hanks for driving us to the concert, Mrs. Atwater," Nadine said as the sedan made its way down the freeway.
"Oh, it's no problem at all," Hogan's mom replied, her eyes fixated on the road ahead.
Hogan remained silent. He'd barely said three words on the drive to the concert arena where Red Robin Hood was performing. He wasn't all to interested in seeing them play; rather, he was trying to come up with some way he could get the talisman away from their lead singer. There's gonna be so much security around, Hogan thought, how am I going to stop her before she begins the ceremony?
"Hogan, are you all right?" his mother asked. "You've hardly said anything since we got in the car."
"Yeah, Hogan," Nadine chimed in. "What's the matter?"
"Oh, it's nothing," Hogan answered. "I'm just excited about the concert."
"You should be," Nadine retorted. "Can you believe it? Fifth row center! We'll be able to see them up close and personal!"
"Great," Hogan said. "I'd really like to meet them."
"Have you heard of this band before, Hogan?" his mom asked.
"A little bit. They're some all-girl rock band. But they actually play their own instruments, which is cool."
"Yeah, they actually have some musical talent," Nadine added.
The car exited the freeway, and began closing in on the concert hall. "Now I want you guys to call me as soon as the concert's over, OK?"
"We will," Hogan replied.
Minutes later, they had reached the arena. Hogan and Nadine got out of the car. It was still mid-afternoon - they had gotten there early so that they could see the opening act - but the sun was just about ready to sink into the horizon. Hogan didn't know when A'nake would start the ceremony, whether it would happen as soon as the moon was out or if it was going to wait a while.
They made their way across the parking lot. Nadine put her arm across Hogan's shoulders as they walked. Hogan smiled. Relaxing a little bit, he put his arm across her shoulders too.
"Now that's the Hogan I'm used to seeing!" she said.
They filed into the arena - it was primarily used for sporting events, but it was furnished for other performances. Their seats were a series of benches that appeared to be bolted into the ground. On the stage, they could see the set pieces used for the band's concert: among them was a large circular backdrop, looking almost exactly like the talisman only without the inscription. If only they knew what that thing's supposed to mean, Hogan thought.
Half an hour later, the place was packed. There must have been at least 15,000 people in the stands, by the way the stadium looked. Hogan shuddered as he thought of all those people becoming victimized by A'nake, and the rest of the world being victimized the beasts the audience would become.
The opening act came on stage, and it was then that Hogan decided to give Nadine some pointers. "Nadine, I need to talk to you," he said.
"What?" He could barely hear her over the music.
"Listen, when Red Robin Hood comes on stage, I want you to watch the lead singer. If she starts doing or saying anything out of the ordinary, cover your ears and look away."
"I can't hear you!" The music was getting too loud for her.
Hogan went over to Nadine's ear. "If the lead singer does anything weird, look away and cover your ears, OK?"
"Because, if you don't, you'll turn into a monster like everyone else."
"A monster?" Nadine asked. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Look, I can't explain right now. Something's going to happen tonight and I don't want you to get hurt."
"What? What's gonna happen?"
"I can't tell you. But it's very important you do what I say. OK?"
"Hogan, you're scaring me," Nadine said.
"I'm already scared, Nadine."
The opening act finished, and there was a lull as the crowd waited for Red Robin Hood to come on stage. "Nadine, can you do me one more favor?" Hogan asked.
"If you see me heading towards the stage, don't try to stop me."
"Why will you be going to the stage?"
"It has to do with the other thing I told you. The lead singer is going to try and hypnotize everyone in this arena. That's why I need you to look away."
"Hogan, what's going on with you? You're acting really strange."
Hogan sighed. "All right, I'll tell you. That necklace that the singer wears? It's-"
"HELLOOOOOOO OCEAN CITYYYYYYY!!!!" the loudspeaker blared. The crowd responded in an uproar.
Hogan looked back up at the stage. "Damn it! They're starting!"
The members of Red Robin Hood were running to their places.
"Nadine, I've gotta go, OK?"
"Hogan, don't! Don't leave me!"
"I have to! Just remember what I said!" With that, Hogan tried to move forward. This proved to be much more difficult than he expected - already the audience had gotten up on its feet, making lateral movements nearly impossible.
"How's everyone doin' out there?" Heather, the lead singer, asked the crowd. Her answer was an indiscernable roar. The drummer beat out the tempo with her sticks, and the band started to play.
Hogan continued to negotiate the currents made by the audience as they swayed and jumped. Meanwhile, the band was belting out their latest hit single - a cover of Blondie's "One Way or Another".
One way or another, I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another, I'm gonna win ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
Hogan thought it a fitting song for what they were about to do.
He decided that the best way to go was to get to the aisles on either side of the arena, and make his way from there. The next problem would be getting past the security. He slowly started sliding his way past the other people, maneuvering through the folds and the gaps in the tide. By the time he reached the right aisle, the band was aready three quarters of the way through the song. He knew a couple hours had passed since they came in, so surely the moon must be out by now.
Hogan ran towards the stage as the song was nearing its end. He was then stopped by a security guard.
"Hey, kid, where do you think you're goin'?" the burly man asked.
"I've got to stop her before she starts the ceremony!" Hogan shouted.
"C'mon, back to your seat," the man replied, shoving him backward.
The band played its final riffs and the first song came to an end. The crowd cheered.
"Thank you!" the singer exclaimed. "You know, I'm so glad all of you came out here to see us tonight."
Hogan again headed towards the stage, only to be accosted by the same guard.
"You are nothing but trouble, you know that?" he said.
"Please!" Hogan screamed. "Someone's gotta stop her!"
"And I hope everyone enjoys the show," the singer continued. "And I've got a special surprise for each of you!"
The crowd cheered again while Heather unbuckled the necklace hanging around her. She held out the talisman in front of her.
"NO!" Hogan yelled. "Stop her!"
"Are you guys ready?" Heather asked. The crowd raved again.
Hogan looked back at Nadine. She was still watching faithfully. Hogan felt his panic level surge upward as he feared that she would come under the spell as well. His hands began to glow again.
Hogan's eyes widened. She's starting the ceremony!
"What's that girl doing?" the guard asked, looking back at her.
Hogan seized the moment. He flung the guard out of the way and scrambled up on the stage.
"Hey!" the guard shouted. "Someone stop that kid!"
"...Voraesilifu axina kum..."
Hogan screamed, his hands flaming with his energy. "That's enough!" He leapt at the singer. His right fist went directly into the woman's nose, sending her ten feet away.
The crowd gasped in shock.
More security guards flooded the stage, grabbing Hogan by the arms. "You're coming with us!"
As they dragged Hogan away, he saw that the talisman was still in her hands. The ceremony was still under way.
The talisman started to glow, bolts of energy firing from it. Suddenly, the crowd started to make pained noises. Hogan looked towards the audience to see them writhing in agony.
It's too late! He thought. They're already changing!