I wasn’t sure where I was, but I could feel a warm breeze rush over my skin. It was inviting like the warmth of a quiet campfire, and a crackling sound popped away in the background. I slowly opened my eyes and sat up, looking around to take in my surroundings.
The destruction was all around me, bits and pieces of the bird transport were everywhere. A weird mix of feathers and sinew crumpled underneath the unbelievably gigantic body; the birds had been our normal means of transport for years, and this war had been going on for slightly longer. They seemed to realize that HATE was their salvation from the destruction of their habitat, as odd as that may sound. The
I pulled myself to my feet and walked towards where I had last spotted his body falling from the chest harness of the bird, tumbling ass over teakettle through the air just before the crash. He was surprisingly unharmed – I guess that superpower stuff really does come in handy!
“Woodson?! Woodson, where are you?”
Wait…was that me? That low, rough voice? Wait a second.
I looked down at myself, examining my eggplant coloured skin. My bare chest, large and barrel-like, the fibres of my muscles sticking out like the ribs on a stick of celery…nothing out of the ordinary – everyone fears Berserker and his sidekick, Woody Woodson when they’re on the attack.
The forces of the Golden Carrot weren’t willing to help take on The Regulars and The Pirates; it was all up to Berserker and Woody. Hell, the Golden Carrot was launching their own attack, and I think Woodson and I were in their sights too.
He pulled himself up from the sand and brushed himself off, coughing slightly. He looked to me with a strange glint in his eye, and a slight nod.
Seeing him worked up was almost funny in its own way. His Zorro style mask and his black and red checkered unitard might’ve tipped the scales, I’m not sure. Almost made me want to pat him on the head and tell him to relax – good things come to those who wait. He was fired up more than I’ve seen in a long time.
“Relax…” I said to him reassuringly, “…the Carrots will get theirs. Then the Pirates…and then, the Public. One at a time…but all at once.”
Woodson shot a glare through his mask at me.
“We focus on one and let the other two fight it out….then we swoop in and mop up what’s left. If they don’t want to fight with us, well, we’ll make them. It’s that easy.”
Woodson’s eyes narrowed, his pencil thin smile growing across his face. He began to chuckle softly, growing into a deep belly laugh, ominously echoing despite a featureless expanse of sand as far as the eye could see.
I looked out across the tan sea, shielding my eyes from the sun. They could have been playing tricks on me, but I could swear off in the distance I could see a light…almost like a beacon, shining through the haze.
That’s when I felt the stinging blast from behind me as it whipped around my exposed legs, burning them with hot grit. The wind whistled and gusted, dust devils rose up in massive columns all around…it felt like the end of the world. We huddled under the bird’s corpse for shelter from the sandstorm.
Woodson and I were sitting in my office at the lair watching tapes. The eGG Bandits, Bergman & Murray, and finally The Hollywood Bruvs, on repeat for what must have been hours. It was mind numbingly ridiculous, but I had to make sure he understood.
“Look, Woodson…all you need to do when it comes to the Bruvs? Separate them. Don’t let them use that ability, that uncanny gift of two people working like a well oiled machine. You see what I mean?”
He looked at me with an almost blank stare.
“Right! Exactly…two birds with one stone. Y’know, I think you’re getting it! I think we may actually be making headway! JESUS CHRIST ON A MOTORBIKE, WOODSON!!”
He rose from his seat, his massive frame dwarfing mine. How on earth were they going to deal with a literal fucking giant? How were they going to escape? How was anyone walking out with our prize?
He bellowed loudly towards the sky, arms outstretched, body leaned back slightly. He was a fucking beast. An absolute fucking savage…how had he not been scooped up sooner?
“Ok…settle down! Settle down! Let’s keep watching. We need to know these guys in and out. We already went through the other two teams…and we’re good there, right?”
Woodson composed himself and looked at the flatscreen, smashing his fist into his hand as he watched Mikey Unlikely and Jesse Kendrix celebrating a win.
“That’s right…they’ll pay, Woodson. They’ll pay with their lives. They’ll HATE what we have in store for them…and so will the rest of them.”
I pressed pause on the tape with their faces staring out from the screen mid taunt.
“These two, Woodson? These two will be a difficult proposition to undertake…but if you stick on Kendrix, I’ll take Mikey to the cleaners – then we can deal with them one on one…but at the same time. You get me?”
Woodson just continued smashing his fist into his hand, letting out a low growl the whole time.
“DO YOU GET ME, WOODSON?!”
If it wasn’t for the roving H.A.T.E. guard patrol, Woody Woodson and I would’ve been stuck in the middle of that desert for who knows how long. They came along on another bird and picked us up, apparently there’s some sort of tracker in these things that signals when the brain stops working – I guess a missile will see to that fairly quickly.
“Sir, the battleground is about 20 minutes out, do you need anything else before we hit the DZ?”
I looked at the ranking H.A.T.E. guard with a flat stare before offering a slightly dry piece of wit.
“I dunno…you got any poutine up in this bitch? Daddy’s got a hankerin’ for some gravy, fries, and cheese curds…I’m sure Woody would love that too – after all, we’re headed off to deal with the Pirates, right? They’re always making terrible food jokes…”
Woodson nodded slightly, lost in thought, or deep in contemplation, I’m not sure which.
“Sir, this is a battle transport. We don’t even have a stick of bubblegum on this bad boy…but, we can get you some partially digested meat…you can pretend it’s poutine.”
I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
“Think maybe we can do this bit on easy mode? Just fly out there, shoot the damned boat, sink it, and be done with it. No more goddamned pirates. Problem solved.”
“Oh, we’re not headed out to sea. We’ve got word the Golden Carrot, The Pirates, and The Public are all going head to head over at the arena.”
I shook my head in disbelief. That wasn’t supposed to happen for another day at least. The schedule had been turned up…but I had no idea it was turned up to eleven.
“Good. Make sure we’ve got H.A.T.E. guards on the ground to surround the building. Nobody enters, nobody leaves until you get the all clear. Got it?”
He nodded, saluted, and walked off.
“Look, Woody…I’m not gonna lie, we’re about ready to drop into the shit. You’re sure you know what to do, right?”
Again, Woodson nodded his gigantic head, still staring off into nowhere…almost serene…like the calm before the storm.
“You remember what to do with The Public, right? Divide and conquer. Same thing we’ve been on with the rest of them…but you and I, up here…” I tapped on his forehead gently, “…we know what the real target is. You? You take out Bergman. You walk him all the way up to section 214, and you tear him in two and let his blood flow. Give his little fans their first, and only, communion. I’ll take Murray’s old, wrinkled, dried up ass to the cleaner, and then? Once the dust settles? We claim what’s rightfully ours, Woodson….”
Suddenly the bird began to shudder as an explosion rumbled outside the protection of the harness. It began flying erratically, juking and dodging incoming fire. An alarm sounded, and a voice chirped into my earpiece:
“Battlestations. Battlestations. All personnel to battlestations!”
This was it….it was battle time.
When we landed, the three factions were already engaged, almost too distracted to care – it was impossible for them to not notice the giant bird soaring overhead of the featureless desert; circling, waiting for the first sign of the ability to land and feast on the bodies that would soon litter the ground…this is why they stuck with us…we kept their bellies full from the human detritus of battle.
Woodson let out a guttural roar as he charged into the fray swinging wildly. Always one of the best tools of war: create controlled chaos, mop up the confused and routed enemies, claim new ground. With new ground comes certain advantages – tactical advantages people take for granted, tactical advantages that guarantee an edge.
This drew their attention…ALL of their attention. The Carrot, the Public, and the Pirates….it was like a 4 way Mexican standoff. Nobody wanted to make the first move – so we did.
Off we charged, Woodson and I, as did the heads of the other three factions. As we met in the middle of the battleground it degenerated into dirty hand to hand combat. Woodson was a machine, none of them were able to deal with his intensity…with his size…with his strength.
Suddenly over the noise on the battlefield, familiar notes began to fill the air. Quietly at first, two high pitched chimes, followed by two more lower pitched chimes. The troops on the battlefield seemed to pause as they rang:
Synthesized church bells? Is that what I was hearing? Where were they coming from? The nearest church was a solid day’s flight by bird…multiple days march for the others – even longer for the Pirates to come from the ocean. The lure of the two waistbands of power is clearly greater than the lure of the ovid coins they hunt normally.
I knew that music, and so did Woodson. The tolling bells drew out the faction leaders – or perhaps it was Woodson tearing through the forces of the Golden Carrot, the Public, and the Pirates…but nonetheless, they were all running for the middle of the battlefield. I yelled at Woodson to follow – it was time for the real battle. It was time for HATE to take what was ours.
As soon as the chime stopped, a snare drum tapped out a beat, as a guitar strummed a rythm…who on earth was blasting Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”? Regardless, it served as a convenient tune to accompany the beatdown.
“They told him don’t you ever come around here
Don’t want to see your face, you better disappear
The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it”
Woodson, hearing the music, went completely berserk. Almost as if plans were made with foresight, Kendrix and Bergman were waylayed by Woodson and his massive body, tossing them around like ragdolls. But where were the Pirates’ leaders? Something wasn’t right. Where the hell were Bobby Dean and Zeb Martin?
Unlikely and Murray came for me, and we met headlong in the middle of the battlefield. Bodies littered the ground; troopers of all four factions strewn about as if they were refuse, the kind nobody wants to pick up and put in the bin.
“You better run, you better do what you can
Don’t want to see no blood, don’t be a macho man
You want to be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you want to be bad”
As Woodson slammed Kendrix’s head into the ground with a sickening crack, he turned to Bergman, eyes wild and full of HATE – just as they should be.
He screamed as he picked Bergman up off the ground by an arm and a leg, making it impossible to escape. Woodson followed the plan…he began pulling with all his might – I could see it as I ducked and weaved around incoming fists and feet, until Unlikely connected with a hard kick to the midsection, and Murray followed with a stiff elbow to the back of the neck.
“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it”
As I got back up to my feet and readied myself for more of a scrap, I felt a sharp pain in my back which shot through to my chest. Looking down quickly the glint of silver stained red caught my eye – someone stabbed me! Motherfucker!
Unlikely’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates, Murray just stopped dead. As Woodson finished off Bergman, he turned to face me, his face as white as a sheet. He dropped Bergman’s halved body in the sand with a splat and ran towards me as I spun around to see none other than Beautiful Bobby Dean and Zeb Martin in full regalia with shit eating grins on their faces.
I dropped to a knee, the pain was excruciating as the blade bobbed up and down as I drew breaths…shallower, slower…
That’s when I heard him say something I hadn’t heard in a long time – something other than his own name.
I closed my eyes, and slowly reopened them…blinking a few times as the scenery came into view…bright lights? Seats? Where the hell was I?
And that’s when I saw the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign, and Woodson – the real Woodson, drunk as fuck a few aisles ahead of me.
Was I dreaming? What the fuck was that all about?
This War Games matchup? Clearly it’s messing with my brain….time to find solace in HATE…time to bring home the one thing nobody believes we can – the High Octane Wrestling Tag Team Championship.
I know everyone will HATE to see us win…