MIKE'S APARTMENT. 4:35 AM The violent ring of the alarm clock is a callback to an older time, when people weren't so much nudged out of sleep but rudely ripped from whatever deep slumber they may have been enjoying in the shittiest manner possible. The clock's metallic shrill is deafening, all thunder and cacophony but no tact. A blunt instrument meant to tear a man from the quality REMs he may have been enjoying, maybe even his neighbors too. If it was anyone else, that clock may have ended smashed to pieces by way of the nearest wall it could be thrown against, but it doesn't inspire anger or irritation in Mike, only blind obedience. There's a reason he's elected to use this relic for the next few weeks rather than the otherwise dulcet ringtone of his phone. He's familiar with the clock, the very same tool he used more than a decade ago every morning to hone his body into finely tuned machine of pugilistic mayhem. So much so, that now the clock wields a Pavlovian affect over Mike. He doesn't so much stir quietly from bed so much as he erupts from it immediately. His body knows what this terrible sound means before the fog has even lifted from his mind, years of conditioning have instilled a mechanical response to it's terrible song. Within seconds he's sitting up and shutting the clock off, and only after a full minute does his mind catch up to his body. There's no dread for what's to come, not even a yearning to return to bed, just acceptance as he pushes himself to a stand and slowly ambles through the darkness of his apartment toward the kitchen. Acceptance that this day is going to hurt in all the ways he's missed. The first day of a training regimen is always the worst. Even for someone as perpetually fit as Mike, the agony and strain of the first day is terrible. It's one thing to be in shape, it's another thing completely to be in boxing shape. That brand of fitness requires pushing one's body to peak limits, which means pushing his body beyond it's capacity on the first day. It'll react negatively, but that's natural. As he opens his fridge and fetches the protein shake he prepared last night, he regards the odd irony and futility in drinking his breakfast knowing full well what will happen. He chugs the flavorless elixir anyway and his stomach thanks him for it. It'll change it's tune within two hours when he's spewing the stuff back up. First things first though, getting changed and running.

WILDECAT GYM. 5:58 AM It's a long run from where he started stretching, but Mike knows he's almost reached his destination. Even as he nears the corner he can feel his lungs protesting. Nearly 10 miles now of breathing in the icy morning chill yet his lungs feel ready to explode. It's hardly a casual gait, he's pushed himself, bursts of sprinting peppered between higher intensity jogging, all aimed to simulate the marathon-like grind of a 12 round match. The sting in his thighs tell him all about how hard he's pushed himself, but he knows he hasn't come close to really testing himself. It's only once he's rounded the corner and come to a full-stop in front of the establishment he once worked that his focus drifts away from the task at hand. Hard, frantic breaths plume visibly in the cold air before him. Wildecat is one of the best gyms around, but he knows better than to consider going in. Every corner has some fond memory in the recent past, some turned bitter sweet, others remain preserved. It's not the ideal setting for the slavish devotion and concentration his mind will demand today. Besides, the nostalgic sap in him yearns for a brand of training that harkens back to his modest beginnings. A time when he didn't have the luxury of top tier gyms like Wildecat, just a thirst to compete and whatever his seedy surroundings had to offer in the way of training. He knows just the place, but it means adding a few more miles to his already strenuous run. His body welcomes the challenge, he can already feel his body temperature dropping as his sweat cools and sends a chill down his spine. Mike buries the dull ache in hist chest that the gym brings about and starts off again down the street, putting the place in his rear view. He realizes he'd trade the emotional sting he's felt the past few months for the physical agony his body will endure today before the day's done. Gladly.

FLYNN'S AUTO SALVAGE YARD. 7:09 AM He'd missed it. The intense ache in every muscle, every tendon, every inch of his body. The heavy burden of fatigue threatening to shut down his body, the desperate need to keep going. He'd missed the sensation that his body was burning up, the sense of steam billowing off his sweat drenched frame as it clashes with the frigid temperatures around him. Some call it runner's high, endorphins hitting the body to keep it going. Mike liked to think more poetically about it. That this was his way of squeezing all the frailty from his being. "Hn," his body starts to seize up, his limbs feel ready to go limp completely in protest, but he knows he needs two more reps to complete this round. Junkyards are hardly glamorous or well stocked training grounds, but Mike learned long ago they had their uses. This one in particular and not just because it belonged to an old friend of his dad's. Flynn's specialized in heavier salvage. Diesel trucks, wreckers, even Semi's. When free weights weren't available, tires were the next best thing. It started as a slog, and after several rounds of taking a sledgehammer to the tire and several reps of flipping the fucking thing, his body felt ready to quit. Each exertion felt like the last, but he kept going, until finally it hit him, the sickening sensation of muscles seizing involuntarily, his body rejecting the sheer level of stress it was being put under. Before that ridiculous, stupid mammoth tire hit the ground one last time, Mike hurled. That meticulously crafted protein shake gone to waste, just as he predicted. Even the act of keeling over to empty his stomach felt exhausting, and when he got to a shaky stand, he actually wobbled. He'd hit the first day wall. His body was telling him loud and clear. Enough, you fucking asshole. Good. This was punishment designed to hurt. By the end of the week, his body would know what the fuck was up. That it was time to dig deep and push harder. He'd be well on his way to getting into real, bonafide professional boxing shape. But his day had just begun. "Hey, Flynn," Mike called out weakly to the man who'd been watching him from his office, amused. "Can you give me a ride somewhere?" He staggered toward him, heard the man make some crack about walking there himself. "Hell no. I'm lazy."

FOGWELL'S GYM. 7:30 AM A different wave of emotions washed over him as he stood outside of the decrepit looking Gym. It looked more condemned than functional. Why it was Gyms that was giving him all kinds of emotional fits today was probably telling about his life, but the bitter-sweet flavor of this one in particular wasn't as fresh as Wildecat's. This was the place Jack had trained. He'd spent years watching his old man train in here. It was one of the few places where he could see the old man elevate himself to his full potential. He may have been less than exceptional in life, but within these hallowed grounds he was a Legend amongst men. His dad. Even as Mike shuffled in, his body shaking like a tree in the wind with each sore step he took, the memories came flooding in. It was time to put some work in. Pure technique. His body was useless now, his punches would pack about as much power as a senior citizen with atrophy, but that just meant it was the perfect time to hone the art down. That's what technique is, Mikey. When your body's given up, when and if you're both in that final round and you're two battered and hollowed out shells of your former selves, it's the pure technique that'll decide who wins. That's the beauty of it. At the end, it's not the strongest guy who wins the 12th, it's the most technically sound. Jack's words rang in his ears, he could still detect it. The admiration and joy the man spoke about his profession with. Like a man admiring a piece of art. Jack may not have been the best teacher of life lessons, but he'd been the man that first taught him about the art of violence.