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Double Dragon: The Inside Scoop
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Date: 07/25/05 01:07
Game Type: Other
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Double Dragon
Mission 1: The Mean Streets
Mission 2: The Factory
Mission 3: Into the Wilderness
Mission 4: The Lion's Den
Mission 4: The Showdown

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I hate my job.

I work for an independent martial arts rag. "Independent" as in poor as all hell. I get sent out to places all over the country (by bus!) to review different tournaments and schools. Sort of a Baedeker for the fighting fellow, you see. Thanks to our low budget, all I get in terms of office equipment is a cheap pad of paper and a disposable camera.

I'm also the youngest guy at the mag, so I get all the boring assignments. Case in point: here I am in some nameless city, waiting to start an interview with one Billy Lee, a purported martial arts expert. He's just recently opened a new dojo with his girlfriend, Marian, and his twin brother, Jimmy Lee.

Jimmy's got a previous engagement, so he's won't be a part of the article. But Marian's late. Billy's been trying to fill the silence with natter about his relationship with her -- really stuff I don't need to know, like how, even though they've been together for years, Marian still won't even let him kiss her, how she'll wave her crazy ju-jitsu arms around whenever he tries to get to first base -- and it's boring me to tears.

Suddenly, a high-pitched scream pierces through the morning birdsong. Billy strides to the window of his apartment, and immediately goes rigid. "Marian!" he cries. His head swivels. "And Willy!" He turns towards me. "They've kidnapped her. I must rescue Marian!"

"Hey, yeah, of course," I reply, "We can reschedule the interview for some other time. GL with the rescuing, man." He's already dashing downstairs.

Gods, I hate my job. I guess it's back to the roach-infested motel. I start packing up my notepad and camera.

But then, inspiration strikes. Embedded battlereporting! Hell, if I can get the scoop on this one, FOX News just might hire me.

Mission 1: The Mean Streets

By the time I stumble onto the street, Billy's already floored a couple of rabble-rousers. He's about halfway down the street, limbs whirling like windmills. But my eyes are drawn to a toughie feebly flailing at the entrance to Billy's apartment. For lack of a better name, I shall call him Disenfranchised African-American Working-Class Guy (DAWG). I move in to get his side of the story.

Me: Hey there dude! How's it hanging?

DAWG: Not so great, bro. This big white guy just laid the beatdown on me.

Me: Yeah, so I gathered. What'd he do that for, anyway? Do you think it was a racially-motivated attack?

DAWG: No, man, it's like, the Godfather, Willy, wanted to get rid of that cocky kung-fu guy, 'cause, he's like so, "You suck man, come learn kung-fu like me and be cool."

Me: Oh, so you're a gangsta.

DAWG: Yes, unfortunately. Things have not turned out the way I always wanted. You know, I was a straight-A student in school. I could've been a doctor or a lawyer. But our universities are underfunded so I couldn't afford to attend, and the inherent racism of accepted hiring practices made it difficult for me, a black man, to make a living.

It's rather ironic that black culture has been fetishised to the point where white kids are dressing like us, and co-opting our vernacular, while we ourselves have not benefitted from that trade in our culture. The clothes are made in third-world sweatshops that exploit cheap labour, and fill only the pockets of millionaire investors; the filthy mode of speech, while it will sell rap albums, ensures that no one who talks like that will get respectable jobs.

And so I fell to a life of crime. A fella and his family's gotta eat, right?

Me: Wow, that's quite a bit of profundity you've got there. Have you come up with any solutions to those problems?

DAWG: [silence]

Me: You dissin' me, DAWG...? Ah hell, he's dead.

I look down the street. Billy's just about mopped up some trailer trash. He's really in fine form, his leaping kicks connecting unerringly. Surely, it will not be long before Marian is rescued.

As our protagonist advances, a door slams open, and a doughty woman walks out onto the avenue. In her hand, she holds what looks to be a whip. Yes, I do indeed believe it is a whip. I dub the woman Sister Domina.

Billy looks stunned. He stands still as Sister cracks her whip at him. "What's the matter?" I yell at him. "Fight back, man!"

"I can't!" he answers me, as he gets lashed again. Flat on his back, winded: "She's a woman. I can't hit a woman."

"Chivalry is long dead, Billy. She'll kill you if you don't defend yourself. Think about Marian!" Gods, these martial-arts types can be so dense. I hate this job.

Billy nods at my logical arguments. He's got no choice, so he tries to attack Domina with the least violent method in his arsenal: the headbutt. In this way, he hopes to subdue her as quickly as possible, and keep the bruising to a minimum. It isn't long before the sister's KO'd. Or is that K'd-O?

Billy bends down to pick up Dom's discarded weapon. "It has a fine heft," he calls to me.

He makes his way forward. Suddenly, the walls of the building next to him start crumbling. There's a massive biker dude waiting in ambush. Worse yet, there's some more trailer trash, and this one's brought his Louisville Slugger with him. I don't think this is going to be  fair.

The biker dude grins at Billy. "A whip! How cute!" he drawls, before thrusting out a meaty hand and giving the Billster a nasty nosebleed. Our kung-fuer drops to the ground, clutching his snout. Trailer trash eyes me menacingly. He starts towards me, tapping the business end of his bat against the palm of his hand.

Did I mention I hate my job? I fumble with the folds of my pants, knowing I have no choice but to pull out my secret weapon. Lo and behold, in all its four floppy inches of glory: "Stop! International press!" I scream, holding out my plastic-encased battlereporter's ID card, chained to my belt.

Trailer trash looks confused for a moment, but keeps his distance and waits for Billy to get back on his feet. Whew, I didn't think that would've worked.

Our hero has shaken out the cobwebs, and rejoins the battle. He cuts quite a dashing figure, with his hair all tousled, and red rivulets running out of his nostrils. Trailer trash swings his bat, but he is quite ineffectual, possibly due to the fact that he is incontrovertibly drunk. Billy dispatches him with ease.

Biker dude poses much more of a problem. Not only is he taller and heavier than Billy, but his reactions are also quick. Whenever our white knight gets too close, biker dude lashes out with a random limb. I've got complete faith in Bily's abillities. I mean Billy's abilities. Damn, I wish my pen had a backspace key. Anyway, I've got complete faith in his abillities, but I sure wouldn't want to be feeling what he's feeling right now.

Of course, my beliefs are justified. With a series of high kicks that would make any Vegas showgirl envious, our black belter vanquishes biker dude. Nothing can keep Billiam from his Marian.

We make our way into what looks like a loading zone. Another DAWG and trailer trash try to double-team, but ninja master Lee teaches them both harsh and permanent lessons. But before he can even wipe his hands, a great bellow echoes between the walls of the warehouses. A great giant of a man, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr T, is rushing to the fore with another DAWG tailing him.

Billy meets the threat confidently. He decks the DAWG with a series of well-timed elbows, and manages to keep out of range of Mr T's muscular arms. T periodically swings his fists out and tries to box Billy's ears, but our spry hero sidesteps.

With DAWG down for the count, Billy switches gears, grabbing an oil drum from the loading dock and heaving it at Mr T. So gargantuan is T that this reporter feared that he would just swat the barrel aside, but it connects with a resounding smack against T's pecs. By alternately throwing and rolling the oil drum, Billy is able to kill Mr T without suffering further injury.

"Area's clear!" Billy calls to me. "Let's get into the factory. It's a front for Willy's gang."

Mission 2: The Factory

I check my pen and camera while my companion advances towards a trailer trasher up on a ledge. Halfway there, a DAWG leaps from a catwalk above. Before I even think to yell a warning, Billy's lightning-quick reactions take over. Jabbing out with a fist, he knocks the DAWG sideways in his freefall. He runs up to the trailer trash, but I don't think he's noticed the stick of dynamite in the bad guy's hand.

"TNT! Watch it!" I warn him. Billy doesn't look like he's heard me, but my sudden interjection surprises trailer trash, whom Billy bashes to the floor. TT lands, groaning, on top of his explosives. Meanwhile, DAWG's up on his feet again, if a bit unsteadily, and he trades blows with Billy. This DAWG is either more talented or lucky than the others we've run into so far; he and Billy knock each other over, gasping. Billy recovers more quickly, and with a few swift kneecaps to DAWG's forehead, renders him senseless. Trailer trash, who stupidly lit the fuse on his stick of dynamite before he was ready to throw it, dies not knowing what hit him.

Billy hops up onto the ledge, and I make as if to follow, but someone trips me from behind. I rotate onto my back, and I'm face-to-face with another member of the trailer trash clan. This guy's outfit is particularly horrendous -- a hot pink tank top tucked into white golf pants that segue into brown leather shoes. I try to explain to him that I'm a non-combatant, but all that comes out of my mouth is, "Intuhnadunal pwess!" mainly because he's pummelling my ribs.

Luckily, Billy comes to my recue. "Unhand him, knave!" He grabs TT by the hair and drags him off of me.

"International press! God damn!" I wheeze. They both ignore me. Billy's busy flipping trailer trash over his shoulder. My erstwhile attacker's centre of gravity describes a perfect parabola as he falls into an open pit. Billy pulls me up the ledge before I can ask, "What the hell kind of factory is allowed to operate with an open pit in the middle of it?" I surreptitiously check my camera; looks like it's still working fine. I take a moment to remove my reporter tag from my belt and clip it to my shirt pocket. Perhaps it'll be more visible there, and dissuade further goonery against my person.

We clamber up a stack of metal girders. A DAWG with a baseball bat and another TT are waiting for us. Billy disposes of TT using some fancy footwork; drawing him to the edge overlooking the pit and then shoving him over. Bat boy, knowing he's no match for a karate-chopping dojo operator, isn't shy about using his Slugger.

The bat thuds against Billy's abdomen; I can hear the breath being driven out of his lungs. DAWG lets out a taunting whoop, but his elation is short-lived. The Bill wills himself to overcome the pain in his gut and rushes the thug with one kick after another. I swear his feet spend more time in the air than on the ground! As the podiatric barrage pushes DAWG into the oft-used pit of no return, Lee deftly plucks the Louisville Slugger out of his hands. "It has a fine heft," he announces as he caresses the shaft lengthwise.

We arrive into what looks like an assembly area. There's a conveyor belt that feeds into a hole. I don't know how deep it is, but it's got nasty clunking and shredding sounds coming from inside. There's an elevator set in the north wall, but the south edge of the floor ends in a steep three-storey drop. I flip to a blank page in my notebook and write: Find the architect and MAKE HIM HURT.

I point out the lights above the elevator. "Looks like someone's coming up."

Billy takes position to one side. Seconds pass. The elevator doors slide open quietly. One trailer trash and two Sisters step out.

I can see Billy's wrestling with his knightly conscience again. "For Marian!" I urge him. "Headbutt!" And so he does. Let me tell you, I've see a lot of things over the years, but I've never seen anyone able to use his head so magnificently. It almost sounds like the women are screaming with pleasure at our sensei's ministrations. Trailer trash sucker-punches Billy to relieve him of his bat, but is tossed up onto the conveyor belt in revenge. Billy keeps TT on the defensive with a flurry of punches, and the evil-doer eventually missteps and falls irretrievably into gaping chasm #2. He's followed by one of the Doms when Billy's headbutt bounces her onto the belt.

Meanwhile, the elevator's brought up another two Sisters. While Billy steps up to pleasurepressure (it's so hard to observe and take notes at the same time) them, I hear a buzzing sound from the edge of the factory floor. I cautiously glance over. There's a metal lift rising up from the ground below, and there's a baddie on it. This guy looks like a professional: clothes tailored to a perfect fit, an easy and relaxed stance, with this haughty expression on his face. I shall call him Preppy.

"Incoming bogie, Billy-Bob! You'd better finish them off quickly." Sadly, he doesn't have enough time to properly take all three of the remaining Sisters at once. Preppy steps off of the platform.

From the get-go, it's clear Billy's in trouble. Preppy is quite skilled in martial arts, as I'd predicted, though his form is not as graceful as Billy's. Preppy puts Billy into a full nelson, and the women have their way with him. I have to avert my eyes: it's not pretty.

The situation is grim, but Billy turns things around in a heartbeat. He temporarily frees himself by unleashing an elbow into Preppy's face. His head bobs up and down, left and right, as he takes care of the dames one after the other.

One of the Sisters is down for the count. Knowing that if I'm ever to get that job at FOX News, I'll have to demonstrate an ability to get the full story, I mosey on down to Sister Domina to record her last words.

Me: Greetings, Sister Domina. How are you feeling today?

Dom: Auuuuuuunnnghhhhhhhhh!

Me: Huh?

Dom: How do you think I'm feeling?

Me: Oh, right, of course. Sister, can you tell me why you turned to a life of crime?

Dom: It's a funny story, really. I started out as a nun, but after a couple of years of that I felt that something was missing from my life.

Me: So you went from being a nun to a violent criminal?

Dom: It's not as simple as that. When I left the convent, I realised that I didn't really have all that many marketable skills, what with my training as a bride of Christ. But then, I realised that I was really good at rapping boys' knuckles with rulers at Sunday school, and dominating flows naturally from that. And of course those sore-knuckled lads were a great initial client base for me.

Me: I see. And how did you come to work for Willy?

Dom: Lots of bad boys need to get proper punishment in an organisation like Willy's. It's not surprising they hired me. I'm very good at what I do, but your friend there is much better. And here I am, stewing in my own juices. 'Twas fun while it lasted.

Me: I guess... Any last words?

Dom: Please... thank that man in the blue vest for being the first person to make me a woman.

Me: Pardon? I'm not sure I take your meaning.

Dom: The things he can do with his head...

Me: I'm going to take stab in the dark because I've got no idea what you're talking about. You're saying you've never --

Dom: Never.

Me: But even after you left the convent, you never --

Dom: Never.

Me: But even after you divested the habit and picked up the whip --

Dom: Never. Are you stupid or something?

Me: Sorry. I'm new at this embedded stuff. Trying to get a job at FOX. I'll make sure to pass on your gratitude to Mr Lee. Thanks for talking with me, Sister.

When I turn back to the rumble, I see Preppy's only got one of his backup singers left. She can't attack safely, because Billy and Preppy have got their handsfists all over each other. Billy eventually lands some lucky hits, leaving his sparring partner muttering groggily. With a mighty poke of his head, he knocks Dom upout.

Preppy, now recovered, stands on the platform, daring Billy to some high-stakes combat. The two square off.

They trade punches, but neither can gain the upper hand. Surely, the first to make a mistake will tumble to his death. I can see Billy's eyes following Preppy's every move, trying to glean some pattern in the attacks. Suddenly, an opening: sensei Lee clutches at Preppy's coifed locks, pulling his skull to crack against a hard kneecap. I'm certain the joust is over, but then Preppy, amazingly, grabs Billy's forearms and shoves him backwards. Billy stumbles. One foot slips off of the platform, then the other. Only his preternatural dexterity saves him from plummeting to his death. He thrusts his arms out and tries to cantilever himself back onto the lift, but his skin is slick with sweat and he can't make any progress.

Preppy catches sight of me. "Hey, you with the camera! Would you mind taking a picture of me getting rid of this middle-class loser?"

I gulp and nod. It was nice knowing you, Lee. I put camera to eye while Preppy straightens his vest and poses with his foot ready to stomp on Billy's scrabbling arms. "Snap it whenever you're ready," he orders.

I focus the picture. "Say cheese." With a click and a flash the camera works its magic.

Billy times it perfectly. Just as Preppy blinks from the sudden flash of light, Billy grabs a $500 boot and upends his torturer, sending him, screeching, over the edge.

"Come on," Billy waves to me. "They must have taken Marian down a level." I head for the elevator, but my reportee doesn't follow. "No, not there," he says. He points to the lift.

"Are you insane?" I ask him. "We could fall off that thing!"

"Elevators are for wimps, not great martial arts instructors like me."

"Well, I'm just a reporter, so I'm takin' the elevator." I hit the call button, but Billy pinches my forearm with superhuman strengh and pulls me onto the platform. Not for the first time, I wonder what the hell kind of factory has a lift without a nice sturdy cage to ensure cargo and/or personnel don't take a swan dive over the edge. The damned thing wobbles on the way down, but Lee's deathgrip ensures that if I go down, he'll go down onwith me.

Mission 3: Into the Wilderness

On ground level we're intercepted by two trash, two DAWGs, and a Sister. Being an egalitarian and a man of the twenty-first century, Lee accords the same gentle attentions to the men as he does the lady. Thanks to Billy's manipulations, Domina quickly falls in a swoon, and with her innocent eyes shielded behind unconciousness, samurai Lee feels it's time for some reciprocation.

One after the other, Willy's ruffians are pulled by their hair. Billy rams the hardest part of his physique again and again into each of the scumbags' faces, which come away stained and bleeding. Lee expertly angles his legs to maximise the acceleration of each thrust; he looks like Michael Flatley in Riverdance. The unoccupied gangsters try to beat Billy off, but he's rocking to a rhythm that cannot be slowed until he's sated. All too soon, the riffraff have been silenced for good.

Ahead, there's a heavily forested area. A single TT, obviously an advance scout, bars the way. He squawks into a walkie-talkie before cracking his knuckles and grappling with the protagonist of our report. Unfortunately, the trash man is no match for someone who just came onfrom a whole mob of roughs. Billy tosses him over his shoulder; just another notch in his belt.

We venture into the woods, following a well-trod path. All is quiet, until a trailer trash clansman drops from the trees. Billy reacts quickly, jumping up and putting a boot into TT's midsection. Two other TTs come out of hiding after the failed ambush. I swear, they all look exactly alike and wear exactly the same clothes. This has got to be inbreeding at its worst. One of them is positioned near the edge of a deep pit; Billy heads for him, hoping to even the odds a bit by poking him into the hole. I sure wish Public Works would just fix all the stinking holes in the ground.

Our karate master flicks a foot out in a high kick, aiming at TT's head. However, the trash pulls a knife and throws at Billy. The three trashketeers snicker as the blade slams home; Billy falls to a crouch.

To everyone's astonishment, Billy gets to his feet, grabs one of the TT, and starts cracking his head open with a series of rapid knee strikes. The knife fiend, mouth hanging open in surprise, is pounded into the hole of no return. The third of the trailer trash brothers regains enough of his wits to put up token resistance, but Billy grabs him by the hair, and sends him to join his sibling to tour the centre of the earth.

I am in awe of Billy. "How did you survive that knifing?"

He dismissed it as nothing. "My body has been hardened by years of training. I do not mean to say that it did not hurt. Just that it would have hurt more were I not a martial art sexpervarts expert." He fishes one of TT's knives from the dusty road and gauges its balance. "It has a fine heft."

We resume our journey; I notice he's definitely walking with a limp. A tell-tale rustling in the foliage alerts us to a nearby enemy -- a biker dude charges out from behind the trees.

The Bill shifts his grip on the knife and meets the biker head on. Dude's superior height and muscle serve him well, preventing the knife from cutting into flesh. Billy switches tactics, placing a kick into dude's teeth and immediately following up with a roundhouse. The impact sends the biker reeling onto his back. When he tries to get up, Billy draws a bead and launches the knife right into biker dude's gut. Chalk up another kill for the good guy.

We reach a bridge spanning a river. Or, it would span the river if it weren't broken in the middle. For the umpteenth time, I wonder how the municipal government's spending its tax dollars. On the opposite side of the gap, there's another biker dude gleefully pounding his chest and yelling taunts at us.

Billy leaps fearlessly across the gap while I contemplate the fast-flowing waters. Knowing that I'm not as athletically gifted as Lee, I decide that it would be folly for me to jump. As I chew on this problem, biker dude guffaws, and this is followed by a splashing sound and a spray of water. Billy's been tossed into the river.

He's sputtering and floundering; when his face breaks the surface, I can clearly see the fear in his eyes. I realise he doesn't know how to swim. A lucky current pushes him towards my side of the broken bridge; I lie down on my stomach, catch hold of a waving arm, and pull him to safety. Billy's coughing like mad. Biker dude is busy cackling an insane laughing chant: "Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho ho! Hee, hee, hee! Heh, heh, heh!"

Our hero is enraged. He leaps again across the breach, droplets of water streaming from his soggy clothes. He sticks his landing on the other side despite the dampness, and launches a furious assault on biker dude. Dude tries to counter, but with the combination of Billy's rapid prancing and his slick, wet skin makes it as difficult as catching a fish with bare hands. Finally, Billy lands a powerful kick, sprawling dude on the ruined bridge.

Bill smooths his hair back out of his eyes. "Come on, jump for it."

"Uh, I don't think I can jump that far," I reply. "And the current's too fast for my dogpaddle."

Billy growls. He lunges back over the raging waters, grabs my arms, turns his back to me, and lifts me over his shoulder. I suddenly realise that I'm in the air and dropping, but before I can scream, my landing knocks the breath out of me. Luckily, biker dude broke my fall.

My buddy's made it back across the bridge and is trading blows with a DAWG and two trash men on solid ground. I take the opportunity to add yet another guy-on-the-street interview to my portfolio.

Me: Hello, Biker Dude!

Biker: [mumble]

Me: Begging your pardon, but I didn't quite catch that. All I got was, "off."

Biker: RAWR!

Me: Uh, right. So dude, why are you in Willy's gang? It's not cool to be a bad guy.

Biker: All I ever wanted to do was ride my hog.

Me: Oh... Isn't bestiality illegal in most jurisdictions?

Biker: Bee Gee what?

Me: Er, ride your what?

Biker: My hog! My motorcycle!

Me: Ah, I see what you mean. But what's that got to do with joining Willy's gang?

Biker: The biker lifestyle is expensive. Most people wouldn't think it, but it's true. You've got to pay for insurance and gas and parking and maintenance. Then there's the clothing (a leather jacket is a must), the chains, and the helmets. Of course there are also spiffy accessories like those little bells you can ring to warn pedestrians on the sidewalk. Those are usually only found on bicycles, but I think it's only considerate for us motorcyclists to use them too. And, well, there's the hog itself. Plus we've got incidental expenses for alcohol, drugs, and firearms to fend off the pigs.

Me: Huh? Why would you need guns to fend off your hogs?

Biker: Pigs, moron, not hogs! The cops!

So, in answer to your question, I do a little enforcing on the side to get some extra dough.

Me: Heh. Looks to me like you're the one who got enforced. Do you have any advice for our readers back home who might be looking into a career in a crime ring?

Biker: #%@& off!

Me: Actually, I think that's spelled with an asterisk, but thanks for those words of wisdom.

Billy's making quick work of his enemies. Two of them are already lying face-down in the dirt. The third tries to wrestle our champion to the ground, but Billy breaks free. TT lays into him with a dastardly punch to the kidney, but that's the extent of the damage he inflicts. Billy grabs TT by the hair, delivers two knee smashes to the forehead, and flings him into the drink. Too bad it's not beer, TT.

We reach a canyon, guarded by two each of bikers and trash. Billy takes one of the TT by the hair and introduces him to his pretty nieceknees; they really seem to hit it off. Given the stunned look on TT-1's face, I think it's safe to conclude that it's love at first sight.

However, the other three thugs do not have romance on their minds. They're lifting heavy boulders up over their heads, and chucking them at Billy. Macho martial artist that he is, he stands his ground and tries to deflect the massive projectiles. Unfortunately, rock is somewhat sturdier than flesh, and Lee is concussed into the ground.

I can see that Billy's having trouble keeping his balance. Every time he tries to get up, he keels from side to side. His attacks are mistimed, allowing the bikers to grasp him and throw him around in a grotesque game of upsy-daisy.

I know I have to do something, but being a wimpy reporter, I know I can't take on TT, much less a biker dude. Aside from which, a battlereporter attacking would be the heights of BM observing. Words will have to be my weapons.

"Billy, you have to hang on!" I beseech him. "My career aspirations at FOX are riding on your shoulders!" His only reaction is a muffled grunt, which possibly was not due to my inspirational speech, but a ham fist ramming into his belly.

"Billy! Think about Marian! You're her only hope."

That did something. I can see the rage burning in his eyes again. Lee stands up, eyeing one biker's toothy grin. The biker sends a fist speeding towards Billy's head, but the good ninja blocks it with an open palm. The loud smack reverberates in the air while TT and the other biker recover their boulders. Lee places a kick at the biker's torso, but dude shakes it off. Billy tries again with the other leg, and this time his opponent doubles over. Lee takes advantage of the biker's incapacitation, pirouetting in a powerful roundhouse kick. The blow sends the biker dropping over the escarpment.

The other two gangsters are wary now. Billy decides to engage the remaining biker; TT manoeuvres behind in an attempt to line up a shot with his stone. Lee gives the biker a face massage, causing him to drop his boulder. Billy agilely ducks below the falling rock and continues his manual assault, finishing with a viscious uppercut that sends the biker flying.

TT wavers nervously, so biker dude remains the focus of Billy's attention. With combinations of punches, kicks, and elbows, he herds the biker closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. The biker runs out of room, and therefore choices. He tries to leap forward, but Billy's boot bats the baddie into oblivion. TT thinks better of continuing all by his lonesome, so he drops his boulder, and makes a run for it.

"We must be close to Willy's hideout," Lee informs me.

Mission 4: The Lion's Den

We're somewhat confused about how to proceed at this point. Behind us are wilderness and defeated lackeys. In front of us is the edge of a cliff.

All becomes clear when Billy peers into the abyss. "Aha!" he exclaims. "There's a bridge down there." He's right. And there's a Preppy looking up at us. "Nothing to do but jump," Billy says. He propels himself into the air. I cringe, sure he's going to break every bone in his body. However, he manages to land, cat-like, on all fours. Preppy and Billy have at it.

Meanwhile, I weigh my options. Journalistic integrity demands that I follow Lee until the end. Logic dictates that I should not jump. I therefore decide to climb.

Securing my camera and notepad, I slowly lower myself over the edge of the cliff face. The stone is rough, and there are plenty of hand- and foot-holds. Unfortunately for me, my hands are shaking and becoming damp with sweat. I risk a glance down -- it's a big mistake. The bridge is still quite far below me, and I notice that it only has a railing on one side. Just who the hell designs these things? A bridge into the middle of a cliff face? That has safety railings on only one edge? The sight nearly makes me lose my grip.

I stare steadfastly as the rock surface in front of me, carefully moving one limb at a time, ensuring each nook and each cranny can hold my weight. I can hear Billy and Preppy tussling below; both periodically emit grunts as blows connect. I am fraught with guilt at not being able to take pictures. With one hand, I take my camera and aim it behind my back without looking. Hopefully I'll catch something worth seeing.

Interminable minutes pass as I complete my descent. Finally, with the bridge underfoot, I turn around just in time to see Billy land a decisive headbutt against Preppy's cheek. Preppy lies supine on the bridge deck. Billy strides towards the other end of the bridge, where another Preppy awaits.

I am too shaken from my climb to follow. I whip out my notebook and prepare to interview the fallen Preppy at my toes.

Me: H-h-hey P-preppy, g-good day to y-you!

Preppy: Ugggghh.

Me: S-so, Preppy, it's not often that rich kids join gangs. Tell us a little bit about why you've chosen such a dodgy lifestyle.

Preppy: My family is very rich. We've got so much money you probably don't even know how to count that high. Whatever I wanted was provided. See these clothes I'm wearing? One of a kind, specially tailored in Italy. I've got three cars, one for weekdays, one for weekends, and one for special occasions. Everything I've ever wanted could be purchased.

Except for excitement. I joined Willy's gang so I could swarm people who don't dress as snappily as I do.

Me: Oh. May I ask how your family came by its fortune?

Preppy: My father was an architect.

Me: ARCHITECT? Did he design any famous buildings we'd know about?

Preppy: *cough* Yes... the factory in town... a couple of bridges... In fact, the bridge we're on right now.

Me [to myself]: Revenge is within reach!

Me: Hmm... Well, I've got some interesting "questions" I'd like to "ask" your father. Can you maybe give me an address or a contact number?

Preppy: He's dead... You can talk to my mother if you want.

Me: Drat. Uh, no, never mind. May I ask you how he died?

Preppy: While he as taking a stroll through the forest, he... fell into a hole...

Me [to myself]: Poetic justice!

Me: My condolences for your loss.

Preppy: Please, my time is short... can you deliver a message to someone for me?

Me: Of course.

Preppy: Tell her... I love... her... *cough*

Me: Yes, but who? Your mom?

Preppy: Tr... *cough* Trust Fund. [dies]

Me: I will not fail you. Rest in peace.

I look up in time to see Billy dumping Preppy #2 over the opposite end of the bridge. Lee makes eye contact with me and points up. We'll have to scale another rock wall.

So... We have to climb down a cliff to reach a bridge, and then from said bridge, climb up another cliff. Something just doesn't sound kosher here, but I can't put my finger on it.

Billy scurries up the rock, spider-like, while I opt for a more sedate pace. Above me, I can hear scuffling. A body drops past me into the chasm; Billy's doing some trailer trash population control. I reach the level ground in time to snap a picture of of Lee feeding everyone's favourite joint to yet another Preppy.

We come to a cave with double doors barring the way. There can be no doubt about it -- this has got to be Willy's HQ. We surmise this due to the fact that caves do not usually have doors. Without warning, the gates swerve out, and the cave disgorges a T with a decidedly sickly look to him.

Despite his greenish cast, Mr T comes out swinging. Billy raps a hasty elbow into T's solar plexus, dropping him to the ground. T recovers almost immediately, hugs Lee's legs to his lettuce-coloured chest, and sends him head over heels into the air. Our ninja master crashes into the ground with a thump.

The two are nearly evenly-matched. T's superior size and mass are balanced by Billy's refined talents. When Mr T kicks out a leg to trip Lee, Lee counters by rolling a boulder over T's feet. When Billy mashes a boot against T's face, the big green man replies by slapping an open palm against my companion's ear. When the former A-Team member manages to throw Lee, the kung-fu master leaps to his feet and elbows his opponent to the ground.

Well, the saying goes, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall," and when T finally toplesstopples, I can literally feel the ground trembling. Billy's looking quite battered, but with Marian just minutes away, his step does not falter. He invades Willy's hideout.

I take a moment to interview Mr T.

Me: Mr T! Hey, I'm one of your biggest fans!

T: Shut up, fool!

Me: Uh, I think it would be in your best interests to talk to me. I'm a reporter. If you alienate me, I could write nasty things about you and ensure you'll never be on TV again.

T: I got no time for the jibba-jabba! Damn, I want to barf.

Me: Yeah, I was gonna ask you. Is green your natural colour?

T: No, it was Murdock's turn to cook again. Damned sucka! I told him cook the meat until it was well-done!

Me: So, Mr T, can you tell me why you've thrown your lot in with a criminal organisation after a lifetime of fighting the good fight?

T: Ever since the A-Team disbanded everything's gone downhill. I had to sell all my gold just to put food on the table. And when the money ran out, I had to do something. I just couldn't go back to eating three meals a day. As in oatmeal, miss-a-meal, and no meal.

Me: I'd better get back to my partner. Thanks for chatting with me, Mr T. Good luck in your future endeavors.

T: Crazy fool, I'm lying here bleeding to death!

Me: Oh yeah. What I meant to say was, "Live long and prosper."

I enter the cave. Up ahead Billy's being attacked by the wall. Parts of it are shooting out and slamming into him. Further inside, there's a pit filled with sharp metal spikes. Billy's got little room to dodge. I advance to help him to his feet, but right in front of my nose, a brick slides out. I can think of only one way of getting past this trap.

I puff out my chest, and yell, "International press!" pointing to the ID card on my shirt. "Stop!"

The bricks are vibrating, ever so slightly, but it looks like my ploy has worked. I run to Lee and drag him to safety. "That's twice I've saved your life," I mumble. "Just what sort of martial artist are you?"

He shakes his head to clear it. Ahead, two TTs are arguing about who should take the lead in assaulting Billy. Lee takes the question out of their hands by walking up to them and knocking them over. The trashmen's resistance is pathetic; more often than not, they get in each other's way. Billy takes minimal damage in the encounter.

We creep forward, but there's the soft brush of footfalls behind us. "Look out!" Billy yells. He unceremoniously shoves me to the floor. I feel something whiz by my ear. A split second later, there's a clink of metal against the toe of Billy's boot. It takes me a moment to realise he managed to kick a throwing knife out of the air.

There's a DAWG behind us, cursing at his wasted blade. Billy jumps over me and starts pugilistic activities with the enemy. The DAWG makes a good show of it, but is too chobo for our resident black belt. Billy grabs him by the hair and tosses him into the spike pit.

Lee retrieves the knife from the ground. "The heft. It is fine on this knife."

"Yeah," I answer, "I can tell because it looks just like the other one you picked up."

There's a room not too far away. The plush red carpeting virtually strumpettrumpets that this is where Willy willy meet us. This is where Billy willy be reunited with Marian. This is where everything will end, one way or another.

Billy and I walk, keeping the deadly pit well to our right. Suddenly, the wall to the left begins to crumble. Another Mr T bursts forth. Seconds later, T's brother, whom I'll call Mr A in order to avoid confusion, ruptures a similar gap in the wall. Lee, unfazed by the sight of all that glistening skin, prepares to get T and A.

Billy takes careful aim with his blade. With an expert flick, he jams it right into the middle of A, who falls, screaming, clutching the wound with both hands.

Lee pivots to face T. Our hero tries to wallop T's chest, but the behemoth's massive pectorals absorb the attacks easily. T hops forward, wraps his arms around Billy's middle, and with a great yell, catapults him into the air. As Lee crunches onto the floor, T makes a big show of flexing the muscles in his chest.

Mr A is whimpering at a splotch of red spreading down his pant leg. Billy, regaining his balance, faces off with T again. He bangs a kick into T's shoulder, but it has little effect. In a few short moments, Billy is back in the air. Lee changes tack. This time, when he gets up, he immediately jumps into the air and sticks a leg out towards T. The speed of the attack catches his enemy by surprise; Billy's momentum allows the blow to tip T over. T thuds into the ground, his upper torso jiggling like jello.

Somehow, Mr A has managed to extract the knife from himself. Hell-bent on revenge, he lurches at our sensei. But Lee sees him coming, and throws a merciless punch at A's knife hole. Billy's fist goes into the cut, sending the bigger man into new paroxysms of agony and redoubling the torrent of blood flowing out of A's hole.

During this viscious assault, T walks up behind Billy. Lee barely has time to begin a headbutt, but T is in the act of punching. The good guy's skull cracks into T's ham fist.

"No, stop headbutting," I suggest. "They're too big for you. You need use attacks with greater momentum." Billy grunts. T receives an elbow in the stomach, and Billy moves into a better position.

Lee makes like a Mexican jumping bean, flitting first one way, then the other. The flying kicks are taking their toll on Billy's stamina and T's strength. Soon, both of them are swaying on their feet. Billy, too tired to propel himself forward, jumps straight up and twists in midair, sending a kick at T's huge teatteeth. T, taking advantage of Billy's inability to defend in the air, claps his hands on the outstretched leg. However, Lee reacts quickly. As he falls, he clicks his other foot against T's hand, effectively pincering one brown arm. The move seems to defy all known laws of physics, but T is pulled down and forward, and in his fatigued state, he cannot break his fall. His chin whams against the floor, and it's lights out.

Meanwhile, A is back up again, limping more than ever. He yanks our kung-fu fighter up and attempts to throw him into the spike pit, but he can't even get him off the ground. The exertion sends new waves of pain rippling out from the knife wound. The fight's gone out of Mr A; he crawls into a corner.

I survey the area. Broken walls, bloodstains, a spike pit; broken bodies and decomposing corpses. If this isn't a candidate for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, no place is.

I walk up to Billy and take a look. He's sitting with his back against the wall, breathing heavily, his face shiny with sweat, and perhaps tears. He's covered in blood, and I'm not sure how much of it is his. "We should hurry," I say. There's no response; his eyes are dead.

But then, we hear quiet sobbing coming from the carpeted room. There's no need for me to prompt Billy, for his thoughts are already racing to the correct conclusion. "Marian," he whispers. Billy, reinvigorated by Marian's nearness, dashes into the grand hall. I follow, notepad and camera primed.

Mission 4: The Showdown

And there she is. Marian. Tied up like some animal at a rodeo. Lee is incensed; his nostrils flare, his eyes bug out. "Billy, help me!" Marian cries. Sighting a biker, a TT, and badbat DAWG, Billy charges towards them to unleash his anger.

TT draws Lee's ire first. Billy's hands and feet blur as the trash man is given his just deserts. His head is slammed repeatedly into the wall, smearing it crimson.

Bat boy and biker dude work in tandem to herd Billy further into the room. I walk up to the fallen TT, hoping to complete my interview series, but he is completely unresponsive to my queries. Maybe the HR department at FOX won't notice my work's incomplete. Or if they do, maybe I can get a job as a fact-checker for 60 Minutes.

My eyes are drawn to the far side of the room, where Billy is battling it out with the biker and the DAWG. Above, on an indoor balcony (how useful), stands the head honcho, the big boss, the Godfather. There's a machine gun on a rack over his shoulder; I'm somewhat surprised he hasn't pulled it and started shooting. Willy doesn't look happy that Billy's made it this far. He waves at someone behind him. A Preppy walks out of the shadows and climbs up onto the balustrade, preparing to leap into the melee below. "You think you're so good, come shoot me!" Billy taunts. Willy grinds his teeth, but makes no response. Behind me, I can hear Marian whimpering.

Billy is roughing bat boy up quite badly. With his trademark hair-grab and knee smash, he induces the DAWG to relinquish the Slugger. With a mighty heave, Billy chucks his enemy against the balcony above. There's a loud crack as the DAWG's back ricochets against the wood, followed quickly by another crack when his he lands on his head. He is unquestionably finished. The first Preppy, who's just alit onto the floor, whistles. His brother emerges from the balcony and prepares to join the fray. A third Preppy stands beside Willy; they are frowning and whispering to each other. Willy makes a slashing motion with his hand, and the Preppy nods, preparing to jump to ground level. Willy snatches the machine gun from the wall, and disappears into the shadows.

Knowing he's going to be seriously outgunned in a few seconds, Lee throws it into high gear. He repeatedly slaps elbows into the biker's chest. Whether by fortune or skill, I do not know, but one of the hits seems to have critically injured the dude. He's gasping for air, clutching the left side of his chest. Billy socks one last elbow into the biker's temple, knocking him out.

The three Preppies are circling Lee, putting him on the defensive. I spot Willy through a pass-through, gun swaying in his arms. Billy swings an elbow, and through some weird mechanism I can't fathom, manages to deck two of the Preppies at once.

Then, Willy enters the room. He braces himself, raises the his gun, and squeezes the trigger. A burst of bullets rockets out of the muzzle, and enters Billy's body.

Lee makes no noise. Marian screams enough for the both of them. So this is how it ends. I prepare to make a run for it -- I doubt Willy will appreciate me having a picture of him committing cold-blooded murder.

But then, incredibly, Billy rolls into a crouch. Though there are bloodstains blossoming on his shirt, he seems to be as hale as ever. The gang leader is frozen in surprise, the Preppies likewise. Our protagonist capitalises on their hesitation, flooring each of the Preppies, then presenting Willy with an elbow in the nose.

The gangsters are more careful now. After witnessing Billy's improbable survival, the boss is unwilling to risk his henchmen's lives by firing indiscriminately into the pack. The Preppies scrap with Lee; each takes his turn drawing Billy's attacks while the other two try to land solid strikes.

One of the Preppies, on whom Lee has been concentrating, is perspiring heavily. Lee shoots a foot outward and connects with his target's shoulder. As Preppy doubles over, Billy spins and sends him into the afterlife with a roundhouse kick.

Willy growls. With one arm, he directs the two remaining Preps to back him up. As they close in, Billy flattens Willy and one of his followers with a headbutt. Lee forces the other Preppy into a corner, where they go at it one-on-one.

The gang leader's frustration reaches critical mass. Berserk, he points his weapon at me. Being a person of at least moderate intelligence, I duck.

The gun sprays bullets my way. As I drop down onto all fours, I can hear them raking the wall behind me. "asdf!International! asdf!Press! God damn! I HATE THIS JOB!" I yell, but to no avail. With the second Preppy dispatched, Billy comes to my rescue, putting a boot into the gang boss's back. I scramble behind a corner to observe the struggle.

The last Preppy is scowling. He cannot believe Billy's not dead yet. With an inhuman cry, he abandons any semblance of discipline, and rushes, fingers set like claws, at Marian's boyfriend.

Lee cooly assesses Preppy's attack vector and speed. Launching into the air with a jump kick, he gives the last henchman a terminal case of whiplash.

Willy raises his gun as Billy lands. Marian screams again. I doubt Billy can live through another gunshot wound. But lo, and behold, the criminal kingpin does not score a single time.

Billy steps calmly up to the gun-toting Willy, and ruthlessly jabs his fists out. I can hear bones breaking. Willy lies sobbing on the carpet. Lee pulls him up by the hair, using a leg to angle the muzzle of the machine gun away.

"Why did you do it?" Billy hisses.

Willy sneers. "Go to hell."

"Was it worth all that pain? All that death and destruction?" Lee doesn't wait for an answer. "Bah!" He turns swiftly, and pulls Willy over his shoulder, instinctively releasing at the point where Willy's body reaches its greatest speed. The gang boss caroms off of the wall, and slumps to the carpet, lifeless.

Marian and I cheer lustily. "GJ, Billy," we call in unison. Billy tears apart the ropes restraining Marian. Lee is bruised and bloodied, and his clothes have rips in them, but I can tell Marian doesn't care. She embraces him and plants a big, wet kiss right on his mouth.

"Oh, Billy," she says, "Thanks for rescuing me. I love you so much! Let's get married. I want to have your baby. Three babies! Six, nine, twelve!"

Billy is momentarily stunned by the news. When he recovers, he chastely busses Marian's cheek, and says, "Close your eyes."

Marian squeals as she complies. I think he's gonna pull a ring out of one of his pocket, get down on bended knee, and pop the question. It's sooooo romantic, I'm not ashamed to admit I'm crying. I fumble for my camera to record the scene for posterity.

But what's this? Billy's got no band in his hand, and he's not kneeling. In fact, he's walking towards the pit with an expression of abject fear. Marian, in contrast, is smiling blissfully, with eyes closed.

Before I can interrogate Billy about his intentions, the unthinkable happens. My reporter's reflexes take over, and I manage to catch this crucial moment in history.

Marian opens her eyes and notices me with my mouth hanging agape. "Where'd Billy go?" she asks. I point to the spiked pit just beyond the carpeted area.

"Oohhh oohhh," she moans, covering her face with her hands. I move closer to offer what comfort I can, but Marian surprises me when lifts her head up. She's smiling. "Say, you wanna grab some dinner?"

Damn, I love this job.


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