Pace Vallon wasn’t born - he was crafted, like a pillow stitched by a boomer with Parkinson’s, he came out all kinds of fucked up.
Rock of Cashel, Ireland, April 5th, 2069
A warm spring night fills the back streets of Cashel, a mild chill clings to the air surrounding two-dozen young men clamouring in a mud strewn street, forming a chorus of cheers and boos punctuated only by the sound of cracking bones and sloshes of saliva laced blood.
Crack, thump, crunch, and a muddy thud backed by a splash causes the crowd to erupt, surging forward to clasp the arm of a thinly built young man painted in blood, mud and swallowed by a sea of excited locals; drowning in chants of
“Nothing compares to the feeling of a scrap - the shit talk, the smell of sweat and ego, the crunch your knuckles make as they break across a man’s jaw and his to yours, it makes the missing teeth worth it. Still, there’s always… something missing… something I can’t quite place…” - Pace Vallon
Somewhere outside Cashel, December 12th, 2069
Slates of tile clatter noisily to the ground, letting out a ceramic screech as they shatter over their freshly laid cousins as the back of a burly young Irishman crashes into them, spewing more left and right as he wrestles with another, slightly shorter man. One slug, two, grapple broken and back into the center of the dining room, the two men face off against each other in their work trousers and boots, assuming boxing stances for one final crescendo in their bout.
Without even moving properly from his spot, the big man slumps to the floor, an uppercut ringing through his quickly lapsing consciousness. A series of oohs ring out, a collective grimace from the working men around them, who are already beginning to pack up their belongings to end this night’s ritual. A moment passes, handshakes are exchanged between the slimly built victor and spectators, some with cash or small quarts of alcohol involved, others with a wry shrug. The big man on the floor begins to stir, letting loose a geyser of spit as he rises.
His words are quickly shaken off by the slimly built man, already donning his vest and jacket, counting his winnings as he begins to head for the door.
Later that night, at around 02:00
The farewell steams its way from the mouth of Pace Vallon, his body worn from a final day of labour and their traditional bout of boxing upon the completion of every job. Easy money for fighting fools, even if they were the good sort.
A rugged voice growls from behind him, which he quickly turns to meet, finding himself gazing at the man he had floored just over an hour ago.
“Go home Bryson, we all had a wee bit to drink. Sleep it off and I’ll cut you in on beer money tomorrow aye?”
Bryson’s hand slides to his hip, tapping an object hidden beneath his thick winter coat, huffing angrily towards the porch.
“Let’s do it for real.”
Pace freezes for a moment, half turned towards his front door, half turned towards Bryson. He feels the familiar steel of his .357 Magnum pressed against his back. No use in trying to skirt around this, Bryson was out for blood.
Turning towards Bryson, he steps down from the porch and gives the burly, alcohol drenched man a nod.
“You sure? Who’s gonna fend for your young lad if you lose?”
A momentary lapse in the rage permeating the weathered builder’s face occurs, replacing his fierceness with that of a worried father, before quickly disappearing into blind anger reassured by liquid courage.
“Not gonna weasel your way out of this one Vallon, either you admit you cheated and give me my winnings or we do it for real.”
A long silence hangs over both men, undisturbed by even the faintest of noise in the quiet suburb. After a moment, Pace sighs and steps out towards the rusted front gate, gesturing Bryson into the street.
“You stand by the lamp post, I’ll stand here, draw when you’re ready and we’ll see who walks away.”
With his winter coat now hanging open, Bryson reveals the handle of an old-world, rusted Glock 19 pistol, twisting it around in an attempt to hold it in a cowboy draw style. Pace mirrors this movement, his hand hovering just above the lukewarm steel of his firearm.
“Don’t drop it”
The words left Pace’s mouth without a thought, striking a chord with Bryson that elicited rage and fear in the same moment. His chunky hand tightens around his pistol, though it refuses to draw despite the anger in his heart. After another tense silence, bitten through only by the quiet motor of a passing car, Bryson’s shoulders slump and he shakes his head.
“I’ve got my boy to think of - jail isn’t worth it. You’re lucky Vallon”
The drunken words ring hollow as soon as they hit the cool night air.
“Come on Bryson, I’ll drive you home.”
Nye Oslo, Norway, 2nd July, 2070
Slink, adorned in his rat-like scrapped armour, clambers over the fence of an old burned out school building, accompanied by three equally rodent-like friends.
“Good job Slink, didn’t think your stubby arms could reach that high”
A cacophony of laughs erupts from the raiding party as they approach the school, weapons and bags in hand, ready to loot and kill anybody in their way. Still, the old, greyed building looks relatively abandoned, with neither sign nor sound of recent occupation staining the pavement or halls of the building.
Fifteen Minutes Later, Basement Area
A thin match drops to the floor, billowing out in an instant as Slink lets out a yell and begins to suck on his thumb.
“For fuck’s sake Slink, light up another one, I can barely see in here through this helmet.”
As instructed, though with considerable grumbling and dubious hand gestures in the dark, another match cracks to life. Before their collective eyes, strewn out across what appeared to be a student dorm area, are a series of brass knuckles, a single pistol and a blackened bayonet. Greedily, Slink dives for them, only to have his hand slammed down against the table by a figure unknown to him, a slim, pale hand holding his against the cold steel of his would-be new bayonet.
“Those aren’t yours fella”
A thickly accented Irish voice calls from the other side of the table, slowly illuminated by the match, his wild eyes and freshly shaven face staring back at Slink. Within the same second, Slink tears his grasp away from the man and backs up over the couch, slamming down behind it into a heap before rising clumsily.
“Well I didn’t see you claiming em did I. What’s say we wants em?”
Another match goes off in the dark, this time illuminating a cigarette in the man’s mouth, which quickly begins to exude a powerful tobacco like odour and deep grey smoke.
“Sure, you can have my stuff…”
Without needing another prompt, Slink starts forward greedily, only to stop at the sound of a firearm being charged.
“If you duel me for it - you win, you take my shit and leave me here to rot… but if I win…”
His bloodshot eyes find the gaze of the metal masked man.
“I will take your place.”
A small argument erupts between the raiding party and Slink, with the burliest of the bunch eventually shoving him forward with a ramshackle knockoff of an old world Makarov pistol in his hand. The two men stare at each other for what seems like an eternity and a microsecond, each one’s eyes defying the other to flinch first; were anybody else listening, they could have heard a pin drop.
Bang. Bang. Thud.
An aroma of burnt gunpowder and freshly spilt blood clings to the air, interrupted only by the wheezing of a dying man. His quickly blurring vision refocuses for a moment, as one last effort to cling to life breaches his lungs. After a moment, one step, two, three, the face of a man kneeling next to him. The man reaches out, a bandaged hand pointing a finger accusingly at him, followed by a softly spoken Irish voice.
“Well - I guess I’m you.”