Disclaimer: I do not own anything Twilight. This was written as an original story and converted to a Twilight Fan fiction piece to garner interest in the story. I will release the original version at the end of each book.
With the fight set for Friday we all have work to do in order to prepare. Rather than stopping our antagonistic campaign we step it up. Not only do we deface every fight flyer and handbill we can find with Edward's new trademark 'X', we also start putting our own flyers out. Our flyers look like a coroner's report for the reigning champion Zane "the Insane" Phelps. Causes of death range from a prophetic 'blunt force trauma to the head', to a more amusing 'unrecoverable brain damage', to the downright insulting 'terminal rectal trauma from a sexual encounter with a horse'.
The effect is the desired one; we make it to Thursday and are sitting in our regular booth when we are confronted by a dozen large men, in various stages of inebriation. The leader of the group steps forward and addresses us.
"You X?" he puts two very large fists on the table and leans in.
"Who's asking?" King (Garrett) growls with a warning edge to his voice.
"We're asking." The man stands up and regards X coolly. "You don't look so tough to me. I'm glad I got five hundred bucks on Zane to beat you down tomorrow." He leans in again, "In fact, each one of these guys here has a sizable wager on Zane to drop you on your prissy little ass, pretty boy." He picks up my drink and pours it on the floor. "What do you think of that Mister Badass?"
Edward regards him like a lion would regard a baby deer. "I think you had best get Ash another drink and say you're sorry before I make you the preliminary bout before the main event." His fist clenches and the knuckles pop one at a time as his eyes glitter dangerously.
"Excuse me? There's twelve of us, and two of you. Well, two and a half if you count your little girl toy over here. What happens when we don't just scurry away all scared and hide?" He thumps his hand on the table. "We intend to ensure that you lose tomorrow, so get your ass up and let's see what you're made of…."
His words are cut short. As if there was an unseen, unspoken signal between the two of them both Garrett and Edward explode out of the booth. Edward kicks the table over and uses it like a battering ram, bowling over four of the would-be assailants. Garrett grabs two of them by their necks and throws them against the walls with enough force that I know they are not getting up anytime soon. I restrain myself from joining in and do my best to look bored, like this has happened a thousand times in a thousand different towns.
Edward and Garrett make short work of the remaining six, leaving them in various stages of hurt before they sit back down with me and order a fresh round of drinks. We sit and wait; it isn't long before the local cops arrive and assess the situation. The sheriff is old but not dumb, he picks the three strangers out as being involved without having to ask.
"Okay, so who wants to tell me what happened here?" he loops his fingers in his belt and addresses us with his best stern 'officer of the law' voice.
"You know it was the strangest thing…" I begin with my best 'I'm so innocent' voice.
"I'm no doctor but I think it was some kind of sudden onset mass Tourette's Syndrome event." Garrett adds in a deadpan voice.
"I'm just glad we weren't involved." Edward adds with a mild grin.
"Alright, you've made your point. I'm watching you though. Step out of line in my town and you'll wish you hadn't." The Sheriff walks away with this and tries to get statements from witnesses. None of them are willing to implicate the strangers in the corner.
"Well I think we are getting to him at least. He is just nervous enough that he wants me softened up before the fight." Edward looks pleased.
"Maybe…" Garrett ventures as he strokes his lengthy goatee; a habit he has picked up since I made him grow it out.
"He didn't send them." I cut in with a flat tone. "These are just a bunch of dumb hicks that are afraid of losing the rent money in the fight tomorrow trying to stack the odds." I look at them both. "The real fight is coming and you had better be ready, otherwise this is going to be the shortest undercover stint in the history of Special Projects. I don't know about you, but I'm not looking to set that kind of record."
"Hey, ease up Bell-Ash," Edward corrects himself and my sharp look reminds him that we are in this 24/7. Slips like that will cost us if they happen at the wrong time. I will not allow that.
"I'll ease up once your reputation is fact and not something I cooked up with Emily!" I hiss back at him acidly. I collect myself, smile the phoniest smile I can manage and excuse myself to go back to my room and prepare for tomorrows event. Garrett tries to follow but I tell him to stay and keep an eye on our fighter in case any more of the locals try to get cute.
I cross the street and walk about fifty feet before I notice them. They are trying to look like a rowdy group of friends just making their way down the street, but they are too steady on their feet and their speech too clear to be as drunk as they would have me believe. I begin scanning the area for options.
My mind races and I calm it down the way Eleasar taught me.
Option 1: The hotel. I can make it if I run, but everyone knows I am staying there so there is no guarantee I am not being purposely herded in that direction toward an ambush. Plus I won't run from anyone, it would damage my cover story.
Option 2: Turn and fight. I am fully armed and there is only four of them. I can cut them down with my pistols before they close the distance and overwhelm me, but the closer they get the more that option shrinks. Plus, I am still in Canada; just having a pistol is enough to land me in jail, let alone using it.
Option 3: Do something they would not expect and make them come to me. Turn down an alleyway, walk past the hotel. How they react will give me more insight into who I am dealing with. I settle on option three and begin formulating a loose strategy in my head.
All war is deception; The Sun Tzu quote from "The Art of War" is running through my head. I read the entire book in an afternoon and try to put what I learned into practice. I remember hearing how a lot of high powered businessmen and lawyers all have the book on their shelves and use its knowledge in their everyday business dealings. I always considered that a form of sacrilege, the knowledge in that book was intended for a higher purpose; it was an instruction manual on how to defeat a foe who is intent on killing you. I intend to use its knowledge as such today.
Cutting a hard left down an alley I hear the crowd behind me go quiet, confirming at least that I am the focus of their attention and not just being paranoid. I spot a dumpster and move along a piece of discarded cardboard to crouch behind it. No footprints and no trace of my passing can be seen without coming into the narrow alley. The location is perfect. They will not be able to surround me, nor will they be able to engage me more than one on one. I control my breathing and wait. One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.
I hear them stop at the mouth of the alley and begin to make their way toward me. Their hushed tones have a questioning tone about them; it's time for me to strike. I take a breath, and step out from behind the dumpster.
"Didn't your mother's ever warn you about following girls into dark alleys?" I ask sweetly as I stand firm but maintain the distance I need.
The one closest to me advances and I prepare to end him with my hidden blades. "No harm intended Miss…We was all just wondering, are you the manager of the fighter called 'X'? The one fighting Zane tomorrow night?" I relax a little, maybe I had misread this one, maybe I am a little too far on the edge.
"I am." I remain defiant, not letting my guard down. "What of it?"
"We was just wanting to know, how sure a thing it would be to bet on him…" He takes his battered cap off, "You see, I got laid off of the plant and times are tough, the mortgage is a couple months overdue and I figured if I can at least double what I got…." He looks at me pleadingly, this is not a soldier, this is a desperate, broken and already defeated man.
"Bet everything on a knockout in the first round," I tell him. "Get at least five to one odds since they have never seen him fight." I look at him with confidence, "If he doesn't deliver, bring me your betting slip and I will pay it at twenty to one."
"Yes Ma'am." The man moves backward toward his friends, "Thank you kindly! If there is ever anything–"
"See me after the fight, we can discuss it then." I smile again. "And please don't ever try and sneak up on me again. The results could be, unfortunate." My meaning is clear and they retreat.
The greatest victory is that which requires no battle. I chalk this up as a win and make it to the hotel without incident. I'm pleased at the outcome, yet slightly shaken at how close I came to killing a man who meant me no harm. Maybe Edward is right, maybe I need to relax a bit. I shake the thought off; I'll relax when this is over; for now this is who I need to be. I crawl into bed for a few hours rest. One way or another, tomorrow is going to be a busy day.
I sleep late and have a late lunch at a local diner with my companions. I must look like I don't want to talk at all since neither of them attempt to engage me in any type of conversation. I finally tell them I want to go to the venue and see what and who we are dealing with.
We make our way to the venue and are a good three hours early, the bookies and arena staff are there but no one is buying tickets or seated yet. I find a room for my fighter to prepare in and then take King (Garrett) with me to the office to discuss how the evening's event will go.
Walking into the office I am taken aback by how much more of a hangout it is than a place to conduct business. There is a pool table and a card table with three men engaged in a poker game. There is a choking odor of cigar smoke that hangs in the air emanating from the stogie clenched between the teeth of the man with the largest stack of poker chips at the table. He spots us and waves us over.
"Ah, new blood! About time someone showed up that could challenge our ruling champ. I've heard a lot about your fighter, and you." He looks at Garrett and frowns. "This guy isn't going to cause trouble is he?"
"King only finishes fights; he doesn't start them unless I deem it necessary." I sit in the vacant seat and look at the other two men. "I like to conduct my business privately, leave us."
"Hey hey, we're in the middle of a game here…." One of the men starts to object. Garrett picks up the deck of cards and bends it in his hand before spraying all but one card, the king of spades, all over the floor. The king he licks and sticks to the man's forehead.
"Go fish," he growls ominously.
"Now that we have that unpleasantness taken care of, we can conduct some business." I look him in the eye. "I wish to take this opportunity to discuss some changes and line up some real fights at this venue for my fighter."
"Hang on now, little lady! Your fighter hasn't even fought yet. Why don't we wait until the fight is over before we start talking about other fights? You should know that your fighter is a three to one underdog to win and the odds only get longer if you think he is going to knock Zane out." He sits back and puffs his cigar.
"Oh make no mistake, the fight is over, and after today, MY fighter will be the champion and I will be the one calling the shots." I lean forward and take the cigar out of his mouth, dropping it into a mug of half consumed beer. It goes out with a hiss and I let the silence hang between us.
"What kind of changes are you thinking?" The smug little man ventures cautiously.
"Fifty percent of the gate and betting profits, I will bring in more business by offering a large purse for anyone who can dethrone X. My only stipulation will be that any challenges will need to be a ranked champion in his respective fighting style or region. In other words, a steady supply of title matches that people will pay big money to see, and to bet on." I lean back in my chair and regard him with a coy smile. "You don't strike me as someone who is averse to making money."
"Lady if your fighter wins tonight–" He begins.
"When," I interrupt.
"When what?" he asks.
"When my fighter wins, you are still talking like the outcome of this fight is in dispute. Let me assure you it isn't." I hold his gaze.
"Well then, when your fighter wins tonight, we can discuss it then." He finishes angrily. He is obviously not used to not being the one in control of the conversation.
"I see, well this is a limited time offer I am extending to you. Once my fighter shows what he can do I won't need you anymore, I will be able to set up shop anywhere. Don't forget, the fighter is the draw… not the venue." I stand up. "Come on King, it seems we have come to the wrong place." I turn back to the club manager when I reach the door, I haven't even bothered to learn his name, it doesn't matter to me. "I will expect you to close your doors after tonight, I don't like competing clubs in my town." I leave, ignoring the loud string of protests and profanity.
I don't have to wait long for the club owner to find me and inform me that we "have a deal" as long as I can deliver on my end. Edward asks what is going on and I just tell him to deal with his end of things and let me deal with mine.
The club is starting to fill up and Garrett and I are seated at a special table in the VIP section. Other fighter's managers, girlfriends and assorted hangers-on are gathered here as well but keep their distance. They refer to us only in hushed tones and sideways glances, but no one bothers us.
I scan the crowd and see the face of the man from the alley. He holds up his betting slip and then eight fingers. I get his meaning, he got eight to one odds; good for him. I smile and nod in his direction.
The fights all go as expected, sloppy bouts of has-been or brute force fighters. None of them are classically trained and each bout is more what Garrett would call "a bunch of apes trying to fuck a football" than actual fighting.
Finally our moment arrives, the main event. I enter the ring and wait while the fight club manager introduces the bout. He then hands me the microphone and I begin.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the main event. I hope you all have placed your bets because tonight you will see a true exhibition of deadly fighting skill and killer instinct. Also, I understand your reigning champion will be in the ring too!" I pause and wait for the laughter and boos to die down. "My fighter, who is new to your town and ready to fight, standing 6'1", weighing in at 253 lbs., career record of forty–eight wins, no losses and forty eight knockouts. I present to you, the man, the myth, the legend and the cold chill running down Zane's back…. X!"
The place erupts, everyone wants to see him, to be part of his glory and say to their kids and grandkids that they 'were there when–' as X moves down the ramp and enters the ring. His face is impassive and his body looks like it has been chiseled from rock as he stands and waits for his opponent.
Zane enters the ring with all the fanfare of a television wrestling event. Pyro and theme music, a lot of show as Zane plays to the crowd. I notice he is looking everywhere but at the ring and it hits me, he is afraid. I smile and realize for the first time that this battle truly is already over. I lean in and whisper in Edward's ear. "I promised someone a knockout in the first, don't make me a liar. Put him down fast, we already know people will be talking about your victory, I also want them talking about how quick it was over." He nods, his gaze fixed on his opponent.
Zane finally enters the ring and we are ready to begin. After a brief exchange in the center of the ring the fighters move to their corners. Zane's face is flushed with anger at whatever Edward said to him. I smile knowing exactly what he is doing.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. Evidently Edward is as big a fan of Sun Tzu as I am.
The buzzer sounds signaling the beginning of the round and Zane explodes out of his corner and charges at X. He throws two wild haymakers which don't find their mark. X moves to the side and connects a single punishing shot to Zane's left side. He then grabs his shoulders and drives his knee into the larger man's midsection, folding him in half. His foot continues traveling upward and his heel connects with Zane's forehead, snapping his head back and staggering him.
Zane stumbles backward trying to clear the cobwebs from his head and never sees it coming. A cyclone uppercut that lifts him clear off the mat, knocking him out cold before gravity has a chance to return him to the ground.
I look at the fight clock, twenty three seconds and Zane never even laid a hand on him.
The crowd is stunned into silence at the sight of their champion being felled so decisively. They could not have been more shocked if Edward had just pulled out a gun and shot the larger man.
Finally the silence is broken by a voice chanting 'X….X…..X….X…" the rest of the crowd picks up the chant and Edward raises his arms in victory.
I smile to myself and look at Garrett who gives a grudging shrug of respect at the fighting prowess we had both just witnessed. "He's a hit," Garrett says to me with a grin.
"No," I reply with a laugh. "Now, he's a legend; a knight, a dragonslayer; just what we need to slay a dragon."