“Throw the fight, songbird. Let me win,” Dogleash’s heavily muscled opponent whispered as they grappled. Their spiked arm bracers clashed and locked together. Spiked boots slid and clanged on a bloody steel floor.
Bazilio Malkovski got as far as touching the cartilage scars atop Dogleash’s right ear, but he couldn’t reach the loop at the back of Dogleash’s spiked collar. Shuddering, Dogleash bashed away Bazo’s straining fingertips. As Bazo hissed and pulled pack, Dogleash was suddenly four feet away.
“N-n-no,” Dogleash said, hating his conditioned stammer and the tremors rocking his whole body as he fought to speak.
“Might as well.” Bazo drew close again, grinning through the black tattoos masking his lower face, and shook back his rust-red dreadlocks. “Win or lose, I paid Kott to put me on the playbill with you. He’s given you to me for the rest of the night. Hurt me now, and I’ll make you sorry for it after I’m healed. You know I can be nice too. Let’s talk about it, sweetheart?”
Breaking free once more, Dogleash shook his head silently.
Every fighter knew Dogleash stammered and shuddered when he tried to speak. Most of them goaded him into it to throw off his fight.
Kott had rented him to Bazo once before, on another planet. Bazo’s idea of “nice” wasn’t an experience he cared to repeat. Dogleash hunched his shoulders at the memory. Bazo relaxed, thinking he’d won, turning toward the noisy crowd. He waved his arms and pumped his hips triumphantly. Beyond the tattooed demon-mask, Bazo wore only boots, bracers, and a pair of violently purple silk shorts, their front placket left open. He’d been half-erect during the whole match. Now his red, dripping cock strained eagerly out of the silk.
He and the crowd knew what would happen when he caught Dogleash’s collar. Somewhere above the cage roof, an audio tech softened the drumming martial music to a slinky, suggestive beat.
Dogleash thought, Bazo has already paid Kott.
An obedient slave would let Bazo win. A well-trained one would pretend to welcome it. Dogleash didn’t even have the solace of denial. The collar would force him to enjoy whatever Bazo did to him.
At moments like this he remembered the last thing he still owned: his true name, buried so deep within his mind no client or victor could beat or fuck it out of him. Dogleash was only one of Kott’s nicknames.
he thought. Moro Dalgleish of Ventana. What was Kott thinking? I wasn’t even supposed to be fighting tonight! Bazo’s never touching me again. So here goes another ten thousand credits toward freedom!
Moro sank back into hazy memory, where it was safe. Dogleash pivoted on one toe-spike, tucking his long body into a tighter spin. As Bazo turned back toward him, Dogleash uncoiled. His boot tip caught the other man just under the chin, ripping across Bazo’s bare throat in three deep cuts.
Blood sprayed. A thousand onlookers howled. Bazo still reached toward Dogleash, his hips shaking as his prick emptied in a death climax. Then Bazo fell forward into his own spunk.
The music stopped.
Dogleash edged away from those twitching fingers. Then, nodding to the referee outside the golden cage, Dogleash pivoted again and kicked his bloody spikes into the back of Bazo’s skull. It crunched.
“Five, four, three, two, one! Malkovski down and forfeited!” roared the referee as if Bazo, who’d boasted about his savage one-life preferences, would be getting up in this life. Without backup Bazo’s brain would never work again.
“Ten thousand credit unreasonable-force penalty to Dogleash,” the referee added, grinning. The penalty was almost worse than rape.
Outside the gold-plated steel scrollwork, the crowd erupted, shouting cheers, curses, and offers to Kott. The nearest ones tossed fresh flowers, jewelry, candy, showers of opaline plastic glitter, and hard-credit chips through the open mesh cage. The offerings rained down around Dogleash, who looked only at Kott and the referee.
Kott had an odd, blank expression as if Dogleash had grown wings or breathed fire.
The referee shrugged. It wasn’t murder. Bazo had signed a waiver. Whether he lived or died in the cage was his own problem, and now his heirs’. If he had any.
Brown-clad medics ducked through the opening gate, shook their heads at Bazo’s corpse, and silently gathered around Dogleash. He felt stimulant spray’s cold kisses healing minor injuries on thigh, upper arm, right jaw, and back. Free men like Bazo sometimes chose to keep their arena scars. Bonders must keep their looks.
One of the medics came too close to the back of Dogleash’s neck. The fighter bared his teeth and stepped away, balancing gracefully on the four spikes on each boot sole.
Michol Kott stomped through the gate. A huge man, still fit and roughly handsome at sixty-some years, the bondmaster wore a flamboyant white linen suit and white straw hat, a parody of a slaveholding aristocrat from a culture of Old Earth. Kott saluted the crowd with his hat, revealing gray hair in a short military buzz cut. With the other hand he snatched a piece of thrown candy out of the air. A former fighter himself, his cyber-enhanced reflexes and strength were remarkable.
Hat back in place, Kott gave Dogleash a grin and a thumbs-up sign. One massive hand grabbed Dogleash’s right wrist between spiked half glove and bracer, dragging the young gladiator’s arm upward in victory.
“Here’s to my brave boy,” Kott shouted. “Pretty as a girl and lethal as a panther. You’ve seen how he guards his virtue!”
Bazo’s corpse was gone, leaving a trail of blood and muck. The sensual music started again. Kott still stood beside him. Dogleash saw the spectators settle back into their seats.
Then he knew what Kott had been planning from the moment Dogleash’s name was added to the roster. These people had come for the chance to see him fucked senseless. With Bazo dead, Kott meant to do it himself.
Dogleash swallowed his dull anger. For freeborn or bonder, the cage rules were supposed to be the same. Win, and choose your prize in money or sex. Lose, and be robbed of your hard-won credits, or have your body taken ruthlessly in the arena.
Still, the fighting was over. Dogleash forced himself to relax.
Kott’s other hand hooked through the loop of Dogleash’s collar. Neural implants and mental conditioning took over as Dogleash felt the gentle pressure around his throat, the drag on the back of his neck. Lust fogged his eyesight. He wobbled fetchingly on his spiked boots. Even their added height only brought his eyes up to Kott’s nose, and Dogleash was not a small man.
“Ah, but we all know what our songbird really wants,” called Kott. “A chance to sing!”
To the crowd’s next roar, Kott popped the candy in his own mouth. His free hand swept down to Dogleash’s hips, found the thin drawstring of the modest black silk shorts, and then broke it with a sudden twist. The fabric fluttered down, shredding to ribbons when it reached knife-spiked boots. Kott’s fingers fondled the uncut tip of Dogleash’s hardening cock.
Kott brought his hand up to his own mouth, removing the candy. He painted his lips, then Dogleash’s, with the sticky sweetness.
Dogleash tasted his own salt mixed with artificial mango, and opened his mouth for Kott’s possessive, grinding kiss. His arm was numb from Kott’s grip on his wrist.
The bondmaster’s free hand dragged down across Dogleash’s face, smearing the cosmetics. Kott clutched Dogleash’s hair, undoing the fighter’s club the medics had bound it into earlier.Don’t fight, don’t talk, don’t think, warned the part of Dogleash’s mind that was still Moro. I’ll gain nothing but a public beating by resisting. Just let it happen.
Dogleash heard the golden chains rattle above him as the ornate scrollwork cage lifted from the floor. Of course, the arena patrons would want a better view. A familiar clank told Dogleash when a central pillar dropped and locked into a spot on the floor.
Somewhere far outside the chamber, a starship’s engines complained about liftoff, their deep rumble caressing Dogleash’s bones.
Dogleash’s hands moved toward Kott’s pants, but the bondmaster pushed them away. “Turn around and hold the pillar,” Kott ordered. For the first time in years Dogleash could not read his master’s expression.
So he pivoted gracefully for the crowd, bending forward at the waist and slapping his hands in place on the golden pillar. Two crossbars unfolded from recessed tracks. Dogleash shifted his hands to them, grateful for the support. A medic tightened a black silk scarf around Dogleash’s wrists, binding him to the pillar.
The bondmaster dug his fingers into Dogleash’s cleft. “You’re still slick. Good. By now you know I can make you want this even without the collar, right?”
“Y-y-yes, S-Sero K-Kott,” said Dogleash, loathing what was to occur. Kott was right, damn him.
Kott kicked the bonder’s booted feet apart. Cloth rustled, Kott’s pants shifting down around his ankles. Squatting again, the bondmaster jerked Dogleash’s hips back.
A spotlight stabbed from above, splashing their shadows across the floor. Brilliant rainbow reflections splashed over the distorted black shapes. Since the afternoon, Kott had added a jeweled cage over his cockhead.
Dogleash had seen it used to punish other slaves. He went limp as Kott breached him, pushing fear of pain back into the same mental prison where his fury seethed.
Forced to hold him upright, Kott cursed and slapped his buttocks.
Dogleash felt it nearly as a caress. Sometimes, at the right times, agony centered him and transmuted into a kind of pleasure. Sometimes he could ride that glory into nearly a coma. But to reach that plateau, he had to let go of fear and anger, let go of his mind, and step back from his body. Someday, he thought, he’d go far enough away that he’d never come back.
He vaguely heard the crowd growl its disapproval. A limp toy wasn’t as fun as a thrashing, screaming victim.
The audio amplified a feedback loop of someone’s moans, Dogleash noted, as his mind detached from the pain and humiliation of Kott’s rough entry. The sound faded into static hiss. Vision narrowed to a distorted tunnel, then went black.
In the black nothing touched him. He could stay here forever.
But Kott, the utter bastard, knew Dogleash’s tricks. He must have activated the collar. Dogleash’s dark sanctuary became a maelstrom of color, sound, and pain collapsing to a burst of false pleasure, too quickly over.
Gasping, hips shaking, Dogleash tried to regain his calm.
“Wake up, my lovely. I need you here for this.” Kott grunted, lifting up, digging deeper with each thrust, forcing Dogleash onto his toes. “I need you listening and remembering. Do you understand me?”
“Y-y-yes, S-Sero Kott!”
His breath was harsh and fast. His feet and arms ached. He desperately wanted Kott to pull back on his collar again, to once more explode shame and need into mindless release, but Kott only laughed.
“Beg me to end this.”
“P-please, Sero K-Kott,” the bonder panted.
“Ah, then I’ll end it. We had a good run, these eight years,” Kott growled into Dogleash’s ear. “Were it up to me, I’d sign off your contract tomorrow. You’d be free, rich, and mine
Nearly out of his mind, Dogleash couldn’t make sense of his master’s regretful tone. “Sero K-Kott? M-Michol?”
Kott pushed Dogleash’s thighs farther apart, then hauled them up around his own grinding hips. Dogleash’s bound hands clenched white on the golden crossbars.
“Turns out I’ve only rented your charms,” said Kott. “Someone else owns you, mind and body. With a price so high you’ll never pay it off.”
Impaled, lifted off his feet, feeling a new orgasm approach with the inevitability of a solar flare, Dogleash slowly comprehended. “M-Michol, n-n-no!”
Very clearly, so the audio could pick it up, Kott said, “Lyton Sardis wants you back.”
Dogleash screamed, spending himself in powerful, creamy-white bursts raining over flowers, jewels, glitter, candy, hard-credits, and a bloody steel floor.
In the aftermath Dogleash couldn’t hide the anguish twisting his face. Kott plundered him for a few more thrusts. Dogleash felt hot liquid fill his channel. His muscles rippled helplessly against Kott’s pulsing cock and its jeweled crown. Kott bit him gently on the left shoulder, almost mouthing a kiss, then pulled back on the collar loop with his teeth.
A different kind of pleasure wrapped white-hot arms around Dogleash and took him away from the world.
He came to as Kott pulled out of him.Kott set him back on his feet. Dogleash leaned forward against the golden pillar and closed his eyes, trying to keep the tears in.
Kott patted him on the ass. “Ladies and gentlemen, say farewell to Dogleash the Champion. We will not see his like again!”