Gentin’s Gym was owned, appropriately enough, by a woman named Gentin. It was out of the way, halfway down an alley, enter the second door on the left, down a short flight of stairs, then walk the short corridor to the door at the end. And while there were a few muscle-freaks around, there was also a fighting ring and the old-style dummies on springs, their thin padding stained with the blood and secretions of who-knew-how many fighters before me. Gentin herself was old by Raffe standards, possibly in her mid-fifties. She didn’t mince words.
“You want to train here,” she said, “you gotta prove yourself first. I don’t tolerate time-wasters.”
Which was just what I was looking for. “All right.”
“You get in the ring,” she said, jerking her head towards the roughly circular shape pegged out on the floor, “and I’ll send someone along.”
I walked towards the back of the gym, shedding my jacket as I did so.
It was only dumb luck that saved me.
As I cleared one arm from a sleeve, I felt something against my bare upper arm. A breath of air. My mind went into overdrive—I hadn’t seen any fans or ventilation vents, the gym had fallen strangely silent: what were the chances of Gentin playing fair?—and I moved. Not knowing what to expect, I spun low, wheeling my jacket around like a blunt whip. It caught the person sneaking up behind me by surprise. The jacket didn’t do anything other than spook him, but the distraction gave me enough time to do another spin, delivering a sweep kick as I rose. By the time he hit the floor, I was on top of him, his arm in a lock and on the verge of a break. He tapped out, but I was wise to this crew by now. I tightened my grip slightly, twisted a little more and looked up at Gentin. There was a small smile on her face.
“Good enough?” I asked.
She licked her lips. “A hundred and fifty a month; medical supplies are your own responsibility. You train as hard as you like, there’ll always be someone around to match you. You die in here, we dump you outside. Two months in advance, no refunds.”
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