“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
Episode 1: The Prodigies
“Good morning Washington D.C, and good morning America. It’s May Sixteenth, nineteen fifty three, five after the hour of nine am, temperature’s a balmy 90 degrees which is good news for you lucky kids ridin’ flip–top in your ginchi new Cadillacs…”
The grainy voice of a tube radio atop the nearby newspaper stand greeted the morning to the rising swirls of smoke from the tip of a burning cigarette resting on the corner of a clear glass ashtray. The sidewalk was alive with the tip–taps of hooves worn out leather soles of average citizens in cheap suits chasing yet another day’s wages in a never–ending rat race. From the soft screeching of whitewall tires upon a shiny new Cadillac blazing trails across the asphalt to the chart–topping tunes of Frankie Laine, it was just another day in downtown D.C.
Even luck was a lady, and like all ladies, though, they have their good days and they have their bad days. The faint sounds of pounding fists and the enthusiastic guffaws resonating throughout the confines of a dingy back alley from behind old man Miller’s corner street diner was enough to motivate even the most inquisitive of folks to remain to their side of the pavement. As the saying goes, only fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Earlier that day…
The sounds of shattered glass startled Johnny from his sleep, forcing a groan from the back of his throat from having been wrenched from his liquid dreams of Barbara Jean from next door. He shrugged at the commotion outside his bedroom, judging from the mindless bickering that his parents were arguing again for the umpteenth time. His baby blue eyes rested upon his clock. He figured that he was up a little too early, but the Hell with it. He would rather be down at Miller’s waiting around for his buds to arrive than spending another God–awful moment in this Hellhole. He lifted himself off the mattress to the sounds of creaking springs, taking a moment to stretch out his aching back before making a beeline for the bathroom.
It was filthy, but he had grown used to the stench of mold and stagnant water. He would have cleaned it, but he knew it was a pointless chore, besides this pad could rot for all he cared. The morning was routine enough: shower, shave, a palm full of grease to smoothen out his thick wavy brown locks, and he was prepped to go. He threw on his only clean pair of skinny jeans, a plain black tee, a pair of worn out boots and of course his prized possession, his leather jacket. He was almost to the door before pausing, shaking his finger in realization that he had forgotten the most important thing. He grabbed something silvery under his cotton pillow and slipped it into his jean pocket.
He was almost a foot out the door when he balked mid–way as a whiskey glass smashed into a nearby wall. “Ya fuckin’ bitch!” the elderly voice slurred. “I work my ass off day in and day out and my fuckin’ wife does nothing but mooches off and spreads her fuckin’ legs for any stallion she sees!”
“Oh, ya wanna go there, you fat piece of turd! What ‘bout Bobbie Jo huh? What ‘bout her?”
Johnny narrowed his gaze at the bald, drunken man by the kitchen counter, suckling on the half empty bottle of cheap bourbon like it was the sweet nipple of a two penny whore while he strutted around in his undergarments.
“I fucked the neighbor’s nag one time, one fuckin’ time and ya’ll never let me forget it!”
“Ya damned right I won’t let ya forget it, ya unfaithful asshole!” said the woman on the other end of the dining table. A bloated, aging broad with far too much makeup and a splashy dress on the verge of popping a button.
“Yer a freeloading little cunt, Delores, just like that useless no good bum, Johnny!” the man barked. “Life’s hard ‘nough without him around. Ya should’ve had gotten rid of him when ya had the chance!”
“For your information, Jim, there ain’t a day gone by where I hadn’t wished that boy died the day he was born! The only reason why I’m stuck with yer sorry ass is because of him.” She took another bite from her donut. Jelly ran down her fingers and onto her dress.
Johnny felt his now–trembling hand tighten around the doorknob. He ripped the door wide open with a thud loud enough to force a shot of bourbon back up his old man’s throat. “Ya know what, drop dead, both of ya! I don’t need this shit. I’m outta here,” he yelled, storming out the front door.
“Wha… the fuck did ya just say to me? Hey, HEY! Get your ass back here boy, I ain’t done with ya yet!” Jim rushed outside, stumbling over a pile of empty whisky bottles as he yelled from the steps of his porch, but Johnny refused him any attention.
Johnny threw on his jacket while he stormed down the forlorn streets of the city slums. It wasn’t long before the exasperated death threats faded behind the revving engines of dump trucks on their way to the nearby cement plant. Johnny forced a grunt as he kicked an empty beer can into the air. He fished a crumpled cigarette out from his jacket pocket, shrugging upon realizing it was his last one.
Slipping the stick to his lips, he ignited it with the bronze lighter he swiped from the sorry coot he and his friends had jumped the week before. Speaking of which, he could really use their company right now. Blowing the last bit of smoke from his lungs, he eyed the city bus pulling up at the corner of Thirty–Fourth Street before making a rush for it.
“Alright people, here we are,” the driver said as the bus pulled up to the curb.
The unmistakable aroma of waffles, toast, and coffee from his favorite hangout was as comforting as ever. No sooner did Johnny step off the bus, than was he greeted by the familiar sight of a five young men leaning against a nearby wall, tipping the ashes from their half–lit cigarettes while they watched the world go by. He grinned – he was finally home.
“Hey Johnny, my man!” One of them exhaled a whiff of smoke though his nostrils. “What's buzzin’, cuzzin?”
Johnny weaved through the crowd of people making their way down the sidewalk, and sure enough, the few ponies among them figured it would be far safer circling around him.
“Papa, you promised that you’d take me to see old man Stan after breakfast.”
Johnny raised an eyebrow at the unmistakable voice of a foal, stopping in his tracks as he turned to a family of Earth ponies leaving the diner.
“What’s the hurry son? We have the whole day after all,” said the grey stallion with the fedora and the black tie. The door behind him closed to the soft tinkle of a bell.
“But what if he sells the last one before we get there?” the azure foal whined. The cream colored mare beside him rustled his mane in affection.
“Now now, Zephyr, good things come to those who wait. Be patient. I promise it’ll be worth it.” She nuzzled him.
“Alright Mama!” The foal smiled.
Johnny cleared his throat and spat to the curb, scowling as he eyeballed the family in question. Their kind had no business here nor were they welcomed amongst his fellow humans. In fact, they should have been spending their days confined to farms plowing fields, pulling carriages, and the rest of the dirty work low enough for the colored folk. Their smugness turned his very insides out.
As he watched the family of ponies slip into the alleyway next to diner, a grin twisted upon his face. Johnny whistled sharply to his friends by the wall. Upon exchanging glances, they grinned, flicking their cigarette butts onto the pavement as they followed him into the alleyway.
Johnny tucked his hands into his jacket pocket, eyes glaring like the big bad wolf upon a flock of unsuspecting sheep. “This is gonna to be fun.”
Pain, flaring pain was all the stallion felt through the vicious pounding of bare–knuckled fists hooked into cheeks one after the other. The world swayed in a silent limbo, drowned by the high–pitched ringing in Greyburn’s ear. A gag was forced up to the grey earth pony’s throat as if his guts had gone up and twisted themselves in knots the moment his stomach caved from the blow. That would have been the fifth, or sixth, he had lost count. It was a wonder that he was still conscious.
Where did it all go wrong? All he ever wanted was a day away from the office, away from those mindless pencil pushers and petty office politics, together with his wife and son. It seemed like only moments ago he was savoring the scent of cinnamon waffles and the smoky aftertaste of a freshly brewed cup of Joe at his favorite diner without a care in the world.
Everything was going so well, so much so, he made a promise his son that they would stop on by old man Stan’s comic book store three blocks down to pick up that new issue of Flash Gordon he had been talking about the past week. Then, perhaps down to his favorite pony florist for a bouquet – his wife loved the scent of Equestrian roses. But Murphy be damned, he and his family were jumped by six teenage hoodlums the moment he made the horrible decision to take a shortcut through the alley.
The stallion’s weak breaths drawn through blood–clogged nostrils, were lost in the ocean of cruel guffaws and mindless egging all around him. Never once had he questioned the Lord, having been raised in a strict Christian home, such blasphemous behavior would have earned him a sore rump by day’s end. Then, why would the Lord forsake me and my family?
“What’cha think, boys? Ya think he’s had enough?” The blonde haired greaser gestured to his two snickering compatriots who dangled Greyburn like a piñata. He inched forward for closer look but then without warning, socked another one into the stallion’s muzzle.
“I don’t think so!” He laughed.
Even as the stallion spat a glop of blood and saliva to the asphalt beneath him, he kept his unbruised eye on the faces of his wife and son. Despite the beatings, he thanked the Lord that they had been spared. He bit his bottom lip. This was all his fault – he was the one who insisted they take the shortcut, and he damned himself to Hell for being so stubborn. Now these… animals, were going to make him watch as they ripped everything he loved out of his life.
“Hope yer still hungry, ‘cause there’s still a whole lot more where that came from!” The greaser pulled his arm to the back as he readied himself for yet another go.
“Stop it! Stop it! Please!” Greyburn’s wife pleaded through her tears, holding her foal tightly in her hooves. “I’m begging you! Please!”
Her cries did nothing to stop the onslaught of beatings, goaded to the sounds of boisterous cheering and Devilish grins. “Stop! Leave my papa alone!” Zephyr cried out, but even the voice of a young child fell on deaf ears.
“Ough!” Greyburn cried as the greaser snagged a handful of his blood–stained mane and threw him right into a pile of trashcans.
“Greyburn!” The mare’s strangled cry escaped her at the sight of her husband now lying motionless on the ground.
The alley erupted in a hail of wolf whistles, applause and exchanges of high fives going all around. “Oh yeah! Who’s bad? Me! Johnny B, that’s who!” The greaser strutted across the alley with his hands held high.
“You got that right, Johnny!”
“… you won’t get away with this.” Zephyr flinched as the greaser they called Johnny froze, his boots screeching against the asphalt.
“What’s that?” Johnny walked over before kneeling down to the foal. “Ya gotta run that by me again kid, ‘cause I think I got something stuck in my ear.” He tapped on his earlobe.
“Don’t you dare talk to him!” the mare spat, holding Zephyr tighter in her arms.
Johnny shot her a glare. “Hey, I ain’t talkin’ to ya, nag… I’m talkin’ to yer boy here, so why don’t ya mind yer own fuckin’ business?” He scoffed, shaking his head as he returned his attention to the foal. “Jesus Christ, parents are such a pain in the ass aren’t they? Come on, tell Uncle Johnny what ya said.”
“I said don’t talk to– AHH!” Zephyr had never known the true meaning of fear until the moment he watched Johnny wrench his mother by her auburn mane.
“Ya want me to cut ya up like the last bitch who mouthed off to me, huh? Shut the fuck up!” The rage in his eyes could have killed a small animal.
“Mama!” Zephyr cried. “Stop! Let my mama go, you’re hurting her!” He darted forward and smacked his little hooves frantically against Johnny’s shin.
“Hey, lookey here, boys, the kid’s got some fight in him!” Johnny shot his friends a grin, drawing nothing more than guffaws and chuckles. “Dumb little ankle biter,” he sneered as he flicked the foal in the forehead.
“Ow!” Zephyr fell flat on his rump, sniffling as he rubbed the sore spot with his hoof.
“Sunny! Zephyr! Don… don’t you touch them!”
“Papa!” the young foal cried out as he watched his father struggle to his hooves, only have his heart sink when Greyburn took another tumble to the ground. It was no use– his strength had all but deserted him.
“Please…” the mare pleaded, her face streaking with tears.
A moment of silence passed before he finally released her. “Alright, alright, just ‘cause ya asked me so nicely,” Johnny said with a smirk, glancing over to the stallion on the ground. “Ya know, ya should be proud of ya kid. He’s got a lot more balls than ya.”
“Please, do… whatever you want with me… just please… please don’t hurt my family,” Greyburn pleaded through his strained breaths.
Johnny’s eye twitched as he stomped off in stallion’s direction. Zephyr watched in silent horror as the enraged greaser swung the tip of his boot into Greyburn’s stomach. He forced himself to turn away at the moment of impact, while his father’s helpless cries clawed at his soul.
“Ya still don’t fuckin’ get it do ya, pops? Ya don’t get to make demands here! This is my show, I’m the one with the dick here! Me, Johnny B!” Johnny swung another kick into the stallion.
“ARGH!” Greyburn’s good eye screwed shut as he lay clutching his gut.
Zephyr snorted as he watched Johnny casually remove an ivory comb tucked away in his jacket pocket and smoothen out the loose strands of his hair, whistling a chirpy little tune as if everything he had done to this point was merely a game. Zephyr trembled, his eyes welled on the verge of tears, not of fear but of hatred.
Johnny’s whistling came to an abrupt stop the moment his eyes connected with Zephyr’s, glaring deep into Johnny’s baby blue hues with the unspoken desire to drive a knife through his still beating heart.
He scoffed. “Ya know, I’m getting mighty tired of that look ya givin’ me, kid.”
Johnny slipped the comb back into his shirt pocket. “In fact, I’m beginnin’ to wonder where all this fight is comin’ from, ‘cause the last one we jumped was beggin’ like a little puppy dog. So, you know what, enlighten me… Why aren’t you afraid? Huh? Enlighten me! Enli—”
The sudden pause had Zephyr noticing Johnny’s newfound curiosity in something between the folds of little saddlebag. As Johnny flipped off the leather top and pulled out a rather old comic book, Zephyr gasped.
“Give that back!” he cried.
“Zephyr, no!” Sunny held him back as he struggled to break free of his mother’s embrace.
“It’s mine, give it back!”
“Well, well, what do we have here?” Johnny’s fingers traced the edges of the stained pages as his eyes traced over the title. “The Phantom Stranger? The heck is this crap–” It then hit him like two shots of cheap whiskey.
Johnny blurted a laugh, escalating into an uncontrollable fit as he smacked his thigh, leaving Zephyr wondering if the guy had finally lost his marbles.
One of the greasers cocked an eyebrow as he gestured to his fellow greaser. “Hey, what so darn funny?”
The other greaser bobbed his shoulders. “Beats me.”
“Oh! Oh! Now I get it! Stupid, stupid Johnny boy. How did I not see it, huh?” He smacked his forehead.
The foal winched as Johnny came unnervingly close, sneering at him. “Ya actually think… that someone… some hero’s gonna come waltzing down this alley and save yer mommy and yer daddy?”
“That’s cute kid, real cute. Well, get this, I’m gonna give it to ya straight… there ain’t no such thing as heroes, they only exist in here,” he said, tapping on the worn out cover.
Johnny gestured to the barren back alley walls around them. “Look around ya! This is the real world, and here in the real world, no one gives a fuck about ya. Not the cops, not the people, not even your own kind. Hell, even yer own daddy doesn’t love you ‘nough to try.” He smirked, glancing over to Greyburn yet again.
Tears streamed down his cheeks, dampening his fur. “You’re wrong…” Zephyr muttered.
Johnny raised an eyebrow. “What’cha say kid?”
“I said you’re wrong! Someone will come help us, you’ll see! And whoever it is, I hope he kicks your butt… you and your monkey friends!” Zephyr bawled through the tears.
Johnny’s face scrunched with such rage, his eyeballs stood on the verge of busting a capillary. “Why ya little!” he snarled as he raised his boot.
Zephyr flinched, shutting his eyes tightly as he braced the blow to come.
“NO!” Sunny shielded her foal in her arms.
But the blow never came.
The greaser’s fists were clenched as tightly as his teeth, his voice baneful as he spoke. “Ya know what, I got a better idea. Why don’t I prove it to ya? Right here….” Johnny reached into his jean pocket, sliding out a chromed hilt.
The sight of it made both his parents gasp. “…right now.”
“Bring me the kid.” Evil smiles streaked across their faces, snickering as they moved in on Zephyr and his mother.
“No! Let me go! Mama!” Zephyr screamed as he was torn from his mother’s embrace.
“No! NO! Zephyr!” Sunny cried after him.
Zephyr bit down hard on one greaser’s hand, kicking and trashing as hard as he could, but the humans were just too strong.
“He bit me! Son of a bitch bit me!” the greaser cried.
“Quit your whining, you spaz,” the other snapped.
“No! Let go of my son!” Sunny made a grab for her foal, only to be shoved back into the alley wall. “Greyburn, stop them!” she sobbed.
“No! No please!” Greyburn cried as he watched Johnny dangle Zephyr by the scruff his neck like a helpless little kitten.
“So where should I start, hm?” The silver blade, as malicious as a cobra’s fang, flipped into view. “Decisions, decisions, decisions.” Johnny eyed the young foal, twirling his dangerous toy freely between his fingers. “Ya know what pops, I’m lost. How ‘bout ya help me out here?”
“Johnny! Johnny right? Please… please, I’ll do anything, anything! Just don’t hurt my son,” Greyburn begged. His voice quivered as he spoke.
“Then how bout we play a little game? I’m gonna let ya tell me where should I cut yer little boy. Should I cut his leg off?” Johnny circled the tip of his blade around Zephyr’s shoulder. “Or one of his ears… His nose maybe? Oh, I know! How ‘bout his eyes? I hate those damned things.”
Zephyr could only watch as his father’s lip tremble, his eyes welling with tears. “Johnny please…”
“Ya better hurry, pops, cause if you go quiet on me, I’m just gonna kill the little tyke.” Johnny smirked. “So tick–tock pops. Time’s a–wastin.”
Zephyr had never seen his father cry, but as the tears streamed down Greyburn’s cheeks, he smiled. “Papa… Papa it’s okay.”
Greyburn’s ears perked. “Zephyr?”
“A hero will come save us… you’ll see, he’ll come, I know he will!”
Zephyr yelped the moment he felt Johnny’s grip tighten around his mane. “Ya shut the fuck up kid! Shut up! What’s it gonna be, old man? Say it now, or I swear to God I’m gonna spill his guts all over the Godammed floor!” Zephyr cried as he was jerked around like a rag doll. “Okay, okay! Cut… his hair?”
“What’cha waiting for, Johnny boy? Cut him up!”
“Do it, Johnny! Make him scream!”
Everyone was so caught in the rush of the moment that none of them had noticed a presence approaching them from the far end of the alleyway, taking with him an empty whiskey bottle sitting atop a nearby dumpster.
“Alright pops,” Johnny snarled. “Have it yer way!” He brought his blade to Zephyr’s throat.
“Johnny, no!” Greyburn cried out.
Zephyr shut his eyes, gasping the moment he felt the chill of steel against his neck.
The same moment, something wrenched one of the greasers around by his shoulder. “The fu–”
He never got to finish as he took the full brunt of a bottle to the face, smashing to pieces on impact but before he could give in to sleep’s embrace, he was grabbed by the neck. Cold fingers with a grip like the coils of a python tightened around his throat, cutting off his windpipe before slamming him back–first into the alley wall. The greaser cried as he was stabbed in the stomach by something sharp and jagged, enough to force him to consciousness without breaking skin.
The greasers, including Johnny, stood motionless, jaws agape as they gawked at their friend who was now looking more like a bloodied jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. Even from afar, Zephyr kept an eye his mysterious savior. The stranger certainly looked like the average greaser – a pair well–polished Doc Martin’s, a pair of Levi’s, and to top it off, a white T–shirt and a brown leather jacket. Though, the way he glowered at the poor, wounded soul before him proved that he was no friend of Johnny’s.
“I’m gonna give you three seconds, exactly three, to put that kid down and step away from those ponies… before I decide to show your friend here what I learned in biology.” The stranger forced what was left of the broken bottle deeper into greaser’s stomach.
He silently counted the seconds for a dumbfounded Johnny to find his way back to reality, but when nothing happened he cried, “ONE!”
Once again, nothing happened.
“TWO!” He shoved the bottle a little deeper into the greaser’s stomach, this time twisting it for added measure.
“ALRIGHT! Alright!” Johnny cried at last, jerking the blade away from Zephyr’s neck and laying him gently on the ground. “Alright, be cool.”
“Papa!” Zephyr burst into tears as he scrambled to his father.
Greyburn threw his hooves around his son and held him tightly in his arms. “Oh Zephyr, my boy, my boy. Oh, thank God.”
“Greyburn! Zephyr!” Sunny cried, stumbling to her hooves to join her family in embrace.
Zephyr buried his face in his father’s fur, tears once shed with sorrow now streamed with joy. He didn’t know if it was a miracle, a mere coincidence or a sudden act of compassion, nor did he care. His family, his precious family, was alive.
“You… can you walk?” The stranger addressed the stallion, who was quick to nod in response.
“Careful, honey.” Sunny braced herself against her husband as Greyburn forced himself to his hooves. “Easy…”
“Careful Papa,” Zephyr said.
“Get your family out of here, and get yourself to a hospital. Oh, and while you’re at it, call the cops.”
Sharp, hazel eyes narrowed dangerously at the five greasers remaining. “And if any of you punks so much as try anythin’, so help me God…“ He twisted the bottle.
“Ergh! Oh God!”
Zephyr and his family bid a hasty retreat, and sure enough, the greasers avoided them. The little foal glanced over his shoulder, adding insult to injury as he stuck his tongue cheekily at Johnny, drawing nothing but a bitter scoff.
“Thank you… Thank you… Bless you,” Sunny said through her teary sobs as they passed him.
“And kid, Zephyr ain’t it?” the stranger inquired all of a sudden, catching the attention of the young foal. He smiled. “Never stop believin’.”
Zephyr lit up like morning sun, returning his advice with a smile and a nod before leaving with his family. As they made their way out of the dreary alley, he rubbed his cheek against his father’s leg, smiling as he did.
“See… I told you he’d come.”
The moment they were out of harm’s way, the stranger released his hold on the greaser’s neck, but not before grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. Jerking him forward, he rammed his knee right in the solar plexus. The greaser clutched his chest, choking on his own blood as he was thrown to the ground.
“So!” he said, almost making them to jump out of their skins while he patted the dust from his jacket. “You guys think you’re such hotshots, huh? Bunch of tough guys pickin’ on a few ponies who can’t even fight back?”
He allowed what was left of the broken bottle to slip from his fingers. “Must make you feel real good about yourselves.”
“Well then.” He pushed back on his short auburn hair before cracking his knuckles. “Why don’t you guys try on someone with some teeth for a change instead of those–”
“Motherfucker!” The greaser closest to him lunged forward, throwing a wild haymaker. The stranger tilted his head back, just as the clenched fist went sailing by. The stranger crossed–countered as his fist connected with the greaser’s face, snapping both the greaser’s front teeth off like twigs off a branch. “Blargh!”
The stranger easily caught the outstretched arm by the wrist just seconds before blasting another fist into the greaser’s stomach, twisting it for added measure. The greaser’s eyes ran red, gasping for breath like fish out of water as saliva trickled down his jaw. He twisted the greaser’s arm, trapping it against his shoulder. Using it as leverage, the stranger slammed his fist into the greaser’s shoulder, snapping it on impact. The greaser screamed.
“Ain’t all fun and games bein’ on the other end of a fist now, is it?” the stranger spat as he twisted the arm, increasing the weight on his shoulder as he forced yet another cry.
“Why? I didn’t see you and your pals there stoppin' while you guys were takin' turns beatin' that little kid’s dad half to death.” His gaze fell upon the four greasers left standing. “Hey, why aren’t you all laughin’ like you did before, huh?” He sneered. “Have I… have I failed to entertain you? Do I not appeal to your sense of humor?” He twisted the arm further.
“Arrrggghhh! Jesus Christ! Stop!”
“You guys get off to this kinda stuff don’t you? So come on, you sick sons of bitches, laugh!” He twisted the arm again.
“Arrrggghhh! God please!”
“Hey! HEY, LET HIM GO!” Johnny hollered from across the alley, but the stranger ignored him. “Hey I’m talkin’ to ya, PUNK!”
“Pound him, Johnny!” The others yelled with newfound confidence at the sound of Johnny’s own.
“Yeah, cut him up!”
The stranger smirked. “What’s the matter, tough guy? Losin’ your moxie ‘cause you’re not callin’ the shots anymore? Pity, you were on such on a roll, too.” He twisted the arm slowly, prolonging the greaser’s suffering.
“Arrgghh! Johnny, make him stop, man!”
Johnny brandished his switchblade. “I don’t know what yer deal is, ya son of a bitch, but ya just done gone from an ass kickin’ to a funeral. Ya walk in here, into MY ALLEY, kick the shit outta MY FRIENDS and ya think yer gonna cut outta here one piece? Well you know what, hero? I hope this is worth it, ‘cause I’m seriously gonna enjoy feedin’ ya yer balls!”
“You tell him, Johnny!"
The stranger responded with a slow chuckle, almost murderous to the tone. “You think I’m a hero? No, I’m no hero. I’m the guy who’s gonna beat you cocksuckers to death and drink your blood from a fuckin’ boot.”
Johnny forced a dry laugh. “Ya putting me on? It’s fuckin’ five against one.”
“I think you mean four.” He jerked greaser’s arm, on the verge of popping it out of its socket.
The greaser’s cries went shrill as he dropped to his knees.
“Still, I think those are pretty reasonable odds.”
The pinned greaser glanced over his shoulder, gazing into the stranger's eyes while he stammered through his breaths. “I know… who you are.”
The grin curling upon the stranger’s face drew an instant sense of regret. “Really? Well, since we all love the sound of our names here, why don’t you go ahead and tell your frat house friends here who I am. Come on, hot–rod, say my name… ” he said as he jerked on his arm.
“Aaaaarrrgh! Fucking Hell!”
The greasers gritted their teeth at the sight of their suffering compatriot, but none of them dared to move.
“Say my name!”
“LOUDER!” he snarled, twisting it further as he threatened to tear the greaser’s ligaments apart.
“AAARH! HOWARD STARK! HOWARD STARK! HOWARD STAAARK! OH GOD!”
Only then did he loosen his hold. “You’re Goddammed right it is,” he spat before turning to address the other four. “Tell the cops, tell the doctors, tell your grease ball friends from here to Brooklyn, ‘cause when the sun goes down on this city, I want you sons of bitches to remember exactly who kicked your fuckin’ teeth in as they’re SCRAPING WHAT’S LEFT OF YOU OFF THE SIDEWALK!”
Howard released his hold on the greaser, making him kiss the asphalt with a boot to the back of his head. “So what’cha pussies standin’ ‘round for? Bring it!” He threw his arms apart.
“Waste that motherfucker!” Johnny snarled.
The three remaining greasers lunged forward like the hounds of Hell on a mission to tear the young Stark limb from limb. Howard bared his teeth, curling his fists before surging forward at full speed to meet them in the heat of battle, just as the first one was in the midst of hooking a blind right. Howard blasted his fist into the greaser’s face with a brutal blow. Shifting his weight, he slugged the next one across the cheek. The punch sent the greaser stumbling to the back, painting the walls with a spray of red as he took a tumble to the ground. Howard forced the third one rump first into the asphalt with a kick to the stomach.
The first greaser’s face scrunched from the pain, writhing and whining as he clutched his busted nose.
Howard stepped in with a hurricane of punches, to the face, to the chest, to the gut, to the liver, to the groin, taking swing after savage swing like a wild animal, with the snarls to match. Grabbing the greaser by his T–shirt, he smashed his forehead into the greaser’s face, once, twice, feeling what was left of the man’s nose turn to mush upon impact.
Howard slugged his fist into the greaser’s stomach, forcing him over as he kneed him in the face, putting him down for good.
With a grunt of effort, the second greaser returned, bleeding profusely from his mouth as he swung his fist, but Howard was ready for him. Stopping his blow mid–swing with his arm, he closed the distance and delivered a nasty elbow to the lips, busting them wide open.
Howard trapped the greaser’s arm then blasted a hail of wild haymakers into his face with the same savagery, shattering the greaser’s cheek bones and breaking his jaw. Howard backstepped, giving himself enough leeway for a foot right between the legs.
“OUGH! Mother fu–” The greaser’s bloodied face contorted as he doubled over.
Howard grabbed him by the face, dragging the stumbling greaser down the alley and shoving him right into the third greaser, sending both of them back into the asphalt.
With two more down for the count, he homed in on Johnny B.
“Come on, pretty boy! Come on! I’m gonna fuck you up!” Johnny taunted, twirling the silver switchblade in his hand.
Howard’s breaths intensified at the sight of Johnny’s smirk. His nostrils flared, his eyes narrowed into slits as he cried at the top of his lungs, tearing down the alley like a man possessed. Johnny bounced excitedly on his toes, grinning as he took a swipe at the young Stark. Howard ducked at the last minute, the blade nicking a couple of strands from his head as he threw his arms around Johnny’s waist, spinning around behind him and lifted him into the air.
The move caught Johnny off–guard and off–balance as he was thrown into suplex, back first into the asphalt. He groaned and writhed, but before he could recover, Howard grabbed his jacket and pulled himself on top of him. Like the wrath of God given flesh, he ground and pounded the living Hell out of Johnny with the occasional head butt in between, sending splatters of blood in every direction each time his knuckles collided with skin and bone.
Howard choked as he felt an arm around his neck, suffocating him as he was wrenched off Johnny’s now battered body as they stumbled backward. He grunted, baring his teeth at the sight of the third greaser, feeling his lungs begin to starve as he struggled to get loose.
“I’m gonna snap your fucking neck in two!”
“Screw you!” Howard snarled as he grabbed hold of the greaser’s thumb and snapped it.
Howard swung his head to the back, breaking the greaser’s nose then driving his elbow right into the greaser’s liver.
Howard made a grab for the greaser’s collar, throwing him over the shoulder and back first into the ground. Just as he hit the floor, Howard put him out like a burnt out light bulb with a stomp of his boot right in the kisser.
Howard’s breaths were heavy, his feral eyes lost in insanity as the beating of his heart pounded like a brass band against his cranium. As the anger subsided, his gaze fell on his bruised knuckles, now soaked and trickling with the blood, and at that moment, he felt a cold sweat trickle down his face as the gravity of it all began to set in. Howard merely stood there, lost in his thoughts, oblivious to the one greaser nursing his broken arm while he attempted to flee the scene.
He looked over his shoulder, eyes locked on Howard in silent prayer that his presence would go unnoticed. He was almost home free had had he not been unfortunate enough to bump into something at the entrance of the alley. As he turned around, he found himself face to face with yet another young man, gasping from the terror of having recognized him.
“Joshua… Gunn?” he stuttered, breaking out in cold sweat. “You… you with Stark? You’re gonna finish me? Well, fuck you man! You ain’t getting me, I ain’t gonna let you!”
The greaser took a wild swing with his one good arm. Joshua deflected his blow with clear, precise movements, circling the feeble punches away. Once, twice, three times, using the greaser’s momentum against him. Joshua ducked another punch thrown in his direction as he weaved to the side, hooking his fist into the greaser’s face. The blow snuffed the light from the greaser’s eyes as he tumbled to the ground.
Joshua ran his jittery fingers over his jet black hair, coming to terms with the fact that he had indeed knocked the living daylights out of not only an unarmed delinquent but crippled to boot.
Eyes dark brown narrowed furiously in Howard’s direction. “Really, Howard? REALLY?”
Howard rolled his eyes, groaning silently at the lecture to come.
“I leave you for five minutes… five Goddamned minutes, and you get into a free–for–all! Tell me, does your idea of a balanced breakfast involve a healthy serving of knuckle sandwich on the side?” he cried, straightening his scarlet silk tie, which had come undone in the scuffle.
“You really wanna do this here? NOW?” Howard replied.
“Does it matter where we do it? Hell, we can do it in Timbuktu for all I care, and you still wouldn’t listen!” Joshua shrugged, noticing the blood stains on his smoky grey suit vest and the sleeve of his white shirt. “And these just came out of the cleaners too.”
“So what was I supposed to do, sit around and let these fuckers turn them into glue?”
“I didn’t say that, but you can’t go around beat– HEADS UP!”
Howard caught the glimmer of a silver blade in the corner of his eye, dodging backward as it missed him by the skin of his teeth. The fires of Hell lit ablaze in Howard’s eyes yet again as he retaliated. He trapped Johnny’s outstretched arm and hooked his fist right into the greaser’s nose. The blow sent Johnny’s eyeballs rolling to the back of his skull with the snap of his neck.
Without a shred of restraint, like a piston locked in full throttle, Howard blasted his free fist into Johnny’s face, pummeling him at least a dozen times. Grabbing a fistful of his T–shirt, he wrenched him forward as he kneed him in the stomach.
Johnny’s face contorted from the crushing pain as he stood on the brink of throwing out whatever was left in his stomach. Howard straightened Johnny’s arm and snapped it in two with an elbow to the joint.
The sound of fracturing bones was drowned by a wail of agony. Howard cried, slamming his foot into Johnny’s side as he tore the arm right out of its socket. He grabbed Johnny’s hand as he plunged the knife deep into the greaser’s shoulder, ensuring Johnny’s now–limp hand was still wrapped tightly around it. Johnny’s eyes widened as they lay fixed on the protruding hilt, unconsciously counting the seconds to the moment the adrenaline faded.
The alley echoed with a blood curdling scream as Johnny slumped to his knees, long after his throat had given up in protest to his screaming.
“Word to the wise, you son of a bitch, if you’re gonna try to cut someone with a knife, you better be bloody well ready to get cut by one, too,” Howard spat.
Johnny shot him a glare. “Drop dead!”
Howard dragged the blade further down his shoulder, forcing another scream as blood began soaking through Johnny’s T–Shirt.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that over all that screaming,” Howard said. “You were gonna kill that kid, you piece of ass wipe, and for that, I mean to skin you alive and chop what’s left of you up into little fuckin’ dog treats.”
Johnny chuckled through the pain lancing in his shoulder. “Ya think… yer gonna get away with this, rich boy?” he sneered. “When word gets out, the coppers are gonna come get ya and I’m gonna get a kick outta watchin’ them throw ya in the fuckin’ slammer. Wonder how old man Stark’s gonna–”
Howard slugged Johnny across the face. “ARGH! FUCK!”
“You think I give a damn about my father’s company? YOU THINK I’D GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MY NAME? FUCK… YOU!” Howard seethed, socking Johnny twice across the face.
He grabbed the greaser’s shirt and glared deep into his eyes. “They can arrest me, throw me in jail, lock me away for life, I don’t give a FUCK!” Howard rammed his knee into Johnny’s chest, forcing a gag to his throat.
“But right here, right now, in this fuckin’ alley, I swear to fuckin’ God that I’m gonna make you suffer, and I’m gonna love EVERY FUCKIN’ SECOND DOING IT!” Howard dragged the knife down Johnny’s shoulder.
Johnny’s screams echoed through the barren walls like the screams of the damned, his throat threatening to rip itself apart.
Joshua swallowed hard. “…Howard, that’s enough.”
But Howard paid him no mind, twisting the blade as Johnny’s screams grew louder.
“Howard, that’s enough… ”
“Stop! Stop please! God, help me! Make him stop! PLEASE!” Johnny begged, tears pouring from his eyes.
Howard froze as if the Devil had deserted him, leaving all but the horrifying sight of blood soaked fingers and Johnny's pathetic, child–like whimpering. It dawned upon him, there was no question, no doubt, not even a shred of hesitation. He was going to kill him and not even the divinity of God was going to stop him. Then why did I stop?
Johnny shrieked as Howard shot him a glare. “I want you to remember this, you punk. It is by my grace that your head is still on your shoulders and not mounted on my wall, understand?”
Johnny nodded frantically through the tears as Howard inched closer.
“Now go fuck yourself.” He rammed his knee right into Johnny’s face, knocking him out cold.
Howard cleared his throat and spat at the now–unconscious greaser, but as he came face to face with his friend, he was met with a cold, piercing gaze. “What?”
Joshua was about two seconds from raising Hell on earth when he noticed the faint sounds of sirens approaching in the distance. “Shit, I don’t know ‘bout you, but I’m sure as Hell not sticking around for the heat... let’s burn,” he said, turning to leave.
A moment of silence befell the young Stark as he took a moment to gaze upon the carnage he had left in his wake.
“Right behind you.”
The sounds of mechanical grindings accompanied by the rattling of chains echoed throughout the hangar as metallic doors large enough for an aircraft parted, with ample space enough for two. The fading rays of day’s end cast two shadows across the concrete floor amongst the myriads of workbenches, pieces of heavy machinery and gym equipment laying in their designated corners across the facility. The industrial area, formerly a military base on the outskirts of city made it the ideal place to set up camp. It was quiet, secluded and no one, not even a man with a badge, would dare show his nose here risking a lawsuit without a warrant. All, perhaps but for two young men whose last names just so happened to be plastered on the signboards outside.
Stark & Gunn, rivals in business but partners in crime as far as the press was concerned. Howard tucked his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, having noticed that Joshua had been unusually quiet throughout the entire car ride. In fact, he had been unusually sullen since their little rumble downtown. His hazel eyes shifted uncomfortably to the side, desperately trying to catch even the slightest expression on Joshua's face but to no avail, even as the soulful voice of Nat King Cole playing on the radio came into earshot.
“OH, oh! Now I get it,” Howard exclaimed all of a sudden. “I see what you’re doin’. You’re givin’ me the ole silent treatment.”
“Get bent, Howard, I’m not in the mood,” Joshua replied.
“Look, if you still got your pajamas in a twist over those fuckin’ greasers from before, I told you, I didn’t have a choice. It was either them or the ponies.”
“Goddammit Howard, that’s what you always say, but that’s not what’s bugging me right now.”
“Well what is it then? Come on, be straight with me for once!”
Joshua scoffed. “Do you have your head so far up your ass that you forgot the part where you almost murdered six guys? And if that’s not enough, you had to go ahead and traumatize one of them with your Jack the Ripper routine! Heaven only knows what you would have done if I hadn’t stopped you!”
“So the Hell what? That son of a bitch had it comin’, and you know it,” Howard said.
“Well it certainly doesn’t give you the right to go all Al Capone on him. Come on Howard, we’re supposed to be better than this!”
Howard shot him a glare. “I don’t have the right? Alright, Josh, you wanna talk about rights? You wanna talk about fuckin’ rights?”
“Oh, no, no, do not pull that tai–chi crap. You’re not swinging this shit back at me!” Joshua interjected but Howard continued nonetheless.
“Ever since that bill was passed, thousands of ponies, American citizens, are being hunted down like fuckin’ dogs and shipped off into internment camps to the glorious applause of every racist fuck in America. Where the fuck were their rights, Josh? Gone, right out of Uncle Sam’s ass and down the fuckin’ toilet, that’s where! So don’t you dare talk to me about fuckin’ rights!”
“And you believe you can make that all go away by going around beating up a bunch of punks high on motor oil?”
“Well it’s better than sitting here with our hands in our pants like a bunch of fuckin’ beat cops! ‘Sides, I think we’d have better luck cleanin' up the streets with a baseball bat and a nail gun!”
“You know what, you Goddammed psychopath, you’re way outta line, and I have every mind to turn you in!”
Howard lashed out, grabbing Joshua by the collar of his shirt. Joshua in turn grabbed onto Howard’s wrist. “Do it, DO IT! I’ll put you in fuckin’ ground like the rest of them!” His eyes narrowed.
“Come on tough guy, make my day.”
“We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news from the heart of D.C. as America responds to the controversial Pony Registration Act passed in congress four months ago. Here is what Vice President Robert Kelly has to say…”
The words ‘Pony Registration Act’ had them turning their heads to the crackling voice from the redwood radio atop the workbench.
“My fellow Americans, first of all, allow me to apologize on behalf of our President, who is unable to stand before you today as he recovers from his ordeal. As of now, we have every reason to believe that after a thorough investigation and a written confession, the recent assassination attempt on the life of President Eisenhower has come under orders by the Royal House of Equestria”
Both Howard and Joshua froze.
“I must now, with a heavy heart, declare that the threat of war is once again upon us. Not from the Germans, not even from the Russians or the Koreans, but from Equestria. A land that once prided itself on neutrality and peace now seeks to destroy our very way of life, but even so, we will not submit, we will not falter. If America requires we take up arms once again to defend our great nation, to fight for our liberty and our right to live on as free men then, as God as our witness we will stand and fight. These are dark times indeed, but I beseech you America, I ask that you stand strong, stand united and together we will persevere. They say that the night is darkest before the dawn, and I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
“In light of this recent tragedy, the United States Government has taken additional measures to have the Pony Registration Act fully enacted and enforced in the months to come. The controversial act which requires all ponies – unicorn, pegasi, and earth pony to be registered and be moved immediately into Internment Camps located across the United States, has drawn mixed criticisms from the people of America. Texas and Alabama have already begun enforcing the law with many other states expected to follow suit.”
“Riots have broken out in heart of San Francisco and New York due to clashes between ponies of the anti–registry movement and anti–pony activist groups, ending with hundreds wounded and arrested by the local law enforcement. Ever since the assassination attempt, views of the general public against the ponies have dipped exponentially. Here is what Mister Ruckus Bernstein, a former world war two veteran has to say:
“I don't want them ponies here. They’re a dangerous element. There ain’t no way to determine their loyalty, and it makes no difference whether a stallion is an American citizen, he is still a pony! American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty!”
“In other news, millionaire Ambrose Osborn of OsCorp and Adam Queen of Queen Consolidates have expressed their support for the bill, even going as far as to openly declare their financial and moral support for Anti–Pony Activist groups like The Church of Humanity and Humanity’s Last Stand. The move was also backed by millionaire inventor Bolivar Trask of Trask Industries, who has just recently made headlines at the launch of the Twenty Ninth Stark Expo, a month ago with the premier and demonstration of his new prototype under development of the Sentinel Program.”
“In a recent interview, Bolivar stated that the Sentinels are a last resort, and will only be deployed should the ponies refuse to cooperate with the United States Government. However, not all of America’s wealthiest are in favor of the new law. Millionaire inventors Howard Stark Senior, owner of Stark Industries and Christopher Gunn, owner of Gunn Enterprises have expressed their disapproval for the bill, calling it depraved, unconstitutional and ‘un–American’. We however, were unable to reach Nolan Wayne of Wayne Industries in Gotham City for any further comment.”
Howard released his hold on Joshua’s shirt before stomping off in the direction of the radio.
“That was Lana Lane with the latest report, and now we bring you a brand new one from rising star, Elvis–”
Thomas yelled as he shoved everything off the table. The clanging of tools echoed throughout the hangar to the buzzing of a silenced radio as it sprawled across the concrete floor. “Can you believe that fuckin’ BULLSHIT? DAMMIT! Those smug political MOTHERFUCKERS!” Howard slammed his fist the table top.
“HEY! I just fixed the damned thing!” A voice came from above the scaffoldings a storey above belonging to a young man in a dirty white shirt, practically covered from top to toe with patches of motor oil and grease.
“Sorry ‘bout that Norman, ole Howard here’s throwing another one of his legendary hissy fits,” Joshua noted.
“I’m not having a hissy fit.”
“Tell me about it, I heard you guys from across the hangar,” Norman made his way to the end of the scaffolding before sliding down the metal ladder to the ground below.
He wiped his hands across his black trousers and smoothed out the tangles in his auburn hair. “Then again, I never liked hearing about my dad on the radio, either. With him harping on human superiority and all that racial ‘White Power’ jazz every second of the day on live radio, it’s a miracle I’m not sleeping with the fishes in a pair of concrete shoes. Damn, sure sucks to be an Osborn right now.” Norman shrugged as he reached for the scattered tools.
“Don’t beat yourself up. Your dad’s making a circus monkey out of himself at his own accord,” Joshua said.
“Yeah, anyways, which one of you is going to clue me in on what happened, hhm?” Norman asked, pushing his thick framed glasses further up the bridge of his nose. “Let me guess, someone went ape ‘cause Howard tried to cut out with his girl.”
Joshua shrugged. “Actually, Howard got into another jamboree with a bunch of greasers.”
Norman paused. “Wow, should have seen that one coming. Anyways, again? Heck, if I don’t know any better, Howie, I’d say you live for this sorta thing.”
“Hey get bent, pointdexter! They left me no choice… and what did I tell you ‘bout callin’ me that?” Howard snapped.
“Well that was what you said about the last one, and those jocks, and those H.L.S. goons before that–”
Howard curled his fists. “You love keepin' count, wise guy? Alright, let’s see if you remember to count the stars when I ram my fuckin’ fist up your gut!” He stepped forward, but was stopped in his tracks when Joshua stepped in.
“Hey, hey, hey! Back off, Howard!” Joshua said. “You know what, you need to cool the Hell off before I do it for you.”
Howard snorted, turning away as he slapped his hands on the metal dividers standing between him and a multitude of different cables, tubes and wires snaked across the hangar floor. All of them connected to what appeared to be two titanic structures at least fifteen feet tall, towering over him as they lay shrouded in white tarps.
“So, any luck?” Joshua asked.
Norman merely shook his head. “Jarvis and Saria are in place, the engines purr like kittens and the hydraulics and gyros work like a charm, but trying to achieve a kinetic speed equivalent to that of a human body... well, it’s a little complicated.”
Howard rolled his eyes as he groaned. “What’s so complicated about that? Just soup up the energy output to get more juice into the main capacitors.”
“Energy isn’t the problem here, Howard, we have plenty of power, but the amount of stress it will put on the mechanism will be monumental, the whole thing will literally tear itself apart!” Norman said.
“How about we switch out the hydraulics for the Starktech Hyper Torque drivers?” Joshua suggested.
Norman forced a dry laugh. “You do know those are experimental prototypes, right? The only two in existence since the military pulled the plug because it was too expensive to mass produce back in the war? Might as well have me to use the ones from Gunn Tech too, while you’re at it.”
Joshua shrugged. “I just thought it’d be worth a shot.”
“Believe me I’ve considered it, but there aren’t enough tests, enough data to convince me that the drivers won’t simply just overload and explode upon activation! I’m sorry guys but, I’m gonna need more time,” Norman said.
“Well news flash Norman, time is somethin’ we sure as Hell ain’t got!” Howard pounded the railing before turning around. “You heard the news, the moment Trask fires up those ‘Sentinels’ it’ll be huntin’ season all over America, and you’d have to be a fuckin’ idiot to believe the ponies will go quietly. There’ll be blood in the streets and those politicians will probably be sitting on their asses placing bets on the body count!”
Norman pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m working as fast as I can but your designs can only get me so far, Howard. Without the proper testing, without the proper torque calibrations, those things are walking death traps. So don’t you go blaming me if you have to start learning how to piss outta your ass!”
“Well that’s not fuckin’ good enough!”
“Well then drop dead, Howard! Putting up with your immature bullshit is not what I signed up–“
“Enough! Both of you, JESUS CHRIST!” Joshua yelled.
Howard cried through clenched teeth, hammering his fist on the railing yet again.
“Look, I know that you’re angry, I know that you’re pissed the fuck off, but taking it out on us isn’t going to make you feel any better, and it sure as Hell isn’t going make things go any faster.” Joshua moved over to where he stood and placed a hand upon his shoulder. “We’re not the enemy here, in fact, none of us would even be here if we didn’t want to.”
Howard shrugged. “You’re right… I’m sorry. It’s just that sometimes, I wonder if we really can make a difference or maybe we really are just a bunch of crazy kids with too much time on our hands.”
Joshua chuckled before folding his arms and leaning his back against the railing. “Speak for yourself... this was your idea.”
“Heh, right in the balls, huh? It’s just that all my life I’ve been made to believe that this country stood for so much more. Honour, justice, liberty and all that hoo–ha about the ‘American Way’. Hell, my dad’s a patriot through and through,” Howard said.
“But then, a pony tries to assassinate the president, and all that cock and bull 'bout how ‘all men are created equal’ goes out the window faster than a jackrabbit on fire. I know that humans and ponies have never truly seen eye to eye but, no one deserves to be made fugitives in the very place they were born, 'specially not by the very people they put in congress.”
Norman placed the tools atop the table, his gaze settling on Howard as he continued.
“Worse are these Church of Humanity and Humanity’s Last Stand sons of bitches comin’ along, eggin’ the people into taking the law into their own hands while the cops are either too indifferent or corrupt to stop them.”
“Amen to that, but the people are just afraid, Howard, you know that. Not to mention, it’s only going to get worse with that all that crazy talk about war,” said Joshua.
“Damned if they weren’t, but I’ll tell you one thing. Those ignorant bastards can go on pretendin’ the world’s all sunshine and rainbows, but I sure as Hell won't stand by and watch as this Act destroys everythin' Uncle Sam stands for,” Howard said, his hand gripping tightly on the metal bar. “’Cause unless that bill is repealed, every political ass wipe in congress better hold onto their seats ‘cause I’m gonna give them a war they would not believe.”
“Whoa there hero, be sure to save some for us,” Norman said with a chuckle as he picked up his busted radio.
Howard then turned to face him. “Hey, I’m sorry ‘bout your radio. Look I’ll get you a new one.”
“And throw this baby out? Hell no, this here’s a family heirloom,” Norman said as he brushed the dust from the wooden radio.
“You kiddin' me? It’s junk!” Howard shot back.
“Well, sometimes you just gotta learn to appreciate the classics. ‘Sides, a few good tweaks and some lacquer and it’ll be as good as new,” Norman added. “Speaking of which…”
Both Howard and Joshua raised an eyebrow at Norman’s sudden change of tone.
“There’s this new bar downtown. A little pony told me the owner’s a nice guy, and I figured since we’ve been long overdue for some time off. We should head on down there tonight. Blow off some steam, take our minds off everything, you know, have fun.”
“This ain’t gonna be like the last bar you took us to, right?” Howard crossed his arms.
“Yeah, especially when we had to mop the floor with those jocks a day before the big game. Hell, I don’t think coach will ever forgive us for that,” Joshua added.
Norman waved his arms. “No, no, just hear me out for a second. Alright, here’s the thing, I heard that this bar is openly… integrated.”
“Integrated?” Joshua asked first.
“As in, integrated, integrated?” Howard asked second.
“Eeyup, the owner lets in both humans and ponies. Heck he even lets in them colored folk in. It’s kinda behind closed doors for people who don’t really mind hanging out with all–sorts. So, what’cha say?”
The two friends exchanged glances with Howard rolling his eyes at the sight of Joshua idiotic grin. “Alright, fine. But if we run into any trouble, I’m officially never takin’ bar suggestions from you ever again,” Howard warned.
“Aw, and just a moment ago you were so eager to clean up the streets,” Joshua said with a smirk.
“Go jump off a cliff Josh, but in the meantime,” Howard said, “how about I give you a hand with those calibrations?”
Norman chuckled. “As if I could afford to turn down an extra pair of hands.”
Howard glanced over at Joshua. “You comin'?”
He grinned. “Right behind you.”
[To be continued…]