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Part 7 --Back in the alleyway outside the Grand Arena, Verse City. The alleyway had been quiet for sometime after the scuffle. The usual sounds of hustle and bustle returned to fill the streets. Normal life in Verse City once again. But life in Verse City was far from normal. ______________________ HONK HONK! Moe drilled his palm down into the center of the steering wheel. “Driving in this town is the worst!” Moe, with his cohorts Larry and Curly, were stuck on the freeway during a terrible case of gridlock. The sun beamed hot and high, causing them to keep the windows rolled down in their Verse City dump truck. Or V.C.T., as the logo on the side suggested. Verse City Trash “Cleaning Up The Multiverse, So You Don’t Have To” They each tried to ignore the stench of the truck bed wafting in and enjoy what little breeze they could. They sat together, the three of them inseparable in life as they were now, stuffed in the front seat with no elbow room. “You said it, Moe.” Larry said. “I’ve about had it up to here with this job. Why did we agree to this in the first place?” Curly, the biggest and baldest of the three stooges, responded with his own question, “Didn’t ya say that about our last job, Larry?” Moe answered them both, “Heh, our last job was a stinker too. This one isn’t much better but at least we’re out of the Forgotten District.” “Where was that? I forget,” Larry wondered. Without looking, Moe reached over Curly and slapped Larry in the back of the head. “Forget that wise guy?” Moe mocked. “No sense in remembering ‘cause we got better days ahead of us. I’m telling you boys, new horizons.” He let his hand drift outside with a starry look in his eyes. “We ain’t got nothing but cars ahead of us, Moe. You’re delusional.” Curly said. Moe went to strike him too, but Curly put a hand up to stop him, “Hey now, hands on the wheel, buster!” Moe paused to consider, then put his hands back at ten and two. Curly gave his trademark, ‘Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!’ as the traffic inched forward. "Say I remember now,” said Larry, rubbing the back of his head. “We do this job and we're free to go!" "That's right.” Moe answered. “Once our community service is up, we'll be regular citizens again in the big city. If only these people knew how to drive we could actually get somewhere." The traffic inched forward again, but not much else occurred between the three men as they waited another thirty minutes before they were about to get off the freeway and to their destination. Central District, or more commonly called ‘The Common’. The Common existed as its own independent district within the Megalopolis that is Verse City. It was one of the only sections of the city that tourism was encouraged and that citizens of neighboring districts could mingle or participate in commerce. Generally, the Common was the first thing you saw of the city when you arrived, as most of the infrastructure for multiverse travel began and ended here. It also served as the capital and the seat of government for Verse City. Major sporting events were also held here. The Grand Arena, known for its extravagant tournaments, started on 52nd street and also marked the start of the Stooges’ trash route. Moe turned the wheel, taking the truck into the alleyway behind the Grand Arena. “Well boys, here’s where the route starts. Let’s earn our keep,” said Moe, signaling the three of them to get into action. Curly and Larry got out to stretch their legs and pick up loose trash in the alley. Moe stopped the truck at the first dumpster in a line of dumpsters and with a careful hand, started the heavy machinery. Two mechanical arms jutted from the dump truck, picked up the dumpster and deposited it into the truck bed. “Neh, so dirty out here,” Curly complained, picking a loose trash bag off the ground and tossing it up with the intention of it landing in the truck bed and not on his friend Larry who stood on the other side. The sound of Larry’s dismay told Curly that he missed his target. “Hey, watch it buddy!” Larry shouted. “Sorry Larry,” said Curly. “Guess I’m too strong for my own good.” “You two quit fooling around or I’ll toss you in the garbage myself,” said Moe, moving the truck to the next dumpster in the line. He operated the arms like before, but not wanting to get distracted by his friends usual banter and antics, he turned on the radio. The hit single ‘Talk Dirty’ By Jason Derulo was on. It wasn’t really his jam, but Moe found himself whistling to the trumpets and shaking his shoulders. Continuing to clean, Curly bent down to pick up a can, not realizing the truck arms were lowering for the dumpster and knocked him in the back of the head. THUD WOOB WOOB WOOB WOOB “Curly, what are ya doing?” Larry found Curly on the ground and helped him up and out of the way. “The thing tried to clobber me!” Curly said, shaking his head to get his wits back. “Dang it, Moe. Watch where ya swinging that thing.” Moe didn’t hear him, continuing to whistle and empty each of the dumpsters in the alley. Only two more to go. Larry dusted the dirt off of Curly’s coveralls, “Come on, let’s finish this up. I’m starving.” Curly answered with hungry interest and followed Larry to pick up the last of the trash on the ground. The dump truck moved to the last dumpster and began to lift it. Moe’s song came to an end as the truck lurched side to side. “What the-” He stuck his head out of the window to see the mechanical arms were stuck, suspending the dumpster in the air. A terrible whirring sound came from the truck bed. Curly and Larry walked over to investigate. “What happened, Moe?” Curly asked. “What does it look like, knucklehead? It’s stuck.” Moe mashed the controls but the arms didn’t budge. “I think the gear is jammed. See what you can do.” Curly nodded, then gripped the dumpster from underneath to pull. Meanwhile, Larry climbed one of the arms to attempt to free the dumpster. Neither were successful. “Oh my! This thing is certainly dirty,” said Curly, unaware of the bloody ooze slicking down behind him from the back of the dumpster. “Oh really, Curly? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks a lot.” Larry responded, struggling to wiggle one of the arms loose. “You’re welcome. Larry.” Moe cursed the two and climbed out of the truck, “Are you two planning on getting anything accomplished today? We still got eight more streets to go down before we get a break.” Moe slapped Larry in the face, causing him to fall off the mechanical arm. He followed that with a double eye-poke to Curly, who hollered in pain. He backed away, intending to retaliate when he noticed that instead of backing into the brick wall behind him, he backed into something warm, wet, and putrid. “WHA WHA WHA” Moe and Larry were frozen with fear, mouths incapable of forming coherent words. They both stared behind Curly, who rubbed his eyes and turned slowly. “Wha--” “NAH AH AH!” Curly practically leapt out of his skin at the sight of the skinless Meat. A bloody mess of a man who towered over Curly with one eye intact and murderous intent. The three stooges shoved themselves back into the truck haphazardly. Larry screamed, “GET US OUT OF HERE!” Moe attempted to oblige but failed when Meat caught the driver’s side door before it closed. The trio screamed. Moe stepped on the gas pedal as Meat’s face burst through the window, ready to consume each of them.
Part 6 --Alleyway Outside the Grand Arena, Verse City. Our blood-soaked Hero of Gallowmere swung his mighty sword, cutting off the head of the Meat-monster-man. It gave a blood-curdling screech as it’s head flew into the air and splattered onto the ground. Well done, Sir Daniel! The creature’s body went limp for a moment, then ejected another head from it’s neck. “Uhhh oh!” (Uh oh!) Daniel mumbled. It seems he’s not yet vanquished. No time to waste, Fortesque. Finish him! Daniel looked around frantically for what to do next. With mere moments to spare before the Meat-monster-man would be ready to strike, he grabbed the monster and flung him into the wall. A splat sounded on the brick and the creature slid behind the dumpster. Sir Daniel felt relieved that he'd won, but the creature stood back up. This medium-rare monstrosity just won’t stay down. Perhaps it is best if you-- Sir Daniel pushed the dumpster against the wall, crushing Meat in-between. This felt more like a win with the monster letting out a whisper of defeat and dissolved back into a fleshy-flesh puddle. Well, that didn't go as expected. But what is a victory without a little unexpected tumultuousness? Daniel wiped his skeletal hands clean of the blood and garbage and retrieved his things. To his delight everything seemed to be in order. The question now was, what to do next? He certainly didn't like the way they treated him in the arena, throwing out his bones like yesterday's trash. But looking at the structure, it would be quite a task to get back in there. So if not there, where? Back home to Gallowmere? How would his fellow heroes feel about him coming home empty-handed? After all, he took this quest for the ultimate chance at an eternal wish. And he remembered something about monetary compensation for failure. Who had told him that? Daniel couldn't remember. And with no other options, he left the alleyway and strolled the sidewalk of the vast city. According to the signs, he was in someplace called Verse City. The sites and sounds were nothing like he'd ever seen before. Daniel was mesmerized by the different kinds of people he saw. Some wore outfits that looked incredibly uncomfortable and revealing. Others weren't even people, just strange animals or magical beings. It was a lot to take in for just one eye. Fortunately, he didn’t stand out in this crowd as others walked by without so much as a glance. Daniel had his fair share of trouble for one day and was glad for the anonymity. A wailing sound from above caught his attention which caused him to look up. He saw the blue sky was peppered with flying objects. Many of them were made of metal and carried people. Many of them were just people. But the sound came from a metal behemoth, flashing red and blue lights as it raced through the air waves. It looked to be in pursuit of someone… a woman. She bounced off the tall buildings and flowed as seamlessly as the tassels on her back. Had he seen her before? Daniel narrowed his eye, but she turned a corner and the flying behemoth followed close behind, out of his view. There went his chance to remember, Daniel supposed. He continued on until he reached the end of the sidewalk. Before he was a concrete crossroads filled with its flashing lights, busy people and metal carriages. Perhaps Daniel could find new glory here instead of returning to his crypt? It seems our Hero has a dilemma before him. Return home a failure, or seek new prestige in this new land? Sir Daniel Fortesque considered his options. There was the Verse City Pawn Shop. A sign plastered on the door read: Under New Management. Not there. Verse City Pets and Where To Find Them? Nope. Foley's Van Repair? Daniel didn’t even know what a van was. The Carlton Club? Or perhaps the Welcome Wagon Deli and Bistro? It had been decades since he tasted a fine brew. If only he’d had a bottom jaw. Then a sign for The Omni-Mega-Mall caught his attention. The sign continuously flashed with words bigger than he was tall. Now that he noticed, there were a few more signs and posters for this place and arrows were embedded on the building sides that pointed to it’s direction. Not a bad place to start, eh Fortesque? Before Daniel could make the decision, another sound came from behind him. Something between the squeal of a baby and a kitten. When he turned to look, he was greeted by a blue haired little girl. She stood near a foot shorter than him and wore a schoolgirl’s attire. Her hands were pressed against her mouth and she looked at him with the most adorable glossy eyes. She made the sound again, causing Daniel's bones to rattle. “Waht r uh ionng?” (What are you doing?) Daniel asked. She answered immediately with an “Oh my goodness!” then continued to gawk at him. “You're so cute!” Daniel noticed this girl was alone. Where were her parents? He tried to ask, but she didn’t seem to understand his garbled speech. She did, however, reach out to touch him. Daniel politely stepped back, only for her to repeat her action. “Mr. Skeleton man,” She said. “I wanna put you in my house for decoration.” If Daniel had a heart, it would have stopped from the shock of this girl’s audacity. “Noh aay (No way.) "You're so cool looking, though" She swung her arms in a circle, as if to get her point across. "Seriously, a total creepy vibe. That’s, like, my thing." She continued to advance until Sir Daniel found himself backed into a wall. He attempted to pull his sword, but thought better of it. It wasn’t in him to harm this girl, no matter what she intended. He needed a way out of this. It appears that our dubious knight has been trapped by a little fan-girl. How will you proceed, Fortesque? The girl inched forward, grasping at his bones when he pulled out his shield to block her. She obviously didn’t expect that because now she was holding it instead of him. She looked at the shield, perplexed. “Huh? This shield has your face on it. Pretty cool--HEY!” She saw her would-be decoration racing down the street in utter panic. “Come back here!” She said as she ran after him.
Part 4 --Inside the Grand Arena, Verse City. The crowd cheered for Sir Daniel Fortesque the moment he stepped into the ring. Of course, how could they not? He was the Hero of Gallowmere! But if Sir Daniel was honest with himself, his opponent standing before him looked pretty intimidating. He had evil in his eyes. An evil only a wizard could have! Shock and gasp, Sir Daniel! Is this another one of Zarok’s minions? I suppose you need to let him have it, eh? Sir Daniel nodded. “Vvllle illlnn!” (Vile villain!) I can see you’re serious. “Imm ahhmm.” (I am.) “Who are you talking to?” The evil eyed Shang Tsung asked. "Your focus should be here, in this fight." “Bwwng iddon!” (Bring it on!) Sir Daniel mumbled. He brought a shield to his chest and unsheathed his long sword. “You will die again, Skeleton.” Shang stood tall, then stretched his arms into a fighting stance, ready for battle. It seems he’s also taking this seriously. Be careful Sir-- Sir Daniel charged forward, putting his meanest face on display and raising his sword to strike. Shang dodged the first attack. Then the second. Then a third and fourth and every single attack after. He made a show of just how easy it was, sidestepping or flipping over each swing of the blade. Finally, he got in close and delivered a kick to Daniel’s midsection, sending him across the ring. The Hero of Gallowmere seems to be in trouble. But never fear, see that he rises to--- Oh- A green energy lifted Sir Daniel off his feet, strangling him. The same aura shrouded Shang Tsung’s hands. “You’re not even worth the warm-up.” The Hero of Gallowmere seems to be in dire trouble. But he is confident and courageous and--- Oh- Daniel’s eye began to whiten as Shang Tsung slowly tore the soul from his skeletal body. The pain was agonizing, like being ripped apart. But before Daniel lost consciousness, Shang used his power to throw him outside the ring. Claiming a swift victory. Sir Daniel’s body crumbled, a mound of bones and armor piling outside of the ring as Ainz Ooal Gown raised Shang Tsung’s hand to the crowd. They cheered for the sorcerer. “Well that’s that, folks. Not the slobberknocker we were hoping for,” said the black hatted announcer. “But, we have an official winner! Shang Tsung moves on to round two.” *** I’m sure our hero expected those cheers would be for him. But alas, he was defeated. The arena janitorial staff had to get a mighty dustpan to sweep Daniel up and into the garbage chute. Daniel’s lifeless bones rattled down the chute until finally landing in the alleyway outside the venue. In a dumpster, no less. Such disrespect to our once gallant hero. From laying to rest in the Hall of Heroes, to being discarded like yesterday’s tra--- What’s this? Life came back to Sir Daniel's eye! He seems disoriented. He must be fine. Get yourself together now, Hero of Gallowmere. I’m starting to get queasy from all of this garbage. Climb, yes, climb! Daniel’s hand found his arm, which found his torso, then his neck and skull. He pulled himself together bone by bone and finally broke free of the dumpster. Nice work. Now find your legs so we can get along. One by one, he reattached his legs and put his armor and sword in place. All that was missing was his other arm. Where was it--- Ah Ha! There, in that nasty flesh puddle. Go and grab it. He moved and the puddle formed into a skinless man. He held the detached arm between his teeth. Shock and gasp, Sir Daniel! Is this ANOTHER one of Zarok’s minions? I suppose you need to let him have it, don't you? No, not the arm! I meant a wallop. “Ghvve dhaat arrck!" (Give that back!) Daniel mumbled his demand. Despite not having a bottom jaw, he looked quite serious. The man of meat chewed on the bone, only further frustrating our unlucky hero. With one arm left, Sir Daniel lifted his sword and charged. A Back Alley Battle of Undead Losers Begins...