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The Game:

Changing the Rules

Part 1

The alarm went off that morning at six o’clock. Fixit couldn’t reach over and hit the snooze bar fast enough to suit his pounding hangover. Banging a clumsy hand on the snooze, he realized a better course of action was to kill his tormentor, and unplugged the clock. Figuring the radio station must have been running one of their promotions, Fixit thought little of the manic voice on the air; he only caught a couple of words, but it didn’t sound like normal broadcasting. Any further thought on the issue was quickly swept away by the urge to crash back into unconsciousness.

Rising from his broken rest when he damn well felt like it, he grabbed the same blue jeans from the day before, the cleanest of his dirty t-shirts and his black leather jacket. Knowing he had spent time debating on the merits of actually cleaning and managing his hair, made him feel better about donning a yellow bandanna instead. Fixit knew there was more work to do than could be accomplished in a day; and was hurried that morning riding his motorcycle to the shop. Between the remnants of his hangover and his driving urge to get into his business to get work done, Fixit didn’t even notice several billboards had been vandalized with a picture of a rook.

If Fixit had any say in the matter, it was to be a regular work day. No time for heroics, Fixit Auto body had too many cars to finish repairs on for antsy customers. John placed a rather curt sign on his door stating to every customer; bothering him, slowed the labor on all the cars in the shop; he locked himself in and got to work. For a few hours at least, John Fix was able to enjoy being a normal body man. He had two cars prepped for paint, and one that had just dried and was ready to put back together.

Right around noon, his work was interrupted by a rumbling on the south wall. A steady pounding shook the whole building, and took Fixit’s attention away from his vehicle. Within a breath, mortar crumbled and the cinderblocks, forming the exterior wall went crashing into the shop space. Dust flew onto a freshly primed car, ruining the primer and creating more work for the struggling repair man.

“What the hell?” Fixit started as two giant snowmen came crashing into the shop. “You two picked the wrong damn shop on the wrong damn day.” He snarled, calmly setting down his air ratchet. Fixit stalked across the shop only to be pounded by a huge snowy fist and knocked through the windshield of the car on which he was just finishing his repairs. “That’s yer last free shot!” he roared, leaping into action. He caught the first attacker with a flying roundhouse that took his head clean off. The second abomination proved to be a bit more resilient, but between the heat from several huge radiant heaters overhead and a relentless pummeling from the body man turned hero; the snowman fell, reduced to a puddle of slush.

Fixit took stock of the damaged wall and vehicle, considering himself lucky that the entire building hadn’t come down. He contacted the police as well as his insurance company; he had to make sure the building wouldn’t come down while he went to find out what had been going on in his city.

“About time you got off your ass.” Medik admonished, answering his phone.

“What’s going on?” Fixit asked.

“How could you have missed it? It’s been all over the radio and the news, some nut calling he the Gamester is wreaking havoc all over town. I can’t talk now, just follow the beacon signal to where we are; even Red Sniper has come out of hiding for this.”

“Great,” Fixit thought out loud, looking around at the mess that so recently had been his shop, “there goes any hope of getting my work done.” He wheeled his motorcycle into the office, hoping it would be safer there, opposed to being on the streets. Once the police had documented the scene and left to aid at other, less fortunate sites of destruction; Fixit took off towards the direction indicated on his beacon.

When he found them, Medik and Red Sniper were pressed in an alley filled with abominable snowmen.

“Let ‘em have it Red!” Medik gave the order just as Fixit dropped from the rooftops. The burst of flame that emanated from Red Snipers weapon washed over friend and foe alike, and Fixit dove straight into the snowmen for cover from the searing heat. Using the flame thrower out in the open was dangerous and a huge liability. Any accident with the fire could cause major trouble for the super heroes, though in this instance it was certainly justified. The snowmen, it appeared, were no match for a flamethrower.

“So,” Fixit asked dropping a wet, ruined cigar from his mouth and lighting a new, fresh one, “do we have a plan?”

“Keep melting ‘em.” Came red Sniper’s reply, muffled through the hyper mesh he wore over the lower portion of his face. Fixit looked his two friends over; the three of them appeared about as far from an organized group as three people could.

Medik sported a white flak jacket with a red shirt underneath and a red cross on his chest. His baggy pants with red stripes were tucked into his white combat boots and his tech helmet with goggles allowed him to communicate much more freely than Fixit did with his hand held unit.

Red Sniper wore a similar outfit in red and black; red flack jacket, red fingerless gloves, black and red camouflage pants tucked into black combat boots. What made Red Sniper really different from Medik was his anonymity. Nobody, not even Medik or Fixit knew what he looked like under the red cycloptic targeting visor and hyper mesh he wore over his face.

For a short moment, Fixit felt a twinge of envy for those full time super heroes who had matching uniforms and high tech secret bases. There was little time for wishing however. Medik filled Fixit in on the strange radio broadcast that morning and the strange presents that had been appearing all over town. The three men had work to do.

Medik, Fixit and Red Sniper spent several hours cleaning up the city from the Gamesters dread packages. Despite the order from police and city hall to turn in any suspicious packages found, people had been opening them. To all appearances, those gifts carrying valuables were kept, but people had fled from those carrying less desirable contents.

“This is getting us nowhere.” Fixit mused, wiping his brow. There seemed to be no end of the wintery creatures unleashed upon the city. Fixit had even seen a young hero open a present and dash away when it summoned three abominable snowmen.

“I’m having a good time.” Red Sniper quipped back.

“Next group we come on,” Fixit shot back, “you lead the charge and I’ll shoot bullets and fire over your shoulder.”

“How about giving your friend Emplate a visit over at the hospital?” Medik suggested. “It seems to me that he may know something about this, being an underworld operative himself.”

“That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day.” Fixit agreed to Red Snipers Dismay.

“How about you go to Emplate alone?” Red Sniper suggested, “That way, Medik and I can keep cleaning up the streets while you get fresh information. Besides I’m pretty sure you can handle a man in a body cast by your self.” Eager for action, Red Sniper was reluctant to leave the mean streets to go flap gums; it was the thrill of the hunt he wanted.

“Much as I hate to admit it, he makes sense.” Medik admitted.

Fixit had to take a train to get from Independence Port, to Talos Island, where Emplate was in the hospital; still recovering from their last encounter. While en route, his phone rang.

“Fixit? Is this the hero that goes by the name Fixit?” A female voice asked into the line.

“Who’s askin’,” Came the gruff reply. The voice sounded familiar to him, but he couldn’t place it.

“It is you Fixit!”

“Who is this?” he asked.

“It’s Lindsay, the reporter you rescued not long ago. I guess you probably do a lot of that, so maybe you don’t remember…”

“I remember,” he cut her off.

“Well, I just got word about a Fixit Auto body shop being attacked earlier by some of those snow monsters released by those packages all around town. I know I’m a reporter, and not a hero like yourself, but if I can help any way, I wanted to give you my number. I care about this city too, even if I don’t have any super powers.”

“I appreciate that,” Fixit sighed, “but I have no idea what’s going on here. I missed the radio spot this morning, I’ve been fighting snowmen all day; I’m tired, sore, a little singed and kind of in a bad mood all around.” Fixit stopped for a second, she did want to help, and he could use any contacts he could make. Thinking better of telling her off, he decided to accept her offer. “If I get any clues, I’d be happy to relay them to you for a story or whatever you call it, but I need to find out what the hell is going on here.”

“Well, maybe this will help you.” Lindsay purred, “It seems there is a school, Sussex Academy, known to be a place for ‘super children’.”

“Yeah,” Fixit was losing patience, even if this woman was good looking. “and?”

“And it looks like the student body up and left the school this morning. Even more intriguing is their reappearance as the suspected culprits in a huge theft from Van Briesbock’s.”

“Van Briesbock’s the diamond exchange?” Fixit asked, stunned.

“One and the same,” Lindsay replied, “think it’s all related?”

“Thanks for the tip Lindsay I’ll call you when I have some answers for you. Let me know if your office turns anything up.” Fixit ended the call and made another.

“Medik, I need you to go to Sussex Academy. … No, I don’t know where it is, get a damn phonebook. … Look, the student body is missing and it seems they might have turned up as the suspects in a robbery from, get this, Van Briesbock’s. … Well tell Red to stop shooting things and help you out with it.” Fixit slammed his phone shut, then silently reprimanded himself. He had been going through phones too quickly lately; his budget had gotten tight enough without buying three phones a month.

There were two guards waiting in Emplate’s hospital room when Fixit got there.

“Excuse me gentlemen,” Fixit tried to sound official, but felt foolish in his lack of super attire. “I need to speak with this man alone for a few moments.”

“That can’t happen.” An overweight guard stammered out. “Regulations require that a prisoner of the state, even incapacitated, must be kept under constant surveillance. Besides he’s sleeping now.”

“Wake him up then.” Fixit snapped back, “But I need to be alone with him for just a minute. You can wait outside.”

The other guard gave Fixit a knowing look.

“I’m sure you have a good reason to want to speak with our prisoner alone but what’s in it for us?” Reaching for his wallet, Fixit responded to the open invitation.

“You guys do realize that you’re robbing a man of his lunch for the next couple of weeks, right?” Fixit grumbled as he handed over a hundred dollar bill to the guards.

“Three minutes.” The overweight guard answered as he and his partner left the room.

Fixit wasted no time. He thumped Emplate’s left leg cast calling out to him.

“Wake up time.” He grinned down at the broken man in the hospital bed. “I need information.” Emplate let out a shallow moan, nearly his entire body was covered in casts and bandages from head to toe. Fixit wasn’t sure what Emplate mumbled in response, but he thought it sounded an awful lot like “Go to hell”.

“That wasn’t very nice.” Fixit said, grabbing Emplate’s shattered nose between his knuckles. “I need to know what you can tell me about a guy who calls himself the Gamester.” Again, Emplate’s reply was a muffled muttering, but it wasn’t flattering. Tightening his grip on Emplate’s nose and twisting just a bit he drew a rasping scream from his broken foe, he also drew a little blood from the shattered nasal passageway.

“I know you were a well connected man in the Rouge Isles, Emplate; Give me a name; give me anything you have.” Between the pulling, twisting and tight pressure on the man’s broken nose, he decided it would be wise to simply give up any information that might help his antagonist before Fixit became angry; however, he needed to protect himself as well from retaliation back on the Rouge Isles. With a jerking gesture, Emplate drew Fixit’s ear closer to his mouth. Emplate’s rasping whisper was only four words; hearing them, Fixit’s eyes opened wide with disbelief.

Fixit sprang from the hospital room, ignoring the shouts from the guards he had hit with the doors on his way out. Bursting out from the hospital, he dialed a number on his phone.

“Lindsay… Listen, we have to act fast, this is big.”

To be continued…