Despite all of our goodness, no race in the ‘verse can be as cruel as mankind. As a species we inflict harm on ourselves, on each other, on every living thing around us. Some do it for money, some to feed our darkest bloodlust, and some just to be inexplicably mean. In an episode that is NSFWH (not safe for weak hearts) we look in on some of the most vile of mankind for an all-too-real reminder that…
IT’S NOT THE SIZE OF THE DOG IN THE FIGHT
The Slagheap, Brimstone
The German Shepherd circled left, favoring the bloody foreleg where flesh and fur hung off in wet strips. Half a dozen scars crossed her head and neck, one ear half-shredded. It snarled, eyes glaring, lips drawn back from a broken row of bared teeth.
The rust and black dog was lean, nothing compared to the weight of the mastiff. That thing was a Tibetan by all appearance, some freak mutant hybrid of dog and grizzly bear. Its fur was a cloak of dreadlocks matted with blood, mud and shit.
The mastiff roared in like a freight train, jaws driving for the shepherd’s throat. The lighter dog side-stepped then darted in, chomping hard on a dark brown foreleg.
Howling, the mastiff drove forward despite the injury, knocking the shepherd off its feet. The bear-dog trampled the sprawled opponent, sinking fangs into an exposed upper thigh. Using its weight to pin the smaller dog, the mastiff viciously marched its hold one shaking bite-width at a time, climbing toward the black and tan waist. Toward the soft underbelly. The shepherd cried out over the roar of men and women waving cash, screaming “Kill, kill, kill.”
A fight broke out among the two-legged animals massed around the ring. Things started to fly; fists, beer bottles, chairs. A half-empty bottle of Jack cartwheeled into the ring and smashed against the retaining wall. The mastiff flinched back from the sound, perhaps from the spray of glass, its shaggy head jolting up in alarm. In that instant the shepherd twisted, lunged up, bloodstained teeth clamping shut on the exposed throat. Over 230psi of bite strength tore through muscle and crushed cartilage. The mastiff shuddered, eyes going unfocused as it buckled in a wheezing, convulsing heap. The humans shouted at the sight of death, their own brawl quickly forgotten in the wake of canine fatality.
“What da FUCK was dat?” Lazlo looked to be on the verge of aneurism, veins distended across his neck and forehead. Reaching up he grabbed Miller by the shirtfront and yanked him almost off his feet, stabbing a pudgy finger at the Shepherd. “It was supposed ta fucking die!”
Miller was an unkempt, balding piece of shit who ran the Brimstone dogfights. He fed Lazlo the over-and-under on each matchup, scripting the outcomes when the betting got rich. Precede a fight with a sedative, or one hell of a beating, and a favored dog ends up dead. Thats good book, good money for the house. Money for Miller.
But an unexpected loss, fuck — a loss like this was a disaster. The mastiff was a gold mine for fodder fights, entertaining little exhibitions like how long it takes that monster to kill a dozen or so of the cat-sized rats that infest Brimstone’s gutters. Just blood theater really, but more important, it made a name that drew real challengers in from Leir 1-Alpha, sometimes as far as Mya. The fucking mastiff never lost.
Sweat running down his face, Miller looked at the mountain of fur twitching in a pool of red. It bloody well lost now didn’t it?
Lazlo still hadn’t stopped screaming, his anger turning to the crowd. “Get out, EVERYBODY get the fuck out!”
As though electrified, the mob dispersed across the slagheap as Yvgeny slipped a loop of rope around the mastiff’s hind legs to drag the carcass out of the ring. Nobody bothered to check if it was still breathing. There were no vets on standby; a dog that couldn’t walk out on its own became food for the rest.
The shepherd had flopped over, panting on the dirt floor, blood oozing from a dozen wounds. Its sad brown eyes looked around for anyone to lend a hand. Instead, Lazlo picked up a handful of garbage and threw it at the dog. Missing only made Lazlo angrier.
“You miserable fucking mutt.” He cursed, stepping forward to hop the low wall and kick the dog to death when The Swede rounded the corner with Benny the Twitch in tow. Lazlo glared.
“What part,” he growled, temper now past yelling, “of ‘tell Gort to bring Welker’ didn’t you understand?”
The Swede wouldn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with Lazlo, but he was one of the few people who worked in the outfit that didn’t much give a shit about the little man’s foul moods. Facts were facts and the shortest line between any two points was a Swede.
“Gort is cleaning up that mess at the chop shop.” He spoke bluntly, the fact irrefutable. “Welker hasn’t been seen for days, not since Brogan got back in town. That takes no imagination. No Gort, no Welker, so I bring you Welker’s bitch.”
Lazlo drew in a deep breath; the logic was sound but it did nothing to improve his mood. Nothin was going right but goddammit, he couldn’t kill everybody.
That thought hung in his mind for a moment. Well, he could kill everybody, maybe, but if their replacements were drawn from this little shithole, they’d likely be just as fucking useless.
Focusing himself, Lazlo walked to Benny, who stood upright only because the Swede’s hand was clamped around the back of his neck. A malnourished skeleton covered with the lesions of a Krok-addict, Benny nervously chewed what was left of a dirty fingernail.
Lazlo opened with a crushing slap, his usual introduction. “You know who I am?” he barked.
Benny shuddered like one of the beaten dogs, pawing confusedly at his split lower lip.
Lazlo hit him again. “Do you fuckin KNOW who I am??”
Benny nodded. The combination of frantic head-bobs, trembling and junkie twitch looked like the onset of convulsions.
“Good,” Lazlo spat. His nose wrinkled as he looked Benny up and down, voice suddenly a glower. “You even think about shittin’ on my floor and I’m mopping it up with your face. You got me?”
Benny nodded again, a nifty trick given the neck-clamp, but he pressed his knees together. Just in case.
“So listen up. Welker owed me information, only that little fuckwit is probably goo inside a big steel cube by now. So his problem just became your problem.”
Tracking less than half of that, Benny kept up with the nods, likely as not because thus far it had kept him from getting belted again.
“So whatta ya know about the Doc? What’s he up to?”
Benny’s face wrinkled, perplexed by a question he couldn’t nod his way out of. He chewed another nail, his left hand scratching at a scab on the side of his neck. “Doc?”
Lazlo grabbed a fistful of Benny’s hair and wrenched the scrawny neck from the Swede’s grasp, dragging Benny face-first to a stack of cages. He shoved the junkie against the metal bars, the chained dog inside responding with a predictable mix of fear and anger. It lunged, teeth ripping a hunk out of Benny’s tangled mop.
“He’s been talking to Ed!!” Benny shrieked, grappling for any recent memory.
“Ed.” Lazlo blinked. “Schizo Ed?”
“Yeah,” Benny babbled, his face flecked with dog-spittle. “They been spending time in the Nek, hanging out with the Xi’An.”
This time Lazlo scowled. “What the fuck they doin with the reptiles?”
Benny reached into his bag of knowledge, found it empty and started to cry. But before Lazlo could feed him to something furry and awful, a tiny spark flashed. “Sasha! Sasha said something about Ed brokering a deal for Doc. Something big.”
Lazlo stopped, considering the words. Benny was a fuckin cockroach but roaches get overlooked, they hear things. Doc had been blowing off explaining the whole severed head thing.
Needed more time, Doc had said. Doing science shit.
The gangster fumed. Maybe Doc don’t need no more time for science, maybe he knows what was stuffed inside that shmoe’s melon and he’s cutting a deal with the fuckin reptiles. Lazlo’s rage flared. Cuttin’ me out.
Lazlo yanked Benny face to face, ignoring the stench of rotted teeth that surpassed the reek of sweat and old piss. He viciously twisted a fistful of Benny’s hair, jacking the kid up onto his toes. “Now listen up fuckstick, and listen good. You are Doc’s new shadow. Where he goes, who he talks to, if he takes a dump I wanna know where, you got me?”
Benny managed a weepy series of nods.
“You fuck this up, you run, you let Doc figure out you are watching him and so help me I will chop you into bloody little cubes and feed you to these fucking dogs.”
Lazlo didn’t need to wait for a reply. He shoved Benny towards the Swede. “So get the fuck outta here. And take a goddam bath ya filthy peasant.”
The Swede ushered a weeping Benny out of sight, leaving Lazlo alone in the now-empty slagyard. “I swear to god if that fuckin little tweaker screws this up I really will feed him to—“ Lazlo caught himself, his head snapping back to the arena. The fucking dog.
Grumbling under his breath Lazlo pulled the pistol from his belt, too exhausted at this point to spend time kicking the animal to death. He walked to the low wall and swung the pistol over…
A line of bloody pawprints led out the open gate.