The Walls Of Sparta

By Artie Gallezi

Adventure

Cochran

Colin Cochran's morning was normal as any other sixteen year old in the fine city of Dublin.

His alarm clock chirped unwelcome in his ear and he gave it a hard slap to shut it up. With a groan, he sat up and surveyed his room. His weights were strewn about floor along with empty protein drink cans and the occasional beer can stuffed with fag butts whenever he invited the mates over and they smoked. He noticed the carpet was in dire need of cleaning and he made a mental note to remind his mother, Molly Cochran, when she got around to doing the housework. His walls had that fake wood paneling and was decorated with posters of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

He growled at what was hanging on the back of bedroom door, an orange jumpsuit with Community Payback written across the back in black letters.

It was bad enough he had community service for laying out some bloke who was dumb enough to think he could take Colin "Iron Fist" Cochran in a back alley fist fight, but did really have to make him wear something so stupid and humiliating? He probably shouldn't have mouthed off to the kid's parents about how they had named him Beverly and insinuated they 'had to make a call" when he was baby. Maybe then, they would have been opened to the idea of dismissing the broken nose and five missing teeth as rough housing.

His mother was sipping coffee and reading the newspaper when he finally came down. He didn't say a word, mostly because her boyfriend Jeremy was there too since he had just spent the night.

"Hey, Colin." Jeremy greeted.

Colin fixed him a stare that would have sent a T-Rex shrieking like a little girl. There was something he didn't like about him. He couldn't put his finger on it, but his gut told him Jeremy wasn't all hot cross buns and Easter eggs. He had barely gone out with her for two weeks and had already moved in, much to Colin's protests.

"Anything interesting, mum?" Colin asked as he poured himself a mug of coffee.

"Just some old couple swearing they saw two boys on a motorcycle." Molly said skeptically. "Apparently one of the boys was wearing one of the long trench coat and the other was shirtless."

"Probably best they keep that between them and their internet service provider." Colin sipped his coffee. "You learned that the hard way, didn't you, Jeremy?"

"Just give it a rest." Molly sighed. "Is it too much to ask?"

"What?" Colin demanded. "I just asked ya if anything interesting happened?"

"It's that kind of talking that landed me with hospital bill for the poor child." Molly snapped.

"How is poor Beverly?" Jeremy asked, sounding overly concerned.

"Oh, that git is fine." Colin waved a hand dismissively.

"Colin?" Molly warned.

"You know, apart from the whole face thing." Colin shrugged.

"You're lucky the judge only gave you community service." Jeremy remarked. "That and paying his hospital si getting off easy."

"I'd hardly call wearing that tacky jumpsuit easy." Colin sneered. "As for paying, that was bloody unfair."

"How so?" Molly demanded.

"If ya poke a sleeping bear and it rips ya a new one, no one is gonna blame the bear." Colin said. "They're gonna blame the guy for doing somethin' mental and if he's not too thick, the doc's bill is help that sink in."

"Just like his father." Molly muttered, but Colin saw her trying to hide a smile. "If only he was here."

"Then maybe he'd see his handiwork." Jeremy said.

"Colin," Molly switched to Colin. His father was one of his buttons. "Why don't hurry up and catch the bus. You don't want to be late."

"I think I have a minute, mum." Colin set his cup down and asked, his eyes full of warning. "What were ya saying, Jeremy? Something about me Da's handiwork?"

"If your father hadn't been a coward then — "

Jeremy's words and breath, and nearly a large part of his jaw, was forced back into his throat when Colin's fist connected with his chin.

Normally a boxer, professionally or otherwise, learns early on that the gloves aren't meant to cushion a blow. They're meant to safeguard against breaking one's fingers when striking thier opponent. Despite what is seen in movies, your hand is going to shatter well before the other person's jaw. Unless you were Colin Cochran whose punches were a local legend that rightly earned him the nickname Iron Fist. It had been first coined when during one of his matches, Colin's opponent had been wearing brass knuckles under his glove and Colin still won. The newspaper claimed that not only Colin had an iron jaw, but an iron fist to back it up.

Jeremy had learned that the hard way as Colin's punch actually lifted him off the ground slightly and he landed hard on the kitchen table, taking it with him on the way down.

"Jeremy!" Molly rushed to him and snapped at her son. "You've broken his nose."

"Maybe there's more to Beverly than I thought." Colin pulled on a coat. "It took three for him."

A quick bus ride and Colin was the neighborhood community center where he was to receive his orders for community service. He stuffed his coat in one of the few lockers that still had a door, making sure to keep any valuables on him, and went outside with four more state deemed delinquents.

One was a girl about his age. She was blond and sort of plump. Colin she could have been cute if she took off the first three layers of make-up and did something about her hair, but would just have to make do since she was the only girl. Maybe he'd buy her pint and see where things went. He might need six himself, but who's counting?

There was some quiet looking kid. He reminded Colin of those pictures of serial murderers when they were young, too well dressed and groomed. If someone had whispered to Colin that the neighborhood pets had gone missing, he'd say to check that kid out. He wasn't outright scared of the kid since he was about as thin as a reed, but he still gave him a weird feeling.

Then there was Cappy. They had shared a couple of classes and went to the same school, but Colin never cared enough to talk to him so forget learning his real name. There wasn't anything really that set him apart of the hundreds of kid like him, except that he had a serious and violent temper. He was called Cappy because since grade school, he always wore a cap and the fastest way to blow was to knock his cap of his head.

Finally there was the foreign kid. He didn't come in wearing his orange jumpsuit like the others had. He came in, his long chestnut brown hair tied back, wearing jeans and a long golden brown duster that ended at his knees. Instead of trainers, what England and Ireland called sneakers, he wore what Colin instinctively knew as army regulation combat boots and they had certainly seen some action. He also seemed a bit older, or at least that was the facial hair combined with the scar over his right eye made him guess.

Colin and the rest were waiting for the probation worker, leaning against the railings that stopped anyone from taking a falling into the water below just outside of the community center. Colin wondered why they'd make him do. Probably scrubbing the graffiti of the side of the building or picking up trash under the flyover.

The probation did show up and began giving a speech, sounding bored like he was going through the motions. He was thick, but not fat. He seemed like a high school football coach who had put on a few pounds. He work a plain shirt and gray sweatpants. Colin was barely awake when he introduced himself, Tony something.

"This is it. This is the chance to be positive. To make a real change for yourselves. You can help and make a difference in their lives. That's what community service is all about." He began. "There are people out there who think you're scum. You have an opportunity to prove them wrong."

"Yeah, but what if they're right?" Colin turned to Cappy."No offense," Colin then spoke to Tony, motioning to Cappy. "But I think some people are just born criminals."

"Ya looking ta get stabbed?" Cappy warned.

"Ya see my point there?"

Then the girl's phone rang. She picked up while Tony ignored Colin's ribbing. "Hello? Just doing my community service."

"It doesn't matter what you've done in the past." Tony continued and noticed the girl. "Hey! Ellie!"

"Boring! What'd ya expect?" Ellie continued. "Just some blathering about helping people."

"Hello? Excuse me, I'm still talking here."

Ellie took the phone from her ear. "I thought you finished."

"You see my lips moving?" Tony point to his face. "That I'm means I'm still talking."

"Yeah, but ya coulda been yawning . . ." Colin pointed. "Chewing . . ."

"End the call." Tony ordered. "Hang up!"

"I'll call ya later." Ellie angrily stuffed the phone in her pocket.

"Oy, you're pretty quiet there, weird kid." Colin laughed. "Come on, squeak up!"

"This ain't gonna work fer me." said Cappy. "Can I move to a different group?"

Then the foreign kid demanded. "What makes you think you're better than us?"

Everyone paused.

"What's that accent?" Colin chuckled.

"That fer real?" Ellie smirked.

"You trying to say something?" He demanded.

"That's just noise." Colin looked to Tony and tapped his ear. "Are we supposed to understand that?"

"Understand that?" He made an unmistakable one finger gesture. "Clear enough for you?"

"Well, look at that." Colin made a face of mock impressed and put an arm around Cappy, knocking his cap off. "I think we're gonna get along fine."

"That's it!" Cappy snapped and pushed Colin. "Ya did that on purpose, ya ape."

Then, not giving Colin the chance to respond, Cappy charged him. Colin merely stepped to the side and let the railing knock the wind out of Cappy. What Colin hadn't planned was Cappy flipping over the railing and falling into the water below. Colin shrugged and picked up Cappy's cap and tossed it to him. He turned to see everyone staring at him.

"What are you all taking the piss?" He asked. "I didn't lay a hand on him."

After fishing out Cappy and giving a stern halfhearted warning to Colin, they all received their orders for community service, painting benches.

Tony excused himself, saying he had to make an important phone call and his mobile had died. Without meaning to, or caring, Colin paired up with the foreign kid. They painted, both of them not really noticing they were dripping paint all over the floor.

"I know you." The foreign kid said.

"Naw, ya don't." Colin responded.

"You're that boxer kid." The kid pushed. "You messed up big time."

"Noticed yeah?" Colin motioned to their surroundings. "Thanks fer reminding me."

"They ban you?"

"No." Colin continued painted. "Thought they would, but someone up top convinced 'em to give me a slap on the wrist." Colin spared the kid a glance. "Ya seem to know me pretty good. Honestly, can't say I blame ya. What's your name?"

"Jacob." He held out a hand. "Jacob Gallezi."

"So judging from that tosser of an accent." Colin motioned to Jacob. "You ain't from around here."

"Nope." Jacob shook his head. "I was born in Rio, but I'm from America."

"Rio, huh?" Colin paused."That's the Spanish word fer river, right?"

"Yeah, but it's city in Brazil." Jacob explained. "South America."

"Never learned a lick of Spanish meself." Colin shrugged.

"Brazil speaks Portuguese."

"Let's not split hairs." Colin chuckled. "Point is, french is probably gonna be more useful. France is just ferry and hop over the Channel."

"Chanel?"

"The English Channel." Colin rolled his eyes. "Jeez, I know everyone makes takes shot at your schooling, but don't make it that easy."

"I'll keep that in mind." Jacob went back to painting. "So if they didn't ban you, what are you doing now."

"There's some local tourney." Colin answered proudly. "Been going on fer months since they can only have a match or two a day. Fifty of the best coming from as far as Limerick. Winner gets a heaping prize of ten-thousand pounds cash."

"You still in?"

"Of course!" Colin stood up and made jabbed at the air. "That's my ticket to goin' pro. Gonna take the cash and pay fer a boxing school with ties to the pro circuit. Who knows? Maybe a scout'll be in the crowd."

"But you still have to win." Jacob said. "Don't they have a second place prize?"

"No, they don't have a second place prize or something." Colin mocked. "Don't matter. That cash is as good as mine."

"I'm sure you will." Jacob asked. "So what got ya into boxing?"

"Why ya so curious?" Colin's eye narrowed.

"Honestly?" Jacob shrugged. "I'm just trying to pass the time. So what was it, your dad was a boxer or something?"

"No." Colin hesitated. "Not 'im"

Jacob frowned. "Daddy issues?"

"Hey!" Colin pointed a finger. "Don't play psycho annalist with me."

"Is that why you want to go pro?" Jacob kept pushing. "So he sees you on the TV winning a championship. To show you didn't need him?"

"That's it!" Colin grabbed Jacob by the front of his shirt and held him up. "One more word about me Da and ya gonna look real funny trying to talk without any teeth!"

Then someone came up, but it wasn't Tony.

A hawk with red tail feathers flutter down and landed on the bench Colin and Jacob were painting. It screech and Colin couldn't help but look.

"Ya seeing what I'm seeing?" Colin asked.

"What do you see?" Jacob asked and Colin thought Jacob was eager for an answer. "A sparrow?"

"What are ya as thick as two short planks?" Colin demanded.

"What now?"

"I'm not sure what yer seeing, but I see one those hunting birds. What do ya call 'em? Eagle? Hawk?" Colin gazed at the bird's talons. "And it's got a note tied to it."

"Take it." said Jacob. "Unless you're scared of a little bird."

Colin shot him a look, saw he was still holding Jacob off the ground, and threw him down. "Then why don't ya take it?" Colin saw the bird stick its leg out for him. "I ain't that thick."

Colin saw the paper was sealed with candle wax and had strange writing written on it. It was just random line and symbols that seemed to dance around. Colin had kept it a well known secret he was dyslexic.

"What dose it say?" Jacob asked.

Colin shook his head and focused at the strange writing.

Γροθιά του σιδήρου

Then suddenly it clicked and he said, "Iron Fist." He cocked his head, not understanding how he knew that. "It's fer me."

He unrolled the paper and saw it only had a single line with the same writing. He had never seen that writing anywhere, but he was sure the front had said Iron Fist as sure as he was that his name was Colin.

Πόσα πραγματικά γνωρίζουμε για τον πατέρα σου;

Like before he mentally stopped the symbols to stop dancing around and stared at them. Little by little, each word clicked into his head like it was something he had know all his life.

"How much do you really know about your father?" Colin finally said aloud and looked at Jacob. "What are ya playing . . ."

Jacob was gone. Not even the paint brush and can of paint he had been using was there. It was like Colin hadn't just spoke with him second ago.

" . . . at." Colin called to the others. "Oy, you lot! Anyone see where Jacob went?"

"Who's Jacob?" asked Ellie. "Yer boyfriend?"

"Better than ya could hook." said Colin. "I'm serious. I'm talking about that foreign kid with the funny accent. About this tall with long hair and scar on his eye?" Colin gestured. "He was with us when that Tony bloke showed up."

"You are hilarious!" Cappy laughed. "Keep taking that medication. I tell ya, it's working."

"Or maybe one too many hooks to the jaw?" offered Ellie.

They all shared a hilarious laugh, including the quiet kid, and Colin about to send Beverly three room mates in the hospital when Tony came back from his phone call.

"What's going on?" Tony looked around for signs of trouble. "It's painting benches. You've barely been at it an hour."

"Colin's gone mental." Cappy laughed.

"Yeah," agreed Ellie. "Says there was some foreign kid here with us and just disappeared."

"Really?" Tony looked worried. It wouldn't be the first time a kid started having hallucinations with all medication they took these days.

"Forget it." Colin forced a smile and hoped they bought it. "Just jokin'. Almost had you lot. Maybe there's hope fer ya yet."

Colin passed the rest of day very quietly, very unlike him. He just couldn't comprehend how Jacob had just disappeared. He guessed he could have slipped away while he was trying to read the note and the rest were busy painting, but how could erase the very memory of him from the others? He thought about it the entire bus ride home and figured someone was paying a prank on him. Just pay the probation worker to act as if nothing was wrong and hand the rest a couple of quid to do the same.

He let himself inside and deciphered a note his mother had left saying that she was taking Jeremy to the hospital and then home. He glanced at the clock and figured she was either was punishing him by not leaving something to eat or had decided to stay the night at Jeremy's. Either way, he had to make his own dinner.

Colin had never been much of cook, so he picked the phone and ordered a pizza with all the hearty meaty toppings he liked. He ate it all and washed it down with a couple of cokes. After catching the end of a football match, Manchester United surrendering to Barcelona in overtime, he made his way to the basement.

Colin liked to call it his Wreckroom. He called it that because it was filled with all the equipment he needed to keep his body fit so he could properly wreck someone. He jogged on the treadmill for an hour to burn off the pizza and cokes. He then wrapped his hand in boxer's tape and had at the punching bag that hung int he corner to give his arms a workout. Once his arms felt like they weighed like a ton each, he practiced on the speedbag. He continued deep into the night, ignoring the burning in his limbs, switching from machine to free weights to punching bag until he glanced at the clock and saw it was three in the morning. He had never gone so long without stopping, not even breaking for water. In the past, he could last until midnight and hardly have the strength to climb the stairs to his room.

He felt tired, but exhausted like he expected, as climbed the stairs and saw him mother still hadn't come home. He frowned and climbed the stairs to his room. He was sweaty from long workout, but decided to climb into bed and shower in the morning.

He laid there, glancing at the unmoving ceiling fan, and thought. He didn't do this much, dwelling on things, but then again thing hardly happened that made him think. Twice that day he thought about his father. First was when Jeremy called him a coward for not staying with his mother. Colin wasn't sure what made angry. When he was old enough to understand his father wasn't around, he liked to imagine him as an older and tougher Colin. He guessed some part of him still liked to think that way.

Colin turned to his side and considered the message on the hawk. "How much do you really know about your father?" He asked aloud.

All he knew of the man was what his mother had told him. He was an ex-military of some sort that had gotten discharged for striking a superior officer. Molly said it was his carefree attitude and fearless laugh that she liked to the most. She once saw him take out three men in a bar that had made a pass at her and beat them senseless while laughing like he was having the time of his and a mug of guinness in hand. He had apparently made his living as an amateur boxer. He could have pro, but Molly said he was too headstrong and had a problem with authority. A real rebel. A typical badboy.

But Molly refused to tell Colin his name. Always she ever said was that it wasn't a common name, but then again he wasn't a common person by any stretch. She also kept any photographs of him in a secret lockbox at the bank. She said he had his proud, but tough, handsome face with a strong chin. Colin also had the same build as his father,that is to say, a giant on steroids with limbs as powerful and thick as other's entire bodies, and like Molly hinted at this morning, Colin had his father's attitude and temper.

The next morning Colin forgot everything that had happened the day before. The day had finally come. His day. The day of the final match of tournament. Colin had bested all eleven opponents thrown at him from all over the country and not single one had won like he had. He had followed knockout after knockout after knockout, with hardly a bruise or a drop of his blood touching the ring floor. If he won, not only would he have his prize money and promising future, but he would have set a record in the tournament's decade long run. That record would just be icing on the cake when he was considered for sponsors.

He practically leaped from his bed and hopped in the shower. After picking some clothes that looked clean enough, he rushed downstairs for a hearty breakfast. His mother always had prepared a large hearty breakfast enough to feed three just for him before his matches.

"Oy,Mum!" He cried with excitement. "Fire up the stove 'cause I am need it all to — "

The kitchen was empty.

Molly wasn't at the stove frying eggs or bacon filling the air the sound of sizzling. The table hadn't been set with tea and toast. The coffee machine wasn't perking, leaving the air empty of the tantalizing aroma. The sink was empty of dirty pots and pans as was the oven empty of fresh bread. The kitchen had been like he left it the night before when he ordered a pizza.

" — beat the bloke's jaw into the ground." He finished, shocked.

He picked up the phone that hung on the wall and called his mother's mobile. Then he heard it ring and saw it was sitting on the kitchen counter. Molly had forgotten it when she rushed Jeremy to the hospital. He picked up the mobile and flicked through the call history and found Jeremy's number.

His thumb hovered over the send button. What was he supposed to say? Demand that she drove over and not only make him breakfast, but drive him to the tournament? He knew his mother was lenient, but to a point. She was probably still mad at him for breaking Jeremy's nose. He looked at the table and saw a large crack on the edge. Okay, so Jeremy's nose and the table.

He poured himself a bowl of cereal and made some coffee and toast.

Once he finished his breakfast, he grabbed a sports bag filled with his gear and took the first bus to William's Boxing and Fitness center on Foley Street that was just off Amiens Street.

Mick's Tournament was not an official tournament that large companies or boxing schools paid for, but over the years it had gain reputation. So much so that to win was the same as winning even the largest tournament held in stadiums, for the amateur league at least. It was often considered the final step to reaching the professional level. Often competitors joked the prize money was to pay for the huge party the winner was bound to throw because he had been approached by several scouts offering contracts before he had even changed into his street clothes.

As large as the tournament was, it was relatively unknown to the general public. It was more meant retired boxers and trainers to talk of old fights and pick up the occasional training or fight technique. So Colin wasn't surprised to not see a crowd outside the building or a screaming audience inside on the benches surrounding the ring.

Colin made his way to the locker room and changed into his gear. He pulled up a pair of red shorts to his waist and slipped on regulation boots of the same color. Then he wrapped a hand in white tape and slipped one of his lucky gloves. Colin deemed them lucky because he had been wearing them when he earned the name Iron Fist. He liked to think of those old stories of Greek demigods that carried famous weapons, like Hercules and Orion with thier clubs.

As he struggled to wrap his other hand, something his mother usually helped with, he heard a conversation on the other side of the lockers. Oen of the voices sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it.

"I still say you're an idiot." complained the voice. "If he's a son of Ar — "

"If I could take The General in a real fight," snapped another voice. "Then I think I can take — "

"That was with me, Percy, Zoë, and your mother backing you up." reminded the familiar voice. "Even then, you almost di — "

"Which is why I'll be fine." assured the other voice. "This won't be anything like that."

"And this won't be like Rocky!" It sounded like he was worried. "Artie, you said yourself Clarisse once broke one of her brother's jaw and she wasn't even paying attention. What's going to happen when one of his kids comes at you with everything he's got?"

"That's exactly why I'm doing this and not you. No offense, but even HE said I can take a hit better than most." said who Colin guessed was Artie. "What other way can you think of to make sure? Hand him a cellphone and see what happens? We have no idea how many of them are here." Artie sighed. "Look, Jacob, even if we had a better plan we don't have time."

"Jacob?" Colin whispered and stood. He began walking around the lockers. "Couldn't be . . ."

By the time Colin turned the corner, he caught a glimpse of a white robe trailing as whomever was wearing left the locker room. Colin stood there and anger boiled in him. Before he knew he doing, Colin was in front of Jacob and shoved against the lockers, hard.

"What the bloody hell are ya doing here?!" he demanded.

"I-I-I don't know what you're talking about!" snapped Jacob once he recovered.

"Don't play daft with me!" Colin slammed both fist on either side of Jacob's head. "What was that Houdini act at the community center?"

"Would all participants please report to the ring" said a voice over a loudspeaker. "The match will start in two minutes."

"Bollocks." Colin shot deadly look at the speaker in the he turned to Jacob. "Lucky fer you, I got a match to win. I'll finish you later. You can count on that." Colin shoved him hard against the locker before leaving.

Unlike his opponent, Colin wasn't wearing one of those brightly colored robes. Those were for when his matches were televised all over Ireland, not some tournament the people didn't even know existed. Still, that wasn't to say the seat around the ring were empty. Almost every time Colin had a match, they were empty, but now Colin had a small taste of what it would be like to fight while the crowd roared with excitement. As he walked he scanned the audience, scouts in suits along with retired boxers and trainers mostly.

He was surprised to see his mother wasn't there. A lump formed in his throat. She had gone to every single one of his matches, no matter what he did and how mad she was with him. She had said countless times, if he made it to the final match, she wouldn't miss it for the world.

Colin pushed it aside as he entered the ring.

"Nice of you to join us." said Mickey Kelly, the owner of the gym and the referee. "Would've been a shame fer you to come this far and be late."

"But better fer the my opponent." Colin smirked.

"That's the spirit." Mickey pointed to the corner. "When you're ready."

Colin walked over to the the far east corner on the ring and sat on the stool. He watched his opponent wearing a silvery white robe and shiny silver shorts, both of which matched his boots. Colin couldn't get a good look since he had the hood up, but he saw Jacob whisper in his ear. Colin clenched his jaw as he realized that bird and weird note at the community center was just ploy to get in his head. He had, after all, spent a large portion of the night wondering what it had meant where he could have spent training or sleeping before today's match. It didn't really matter. It just made Colin that much more determined to win.

Colin scanned the audience again, but there was no sign of Molly Cochoran. Some his friends, the few he had from school along with girls, were in there holding up signs that read Iron Fist FTW and such.

A microphone was lowered in the middle of the ring, Mickey had actually went and spent some money for once, and Mickey spoke. "Ladies and gentlemen! Scouts, spectators, and fellow pugilists!

"Oh, get on with it!" shouted someone in the audience.

"Today's match will determine not only the best has Dublin has seen in a long time, but also the winner of the ten-thousand pound purse!" Mickey made show-manly point to Colin. "In this corner, weighing one hundred twenty-five kilos and native son of this fine city of Dublin, with a tournament record of eleven consecutive knockout, Colin "Iron Fist" Cochraaaaaaan!"

Colin stood, jabbing and dodging punches, and he did not try to hide the small the smile his little cheering section was giving him.

"And in this corner, we have a tournament first!" Mickey made a flourish to Colin's opponent. "Weighing ninety kilos, born across the pond from Rio and fighting his way from the land of the rising sun, Artie "Five Fist Fox" Galleziiiii!"

Colin watched as his opponent, noticing Jacob was just outside the ring behind him, as he sprung to his feet and the silvery white robe fell at his feet. Colin would have bet the prize money ten times over that this skinny kid didn't weigh fifty kilos, let alone ninety. To call this Gallezi kid , which Colin figured was Jacob brother or cousin since they had the same last name, a stick was an insult to sticks. He looked so thin he'd probably crack in half from a light sponge bath. Colin's wrist alone was thicker than Artie's thigh.

He was tall though, probably a few centimeters short of two full meters. His hair was strange, midnight black with silvery white highlights tied back into a ponytail, but he wore dark wrap around sunglasses which almost hid a scar over his left eye. Colin had fought opponent that wore glasses before, but they always wore those goggles that looked like what swimmers wore. Like his robe and hair, his shorts and gloves were that same silvery white.

Colin and Artie walked to the middle of ring and Mickey stood between them. "Now, I want a good clean fight. From the both of ya."

"I'll do my best." Colin smirked at Artie. "But no promises. This ain't exactly high tea with the queen." Colin gave Artie a once over. "Then again, maybe it is."

"Then the queen is looking less than her best." Artie smiled at Colin. "Nice dress by the way."

"Look me in the eye and say that!" Colin snapped.

"That's enough." Mickey motioned to the fighters. "Go back to your corners and when the bell rings, come out fighting."

Artie held out his gloves. "Good luck."

Colin hit them with his. "You'll need it."

Artie frowned.

"What?" Colin asked. "Too hard for ya?"

"I was kinda hoping for an Ivan."

"What?"

"You know, Rocky IV?" Artie slipped into a Russian accent. "I must break you."

Colin smiled, despite himself and walked to his corner.

Hardly a minute passed, Colin scanned the audience one last time to see his mother still hadn't arrived, when the bell rang and Colin came out his corner.

Colin was surprised when he saw Artie take four steps toward him and stopped. His hands were up, his right over his sternum and his left out at the same level, but not moving. Colin shrugged and came at him, first with a plain jab from his right that he followed with a hard cross from his left.

Artie leaned back to avoid the jab and Colin sword he smirked, even as took the smallest of steps back to dodge his cross. Colin quickly attempted a strong right hook, strong enough to rattle him from the jaw to his ankle, but Artie slipped under his arm and was behind him before he knew it. Colin turned as fast as he could and jabbed again with his right, turning it into a hook when he missed Artie's head by inches. When he tried again, Artie easily ducked and was behind him again.

He pressed him, jabbing at Artie's chest and then again at his head. Like before, Artie evades his blows and Colin noticed he was still wearing his sunglasses. The cheeky was taunting without so much as a word. Now he was angry. When Artie got behind him again, part of wondering why he had yet to throw a single punch, Colin roared and threw a massive haymaker. As he did, Colin saw a change in Artie and saw he had made a mistake. Quicker than Colin even thought possible, Artie took a single wide step to the side and jabbed three times with the same hand. The first two got him in his eyes which gave Artie enough time for the third to find his nose. Colin staggered, not because they were strong strikes, but because he hadn't expected him to move so fast.

Shaking it off, Colin charged again, but Artie evaded each strike like he had all the time in the world and slipped behind him twice more. Frustrated, Colin threw a hard straight at Artie's face. Colin saw Artie move, but he was too slow to react. The moment his arm was stretched as far as it could, Artie spun toward him to dodge. When the back of his neck was adjacent to the crook of Colin's elbow, Artie's two jab found his face before an uppercut found his the bottom of his chin.

Artie then retreated a couple of steps when Colin staggered. Like before, it wasn't the force, but the shock of how fast his opponent moved. Then Colin remembered what Mickey had called him, The Five Fist Fox. Colin was willing to bet this slippery kid hadn't won his matches by knockouts, he had won by points.

In boxing, Colin was what was referred to as a slugger. A lot of sluggers tend to lack finesse in the ring, but make up for it in raw power, often able to knock almost any opponent out with a single punch. This ability makes them exciting to watch and their fights unpredictable. Most sluggers lack mobility in the ring and may have difficulty pursuing fighters who are fast on their feet, like Colin was having with Artie.

If Colin was a slugger, and based on how Artie never stayed still long enough to be hit, Artie was an out-boxer though any of trainers there would see his technique was horrendous. Out-boxers are known for being extremely quick on their feet which often makes up for a lack of power, like Artie was showing Colin. Since they rely on the weaker jabs and crosses , they tend to win by points decisions rather than by knockout.

But that wasn't all the danger Artie posed for Colin. Artie was so fast and agile, he made a perfect counterpuncher as well.

Counterpunching was where a boxer decides to utilize techniques that require the opposing boxer to make a mistake and then capitalizing on that mistake. Lone jabs of the opposing fighter that miss are often met with swift jabs or quick combinations. It could lead to severe damage if the boxer who utilizes this technique has bad reflexes or isn't quick enough. The problem was that Artie was so fast and Colin so slow everyone of his attacks could be a mistake, and he'd lose the match if he couldn't put Artie down for the count.

Colin had to go for knockout. If the fight lasted the full ten rounds, Artie's points would through the bloody roof and he'd win, but how could he when Artie was dancing around him. Colin couldn't just fight blindly like he had. It was time for a new switched his guard from the orthodoc right handed to the southpaw left handed stance. He had read that boxers who were naturally right handed adopted the southpaw stance to offset thier opponents, Marvin Hagler and Michael Moorer.

Colin hid a smile as he saw Artie raise an eyebrow and hesitated, no doubt expecting something.

Colin charged with jab after jab after jab, Artie bobbing and weaving effortlessly to avoid them. Colin continued pressing him as he forced him back as he added short careful crosses. Once he was sure Artie had picked up on his pattern, Colin went for it. He cocked his left arm back, slowly and delibertly. He saw Artie twitched as he prepared to move. Then, with his arm still cocked back like an archer's bowstring, Colin suddenly jabbed with his right. Colin was taking a risk leaving himself open like that, but it paid off. Artie was not expecting it and sidestepped to avoid it, right into the path of his massive left cross.

Artie's sunglasses went flying and the audience fell silent.

Artie staggered backward and Colin followed up with a barrage of blows. Before he could regain his senses, Colin's cross landed on Artie's cheek. Artie wavered from the force of the blow. Next, Colin threw both of his fists like a cannon and Artie's head whipped back and he stepped back to keep himself from falling. To his credit, Artie attempted his own haymaker. Colin easily blocked and countered with a shot to Artie's chest. Again Artie tried to fight , this time with a feral left hook and again Colin blocked and his jab connected fully with Artie's right cheek. Feeling like a little payback, Colin jabbed twice more and each one connected.

To not leave it to chance, Colin applied more pressure with two powerful hooks to each side of Artie's chest. Surprise Artie was still standing, Colin ducked low and practically jumped into the air with a powerful uppercut under Artie's chin.

Mickey began counting to ten and Colin began walking to his corner to savor the moment and his twelfth straight knockout.

"Seven . . . eight . . . nine . . ." Colin heard Mickey shout.

Then he heard something he wasn't expecting.

"Hey, Cochoran!" Artie shouted through his mouth guard.

Colin turned to see Artie standing, swaying on his feet, but standing. His eyes sent a shock down Colin's spine. They were a pure silvery white with any pupils.

"I didn't hear no bell." Artie smiled and lifted his hands.

Colin couldn't believe it. He lost count how many punks, both in and out of the ring, went down and stayed down after just three hits. Yet, this skinny little stick of kid was on his feet in less than ten secounds after ten monsterous hits.

Colin began walking toward him, doubting he could take another volley like that. "I'm going to bust you up!"

"Go for it." Artie smiled at the line from Rocky III.

Then the was the definite sound of a bell, ding ding.

"That's the bell." said Mickey. "Back to your corners."

Colin shurgged and strutted back to his corner. He still had nine more rounds and severly doubted Artie could stand another round. It looked like the Five Fist Fox wasn't a match for single Iron Fist.

Colin sipped from a water bottle, doing his best not to drop it since boxing gloves aren't exactly to grip things. He watched as Jacob looked over Artie. Colin would never say it aloud, but he was sort of impressed with his opponenet. His chest had severl dark bruises forming and Colin felt the slightest twinge that he might have broken the dumb punk's rib or at least fractured them, but he pushed it away. He knew what he was getting into when he signed up and Colin wasn't about to pull punches.

Jacob took out Artie's mouth guard and it came out bloody and covered in spit. Colin watched Jacob check out his mouth with a little pen light. Colin guessed Jacob didn't like what he saw and was asking, begging practically, to throw in the towel and give the Colin the match. Colid hid a smile as Artie shook his head and thought maybe there was more to this kid than meets the eye.

Jacob rolled his eyes and fit a straw into Artie's mouth. Colin couldn't help how relief spread all over his face and body. It was like all the pain was being washed away with every sip. Colin would have said something, but then he thought how stupid he'd sound saying that Artie was cheating by healing his injuries with some special liquid in his waterbottle. Even if was cheating and that was the case, Colin wasn't worried. He'd just pour on the pressure until he ran out. Colin had been cheated once and he still won. This wasn't any difference.

The bell rang again and both fighters emerged from their conrers

Colin must have selling himself short for once or Artie had been putting on a show. He was swaying his feet and stumbling in small circles as tried maintain his balance. His arms were up, but they also fell and swayed with him like it was an effort to lift them. Even his silvery white eyes were beady like he was concious.

If Colin didn't know any better, he would sworn the kid had just finished a bottle of high grade scotch and couldn't hold it.

Colin charged as Artie staggered to his right with hard hook, but Artie seemed totter just out his reach and countered with punch from an odd angle which Colin observed as a bolo punch. Colin tried again with another hook and Artie seemed to it was time to lose his balnce and stagger backward, arms waving like he was tottering on the edge of cliff. No sooner than Colin's hook past him, Artie regained his composure and spun to his side and Colin recieved a jab on his cheek

Colin wheeled around. "What the bloody hell are ya playing at?!"

"W-what?" Artie's words were slurred. "I figured when in Rome."

"What are ya saying?!" Colin's eye narrowed.

"How many pints did you and your mom have this morning?" Artie smirked. "Just enough for the hang over or just the usual dozen?"

Something in Colin snapped and he charged.

Jabs, crosses, hooks, and haymakers flew like mortar fire as Colin forced Artie against the ropes. Without any room to move, Artie did the only thing he could and covered up as best he could. Colin was in too much of a blind rage to see what Artie was doing which was Ali's rope-a-dope. It involved lying back against the ropes, covering up defensively as much as possible and allowing the Colin to attempt numerous punches. Witht the ropes of ring supporting him, Artie could lean as far as back he wanted. It maximized the distance of the Artie's head from Colin and increased the probability that punches would miss.

The whole point was for Artie to weather the shot that did connect and lure Colin into expending energy while conserving his own. If successful, and Artie could withstand the onslaught or Colin's godlike fury, Colin will eventually tire which might create defensive flaws which Artie could exploit.

Artie sensed Colin begin to slow, which was great since he wasn't sure how much more he could take, and peaked to see. Artie chose the wrong moment and felt rocket slam into his jaw and lift him off his feet. Artie threatened to fall, but Colin wouldn't have it. Another hook from the other side put him right back on his feet just long enough for a wide cross collide with his jaw. Colin let Artie go after two more haymakers and cross before putting all his weight into an overhand strike that sent Artie to the ground like a rock.

Colin was breathing hard and was severly tempted to get on the chancer and just keep going until his arms went numb, but he had calmed down enough that he'd be disqualified. Mickey began the count and Mickey walked away again. He was certain that no human could take all that and still be conscious, and if he was no one would stubborn enough to get up.

"Five . . . six . . . seven . . . eight . . ." Mickey counted. "Nine . . ."

But Colin didn't hear Mickey say ten.

"Ya gotta be coddin' me." Colin turned.

Artie was on his feet. Bruises covered his face and some blood stained the corner of his mouth as well as the floor where he had been. His right eye was almost swollen shut and his left wasn't much better. His chest heaved and Colin guessed it wasn't the slightest bit pleasant to breath so heavily. To top it all off, Artie was smiling.

"You're a tough lil' bucko aren't ya?" Colin began walking and chuckled. "Bigger cubs than ya have quit from less than have of those digs."

"Probably." Artie agreed still smiling.

"How about we stop farting around and get serious?" Colin put up his hand. "Whadda ya say?"

To his credit, Artie put his hands up too and quoted Rocky III again. "You wanna ring the bell?"

Suddenly a something white flew from behind Artie and landed at Mickey's feet. All three looked to see a pristine white towel and looked to Jacob who nodded to confirm he had thrown it. Mickey made a signal and the bell rang, ending the match with Colin winner by default. Mickey motioned for the microphone to be lowered and lifted Colin's arm.

"And the winner of this year's tournement and a purse of ten-thousand pounds," Mickey announced. "With twelve consective knockouts, a tourement first, Colin 'Iron Fist' Cochoraaaaaaan!"

Despite the cheers and the fact he was well on his way to the pro circut in a few short years, Colin looked back at Artie. Like Jacob the day before, Artie was gone. His silvery white robe wasn't on the floor and Colin saw Jacob was gone as well.

After enjoying the audience cheering, Colin went back to locker room to change into his street clothes. He was in the middle of tying his boots when Molly came from around a corner.

"Mum?" Colin stood. "I though ya wern't coming."

"Sorry I was late." Molly frowned. "Jeremy was acting like the biggest babby I'd ever seen. Ya think ya shattered his jaw and skull the way he was carrying on." Then she hugged her son. "So I gave him some of those pills to help him sleep and got here as fast as I could. I came in just in time to see that skinny kid make a proper fool of ya for the first couple of seconds."

"Well, in my defense." said a voice. "It's never really that hard for his kids."

Molly and Colin turned to see Artie, without so much as scratch and smiling, and Jacob. Artie was wearing jeans and a shirt while Jacob was wearing his long trench coat. Colin eyed the white knife at Artie's hip.

"What now?!" Colin stepped in front of Molly. "A rematch?"

"No." Artie inclined his head to Molly before speaking to Colin. "I wanted to apologize for what I said in the ring. I didn't mean a word of it, but I had make you mad."

"Why?"

Artie looked to Molly. "Ms. Cochoran, did you know who Colin's father really was?"

"What?" Colin turned to his mother. "What the bloody hell is going on about?"

"Yes." Molly nodded. "He told me everything."

"Do you know?" Jacob asked Colin.

"What of it? He was some ex-milatry bloke that got discharged." Then he looked to Molly. "Right, Mum?"

Molly looked away, not sure how to answer.

"There's more to it than that." Artie said. "For starters, your dad never left miltary. You might even say is the military."

"Ya said ya had to make me mad to be sure." Colin asked skeptically. "Be sure of what?"

"You can always count on them being strong." Artie rubbed his jaw and grunted. "But you could give Clarisse a run for her money."

"Who the heck is Clarisse?"

"Your sister. Half sister actually."

"So my mum . . .

"Not your mother." Jacob said gently. "Your father."

"Ares." Artie said firmly. "Greek god of War."

"Bollocks!"

"Here!" Artie tossed something to Colin. "Put these on."

Colin caught a pair of brass knuckles. He eyed Artie skeptically for a moment and slipped them on. "Alright, whats a pair of — "

Suddenly there was a sound of sliding metal. Before he knew it, Colin's entire hand was covered in brightly polished bronze. He flexed his fingers experimentally and found it was like wearing a pair of thin gloves.

"Make a fist." Jacob suggested.

Colin did and saw the glove grow into a boxing glove, but not the kind meant for matches. If he decked someone with this glove, he'd kill someone. If the sheer force of being struck with a cannonball didn't, then the four inch spikes would.

"Your dad isn't one for pulling punches, Colin." Artie smiled approvingly. "He expects his kids to do the same."

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