Gunfight At The Millstone Saloon

 

Tannoy Clong looked down at his hands, wary of the choice before him.

“Laser pistol…?” he said, holding the gun in one hand up.

He switched his focus to the other hand’s gun.

“…or laser revolver?”

He weighed them both in his gloved hands, like a set of scales made specifically for measuring lethality, and frowned indecisively.

He glanced over at his captive and raised an eyebrow, as though interested in his opinion.

Mayor Cuttle gave indignant muffled squawks in protest at his kidnapping.

“Revolver it is,” said Clong, sticking his pistol back in his holster.

The Mayor’s office was a fairly modest building off the side of Pequod’s Albatross’ main square. The largest luxury item inside it was a wide painting behind the desk, depicting a cuttlefish man rounding up Martian horses while on millipede-back and singing loudly.

Clong spun the barrel of his revolver, idly looking down at the laser-bullets inside. Laser-bullets were very expensive, to the point where most gunsmiths simply stuck actual lasers in their guns, but Clong was a man of refined tastes when it came to shooting people.

“Well, Mayor,” said Clong idly, “looks quiet.”

Mayor Cuttle wobbled his tentacles indignantly. He was currently incapable of speech on account of Tannoy Clong gagging him, and also because he had a sore throat from too much singing.

Clong pushed the blinds around the window open a shade,[1] peering out of the window at the Millstone down the street, its raucous pianee thundering through the otherwise quiet town.

His eyes thinned.

“Mayor, given that you are indisposed, I am going to deal with a noise complaint,” said Clong. “Mean-while, you can listen to this.”

He stepped carefully past Mayor Cuttle, and gently put down a vinyl record on a gramophone, then dropped the needle onto the groove.

The vinyl record burst into a jaunty song about making campfires. Squirming uncomfortably with nervousness at the temptation, Mayor Cuttle began to sweat as Tannoy Clong leaned in close to him, his thin lips pulled back in a grin.

“What’s the matter, Mayor?” Clong asked. “Catfish got your tongue?”

Mayor Cuttle burbled in anguish at not being able to sing, but also not being able to not sing.

As he kicked the office door shut behind him, Tannoy Clong smirked as he heard the rumbling basso of Mayor Cuttle break out into an excitedly muffled holler about gathering sticks and preparing jerky.

This done, he moseyed down the stairs of the office and out onto the street. The afternoon sun beat down on his shoulders, and he took his hat off and fanned himself with it, spitting on his hand and running it through his greasy hair.

“Bonkers!” he shouted. “Where in the Sam Hill have you got to?”

Alf Bonkers did not respond, on account of his being dead.

“Arh, why that…” muttered Clong.

He slipped his hat back onto his head.

Neaks!?” he called. “Natak Marion Neaks!”

Natak Neaks was unconscious and thus also incapable of responding, and even if he were awake, he was so embarrassed by his middle name he would probably pretend that he was unconscious anyway.

Huffing, Clong took an aggravated pot-shot at a weathervane at the top of the general store, which exploded in a puff of splinters.

Clong strode over towards the Millstone, rolling his eyes as the pianee music grew louder and louder.

“Just spittin’ useless,” he muttered.

He angrily fired again at Heyurr Stone, who finally ceased his drunken mumbling and died.
Except that’s not what happened except in Tannoy Clong’s imagination, because Heyurr Stone wasn’t in his customary spot, and neither was his rocking chair.

“Hrm,” said Clong, surprised, looking down his lizard-like nose at the grooves the chair had worn into the veranda. “Maybe one of his livers gave out.”

Taking out his pistol and twirling it around, Clong kicked open the double-doors to the saloon and stepped through them in one fluid motion.

“Well,” he said, tipping his hat, “I-…”

The Millstone was empty, save for a lone figure at the piano, his grasshopper-hands skittering over the keys with nervous exhaustion, chitinous bags forming under his compound eyes.

Tannoy Clong’s nose wrinkled.

Two tables and a barrel flipped over as Space Team One jumped out from behind them, weapons at the ready.[2] Haizea pointed her laser revolvers at Clong, and Aleya leveled a long-nosed rifle she had taken from the Ahab. Robert held the machete handle back threateningly, as though it were an underwhelming wooden dart, and Martin burst out from behind a bathroom door and pointed the mop in Clong’s direction. Safety Ninja’s loaded revolver was already cocked in his pocket, but he cocked it again for good measure as he drew it out. Space Dan stood up from behind the bar, brandishing a whisky bottle like a baseball bat.[3]

In response to this development, the grasshopper pushed down all of the pedals with his legs, and with great intensity slammed a final dramatic clashing chord, looking intensely at Tannoy Clong. With this, he leapt away from the piano and out the back door of the Millstone, leaving Clong alone with Space Team One.

Space Dan grimaced in pain that the grasshopper had excruciatingly ended the music on a dominant seventh chord. He looked indecisively at the piano, wondering if he could salvage the situation before Clong started fighting them.

“Tannoy Clong,” said Martin. “As the only people around here who are kind of a police force, you are under arrest!”

“That a fact?” said Clong. “And where’re you gonna put me?”

“In a pair of buckets!” said Space Dan.

“Blondie,” Clong nodded to Haizea. “You got my sabre for me?”
“It’s a long way off,” said Robert.

“The Ahab’ll get it,” said Clong evenly. “And as for me…”

He opened fire upon Space Team One, lasers flying as he shot twice, straight at Haizea. She threw herself to the floor as the others leapt out of the way, firing back at Clong. Rolling behind the piano for cover, Haizea leveled her pistol again, then gave a tiny jolt as a bright yellow blur flung the instrument at Tannoy Clong.

Clong gave an uncertain lurch as he only just dodged the piano, and it made a loud dischordant plonking sound as it broke against the wall.

“That is some trick,” Haizea said to Safety Ninja, who beamed in appreciation.[4]

Robert hurled the machete handle at Tannoy Clong as he vaulted over a barstool. Clong yelled and punched at the side of the flying handle as hard as he could, and it zoomed off course and smashed the bottle right out of Space Dan’s hand. Clong shook and stretched his knuckles to get the feeling back, letting off a volley of cover shots in Aleya’s direction as he did.

Aleya rolled behind a knocked-over table, which exploded in clouds of sawdust as the laser bolts struck it. She landed on her knees and held the rifle at her waist, then pulled the trigger.

Space Dan, who had been reaching for a replacement bottle-club, shrieked and ducked down again as an automatic hail of laser bolts sent glass, shrapnel, and long-untouched dessert wines exploding into the air.

“VAAAL!” Space Dan screamed, as the shelves’ contents scattered around him.

“You stop shooting at Space Dan and his friends!” VAL scolded Tannoy Clong from her walky-talky.

Space Dan grabbed Robert’s machete off the floor in one hand and VAL’s walky-talky in the other, and leapt over the bar just as the shelves behind him burst into an abrupt fireball of alcohol and accumulated grime. He did a combat roll to avoid falling embers landing on his ceremonial spacesuit, which only slightly made his lower back ache, and quickly tossed the handle to Robert.

Now finding each other standing, Clong and Aleya both fired upon one another, but the haze of the explosion made both their shots close misses, and the room suddenly became a sea of boozey mist and clicking noises.

“Lost your laser-bullets, Clong?” asked Haizea.

“They’ll find their way to you,” Clong shot back. “That I promise.”

His expression turned to a confused squint as Safety Ninja dashed forward, but the yellow-clad man was not there to fight. Instead, Safety Ninja jumped past Clong’s left, landing next to the bar, where a set of numbers on three pieces of flippable card were perilously close to the already considerable bartop conflagration. Above them, words read: “Barfights Today So Far:”, next to a little bell.

Safety Ninja duly flipped the final number from ‘4’ to ‘5’, and then rang the bell.

He then looked disappointed as the numbers caught fire.

 

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[1] That is, he pushed the blinds open a little, as pushing them open caused a spontaneous lack of shade.

[2] Part of the reason why they had kept Ogtol and Birdy in charge of the Firesabre was because they didn’t trust them, but this was also because they feared that the two would try to hide behind a dartboard and explain to everyone at length how clever a hiding spot this was.

[3] EVIL CAR was not present, and had no opposable thumbs to hold a gun with anyway, but he GRRd out of solidarity.

[4] He had realised that the large millstone from which the bar took its name was placed just well enough that it wouldn’t fall over. Coupled with the fact that nobody inside was drinking cheap Martian whiskey anymore, the bar was actually quite safe.