The Metal Saga of Rob Stone
Chapter Soundtrack: (You play the appropriate song when the number appears in the story.)
: "Only the Good Die Young" by Iron Maiden
: "Bright Eyes" by Blind Guardian
: "Worth Fighting For" by Judas Priest
: "Battle Hymn/One Shot at Glory" by Judas Priest
Worth Fighting For
The tour bus for the power metal band Abomination Machine headed down the highway. Outside, the bus resembled any other tour bus, save it had opaque black windows and ads mounted on the side. It allowed the power metal band some degree of anonymity, but their fans would often recognize the bus after a few stops. Inside were the four members of the band, and a completely separate world.
Inside was a posh and comfortable ride, customized by one of their own. There were four bunks, a mini-bar, a small bookshelf, a television with game console, a carpet, cozy furniture, and room to stretch. Every square inch had been customized by hand, and experienced designer. What might have been merely comfortable was now distinctively homey. Hansi Albrecht, the young bassist from Germany, sat on a blue couch reading . His long, blond hair vanished between the pages of a fantasy novel. The cover read, "Perdido Street Station" by China Mieville.
"Getting some inspiration for a new song?" Adam Romeo, the band's tall and husky drummer asked as he sipped down a beer. He wore his gray shirt and jeans, and had little hair to speak of.
"Hey, don't knock what works," keyboardist Justin Tyler commented, turning his attention from a video game. The band's keyboardist had short brown hair, and had a muscular physique from his intense martial arts training. "Hey, Rob!" he called to an older man napping on a couch nearby.
He was an older, stocky man with a a round face, faded denim vest, short brown hair, fingerless leather gloves, and beaten jeans. The band's guitarist, vocalist, and all-round helper sat up. Before becoming the front-man for the band, he had acted as roadie, bodyguard, mechanic, and sometimes member-stand in for countless metal band before him.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"We've got twenty minutes until we get there," Tyler gestured out the bus's window. "You ever been to Chicago?"
"I've been all over the world on tours," Rob leaned back and stretched out. "I am old enough to be your father. But back in Chicago, I recall one time when the undead serial killer HH Holmes ran across stage and we had to hunt him through the audience."
"It's just amazing you've been in metal for this long!" Justin grinned. "I still get starstruck sometimes!"
"Try not to," Rob muttered. "You're a part of this band just as much as me. Would've thought three college students would've been my best band-mates and friends for years?"
While they were certainly less into the partying and boozing than the other metal bands, the band Abomination Machine was certainly more into the "thinking man's metal" side of it. Rob's own interest in literature, history, and mythology had drawn him to them in the first place. If decades ago was the hard party for jocks, this was what the former nerds did when they found they too could be loud. Despite any initial feelings, Rob had grown used to this bunch. He was the yang to their yin, or whatever the dualism was supposed to be.
"Thanks, Rob," Justin nodded. "Means a lot to me."
"I'll go get ready," Rob walked towards the rear of the bus, where the bathroom was located. "No sense getting all sentimental when there's still a show to put on."
Rob walked through the comfortable environment he had helped design. It always felt good to see people enjoying his handiwork. Especially when those people were close to him. While touring with people half his age was certainly strange, they'd shown unique potential. Certainly, the world needed all the good metal it can get. This bus didn't quite look like a moving temple to heavy metal, but that was how Rob Stone always thought of it.
Rob closed the door to the bathroom behind him. It had just been cleaned, and was still white and sparkling. He knew that would change by the end of the show. He turned the lock to the door, when he heard a sound that made him wince. There was a high pitched squealing and shrieking, and the room suddenly tumbled. The walls became the floor, and the ceiling and floor became the walls. His whole world started spinning out of control. Toiletries and toilet water flew all over the tumbling restroom, tossed about like clothing in a washing machine. Rob was thrust against the walls, grunting and tightening himself in anticipation for the next impact. He rolled with the bus, trying to prevent himself from smashing his head open. He was not successful. Something in the vortex of trash struck him, and everything went black.
When Rob awoke, he did not see the twisted metal wreckage or torn carnage he anticipated. Nor did he see a hospital emergency room. Instead, he was kneeling on a cold, riveted floor of some sort. Befor him stood a large, dark figure. He could only see the towering silhouette in the shape of a man before him. Behind him was an engine block, spraying flames into the air. Instead of the hellish nightmare he thought it was at first, this place seemed strangely comforting.
"Arise, my chosen," the figure's voice boomed. It sounded as thought his voice was being echoed from a hundred unseen angles. Each word was powerful and mighty.
"Where am I?! Who are you?!" he asked in a panicked voice. "Where's the others?! I need to get back to them!"
"They have sadly met their destinies," the figure nodded solemnly. "I understand you taught them as a father, treated them as friends, and made them your new family. But alas, they have been called to the Great Paradise of Metal."
"I've got to get up!" Rob shouted, trying to stand up. "This has just got to be a crazy dream!"
"This is no dream, Robert Stone," the hooded figure reached to the engine block behind him. "You have been summoned for a reason. The crash, I fear, was no random one. The forces responsible for it threaten your world."
"Then why would they go after us?" Rob asked. "We're just a metal band!"
"But one of such skill and originality!" the figure exclaimed, leaning his shoulders back. "This force not only threatens your world, but knows that true metal is the only thing that can stop their vile plan. Only a true soldier of metal, like you, can save the world!"
"Please, just let me wake up!" Rob pleaded.
"Your comrades did not pass quietly into the next world," the silhouette pulled out several objects. "They helped forge these items, so that true metal could reign supreme."
He laid the first item, a set of gloves, on the ground before Rob. They were similar to his fingerless black leather gloves, only with sharper spikes near the knuckles.
"These are the Fists of Metal," the man boasted. "With these, even the heaviest burdens will seem insignificant! The skulls of your enemies will be shattered into pulp!"
Another object was laid down. It was a pitch black revolver, with a larger than normal cylinder. On the barrel was carved the name "ANNIHILATOR" in runic letters. The weapon had black spiked leather placed around the grip. It was like no revolver Rob had ever seen before. He held it, and the spikes did not seem to bother him. The weapon was far lighter than he thought it would be. The spikes along the bottom of the handle grew in length, creating a nasty weapon for pistol whipping. "This is the Annihilator, a weapon of power to rival even Mjolnir or Gungnir! Empty never shall its chamber be!"
The final item was placed with a special reverence by the shadowy figure. He knelt down, and placed it directly in front of Rob Stone. Looking closer, he could see it was a guitar of some sort. It was an electric guitar, colored black and red. There was a brass plate reading "Terminus Est" near the neck. He could not see any manufacturer markings on it, and he could not recognize it as any guitar he had ever seen before.
"This is perhaps the greatest of the creations!" the man boosted in a booming, resounding voice."This is Terminus Est, an instrument that needs no electric cable. It is loaded with weapons and tools to assist you in your journey. Only a true master of metal can master it."
He leaned closer to the guitar, and reached for it. Suddenly, Rob Stone awoke with a huge hangover . Memories of the accident that killed the rest of the band and left him nearly dead would creep into his sleep when he least expected them, as well as recalling the strange hallucination he had seen. Everything since the hospital had been a blur since then, and the only thing he knew for certain was he was drinking in a cheap apartment in Chicago he had kept as a last-ditch house. He had grown used to the smell of the place, unable to tell it from his own body odor. A quick look at the wrinkled calender was the only indication of time he had, and since alcohol helped all the days merge into one. Time had stopped becoming a linear progression, and had turned into a quagmire, with everything sticking together.
At first, the fans had wanted him to get better, offering to help him. He had lashed out of them, like a tortured animal biting anyone who came to close. It had been over a year since he had been released from the hospital, and it had all gone downhill since. The fans had been taken back by his behavior and moved on, and whatever money he had amassed was being used for booze and minor expenses. While he didn't have much interest in drugs beforehand, Rob Stone had considered trying them out. He believed he had nothing else to lose.
That would all change one day. There was a fierce, powerful knocking at his front door. It was as if the towering giant from his hallucination was wrapping at the door, or destiny itself was trying to force its way in. "Hello?" Rob looked through the peephole in the door.
On the other side was a six foot muscular giant of a man. He had a mane of fiery, red hair and a beard that went from his chin to the center of his chest. He dressed in a black shirt with runic symbols on it, had spiked bracers on his arms, had a drinking horn on his belt, and a bag in his hands holding something large. The visitor reminded Rob Stone of a wax museum he had seen on Vikings. It was as though one of the ancient Scandinavian raiders walked out of the exhibit and stood before the front door to the apartment.
"Rob Stone?" the man asked in a deep voice. "I come seeking you!"
It took a while for Rob Stone to recognize the man. It was Grimm Skullshatter, bassist of the Scandinavian death metal band "Strike of Mjolnir." If he recalled correctly, Grimm had taken lessons from Hansi once. Unsure of what the Asatru Viking would want, he opened the door. "Yeah?" he asked in a half slurred voice.
"By Odin's beard!" he exclaimed. "How such a great warrior of metal has fallen!"
"Eh, that's what they all say," Rob muttered. "Whaddaya want here?"
"I was granted a vision of Lord Odin himself," Grimm entered the room and closed the door behind him. "He granted me these artifacts, and told me they were forged for your hands only."
Grimm pulled out several items from the bag, each of them something he had seen before. There was a familiar pair of fingerless gloves. There was a revolver with black leather wrapped around the handle. Finally, there was a guitar with a strange black and red collar scheme, and a familiar name on a brass panel on it.
"Holy shit!" Rob exclaimed. "So it wasn't all just me going crazy! Here I was thinking that it was like that time in Liverpool when those robot-men attacked with hallucinogenic gas!"
"The One-Eyed All-Father works in mysterious ways," Grimm added. "This revolver never runs out of bullets, this guitar doesn't need to be plugged in, and these gloves allow even the heaviest objects to seem lighter. It is a sign that he desires you to return to the ranks of the metal warriors!"
"He's got a strange way of showing it," Rob muttered, picking up the guitar. "Why the hell would he care about a washed up drunk like me? Doesn't he have warriors to train to Valhalla or something?"
"You're hardly washed up, Stone," Grimm replied. "Why, there are still fans who desire nothing but to see you help metal and good music spread across the world!"
"Everything I've touched falls apart, Grimm," Rob set down the guitar. "I've spent decades of my life on the road, trying to help the fans enjoy metal. And look where it is now! Hell, look what happened to the band I was in!"
"Did you not forget what the Gods of Metal told you?" Grimm hung his head in sorrow. "There is more at stake than just your or me. Lord Odin himself that Ragnarok may draw closer!"
"I don't care about Odin, or Ragnarok, or any of that crap," Rob muttered. "Now, I'm going to get back to some drinking."
"Rob, do not be a fool!" Grimm pleaded. "Did you think that the bus crash was an accident? The police said someone sabotaged the brakes, but never found a suspect. Someone considers you a threat, Rob, and they will not stop until you're dead."
"Doesn't matter now," Rob leaned back on a rotting mattress on the floor. "I wish I was dead sometimes. What's left for me, anyway? Horrible music polluting the airwaves? Metal being part of history?"
"None of that!" the Norseman protested, shaking his head. "Stop thinking like one of those spineless emo whelps! You were a proud metal warrior, you are a proud metal warrior, and you again will be a proud metal warrior!"
The Viking slapped Rob acrosss the face. "Get cleaned up; and get ready! I risked my life by coming here, and now, our fates have been intertwined! The man who tried to kill you is trying to eradicate all trace of metal and good music from the face of the Earth! He's made a deal with dark forces, and only we can stop them!"
"Do you even know who the hell's responsible for it, if your ramblings are true?" Stone complained, nursing his wound. "Who'd make a deal with the Devil to kill me, anyway? I'm just a relic from a metal age."
"Me producing each of the items from your hallucination does not do it for you? I would like to ask if the name Mick White sound familiars to you," the Asatru believer asked. "Your law enforcement cannot touch him, for reasons I am sure you know."
With that, Rob's jaw dropped. He remembered the man from when he first started getting into metal. He was a glam metal band member always on the news for trying new drugs. His band, Hair Force, was reputed to have sold enough albums at the peak of their popularity to buy a small country. After metal waned in popularity, he ditched his band and became a record producer. He bankrolled all sorts of bands, none of them particularly memorable. He was rumored to be continuing his drug habit, as well as all manner of unsavory and scummy dealings. He was a parasite in the body of all music, even more than just metal.
Rob recalled he had once offered to give "Abomination Machine" a recording contract that would allow him almost complete control over their personal lives and music, in addition to ripping them off. They had rejected it, and Mick White took it personally. He had a lot of enemies, and he never ventured out into public without his small army of bodyguards and his crack lawyer on speed dial. If there was anyone who was a mental maelstrom of drugs, paranoia, hatred, and desperation, it was Mick White.
Rob Stone's mind followed the evidence . Whatever Mick White was up to, he tried to kill him. The rest of his band, the three rising metal stars he had grown close to, were victims of a vendetta by that maniac. Hatred filled his mind. Rob Stone began to recall all the times he had toured with metal bands. It was a hard profession, but the rewards were spectacular. The roar of the crowd, the power of the instruments, and the strength in music form all gave Rob goosebumps as he recalled them.
"Grimm, can I have a few hours to get ready?" Rob asked the Viking. Stone felt a fire burn inside him, and an urge he had not felt in a long time return. "I've got my bike parked outside. I'll meet you out front in a few hours."
The Metal Skald looked down at Rob. Not with condescension, but with a look of respect and a shadow of a grin. "Glad to have you back in the fight, my brother in arms!"
"Some things are worth fighting for," Rob nodded. "Now, I'll get ready."
Grimm Skullshatter headed outside the apartment and closed the door behind him. Rob Stone began to shower and shave, two things he was in desperate need of. Cutting back the disheveled of hair on himself, he could see he now looked similar to the fateful night of the bus crash. He put on his jeans, shirt, and favorite denim vest. He picked up the Annihilator pistol, and slid it inside a vest pocket. It was too long since he was packing. He slipped his fingers into the Metal Fists, and cracked his knuckles. It had been too long since he cracked some skulls. Finally, he put a sling over "Terminus Est," and slung the instrument over his back. He grabbed a bag of his things, and headed out the front door. He could always come back, as he knew, but it was time to move on.
Rob Stone emerged from the apartment building in an outdoor parking garage. Given the time of day, it was unlikely anyone else would be around. His motorcycle, a Harley Davidson with a custom engine and painted skull design, was chained up next to Grimm's. Grimm's own bike was a customized one that Rob himself had designed from spare parts from countless brands. It was bigger than Stone's own bike, and had a sidecar mounted on the right side. Runic designs covered it, as did images of Viking warriors and medieval weapons. The name "Sleipnir" was sprayed onto the side. Grimm leaned against his bike, grinning at the American guitarist.
"Are you ready to ride with me into glorious battle?" Grimm grinned. "We must hurry, for our enemies grow stronger!"
Rob nodded and went to unchain his bike. As he knelt down, he felt something slash him from behind . A flash of pain raked across his back as he reacted. He turned around to see a group of strange creatures, and Grimm pulling out a massive, rune-covered weapon from the sidecar. He handled the massive long rifle with a scope and bayonet, and name "Gungnir" on it. Rob pulled out the Annihilator and leveled the pistol at the creature that had slashed him.
"Odin's beard!" Grimm cursed. "These creatures work for Mick! Prepare to fight!"
It was the height of a shorter man, easily about five feet tall. It was a naked, malformed parody of a human. Its nose had rotted away, and its eyeballs were bloodshot and almost yellow in color. Its teeth had been sharpened into dripping fangs. Its body was gaunt and compact, almost skeletal in form. Its hands and feel terminated in clawed digits. Strangely, it had some hair left, mainly a few short, frayed strands. It had glitter sprayed in it. It had dark glasses on with glitter sprayed along the frames hanging lopsided above its eyes. The creature had plenty of rings on its fingers, as well as glittering earrings. There was no doubt it was under Mick's employ. It hissed at Rob Stone before jumping again. Rob fired his pistol at the creature the instant before it made contact with him, and the head of the creature exploded into fragments of brain and blood. Grimm thrust his bayonet straight through one creature, and then shot his rifle at the creature behind it.
"These are glam ghouls! Do not let them feast upon you!" Grimm withdrew the rifle from within the creature's head. "Oh, how I loathe it when undead monsters sparkle!"
Rob saw more of the creatures coming towards them, clambering over cars. Rob managed to get the chain off the bike, but the creatures were too close to start the vehicle up. He'd have to fight them. Instinctively, he raised his pistol at the closest of the creatures and fired. The chest of the ghoul exploded outwards in a spray of carnage, showering nearby cars with blood. He was about to retrain his aim when another creature bit into his arm, causing him to close his eyes and wince for an instant. Quickly, he recovered, and punched at the ghoul's head. To his amazement, the Metal Fist glove went right through the ghoul's head, completely annihilating anything above the nose. A follow up hook to the next ghoul went right through its chest. He pulled his fist back out, holding the undead creature's still-beating blackened heart. Rob squeezed the shriveled organ in his palm, right in front of the still staring creature's face.
Just then, another glam ghoul pinned him to the ground from behind. He felt the creature's weight on his back, trying to hold him down so it could start ripping him apart. Rob Stone searched for a weapon nearby. His pistol was too far out of reach. So, he grabbed the bike chain he had just dropped, and turned his body as he swung it. With the Metal Fists on, it felt like swinging a piece of string. The weapon smashed the ghoul across the chest, knocking it down. He quickly stood back up, using one foot on the chest to pin the creature. He brought his foot down on the creature's head, smashing it into a bloody pulp in the pavement. A trio of glam ghouls charged at him, and Rob reached for Terminus Est. It was the only weapon in reach, and he didn't want to get into melee combat with three glam ghouls.
Instead of holding it like a club like he originally intended, he found himself holding it like he would while playing music. Almost out of instinct, he struck three strings on the guitar, playing a chord. His hand seemed to move on its own accord, and the guitar emitted its sound. Just then, a barrel emerged from the headstock of the guitar, and a trigger emerged beneath the neck. He pressed the trigger, and a blast of gunfire erupted from the barrel at the end of the guitar. He continued holding down the trigger, mowing down each of the glam ghouls with his guitar- gun. As the last abomination to fashion was turned into glam metal Swiss cheese, the guitar machine-gun clicked empty. He slung it back over his back. Rob rolled back and yanked the Annihilator back into his grasp. It was time to see how Grimm was doing.
He saw the skald was holding his own against about half a dozen of the ghouls. He spun around, striking one with the butt of the rifle while slashing another one across the neck. He pulled the trigger an instant later, blasting another through the face. Two of the ghouls tried flanking Grimm, but Rob tried to prevent them. He shot one between the eyes, blowing its brains out the back and hitting the second one. The second ghoul charged towards him, hissing and preparing to leap. Several bullets to the chest dropped the ghoul and sprayed its innards across the floor of the garage. The last ghoul faced Grimm alone. Before Stone could shoot it, Grimm bashed its brains out with the rifle butt, spraying its fluids in Rob's direction.
"As invigorating as this battle was, I fear we must leave the area," Grimm pointed up. "For there are worse creatures than these ghouls that White has at his command."
Rob hopped onto his bike and started it up. The engine roared between his thighs. "Ah, shit! This is worse than being attacked by those Bible-thumpers when we had a concert next to a convent!"
A cacophony of awful sounds came from the lower levels of the parking garage. Hissing similar to a nest of vipers, accompanied by the sounds of thousands of claws on concrete, could be heard from beneath them. It was not hard to guess what manner of creatures were now swarming up from the depths towards them.
"Quick, follow me!" Rob shouted. "We need to keep heading up! I've got an idea!"
The Scandinavian turned his bike, and his steel stead rumbled to life. Rob accelerated towards the edge of the parking garage, turning and heading up the ramp for the next level. Behind him, he could see Grimm's bike having a narrow lead in front of the torrent of ghouls behind them. Rob slowed his bike, and took a few potshots at the zombies with his pistol. A few glam ghouls fell, but the mass of ghouls did not slow or stop at all.
"I have a surprise for them!" Grimm laughed. "This is a modification of my own!"
Skullshatter pushed a button, and a minigun appeared in his sidecar. He moved the multi-barreled cannon to face the rear of his bike, and the weapon opened fire. A torrent of gunfire sliced into the ghouls, literally cutting them in half with tracer rounds. The force of recoil drove the bike faster, until it was next to Rob Stone's Harley.
"Not bad!" Rob complimented.
They were now at the top of the parking garage. An adjacent building was another parking garage, which had fewer stories in it. Yellow warning tape was placed around a stack of wooden planks that lead over the edge. Ed had recalled seeing them before as something a carpenter had forgotten. He had always wanted to try a crazy jump like this on his motorcycle.
"Follow me!" Rob shouted. He turned his bike towards the makeshift ramp and accelerated. The wind blew past him as he laughed to himself. Adrenaline surged through his body. He tore through the warning tape, and the bike lifted into the air. The front wheel was raised above the rear one, and Rob leaned close to the bike. The garage below him had an empty top, and he managed to target a specific place as the ground grew closer. Time slowed down as the rear wheel made contact, and then the front one. The shock of landing nearly knocked Rob off.
Looking behind him, he saw that Grimm was enjoying himself. He launched the bike into the air with his minigun still blazing behind him, using the recoil to give himself an extra boost. While in midair, Grimm's bike started to tumble. Rob closed his eyes and looked away. He did not want to see his comrade become road pancake. Instead, Grimm used the minigun to stabilize his fall, firing at strategic directions and landing all three wheels at the same time. Opening his eyes, Rob glared at the Scandinavian.
"Now that's just showing off," he added. "Bad ass, but still showing off."
"To each his own," Grimm replied. "Now, come, follow me. I know of a safe haven outside the city."
Grimm lead Rob out of the second parking garage, leaving the horde of glam ghouls behind them. Their two motorcycles headed down the road. Rob Stone was glad to be back in the metal lifestyle. This was what he lived for. He turned on some good music, and headed for the next stop on their metal mission.