Kravius looked up from his lunch. Andrus, the arena manager, was standing in the doorway. He looked nervous which was entirely reasonable since he was interrupting Kravius’s lunch.
“Whadda you want?” Kravius was a single-minded sort whose mind was currently focused on the ingestion of several thousand calories. He had a boar leg in one hand and a half-gallon jug of chilled govo juice in the other. He burped once, guzzled down a huge swig of juice, and glared at Andrus.
“There’s a bit of a problem,” said Andrus. “In the arena.”
Kravius shrugged as he tore a chunk of meat the size of a man’s fist off of the boar’s leg. He chewed it noisily, then burped again.
“I was wondering,” Andrus continued, “if you could maybe squeeze in a tiny match this afternoon?”
“I don’t fight today,” he said as he swallowed. “An’ I don’t do matinees. Them’s for the noobs.”
“Yes, well, you see, they’re all a bit…dead.”
Kravius broke the leg bone and sucked out the marrow, still glaring at Andrus.
“Well, I mean…they died,” Andrus said. “Rather horribly, some of them.”
“It’s just convicts today,” Kravius said simply. “Even noobs can slaughter convicts.”
“Yes, well, not so much, as it turns out.” Andrus shifted nervously in the doorway.
Kravius discarded the broken bones and looked down at the platter of food in front of him. The meat was all gone, although there were dollops of gravy left. Kravius dumped the vegetables off of the plate and picked it up, then licked it clean. He finished the last of his govo juice and rose from his bench. He was a massive individual, well over four-hundred pounds of muscle, sinew and bone. Kravius had been the undefeated champion of the arena for the past eight seasons, and had killed nearly one thousand opponents in that time. He had killed humanoids, Deloobians, crabmen, lizard creatures, ape-men, lion-men, Space Amazons, a living rock, fierce animals from every corner of the galaxy and, on one occasion, a squishy blob that was seemingly invulnerable to being cut, sliced or diced. It had been edible, however, so Kravius gorged on blob that day and congratulated himself on a clever solution to an annoying problem. The arena had long ago ceased pitting him against single adversaries, preferring to challenge him and keep the crowd entertained by pitting him against two, three or even four other trained gladiators.
It didn’t matter. Kravius killed them all in brutal fashion while his fans cheered. He barely acknowledged the praise. He would give the crowd a nod, maybe, when he was feeling gregarious, but generally just swished his chainsword back and forth a few times to clean the blood off as he walked through the arena gates and back into his quarters, where he would eat, drink and fuck until his next match.
Andrus though that Kravius was much more focused and energetic about those activities than he was about his profession. He appreciated the man’s skill, but in his managerial capacity wished that Kravius would show a bit more dedication to his craft. A bit more flair, perhaps.
Still, right at the moment he needed Kravius just as he was: an efficient if unimaginative killer.
The big man walked past Andrus and the manager followed, pleading his case.
“There are only four of them,” he said. “It would be a nothing job for you. A quick jab here, a wicked slice there, and you’d be done!”
Kravius ignored Andrus as he walked into the mating chamber. A pair of bouncy concubines awaited him there, their giggles turning to cries of pleasure as he shed his plastisteel codpiece and got down to business. Andrus started to follow the gladiator into the chamber but quickly fled back out to the hallway again, his head spinning. He was no prude, but he also had not been prepared for the sight of Kravius’s buttocks flexing like a pair of well-muscled beach balls as he screwed one concubine, while the other fed him pieces of fruit.
“You’d really be doing me a favor,” Andrus said from the other side of the doorway. “Remember, it was me who gave you your first match in the arena.”
The squealing and huffing and puffing from the mating chamber reached a crescendo and then everything went quiet. Kravius walked out of the chamber, refastening his codpiece. The gladiator gave him a passing glance.
“You still here? I told ya already, I don’t do matinees. Get someone else.”
“There is no one else,” Andrus insisted. “Really. If there were, I wouldn’t be bothering you.”
Kravius walked into the bath chamber. Andrus heard a splash of water hitting the piss trough. It sounded like a hose was turned on full blast.
“Get Mordic,” Kravius called out. “He loves killin’ him some convicts.”
“I did,” replied Andrus. “He died.”
The water sound stopped and Kravius stepped out, adjusting his codpiece once again. He glared at Andrus.
“Dey killed Mordic?”
The arena manger nodded unhappily. “He ate his own vibro-blade. I only wish that I was being metaphorical.”
“How ’bout Hirkle? Or Duz?”
“Both dead,” said Andrus with a shake of his head. “Hirkle lost his head…again, not metaphorically…and Duz got his…you know, his…”
Andrus pointed down at Kravius’s codpiece. The gladiator followed the gesture, then looked up quizzically.
“Dey nut-shotted Duz?”
“I’m afraid so,” Andrus said. “The cyborg grabbed his codpiece and cracked it like an egg.”
“Cyborg? Dere’s a cyborg?” Kravius asked.
“I mean, even if he’d lived, he wouldn’t have wanted to. Not with his twig and berries turning into jelly surprise, as it were.”
Kravius reached down and put a massive hand around Andrus’ neck. He picked up the smaller man and looked him in the eye.
“Dere’s. A. Cyborg?” He punctuated each word with a powerful finger poke to the chest. Andrus felt like he was being held in a vise while someone banged on his sternum with a hammer. He gave out an indignant squeak and Kravius loosened his grip.
“Yes,” he said frantically. “There’s a cyborg! A tough one, too! She twisted poor Apoko’s head round and round and round until it just popped off! And she’s not even the mean one…”
Kravius ignored Andrus as he mentally recounted his kills. It took several minutes, during which time his expression turned blank . Andrus didn’t notice, and continued to babble on.
“I never killed a cyborg,” the gladiator finally said.
“Yes, well, here’s your chance then!” Andrus gave Kravius a hesitant smile. The gladiator nodded, dropping the smaller man.
“I’ll kill ’em for ya,” he said, a small grin pulling at the corner of his mouth. “I’ll kill ’em all real dead.”