Feels like it's been a million years in the making, but here it finally is. I'm still not sure I'm totally happy with it, but honestly I was tired of thinking about it. I'm ready to move on to the next chapter. Hopefully in the future updates will be more frequent, but I make no promises.
For a moment there was nothing but white. Agony stood lost in a void of light. Then Slo appeared before him. Without taking his eyes off Agony he said into the void, “Wiz, load the street.” The world began to shift around Agony. The distance between him and Slo stretched as a street appeared between them. On either side of the street buildings and cars manifested. Within seconds he was standing on one end of what appeared to be a regular city street with Slo on the other end.
He judged the distances to be about 100 yards give or take. Behind Slo was a building signifying the end of the fight zone. A quick glance behind showed the same behind him. Agony was struck by the reality of it. Just as G-Wiz had said, the setting seemed real. Except of course that the street was isolated with no roads crossing it. To the sides through the buildings he could see a large brick wall; another boundary he supposed. From across the distance he could see a sly smile play on Slo’s face as he slowly backed up and disappeared into the building behind him.
He felt the shot cutting through the air seconds before he heard the crack of the rifle. Agony quickly sidestepped and dove behind a nearby car. Another shot screamed through the windshield and out through a side window, shattering both. He cautioned a glance in the direction he thought the shot had come from; there, in the 3rd floor window of a building just down and to his left, a pale figure silhouetted the frame. It resembled Slo, but Agony knew it wasn’t him exactly. In their world location and physical presence could be fuzzy sometimes.
Cautiously Agony moved along the right side of the car, making his way to the shattered side window. Another shot rang out, but it hit somewhere nearer to where he was. Good, he didn’t see me move. Reaching through the bullet opened window, Agony tore a piece of upholstery from the car’s front seat. Sitting now against the car in what he figured for the moment was a safe spot, he tore the cloth into one long strip. He moved back toward the gas cap, removed it and started feeding his makeshift fuse into the tank. He lit the other end with his Zippo and moved back to the open window. With a hope and a prayer he quickly reached into the car, shifted it to neutral and began pushing it toward the building. Shots rained down on the car as it moved, but Agony’s position was covered. He knew in reality what he was doing was probably impossible, but that’s what he loved most about being an Adept. It didn’t matter so much what was real, only what you wanted to be real.
With one final shove he sent the car careening on its own momentum toward the building. Agony rolled to his right as flame struck gasoline sending a spectacular explosion of smoke and fire into the Slo-shadow-sniper’s hideout. He wasn’t so sure the impromptu bomb would actually take out the sniper, but that wasn’t really the point. Now hidden in the cover a smoke Agony sped across the street, through an alley to the back of the side buildings.
The back alley was fairly typical of what he expected to see, except for the towering brick wall to his right, but along the buildings were an array of fire escapes, cardboard boxes and dumpsters. Great place for an ambush, Agony thought, and almost as if he manifested it himself, his thought came true. From behind a nearby dumpster another shadow version of Slo rolled out with an M-16 trained on Agony’s position. As the muzzle flash burst a hail of bullets, Agony stepped left, using a fire escape as shoddy cover. Next to him on the wall he saw a ‘No Parking’ sign; Perfect. With one fluid motion he ripped the sign off the wall and sent it sailing through the air at his pseudo-opponent. The spray of blood and the humorous way the head flew into the air was probably a bit much, but he enjoyed the theatrics of it. He didn’t have much time to enjoy the scene before a door that hadn’t been there a second ago opened next to him.
The first thing he saw was the knife, but hand-to-hand was more his specialty. He locked the arm attached to the blade and swung yet another Slo Soldier out into the alley, slamming him hard against the towering brick wall. The knife went flying as Agony brought up his knee, driving the figure’s midsection into the wall yet again. As he doubled over from the strike, Agony, still holding the arm, twisted him down and around so he was kneeling with Agony behind him. A quick twist of the neck and the figure went still.
As fun as this all was, Agony could tell neither man was gaining ground. Slo could sit in that building at the end of the street all day, sending wave after wave of hit men and nothing would be accomplished. He had to get to that building; he had to get to the real Slo. Slo must have noticed too, because as Agony continued down the side alley, no more shadow-puppets attacked.
Still on alert Agony peered around the corner of the last building. He could see that the wall continued, forming a rectangle of brick around their playground. The building Slo had entered was only one story, so the threat of another sniper was small, but there didn’t appear to be a side entrance. The only way in was the double glass doors at the front. Not the easiest thing to sneak through, but then Agony wasn’t much for stealth in general.
He moved along the front of Slo’s stronghold and inched his way to the doors. Trying to stay as covered as possible, Agony looked through into the building. Through the glass doors was what appeared to be a reception area. The lights were off, but he didn’t sense any movement directly on the other side. He figured the door would be locked, but to his amazement it wasn’t, as he opened the doors and went in.
The room was typical of many office front desks; a large desk along the opposite wall, chairs and small tables aligned along the other walls and throughout the open floor. To the right of the desk was a door, the only one he could see. As he approached the door he saw a small device bridging the gap between door and doorframe. A bomb? Really? Agony sighed to himself and inspected the devise. All and all it was a pretty impressive set up, but he still made short work defusing it. He appreciated its presence though, as it meant there wasn’t likely to be anyone too close on the other side. Of course not knowing what was on the other side still made going through risky, but what choice did he have?
He cracked the door enough to peer through. Laid out beyond the door was a maze of cubicles. Great, a call center. He pushed through and rolled to the nearest partition. A barrage of pistol fire bit into the door swinging automatically closed behind him. He hadn’t actually seen Slo, but he knew it was him this time. Agony could tell by the repetitive blasts that Slo was using two handguns, firing them alternately like they do in the movies. He stayed low and moved along the cubicle walls trying to find a path to the back of the room where the shots were coming from.
As he came to an open cubicle he heard something clang onto the desk and fall to the floor: a grenade. Quickly and almost without thought, Agony grabbed a paper clip, bent it out straight and inserted it in like a pin. Again he was struck by the lunacy of the act, but still it proved successful. He slipped the now diffused grenade into his pocket and tried to keep moving, but Slo was doing a good job of keeping him pinned down. When a bullet grazed his arm, Agony decided he’d had enough.
In one fluid motion he stood, grabbed a nearby monitor and lobbed in the direction of the gun fire. He saw Slo duck the flying screen as he began making his way over and through the cubical maze. As he moved, Agony continued with a barrage of office equipment, throwing anything that wasn’t bolted down; chairs, keyboards, monitors, a stress ball. Anything and everything to keep Slo from getting any more shots off.
As he got closer to his goal, he couldn’t help but notice the stoic calm that Slo possessed. Even as he ducked and dodged the onslaught, his expression never changed. He gave no hint of frustration or concern. He simply avoided the projectiles, moving in an attempt to regain the high ground. Even as Agony made his final leap, tackling Slo to the ground, his face never betrayed him.
Everything seemed to change in an instant. What was before almost a friendly exchange turned into an all out brawl. The two crashed into each other with force enough to shatter the windows around them. Each landed devastating blows to the other as their dance continued across the floor. Agony was pouring everything he had into the fight and still Slo matched him, still eerily calm as if this were just another day at the beach. But he could feel him weakening; feel his resolve start to slip. He just hoped it was enough.
He left nothing behind now, trying to capitalize on his opening, funneling all his focus into subduing the other man. But his rally didn’t last. It wasn’t so much that Slo rebounded as he began to lose his own resolve. He felt Slo’s will crash into him repeatedly, parallel to the blows he produced, and felt himself slip. Felt Slo gain the advantage. Felt it all begin to slip away.
For a moment there was nothing but white. Agony stood lost in a void of light. Then Slo appeared before him, panting and out of steam. He stood, hands on his knees trying to relearn how to breathe. Agony was on the ground, leaning against a cubicle partition, but he couldn’t remember how he got there. Slo’s head slowly rose as the men’s eyes met. Agony could almost feel Slo’s apprehension, but his face still seemed at home. With a burst of energy the forces of nature charged at each other again. What was left didn’t even have windows to shatter.
As the two titans continued, all semblance of G-Wiz’s reality began to melt away; reduced to rubble and ash. Agony was beyond exhaustion, operating off pure nerve. He couldn’t imagine Slo had much left either, but still they fought. When the piercing sound cut through his mind he thought it was over for sure this time. He was almost relived as he clutched at his ears, trying to keep his brain from leaking out. He saw Slo too now on his knees in much the same manner. He only had a second to wonder what was happening before it all disappeared.
When his vision finally cleared he was kneeling in the wrestling ring across from Slo. G-Wiz was franticly clicking away at his ringside console, an expression of pure terror plainly playing across his face. Slo stirred and tried to speak, but his voice didn’t seem to be working at that moment. Agony could relate. He was pretty sure he couldn’t scream even if he was stabbed with a hot poker. Slo managed to clear his throat enough to get out in a rasp, “Wiz…what happened?”
The kid looked up from his console with an expression of pure shock as if the dead had just spoken, but the shock quickly faded under waves of relief. “Holy shit, I thought I lost you.”
Slo tried to regain composure as he used the ring’s ropes to help him to his feet. “What happened,” he repeated.
“You guys crashed the system.”
“What?” Slo nearly collapsed again with surprise, “How the hell did we do that?”
Mimicking Slo’s ascent, Agony pulled himself to his own feet, “See, I told you there was no way to predict everything.”
G-Wiz gave Agony a quizzical glance, “Well, yea, I guess. I just never imagined that happening.”
“Never imagined what happening?” Slo asked.
Slo and Agony turned to each other, both now with shocked expressions, the first indication Agony had seen that Slo could be shocked. Agony watched as Slo’s eyes became bright and shiny and he could imagine his looked much the same. G-Wiz could do nothing but stare, mouth hung open, as both men burst into laughter.