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|The Black Bear|
Chapter 2 - The Black Bear
Garami couldn't believe he'd done that. Riki had left him in charge of the shop for a week while the older man went on a well deserved vacation with his family. Running the repair shop was a huge responsibility for Garami, and a sign of trust from the owner. If Garami could have finished with a successful and uneventful week, he would likely have set himself up nicely to inherit the shop in 10 years or so, when Riki retired. Riki's two sons were pursuing other endeavors and Garami knew the old man had taken a liking to him. More than just fix the bikes, Riki had also shown him how to manage the business side of things in a way that seemed to be grooming him for a future ownership.
Now that was all a thing of the past. Garami had taken an order to fix a wealthier man's commuter steam bike that was shaking slightly and had a high pitched whine to it. After misdiagnosing the problem and replacing the combustion chamber, he returned the bike to the man who crashed it hard two hours later as the gears clamped up and threw the business man violently off.
The rider came back to the shop with a broken arm in a sling, a severe gash in his forehead, and an entourage of people. Chuck Smith was the man's name and he was furious. Blaming Garami for gross neglect, and even going so far as to insinuate that it was done on purpose because he wasn't a bender. Chuck threatened to go to the authorities and have the shop shut down, unless Garami could pay his price.
That was how things were done in this new world. Money controlled everything. After getting drunk the night before out of frustration, he was now in the Black Bear Bar. One of the last places he wanted to step into again. To Garami, the choice was simple. He couldn't let his mistake get the shop closed, so the only solution would be to somehow come up with the money to pay off the man before Riki ever even heard about it. Garami worked his way through the main bar area and back to a door that was guarded. After gaining admittance he was led down some stairs and through a hallway where he passed another bodyguard. This one was small and wiry looking, but Garami saw the wire cabling around his wrists and the metal disks at his back. So The Bear had a metal bender on the payroll? That was interesting. The only metal benders Garami knew of where the police force that where personally trained by either Toph or her daughter now.
Garami entered a dimly lit room with bright shag carpet. Seated behind a desk was The Black Bear, whose name he got from his physical appearance. Currently The Bear was wearing a fur overcoat and smoking a fat cigar with his feet up on his desk. "Ah! Garami, my boy. I knew you'd come to fight for me eventually."
Garami ground his teeth together. The Bear had been trying to recruit him for his dirty fights for some time now. Needing the money to save the repair shop had forced him to stoop lower than he ever thought he would. "You have your fingers in everything that goes on in this town," he said to The Bear, "so I'm sure you heard what happened yesterday. I need some quick money. What do you have for upcoming fights with a decent purse?"
The Bear made a show of flipping through his records and acting thoughtful, but Garami had a feeling that the ring boss already knew which fight he wanted Garami in. "I've got an eight team tournament this weekend out in Lockfax. There's still some open spots and some lone entries so you wouldn't even have to find your own team."
Three fights to win it all in one night would be dangerous. And they wouldn't have top notch healers on hand like officially sanctioned fights did. But the only way to make enough money to pay off the man suing him would be to do something more than just a single fight. "Fine. What are the prizes looking like?"
The Bear listed a monetary amount. "Winner take all." The amount listed was fairly substantial, but not enough to pay off the man who crashed. This was The Bear's plan all along.
Garami wanted to protest, but haggling with The Bear was impossible. Gritting his teeth he said the words that could seal his fate. "And if I bet that much on myself? What kind of odds can you give me?"
"I can go 2:1 for that I believe." The Bear said with a triumphant smile.
"2:1? Surely you can do better. There's eight teams total and I'll be fighting alongside people I've never even met."
The Black Bear stood up from behind his desk. Taller even that Garami, and a much larger person in general, he placed an arm around the boy. "Now now, none of the people you'll be going against train like you do. They're all punks.. Riffraff looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Plus, I have to make a dollar here and there don't I?"
Garami left the bar with the stake ticket from the loan shark in his hand. This was it. If he didn't win everything Saturday, The Bear would own him and his life would be over.
Garami woke in the morning and went for his morning run; much more on his mind currently than usual. The skies above were clear but his head was not. His fight was tonight and he had bet with money he did not have. Stopping at the repair shop on his way back, he made sure that everything was closed down and locked up tight. Riki would be back from vacation in two days and if everything went right tonight, his boss would never know that he had almost ruined the business.
The day passed by uneventfully. He made sure to stay loose and ran through fight scenarios in his head. Thankfully there were no weight classes in bending battles so he didn't have to cut weight as he would if he were fighting in one of the regular's cage matches.
As the sun set on the city, Garami pulled on a black jiu jitsu gi with shortened legs and sleeves to help keep them out of the way. He was actually going to do this. Fight in a ring against a bunch of punks that watched too much PBL and thought they could hang with that. He grabbed a bandanna on his way out the door so that he could cover his face if he ran into anyone he knew. It would be miserable working that hard with his mouth covered, but he didn't want any of his training buddies to recognize him at a mobster fight. He took off towards the suburb of Lockfax where the event was being held. The only distinguishing feature on him was the green and blue diagonal on his clothing.
Garami arrived at the venue of tonight's tournament and upon asking where the fighters were meeting, he was shown to a large room. Spectators went the opposite way of him and he saw multiple people exchanging money as bets were made. The people The Bear was associated with used these fights to clean their money and also to hide much of it from the government's tax office.
He approached a table where a man was marking down the fighters as they arrived. "Which one are you?" he was asked.
"Garami," he answered. The clerk looked a bit confused while scanning the sheet. Garami glanced at it and saw that most of the names were pseudonyms. There was a Napão written down that he assumed to be himself as that fighter was listed as a 6'1" 230 lb earthbender. His kind tended to be larger people in general, but the only others in the room with Garami's size were even bigger, and out of shape.
"Alright there you go," The counter-man said as he marked off the name. "Your waterbender is over there in the corner. Goes by "Meathead" of all things. Your firebender hasn't checked in yet."
"Okay, thank you." It made sense for the fighters to go by code names. This made it harder to track the gambling back to The Bear and the men he represented. Working his way over to Meathead, Garami introduced himself and the two exchanged a few words.
"You a regular at these fights? I don't recognize you," Meathead said. The waterbender was older and appeared to be pushing 40 with a gut that was starting to protrude. His arms and jaw still seemed solid however and with as leathery as his skin looked, it appeared he frequently fought.
"No," Garami replied. "I'm trying more so to get into the PBL's minor leagues, but circumstances forced me here."
"Great," The veteran responded. "I get set up with a rookie who thinks he's too good for this life. Just don't get soft on me boy. Lotta prize money here. And I deserve it."
"Easy, I'm more than capable as a fighter. Hell, we-"
"What's up bitches?" Garami and Meathead's rough introductions were shockingly hlated by a voice to their left. The two men turned to their left to find the speaker and then had to look down to see the girl standing there in red. "I'm Suti, your firebender." She snapped her fingers and summoned a flame while giving them a coy smile.
The two other benders looked at each other with confused faces and then Meathead got angry. "Oh there's no way I ended up with a little girl on my team too." Crack. Suti kicked the kicked the inside of the thickset man's knee hard.
"I'm 18 you jerk! Don't think of me as a little girl. I could take you both on." Garami had to jump in and pull the girl back who was struggling to get up in Meathead's face.
"Chill out," He reprimanded her. "You can fight him later. Right now, unfortunately, we are a team together. Now, are you familiar with the fights?" He didn't see how she would. Meathead had a point. Suti didn't look a day over 16.
"Of course," She said offended. "A fight this big they only bring in the best of the worst. I've got more fights in the pit than any of the thugs you see here. And don't think that because you're bigger and stronger means I'm the weak one. Just make sure you stay out of my way out there. I don't need you slowing me down." This girl sure had an attitude on her.
"I can't deal with this shit." Meathead said after Garami cut him off from verbally attacking the girl again. "I need a beer. I guess I'll meet back up with you two kids before our fight starts." The older man stormed off and argued with the clerk on his way out.
"That guy's funny." Suti said.
"What, you know him?" was Garami's response.
"No, just assholes like him. Big guys who act tough as a front. The streets are littered with them." Suti looked calm, but Garami was not. He would have preferred to be with some more typical teammates. Meathead was a character, but if he was a vet of the games he could at least hold his own. Garami could pick up the slack and hopefully that'd be enough to win the championship. Suti claimed to have many fights under her belt, but she didn't look like she could take a hit at all.
"Attention all fighters!" the clerk began to gain everyone's attention. "Our first bout of Team Mayhem vs. Team Ramrod will begin in ten minutes so would those combatants please make their way to the arena. These matches will be followed under PBL rules, if not their jurisdiction. No lethal attacks, no using the water from the moat, and any extra-curriculars in the waiting room will result in a disqualification."
The 6 fighters went out through the tunnel that lead to the arena. "So do ya wanna check out the competition?" Suti asked him.
"How? Fighters aren't allowed into the stands and neither of us have tickets anyway."
"Just come with be you big nug." Garami's interest was piqued and so he followed the smaller girl out and into the main traffic area of the venue. "Just wait by the gate and act natural and I'll have us in in a minute." Garami did as was told, still not sure what Suti's plan was and stood in the proximity of the man taking money and handing out tickets.
Suti screamed. "Oh my God! Get off me you pervert!" Suti pushed an older gentleman back and covered herself with her hands. "This man just grabbed me." She then said to the crowd. People stepped forward, a mix of seeing what happened and some challenging the man she accused. The gatekeepers went forward to make sure the peace was kept. "Well you coming or not?" Suti asked from the other side of the entrance.
Garami hadn't even seen her slip away from the mini mob. "That was some nice work back there," he said as they walked.
"Well a girl picks up a few things here and there." The two went into some of the slightly elevated seats and looked at the arena. In a few minutes the opening fighters would be coming out. The ring of water that separated the fans from the dangerous combat occurring in the hexagon was considerably smaller than what he remembered from his amateur fights.
Then the fighters made their entrances and the restless crowd went nuts already. The announcer talked up the nights three round tournament and the vicious benders that were to be showcased and the fight began. Garami watched with professional interest, analyzing every move the men, and one woman, made. "Young blue guy looks damn good." Suti said next to him.
Garami had already identified him as a person of interest. The rest of the fighters were good, better than the riff raff and punks The Bear promised would be here, but this one waterbender stuck out. He was very technical. All of his attacks looked as crisp and clean as if he was simply drilling forms. It took almost no time for his team to eliminate all but one opponent, losing only their earthbender along the way who managed to somehow knock himself out of the ring.
This standout waterbender engaged the remaining firebender on his own and the two traded ranged attacks with water getting the upper hand and forcing the firebender back. The waterbender continued to press his opponent until they were fighting hand-to-hand. Placing his hands behind the backed up fighter's head, the water bender threw knees from the clinch, catching the other on the chin multiple times. As the firebender slumped the ref stepped in to declare a TKO. Team Mayhem won the first round with ease.
The second fight was even more entertaining. The evenly matched fight went a full ten minutes before either side lost a single person. Once they had the man advantage it was all over for the other team as they won with a clean sweep. Both teams looked very good, although neither team had the standout talent as Team Mayhem's waterbender had.
"We've got to get back quick," Garami told Suki and the two of them left the arena, looking like nothing more suspicious than a couple of patrons going to use a restroom. Re-entering the fighter's room, Meathead was waiting for them angrily.
"Bought time you showed up. I thought you cowards ran off of on me. We're up in five."
"We just had to step out for some air. Listen, we go out there and slow play it. No one here needs to act as a one man wrecking ball. Meathead, keep their waterbender busy by fighting him for control of the limited water supply. Suti, cover me with some fireballs. I'll go after which ever of the other two that looks weaker. Up close and one on one I should be able to get a quick knockout. Then we can use the man advantage and finish on our terms." Not much for a strategy he knew, but having no idea what his two teammates were capable of meant they had to use a KISS strategy. Keep It Simple Stupid.
"Whatever," Meathead said dismissingly, "Let's just throw a brawl and make sure we're the ones standing at the end. You can't over-think these things. Just fight it and quit trying so hard to avoid being hit."
"I'll cover you," Suti said with a bit of approval. "But you better be true to your word and finish him in under a minute." The last part had the undertones of a threat behind it. Somehow, this small framed girl was actually intimidating.
All of Garami's future rested in the hands of himself, a girl with an attitude, and a guy with the IQ of a boarcupine. If they didn't win the prelim fights and then the championship, Garami would be in steep debt to The Bear, and therefore at his mercy.
Please, please leave me feedback on this. What you've liked, what you didn't. Even just letting me know that you read it gives me the motivation to write more! Thanks
So this one started off with me needing a reason for Garami to be desperate for money. Hence the suit. I was trying to style the underground fights like the one's from the 1920s which the mafia had their hands into. Expect The Black Bear gangster to make reappearances. And man, after the bar scene my writing really went downhill. Awkward dialogue, forced actions. I like the way I have the new characters Khao and Suti set up in my head but it didn't transfer well to paper. This is in need of a rewrite at some point. Any thoughts and improvements on those parts are especially wanted.
edit: I changed the last third of this and added a lot to the end of this chapter. I feel its an improvement, hopefully it is.
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