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Blood Sport
#1
Every gleaming society had its darknesses, and often, the brighter shone the elite, the deeper the colour of the shadows.

The Almaz was a club bolted into the Underground, but claimed exclusively by the favour of the obscenely rich. Cash or favour granted admittance - often both were required to get a foot through the door - but it did not hold the prestige of somewhere like Manifesto. It was not the sort of place one openly admitted to attending, nor a name that found its way into polite conversation or the sparkle of the tabloids. No paparazzi paved the way to its doors. On the contrary. Recording devices were prohibited within, and security took the rule seriously enough to break fingers and worse for transgression.

The clientèle was mixed; the golden elite getting their dark kicks alongside the cream of local gang life, though you might only tell by the absence or proliferation of tattoos amongst the formal dress-code. Big money was won and lost on the fights, that being the Almaz's bead and butter. Allies forged and shattered in its walls, deals soaked in loyalty of blood. Upside leather and velvet decorated a lavish bar area, filtering down into the pits below, where the real entertainment happened. Down there rings and cages separated the various fights, couched by plush ringside tables. This was not sportsmanship; it was brutality.

For now Ori lingered upstairs, by the bar, indulging in the hum of conversation beneath the drum of industrial style music. She was known here, but not a regular face; Luka came here too, albeit not as a customer, and it had sucked some of the lustre easily recovered elsewhere. Intention had pulled her here tonight, though. The promised heat of violence below stirred passion and ferocity in those around her, and it was whispered rumours of a particular fight tonight that had bent Ori's ear.

Some time earlier that afternoon she'd sent Giovanni a message to meet her at the club, though the details had been vague. She trusted he'd come running. In any case, he was her delay; his name was cleared at the door - supposing he wasn't foolish enough to try and spin an alias, though he would still be searched before the bouncers allowed him in. If he didn't show it changed nothing of her plans, but he would be missing a fuckload of fun.
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#2
The deep thrum of bass could be heard through the door as Marcus handed the folded bills to the door man. He gave his name in a quiet voice, which the massive man quickly looked up in his tablet.

Malik dismissed him from his thoughts. He had no doubt he would be admitted. A chance meeting with Anatoly Yushakov, Director of Media Affairs at the Consulate of Communication, at one of the palace's gyms, had led to an enjoyable evening at Manifesto in his private booth. It was there that he first heard of Almaz.

The bouncer opened the door and nodded him through before ceasing to exist as Malik descended carpeted stairs into this dark world. The deep bass of industrial music thrummed in his chest, the smell of smoke- cigar and other- swirled with that of leather and designer perfumes. The sounds of conversation and clinking of glasses added to the cacophony. The people that milled about- some sitting in leather booths or at the bar, others at tables- varied from older men and women who reeked of money and power, mistresses and purchased companions for the night on their arms, to what could only be the more successful of the local gangs. They all rubbed shoulders down here in this Stygian realm. Kill or be killed one of the two basic drives of all living things, though Anatoly had said that actual death was rare and usually an accident. Or at least made to look that way.

He kept walking inexorably toward the sounds of cheering from down below. A ring of waist high tables surrounded a scattering of pits. Down below, he saw two man fighting. Dried blood stained the mats, testimony to previous matches. The crowd surrounding the caged ring cheered and screamed in delight or frustration.

His nostrils flared. He could almost smell the blood, even up here. Life at its most basic. One of the men was smaller than the other but he fought with a ferocity that belied his smaller size. His shorn scalp showed blood on the back of his head, the bloody crumpled nose on the other man making it clear what had happened.

He smiled contentedly, as if he were at home. Tonight he was Darth Malik. He embraced the darkness within, the blackness that permeated the air. A serving girl came to him with a professional smile. Her dress was tight and short, though with a formal cut to it. Pretty. "Can I get you something?"

He gave her a slight smile. "Vodka on platinum ice-cubes."
It would not do for it to be diluted. She returned quickly with the drink. The glass perspired, the mix of bodies ensuring moisture in the cooled air. As he brought the glass to his lips, the vodka sloshed with the density that indicated it had come from a deep freezer and it burned like fiery ice as it slid down his throat.

Drink in hand, he continued to watch the fight.
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#3
Giovanni smiled when he received the message from Oriena. He had hoped she would contact him soon. Ordine felt otherwise. She urged Giovanni not to meet her - telling him that he had come a long way since he moved in with Jensen. All of that could fall apart in an instant. Caos was thrilled at the prospect, and Giovanni, interested in some fun, listened to the voice of Caos and that dark side of him prevailed that night.

Giovanni arrived at the Almaz and gave his name to the doorman. His name was on the list, but the outstretched hand of the bouncer indicated a fee for entry. Giovanni paid and entered the club. The fight intrigued him.. the brutality of it was enough to send shivers of pleasure down his spine. He turned to look for Oriena though. She wasn't hard to spot at the bar. She was more beautiful than anyone else there. He approached her and put an arm around her.

"Hey there, sweetheart."
Giovanni smiled at her, using the name he had called her during their first meeting. He had filled out since their last meeting and looked healthier.

He took a seat and ordered a beer, wondering what Oriena had in mind for tonight. Her message had been vague on the details, but he didn't care. It was Oriena.


Edited by Giovanni Cavelli, Jan 19 2015, 07:00 PM.
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#4
He took proclivities that were not his due. The casual drape of his arm razored blades across her skin; she was particular on the allowance of touch, at least when it held such a proprietorial air. They'd already toyed with this idea of ownership, the unending power struggle on every minuscule level. She assumed it was why he used the moniker sweetheart, knowing full well she would not find it endearing.

"Giovanni."
She used his name intimately, teasing; like he was hers. He had come running, after all. Her glaze flicked up and down the length of him, noting but not lingering on the differences since she'd last seen him. He was not the only one looking different, though her change was nothing but the presentation of another facet among a thousand. In place of motorcycle boots and leather jackets, kohled eyes and tantalising flesh. She slipped seamlessly within this world of darkness, wreathed like a queen. Or a goddess.

Hair spilled like black ink against pale shoulders, brushed back from her face. She uncurled long legs clad in leather to slip down from the stool, the obscene height of stilettos bringing her up to eye level. The glitter of chaos was evident in her gaze, the deep blue of dusk seconds before the sun found itself swallowed. Behind it lay a secret she promised to share if only he followed just a few more steps to the crook of her finger. Her smile was a transparent lure.

The steps led down to the pits and cages, the metallic tang of blood sharp on the tongue compared to the air conditioned finery of upstairs. Shadows cupped cheeks, robbing clear sight in this clandestine place, but faces still registered in her peripheral, the important ones anyway. More than a few sets of eyes skittered away upon meeting hers, but her predatory stalk found no prey in them tonight. She was only assessing an audience as she threaded her way to a table topped with the gleam of a silver reserved sign.

A second-tier, unmemorable table, two or three deep from the centre spectacle. A massive cage thrust upwards at the centre of the cavernous room, dark at the moment, while the pits below played out a prologue of blood lust. With no tangible stake in the outcome (and money did not count) she was less than enthralled with the base desires of man. It disgusted as much as it fascinated. Blood and bruises, fragile skin and splintered bones; these things both thrilled her and left a bitter taste, a touch of madness she was aware but unwary of.

She sat, crossed her legs, and assessed Giovanni's reaction so far. Violence had inflamed him before, and she had not chosen the Almaz by accident. At almost the same time she noticed a man a few tables away, flashing a moment of recognition, though they'd never met. The shadow of her smile crept a little more malevolent. "Are you a betting man, Giovanni?"
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#5
The fight ended with the smaller man the victor. Malik smiled at his tenacity, his unwillingness to go down. He was heavily bruised and battered- the unlikely victory had cost him dearly- but he had won. In the end, that was all that mattered. And if you should have to lose, you made the cost dear enough that the winner did not feel it much of a victory.

People soon drifted away to other places, to watch other fights. He would join them in moments. Darkness wreathed him and the smell of blood and sweat was still fresh in the air. A tremulous excitement swept over him. For a moment he heard a memory of echoed screams. A slow smile spread across his face. He did not feel the need to hunt, not yet. The memory was enough, something to savor over and over again. While his other hunts had been personal and most cherished for those reasons, he'd enjoyed this last one far more than he would have imagined. The inventiveness of it was very satisfying. A warmth burned in his chest as the details and clever flourishes came to him. The exhilaration of sitting in judgement, of the anger and arrogance and defiance shaved away a sliver at a time until full throated pleas for mercy and forgiveness were all that remained.

His reverie left him virtually motionless, as if he had receded into the shadows. Gradually, he came to himself, his drink forgotten in his hand. Only his eyes moved as he became aware of a man and a woman walking to one of the tables, a silver reservation slip atop it.

He smiled as he watched her lead- and there was not question with the way she stalked and looked about- the man. A quiet chuckle rumbled in his chest. The woman was very attractive and she knew it. Her clothing and hair and makeup were calculated to befuddle and obfuscate the male- or female, for that matter- mind. A coolly beautiful and deadly viper.

His small smile remained as he watched her seat herself, carefully crossing lovely legs, body language enticing the man while at the very same time indicating its calculation. Mentally he toasted her with his drink.

Manipulation was always a pleasure to watch.
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#6
Oriena stood and met him at eye level. He wasn't used to that from before, but he found the stilettos appealing to her already endearing form. Her smile and eyes drew him in and he was only too happy to follow. Clad in leather pants, that hugged her, Giovanni enjoyed the movement of her hips as she walked - yes, he was happy to follow.

Others glanced at her as they walked, and some had stares of jealousy as he was the one with her, but some he couldn't read. One man was impossible to read. Oriena sat, every move seductive and Giovanni followed suit.

She asked if he was a betting man. Giovanni looked towards the combatants, a glitter of amusement appearing in his eyes. The sheer brutality of the fight was enough of a draw for him. He hadn't gambled much since he fled Roma, but he used to. There was a certain excitement to it. Of course now he knew more.

"You could say that."
he responded, a slight smirk appearing on his face. "I prefer to win."
Giovanni wasn't opposed to cheating. In fact, he was able to ensure a winning bet now if he wanted to. Ordine shivered inside - unsure of what was going to happen.
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#7
Her grin flashed hot, but the amusement seemed genuine. Something lit her from the inside tonight, an intention or anticipation that was obviously the cause of the dark glitter in her eye. "And yet here you are, still playing my game,"
she remarked huskily. A game he had absolutely no hope of winning, though that didn't mean he would not find her manipulations to his advantage. He'd already warned her against toying with him, and it was precisely why she did it. It pleased her, of course; Ori cultivated obsession, grew shamelessly bored with anything less. Passion, lust, hate; she fed off the unbalanced extremity.

"Fortunes are won and lost here."
The Almaz's minimum-bet threshold was shockingly high to the outside eye, but not so much when one scrutinised the patronage. Cold hard cash had never been much motivation for Ori, just a necessary accessory to facilitate her other ambitions. Among other business ventures, she'd wrung the Almaz thoroughly when it suited her, but monetary fortune wasn't a flicker on her radar tonight.

Her gaze slid back over one Marcus DueBois, a conscious acknowledgement of his attention. She wondered if Brandon knew where his protégé spent his sins. Or perhaps if he cared. The inspection was languid before her attention returned to her companion. "How much would you gamble, to ensure you won?"
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#8
Malik had turned his gaze to the darkened ring, the smells of blood and sweat still in the air, the sharp iron tang lingering in the back of his throat. The darkness washed over him. In the distance, he could see the backs of patrons and heard their cheers and calls at another ring. It pulled at him. He felt his muscles hum with the slow burn of energy, the hunger to do violence. This was life at its most basic. Primal. The brutal solutions to living equations.

He turned his head to find the woman at the table gazing at him. At his notice she did not look away. Instead she continued her watch. A small smile formed on his lips. After a moment, she turned back to the man that was so thoroughly trapped in her web.

Thus did she cast the lure. But Malik would not bite for casual lust. Prey that considered themselves the hunter were never what they seemed, the prize never so simple. The poor sod at the table with her would learn that the hard way.

Malik was willing to play games when it amused him. Of the outcome, he was not overly concerned. There were always ways to manipulate the game. And the players. A gentle nudge; a casual look; an offhand jest. The electricity still hummed its siren call in his chest. He inhaled, the taste of the dark air invigorating the black spaces of his soul. Yes, he was in the mood to play.

He turned his gaze back to the ring in the distance though still quite aware of the woman.
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#9
Giovanni, although intrigued by the fight, kept his eyes on Oriena. The remark about him still playing her game amused him. He knew it was true, but had to admit her game was fun. He had even told her that he didn't like being toyed with on their initial meeting, yet he was drawn to her. For some reason, he found himself enjoying her game.

"I find your game intriguing."
he said with a smile. He noticed she looked over at the man that Giovanni had found difficult to read. He wondered what was up. He'd rather not have another Nox to deal with today.

When she looked back at him. Her question was not out of place given the venue. "What are the stakes?"
After all that was always important to know when gambling. His look was questioning. Giovanni had an idea she wasn't discussing the fights, rather she was speaking in riddles.
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#10
It was rare that White had a night out for his own reasons. Often if he was away from the safehouse, it was work related. Personal, Pervaya, or Atharim, whichever it was, it was rarely for particularly simple reasons. Other then grocery shopping, of course. Groceries. The occasional beer. Pit fights.

White had participated in a few 'underground' fighting pits in his day, but tonight was his first in Moscow. His first where he stood the chance to make quite so much money, that is. Of course he bet on himself; why wouldn't he?

He'd arrived an hour or so earlier, and as always, appearances were important. White had arrived in a simple black suit, white dress shirt. Off the rack, but, again, tailored to fit. It had drawn a few looks when he'd arrived; he was by some written off as some common mob thug who had earned a fat paycheck and knew just the right people to find his way into a club like Almaz. Certainly not the lowliest of scum to be sharing air with in the room, but far from the highest.

That changed as he was occasionally greeted by some of those on the upper rungs of the ladder. Men and women for whom White, through Pervaya liniya Security, had held contracts with in the past. They shared words and greetings, and some showed great interest to learn what Hood's reason for coming out that night. White wouldn't be the only one betting on himself.

A quick round to get folks talking, then he made his way to where the nights' entertainment was kept, away from the guests and their 'delicate sensibilities.' Pack of degenerate fucks if one were to ask Hood for his opinion, but he was perfectly willing to take their money. And, of course, to measure himself up against the local professional toughs.

What passed as managers, or in some cases, outright owners, saw him as little more then some idiot in over his head. Of course, it hadn't helped when he made a joke to one of the rich snobs that outright owned his fighter. Something about Ukrainian underground shovel fighters. It helped that the slaver in question was, of course, Ukrainian.

Most of the fighters wore something they could toss in a dumpster (or wear into a dumpster if their fight went badly enough), but it quickly became obvious that Hood hadn't exactly brought a gym bag. When his time came, Hood emerged into the pit in question in white dress shirt and leather shoes. The sleeves were neatly rolled up above his elbows, the tie sat below with his jacket and, of course, his revolver.

It had taken some finagling, but his opponent for the night was a bit of a local champion; a known winner, someone most of the crowd would bet on over White. Mostly, it was for the challenge, and of course the few in the crowd that knew Hood and the company he worked for, would expect him to win. And be happy with their winnings, guessing by the odds he heard from outside the pit.

Arseniy Demidov, aka the бак (Russian for Tank), was a mountain of a man. The iconic Rocky Balboa eating Russian monster. White was a large man by most standards, but the Tank had a full foot over him, and easily a hundred pounds. Not all muscle though...the man was a professional fighter, after all. Thick slabs of muscle were to be found under a thick layer of insulating fat, the better to cushion a blow.

Arseniy was one of the local power-houses, and his arrival in a pit drew a crowd of onlookers and betters. Money changed hands as White finished adjusting his shirt sleeves, then stepped forward to shake hands with Arseniy, raising an eyebrow slightly as his hand was easily encompassed by the large Russian's bearclaw of a hand.

"You are a brave one, little man. You look as tasty as a little piece of Ptichie Moloko. White and creamy and soft."
Arseniy growled the threatening words in a thick accent, grinning down at White.

"бак, yeah? Norwegian for 'behind' too. You look like the type that likes men playing with his back door."
White's tone was dispassionate, almost entirely dissinterested really. Arseniy had already let him down; the guy relied on veiled threats and insults to try and soften up his opponents. Taking him down a few pegs would be a challenge, sure, but it would be a fun one at least.

Arseniy growled in irritation and threw White's hand free before stepping back. The big fellow wasn't used to people actually talking back to him in such a manner. The calm and cool manner. White stepped back, and then it began. The bets continued to flow over their heads, with onlookers leaning in to get a good view of what was about to happen. Most weren't even betting that Arseniy -would- win, but rather for how long it would take for that inevitable conclusion.

Arseniy surged forward, and through sheer weight and size was able to got his hands on White's torso, driving the smaller man back into the wall of the pit. White took the wall on his shoulders; Arseniy's arms were too long for him to get a blow in with his own arms, so he went with his legs instead. White's back met the wall, and his dress-shoe'd foot met Arseniy's face.

The big man grunted in anger and let White go while stepping back to press a hand to a broken and bleeding nose, and White took the opportunity to regain his bearings; the Tank had earned his name, at least for raw power.

By the time White was standing again, Arseniy had recovered, although a thick river of blood had stained the man's chin and bared, hairy chest. Arseniy came forward again, one powerful arm swinging in a wide ark meant to smash White into the wall again. White was the faster of the two, and wasn't one for being hit though, and rather then try to block or back-step, White lunged forward in a roll to get clear of the wall, narrowly avoiding a follow-up kick/stomp in his wake.

He came up again and was met with one of Arseniy's hands grabbing a fistful of White's collar. He twisted to face the big Russian, then brought both arms up to take a blow to his forearms instead of his face, as Arseniy again made use of his superior reach to land a punch at White.

Arseniy pulled back for another swing, and rather then just take it again White twisted further into the Russian's grip, and put a knuckle-led jab into the Russian's inner-elbow, buckling the big man's grip and freeing himself. Arseniy let out another annoyed growl and gave his arm a shake, and flexed his hand once, before looking back to White.

In the moment's distraction, White gave his own arms a single quick shake then he closed on Arseniy. Body shots would be wasted on the heavily built, and heavily padded, man, so White went for weaker spots. Limbs and joints, to be exact. The Russian looked up to find White right in front of him, and let out an angry howl as White drove his heel into Arseniy's ankle. The Russian was forced to draw his hurt foot back and away from White, and the American transitioned to a sharp kick to the Russian's leading knee.

Arseniy staggered back and to the side, nearly lost his balance and almost recovered before White was on him again. The Russian threw an arm out to catch himself against the wall of the pit, and was lower to the ground for it, and White capitalized with a palm strike to Arseniy's ear, then was driven away as the Russian swung out his other arm amidst a yell of pain.

The Russian pushed from the wall, chasing White with a series of vicious, sloppy blows, which White would duck, back-peddle and otherwise avoid, for the most part. Some landed, knocking the smaller American a few feet in one direction or the other, but he weathered the storm until a new opening presented itself.

A wide swing and White ducked under then surged forward, and grabbed at the tendons behind Arseniy's knee, and crushed and twisted with an iron grip. The Russian let out another angry, pain-laced yell and delivered a solid punch to White's ribs, staggering White away.

The fight continued like that; give and take, and White seemed to take more blows, the ones he gave to the Russian were far more devastating. And to a skilled eye, White was just drawing it out. A risky venture, but worth it for the effect it had on the crowd. Bets surged; to most watching it seemed like White was on the ropes, but Arseniy was limping, his swings were slowing, exhaustion and pain were setting in.

It all came to a sudden head. Arseniy tried to pin White to the wall again, and White responded by boxing Arseniy's ears. Rather then just hitting them, he actually grabbed the big man's earlobes and tore down, rupturing cartilage and blood vessels. The big man hollered in pain, the sides of his head visibly darkening with bruises.

Arseniy's charge was diverted and the big man shouldered into the wall. His chest was streaked with blood and slick with sweat, and he was panting heavily, while White had barely broken a sweat. He'd have a few bruises come morning, but nothing a beer or two wouldn't keep at bay.

White stepped in, and Arseniy struck out at him, leaving himself open. Too tired to swing with any real speed or accuracy anymore, White actually took the blow, in a sense. He stepped in to the Russian's strike, catching the man's wrist against White's ribs, then pinned the extended arm there. A downward chop onto Arseniy's extended elbow buckled the limb painfully, and White kept his grip as he closed in, driving a foot into Arseniy's knee, forcing the man to kneel.

White spun and twisted Arseniy's pinned arm, forcing the big man to hyper-extend at the elbow. Another blow caused the already weakened joint to give way with the sound of breaking bone; White put all he had into the strike, and grinned as he saw bone protrude from the Russian's arm, adding a fresh spray of the man's blood to the stains already coating the walls and floor.

Arseniy screeched in pain, grabbing at his ruined elbow and hunching over in defeat. White stepped clear of the broken man, watching him for a moment longer to be sure the man was indeed done, then rose his arms in victory. A brief moment of 'show boating' before walking out of the pit, calmly rolling down his shirt sleeves as he went. Arseniy needed to be helped out of the pit, and left a dangerous trail of blood from his ruined arm. The man wouldn't be fighting again any time soon, if ever.
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