Paul ‘Skip’ Johnson sat in a haze of pain and confusion. His heart started thudding as the monitors beeped and the smell of a sterile room filled his nose. He looked around and saw screens and machines that belonged in a hospital room. He realized he was in a hospital room and he was in bed with all the wires attached. Skip was shocked because he had no idea how he got there. The last thing he remembered was...he couldn’t remember. Luckily, a nurse came in and he asked her what was going on. She reminded him and that’s when he remembered he’d been in this bed for four days. That’s when all his memories came rushing back. That’s when his present situation came back to him. The bar, the celebration, the fight, all of it came back...but none of that mattered. The return of his memories brought about the existential crisis he’d been fighting off since that night.
Skip joined the Angels of Damnation nearly twenty years ago. Back then, the seventeen year old was desperate for friends and power after barely managing to survive a childhood filled with isolation and abuse. The club had been his life ever since and he rode hard for the club. He was willing to die for the club, but after that night, Skip wondered if living for the club was even worth the effort.
At first, Skip was bemused that a stranger would walk into that bar of all bars, especially some mixed breed boahe. The Fiery Angel was known even in Haava as the legendary birthplace of the AD. When he saw the dark gold tint in the boahe’s eyes, Skip figured the man was lost or something. The stranger may have been a sandy skinned boahe, but those eyes were undeniable. A mixed breed Minoan was odd, but even the royals could have dark appetites from time to time. What pure blooded Iotan didn’t? Plus those coddled big money types had no street smarts and this boahe seemed particularly dumb. Especially when he brushed off Dog’s hand. That’s when Skip knew he was a genuine Minoan. Only a real Minoan would come into where you stay and then brush you off when you say leave.
The charge was a blur, but Skip’s days in the hospital were spent trying to figure out how the man’s boot managed to end up squarely in the middle of his chest. That kick…Divine’s balls that was a powerful kick. Skip had taken bullets that hurt less. He remembered being in the air for a full second, giving him the best seat in the house to witness that boahe making Dog look like a training dummy filled with cotton candy. What a terrible way to go out...poor old Dog. Skip almost reached up to touch the stitches that kept the back of his head together, but he forced himself to keep his arms still. His memories became spotty when he tried to remember what happened after he hit the wall, but –A knock at the door pulled Skip’s thoughts short. He was about to shout for the nurse to leave him alone when the door opened anyways. A tall figure in a black robe walked in and closed the door behind him. His body was obscured by the hanging folds of his robe, the hood covering his head only showing his mouth with a goatee on the chin. Skip tried to sit up in his bed, but the mess of agony his chest had become leached the strength from his muscles. He fell back to the bed, never really rising in the first place.
Before he could say anything, the stranger held up a black gloved hand. When Skip tried to tell the man off, his mouth refused to cooperate with him. His muscles were straining, but no space was forming in his mouth. He was consumed with fighting his own jaw as the stranger moved a stool closer to Skip’s bed, hand still upraised. Once he was settled, the stranger’s hood moved from side to side as he looked Skip up and down, making a ‘tsk-tsk’ sound.
“It is a real shame what happened to you and your club,” the stranger said as he lowered his hand.
Skip thought he saw through this mysterious man and turned away. “Piss off,” he said, his single functioning lung turning his words into a whisper. “I ain’t no snitch, guy.”
The stranger’s head cocked, a smile spreading across his face. “I know an AD would never even dream of snitching,” he said. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
Skip frowned as he turned back to the man. He cringed when the man’s smile widened. Something wasn’t right about that smile.
“I think you should leave,” Skip said.
The lower lip of the man poked out like he was a pouting child. “You don’t really mean that, do you?” he asked sullenly.
“Even though I can give you the power that put you in this place?”
That made Skip pause. He edged himself away from the man despite the pain all over his body. He wanted nothing to do with what happened that night. That boahe terrified him but Skip would find a way to get his revenge somehow. And yet…
“What do you mean?” Skip asked.
The black robed man smiled and pulled out something from the folds of his clothing. He opened his hand to reveal a golden ring big enough to cover his finger up to the first knuckle and then some. There were odd marks on the band of the ring and a stick figure on the face of the ring. The stick figure had both arms outstretched with thin lines forming an upside down triangle over one arm and a black circle over the other. Something about this ring put Skip’s back up.
“What is that?” Skip asked, unable to take his eyes off the ring.
The man chuckled softly. “It’s just a ring,” he said.
“What does it do?” Skip asked.
“It’ll give you freedom,” the stranger answered.
“If you had the power of that man from a few nights ago, who exactly is going to stop you from doing whatever you feel like?” the man asked.
Skip paused at that one. That was a very good point that skimmed across Skip’s mind a few times. With power like that, the Angels of Damnation could take over all of Old Town, all of Damokles even. The AD President could even force the Eight to give him a place at their table. The AD President might even take down the Eight all-together with that kind of power. That AD President could even be Skip. After a few seconds, Skip realized his chest was erupting in pain. He looked down to see that that he’d been leaning towards the stranger.
“Have you made your decision already?” the man asked.
For answer, Skip lowered his hand onto the ring in the man’s palm. The stranger’s black gloved hand seized Skip’s hand before he could pull back. The golden ring on his middle finger bore a stick figure identical to the ring in Skip’s hand.
“I must tell you,” the man said in a voice that sounded like two separate voices speaking in a near growl. “You will have to do just one thing for me.”
“What happened to freedom?” Skip asked.
The man smiled. “Is helping a friend an act of tyranny?” he asked.
“We’re friends now, guy?” Skip asked.
“I’m giving you the power that killed fifteen AD members in a single night,” the man said. “Only friends do things like that.”
The memories of that boahe’s rampage flashed through Skip’s mind again and he nodded. “What would you have me do, my guy?” he asked.
“Nothing you aren’t going to do already,” the man said, smile growing as he leaned forward. “Kill the man that nearly destroyed the mother charter of your club and bring me the ring he wears. If you do that, this ring is yours free and clear.”
After the man departed, Skip lay in his bed for the next minute staring at the ring in his hand. Whatever was putting his back up was now drawing him in and the ring was on his finger before long, the gold fitting on his hand as though made for him specifically. Something snatched him and his eyes snapped open, back arching as he drew in as much breath as he could. His entire body erupting in agony as he arched convulsively, but the pain lasted for only a second. Soon the head rush was something like being drunk and high off three…no four speed-ball combos of uppers after eating two or three downers. Skip thought something about the ring was giving him the sensation of falling, but then he was on the white tiled hospital floor. Something like ash was falling on him, but there was no heat. He snapped his eyes open.
The feeling of ecstasy was still flooding through him when he realized the pain in his chest had lessened significantly. As he got to his feet, Skip realized there were dark translucent tendrils trailing over his body. A cloud of darkness encompassed the lower half of his body like a darkening mist, growing with each passing second. Everything the darkening cloud touched seemed to drain of color. The more colorless things in the room, the better Skip felt. He looked around him and saw that the bed had turned to ash and he frowned. Just then, something whispered in his ear, telling him to close his eyes and drink deeply. Skip obeyed and leaned his head back as his heights of pleasure only increased.
Whether this was the Daemon or the Divine, Skip was never taking this ring off again. He would get that second ring and give that to Chimps or…that’s right, Chimps died from a brain hemorrhage while hanging upside down from a damn pool stick. Skip would pull that ring off the dead fingers of that boahe and then go kill this other boahe that gave him this ring. He wanted that ring too. Once he had all the power, Skip was determined to strip the both of them naked and piss on them to keep them as light as possible at bell time. Boahes like that didn’t deserve to die with any dignity or respect, no gravitas.