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February 2, 2012

Four Dudes Go To Hell (1)


Hunt 1: Commando

Luke didn’t feel like going back to sleep.  He just stared at his clock, lying on one side while keeping his eyes locked on the big green numbers.  3:59 A.M., it read.  If it could talk, it would probably demand that he shut his eyes and get in a few more winks.  Or maybe it would have reminded him that he’d forgotten to turn off the alarm for school, and he’d better flip the switch if he wanted to snooze his Saturday away.

But of course, he had plans.  He wouldn’t snore through his weekend anytime soon.  In fact, if he wanted to make good on his friends’ arrangements, he didn’t have much of a choice. 

The clock ticked to 4 A.M.  And with it came a sudden blast of radio static -- the in-between tuning between stations that Luke had yet to fix.  He slapped a hand against the top of the clock and slid his thumb around, hoping to find the power switch.  No luck.  With a groan, he hammered a palm against the clock’s face; the edge of his finger managed to push the power button in.

Funny that he’d be so uncoordinated after getting…well, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t gotten any sleep last night.  Maybe a few long blinks, but he couldn’t remember blacking out.  Well, that didn’t matter; he could sleep another time.  Right now, he had something to take care of.

Luke nodded to himself.  Time to head out.  He felt tough thinking it, but that feeling didn’t last as he rolled out of bed and fell face-first onto the floor. 



He climbed to his feet and rubbed his head, hoping to shake the cobwebs from his muddled brown locks.  He’d been lucky that no one was around to see that -- and even luckier that his room was still charcoal-black -- but the frustration still made his face heat up.  It went beyond just a pratfall, of course; his middle finger ran against the cowlick near the front of his hair.  One of these days, he’d do something to take care of it…but not even taking a chainsaw to it would keep it from growing back and casting him as a five-foot-nine Alfalfa.
               
Whatever.  Pretty soon, it won’t matter how I look, Luke thought as he started shifting through his drawers.  I’ve just gotta take care of this thing, and then everything will go my way.  He thrust his legs through a pair of paint-speckled brown shorts, and threw on some old socks and sneakers.  No problem.  No problem at all.  He tugged a black and yellow jersey over himself, ignoring the fact that the colors had faded -- or the fact that a team called the “Warriors” probably wasn’t a big enough name to earn quality merchandise. 

Luke turned toward the door after making sure his shoes were tied tight this time.  My stuff is in the garage.  Just gotta grab it, and then I’ll be on my way.  He ran a hand over his desk, and took hold of his cell phone.  He crammed the scratched-up gadget into his pocket -- and then, pulled it back out to check for messages.  Sure enough, he had three new ones; each one had come to him in the last ten minutes.
               
At 3:51: Don’t keep me waiting, man!
               
At 3:53: This’ll be sweet!
               
At 3:54: I guess I have no choice…
               
Luke nodded and smiled, and felt an urge to wipe a tear from his hazel eyes.  Of course, he hadn’t started crying; just reflexes from seeing them agree to go all in.  With those guys on my side, I bet we’ll have this done before the sun rises, he thought as he started sneaking through the hallway.  He moved as cautiously as he could; rolling from toe to heel, toe to heel, as he crept across the carpet.  He’d already taken some flak from his mom for his earlier antics -- he didn’t want to see how angry she could get at four in the morning.
               
He stood before the door to the garage, thankful that his stealth mission hadn’t made Bowser break into one of his barking fits.  His eyes darted to the door’s side -- was the alarm on?  No, not tonight; as the last one in bed that night, he made sure to leave it off so its chirping wouldn’t wake up his family.  So he fumbled with the lock and wiggled the door open, sliding into the garage.
               
Maybe I’d make a pretty good spy, Luke thought with a smile as he moved between the wall and the family suburban.  If I can make it out the door without waking that dog of ours up, I bet I can make it anywhere.  He paused for a minute and shuddered.  Nowhere cold, though.  I hate the cold.
               
He stood before the tool bench in the corner.  It didn’t take long for him to find what he needed: a pair of heavy-duty brown gloves, almost as weighty as his whole body put together.  Hard to say how tough this’ll be, he thought, slipping them on one at a time, but whatever happens, I’ll be ready for it.  He rubbed his nose absent-mindedly.  Maybe I’d make a good action hero, too.
               
But Luke cut his little daydream short.  He headed for the patio door, only stopping to sling a tan backpack over his shoulder.  His legs buckled for a bit as the weight threw off his balance, but he quickly righted himself.  As he did, he reached over his right shoulder to wrap a hand around the item jutting out from the banded strap: a baseball bat, its logos a bit scuffed and its metal surface carrying a few dents, but otherwise solid and shining. 
               
I’ve got everything I need, Luke thought with one last nod.  He unlocked the door and headed outside -- while making just enough noise to send Bowser into a barking frenzy. 
               
Luke didn’t bother sticking around for long after that; he bolted through the backyard, with the sounds of canine yaps and groaning parents trailing after him.  Across the lawn; over the fence; into the neighbor’s driveway, and finally onto the sidewalk; his little panic attack gave him just the distance he needed to clear the Fleming grounds.  He just had to hope that his parents wouldn’t get up and check his room.  They were much too savvy to fall for the old “pillow under the sheets” trick -- and Luke was just dumb enough to try it. 
               
He let loose a sigh as he trekked through the neighborhood, with the flickering street lamps guiding his way.  Well, it’s not like I’d turn back anyway.  The guys are all counting on me.  He scratched at his hair and tilted his head, frowning just a bit.  And this whole thing was my idea anyway.  Wouldn’t look too good for me if I backed out.
               
He sighed, trying to get all the willies out of his system; finding a bit of vigor, he nodded to himself.  You’re doing this for your friends, Luke.  For Two Sparrows.
               
Funny.  Thinking things like that almost made him sound like a hero.

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