The List – Episode 10: Backstage Pass

I pushed the screeching tidal wave of fanatics back as they cried out for what was to them the second coming.  Flares sparked up from the stage behind me, illuminating the screaming faces in sync to the booming percussion that shook the entire stadium and rattled my bones.  Lights flickered every color of the spectrum – and then some that shouldn’t exist – flashing on and off at a seizure inducing speed.  My brain sloshed around in my skull in time with the constant pulse that beat into me and the multitude of adoring fans in attendance.  The sound came from every direction, originating from not only the stage, but the railings, the chairs, and even the shirts vendors were selling.  Almost every item in the stadium had been coated with a special material that acted as miniature speakers, amplifying a thousand times the sound waves of the poor excuse for music that blared from on stage.

All these things combined were almost enough to push me over the edge.  I’d had the overwhelming urge all evening to slaughter my target then in there, in front of the entire world.  It would have been so easy, and my bleeding ears would have appreciated it.  But it wasn’t time to kill him – not yet.

Fans leaned over the rails and reached for their idol, only to take handfuls of my shirt, which at point had been branded with the word “Security” on both sides.  It now ripped and shredded as I shoved their faces back into the crowd.  Hundreds of others adorning the same uniform grunted as they carried out their mission of protecting the one on stage.  It was a crappy job, but it paid well and gave me a good view of the next person I planned to mark off my list.

The crowd worked itself into an epileptic frenzy in anticipation for the encore.  The lights intensified as lasers drew patterns in the holomorphic smoke that swirled off the stage, only to burn your eyes and get caught in your throat.  The lights concentrated towards the center of the stage as the floor broke open like a puzzle, and out rose the false god of these idolaters.  Julius Sargon, dressed in an outfit that would make even the most extravagant superheroes blush, raised his guitar to the air.

It was a fight for my life as the fanatics clawed at every inch of available skin, their voices coming together to form a piercing banshee cry that overpowered even the booming speakers as they tried to get to their precious idol.  Sargon played through his two minute song and dance, and I was tempted to just let the audience tear me apart.  What I would have given just to be back in the Doctor’s torture chair, getting my face smashed to pieces.  The suffering finally ended and Sargon recessed back down into the stage as the crowd cheered.  The lights cut out, and it was a sweaty rush for the doors as the crowd crammed towards the exits.

I stretched out as the pressure backed off.  It was about time for my real job to start, and I knew I’d enjoy ripping Sargon apart for what he’d just put me through.  A trickle of the crowd, mostly young girls, split off from the main swarm of stink and fingernails and pushed their way to a corridor off to one side of the venue, where they were being led by a man in a very expensive business suit.  I recognized the man as the one called The Manager, who was quite notorious for doing a lot of Sargon’s dirty work.

The girls chattered with joy as they skipped to keep up with The Manager.  No doubt the girls had been preselected because of their “qualifications” and invited backstage for a “special” private show.  They knew that this was a once in a lifetime experience to be selected for the after party.  They didn’t know that all the previous girls who had taken pleasure in this had never been seen again.

That was as far as my intel went, and I was determined to find out what exactly was going on – and mark a name off my list at the same time, of course.  I followed the girls into the corridor as if that’s what I was supposed to do, and the other security guards ignored me as I walked right on by.  The hallway stretched on for maybe a quarter of a mile before the group of girls, maybe thirty in all, stopped as the tunnel opened up into a larger room.  I clung to the edge of the entrance, just out of view of The Manager but situated so I could keep tabs on everything, and when it came to it, intervene.  The Manager trotted to the side of the room to a door blocked off by a red velvet rope.  He signaled the girls closer as he went through the gate and punched in a key code, and white smoke poured out the opening door and pooled around the feet of The Manager and girls.

“What’s up, what’s up, my lovely fans!” Sargon said, clapping his hands as he strolled out.  “Tonight will be a monumental night!  I want you to know that your group is a very special group.  In fact, you are my chosen ones!”

Sargon smiled and winked at the girls, and a portion of them nearly fainted, just catching themselves on one another before face planting on the ground.

“Let’s not waste another moment out here,” Sargon said.  “Just make your way up here with the tickets you were given, and we can get started on our way.”

I surveyed the situation.  The beam blade I had hidden in my boot would be great – if I wanted to bring the tunnel down onto the girls or accidently catch one of them in the fray.  I ruled that out, but just barely, and decided to go a different route that wouldn’t involve maiming or crushing them.

I stepped out from my hiding spot and strolled into the room.  The Manager almost jumped from his position to protect Sargon, but the Rock Star held his hand out, telling The Manager to back off.

“I’ve got my ticket right here,” I said as I held the handle of my beam blade out.  A bluff, but if I could draw Sargon out of the room and into the tunnel, the girls would be safe from collateral damage.

“Girls, if you would be so kind as to step behind me,” Sargon said as he pulled out the guitar he had strapped around his shoulder.  The girls filed in behind him, but he didn’t take the bait and come at me.  He must have been gambling on whether I would risk their lives or not to get to him.

“Do you want me to take care of him?” The Manager asked.

“Sure, I’ll let you have him.  I just want to see what he’s made of first,” Sargon said with a smile.  He raised his right hand to the sky.  Almost faster than I could see, his hand shot down, striking the strings of the guitar.  The effects were immediate, but my brain had a hard time deciphering the attack.  There was no sound, only an immense pressure that threatened to squeeze all the blood in my body out through my ears.  The cement walls of the corridor bulged as cracks veined the length of it, and I quickly realized I was racing said cracks, hurtling through the long hallway at half the speed of sound.

I erupted from the tunnel’s entrance in a burst of blood and debris, my body bouncing as it skidded across the sticky arena floor.  I came to a sudden stop as my back caught on a section of railing that had been bolted down, denting the thin aluminum bar and possibly rupturing all of my internal organs.

I sat there for a moment as I hacked up blood and waited for anything resembling balance to restore in my head.  Most of the security had already moved outside along with the audience, and with the exception of the overly efficient roadies breaking down the equipment, the arena was completely empty.  I watched the tunnel I had come out of and struggled to get to my feet, just in time for The Manager to materialize from the dark opening.

Two longs blades protruded from the back of each of his wrists.  He let the hooked ends of the blades drag along the ground, creating four lines in the pavement that trailed sparks behind him.  I couldn’t help but grin.  Tonight would be a two for one special.

I scanned the ground for my beam blade, which I must have dropped probably due to being ravaged by a thousand tons of sound waves.  It looked like I was going to have to do this fight the hard way.

The Manager came at me, both arms swinging, and I flipped backwards over the rail as he sliced through the thin aluminum.  The hooks of his blades sunk into the ground, and he took a brief moment to dislodge them and lunge again.  I spun out of  his range, but not fast enough.  A stinging sensation ran up the side of my neck as two chunks of flesh were torn from my left shoulder.

I clenched my jaw as I crashed to the ground, and used the momentum to tumble clear of The Manager’s next attack.  His blades scraped the skin off my lower back and sunk into the ground.  This time I was ready for it.  I lifted both my feet stomped my weight onto the top of the blades, wedging them farther into the cement.  I rolled to my feet and caught his free arm in the crook of his elbow, then shoved all my weight forward.  As we fell he tried to catch his balance, but his stuck blades hindered his movements.  I grabbed him by the wrist, guiding his free blades into his path of decent, and let gravity do the rest of the work.

I pushed myself up off of The Manager’s gurgling body.  The arm that had been stuck bent the wrong way at the elbow, but that was the least of his problems.  His free hooks were now fixed deep into his chest, letting free precious oxygen and blood.  I wasn’t in a much better condition – every muscle and joint flared in pain with every movement, but at least I could still move.  I placed my boot onto The Manager’s back and helped the blades sink in deeper, just to make sure he wouldn’t be bothering me in my next fight.

I lumbered over to the stage, spooking a couple members of the crew, but I ignored them as I went to work gathering supplies that would help me take Sargon down.

✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

I followed the cracks that traced the hallway back down to the large room, finding my beam blade buried in the rubble along the way.  The room was empty, as I suspected, but the door that Sargon had come out of earlier was still open.  That lead to another long stretch of corridor dotted at the end by what appeared to be an elevator.  The doors to the elevator slid open as I approached. There was a good chance that Sargon had already done with the girls what he’d planned to do, and I was too late.  But there was still a good chance that he would be waiting around at the top of the elevator, where he would pay with a mixture of blood and answers.

I stepped on, and not even five seconds later the elevator completed its course, opening up to a starry night sky filtered through an enviro-field.  The roof looked like it had been set up for a party, with fully loaded tables and bars strewn every couple of feet, though it was eerily void of its guests.  Sargon lounged alone in a peacock feathered chair that faced out to the rest of the city, where he quietly plucked at the strings of his guitar.

“Have fun, Voit?” Sargon said as he swiveled the chair around to face me.  A smile spread across his face when he saw I wasn’t The Manager.  “Hah, I should have known he’d get himself killed.”

“Where’re the girls?”

“Huh? Oh, them.”  He wagged his pointer at me.  “I’m not telling!” he sang.

I rolled my eyes.  Always having to do things the hard way, right Levi?

I cracked my knuckles as I navigated around the chairs and tables.  I left the beam blade holstered for now, since there was no way to ensure I wouldn’t kill him with it on accident.  I kind of wanted to beat the smug look off his face anyway.

Sargon stood up with a sigh and shrugged like this wasn’t a big deal at all.  “I guess we should just get this over with.”

His hand strummed down on his guitar like lightning, creating a vortex of broken furniture and fine china.  I dove behind a bar as the sound wave blasted it, sending shards of wine bottles raining over the counter.  I rolled out from behind the bar as the next wave hit, blowing the mahogany and marble into splinters that pricked my calves.  The edge of the wave caught my lower half and flung me into an elaborate fondue fountain.  My breathing was becoming erratic, my skin bubbling for the boiling hot cheese, and I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of my tibia protruding out the side of my leg.  Another blast kept me from pondering my injuries and forced me to scramble behind cover, which was quickly disappearing as Sargon continued his attack.  I weaved through the trashed tables, stomping over shattered glass and uneaten five course meals.  The tumult of waves ebbed momentarily, and I planted my back against one of the upturned tables.

“Alright, alright,” Sargon said as I heard him step down off the platform and crunch into the rubble created from his own storm.  “You’re not bad.  So I’ll give you a hint.  A reward, you could say, for making it this far.  How about this:  the girls are somewhere, but they’re not here.”

“I could have figured that out on my own,” I yelled over the edge of the table.

“Ungrateful, ungrateful. Doesn’t matter in the end, I suppose, does – ”

I jumped out from behind the table as he was midsentence and plowed through the debris, throwing whatever got in my way to the side as I closed the distance between us.  I had caught him off guard, but that only gave me a couple extra feet before his hand was streaking down across his strings.

The wave grabbed me in its talons, and as the force started to lift me off the ground I flipped the switch on my belt.  The switch kicked on a mini-mic that had been used for the monitors during the show, which I had rewired for my own purposes.  Now it read in the frequency of the sound wave and supplied the inverse wave to the surface speakers that lined my chest, arms, and legs.  My feet touched back to the ground as the waves cancelled each other out, and I bolted towards Sargon.  I had maybe two seconds before my rigged device would overload and open the flood gates back up.  In the first second I pulled out my beam blade and closed the gap between myself and Sargon, whose eyes widened in surprise at my ability to move freely against his attack.  Sargon whipped the guitar around in a wide arc that aimed to cave my head in, and I used the next second to dodge under the swing, flick my blade on to minimum power, and thrust it up into the body of the guitar.  My rig spit out a cloud of smoke and sparks as Sargon’s guitar exploded in his hands, sending both of us reeling off our feet.

He quickly regained his footing, but not fast enough.  I pounded into him, twisting him around and pinning him against the ledge of the building.  I locked his arm behind his back with one hand and grabbed a thick chunk of hair, right up next to the scalp, with my other.  He tried to kick out, but I snaked my leg around his so that he was completely helpless.  I slammed his face into the enviro-field, which flicked with each impact.  I could feel the slight tingle from the field, and I knew it must have felt even better on Sargon’s end.

“You want to talk now?” I whispered in his ear.

He laughed as blood poured from his ruptured gums, and I slammed his face a couple more times before pulling his bruised and lacerated face next to mine.

“Last chance,” I said.

“I don’t know, honest” he said, and I flexed my arms, feigning another barrage.  He immediately opened up, and I stopped just shy of smashing his nose into nothingness.

“I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!  I don’t always know who they go to, but our usual customer is Valor,” he cried.

I reflexively batted his head into the wall at the answer.  “Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not!” he shrieked, but I continued to pound his face into a pulpy mess.

He wasn’t lying, and I knew it, but I wasn’t expecting that answer.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of Valor. Nor the fact that Valor was Shell’s brother, one of the powerful Superior Six.  In fact it was quite the opposite.  If I had been waiting for a reason to take them on, this was it, and the thought of marking their names off the list sent tingles up my arms.  Or maybe that was the enviro-field.  My arms were sticky up to the elbows, and I realized I that was still beating the wet hunk of meat that used to be a face into the barrier despite the screams having long since ceased.  What was it that Sargon had told the girls? That tonight was going to be monumental.  And it had been monumental, indeed.