Way out in the middle of nowhere sits a dilapidated farmhouse.
Inside are a couple of boys in way over their heads.
The skinny one is pacing back and forth saying “Sam. We are in way over our heads. There ain’t no way out of here. They’ve got us surrounded”
A yell comes from outside “Come out! We’ve got you surrounded!”
Aven says “See? We are dead. We aren’t just a little dead. We are totally really dead.”
From the shadows comes a deep hearty voice “We’ll be fine. Why don’t you have a seat. Those rangers aren’t making me nervous but you are.”
Aven sits. He twitches for a minute then he hops back up. “I don’t have a plan. Do you have a plan? How can you have a plan in this sort of situation?”
From the shadows, just the end of his cigar lighting his face, Sam says “Aven, why don’t you play us a song? If we are going to die at least let’s die with some music.”
Aven stands there for a moment confused then goes over and picks up his guitar. He tunes it for a moment then starts to play.
“I had a girl in Texas but she broke my heart
We were find together but once we were apart
She ran around with my best friend and the old dairy man
Now my heart is shattered and’ll ne’re be whole again”
Sam stubs out his cigar and says “That was good Aven. That was real good. Just what I needed.” As he picks up his pistol.
Just then the door bursts open and seven men come charging through it with shotguns and pistol and mean old pitchforks.
One of them fires a shot.
It heads straight for Aven’s head.
Aven just stands there with his jaw hanging open.
The bullet is a foot from his head, then an inch, then…
There is a flash and Aven is gone.
The bullet passes straight through and sticks in the wall.
The rangers pour into the room and look around in confusion.
They see Sam is gone too. All that’s left of him is his still smoldering cigar.
Above a festering mess of roadways and ruined buildings there floats a city.
Edifices are suspended in air with elegant arched bridges connecting them.
The whole thing is very techno fancy. Whirligigs zoom between the elegant spires.
Amidst all of this, on it’s very own platform is a drab little building easily recognizable as a high school.
Within this high school is a boy walking to class. He has a floppy haircut that isn’t quite the fashion. He has on a trenchcoat that makes him stand out from his peers. The arms of that coat are rolled up so that the mesh that covers his body is visible. Behind him floats a robot that, though sleek, has seen better days.
He keeps his head down as he walks. His hair flops into his eyes. He clutches his satchel tight as though in fear of someone stealing it.
Everyone else in the hall is covered in wire mesh too. Some of them are doing performing cantrips like levitating objects or sparking flames to light cigarettes. When they do this their mesh lights right up.
Our boy is almost to his class, just three more steps, when ill fortune strikes. A girl stands before him all sparkle and shine with every hair molded into place. She’s not just any girl. She’s a popchick.
Of course all the boy can see of her are her immaculate shoes.
“Silva” she says “Thanks for giving me the answers to yesterday’s test. You didn’t have to do that and it was really like solidly nice and I won’t get mad next time you stare at me like a creep.”
A moment passes. Silva shrugs. “Wasn’t really a problem I mean I had them so you know I was just –“
Out of nowhere a huge fist grabs Silva’s trenchcoat and slams him against a bank of futuristic lockers.
A huge lunk of a jock holds Silva up while giving him a menacing grin. “Is this little loser bothering you?”
The popchik says “No. He’s okay.”
Jock:”He’s okay? You mean you like this little fart?”
Popchik: “No. He’s just okay.”
Jock:”Sounds like he needs a lesson in talking to my girl. You need a lesson bitch?”
Silva mumbles incomprehensibly.
Jock: “I’ll take that as a yes.”
The jock pulls his fist back into the most wildly telegraphed punch of all time.
The expression on Silva’s face is one of sheer terror.
The punch flies.
There is a flash and Silva is gone.
The jock’s fist connects with the lockers.
Jock: “WHAT THE MEAT??!”
A knight in shining armor sits astride his steed. He adjusts his helmet. He adjusts his gauntlet. He lifts his lance.
He spurs his horse. The horse takes off into a gallop. The helmet that hides the knight’s visage is serene. The horse’s face is pure panicked frenzy. You can’t blame him. They are riding towards a huge motherfucking dragon.
The dragon looks up from the huge cowlike creature it is chowing on and sees the knight and his steed.
It lifts its head and snorts fire from its nostrils.
It rears up and flaps its leathery wings.
It knocks over a tree with its massive tail.
Still the knight approaches.
Still the horse follows his command.
They grow closer and closer as the dragon buffets them with blows from its wings.
Closer and closer until
The knight is gone.
The horse runs onward towards the dragon, not noticing in its panic, the huge weight lifted from its back.
The dragon snatches the horse up and devours it in one bite.
The dragon coughs once. It coughs again.
The horse’s barding comes flying out of its mouth.
A ninja slices through one thug.
He slices through another thug.
He slices through a third thug!!!!
They aren’t coming at him honorably. They are coming at him en masse but he is a tough guy. He can take it. He is chopping off arms and heads and stabbing some guts. His blade is quick but his eyes are serene.
Then comes a voice.
It is an old man in fancy robes and a fu Manchu.
The thugs all stand back to reveal a row of archers.
The ninja bows.
The archers pull back their bows.
The old man yells “FIRE!”
And you guessed it…. FLASH…. The ninja is gone and the arrows all stick in the wall.
A small room filled with art deco tables, plush chairs and a stern couch, and a 70s era television.
Aven and Sam appear.
Sam appears in one of the chairs still pointing his pistol. Aven is in the center of the room still gripping his guitar.
Aven drops to his knees. Sam jumps up and suspiciously pans his pistol around the room. There are no windows. There is no door.
Silva drops from a foot off the ground.
He jumps up and wipes the hair from his face. His eyes are a mix of shock and relief. Then he sees Sam’s pistol is trained on him. He goes to full terror. iMage, his little robot friend, floats behind him mirroring Silva’s fear.
The knight slams down to the floor and slides a bit. He lies there for a moment before trying to get up but only managing to flail wildly like a turtle.
Aven gets up from his knees and puts down his guitar. He pulls his pistol and walks over to Mr. Shining Armor. He gives the knight a little kick. “I don’t think this one is much of a threat, Sam.”
Sam: “Nope… I don’t think this one is either.”
The ninja appears stoically in the middle of the room.
Like a shot that ninja is on Sam with her blade pressed to his throat.
The ninja says something in a mystical asian language that no one ever spoke.
Sam says calmly “I don’t speak your language, lady.”
iMage, still the vision of ridiculous fear says “She said Lower your weapon or I will slice your …..oh I can’t say that!…. throat.”
Sam says “I can do that. How about we make a little deal and you lower yours too.”
iMage translates in the mystical asian language.
The ninja speaks.
iMage translates “No. Just you.”
Sam: “Okay. Sounds like a deal.” He brings his pistol down to his side.
Silva sighs with relief which prompts iMage to sigh with relief.
The ninja says (as translated by iMage) “Where are we?”
Everyone is silent for a moment until Silva says “I think we’re dead.”
The ninja drops her blade from Sam’s throat and plops down on the couch.
Sam rubs his neck.
Aven looks at Silva really hard and says “I think the kid’s right.”
Silva starts wandering around the room looking at stuff. He is especially fascinated by the television.
Sam holsters his pistol and sits next to the ninja.
From within the tin can of his helmet the knight speaks “I can only imagine you all to be ruffians for not on of you has offered to help me to my feet.”
Aven turns back to him and reaches out his hand.
Tug. Tug. No go.
Aven says “Sam?”
iMage is translating all of this.
Sam moseys off of the couch and between them the bandits get the knight to his feet.
The knight removes his helmet and it turns out that he’s totally a black dude. He says to them “Thank you sirs. I am slightly in your debt.” He clanks across the room and steals Sam’s spot on the couch with a heavy thud.
“So what now?” says Aven.
The ninja removes its head scarf and reveals that it is a she. Aven says “Well go figure.”
They sit in silence some more. Silva messes with the TV.
Aven says “Who are all of you? I’m Aven James. I’m known a bit for singing and a bit more for crime.”
The rest remain silent as iMage pipes his translation to the ninja.
“Well” says Aven. He picks up his guitar and starts tuning. “Any requests?”
Just then the TV pops on causing Silva to leap backwards.
“WELCOME!!!” it screams as the image of an early twenty second century game show host fills the screen. “I bet you are all wondering what you are doing here. Well let me start off by correcting the first misconception that EVERYBODY makes when they get here…. YOU ARE NOT DEAD!!!”
Everyone smiles a bit. The host smiles even bigger then he continues: “You were almost dead. You were quite totally assuredly dead but we snatched you up from your dire fates and brought you here to the glorious future where war and famine have been abolished, where everything is perfect! We saved you!!! There is only one small thing we ask in return. You see, while war has been abolished there is still need for a little bit of violence to solve problems. Five lives on the line aren’t so much compared to thousands is it?”
“So here in the future we scan history for those who are about to die… and we bring them here to fight to the death!! It is a great deal for everyone!!”
Aven says “Mister. I don’t like the sound of this. I’d rather die on my own terms for crimes I may or may not have committed than die in your far off future war.”
Host: I am sure about now you are protesting but it will do you no good. This is a recording. In five minutes the battle will begin. Today’s opponents are” (in a different voice)”The Kulari” (original voice) and you are fighting for” (different voice)”snack food distribution rights.”
Aven: “Now this is horse shit! I ain’t doing it. There ain’t no way. You are with me, right Sam? This ain’t our battle. This ain’t our war. This ain’t even …. Well it ain’t our anything.”
Host: “The battle will commence in five minutes. Please relax and enjoy the provided comfort zone until then.”
Aven “Oh I’ll enjoy the comfort zone alright. I’ll enjoy the hell out of the comfort zone until you send me home to get shot in the head!! You got that?!!? I’m dying on my terms!!” He pulls his pistol and shoots the TV six times.
Sam “That make you feel better?”
Sam “Worth wasting six bullets when we are about to be toe to toe with folks who are out for our necks better?”
Sam “Okay then” he turns to Silva “Can you fight? I’m just wondering because we’ve got a walking tin can with a pointy stick over here, and an Oriental master sitting here, and me and Aven aren’t too bad with guns…. But I don’t see any weapons on you. You just look like a scared kid to me. So… Can you? Can you fight?
Silva “I…. I don’t know what I’m doing here”
Sam “I guess I’ll just call you the liability then. Just stay out of the way and don’t trip me up.”
Silva “Okay” and his hair goes back over his eyes.
Then everybody waits.
Silva goes and sits in the corner.
iMage sits next to him.
Silva says “Is there anything we can use for a weapon? We are in trouble here….”
iMage “Weaponizing your mesh would be a felony. I am not allowed to do that by the terms of continental law.”
Silva “Are we on the united continents?”
iMage “No. We are in a separate orbit around an unrecognized sun.”
Silva “Then do we have to follow continental law?”
Silva “So could you weaponize my suit?”
Silva “Just try okay? Just try…. I really don’t want to die. I don’t want to die at the hands of a bully and I sure don’t want to get killed by some aliens.”
The knight turns to the ninja on the couch and says “I am not afraid.”
The ninja just looks at him and goes back to meditating.
Aven is pacing next to the chair Sam is sitting in.
Aven “Are you going out there Sam? Because I am not going out there. I am sitting right here until they send me home. Right here.”
Just then a booming voice resounds from every surface. “TIME TO FIGHT!!” and the walls drop away. The remnants of the room stands on a platform whose edges are bordered by an infinite drop. Silva, who was sitting in the corner almost falls but iMage catches him.
Sam turns to Aven and says “Looks like you don’t have to go anywhere. They brought this fight straight to us.”
He points at a far off platform and the bizarre creatures that are streaming across connecting platforms towards them.
Aven “Now ain’t that just sweet of them?”
The “heroes” brace themselves. The ninja wraps her scarf around her head. The knight dons his helmet. Aven loads his gun while Sam rearranges the furniture. He hunkers down behind the sofa and Aven hops it to join him. They train their guns on the advancing foes.
Silva whispers “Are you done yet?”
iMage replies “Not yet.”
The strange creatures draw closer and their forms become distinguishable.
They are a horde of goblinoid creatures with tiny humanoid arms and four spiderlike legs. There are dozens of smaller ones, no more than a foot high, and a handful that dwarf their tiny brethren by at least ten feet. All of their eyes glow red. When they grow close enough to see that they each have hundreds of tiny teeth that glitter with yards of roping green drool the ninja and the knight simultaneously draw their swords.
Aven and Sam start shooting simultaneously. Round after round fly from their pistols and through the heads of the little creatures… the advance guard.
The ninja decapitates three with one blow while the knight charges straight through them. Somehow his faceplate takes on the very aspect of bravery as he tramples tiny goblinoids on his way towards their bigger counterparts.
He reaches one of the monstrosities and swings his sword with unbridled valor. He is sprayed with gratuitous blood and guts as he rears back for another swing.
The smaller creatures around him set up a ring. He is oblivious as they turn their posteriors towards him. As he goes in for a third hack at their superior they flex and begin spraying him with liters of viscous fluid. It covers him and immediately hardens. His sword arm is frozen in place. The monster he was hacking at falls backwards dead but it’s closest brethren leans over and snaps the knight in two with it’s enormous jaws. His lower half remains frozen upright.
Silva screams at iMage “Is it ready yet?!!?!”
The ninja advances through the fray now. She takes one majestic hop after another and sprinkles front flips in more for show than any utility. Each time she lands she slices through a half dozen of the smaller spiderlings. A few land noble bites on her calves before she bounds away but mainly she is unscathed. She has a determined eye on their big brothers and she doesn’t look like anything can stop her.
Meanwhile Aven and Sam are hunkered down behind the couch reloading their pistols.
Aven “You see what happened to that knight? That son of a bitch was wearing armor. What chance do we have?”
Sam “Doesn’t look like we have any. But what are you going to do? We’ll keep shooting until the ammo runs out… then.. I guess we’ll die. That’s just the way it goes.”
Aven “I reckon so.”
They both turn back to the battle and see one of the large buggers is only feet away. They both unload with their bullets bouncing harmlessly from its hide. When it is mere feet away and it’s maw is looming large enough to take on both the boys with one gulp a lucky shot takes it in the eye.
The thing freezes and then falls over dead.
Sam “I guess we ought to aim for the eyes.”
Aven “Yeah… that sounds about right”
Now one of the little ones is advancing on Silva. It’s broken through the barricade and is making a show of tormenting the boy. Silva is shying away but there is nowhere to go.
Silva “iMage!!! Is it ready?!?!”
iMage “No… almost… hold on!”
Silva “I can’t hold on!!”
He kicks at the thing with his boots. It latches on. He tries to shake it loose but it is tenacious.
He tries to scrape it off on the edge of the platform but it won’t let go.
Finally, out of options, he grabs Image and begins smashing the vile spideroid with iMage. As his head bounces off of the vile maggot iMage curses in binary in protest. The gambit works and the blunt force of the robot’s head caves in the skull of the thing.
Silva “Is it ready?”
iMage “No thanks to you… yes”
Silva stands up and runs towards the assembled furniture. He takes a leap into the air and whispers the word “freeze.” He holds there over the couch. Image mimics his posture and glows as well. Aven and Sam look up incredulously.
Silva stares at the oncoming legions and whispers “fireball”
From his hands comes a gout of flame to rival a dragon’s breath. It turns a dozen of the little creatures and one of the large ones to an instant crisp. From iMage’s tiny little hands comes a similar but completely ineffectual font.
Aven whispers “Well hell”
Sam yells “Good job kid!!! Now get the rest!”
Silva crashes down to the ground in front of them. “Need to recharge…. Give me a minute.”
The ninja slices her way through another six pack of creatures and comes face to face with one of the large ones. She scampers up its side and puts her long sword in one eye and her short sword into the other. She rides the creature down as it falls in death. She wipes her swords off on its own hide before chasing after its brethren.
Sam and Aven take out another one with simultaneous bullets through the eyes.
Just as Silva is overwhelmed with another wave of the creatures, crawling up his body, as he vainly tries to yank them off, his batteries come back online.
“Shock” he whispers and his suit not only glows but electricity flies from it in every direction.
The creatures shudder and fall. Silva wipes them from him wholesale and they plummet down into the unknown depths.
Silva stands and surveys the battle.
He notices that he no longer hears the sound of Sam and Aven’s guns. Then he sees off in the distance the ninja climbing from the guts of the last giant. The lesser creatures amble meaninglessly back and forth having lost all seeming sentience.
Sam and Aven stand.
They smile back.
The ninja crosses the battlefield to rejoin her companions.
The announcer comes on and says “VICTORY HUMANS!!!”
The television begins sputtering, then sparking, then just gives up.
The image of the game show host appears in the air before them.
“Now you each have a decision to make” he says “Do you stay here? Or will you return to try your luck with certain death?”
The ninja speaks first and iMage translates her words to “Stay.”
She disappears in a flash of light.
Aven: “Well, Sam….. I don’t know about you but …. I’d rather go home”
Sam: “That sounds about right?”
They are gone in a flash of light.
The announcer says “And you Silva Daxt?”
Silva “Oh I want to go home. I have unfinished business.”
He is gone in a flash of light.
Silva reappears in the hallway at the moment the jock is telegraphing his punch.
He just smiles as the punch flies towards him and whispers “Shock”
The bully falls to the floor in a writhing agony.
Silva steps on him and says “Pass the word. No one messes with Silva Daxt anymore.”
He walks down the hallway. The popchik, with adoration in her eyes, says “Silva, wait.” Silva ignores her though iMage does turn and give her a wink.
The ninja relaxes in absolute luxury. Robots attend to her every need, from fizzy girly drinks to a mani pedi.
She looks miserable.
Aven and Sam reappear in the barn. Sam is cloaked in shadows with his cigar. Aven is standing there with his guitar.
The door bursts in. Aven draws his gun. The men fire at him.
A bullet draws closer and closer to Aven as though through gel until finally it goes straight through his head before lodging, blood covered in the same spot on the wall as it had before.
As Aven falls Sam leaps up. He unloads his pistol into the oncoming men. He takes down one….. two …. Three…. But is riddled with bullets.
Sam falls to his knees and smiles a bit.
Sam “No regrets”