If you want to understand what made me give up gunfighting, then I need to tell you about the time I gunned down Lefty Farshaw.
Lefty and I both came up in the Competitive Firearms League, me on Terra, and him on… hell if I can remember where. Not Terra. We were both rising stars in the sport right when it was catching on. You might remember when there was a gunfighting craze on the streamers—this was a few years back, after Mars declared its independence but before the Martian government caved in on itself like a donut after all the filling got sucked out.
I’d started out in USAF sniper school, and while it was clear that I had a good eye for hitting targets, I never did have the patience for sniping. So after my discharge fiasco—that’s a long story for another time—I thought to myself Blaise, you’re pretty quick on the draw, maybe there’s some money in that. I saw a poster for an amateur league quick-draw competition and I’ll be damned if I didn’t win it straight away. First prize was twenty-five kiloeuros which was not a bad amount back then.
So I started looking for other competitions. Metal silhouette, mounted target, running target—I was fine at those. But the thing I really excelled at was FVF. That’s Fighter-Versus-Fighter, if you didn’t know. Old school, like the cowboys used to do, supposedly. Turns out that while I have a good eye for aiming and a pretty fast hand, it was my coolness under pressure that was my biggest asset.
See, there’s something about the thrill of the gunfight, when you and your opponent are staring each other down, eyes locked, waiting for the buzzer. The way it would work is there’d be a one minute counter, then a ticking clock at five seconds, and then the buzzer. If you drew your weapon before the buzzer went off, it stayed in safe mode and wouldn’t fire until you re-holstered it and drew again. Well, that rattles you. There’s a lot of pressure in that situation, and you feel the weight of it bearing down on you. And when your opponent is me—a slick son-of-a-gun with a classic Stetson and an immaculately manicured ‘stache, a man who acts completely unperturbed and isn’t even looking at your face when he aims—well, let’s just say that a number of my opponents were so rattled they forgot to fire their guns when the buzzer went.
I was the best on any world. I never got a nickname, like most of the greats do—like Lefty did—but since folks already call me Blaze it doesn’t bother me too much. Apart from that, I was really coming into my own, winning competitions and building a reputation. There was just one teensy little problem.
The problem is, as anybody with a streamer account can tell you, that modern gunfighting is a dull-ass sport.
I mean, holy hell man, the actual competition is over in seconds—less than that, really. You spend more time hyping the match than you do actually staring each other down. It also doesn’t help that we weren’t actually shooting each other. It was all safe weapons with laser targeting systems that painted an impact mark on the other player’s uniform. Oh, they tried to dress it up. They gave us white uniforms that would turn red on impact. They put little cartridges in the guns that would make ‘em blast a little puff of smoke, to make it seem more realistic. They even hired street teams to spread rumors that one of the competitors had died in a gunfight, which is frankly impossible. Unless you can actually die of ennui.
None of it worked. As quickly as audiences had tuned in, they abandoned us at the very same speed. Can’t really blame them either. Prize purses dwindled to nothing, and it gets really hard to make a living that way.
And that’s when I heard about the underground gunfighting scene. That’s where the real money was. Playing for keeps, as they used to say...