Courtesy the Victorian Store
For the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge, “A Game of Aspects.”
His were fitter’s hands. They were meant for securing pipes, connecting cables, moving steam and electricity from one place to another. Hands meant for the labor the upper classes wanted nothing to do with. They relied on hands like his, his strength and his ability to endure punishment, but he never got invited to any of their fancy to-dos. He flexed his hands, bare and marked with scars and the evidence of calluses, the massive mitts rattling his chains.
He could hear the crowd already. Chanting for blood, anticipating the confrontation, ready to see justice done. This was how it worked. Break the law badly enough, get sent to the Pits. He had a reputation, which is why he now was outside the largest of the Pits, the Grand Arena, where tickets were sold at triple digit prices per head, exclusive boxes rented out to the especially rich and powerful. And only the most unsavory or crazy of murderers and rapists fought to survive here.
He wondered, as he stood and his guards removed his chains, if she was in the crowd now. Her cries for help sounded so sincere, as he rushed in to pull the man away from her. Before either of them knew what was happening, he had broken the man’s arm and shattered his hipbone. Moments away from breaking the man’s neck, she screamed again – “He’s my husband!” The police weren’t about to believe one of his kind would come to the defense of the landed gentry, and rather than listen to the truth, that her husband had meant her harm, they didn’t hesitate to throw the well-meaning, refugee fitter into the Pits without a trial.
Freed, for now, he walked to the entrance to the arena floor. He saw his opponent across the expanse of open ground, under the undulating tapestry of the crowd, waving their scarves, calling for blood. The other man was a serial rapist. For some sick reason, the Pit Masters had dressed him as befit his noble birth, with a filigree waistcoat embroidered with a gear motif, clean white spats, even a top hat with goggles on it, as if he was an aeronaut or something. Not that goggles on a top hat would help him in a flying machine. In fact, they were about as useless as they could be there.
The Fitter, on the other hand, was dressed as per usual: leather trousers, heavy boots, a chain vest over his undershirt and suspenders, and hard metal bracers and greaves. The crowd liked seeing the dark tattoos under the skin of his arms that wound around his shoulders and up his neck, under the close-shorn dark hair. He waved away the helmet. The overdressed idiot across the floor didn’t concern him.
He stepped out into the Arena, where they cheered for him. He gave them a wave. When the other walked in, he spread his arms and turned, grinning like a fool, bowing to the nobles in their box. The fitter could see he carried something at his hip. Some kind of weapon. He frowned; he preferred sending these scumbags to their makers with his bare hands, but even the most callous of them didn’t bring ranged weapons to a fight like this.
The announcer called his name – “The Fitter” – whereas the newcomer was dubbed “Top Hat.” It was, as always, a fight to the death. The crowd liked a good show, and a long one, for everything they paid. The Fitter knew how to amuse the mob, how to draw out the killing blow, how he would seem to revel in the bloodshed. But all he wanted was his freedom. All he wanted was to see his kin again.
The fight began with a tone from the large brass bell at the edge of the Pit’s upper reach. Top Hat drew his weapon, and the Fitter hesitated. Those capacitors… it can’t be. That moment of recognition nearly cost him his life. Lightning snapped across the Pit floor, singeing the hair on the Fitter’s right arm as he ducked to his left. The bolt left a black, angry mark on the wall leading up to the expensive, front-row seats. Top Hat frowned, took aim, and tried to fire again.
“Type 3 capacitors need 3 seconds to recharge,” the Fitter said.
Top Hat stared at the Fitter in shock. Grinning, the Fitter crossed the distance between them as quickly as he could move. His large right hand pushed the arm holding the gun away as his left came up hard, breaking Top Hat’s jaw, sending his hat to the dirt-covered floor. He wrapped his thick, fitter’s hand around Top Hat’s wrist and twisted, bone snapping, the lightning pistol dropping from numb fingers.
As Top Hat screamed, the Fitter reached down and pulled the goggles from the hat. He slid them down over the Fitter’s face and broken jaw, twisting them in such a way that they tightened around the man’s throat. The rapists’s eyes bulged. The Fitter’s teeth ground as he forced his opponent to his knees. He could feel his skin burning, knew without looking that the Atlantean ink under his skin was glowing the deep sea-foam green betraying the refined orichalcum trapped there. He didn’t care. He grabbed the man’s neck, crushing the goggles under his grip, and lifted Top Hat into the air with one hand. He slammed the body into the ground once, twice, and a third time, and then threw it into the nearest wall.
He looked down at the lightning pistol as the crowd screamed, some running in panic from the stands. It was a weapon of his home, his kin, and it had wound up in this land-dweller’s hands. Someone knew the truth. Someone knew of their power. He had to find them. Once he got out of the Pits.
The guards approached. The Fitter flexed his hands, cracked his neck, and smiled at them.
“One at a time, gentlemen? Or all at once?”