Stiff Competition

*One day, at seven o’ clock on the Crescent City net in Netopia…*

Desperate Navi: No, please!

Panicky Navi: Give us more time! We’ll pay you back soon!

Morally Impaired Navi: Uh-uh! You’ve had months now, and we’ve been pretty patient since we had to drag our asses from Electopia for you two!

Ethically Impaired Navi: No five hundred thousand zenny by two o’ clock, no protection, no kneecaps for you or your operators! Get out of our face!

*sobbing, the two navis jack-out*

Panicky Operator: What are we going to do? We’ve only got fifteen thousand zenny!

Desperate Operator: We’ll never raise the rest in time! We’re doomed!

Random Guy: Why don’t you hire those freelancer guys? I’m sure they’ll get whoever’s bothering you off your back for fifteen grand.

Desperate Operator: R-really?! They will?? Do you know where we can reach them?

Random Guy: It says on their flier. You’ll find one if you look hard enough on the net. They advertise like mad.

Panicky Operator: That’s great! I’ll have my navi search Netopia Network 1 if you check Network 2!

Desperate Operator: Got it! Jack-in!

*at 1:45 in Network 1…*

Desperate Navi: So you’ll help us? Thank you! Let’s hurry! They’ll be back soon!

*meanwhile, in Network 2…*

Panicky Navi: You’ve saved us! How can we ever repay you?! Come on! We don’t have much time!

*at two o’ clock*

Topman: Sweet! Our first mission!

Videoman: Don’t worry, you two are in good hands.

Gustav: And so are you.

Desperate Navi: But shouldn’t be operating your navis?

Darmagician: Don’t worry, we know what we're doing. Our navis can handle themselves.

Gustav: Besides, someone should be looking after you too.

Desperate Operator: Well, I just hope my friend and her navi come back soon. They said they’d be here ten minutes ago!

MIN: *steps out from a corner* Tough luck, honey! You got the dough?

Desperate Navi: I…I’m not going to pay you-you fiend!

EIN: Heh, that’s the best one I’ve heard all day! You want me to do the left kneecap first or the right?

MIN: Don’t worry, your ops will be next!

Desperate Operator: No!

*EIN fires a m-canon at the helpless navi, but the shot is blocked by a strip of tape that appears between them*

EIN: What the hell?

Videoman: *nails EIN with a cassette winder* Alright! Let’s get-

Panicky Operator: *runs up to Desperate Operator* Don’t worry, I’m fine!

Desperate Navi: There you are! I was so worried about you! Where were you two?

Panicky Operator: I was on my way here, but those two thugs’ operators dragged me into an alley and nearly mugged me! Thankfully, our hired guns came in walloped them something fierce!

MIN: *dodges a top spin* Pardon?!

Desperate Operator: …I don’t understand. Our hired guns have been with me the whole time! *points to Gustav and Darmagician*

Panicky Operator: Huh? I didn’t hire those guys.

Darmagician: What the-? Who did you hire?

Adrienne: *steps out of an alley with Moe* Us.

Moe: *steps out of an alley with Adrienne* Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to thump on those muggers a little more. But, don’t worry, they’re out like a light now.

MIN: …I don’t like the direction this is going in!

Topman: *releases jogetsu tops* That makes two of us…

*MIN throws his accomplice into the path of the incoming tops as he runs off. Before EIN can recover, Videoman replays footage of him firing his m-canon, deleting him*

Darmagician: That takes care of that! Now about our payment-

Moe: Screw that! Where’s my pay? We’re the one who beat up those thugs in the alley!

Desperate Operator: Hang on a minute. *turns to Panicky Operator* What possessed you to hire another bunch of freelancers? Who are we going to pay off now?

Panicky Operator: I-I didn’t know you already hired some help already! Besides, how was I supposed to know there were two groups to choose from? I just found their flier first. *points to Moe and Adrienne*

Desperate Operator: *turns to Adrienne* Look, I’m sorry about the confusion. I presume you were promised fifteen thousand for the job?

Adrienne: You bet!

Desperate Operator: Well, I hired them *points to Gustav and Darmagician* for fifteen thousand too. I’m afraid I’m going to have to give you both half of the agreed pay.

Darmagician: *takes his pay, glaring at Moe* This means war!

Adrienne: *grudgingly grabs her zenny* You’re telling me!

Gustav: I’ll round up the others. They’re not going to like this.

*a few days later, at the Darklight Mercenary Netopian HQ…*

Nathan: *reading a Net Guardian pamphlet and angrily crumples it* And I took a job from one of those asswipes! I feel so…dirty.

Sparkman: *whispers* Don’t forget that you gave that Moe jackass a discount on his job.

Nathan: *grits teeth* Okay, they die tonight, and in much pain.

Guilter: Damnit Gustav and Darm! How’d you let some competition move in?

Darmagician: Sorry. I guess it just sort of sneaked up on us.

Sam: Who are we kidding? We got careless. We should’ve kept an eye out for competition long before now.

Gustav: Actually, we didn’t even see any ads for these guys until now. I don’t think they’ve been in the business for long.

Pharon: And they won’t be for much longer. Let’s follow Nathan’s lead and run those guys out of town!

Nathan: *slips on some brass knuckles and breaks a bottle* Who said I’m just running them out of town?

Gustav: Wait, isn’t that a bit too harsh? These guys do defend this city and all. Not always well, but still, they’re sorta like heroes around here.

Videoman: *shrugs* And we still got like half a dozen branches free of competition.

An-ti: It’s the principle damnit! Nobody steals our business!

Sam: If we let these guys get away with this, other jackasses could try the same thing in Electopia, and Yumland. And Nathan, you better pay me back for that 2002 vintage wine you just wasted.

Guilter: It’s official: we’re running them out on a rail!

Sam: Cool. Even though half our team couldn’t make it, we can still nail them if we…

*A few hours later, the phone rings in the NG apartment. David picks it up.*

David: Hello?

Woman: Is this the Net Guardians?

David: Uh yeah. How can I help?

Woman: My navi's pet Spikey ran away! I need one of your agents to find it!

David: Is this a prank? We don't exactly deal in that kind of 'Net Guarding'.

Woman: But your flyer said no job too small,"To serve and protect." "Fees are set."

David: Flyer? How did you get this number? Fees?...Moe! Have you been trying to pimp out the team?

Moe: *shrugs* A little extra money couldn't hurt.

David: …Uh…How long has this been going on?!

Moe: Actually, less than a week. But Adrienne and I already got paid for our first job…sort of.

NG Sam: C’mon, David! This could be our ticket to get a pool on our roof!

Ms. Stake: *from downstairs* David, I see lots of pain and suffering in your future if you screw up my chance to get my very own roof-top pool.

Jonathan: LOTS of pain and suffering since you’d be blowing my chance to see Ms. Stake in a bathing suit.

David: …When do you want us miss?

*meanwhile, at Darklight Mercenary Netopian Branch*

Woman: …As soon as you can get here! My navi last saw it somewhere in Netopia Network. Thank you so much! *hangs up* Okay kid, where’s the money you promised?

Guilter: You’ll get it when the Net Guardians show up. Is everyone ready to go?

Pharon: You better believe it.

Nathan: *clenching his fist* I’m coming for ya, Moe and Drillman!

*twenty minutes later, in Netopia Net, the Net Guardians jack in*

Serenade: Okay, here’s the plan: Yamato and I will take Network 1-

Yamatoman: I’ve got a better plan: why don’t we just go to that cul-de-sac with the boulder over there and just grab it? *points to the spikey in the distance*

Serenade: Well that was easy. David, call the client and give her the good news.

*the Net Guardians advance towards the spikey, but just as they get in arm’s reach of it, the virus’s image fades away to reveal Videoman*

Videoman: *fires a cassette winder* How did you guys like my spikey stock footage?

Sparkman: *appears behind the Net Guardians and fires a white spark wave* I’m gonna enjoy frying your business-stealing asses!

*Unfortunately, the Net Guardians turn into crude plush dolls just as the attacks hit. A second later, the real navis drop from above and hurl shurikens at Videoman and Sparkman. Sparkman dodges the assault by tossing Videoman into the oncoming attacks, but Videoman ends up taking heavy damage*

Videoman: *slumps to the ground* Sparkman you rat!

Sparkman: Oh, you’ll live.

Shademan: *swoops down carrying Coldman* How did you guys know this was a trap?

Serenade: We didn’t. Not that we didn’t trust our “client” or anything, but we figured there was no harm in preparing in just case.

Kingman: It was all my idea.

Metalman: First one of your mercs gets our ops high on Magic Hams, then that whole thing with Sam’s evil twin and now this? You have something against us or something?

Windman: *floats down holding Topman* Well yeah, when you hone in on our turf!

Darklady: I don’t recall anyone saying this was exclusively YOUR turf, especially since we were here before you. Besides, I don’t think you ever get much business here.

Coldman: Oh save it for someone who cares! C’mon Guilter, let’s wax these usurpers!

*the DLM navis scatter and charge towards various NG navis. Topman transforms into a top and spins towards Bowlman, Windman floats above Yamatoman, propellers turning, Sparkman appears in front of Drillman, glowing with electricity, Videoman starts rewinding his hit points and charges towards Darklady, Junkman shuffles from behind a rock towards Metalman, Shademan swoops in front of Kingman, licking his lips, and Coldman slides toward Serenade behind an ice wall*

Bowlman: You’ve got to be joking. An old man?! They must let anyone onto your crappy team.

Topman: You attack with a bowling ball, man. You’re not one to talk.

*Bowlman sets up a line of pins in front of Topman and rolls his ball. However, Topman simply top spins through the pins, around the ball and barrels into Bowlman, sending him sprawling. Elsewhere…*

Yamatoman: Damnit, I’ve had it up to here with god-like navis!

Windman: Oh deal with it, you wannabe samurai.

*Yamatoman sets down a rock cube, but Windman easily knocks it back at Yamatoman with a fujin racket. Yamatoman switches to his yamato sword, but Windman keeps him at bay with his wind fan a lobs several propeller bombs. Elsewhere…*

Sparkman: Nathan blew twenty-five thousand on you and your freak of a meatsack, and I’m taking it out on your flimsy ass, buddy ol’ pal!

Drillman: If all you have is that badly recolored armor, I’m not impressed.

*Drillman lobs a canon ball, which Sparkman ducks under. He then fires a spark mine, but Drillman takes to the air and burrows into a wormhole. Elsewhere…*

Videoman: Don’t think I’m not through yet, she-bitch!

Darklady: Do you have a death wish or something? Not that it’s a bad thing; I’m kinda curious what’s on the other side too.

*Videoman creates two lines of film in between him and Darklady, but she just slices through them and Videoman with a dark sword. She then creates several dark holes that spew murkland bats that Videoman unsuccessfully fights off with stock footage of Darklady using her dark sword and takes several hits before using an invis chip. Meanwhile…*

Junkman: A contest of strength oughta be fun.

Metalman: Heh. What contest?

*Junkman flings wads of junk, but Metalman just simply crushes them beneath his metal fist. He then flings a metal blade at Junkman, deeply cutting him in the flank. Elsewhere…*

Kingman: *folds his arms* I’ve been looking forward to a rematch for some time now.

Shademan: And I’ve been looking forward to seconds. I hope you taste as good as the last time!

*Shademan lunges with his fangs bared, but Kingman leaps over him, leaving Shademan to charge headfirst into a pawn. It slices him in the face, but Shademan counters with a claw of murkland that sends Kingman sprawling. At the same time…*

Serenade: *dodges the ice wall* So you’re the leader of these reprobates?

Coldman: Don’t get snooty with me! You brought this on yourselves, man!!

*Coldman tries to frost crush Serenade, but he simply deflects Coldman with a sonic boom, sending him reeling*

Coldman: *picks himself up* You wanna play rough, eh?

*Coldman breathes three white breath clouds that freezes several panels, but Serenade effortlessly glides over them and slashes Coldman with an elecsword while he’s standing on an ice panel. Meanwhile…*

Bowlman: *breaks a panel with a canon ball* Grr…I won’t be taken down by an old fart of all people! I'll never get a gal that way!

*Bowlman unholsters his canon and angrily fires his gattling pin at Topman. Unfortunately for him, Topman leaps over him and drops on top of Bowlman with his top press, severely damaging him*

Topman: Piece of cake. How are things on your end, Wind?

Windman: *summons a flock of sparrows* I think I’ve got this one in the bag too!

*Yamatoman doesn’t even try to dodge the sparrows and gets pecked by all of them. However, he counters with a muramasa, decimating Windman.*

Yamatoman: I wish Serenade was that easy. You holding up okay, Drill?

Drillman: Peachy. *dodges a spark shock* C’mon can’t you think of anything new to hit me with?

Sparkman: *sidesteps a dash attack* Oh, you better believe it!

*Sparkman brutally drives a drill arm 3 into Drillman’s chest, chuckling cruelly*

Drillman: *glares at Sparkman* Nobody steals my shtick and gets away with it! You’re a dead man!

*Infuriated, Drillman charges at Sparkman with a drill arm 3, right into Sparkman’s open hydra tentacles and ends up ensnared*

Drillman: Okay, since when could you do this, and why the hell didn’t you do this with Shan?!

Sparkman: Technically, I couldn’t do this back then. But officially, it’s just because you pissed me off more.

*Meanwhile, Videoman’s invis has worn off and Darklady is chasing him with a dark shadow axe …*

Darklady: You will tell me what death’s like, right? It’d mean the world to me.

*Darklady flings the dark shadow axe at Videoman, but the axe flies through him and his image vanishes. At the same time, the real Videoman, looking more rejuvenated, tumbles out from behind the boulder Junkman hid behind and counters with stock footage of Darklady using her chain*

Videoman: Why not experience it yourself?

*Darklady fires a dark wide shot, but Videoman, now recovered thanks to his HP rewind, fast forwards his movement and easily squeezes past the attack. He retaliates with stock footage of Metalman using his metal blade, which cuts through Darklady, but also hits Sparkman and severs his hydra tentacles*

Sparkman: Agh! What was that for?!

Videoman: Oh, you’ll live.

Sparkman: Yeah, but you won’t! You just freed that pud with your temper tantrum, you dipshit!

*Drillman fires off a magnum 3, destroying a panel and damaging Videoman and Sparkman. Before they can recover, Drillman tosses a water bomb into the hole and several geysers burst up underneath Sparkman, Videoman, Junkman and Topman*

Junkman: *slides away from the geyser* I guess it’s all up to me now!

Metalman: Whoa, you guys are doomed.

*Junkman fires a salvo of screws, but Metalman doesn’t even flinch and returns fire with a volley of metal missiles. Although Junkman sidesteps some of them, most of them hit him dead on*

Junkman: Little help here, Shademan?!

Shademan: In a minute! *blasts a rook with a noise crush* Honestly, I don’t see your fascination with these drones. They don’t even taste great!

Kingman: Hey, they do have their uses. Like distracting you.

*Kingman uses a poltergeist chip to hurl the boulder and a rook at Shademan, knocking him on top of Sparkman*

Sparkman: Get the hell off of me, Nosferatu! *kicks Shademan off of him*

Serenade: *slashes Coldman with a hero sword* You guys would be more of a threat if your team dynamic wasn’t so appalling.

Coldman: *staggers to his feet* Don’t get high and mighty with me, Ballerina Barbie! This ain’t over yet!

Serenade: No, but it soon will be!

*just as Serenade swings S’s Hammer, David’s PET rings*

David: Ugh! Lousy timing! *answers his PET* What is it?! It better be good!

Kalinka: What in the hell are you doing? The Acid Hackers are raising all sorts of hell at the mall again! Quit messing around and get your sloppy asses over there!

David: But-

Kalinka: NOW!

David: Grrrr…*hangs up* We gotta run, but this ain’t over if that’s what you’re thinking.

Coldman: Don’t let ‘em get away!

*Darklady and Bowlman jack out, but Sparkman zaps Drillman with a spark shock while Coldman, Windman, Junkman, and Topman bowl over Serenade, Yamatoman, Kingman, and Metalman respectively with ice walls, Fujin rackets, junk cubes, and top spins *

Serenade: Damnit! We don’t have time for this!

Metalman: *dodges a jogetsu top* Yeah, something tells me they’re not going to give us a time out.

*Metalman is about to throw a metal blade at Topman, but Junkman slams him against the wall with his junk crush. Drillman tries to burrow through a wormhole, but Sparkman grabs him with gluttonous hydra tentacles and Windman switches to his vacuum fan*

Windman: Fat chance we’re letting you off that easy!

Kingman: *positions a knight behind Windman* Well, if you want to do this the hard way…

Shademan: *blasts Kingman and the knight with a noise crush* Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you.

David: Ugh, I guess there’s only one way out of this.

Serenade: *deflects a white breath* Yeah, you’re right. Net Guardians, hold your fire!

*The Net Guardians stop attacking and/or wearily pick themselves up as David opens a com window.*

David: Sorry Guilter, this whole thing was a bad idea. We should’ve known you would’ve kicked up some fuss if we gave you competition. How’s this: Moe will take down all our fliers, we’ll let you keep your monopoly, and we can pretend this whole thing never happened.

Guilter: Fine. That’ll work, I guess.

David: Glad to hear it. Now seriously, we really do have to be going.

*the remaining exhausted NG navis pick themselves up and jack out one by one. After Serenade jacks out, the DLM navis follow suit*

Carlos: You pansy! I can’t believe you let those clods push you around!

David: Whoa, we’ll think this over later. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind getting a pool on our roof either if we can. For now, let’s just focus on the Acid Hackers!

*back at the DLM Netopian Branch…*

Sam: I guess we made our point with them.

An-Ti: Damn well better have. ‘Cause if they pull a stunt like this again, no plea bargain’s gonna save them from having their necks broken in five different places.

Guilter: We gave them a run for their money. I’m sure they’ll at least think twice before stealing our business. *turns to Gustav and Darmagician* You’ll keep an eye on them, right?

Gustav: Like a hawk.

Guilter: Sweet. Let us know if they start something up again. In the meantime, I’ve got a plane to catch, and so do most you!

*Pharon, Sam, An-ti, and Guilter exit the small building as Darmagician and Gustav go crash in their rooms. Nathan just sits on the couch for a moment, waiting for everyone to leave *

Nathan: Good, they’re gone. *lights up a cigarette, sighing* Believe it or not Spark, I’m kinda relieved I don’t have to kick the snot out of Moe anymore.

Sparkman: What?! That rat bastard was stealing our business! You’re not getting soft on me, are you?

Nathan: Oh, don’t be stupid. I was just thinking that these shmucks could make some excellent, frequent customers if we buried the hatchet. I don’t want to see a good business opportunity like this get bitched up.

Sparkman: …Business opportunity? It was just one job! The rest of the time, we’ve been pissing them off somehow or another, just like that putz with the saw blades said!

Nathan: Not that kind of business, Spark. I’m thinking more along the lines of unfinished business.

Sparkman: Huh?…Wait, you mean that WWW crap you spouted to Moe in that e-mail?* You were serious about having beef with those nutjobs?

*See the Payback job request*

Nathan: Damn straight I was. It’s a long story, but bottom line, Moe might lead us to more WWW operatives.

Sparkman: It better! Though, personally, I think he was just out for the dominatrix duo.

Nathan: *shrugs* Even so, he’s butted heads against the WWW, and he’s not some grade school, rollerskating moron. It puts him a step above all the puds. But for now, let’s skedaddle back home.

The End!


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