A second band played, whipping the crowd into a vicious frenzy. Usually Talon didn’t mind mixing it up in the pit, but not at this show. The Bangers were using it for a practice ground and bloodied bodies were already being dragged to the sides of the stage. Damn, he hated how the Bangers always tried to ruin the shows.
Then at last he spotted a few PRs he knew. He threw them a wave as he rushed over. They took Talon in with a smile. Before him, were some of the only people he knew well enough to actually call friends. Two of them, Billy and O.Z., might have been having a contest to see who could continue to grow sideways. In these lean times where Talon went hungry every other week, he could never understand how these two were able to retain their massive bulks.
Billy had grown a small mohawk, which he died blue while, like always, O.Z. kept his head shaved and polished. They each had their stretched shirts covered with worn jackets despite the heat. O.Z. stood for Opinion Zero, while Billy’s last name was Bloodhammer.
The men next to them were as skinny as they were obese and contrasted them comically. The taller one was Bone. He attempted to at least keep himself clean and dressed a bit more upscale than the others. From what Talon had heard, he did it mostly for the ladies, for Bone had the reputations for being quite the skirt chaser. His buddy Trash with his graffiti covered torn shirt, also liked women, but tended to have more luck with the homeless variety. Talon certainly had no problem with Trash. The fact that he had once beaten up Rick-the-dick was enough to make Talon like him forever. There were a few other PRs hanging around, but Talon didn’t know them well enough to put names to faces.
After the usual rounds of greetings, Billy said, “What do you think about all these Bangers screwing up our shows?”
Before he could answer, O.Z. quickly said, “Yeah, soon they’re going to start making us listen to their shitty metal core or even worse that techno-rap crap.”
“It isn’t the music that worries me. The Bangers live for violence and always seem to pollute everything they touch. They act like the rest of us who are stuck in the gutters with them are the enemy.”
“Damn, Talon, when did you get so profound?” Billy laughed.
“I’ve had an interesting month,” he said without even thinking. “I also just came from the pit. Things are already getting bloody in there.”
“And it is only going to get worse,” Bone mumbled.
Bloodhammer took the stage again. “This is why we are thinking about doing something about it. We punks are being isolated and taken advantage of.”
Trash spoke up. “Yeah, my friend Lyle was beat up when some Bangers tried to take his girl. They kicked his ass and then took her anyway. He hasn’t seen her since.”
Billy nodded. “Punks don’t like gangs. We are anarchists, each of us is an individual, but we’re getting screwed here. We can’t even put on our own shows. That is why we are thinking about starting up a group of our own. It isn’t a gang as much as a league.”
O.Z. was smiling. “Yeah the Anti-Nowhere League. A.N.L. for short.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Do you want to join?” Billy asked.
“How many do you have so far?”
“Terrific,” he said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm. “What about these guys?” He said while motioning to the eight PRs milling around behind them.
“We asked you first. We just had the idea a few minutes ago,” Billy said.
“I thought up the name,“ O.Z. said. Talon didn’t bother to correct the man and point out that it was a band from the distance past, one of the few who had been involved with starting punk rock.
“So what do I get if I join?”
“That means we have your back,” Billy said.
Thinking about all that had happened to him recently, led to a quick choice. “Okay, I join.” There were handshaking, drinking, and congrats. Soon however, Talon had finished the last beer that he figured he should bum. When the Armpit Salesmen started to play, he headed back to the front, which like the front at a war had become a battle zone.
Flailing punks crashed against Bangers. Beneath them, a mud churned, fueled by spilled beer, sweat, and blood. Major fights broke out. It sickened his stomach. For a while he watched and became almost hypnotized by the swirling arcs of colors. Contorted faces appeared and were quickly lost, moving through a sea of undulating flesh.
His older buddy Awl came by. During a break in the songs, he said, “This sucks. Shows aren’t supposed to be like this. Pits are for dancing, not violence.” He finished with, “I’m going to have a beer,” and then walked away.
The violence grew worse, even when the band begged them to stop.
They threw down their mics. “The show is over. We are done. Enough of this BS. We came here to play.”
Things were heading towards riot stage. When the Public Enforcers sirens blared in the distance, he figured that it was time to go. Moving through the chaos was no easy feat. Alone in a confused tide of humanity, he breathed in the sweaty stench and moved on. He was elbowed in the arm and another man smeared dirty sweat across his back. He was out of beer, but now wanted water more than anything else.
Finally thinning as he approached the edge, the throng murmured like a sleeping monster. Just as he could breath in something besides stench, he saw movement to his right. “Talon, Talon buddy. They’re after us!”
It was Belter again. This time he was sprinting towards him. Before he even knew what was happening they had collided. If Belter hadn’t grabbed onto his jacket, he could have toppled over. “Help me buddy. The deal went ass-up. They are coming after us.”
Before his crazed words had even sunk it, a group of Rips burst through the crowd. Their weapons were bared and they weren’t afraid to use them in their attempt to clear the path. Already the blades of their knives matched their blood red jackets. “Get them,” a tall lanky freak bellowed.
Like a wave of red, they swarmed at them. Talon knew it was useless to protest. He was screwed. The Bangers were in a berserk rage.
Dodging people and garbage, he hurried as fast as the milling bodies would allow. He slammed into two huge guys. With a growl one moved forward to take a swing. He leapt to his left and he heard a crack and figured somebody got hit. He was on his hands and knees, trying to scramble to his feet, when the first R.I.P. reached him.
The man had a mohawk not unlike his, but Talon sure didn’t share his taunt drug pinched face. The painfully thin man had a long dagger and he swung it sideways. Talon ducked under it, sliding forward on some trash. His hand found a beer bottle and he beaned it off the Banger’s head. Not waiting to see if this slowed him down, he got his boots under him and kept going.
More voices could be heard, but he didn’t even bother to look, but he could tell they were gaining on him. People were more likely to move out of the way of armed Bangers than for some young PR.
“You better stop punk or we’ll scalp that mohawk right off your head,” one of them shouted, sounding dangerously close.
There was movement behind him, and then a lancing pain as a knife tore through his jacket. He cried out and sprinted forward. They were right on his heels. He could hear them closing in. One of them was starting to laugh.
There was a big blur beside him, followed by a mighty clang. He slowed down enough to see that it was Billy Bloodhammer and he had just thrown a keg into the ranks of the Rips. O.Z. was right behind him and threw a case of empties into another one’s chest. Trash and Bone led up another dozen or so PRs.
Turning with a smile already plastered across his face, Talon gave the meanest right hook of his life into the man directly behind him. Blood splattered across his mangy goatee. The Rip stumbled back a pace, but Talon wasn’t done. His boot lashed out and kicked the man in the hand. Just as he had hoped his stained dagger went flying. All around them punks were attacking Bangers as their fighting had lit the fuse setting off the powder keg.
The fighting wasn’t just around them; the whole place had gone berserk. Punk fought Banger, while both went after any Enforcer that got in their way. One of the PEs must have been hurt, for shots started to explode into the night. That changed the riot into a stampede and soon the only thought on his mind was trying to stick close to his new pals the Anti-Nowhere League.
In the end, this became impossible as the wave of ragged humanity swept him along. They hit a road and people scattered, their fights forgotten. The raging mob dodged cars and emergency vehicles. Their mangled colors spilled into the night.
Talon hit a stygian alley with another half dozen youth. They sprinted away from the PE covered street. They were almost to the next street when a squad car pulled before them. The attempt to box them in was ignored by many, but Talon took to one of the lower fences and hopped into a residential yard. He continued to yard hop, until he was well away from the foul mess.