I brought the solid steel tip of baton down onto his knee. The thud was loud enough to echo off the surrounding buildings. His leg buckled, bringing his head down to an easier to manage level. Combined with a second swing into the soft flesh of his gut facilitated an easy grab for handful of hair.
Winning a fight was easy. You just needed to be stronger. Whether that strength came from your friends at your back, the muscle in your arm or the tactics you use. I’d won almost all of the fight’s I’d been in, even if I only had a hand-full of the advantage.
But winning a single fight was pretty meaningless. I’d won individual fights, but lost out overall. Always on the back-foot.
I was left with no free hands. The baton had served its purpose. This close to an opponent it didn’t serve much of a threat. No room to get a swing. I let it fall. The metal rang like a bell. Loud, sure to get anyone’s attention if they weren’t already watching.
They were watching.
I wouldn’t have said there was a circle of people. That would require people approaching. No, too dangerous. Too much fallout if someone started shooting. But people had taken note, been careful to keep walking and stopped at a safer distance. Those holding conversations, perhaps bargaining over the price of lunch, stopped and focused their attention on the scene. People watched.
While the guy was still reeling from the pain and disorientated by a sharp yank of the head back, and down, I turned sideways to Danni. She was already throwing me a knife, half her attention on the man kneeling in front of her, gun casually pressed against his temple.
It arced through the air towards me, but she’d thrown it in such a way the blade trailed behind and I caught it single handed, without fumbling.
Thank fuck. A moment without anything to close in a tight fist had left them trembling. Please, no one look at my hands.
By the time the guy in my grasp had recovered his senses enough to start pulling away from my grip I had the tip pressed firmly against his jugular.
Winning a fight, easy. Winning a war? That required strategy, forward thinking, resources, but most importantly: Politics. I hadn’t had any of that. I hadn’t thought of my situation as a war, it was more of an outlet. But my goals had changed. Before, I had fixated on getting away from this place. Becoming a pilot was a way out. I didn’t have that option any more. There was no out. I was stuck here.
Now my goal was to make this place somewhere worth living.
Faced with superior numbers, conventional methods were against us. But history has shown that you don’t necessarily need superior numbers or resources. We were faced with one well tried tactic: Guerrilla. Hit, run, hide. Attack morale and kick at the supports of a conventional gang like the Kolmek.
I’d read a few history books. There was one thing that was crucial to a tactic like ours working.
“You know these men.” I announced to the small square. We’d picked our targets and location carefully. Unlike Mike, Danni had worked with the men on the ground. She knew those with the worst reputation.
And in an organisation like the Kolmek, having a bad reputation was an achievement.
I looked around. Those whose faces I could read showed a hint of fear, but mostly a haggard concern. What would this look like to them? How many times do they see the aftermath of different factions warring over rights to sell? Over territory to extort from?
With the knife still in hand, I quickly snapped the straps of my helmet open and pulled it from my head, letting it fall to the ground. The wind cooled my slightly sweat-damp hair. The guy shifted with the knife gone, even for a moment. I quickly returned it, quietening him with a subtle jerk to dig the blade into his skin. He stopped.
“I’m not from a gang. I don’t want to replace these…” My tongue caught on the rudest word I could think of. A curse didn’t seem to do him justice, and I wasn’t sure it was well placed whatever the hell speech I was making. “I’m just trying to stop them.”
He struggled again. “You think you’re going to-”
“Quiet.” Annother jerk. A drop of blood welled up at the point, a needle prick. Enough to make him second guess his retort.
There was something more commanding about the edge of a knife against your neck than any gun. Guns could jam, you couldn’t be sure it was loaded. Especially at close range, you can manage to avoid them, direct them away from you, if you’re quick enough.
“You’re going to remember this moment,” I whispered, barely needing to stoop to speak into his ear. A blade was more immediate, more certain. You never forgot the sensation of the blood pulsing through the largest artery in your body, millimetres from death, all at someone’s whim. I’d never forgotten.
But I wasn’t going to kill him. Yet.
“You are going to follow a set of rules from now on.” I spoke loud enough for those around us to hear me. “No killing, for any reason. You won’t strike someone unless in self-defence or the defence of others. You will not carry a gun. You will not rape. You will not steal. For all intents and purposes, from now on, you’re going to act like an honest, caring man. Get me?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.” That was an unsurprising response. “But I take that as disinterest in our agreement. Feel free to disregard my advice. But if I find you’ve done any of those things, and I can assure you I will hear about it, I will find you and I will kill you. And that’s really not going to be difficult.”
I pushed forwards his head. “See all these people? They’re fed up of you. They’re fed up of people like you.”
With one swift movement I pulled the knife against his throat and drew it across is brow. A large, diagonal gash. A kick in the square of his back had him sprawled forwards. There was a spattering of blood on the dry pavement in front of us.
“I’m not going to kill you now. You have one chance.” I pointed with the knife and looked up to those around me. “Anyone I find with that mark doing anything fucked up dies.”
I turned my back. I knew he wasn’t going to be hurt enough not to be a danger to me. I’d only cut his face a little. A nasty wound, bleeds a lot, but isn’t going to kill him, or even slow him down.
But Danni and Mike were watching me, both had guns ready. I felt confident enough to ignore him. It showed I felt confident enough to ignore him.
Sure, historically guerrilla fighters had opposed a regime, a government. They didn’t win through strength of arms, they won by being a focus for the population. They were a catalyst for insurrection.
Well, here the gang ruled. It created the rules. It enforced the rules.
Maybe a revolution wasn’t such a ridiculous concept to use.
I just needed to persuade people it was possible.
I approached the guy in front of Danni. He had the decency to look a little scared at least.
He raised his hand, wrist outwards, and palm open. Which was worse, exposing the veins in your wrist or the tendons on your forearm? Potential to bleed out, versus the chance of losing the function in your fingers? He chose wrists, anyway. I grabbed it and yanked down, apparently stronger than him. A quick slash across his forehead mirrored that of his friend.
He blinked in shock, blood flooding down his face. Maybe he was surprised he was still alive, from the angle, he wouldn’t be sure I hadn’t just cut his friends throat.
“Next time I see you that might be a few inches lower.”