This is the address we were given. A warehouse deep in the middle of some dark neighborhood of San Fransisco. There is nobody around but us. Nothing but dimly lit street lamps and rustling wind.
(Warehouses are large buildings where stored items are kept by their owners. Much like a house that holds wares.)
“Is this truly the place for the fight club?” I ask.
“This seems about right,” Francis says. “You are completely certain you want to do this, right? No reservations at all? Because I’m certainly real reserved about it.”
“I am an [Adventurer,] Francis Bacall,” I say. “Fighting is what I am made for. It is my grandest purpose.”
“That’s true, but fight clubs on Earth aren’t… Well, they’re definitely not the nicest places to be. We don’t have gladiator arenas or whatever anymore.”
“And what a shame that is,” Delta says. “We could use some good old fashioned public violence these days.”
“You’re so mean, Delta.”
“I’d like to nominate most of my coworkers to be the first ones to enroll in the modern gladiator program. They can fight against killer robots and attempt to wrestle bears.”
“No more bears, please…” Francis shudders.
“Well then, let us enter,” I tell the two of them. “Let us begin our time at the fight club.”
That’s how much I have on me now. Not a huge amount depending on the severity of whatever fighting I may do here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
We get ahead of our past selves by advancing into the warehouse, where there are stacks of boxes piled high everyhwere. It’s quiet and dim, but in the distance I can hear something. Something like… cheering?
A large beareded man in a black suit and glasses stands in front of a cooridoor of boxes that leads in the direction of the cheering sounds. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect this man was several generations removed from giant ancestry. He is incredibly tall and bulky. Almost as if he could pounce on the three of us and we’d immediately fly out of the building from the sheer force of the attack. It is as if he were a “pouncer” or something like that.
“Names and fighter IDs,” the large man says.
“I’m Omid Rigi,” Delta says with the pitch of her voice a lot lower than normal. “Royal Tiger liason. I’m here to submit my contestant for the night.”
The man narrows his eyes and looks at her deeply. “We ain’t got a Royal Tiger notification for tonight.”
“You are mistaken,” she says. “Check again.”
She glares at him as deeply and forcefully as she has ever glared at me, perhaps even more so. After a moment, he bites his lip and his posture slumps a little bit.
“Alright,” the man says, writing a name on a piece of paper in his hands. “Tell me who the Royal Tigers are entering.”
“We have a new contestant. His name is Blaze Blitzer,” she says.
“What? No, you cannot call me—”
“Shut up, pink-haired dog.”
I shut up.
“Okay, the man says. “Blaze Blitzer. That name sounds familiar… But okay, I trust you. First time here. Enter through this way and find yourself to the new contestant registration booth. Ask for Shaniqua.”
“Understood,” I say. “Thank you f—”
“What did I say, dog?” Delta barks. She turns to the man and says, “These white boys and their mouths.”
“I know it,” the man says. “Have fun with your contestant, Mr. Rigi.”
We enter through the cooridor of boxes and once we are out of earshot of other people, Francis gives Delta a wild-eyed smile. “Mr. Omid Rigi? You actually got away with that?”
“I actually got away with that,” Delta says, her expression mostly unamused. “It’s about the way you carry yourself. Maybe I’m a courteous young office lady when I’m at work. But I can also be a Persian mob man just by projecting myself enough. That’s all it takes.”
“Well, I’m sure your completely flat chest helped a lot too,” he says.
“I bet that dude back there thinks you’re a total twink. Maybe he’s into that. Want me to go ask him?”
“Once again, fuck you.”
I don’t follow their joking, but perhaps one day I will come to understand any of what they are saying.
We approach the main room of this warehouse, where the cheering is now much louder. In fact, there is a large crowd standing around an arena of sorts. I try to look closely to figure out what exactly is going on, but I have too much trouble with it and give up. I’ll find out soon enough anyway.
We finally find the new contestant registration woman, where a woman by the name of Shaniqua sits there tapping away at her phone.
“Um, hello?” Francis asks.
The woman snaps into focus and gives a bright smile. “Why, hello there! Welcome to the fight club. First rule of the fight club is, of course, have fun! This your first time here?”
“Yes, it is,” I say. “I have a strong desire to participate in the fighting tonight, if that is something that is at all possible for you to accomodate.”
“You talk kinda funny, but I guess we can pencil you in. You got the cash to enter with?”
Francis sighs and hands over an unsealed envelope. “Here’s the entry fee. His name is Blaze Blitzer, and he is being sponsored by the Royal Tiger gang.”
“Yes, and I am Royal Tiger liason Omid Rigi,” Delta says.
Shaniqua eyes Delta suspiciously, but doesn’t say anything to her. Delta blushes but doesn’t lose her composure. “I’ll buy that for now. M’kay, Blaze Blizter. You know the five rules of fight club?”
“I know only the first one, which you have already graced me by telling.”
“Hmm… You sure you’re ready to fight tonight?”
“Ready as ever!”
Shaniqua shrugs. “Okay. Rule number one. Have fun. We always gotta have fun, even when we’re getting the crap beaten out of each other. Rule two is, if you are standing, you’re in the fight. If you’re laying on the ground for more than ten seconds, you’re out. If you’re touching the floor outside the ring, you’re out.”
“Ah, so it’s like the martial arts tournament I participated in back on Mystix,” I say. “I did not progress past the first round, but—” Delta elbows me and I shut up.
“Rule three is, no groin shots, even to the ladies. Rule four is play up the drama. Make the crowd go wild. If the crowd’s dead, so are your chances of winning. Rule five is, the concession stand isn’t free, even if you’re a contestant. Got all that?”
“I do, I do. I understand completely.”
“Good, then,” she says. “As a new contestant, you’ll be up against some of the veterans tonight. If you make it out in one piece, maybe you can come back to play another day. If you actually win any fights, you can keep going and increasing your earnings. That all good?”
“Crystal clear,” I say. “May I fight now?”
“Wait, first, whatever the heck happened to that guy who recruited us to come here?” Francis asks. “I never got a clear look at him, but…”
“Oh, you got recruited?” Shaniqua asks. “That was Earl. He never shows up around here. He’s a bit shy. But he likes running fight clubs wherever he goes, and he really likes finding new fighters. If you ever see him again, make sure to say hi for me.”
“Will do,” Francis says. “Okay, Eryk, are you ready?”
“As I have said many times in the past few minutes, YES! Let me fight already!”
A bell rings, and the crowd cheers. “We have a new winner! It’s Ulric the Stampede!” an announcer shouts.
“Right on time,” Shaniqua says. “Get up there and do your best.”