The Czar of Mars
The crowd stank of sweat and pheromones. The sounds of cheering and cursing and yelling had all melded into a single background audio that Sheriff Matthew Tomes barely noticed anymore, like a fan in the window on a humid Earth day. But that smell, god damn don’t these people shower? Tomes resisted the urge to hold his nose as he wound his way through the Humans and Kentauran watching the fight below. He dodged a wing, just barely avoiding the spiked tip.
Fuck! “Hey! Watch yourself!” The Kentauran peered down at him, red eyes gleeming in the darkened arena. “Yeah, I’m talking to you, Red.”
The Kentauran leaned down from its 2 meters, opened it mouth, and nothing came out. The other Kentauran standing nearby shook their wings, laughing. Sheriff Tomes noticed it didn’t have a translator on its neck, which meant its voice was out of his range of hearing. Even without the words, he knew what it was saying. It was still a mammal.
Tomes stepped forward, “Say that again, I dare ya!” A couple of Humans who’d been watching nearby laughed and cheered. The Kentauran leaned back and cocked its head to the side. It’s companion placed a clawed hand on its shoulder, they looked at each other, and then it folded its wings and nodded to the Sheriff. Tomes nodded back and continued on his way through the crowd towards the front aisle to get a better view of the fight. Tonight’s was between a Human named Adrian and a Kentauran called Jack. Somehow it made Tomes trust them even less that they took Earth names; he didn’t believe the “ours don’t translate” line at all. He continued to keep an eye on the aliens as he wound his way through the Arboretum.
Long since abandoned, the Arboretum had been used to test the viability of Mars settlement during the early days. Now it was an arena for extreme sports and illegal blood duels like this one. This was Adrian’s 5th fight, with no prior losses. The Kentauran he was fighting, Jack, had a similar record. A large crowd had gathered for this unofficial playoff match. Unofficial in that the entire sport had been declared illegal by the newly formed governments of both species. Yet less than half the colonial population recognized those governments. Tomes was technically supposed to arrest everyone here, but he was too far from his jurisdiction to have any real authority over the Humans. And he still had no idea what would happen if he arrested a Kentauran. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Adrian hopped off the ball of his left foot to the right, leaning back with his left shoulder, he deftly dodged the wild rleft hook of the Kentauran’s clawed hand. Landing on his right foot, bent knee, he launched himself into his opponent’s exposed left flank. Adrian’s shoulder length blonde hair fell into his face just as his left shoulder struck the ribcage of the alien, and the crown of his skull drove into the underside of its wing. They rolled into the fake earth of the arboretum. The crowd roared its grim appreciation.
The Kentauran used it wing strength to flip itself on top of Adrian. Wrapping its arms around him, Jack stood up and jumped 4 meters into the air and then began to beat its wings in long, wide arcs. It took mere moments for Adrian to find himself above the treeline in the arms of an alien. He leaned back and looked into its eyes.
Despite the red iris, Jack’s eyes looked remarkably human. The wide pupils betraying its excited emotional state. The lines in the flesh around the edges demonstrating that time does not heal all wounds for Kentauran any more than it does for Humans. Adrian reached back and poked him in the eyes with the 1st 2 fingers of his right hand. Jack released him and grabbed its own face, Adrian quickly wrapped his legs around its waist, reached under its arms, and grabbed the wings on the forward beat.
Kentauran first, they fell towards the ground. Jack drove the claws of its right hand into Adrain’s left shoulder. Howling from pain, Adrian unwrapped his legs from about its waist, pulled up his knees, and kicked off its chest. A 12 centimeter gash tore across his shoulder, exposing muscle and bone, before the claws finally released. The Kentauran desperately, vainly, tried to right itself in time to regain flight. Adrian dove for the branches of a willow tree and, Tarzan like, swung by his right hand to a running landing; a torrent of blood raining down upon the vibrant green arboretum grass .
As soon as he could control his feet, he spun about to face his opponent, only to find it laying on its side, writhing about, wings twitching spasmodically. Blood spurting out of its mouth, it rolled over onto its back and let out a moan audible even to Adrian. Then it lay still, a few last spurts of blood ejected from its mouth before they too ceased.
For just a moment, nothing could be heard in the Arboretum, and then a loud cheer echoed throughout the structure as Adrian’s victory registered with the Humans. He walked over to his opponent, and knelt beside it. Adrian’s left hand hung limply at his side, blood continued to flow from his shoulder without any apparent recognition on his part. Leaning forward, he closed the dead eyes of the beast. “It was an honor.” And then he passed out on top of it.
As medics rushed the battlefield to confirm the kill and aid the victor, the Czar’s minions began working the crowd; collecting and paying on wagers. Occasionally there would be a short chase followed by a brutal beating when some unlucky fool had bet more than he actually owned. Few made such a mistake though, knowing the Czar’s motto ‘Everyone gets paid and everyone pays’.
The Czar was actually two people. A Human and a Kentauran who had gone into business together almost immediately after Settlement Day. No one could confirm who they were, but everyone knew they existed and ran the primary organized crime syndicate on Mars colony. Some argued it wasn’t crime if they operated outside anyone’s official jurisdiction, but the neighboring governments disagreed. So here was Sheriff Tomes, playing detective in no-man’s land, Mars.
“Got your ticket buddy?” The minion stared at him hard. Not an easy thing for a wiry man of maybe ¾ of a meter to do. But he was feeling tough with a 2 meter Kentauran standing behind him. And above him.
“Yeah. It’s right here. I won. Pay up, minion.” He said the last as derisively as possible. The little man shot him a look but reached for his satchel. The Kentauran’s wings fluttered, which Tomes had come to recognize as the equivalent of a Human chuckle.
“Here. 200 Aries.” He dropped 5 red coins into Tomes hand.
Tomes looked up at the Kentauran, “I bet a 110 Aries on the Human, 2-1.” The Kentauran smacked the little man in the head. One good thing about the Czar’s enforcers, they made sure everyone got paid as well.
“Alright, alright” He dropped 2 quarter Aries into Tomes’ outstretched palm. Looking up at his guard sheepishly, they moved on.
The Sheriff dropped the money in his pocket, At least tonight wont be a total waste. Turning his attention back towards the fight ring, he saw the two bodies being dragged towards the side exit while others worked the blood into the soil. Are they both dead now? He set out after them.
It took longer to cross the arboretum floor than he would have thought. Having to weave around trees and bushes was one thing, but up close he found himself in complex maze of vines and irrigation channels. Damn, this is a hell of a field to stage a fight on. By the time he’d made out the back door the ambulance was pulling away. Ambulance being a charitable description for a wagon with a mattress in the back pulled by a 4 wheel ATV. A pair of humans and a Kentauran stood talking where the ambulance had been. The twin moons remained the only illumination now that the vehicle was gone; dim light when they were full, barely visible tonight.
An older man, with flecks of grey in his short brown hair and beard, was talking to the other 2 when Tomes approached. “…I don’t care if he has to drop them in the Sea of Tranquility, I want this to disappear.”
Tomes pulled his flashlight from his coat pocket and shined it in their eyes, “That doesn’t sound legal.”
All but the Kentauran shielded their eyes, “Who is that?” Asked the other human.
“I’m Sheriff Tomes, who are you?”
The older man stepped forward, “My name is Conrad Hughes. I own this property. And I don’t believe you have any jurisdiction here, Sheriff. Where are you from?”
“I’m the Sheriff of Tholus County. And as far as I know, no one has owned this property since the research team left. Have you filed your title?”
Conrad laughed, “This isn’t Tholus County Sheriff. I don’t need to file anything with you. Nor do I need to answer your questions. You have no authority here. In fact, I am the authority here, this is my security team. Mike, Herbie, arrest Sheriff Tomes for trespassing.”
“What? Are you crazy? Are you not in enough trouble already?”
The Kentauran, Herbie, was in the air with 2 flaps of his wings, circling left and behind the Sheriff. Mike drew a tazer from a holster at his back and moved to his right
“Trouble from whom? Mars is open territory, unclaimed, unexplored, unsettled. You want to rebuild exactly what we had on Earth, that’s your business. I see an opportunity for something new.”
“I hate to disappoint you, but gambling on blood sports has been done a time or 2 on Earth.”
“Please, that’s just income. I’m talking about something much grander. I’m talking about a world were people can truly be free to live as they choose.”
“Well the people of Tholus choose not to have a crime syndicate on their planet.”
“How can I be a criminal? There is no law here. Or people to makes laws here. Other than me.”
“So by freedom, you meant, you’d be in charge. I see.”
“This is a fascinating conversation, but I am pressed for time. Dispose of his body with the others.”
The Kentauran dove for Jones. He dropped and rolled towards Mike’s feet, kicking him in the chest as he fell across the Sheriff’s body. Herbie managed to catch him with a swipe of the right claw before pulling up into a wide arc. Jones dove for the tazer, clubbing Mike in the jaw as he did so. He aimed for the descending Kentauran but found his vision disrupted by a blinding flash of light emanating from the base of his skull. Then all was black.
Conrad collapsed the blackjack and re-sheathed it at his back. “Pick him up, lock him in an empty storage locker for now. Keep a guard on him at all times.”