Space Team One Walk Out Of A Town

 

“How far down does it go?” asked Martin, staring down the hole at the top of the clock tower.

Robert reached into his pockets for something to toss down, sighing inwardly as his fingers closed on a suspiciously toothed and tortoiseshell-feeling object. He felt a huge wave of preemptive relief as he pictured throwing Gerald the Comb far into the depths of the murky cavern, but then thought better of it as he didn’t want to upset Martin. Instead, he pulled out the packet of matches and pads of butter he’d taken from the Falstaff’s bar, and tossed them into the hole.

“Wow! I can’t smell the butter any more,” said Martin, sniffing the air immediately. “Well, I can, but that’s just Agamemnon. That hole must go down a really long way.”

The two of them, and the popcorn fly on Martin’s shoulder, turned away from the hole and started back down the stairs, to where their friends were waiting. Some one-legged Martian workmen hopped up past them, and started nailing thick boards over it.

In the town square, EVIL CAR was ‘GRR’ing defiantly but torpidly as the children (and some of the braver adults) of Pequod’s Albatross patted and poked at it.

“Aww, he needs fuel,” cooed Robert. “Your tummy will be nice and full soon, don’t worry. You’re all tired from running with the spike-horses, aren’t you EVIL CAR?”

EVIL CAR gave a low, affirmative ‘GRR’.

The door to the mayor’s office swung open, and then back and forth as it was a saloon door, and Space Dan emerged, supporting the mayor with the assistance of the goose woman who was a tailor, who had temporarily put her crocheting down.

“Mayor Cuttle!” said a frog-man. “Are you alright?”

“Bring me to the Millstone!” said Mayor Cuttle. “I feel a song coming on!”

“But we’re not building a barn or holding a dance today, Mayor Cuttle,” said the goose woman.

Mayor Cuttle stuffed some hastily scrawled pieces of sheet music into the hands of whoever was closest to him, which he had jotted on the rags that Tannoy Clong had originally stuffed into his mouth.

“Call that grasshopper who plays the pianee!”

“I don’t think he’ll be able to, Mayor Cuttle,” said the bartender of the Millstone. “He’s been sittin’ hunched up-like and drinking Elixir of Tonic for the past two hours.”

“I’m not colourblind, I’m not colourblind, I’m not colourblind,” murmured the grasshopper, shaking, as he had been staring at nothing but black-and-white keys for the past eighteen hours straight.

“Agh,” said Haizea, pulling at her hair. “I haven’t washed this in so long…”

Her hair, usually falling in thick curls, had some scrunched-up areas where Tannoy Clong had manhandled it. She was standing with the others, Mars’ hand around her waist, as the townspeople ran about seeing to the damage around them.

“We’ve been busy,” said Aleya. “Nobody’s washed their hair.”

“I have!” said Space Dan.

They stared at him.

“…I like my hair to smell like pineapples,” said Space Dan defensively.

Robert suddenly realised a way to kill two birds with one comb.

“Take this,” said Robert. “I’m glad to pass it on to someone else who’ll appreciate it.”

He smiled as he handed her Gerald the Comb, confident that someone as careful as Haizea would never lose him.

Unfortunately, Gerald the Comb had caught on part of Robert’s wallet, and instead, Robert blithely tucked his Classy Fifties Dames Fanciers Society card into Haizea’s palm.

Her eyes widened as she read the words, and she looked up at Robert and raised her eyebrow slyly. Robert, realising the error, had the look of a deer who had just been caught committing tax fraud, and found himself unable to look away.

A smile snuck across Haizea’s face, and she gave a proud nod in mutual appreciation, before pocketing it and leaning her head on Mars’ shoulder.

Robert, thankful that Mars had not seen this, carefully stepped away, only to run into Heyurr Stone, whose shotgun was thankfully not pointed at his face.[1]

“Y’all aren’t from Dead Stick, are yeh?” mumbled Heyurr Stone.

“No, we’re from Earth,” said Aleya, “like Mars said.”

“Ah knew it!” said Heyurr Stone, snapping his knobbly fingers.

Aleya didn’t care enough to pursue this, and Robert was still too on-edge from his accidental near miss of a faux-pas, so he quickly turned his attention to the fast-approaching bartender of the Millstone.

“Hey,” the bartender called to Robert as he waddled towards him. “Chromos McAllen!”

Martin looked around in excitement.

“He’s real?!”

“Martin, Chromos McAllen is still at training on the planet Raygol,” scoffed Robert. “Also, he is still fictional.”

“Don’ matter,” said the bartender, now much closer. “Have your card, anyway.”

He handed Robert’s driver’s licence to him, and Robert put it back inside his wallet.

“Wait!” said Martin. “Robert, before, you were driving EVIL CAR without your licence!”

“That is true,” said Robert. “However, since cars don’t exist on Mars, there are no driving laws, so I am technically off the hook.”

Martin looked over to Safety Ninja in concern, who nodded his head in reluctant agreement. Martin breathed a sigh of relief.

Far above, Pequod’s Albatross’ official signmaker and the Writer were arguing.

“Do I really have to write ‘Yes I Am Duncan’ on all my signs now?” the signmaker asked the purple oni.

“How else will people know of your brilliance, Duncan?” derided the Writer. “Apart from the pickaxe holes.”

“Those are part of my artistic style, Writer!”

They continued bickering as an enormous silo was rolled in from the outskirts of town by the Crosswalk Crushers, who were being guided by Hibiya with two long, narrow, flexible sticks.[2]

“Alright, haul it in, you lazy palookas!” called Hibiya, whacking his own horns with the sticks to drive home his point.

“Ooh, it’s here!” said Robert.

The oni rolled the silo to a stop in the middle of the town square, running over the Writer’s foot in the process, and pushed it upright. Hibiya tapped it twice with a stick.

“Four tonnes’a pure Martian yoghurt!” he yelled.

“How come it doesn’t have a top?” asked Martin.

“Don’t need one,” said a Crosswalk Crusher. “It got a skin from being out in the sun.”

Martin sniffled but maintained a stiff lip, thinking about his beloved Milkbeast.

Hibiya looked up proudly as the Crosswalk Crushers, armed with large spoons, began to climb up the silo and dip them in the yoghurt. As each spoon was filled they passed them back down, and began spooning the yoghurt carefully into EVIL CAR’s fill spout. The red car ‘GRR’ed with satisfaction.

“That’s some good work, boys!” called Hibiya enthusiastically.

“Well done, Chief Hibiya,” said Robert.

Hibiya beamed as he proudly puffed out his chest, which had all six of Space Team One’s Police Fire News badges on it, pinned to his braces.

“We’ll clean up the undercity,” he said. “And then maybe the surface city. And the above-the-surface city!”

“Those are called ‘clouds’,” Martin explained helpfully.

“We’ll clean you up good!” Hibiya bellowed at the night sky, shaking his fists vehemently at the wispy puffs raked thinly across it.

“Why do you call it the undercity?” asked Space Dan, who had been drawing in his sketchpad, camera balanced on his head.

“Because it’s under our feet,” replied Hibiya.

“It’s because it’s south of the upper oni city,” said the Writer tartly, as he hopped past massaging his foot.

Hibiya mimed stomping motions at the Writer as he passed, heading towards Heyurr Stone’s rocking-chair with a possessive glint in his eye, though as the stomps didn’t connect with him the movement seemed to be a friendly one.

“Alright, he’s full!” said a Crosswalk Crusher, patting EVIL CAR twice.

EVIL CAR gave a great ‘GRR’ as its engine spluttered into life, and it began doing donuts in the street. The small Martian children who had been playing with it screamed and ran back.

“Ey, pally!” called another Crosswalk Crusher, down at Robert. “Whaddaya want us to do with the rest of the yoghurt?”

“…eat it?” asked Robert, thinking vaguely back on his teenage years.

“It’ll provide good gut bacteria!” said Martin brightly.

He beamed as he thought back to his time on Venus, where he had lived mostly off of the substance fresh from the tree.

The Crosswalk Crushers all began climbing up to the top of the silo again, and dived in, splashing each other with the yoghurt as they ate it.

“You might want to be careful with that,” Mars called over to them, and Safety Ninja looked deeply concerned.

“Clong is gone,” Haizea said to Hibiya. “Are you sure you won’t get bored, policing the undercity?”

“There’s always fires to move an’ gang fights to break up,” said Hibiya.

“I don’t even understand what he wanted,” said Space Dan.

“The Firesabre, you dulse,” said Aleya.

“Yes, but why?” asked Space Dan.

“Why does anyone want power?” asked Martin darkly. “Because power gives you the power to set things on fire with swords.”

“I think he wanted to profit off both sides who were fighting for control of the fungus trade,” contemplated Robert. “He was funding both of them. He probably just wanted to whip them into a frenzy over the Firesabre, then let both gangs think the other had it.”

“…but weren’t the gangs selling quiche?” asked Martin.

“‘Quiche’ meant ‘mushrooms’, Martin,” explained Robert.

Oh!” said Martin. “So that’s why gangsters say “pa-quiche” when they understand something!”

Robert’s groan at Martin’s idiocy was drowned out by an increasingly loud metallic whine, accompanied by a whirring noise.

Above them hovered a small and fat bubble helicopter, made from neon-green metal dotted with rivets. It made an odd rhythmic thumping noise as it hovered, due to its three rotors actually being a trio of double-headed laser axes, while the the tail rotor was a pair of smaller plasma tomahawks.

The opaque front windshield of the helicopter opened to reveal Ogtol and Birdy sitting at the controls. Ogtol took his hand off the Multi-Action Steering Accessory and dropped the Firesabre down to Space Team One.

Space Dan frantically dashed under the Firesabre and caught it in his t-shirt, stretching it out like a fireman’s life net, and feeling only minimally self-conscious of his visible torso.

“Go on!” Ogtol shouted irately over the laser-roar. “Take it!”

“Okay,” said Aleya. “Thanks.”

Ogtol huffed as Space Dan wrapped the Firesabre up in a tea towel.

“You may have won the day this time, fools,” said Ogtol, “but we shall find even more of these mystical weapons of great power, and presumably maximum blast! Farewell, Players! Now, witness the exciting MechnoMorph of the Chopper Chopper!”

He pulled a lever on the dashboard of the Chopper Chopper, and the blades suddenly stopped spinning. A pair of rocket boosters folded out from the sides the Chopper Chopper as the axes detached from the top, falling perfectly down onto the sides of its tail. They were then caught by mechanical arms and transferred to the underside of the Chopper Chopper, where they flipped over and turned into skis. The rest of the craft mechanically folded into the shape of a large handgun.

“Behold the space-skiing action of the Ski Shooter!” Ogtol’s tinny voice rang out.

The Ski Shooter’s rockets fired, and it flew off into the distance, its low electronic hum resonating across the desert. Martin idly made ‘gnewwww, gnewww’ noises under his breath as he watched it fly off, like a child would go around making while playing with a toy WWII plane.

“Who exactly are those two?” asked Mars.

“It’s a long story,” said Robert.

“They’re gacking morons,” said Aleya.

“…I guess not,” said Robert.

He looked up at the stars.

“Which one do you come from?” asked Haizea.

“That one!” said Space Dan, pointing.

“Space Dan, that’s Rigel Kentaurus,” said Martin. “Wait, no, sorry, those are Rigel Kentaurus. Kentauruses.”

Space Dan felt a bit inadequate, given the fact that he was an astronaut and Martin apparently knew more about stars than him.

Then he realised that he’d never be travelling outside of the solar system, so he figured that it didn’t particularly matter.

“I wonder what happened to the millipede?” said Martin, staring up at the twin moons in the sky. “The one pulling Giant Rocky Pillow Cow, I mean.”

“I’m sure it’s fine, Martin,” said Robert, “if slightly drunk.”

The last that anyone had seen of the Millipede, it had been screeching merrily as it went off into the mountains, to live a wild, free, and very annoying life.

“Seraion and Serailoth,” said Haizea, pointing to Mars’ moons.

“What lovely names,” said VAL over the walky-talky, “they sound very romantic.”

“In your language,” said Mars, “they translate to ‘Potato One’ and ‘Potato Two’.”

Space Dan teared up a little, because nothing was more romantic than a potato.

“Space Dan! Honk! Space Dan!”

Space Dan quickly wiped his eyes on the corner of the tea towel wrapped around the Firesabre. The goose tailor bustled towards him, flapping and honking agitatedly, waving a little bag.

“I couldn’t help but remember what you said about your sewing machine,” she said shrilly, “and I thought it was such a crying shame that you couldn’t fix up your spacesuit, so I’ve brought you this.”

She opened the drawstring bag to show him a little square of fabric holding sewing needles of different sizes, and some small selections of yellow fabrics and threads.

“I hope one of them matches!” she honked emphatically.

“…thanks so much!” said Space Dan, turning slightly red, and he moved left so as to block the goose woman from seeing his friends, and vice versa.

His voice dropped to a whisper:

“Do you have any crewel needles? I need one for embroidery.”

The goose tailor nodded conspiratorially, pulling one from her straw hat and popping it into the bag.

“Well,” said Hibiya, as the goose tailor waddled off. “I guess you guys gotta go soon.”

“We have more worlds to see,” said Robert. “But I’m sure we’ll come back here, some day.”

“You guys can come stay at my river bank whenever,” said Hibiya, clenching his fists with emotion.

“You don’t wanna live in the police building?” asked Aleya.

“Eh,” said Hibiya, “I don’t wanna bring my work home.”

He looked around Pequod’s Albatross.

“So what do they do around here?” he asked.

“Well, there’s whiskey,” said Haizea. “Being mumbled at by Heyurr Stone. Complaining about desert wines, drinking Patented Elixir of Tonic…”

She frowned, trying to think.

“…there’s that man who rents out the entire top floor of the Millstone for his pigeons, he must do something with them…”

“What’s a Millstone?” asked Hibiya.

“Bakers use it to crush grain into powder for bread,” said Martin.

Hibiya looked casually at the Millstone Saloon, then did a double-take and bit one of his elbows as he stared at it in abject shock.

“With that thing!?” he squawked. “It’s a whole buildin’! How do they get the grain under it? Can it fly too?”

“No,” said Haizea. “But it’ll need refurbishing because of the fight we had with Clong.”

“That sounds like official police and fire business to me!” declared Hibiya, and he stomp-ran over to the saloon, his foot smashing through the porch’s bottom step.

“What’s goin’ on in here!” they heard him yell as the doors swung closed behind him. “Hey look, one’a them big music typewriters!”

“Don’t touch that, it’s new-”

There was a loud clash of ear-wrenching piano chords.

“This is fun!” shouted Hibiya. “I could be a canary for you surface guys!”

“Who are you callin’ Surfer Skies?” shouted the gruff voice of the purple hat-chapped Martian.

Soon the sound of joyous fisticuffs was heard breaking out, and the bartender hot-footed it across the town square towards his establishment from Duncan the signmaker, new counters in his arms for the bar-fight bell.

“I think that’s our cue to exit, before it spreads to the rest of the town,” said Robert.

“It won’t,” said Haizea. “Why do you think they built the Millstone?”

Robert furrowed his brows as a yellowing “WANTED TO GO AWAY” poster falling off the wall of the Millstone, and he thought about something for the first time.

“How come they exiled you from the town, anyway?” he asked her.

“That,” she smiled tiredly, “is a story for another day.”

“Okay, bye,” said Aleya, getting into EVIL CAR.

The rest of Space Team One climbed in, EVIL CAR ‘GRR’ing as it three-point-turned away from the town square. Mars and Haizea waved, and the townsfolk applauded and cheered as the red car sped off towards Pequod’s Albatross’ gate.

The pudgy figure of Mayor Cuttle hastened between the crowd, distributing sheets of music to as many people as he could manage. He blew into a small circle of plastic, which played a note for people to harmonise to.

 

We thank the men and ladies,

Who saved our wretched town

Their noble hands fought Tannoy Clong

And sent him crashing down!”

 

Pequod’s Albatross broke into a high-kicking, banjo-filled dance, and all sang:

 

Oh, woah, they’re gone away!

They’ll all come back another day!

Oh, woah, through here they pass

Way down in Pequod’s Albatross!

 

There was a bridge in between, and Hibiya leapt out of the Millstone’s recently repaired window, wrenching his horns through a fine straw hat as he showered everyone in glass.

 

I was an oni all alone,

No-one to fight for fun,” he sang,

But now I’m punchin’ surface folk,

I’m friends with everyone!

 

Oh, woah, they’re gone away!

They’ll all come back another day!

Oh, woah, through here they pass

Way down in Pequod’s Albatross!

 

Haizea and Mars swang to the bridge, holding hands.

 

I couldn’t stay a moment here,

The people thought me cold,” sang Haizea.

 

But now I have a gal again,

To love and always hold!” sang Mars in a smooth contralto.

 

Oh, woah, they’re gone away!

They’ll all come back another day!

Oh, woah, through here they pass

Way down in Pequod’s Albatross!

 

Mayor Cuttle began to hop around and dance as the goose-tailor played a fiddle, and Heyurr Stone shook a lagerphone made from horse-spines.

“Uh…” said Space Dan, looking back longingly, “since they’re singing for us and all, can we turn ba-”

NO.

Space Dan looked down and shuffled his feet.

Filled with joy at the singing of Pequod’s Albatross, Safety Ninja decided to finally use up his loaded revolver’s single bullet. However, he knew that firing guns in the air can often cause injuries due to the bullets falling down thanks to gravity, so he decided to fire directly into the ground.

Winding down his window with a huge smile under his cowl, Safety Ninja pulled out his revolver, cocked it, and merrily fired into the ground. To his dismay, the bullet glanced off a rock and hit a slightly bruised giant scorpion in the leg.

Safety Ninja dropped his now-empty revolver to the floor, where it settled under the passenger seat, and clutched at his head in silent horror as EVIL CAR flew off a slanted rock and into the night. Space Team One soared through the night, towards the outcrop of rock where VAL and the Falstaff awaited.

They had no way of knowing, however, the reason Tannoy Clong had truly wanted the Firesabre: that he had found a substantial buyer for it, who was particularly interested in killing gods.

 

PART LINE: ACT III>>
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[1] It was stowed under the rocking chair where it pointed at Robert’s knees, just in case; though Heyurr Stone trusted him enough to leave the safety on.

[2] Support beams from the train bridge.