along with pain…. fear. In a small, cold, calculating part of my mind I was sure it would be the right thing to grind him and his kind into dust. But that didn’t help the unbearable horror of what I was doing, the sight of blood spattered across the stage, his nose breaking beneath my fist. It all went through my mind in a flash, in between the thuds of my fist into his face. I pulled back, and paused.
And that was all he needed. His fist was like a club. My head was ringing from the blow and I was tumbling off of him and onto the ground before I even realized he had started to swing. I was stunned, ears ringing, eyes unable to focus. As he knelt beside me his face was a blurry wash of flesh and blood. He hauled me to my knees, one arm wrapped around my neck.
“Well, a good fight indeed! Almost had an upset there.” I could barely understand the auctioneer’s voice. Blood clouded my sight as he walked onto the stage. “But it’s drawn to a close. Six minutes and twenty-two seconds.” There were groans from the losers, cheers from the winners. The auctioneer turned towards Jax as he held his arm around my throat. “Finish him.”