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Unarmed: A Post-Apocalyptic Thrill Ride (The Main Event Series Book 1), page 1


Unarmed: A Post-Apocalyptic Thrill Ride (The Main Event Series Book 1)

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Unarmed: A Post-Apocalyptic Thrill Ride (The Main Event Series Book 1)


  The Main Event Series Book 1

  Russ Munson

  Edit History:

  Version 1.0 (9/21/17)

  Copyright © 2017 by Russ Munson

  Edited by Carol Heding

  Cover copyright © 2017 by Russ Munson

  All rights reserved.

  The following story is fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, websites, or locales is completely coincidental and unintentional. Except when not.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Visit the author and sign up for his mailing list at www.russmunson.com.



  Boss One - The Horseman

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Boss Two - The Blast

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Boss Three - The Brain

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23


  Also by Russ Munson

  Boss One - The Horseman

  Chapter One

  The common advice when you’re in a tunnel is to head for the light. Not me. I don’t like common advice. And I always go for the dark, not the light. It’s where I make my money. Millions of dollars a year. As long as my body holds out.

  When the takeover first started, I was waiting in the cinder-block tunnel, the same place I always waited before a match. It’s where the basketball players lined up before their games, where the students lined up before they got their diplomas. No locker rooms for me.

  My team, what some called an entourage (but that word feels too much like privilege) was now down to two. They were standing with me. My father Marvin and my friend Brian. It used to be the three of us—the three Muskets and Beers, the media called us—but we lost Mikey two weeks ago. This was the first match without him.

  I was standing there in the tunnel barefoot on the concrete, rolling my shoulders and flexing my fingers.

  My father said, “Try to relax, Jake. It’s gonna be fine. This guy’s a joke. Like an Irish car bomb. He’s big and mean, but he goes down easy.”

  “I’m not nervous,” I said.

  “You look nervous.”

  “What are you talking about, old man? He never gets nervous,” Brian said. “It’s not in his DNA.”

  “Then what’s wrong with his toe?” my father said.

  I looked down at my foot. Sure enough, my right toe was tapping the concrete. Three short taps. Three long. Three short. The music hadn’t started yet, so I knew I wasn’t subconsciously finding the rhythm. To relax before their fights, some guys liked to walk around and try to grip the floor with their feet like Bruce Willis did in Die Hard. But not me. I was always calm. Always.

  “I’m not doing that,” I said. “I’m calm.”

  “Yes you are. I’m looking right at it.”

  “But it’s not me. It’s doing it by itself.”

  “Is that Morse code?” my father said.

  “I don’t know.”

  The three of us stared at my tapping toe.

  “You never taught me Morse code,” I said.

  “That was the county’s job,” my father said.

  The tapping pattern repeated. Then it stopped.

  “It must be some kind of weird twitch,” I said.

  “Maybe you got punched in the head too many times,” my father said.

  “Knock it off,” Brian said. “He’s fine. There’s no face prettier in the whole sport. He doesn’t have brain damage. Not yet.”

  “Not that we know of,” I said.

  I pushed the tapping out of mind and concentrated on the music. It had started on the other side of the doors. Heavy metal. It was my opponent’s anthem of choice. Enter Sandman. It was supposed to make me scared or something. Like he was gonna put me to sleep forever. But true fans know that song comes from their softest album.

  If anything worried me, it was that toe. I don’t like not being in control. I couldn’t remember having any weird twitches before. I’d never had any “neurological miscues” as the doctors called it nor early Parkinson’s nor punch-drunk nightmares.

  If I could have seen into the future, what I should have done was heed that warning and turned the hell around and run for the lights in the parking lot and never looked back. I should have found the nearest bridge and thrown myself off. It would have done humanity a favor.

  “Listen, you remember what I said, right Dad? I don’t care if I’m pinned underneath that guy or in a choke hold or about to get my arm ripped out of its socket. You need to tell me if it happens. You promise?”

  “I promise.”

  “For the record, I don’t condone this,” Brian said. “You need to focus on the fight.”

  “It ain’t your choice, Brian,” my father said. “And don’t use double negatives.”

  “It’s not a double-negative, you deaf redneck,” Brian said. “The word is condone, not condemn. He’s been distracted all week. And we’ll all get fined for interrupting the fight.”

  My father turned his favorite shade of red. “Who you calling a redneck, you hillbilly hick? The fine’s deducted from his purse. It’s up to Jake.”

  I sighed. Brian and my father were always kicking each other in the balls. They had been since we were little and it was worse now that my brother Mikey, the only calming influence, was gone.

  My father was so thin and wiry that his clothes were always baggy, but somehow he had gotten even skinnier since his youngest son had died. He had taken over for Mikey as my business manager and was having trouble keeping the numbers straight. He thought Brian was a leech and could tolerate him only when things were going smoothly.

  Brian, on the other hand, who was my trainer and cornerman, had twice my father’s muscle, but a withered arm that hung off his shoulder like a floppy tentacle gave him a permanent Napoleon complex. He had come out the womb that way. He thought my father was a hick who spent way too much time and energy prepping for the worse, a guy who couldn’t “roll with the punches.”

  They rarely agreed on anything. A truth of the sport was what mister money-hands wanted was always in conflict with what mister full-heart wanted. But it was even worse now that my father was the one who had his fingers in the cookie jar. He thought I should retire right away and go out on top. He wanted to make sure that my record stayed pristine and that I could still talk smoothly and that my ears were still pretty enough to get a job on television as a commentator. It’s a long rest-of-your-life, Jake, he kept warning me. But Brian didn’t want me to retire. Not yet. He still wanted to work. There was nothing left for him if I retired.

  “How about we concentrate on the fight?” I said.

  “I agree,” Brian said and shot my father a glare. “With all my heart.”

  “Whatever,” my father said.

  We stepped toward the darkness on the other side of the doors. The music got louder. The song reached the chorus and the whole arena cheered and banged their heads and whipped their hair. In the crack between the doors, the darkness lit up with muzzle-fire. Thousands of cellphones. Then a laser-light show whipped them into a whooping frenzy for the television cameras.

  My opponent had entered the cage.

  “How are you feeling?” my father said.

  “I’m okay.”

  “Just okay?”

  “I’m fine,” I said. “Don’t worry.”

  The music stopped. The crowd went silent. I flexed my fingers in my fingerless gloves. The muscles in my forearms tightened and my veins popped out. It made me look tougher. I thought of dropping for a few more pushups to inflate my chest for the cameras. My opponent tonight was gonna make me look small.

  Then, in stark contrast to Metallica, a few somber chords strummed from the steel above. They were slow, steady, and serene. Then my brother’s voice, from beyond the grave, filled the arena.

  Down at the lake, we’d lie on the bed of my truck,

  We would soak up the sun and get ready to…

  I touched two fingers to my lips and held them up to the fluorescent tunnel lights. When he was alive, Mikey had begged me to play his music as my intro. I had shot him down every time. I had told him that the fans wanted something harder. I had told him that the television crews didn’t like it. I had told him that his soulful, eye-wetting, country crooning was simply not right for this kind of venue. I had told him that nobody went to watch someone get their ass kicked and their nose broken and their blood smeared all over the mat while listening to a few resonant chords and a country twang.

  I hoped he was listening now.

  "It’s better than never,” I whispered.

  My father blinked the water from his eyes. “He would have loved it.”

  “I know, Dad. I feel really bad.”

  “He forgives you,” my father said. “I know he does.”

  Brian cleared his throat. “Need I remind you weak-jawed pussycats that we’ve got a fight tonight? Christ, you’re gonna put me out of a job.”

  I straightened my shoulders. Brian was right. No more blubbering. I couldn’t walk into that arena looking like I had just left a funeral.

  “Tears work like grease,” I said. “The guy’s thumbs will slip right off my face.”

  “Keep telling yourself that,” Brian said.

  I grinned. I was ready. It was time. Time to get out there and spill some blood. I wiped my eyes on my fist-tape and pushed through the doors.

  Chapter Two

  The bleachers were three stories high, the corridor narrowing to a funnel and a single-track path with crowd-control barriers on either side. All around us, the arena was dark. Dead quiet, except for my brother’s voice.

  Two curly haired women in cutoff T-shirts wiped their eyes with American flag handkerchiefs. They were the first to see me. They shouted and waved. Heads turned. Then a ripple of cheers spread through the arena and the crowd went nuts, their clamor even louder than my brother’s music.

  My father’s forehead started glistening. He was more jumpy than me. The crowds did it to him. He feared that some crazed fan of my opponent’s would jump down and stick a shank between my ribs. The only way to beat me.

  But I wasn’t scared. Walking among the crowds was the price of fame. If only one person in that crowd of fifty thousand fans found some kind of inspiration in me, especially in this shit economy, then my life was worth the risk.

  Overhead, the Jumbotron monitors played our cheesy backstories. My opponent’s video went first. It was black and white. He jumped rope in slow motion in front of a wall of graffiti. He walked the mean streets of LA where he had supposedly grown up, a long way from home. Then the video cut to a shot of him posing beside the ring in his training gym.

  His voice boomed through the arena. “I’m gonna make Jake Wright’s mother a widow.”

  I looked at my father. “I didn’t know you were getting into the ring tonight,” I shouted.

  My father shrugged.

  “The poor guy’s too dumb to know what ‘widow’ means,” Brian said.

  “They don’t call him the Horseman for nothing,” I said.

  We kept walking, all the way down to the cage. All eight sides of the ring were bordered by chain-link fencing, ten feet tall, and the galvanized mesh twinkled under the lights.

  My opponent’s video finished and my own backstory played. There were shots of a golden field and blowing wheat. The Manassas battlefield. Then the mountains. It switched to an interview with me on my father’s front porch. I sat on the top step, the porch swing creaking in the wind behind me. I talked about my brother’s six-month battle with a brain tumor. I urged the crowd to donate to cancer research.

  God, I missed him.

  The video stopped and an ad for Red Claw beer turned the whole arena red. We were at the foot of the cage now. Brian was on my right, my father on my left. My father took a wide stance, his arms out at his sides as if he could protect me from my opponent’s assassins.

  I pulled my plain white T-shirt—no sponsors, no brands—over my head, giving the cameras a look at the tattoo across my back and shoulders. We the People. I balled up my shirt and threw it to the crowd. A middle-aged woman caught it and shrieked in joy. She opened it up and showed my slogan to the cameras. Incorrect Politically.

  Brian thumbed vaseline onto my brows and then stepped aside for the ref. I didn’t know this one. He was wearing a black shirt. Black pants. He was super pale, like he worked in a funeral parlor all day.

  I held out my hands. He checked my gloves for illegal padding and checked my fingernails to make sure they weren’t too long. I opened my mouth. He looked inside and checked under my tongue. Then he folded my ears and looked behind them. No jewelry and no hidden lumps of grease. I held out my arms. He patted me down and checked me for open cuts. The usual.

  “When’s that beard gonna go?” he shouted. “It’s way too long. This ape will try to grab it and break your neck.”

  “Let him try,” I shouted.


  I nodded.


  “Right here,” I said and put it in.

  He patted down my trunks, but stopped on my hip.

  “What the hell, Jake?” he shouted and pulled a cellphone out of my waistband. “You can’t have this. Not in the cage.”

  “I’m waiting for a call,” I said. I was lisping through the plastic.

  He tossed the phone to my father.

  “You remember your promise,” I said to my father.

  “I got it, Jake,” my father said.

  Beside me, two card girls were sitting in folding chairs. They looked up from their cellphones and giggled. They were cute and wearing neon bikini tops and ass-hugging boy shorts. Perfect legs. Smooth. Toned mid-sections. Natural breasts, not too large, sexy as hell.

  I was pretty sure I had slept with one of them, but I couldn’t remember which one. That was months ago. They both waved, not too torn up about it I guessed, and I winked and waved back with my index finger.

  “What are you doing, man? Get your head in the fight,” Brian said.

  “I’m good,” I said. “Very good.”

  Brian opened the cage door and I climbed up and stepped inside. My opponent was already on the other side of the octagon. He was pacing back and forth like a caged animal, his eyes fixed on me. He was a heel-walker, each step sending shudders through the mat. They might as well have been hooves. He stopped and did a jump-squat to loosen up his legs, but he was so massive, that even though the mat had springs underneath, he couldn’t get more than a couple feet in the air. He was a giant thug of a man, his jaw the size of a shovel. Gothic script from Revelations spanned his massive chest.

  I did a quick lap. Near my corner, two commentators from Sport Center traded their usual banter:

  “Jake is l
ooking pretty loose tonight, but you have to wonder how much his brother’s death is affecting him.”

  “My money’s on the Horseman. Luck doesn’t last forever.”

  “You’re calling The Constitution’s record all luck?”

  “Not only is he fighting over his weight class, but he bailed on that fight with the Bonecrusher.”

  “The man has got the entire preamble to the United States Constitution embroidered on his trunks. Are you betting against the country? If he goes down, we all go down.”

  “Then why didn’t he fight the Bonecrusher?” the commentator said.

  “I can’t answer that one.”

  Bonecrusher this, Bonecrusher that. It was all the media wanted to talk about. After I had won the light heavyweight championship, one of the commentators had nicknamed me “The Constitution” for my “unflappable demeanor.” He said I was always jovial, always smiling, even as I was about to get my cheekbones smashed to pieces. The name had stuck. In fact, about two years ago, a bunch of scientists in white lab coats took me to a room and hooked me up to a heart monitor and other fancy equipment. They took careful notes and measured my physiological response as they showed me pictures of famine, terrorism, and dead babies. My heart rate never changed.

  “Psycho,” one of the scientists had muttered.

  I had to keep myself from smashing his nose. Just because my heart rate stays flat, doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. My body’s measured response to stress was what made me the champion in the first place. Where most people freaked out in times of danger, I stayed cool and rational.

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