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January 30, 2013

Spirit Showdown #10: The Biker

>tier-two summoning completed

>transporting data packets

>analyzing boundary

>analyzing tri-existence quotient






If black is actually a non-color, then…no…

Okay, then if darkness is the absence of light, then…no…that won’t do…

If I can still see in spite of all these shadows, then there must be…no…that’s no good either.

Urgh.  It’s no good.  All of it’s no good!  It doesn’t matter what I try to come up with; every time I think up an answer, nothing happens!  I’m running out of more than just options here -- it’s starting to look like I don’t have a single weapon to cut my way out of here.

Man.  Talk about a kick in the teeth…what was the point in even getting this N64 controller and using it to beat Majora’s Mask if it’s proven completely useless since then?  Was my victory just dumb luck?  Was Majora’s Mask really just as tough as a Goomba?  Or maybe…

Yeah, I guess that’s the case.  I may be able to use logic -- or Hyper-Logic -- to beat an enemy, but it’s no use against a target that can’t argue back.  It’s like trying to reason with a brick wall.

And if that’s the case, then I guess I really am stuck here.  How long have I been here?  Days?  Weeks?  Months, even?  Wait -- does time even pass in this world?  Is there even a world to begin with?  Is there even a space to speak of?

…Guess that’s another strike against using Hyper-Logic.  If I can’t understand what’s going on, I can’t even begin to fight back.

Damn it!  Just what am I supposed to do?  At this rate, things are starting to look --

Yo.  How ya holdin’ up there?

What the…?!

Harley?  What are you --?!

Oh, so ya know who I am.  Great.  Saves me a lotta time -- good to know that I don’t have to waste time goin’ on and on to explain myself.  “Why aren’t ya wearin’ a shirt, Harley?”  Or “Don’t ya have any shame, Harley?”  And so on.


(Wow.  I never expected him to sound so much like Patrick Seitz.)

…Well?  What’re ya waitin’ for?

What do you mean?

Ya know.  This is the part where ya go “Oh, Harley!  I’m so glad to see ya!”  And then ya get down on your hands and knees and start kissin’ my boots, or whatever it is you do to celebrate comin’ face to face with a real hero.

I’m sorry, what?

Damn, you’re bad at this.  Don’t ya know how it works?  The hero shows up outta the blue, ready and waitin’ to save a damsel in distress -- that’s you right now -- and you’re so happy to see me that ya can’t help but get a little excited.  Ya clap your hands and go “My hero!” or “What a hunk!” or “Bear my children, you hunk of a man you!”

Please don’t try to sound like a woman.  It’s…very uncomforting.

Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know that ya were the one with any chance of gettin’ outta here alive on your own.  Guess I’ll just ride on outta here and --

No, wait!  If you’re here to save me, then go on ahead!  I don’t mind at all!  You just do whatever you need to do, and I won’t make a peep!  And…uh…hey, hold on a second.  How did you get in here exactly?  I mean, I had to get stabbed to wind up here. 

…Though, come to think of it, I faced off with Majora’s Mask while I was here.  So did it get killed too?  Is this some kind of virtual, alternate-reality afterlife?

Beats the hell outta me.  All I know is that I was ridin’ around, and then the next thing I know I’m flung through some crazy-ass light tunnel to end up here.

So you were pulled from your world into this space, huh?  Well, I can tell you this much, Harley: it wasn’t because of me that you’re here.  Not directly, at least; someone’s been acting on my “behalf” while I’ve been stuck in here.  I would have figured that FX was the only one who could even begin to step into the virtual space, and even that would be a stretch.  But I guess in the end, my theory was right.  Someone is pulling you guys from your worlds into this one -- which means that in addition to you, Tony and Beat are walking around and acting on the message I left them.  I just hope that I know them well enough to have predicted their next move…

Slow down there, bud.  Who’s this Tony and Beat you’re goin’ on about?  And what’s an FX?

How do I put this…?  Okay.  Have you ever seen that movie --?

Look at me, and then look at you.  Do you think we have anything in common?

Uhhhhh…how about a strong sense of justice?

I wouldn’t get smart with me.  I’ve been known to bust open a few heads every now and then.

Right then.  I’ll just try to give you the simplest explanation I can.

Basically, you’re one of my creations.  You’re the tenth in line -- the tenth of a slew of heroes, each one the lead character in his or her respective world, and each one carrying an idea or virtue within you that not only grants you more power beyond you absurd skill sets, but weaves through and changes each of your respective stories.  While you each have your own separate domains, each one sealed off from the last spatially and canonically, collectively you all form a special unit -- the end result of years of daydreaming and stringing together one absurd story sequence after the next.

I even came up with a name for you all.  You’re the Axis Ten.

The Axis Ten, huh?

Well, it was going to be Team Cross-Up at one point -- and maybe it will be.  The last thing I want to do is put the image of the Axis Powers in people’s heads when talking about a group of heroes.  Or maybe I’ll just call you “The Guys” and leave it at that.  I don’t know; I’ll have to mull over it for a while longer.

So me and my world are all things that came outta your head?

Pretty much.

And in a way, I don’t exist, and I never existed until right now?

Well, that’s one way to think of it.

And the same thing goes for nine other people and nine other worlds?

Well, technically it’s ten other people, but Tony and Beat are a special case.

So I’m just an imaginary friend that’s come to life, huh…?

I wouldn’t call you an imaginary friend…but then again, I guess they’re not so dissimilar, are they? 

Uh…well…I guess I should apologize to you.  And FX, and Tony and Beat, and all the rest.  If I had known that I’d ever be meeting you guys in person -- well, some of you -- I would have kept all of you under wraps.  Maybe never even created you; I mean, who am I to play god with lives like this, especially making them struggle and suffer as much as I intend?  In a way, doesn’t that make me a monster?  Doesn’t that make me the worst kind of being imaginable?

The hell’re you talkin’ about?  Do I look like I give two hog asses about where I came from, or whether I’m real or not?  All I wanted was a straight answer, and ya gave me one.  I don’t need a philosophy lesson or ramblin’ on and on about God and life and all that. 

It doesn’t matter where I was, or where I will be.  What’s important is that I’m here. And By the looks of things, I’m here to save you.


I like keepin’ things simple.  But I guess ya know that already, don’t ya?

I guess so.  But even the most straightforward thinking isn’t going to be much use here; I’ve been trying to get out of this null-space for a while now, and I haven’t had even the slightest bit of luck.

No surprises there.  That’s because you suck.  Look at you -- big head and no muscles?  A brainiac like you doesn’t stand a chance. 

The weak should sit back, relax, and leave the heavy lifting to the strong.  That’s how a real hero does it, right?

Well, that’s true in some cases, but not this one.  How do you plan on getting us out of here?  It’s not like you can strangle a dimension.

The way I see it, we’ve gotta work together.  I’ve got the power…but I need YOU to bring it outta me.

The power…you mean your spirit?  Well, I guess it’s possible, but…honestly, I have no clue of how to harness it in a way that could get us out of here.  The problem is that we’re stuck in this dimension; the solution isn’t going to come down to talking our way out.

Got any better ideas?

Not right now.

Then if we’re gettin’ outta here, we’d better start goin’ on the attack.  I figure there’s a real dirty son of a bitch out there who’s just BEGGIN’ for a beat down, and I plan on showin’ him the spirit of givin’ -- if ya catch my drift.

Okay, so…what, you want to do a little interview?  That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing up to this point.  It sounds silly, I know, but our visitor has been showing up week after week just for the chance to get in on the action.  I guess the dialogues bring out the best in each character, whether they’re here or not.

But enough rambling.  I don’t have high expectations, but I’d rather try something instead of nothing. 

So what should I say first?

Actually, I think it’d be best if I start things out.  There’s, uh, something I need to explain first.

Like what?

I remember once a long time ago, my brother told me that you can’t have a good story unless you’ve made at least a hundred twenty five changes.  I don’t know how accurate that statistic is -- probably not very -- but the intent is there, and the lesson is obvious.  The original version and intent with a story is never going to hold out a hundred percent in the end.  I speak from experience.

I’m not saying this to try and prove what a pretty little snowflake I am.  I’m saying this because in terms of characters, you’re probably the one who got the biggest overhaul.

Why do I suddenly feel like putting you in a headlock?

Now, before you get violent on me, just hear me out.  The plan was to make you a dark character -- or at the very least, a character in a darker world than my standard fare.  But that doesn’t mean you were necessarily terrible…at least, not conceptually.  You were younger.  You were colder.  You were more determined, and had a pretty marked no-nonsense style.

You were a nineteen-year-old by the name of Siy Sieghall -- one of the Investigators, a group of peacekeepers that protected your districts from threats within and without.  And more recently, you protected it from invading ANGELs -- Artificial Neo-Genetic Enforcement Lifeforms -- who wrecked Earth, and are out to do the same to Investigator -- and human -- territory.  Along the way, Siy develops some fierce rivalries, watches as his world and his organization crumbles, and eventually learns that he’s not all that he seems. 

Yep, he’s an ANGEL too.  Surprise!

Did I at least look cool?

…Define “cool.”

All right you.  C’mere a minute.  Let me show ya how to do a good headlock.

Hey, hey!  Now let’s just calm down -- I mean, I’m almost positive that your story’s a lot better than it’d ever be if it was spearheaded by Siy.  Looking back, Siy was pretty generic -- just your typical ultra-skilled, ultra-cool fighter with a dark past and no tolerance for anything resembling social etiquette.  It’s boring.  It lacks dynamism.  It creates one missed opportunity after another.

The problem with Siy was that he was a character designed to be cool -- at least, how I understood coolness at the time.  I was still riding high as a diehard Kingdom Hearts 2 fan and took the lessons therein as gospel.  So you were a lot more, shall we say, svelte in form -- younger, sleeker, and improbably-costumed.  Sword-slinging, angst-carrying, and at one point you were going to turn into a literal angel…or at least Squeenix’s boosh-boosh-boosh angel wings and laser swords idea of angels.

But ya snapped out of it.  And I gotta say, I’m thankful for that.

So am I.  I’m not saying that characters like Siy or the clichés we expect from Squeenix are automatically terrible.  It’s just that in the years since dreaming you up, I’ve opened my mind to new possibilities.  There are lots of ways to make a character cool, not just by having them -- for lack of a better phrase -- “superficially cool.”  Maybe you could make them cool by way of their motivations or actions.  Maybe you can make them cool by way of their triumphs, and their ability to beat or outsmart powerful foes.  Maybe they’re just hilarious, or endearing, or something that makes a reader go “wow!”  Some magical element that makes the whole character and the story worthwhile.  In a sense, I was internalizing the “spirit” well before I started this whole Spirit Showdown. 

In your case, I found the right combination of elements to give you something different -- something special.  Something that’d make you worthwhile and entertaining, but at the same time keep the essence that appeals to and remains true to me.

So what did ya have in mind?

The first step was obvious.  Back then, you weren’t a man.  And now you are.

Well, hell, I can see that. 

Yeah.  But there was something else.  Once upon a time, your spirit would have been something along the lines of “justice” -- a drive for righteous living and the punishment of villains that was both your greatest strength and a crippling weakness.  Nowadays, things are a little bit different.  Your spirit is now…


The snow that drifts to the earth glistens in the light, shining a way to brighter days!  The cold, unflinching ice buries the past and brings an end to all sorrow, unfailing in its all-encompassing, all-inspiring wintry assault!

You all right there?  ‘Cause for a second, it sounded like ya just puked a whole bunch of nonsense.

It’s what I do.  And I haven’t done it in a while, so there’s that. 

Well, I guess I can’t blame ya.  Take it from me -- there’s nothin’ like doin’ a little yellin’ every now and then.  Sometimes, a man’s just gotta shout, ya know?

Yeah, I follow you.  I mean, when I’m in the shower I --

Whoa, whoa.  Doesn’t count if you’re in the shower.  Ya gotta do it where a whole lotta people will see ya -- let ‘em know who ya are, and that you’re there to make some real noise.  Better if ya do it somewhere that’ll get you in real trouble.  Like a funeral.

(Social graces are not your forte, are they?)

I’ll…have to keep that in mind.  But anyway, I guess we should switch topics.  You were redesigned from the ground up to be a tough guy -- a walking, talking tank full of testosterone that blasted through streets and mountains with rocket boosters and fired power chords.  But in the end, all that doesn’t matter unless you have a world worth exploring, right?  You need a way to show off your strength and skills. 

Oh ho, I get it.  So that’s why all the action in my world goes down in space, right?

Pretty much.  Though “space station” is probably more accurate…unfortunately, it’s not a very good one.

Uh…sorry about that.

Pfft.  Whatever.  It’s like they say -- the essence of drama is conflict. 

So you’re okay with it?

As okay as I’m gonna be.  I’ll manage; it’s just kind of a bitch move to make so many other people suffer just so you can get your rocks off tryin’ to impress people with a story.

Look, I --

Forget it.  What’s done is done; no sense in cryin’ over stuff like that.  Just think -- maybe it’s better if things aren’t all sparkles and sunshine.  Maybe it’s better for people to go through rough patches, so the brighter days are even brighter.  Or, hell, maybe that’s what I’m around for.

I’m supposed to be the hero, right?  So I guess it’s up to me to make the world a better place.  Know what I mean?

Heh.  I never expected you to be this straightforward.

That a problem?

Not at all.  Just something worth noting, I guess.

Say, Harley.  Do you know exactly how your world got to be the way it was?  You know, the history, the backstory, and all that? 

Can’t say I do.  I’d rather leave the history lessons to the brainiacs.

Well, I guess that’s where I come in, then. 

Once upon a time, the world you lived in would have been an all right place to live.  Maybe better than the current Earth, considering that you’re from several centuries in the future, and one would think you’d have technology that makes normal life a breeze.  And for a while, that was the case. Technology -- and humanity itself -- started to evolve.  By and large, people became harder, better, faster, stronger -- they gained the new potential that could transform their world.

Unfortunately, some people…or should I say, a lot of people…started to abuse that potential.  They started wreaking havoc at their leisure, plundering and pilfering as much as they could carry.  Fortunately, there was one man who used his power for good -- the one who people just started calling “the hero.”  With sword and shield in hand, the hero and his six comrades, along with dozens of supporters clinging to his cause, worked for years on end to bring peace and justice to the globe.  And for a while, that was enough.  Year after year after year passed, and in spite of unavoidable losses -- in spite of those six comrades going their separate ways, and forgoing the fight for justice -- the hero soldiered on without complaint.  Without worry.  All with a smile forever plastered across his face.

But one day, there was a calamity -- a natural disaster that tore through one of the world’s most prominent cities, and the miles of coast beside it.  The people hoped that, just like before, the hero would come to save them.

But he didn’t.  The hero vanished from the world.

What, did he get too old?

That’s a real possibility.  But no one knows for sure what happened to him.  He just vanished one day, and left the peacekeeping detail to his less-powerful but more-numerous allies.  But even then, it wasn’t enough; internal power struggles combined with resurgences in super-powered violence and rioting led to a whole new era of chaos -- one that lasted for years on end.  Decades, even.

And then the hero returned.  But he wasn’t the same as he was before; nobody knew for sure what happened to him or what was different, but it became more obvious by the day that something had changed in him.  He certainly gave them a lot of evidence to work with -- namely by slaughtering troublemakers and pedestrians alike with large swaths of violence and destruction.  So yeah, not exactly the most reassuring stuff.

No kidding.

It wasn’t just the hero that got more violent, though; he brought with him plenty of allies that carried out his whims.  Powerful allies -- allies that looked normal enough, but like the hero himself there was something off about them.  But no one could stop them.  Ignoring the fact that they made themselves untouchable by law, they were too powerful, and too numerous to stop.  So they just kept going, and going, and going, keeping the peace by any means necessary…and before long, “peace” and “justice” had very different definitions than the norm.

But then again, the norms had changed.  The hero and his allies took over the world -- and before long, “justice” in the eyes of the populace became a synonym for “havoc on a global scale.”

So that’s how it all went down, huh?

More or less.  But you know what happened next.  Right?

How old do you think I am?  How the hell am I supposed to know what happened?

(You could try cracking open a book, for one.)

Humanity was desperate.  Pushed to the edge.  The world that they had ruined by their own hands had now been ruined -- and far more so -- by the hero and his forces…better known as “The Justiciars.”  Eventually, the populace came to a rash decision, and did the only thing they could.

They built a space station and blasted off.

Ohhhh.  Now it’s all startin’ to come together.

Yeah.  The problem was that the space station they built was nowhere near ready for production, let alone launch.  But the Justiciars discovered their plans early, and a small section of the populace had to make do with a prototype.  By some miracle, it worked -- but just barely.  Huge chunks of it -- entire sections of the space-faring ark -- peeled off, sending hundreds of people to their doom.  The thrusters malfunctioned, and the fuel tanks ran on empty not long after abandoning Earth.  It wasn’t long before humanity…or what remained of it, at least…was left drifting through space in their new home.  In a verifiable lifeboat that threatened to fall apart at any moment.

But it held up.  And it did so for a couple of centuries, thanks to the efforts of Earth’s escapees.  What was originally a death trap eventually became a stable -- or stable enough -- environment.  Make no mistake, the threat of the space station -- or colony, if you prefer -- going up in flames or falling apart like a jigsaw puzzle tossed up in the air is always a real possibility.  But the human race isn’t so fragile that they’ll let that happen anytime soon.

I’ve been mentioning that people have evolved; granted, they haven’t grown an extra arm or gills, but they do have some unique abilities.  In addition to enhanced physical capabilities -- stronger, faster, tougher, and living longer -- each person carries with them the ability to summon and instantly conjure a specific machine, one that’s as much a part of them as their blood or skin.  Said machine -- better known as their “Rig” -- is automatically and regularly superior to virtually any machine a factory can put out.  And in addition, there are plenty of other unique uses, abilities, and secrets each person’s Rig contains.

But the most practical use of a Rig is to have its owner go to work with it.  Essentially, the type of work a Rig is suited for helps define their social standing -- a sort of caste system, if you will.  Those with Rigs best applied to construction or factory work are immediately organized into that group…and more often than not, shuffled into a lower-class standing.  The same applies to those whose Rigs can do maintenance on the colony; in fact, for a lot of people that’s all they’re allowed to do or think about.  Those with Rigs that allow them to summon cars and bikes and such can become racers, while those who command buses become…well, bus drivers.  As for the upper class?  Well, incidentally, their Rigs run the gamut -- but they’re so good at getting those with more powerful Rigs, like tanks or artillery, to fight on their behalf.  So in a sense, even though your story is probably the farthest in the future, the society and technology at work is eerily akin to the middle ages…at least if Henry Ford had been kicking around at the time.

And that’s where I come in, right?

That’s right.  At its core -- or at the outset, at least -- your story’s a pretty simple one.  You start off at the bottom of the colony, and fight your way to the top.  And as you know, I mean that in a literal sense. 

So I’m guessin’ you know how I got this scar on my chest, right?

All a part of a scheme to take full control over the colony -- with your old rival Tyrant dealing what should have been a killing blow.  It wasn’t, thankfully, but he and his superiors didn’t want to take any chances.  So they scooped up your half-dead body and dumped you into the lowest depths of the colony.  Or more appropriately, the closest to hell you could possibly get: The Pit.

That’s where the lowest of the low go.  It’s a junkyard that goes on for miles and miles -- and most of the junk is made outta the Rigs of the dead.  No law, no order, no rules; if ya wanna live, ya gotta fight.  That’s all that matters.

And for about a year, that was all that mattered to me.  But then one day, I hear this voice, right?  And it turns out there’s this little fat kid callin’ out to me.  Says he wants to form some kinda contract -- and if I do the fightin’, he and his family are gonna give me some serious rewards...oh, and help me get outta The Pit.  But whatever -- I don’t give a crap about rewards, just as long as I get back to Ride and tear up that bastard Tyrant. 

Oh, right, Ride.  You really care about her, don’t you?

Why wouldn’t I?  She’s my wife -- or at least she was supposed to be before that mess happened.

And it’s been over a year since you’ve seen her.  I guess you’re itching to make it back to the top of the space station to see her and make sure she’s okay, right?

She’ll be fine.  She’s almost as tough as me.  But yeah, I wouldn’t mind seein’ her again -- and lendin’ a hand if I have to.  Know what I mean?

I do.  Luckily, you don’t have to worry too much; Ride’s doing a lot better than you might expect.  And once you find her -- and what she’s been doing -- you might be in for a surprise.

I doubt that. 

Well, I guess you know her a little better than I do.  But in any case, you have your mission: go from the bottom of the station to the top, taking down any rivals that come your way.  But while your journey is -- or starts out as -- a rip-roarin’ road trip, there’s a lot more to it than that.  For starters, you’re not the only one out to make it topside; whoever manages to fight their way upward can take the throne for themselves; in other words, the man or woman who takes down all competitors is the one slated to rule over the entire colony.

Oh yeah.  I think I remember Scooter sayin’ that a while back.  Wasn’t really payin’ attention, though.

You probably should have.  The political structure and societal well-being of the colony is going to be decided by…wait, Scooter?

Yeah.  Ya know, the little fat kid.

That’s not his name, you know.  It’s --

Looks like a Scooter, acts like a Scooter, so I’ll call him Scooter.  Gotta give the kid credit, though -- he got closer to The Pit than most high-class pansies ever would.  Plus he brought me my pet pig, so I can’t say I got any ill will towards him.  Makes me glad I’m takin’ him with me on my trip so his parents don’t try and backstab me somewhere down the road. 

A man’s gotta watch his back, you know.

Harley, do you ever think that you’re…you know, oversimplifying things?

You’re kiddin’, right?  If anything, I make things too complicated.

Look, I’m not trying to play the contrarian here.  I’m only saying this because your adventure’s bound to get rougher than just a little road trip.  Ignoring the fact that you’ll be going up against road warriors with insane skills, there are still a lot of problems you’ll have to face.  Invading creatures well beyond rhyme or reason.  The crumbling, failing machinery of the colony.  Ghosts from the past that choose to bring newfound havoc to your dilapidated world.  And on top of all of that, before you can get your happy ending you’ll have to face off with one of -- if not THE most powerful villain I’ve ever created.

What I’m getting at here is that even if you’ve got confidence, it’ll only get you so far.  You’ll have to be wary of the circumstances, and the people around you.  You’ll have to bear responsibility, and accept whatever consequences your actions may have.  You may be a hero, but between your dissolving world and your ferocious enemies, you’re bound to get your heart broken in two.


And what?

And I’m supposed to be scared by all that?  What, are ya tryin’ to make me break down and cry?  Please.  I’m aimin’ for the top, kid -- and as long as I keep on rollin’, I’m bound to get there.  Know what I mean?

Look at it this way.  You wouldn’t have made me, or my world, or my story if you weren’t plannin’ on makin’ it a wild-ass adventure, right?  Somethin’ worth getting’ excited about.  Makin’ people everywhere whoop and holler.  The kinda thing that’d make a guy sad to see go -- and bring a grown man to tears once he sees that happy ending.  Am I wrong, or am I right?

Well, you’re not a hundred percent wrong, but…

But nothin’.  I’ll thrash my way through anythin’ that gets in my way.  As your character -- as a hero, and as a man -- you wouldn’t have me any other way, would ya?

(I know he’s taking this seriously, but…even if I wrote a hundred percent happy ending for Harley’s story, would it make a difference?  What if his world is one that genuinely exists now, somewhere out there in reality?  If that’s the case, then isn’t there a pretty good chance that he’ll lose because of all the trouble he’ll face?  What if he’s in danger of dying at any moment -- not just making it further because the plot says so?

It’s one thing to aim for the top, but what’ll he do if he finds out that his road trip is just the first third -- and easiest part -- of his journey?)

Yo.  Don’t zone out on me here.  We’ve still got work to do.

I guess you’re right. 

So what’s the next step?  Do we fight it out?  ‘Cause I’m pretty sure we both know how that’ll turn out. 

You don’t have to tell me twice.  I mean, you’re pretty much an even deadlier version of Street Fighter III’s Alex.

…What’s a Street Fighter?

You really do live in a horrific world, don’t you?

Okay, let me try and explain from a different angle.  You’re the last member of my so-called “Tech Trio” -- one of three characters who prioritize special moves and abilities while forgoing speed.  Though in your case, you have an emphasis on power just as much as technique, maybe more.  Generally speaking, your game plan is to get in close to your opponent and hassle them with some powerful strikes and punishing grapples.  Wrestling moves that are sure to ruin any opponent’s day, and make them afraid to let you get near.

Yeah, that sounds about right.  But it’s good to hear it from someone else. 

If that was all there was to you, it’d be enough for concern, but not fear.  But things start to get crazy when you make use of your powers.  I know this is pretty obvious, but you’re a little bit different from other people throughout the colony.  You’re part of a rare breed -- you have multiple Rigs instead of just one. 

By default, you’ve got that shovel you can summon and swing around at will -- not exactly impressive, but with your natural strength -- vaguely superhuman strength, I should add -- even a dingy-looking shovel can be a serious threat.  But you’ve got plenty more Rigs at your disposal.  And while not all of them are what I’d consider conventional weaponry, they’ve all got their uses.  Your three mainstays are a pair of ice axes for speedy strikes, a wrist-mounted pile driver for an extreme offense, and a tow cable to reel enemies in.  And of course, any one of your Rigs -- with the shovel as an exception -- can be charged with elemental attributes.  So you can freeze with the ice axes, explode with the pile driver, or magnetize with the tow cable.  There are plenty more examples, but…

Whoa there, kid.  Aren’t you forgettin’ somethin’?

Oh, that’s right. You can call on your motorcycle, too -- so I guess that can help compensate for your lack of mobility a little bit.  And while mounted battles are a possibility, I wouldn’t say that pulling out your bike whenever you feel like it is always a good idea.  The option’s there, but you have a better tool at your disposal.

Part of the reason why you can use multiple Rigs is because of your special ability, one that’s even rarer amongst the populace: Tech-Copy.  If you manage to weaken your opponent and get your hands on his Rig, you can create and use your own version of it.  While your creations are a bit more fragile -- and can never be used again if broken -- thanks to that ability your tool set is virtually limitless.  That is, as long as you keep winning fights.

So the takeaway here is that I’ve got a badass bike.  Got it.

What?  No, not at all.

Oh, right.  I’m unbeatable.  THAT’S what’s important.

Harley, you’re seriously misinterpreting --

Jeez, you’re starting to sound a lot like Scooter.  Am I gonna have to sit on ya for an hour?

That’s child cruelty!

Look, Harley.  I know you’re confident -- and with good reason -- but you have to be very careful.  Pride is Ocelot V’s territory, not yours; get too overconfident, and I can guarantee you that you’re in for a rough patch.

…I don’t know who Ocelot V is, but he sounds like a hoot.  Call him over; I wouldn’t mind seein’ which one of us is tougher.

You’re missing the point.  It’s not always about muscles or toughness; if you’re in one of my stories, you’d better be ready to have every facet of your life and your persona examined and tested.  We’re talking about threats that are internal and external.  We’re talking serious, world-ending stuff -- the kind of thing that makes you wonder if you really are going to get your happy ending.  Don’t assume that just because we’re talking here that you’re guaranteed to be reunited with Ride.

Is that right?

Yeah, that’s right.  I hate to be the one to tell you all this, but --

Now when did I ever say that me gettin’ my happy ending was guaranteed?

I would’ve figured that it was implied, but…

Look.  I don’t need anyone tellin’ me how rough life can get.  My original Rig was a damn shovel -- that automatically put me on the bottom rung of society.  I’ve been kicked down by the upper class more times than I can count.  I’ve been forced to work through weather that’d freeze a normal man’s head off.  I thank my lucky stars every day that a girl like Ride could ever get with a commoner like me -- but all that ended up gettin’ taken away, just ‘cause some bigwigs didn’t want me gettin’ too close to her or a chance to take over the colony.  And wouldn’t ya know it, I end up goin’ to the lowest of the lows, and end up fightin’ just for the right to even breathe down in The Pit.

But you know what I always told myself?  Day after day, night after night, no matter where I was or what I was doin’, I always said “Things’ll get better.”  And I believed it, too.  I just kept diggin’, and workin, and fightin’ until I was the kinda man I wanted to be -- the kinda man that can take charge, and take control.  And now I am.  And now I’m gonna keep on fightin’.  Can’t stop, won’t stop.  Not till I’m at the top, and this whole damn world knows who I am.

(That’s a pretty unique rationale.  Makes me wonder if his theme song is even remotely fitting at this point…)

So in the end, it’s all about feeding your own ego?

Heh.  Yeah, I guess so.  But if feedin’ my ego means changin’ the world, then that’s all right with me. 

You said it yourself, didn’t ya?  I’m a rare breed.  A special case.  So it’s up to me to put this power of mine to good use.  I’ve got all I need to become a real force of nature in my world -- no, a legend.  And in the end, isn’t becomin’ a legend somethin’ that any man should aim for?  Just think about it; whoever makes a name for themselves can be somethin’ more than just a man.  They’re someone that’ll inspire people all over.  Men, women, children, geezers -- all of ‘em get someone to look up to, and try to be.  Someone to try and pass up.  If they’re tryin’ to get better, then maybe they’ll make their world better, too -- none o’ this doom and gloom crap that’ll try and convince them that there’s no point in tryin’.

It starts with me.  But where it ends…well, I don’t have a clue.  But I’ll tell you what -- I’d bet my bike that if I do my job right, even a legend like me’s gonna look pretty flimsy.  Know what I mean?

Your way of thought is really something else…I don’t think I could ever understand it.

Even though you’re the one that made me?

Just because I made you doesn’t mean I know everything about you, or everything you’ll do.  The fact that we’re even having this conversation is proof of that. 

But when ya get down to it, we’re not all that different, are we?  You made my world and all the others for a reason; it wasn’t just because you wanted to make your characters suffer.  It’s ‘cause you’re out to do the same thing as me. 

You’re aimin’ for the top, too.  You’re out to become a legend, and get others to get off their asses and do the same.  Yeah, ya got no shot at ever beatin’ me -- or the average six-year-old -- in a fight, but I’m guessin’ that with that head o’ yours, ya can do some real good if ya get the chance. 

You think so?

How else’re ya gonna feed that ego?

I dunno.  Win a gaming tournament?

Don’t get smart with me.  The last guy who did that got his head rammed through a half-dozen concrete walls.

I wish I could say I was joking, but…well, I’m not.  You see the situation we’re in, right?  How are we supposed to get out of here?  Logic doesn’t work, and unless you have some kind of dimensional rift-creating Rig, we’re stuck.

Figure somethin’ out.  That’s why you’re here, right?

I’m here because I screwed up, not because I want to be here.  And if Cross-Up can’t bail me out, then I’m starting to think there’s really no way to escape.  I hate to say it, but this might be the end for me.

Cross-Up, huh?  Is that the name of somethin’ important?

Of course it is.  It’s the name of my blog -- and it’s something I’ve put a whole year and hundreds of thousands of words into.  Not to mention that I’m pretty sure it’s starting to gain sentience for one reason or another -- probably because of the thought energy I’ve been pouring into it.

If it’s that important to you, don’t ya think it’d be better if you tried harder?

I don’t think I could try any harder than I am now.

Don’t give me that crap.  If there’s somethin’ important out there to you, then it’s your job to hold it as close as ya can -- especially if it’s somethin’, or SOMEONE that’s alive and well.  This Cross-Up thing is your girl.  She’s countin’ on ya to save her, and save everyone and everything that’s important to her.  So stop whinin’, get off your ass, and do somethin’ productive!

Like what?  I already told you that we’re out of options; there’s no point in trying something that won’t work.  Meanwhile, while we’re bashing our heads against the non-walls here, that intruder’s gonna tear apart the blog, the internet, and reality itself.

So fix it.  You’re the one responsible, right?  Then man up and do what needs to be done.

Like what?  Don’t you think that if I could write my way out of here, I…I…

Huh?  What’s with you all of a sudden?

Harley?  I think I have an idea.  But things might get a little messy…

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