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Singing for His Supper


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Hellbound stood before the microphone, one hand on it and leaning forward as if fighting through the throes of exhaustion. Sweat covered his naked torso that ran down to his skin-tight leather pants, making them damp and clinging to his lean form. The wild hair on his head was slightly matted and gleaming in the lights of the stage.

"I wanna tell you about Texas Radio and the Big Beat..."

He intoned into the microphone and his mournful voice was carried out over the crowd. Behind him, a slow and lustful beat throbbed from the house band. It was quiet but still powerful and building ever so gradually.

"Comes out of the Virginia swamps, cool and slow with plenty of precision... With a back beat narrow and hard to master."

So far he'd done little to truly capture the crowd's attention. He wanted to throw out a piece that would allow him to own their focus and start drawing them into his performance. This being his first time on stage and something of an audition for him, he'd hate for the show to go badly.

"Some call it heavenly in it's brilliance. Others, mean and ruthful of the Western dream. I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft. We have constructed pyramids in honor of our escaping. This is the land where the Pharaoh died!"

Music was building higher behind him, stacking itself upon each note and coming up to its fuller force as Hellbound went through the lyrics. Though he was still speaking the words, almost chanting them to the audience more than actually singing, he still managed to bring all eyes to him on stage.

The young hero looked up into the stage lights. Gleaming, colored fire glinted from his eyes as he opened his voice in honest song.

"Listen to this, and I'll tell you 'bout the heartache. I'll tell you 'bout the heartache and the loss of God! I'll tell you 'bout the hopeless night, the meager food for souls forgot... I'll tell you 'bout the maiden with raw iron soul!"

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Now that the crowd was drawing in, Hellbound felt more comfortable on stage. It was good up here in the spot light. He enjoyed the attention coming at him like the waves of heat from the stage lights. The meta had never been a very private person, preferring to take life loudly and with action. This brief moment of being in the spotlight, this flash of worship, wrapped itself comfortably around his presence.

"I'll tell you this, no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

Hellbound returned to the spoken version of the song, entreating the crowd to listen to his words and believe. He put his head down and tilted the microphone to stay focused on his voice. Deep tones continued to reverberate through the club.

"I'll tell you 'bout Texas Radio and the Big Beat! Soft drivin', slow and mad, like some new language..."

He then switched back from verse to song as he took the crowd through the Morrison poetry session back into music. The band behind him kept time, provided the backdrop and intensified the emotions he was playing out.

"Now, listen to this, and I'll tell you 'bout the Texas... I'll tell you 'bout the Texas Radio! I'll tell you 'bout the hopeless night, wandering the Western dream.

"Tell you 'bout the maiden with raw... iron... soul!"

The house band rode through the song's crescendo and filled out the end. Hellbound shook his hair back, sending droplets of perspiration into the air like a glittering halo. Cheers and adulation greeted him as, for the first time that night, he held the audience in the palm of his hand.

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So he had their attention now. That was good, but Hellbound wanted to bring the energy levels up just a bit. He needed to come up with someone who could follow Morrison and he thought he had a good idea.

Taking a moment to step away from the microphone, he went back to speak to the band. The audience couldn't hear what he was saying but they could see his fingers popping in a faster time than Texas Radio. The band nodded enthusiastically and the first few notes of some latino jazz burst over the room.

It was Santana that they were playing, and Hellbound used the song's lead-in to wander over to an amplifier and retrieve his beer. Once it was in his hand he made his way back to the front of the stage with some quick cha-cha steps.

"Man it's a hot one..."

He'd just made it there in time to unleash the opening lyrics. The bottle of beer was still in his hand as he sang and he let it hang to his left while the right gripped the mic stand.

"Like seven inches from the midday sun. Well, I hear you whispering in the words, to melt everyone, but you stay so cool. My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa. You're my reason for reason, the step in my groove..."

Hellbound's spanish pronunciation was hardly perfect but that didn't really matter. What did matter was his timing and his voice, the artful way he made subtle movements with his body to the music. His voice was strong and clear when he sang and the audience responded well.

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Inside the bar, things were going well. Hellbound was getting into his groove and the audience was responding. The members of the house band behind him were happy and the whole party really started swinging.

They were lining up for a good block and a half outside. Morley's was normally a popular place on any night of the week, especially Friday's, but tonight the regular crowd was swollen with new faces as the Hellions had descended on the location. Spurred to attend by Hellbound's latest blog posting, there were a number of excited faces anxiously waiting to see their favorite cape perform.

Unfortunately, Hellbound did not attract the most fashionable people in the world. Most of the Hellions weren't making it past the door, having failed utterly to match even Morley's rather lax dress codes. This did cause some bitter disappointment to mingle through the waiting patrons, but aside from a few shouts and shoving matches there wasn't much to call the cops over.

This was the scene throughout the night, though it did change subtly once a group of newcomers made their way up to the front door. They'd bypassed the waiting line entirely, feeling that their business tonight had no place waiting in line with the others, they boldly strolled right up to the doorman who'd been religiously examining each potential entrant.

There were six of them, most dressed in clothes as shabby as any other street tough, but at least one individual wore an expensive looking trench coat over a nicely tailored suit. This one, as identified by his wardrobe if not his more foreboding physical appearance, was clearly the leader of the newly arrived party.

He stood well over seven feet tall and filled out the coat with an impressive bulk. Solid muscle formed the lines of his shoulders and back as seen through the taught material. His hands were thick and gnarled, even the fingers appearing strong enough to crease a man's skull, and around his dusky temple were curled twin horns like those of a ram's. Clearly at least partially inhuman, Tony 'BigHorn' Shapela stood before the interposing bouncer negotiating their entrance to Morley's.

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One of those massive hands reached into a pocket of his tailored pinstripes and brought out a thick roll of bills. A few hundred dollars were pealed away, hardly diminishing the total value of the wad, and held before the astonished doorman.

Normally he wasn't one open to bribery, but that was far more money than the average club-goer had ever offered him before. After a moment or two of hesitation, he glanced nervously over his shoulder and snatched the bills away before stepping to the side.

Tony smiled, having figured that they could get in without resorting to violence. Plan be had been, of course, to instruct the bouncer in that resisting a man like him was a very bad idea. But that would have attracted attention from the authorities and his business here tonight was best kept on the quiet side. He motioned at three of his followers to accompany him inside while the last two were left to maintain a lookout. Should anyone come into the bar that they might be trouble for the boss, he was to be made aware of the fact.

Of course there were a few protests from the waiting line at how quickly this new party got in, but only from those who hadn't seen what really happened or how scary Tony was up close. For the most part, nobody wanted to stand in the man's way and a few even decided to pick a new place to enjoy for that night and ducked out of the line for safer venues.

When a person like that showed up, it was usually time to get the hell home. Bad things usually came in his wake, and two thugs now found comfortable positions to watch for it as their boss handled his business inside.

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"Ill tell you one thing. If you would leave it would be a crying shame. In every breath and every word I hear your name calling me out."

Hellbound continued to weave his spell over the crowd. The song might be coming to an end but the energy levels in the club were just starting to crest. This was going a hell of a lot better than it'd started and he was beginning to truly get comfortable on stage.

A part of him wondered why it'd taken so long to listen to this particular calling. He'd always known that he could sing, plus he loved being the center of attention. Why only now he was putting the two together was beyond the young hero.

"Out from the barrio you hear my rhythm from your radio. You feel the turning of the world so soft and slow... Turning you round and round..."

The song's chorus was sung once more as things came to an end. The Santana tribute might be over but the show was still going strong. The night was young and Hellbound was getting into his groove just as Tony 'BigHorn' made his way into the bar. The thug was keeping a low profile for right now and glanced around the bar and up on stage.

Tony's opinion of Hellbound was to not be impressed. An amateur performer and obvious slacker, no trouble there. No trouble anywhere.

He didn't see anything too tricky to worry about. Just another night on the job as far as he was concerned. A word of warning to the three thugs who'd followed him in sent them in different directions to watch his back as he made his way towards his goal.

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Hellbound turned back towards the band just as Tony crossed his line of sight. In seconds the mutant gangster was gone and covered by the crowd, completely unnoticed by the young hero. Instead, his focus was on what piece to play next.

A few hurried instructions preceded some driving bass beats as a familiar theme song echoed out across the bar.

"And after three days of drinkin' with Larry Love... I just get an inklin' to go on home..."

He turned back towards the microphone, beer still dangling in his hand, and spoke the words in a low and dangerous tone. Somber, thrumming notes played over the crowd as heads began moving in time to the music.

"So, I'm walkin' down Coldharbour Lane... Head hung low, three or four in the mornin'. The suns comin' up and the birds are out singing...I let myself into my pad... Wind myself up that spiral staircase an' stretch out nice on the chesterfield."

Hellbound tried not to smile. He'd always been a big Sopranos fan, particularly the theme song. There was just something so cool and dangerous about it all. It was his generations' 'Peter Gun' or 'Mack the Knife'. Just something sharper than ice and colder than a .44 to the temple.

He threw his head back during the next bridge and just let the heat of the stage lights play over his face. His eyes were closed and his left heel beat against the stage in time to the music. This was fragging awesome. This was a moment he never wanted to end.

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"I do know the singer, honey," Jack said, taking advantage of the pause between songs to flirt with the lovely chocolate-skinned woman he'd picked up at the bar earlier in the evening. "But I think you and I could have a better time together." He picked up her hand, kissing it at the wrist, making Jasmine giggle. "I can give you something just as entertaining...and that'll get you just as sweaty." She smelled great, wearing a lovely perfume of honeysuckle...and O-positive. Later, Jack...later.

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"You woke up this morning. Got yourself a gun. Your mama always said you'd be the... Chosen One. She said: You're one in a million. You've got to burn to shine. But you were born under a bad sign... with a blue moon in your eyes."

Tony 'BigHorn' managed to find his mark by the time Hellbound was into his first chorus. He'd had to demand several times to see the manager of the place, but eventually that man had been summoned forth for business. Tony wasn't exactly the type to take a no for an answer.

Once the two managed to find each other there was a brief discussion. In typical hoodlum fashion, Tony B. layed out the demands and veiled threats of a standard shakedown racket. There was the mention of protection money along with saddened regrets of what might happen to a place with insufficient insurance. It was a well rehearsed spiel, one that the gangster had layed out a number of times in the past to many different businesses. Normally it worked pretty well.

Unfortunately, the manager of Morely's was a little harder to intimidate than most. Due to the rather unusual nature of the bar's owner, he didn't think that there was much damage a two-bit hood like Tony 'BigHorn' could actually cause. In fact he told the criminal so in some not-so-very nice words, though he did manage to avoid actually spitting in his face.

Tony B. was not pleased by this, not at all. Powerful hands gripped the manager by his jacket lapels and hoisted him off of the floor. His feet dangled precariously as he was held aloft by a creature who was large, strong and currently quite angry. Bad things were about to happen to Morley's, starting with the manager...

There was a warning whistle followed sharply by the sound of shattering glass. A bottle had been thrown hard and fast at Tony's head, shards of which sprayed the crowd behind him.

"What the f..." Tony 'BigHorn' muttered in surprise. He'd dropped the manager and turned in the direction of the thrown bottle, wondering who was stupid enough to start crap with a guy like him.

The crowd and the band had both fallen silent and a parting of bodies had occurred along the thrown bottle's trajectory. A clear path had been made leading from the gangster to his sudden assailant. It was the singer, apparently. That slacker-looking punk up on stage had smashed his beer against Tony's horned head.

Worse than that, the punk didn't even have the decency to look scared about it. Here Tony 'BigHorn' was about to rip this place apart, and some jerkwad singer was staring him down like the damn apocalypse was coming.

Maybe it was. Maybe for this guy, that's just what was about to happen.

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Hellbound can probably take that guy. But they were on the same team, Jack reminded himself, overcoming the cultural condition of the vampire community even when he was out of costume. "Hey man, this is a concert!" He jumped up to his feet, up on top of the table in one smooth motion, yelling at the horned thug and pointing his finger right at him. "We don't like your kind of people around here! Why don't you get out of here before we beat you like a sack of rotten eggs!?"

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Tony 'BigHorn' slowly reached up to pull a few pieces of glass away from his dark, scicilian features. The blow hadn't hurt him but there was a fair amount of embaressment from it. Nobody did things like that to him, nobody. Broken shrads crunched beneath his feet in the silence of the bar as he turned to examine Jack.

"Always gotta be a few heroes, huh?" His voice was quiet but full of menace. Every joker in Freedom City seemed to think they belonged with the spandex crowd. Well, it took more than that to intimidate him.

Tony B. snapped his fingers once in the air and pointed sharply at Hellbound and then at Jack. The unspoken command in the act was 'take care of these guys...' Two of his thugs strode out of the darkness where they'd been lurking and made their way towards the heroes.

One, going for the stage, let his hands hang loosely in front of him. Long, thick strands of wirey hair were draped from his forearms to coil and slither about the floor as he moved. Suddenly, about twenty-five feet from the stage, he released an idiot's grin and lashed forward with his left.

The long strand of hair from that side shot forward like a whip at Hellbound, who barely managed to step back in time to avoid getting hit. Instead of contacting the singer, the whip-strand cut through the air and sliced neatly through his microphone stand. The chrome post parted with a metallic clang and whine of feedback. Its microphone clattered to the stage.

"Whoa.." Hellbound wondered at the event even as his attacker moved forward to followup the strike with his right.

He was ready this time and managed to get his left arm up to intercept the whiplike hair, letting it wrap itself around his arm. There was a sharp, cutting pain as the fine strands dug into his skin. Traces of blood welled up there which began to smoke and burn.


Meanwhile, Jack's attacker was advancing on his own. This one looked younger and, almost impossibly, a little crazier than the kid attacking Hellbound. He grinned upon approaching the vampire and bright blue sparks could be seen dancing between his upper and lower teeth...

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As surprised as Hellbound was that the strands of hair managed to cut into his skin, Mr. Whipcord was equally amazed that Hellbound still had an arm. He was used to people going all to pieces, quite literally, beneath his slicing attacks. This was the first time anyone had managed to show any resilience against the unnaturally sharp assault.

But Hellbound just returned the man's manic grin and twisted his wrist to get a better grip on the lash. Blood was still smoking and smoldering where the hair was drawn tight but no deep gashes had been made just yet. Once his grasp was secured, he set his feet and yanked the young mutant forward.

A boot came up to meet with Mr. Whipcord as he was hauled forward and there was the sickening crunch of heavy-metal footwear smaching down on the cartilage of his nose. This time there was a lot of blood being produced but none of it was Hellbound's.

The punk dropped to his knees in pain and the singer took a second to free the entangled hand. Hellbound raised a fist and brought it crashing down on Whipcord's already mangled face. A quick reversal then backhanded him away from the stage and flat against the barroom floor.

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Hellbound stood over Mr. Whipcord and rubbed his cut arm. Blood still flowed and burned sluggishly, but it hadn't been a bad cut. The wound was already clotting and only gentle droplets were falling to the stage right now.

His target, on the other hand, hadn't gotten off so lucky. A fair amount had splashed on him from the two blows he'd taken. Enough, in fact, that he was now having to frantically beat against his own clothing to put out the flames that'd been ignited. Thick, ugly fumes scattered from his actions.

Eventually the punk had managed to extinguish himself, but not before inhaling enough of Hellbound's natural hallucinogen to taken on a panic stricken appearance. Adrenaline began to course through his body as its fear responses were triggered and his eyes popped wide as Hellbound dropped off of the stage.

"Boo..." Hellbound mouthed at him, recognizing the signs that the thug was already gone in his own mind. Mr. Whipcord scrambled to regain his footing and charged towards the nearest exit.

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Jack felt bolts of electricity surge through his body as the energetic thug jumped up on the table with him, knowing he had to work fast. He could be burned easily enough, but there was no overloading a dead nervous system. Instead he grinned evilly, fear shining in the face of the super-thug as he saw the gleeful reaction from his opponent. Jack drove his fist into the other man's face, breaking his nose and filling the air with a smell of ozone. Jack kept things fast and moving, grabbing his opponent by the shirt and punching him with the other hand, punching him again and again until he fell to the ground. Jasmine had run off, like a smart girl, leaving Jack to drop his unconscious antagonist all the way to the ground. "Who's next!?" he called, slamming his bloodied fists together as he gazed menacingly at the remaining bad guys.

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The sight of the two victorious heroes was a little more impressive. Tony 'BigHorn' now saw that he wasn't just facing off against a couple of half-drunk yahoos, but rather a pair of slightly-more-than-human interlopers.

For one, he'd seen damn few things in the city stand up to Mr. Whipcord's lashes and none of them were a person's arm. The fact that the young singer was able to actually haul the mutant in by his own forearm hair and take him out wasn't anything Tony B. had ever witnessed before. Even without that, the burning blood and Whip's reaction to it showed his inhuman nature.

And the joker still standing on the table? He'd shaken off Kid Sparks' crackling aura like it wasn't even there. He'd seen the electrical mutant jump start a big rig, there was no way a normal human could ignore the juice he was pumping out.

So they were super powered? Big deal. They were dealing with the Mutant Mafia now. Tony 'BigHorn' wasn't exactly chopped liver and he still had a few underlings up his sleeve. First, though, he had to call in the reserves.

Tony B. reached brought a cell phone out of his coat pocket and 'chirped' a message to the pair still outside.

"Get your asses pumped up and in here." He growled.

That was it, the entirety of the instructions. Apparently the thugs knew what it meant, though, as they came storming into the bar a few seconds later. They looked normal to both Hellbound and Jack, but as they approached the scene they grinned and gave each other an enthusiastic high-five. As one palm impacted the other, a massive and unseen chemical surge ran down each of their arms and into their bodies.

Muscles swelled, eyes popped and both of the Brick Brothers grew a good foot or two in height. Where once walked just a couple of healthy looking, teenaged punks was now two meancing hulks who, on Tony B.'s orders advanced on Jack's position.

As they did, the boss signaled to the last thug who'd entered the bar earlier with him. So far that one had stayed in the background, hidden within the crowd, but now he seemed to glide into view with inhuman smoothness.

Since Hellbound had been the one to hit Tony 'BigHorn' with a beer bottle, he was going to get the star treatment of the evening.

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Tony 'BigHorn' was fast, Hellbound gave him that at least. But the gangland lieutenant was no match for the hero's supernatural speed. The young tough was ready for his opponent as the two came together in combat.

The crowd at Morley's, or at least those brave enough to stick around during the action, had parted to give everyone enough room to fight. They had stepped back and created a clear space in front of the stage that also encompassed Jack's table. Hellbound's name was shouted in encouragement and, though they didn't know his name, Avenger was also well supported.

This was a town of superheroes. Small battles like this were common and most eventually became stories to trade with friends for the typical citizens. Everyone had their favorites and it was rare to find someone who didn't have at least one encounter to retell in their life. Right now, the charged-up revelers of Morley's was getting ready to watch, memorize and later exaggerate every detail of this one.

Hellbound got the first blow in against Tony B., sweeping the larger meta's arms aside with his right and then coming in with a body blow from his left. O'Ren's fist slammed into the gangster's very solid stomach with an audible impact. It sounded like a sledge hammer striking concrete and, unfortunately, had little apparent effect.

The man's abs felt like they were armor plated. Given that he was clearly more than human, himself, there was a pretty good chance that they actually were.

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Tony 'BigHorn' didn't hesitate after the blow, having expected this result. Though Hellbound had struck him with greater force than he was used to experiencing, it still wasn't enough to hurt him through the dermal plating.

Underneath his overcoat were layers of tough armor that'd grown over his skin. The mutant was a walking tank, a massive powerhouse that didn't take crap like this from heroic punks like that. He was a rising star in the Mutant Mafia and he was about to show this rock-wannabe-superhero just why that was.

Tony B. dropped his arms hard and slammed Hellbound across the face with both. Again, there was the sickening sound of incredible impact and the mutant was surprised for the second time that night. It was like smacking a concrete pillar. Hellbound was far more solid than he looked. This might just be a harder fight than had been expected for both combatants.

Fortunately, the mutant wasn't working alone. His last thug, the one that'd been ghosting around the melee for a while now, stepped up to help. He was holding a chair taken from a nearby table and used it against Hellbound's exposed back. The wooden furnishing exploded upon impact, shattering into useless pieces of debris.

Displeased though still unhurt, Hellbound turned towards the direction of this sneak attack and scowled.

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This was the opening that Tony 'BigHorn' had been looking for. Hellbound was distracted by the interference of the other gangster and ready to be put down for the count. With a wicked grin on his face, the big mutant swept one leg back in preperation of a solid kick to the midsection.

He wound up, gripped Hellbound by the shoulder and punted him right in the stomch. The sickening impact lifted him off his feet and he dropped to the bar floor, off balance. It'd been a good blow, probably enough to kill almost anyone else in the room, but Hellbound was still tougher than that.

Yes, it hurt. Yes, it caused him to gasp for air, but it wasn't enough to take him out of the fight as planned. Even as Tony B. was shouting at him to stay down, he was winding up for his own counter attack.

Hellbound half-rose with one leg with one leg planted underneath himself and drove his fist into a mighty uppercut against the mutant's groin. If the bastard wanted to play dirty then Hellbound could certainly oblige. Once again there was the disturbing sound of someone's sensitive body parts being put through horrible punishment as Tony 'BigHorn' now found himself being driven slightly into the air and dropping to the floor.

The lieutenant scrunched his face up in a combination of pain and anger as he fell to eye level with the half-prone Hellbound. The pair glared at each other as they realized that this fight was really only getting warmed up.

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Jack leapt off the table as the Brick Brothers came at him, assuming a look of fear that was genuine enough to sucker the two massive thugs into the men's room after him. The Brick boys weren't stupid, but they knew better than to let an opponent leave a fight while he was still standing. By the time they'd gotten into the men's room, though, the lights were out. There was a momentary pause as the two thugs ran into the darkness, and then suddenly a horrified scream came from inside the darkened room. When one of the brothers came stumbling out, he was holding himself in a very personal area, a look of shock and horror on his muscle-wrapped face, and a moment later there was a horrific smash from inside and the room went dead quiet. Jack didn't emerge from the now-empty room, but the lights there flicked on.

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The Brick Brothers had put up a better fight than Kid Sparks, especially as they were both used to throwing their weight around. The pair also made a pretty good team. More than just a name, the two strongmen actually were fraternal twins and had spent most of their lives working in tandem.

But even still, the super-powered thugs hadn't been able to match Avenger's killer instincts or his lethal abilities. Most likely it was a good thing he'd lured them away from the crowd to work his own brand of night-borne-justice, and equally fortunate that the bathroom had been vacated upon news of the action being spread around.

Everyone in the bar had gathered around the battle between Hellbound and Tony 'BigHorn'. They were still squaring off against each other in half-crouch positions, trying to simultaneously psyche each other out and size each other up. It looked to be a real clash of titans going on and there was a tension in the air as everyone waited for things to snap back into motion.

The last thug, still holding onto ruined pieces of wood from the chair he'd shattered on Hellbound's back, wondered uselessly at what to do next. G.D. Badman, as he preferred to be called, was used to knocking people around as Tony B.'s chief enforcer and right-hand-creep. Though he didn't look like anything special, certainly not as dramatically powered as his fellows, there was a subtle lethality about him that warned people not to mess around.

He had a sort of Robert De Niro/Joe Mantegna vibe going that spoke volumes of a genuine, old-school made man. That wasn't quite enough to keep the crowd in check, however, as one slightly innebriated partier stepped forward to help out Hellbound. He held an empty vodka bottle high over one shoulder and brought it down with sloppy force.

Unfortunately, the weapon came down on G.D.'s neck and sailed harmlessly through his body as if the thug were nothing but a ghost. The drunken samaritan stumbled off balance at the unexpected lack of resistance and actually fell forward, through his intended target and onto the floor.

G.D. stared at the young man, giving him a look of respect for the amount of balls that he'd shown and also an acknowledgement that he was currently too busy to teach him the lesson that he deserved. Nobody messed with the Mutant Mafia and made it through with their skin intact. If it hadn't been for the fact that his boss needed help, then the would-be-rescuer would be nothing but another stain on the barroom floor.

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The minor display of power and street-level sovereignty displayed by G.D. went unnoticed by the other two fighters. Hellbound and Tony 'BigHorn' still faced off with a terrifying will. Their entire focus was on their opponent, each waiting for the other to blink.

Suddenly the pair snapped into action though it was difficult to tell which one moved first. Like two greco roman wrestlers, they came together all thrusting arms and clenching hands. They pushed against whatever they could gain purchase on, dug into the floor with anything that had traction and fought with raw fury where leverage had failed.

Eventually Hellbound managed to step behind Tony B. with one hip and flipped the mutant over onto his back. Diving down with the combined weight of both opponents, Hellbound slammed him into the floor hard enough to hear the wood crack underneath.

This barely fazed the lieutenant, however, as nearly the second he landed his feet were coming up to seize Hellbound in a pinching hold. One crazy, sudden spasm of his entire body had his locked legs shooting out straight and flinging Hellbound across the room.

Spectators barely had time to step out of the way of the heroic missile before Hellbound slammed into the bar itself, impacting heavily and splintering the wood. For one brief instant he remained in a polished crater of ruined mahogany before leaping once again into the fray.

Unharmed but angered, the singer charged.

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By the time Hellbound had pulled himself out of the bar, Tony 'BigHorn' had his over coat shrugged off and tossed to the side. Underneath the tailored suit it was easy to make out the lines of his strongman build and his troll-like armor plating. The criminal was built like a walkiing tank and unafraid of Hellbound's enraged charge.

The two came together in a monumental crash. Once again, even though he was still outmassed by his opponent, Hellbound's unnaturally solid build caught Tony B. off guard. The pair toppled over with the impact and it was only a quick twist of reflexes that allowed the Mafioso to roll with the blow.

Hellbound found himself being flipped over onto his back with another slam that, again, threatened to splinter the floorboards. The impact left him unfazed, however, and this time he was the one who managed to ride the momentum and convert it into a reversal against his opponnent. Now Tony 'BigHorn' found himself being rolled and thrown against the raised edge of the stage.

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Hellbound rose, ready to face the gangster once. Suddenly, as if nothing more than a ghost stepping out of the surrounding crowd, G.D. Badman appeared and threw a devastating snap-kick at his face.

Where any normal fighter might have been caught with his guard down and facing some shattered cartilage, Hellbound had managed to almost lazily reach up and trap the mutant's foot. One powerful hand had closed around G.D.'s ankle just as the attack came within centimeters of impacting his nose.

There was a feral grin as Hellbound brought his other arm up in order to smash one elbow down on the off-balance mutant's knee. Unfortunately, his arm passed harmlessly through the other's leg as G.D. phased back into mass of onlookers.

"Fragging cheater..." Hellbound growled at the mutant before he was suddenly tackled by a recovered Tony B.

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The combative pair went stumbling and skittering for a few feet before, once again, tumbling to the floor. It seemed that the fight was rapidly turning into an outright street level brawl in the middle of Morley's. So far the damage had been restricted to a single piece of broken furniture and a few shattered boards. However, the deep impact clearly visible on the antique bar was going to be both costly and dear.

Blows were being exchanged by the prone fighters as both allowed their senses to fade into a white-hot froth of rage. Neither was used to battling an opponent who refused to back down or could stand up to the hammer-like impacts of their respective fists. Both were fully incabable of admitting defeat and so the fight went on.

For a moment it seemed as if Hellbound managed to get the upper hand. Rolling over, he had Tony 'BigHorn' pinned underneath him and began to rain down on his face, his shoulders or any part of his body that went unprotected and was within reach. The floor shook and broke beath the mutant's head as it took its punishment.

With a strength and speed born of desperation, Tony B. managed to draw his feet up between himself and Hellbound, pushing the other off with one mighty shove. Angered and surprised, Hellbound found himself being hurled through the air once more.

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Tony 'BigHorn' began pulling himself up out of the crater that Hellbound had driven him into and decided that the time for playing around was long over. Even as he wiped a trickly of dark blood from the corner of his mouth, he could see that the singer-punk wasn't showing much damage from their fight.

Indeed, watching the freak as he lay temporarily prostrate at the wall he'd just been thrown against, Tony B. could see fresh bruises lightening and then vanishing on the hero's face. Apparently the jerk wasn't just strong and tough, but also a fast healer. That made for a bad combination, one that could be very difficult to beat.

He didn't even need to issue his next instruction to G.D., though. That guy was sharp and experienced, he knew what needed to be done. Again, like a ghost out of the fog, he was standing before Hellbound once more. This time, however, he had a very large and dangerous looking .45 pointing at the singer's head. That brought Hellbound to a halt, staring up at the firearm with anger in his eyes.

Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood myth, very few actual gangsters ran around with guns. Carrying a weapon while commiting a crime only drove up the odds of a higher sentence if they should get caught and convicted. In fact, just changing a job from robbery or assault to 'armed' robbery or assault sometimes made it a lot harder for the mafia lawyers to secure a plea of nolo contendere during the arraignment. In fact, the only ones who really considered guns to be a fashion accessory were the dumb punks who couldn't tell the difference between a real gangster and a rap video.

But that didn't mean they were never used. At times like this, when the opposition was more than simple fists and intimidation could overcome, the guns were brought out. G.D. Badman knew that and, now, so did Hellbound. Tony 'BigHorn' grinned from across the bar as he envisioned the fight coming to a close soon.

Suddenly, just a fraction of a second before the trigger was pulled, Hellbound whipped his left hand up with inhuman speed to close around the magnum. Bearing down with all of his intense strength, steel and bone could be heard snaping and grinding together beneath his grip.

Having needed to keep his entire hand solid to use the gun, G.D. now found himself in the uncomfortable position of having an appendage crushed by a superhuman strongman. He howled in pain before the gun went off, sending a round harmlessly into the wall just to the side of Hellbound's head. A second later and the barrel was bent to the point where another blast would have shattered it with lethal force, but by then the entire weapon was useless.

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