Episode 4 – Fighting For Fall

     The Parks Mall was always exceptionally quiet this time of year. With the children still in school and parents busy preparing for the holidays, the only people with time to hangout in the food court were losers and unemployed hacks who have nothing better to do with their time except to blow it off loitering.  

     “Metal, not that I mind you treating us all to lunch and all, but what is the occasion?”

     “Oh god no!!!” Buck screamed as The Metal walked up wearing his custom dogi with their chicken strips in hand.

     “What’s wrong?”

     “The Metal is wearing his gi… in acceptable jacket weather.”

     “Wait, what month is it?”

     Sentri pulled out his phone and opened the page for The Metal’s shared calendar. His eyes grew wide and white like the ghoulish remains of an obese baker who fell in the flour as his heart finally gave while working. He, The Kidd, and Buck jumped up as the epiphanic awareness of the situation at hand hit them, but it was to no avail as they could see all the exits to the building were securely chained off.

     “We aren’t going anywhere are we?”

     “Nope, the festivities are about to begin shortly, so just find a safe corner, sit back, and enjoy the chicken.”

“Why even invite us if today is -the- day!?”

“Well, I need someone to show off to.”

     And before the guys could run off, The Metal gripped the table and swung it at a young man flying foot first in their direction. Slamming directly in the center of his stomach, The Metal sent the young man flying onto a hibachi grill.  canning the scene they could see many other fighters of various ages, races, and even gender, crowded around with eager looks toward the self proclaimed martial artist.

     “I suggest you guys run before this heats up.”

     Buck, Sentri, and The Kidd made a sprint for Santa’s Workshop and hid amongst the construction. Crouching where they presumed was a safe spot, they could only hear what was going on. Tables and chairs crashed and banged throughout the food court. Glass shattered and railing collapsed. They felt pity on the few normal people who decided to occupy the mall that very day, but you never really know when these things will happen anyway. That is, unless you are the cause of them.

     “What the hell is going on Sentri?”

     “Well, every year there is an underground fighting tournament that The Metal participates in that starts around this time in the late fall.”

     “He knows that dumbass. He meant to ask why are they all attacking him at once.”

     “Oh yes. See, apparently during the preliminary round there are no rules over how many combatants can participate in a battle at once, so I guess this year a grand majority of them decided to gang up on The Metal since he is the five time running champ.”

     “What kind of jackass would allow that!?”

     “I do believe The Metal is chief of the committee.”

     “Uh…” Buck opened his mouth to comment, but he dismissed the notion knowing that he should have seen this all coming. In all the years he has been alive, Buck has concluded that The Metal is the only person he’ll ever meet crazy enough to set up a circumstance years in the waiting just so he could have more people than he could count on his hands and feet attack him at once. Whether is was part of the guy’s charm or not was debatable, but regardless it was still very much who he was.

     “Woohoo!” sounded off by their friend in the distance closely followed by the echoes of crashing clothes racks and shoe stands breaking throughout the stores. Despite their normally greater desire to avoid pain, the three of them peaked out of their stronghold out of curiosity of many of the sounds. One most in particular were the grinding of the rails along the second story catwalks.

     “When the heck did he learn to skateboard!?”

     “My guess: just now. Heads up!”

     The Metal came flying in to the ill constructed safe haven, ditching the board on entry.  He carried that same smug look of being both serious and not all at once he always had on.

     “So, how is everyone enjoying the show?”

     “You lunatic, why would you agree to all this!?”

     “Actually, this wasn’t their idea. They each sent me individual challenges the other week and I set out a group email scheduling it all today at the same place.”

     “You’re officially insane…”

     “And you act like this is news Buck.”

     The rear wall came down as they were conversing with a large and mostly naked man walking through. Judging by his knotted hair, rolled loin cloth, and the near four hundred pounds on his person, it was assumed this man was a professional sumo wrestler. The Metal ran up and punched him directly in the sternum, which pushed him back but insignificantly.

     “Hmm, that usually does it.”

     Mister Sumo gripped The Metal by his shoulders and through him twenty feet through the air. He scanned the other boys, but quickly noticed that none of them were registered targets and began walking to The Metal again. As he walked away a young woman strolled in through the entrance the heavy wrestler created. She was freckled with bright green hair up in curled pigtails and dressed in abnormally trendy clothes from brands and designers almost no one has even heard of.    

     “Well hello Sable, it sure has been a while.”

     “Laney…”

     “Sentri, who is that?”

     “Milana Collins, one of The Metal’s many unrequiteds.”

     “Unrequiteds?”

     “He means stalkers, Buck.”

     “Yeah, she never really took well to him turning her down fifteen times.”

     “He stomped on the flowers I gave him!”

     “So, you’d have to be just as psycho as him to be interested in the first place. Anyway, we -thought- we lucked out a couple months back when I was able to drop the package off to her agent instead of her, but I guess that was hoping for too much.”

     “Wait… a couple months back? You mean that this is pop rock idle Laney Lin?”

     “If she has a thing for my brother then I guess it is true that insanity is a requirement of being a celebrity.”

     “Sadly enough this isn’t the first time she’s tried kill him off either.”

     “Kill him? These matches are to K.O.”

     “Actually, the rules state that it goes until someone can no longer battle. K.O., T.K.O., death; all are viable ways to win even if some are less desirable than others.”

     “It scares me that you are a serious competitor in these competitions Laney.”

     While they were yammering on uselessly about the numerous times she had tried to end The Metal’s life and her irrational reason behind them, the man everyone was talking about was having problems of his own. Grinding across the catwalk railings and running up and down the walls, he was finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the goliath while dealing with all the stragglers he was still supposed to be fighting. It wasn’t like many of them actually posed a threat. Most of them were either thugs and hooligans looking to cash in on the grand prize or just those that spent most their lives to this point in a commercialized studio and think they have grasp of a martial art. Regardless, enough ants could bring down tarantula given the numbers and time, especially with a giant bull frog chasing it down. Using his environment as tool to defeat his foes, The Metal darted into the sporting goods store and flipped over the jumbo bin of basketballs. They bounced everywhere in an airtight madness causing people stumble left and right. The sumo, unafflicted by the chaos due to his sturdy legs and low center of gravity cause by his massive posterior, followed the free dribbling herd of inflated rubber and plastic back to the basketball area in search for his mark, but found not what he sought.  

     “Heads up. fatso!”

     Mr. Sumo looked up to the top of the goals for sale and realized that the young man had cut the wiring propping them up so that punks couldn’t do exactly what he was about to do. He leapt off kicking the furthest one and knocking it over on his way down. The rest toppled like dominoes onto the overweight athlete and The Metal began walking away sure of himself. Not but four steps away he heard a mighty crash and the wrestler bursted out of the pile of titanium and netting.

     “You know this whole plan is just going to backfire on you Laney.”

     “I hired the 2006 Chinese Freestyle World Open to kill the boy that refused to go out with me, how could this go wrong?”

     “Because you hired him to kill the most stubborn psychopath on the planet.”

     At that moment The Metal came crashing in riding the sumo wrestler’s face like the skateboard he had earlier.

     “Hey, I thought I heard someone talking about me.”

     “How did you knock him out!?”

     “Oh, well I find kicking most people in the face at forty miles per hour off the second story would lead to the same result.”

     “Or, you know, kill them!”

     “Hmm… guys, what is Looney Lin doing here?”

     “She’s apparently registered in your stupid competition and was the one that hired the dude to kill you.”

     “Kill? Laney, we talked about this.”

     “You talked about this, I just nodded my head from the train seat you tied me to.”

     “You tied her to a train!?”

     “Trust me Buck, if you ever get stalkers you’ll understand.”

     While he was busy rationalizing his actions to his friend, Laney pulled a microphone from her hip that was circled up like a bull whip. In one motion it uncoiled as she snapped it toward The Metal’s face. It made a loud crack, but failed as he caught it with his hands, the jack barely an inch from his eye.

     “Well, it seems you are the last combatant standing. I don’t have to fight you. Win or lose I’ve gained enough points today that I could go on vacation until the semifinals. Though, regardless of how much fun it was to fight Mr. Sumo, I don’t take kindly to hits on my life.”

     He yanked the cord fiercely, jolting Laney all the way to him whom he gripped upon arrival. She blushed from how close they were her only to be thrown clear out of Santa’s Village by the irate martial artist as her guard was lowered. Breaking a heel from the fall, Laney removed her shoes and jacket, untied her pigtails to fasten her hair back into a more practical ponytail, and gripped a guitar that was on display for one of those mall giveaways.

     “Fine, you wanted a real fight today, did you not?”

     As Miss Collins grasped the neck of the guitar it shone brightly and mystically changed forms to become a fancy zweihander of the same fashion and style.

     “Woah, how the hell did she do that!?”

     “Duh, everyone knows descendants of Baldor can use musical instruments as weapons.”

     “But Baldor didn’t exist!”

     “Hahahahahaha,” The Metal chuckled almost uncontrollably as he turned to the side as if speaking to someone who wasn’t there, “He really thinks Baldor wasn’t a real person.”

     During his laughing fit, Laney ran up on him and nearly cleaved off The Metal’s right arm if he didn’t slide out of the way in time. She too reacted fast enough and kicked him in a spin, catching him in his own movement. The strike knocked him back quite a bit putting a small crater in the wall he planted on. This brought a smile to his face for The Metal was all too used to fighting off normal humans without any real force or power. He relished any chance at a fight that actually could endanger his life, especially an opponent whose ancestor was likely an Æesir. He considered heading up to the local knife store to even the playing field, but he knew that they were all replicas and would never last more than a few seconds against a real blade let alone a mystically created one. Instead he decided to take the head on approach and ran at her the same as she did before. Laney took an awfully wide swing that would be difficult to avoid without retreating backward. Then the blade was stopped with a clinking sound upon The Metal’s arm. It had caught the training weight on his left forearm and cracked the two handed sword on impact.

     “How!?”

     “Oh, a week ago I could feel the resistance of my weights losing its effect on me, so I increased the amount I wear for training. Couldn’t really find any when shopping, so I had hollow out an old set and fill it with this really dense cast iron I had a buddy whip up for me.”

     “Wow… are you sure you won’t consider courting me?”

     “Yeah, pretty positive on that one.”

     The Metal knocked the sword out of her hand, reverting back to a guitar but not with a broken neck, and knocked the wind out of the adoration struck popstar. When you are grasping for air because it has all left you from a single strike, everything seems so sudden and blurry that it is hard to follow what goes on until your breathing stabilizes once again. By the time Laney’s equilibrium was regained she found that the boys had left the building and that she was tied to the still unconscious, quarter ton sumo she hired by the microphone cable she carried around. Barely reaching her phone, Milana started texting her people and got as comfortable as she could being strapped to a smelly wrestler of more than healthy proportions until they arrived to get them.

     “So Metal, you said you gained enough points to coast until near the end, right? Can we maybe actually take a break now?”

     “Nope, no can do. Today put me back and I’m sort of tight on cash.”

     “What, really!?”

     “Well, he did kind of buy us a total of forty chicken strips.”

     “Yep, and unless you guys want to cover that right now, I’ll be in deep if certain people find out how much I spent.”

     “So what are you gonna do?”

     “Same thing I do every week. Tomorrow, I look for another gig and I’m dragging the lot of you with me.”

     “Awwwwww, man…” the other three said in unison, slouching in their walk back to the vehicle.

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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!”

Episode 2 – Magnetic Mayhem

     The borough of Uptown Dallas was busy as always on this most whimsical of Summer days. Cars packed the market streets both East and West of State Highway number 75, which had a smooth flow to itself being between rush hours in the midday. People outnumbered the cars, walking in and out and up and down the storefront ways; they filled the parks too, if and so you would believe it. All was in line with the norm, that is until The Metal showed up. He never really had much renown, but the few that recognized him knew that despite how peaceful things may be now trouble was soon to follow. The young man, still dressed in his rather new attire he ordered in bulk, caught the stares of many as he tried to find a particular office above one of the outlets. He doesn’t blame them for staring. Regardless of his specialized garb that would be almost nonexistent to the area, it isn’t every day you see a youthful chap wandering around town barefoot across concrete in ninety-five-degree weather. That’s just the way he likes it, but he doesn’t want to cause more trouble than what will already come his way so he keeps a pair of cotton shoes on him in case he must head inside.  

     The Metal finally finds the spot he so diligently pursued, only to see that his contact was already at street level awaiting him. She was a woman only a few years older, though instead of wasting most of her time waiting for the next opportunity to arise like a certain blonde haired lad and more likely spent tons of hard earned money to get through university. She had her auburn hair professionally pinned up in a bun and wore a black pantsuit to give off that aura of, “hey, I’m the boss!” The only reason he knew she was his contact was because within her arms was a messenger bag containing a package for him to deliver, just as the dossier had mentioned.  

     “Ah, you must be that ‘professional freelancer’ I hired.”

     “Yep, my name is…”

     “I don’t care. Listen, half the amount has already been transferred and if you get this to the American Airlines Center before sundown the other half will be placed in your account.”

     “Okay, that just gives me five hours to get to the other side of Uptown, no sweat.”

     “Don’t bore me with the details, just get going already.”

     He was a little irked by her attitude, but let it slide while understanding the problem. The files said that a man has been intercepting this shipment for nearly a week and that this was the fourth time they would have to purchase and ship it to the center. Not only was it coming out of their wallets, but this was the last day the delivery could be made before it ruined the company’s reputation. The Metal’s operations do get around the grapevine from time to time and with delivery trucks failing at every chance he seemed like their only option.

     Walking seemed like a good method since he had plenty of time left to go and it would allow him to observe his surroundings for that malevolent crook easier. The Metal looked around and noticed that he wasn’t that far from Mockingbird Station, one of many hubs for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), so it would be quickest if he headed towards the Katy Trail since it would lead him right to his destination and in way less time than he had to spare. There would still be quite away to that notable jogger’s path, but walking is how he spent most of his time. It was alright up until he came around the bend to the far end of McKinney Avenue, when suddenly what seemed like a rocket jolted by and almost seized the package. The human bullet stopped many yards ahead of him and turned so The Metal could see who it was. The man was very tall, pretty slender, and rather dark with special rollerblades strapped to his feet.

     “Kavi! You’re the one stealing the packages… but why?”

     “Do you even know what lies in that bag you carry!?”

     “That’s not part of my job, I’m just paid to deliver it, though I’m guessing you do with how many you’ve taken.”

     “Open it up and you’ll understand my reasons.”

     “Sorry, that’s against my professional policies.”

     “Then I guess I’m just going to have to take it from you.”

     “As if you even could.”

     Kavi clicked his heels together and electrical sparks began emitting from the wheels on his blades. He kicked off at The Metal with the speed of a Thoroughbred, which astounded the young man that he could even move that swiftly. Luckily The Metal’s reflexes were quick enough to evade the dash, but Kavi immediately spun around and tried again. The courier took off toward the Katy Trail as fast as he could, but he was only known to hit up to around twenty or so miles per hour on foot while his pursuer had to be going at least fifty. He couldn’t fathom how Kavi got so much faster in such a short time, but as the speedster gained on him, he noticed the sparks on the skates as well as an emblem that had a magnet, two gears, and the words “Pitaya Labs” stamped on it.

     “Ah-ha! I see Pitaya amped up your blades a bit.”

     “Just happened he was working with magnets again last time my birthday came around. I normally prefer to get faster on my own, but I wasn’t about to turn down electromagnetic rollerblades that charge as they ride.”

     “You know, something in me doesn’t blame you.”

     Kavi dashed at The Metal trying to knock him down, but luckily for the courier, his reflexes were still a bit faster despite the massive land speed differential. If he could manage to keep dodging and steer their swift, yet so far non-contact, combat in the direction of the parcel’s destination he’d make it there in plenty of time, but there were other factors at hand. Not only was The Metal’s breath falling short from running at full speed as well as trying to out maneuver the irate skater, but rolling around at such speeds keeps overcharging the circuitry which Pitaya designed to release as ambient electricity, because I guess why not, so every time Kavi missed loose lightning would jump from his blades to the bare feet of the ever persistent internuncio. The Metal is a tough and conditioned martial artist, but it is quite a task to run while your feet keep cramping tight from a surge of electricity and trying to avoid the lightning as well caused him to change paths many times and lose ground by five minutes in the opposite direction.  

     He had to change the trajectory this encounter was heading in if he was to complete his job. He knew this wasn’t the best idea, but it was the only one he had. As Kavi came bulleting back at him, The Metal made a feint on the direction he was going to dodge and kick Kavi in the gut while he was trying to adjust to the repositioning. Kavi lost control for a moment and went flying into an unkempt shrubbery, but striking an object with so much more momentum resulted in The Metal landing elsewhere as well. Kavi wasn’t down for long, but by the time he resurfaced from the tattered bush filled with litter and sharp twigs The Metal was nowhere in sight. Speeding off to scour the area, Kavi failed to see that he was hidden inside a nearby convenience store, which in itself was oddly convenient.

     “That should give me an hour or so,” he said to himself whilst examining his battle damaged feet. “It is a good thing I don’t scar, but I really need to avoid more of this. Where is my phone?” He reached into the recesses of his dōgii and pulled out a cheap old phone that could most likely only make calls. “Come on, pick up!”

     “Hey Metal, did you wanna hang out today?”

     “No man, I’m working. I actually need a favor.”

     “Figures. What is it?”

     “I need you to run to the sporting store, buy a pair of size forty-five rollerblades and some lubricant, and then meet me this 7-eleven near the Katy Trail. Oh, and all in less than an hour.”

     “Less than an hour? I’m all the way down in Midlothian helping the church right now, how do you expect that? Can’t you just use that weird fetish delivery service you always use, I guarantee you they’d be there in about five minutes?”

     “One, it isn’t a fetish delivery service, at least I don’t think it is. Two, I’m on a delivery myself and you know they’d try to hustle me out of my job for more than it was worth. Just charge it, the gas, and any ticket you get on the way to the business account. See you soon!”

     *click*

     “Metal. Metal! Ah, here I go again.”

     So without much say in the matter, Sentri did exactly as his -friend- demanded and made it there without so much as ever being pulled over. He asked if The Metal wanted his help finishing the job since he was already there, but he told him that this was the best way he could help. The Metal slipped on his skates, lubed the wheels up as much as he could, and as Sentri pulled away he could hear his friend’s crazed laughter echoing throughout the town.

     Following the sounds of laughter, it took only minutes for Kavi to pinpoint the source. Barrelling on in, he noticed that his adversary was moving along a lot faster than before. Though his electromagnetically enhanced blades still gave him the edge in speed, the difference had now become so little that Kavi was finding it hard to gain on him.

     “How are you going so fast, you have to at least be going forty?”

     “I don’t know. My stomach is cramping up, my breaths are short, and sweat is pouring down my spine, but I’m doing it.”

     “But it doesn’t make sense!”

     “Ever since I was young I’ve always seemed to pull out that extra burst of strength when I needed it. I don’t know where it comes, possibly my ass. Maybe I’m so good at bullshitting it comes true. Regardless, there is only one thing you need to worry about and it isn’t this.”

     “Yeah, and what by chance may that be?”

     “Stopping me within the next mile.”

     Scanning ahead, Kavi became aware of just how close they were to the American Airlines Center. As he panicked and reach for the package, The Metal surprised him and managed to speed up even more. A normal person would have broken already and gave up, but there was just something about The Metal that made him too stubborn to lose, even if it was what was good for him. Kavi, now putting his own strength into his strides, caught up alongside the determined courier and slammed his elbow right into his ribs. Between the stress his body was under and the blow, The Metal coughed up a few ounces blood, but if it was a fight he wanted it was a fight he’d get.

     The two laid strike after strike into each other all along the final stretch. Kavi even planted blades across The Metal a few times to really let the electricity set in. Both of them were battered, bruised, and bleeding, but they kept on down the road avoiding cars as they fought. At the end of the mile was the Airlines Center. Kavi failed to stop The Metal from reaching his destination, but looking at the arena up close he concluded that he was too late.

     “Ha, all was for naught. I still won! You failed to get the package here before the show started, so you might as well hand it over now.”

     “I would, but I don’t have it.”

     “You… what?”

     And just as he said that Sentri came walking out from the back entrance of the edifice with a receipt of delivery.

     “You see Kavi, I knew that even if I could keep up with you pushing myself on the blades, even by the time Sentri got them up to me, I would lack the necessary remainder to deliver it. So, I stuffed my messenger bag enough to look like I still had it, gave the package to Sentri, and started laughing as loud as I could to get your attention as I played decoy. I think my plan went pretty well, wouldn’t you say so Sentri?”

     “You look like you are about to die, and for what, all to make sure some childish pop star gets her limit edition pony that she refuses to perform until it arrives?”

     “Eh, I’ve been through worse. Now to get milkshakes!”

     Sentri shrugs as they both walk off to his truck so they could go purchase the aforementioned dairy treats. They pull away and Kavi fell to his knees as if everything he knew was wrong. All he could do was mutter to himself, “But… she doesn’t deserve it.”

Episode 1 – Professional Freelancers

     Blinking on and off was an only slightly dysfunctional digital clock sitting on the bedside table. As the display flickered on and off, a click could be heard noting it was probably just a loose circuit as the clock still read the right time. It was turning to the eighteenth minute after the first full hour of the day and all was dark in the dreary, sea viewing hotel suite aside from that one inconsistent display. Slipping slowly into a sound slumber in the bed next to the pulsating timekeeper was a tall and slender young man with curly brown hair, tired from his drive to the coast. It was within this state between sleep and wake that room itself became a haze.  A soft, lilac colored fog showered gently out of the air vents, thickening the atmosphere of the chamber yet somehow relieving any thoughts of panic. Gradually a bulk of the gaseous substance drew together over the nodding man and taking form. Within seconds the cloud began to appear more and more like a sensual young woman lacking attire and hovering in place before him. When the trance-like state had lowered his guard as low as it would reach, fangs popped down like spring loaded blades and the woman’s face became frighteningly grotesque with her pupils vanishing and her jaw spreading wide open. The drastic change shook him from the trance but it was of no avail, for though his mind had awoken his body was still asleep, paralyzed so he would not injure himself during that circadian rest. The creature went to strike down like a viper aiming for the lad’s heart to spill the bulk of his blood.

     “Booyah!” came echoing from the other side of the door as it came crashing in from a mighty kick. Standing in the frame of the door was another young man, much smaller than the would-be victim with blonde hair and an all-black karate gi, who tweaked his brow a smirked with ill intent at the malevolent vixen, as if the party had just begun. The loud bang of the door coming down prevented the siren from landing her execution. Startled and panicking from the aggressive heat the smaller man gave off, the monster spread wings from her hips to her fingertips and burst a hole through the exterior wall. Not giving it a moment’s thought, the blonde crowned man leaped out through the gaping maw left on the side of the structure grasping at the banshee’s feet.

 

 

 

     Earlier that week in a cab on the freeway rode the curly haired man, desperately wishing to get home after a tiring flight. He fiddles through the recesses of his carry on impatiently for the key to his front door, whose use had been long overdue when he remembers that he could just enter through the garage. The young man lazily dragged his luggage for the month through the house, not exactly caring about how much noise he made being that no one else should be there at this time of day. He opens the door to his old room, flips the switch to the light, and finds that it isn’t quite the way he left it, for sitting on a revolving chair before him was a youthful looking, blonde haired man in black sweats, a black jacket, and a white shirt with the Chinese symbol “金”, or Jin, on the front.

     “I’m not going to ask how you got in here since I know how pointless that would be, but why are you here Metal?”

     “Oh, just paying my best friend a visit since it is the first day I get to see him in forever.”

     “Don’t give me that crap.”

     “Fine, it’s a job.”

     “It figures. I’m not even back from the other side of the globe a whole day and you are already trying to drag me into work. Why couldn’t you rope someone else, like Buck or The Kidd.”

     “Actually, The Kidd is coming too. Besides, you know you were always the only one with the proper allure.”

     “Every time. Every damn time, I’m bait for whatever half-baked, life threatening plan you’ve cooked up.”

     “Hey, you’re still alive, aren’t you? Now grab a vehicle. I already told your folks we’d be gone for a couple days.”

     “I really never had a choice did I?”

     “Not since the third grade my friend.”

     Later on, the two friends were found heading down the interstate in a white, four-door pickup along with another young man who clearly resembled the one referred to as “Metal”.  This was obviously The Kidd, The Metal’s younger brother. Over an hour of driving has led into a ruckus with the cabin of the vehicle.  

     “I’m telling you, it has to be a succubus. All the signs are there: everyone who went missing was male, blood was splattered everywhere yet no body was found, and there were no signs of forced entry.”

     “And I’m telling you that is bull shit, yo. What the fuck is a succubus, a Greek whore?  We are in Texas.”

     “Actually, succubi appear in numerous mythos including Christian lore…”

     “Don’t bring up your fact shit. It could very likely be a Chupacabra.”

     “How would a Chupacabra even get all the way to Texas from Latin America? At least Succubi are lust demons, they could be anywhere.”

     “Will both of you listen to yourselves? Have you ever thought that maybe, I don’t know, it could be a commonplace serial killer?”

     The two brothers turned to the driver with a stare of the utmost shock and disappointment as if silently saying “what the heck did you just say?”

     “Sentri, what exactly is the purpose of our little business here again?”

     Letting out a big sigh he answered the question. “We are professional freelancers, or private contractors of sorts, taking all the jobs that get left behind. The requests that puzzle the rest and the ones no one takes seriously. We especially consider opportunities including the supernatural, paranormal, government conspiracies, or free food.”

     “Yo, you actually memorized his stupid mission statement?”

     “You mean he hasn’t made you?”

     “Like I even listen to half the shit Metal tells me to do.”

     “Anyway, could you run us through everything one last time?”

     “Of course. So the hotel manager has complained that guests in room 615 are mysteriously disappearing in the middle of the night with only blood spatters left behind. No sign of forced entry, no sign of a struggle, and no sign of the body being moved or dragged away, as well as only male victims since every woman starts to feel uncomfortable and requests a room change. The cops have investigated and put out missing person listings on all that vanished, but without evidence, the cases each go cold.”

     “So that is where we come in?”

     “Yep. The plan is that Sentri stays the night in the room in the room to lure the succubus…”

     “Chupacabra!”

     “…whatever it is out and before it gets the chance to kill you we bust in and beat the sense out of the thing until it stops being.”

     “Okay, as questionable as this plan is on every front, what if it is a succubus?”

     “I’m not afraid to hit a girl, much less one that is a demon.”

     Sentri just let out a heavier sigh than before while slamming his head on the steering wheel. From experience, he knew that whether The Metal was right or not, there often isn’t any use in arguing a decision he has already made. The companions drove until they reached their destination in the renowned city of Corpus Christi. As per the pre-agreed arrangements, the hotel room adjacent to suite 615 was reserved and fully stocked with tea and steaks because The Metal wouldn’t work for less. As the hour grew close, Sentri prepared to spend the night in the next room down when The Metal’s disappearance worried him.

     “Shit!  Kidd, where did your brother go?”

     “Oh, he said he had to pick something up from the front desk, but he’d still have plenty of time to get back up here before you need him.”

     “Typical. He always pulls this kind of shit every time.”

     “Well, with the track record you might as well get ready anyway.”

     So with deep regrets filling his head from each of their past marks and the torment he had to endure, Sentri headed to room 615 and readied to sleep. Just as the door shuts, The Metal returns to their base of operations now wearing a black martial arts gi without sleeves and the symbol for jin small on the front above the left pectoral as well as covering almost the entire back side.

     “Bro, what’s with the karate uniform?”

     “I just needed a change of style.  I figure if I’m developing my own art I better dress like it.”

     “So that’s what you are wearing on missions now?”

     “Oh no, I bought like fifteen of these.  I’m wearing this all the time.”

     “That’s retarded.”

     “You’re retarded. Anyway, where is Sentri.”

     “In the room sleeping as planned.”

     “Oh shoot, what time is it!?”

     “1:17”

     The Metal sprinted out the door just as the minute changed. Without any hesitation, the promptly dressed man spun around and delivered a kick the knocked the door straight off its hinges. His eyes glistened as he saw the succubus above his periled friend knowing that he was right.  Just as The Metal was ready to attack the monster, she panicked and flew through the side of the building leaving a gaping hole behind. It wasn’t in him to let an opportunity like this get away, so The Metal did the only thing he could and jumped out of the fifth story grabbing the demon by the ankle, dangling along as she swirled through the cool coastal sky trying to shake him loose.

     Back in the room, Sentri still laid petrified when The Kidd finally showed up. He slapped Sentri across the face so hard it looked like his brow hopped off for a second. It was enough of a shock to wake his body up and reunite it with his state of mind.

     “Where the hell did the succubus go?”

     Sentri just pointed out the unmistakable gap in the wall that spanned the width of the room.

     “Okay, and where did my brother go?”

     He let out yet another sigh as he left his hand pointing in the same direction. Only having enough time to slap his palm on his own face, The Kidd followed Sentri out the door, down the several flights of stairs, and into the truck. Whipping down the side streets much faster than the clearly noted limit, The Kidd pulled out his phone and began dialing.

     “Who are you calling?”

     “Who do you think”

     *ring* *ring* *ring*

     “Ahoy, you’ve reached The Metal. How can I be of service?”

     “Where the hell are you!?”

     “About a hundred feet above the city.”

     “Wait, is he talking to you with one hand and dangling with the other?”

     “Just activate your tracker and we’ll come find you!”

     “Oh yeah, I forgot we bought these.”

     The succubus must have dragged him over five miles away from where they started, twisting and turning through the buildings nearby while periodically gaining and losing altitude.  She made a tight turn and managed to drop the stubborn hunter when he slammed into a water unit atop an apartment structure. Tenacity is one to The Metal’s most defining traits, though, so he quickly got to his feet after piling through the tower.  

     The others finally caught up to the tracking signal, but The Metal was nowhere to be found. All they could see above them was the creature. They kept on its trail to the best of their ability, but they lacked any equipment for taking it down.  

     “Do we have anything to at least throw at it?”

     “Yeah, I’m gonna be able to launch this tire iron a few stories up with just my arm.”

     “Damn it, where is The Metal when you need him?”

     And as if mentioning his name summoned the devil inexplicably, The Metal leaped off a rooftop onto the back of the beast. After placing his tracker on the succubus before falling off, he used the truck to keep aware of where she was heading. Now hanging from the neck of the demented feminine figure, The Metal began laying punch after punch into her kidneys if she even had any. Screaming in agony, the succubus suddenly plummeted sixty feet into an alleyway with the young man still on her. Drifting around the corner, the truck came to a complete stop with its headlight illuminating the otherwise atramentous dead end. The rubble from the crash moved and Sentri revved the engine in case the survivor wasn’t who they had hoped it would be. The Kidd let out a terrified scream when the succubus’ head arose, only to make him pissed to see it detached from the body held up by his brother’s hand as he snickered uncontrollably. They would have punished him for that, but sirens were blaring around the bend and they needed to leave. After loading the succubus into the back of the truck, the group hopped back on the highway until the sun eventually peeked over the horizon as it always did.

     “Shit!”

     “What is Sentri?”

     “We never stopped back at the hotel to get paid!”

     “What are you talking about, I was paid a week ago up front. We could have literally just shown up and did nothing and we’d still benefit.”

     “Then why did we go through all this!?”

     “Like I would pass on the opportunity to kill a demon with my own hands. This trip was fun.”

     And after that they rode in silence for the rest of the ride, forcing The Metal to ride in the bed with the decaying body of a postmortem demon.