Chapter 9 – The Young Trainee
“What do we really know of love? Mostly by all the ways by which it has never been demonstrated, however often defined.” (Voice from the Other Side – Sha’Tara)
So pass a couple of years between training and killing in the arena. Rarely is there a change unless it’s some sort of punishment, usually when handlers and trainers feel a need for some gratuitous entertainment or think it’s time to assert their authority over us.
One day a work gang of male and female slaves enter our compound to make superficial repairs to one of the towers. An older fighter interrupts her training to watch these naked skeletons walk by and is unfortunately noticed by a trainer. He blows a whistle and everybody stops dead, dropping their weapons.
Two trainers and a handler run along our line-up and grab the fighter. She does not resist as they take her to the post. She is dreadfully silent as they flog her to death before not only the fighters but the other slaves. It is obvious to me they did this just to show their power, not for us but for the worker slaves.
On another day, some two years after this event and while training I am unofficially and illegally challenged to a sparring match by a handler, not a trainer. I immediately notice he is high on chakr. This is not supposed to happen. The overseer, other handlers, guards even trainers are supposed to intervene immediately and send me to my cage. Nothing of the sort happens. They just watch to see what will come of this. I begin by just defending myself, blocking his blows and slowly giving ground to his attacks, not wanting to provoke some kind of outbreak of violence against myself or the other women.
There is no protocol for his attack, nor for my response to it. I wait for him to tire out but the chakr keeps him going. I wait for my feelings to kick in and they do. I get angry. I have a coarse, basic staff made of a very tough hardwood but with with no metal caps, extender or pike end. Still it is my favourite weapon and I know how to use it in many ways I have seldom demonstrated either in training or in fighting, saving them for the day when surprises are needed. He holds a top of the line professional fighting staff, complete with spiked end and extender.
Undoubtedly, even if he is no great fighter he has a tremendous advantage. He must have secured permission to attack me and I know this is to the death. All the other fighters are standing still, watching this strange match. I parry his blows as expertly as I know how but I need to attack to tire him out. Time now to effect some of those “surprise” moves with my staff. I block one of his blows and strike him hard on the shoulder. He grins, the chakr now in full force and he can’t feel the pain. He charges again and again. I block, waiting, watching for the sudden spring of the extender and trying to knock the staff from his hands. I aim at his hands time and again, connect twice and break fingers. He’s still fully under the influence of the drug and coming at me. I slip under his guard and jab him in the heart. He stumbles and I strike him viciously across his right hip. He collapses on the stones and I move to back away. But the overseer comes over to me and says,
“You, gora, kill challenger or die!” So I kill him, crushing his skull with a vicious side sweep that brings the end of my staff behind his ear. It penetrates the skull. No choice for me, and no reason to choose otherwise if there had been choice given. For I know he would have recovered and challenged another woman to a fight, choosing a weaker one, probably a young trainee next time. I did what I had to do.
I wait for certain punishment by flogging for killing a man outside a prescribed combat. Nothing happens. Four fighters are ordered to take the male body inside one of the huts and they return, wash blood from their hands and we are told to wash and eat.
I never found out what that was about. Best guess, some kind of private vendetta, or debt owed that involved a bet made on my ability to defend myself in a non-conforming situation. Oh well, I’m not a king’s concubine, common expression among fighters.
That night I have another young trainee ‘lover’ in my cage, a new arrival. This tells me someone is pleased with the results of the fight. Go figure… or not.
My reputation as a fighter keeps growing with the consequences that gamblers are pulling back on betting against me. But you can’t say these men are without imagination. I need more challenge and they find one for me. A giant black man captured beyond their deep desert in a coaching sweep for military cadets, has been secretly trained as a challenger and this I’m told is what I must fight. When I see him I understand the term ‘giant’ in relative terms. Indeed, he stands a full head and a half over me and is easily twice my weight. His legs are more like tree trunks than legs and the muscles on his arms ripple when he flexes. Ouch. I’d much rather make love to this one than fight him. And even that could be painful. He’s well hung as they say. Now I have to kill him. Pity.
He chooses the double handed sword and when he sees me and realizes I’m his fighter, the comprehension slowly showing on his face, he squints his eyes and sniffs the air like a bull, letting out a bellow. Fortunately they have a neuro-restraint screwed to his head and they control him by remote. He yells in a deep basso voice, “Female! Arghhhh! Give me real fight. Give me man to kill. Female!” He spits on the ground and spittle spatters on his wide hairless chest. “Kill, cook and eat that, I do.” He points at me. “This is dishonour!”
He stomps the ground and it shakes. His six handlers point lasguns at him and explain it simply: “Fight female or we cut off penis and balls.” Then they emphasize by pressing the remote. He slumps down into a whimpering mass, shaking.
“I fight female.” They ‘release’ him and he stands groggily, shaking his massive head. I’ve changed my mind about the making love thing. I don’t think that would work. I’ll fight him. How do you fight a tree? I remember an old friend of Earth who’d say, “Use a chainsaw.” For whatever reason I can’t get serious about this encounter and the image of using a chainsaw on this creature amuses me. Perhaps because of his ignorant bravado about killing, cooking and eating. We’ll see who does the killing. I’ll pass on the cooking and eating – I’m vegetarian after all.
The next morning sees me going through the standard practice of having my fighter meal alone at one of the long tables. Our current overseer who is called Dalton comes to me and indicates he’s put his money on me.
“Win this one, slave, and I give you a special treat. There is young trainee here will be very good for you. My gift. You win this fight. I buy boy for son, need money to pay and get house and concubine too, understand?”
“I win this fight for you sir. Thank you for gift.” And I add sotto voce, “I deeply thank you for your confidence, for betting on me.”
The meal over I am splashed with the usual cold water and escorted, shivering and shaking, by two handlers through the cold tunnel and into the entrance to the arena. I take my sword from the hands of the red-robed weapons judge, turn and walk to the center of the ring. The plasma lighting is throwing a little heat and with the sun just rising over the battlements my teeth stop rattling. Why must they insist on giving us that water treatment before a fight particularly? Stupid is as stupid does!
The challenger arrives a few moments later. He is in restraints and surrounded by six handlers with lasers charged. He refuses to look at me and looks down as they remove the restraints and hand him his weapon. Then they escort him to the center of the ring to face me. Only now does he look at me and if hate could kill I’d be below the sand. He doesn’t see my nude female attractiveness. What does he see? Something he’s bred to hate. A female fighter: more than an anomaly – an impossibility; a female who dares oppose a man. Something to be crushed, destroyed. A pollutant, that’s what he sees.
His handlers take a couple of steps back from him. He hefts the sword as if it was a twig. Not the least effort in holding it; as if he doesn’t even know it’s in his hands. But he knows. I know he knows. Part of his pea-brain is open to me. He’s trying to look dumb but he’s more than he looks. This is a different kind of challenge, something I’m not at all familiar with. Should prove interesting. How fast can I run in reverse? If I’m to win this I have to take him down ‘branch by branch’ as topping and de-branching a tree before you cut it at the stump.
[end blog post #16]