Episode 3 – Night Games

     As it grows closer to the autumnal season it is not expected for the weather in southern states such as Texas to follow the patterns that transpose into Fall. Usually, even sometimes up until the middle of November, the days remain warm and unbearably sunny to some, with random precipitation sneaking its way in here and there resulting people complaining when it rains and complaining when it doesn’t. This was far from the case, for much to The Metal’s delight the air was cool and crisp enough to warrant normal people to shroud their bodies with some form of jacket. That is to remind everyone that The Metal is definitely not normal as if that needed to be said, but any excuse to wear a jacket and not be questioned was pleasing to him. As pleased as punch as he was, his associate gave off the impression that he would rather be anywhere in the entire universe than here right now. The Metal’s friend was a bit shorter than he was, stockier too, wearing blue jeans and a zip up jacket appropriate for the weather for sensical reasons and not just because he wanted to. Distressed as to why they were wandering around Oak Cliff at one in the morning, he turned to his more spirited accomplice and questioned everything.

     “Look, I know I used to live in this general area, but that was ages ago and this isn’t exactly where I’d choose to spend my free time.”

     “Relax Buck, we’re here on business.”

     “I gathered that much. I’m just wondering why you dragged me along instead of one of your brothers or Sentri.”

     “Simple, I thought you could use the exercise.”

     “Very funny,” Buck said in a moderately irked tone.

     “I’m being completely serious. From what the job described, things could get pretty violent and I thought you could use some action.”

     “Don’t things always get violent when you are around?”

     “I don’t think you understand. I was hired by Dallas P.D. for this job.”

     “The police department doesn’t hire freelance agents to do their job for them.”

     “Not on paper, but there are things that they just don’t want to deal with.”

     “Shit, what kind of mess have you gotten us in this time?”

     “Okay, so here is the thing. Apparently, there has been a group of hooligans running underground fights in the area that has been causing a decent amount of panic.”

     “Wait… Metal, you are a hooligan that has participated in numerous underground fights.  Why do you even care?”

     “Mainly, since I’m still here, the victors of those fights didn’t wind up missing the next day.”

     “Great! And I suppose you already have some plan on finding this gang too.”

     He flips a card out of his sleeve toward Buck almost preemptively prepared to answer his question before it was asked.

     “Of course, you would be personally invited to such a thing, why am I not surprised!?”

     As it often was the case, The Metal didn’t dignify Buck’s last comment with a response as he kept walking toward the sketchiest part of the neighborhood. Though it was a residential area, the two men seemed to wander into an alley that belonged between old store fronts in a bigger city. Buck grew nervous at the sudden change in surroundings, but The Metal knew all too well what was going on. The path stretched for what looked like a mile. Patterns of Jolly Rogers, Circle-A’s, and Pentagrams, as well as other lesser known emblems, appeared on the walls of the alley in luminescence as if reflecting a black light, but clearly, none was there.  Buck’s nerves peaked when teenagers wearing equally luminescent clothing started showing up hanging out along the sides of the walls, but their threatening looks diminished upon seeing The Metal’s invite he wisely left clutched in his hand.

     “Dude, where the Hell are we?  I didn’t even know this part of Oak Cliff existed.”

     “Actually, it doesn’t, at least not in the way you are familiar with. This passage is a transit path, or highway so to say, between spaces that allow beings to swiftly bypass distances or other dimensional barriers to get where they are going. To put it short, we are in a subspace.”

     “Oh come on! A few years back you tried convincing me that the reason the old Cowboy’s Stadium was destroyed was because you and Pitaya accidentally woke up a pandimensional being there and had to kill it. Last month you told me that you beheaded a succubus after diving off a ten story building. Now you expect me to believe that subspace is a thing? Are you really as crazy as we all say you are?”

     “In fact, yes, but that is beside the point. Subspaces are very real and you are currently in one. Why else would there be no sky?”

     Buck looked up and then down. He did this a couple times to realize that the tops and bottoms of the buildings weren’t there. The faded into a blackness that was both their ceiling and floor. They were walking on nothing, yet there was still definitely a ground or plane of some kind to walk on.

     “Don’t worry yourself, though, I’ve actually been through this transit before.”

     “Oh yes, because that is comforting at all.”

     “The exit should be about half a mile and we should wind up in Norw…. wait a minute.  That’s new.”

     Though The Metal had indeed been through this shortcut past traditional space, it had been altered since the last time he fancied its usage. Before them stood a caged arena in the middle of a warehouse inconveniently placed part way down the highway. Surrounding the cage was many more of those brightly dressed teenagers who were cheering viciously at a large shirtless Norseman as he savagely threw an adolescent into the fencing until his back bled heavily and the boy stopped moving.  

     “You aren’t really planning on fighting that are you?”

     “Like I could resist.  I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me.”

     “It’s not you I’m worried about,” Buck replied as he found a sturdy iron crate to hide behind.

     The Metal approached the cage while handing his invitation to the person who appeared to be in charge. They were excited to have such a prestigious underground combatant in their midst, but they required he fit the dress code before competing. First, he removed his boots, because a hard padded surface on a strike would be unfair. Then he removed his jacket so there would be nothing at all shielding him from strikes and that was when the problem arose.

     “What are those?”

     “Oh, these are my training weights. I wear them to add restriction to my body so my training is more beneficial.”

     “Remove them.”

     “I don’t think you want me to…”

     “Remove them or leave. No body armor of any kind.”

     “Suit yourself, but I warned you.”

     He started by detaching the immediately visible weights strapped to his forearms and tossing them into the attendee’s hands causing him to flinch. Next, he took off the weights strapped to his calves, which he too tossed to the attendee who was now struggling with his balance. Finally, The Metal removed his shirt revealing a compact weight fastened upon his torso. After removing it, he threw heaviest of the weights to the attendee which resulted in him collapsing to the ground unable to carry it all at once.

     “Ahhhhh, feels like ending a month-long piggyback ride!”

     “Dear lords, do you wear that all the time? How much is that!?”

     “Pretty much I guess. Let’s see, twenty-five on each limb and fifty on the torso, so it’s only like a hundred and fifty pounds. If your attendant has trouble catching that you should really get a new one.”

     Skipping into the ring feeling lite as an up quark, The Metal took an energetic stance that almost looked like he was dancing.

     “You are a strange one my friend, are you not?” asked his larger Norwegian opponent.

     “I’ve been told so a few times, yeah.”

     A chime had rung and the monstrous man came charging at him like a grizzly bear with his arms out wide. Swooping in to grab the young man like a pair of pincers on a crab, the giant nearly succeeded but The Metal slid through the gap between his legs at the last moment. The Norseman continued attempting to seize the comparably blonde twig, though it was useless since The Metal so much smaller and faster, especially without his weights on.

     “You know little man, you can only run for so long in here before I eventually catch you.”

     “Mistaken you may be, as I’m sure one of us would expire before you ever caught me.”

     “Ah, but if neither of us hits the other, how will anyone ever win?”

     “You bring up a valid point.”

     He stopped darting around and casually signaled the robust man over to him. The Norseman ran at him again to grab him powerfully with both arms. The Metal stood relaxed up until the man closed in.  Just before he could grasp the young martial artist. The Metal’s stance shifted swiftly as he wound up and struck the goliath dead center in his solar plexus. His momentum was instantly reversed with his body flying backward to the other side of the cage and the man laid there unconscious and out of wind. The Metal left the arena before even being declared the winner.

     “Should have let me keep my weights on, maybe the fight would have been a little fair.”

     “So is that it,” asked Buck strolling over from his safety spot, “Can we go home now?”

     “Not quite. While that is the way these events usually end, the guy I dealt with was only human.”

     “Only human, what were you expecting?”

     “That.”

     The cage locked and began slowly closing in on the unconscious man still lying within.  He expected that it was expected that the loser would either be dead or dragged from the arena by now with the victor accepting praise. The Metal knew he would be the last match of the night, but he couldn’t let that unsuspecting Norseman take his place in death. As he made his way back over to the battlegrounds, the luminescent teenagers reemerged to block his path. All but their clothes grew pitched black and their eyes then glowed bright as their fanged mouths twisted open.

     “Hmm. Okay, Buck, I’ve got a job for you.”

     “I hate you…” he said as he grimaced in discontent.

     The Metal hopped on and then off Buck’s shoulders like a springboard and proceeded to leap from head to head of the demonic teens on his way to the arena. The crowd turned after the young man, but that is where his friend’s “job” came into play. “I hate my life!” is what Buck screamed as he plunged fist first and began to stampede through the crowd. Like a stout boxer, Buck forced his way through the herd of glowing thugs, slamming the guts of anyone that tried to stop The Metal. This led to many attacks being focused toward Buck as well, which also helped keep the aggression of his friend.

     “God, sometimes I hate being your meatshield!”

     “Sometimes?”

     “Yeah, here, let me correct that.”

     Buck gave one of the creeps and uppercut that he finished off with a flip of the bird to The Metal. He left Buck there to fend off the hoard alone as he landed on the roof of the ever shrinking cage. The bars were already too small for him to get through from the start, but even if he could get in how would he manage to get out with the arena gradually decreasing in size.  Then a not so brilliant idea struck him. The Metal leaped up to the ceiling of the warehouse enclosure and hung upside down gripping a light.

     “Welp Metal, time to live up to your title. I just wish I was wearing shoes for this.”

     He crouched up, kicked off the ceiling to toward the ground, and flipped mid air as if he was going to kick the cage like a knife plunging into a tin can when the proper utensil can’t be found. Striking with enough force, he plummeted through the cage and even cracked the ground as he landed.

     “Ow! Now I know how the can opener feels.”

     He ran over to his fallen adversary, but he realized he couldn’t escape the same way he entered. Punching the man in the sternum hard enough knock whatever remaining wind he might have still had, The Metal woke the Norseman and directed his focus as to what was happening to them. Angered, the two of them grabbed the bars of the door and tore it off, breaking the lock in the process. As they left the arena, the cage started to melt along with all the lingering ghouls of glowing features still assaulting Buck. The melting objects converged into a black liquid mass in the center of the room, which also morphing from the inside of a warehouse to that of a big top circus tent. The liquid mass flowed upward and took shape into the silhouette of a twenty feet tall, husky man. And then, where the face would normally sit, eye glowed out and a mouth formed like the on the thugs earlier, but when the luminous clothing formed into that of a ring leader’ so did equally bright markings on the face like clown make-up.

     “Guwah haha haaaaah!”

     “Oh great, as if things could get worse. Metal, are you okay? You look kinda mad…”

     “Three things I hate all balled up into one: vampiric beings and clowns.”

     “Wait, but you said three. What is the other thing?”

     “ANYTHING THAT TRIES TO EAT ME!”

     He charged at the beast full steam ahead, jumped up, and kicked it in the jaw. While the creature screamed in agony, The Metal reached into his pants and pulled out an orange canister the size of a soda can. After tossing it down the beast’s throat, he kicked off its head and landed down to pick up his weights. Throwing them in his jacket like a sack to be efficient and quick, The Metal ran past both Buck and the Norseman yelling, “Get the Hell outta here!”

     “Why, we didn’t even kill the de…  Metal, what the hell was in that container?”

     “Oh, just about twenty kilotons of explosive chemicals.”

     “Jesus Christ! There is no need go all Nagasaki in here!”

     The Metal ran back, gripped Buck by the shoulders, and, with the most serious and irate face he has ever seen the man give, he said, “I. Hate. Clowns.” Then he took off running again. The others soon followed suit, since even though the foreigner didn’t speak the language well, almost anyone knows the words “kiloton” and “Nagasaki” aren’t usually used in the most pleasant of ways. They were reaching the end of the alley they entered in and they could hear the detonation going off. Just at the entrance with the blast closing in from behind, they noticed the doorway was closing. The atomic blast must have destroyed the fabric holding this subspace together.  

     “Metal, what are you doi-”

     He grabbed his friend and the Norseman and threw them through the gateway like a practitioner of Jiu Jitsu. On his flight out he saw his friend barely pass him up on foot and the gateway shut just short of the blast reaching them.

     “What the Hell were you thinking!? We could have died back there!”

     “Yeah… but we didn’t. Okay, Mr. Scandinavia, let’s get you on a plane back home. To the Airport!”

     “Metal.  Metal!  That wasn’t cool!  You can’t just do shit like that!  Metal!  METAL!”

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