Firesabre Bundle From A Train Station
“Haha!” cried Robert as he leapt up to the top of the train. “Arhh!”
On the roof in front of him, a group of pinstripe-wearing oni were looming menacingly, albeit they were looming menacingly in a somewhat surprised fashion.
“I’ve got the Firesabre!” called Space Dan, as he clambered up onto the roof.
“But… our gang was going to steal that Firesabre!” huffed one of the pinstriped oni in annoyance.
“What’s the hold up?” growled a rough voice from the back of the group.
Gravesend stepped to the front, the other Pie Bar Gang oni parting to let him through.
“All we do is drop down when those Zoot Suit idiots aren’t expecting it, and – you!”
His eyes widened, despite being small and beady, although since he was an oni, they were still pretty wide to begin with.
“Are you going to cut pies with the Firesabre?” asked Martin. “Or are you still eating quiche?”
“Quiche is healthy and tastes nice, Martin!” interjected VAL via her walky-talky.
“How would you know what something tastes like?” asked Martin.
“I have read a great deal of recipes from Yes! TV! magazine!” said VAL, “and most polls of Uranian housewives show that quiche is preferred more than pie!”
“This train’s already full of quiche,” said Gravesend. “Their quiche. If we take the Firesabre, we can derail this train, and we’ll be able to sell our quiche without any competition.”
“I thought this was full of drug-mushrooms,” said Haizea.
“‘Quiche’ is a euphemism!” hissed Gravesend.
“Boy, you said it,” said Martin, glad that somebody else was criticising quiche.
“I ain’t a boy!” said Gravesend. “After them!”
“But I thought we was-” began another oni.
Angered, Gravesend picked him up and flung him off the carriage, where he plummeted thousands of feet below, off a cliff edge.
“Gravesend, ya sleazeball!” cried the oni, thudding into the ground in the distance, “my legs hurt now!”
“If you don’t get that sabre, you’re gonna end up like Manhattan!” said Gravesend to the other oni.
“Increasingly gentrified, making it safer but losing much of its original charm?” asked Robert.
Gravesend, not the type to be distracted by such gibberish, took a swing at him.
“Fight!” cried Hibiya, who by this point was aware that the others weren’t quite as adept at noticing when it was time for punch-ups as he was.
He merrily leapt into the fray by clobbering Gravesend. A horde of Pie Bar Gang members jumped on him, and if they had been on the desert floor instead of atop a train, a spherical cloud of dust would have presumably enveloped them.
“Space Dan,” said Aleya, “you know what to do!”
“Thankyou!” said Space Dan, who was quite chuffed.
“No, you dillisk, right now,” she added, as she put an oni in a headlock.
Remembering his baby-bundlification on Venus, Space Dan gathered up his cloak and pulled the ends around his front – making a little pouch, in which he placed the Firesabre against his chest. This was partly to keep the Firesabre safe, but also to avoid his cloak getting caught on things. Wary of the wind getting in his eyes, he put on his ceremonial spacesuit’s lion-shaped helmet, and rubbed a speck of dirt from it with his sleeve.
He took a deep breath, thankful that the one class at the Space Academy he had held a high attendance record in was Running 101, and tore off down the carriages, dodging angry Pie Bar oni as he went.
“Safety Ninja, do the blur thing!” cried Aleya.
Safety Ninja, wary of overexhausting his ninja magic again, gestured around to accentuate that literally nothing they were doing was safe and shrugged aggressively.
Ducking the wildly swinging mop of Martin, Robert noticed an open skylight in the roof of the next carriage. He ran forwards, ducking under the legs of a large oni, and jumped the short distance between carriages. Landing on his knees, he slid along the roof and through the open skylight, dropping down into a carriage full of Pie Bar gang members.
Sitting in a line, they all turned to look over at Robert, confused.
Robert froze for a moment, then reached for his machete handle.
“Take this!” he cried, and flung it at them with great force.
This would have had a devastating effect had it not been for the fact that Robert had actually thrown Gerald the Comb, which harmlessly bounced off the oni’s head.
“Are you sayin’ I ain’t groomed right?” said the oni menacingly, and his fellow Zoot-Suit Troopers all snarled and punched their fists in solidarity.
Robert’s face simultaneously tried to grimace and grin, caught between the annoyance of once again encountering Gerald, and satisfaction that Gerald would now be left on a train on Mars.
The window to their right shattered as Haizea swung through it, kicking at them. They toppled over like dominoes, some falling to the floor and others knocked out the other side’s windows. They clutched furiously at the carriage as it surged forth atop the cliff.
“Thanks,” said Robert.
“Why did you throw a comb?” asked Haizea.
“Long story,” said Robert.
There was a clamour of shouts behind them, and Robert and Haizea spun around to see a group of Zoot-Suit Troopers. They were led by Gotanda, who had a raw steak on his head that he occasionally took bites out of.
“How dare you take our Firesabre, which we rightly stole!” said Gotanda. “You will be severely punished for your insolence!”
“If we don’t get that Firesabre, a town full of innocent people will die,” said Haizea.
“That’s not our problem,” said Armonk.
“But Tannoy Clong is,” said Robert. “He’s about as trustworthy as a Kangalord in a crowded trampoline factory. Once he gets the Firesabre, he’ll come for you.”
“Wait, you’re workin’ for Tannoy Clong?” asked one of the Pie Bar oni, getting up from the floor. “He hired us to steal it from you!”
“But he hired us to steal it from you!” cried one of the Zoot Suit Troopers indignantly.
The two gangs of oni started squabbling, a fight clearly on the near horizon.
“Everybody! Everybody!” called Martin, dropping down from above like well-intentioned manna from heaven. “Why don’t you team up, and both get the Firesabre for Tannoy Clong?”
Robert slapped his forehead very hard.
“Shut up, Martin, you amstod!” roared Robert exhaustedly.
“It don’t matter who’s stealing what for who,” said the Pie Bar Gang oni. “What matters is we’re gonna get Tannoy Clong that Firesabre, and not you guys!”
“No, we’re gonna get it!”
Punches started flying, and Martin, Robert and Haizea scrambled between the fighting and into the next carriage.
“Hey, waitta second,” said one of the oni, as a rival grabbed him by the horns, “where is the Firesabre anyhow?”
On the roof of the train, a few carriages further down, Space Dan ran with the Firesabre, intent on getting to the still-distant final carriage. Behind him, the millipede at the engine carriage screeched, as it desired more decaying leafy matter.
“Over heeeere!” cried Space Dan, his arms pumping as he ran, oni hot on his heels.
“Yargh!” shouted a Pie Bar oni, lunging at Space Dan to pull him back.
Yanked backward by the neck of his cloak, Space Dan gasped as his makeshift front-pouch came undone, and the Firesabre flew out. Grabbing after it quickly, he caught it in mid-air and stretched out his arm, holding the Firesabre as far forward as he could, as the oni behind him tried to take it by force.
“Give it!” snarled the oni.
“No! It’s miiiiine!” whined Space Dan, looking back at the oni as he struggled.
Space Dan felt the Firesabre casually slide from his grip as a Zoot Suit oni took it, from the hand Space Dan had been accidentally holding out towards him.
“No!” cried Space Dan, and he stumbled forwards as the Pie Bar oni let go of him.
He teetered forwards and tripped into the Zoot Suit oni, who howled with pain as he was inadvertently headbutted with a ceremonial lion-shaped helmet.
“Ha!” cried Space Dan. “That’s why I wear the – hey!”
While Space Dan had been busy glowing with vindication, the Pie Bar oni had snatched the Firesabre from the Zoot Suit oni and jumped down to the carriage connector below.
“Help!” Space Dan called, and hopped down after the oni.
The connector linking the two carriages together was bordered on either side by a small wrought-iron rail, to stop people from falling when moving between carriages. Remembering to tell Safety Ninja about it later, Space Dan tried to circle around the Pie Bar oni, which proved difficult as the small connector was only designed for one person at a time and was incredibly cramped.
The metal plate moved beneath them as the train went around a curve, and Space Dan wobbled. Behind the oni, off in the distance, he could see a group of bearded one-legged Martians building a barn, hopping gracefully as they pushed the sides up together.
The Pie Bar oni cracked his broad knuckles, and Space Dan glanced down at his feet, unsure of his footing. The sleepers beneath the train were flying by, and Space Dan could see the distant ground below the cliff as the train tilted down, heading for flat ground once more.
The oni lunged at Space Dan, who yelped and leapt backwards, leaning dangerously back over the safety railing. The oni kept going, and his large curved horns got caught in some of the wrought-iron curlicues.
Suddenly, the carriage door behind him opened, and a tubby purple oni squeezed into the small connector for a smoko.
He did a double-take, and dropped his cigarette, which was made from rolled-up typewriter ribbons.
“Put that back, you pinstriped crumb!” he shouted.
He snatched the Firesabre from the Pie Bar oni’s grasp, just as the latter extricated himself from the safety railing. The Zoot Suit oni grabbed him by the shoulders and toppled him over the side of the train.
The Pie Bar oni smacked into the ground and skidded through the desert, now flattening out after the cliff. He came to a rest as the dust clouds he’d stirred up dissipated in front of a porch, where two old martian men were sitting on rocking chairs, drinking sarsaparillas with beef jerky pieces inside. There was no house attached to the porch, as it was freestanding.
“Reckon they’ll be goin’ to Dead Stick,” said one, lazily blinking at the train.
“Reckon,” murmured the other.
Back on the train, the Zoot Suit oni was tossing up between his desire to immediately return the Firesabre, and his desire to get the full benefit out of his smoking break.
“That’s mine!” panted Space Dan, too out-of-breath to explain the exact subtleties of who genuinely owned the Firesabre.
He pushed off the safety rail and tackled the momentarily distracted Zoot Suit oni, sending both sprawling into the next carriage down the line, further and further from the galloping millipede.
With a shuddering clunk, the train tracks levelled out entirely, and most of the carriage’s mushrooms bounced everywhere, smacking off the walls. The Firesabre also came free of the grappling arms of Space Dan and the oni, twirling in the air like the errantly thrown baton of a marching band leader whose heart really wasn’t in it.
Shrieking, Space Dan pushed himself up and attempted to grab the Firesabre as it fell, but he tripped over a large and very tough mushroom, sending him sprawling. In the process, he accidentally kneed the Zoot Suit trooper in the chest, making the oni snarl with rage.
“I’m sorry I’m sorry!” babbled Space Dan, dragging himself closer towards the Firesabre as it bounced perilously close to the open door of the carriage.
Finally shoving the last clump of mushrooms away, Space Dan’s searching fingers closed on the Firesabre, and he quickly pulled himself up, running out of the carriage’s door to the next connector. He climbed up onto the next carriage’s roof, this time clutching his prize firmly with his left arm, and kept sprinting.
Inside one of the carriages, one more of the two dozen Zoot Suit Troopers and Pie Bar Gang oni fell the the ground, as Haizea shook out her knuckles.
“Hibiya,” she said, “are you sure you got that gang to-”
“Yeah, we built the thing, they’ll be here,” said Hibiya, dancing from one foot to the other and windmilling his fists.
“Hey, up here! I have the Firesabre!” called Robert, from above the carriage.
The gang member oni inside all bellowed and shouted, and hauled each other up the skylight and onto the roof, the Zoot Suits and Pie Bars scrambling to get in front of each other.
“Here it is!” said Robert, and hurled his machete handle into the first oni to climb out, sending him spiraling off the train and into a conveniently placed cactus.
As the other oni clambered up, Robert ran a few steps back and swung down to join Hibiya and Haizea below. Before the oni could follow him, there was a dinging of bells ahead, and they hesitated, listening.
The bells were soon accompanied by triumphant shouting and a hail of heavy rocks as the train rounded the corner, straight through a makeshift level crossing. The Crosswalk Crushers all hollered and whooped as they knocked Zoot Suit and Pie Bar oni off the train, sending their foes down to the loamy ground below.
Martin, further down the train roof, batted the rocks directed at him into a pair of assailants with his mop as he ran. He thrust the mop out beneath him as he jumped from one carriage to the next, where it tore through the ends of both, smashing them apart and sending the wreckage tumbling into the desert behind them. He shot through the large, uneven hole he’d created and landed next to Robert in a shower of debris.
“Where are Aleya and Safety Ninja?” Robert asked Martin.
Martin pointed through the holes at the carriage behind them, where Safety Ninja was helping Aleya viciously pelt Gotanda with mushrooms.
“Oooooh! I wanna do that!” exclaimed Hibiya gleefully, rushing past Martin and Robert to join the fungus-flinging fray.
“Martin, I’m sorry I threw your bike out of our house,” said Robert, looking wistfully at the holes in the carriages, “and not just because now things like this happen to us.”
“That’s okay,” said Martin.
“You know, you don’t ride it that much anymore,” said Robert.
“There’s not enough space in the Falstaff!” said Martin. “Which is odd, because it’s a spaceship. If anything, there should be more space.”
“No, spaceships are designed to keep space out,” said Robert.
“Then they should really be called lack-of-space ships,” Martin concluded.
“Maybe you should talk about this with Space Dan,” said Robert, keen to change subjects. “So, do you think Haizea will get back together with Mars?”
“Stop talking about that!” scowled Haizea, turning slightly red.
“But you’re so nice together!” called Hibiya through the smashed opening.
“You’ve never even met Mars,” said Aleya, diving behind a table to get at Armonk.
“She sounds like a swell dame!” said Hibiya defensively.
“Alright,” said Robert. “They’ve got a handle on those two. Let’s go help Space Dan.”
He, Martin and Haizea walked to the door at the other end of the carriage, slightly tired from all the running and jumping, and crossed over into the next one.
“Where d’you think Grapefruit is?” asked Martin.
“No, that was Venus, Martin, we’re on Mars now,” said Robert. “Which is kind of apt, given your name.”
“What?” asked Martin.
“You’re named for the Roman god of war.”
“What’s that got to do with Mars?” asked Martin. “This is the bread planet. Maybe if I were named after Fornax, goddess of ovens, that would make sense. Anyway, I meant that grey guy who doesn’t like quiche either.”
He glanced at the walky-talky in his other hand, checking that VAL couldn’t currently hear him through it.
The door at the other end of the carriage swung open, and a very displeased looking oni stepped through. Everybody froze, as he leveled a weapon at them.
“This is a tommygun,” growled Gravesend, “invented by Tommy.”
“Tommy?” said Robert. “That’s not a very oni-ish name.”
“His full name’s Tomisato,” said Gravesend. “Or it was, until I shot him with the gun he invented.”
“Oh, the irony,” said Robert.
“No,” said Martin, “it’s obviously made of steel.”
“But…oni don’t use guns,” said Robert, ignoring him.
“I don’t like this any more than you,” shrugged Gravesend.
“I question that,” said Robert.
“But business is business, and you’re both too dangerous to be left alive.”
“Really? Honestly, I think we’re both the least dangerous of anyone aboard this train,” said Robert. “As danger goes, we are both very low on the scale.”
“Well, all the easier then,” sighed Gravesend, flicking off the safety.
“Uh, though, that said,” added Robert quickly, “I don’t think you should try and fight us, Gravesend.”
“And why’s that?” asked Gravesend, with the air of somebody who mostly asked that kind of question for intimidation purposes.
“Uh…because we’re…from another planet,” said Robert. “And it’s got a higher gravity than Mars, so we’re proportionately stronger than the average Martian!”
Robert was technically correct, but there was a fatal flaw in his statement. He and Martin were weaker than average humans, so on Mars, they were about as proportionately strong as regular humans would be on Earth.
Gravesend stepped forward, finger on the trigger, his fangs bared between his small tusks.
“No, don’t come any closer!” said Martin, holding out his walky-talky. “This walky-talky is loaded, and I will use it!”
He shook the walky-talky.
Gravesend raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed.
He mimed pulling the walky-talky’s ‘trigger’, and made a face of anger and desperation at Gravesend.
There was a long pause.
“Bang!” shouted VAL’s tinny voice over the walky-talky.
Ignoring this, Gravesend’s menacing advance sped up, and Martin panicked. He swiftly threw the walky-talky at Gravesend’s head, off which it bounced, landing on the carpet below.
“Oh no!” said Martin. “Space Dan will be mad!”
“Gravesend is already mad, which is a bigger problem!” shouted Robert as Gravesend pointed the tommygun at them. “Wait, where’s Haizea?”
Haizea spun down from the skylight between them, a swirl of hessian fabric. As she landed, a shot fired out from the narrow laser revolver under her scarf.
“Agh!” bellowed Gravesend, dropping the tommygun as he clutched his arm.
“Wow, Haizea!” said Martin. “You shot his gun out of his hands, like a cowboy!”
“What’s a cowboy?” asked Haizea, blowing the small cloud of plasma off her laser revolver.
“One of those,” said Martin, pointing out the window.
“Martin,” said Robert, “what would a cowboy be doing on Mars?”
“That,” said Martin, still pointing out the window.
At least mildly curious as to what Martin could possibly mistake for a cowboy, Robert stuck his own head out the window, just as the train plunged into a massive battlefield of warring cowboys.
 For once, Martin’s, not his own.
 The millipede wasn’t actually hungry, it was just greedy.
 He didn’t specify who he wanted help from, and while he had intended it for the benefit of his friends, he certainly wouldn’t have turned down any help that a presumably confused oni gang member would have offered him.
 It would.