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Cube 2
© 2021 James LaFond
He sat on a stool, of the old wooden type, stained with sweat, oil and blood, his bare feet flat, his knees spread around the tripod, over the oaken face of which his left forearm rested.
He was dressed only in his form-fitting jock, the hip and genital sleeve of Shockwear mesh that rendered fouls matters of poor sportsmanship alone. His color was steel grey, like his eyes. The CCP FUNCs [1] insisted on coordinating eye color and jock color. They said it upped shaggirl and shagboy commitment to their favorite fighters and helped pack the lower lottery seats.
Across from him, the man who had taped this hands for fourteen years, Brett Scott, a wiry old cuss of dark brown complexion, who forever pursed his lips and squinted as he worked, sat astride his padded swivel stool waiting patiently to get to work. A cornerman was not permitted to begin taping until a Func entered the gearing station with tape and gloves—and of course the feet.
-1. CCP [Cube Combat Promotions] Functionaries, or “Funcs,” the medical, aesthetic, matchmaking, media and supervising officials of the CCP, including judges, color commentators and referees.
“What’s up, Brett, your squint is a bit narrow?”
Brett snarled, “Look, beefcake, you know we’re under observation. The lifetime subscribers get this feed, and the Execs.” [2]
“Then out with the drama, Brett. What’s up? Our fans want to know.”
“Arrogant ass! The Funcs are never this late. Something is up. Maybe he failed the med screen.”
Brett then slipped his fingernail file out from his medical scrubs and began to touch up Bronson’s nails, which didn’t need it, but the old man liked to keep busy, like a mouse that needed to nibble on something to keep from running into a sticky pad and getting stuck.
“How does your mouth-guard feel, smartass?”
He opened his mouth to expose the dock of the Shockwear mouthpiece on the roof of his mouth, a symbiotic dental device that formed about the teeth and enabled the fighter to look more human than the older models and maintain his teeth as well as fan appeal.
-2. Execs are executives, heterosexual and bisexual fans with high Social Conscience Ratings
The airlock to the gearing station hissed and the medical mist system sanitized the room even as the martial music he always enjoyed, but which irritated Brett who snarled under his breath, announced the entry of the Funcs: the tape and glove guy, the feet girl and the header, all decked out in medical scrubs, face filters and eye shields.
The glove guy always entered first, only this scrawny medical tech in his blue scrubs did not have tape and gloves. As Brett turned to them, already taking out his scissors, and saw no tape or gloves, he blurted, “What the fuck? Bareknuckle bullshit—are you kidding me Tobes!”
The Moderation Monitor on the wall, up behind Bronson then made the pinging tone that preceded a gearing penalty and the sultry voice of Slade Starr intoned with effortless seductiveness, “Brett Scott, two obscenities and one slur. Your Social Conscience Rating falls from 262 to 200. Advocate with grace, cornerman.”
The Funcs were grinning behind their face filters and Brett could not help himself. The old man, pressing a hundred years old, was clearly losing it, “Grace my old dick, bitch, if you can find a way to get it hard after you climb down out of your ether throne!”
Bronson knew better than to grin and always kept a stoic expression as part of his persona. But the squinting and snarling cornerman simply bristled with defiance and the Funcs seemed frozen in shock.
“The sexy voice of Slade Star, went cold and declared, One Hundred-point-one, cornerman.”
They then both glanced up at the Cornerman Fan monitor and the thumbs-up counter was soaring into the thousands, the tens of thousands and the millions. Brett then winked at Bronson and became the perfect model of social grace, “Well Bronson Caan, let’s see what our illustrious glove guy has for you.”
He then leaned back, smirked from his wrinkled mouth and let his squinting eyes sparkle some and cooed to the golden-skinned glove guy, “Hey, Thomas, how’s your dog? She come through surgery okay?”
Thomas, momentarily stunned by the sudden grace of the curmudgeon, twice as old as any other cornerman in the CCP, blurted, “Oh, thanks, Brett. I really thought you didn’t care. Pudding is doing fine—Pudding is a he now—lifting her—I mean his—leg to beat the band!”
The Cornerman fan monitor soared higher and Bronson realized, that after a sense, Brett Scott was the real star of every one of his fights, that people could even remember when he was young enough to fight back in the cage days and that fans could identify more with his physical frailty and that he, Bronson was something of a mere prize in the whole affair.
Slade Starr’s sultry voice than soothed, “Provisional Restoration of Social Conscience Rating to 245. Thank you cornerman.”
Scott winked at the monitor up and behind Bronson, blew a kiss with his ancient lips and sawed, “Tank you, Baby.”
And his cornerman fan monitor soared into the tens of millions, a world of unseen and lonely souls clicking their approval for his alternately crusty and engaging humanity, even as Thomas the glove guy, said, dead pan, “Gloves are gone, Scott. I’m the hands man, now.”
He then extended two small pouches in his left hand towards Scott, who reached out eagerly, snatched them in his wizened old claws and said with guarded enthusiasm, “Like the feet, or the jock? I thought this stuff was five years out?”
Thomas recited proudly, at attention, something oft rehearsed, in commercial tones, “Shockwear hands are not cube interactive. These are purely protective hand coverings. Small joint manipulation and wrist locks are not possible. Hand breaks are not possible. Unlike tape and gloves, Shockwear hands do not enhance fist density. Shockwear hands also enable natural digital dexterity, presenting no impediment to weapon handling, data entry or other military, executive protection and law enforcement duties.”
Brett Scott took the two small pouches, each about the size of a wrist phone, set one down on the tripod and opened the first, and began to ask, “Which one is the L…”
Thomas the Hands Man, first and now most famous of his kind, proud new companion to a transgender dog, answered with a stentorian pride, standing at attention behind his cosmetically active face filter which seemed like a nimbus of handsome expression interacting with his indistinct Func face, “Shockwear hands are fully ambidextrous, and according to advanced clinical trials, may, in time, promote increased function of the non-dominant hand!”
The old cornerman raised his sagging brows—long ago nearly erase by post-fight surgeries—and asked, “Any other special abilities, Thomas?”
Thomas beamed at his ever waxing CCP and fan standing, displayed across the black band above his face filter in white digits, “Blue-tone branding is built in. Bronson and the other CCP heroes will no longer require brand chargers. CCP Hero fanrooms are already being refitted with a hospitality Compaq powered by the old chargers.”
Brett was stretching on the form-fitting hand, over the back of Bronson’s hand and down to his wrist. As the wrist was snuggly fit, the hand, more of a membrane than the feet, seemed to come alive, kind of like his feet, but more symbiotically—more like the mouth guard. Brett left his hand alone and Bronson turned his famously large “mitt” this way and that slowly, for he knew instinctively that he, as the Light Heavyweight Champion and top ranked pound-per-pound fighter cornered by the iconic Brett Scott, was the rollout vehicle for this top brand sponsorship spot. Just as he suspected, as Thomas the hands man stepped back and away, three video stalks emerged from the octagonal, steel-grey, gearing station walls, to closely inspect his famous left hand, even as the membrane contoured so closely with his curiously active hand that even his fingerprints were clearly visible.
He thought to himself, for speaking of such things was explicitly against CCP doctrine, ‘The shaggirls will love this.’
Brett then fitted his other hand with the membrane, which seemed to partially crawl of its own volition as the martial music of the CCP Orchestra gradually gathered in low tones and the sultry voice of Slade Starr whispered the CCP mantra she was so well-known for, “Once, when the world was young, men fought for our possession. Now, while the world is safely run, heroes fight for us again—for our concession!”
‘I wonder, will this be my first night as the bottom concession?’
‘Maybe that would be a welcome change.’
His stoic facade must have a crack in or, or Brett really was a voodoo man as he sometimes claimed, because the ancient cornerman looked at him with the keen glower of worry that his fighter was beginning to entertain ideas of defeat.
Then the deepest voice heard in any gearing room, a voice that he did not feel was altogether his, as it was part of his CCP design, intoned, “Feels great, Brett—like I could fight heavyweight.”
Brett then glowered and snarled his trademark quip, a demand even used by law enforcement officers making arrests who sponsored Team Caan, “Don’ be a fuggin’ hero, fool!”
Amongst crooks it was even regarded as an honor to be arrested by a goon who sponsored Team Caan and uttered the trademark demand. Once a month, Bronson and Brett would visit crooks who were in court-mandated Safe Space under the CCP Team Scott and Liberty Lock outreach program. There Bronson would autograph Liberty Lock wrist phones while Brett groused, “Don’ be a fuggin’ hero, fool!”
Then, both of their monitors soared by millions, as they engaged in their trademark banter.
Foot Girl Cheryl
let the world fend for itself
your trojan whorse
into leviathan’s maw
songs of aryаs
the gods of boxing
search for an american spartacus
logic of force
the combat space
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