by Martin Maenza
“Wh-what is th-that?” Tin stammered.
“I don’t know,” Gold said, “but whatever it is wants to come out and play! And we’re not about to let it do that!” The robot discarded the clothing and peeled away the polymer skin to reveal a shiny metal body. The others followed his lead. “Metal Men, to action!”
The six robots rushed down the aisle to the end of the section. Most of them stretched over the barrier easy enough to reach the lower level, while Iron leaped over it, and Lead climbed over. “What’s the, uh… battle plan?” huffed Lead.
“Tina and Tin, take the stage! The rest of us will see if we can halt whatever’s trying to come through that portal!” Gold ordered. The team was used to his directions and began to execute them.
A large, scaly brown hand with sharp claws grabbed the edge of the portal, followed by another on the other side. “Yo, Gold!” Mercury said, stretching his scarlet form upward. “We’d better make this fast! Ugly’s trying to get out!” The flowing robot tried wrapping his upper torso around the clawed fingers. “Back off, Clyde! Your kind isn’t wanted here!”
From within the pentagram, the toothy jaws laughed. “Foolish mortals! You know not with whom you are trifle!” To punctuate the deep ominous threat, two beams of energy shot from the eyes outward.
One blast winged the robot’s body, which started to alter his properties to liquid at the merest touch of the scalding heat. “Hey!” Mercury exclaimed, releasing his grip. “First you insult me by calling me a human, and then you blast me, too! What are you?”
The demonic figure in the portal laughed loudly and began to fire more bursts out of the pentagram. “These should keep you at distance until I am freed!”
“Lead, the audience!” Gold barked.
The large light gray member of the team knew immediately what to do. He stretched his body out as large and as flat as he could to create a protective barrier between the portal and the entranced crowd. “Ugggh!” Lead groaned as the blasts hit his surface. Despite the pain, he continued to hold his ground. After all, the robots were programmed to protect human life above their own. Given his natural properties, Lead was the perfect one to keep the radiation of the energy blasts from hurting the people.
Other blasts were heading for the stage.
“Oh, no!” Platinum exclaimed as she stretched her shimmering body forward. She quickly wrapped her body around the torso of Michael Bretts, who was still standing to the side of the stage when all this started and moved him aside. “Gotcha!”
The jerking motion of being moved so quickly shook the singer from his own trance. “What the–?!” he asked.
Platinum quickly moved him to safety, out of the range of the blasts. “Sorry for the rough handling, cutie,” she said. “Couldn’t let those goldilocks get a single singe.” She gave him a little wink and a smile.
“Thanks,” Michael said. He didn’t know what else to do, so he leaned forward and gave the female robot a little kiss on the cheek.
“Ooo-ooo,” Platinum cooed. She was lost in the moment for a second, but the blasting near the front of the stage snapped her back to reality. “Sorry, gotta run.” She started to stretch away, then doubled her head back. “What the hey.” She gave the singer a smooch on the lips and then returned to the fight.
“Whoa,” the surprised Michael said. “Cold.”
Tin was frantically running back and forth between the members of Hell’s Pawn. “I d-don’t get it,” he said to himself. “Th-they’re like in a t-trance, t-too, b-but they k-keep p-playing anyway.” He waved his arms frantically in front of them, with no response. “Wh-what d-do I d-do now?”
“Get down!” Platinum yelled as she tackled her teammate. The two rolled across the stage just as a burst of energy exploded on the stage where Tin had been standing. “Sorry about that, Tin.”
“N-no p-problem!” he stuttered.
From the rift, the demonic voice boomed. “The summoning is near its completion! Soon I shall once more walk your world, casting forth chaos and destruction!” The clawed hands pulled the body up toward the rift’s opening, and a large, oblong brown head began to crest the edge. “Once again, Nebiros will reign supreme! I shall destroy this world and have my revenge upon the accursed Blue Devil!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “How to Trap a Devil,” Blue Devil #1 (June, 1984).]
“Dream on, demon!” Iron proclaimed. He had formed his two arms into a giant cannon. “Let’s do this, Gold!”
“Right,” the leader of the team said, forming himself into a projectile as he leaped into the cannon barrel. “Make this shot count!”
“You know it!” Iron said as he took aim and fired. The golden bullet shot forth into the air and nailed the demon’s left claw.
Nebiros’ grasp slipped for a moment. “Foolish ones!” he howled. “Your actions only delay the inevitable! Once I pass fully through the portal, I will be free once more!”
Gold re-formed next to Iron. “Then we’ve got to stop that from happening! Team, new strategy!” He quickly stretched around the area, giving each member their assignments. “Metal Men, together!”
As five of the robots started to come together, Mercury complained like always. “I could’ve come up with a plan like this,” he griped.
“Shut your trap and get in position,” Iron snapped. The ore-rich robot formed himself into one large wench, with Lead doing something similar on the other side. Platinum and Gold treaded themselves through the pair and came together above the portal. Mercury slipped into the final position to form a cap of sorts.
“We’re ready,” Gold shouted. “Now!”
“Go, Lead, go!” Iron encouraged as he went into motion.
“O… uh… kay!” Lead acknowledged as he did the same. Their actions, in tune with their comrades above, brought Mercury’s surface down upon Nebiros’ rising form. Together, the Metal Men started to impede the demon’s assent and then began to force him back down into the nether realm.
“Noo-ooo!” Nebiros cursed. “I shall not fail!” Blasts shot up toward Mercury.
“Hey!” the red robot exclaimed. He tried to keep resealing his surface where the blasts punched through his body.
“Tin, hurry!” Gold shouted. “You have to get the band to stop playing! They’re the key to shutting down the portal!”
“On it,” the smallest of the Metal Men said. Tin rushed the stage once more and started to jostle the lead guitarist. “M-mister, you’ve g-gotta wake up and s-stop p-playing.”
The dark-haired Sean’s eyes blinked once and then again. He started to snap back into focus. “What’s going on?” He stopped playing his guitar, which caused the portal to convulse slightly at the loss of power.
“What?!” Nebiros exclaimed, noting the shift in the portal. “No-o-o-o-o! You cannot do this!” The demon summoned up an incredible amount of mystic energy and shot it forth out of the portal.
Mercury was hit with the initial brunt of the blast and went flying. “No-o-o!” Platinum cried, but she couldn’t keep hold of her teammate.
The blast continued on its course, toward the stage and where Tin was trying to rouse the band. “Tin, look out!” Gold shouted.
The robot was befuddled for a moment. Sean dived upon him, knocking Tin to the ground. The blast nailed the guitarist and sent him flying toward his bandmates. Sean’s body slammed into the entranced Rick and Scott. Sean’s guitar flew surface first into Danny’s drum kit. The brunt of the blast also rocked the band members, sending all four flying.
“No-o-o-o!” Nebiros howled. The attack had been meant for the robot and not the band. Inadvertently, he managed to take out the very beings responsible for the summoning. With the hypnotic music gone, the audience began to slide out of the trance as well. This caused the portal to begin shrinking at a rapid rate. “So close, so close! Curse that deceptive bargainer! I blame him for this failure! If I ever escape this hell, I swear I shall make you pay, Ner….!”
The demon’s voice trailed off into the void as the portal closed with a great big pop.
The Metal Men quickly regrouped themselves and checked on their own.
The dark-colored Iron helped his crimson comrade to his feet. “You OK, Mercury?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” the robot complained. “But next time someone suggests a night out, I pass!” Iron smiled to see that Mercury was quickly back to his old irritable self.
Platinum and Gold joined Tin on the stage, where the little guy was untangling his legs from some cables. “You OK there, Tin?” Gold asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “th-thanks to h-him.” He gestured toward the band members who lay sprawled amongst their equipment. “Are th-they d-dead?”
Gold stretched over and quickly did a check with his eyes. He dared not move them for fear it might further aggravate any injuries they’d suffered. “They’re all breathing, but they seem out of it. Tina, see if you can get some emergency crews here fast!”
“Right,” she nodded and hurried off to find a phone.
“W-will they b-be OK?” Tin asked, concerned.
“I’m no expert on humans,” Gold said. “But I think the shock of the blast threw the four men into comas. It might be quite a while before they recover. All we can do is hope.” If Tin had the capability, he would have started to cry. But Dr. Will Magnus hadn’t programmed them with that function, so all he could do was appear sad.
Nearby, D.D. Ceville joined his bandmate near the stage. “Man, I go to get a little buzz before our set, and everything comes unglued! What’d I miss?”
“One hell of an act,” Michael Bretts said. “One hell of an act. Hell’s Pawn’s set tonight won’t soon be forgotten.” Indeed, even amongst the crowd, there was a large murmuring.
A good-looking man with long blond hair lounged on the couch of his home in a forest green silk bathrobe. On the large television screen in front of him, he watched one of the cable channels where a man in a black and white polka dot shirt read a news brief.
“This just in for Rock Television news,” the announcer said. “Tonight’s Ratt Poison concert turned chaotic as over thirty-thousand fans witnessed a bizarre spectacle during the opening act’s set. The band known as Hell’s Pawn, whose first album Xavier has been rising up the charts for the last few months, was injured during the skirmish between a large demonic figure and the group of robotic heroes known as the Metal Men. The following footage was obtained by Rock Television from an amateur home video taken during the concert.”
The grainy picture showed parts of the battle.
“The members of Hell’s Pawn were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment,” the announcer continued. “At this moment, all four members of the band are in comas. Given the situation, authorities agreed that the concert should not continue. Ratt Poison plans to reschedule the show. I’m V.J. VeeJay, and now back to the music videos.”
The blonde man clicked off the remote control. Well, I’ve seen enough for one night, he thought to himself. The interference by those robots was unexpected, but not tragic. I kept my end of the bargain. I promised those boys they’d make the rock ‘n’ roll history books, and they will. I’ll just have to slip by the hospital and ensure they end up dead, so I can collect my payment.
He rose from the couch and sauntered toward the bar to pour himself a drink. And though Nebiros will no doubt be after my head, I’m not worried. My end of the deal was to provide him with a way for the summoning portal to be opened. I never promised that he’d make it through. And with what I got from Nebiros, I’ll be able to continue as I’ve planned! The blond man, known by many names, including most recently Nicky Styx and Nathan Nero, laughed sinisterly.