Talent Scouting


hana_icon.gif logan_icon.gif

Scene Title Talent Scouting
Synopsis While checking out the spectators and fighters at Center Stage, Logan meets the woman from his vision — not, perhaps, how he expected to.
Date July 10, 2010

The Center Stage

It smells of sweat in the basement of Coco's boxing gym all the time; sweat undercut by blood. Beneath the floor of Long Island City's oldest boxing gym lies a newer secret, a dirty and grimy basement of exposed pipes and chain-link fence that has become an underground fighting sensation. Since the collapse of the Pancratium on Staten Island, the appetite for destruction held by so many of New York City's criminal element is sated here in painful beauty.

This basement is five rooms with low ceilings, serving as a unisex locker room, makeshift medical bay consitting of a single uncomfortable gurney on wheels and a few first aid kits and a back office. The primary feature of Coco's basement is the "center stage" as it's called, a spacious storage floor where a thirty foot by thirty foot floor to ceiling chain link cage surrounded by a ten foot buffer zone of screaming, sweaty spectators where the action happens.

Three nights out of the week unlicensed underground bloodsport takes place down in that cage, with non-evolved fighters from around the city pitting themselves against the desperate, the depraved and the sportsmen. Betting is organized and enforced by Triad connections and enforcers from the Ghost Shadows Triad are entirely common on all open nights.

One night out of those three, however, serves as the "main event" where Evolved fighters are pitted against one another in no holds barred competition.

Once a few fistfuls worth of moneypaper is traded over, Logan is stepping away from the bookie, fingers pinching his cigarette and raising it a little aloft so as not to accidentally crush it and spill embers on the press of bodies around them. Saturday night and the place is inevitably packed, air saturated with the smell of smoke, beer and sweat, warmth seemingly generated only by the mostly male mass of spectators all sardined down into the gym's basement to see the show. Add in blood and a frenetic sense of adrenaline and you'd almost have the Pancratium.

Winding through the crowd with an ease of someone who is used to doing so, Logan finds himself near enough to see without taking a seat, arms folding on metal rails and rolling his shoulders in as if to relax himself. Despite the inherent dimness of the audience wings of Centre Stage, he has a pair of tinted glasses perched low down on his long nose, enough for pale green eyes to see a slice over the top of them. Clad otherwise in black, he's a regular face that haunts the fight club.

And has been behaving himself, lately. Talent scouting, perhaps, as he's come alone. Ignoring the presence of those around them, his eyes roam over the lit stage that has the venue's attention.

This isn't Hana's normal sort of venue at all — which is exactly why she's here. Practice makes perfect, but perfect doesn't always pass real-world tests; which is where facing actual opponents on occasion comes in.

With her hair tied back in a tail, the angles of her face seem severe indeed; the little bits and pieces that have worked their way loose are plastered against 'Casey's' skin by a thin patina of sweat. She wears plain and unrelieved black, shorts and a sleeveless athletic shirt that cling enough to stay out of her way. That the two parallel blue lines on her neck, along with a smattering of scars here and there, are clearly visible doesn't perturb the woman in the least; neither do the red scrape on one knee or the bruise marking one cheekbone; much less the audience with their leers, whoops, and occasional wolf whistles. She's focused entirely on the other person in the ring.

He's got about four inches on the Israeli, and is a lot more heavily built; she's already cracked his head on the concrete once, if the cut at the edge of his brow is any indication. At the moment, Hana's occupied with avoiding his renewed offensive; he looks to be getting increasingly frustrated, which is a bad sign — for him.

Just to the left of Logan, someone is echoing the male brawler's frustration in jeers about the woman being such an elusive fighter, boring as far as this spectator is concerned, and a line goes through Logan's brow in some irritation, but he keeps his mouth primly shut. No starting anything and if he must, he can find another perch. Tips of his fingers fidgeting, absently, by dragging fingernails against his bottom lip with his cigarette wedged up near his knuckle, he watches the sparring match with a focus on steps, on movement and injury. His eyes seeks out the colouration of damage on the woman's— Casey something's— face.

And actually sees her face, as a consequence. Logan tucks his chin in a little, enough to stare better over the horizon of his ray-ban's until his empty hand is dragging the glass and plastic off his face. He had been looking at the grotesque spectacle of her opponent, breathing hard in his exertion and spittle gathered enough at the corners of his mouth to be seen from where Logan is standing, face shinier beneath the trickle of blood from where the woman had smacked the man's head open on the floor.

Now, he studies her, and sneers his annoyance when the larger brawler gets in his viewing way. Pitching his cigarette to land and die on the floor, Logan goes to slither through the crowd like a snake in tall grass to gain a better vantage point, glasses gripped in a pale fist.

There's a difference between being here to fight — or to spectate fighting — and being here to win.

Hana slides under a too-energetic jab aimed for her head, sidestep and pivot bringing her almost beside her opponent, nearly turned around to face the same direction as he. Her left elbow drives into his stomach, heel of her right palm to his head as he doubles forward. Abruptly disoriented, he staggers in a sidewise half-step, an opening that lets her send him to the floor again with a foot to just below one knee. 'Casey' shifts her momentum into backwards motion, light on her feet as she opens the range to see if he'll get back up.

It takes the man a moment to stir, a moment more to spit out a mouthful of blood and then finally decide he's done with this one. Third time is probably not the charm when concrete and violence is involved.

Around Logan, coming up like seaspray on rocks, rises a crowd-wide cry of approval and dismay mingled together as a finishing blow is executed to fell the larger opponent, but he barely notices as he continues his winding through the perimeter of the cage. The cheer fades and breaks apart into the mutterings of conversation broken up in pieces around him, and only then does he pause, close enough to the cage's exit for his satisfaction, to look back towards the abruptly ended show.

Well. There's a huff of— well, admiration would be a little too generous, too large-hearted for Logan's relatively skinny frame and sharper edges. Satisfaction, maybe, in a fight well won, even if he's pretty sure he just lost his money.

By the time he's stopped trying to swim through the pressing crowd, he's reasonably certain, and lighting a fresh cigarette out of the need for something to fidget with, new smoke rising to mingle in the thin haze already smogging up the lights of the room. Glasses slipped into his pocket, he's mostly an unlikely-looking sort, down here, all in black but the professional lines of his dinner jacket speaking of a higher class, the wink and glimmer of golden cufflinks and a silver thumb ring.

She glances to the spectators only upon her opponent's admission of defeat, an oblique look which acknowledges their furor but fails to bask in it; does let the corners of her mouth tug up in a small, almost smug smile, but that show of understated satisfaction is as much concession as they merit. Hana steps out of the caged arena with a fluid grace that defies the aches she knows will set up shop very shortly, dark gaze flicking briefly over each and every one of the people hovering nearby in automatic assessment; it takes more than the simple transition of exiting the ring to damp those instincts. Logan's attention receives a brief nod, the barest dip of 'Casey's' chin, as she pulls the tie from her hair and shakes it into a loose cascade; there's a distinct lack of matching recognition in the woman's expression.

Which is okay because Logan's never seen her before either, except that one time. She gets a twitch of a smile in return and it seems no more than that when she goes to step by. Not at first. Not until her periphery is owned with him stepping up somewhere closer by, now, more intimate scents of spiced cigarette smoke, fresh and stale, a hint of liberally applied cologne that's been dampened over the course of an evening. He doesn't loom, having only an inch on her, himself, and— he has no plan, it should be noted, but he rarely does.

He usually just has ideas and there it ends. "I couldn't help but notice that you lost me out of fifty dollars," he says, voice pitched loud enough to carry over the clamor of noise that is the underground fight club. His accent is refined, deliberately pulled back from the Brixton lower class English that will inevitably creep back in. "Might you make it up to me by my buying you a drink?" Yeah.

The logic of that proposition is almost painful in its decided absence. Already looking askance at the man when he steps in closer, into what might be considered her space — inasmuch as anyone has 'space' in this crowded basement — Hana arches a brow when Logan speaks. "Seems like an unusual approach to balancing scales," she remarks in a similarly louder-than-conversational voice, hint of smile and the dryness of her tone suggesting a mild sort of amusement. Which is a first step in a (presumably) positive direction. The Israeli inclines her head again, this time with more personal significance to the gesture; or at least, Logan isn't just 'a face in the crowd' now. "I can do that," she continues, smile momentarily a little wider before her attention redirects, selecting a route that'll let her sidle through the press of arena patrons towards the bar.

A hand goes out, but Hana is already moving as gestured, and Logan allows her a few steps before following, a glance over one shoulder back towards the temporarily empty cage. Give it a few minutes and it will be taken up again, but he has a decided lack of interest as to what happens there, now. No, he's simply looking for anyone that might seem to be with the lady herself — and there doesn't seem to be. So he follows, and eases up alongside her at the bar.

They sell beer. Beer and water. "That would be because your penance need not be strictly monetary," he tells her, deliberate humour in voice as he peels apart his wallet and extends two fingers for the server's benefit — two, please. Cigarette trapped between teeth at the filter, dipping a little with those syllables and tumbling only a smidge of ash with momentum.

Two cups are set down, and Logan picks up his in the same movement he's removing cigarette from his mouth, taking care to aim the ensuing stream of smoke away from her. "Cheers to victory. Casey, is it?"

No, she's quite alone — and no more interested in the empty stage than Logan himself, though this may change when it acquires occupants. She picks the cup up in her left hand, idly watching the smoke ribbon upwards from his cigarette. Turning to lean back against the bar, her elbows lightly braced on its surface, Hana lifts the cup in Logan's direction. Cheers, indeed. She takes a long sip of the alcoholic beverage before actually replying. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage." The inquiring tilt of her head makes it a question. As for her name — silence confirms that Casey is at least what she's currently answering to.

Her pose is mimicked but only halfside — an elbow braced on the tall bar surface and his attention on her, some measure of inquiry as well, although in Logan's case, the question is far less clear. "Call me Logan," he responds, a flick of fingers letting dead ash fall floorwards, sparking embers only a fleeting glimmer in the air. "Or, rather, judging by your performance, I'd say you can call me whatever you please. This what you do?" He tilts his head to indicate the arena at large, attention going back to his beer to take a decent draw from it.

'Casey' chuckles softly. "Wise of you," she says, in a dry tone that's faintly teasing at the same time it is approving. Taking another drink, her attention is slightly diverted by the next pair of combatants to enter the arena. "Hmm." They're assessed briefly, but distantly; unlike those who'd been outside the cage exit, the fighters have no bearing on her here. "It is today," Hana answers, smiling crookedly at Logan. "And next time— " Apparently there will be a next time. "— you'll know better who to bet on, won't you?" she concludes, drinking most of the rest of her beer.

Cursory attention to the two fighters, pale eyes going narrow in assessment— or rather, memory, whether he has money on this one, and easy attention is stolen away from Hana for just a moment until the lift of her question reels him back in. "Oh yes," Logan agrees, trading her a thin smile, wide enough to show a glint of canine before half-done cigarette is lifted back up again, flaring orange on the inhale. It seems to make his voice a fraction huskier, heard more as he allows his voice to dip quieter, as if trading secrets. "Generally, I'll only put money on a fighter I've seen a couple of times, and the bloke whose head you bounced around like a football was rather good up until now. Just my luck.

"Fantastic that you'll be back, though. I'll look forward to my redemption." The compulsion to direct a conversation is bitten back, some learned knowledge that he lets his own mouth get away with him occasionally taking over and directing him to finish off his own beer, turning enough to set the emptied red cup aside, scarred fingers spidered around it.

The woman downs the rest of her drink as well, such little of it as is left. She doesn't seem to notice that Logan has a conversational agenda he isn't quite exploring; not that her inference of purpose is too far off in any case. "Very good. I'll be sure to win, in that case." Discarding the cup, 'Casey' straightens away from the bar. "Thanks for the drink, Logan; it's been a pleasure," she continues, casting an amiable smile his way.

Logan doesn't rise up out from his lean on the bar, cigarette still smoking and relatively comfortable to be detached from the thick of the crowd. He does, however, allow himself sharp study that seems to switch from one of Hana's eyes to the next, down to her mouth and back up again, as if searching for a lie — but his smile is just as amiable.

"Good to know," he says — either of that first part or the last, the hint of irony indicating the latter. Some private decision is made before he adds, with the manner of someone opening the cage door or unclipping a leash, "Have a lovely night, Casey."

Hana raises a brow at the expansive permission of his final words, but only smiles faintly. "Likewise." She wiggles her fingers at Logan in a farewell wave, then turns and applies her attention to the task of navigating the crowd — spectators all, they're fixated on the fight in progress and disinclined to move aside, which means it takes some doing this time through. But between determination, energy, and the occasional application of projected menace, the woman cuts herself a path and ultimately disappears from sight into another of the basement rooms.

Head tipping on long neck, Logan watches her exit for as long as it takes for the crowd to fold up back around her, the masses swaying back into place like dry grass and largely oblivious to the woman working her way through them. Sucking in a breath, it's let out with the residue of exhaled smoke and a simple sentiment: "Fuck." Turning his back on the spectacle continuing in the ring, he slips a couple of bills over for a second beer instead.

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