“Every gleaming society has its darknesses, and often, the brighter shine the elite, the deeper the colour of the shadows.”
The Almaz is a fight club bolted into the Underground, but claimed exclusively by the favour of the obscenely rich. Cash or favour grants admittance – and often both are required to get a foot through the door, though it does not hold the prestige of somewhere like Manifesto. Neither is it the kind of place one openly admits to attending in polite society. No paparazzi paves the way to its doors. On the contrary, recording devices of any kind are strictly prohibited inside. Security deals with transgressors seriously and harshly. In Almaz, there’s no one to hear you scream.
The clientèle is mixed; the golden elite getting their dark kicks alongside the cream of local gang life. Allies are forged and shattered within its walls, deals soaked in loyalty and blood. Big money is won and lost on the fights.
Upside leather and velvet decorate a lavish bar area, with a staircase filtering down into the pits below: that’s where the real entertainment happens.
Downstairs is expansive and shows clear signs of being part of the underground, with rough walls and steel beams. The ceilings are immense and everything is drenched in neon light. Rings and cages separate the various fights, couched by plush ringside tables and protected VIP areas. If you’ve paid enough, you can enjoy table-service. Otherwise there are numerous bars. Travel deep enough and you will discover gladiatorial pits and combatants that appear less than human. The deeper you go, the more depravity you will find. Throughout the odds blink on dozens of holo-screens, as do fighter stats, wins, and losses. The noise is thunderous.
This is not a place of sportsmanship; it is a place of brutality.
“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 men 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.”Marcus DuBois
Fighters and Handlers
Most fighters require a sponsor, patron, or handler in order to compete. But money speaks volumes, and anything is possible within the Almaz’s walls. Exceptions to this rule include those foolish enough to start fights inside the venue, who will often find themselves at the sharp end of a cattle prod, and the subject of some free entertainment.
In more usual cases payment is negotiated between the fighter and their sponsor or patron, not direct with Almaz. There’s big money to be made, but inevitably it usually ends up in hands other than those taking the punches. In the case of Handlers, the fighters have generally been coerced into their role, and in some cases are not actually human.
Those who negotiate themselves onto the roster are rare but not unheard of, and usually have impressive credentials.
Though the reward isn’t always monetary unless you’ve won a good deal, the fighters themselves can enjoy great fame and notoriety.
Behind the Scenes
The walls were bare brick, creaking pipes running along the ceiling, a rusted metal grate slashed across the door leaking light from the tunnel beyond. She knew where she was, then.Oriena
Little comfort is spared for the fighters unless they have a rich sponsor. In the tunnels and holding cells away from the public eye, no concession has been made to dress the place up. There are rooms one might rest up, a line of communal showers for cleaning, and eerily vacant pits for practise. Medical attention is available. If you can afford it. The Almaz’s doctor is a man known as Ilya, and rumour suggests he has coerced the talents of young girls who can heal or mangle at a touch. Though if you plan on needing such special attentions, you need to stump up the payment first. Cash or favour is the currency here.
Ilya waited just beyond the entrance. Habitual black draped his shoulders (better to hide the blood), his bearded face like a disembodied skull above. He snapped the gloves on his hands, smiling faintly, brows lifting with the offer of assistance. He remembered her, if no one else; damn doctor was as old as the pitted walls. Nhysa waved him off with a wink. Rumour these days said the guy kept young girls whose fingers healed or mangled at a touch, but such was reserved for the highest earners (or those with the richest patrons). Most of those had the privacy of their own rooms anyway.
Those fighters with a suitably affluent (or notorious) patron are at least afforded privacy. Luxury beyond that is at the discretion of the person footing the bill.
Rooms for the competitors were nothing like those for the guests, who watched the decadent violence from thrones of luxury. Creaking pipes ran overhead, rushing on water to the communal showers. The light was sallow, better to disguise the blood, though you could smell it like iron in the air.Nhysa
The club was purchased by Helena Asquith in 2046, not long after the devastating fight between Oriena Rusayev and Ivan Sarkozy caused considerable damage to its infrastructure. The refurbishment costs were considerable. Helena’s interest lies solely with access to the club’s mysterious healer Ilya and the children he uses to perform his miracles. Little has changed in the day to day running of the club, including its management. Helena is disinterested in the violence and feels no moral responsibility for the depravities that happen there, especially in the lowest levels.
She keeps an office, filled with books and curios such as skeletons and taxidermy, and sometimes attends the more gruesome or interesting injuries. Often she is accompanied by one or more of her three dogs. The animals are highly trained, and very loyal.