Hanging heavily from his taped fist was his wooden bat, wrapped in a length of barbed wire and the small electrical box Coop rigged to his weapon. The bat, lovingly named Guy, had been through a lot. A last-minute addition before his first fight against a stodgy little zondian named Zeke, it became his signature after that fight. Zondian flesh was a tough beige color, clumped into patches that made them look like they were made of stone. It wasn’t stone, though, it was flesh like every other creature in the ‘verse, and the barbs tore him up, spraying his neon pink blood all over Coop’s face.
That was the beginning of something beautiful, or at least something fruitful for a nobody like Coop. The promoter thought he’d be another pretty boy who’d go out there, full of bluster and guts, only to get torn to shreds by his prized zondian. Even though that fight was a distant memory after dozens of trips into the arena, it still played through Coop’s mind before each fight. Tonight was no different. Humans were still an oddity on the deathmatch circuit, considered the infants of the galaxy in terms of technological advances and discoveries, only making first contact with the diplomatic explorers the traliks thirty years prior. A few humans had tried their hands at the deathmatches and a small stable of fighters had been training up on Luna as a sort of home league, but those that fared out through the gates didn’t make it far.
That is until Coop and his exploding baseball bat hit the arena.
“Ladies and gentlemen, INTERGALACTIC DEATHMATCH is proud to present the bad boy himself,” the announcer’s voice boomed in galactic basic, “the toughest human being to walk the galaxy, along with his bat, Cooper Sabre!”
The thunderous eruption of the crowd and the parting of the great metal gates into the arena were his cue, lights pouring into his sad little staging area. Only once had Coop worn sunglasses to cope with those lights, which in retrospect was the biggest mistake he’d ever made in the arena. An Arakan cracked them with a blow, the shards of glass flying into his eyes and detaching his retina in the process. A detached retina may sound like a minor injury for a gladiator battling aliens on the galactic stage, but flesh and bones healed up just fine in their regen tanks. Eyes were more sensitive. Stupid sunglasses. Coop emerged from the tunnel, pumping Guy into the air while the crowd roared. Coop flicked the switch on the base of the bat, sparks shooting out from the electrified barbs, driving the crowd into a frenzy.
Across the packed dirt-and-rock arena from him stood Skidz, a brandian berserker that stood eight-feet-high, with toxic-to-the-touch green flesh and six arms, a long spear gripped in his right-middle-hand. A large scar ran along the side of his oblong face, the eye socket on the right side scarred over. To say Skidz and Coop had history was an understatement, seeing as though the last time they met Coop took Skidz’s eye clean out with a jab from Guy. These fights weren’t always to the death, that was just the marketing. Most of the time they survived and fighters found themselves plopped into regen tanks to heal up, because history between two fighters meant bad blood. Bad blood meant grudge matches, and grudge matches meant money for the promoters.
Skidz screeched at the top of his lungs, a war cry letting Coop know he’d be coming for him. Coop smiled in return, letting sparks fly from Guy’s barbs and watching Skidz grimace at the sight. “Got ya, ya bastard,” he said under his breath.
The klaxon blared overhead, signaling the start of the bout. Skidz was on him in no time at all, bounding forward with his powerful legs and closing the distance between the two in a matter of seconds, Coop avoiding a thrust from the spear. To say Skidz was angry was an understatement, eschewing an artificial eye for a battle scar, both to put on a better show for this rematch and remind himself why he was angry at Coop. A massive hand gripped onto Coop’s wrist while the spear swung in an arc around him, slapping him across the shoulder. Coop tried to wrestle himself free, but Skidz had an unrelenting grip on him, multiple hands gripped around the spear and using it to trap him, trying to squeeze Coop up against his flesh that secreted a toxic pheromone that was akin to a hallucinogenic.
“I thought you’d make it good, human,” he seethed.
“Who says I’m not?” Coop asked, driving his knee up into the stomach of the brandian, who doubled over and ever-so-slightly loosened his grip.
Without pause, Coop swung into action, ducking under the spear’s shaft to create some distance while his wrist remained stuck in the alien’s grip. Still, it was enough space for him to rear back and land a shot with the bat. Guy’s barbs sunk into the side of Skidz’s face, sparks flying and flesh sizzling like his old bug zapper on the patio back home did in the summer. The alien was screaming at the top of his lungs, grip relenting from Coop’s wrist while he attempted to peel the bat from his skin.
That was just the opening Coop needed, planting the heel of his shoe into the giant’s stomach and peeling the bat away, tearing at Skidz’s flesh and lining the luminous arena with his cries. Dark brown goop dripped from the wounds on his face, him rushing in with wild blows from his six arms. An errant fist clipped Coop behind the ear, sending him crashing down to the ground in a heap from the strength of the blow. It felt like someone had smashed him over the head with a cinderblock, everything spinning around him. The massive boot came down hard across his back, planting him flat against the ground, Guy just outside of his reach. A warm trickle of Skidz’s leaking fluid splattered down onto his silver jacket, and Coop tried to pick himself up to no avail.
“What do you say?” Skidz boasted, spear held high. “Eye-for-an-eye?”
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This is the first episode of INTERGALACTIC DEATHMATCH, a new, weekly serial written by me. Watch this space as I’ll have updates for where to find the rest of the series. It originally launched on Amazon’s Kindle Vella, but frankly, much of my readership is outside of the ecosystems they launched on (United States and iOS only) and the terms as they were when they launched were not in favor of the authors.
For now, the new home of INTERGALACTIC DEATHMATCH is via my Patreon.