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Left. Right. Trading blows.

This isn't how an assassin is supposed to do business. You get in, you take out the target and you get out.

I'm really slipping. Or maybe I'm not. Maybe I wanted this. Up until now, it's been too easy. Creeping in the dark like I'm Batman or something and putting them to sleep like an anaconda stalking its prey…it's fun the first dozen or so times, but then you start wondering what all your training is for. Why did I harden my body so I could take blows like a tank, run for miles to build my endurance, hone my reflexes so well I can practically see things coming before my attackers pull the triggers, if all I'm going to do is sneak up on people and stab them in the back? They could get Chelsea to do that.

But this. This fight, this guy. This is what it's all about.

I caught him walking home one night with a bag of groceries, stepped right in his face and he knew what the deal was. He set the bag down and pointed to this abandoned warehouse with a dilapidated roof that the moon shined through. Moonlight made for a perfect strobe to keep things illuminated just enough, so we decided to meet there and have at it.

It's been such a long time. Our fists and feet cut through the air, humming and moaning and whooshing and throwing up dust. And every now and then, a thud. A burst. A bludgeon as a fist smashes against muscle and bone, a foot finds its mark against the abdomen, knuckles to the bread basket, one forehead hitting another.

You forget the pain, you forget the blood leaking out of your mouth and nose. It gets so visceral, you even forget the mask. The fight is all. The adrenaline rush reminds you why you live, why you keep coming back for more even though you tell yourself day in and day out that you're going to quit after that last job. Or the time before that.

This guy I'm fighting, he's serious business. A major player. Never met anyone like him. He goes by the name William Kilpatrick. He's an underground fighter with a heart of gold, I guess. Never lies. Never cheats. Never steals. Always wins. They call him the Knight on the streets.

Roland Stockton owed someone a favor, a guy who runs the underground circuit. The guy called to collect. Kilpatrick can't be bought, can't be turned, can't be threatened into throwing a fight. Too much money's being lost on him. They sent some guys to the house he's staying at with plans to rough up his landlady, but he caught wind of it and got there in time. It wasn't pretty. Said they couldn't touch the guy, he was so good. Seemed he was going to clean up the streets with his noble act.

And as usual, they made the call to the best. They called Dualmask. And I went down to the Lower East Side to give this guy a message.

Except this guy is making me really question my own reputation right now. Because he's kicking my ass.

Don't get me wrong, he's not looking too good himself. But I'm listening to the rate of his breaths, watching his footwork. He's steady. Consistent. For every blow he lands, he's deflecting two of mine. I catch him here and there, and the armor does its work suppressing the hurt he's putting on me, but it's going to be a long night if the scales don't tip in my favor soon.

Then something really weird happens.

He stops. Steps back.

"Are we finished?" he asks me all matter-of-factly. Like he wasn't even here. Like his nose isn't broken. Like that blood spilling out from his upper lip has nothing to do with me.

I do my absolute best to keep quiet during my missions. Never open my mouth. Never howl or grunt or even hiss in pain. Never give these people a voice to connect Dualmask to, never let them believe there's a soul here.

But I couldn't help it this time. Something about him…

"No," I said back. "We're not done. I'm here to kill you."

He shakes his head. "You might succeed at that. But look at you now. It'll only get worse from you if we go on. Is it worth it?"

"'Course it's worth it."

Look at me. Having a heart-to-heart with this guy.

"Why do you fight?" he asks all of a sudden. "There is doubt in your eyes."

The mask got too bloody and dirty during the fight and I tossed it off a while ago. Like I said, you forget these things when the fight takes over. My face is betraying me.

"Don't try that," I say. "You're just shook because you know you're going down."

"I wouldn't be in an underground fight circuit if I were afraid of dying," he goes. "As I'm sure you wouldn't do…whatever it is you do if you felt the same. I'll ask you again; why do you fight?"

"Same as you. Money."

"But why?"

I tighten my fists. He's getting on my nerves now. It's getting real late…might even be more logical to say early. But I'm frozen. I can't move. Can't let him know that.

"You can't answer?" Kilpatrick goes. "Whatever it is you're doing here, you're not doing it of your own accord and you're not doing it for money. You don't enjoy what you do and there are easier ways to make a living. Certainly safer ones."

"Not for me. This is all I know."

"I fight because there is someone I must protect. An older woman, and her son. Destined for nothing but life on the streets with barely enough to feed themselves, they regardless took me in when no one else would. The woman needs an expensive medicine to live and her son needs guidance. That's why I fight. That's why I fight with honor."

"What's this all of a sudden anyway?" I can't figure it. He had me on the ropes and he decided to slow it down. He's not trying to get out of this fight—he doesn't need to. It's almost as if he…

No, can't be.

"There's honor in you as well. I know it," he goes on. "Everyone knows about Dualmask, the enforcer, the killer, the nameless assassin who does the dirty work of the megacorporations. Except you're not just a faceless killer, and you made a choice to let me know that. I do nothing to hide myself around here. I'm easy to find and easy to target. I do not walk in fear. Yet you came directly at me instead of using stealth as you are known to do. You wanted to fight me this way. You did so because you are tired. Tired of holding inside your honor."

This guy really is. He's really trying to save my soul.

"Don't try to psychoanalyze me, you prick," I grumble, but I know he's right. If he were some greedy out-of-touch, middle-aged executive in a suit, he'd have swallowed my Bo staff in his sleep and I would have pried his lungs out after it went down his throat and forgot about it by the time I got back home. But I didn't even extend the Bo tonight. To be honest I forgot I had it once the fight started.

I haven't had this much fun in a fight since the dojo. Since John came at me.

But unfortunately for Kilpatrick, unfortunately for me, none of that matters.

I turn around and grab my dirty Dualmask off the ground. I sweep off the dust and put it back on my head. I can barely see through the eyelets, but it doesn't matter. It's more than just a piece of leather and fabric. It's transformation into my other self. For a brief moment there, I was Michael again. But Michael's not the one who needs to be here right now.

I have to transform back. Into Dualmask.

"Say you're on the money," I say. "It doesn't matter. Even if you break every bone in my body, I'm taking you down. Even if it's literally the last thing I do."

"You never told me why," says William.

I say the last thing I'm going to say tonight.

"I've got someone to protect too."

And out comes the Bo. I'm swinging it and now I've got the advantage with range and speed. He's blocking my jabs but he can feel the force. A titanium alloy staff with kinetically-charged shock tips are going to feel a lot more painful than my—

He grabs my Bo, yanks it, pulls me along with it, lets the stick go and shoots both his fists straight into my chest. The world is spinning around me and the next thing I know I'm on the ground clutching my chest like I'm having a heart attack.

The armor might as well not even have been there.

Well, damn.

That escalated quickly.

I can barely breathe and he's walking toward me. After all the things I've been through, the people I've taken down, the police raids I've evaded, the assassins I've bested, this street fighter with a heart of gold is the one that curb-stomps me. Didn't even get to settle things up with John and Danielle before the end…

"You should have left off the mask," he said. "Your reflexes were better before."

He reaches out to me and he's still yammering.

"You should keep the mask off for good, in fact. You fight better without it. The real you is a much better combatant. More passionate. More pure."

Then the craziest thing happens. Must be crazy because I sure as hell didn't tell my hand to reach up and meet his hand halfway. Felt natural.

But then I flinch and so does he. We flinch because of the loud pop in the air that came from behind…and above.

William's blood is raining down in my face spilling out from a hole through his head. And when his body falls to the ground, I see a figure crouching on the warehouse roof, the moonlight silhouetting the figure. Wearing some kind of overcoat and hat. Can't tell who or what—

"That's right," the figure says.

Speaking through a digitizer. Can't even make the voice.

"You do have something to protect," he—she—it—goes on. "And if you want your lovely sister to stay protected, don't mess up again. There are certain parties who feel you are outliving your usefulness...and others who believe the opposite. I'm with the latter. But I won't always be here to help you save face."

And I blink and the figure is gone and the moonlight's shining through the roof uninterrupted again.

I've still got William Kilpatrick's hand in my grip, his lifeless body lying on the ground. I'm shaking because I can't let it go.

I've known him for all of an hour or two but it feels like I just watched my best friend die.

Because right up until the moment he put me on my back—no, before that…up until the moment I stupidly put that mask back on—I felt alive. Felt human.

But that's over now. Back to black and white.

The job is done…

And I'm going to find out who that was that did the job, who it was that rubbed out a good man...a real life Knight.
A quick Dualmask text doodle I wrote during my lunch break. Thought it up and typed it up in less than an hour... pure, raw unedited brain vomit. Heh.

William Kilpatrick is a "transferred" WCL character. I didn't have it in my head who Dualmask would be fighting in this story in the beginning, but around the third paragraph, it came to me to use him since his storyline and persona were adaptable. It doesn't affect his role in WCL (which is a different universe altogether) but it worked pretty well here, methinks.

Hope you like it.

More Dualmask quickies: [link] [link]

Dualmask © :icondualmask:, of course.
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:iconbadenoughdude:
BadEnoughDude Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your brain should vomit more often. I like these short stories you come up with, even though the end of this one kinda bummed me out.
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:icondualmask:
Dualmask Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks! I enjoy writing them too, but I try not to force it too often lest I get burnt out. What makes them work is the spontaneity...I never plan them. I'm thinking of trying the same approach with other characters...high time I tried to get inside Jet Dancer's head perhaps.

Sorry the end was such a downer but you can't pull any punches if you're going to write real drama!
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:iconbluevengeance:
BlueVengeance Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012
Nice story... the ending was painful, though. I wonder if there were times in there that Michael was talking as opposed to his alter ego.
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:icondualmask:
Dualmask Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Glad you liked it. The ending was something that popped in my head at the last moment; wasn't sure what to do with the story at first. I figure I put enough vague details out, a longer, more in-depth Dualmask story will eventually evolve from it. I feel I'm getting closer.
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:iconshaozchampion:
ShaozChampion Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Interesting ^^
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:icondualmask:
Dualmask Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks!
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:iconrandommode:
Randommode Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I liked it
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:icondualmask:
Dualmask Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks. Glad someone does. :-)
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:iconrandommode:
Randommode Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Of course man! :w00t:
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