Anne and I sat at a restaurant downtown.
The ‘fighting pits’ were not, as one would expect, in the middle of nowhere. No, they were located in a basement gym under one of the well-maintained offices in the city.
The building, Torrance Towers, rose thirty floors into the air, and was surrounded by coffee shops, mini-malls, and small restaurants. Nor was it the only one - close to a dozen office buildings lined the same street.
In short, the perfect picture of a bustling office district, full of law-abiding citizens.
“Doesn’t seem like a venue for criminals,” muttered Anne as we sat in our booth.
“That’s what makes it so perfect,” I replied. “Are you able to see anything yet?”
“The bots are in the gym,” Anne said. “Scanning the place, I’m getting a good picture so far.”
“Describe it to me.” I flicked through the menus, on a conveniently placed touchscreen. “Do you want the chicken alfredo or the spaghetti bolognaise?”
“Both, please. …. Wow, that’s a lot of people. And they’re crammed cheek-to-cheek, too.”
“So, not social distancing compliant?” I punched in Anne’s orders and added a small steak for myself.
“Not at all. People are waving hundred dollar bills in the air…. Okay, there’s guys picking up the bills and handing them tickets.”
“I’m guessing. There’s two blokes in the ring - they’re slamming away at each other. Eww, that’s disgusting.”
“One guy just bit the other’s ear off.”
“Now the other guy is grabbing the first one’s crotch… ouch, that’s gotta hurt. Heh. He’s pounding the guy’s head into the mat.”
“The ref not stopping them?”
“The ref’s waving his hands. Looks like Vincent Van Gogh is the winner.”
“Isn’t this more Evander Holyfield versus Mike Tyson?”
“Whatever, the guy whose ear got bit off won. Ref’s holding his hand up. Umm. The other guy isn’t moving….. There’s a couple of guys carrying him off.”
“Hope so. Can’t tell from this range. Huh. Okay, I see two battlesuits.”
“Can’t tell. Standard lasers, though, and they look identical.”
So, Soldier or Lieutenant battlesuits. Likely Soldier, there were still thirteen of them left. “Anything else interesting?”
“There’s a row in front with a bunch of guys in suits. Not battlesuits, formal jacket and tie type suits.”
“At a prizefight?”
“Yeah. The suits look expensive, too. They’re shaking hands with someone….. Huh. That face looks familiar.” Anne frowned. “I’ve seen them somewhere…”
“You recognized someone there?”
“Yeah….” Anne’s eyes widened. “Oh, crap. I think I know.”
“Who is it?”
“Wait a minute.” Anne pulled out her smartphone and typed something. “Here. That’s the guy.”
I stared at the picture
Mayor of Tanisport (2079 - Present)
“The mayor’s here?” I exclaimed.
“Quiet,” Anne whispered. Fortunately, between the half-empty restaurant and the booth’s soundproof windows, no-one seemed to have heard us. “Yes, the mayor’s here.”
“How? This is supposed to be an illegal prizefight! The press will have his head if they find out….”
“I don’t know….. Maybe the Grunters paid him off.”
“That’s…. really crooked, on so many levels.”
“Politicians being crooked is nothing new.”
“I guess.” Anne sounded disappointed. “You know, Dad used to say that Aldiss was different. Dedicated, honest, hard-working.”
“Paul Drake wouldn’t be the first honest man to be deceived by a politician.”
“Yeah, I suppose. What does this mean? Do we hit it anyway?”
“Not if this operation has the tacit support of the mayor.” I thought for a second. “We may need to check out the other location - the ranch he spoke about. Less likely that they’ll have politicians there.”