“Dempsey’s Debut” – I was thinking about an alien species judging us by our violent past (maybe not just judging us on it, but interested in us specifically because of it.) As all distant relationships go, they were not reading us quite right (they were seeing our gladiator movies and boxing and other entertainments as a depiction of what we are truly like. An alien procures a human for entertainment at a party, and then has to deal with the demands of his guests. I intended this to be comic, and once I decided on the nature of the alien, that added to the comedy (I have a fascination with praying mantises – I’ve watched them since I was a boy, and they figure in at least one other of my stories.)
Here’s the blurb:
What would you do if abducted by alien mantises for some live entertainment, and that just because of your namesake? Jack Dempsey feels ‘boxed’ in when he’s forced to carry on the family name, and certainly doesn’t want to become part of the Krills’ warped mating ritual. It’s hard to live up to your ancestors. Wonder how you’d fare? Read “Dempsey’s Debut.”
And here’s the excerpt:
“The purpose of this tape is to prevent your hands from disassembling?” Korlish asked, his clicking mandibles only barely clashing with an extraordinary command of English language pronunciation.
“Not exactly, Jack Dempsey said as he stifled a laugh.
The bluish, man-sized praying mantis hadn’t exhibited any signs of anger in the few months since Jack had been abducted and brought to Krill (either to become a part of the Korlish’s small collection of off-worlders, or to augment his captor’s Earth Theater cast of organic robot replicas as the only authentic human being, Jack wasn’t sure.) Krill females (who outnumbered the males twenty to one) were the ones prone to rage – the males seemed singularly passive. Still, as much as Jack prided himself on being able to read his captor, there were too many differences in culture and anatomy to chance insulting him.
“It will keep me from hurting myself when I punch my opponent,” Jack said, “but no, my hands won’t fall apart without it.”
“Such a brutal activity,” Korlish said. “May that Mihsil will be impressed.”
Mihsil was Korlish’s desired mate, and he was placing a lot of store on the human boxing exhibition he was staging at The Pit later that week. Killian mating rituals were a highly competitive series of showy one-upsmanships. Korlish had decided to play toward his chosen female’s fascination with violence. He had purchased Jack specifically for this one event, but had allowed the human to serve hors d’oeuvres at their previous courting exposition, with express instructions to observe Mihsil’s reactions. He had hoped that Jack might spot some additional tendencies in her that would give Korlish the advantage in his pursuit.
Jack had seen Mihsil’s mandibles quiver with glee as she watched two Centaurian centislugs gut each other, and was sure that the surest way to please her was to stage a blood-bath. Since Jack couldn’t regenerate like the centislugs, he didn’t see any sense in spilling his own blood for the cause, so he had arranged to have the bleeding done by the robot simulacrum Korlish had manufactured just for this event. It hadn’t been hard to convince Korlish; Earth was barely on the outskirts of his neighborhood, so human acquisitions didn’t come cheap. The Krillian had already invested a sizeable portion of his estate on Dempsey, an investment he wished to preserve, so using his organically enhanced robots were more in line with his available finances.
Korlish had a passion, as well as an amazing talent, for special effects and robotics that made the inclusion of one of his creations that much more appealing to him. Jack wondered if it was something internal to the Krillian psyche that made them so good at imitation, or if it was simply their obsession with Earth video. Jack sometimes cursed his planet for spewing all their footage out into space, and wondered if he’d still be living a normal life on his home planet if they’d kept things to themselves, instead of shouting out to the neighbors. Korlish himself had spent hours on end viewing several screens at once through his multi-faceted eyes, and had a far more extensive visual memory of Earth history and entertainment than Jack would ever achieve. Of course, Jack had a better sense of what was real than the Krillians.
“I guarantee you that she’ll fall for you after this, or I’m not Jack Dempsey.”
That he wasn’t the Jack Dempsey whom Korlish thought he had purchased, well, that no longer entered into the conversation. Jack bore enough of a resemblance to his great, great,… great grandfather that Korlish saw no reason why Jack shouldn’t be able to perform up to the same standards the Krillian had seen in his library of old Earth videos. The fact that Jack was not the same, that boxing had been outlawed generations earlier, that Jack had never boxed a day in his life and had learned most of what he knew from Korlish? None of these inconvenient facts had held any weight with the eager Krillian.
So Jack had trained both himself and the Rocky Balboa robot that Korlish had assembled. As non-existent as Jack’s own boxing experience was, he at least shared the same basic anatomical functionality as the subjects Korlish had studied. He might not have professional mastery of the sport, but at least his joints were designed to bend the same way. Rocky had at first thrown punches in a dangerously double-jointed manner, making it difficult to know when a hit was on its way or where it was heading. Jack had to expend quite a lot of effort to convince Korlish to make Rocky’s arm movement more realistic (and less hazardous to Jack.) It wasn’t until the night before the exhibition that Korlish finally gave in and adjusted Rocky.
“Now that’s how a human being moves,” Jack said.
He had just finished sparring with Rocky, and was standing outside the ring, watching Korlish put the finishing touches on their final dress rehearsal in The Pit.
“I believe you are mistaken concerning this,” Korlish had argued. “I have seen many videos of humans moving their arms in this way.”
“I keep telling you, that’s just computer generated.” Jack said. “I don’t understand why you have so much trouble with Rocky here, when you’ve done such a great job on Inga.”
They both stopped to watch the tall blonde robot prance around the ring, carrying the “Round 1” card. Korlish had reprogrammed her as a Ring Girl, put her in red boots and a bikini, and she strutted her stuff so well that Jack wondered if she really was just another robot.
“She moves in exactly the fashion as the women I saw in those same videos,” Korlish said. “Are you sure she is moving as a real woman?”
“It doesn’t matter – she’s perfect,” Jack said, and finally ripped his eyes away from her. “You know, if you came back to Earth with me – if I was going back Earth – I bet you could work in any special effects studio on the planet.”
“Please – you will make me blush,” Korlish said.
The Krillian finished resetting Rocky’s blood bladders, then clattered back on his fours and allowed himself to admire his own handiwork. The only blood to be spilled in the bout was from the numerous bladders Korlish had installed in the robot. The well-engineered spurts created such a realistic effect that it almost sickened Jack to strike the robot.
“Well, I mean it.”
“I am honored that you should say so,” Korlish said. “Would that Mihsil would believe so as well.”
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“Females can be so unpredictable,” Korlish said, then sighed wistfully. “Perhaps she will bite my head off.”
“You say that like you want her to.”
“Why would I not?” Korlish said with a quizzical tilt of his head. “That is the ultimate purpose of the male – to mate and then be devoured by the female to provide for our offspring.”
“Wait – you mean like real praying mantises?” Jack asked.
“What are real praying mantises?”
“They’re… Never mind,” Jack said, and shook his head. “That’s messed up.”
“It is the Krillian way, as it has been for time immemorial.”
“We’re going to all this effort to get her to kill you?” Jack said. “Don’t you want to be around to help raise your kids?”
“I will most assuredly be around,” Korlish said, cradling his forelegs under his chin. “Mihsil will be able to hold my head up proudly as she teaches my sons the nobility of their purpose.”
“Mothers raise their children to do this?”
“Whom else?” Korlish asked. “Their fathers are all dead
“I don’t want to be a part of this.”
“Yes, but you are,” Korlish smiled. “Is it not marvelous?”
Looks like Jack has a lot of work to do if he wants to convince Korlish of the error of the Krill ways. Hopefully he can avoid being too involved in the pending alien ritual.
“Dempsey’s Debut” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
“Dempsey’s Debut” is also included in the collection And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND (as a special offer, the next ten people to purchase the collection at Smashwords with coupon code LZ78M will receive a 67% discount (so you pay only 99-cents for SIX stories – such a deal!):
Which is itself included in the mega-collection The Next Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’
William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Date Night” – can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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