Aleya flipped around her rifle, brandishing it as a club, and began to rush towards Tannoy Clong. Clong flipped his own weapon, and dashed at Safety Ninja to pistol-whip him, only to have his laser-revolver knocked out of his hands by a thrown weapon.
Clong glared at Robert, but frowned as he saw that Robert still had the machete handle in his right hand.
Looking down, he realised that the thrown weapon was actually a surprisingly aerodynamic coaster, printed with the words: ‘Millstone Saloon and Grill! Ice-cold refreshments and live music! Stop reading this and drink more!’
“Nice shot, Space Dan!” said Martin.
Space Dan beamed in appreciation, then began flicking more coasters at Clong. The latter winced as the corner of one hit him in the nostril, and he tilted down his cowboy hat to shield his face. Aleya jumped off the bar, seizing this opportunity, and began to wail on the back of his head with her rifle.
Clong elbowed Aleya as he squirmed around, and grabbed her hands, pushing her own elbows into an awkward position. Forced to drop the rifle, Aleya tried to headbutt him, but Tannoy Clong was too much taller than her. He punched her twice hard in the stomach and Aleya bent double, pulling Clong forwards with her by his lapels, both stumbling on the rifle at their feet. Clong regained his balance, only to narrowly dodge a deadly mop-end that swung past his head.
“Mop right there, Clong!” said Martin.
“Thanks for the warning!” Clong shot back, grabbing the mop’s end and shoving it at Martin, whose own balance was upset.
He ducked to avoid coasters and Robert’s machete handle, and sprinted across the room, giving Safety Ninja a right cross as he went. The yellow-clad shinobi was sent sprawling on the floor in surprise.
“I can do this all day,” said Clong.
“Actually, the bar closes at ten-” Space Dan begun, but his nervous explanation was cut short as he leapt back from the surging Clong.
“And I would be much obliged if you’d tell me where the Sabre is,” said Clong, slowly advancing on Space Dan, his loping gate playful.
“Wh…what do you even want it for?” asked Space Dan.
He cast a careful glance behind him, to see how far away the wall was.
“You’re already really good at fighting,” he finished.
“Let’s just say I have a vested interest,” said Clong.
“And an interest in vests,” said Space Dan, gesturing at Tannoy Clong’s tight-fitting waistcoat as he stepped backwards onto the lighter square of floorboards where the piano had been. “Where did you buy yours?”
“Oh, this?” said Clong, full of false modesty. “I picked this up in a-”
He quickly threw up a hand to block Haizea’s palm-strike at his chin, and chuckled as he grabbed her forearm, and one-handed, flipped her over his shoulder.
“You are a sly dog, Space Man,” he said, smiling at Haizea’s pained expression.
“Urgh,” said Space Dan, uncomfortable with being compared to a dog.
His temporary discomfort was replaced by a far greater terror, as Tannoy Clong picked him up by his ceremonial spacesuit’s neck.
Space Dan whimpered, partly in fear, and partly because Tannoy Clong was getting his fingerprints all over it and stretching the fabric.
“Where’s the Sabre?” said Clong.
“Uhhhh….” said Space Dan. “Ummmmmmm…..iiiiiiiit’s…..”
Clong tightened his grip, and Space Dan’s eyes widened at the prospect of getting the suit’s collar dented.
“Three…” said Clong. “Two…”
He looked intensely into Space Dan’s wavering eyes for a long time.
“One,” Space Dan reminded him.
He then pulled the trigger of his ceremonial spacesuit’s Admission Chute.
SPOOPU didn’t put in any Emergency Evacuation Flaps in their designs for the ceremonial spacesuit, because Evacuation, emergency or otherwise, was not considered very ceremonial. However, they knew that sometimes SPOOPU cadets took too long showering or adjusting the rotation of their buttons or making sure that their hair was neat, so they designed an Admission Chute, so the cadet could quickly don the ceremonial spacesuit and immediately look diligently courteous with excellent timeliness. However, the Admission Chute could also be used to quickly get out of the ceremonial spacesuit, as proven in theoretical tests performed in case an emergency happened and a cadet felt they were overdressed.
Dropping out the back of the ceremonial spacesuit as it sprung open, Space Dan tore through his purple cape with a loud ripping noise and rolled out of the way. He got back up to his feet as the other members of Space Team One did.
“Space Dan,” said Robert, “at least they’re clothes, but what are you wearing?”
“These are official regulation SPOOPU non-spacewalk work-pants, extra baggy, so they can act as an impromptu parachute if necessary,” said Space Dan. “They have four pockets, all with zips.”
“I mean the T-shirt,” said Robert.
He pointed to Space Dan’s chest, upon which was a white t-shirt with a logo of a smiling fish amidst taps, and the words: ‘I got tanked at the Sink-Fish Restaurant!’
“Oh,” said Space Dan. “Um…I spilled chocolate ice cream on my official SPOOPU jacket, so that’s still being washed. And I can’t wear my regulation SPOOPU undergarment, because it shrank in the sink while I was washing it, and -”
He jumped to the side along with everyone else, as Tannoy Clong wheeled around and jump-kicked at them, snarling. The fight began again on the stairs, with Clong fighting Safety Ninja and Martin simultaneously on either side of him as they moved higher, and Space Dan realised nobody was still listening to him. He wasn’t sure if he should stop the story halfway through, or finish it anyway.
“-and, uh, we were on Venus so long that by the time we got back it had soaked too long,” he called awkwardly as he ducked down and ran, “and the Fejans left it on the floor and it got musty, and…yeah.”
Clong tore a piece of wood from the railing, and brandished it like a splintery varnished club at Haizea, who parried it with a bottle full of dessert wine. The bottle smashed, and wine spilled down all over Martin.
“Ew!” he moaned, “it’s all sticky, and it smells like a rumpus room!”
Aleya jumped across the banister and pushed off Martin’s shoulder, bringing the butt of the retrieved rifle down across Tannoy Clong’s greasy forehead.
“Leave it, the electromagnet’s run down!” said Haizea. “Mine’ll recharge, that one needs -”
She ducked as Tannoy Clong swung the makeshift club at her again.
“- an external power supply!”
She kicked at his ankles, but Clong jumped over her, his heavy boots landing squarely on the second floor of the Millstone.
“You all’re starting to vex me,” said Clong, frowning as he touched the cut on his forehead, “in a way that I don’t find pleasin’.”
Safety Ninja vaulted up the stairs and over the others. He could already feel his ninja magic starting to wear down again, but he jumped across the room and kicked sideways at Tannoy Clong, who sidestepped out of the way.
…right in front of the windows, where Robert charged at him, yelling, dirt-flecked pigeons flapping out of his path. Robert jump tackled Clong and the two smashed through the window and into the outside air.
The afternoon was pressing on, and the sun was cooler in the balmy sky, as the swift onset of Martian evening was starting to begin. The dust on the ground still held some of the intense heat of the midday sun, but even that was slowly fading to a lazy warmth.
Clong exhaled hard as the solid ground slammed into his back, winded by the fall, and Robert scrambled off him and out of his reach.
Haizea jumped down after them, landing lithely, as Aleya kicked the saloon doors open and ran out to them across the porch
“Wheee!” said Martin, swinging out of the widow via the chandelier, which tore out of the ceiling as he let go of it, disappearing behind the window with a crunching glassy crash.
Safety Ninja jumped after him, posing dramatically in mid-air. Space Dan gingerly climbed out of the already-broken window, crouching, and carefully shuffled towards a ladder.
Clong sprang to his feet, though he winced slightly, carefully feeling one of his ribs. He held up a walky-talky and held down a button on it.
“Clong to Ahab, Ahab, please respond,” he said.
“Good luck,” said Aleya.
“It’s drowning in whiskey as we speak,” said Robert.
“Ugh! Every time we go here!” said Tannoy Clong, irritatedly.
He hollered into the walky-talky:
“Not when we’re workin’, you amstods!”
The only response was static, as Space Team One fanned out, slowly closing in on Clong from all sides, Haizea circling around behind him.
“Come get me from the clock tower!” he spat into the walky, and pitched it into the ground in irritation.
Haizea silently raised her gun behind him.
“What are you going to-” she began.
She was swiftly cut off as Tannoy Clong abruptly spun around, grabbed her hands, and wrenched them behind her back. Her gun skittered across the dusty ground, and she grimaced as Clong roughly cinched her wrists together, using an extra shoelace he’d sprung from one of his leather boots.
“Don’t nobody move,” Clong snarled, and he unholstered his laser pistol, pressing it forcefully into Haizea’s neck.
“So we should move?” asked Aleya.
“Shut up!” said Clong, stepping backwards across the empty town square with Haizea, towards the dilapidated clock tower.
“…so we don’t shut up?” said Space Dan.
“You follow me, and Blondie here gets a one-way trip to a dusty hotel,” said Clong.
Space Team One stared at him. He rolled his eyes, and jabbed the barrel of his pistol into her for emphasis.
“I. Will. Shoot. Her.”
He managed to break into a quick march, despite going backwards and having to force Haizea to come with him. She swung her head back, trying to headbutt Clong’s chin, but he leaned away and she only hit his shoulder.
“Uh uh uh, Blondie,” Clong cautioned, as Robert and the others followed them at a cautious distance.
They reached the base of the clock tower, and Clong stepped onto the bottom step of the staircase that wound around it. With a yank of his arm, he pulled Haizea up with him, and crouching slightly so that she remained between him and Space Team One, they moved up and around the stairs, out of sight.
“What now!?” jittered Space Dan. “What’s he going to do when he realises the Ahab isn’t on its way?”
He automatically reached to fiddle with the end of his cape, but his disappointed fingers met naught but cafe t-shirt.
“Hey,” Aleya said to Safety Ninja. “Use ninja-magic.”
Safety Ninja gestured that he was low on energy, and also that the clock tower was rickety, the top had fallen apart, and that its rivets were inadequate due to being slightly too small.
On the other side of the tower, Clong stepped behind Haizea and pushed her around, jamming his pistol into her back.
“Don’t think of grabbing for it,” he warned her.
She inevitably tried, and he twisted her arm, causing her to grunt in pain.
“Keep moving,” he said, and they started awkwardly ascending the tower. “Once the Ahab gets here, you’ll take a walk. I’ve been wonderin’ for a while how your landings are with your hands tied.”
“My friends will stop you, Clong,” said Haizea.
“The Knot-Barkin’ Posse?” said Clong. “I’m terrified, Blondie.”
Space Team One stood around the bottom of the tower, talking rapidly.
“Why don’t we, though?” continued Aleya. “Wait until he’s in the open, then fly EVIL CAR right into him.”
“There aren’t any ramps!” said Robert, frowning.
A woman in a red dress stepped up beside them.
“What’s happening?” she asked, looking around. “Where’s Haizea?”
“Mars!” said Space Dan. “Haizea is being kidnapped by Tannoy Clong and there’s no Ahab to come and get him so he might shoot her!”
“Please hurry,” Mars said to Space Team One. “I know I can trust all of you.”
“Us!?” exclaimed Robert. “What about you?”
“I… I don’t meddle,” said Mars, and for the first time since they had met her, she sounded indecisive.
“Why do you keep disappearing when it’s least gacking convenient?” shouted Aleya.
“Because, there are other things – I can’t just interfere!” said Mars. “If I solve one problem, why not solve everyone’s? Where does it end? Or what happens when I’m not there?”
She scowled, and looked up at the tower uncertainly.
“Oh, great job, Lauren Bacall the Grey,” said Robert. “That’s your girl being kidnapped there! Or your ex-girl, anyway.”
Haizea, still struggling ineffectually, rounded the front of the clock tower again, followed closely by Tannoy Clong, gripping her arms. They were getting closer to the top of the stairs by the moment.
Mars opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again immediately.
“Can’t you use your god-powers to stop him?” asked Aleya.
“If I wanted to level the town,” said Mars.
Aleya looked thoughtful.
“I might hit Haizea,” admitted Mars.
“What if…” said Space Dan, “and hear me out on this…we find a really shiny stick – I mean, really shiny – and set it on fire…and we tell Tannoy Clong that that’s the Fire Sabre, and trade it for Haizea? I mean, Tannoy Clong doesn’t know what the Fire Sabre looks like!”
“Can’t you stop time?” asked Martin, looking over at Mars.
Noticing Robert making throat-cutting motions, Martin added:
“Because that seems a lot like a thing a god would do, so I think you should be able to do that, Mars.”
“…I can’t,” she said, her voice cracking.
“For parsley’s sake!” Robert. “Do something! Look!”
Mars looked up at Haizea, as she and Clong disappeared behind the tower for a moment, and then took the final steps up onto its rickety caved-in top. Mars took a deep breath, and closed her eyes for a moment.
Then she opened them.
“But I can do this.”
She grabbed the bottom of her dress, tore the side of it up past her knee, then sprinted towards the stairs, hastily bending to grab Haizea’s dropped laser revolver as she passed it. Her feet hit the steps, and she sprang up them three at a time.
Clong, meanwhile, was scanning the skies with frustration. The top of the tower had once housed Pequod’s Albatross’ large golden clock, but the weight had been too much, and it had fallen down the centre of the tower and crashed through the ground, carving a deep and distant tunnel behind it. All that was left was the landing that had gone around the clock, and the wide hole left in its centre, leaving people to imagine what had been.
Clong’s increasing agitation, however, was quite visible even from the ground. Realising this, Robert cupped his hands to his mouth, and yelled up to him.
“Hey!” shouted Robert. “Hey! Hey, Tannoy Clong! Tannoy Clong! Tannoy Clong!”
“Hey Tannoy Clong!” called Martin. “Have you ever noticed that ants can carry really big things even though they’re tiny?”
“Tannoy Clong!” shouted Space Dan. “Tannoy Clong, you have a strange name! What kind of job is a ‘tannoy’? Is that your job where your face is ugly? Are you a professional tannoy, Tannoy Clong?”
“I guess it was a Clong way to the top!” shouted Robert. “The top of being stupid!”
“I will shoot your friend,” Tannoy Clong called down to them.
“Forget it, all of you!” said Haizea. “Save yourselves!”
Space Dan felt strange, because he didn’t want to.
“Come down here and fight like someone who isn’t a complete gacking wimp,” Aleya shouted.
A small, bit of paper folded like a shuriken flew up from far below, and hit Tannoy Clong in the face. Catching it, Clong unrolled the paper and held it in front of Haizea.
“Read it,” he demanded.
“Much like a stink-bug
Your egregious putrescance
Is bad, Tannoy Clong.”
Clong angrily threw the paper away, but it soared in the wind and hit him right in the moustache one more time before gently drifting off into the distance.
“All this posturing,” he said, quietly, so only Haizea could hear him.
He sneered down at the rest of Space Team One.
“All this grandstanding, and they can’t finish the job. You fall in with weak folk, Blondie.”
Tannoy Clung spun around to see who had spoken, and Mars unloaded all six rounds from Haizea’s recharged gun directly into his chest.
“…only I call her Blondie.”
Clong blinked in astonishment and let go of Haizea, his eyes wide as he looked down at the holes in his jacket, flames already starting to burn where the lasers had pierced it. The wind caught his hat, and it lifted off his head, fluttering over the rooftops in the breeze.
“Shit,” he whispered, surprised, and stumbled forwards and fell down the tower.
Haizea and Mars looked down the hole and watched him fall, only visible by his burning duster coat as his distant body tumbled off the rocky sides of the long hollow. There was a cracking noise as he hit a jumble of clock tower rubble, and it collapsed down on top of him.
And then there was silence, and Mars and Haizea held each other underneath balmy night sky, as the twin moons rose, shining, above them.
Drawn by the sound of gunfire, the people of Pequod’s Albatross began cautiously to come back to their home, chatting amongst themselves. At first it was nervous and hushed, but cries of relief and laughter broke out as they gathered around the clock tower, looking up at their god and her love.
“I guess you see things this way all the time,” said Mars. “From above.”
Far below, the rest of Space Team One, the townsfolk, and a large group of baffled and somewhat annoyed whiskey distillers began hollering and cheering, and there was the distinct sound of Hibiya shouting “Woah! You guys’ve got all kinds’a stuff up here!”
Haizea smiled down at Space Team One.
“Below’s not so bad either,” she said.
The two women both tried to think of more to say, but they didn’t need to, so they just kissed.