The code of omerta, if put into words might say: "Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward. Whoever cannot take care of himself without police protection is both. It is cowardly to betray an offender to justice, even though his offenses be against yourself, as it is not to avenge an injury by violence. It is dastardly and contemptible in a wounded man to betray the name of his assailant, because if he recovers, he must naturally expect to take vengeance himself. A wounded man shall say to his assailant: If I live, I will kill you - If I die you are forgiven."
From The Rise and FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA - Rick Porrello (1995)

Decent

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Leaning over the sink in his stone jail cell, Michelo Chariot was soaking his frosted pink hair in dark red liquid to dye it back to the Ruby Red it was supposed to be; a tablespoon of the dark liquid to a gallon of water fixed everything so he looked, if not felt, back to his normal self.

He threw his hair back and ringed the extra liquid out onto the stone floor below. It looked like chicken blood; then it was just the old government game of 'hurry up and wait'. Wait for Belchino to finish whatever he had to get done so he could get brain raped by one of the most respected men in the business.

Michelo rubbed his latex-coated wrists disdainfully, sitting on the hard cot the police had so graciously provided. He was still in the MTS of the Neros Gundam, but he wore his jacket on his shoulders like the prisoner captain he was.

Inspector Belchino, meanwhile, was currently trying to clean up the remains of Domon and Michelo's battle. The Neros still technically belonged to redhead, despite being disqualified, but he'd had little use for it as long as its head was gone. Someone, probably some of Michelo's men, had carted away the Neros when they had the chance. Where it was was now anyone's guess, though few really cared.

Domon's pretty lady friend had since cleaned up Neo Japan's share and had carted their gundam away and Belchino was in a remarkably good mood now. With Michelo captured, he'd just taken care of one of Rome's worst gangs. Michelo's friends had since scattered like rats, but with the leader in the authority's possession, they were as good as arrested.

Just like that, Rome had gotten out of the fray. It had been too easy.

In a uncharacteristic, tragically soft, hopeless tone, Michelo spoke to Officer Mezzina, who was on duty, "Official Mezzina? Avere una coffe di tazza, per favore?"

"Come lo prendete?" he asked, unsure as to what Michelo was planning, surprised at the sound of his voice that used to be so confident and mocking. Surprised right into obedience.

"Nero." The boss responded.

Warily, Mezzina kept his eyes where he could see everything the gangster did as he poured coffee. Michelo wasn't his usual, scheming, terrorizing self and supposed to be safely paranoid, as all good mafioso were. Mezzina had to watch for these subtle warning signs. Especially in the volatile and defeated, when it was easy to be crazy because there was nothing to lose.

Morning light had finally reached this side of Rome, and Mezzina decided that he should have a cup as well. He added cream and sugar to his, and added nothing to Michelo's. He readied the tazer should Michelo try to strong-arm him into letting him go and made damn sure that the criminal saw it as he handed the straight black drink to him.

"Grazie." said the criminal, sipping the steaming hot coffee.

"Alla salute," Michelo continued, raising the cup, "to the beginning of the thirteenth gundam fight."

Mezzina raised his Styrofoam cup as well, "Alla salute."

They both drank to what would guarantee to be a shitty year.

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First morning business was the interrogation of the mafia boss Michelo Chariot. From the looks of things, this punk rocker looked more like a collage junkie then a real terror to the Roman populace.

In this brightly lit interrogation room, Michelo looked worse for the wear; his hair, although once again the blazing red it usually was, was wet, untidy and unkempt. His bangs assumed their natural position drooped over his eyes. His eyes were downcast from the debilitating defeat he had suffered at the hands of Neo Japan, and his posture suggested submission; hands folded, placed between his knees, feet crossed, head down, and a hopeless, melancholy expression.

Belchino cleared his throat. "All right, Michelo, let's get this over with, so why don't you cooperate? This will all go much easier."

Michelo said nothing.

"Let's start with names, who are you working with and who are you working for?"

Michelo said nothing.

"What are your friends' names? I already know Lete and Cameron, so who else is in your gang?"

Michelo said nothing.

Belchino had plenty of patience when he was the one holding all of the cards; he was used to this kind of silence, he smiled coyly and said, "Listen, Michelo, I promise they'll go easy on you if you just cooperate. If you give us enough, you'll do ten to twenty years, tops. Not the first time you've sold out"

The older man was probing for an emotional response; shellshock would be typical in a situation like this.

Michelo said nothing.

"Silenzio? You know, you're not going to get arrested for the damage to our city, unfortunately, because of the supplement to Article Seven of the Gundam Fight. Do you know what it is?" Damn, maybe that fight gave his brain one knock too many. Perhaps this had been the thing to finally break Michelo Chariot.

"Destruction of property on Earth due to the Gundam Fight is not considered a crime." The mob boss recited weakly.

"Okay, you can talk. I was worried."

Michelo smiled a second, a creepy fleeting thing. Then he was frowning worriedly.

"One last thing," Belchino looked away and smiled like a grandfather.

Michelo looked up.

"Where'd you come up with that fucking name?"

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The criminal was placed back into his cold stone cell. Now, as Michelo had gotten over the initial shock of having his whole world collapse around him, his thoughts turned to his predicament. He had let down his family; without his gundam or gang, he was useless.

And the only way to stay alive in the game is to have what the others have not.

At the thought of his life heading for the much worse, he instinctively closed his eyes. In a fit of hopeless feelings and despair, he pulled out a silver mint tin- his favorite color. There were no mints in that tin, however, but a colorful collaboration of pills. Adderall, Oxycodin, Perocet; the tin was full of prescription synthetic opia-no.

Suicide wasn't the answer. He wasn't fucking Nero. And just like that, his mood improved.

"Whew! What the hell was I thinking?" he laughed nervously, as if afraid he might think of killing himself again.

"We're getting paid trying to figure that one out." Mezzina said, not looking from his newspaper. The corpse of the Neros Gundam was clearly visible on the front page. And like heat, anger lashed out suddenly.

"Get that out of my face." Michelo demanded.

"Fuck you." Mezzina said, not looking up.

"Come 'ere then, boy." Michelo waved to him with his index finger.

"Little early to be starting on that, isn't it?" Mezzina hadn't even looked up.

"I got candy…." Michelo rattled the tin of drugs. Mezzina looked up then.

"How'd you get those in here?!" Mezzina arched an eyebrow.

Michelo smiled coyly, "That's a professional secret."

Setting the paper down on the desk beside him, Mezzina stepped over to the cell with his arm stretched out.

The redhead gently grabbed the officer's wrist and traced his veins with his thumb; a rosy blush spread across Mezzina's face and he looked into his captive's eyes, who had to make a conscious effort not to cross his eyebrows. Like that kid had said, he was just a normal guy without his powers. Even with that ridiculous red hair, he still looked like a decent guy….

As if they were about to dance, the redhead led the man closer and closer until only the bars of the cell separated them. In fact, Mezzina had his right arm entirely in the cell with the prisoner.

As in almost all humans, Mezzina had always wondered what the proverbial other side was like. To do and say practically anything without consequence, even murder, was a fascinating concept. After all, who didn't dream of giving into every desire, every spasm of lust?

It wasn't necessarily Michelo Chariot himself, but what he represented that was so alluring. At least, that's what the cop liked to tell himself; homophobia being what it was.

Their lips met, but there was little wiggle room with their faces sandwiched between the bars. Mezzina's hands were in Michelo's hair. Michelo's hands were roving over Mezzina's back, right along the belt line.

The alarms went off in the cop's head

Shoulda seen tha-

Crack.

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Michelo might not have been the strongest gundam fighter, but he was still the best fighter in all of Neo Italy. And he was completely moral free to boot.

Using the pistol he's smacked Mezzina in the head with, the criminal poked and prodded in his jacket until he found the keys and 'cuffs.

Then came the fun part. First, he put Mezzina's hat on, miraculously fitting all of his hair in there. Then he stripped him down to his underwear.

With the exception of the hat, nothing fit. Michelo wouldn't be running anywhere without hurting himself and any progeny he might one day produce. Leg muscle rippled under denim like steel cables and Michelo's toes were crushed inside brown loafers that strained to hold the entirety of his huge feet.

"Don't I look great?" Michelo asked quietly, twirling around like a model. The world was distorted through Mezzina's glasses and he felt a headache forming.

Mezzina, half-blind and gagged with a pillowcase, growled.

"I think so too, even if it's a little gay."

Mezzina had a good comeback for that, but because he was bound, gagged, and unable to tell anybody anything, the world will never know what it was.

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Things were too quiet.

Belchino had plenty of experience with Michelo Chariot in both poles of his rapid-cycling mentality.

Manic or depressive; Michelo was rarely quiet for more then a few minutes without at least one wisecrack or quasi-religious/anti-religious tirade. The aging inspector preferred the wisecracks, personally.

Cocking his gun, Belchino went to check.

The first thing he saw was Mezzina on the floor, mostly naked with his wrists cuffed to the cell door as though he were into S&M.

"Che cosa?!" the Inspector demanded.

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Michelo walked unnoticed though the Roman streets. Around him, everyone was talking. Neros this, Michelo Chariot that. Smug with his cleverness, The ex-fighter let it show on his face. Nobody seemed to notice. Even if they had, it was not likely that they'd care. Public attention and knowledge was very short. They'd forget him until he pulled a nice big job; one that included major property damage and a heaping helping of casualties.

The mood turned on a dime. The pastel-clad madman scowled. There wouldn't be any big jobs anytime soon. Michelo Chariot and his Brigadi Neri would have to go on the defensive. As he walked, the Christianis (Their leader was his ex-best friend) to the east and the Giamonnas (Their leader was his ex-wife) to the south would be working on an offense to acquire more territory (because both were on his flight crew).

Michelo vaguely considered the possibility of fixing his gundam, but he might as well had conspired to steal the moon.

He had to get back to the base, reassemble his men, then bunker down for a defensive war. No doubt his enemies were maneuvering against him ri-

Shots rang out, causing the crowds of innocent bystanders to scatter. Michelo might have sworn had he not been shot in the back. He slumped over a cafe table, watching in shock as his own dark blood pooled on the soft green marble.

"Payback's a bitch!"

Michelo felt hands roughly cuff him as the world darkened.

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In the Tiber River, which runs through Rome, there is a tiny island called Isola Tiberina. Legend has it that the hated tyrant Tarquinius Superbus was murdered and his body was dumped in the river. The sediment that formed around his body eventually made up the Isola Tiberina. Ever since that island had been used to quarantine the sick during the Roman Plague of A.D 1656, it was thought to have mystic healing properties. Because of this, it later became the site of Rome's Hospital Tiberina.

As if in testament to the saints and martyrs called to protect it, Tiberina had stood the test of time; it was one of the few Roman buildings untouched by the Gundam Fight. The only place in the area in better condition was the Vatican itself.

In this very hospital, its medical staff was trying to keep Michelo Chariot from dying. A sucking chest wound wasn't called that because they sucked. They were called that because the open wound into the lungs sucked in air and created pockets of foreign matter that displaced vital organs and eventually crushed them.

They were the things soldiers had to learn to fight. And Michelo was nothing if not a vigilante solider.

Michelo saw a bright white light, which he summarized as he being dead. Instead, it was a hospital room. He slipped in and out of consciousness, hearing garbled voices. They shoved a large needle between his ribs to drain out the air. He was conscious long enough to see that he was in a white room; the images around him blurred. By the white figures, he decided that he was either in an asylum, or heaven. From the burning in his throat, the stench of bile, and the pain in his chest and stomach, it could not be heaven. He was also a criminal, which further slimmed that chance.

"Ha rifinito il vomito;" said one man in a firm, professional, tone, "faccialo girare."

Michelo felt hands slowly and gently roll him on his back. His head swam and he tried to sit up, but hands gently forced him back down.

"Signore Chariot, can you hear me?" asked an official voice. Michelo nodded.

"Do you know where you are?" the voice continued.

The fighter shook his head, then he passed out cold.

"You know, I'd probably have gotten a medal if I'd finished the bastard." Mezzina fumed. Belchino smacked him in the face.

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"You're in bigass trouble."

Michelo snorted and looked away. He was in the hospital ICU, dressed in white, with tubes in his forearm and nose. His hair splashed on the pillow made Mezzina think of gunshots.

"No shit."

"The Inspector's daughter's getting married, so I'm handling this."

"They trust you with me?" He giggled.

"You better shut the hell up, asshole."

"A man after my own heart!"Michelo arched his back, he was laughing so hard.

Then he turned blue and coughed until he could breathe again. He covered his mouth with his right hand because his left was handcuffed to the bed.

Mezzina smiled more like Michelo and cleared his throat, "Remember that psych-evaluation you got before you became fighter? Well, you're getting a new one. "

The humor ended.

Michelo was sitting up, pale as chalk, with the most concerned, shocked expression on his face, "What?! Why?!"

Mezzina looked bored, "You know why."

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It was an absolute disaster.

The doctor spoke to him in a voice not unlike a news reporter. Michelo absolutely hated this man.

"Michelangelo..." he started.

"It's Michelo, asshole." No, he wasn't going to cooperate. No way. He wasn't going to let some asshole who didn't even know him decide weither or not he was crazy, which was all subjective anyway. Michelo ringed his hands angrily.

The doctor shrugged and removed his glasses, "I don't want to do this any more then you do, signore. Will you please just cooperate?"

"No." Michelo was looking out of the window. His arms were folded.

"Did your last test reveal anything you didn't expect?"

The gangster whipped the wall behind him with his hair snapping his head to face the doctor. He pointed threateningly, "I am not fucking-"

"Crazy? That's a very general word."

"Sick." Michelo finished.

"Why so adamant? I mean, if you had a cold or the flu, you wouldn't be so defensive. Why is your psyche any different?"

"A body is a body." the patient snarled, "What's in your head is all you."

The doctor nodded, "And if you're deemed mentally ill..."

"Then that's like saying that what you're doing and how you think isn't really you. It's the sickness. It dehumanizes you. Turns you into a malfunctioning machine."

"You're not a machine, Michelo."

"No, I'm not." He folded his arms and looked out the window, "Damned right I'm not."

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He was escorted to the psychiatric ward literally kicking and screaming.

For the first seven seconds at any rate. To Michelo's credit as a fighter, it took four shots of the 'good stuff' to get him docile enough to be carried. It's amazing the thoughts one things when they're hopped up on psychoactives. He smiled like a joker, baring his prominent canines.

"How you feelin', signore?"

"I'm in an irrational, murderous rage, but I'm too sleepy to act on it." Michelo nodded his head.

"Then you're good."

Oh, how he longed for revenge, now that he had time to think about it. Revenge on everyone. Domon Kasshu, Inspector Belchino, Rain Mikamura, Officer Mezzina, then everyone in general. He could feel the cold and mental stares of random patients at this asylum he was being committed to, but he avoided them. Anger boiled deep inside him.

They think they know everything, I'll show them all..I'LL SHOW THEM ALL! YOU CAN'T GET RID OF ME!

He expressed this sentiment by giggling happily.

"I'ma kill you all." he snickered.

The guards just smiled and shook their heads.

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Michelo stared at the ceiling. He couldn't move very well-his arms were pinned down by the straight jacket and the rest of his body was strapped down on the stretcher. Two very buff, grim looking guards were carrying him to his room. He could hear weird cries and moans coming from the other rooms that he passed, yet they didn't phase him. He was deep in thought, dreaming up a way to get the fuck out of here, but every idea was more ridiculous then then last.

Because he'd been shown to be an explosively violent man, they decided to keep him in isolation until he could prove his stability. Michelo was looking at several weeks of isolation. Just wait until the medication wore off.

They set him in gently and loosened the straps on his jacket so that he could do things like scratch his face and claustrophobia wouldn't set in. Michelo curled up and took a nap while they moved him to a hospital better able to accommodate long-term patients.

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An unseen band was playing 'Stardust', though Michelo never liked lounge jazz.

Michelo was wearing his best suit in a box of a room. He sat at an octagonal table, on a fine silk pillow. He looked down at his teacup, it was filled to the brim with blood. Behind him was a mural of a large red sparrow. In front of him, where the host was sitting, there was a dragon. On the two other walls was the tortoise and the tiger. Michelo was too afraid to look up for some reason.

His host was the clockwork devil.

This clockwork devil sipped blood, so Michelo did too. It tasted like the person had been drinking heavily, or maybe the blood was alcoholic. Anyway, he liked it in the dream.

"I will give you perfection in exchange for your soul." The devil was right to the point.

"Why do you want souls?" Michelo asked, setting his teacup down. His was decorated with red sparrows. The devil's had blue dragons. Michelo was seeing an oriental theme going on.

"Misery loves company." The devil took a sip, "And I need your help, Michelo. I can't do it without you."

"Do what?"

"Kill God."

When Michelo finished his cup, he set it down and closed his eyes to sigh.

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He was awake when he opened them again.

And he was enraged all over again. The blood was in his mouth still, until he realized that he'd been chewing away at his own lip. Unlike the dream, there was no ethanol in it and he thought it was disgusting.

Why didn't an orderly stop him or something?!

Michelo sprayed the walls with spit and blood trying to purge the taste.

"Sick!" He shook his head, creating a red cyclone around his head. When he stopped, it was a curtain.

"Hey! I'm bleeding!" Michelo called to the door, "I've injured myself in my sleep! You'd better come help me!"

Nothing.

"What the crap?!" Michelo exclaimed. He had a feeling that he wouldn't be seeing the light for some time. In frustration and fury, he slammed his head harmlessly against the wall. Not that it did any good. It was made of plush. Just the white squares of plush. Maddening, maddening plush. He dug his heels into the floor. Still, nothing. Finally, he let out a scream to cut through the silence. It swarmed around the room like locusts, eating away at his mind. When he stopped, he had a headache.

The silence returned with a vengeance; angry, he could almost feel it crawl into his ears and mouth and nose and eyes. The redhead was beginning to hear what he could have sworn was the rotation of the earth. A sound not unlike white noise, maybe red noise, filled the air. The more he fought it, the more noise he made, the angrier the silence returned, bent on destroying him with its vacancy.

So Michelo lay down on his back, defeated, "God Almighty or Satan the Devil, if either of you can hear me, answer my call. I'll do whatever it takes to wreck my vengeance on those who have wronged me. Please, hear this mere mortal's cry." The disqualified fighter called. From the outside, he must have sounded quite insane. But he cared not, he was desperate now to call the religion he had long since abandoned as a child. He threw himself onto the god he'd forsaken once more.

"I'm sorry for turning my back on you. But please, he who cares most of this decaying Earth, smile upon this wretched heretic. Take pity on my mortal life." The criminal begged, "I will become your tool and your vessel. He who answers prayers, my soul and mortal shell are yours to command. Tell me what I am to do."

It was then, when he was pacified in his pleads to any deity that cared, that the orderlies came in to give him another shot. Wanting nothing more then to sleep, the patient allowed them to deliver rest in a syringe.

As he slept, he dreamed of his ex-wife.

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Don't believe in red noise? Look it up!