The Metal Saga of Rob Stone

Chapter Soundtrack: (You play the appropriate song when the number appears in the story.)

[1]: "The Andromeda Strain" by Shadow Gallery

[2]: "Accolade II" by Symphony X

[3]: "The Metal Age" by Hammerfall

[4]: "The Chase" by Queensryche

[5]: "Through the Fire and the Flames" by DragonForce

[6]: "The Breeding House" by Bruce Dickinson

Doctor Phluffles' Pharmacy of Phun

The two left Chicago far behind them as they headed east. Two motorcycles drove side by side down the highway. The glorious sounds of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest accompanied their trip down the road. Rob Stone felt the bike throbbing like a woman between his legs, and the vibrations traveling up his body. The red-maned Grimm Skullshatter had his beard blowing in the wind.

"Hey, Grimm, where are we heading?" Rob Stone asked, shouting over the thrumming of the engine. "I'd rather not get lost like that time when we had to fly out to that show out in Bermuda. Thankfully, we managed to get back to Earth in one piece."

"We are heading towards a rest stop frequented by my metal war-band and fellow Asatru believers," Grimm replied. "A band of bikers called the Heathens. Many of them have traveled here from Scandinavia so they may follow the footsteps of their ancestors on these shores."

"Good to know metal still has some fanatics," Rob replied. "So, what do we do after that?"

"We find out whatever Mick White is up to, and unleash the fury of the bear-shirt upon him!" Grimm cackled. "If we need to, we'll hunt down all of his wretched minions and offer them to the Gods of Metal!"

"Hell yeah!" Rob pumped his fist in the air. "If there's one thing metal's great for, it's getting you in the mood to crack some heads! Just like those zombies we fought after that Miami show!"

"We are almost there!" Grimm pointed to an exit sign. "Follow me, and I shall take us to a garage and diner where the Heathens gather!"

The Viking pulled his motorcycle off an exit ramp, with Rob following behind him. They decelerated their motorcycles, pulling into the rest stop parking lot in front of them. From the outside, it appeared like almost any other rest stop along the interstate, only this one was cut into the woods beside the highway. It was a large parking lot with a few roadside facilities and lots of parking space. There was a parking lot full of all manner of vehicles, from trucks to motorcycles to minivans. There was a garage nearby. There was a small motel and a gas station, plus a fast food joint. A sleek, single story metal building with the name "Mimir's Diner" stood next to the garage. A number of motorcycles were parked outside it.

"Ah, we shall rejoin my comrades soon enough!" Grimm exclaimed. He pulled his bike, Sleipnir, into an empty parking spot and stepped off. Rob Stone followed him, and parked his Harley next to Grimm's. From the bikes parked nearby, Stone expected to find a mass of leather clad bikers inside the diner. The sleek diner itself looked like a relic from the 1950s, located at a corner of the rest stop that time forgot. Grimm walked into the front door of the diner, expecting his brothers in metal to greet him.

Inside, however, they found no such thing. The bikers merely stared forward with empty gazes affixed to their faces. The servers behind the counter continued washing dishes and taking orders, but the bikers merely stared at whatever direction they sat with empty gazes. Their leather, tattoos, and unshaven features merely made them seem as some sort of statues in a public exhibit into how metal-loving bikers dressed and looked.

"My brothers!" Grimm extended his hands. "I have returned with a true champion of metal, Rob Stone himself!" He raised Rob's hand up high with his.

Grimm looked with curiosity. None of them moved.

"Hey, guys," Rob waved nervously. "You can stop the prank now."

There was not motion from the gang. Rob felt the neck of the closest one for a pulse. There was a faint one, almost like the biker was trying to hide the fact he was alive.

"Those guys have been like that for the last few hours," a waitress said from behind the counter. "They ordered a round of wings, and someone came in, and gave them a keg of beer."

"So someone, just out of the blue, gives the bikers a keg?" Rob put his hand to his chin. "I don't like this. I mean, who just gives bikers a keg randomly? Last time something like this happened, some guy spiked it with microscopic robots that hijacked your brain!"

"Think that's what happened to them, then?" Grimm asked. "Some foul form of mind control? Such a weapon would leave even the greatest warrior helpless!"

"It could've been spiked with a bunch of things," Rob replied. "Probably some kind of drug." [1] He turned to the confused-looking waitress. "Did you get a good look at the deliveryman?"

The waitress shook her head. "No, but I know where the keg came from," she pointed to the half drunken keg on the ground. It was a blue plastic one with an opening on the bottom, and an address written on a label on the side. "Phun-Time Liquor Store," it read above the street address. Rob Stone and Grimm Skullshatter could detect a subtle, strange odor in the booze. It was not just a strange scent, but something that just didn't belong. It was easy to miss, so some thirsty bikers could easily have missed it. Grimm dipped his finger in, and was about to have a taste when Rob slapped it away.

"I think we're better off checking out where this crap came from, Grimm," Rob said. "You don't want to end up a vegetable like the rest of your boys. We need to find out who did this to them, and why."

"I have some ideas," Grimm turned the keg around, revealing an index card attached to it. "To the Heathen Motorcycle Club and Grimm Skullshatter: Free booze from Dr. Phluffles!" he read aloud.

"What the hell?" Rob asked. "I don't like this."

"I recall the name. Dr. Phluffles is the source of most designer drugs over the last few months," Grimm explained. "Bankrolled by Mick White, of course. I fear that pharmaceutical weapons may be at our enemies' behest until we smite him! This vile figure also is a member of some awful stoner band, Sneezer."

"He was kind enough to give us his address," Rob pointed out. "How about we drop by and see if we can get him to fix your boys?"

"And if he doesn't, then we smash his face in!" Grimm chuckled.

Rob nodded, and turned to the waitress. "Hey, if these guys start raising as zombies, call the cops."

The stunned waitress stared at the two metal warriors as they left the diner behind them. No sooner were the two outside than they saw a man standing in front of them. He was a tall Asian man, with a white shirt and jeans on. He had a cello slung across his back, and a Mauser C1896 pistol shoved into his pocket. He had his jet black hair long, and blowing in the wind. He stood confident, and his unassuming form radiated power. [2]

"Are you Rob Stone and Grimm Skullshatter?" he nodded his head.

"Depends on who's asking," Rob went to reach for his Annihilator pistol.

"Richard Li," the man coolly said. "Heard you're back, and I'd like to offer my assistance to you in anyway! I'm experienced with a cello, a violin, most medical stuff, and antique Mauser pistols."

"State who you are, and why you think we should give heed to anything you have to say," Grimm muttered, looking down.

Richard calmly looked back at the Viking. "I'm a med school grad who used to play for Olympiana Symphony."

Rob put his head to his hands. He recalled hearing that name before. "Oh, right!" he replied. "You guys opened for us back in New York two years ago! I helped you fix up your tour bus, too. You've got some good potential. A real kick ass symphonic metal setup! How's the band going?"

"Not well," Li shook his head. "Our vocalist had his throat cut by zombies after we refused a contract from this shady guy. We broke up since then."

"Did he have peroxide blond dyed hair?" Rob think he knew who was behind it. "Eye liner? White jacket covered in sequins and glitter?"

"Yeah, that's the guy!" Li nodded. "He just seemed like bad news. He had this smelly old hippie next to him, as well!"

"Sounds like Mick White, alright," Rob muttered. "You recall anything about the hippie?"

"Only that he smelled like more drugs than a pharmacy. And I've worked in pharmacies before," Li nodded. "He looked pretty standard as far as hippies go. Long hair, ragged tie-dye clothing, awful smell, and drives around in a run down Volkswagen van. His van had "G-Town Band" on it."

"I know that accursed person, that vile troll-spawn who dares call himself a musician!" Grimm pumped his fist in the air. "It's that wretched fool Charlie Springer, and the G-Town Band!"

"Why am I not surprised that moron from Jersey's wrapped up in all of this?" Rob wiped his hand against his head. "This is worse than the time that redneck country singer attacked us with his Klan goons!"

"Oh, damn!" Li's jaw dropped. "You guys are wrapped up in deep shit!"

"Aye," Grimm muttered. "If you've turned into a cowardly whelp, run, and do not look back!"

"Hell no!" Richard Li loaded up his Mauser. "Just because I do classical music and symphony metal doesn't mean I don't know a threat to all good music! I can appreciate good music from brutal death metal to power metal to music by a bunch of dead guys! If each type of music is good, why not combine them into something even more epic and awesome? It's like awesomeness cubed!"

"Hmm," Rob mused. "Well, Grimm, I'd say we need all the help we can get. I can vouch for this guy's skill. I know not everyone's not as metal as the Vikings, but there is some good music outside of metal."

"Fine," the skald muttered. "Let us smite this idiotic Doctor, save the minds of my war-band, and continue on our way! I shall give him a chance to prove himself."

"Thanks, Mr. Stone! I won't let you down, Mr. Skullshatter!" Richard Li pumped his hands in the air. "You guys got a ride? I've got something that can fit both of you."

"Both of us already have bikes," Rob pointed his thumb towards his Harley out the window. "But you have something else in mind?"

"Follow me!" Richard Li directed. "There's something my band did have I managed to keep."

He left the front door of the diner, and Rob and Grimm followed him out of curiosity. They followed the med school graduate outside to see a vehicle parked around the side of the diner. It was a tour bus that looked very familiar to Rob Stone. It was one he had helped fix up for the power metal band "Symphony Olympiana." It was one of a few tour buses he had helped retrofit and fix up, and definitely one he had pride in.

In Rob Stone's view, a tour bus should be a rolling temple to all that is metal. The outside of the bus was far more forward than his own band's bus had been. Since "Symphony" was an up and coming band, attention was often a good thing for them. The sides and roof of the bus had a gray cloud design, with Doric columns and arches shown. The logo for "Symphony Olympiana" had been removed, replaced by more of the background. Aside from the clouds and classical styled marble arches and columns, various metal images were painted around the bus. There were bare chested warriors holding swords and axes and protected by spiked metal bracers and black leather pants. On the back of the bus was a door that would unfold into a ramp, able to hold motorcycles. Stone recalled he had also hidden several stereos, armor, and weapons within the body of the bus to allow for greater metal effect. The living quarters were also similar to his old tour bus.

"Grimm, it may not look like much, but that bus is a rolling temple to the Gods of Metal!" Rob pointed out. "We can stash our bikes in the back, and ride in comfort!"

"Maybe I misjudged you," he looked at Li. "But once we ride into glorious battle, we shall see!"

"I won't let you guys down!" he exclaimed. Li reached into his pocket, and tossed something to Rob.

Rob swiped the object in the air, and saw it was a keyring with a skull dangling from it. Rob grinned, and looked at the bus. "So, you want me to drive?"

"Hell yeah, man!" Li grinned. "You built this rig, so it's only fair you drive it!"

"Hey, Grimm, we can stash our bikes on this," Rob pointed to the hatch on the rear. "Let's pack up and roll out!" Rob pumped his fist in the air, and the group moved their bikes into the rear. The rear of the bus opened into a ramp with enough space to store quite a few supplies as well as their bike. After securing their bikes, Rob directed everyone to climb inside the tour bus. [3]

Rob entered the bus, and found it was decorated similar to how he had originally remade the bus from top to bottom. The insides had a posh blue carpet, black leather furniture, a mini-bar and kitchen, fully stocked bathroom, bunks, complete electronic entertainment system, damage sensors, storage for musical instruments, computer system, rune engraved medieval weapons and power tools mounted on the walls, weapon controls, and all the other luxuries of home. The bus was larger on the inside than it seemed on the outside, all due to the powers of metal. The name "METALAGE" was written on the walls, with no space. Rob tried to recall if it was supposed to be two words or one.

Grimm sat down on a black leather couch and turned to Richard. "I must say Rob Stone did a good job with this place," the skald complimented. "He must respect your work."

"I can play some stuff now, if you want!" Richard offered.

"Save it," Grimm replied. "Rob's respect is enough for me. Let us man these weapons stations and crush the enemies of metal!"

Rob found the address of the Phun-Time Liquor Store on the computer, and then entered the address of their target into the GPS. The bus pulled away from the rest stop. Rob drive the bus towards the Phun-Time Liquor Store. The metal bus thundered down the highway, a mobile temple to all that was metal. Rob looked out the window and saw traffic thinning out. The trees themselves seemed to wither and die the closer they got to the liquor store. The GPS took them onto a deserted stretch of highway, covered with potholes.

"Hey, guys, I want you to be ready," Rob added. "This place doesn't bode well. It's like that time I fought that zombie crime boss in New Orleans. Closer we get to his pad, the less likely we encounter any living souls."

"So, you guys expecting zombies or something?" Richard pulled out his Mauser. "This bus can smash through any brain dead, soulless mob, whether they're zombies, politicians, or Twilight fans."

"Silence!" Grimm shouted. "Do not utter the name of such a disgusting tome! It profanes all that is metal in this temple of metal!"

"Well, if any show up, they'll probably be roadkill," Li nodded. "These machineguns we're manning will make sure of that."

"Hey, guys, we've got company!" Rob shouted. "I can see a bunch of vans in the rear view mirror."

Richard and Grimm looked out the windows to see a small convoy of tie-dye Volkswagen vans. Rich and Li took position controlling concealed gun turrets on either side of the bus. Standing on the roof of each van was a glam ghoul, still dressed in similar fashions to what they had seen in Chicago. Driving the vans were ancient hippies dressed in ragged tie-dye. Many held kukri knives, and others had double barreled shotguns and M16s. It was obvious they didn't intend to come in peace. Some vans had the letters "SS" written in bubbly, psychodelic text within two halves of a hippie peace symbol.

"Shit!" Rob cursed. "Glam metal and hippies working together. Damn you, Mick. Damn you!"

"I've heard of those hippies!" Li exclaimed. "They're the Slaughter Squad! A bunch of Vietnam deserters turned psychopathic mercenaries and G-Town Band fanatics! They've fused drugs and bloodlust to become relentless foes! Oh, shit!"

"Ah! Battle! Come, fellow metal warriors! Let us send them to the Frost-queen's Realm!" Grimm used the control console to aim one of the vehicle's mounted machineguns. "They may take drugs, but they still pale in comparison to a real berserker!"

Rob saw the hippie vans accelerate alongside the tour bus. [4] Two vans tried surrounding them on either side, and one van remained at the front and rear of the bus. They were trying to box the larger vehicle in. The side windows of the vans opened up, and the muzzles of M16s and shotguns protruded from the hippie terror wagons. They opened fire on the armored sides of the bus. Rich and Grimm answered with a salvo of their own, using their M2 machineguns to spray the hippie vans. The bullets put dents in the sides, but the vans were more armored than they looked.

"These bullets aren't doing shit!" Li exclaimed.

"Aim for their tires and engine blocks!" Rob shouted back.

Grimm and Li lowered the muzzles of both of their guns, spraying half inch bullets into the tires and engine blocks of the hippie-mercenary convoy. One of the vans alongside them peeled off, and then exploded. Another van hit the guard rail, and spun into the air before Grimm blasted its fuel tank, causing it to explode in midair. The shrapnel made the rest of the hippie transports swerve out of the way, and drop back behind the bus.

The hippies stopped firing as the bus speed past them, but they were not without another method of attack. The ghouls riding on top of the vans all began to leap onto the the bus. They bared their fangs and claws, prepared to rip through the top of the bus to get at the tasty morsels within. Some of the glam ghouls were disintegrated into glitter and gore by the barrage of machinegun fire, but some made it to the top of the bus.

Recalling that the armor on the top was not as thick, Rob pulled out his Annihilator pistol. "Shit! We've got ghouls on the roof! Shoot any guns you've got up!" he shouted. "Drive 'em off! This is worse than that time those undead pirates trashed that show we did on that cruise ship!"

Rob heard the sounds of something skittering on the roof, and something trying to peel the metal. The roof was one part he realized he should have armored better. There was a high pitched shriek as the glam ghouls began to peel open the roof. Seeing dents in the ceiling above the driver's seat, Rob blasted upwards with his pistol. The gun blasts turned the roof into Swiss cheese, and he could hear the hissing and whining of wounded ghouls.

Behind him, Rich and Grimm were holding off the ghouls and hippies in their own ways. Rich had one hand holding down the trigger of the machinegun, while he used his Mauser in his other hand to spray lead into the roof. Grimm had tied the trigger of the machinegun down, and used both of his hands to hold his bayoneted rifle, Gungnir. He jammed it into the bullet holes that Richard created, pulling back the weapon's tip covered in blood every time. He knew he impaled a ghoul when the bayonet met some resistance. In that case, he would pull the trigger and retract the spear, and move to another bullet hole. The Norseman grinned as chaotic sounds filled the air. There was the sickly penetration of ghouls with a bayonet, the staccato of gunfire, and thrumming of the vehicle engines.

Finally, the roof was silent, but they had other problems. Rob looked ahead and saw the remaining hippie vans had set up a roadblock in front of him. The hippies had gotten out of their vehicles, and all aimed their rifles and shotguns at the bus speeding towards them. They began to open fire, unleashing a wall of lead directly at the front of the tour bus.

"Oh, shit," Rob muttered to himself, diving beneath the window. There was a storm of glass shards as the barrage of lead shattered the windshield. Shards cut into his skin, but Rob focused on a surprise he built in to the bus. [5]

"Grimm, Li, shoot at the vans!" he shouted to the back of the bus.

He pushed a button, and extra fuel from the gas tanks began to leak out behind the bus. He had outfitted the engine into a much more fuel efficient hybrid, so the fuel tanks could double as a special surprise if necessary. Leaking a trail of gasoline behind him, he stomped the gas with his foot. While it did not look like it, the front of the bus was reinforced and intended to double as a ram. The hippies kept firing, and many began to flee away from the path of the charging tour bus. The two guns on the side of the bus cut down anyone foolish enough to remain in the front of the vehicle's path.

The momentum of the bus smashed through the puny Volkswagen vans, reducing them to wrecks flying through the air. Rob pumped his fist in the air. The front of the bus was dented, but it was definitely still drivable. Glad his design held, Rob quickly looked at the hippies shaking their hands and empty guns at him. He flipped them the bird as he pushed another button. A spark from the rear of the bus ignited the gasoline trail behind it. A gigantic fireball blossomed up behind the bus, and Rob saw the Metal Gods had been appeased. Smoldering vans and flaming hippie mercenaries flew through the air behind them, as Rob turned on some DragonForce to celebrate the explosion.

Quickly looking behind them, Rob saw there was no more pursuers.

"Good work, guys! I don't think we have to worry about any more of those assholes!" he shouted back. "I have to say, Rich, this has got to be what power metal is made for!"

"Hell yeah, man!" Li said. "So, what did you think, Grimm?"

"I underestimated you," the skald bowed his head, knelt down, and raised his rifle to the sky. "In the name of Odin, I formally welcome you to my warband!"

"Thanks, man!" Rich replied, kneeling down before the Viking. "You're the most metal guy I know. Aside from Rob here, of course."

"We're almost there," Rob said. "I'd grab your guns. We're going to need firepower if more of those assholes show up."

Rich and Grimm nodded, got up, and readied their weapons. Rob drove down the road, and took a decaying overpass to get off the pothole-filled highway. He saw the road would pretty much directly lead to their destination. The closer he got, the less metal he felt. The dead foliage around the road seemed to seem more withered the closer he got.

Eventually, he could see the structure he presumed was the Phun-Time Liquor Store. From a distance, it was just a roadside dive with no cars parked out front. It was located in an otherwise empty concrete strip mall. The store itself had a faded neon sign in the window reading "OPEN." The windows were opaque, which probably meant the inside would show them the true horror of the store. There was no mascot or distinctive logo Rob could identify.

He parked the bus in the lot, and nervously looked around. He pulled the keys from the ignition, and instituted a failsafe built into the bus. If anyone tried to hotwire the bus, it would blow up. Since the front windows and parts of the roof were missing, some additional security was a good idea. He grabbed the Annihilator, cracked his knuckles in the Fists of Metal gloves, and slung Terminus Est over his back. Grimm and Richard reloaded their guns and followed.

Rob walked towards the front door. The normalcy of the front door disturbed Rob. The fact the door was so similar to any other roadside store seemed a sort of cosmic backlash against how surreal their surroundings were. Whatever the man calling himself "Dr. Phluffles" was up to, it was not good, and probably warping reality on some level. Feeling the reassuring pistol on his hip, Rob threw open the door and walked in. Grimm and Rich followed, weapons up and ready.

Inside, there was an intense source of light. The drastic change in lightning from outside was the least surreal thing to assault their senses. They appeared to be standing on a hilltop made of cheap Astroturf, with gigantic syringes, bongs, and pills sticking out of the ground. Rolling hills of Astroturf with the primary form of terrain in all directions. The door they had entered through seemed to have no building connected to it, just sitting in the middle of an empty field. The sky was a clear blue, with white clouds that resembled wisps of smoke from a cigarettes and joints. Some of the bongs partially embedded in the ground bellowed up their own clouds of pure white smoke.

While almost blindingly bright elsewhere, it was oddly easy to stare directly at the sun itself. The sun itself was a cartoonish smiley face, only with a joint in its mouth. It would periodically extend two almost oversized hands from its underside, and grab one of the syringes, inject it into its arteries, and put it back again. No matter which way they moved, the background always seemed to remain at a constant distance.

"Holy fuck!" Rob exclaimed. "What the hell is going on here? This is more surreal than the time that evil hippie sprayed LSD in my face!"

Off in the distance, a flying figure came into view. Rob looked at it closer. It was a man with one of the strangest appearances Rob had ever seen, which was saying something. He was a pale skinned man with a freckled face and brown hair. He had a Santa hat on his head, with the letters "Dr. Ph" emblazoned in gold just above the forehead. He wore a red polo shirt with a tag reading "Great Seducer" on the breast pocket. He wore dirty-stained baseball pants with large white vertical stripes and thinner red ones. His shoes were cleats, and his forearms bulged with muscle that seemed to remain only on his hands. Most strange about the man was how he moved. Both of his arms were bent upwards at the elbow, and his hands were hanging freely in the air. He flapped his hands up and down, which seemed to be the only explanation for why he was flying. Strapped across his chest was a gold-covered hookah covered in strange cuneiform-like characters.

"So, you're Dr. Phluffles, I take it?" Rob pointed his pistol at him. "Why'd you drug the Heathens? They ever do anything to you?"

"Dr. Phluffles loves you!" he shouted in a high pitched, infantile voice. "Heathens didn't love Dr. Phluffles and Mick-fork! So, Dr. Phluffles gives them drug that makes them veggies! Dr. Phluffles likes veggies! I mean, Phluffles loves vegging out!"

Li raised his Mauser to the demented pharmacist. "I'm sorry, man, but for crimes against the English language, I'm going to have to put you out of your misery," he pulled the hammer back. "Just what kind of crap are you on, anyway?"

"Dr. Phluffles smokes drugs in the Hookah of Hastur!" the demented man shouted.

"I have heard of that accursed artifact!" Grimm shouted. "It was made by a mad Arab, and makes the user's drug hallucinations become real!"

"That might explain this place, then," Rob added. "I remember you said he was a member of some chicken-shit stoner band, Grimm. Think his buddies are nearby?"

Just then, two other figures appeared. Each burst out of the ground, scattering Astroturf around them. While not as strange as the Doctor, both were strange enough to be his friends. One of them stood as tall as Grimm, but was lanky and high strung. The figure was a tall, emaciated mime with a black and white striped shirt and face paint on. The only color on his figure were the blood strains on his hands and bits of gore stick in his shark-like sharped maul. A joint was clenched between his jaws, and his eyes tracked all of them with sort of nervous hunger.

The other one looked strangely normal. He was an obese clown dressed in a yellow, red, and blue suit. He had on a frilly neckband, a clown hat, a red rubber nose, and white face paint. A moronic grin crossed his face from ear to ear. He utterly reeked of alcohol. The only other indication that something was off about him was the strange dark spots on his suit. In one of his hands was an opened bottle of vodka, and in the other was a traffic cone.

"Dr. Phluffles' friends come!" he looked at each. "Munchies the Marijuana Mime and Barfo the Booze Clown say hi! Band will beat you, and we have fun with experiments!"

The demonic mime and drunken clown both waved their hands in a half hearted manner. They began to circle the trio.

"So, that's his band, then?" Rich looked up. "Never liked those assholes! They think just strumming a few random guitar strings means they've got musical talent."

"I'll take the Good Doctor," Rob pointed his pistol up.

"I shall gleefully rid the earth of such scum!" the Norseman shouted. "I shall take on that disgusting clown in a holmgang duel!"

Rob pulled out Annihilator and charged at Dr. Phluffles while taking aim. [6] The crazed pharmacist materialized a baseball bat and returned to the ground. Rob fired at the mad doctor, and strangely, each of his shots was able to be deflected by the baseball bat. He depressed the trigger several times, each shot blocked by the jibbering madman. The doctor began materializing baseballs from nowhere, and then hit them with his bat.

One of them landed on the ground near Rob, and he looked down to notice a detail he had missed before. The baseball was hissing, and it had a lit fuse. This was a battle, Rob reminded himself, that logic had no place in. Looking down, he cursed to himself, and dove for cover behind a giant syringe as the baseball bomb exploded. The explosion blasted Rob back, badly burning his shirt and denim vest.

As Rob struggled to recover, Rich Li battled the vociferous mime. Munchies charged at him with a silent battlecry, raising his white gloved hands in the air as he dashed forwards at the classical musician and symphonic metal fanatic. Li held the Mauser sideways, and let the oddly directed recoil from one shot help him sweep the weapon. A few bullets hit the mime, causing him to pause for an instant. Li dove further backwards, out of the stoned creature's grasp. Eventually, the weapon clicked empty, and Munchies jumped on top of the prone med student. He slashed his claw like fingers across Li's chest, causing him to grunt in pain. Li quickly countered by smashing the mime in the face with his foot. He rolled out of the way as the mime pounced where his had had just been. He kicked the mime in the side of the head, and then pistol whipped the mime with the butt of the Mauser. The mime dropped down, and Li quickly reloaded and emptied the clip into the mime's face.

"Oh, yeah!" he raised his hand.

Just then, the sun shot out a hand towards Li. The cellist jumped to the side, and the hand grabbed the mime's corpse. The strange world's sun greedily devoured the corpse, and then the sun changed. Bits of mime carnage fell from the sky. Its eyes became bloodshot. At the same instant, Barfo the clown was fighting Grimm.

"Die in Odin's name!" the berserker shouted.

The Norseman charged with his bayonet towards the foul smelling clown. The clown raised the narrow end of the traffic cone into his mouth, and poured vodka into the other end. After chugging down a larger amount of booze than what could have been in the bottle, he lowered the traffic cone and leveled his head at Grimm Skullshatter. The clown unleashed a torrent of vomit at the chest of the skald, knocking him back with the force of a typhoon. The Norseman was coated in acidic booze that burned every bit of exposed skin. He summoned up the rage of his ancestors, and fired at the clown as he charged. Barfo began spitting gobs of vomit at the Viking, causing some of his shots to go wild. Eventually, Grimm made it the long distance to the clown. He rammed the bayonet into the clown's large beer gut, but the blade vanished inside. He fired, and the bullets just bounced off the blubber. He smashed his rifle butt into the clown's face, only to have Barfo block it with his traffic cone. The clown then took another swig of vodka, and unleashed a quick blast of booze at the Viking, blinding him.

"When I can see you, I will kill you!" the Norseman shouted in anger.

Barfo was about to smash Grimm's head with the bottle when the sun got hungry again. A hand from the sun shot out, and grabbed the bloated clown. Another hand shot out of the sun to lift the bloated drunk into the sun's mouth. The sun began to chew, spitting out bits of vomit and alcohol to the ground below. The sun began to vomit randomly on the ground below, while shoveling chunks of Astroturf randomly into its mouth.

Grimm and Li helped get Rob back to his feet. He looked to see Dr. Phluffles charging at him with the bat. Rich and Grimm sprayed bullets at the demented pharmacist, only to find he blocked all their shots with the bat. He was about to deliver a head strike to Rob with the bat when the guitarist tried to counter. Using the Metal Fists, he yanked the bat forwards, and then smashed it over his leg. Then, he smashed Dr. Phluffles in the face with a hook punch, sending him flying backwards. He drew out his guitar, and played a familiar chord on it. He sprayed the prone Phluffles with bullets, just as the mad doctor materialized another bat to defend himself.

The bat caught most of the rounds and shattered, but the Doctor was wounded. Before Rob Stone could deliver the coup de grace, the sun grabbed him. Grimm and Richard took cover and moved out of the way as the sun's hand reached near them. As Rob was yanked towards the hungry, drug-addled sun, he considered what the source of the nightmare was. He drew out the Annihilator, and carefully aimed a few shots at something near Dr. Phluffles.

Suddenly, everything vanished. They found themselves standing in the middle of a run down store, with an improvised chemistry lab nearby. The bodies of Barfo and Munchies sat dead on the floor. A quick glance outside showed everything seemed normal again. Dr. Phluffles was mortally wounded, and fell dead. The Hookah of Hastur, which Rob had been aiming for, was now full of bullet holes.

"Good riddance," Grimm smashed the cursed artifact with his massive foot, crumpled it up in his hands, and tossed it into a nearby trashcan. "A foul cursed artifact destroyed, more of Mick's minions sent to meet their makers, and an insane drug dealing band annihilated. A good day! Now, is there any information that can help us cure the Heathens?"

Richard Li saw a keg of alcohol next to the chemistry set, and noticed a few lab notes. The handwriting was hard to follow, but not as bad as some doctors he had seen. "I think I can whip a cure up," he said. "Just give me a few minutes."

Rob saw a number of notes on a nearby table. There was a list of business dealings with Mick White, including hiring the Slaughter Squad and assigning them to hunt down any of the musicians who opposed his record outfit. Rob noticed a list of musicians that Mick had written down as a threat, and their suspected locations. There was also a list of the bands and individuals that Mick was bankrolling. Not surprisingly, Charlie Springer and the G-Town Band were at the top of that list. After Rich had made enough antidote, the group returned to Mimir's Diner. There was much rejoicing, and the tour bus was fixed up for free by the Heathens. The three sat in the diner after the festivities had ended.

"So, Grimm, are you going to stay here with the Heathens?" Rob asked.

"Alas, destiny calls, and the fate of metal still lies in the balance," Grimm replied. "Mick still draws breath, and any who dare mess with the Heathens draw down the fury of the Aesir themselves!"

"That's good, because I could use a good metal warrior like you at my side," Stone grinned. "We're not the only ones that Mick's got it in for. If we can find some of his other enemies, we can join forces and stand against him! For glory, for metal, and for good music everywhere! Not all of them are in metal, but as long as Mick hates them, they're at least worth paying a visit to."

"Hell yeah!" Rich nodded, playing an air guitar. "Count me in! Touring with you guys on that bus is going to rock!"

"I feel that this is only the beginning of our metal journey," Grimm added. "While my own ideas prejudiced me, I will not let that same mistake happen again. We must crush the enemies of all metal before we may rest!"

"So, guess your friends learned their lesson about drinking booze from strangers?" Li asked the Norseman.

"At least for now," Grimm Skullshatter shrugged. "The only lesson I'd say is not to trust sleazy people with reality distorting drug hallucinations. There are still sinister forces at work. That was how that fool pharmacist got a hold of an artifact as powerful as the Hookah of Hastur. But Lord Odin the All-Father and metal shall lead us to victory."

"Well, guys, let's roll out!" Rob Stone raised his fist into the air. "Thanks to all of you Heathens, and we'll see you at our next concert!"

The group left the diner, and the tour bus continued on its way. The metal odyssey of Rob Stone had one just begun.