Story – Mercenary Tao In: Unusual Contracts
A brief note: This story was written on a whim, and eventually formed the ‘independent prequel’ for a longer form, unfinished work in the same-ish world called “Flying Pillars Against The Universe”. The entirety of this was basically a series of references to media I enjoyed mixed with some meditations on the nature of fiction itself and comic book reboot-styled revisionism of various media franchises. The high points of that work include a dystopian 19th century version of Redwall, paternalist Vegeta, and the character of “Trucks”, whom I think was intended to represent the worst of the shonen anime fandom. If I wanted to, I might reboot the work someday, but I’d probably cut out all the crossovers and really focus on presenting an alternate take on the Dragon Ball universe.
If you want to read this on Fanfiction.net, use this link: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2560365/
Synopsis: M. F. Thatherton hires Mercenary Tao to assassinate Hank Hill.
Thatherton Fuels had fallen on bad times.
Due to the efforts of one Hank Hill, Strickland Propane had consistently outsold its competitors due to their excellent service and notable lack of questionable sales techniques. Competitors saw their sales decline – Mega-Lo-Mart did well until a catastrophic accident revealed their employees’ inexperience with the fuel, and nobody else had tried to enter the business since. The owner, one M. F. Thatherton, was considering liquidating his assets and pulling out.
Then, on one rainy day, a mysterious man entered the store.
“I want a grill,” he said.
Thatheron’s eyes lit up at the prospect of customers.
“You’ve come to the right place! I personally welcome you to Thatherton Fuels,” replied Thatherton, rising up from his chair to shake the stranger’s hand. The stranger responded in turn.
*This fellow’s grip is like a vice!* thought Thatherton, upon realizing the sharp pain in his hand and wrist. He then took a look at the stranger – no, potential customer. He was strangely dressed – a pink changshan with chinese characters on it, over a navy blue shirt and pants, long hair braided as a ponytail. More striking were the metallic helmet and gloves he appeared to be wearing.
“Nice costume,” said Thatheron. *As long as he likes me, I should be able to pull off a sale.*
“It’s not a costume.”
“Sure, sure. Let me show you some grills.”
And so the attempted sale proceeded – the stranger looked over Thatheron’s stocks – occasionally complementing on some percieved quality of the grill Thatherton was pitching to him. Eventually he settled on a Char-King Imperiale.
“That’s one fine grill. You want any accessories with it?”
“I’ll take them all.”
*If this were a cartoon, my pupils would be dollar signs by now!* Thatheron thought to himself.
“A great choice. There is, of course, the matter of the bill.”
And at this point, the stranger seemingly looked at him as if he were insane – his eyes were covered, but his nose narrowed as if to sneer, and his mouth twitched slightly.
“There will be no bill,” he said.
“I’m sorry? Most people tend to pay for what they buy.”
“Do you have any idea who I am?”
The man then walked over to a display case showcasing a 20 pound tank of propane, and stuck out his tongue. He then charged at the case – the moment his tongue struck it, the glass exploded into hundreds of shards.
“What are you doing?” shouted Thatherton. “You’re going to have to pay for that case!”
The stranger ignored him. He picked up the showcased propane tank, and effortlessly threw it at Thatheron. It missed by an inch, tore through the walls of the building – the wind alone blew Thatherton’s hat off.
“You do know who I am, right?” said the stranger.
“I haven’t the slightest idea. Stop destroying my stock!”
The man turned around, revealing the words “KILL YOU!” had been embroidered into his robe.
“I am Mercenary Tao. People give me what they want, or they suffer dire consequences.”
“Well, what do you want?”, Thatherton said, showing anger, concealing fear (*This man could ruin me in minutes! And Strickland might file a noise complaint, or something!*).
“I want this grill.”
“You can have it! Just stop destroying my buisness!”
“Good. I’d hate to think what would happen to you had you insisted I pay for it.” Tao then lifted the grill with a single finger – examining it from every angle. He then picked up another tank of propane.
“So you kill people, eh?” said Strickland, who, now that the fear of imminent death was gone, was already schemeing in an attempt to recoup the loss.
“For the mere cost of ten billion zeni, I will kill anyone you ask me to.”
“We don’t use these ‘zeni’ here. In America, and ESPECIALLY in Texas, we have something we call a dollar.”
“What’s the conversion between the two?”
“… I’ve got no idea. I’ll look it up.”
Thatheron went into the back room. He was about to check the value on a search engine, but then, inspiration struck.
*What if I lie and claim a small number? For a relatively small amount, I could have someone especially problematic killed!*, he thought, increasing giddiness bringing the blood to his cheeks. He walked out of the back room.
*Keep your cool, Thatherton…*
“Ten billion zeni apparently comes to fifty thousand American dollars. It’s expensive, but it’s within my reach.”
Tao raised an eyebrow.
“It seems small, and I will have to investigate. But it’s settled. Give me a target, and I’ll come back for the money when I’m done.”
And that was when Thatheron knew that his buisness would prosper, and he would rise out of mere moderate wealth.
Elsewhere, four men were standing in front of a fence near a street. One man did not realize that, as of that moment, he was marked for assassination.
“Yup,” he said, taking a beer out of a nearby cooler, opening it, drinking a mouthful of it.
“Yup,” said the man to his left, who, as was the tradition, drinking beer.
“Yup,” said a third man – balding and overweight in comparison to the first’s somewhat muscular frame, and especially in comparison to the second, who was tall and thin.
“Mhm,” said a fourth man, who had just finished his beer, throwing the can into the garbage.
The drinking ritual continued for some time – slowly, but surely, the men became noticeably less sober, if not properly drunk.
“I heard someone went into Thatherton Fuels and damaged some of the items,” said the third man.
“Stop making up far fetched stories, Bill,” said the first man.
“You can’t dismiss everything he says, Hank. It’s probably a conspiracy by the government to hide the fact they’re about to buy the place out, then run you out of buisness,” said the second man.
“Dale, don’t most of your wackoid conspiracies involve aliens or secret societies?”, Hank responded.
“I tell you what man, I was driving along the road and you know I saw a big dang gaping old hole in the back of Thatherton’s place and. And then a dang old propane tank was on the road and oh man I tell you what, I had to swerve to get out of the way.” Boomhauer, the fourth man had offered evidence.
“Maybe something did happen there, but I couldn’t tell you what,” Hank muttered.
He looked at the sky in a pensive fashion. A small rod was floating lazily through the sky.”
Of course, Hank had no way of knowing that Mercenary Tao was using it to travel, having thrown it into the air, then jumping upon it in what was very likely a flagarant violation of physics.
The group soon saw Hank’s son, Bobby Hill walking up the streets.
“Hi, Dad. I just heard this really funny joke about a guy who could fly by riding a big rod.”
“Sounds interesting,” said Hank.
“Well, at least according to Joseph, it’s not enough to impress the ladies where it counts – ”
“Bwaah!” Hank shouted. He looked at his son.
“Stop right there, mister. That joke’s definitely not appropriate for anywhere. If you weren’t my son, I’d kick your ass!”
“Sorry, Dad. I didn’t know…” Bobby went inside his house, crestfallen.
“I still think that boy ain’t right.”
It turned out that while on his “travel pole”, Mercenary Tao was reconnitering the area, searching for an ideal location to meet the target.
*My employer was very intelligent to provide information on the subject beyond his photo. Otherwise, I would’ve had to kill him afterwards,* he thought, watching houses fly past under him. Suddenly, they gave way to stores of ever increasing size…
The pole tore into asphalt, riding it like a ship on an unusual perfectly flat sea. It ended up occupying a parking spot.
Tao dismounted, surveyed his surroundings. This was the Mega-Lo-Mart. A steady stream of consumers were entering and exiting the premises, depleting its inventory but fueling it with cash.
In an attempt to get his bearings, Tao hailed the first person he came across – a young boy with shaggy red hair.
“Excuse me, but do you know how to get to this address?” he said, showing the boy his mark’s contact information. No response.
“You’re wearing a dress,” the boy said after a few seconds.
“…” Tao’s right eye was twitching. “Tell me, or I’ll throw you through the wall!”
“Fine.” And so, Tao regained his bearings.
“It looks like I won’t have to kill you, then,” said Tao, prior to retrieving his pole, and executing the travel manuever.
Back on the ground, the boy’s mother walked to him, carrying bags full of groceries.
“Stuart, help me carry the groceries to the car, okay?” she said. A few seconds of silence.
“I saw a man wearing a dress.”
Meanwhile, Tao had already landed in the street of the target. He went up to a house and rang the doorbell.
“I’ll get it, Dad!” said a voice from within. The door opened, and a small stocky boy was standing in front of Tao, who looked at the information Thatherton had furnished him with.
“Excuse me, boy. Does a man named Hank Hill live here?”
“He’s my dad. I’ll go get him.” Prompty followed by a shout – “Dad, it’s for you!” The boy walked away from the door into a hallway.
Hank came to the door, and Tao snapped into buisness.
“Pleased to kill you,” he said.
There was silence. Then, Hank slammed the door in Tao’s face.
*And so it begins…* Tao thought. Then, he punched the door, which shattered into a pile of well carved wood, as well as a cloud of sawdust.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re going to have to pay for that, mister!” shouted Hank.
“I’ll do it later. Who should I make it out to? Your widowed wife? Your orphaned son-”
“Get off my property, or I’m going to kick your ass!” shouted Hank, interrupting Tao’s threats. Tao jabbed a few times at him – the third time, his hand connected with Hank’s jaw, knocking him over, drawing some blood.
“That’s it, I’m calling the police.” Hank stood up, slowly – another jab knocked him over. He tried to stand up again. This time, Tao attempted a slower, more powerful punch, but Hank was able to, despite his partially prone position, deflect the punch with his own hand.
Bobby peered out of his room at the end of the hallway, and saw the beginnings of the fight.
“What’s for dinner tonight- oh.”
*This is so cool! I never thought I’d see a fight in my own home,* he thought.
“You can do it, Dad!”
Tao looked at Bobby for a split second. Hank, being fast enough to take advantage of it, stood up, threw a punch to Tao’s stomach.
*This might be more interesting if he continues to show a semblance of skill,* Tao thought, before jumping through the frame and wreckage of the door. Hank watched as he slowly walked away.
“If you leave now and never come back, I won’t have to report a domestic disturbance-”
Not only had Tao reversed his false ‘retreat’ and charged at him, but people were coming out of their homes to watch the escalating fight.
“Who’s the Japanese guy?” said Dale, who was now standing on Hank’s lawn.
“I’m not Japanese!” Tao snarled.
Eventually, Hank, having had time to react to Tao’s latest attack, had stuck his knee out. When Tao collided with it, he ended up shouting in pain before collapsing to the ground. However, the force of the impact left Hank holding his knee.
“Kill him, Hank!” said another voice. This was Bill.
“I’m not going to kill him. I’m only going to kick his ass.”
“On the contrary, not only am I going to… ‘kick your ass’, I’m also going to kill you.”
Meanwhile, Bobby had snuck out of the house through his window – knocking on his neighbor’s window.
“Hey, Connie! There’s this really cool fight going on at my house and you should see it!”
“I’m not interested in fighting,” she said, her voice muffled by the glass.
“But it’s my Dad and some … uh… Laotian guy fighting!”
“Don’t tell me my dad got in a fight with yours.”
“No, it’s some other person!”
Said ‘other person’ was attempting to pierce Hank’s temple with his tongue.
“What the hell?” said Hank, dodging out of the way just in time.
“I can kill anyone using only my tongue!”
*Why do I always have to deal with the lunatics?* they both thought.
The crowd was growing – in addition to the neighborhood looking in on the spectacle, a police car had arrived and a few cops armed with handguns were attempting to surround the fight.
One assumed a firing position. “Stop! You’re under arrest-”
“DODUN RAY!” Tao said, pointing his finger at the policecar. Yellow light came out of it, and the car caught fire, falling into a miserable collection of small pieces. Most of the policemen managed to jump out of the way before it exploded. One didn’t – he sustained second degree burns over various parts of his body.
The violence slowly moved into the back yard – Hank somehow managed to forced Mercenary Tao into his backyard, at the cost of pain from powerful strikes and bleeding from a wound on his chin.
“DODUN RAY!” Another yellow beam of light came out of Tao’s hands, hitting a propane tank near Hank’s grill. It exploded.
“No! You’ll kill us all!” shouted Hank.
“You are the only one who’s going to die today-”
Tao stopped speaking when a large piece of metal collided with his head. He fell forwards, collided with Hank’s left knee…
“I appreciate the help, Dale,” said Hank.
“It looked like you needed some help. I would’ve hit him with my fists, but…” (and here Dale raised his sunglasses) “… a crowbar is more lethal.”
“Not lethal enough.” Tao seemed unphased by his recent encounter with the crowbar. He jumped up, back into a fighting position, and knocked Dale off his feet with a roundhouse kick.
“Aaah!” Dale rolled over and crawled off on all fours.
“I confess that I underestimated your skills. I won’t make that mistake this time,” he said.
He lunged at Hank, swiping his arms at a rate capable of tearing through rock faster than the average mining drill.
“Don’t do that! Your arms will catch fire!” shouted Bill, who had apparently brought a 6 pack of beer out. After a moment, he looked away and started passing cans to bystanders.By now, the two parties were looking substantially worse for wear, but were fighting as if they had never felt pain in their life. The consequences seemed implied to both parties – Hank was merely fighting to survive the assault, but Tao had to worry about the potential humiliation of a loss.
And so the violence continued – Hank using his training in American football to put up a solid defense, Tao launching progressively more absurd and ridiculous attacks, and everyone else watching the fight as if it was a spectator sport.
“Do something! This is serious!” shouted Hank.
“You have to die already,” responded Tao, who knocked Hank over with another well placed roundhouse kick. He advanced, preparing to shove his shoe in Hank’s face.
Nobody had moved.
Then he was knocked off his feet – Hank, while downed, still was capable of defending himself, driving his own foot in to Tao’s stomach, causing him to double over. Were this the actual anime, lines would be in the air for emphasis, Tao’s eyes would be distended, and his mouth would be open as if to shout in rage.
Tao fell again, rose again, knocked Hank over, was knocked over, threw rapid jabs at Hank, got tackled by Hank, occasionally destroyed the local scenery with a Dodun Ray. Both parties seemed to have ludicrous stamina – as the bruises accumulated, the blood flowed, various abrasions gathered on their bodies. I swear, one of Tao’s many cuts tried to ask another out on a date near a scrape on his arm. Then Hank punched the area, worsening the wounds.
“I’ve had enough of this. Prepare to die,” Tao snarled, jumping incredibly high into the air.
“You’ve said that three times in the last fifteen minutes!” shouted Hank.
“Just like you have threatened to kick my ass several times.” Tao landed in the street.
“Normally I would act as if I’d seen the light of my ways, but it’s a lie. But for now…” And he pulled out what appeared to be an incindiary grenade.
“Bwah! You’ll burn down the entire neighborhood!”
“Starting with you.” And so, Tao was about to pull the pin and throw the grenade…
And he was run over by a convenient Cadillac. A short, white haired old man with no shins came out.
“I came here to visit, Hank. How’d you hurt yourself? Get shot wit a Japanese machine gun?” he said.
“Dad, look under your car.” And so Cotton Hill gazed upon the abraised and contused body of Mercenary Tao.
“Hey, what happened to him?”
“He tried to kill me. Then you ran him over.”
“This guy tried to kill you? He’s twice the man you are and he would’ve succeeded had I not accidentally run him over.”
A policeman came over.
“Normally I would arrest you for manslaughter, but if you saw what that man did, you’d realize what kind of service you’ve done for us.”
“You wouldn’t arrest me. I killed fity men in Japan. I’m a veteran of Dubya Dubya two!”
The policemen took Tao to a morgue, where he was to be prepared for burial. Despite the stress of battle, Hank wasn’t injured seriously enough to need medical treatment beyond the doting of his wife, and some bandaging. He went to work the day after. Opening up the newspaper he’d picked up on a whim before he arrived, he saw a story about the apparent loss of a body scheduled for a funeral – the workers in charge had been fired by their supervisor.
“Heh. If everyone was better at their jobs, maybe the world would be a better place,” said Hank. Sales were good that day.