Martin Runs Through It
“This is cooler,” said Robert.
“I know,” said Martin, “this dark cave tunnel is totally fly and fresh!”
“We should stake out a space here and keep wine,” said Aleya. “Then sell it to people who pass through.”
“I’m not sure anybody passes through here that often,” said Haizea.
“Why would they have a visa checkpoint if there weren’t a lot of people?” asked Robert.
“Maybe that guy did something wrong, so his bosses put him here because they didn’t want to fire him but wanted him out of the way,” suggested Space Dan. “Like what happened to my second-aunt, Insurance Clarence.”
“Look!” said Martin, pointing upward. “Stalactites and/or mites!”
The long, pointy white things, dripping with water, reached down at Space Team One.
“How far do these caverns go down?” wondered Haizea.
“You don’t know?” asked Aleya.
Haizea shook her head.
“I never knew they existed,” she said.
“So you don’t know where the Fire Saber would be?” asked Robert.
Robert rubbed his chin.
“We could always evacuate the population of Pequod’s Albatross into these caves,” he said. “Then, when Tannoy Clong comes back, there won’t be anyone to shoot.”
“They probably don’t have correct visas, though,” observed Space Dan. “We can’t all be lucky enough to be Food Preparation Officers, let alone Level Sixes.”
“Maybe,” said Martin, who was slapping his hand against the stony fingers of the cave roof, “we could drive them all to the Falstaff and fly them to the other side of the planet!”
“That would mess up the weight ratios,” said Space Dan. “And the Falstaff might collapse, like what happened to the Cromwell’s castle.”
“We still have a few days,” said Robert. “If we took multiple trips-”
“Uh, let’s call VAL about it,” said Space Dan, who quite honestly didn’t want Martian cowboys tracking mud into the ship.
He pushed the button on his walky-talky.
“VAL,” said Space Dan, “are you there, over?”
“Hello, Space Dan!” said VAL, her voice tinny from the walky-talky’s static. “Where are you?”
“We’re in some caves, looking for a fire sword,” said Space Dan. “A frog-cowboy threatened a town full of other cowboys, so now we have to get it for him before he comes back.”
“Ask her if EVIL CAR got back safely,” said Martin.
“She can hear you through the walky-talky,” said Robert, “It says it has a microphone range of ten feet.”
He leaned in close to it in Space Dan’s hand.
“Did EVIL CAR get back safely?” he asked loudly and clearly.
“EVIL CAR is fine,” said VAL. “But, why don’t I just fly the townspeople away for a while?”
“Because they might see things that they’re not meant to,” said Space Dan. “Like the Amulet, or my drawings.”
In the background of the walky-talky, there was the sound of tyres screeching and ‘GRR’ing, followed by some crashing noises.
“Excuse me for one moment,” said VAL.
Even more distant and garbled through the speaker, her voice yelled:
“EVIL CAR, put that down!”
“Just give him a smack on the bonnet,” said Robert. “But be gentle!”
Haizea looked over at Aleya, who rolled her eyes.
From the radio came the distant clanging sound of VAL’s opic unit flailing against a car.
“Okay, over and out, VAL,” said Space Dan.
He put the walky-talky away.
“Well, nothing for it but to find the saber here!” he said. “Let’s go, Space Team One!”
He looked at Haizea.
“Uh…and you, of course, Haizea,” he said. “Unless you want to be part of Space Team One.”
“Maybe later,” said Haizea.
“Good,” said Space Dan. “Good.”
Although his feelings were a little hurt, he was more relieved that he wasn’t going to clean up after dirty-booted cowboys on the Falstaff.
They continued along the path, delving deeper and deeper into the planet Mars. The tunnel got darker and darker, and Haizea took a torch from the bag under her cloak and lit it. Firelight danced around the walls of the tunnel, the shadows making it look like the rock itself was alive.
Eventually, the tunnel began to widen out, and finally Space Team One (and Haizea) reached its end.
They stepped into a huge cavern, the ceiling only just visible in the distance. Many large rocks interrupted their view of the land, but the caverns evidently stretched off for miles. Directly in front of them was a wide river, trapping them on one side. A dull, constant glow seemed to emit from the entire cavern, and as their eyes adjusted, Haizea extinguished her torch in the river. She looked up, and noticing something, pointed. Space Dan squinted across the water, and jumped in surprise.
Across the river, there stood a tall, red, muscular-looking man-beast with round rolling eyes and a sharp-fanged mouth. Two tusklike teeth stuck out of its mouth like angry peeled bananas. It was wearing a stylish, 1920s-esque hat, and braces, despite the fact that it wasn’t wearing pants or a shirt. Two long thick horns curved out from its forehead, and shaggy purple fur covered its shoulders and waist.
“Ehhh, you over there!” it shouted at Space Team One and Haizea.
“Did he take a wrong turn at Albuquerque?” asked Robert.
“Why don’tcha come over here and say that to my fist, pal?” asked the monster, its deep voice scratchy and gruff.
“Do you have ears in your fist?” asked Space Dan.
“I’ll have your ears in my fist, Mister Fancy-Shiny!” shouted the monster.
“Let’s go,” said Aleya.
“What? Come over here so I can kill you!” the monster bellowed, jabbing emphatically at the ground.
“Uh… no, we’re good here, thank you anyway!” called Martin.
“No,” said Robert.
The monstrous man jumped up and down on the spot in frustration. Space Team One and Haizea walked up the river, ignoring his increasingly insistent pleas that they get close enough for him to fight them.
Rolling his eyes, Robert pulled out his machete handle and flung it hard at the monster’s face. The monster put its dukes up, but its hard jab at the machete only caused it to yelp in pain. As Robert caught the machete handle, the monster shook its free fist at him.
“You’ll pay for that, ya palooka!” it shouted. “You’re gonna hear from me again!”
“I’ll invest in earmuffs,” said Robert.
Safety Ninja looked delighted, and gave him thumbs-up.
The beast-man followed them along the river bank, occasionally shouting and yelling at them across the water. After a while, it became clear that there was nothing on Space Team One’s side – as the monster had repeatedly insisted to them as an incentive, between heckles.
“I think we’ll have to ford this river,” said Haizea.
“I don’t know,” said Martin, “it looks pretty expensive.”
“We could build some kind of rudimentary raft,” suggested Space Dan. “I used to do it on camping trips back on Uranus!”
“It doesn’t look that deep,” said Aleya. “Let’s put a stick in or something to check, then if it’s shallow, we’ll just wade through. Martin, can I borrow your mop?”
Martin clutched protectively at his weapon.
“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t want it getting wet.”
“It’ll dry off,” said Aleya, “come on.”
Martin handed it over, and Aleya experimentally lowered it into the river. It was only half a metre deep.
With a delighted look on her face, Aleya took a step back, ran up to the river, then pole-vaulted over to the other side using the mop. It propelled her into the air with a bang, and she rolled into a crouch as she landed.
“Beat that,” she said.
She turned and tossed the mop back over the river, where Space Dan caught it with only minimal fumbling.
“Technically, you’re supposed to do it over a horizontal pole and land on a mat,” said Space Dan.
“Oh, they have pole-vaulting on Uranus?” asked Robert.
“Pole-vaulting? Is that what you call it?” asked Space Dan. “We call it up-top ground-pokey with a horizontal twist!”
“What do you call soccer?” asked Robert.
“It’s football,” said Space Dan. “Up and away!”
He vaulted himself over to the other side successfully, which was impressive given how much his helmet was weighing him down.
“You really should take that off,” said Aleya.
“Oh,” said Space Dan, “back on the Falstaff it’s ‘Space Dan, wear pants!’ but now…”
“Ehh! You’re mincemeat, pals!” bellowed the monster, waving his chunky fists around wildly at Space Dan and Aleya.
Both quickly took a step back, with Space Dan awkwardly pushing the mop in the monster’s direction.
“Hey!” said Martin.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any other weapons!” said Space Dan.
“I’m coming to save you on your behalf!” declared Martin, wading into the water.
“Martin, stop!” said Robert. “You can’t swim!”
“It’s barely knee deep here,” said Haizea. “You can just walk through it.”
“Trust me,” said Robert, “he’ll find some way to-”
“Bllb! Blb! Help! Robert!” cried Martin, as he started drowning in slightly under two feet of water.
“I really wish I could be wrong more often,” sighed Robert as he waded in to help Martin.
He pulled Martin up by the shoulders, lifting his face out of the water.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“There was another Martin in the water!” Martin replied. “But I can’t swim, so I had to save me!”
Robert kicked up some silt from the riverbed to obscure the reflection of the water.
“Well, I seem fine now,” said Martin, patting himself to check.
The monster, meanwhile, grabbed his head with shock as he watched this.
“WHAAAA,” he bellowed.
He looked back and forth between the river, and the people already ashore, as if to confirm that they were seeing what he was seeing.
“How’a you even doin’ that?!” he cried.
“It’s…it’s just water,” said Aleya.
“Just water?!” asked the monster. “You don’t see me walkin’ on air and sayin’ it’s just air!”
“…are you a vampire?” asked Martin.
“What’s that?” asked Haizea.
“You know, vampires,” said Aleya. “They’re dead people who go around sucking people’s blood, for reasons. They have fangs.”
“And mildly xenophobic accents,” said Robert.
“You mean like werewolves but they’re not wolves?” asked Space Dan. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s just you can’t cross running water, so maybe you’re a vampire,” said Martin to the monster. “Do you like garlic?”
“Do I!” said the monster.
“Not a vampire, then,” said Martin. “Vampires’ accents are xenophyophores, so they won’t let them enjoy Italian food.”
“Martin, vampire accents have never stolen Aleya’s bike,” scoffed Robert.
Safety Ninja thought that that sounded absurdly obtuse, but was too polite to write a haiku about it.
“You never thought of building a bridge?” Aleya asked the monster-man.
“…well, I guess we could have a buncha guys on one side singing a chorus, then another bunch on the other side singing a verse,” said the monster, “but how would they get over there?”
He flapped his arm dismissively at the idea.
“Okay,” he said, all enthusiasm and shouting again. “Time to bash you!”
He excitedly jumped around like a boxer, and cracked his knuckles.
Space Dan reached into his spacesuit’s pants pocket, and pulled out his banana.
“Listen, fluffy,” he said, “I am the Captain of this Space Team, and I’m not going to let my crew or this lady, whose name is Haizea, get attacked by you! Now back off! This is a fully loaded blue-laser firing pistol with all the upgrades and toppings!”
The monster cocked its head sideways.
“…thanks, pal!” it said, taking the banana off Space Dan and peeling it.
“It’s blue,” said Aleya, staring at the banana.
“Naw, I’m pretty happy now, doll,” said the monster. “You gave me food!”
He walloped Space Dan on the back so hard his cape flapped up. If the ceremonial spacesuit had oxygen tanks, they probably would have been dented.
“That makes us friends now!”
“Is that how it works?” asked Robert. “Somebody gives you food, and you’re immediately their friend?”
“It don’t work that way where you’re from?” asked the monster.
“We did mysteriously find a bunch of beef jerky when we all ended up together in EVIL CAR,” said Martin. “How fondly I remember our friendships growing, while all of you guys were screaming in terror and stuff.”
“That was because we went through a service station,” said Robert. (The beef jerky, he meant; not the terror.)
“Oh, like how when you go to a general store, you always find terbacker in your bags even if you didn’t actually buy it,” said Haizea.
“What?” asked Robert.
“You know,” said Haizea. “Terbacker. Old people chew it. Prisoners pay for things with it.”
Space Dan nodded knowingly at this, but it went unnoticed because he was still bent over wheezing in recovery from the monster’s friendship.
“I’m Hibiya,” said the monster. “I’ve never seen your kinda oni before.”
Haizea’s eyes widened.