Graffiti - Chapter 2: Love And Happiness/Al Green

"We've got one more song for you guys tonight," Abel whispered into the mic, nearly out of breath, sweat rolling down his forehead as it glistened from the spotlight that shined on him and the band he stood in front of from above.  "This one is going out to every single fucking one of you out there.  You know who you are and you know this song.  Its called 'Rogues'.  This one is for you."

The crowd erupted into jovial cheers at the annoucement, stretching back across the center of the reservoir as far as the eye could see.  The area was caged off from the rest of the city, but everyone that populated it was no where else to be found but in this arena watching the show being performed before them.  Abel turned back toward the band behind him, consisting of two guitarists, a bassist, a pianist, and a drummer.  He nodded his head at the guitarist closest to him, signaling to start the song off with a slow guitar riff.  Abel turned back around to the microphone and sung the intro melody into the mic when the bass and guitars entered behind the piano.

As soon as the break down initiated, Abel banged his curly locks up and down on beat to the song as the entire front half of the crowd began to jump and shove each other in the massive moshpit.  Abel leaned into the mic and breathed heavily as he sung the lyrics to the song, "Rogues" by the long lost band, Incubus.

"I'm keeping an eye on the future,
An eye on the past and the present in my pocket,
Just in case I need a door.
Into a brave new world
Where all solutions end up in my head
Buried to my neck in sand.

Enough....Bowing down to disillusion
Hats off and applause to Rogues and Evolution
The Ripple Effect is too good not to mention
If you're not effected you're not paying attention.
Its too good, its too good, not to...have an effect!"

Shane stood in the middle of the crowd, invisible to the naked eye when looking out on the sea of people that surrounded him.  The waves of jumping and dancing figures shrouded him from view as he stood there, nearly motionless, his arms crossed and his head nodding to the music with a look of determination in his gaze.  He watched as Abel turned back to the microphone, leaned forward on its stand, and entered the second verse.

"I'm keeping an eye on the pulse
An ear to the track, a penance in a locket,
Drop it from the highest floor.
When it hits ground I watch it
Smash to pieces
Songs of liberation echo from the dust.
The dust


When he entered the chorus again, the crowd screamed the lyrics back at him with angry passion that vibrated throughout the entire reservoir.  Shane closed his eyes and processed every voice that echoed underground.  He could feel the passion gathering inside him as well.  The guitar solo seemed to be the icing on the cake for most of them as they released their aggression on each other in the moshpit, energized by the electric sound.  When the song entered the last part of its bridge, Abel engaged the audience and repeatedly shouted "Enough" as the crowd echoed behind each word.  When it reached the chorus again, he pulled the microphone off its stand, jammed it towards the audience, and listened to them scream the first line of it when all that could be heard behind them was the guitar.  When the rest of the band burst back in, he brought the mic back to his lips and screamed the last of the chorus all the way until the song ended.  At the last note, he spoke one last message to the crowd.

"We are the Heretics.  Good night everybody."  With one move, he dropped the mic carelessly, letting the loud banging noise echo in the chest of everyone in the audience.  He turned to them, kissed his index and middle finger together and flashed a peace sign at them as he turned back and walked off the stage, the rest of the band following behind him as the crowd cheered at the top of their lungs.  


"All right guys," Shane called out enthusiastically, his hands up to stop the continuous laughter as he and the Council sat on the top floor of the Gym Class Heroics Club on the outer rim of the Marxmin Compound, about half a mile from the concert arena where the Heretics had just been playing.  The lounge area where they were located was on the roof of the Club and the group could hear the music of the band's after-party being played below.  Shane was in good spirits, as was the rest of them.  The past confrontation had been forgotten; Shane was not going to let it effect his or anyone else's good time.  The only person who wasn't visually showing his pleasure for the moment was Marvin, who stood away from the group, leaning on the railing of the roof casually as he looked out across the underground city.  Occassionally, he would take the stairs to the club below and return, only to depart from the group again and avoid the festivities all together.

Shane and the Council would have these moments after every concert performance that the Heretics, Abel's cover band, would hold.  This was on a weekly basis and every Friday night would be spent sitting around, drinking the night away, and reminicing on the more favorable days when the Strat's grip wasn't so tight.  It was one of their few chances to truly sit back and enjoy what life had to offer, as the days when those moments were frequent were long gone.

"Okay, I've got a question to ask," Shane said, smiling brightly at his friends that surrounded him in their plush chairs with a table covered in coasters and alchoholic beverages in front of them.  "I was talking to Mack this afternoon and he asked me this question that made me think.  You're stuck on an abandoned island where there's one computer running on a generator thats about to go out.  You have an iPod with unlimited battery power, but its broken and can only fit 3 songs on it.  What 3 songs would you choose to upload and listen to for the rest of your life, given you'd never get rescued?"

The group quickly lost themselves in thought, seriously contemplating the event in question.

"Damn, that does make you think," Abel said with a chuckle, rubbing his goatee as he stared up at the reservoir ceiling in thought.

"Who wants to go first?" Shane said, looking around at them.

"I'm still thinking," Houston said, shaking his head.  "I mean its more than just saying your favorite song at the moment, because you could end up getting tired of it.  It'd have to be a song that you could listen to for the rest of your life and it never loses its flavor.  What did you end up saying?"

"Dude, I totally had to leave and come back like an hour later to tell him," Shane laughed heartily.  "I'd understand if you need time to think about it.  I ended up saying 'Clint Eastwood' by the Gorillaz, 'I Am Music' by Common and Jill Scott, and 'My Shine' by Childish Gambino."

"Nice man," Abel nodded with a smile.  "Childish Gambino was one of the most underrated muscians of the Solid Days.  Thats a good song too."

In this possible future, the term "Solid Days" refers to the era before the great war that tore apart modern civilization, when the creation of recorded music was more prevalent.  Towards the end of the era when pop culture was on the brink of crumbling itself, the war generated its only positive outcome when it put an end to the digression of civilization in order for its past remnants to be preserved by factions such as the Marxmin and the Strays community in this era, characterized as the "Liquid Days."

"So anybody got anything yet?" Shane asked curiously, lighting up a cigarette and taking a smooth drag before tapping its ashes onto the tray on the coffee table.

"Well I already know one of them," Hope muttered, leaning back in her chair.  "'Mr. Blue Sky' by Electric Light Orchestra."

"I love that song," Shane said with a smile.  "Nice choice."

"Oh and I've got another one.  'One More Time' by Daft Punk."

Everyone in the group agreed enthusiastically with her choice.  Shane leaned forward and high-fived her as she smiled back at him warmly.

"I've got my three," Houston said, raising his hand to get their attention.  "'Somebody Like You' by Keith Urban.  'Hurt' by Johnny Cash.  And 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band."

"Great choices bro," Abel encouraged.  "I'm not too much of a country fan, but I love me some Cash.  'Hurt' is my favorite song by him."

"Same here," Shane nodded.  "That last one is probably the closest thing to country rap too.  You get yours yet, Abel?"

Abel sighed and leaned back in thought.  "Let's see....I'd probably say 'My Generation' by Limp Bizkit.  Fantastic song.  Also 'Grown So Ugly' by the Black Keys.  I know I won't get tired of that one because its like having three songs in one and its short enough to want to repeat a lot.  The last would probably be 'In One Ear' or 'Japanese Buffalo' by Cage The Elephant.  I can't choose between those two, I'd probably choose one randomly in that situation."

"Japanese Buffalo, really?" Geneva asked with a raised eyebrow.  "You can hardly even understand what they're saying in it."

"I know, thats what makes the song so special.  I can spend the rest of my life trying to interpret the lyrics."

After a heartily laugh, Smart Alec leaned forward next to make his announcement.

"Awright, I got mine.  Me picks would be 'Exodus' by Bob Marley, 'Get Up, Stand Up' also by Bob Marley, and 'Africa Must Wake Up' by Damien Marley and Nas."

"I find that last one hilarious," Shane said, chuckling.

"Eh, look it, I AM part black," he said, shrugging playfully.  "I don't know who keep tellin' you otherwise."

"Right, I've got you," Shane said, nodding with wide eyes of obvious sarcasm.  "Anybody else?  Gen?"

Geneva shrugged.  "I can't think of anything."

The group teased her and beckoned for an answer until she smiled and sighed.  "I can only think of one."

"Is it 'She Wolf'?" Houston asked with a large smile.  "Shakira?"

In response, Abel howled into the air imitating the contents of the song and the group burst into laughter.  Geneva blushed.

"No!" she said, smiling with embarassment.  "Its um....um..."

"It totally was!" Shane said with surprise, pointing directly at her.  "I can tell by that look on your face."

Geneva laughed and covered her face as the group joined in.  Shane leaned over toward her, patting her on the back warmly.  "Its okay, Gen, we love you and your pop music."

Geneva turned to him and punched him in the arm playfully.  He continued to smile until his eye fell on Marvin, who's back was still turned to the group as he looked out over the city.  Shane's smile reappeared when he called out to him.

"Hey Marvin," he shouted and watched him turn around curiously.  "If you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your life, what would you choose?"

The group's excitement had dampened a bit while they waited for Marvin to answer the question.  Marvin was never the kind of person that would participate in the playful nature of the Marxmin's freedom.  His mind always seemed to be working; he'd constantly be in a dream-like state and preferred to spend most of his time alone.  It was most likely the reason for why he'd drawn the conclusion to impeach Shane, because he'd analyze every nook and cranny of his leadership, including its flaws, and with Marvin adhering to a glass-half-empty philosophy, those were what stood out the most to him.  It was probably for this reason that Shawn had made the wise decision to appoint Smart Alec as the leader of the Marxmin before Shane was of age.  While Marvin may have been the most capable of the Council to take over in the event of Shawn's death, his attitude and ideals could have just as easily turned into tyrannical attributes.  It wasn't that he'd develop a thirst for power, but if anything, he'd become the same kind of ruler that Victor Stratis was: A leader who over-thought and overanalyzed imperfection and strived to replace it with what he believed to be a more suitable substitute, while at the same time oppressing some aspect of the population.  Forseeing this possibility, Shawn, denied Marvin the opportunity to rule over the Marxmin and while he respected his decision for it, Shane had observed Marvin over the years and could tell that he was definitely disappointed over the choice.  It was for the best, as Shane was sure that Marvin wouldn't have turned over the throne as easily as Alec did when it was time for him to take over.

Marvin took a breath and looked away in thought.  "I guess uh...'Gotham City' by R. Kelly, 'The Big Payback' by James Brown, and uh....'Man In The Mirror' by Michael Jackson."

"Nice choices, man," Shane said with a smile, nodding with reassurance.  Marvin smirked warmly and turned back to the view beyond the railing.  Shane turned back to the group as the energy began to re-emerge between them.  He turned back to Hope.  "So you think of that last one yet?  Any Lady Gaga or Katy Perry on that list?"

Hope chuckled.  "Probably.  I'm still thinking right now...."

The door that led to the stairway opened and a young man stepped through it, walking towards the group.  His hair was stylishly unkempt and his rough but thin beard excentuated his appearance.  His long black coat swayed as he walked and his step was altered slightly by a limp in his left leg.

"Hey Willis!" Shane said with enthusiasm, tossing back a sip of his Yeungling from his cup, holding his cigarette in between his fingers with the same hand.  "How've you been?"

"Hey all," he greeted warmly with an Aussie accent.  "I'm pretty good.  Nice to finally see you guys again."

Everyone waved in his direction as he walked toward him.  When he approached, Abel stood up with a smile and embraced him tightly.  When they parted, they kissed each other on the lips.

"I can't believe you missed the show again, Willis," Abel said, slapping him on the shoulder with a bit of frustration.  "You've yet to even see us play."

"I know, I know, I'll try my absolute best to be there next week," Willis pleaded.  "Just don't lose faith in me yet.  I'll see a show one of these days, I just need the right time.  My deal tonight didn't go as well as I thought it would.  Arsehole gang members pulled a gun on me.  I had to fight my way out of that bunch.  Came out with a few scrapes and bruises, but I'm all right over all."

"Do you need us to take care of anything?" Shane said with concern.  "You know we've got your back."

"No no, that won't be not necessary," Willis said, shaking his head.  "I'm used to this.  Day in the life of a Blue Market Dealer, I suppose.  I appreciate the hospitality though, really."

"Hey, you're Abel's boyfriend.  You keep making him happy, we'll keep making you happy.  Speaking of which, have you seen Cassette anywhere?  I didn't see her at the show either."

Willis shrugged.  "Last I saw her was over at that Recycle Shop by Strawberry Fields.  She's been trying to make that radio she keeps talking about out of those car parts."

"Still?  I thought she gave that up a long time ago."

"Apparently not.  She still thinks there's something out there still using a Radio frequency, even though the Strats banned it years ago.  That girl, I swear.  Sometimes, I wonder if she has a few malware problems in that desktop computer she calls a brain.  Anyways, I've got something you may be interested in.  Can you follow me for a second?"

"Sure."  Shane took another sip of his beer and brought it with him as he walked after Abel and Willis into the doorway that led to the stairs.  As soon as he walked through, Shane was instantly hit with the deafening sounds of music blaring inside the club.  On the walkway they stood on, Willis led the way across to the balcony that looked out on the massive crowd of people dancing under the strob lights to A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation."  After a while, Willis stopped and reached into his coat pocket.

"Newest thing on the streets right now," he shouted over the music, pulling out a transparent plastic bag filled with a handful of small tablets.  Willis opened it up and took out one of the pills, dropping it into Shane's hand.  Shane examined it and could see two wrinkled hands pressed together in a praying motion etched onto the surface of the pill.

"And this is?" Shane asked with a raised eyebrow.

"The scientific name is something long and convulted that I didn't care to remember.  The street name is 'The Prayer'."

"'The Prayer,'" Shane repeated with curiousity.  "Like the song by Bloc Party?"

"The very same."

"So what is it, a hallucinogen, deppressant, stimulant, what?"

"All in one, my friend," Willis said, turning to him with a smirk.

Shane squinted his eyes with confusion and smiled.  "Thats impossible."

"It used to be.  Try it out."

Shane exchanged looks with Abel, who smirked and shrugged.  Shane shrugged back at himand popped the pill in his mouth, swallowed, and washed it down with his Yeungling.  He didn't feel any effects immediately.

"When will it kick in?" he asked curiously.

"30 seconds to a minute."

"Will I know it when I feel it?"

"Oh, you'll know."

Shane sighed and lounged onto the railing as he looked out on the crowd below.  He picked one specific individual out of it; A very attractive dark-haired girl with long bangs that nearly covered her eyes.  Her body was covered in tattoos and there were various piercings over her face and one in her exposed belly button.  Her clothes were highly revealing, her top covering only her breasts, strapping on by her shoulders and her skirt cutting off mid way down her thighs.  Her platform pumps glistened off of the strobe lights and she swayed to the music.  Shane zoned in on her specifically and watched her walk off the dance floor as the song ended.  Every step she made echoed in his ears and he could hear her body creak as her hips swung back and forth.  She took the stairs that led up to the walkway where Shane, Willis, and Abel stood, her movements slow and rhythmic as he observed her taking the first few steps up them.  All of a sudden, in an instant, time seemed to speed up and within a second, she was walking right by him, making eye contact and smirking seductively.  In a swift move, Shane pounced and locked lips with her, caressing her body with force.  She instantly responded, grabbing hold of him just as tightly and kissing him back with passion.

Willis laughed at Shane's reaction and leaned towards Abel.  "I forgot to mention, its also an Aphrodisiac."

As if fate's design had planned out a strange event of obvious irony for this particular moment, the introduction to the song that inspired the drug that now stimulated Shane's body pumped into the speakers of the club.  Shane coerced the girl back down the stairs and onto the dance floor where she wrapped her arms around him and the two lost themselves in the crowd and music.

"Lord give me grace and dancing feet,
And the power to impress.

Lord give me grace and dancing feet,
Let me outshine them all.

Is it so wrong to crave recognition
Second best runner up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding
To want more than is given to you, than is given to you."

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice, I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice, I will dazzle
I will outshine all."

Within an hour's time, which to Shane felt like fifteen minutes due to the effects of the drug, he and the girl had disappeared into an empty bedroom somewhere in the underground city.  The music from the song by Bloc Party was still echoing in his brain, as his sense of time and his surroundings swirled in his head, mixing his conciousness and memories together in the forefront of his brain.  The girl laid him down onto a silk-sheeted bed and a light was flicked on, engulfing an orange tint around the two.  The girl licked her lips with a tongue that was split in two down the center and twisted back and forth as she lightly kissed him on the neck.  His mind was so far gone that he hadn't noticed that a second later, he was naked on the sheets of the bed and so was she.

Just as quickly, he was back on the dance floor, rubbing on the body of the girl while the song started itself back at the second verse.  A second later, he was walking down the steel streets between the buildings set up along the Compound.  Another skip sent him in a state of ecstasy as the girl climbed on top of him and shuffled back and forth.  Her breathing echoed against the music that was still banging into his ears.  

"Standing on the packed dance floor
Our bodies throb in time

Silent on the weekdays
Tonight, I claim whats mine."

Another flash sent a wave of people dancing around him in the bedroom.  He recognized them to be the same people he'd been dancing around in the club.  His memories back at the club were intertwining with his current state of conciousness.  In another flash, he was still on the bed, but it was in the center of the club and he and this girl were making love in the middle of the oblivious crowd that continued to dance and sway to the music around them.  Part of him was worried that he was tripping big time on this drug, but the rest of him was so caught up in the ecstasy of the moment that he didn't care.  The girl threw her head back and moaned loudly, her split tongue twisting out of her mouth like an alien creature straining its way out of her body.  Her exotic aura made his muscles tense up and the last bit of pent up energy, stress, and anger he'd bottled as the fearless leader of the people expelled from his body in a rush.  He closed his eyes and embraced the feeling for all it was worth until the sound of screaming entered his head.

"SHANE!" A female shrieked at the top of her lungs.  He opened his eyes and turned towards the door of the orange-tinted room to see a brunette girl standing in the doorway with a look of complete anguish.  Her thick curved eyebrows, piercing blue eyes, and flaired nose gave her an irritated felineness appearance.  She was very attractive, even with her angry disposition and part of Shane felt guilty that the aftermath of his burst of euphoria was met with even more felicity at the sudden sight of her as the bliss seeped out of him.  When he saw that she was on the verge of losing herself, the guilt of the situation in full washed over him.  He pushed the girl off of him and called out to her.

"Cassette!" he shouted, walking to her in the nude, as she shook her head in disbelief and turned out into the dark hallway, closing the door behind him.  Shane swore under his breath and grabbed his clothes from off the floor, throwing them on as quickly as he could.  His tight skinny jeans slipped on smoothly and he tossed his abstract t-shirt over his head before slipping his chain wallet back around his belt.

"Where are you going?" the girl asked curiously.  "Who was that?"

"None of your business," he said quickly before forcing the door open and walking out into the center of the club.  When he looked behind him into the room he'd just walked out of, the door was gone and he was suddenly lost in the sea of dancing people searching through them for the girl that had just walked out.  The sudden surreal puzzle-like effects of the Prayer were now becoming a nuissance.  Shane pushed his way through the crowd and spotted Cassette in her black blouse and tight leather jeans walking out of the entrance to the club.  Shane chased after her and followed her out of the door to find himself emerged onto the streets above the Marxmin Compound in the middle of a dark neighborhood in the Strays.  The moon was out and the stars were glistening above him, but he could see that part of the sky was brighter than the other, as the bright lights of downtown Scar City in the Metropolitan District was still active in the dead of night.

Shane could hear footsteps down the sidewalk across the street from him, where he spotted Cassette, her curls bouncing in the air as she stormed angrily down the sidewalk with her arms crossed.  He could hear her sobs when he ran after her and put a hand on her shoulder.  When she turned back around, she slapped him in the face viciously, sending his conciousness back into the room where he'd had the affair with the girl he'd met on the dance floor.  She was absent from the location now, but Cassette was still standing in the middle of the room, orange light now illuminating her pressence.

"I knew it!" she shouted angrily, tears streaming down from her eyes as she pointed at him accusingly.  "I knew it was only a matter of time!"

"Cassette, you've got to believe me, I never meant for this to happen."

"Never meant for this to happen?!  What exactly did you mean to happen then, did you mean to fuck that girl behind my back and NOT have me walk in on it happening"-

"Cassette, I swear its not my fault!  I was drugged!"

Cassette hesitated slightly at this revelation.  "Y-you were drugged?"

"Willis gave me some new stuff thats been on the streets.  It was my fault, I was stupid enough to just take it without knowing what it would do.  If I had known what was going to happen, that I was going to do what I did, I never would have taken it.  Please, you've got to believe me.  I will never break your trust like that again, I promise.  I was helpless.  I couldn't control myself.  I was acting on pure lust, not love like I would with you.  I love you, you know that.  That will never ever happen again.  I promise you."

Shane had grabbed hold of Cassette's hands in the middle of his speech and she showed no signs of restraint.  Her face was still full of pain, but he'd hit her soft spot and he could tell that she was coming around.  He kissed her hands tenderly and closed his eyes.  When he opened them again, they were back on the graffiti-surrounded sidewalk of the Strays surface.  Her orange draped body was now a dark purple tint from the mix of the night and the street light above them.

"Come here," Shane said tenderly, hugging her tightly as she hugged him back.  She could feel the genuineness of his embrace and knew that he was sincere.  When he pulled back, she still had a troubled look on her face, as she still couldn't let go of the event she'd just witnessed.  Still, she held her tongue of any more protest.

"Aw," a voice echoed down the street.  Shane let go of Cassette and turned to the source of it.  "Isn't this so nice and sweet and touching and gay."

Walking out of the alleyway across the street from the sidewalk they stood on, was a group of rugged young men, led by a bleached-haired muscle-bound man in a black tanktop and dirty jeans.  On his rough-looking face was a red tattoo of a chinese dragon that slithered from the right side of his neck, up to his cheek, across his upper lip, and up the left side of his face.  It traveled directly across his left eyelid and stopped at the center of his forehead.  His battle scars were highly visible and deep, some of which were recent and still healing.  The same went with the rest of his crew, who sported the same attire as he did, only they were equipped with combat boots, brass knuckles, and baseball bats.

"I'm happy to hear that you two could work things out just by hugging.  Wish the rest of the world was like that.  I hear the make-up sex is great."

Shane smiled and turned toward them, walking in front of Cassette in a protective manner.  "It sure is," he answered confidently.

The bleach-haired man chuckled with his hands crossed in front of him in a military-eased position.  "You know what I like most about you, Shane?"

"Whats that?"

"You know how to make things fun.  You know how to make people feel good about themselves, how to get a laugh out of people.  You're a charming guy.  Sometimes, I wish I had the kind of charisma you did."

"Yeah, its pretty great to be me.  Sorry I can't say the same for you, Saul, given whats going to happen to you if you come anywhere near me or my girlfriend."

"Now Shane," Saul responded with sarcastic offense, shaking his head in shame.  "Here I am giving you all of this praise and you turn around and threaten me.  I'm starting to think you don't appreciate my hospitality."

"You'll have to forgive me.  Sometimes I forget who I'm talking down to...I mean talking to."

Saul displayed an unamused smirk as he stared at Shane with an absent look.  He lifted his hand  and with a majestic flick of his wrist, snapped his finger, then leaned back and disappeared behind the group of gang members that were slowly approaching them.

"Who are those guys?" Cassette muttered with a hint of fear in her voice.

"The Mercuries.  They're part of whats left of the gang members before the war; they chose not to join my brother's regime to preserve their own pride.  All they want to do is divide the Strays.  You need to leave, they're dangerous."

Cassette looked slightly offended at Shane's suggestion.  "Are you trying to order me around?  I can handle myself, Shane-"

"Cassette, these guys will kill you the second they get the opportunity.  I'm giving you a chance to get back to the Compound.  Go!"

Cassette looked back at the crew that was muscling towards them antagonizingly.  She looked back at Shane with reluctance, who nodded as she sprinted into the alleyway next to where they stood.  Shane reached into his back pocket, pulled out the handle of a switchblade knife, and held it behind his back out of sight from the group of Mercuries that were ganging up on him.  He smiled when they approached.

"Hey guys," he said playfully.  "You ever hear about my reputation in an outnumbered fight?"

The men stared darkly at Shane as they drew in closer to him and ignored his attempts to make conversation.

"They call me the Spartan, 'cause I can take out five times as many guys as this in my sleep.  Can you believe that?  That's the rumor anyway."

Shane backed up a bit onto the sidewalk and gripped the knife tightly between his fingers.  He was preparing for the right moment.  The timing was crucial.

"The only difference between me and a spartan is that....I'm an fucking animal."

Shane swung the knife forward and brought its jagged edge across the face of the closest gang member.  A gash opened up and the mercury turned, holding his face while the blood seeped from it.  In response, the mercury with the bat brought it down in his direction, but Shane evaded it by jerking to his side and brought the knife directly into the jugular of the offender.  He pulled it out just as swiftly and the mercury grabbed his neck, trying desperately to stop the flow of blood that was now spewing down his neck.  The air was filled with his death rattle as he fell to the street, but the other mercuries didn't stop to tend to him.

One of the other mercuries swooped down and took hold of the fallen bat, swinging it across Shane's bladed hand.  His grip kept the knife in place but the blade broke off and flew in another direction.  In a desperate move, Shane tossed the broken handle into the face of the mercury and in the same motion, punched him directly in the face, imprinting the handle onto his mouth from the pressure of it.  Blood spilled from his lips as he fell to the ground, unconscious.

With three of his enemies left, Shane began to back up as he watched them approach him with intent to kill.  The closest one, who was equipped with brass knuckles, launched forward after him, but fell to his knees when Shane juked back swiftly.  With the momentum of the leap back coursing through his calve, Shane pushed himself forward with his back leg and swung the heel of his foot across the face of the fallen gang member, cracking his nose and sending him back to the ground.  With the mercury's head lying on the curb by the sidewalk, Shane brought his opposite leg up and curb stomped him, smashing his head open on the pavement.

As soon as he was down, the first mercury with the gash over his face, charged after Shane from several feet away.  The mercury pounced forward and Shane grabbed hold of his arm, twisting it behind his back and bending him over.  With all his strength, Shane gritted his teeth and swung the gang member across the sidewalk, slamming his face onto the brick wall behind him.  Shane grabbed hold of his loose hair and smashed his head onto it twice more before letting him collapse onto the ground.  

Shane could feel the last gang member directly behind him.  He brought his elbow back into his face and sent him sprawling back off of the sidewalk.  Shane turned and hopped on top of him, pounding his fist into the man's face with all his strength until blood freely flew up from each withdrawl and it flowed so fluently that it was splashing into Shane's face.  When he realized he'd beaten the life out of the last mercury, he leaned back and wiped his mouth with his bruised knuckles in triumph.

Suddenly, a loud female scream sent a jolt through his body.  He hopped up from the fallen mercury and sprinted for the alleyway that Cassette had disappeared into, fearing for the worst.  As soon as he entered, he was knocked off his feet and hit his back hard on the cold ground.  He could feel the Prayer hitting its peak and the blow to his head was causing it to spin out of control as he began to lose conciousness.

Saul's twisted grin appeared above him, blocking out the beautiful sky between the alley.  "The great Shane Marx got taken out with one blow, huh?" he said, lifting the tire iron he'd used to attack him and waving it in his face.  "And I expected so much more out of you.  But uh, don't worry.  I'll make sure we take good care of your girl."

Saul tapped Shane lightly on the cheek before he felt a sharp pain in his right side.  Shane lifted his head as high as he could and watched as Saul injected him with a small needle filled with black liquid into the right side of his torso.  He pushed on the top of the pump and sent all of its contents into Shane's blood stream.

"Sleep tight, Marxmin," Saul said softly, tapping Shane on the nose before filling the air with hackling laughter as Shane slowly slipped into the dark corners of his mind, beaten and defeated.

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