“I assure you, these men are the worst of the worst. They have done things that make this current fight seem tame. They are inhuman. Monsters. Unspeakable beasts.”
Adorno’s expression admonished me for doubting this. He did not think it needed to be said. I stared on, not wanting to offend the man. He had more power in society than I could imagine. His friendship or hatred were two extremes, and neither of them were exactly what I wanted.
I asked him, “how long are they trained? They seem quite proficient with those weapons.”
Adorno replied with a smile and a laugh, “Their whole life brings them to this moment. We find the most blood thirsty savages. They train themselves and we don’t give them the opportunity to get better with those weapons. We do quite the opposite.”
He gestured towards a long hall that both began and ended with a door made of thick steel.
“We put them into the cages. We keep them alone other than our visits. Once an hour someone comes by to tell them how many hours until they fight. Once an hour we tell them that is how they earn food. It is how they earn some level of freedom.” Adorno was nodding as he said these words.
He continued, “It is easy to get a man to be blood thirsty. You see, they can’t hear the other prisoners. They only hear the guards for a short 15 seconds before the door closes and they hear no other sounds. They are driven mad. Well, more mad. As I said, these men are already broken.”
As he said this, one of the men in the fighting pit drove his sword through another’s neck. He had already punctured his stomach moments before, and as the man collapsed he finished him with a shower of blood and shouts. The winner was delirious.
The drones overhead filmed the whole thing. They flew just out of reach and had multiple angles. They lowered as the man collapsed to the ground.
This was the highest form of entertainment that existed now. The business was mostly a secret. I was given the opportunity to see it because I was being brought in to help.
The men knew they would never walk free again. Whatever they had done was beyond what society could tolerate. They were given a chance to fight for their lives. They were given a chance to live.
Their meaning in life would be derived from these moments going forward. That is what was thought by the government.
I disagreed. My PhD thesis was on the small amounts of information that I could gather about these fights and the people who participated in them. I was convinced that their lives ended in that arena. There would be no positive outcome for these men.
“You know, I read a summary of your work,” Adorno began, “I think you are right. These men’s lives are over. I would prefer they keep fighting. Imagine the spectacular fights as the best of the best would fight over and over!”
I thought about telling him that wasn’t what my research had pointed to. It would have made sense to tell him that I was saying they shouldn’t fight at all. I knew that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
I asked instead, “what happens to these men after their fight?”
Adorno said, “They are treated well. They are still kept in prison. If they commit more crimes, they will be tried and sentenced to more fights.”
I wasn’t aware of anyone fighting twice.
Twice, Thrice, More
Adorno knew my question before I asked it. He knew it before I knew I was going to ask it.
“Your look tells me you don’t understand. That we don’t make men fight twice. We do. We assuredly do. It is trivial to change their face in post production. To give them a new name.”
Adorno asked, “so, what are you expecting your job to be now that you are under NDA? Now that you are my employee? You were told that your job was to assess the prisoners and the impacts of our methods on them. Correct?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Adorno smiled. “Well, your real job is to do that, but we won’t use your work unless it agrees with us. We won’t publish it. It will never see the light of day.”
“What?” I squeaked out.
Adorno was still smiling.
“We wouldn’t pay you if you were going to make things worse for us. You make them better or you don’t make them at all. I’d say you can quit, but that would be a lie as well. Allow me to introduce you to Brenda. She will be working with you.”
Brenda walked up. She was beautiful. I don’t know where she came from or how I missed her. She may have been the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
Brenda smiled the same smile as Adorno.
“Let’s start with what we need…”