It's moments like these, when you're fighting a Chernobyl survivor, that you really come to question your life's direction. I've only been in Bangkok's underground super-powered fighting ring for a month, and already I've been almost bitten, broken, and beaten to death. Moments like these, and I can't help wondering, "Why am I here?"
But that's not the most urgent question at hand. Instead, I'm trying to decide exactly how to defeat a man who did more than just live through Chernobyl: he took his power from it. Essentially, I have to outclass one of the greatest nuclear disasters in mankind's history. It's difficult to be more powerful than a nuclear explosion-doable, but difficult, and not currently within my means-so how can I hope to beat this guy? It shouldn't be possible. It couldn't be possible. Then again, I've often used my mind to defy the realm of possibility.
That's why they call me Smartacus.
I take a good look at my opponent. He's around 250 pounds, big for a civilian, but not much in the world of super powers. If he was just some bodybuilder, I'd have him down in ten seconds flat. But he's more than that. He's a nuclear man. A Superman. A pale, blue aura radiates off his skin. I pay particular attention to his feet. He's not wearing any shoes, and each time he takes a step, the aura surrounding his toes seems to grow brighter for a moment.
We're not even technically fighting in a ring. It's just a 's a chalk line dividing us and the spectators, which indicates that I'm working in a square that has an area of 20 feet. Mattress pads line the three walls that my square touches. Because nothing cushions a super-strong punch better than a cloth-covered bundle of cotton and springs. I suppose it's the thought that counts.
I think back to the one conversation I had with my sparring partner two weeks ago, before we even knew we'd be fighting each other. We were standing outside the building where a few matches had just taken place. We'd each won our respective fights, but he was looking worn down.
"You alright?" I asked. It felt weird even then. But somehow, as an outcast among outcasts, I knew it was right.
"Yeah," he said, "Tired."
I fell silent. Admittedly, it wasn't much of a conversation. But that wasn't the important part. Even though I stopped talking to him, I didn't stop looking. I couldn't help but notice that when he was fighting, he only had a loincloth on. In other situations, he dressed in as much clothing as possible, right down to long sleeves and gloves. And if you looked closely enough, there was a thin sheet of lead surrounding the inside of his collar. Probably lined the rest of his clothing, as well. Was he avoiding contact with something? Light? Cloth? People?
I realize I've wasted three-quarters of a second thinking all of this through when he moves his left arm back for a punch. I'm not worried, because I can move more quickly than he can, but I still have to come up with a plan, fast. Clearly, I can't just punch him. It's not that he's giving off lethal amounts of radiation—it'd probably take years of having sex for a nuclear-powered individual to really increase someone's risk of getting cancer, and I don't plan on getting that close or sticking around for that long—but it'd still hurt.
I duck and his swing misses its mark. I have to make a move, quickly. I already feel the spectators getting bored, waiting for Smartacus to stop being so cautious and start hitting people. The lights in this room are beginning to make me sweat, yet the floor feels cold against my feet.
So I punch him in the abdomen. He backs up for a second, because I don't throw light-weight punches. But my hand is stinging. I move my fingers around a bit, making sure I don't need to amputate anything. I think I'm safe, but I probably shouldn't try doing that again. Why does irrationality always seems like such a good idea, under bright lights?
He snarls, taking a step closer, getting ready for another punch. I take a step back. He takes a step forward. Once again, I take a step back. He has a confused look on his face, and I can't help but crack a smile.
"They call you Chernocalypse, right?" I ask, amused by the politically sensitive names of underground fighters.
"Shut up and fight," he says, going for an undercut punch to the stomach, which I manage to sidestep.
"I was just thinking, if you're the apocalypse, why hasn't the world changed? I know the Soviets aren't known for their reliable products, but are even their apocalypses defective?"
My back is up against one of the mattress cushions, and Chernocalypse is looking none too happy. He throws a massive punch with his right hand, which I duck out of the way of. It hits the mattress, though, and I hear for a moment a vaguely electrical, crackling noise. My theory is confirmed. Every time Chernocalypse touches something, a tiny nuclear reaction occurs. The charged particles of the reaction interact with the air around him, making it turn blue. This is why his punches sting so badly—he's basically assaulting you with radiation—but nuclear reactions aren't that easy. They must drain massive amounts of energy.
"You dare mock my homeland, my people, my tragedy?" Chernocalypse apparently doesn't like Soviet jokes. Who would've thought? I slip to his right and begin to giggle. He grunts, throwing two punches, one right after the other, one per hand. I get out of the way of the right, a clean dodge. But his left grazes my rib cage. That sizzling sensation I feel probably isn't a good sign. "You're just a pathetic lackey of the Capitalist system."
"Not sure if you noticed, but you aren't exactly supporting the Homeland here yourself."
He takes a step back. I almost want to laugh at how obviously he telegraphs himself, but decide not to point out that particular weakness. Instead, I allow him to charge at me. I end up leapfrogging over him, allowing him to thrust himself headlong into another mattress.
Both of my hands are stinging at this point. But I have to finish the fight through to the end. So I take Chernocalypse by both of his shoulders and allow him to release all of his energy onto the mattress. My hands are burning as he struggles to get free. His blue aura radiates, practically blinding me. Eventually, the light grows weak and I let him go. He slumps to the floor.