The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This is my first fic for the fandom, and a rather ambitious one, at that—the initial premise was heavily inspired by the ABC series Once Upon a Time, but I do believe I've put a unique Monkees spin on it, which will become clearer in the future chapters. Goes without saying that the characters are the fictional personas of the guys from the TV show only. Also, if anything looks like a nod/reference to any of my other fandoms, it probably is.
Mr. Zero furiously paced the vast, seemingly endless expense of his domain, paying no attention to the condemned souls, demons, and rakshasas all around him. He did not care to hear what they were saying; lately, they had all seemed to be discussing the same thing—the trial of that young musician, and how Mr. Zero had lost the battle for the boy's soul.
He had hoped the incident would have gone unmentioned, perhaps even forgotten in the eternal wasteland, but no—word had traveled to Ravana, the rakshasa king, who chose to have a laugh at Zero's expense—and, indeed, all ten of his heads were chortling in Zero's clearly annoyed face.
"You were outwitted by four children who were barely out of their teen years?" Ravana had bellowed, catching the attention of all the condemned nearby. "And they were mere musicians? When I was defeated by a Man, at least He was the Lord incarnate! What excuse do you have?"
Zero didn't have one, of course, and the story spread faster than the eternal fires that burned in his domain. Those who chose to dwell there found it hilarious—even Chernabog and Giratina were laughing at him.
As for those who did not wish to be there, they heard about it, too. Within hours, thousands of condemned souls had approached him, demanding that they be granted trials to get out of their current positions. Zero's forked tongue wasn't enough to dissuade them, either, though he tried.
"Palmer, I will not be holding anymore trials—I don't care if a meddling reporter melted that medallion I had given you with Holy Water!" he had snapped to a former client. He then had to address a furious condemned soul from the Second World War. "And that goes for you, too, Hochstetter! You were sent here by those Upstairs; even if I let you out, they won't let you in!"
The demands to get out did not stop, nor did the story stop spreading—nor did Zero's rage stop building. He continued to pace, seething as he went over the trial over and over again in his mind—Peter, sitting there, playing the harp, the short one—Davy—getting that expression of hope on his face, that snarky one—Micky—vaulting over the table in glee when the verdict was announced, and, most humiliating of all, the one in the hat—Mike—daring to give the Prince of Darkness himself that smug, triumphant look…!
Zero furiously hissed at the very memory of that look, jets of flame shooting up from all around him as his rage spiked further.
It was Mike's doing—all of this was! He was the one who had challenged the contract and found that so-called loophole—power of love, indeed! That made him the main reason for Zero's current humiliation! Though, of course, all four of them were responsible for it, but Mike was their leader—the one who orchestrated that entire defense stratagem…
The flames suddenly quelled as a wicked expression crossed Zero's face. He did not have to take this sitting down—he had more power than those wretched boys could ever have. Ravana was right—they were mere mortals, their only power being this so-called power of love that Mike had gone on about. Zero's power dwarfed that, easily—he had the power to make them all pay for their insolence.
And he would make them pay. Oh, yes, he would make them pay. He would make them all suffer for what they had done to him—and the one in the hat would suffer the most. They drew their strength from each other, did they? Then he would tear them apart—cast them far away from each other, with no memory of each other or their love of music. And then, one by one, he would draw them in to his domain after driving them to the very brink of despair—for if they were not together to defend each other, then Zero could conquer them one by one, keeping them forever separated.
He could put one of them—Davy, perhaps—in a gilded cage; he would be the least likely to get in Zero's way. One of them should be kept constantly traveling to ensure that he wouldn't be able to plant any roots—that fate could go to Micky. Peter… well, for someone who apparently lived to give joy to others, he should be given a fate that would cause him to be absolutely miserable—a job that would cause him to make others miserable. And as for Mike… Zero would take extra special care to make him as miserable as possible. That would take care of step 1: Divide.
And then, after Zero would finish amusing himself by watching, he would move on to step two: Conquer.
The smirk finally back upon his lips, Mr. Zero now crossed to his private chamber, getting ready to work his fiendish magic. After he was through, no one would ever dare to doubt his powers again.
For Mike, Davy, Micky, and Peter, the day had been a slow one, all of them blissfully unaware of the plot forming against them. As far as they were concerned, it was just another day—they had been woken up bright and early that morning by Mr. Babbitt hollering at them for missing the rent payment yet again, which had been followed by him promising to camp outside their door until they paid up. That, in turn, was remedied by the boys sneaking out the back way, dragging their instruments along, as they searched for gigs high and low—meeting with minimal success, as usual.
"That's the last time I agree to play at a car wash," Micky grumbled, blowing soap suds off of his drums.
"I know," sighed Peter. "I think that guy threw that bucket of soapy water at us on purpose."
"Of course he did it on purpose—his daughter liked us," Davy said, rolling his eyes Heavenward.
"Hey, at least he wasn't like that other lady," Micky said. He raised his voice to mimic the lady's. "'Oh, Harold, turn that radio off—that music is just awful!' Now that was just plain unnecessary."
"Look on the bright side," Mike said, having inspected his guitar for water damage the tenth time that day.
"Is there one?" Davy asked.
"Yes—we actually got paid," Mike answered, placing the semi-soggy bills on the table to dry.
"Hey, he's right!" Peter said. "Now we can pay our rent!"
"Sure, if you feel like having toasted air for dinner," Micky said, inspecting the empty refrigerator. "Babbitt'll take every cent we earned!"
"Yeah, at this point in time, we'll have to limit ourselves to the most minimal of luxuries," Mike deadpanned. "Like food."
"I can't take it anymore!" Micky exclaimed, crashing to his knees in front of the refrigerator. "When are we gonna get our big break? When?"
"Hey, that was pretty good, Micky!" Peter said. "Maybe we should branch out—make it a show rather than just music."
"You think that'll change anything?" Davy asked. "We put on a show, and they'll still be throwing soapy water at us."
"At this point, I just wish they'd start throwing tomatoes at us," Micky said, still on his knees.
"Yeah, they are easier to dodge…" Peter agreed.
"Who's talking about dodging?" Micky said. "I'm so hungry; we could get free food that way…"
"Alright, that's enough!" Mike said. "I'm tired of all this negativity, man. We'll get our chance—we just have to keep at it until then!"
"But when will that be?" Micky asked. "I need a sign! Can't anyone give us just a simple sign?"
A loud CRACK issued from outside—it sounded as though a crack of lightning had nearly split the sky in two.
"Ooh!" Davy exclaimed, looking out the window. "I didn't know we were in for a storm…"
"We can't be; we wouldn't have had all those people heading to the car wash if they'd known that Mother Nature would've done it for them," Peter began, but he paused as Davy's shoulders went rigid. "Davy? What is it?"
"Tell me one thing, fellas," Davy said. "What does it mean when the sky is red like that?"
The others now glanced out the window, staring at the blood-red sky, which had been blue only moments earlier.
"Sunset isn't for a while yet," Mike said, crossing to the window with a baffled expression on his face. "Well, I suppose we should all be grateful that the sky is red and not green."
"Why? What does the green sky mean?" Micky asked, picking himself up off the floor to walk over and get a better look.
"That's twister weather," Mike said, grimly.
"Then what's this?" Davy asked, his eyes widening.
"You got me, man; I've never seen anything like this."
"Maybe it's an incoming meteorite," Peter said, his eyes widening. "Maybe it's some sort of asteroid chunk, on fire, hurtling through our atmosphere at supersonic speed, pulled closer and closer to Earth by the power of gravity, igniting the very air as it hurtles towards the ground, ready to make contact!"
"Don't say things like that, Peter!" Micky scolded.
"…Or maybe it's just an alien spaceship visiting?" Peter offered. "Hopefully just for a visit and not to conquer the world."
The red sky didn't change at all—it did not grow, nor did it fade away. And it didn't make the boys feel any better about it.
"I can't figure it out," Mike said. "But something in my gut is telling me we don't want to know what it is. We should just stay in here."
"Yeah, we might get one wicked sunburn, going out in that," Peter said. "That wouldn't be fun."
"You think?" Micky asked, rolling his eyes now.
The door to the pad now started to rattle violently on its hinges, causing all four of them to turn sharply away from the window.
"H-hey, Mike…? Mike, are you sure that twisters have never happened under a red sky?" Davy.
"I want to say 'no,' but it seems that all of the weather rules that I thought I knew are rapidly flying out the window," Mike said.
"Maybe it's just Mr. Babbitt trying to scare us into giving him the rent?" Peter asked, convincing no one.
He cringed as the door started to splinter, beams of red light seeping through the cracks, edging towards them.
"Okay, maybe not."
"And I changed my mind; we shouldn't stay here," Mike said, ushering the others towards the back door of the pad.
They had just exited when they heard the crash of the front door behind them, the pad filling with red light.
"Don't look back!" Mike ordered, practically shoving the other three ahead as the light crept more and more towards them, faster and faster.
They ran down the beach, trying very hard to do as Mike instructed and not look back. But out of the corners of their eyes, it was clear that the light was chasing them, as impossible as it sounded.
"We're not going to make it!" Peter yelped.
"Well, you three are sure going to try!" Mike ordered, shoving them ahead again as the light overtook him, obscuring him from view. His voice was suddenly cut off, as well; he did not reply to the others, even when they cried out to him.
A horrified Peter did exactly what he shouldn't have done—stopped dead in his tracks to look behind them to find out what had happened to Mike. Within seconds, the light had overtaken him, as well.
"Mike! Peter!" Micky yelled.
Davy couldn't even talk from running; he just frantically tugged at Micky's sleeve, trying to pull him along.
"We can't leave them!" Micky cried. "We can't!"
Davy knew they couldn't—and it didn't seem like the light was going to let them, either; the beams were now licking at the heels of the two remaining friends, and they both seemed to realize that their efforts to outrun it where fruitless.
As the light enveloped them, Davy held Micky's sleeve in a deathgrip as he called out to him. But not only could he not hear Micky's reply, Davy couldn't even hear his own voice, either—had he just gone deaf? No, he could hear something—it sounded like… cackling? Who was that? It sounded familiar, and the very sound of it was sending chills down the young man's spine.
The light was blinding; Davy had to shut his eyes, his fingers curling even tighter around the fabric in his hand, though his mind seemed to be getting inexplicably hazy. For some reason, the more he tried to call out to his friends, the harder it was to do so.
It was soon after that he seemed to lose his voice completely. Though he strained his ears to pick up any sign of his comrades, he heard nothing—not even his own yells as the ground beneath him seemingly gave way, sending him falling into a vast, dark emptiness.
And, in his domain, Mr. Zero continued to cackle.
Step 1 had just been completed.