Axl Steel

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Background

You just hammer’em: bang, bang, bang!

Axl Steel is an exotic fighter for Human Edge, competing for his very freedom.[1]


AXL STEEL | Forged in space

The Human Edge is also known as ‘the Remote Frontier’, a name it hasn’t earned by chance. Of all the stellar systems that make up the Human Sphere, this is the farthest one from Earth and the least hospitable - devoid of inhabitable planets. All the great powers have a presence in the Human Edge, both militarily and commercially. This system’s asteroid belts and planetoids represent a massive motherlode of valuable minerals - many of them strategic - that are essential for heavy industry and high-tech sectors alike.

It was there, in Human Edge, that Axel spent more than half of his young life working for the mining company Minescorp. He belongs to a long line of prospectors (slang for space miners), whose jobs are among the toughest and most dangerous in the Sphere, since the slightest mistake can lead to certain death.

As many others do, Axel not only inherited his parents trade, but also survived locked in an environment of misery, subjected to borderline slavery in respect to his conditions at work. Due to a long exposure to radioactive materials caused by old and faulty protective work equipment, Axel lost all four extremities and both eyes. In order to keep his job, he was forced to replace them with company-financed implants, even though it meant increasing his and his family’s debt.

Axel’s implants aren’t the kind of prosthetics a middle-class citizen from PanOceania can afford: crafted with Teseum from Ariadna, Haqqislam Silk, and stem-cell culture. His are almost centennial designs, crude and exclusively functional, whose iron alloy frame can be glimpsed through its plastic sheaths. They aren’t synchronized to the host using a Cube for assistance, instead requiring a long and hard process of adaptation.

To get the best out of his prosthetics, Axel learned a martial art that mixed kickboxing with classic boxing from a veteran prospector. Not only did he recover his extremities’ full mobility and functionality, but he also learned to use their strength and durability to his advantage. Back then, Axel had yet to learn the impact this voluntary training was going to have in his fate, nor that Minescorp was closely following his progress.

Forced by an onerous contract, the young man found himself enrolled on an Aristeia! Team the top corporate officers built to take part in a fighting and betting racket. An unregistered pilot program that was to be the initial testing ground for a sports promotion targeted to the official version of this sport. Competition took place in Novyy Bangkok, a former mining colony built on an asteroid in Human Edge’s so-called Homeric Belt that its workers had turned into a free and independent settlement. Novyy Bangkok has been described as one of the most dangerous places in Human Sphere, and it’s rumored that it was here that Wild Bill himself started building his legend as the fastest and most accurate gun in the Sphere.

Axel distinguished himself during the competition. His results convinced Minescorp of the viability of a career at the top competitive level, all to keep the money flowing into their pockets at Axel’s expense. His name has been changed to Axl Steel and he’s willing to break his copper to earn the title of Bahadur. Meanwhile, he meticulously plans a way to find freedom for himself and his family.[2]


Axl and Sophia

Axel was feeling overwhelmed, still displaced after the weeks-long trip from Human Edge to San Pietro di Neoterra. He looked around with a mixture of curiosity and expectation as he walked through the huge bedroom, enjoying his first fifteen minutes of privacy in weeks. The two private security agents of Minescorp had not left him alone, not even to urinate, and now, finally, he had been abandoned in this luxurious room, behind a securely sealed door.

The room was fifteen meters long and eight meters wide, housing enough space for a bed in which a family could sleep, two armchairs, a desk, and a large armchair located in front of a bare wall, where Axel imagined that Maya programs would be projected. He looked through one of the two huge circular windows that gave access to an outside balcony and was amazed at how high up he found himself.

There he watched, lost in thought as the morning light entered the room and stained the interior gold, creating iridescent glitters on his grotesque alloy prostheses. He pondered how different the warm light and the air of the planet was, burning his lungs with each inhalation. He was impressed by how different it was to live in this atmosphere, compared to surviving in the life support system on Human Edge, where he had lived his whole life.

The hiss of the door abruptly tore him from his thoughts and two thin heels burst in with a mighty walk, chased by a dozen people who were muttering among themselves. The owner of the fine footwear stopped in front of the fighter and extended her hand for a handshake.

“I'm Sophia Krutzinger, star agent.” Axel made to squeeze her hand but pulled back, for fear of hurting her. Instead, he brought his clenched fist to his chest, tapping it lightly, as he used to greet his adversaries. A gesture that she did not seem to care about at all. “I've been hired by Minescorp to make you into... Bahadur.” She whispered the title and fleetingly opened her little blue eyes.

Sophia began to circle around him, examining him from top to bottom, stopping at every detail that caught her attention. She wore a blue-gray high executive suit that flashed with every nervous gesture. Her golden blond hair framed her angular face with a cut in a descending angle from the back of the neck. She could not stop biting or pursing her lips when she fixed her eyes on something, as if she were finding the solution to a powerful dilemma.

She pointed to the prostheses the fighter had on his limbs and stroked the one on his left arm with the back of her index finger.

“How long have you been wearing… these, Axel?”

“Eight years I think,” he answered, scratching the back of his neck.

“You think?”

“Time goes by very differently when you work in space,” he shrugged.

“I understand,” she said, staring at a remote point behind Axel. Sophia drummed with the index and the ring finger of her left hand on his sharp chin for twelve long and silent seconds. When she finally left her trance she focused on the space miner, who watched the scene with both amusement and confusion.

“You're Axel ... but you'll be Axl, without the ‘e’. Axl… Axl… Steel,” she uttered, melting the word in her mouth. “Because you are metal, steel, you are a miner, the forge, you represent the hardest work in the confines of our universe. You have survived in the most dangerous of environments for the human race. You've been... forged in space.” She smiled for a brief moment. “Axl Steel: Forged in space.” She repeated proudly to herself while looking to the infinity of the ceiling with narrowed eyes.

The group of assistants let loose a sudden barrage of adulations at Sophia, who seemed to ignore them, talking only to herself. She raised a hand and everyone fell silent.

“Isaac.”

“Yes, Sophia?” offered a mature man of great size, bald and dressed in steamy clothes splashed with bright colors.

“I want him in white, with gold accents. The torso naked, I want the public to see that these prostheses and this chiseled body are real, but do something with that hair and beard.” She pointed at them contemptuously with the tip of her chin.

“Do I take away the dreadlocks?”

“No, but remove a little on the sides. Give them movement. Take these... ‘clothes’ off,” pinching Axel's shirt with disgust. “He’s young. I want him to get Cátia's attention. Who knows? We could have a lode in the future.”

Isaac nodded, heading out the door while dictating the agent's orders to his comlog.

“Evie, in the broadcasts I want metallic sound effects and welding sparks. All very... industrial, primitive, raw energy, released with the impact of a fist.”

“Yes, Sophia.”

“Noah, book Miyamoto for the two official photocall sessions this month.”

“Sophie, approaching Miyamoto, Gata or Wild Bill for a session will involve a considerable amount of Oceanas.”

“Do it.” Ordered Sophia coldly. “We have to sell him as a rival equal to the great Miyamoto. And start bidding for time in Maya-Ads for the next four bouts.”

“How much Prime Time?”

“We will start with one for the first. We will reinvest later.”

“OK.” Noah also left the room, absorbed in his comlog. Sophia kept watching Axel while organizing her thoughts.

“Amelia, I want him to be able to speak in public in a week. Work on the level of expression but don’t take away the accent. Rather... empower it, let it be noted that he comes from the last known frontier. Social protocol in two weeks.”

“Good.”

“Body language: I want his body to speak to the camera, to display ambition, strength, security. With those eye implants we cannot play with close-ups outside the HexaDome.”

“Do you want it aggressive?”

“No, I don't want an alpha male. He comes from far away and the public would reject him as an invader.” She stepped back to embrace Axel with her eyes. “And ... have you seen that gesture he made before with his fist? Make it his hallmark, his signature. A salute to his opponents and the public before each fight, like the chorus of a catchy song. Design a logo with that. Tomorrow I want a budget for merchandising.”

She turned her head towards the group:

“That's all for you.” She quickly nodded to Amelia and focused again on the fighter. “Thomas, book a private dinner with Marlene in three weeks. The usual, to her liking. Fill the quarterly agenda with media, I’ll review it tomorrow night. We must produce an insta-documentary about the Aristeia! Underground in Novyy Bangkok, so that the public understands what kind of fighter you have to be to get here. Without sentimentalities or complaints. Just competition and hard work.”

“Right away, Sophia.”

The agent turned to those who were left, giving them a haughty look that contained an already understood order. Attendees hurriedly left the suite trading impressions between them. When the door closed, Sophia turned on her heels to face Axel.

“Let yourself go and they will make you a star. Concentrate on training, and very hard. This is already the major league, Axel.” She smiled. The young man stirred uncomfortably.

“Something wrong?”

“I don’t want to be a star.”

Sophie put her arms akimbo.

“You don’t want to be a star? And what do you want, Axel?”

“I want to be free. Take my family out of the Edge and…” He looked at his metal hands as if water was draining between them.

“… And have decent prostheses. I know, Axel. I’ve read your contract with Minescorp. You and your family are property, slaves. I know how things work in the Edge, don’t believe that I’ve always been an Aristo agent on Neoterra.” She winked. “I have good news: I can get you the freedom you want so much for you and yours. And I can get you organic prostheses. But in return I need you to do one thing, only one thing.”

“Whatever is needed.”

“Win, Axel. Destroy your rivals in the HexaDome without mercy. Train until you sweat blood. Follow my instructions and those of my team. Stop being small fry and become a shark.”

“Can you break my contract with Minescorp?”

“I will help you to do it.”

“How?”

“You can earn a fortune, Axel. So much money that you can buy your freedom and do all that you have told me.”

“And what is the catch? How will I make money if I belong to Minescorp?”

Sophia licked her lips, victorious.

“Because there are a couple of clauses in your contract with Vissiorama that will perform that magic. Your employers make the mistake of underestimating others, of wanting to recover their investment quickly, at any cost. And they will get it. Things would have to go very badly indeed, for them not to. Even if you suffered a real death they would still win with the autopsy rights. But the contract is reviewed after two years, and when that time comes, you can renegotiate it yourself. And that’s when you'll start regaining control over your life.”

“I do not understand about laws,” he said, dejectedly.

“But I do.”

“And what do you win?”

“You.”

“Then I'll just change my master.”

“A little, maybe,” Sophia smiled slightly. “I’ll remain your agent for a few years and then you’ll be free.”

Axel crossed his arms.

“And how do I know that I can trust you?”

“Oh, you can’t,” Sophia stroked Axel's cheek maternally, “But what other option do you have?[3]


Axl Steel is a fighter that practices a strange martial art - the result of combining kickboxing, classic boxing, and judo. Coming from the final frontier known to the Human Sphere, the Human Edge, where pulling off the most dangerous jobs in the mines cost him his extremities and eyes (which he then had to “buy” from the company he worked for) Minescorp. Forced into debt and an onerous contract that he signed, the company forced him to fight in the most exciting game of Human Sphere: Aristeia![4]

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