Cage Match 2011: Takeshi Kovacs versus Jon Snow


Takeshi Kovacs.jpg

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Jon Snow.jpg

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The Contestants

Takeshi Kovacs
Age: Physically early-40s
Race: Human, mixed Slavic and Japanese
Weapons / Artifacts: Smith and Wesson 11mm magnum; 15 cm Tebbit knife
Anticipates and deflects your every move

Jon Snow
Lord Commander of the Night Watch
Age: Late-teens
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: Hand-and-a-Half Valyrian steel sword
His albino direwolf rips your throat out

The Breakdown


  • Superhuman intuition and reflexes, neurachem enhancement
  • Psycho-Spiritual envoy training
  • “Soul” stored in cortical stack at the base of the skull; essentially immortal

  • A skilled warrior
  • Commitment to honor and duty–all around good guy
  • Has a friggin’ direwolf

  • Takes a while getting used to new bodies

  • He’s a bastard…no, seriously.

  • N/A

  • N/A

Check out the comments below to see what Richard K. Morgan thinks of his character’s ability to destroy Jon Snow

George R.R. Martin chimes in


How we think the fight will go

Ex-UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs, having downloaded into this sleeve just 6 hours earlier, takes a quick inventory of the neurachem and physical attributes this new body has to offer: enhanced reaction time, emotional controls—all mercenary standard. He tugs at the wool and leather outfit that was waiting for him when he woke up. Not really his style, but it’s keeping the sleeve warm in this frigid field.

Scanning the crowd, Kovacs feels physical stirrings in response to all the lithe young women in the audience. The body’s previous owner must have been quite the skirt chaser—in addition to a smoker, as the itching in his fingers keeps reminding him. He quells both desires and levels his gaze at his young opponent.

Jon Snow stands facing him, black hair blending into his dark wool cloak and armor. His pale, oblong face stands out like a gibbous moon in a starless arctic sky. Tall, severely angular and sinewy, the boy’s stance belies combat training and experience beyond what his young age implies. His hand rests easily on his sword’s hilt, a white wolf’s head set with red stones. Fancy, Kovacs notes. But not spoiled.

“Mr. Kov-aks, welcome to the North,” the young Night’s Watchman hedges, eyeing his opponent.

Kovacs’ neurachem signals are warning him something is seriously amiss; he needs to buy some time, assess this odd, long-faced kid. “It’s Kovacs, son. The Slavic pronunciation is ch. But it’s your first offense, so,” the Envoy takes out a cigarette pack and shakes one out, “I’ll let it slide.” His free hand slides under his coat, grazing the handle on his Smith & Wesson nuzzled in its form-molding holster at his rib. He lights the cig off the ignition patch on the side of the pack. Good a fighter as he may be, Kovacs thinks, the kid seems a little too confident for a second-year recruit.

Snow draws his sword but holds, shifting from foot to foot. He has heard about the enemy’s projectile weapons and knows he must bring the fight in Longclaw’s striking range. The older man looks ill-fitted in his borrowed northern clothes, even more so in the battle-scarred body he has been loaned.

Kovacs leisurely smokes and fondles the handle of his revolver, still beneath his coat. “I’m new here, son. Can’t assume too much. But word on the street tells me you’re a man of questionable character. Shifting loyalties.” He watches the boy’s anger build, trying to gauge how much will make him sloppy. “Some might say… a real bastard.”

Snow’s face is burning with rage, and Kovacs’ can feel his sleeve’s pulse quickening. He worries he may have taken the taunting too far. Closely controlling his adrenaline response, Kovacs draws his revolver as Snow lunges at him, sword poised to skewer.

Snow jabs savagely toward the older man’s torso, but Kovacs anticipates and dodges deftly, rolling on the floor and rising with his gun out. He fires off three shots, fully expecting his ammo to penetrate Snow’s armor, but the new-sleeve shakiness is still with him and two of the bullets fly wide. The third catches in the chainmail at Jon’s shoulder with a meaty clank. Snow reels, and spins, maintaining his grip on Longclaw. He looks down at his hit shoulder in awe—the small hunk of metal remains lodged in the links of his chainmail, hot to the touch. It has not penetrated his skin. Still, it feels as if his entire arm has been smashed with Baratheon’s warhammer.

“Technology, kid. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes a real bitch.” Kovacs retrieves his still-burning cigarette from the ground where he dropped it and retreats, senses groping to figure out the level of organic damage he’s inflicted. The look on the kid’s face suggests this is a novel pain, the shock may be easy to take advantage of.

Snow shakes out his throbbing arm, mind racing. He curses himself for letting his rage control him. If this off-worlder can read his mind, as it seems, he must act without further thought. He grips Longclaw in his good hand and runs his injured shoulder full speed into the smoking man’s gullet.

Kovacs sees the attack before it hits, but is temporarily shocked by the boy’s turnabout. Snow’s armored shoulder hits him in the gut and they fall hard to the dirt. Bruised though he is, Snow’s stamina belies long campaigns at the onset of hard winter. The two wrestle, vying for dominance, and slowly the strength in Kovacs’ new body ebbs, craving the sleep required after downloading.

Rising, Jon Snow places a boot on Kovacs’s neck.

“For the honor of my brothers in black,” he raises Longclaw for a killing blow. Before it can land, a long, gray knife flashes out, sprung from its hidden sheath strapped to Kovacs’ forearm. He slashes wildly at the bastard’s leg, slicing the calf but not quite sinking blade into flesh. Snow’s swing falters and Longclaw grazes Kovacs’ graying hair. Taking his momentary advantage, Kovacs staggers up and throws Snow to the ground. He pins the boy with one arm, while the other reaches for his cast-off revolver.

Kovacs presses the barrel into the young man’s temple when a growl emerges, barely audible, somewhere in the crowd behind them. He observes the sudden smugness on Snow’s face, the answer to his earlier confidence. The expression says: “I’ve got you,” though all evidence points otherwise.

All the alarms in this sleeve send chemical warning sirens through Kovacs’ body, his training demanding he flee. But it is too late.

Ghost descends from behind, materializing with animal grace from the parted crowd. Before the Envoy’s enhanced reflexes can kick in, the direwolf’s teeth are on him. Kovacs’ neck gives way to the massive jaws, his vertebrae crushed, spinal cord severed. Ghost swallows the tiny metal cylinder of Kovacs’ cortical stack along with the flesh surrounding the cervical vertebrae.

It’ll be messier than usual re-sleeving this one.

Predicted Winner: Jon Snow



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Takeshi Kovacs is a character from Altered Carbon and other Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K. Morgan; Jon Snow is a character from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

Takeshi Kovacs image courtesy of ~MKorey. Jon Snow image courtesy of Michael Komarck.

Hope Ewing contributed to this Cage Match