Drinks and devils by Weaver
Disclaimer: If you recognise it it's not mine.
Following the Halloween Event, the world’s population took a nosedive with those lucky enough and/or tough enough to survive crowding into protected colonies. As a result, the areas of human (and humanoid) habitation became a good deal more spaced out with the no-man’s-land between occupied by every horror that the human imagination had ever thought of and a far few that weren’t. Consequently travelling between the colonies both took longer and those who did so took their lives into their own hands, although the level of difficulty involved varied from country to country due to differences in geography and the concentration of monsters.
However, there were things that made life easier for those brave, desperate or determined enough to travel in the New World, the main one being the existence of rest-stops, places where the weary, shaken and possibly somewhat battered traveller could take a break, have a drink and a meal, get patched up and keep an ear open for any information. Some, like Yubaba's bathhouse, and the World’s End Free House existed outside what passed for ‘normal reality’ and could be accessed from more or less anywhere provided you knew how to find them. Since the Event establishments of this kind had experienced a dramatic surge in both business and long term residents, the latter usually hoping to wait out the worst of the global weirdness in relative safety and comfort.
Other examples were rather more down to earth and were set up by individuals who for one reason or another had the means to do so and somehow managed to remain business minded even when surrounded by the products of chaos. Running these places usually consisted of keeping the food and booze flowing and making sure that the trouble stayed outside.
One such establishment existed several miles south of what was left of Cleveland, Ohio. The proprietors were a trio of friends from New Castle, Pennsylvania. On Halloween they’d received last minute invitations to a party, although only one of them had bothered to wear a costume, a rather thrown together approximation of a warlock. When the spell hit, Mike had acquired an appropriate collection of skills, knowledge and power, although the generic nature of the costume allowed him to keep his personality intact. His friends Tony and Brett, while costume-less, had also been altered due to a rather unique variation of the proximity effect. At another party a couple of blocks away, a couple of costumed party goers had been transformed in to characters from Alan Moore’s Top Ten, a comic that was basically a police procedural that happened to be set in a city where everyone, from politicians to pickpockets had some sort of superpower. The spell took this detail and ran with it, with the result that everyone in the city who wasn’t wearing a costume remained the same in terms of personality but found themselves with some sort of superpower (also, the Doberman down the street from the party gained about a hundred IQ points and started talking). In the case of Tony and Brett, they ended up with telepathy and telekinesis respectively, although exactly why they got those particular powers remained a mystery and the topic of much debate.
Although the exceptionally high concentration of super powered or at least super skilled inhabitants leant New Castle a certain degree of security from the menaces of the outside world, albeit one that carried the complication of super powered crooks, the idea of hiding wasn’t one which sat particularly well with the three friends. Plus Mike had cast a spell of questionable legality which convinced them that it might be a good idea to put some distance between themselves and a city with a super powered police force. The reports of long hazardous journeys from incoming refugees and envoys had given them an idea and after a certain amount of deliberation, they set up shop in an old roadside diner, doing a slow but steady trade in providing food and drink to lost refugees and anyone travelling between colonies. Mike had the place heavily warded, Tony took bartending to a new level by having the drinks ready before the order was placed and watched out for anyone thinking of causing trouble, while Brett used his ability to be very lazy about waiting tables and occasionally boot out troublemakers. The fact that the customers usually included a few badasses added another level of security. If there was one thing the friends had discovered it was that no matter what piece of fiction they came from, most people didn’t like having their drinks disturbed. So far one werewolf, two demons and a very moody pyro had learnt this the hard way. The proprietors were quite happy with this and why shouldn’t they be? After all they got what amounted to free security.
On this particular day however, they noticed that a few of the potential trouble makers were being unusually quiet. It didn’t take them long to realize that the cause was a small group of red-coated, white haired, not-quite-identical young men gathered round the bar. To the casual, uninformed observer they looked like they could be brothers, but this misperception would only last until someone said ‘Dante’ and the whole group looked up.
The presence of four versions of the same character in the bar was in no way planned or deliberate, instead, through some strange quirk of fate they’d just accumulated. The first one to arrive looked about seventeen and had turned up just under a week ago with a busted motorcycle and was determinedly staying put until either he found someone to fix it, or someone came along who had enough space in their vehicle to transport a crippled bike and its rider. The second was a little older and had arrived a couple of days later, and hadn’t moved on yet due to a combination of alcohol consumption and not having any idea as to where they were going. The third and fourth half-devil’s had made their appearance a couple of hours ago on a bus from what was formerly known as Cincinnati but now called Citadel City, containing a mixture of envoys, bodyguards and various waifs and strays picked up en route. Of the Dantes on the bus, one was from Citadel City while the other had been picked up just outside Canton along with a boy he’d rescued from a group of Jack O’Lanterns (he hadn’t been in time to save the boy’s mother and brother. It was an event which hit far too close to home for the half-devil). The bus had be intended to make contact with a colony to the east but due to having to take multiple detours because of monster related road damage had managed to get hopelessly lost. While Mike did his best to put them back on track, the bus’s occupants took the opportunity to get a drink and stretch their legs. Needless to say, the discovery to two more Dante’s had been a surprise for both sides.
Now, given that the Halloween event had resulted in there being multiple versions of the same character, meeting ‘yourself’ was, relatively speaking, a fairly common occurrence. Reactions differed. A few were hostile towards their other selves; awkwardness was very common, while others took it in stride. The Dantes were firmly in the last category and were currently quite happily reminiscing, comparing notes and working their way through a couple of pitchers of beer.
“The world’s gone crazy. I didn’t think it was possible for things to be weirder then they were but it’s happened. I’d be happy about all the business coming my way, but I don’t have the shop, there’s a whole load of competition and most of the time I don’t get paid.”
“There wouldn’t be much point if you were. Money doesn’t have much value these days. Look on the bright side. No money, no debt.”
Three of the four smiled slightly at the thought. The fourth’s frown went unnoticed.
“That reminds me. Any of you know if Lady or Trish are out there?”
The Dante who’d frowned nodded.
“I don’t know about Trish, but Lady’s back in Citadel City.”
“Heh. I wonder if she’s realized that she can’t use us as her personal ATM anymore.”
This time the City Dante’s grimace didn’t go unnoticed.
“You know how we all used to be someone else?”
Nods all round.
“Well it seems that the person who I used to be and the person Lady used to be were going to get married in November.”
“The reason they were getting married was that the girl was pregnant.”
The implication sunk in.
“It carried over?”
“What do you think? Lady was furious when she found out and guess who got all the blame.”
The other three winced in sympathy.
“So are you two a couple then?”
The City Dante shrugged.
“I’m not sure. Things are still pretty confused, plus Lady keeps threatening to castrate me if I come anywhere near her. That’s why I’m on bodyguard duty, to give us a chance to get our heads straightened out and for her to cool off a bit before we figure out what we’re going to do.”
“So she’s having it then?”
“Yeah. I think whatever’s left of who she used to be put her foot down. The poor kid’s doomed.”
The other three nodded in agreement. Deciding that something stronger then beer was in order, one of them started to call over the bartender, only to see that Tony was already heading towards them with a bottle of whisky and four glasses.
A/N: Don't ask me where this came from. My rather demented sense of humour is probably to blame for a lot of it.
Regarding World Wide Weird, I seem to have hit a wall. I know where I'm going with it, I'm just having a bit of trouble getting there. Help!