The Objectors of Thunderpunch
by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
According to my clock, two days passed before we all woke again, and the same thing happened: we walked to the arena, fought a bit, but mostly stood around talking, had three small meals, and went back to the room where we fell asleep.
The day was marginally more violent, as the more villainous of the group now knew what was expected of them, and everybody else was somewhat more willing to fight back once quartered off with them. Those who either refused to fight them or fought extremely badly were killed. The number of dead was perhaps close to a hundred this time.
The third day would have been even more violent, if not for the fact that many of the more bloodthirsty had been killed by people who fought back. I cut one in the head. He didn’t die from it, but didn’t do much after that either. He just sort of roamed around, until one of his kind thought it would be fun to gore him in the behind with his rapier. He bled to death from that.
After that, I decided to actively hunt down those types. I noticed some other guys doing that too, and acknowledged them.
I met with one of them and had a chat:
“This is sort of fun,” he said.
“A bit. We’d get arrested for this stuff back home, though.”
“Right. I wonder if we’ll all get arrested once we return.”
“Maybe. Unless we kill all the witnesses,” I said and grinned.
The guy nodded. We stood there silently for a while, watching the others. Not that many bothered fighting.
Then the man spoke again: “I was led to believe I’d feel bad if I ever killed someone.”
“Only if you do it accidentally.”
“I believe so. I can’t say I have deliberately killed anyone in cold blood, ever, but warm-blooded killing like this feels really... what’s the right word? Rejuvenating?”
“Ah, yes, I have seen your happy-dance.”
“It scares some people.”
“It sure does, especially when they’re next to you.”
I grinned. “I get the feeling there are three different types of people around here, killers, victims, and us.”
“Non-victims, non-killers, really, I mean, we don’t actively elect to kill anyone. People just sort of choose to have us kill them. And not even deliberately on their part.”
“I never thought of it that way... Oops, time’s up.”
And we got separated. That was nasty. I was going to bounce off him my awesome theory of human behavior.
* * *
The fourth day saw a noticeably lower body count, and two days later, we appeared to have run out of actively murderous people. We, the less murderous fighters, had a calm chat whenever we got the chance. It beat getting stuck with some paranoid idiot. On the seventh day, we just stood there and talked about our situation, exchanged jokes or stories about former co-workers.
“Have you noticed how the violence has died down recently?” asked a man I got paired with once.
“I wonder why that is.”
“They did a study once,” I said.
“The military — which one I don’t recall — the Americans or the British I think, did some research to figure out the best military killing tool. Anyway, they pored over battlefield reports from the first and second world wars, and calculated and statisticated, and do you know what they found?”
“In any given battle, only half of the troops ever fire their guns. And then, only about ten percent fire at the enemy.”
The man nodded.
“Explains a few things, doesn’t it?” I said.
* * *
On the eighth day, after we had stood there for three hours, drawing pictures in the sand for amusement, the booming voice called: “Why are you not killing each other?”
“Because we don’t want to,” said some of us.
There was silence. Then we all fell asleep.
When I came to, I found myself standing on top of the structure. I looked around. The roof was flat. Nearby was another, identical structure. Huge, donut-shaped, gray, windowless and ugly. And another. The arena was surrounded by them, and beyond them were more, as far as the eye could see. In the distance there were some mountains on one side, and what must have been the sea in another direction, but barring that, there were arenas all the way to the horizon.
I was staring at that in awe, when I heard a voice: “A beautiful entertainment complex, is it not?”
I looked around, and saw a vaguely humanoid being standing a stone’s throw away.
Before I could speak, the humanoid continued, “I have a question. Why did you not kill each other until only one was left standing?”
“Why should we?” I asked in return.
“You need a reason?”
“You had one then: we told you to.”
“Not good enough.”
“But we told you to, that should have been reason enough.”
“How do you figure that?”
“We researched you before we took you. Your kind is the most violent in this galaxy. You had a warring-states period, for 200 years. You had a Hundred Years War. You had a Thirty Years War. Two or three of them, actually. You had so many Seven Years Wars that one must expressly say which one you are referring to when talking about them.”
“In these wars, all your kind needed to kill each other was to be told to. We even gave you your favourite weapon.”
“Our favourite weapon is the sword?”
“We have been watching. Most people seem to be killed with edged instruments.”
“Have you nothing to say?”
“I didn’t feel like killing everyone.”
“Yet you are amongst the more brutal beings we have. You personally, I mean. You killed the least of all, but you are really hostile. None of your kills is in a whole piece.”
“I just didn’t like those individuals very much.”
“Our sensors show that you enjoyed doing it too. Mutilating the bodies. Splitting them up.”
“You all enjoyed the killing.”
“We got you all wrong then. But how? You are murderous. It should have taken you only three or four days in the arena to wipe each other out.”
“How many are there left?”
“You are little more than decimated.” The weird-looking humanoid thing stared at me. “Less than ten percent of you ever killed anyone. And of those who did, half of them were singled out and killed by the other murderous individuals. And then you stopped. Why?”
“We killed off those who needed killing.”
“All of you?”
“Some of us.”
“We’re not all happy to kill for some random disembodied voice.”
“Three percent of you were.”
“I know. I killed those.”
“So you did.”
We stood there facing each other for a couple moments, then I asked: “Are you going to let us go now?”
“Can’t do that.”
“Our sponsors would throw a fit. The show’s ratings are too high.”
Copyright © 2012 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson