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Sweat and blood, p.1
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       Sweat and Blood, p.1

           Jack Stornoway
 
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Sweat and Blood


  Sweat and Blood

  Jack Stornoway

  Copyright 2016 Jack Stornoway

  When Chichi Chijindu asked if Artemio Torres would fight Mudiwa Kachote, she knew there was only one answer he could give.

  "I guess I don't have a choice," Artemio answered. "I'll fight Kachote, but only if it's a NTF."

  A Non-Technical Fight meant no-count out, a fight until someone was either unconscious or dead. Chichi knew it would make for a better fight, but also make the fight harder to rig. Nevertheless, the odds were on Mudiwa Kachote's side, and a NTF would draw a larger crowd, increasing the gambling.

  If Artemio hadn't needed the credit as bad as he did, he would have never agreed to fight again. He'd been dodging Chichi for over year, ever since getting out of the Arean Army. He had fought for Chichi before joining the Revolutionary Army, but after almost a decade in the army, he was a different person, and the fight scene was largely illegal.

  Chichi Chijindu had moved up in the fight scene establishing a Fight Club in the Multan Corporate Mining Zone, one of the few places in the Ares Confederacy were pro-fights were still legal. Multan FC was the only fight club in the Multan CMZ, a monopoly which Chichi had registered with the Khewra-Mars Mining Corporation, which owned the Multan CMZ. She had followed the early success of the Multan FC with a monopoly on gambling, and setup Casino Multan.

  Since the Confederacy had banned professional sports seven years earlier, Chichi had come to financially dominate the Multan CMZ. Before Multan FC and Casino Multan, the CMZ had just been a small mining community of less than a thousand people, now it was a town of over a ten thousand. Every pro-fight in Multan was at Casino Multan, and the casino brought in gamblers year round. Multan had one bank when Chichi had arrived in the CMZ, the Khewra-Mars Credit Centre, now it had five banks, and a law office that registered holding corporations for tourists.

  Chichi owned the largest bank, the Bank of Multan, and her casino was also the largest hotel. She dominated the pro-fight scene, and Artemio had no doubt the fights were fixed. Chichi had always been willing to fix a fight when Artemio had fought for her, although Artemio had never thrown a fight, he had allowed some fights to continue longer than they should in order to cover the spread.

  Even Yousaf Dulai appeared to be working for Chichi now. When Artemio had been fighting, Yousaf had been one of the biggest promoters in the Sirenum Colonies. Now Yousaf was a manager in the Multan FC, Mudiwa Kachote's manager, and as far as Artemio could see, not much more than a go-between for Chichi.

  About the only thing Chichi didn't control in the pro-fight scene was Artemio, the former Sirenum Fighting League champion. SFL wasn't around anymore, banned by the Confederacy, but its legacy continued, and most of the pro-fight fans in Multan came from the Sirenum districts surrounding the Multan CMZ.

  Mudiwa Kachote was the main contender for the Multan FC title. Gilchrist Leslie was the Multan FC champion. Artemio had watched the fight between Gilchrist and Mudiwa a month earlier, during which the title had changed hands. It had been a long fight, and was ultimately decided by a count-out of Mudiwa that many thought suspicious. Gilchrist was a good technical fighter, while Mudiwa was more of a powerhouse, being much larger than either Gilchrist or Artemio. Mudiwa was also one of the dirtiest fighters Artemio had ever seen.

  Artemio couldn't hold that against a fighter, he had fought a lot of dirty fighters in his day. Fighters were all driven to win, and in the Martian pro-fighting leagues loosing a fight often meant loosing a life. It wasn't malevolent, the fighters weren't out to kill each other, but they were all highly competitive driven men. If it had just been a fight against Kachote or Gilchrist, Artemio would have agreed to the fight as soon as he'd run into financial problems. But it wasn't just a fight against Kachote or Gilchrist, it was a fight against Chichi's empire.

  Chichi wouldn't allow Artemio to win a fight unless he agreed to sign on as a member of her stable, but Artemio was only agreeing to one fight. Without a contract Chichi only wanted Artemio to be defeated by Kachote, to prove the Multan FC fighters were better than the old SFL fighters. But Artemio was never one to throw a fight, so he was in it for the win, and he'd have to fight every dirty trick in Chichi's arsenal to win. If it was a Technical Fight, the judges and referee would be against him, and so he'd demanded a Non-Technical Fight. At least in a NTF he had a chance once he was in the fighting cage, it was getting to the fighting cage that was going to be the problem.

  Given the odds against him, he had no desire to fight, but Chichi had given him little choice. For his time in the Revolutionary Army the Confederacy had awarded him a plot of land in Sirenum at the end of the war. Artemio had been born in one of the Sudamérican colonies to the north, and orphaned young. He had spent his teen years and early twenties in the pro-fight scene, and then the Eco-Revolution swept the planet, the Revolutionary Council offered free land for anyone that served in the Revolutionary Army. Artemio had never owned anything of significance, and joined the revolution, earning the rank of warrant officer by the end of the war.

  After the war ended the new Confederate government dismissed most of the Revolutionary soldiers, most of which sold their plot of land, as they couldn't afford to build anything on it. As a warrant officer Artemio had the option of staying in the new Arean Army, and spent ten years with the Military Police at various posts across the Confederacy. When he had retired he had enough credit to build a greenhouse farm, and bought some wheat seeds. Unfortunately the recent sandstorm had damaged the greenhouse and killed the plants growing in it, and he didn't have the credit to repair the greenhouse or to buy new seeds.

  Chichi offered enough Multan Rupees for Artemio rebuild the greenhouse and buy new seeds, but only if he won. Chichi planned for Artemio to loose, forcing him to sign a contract to get a second fight. His other option was to rejoin the Army for another 5 year contract. By the time he got out there would be nothing left of his farm. Left abandoned, it would be stripped by the first prospector that stumbled across it. He'd have to spend at least ten more years in the Army, and then he still wouldn't have the credit to ride out another bad storm. He had to take the fight, and he had to win it.

  And then, there was Carey Callahan. There was no way Carey would wait for years. Artemio had met Carey shortly after leaving the Army, when Artemio had been buying components for his planned farm. Carey was a bartender in New Belfast the closest town to Artemio's plot of land. They had been together since the first night they'd met. When the components were delivered Carey went with Artemio to help set up the farm. But Carey didn't like the farm, he wanted to be in a city and dreamed of moving to Pickering or New Edinburgh. Carey might love Artemio enough to live in the middle of nowhere, but he wouldn't wait if Artemio went back to the Army. The fact was, Artemio had to take the fight. That's all there was too it.

  He met with Chichi and Yousaf Dulai to set it up. Then Chichi dropped the other shoe, "There is the issue of the buy-in."

  "You expect me to pay to fight?" Artemio asked.

  "You don't have a contract," Chichi stated, taking a drag from her e-cigar. "That makes it a challenger fight, and challengers pay! It's just business."

  "How much?" Artemio asked, not that it mattered.

  "10,000 Multan rupees," Chichi answered, "or equivalent Arean credit."

  "If I had ₹10,000 I wouldn't be here," Artemio stated, knowing what Chichi would demand in lieu of payment.

  "You could mortgage your farm," Chichi answered. "Without a greenhouse the farm is essentially worthless, but I could run you a mortgage of ₹10,000 for the land. Go down to the Bank of Multan and set it up, and we have a deal."

  There it was, the closed box. If he didn't win the fight he wouldn't just be worthless, he'd be homeless. E
ither way he had the option of fighting or rejoining the Arean army.

  "I guess if that's the way it has to be," Artemio conceded. "It won't matter anyway. You do remember my record, right?"

  "That was ten years ago," Chichi dismissed Artemio's statement, but Yousaf looked worried. Artemio Torres had the distinction of having never lost a pro-fight during his three years in the SFL. He had lost a lot of fights earlier in life. He had spent his teen years in the Junior Hesperian Fight League, and had lost most of his fights for the first few years. At the time he had fought under the name Chico Violento, and by the time he was seventeen he was wining almost every fight he was in. He spent a year fighting as an adult in the HFL under the name Chico Violento before leaving Hesperia for Serenum to join the SFL under his own name. Chico Violento only lost one fight that last year in the HFL, and Artemio Torres managed to make it through three years in the SFL without a loss.

  A fighter that doesn't loose is a dreadful prospect for a gamblers,
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