Whisky, But Not On The Rocks
Robert nervously dodged the spinning attack of Doctor Circuits, fearful both for his life and the prospect of contracting tetanus.
“What’s the matter?” said Doctor Circuits, pausing his arm rotations to press his shoulder-button. “Don’t you want to take your medicine?”
“People don’t actually like taking medicine,” said Robert. “That’s…kind of normal.”
Doctor Circuits snarled and backflipped over Robert, who quickly parried the forceps that snatched at his head. He ducked to avoid gunfire from a 1920s Flapper Girl-themed whisky distillery, and circled around Circuits.
The Twins Dickens snickered, full of liquor, as they nicked Aleya’s arm with their wicker sticks, drawing blood.
“You gambooges!” she shouted, and she kicked at them with both legs, albeit not at the same time.
The twins blocked her kicks with their muscular purple arms, and then fighting broke out all over the roof of the carriage. Mopiuth soared towards Safety Ninja on her moth wings, and both of them tumbled along the train and down through the end of the blown-open carriage. The two oni gangs below were still causing a ruckus inside the train, which coupled with the millipede’s occasional shrieks of excitement and the roar of the Ahab’s engines, made it hard to hear a lot of the smack-talk and one-liners that were being traded alongside the blows.
Haizea stepped forward to help Aleya, but she was suddenly blocked by Stan D’Numbley, whose hulking faceless frame turned to (lack-of) face her. He let out a deep, wheezing growl, waving his arms at Haizea threateningly, and stomping his legs.
“If he says his knee feels funny, attack that!” shouted Robert to Haizea as he clashed with Doctor Circuits.
“Pfft!” said Doctor Circuits, pushing his shoulder button. “Stan D’Numbley cannot talk!”
Stan D’Numbley roared and beat his jagged metal chest like a gorilla, then pointed threateningly at Haizea, unlike a gorilla, which are gentle and love bananas.
In the space of a second, Haizea drew her laser-revolver, trained its sights on Stan D’Numbley’s ample steel frame, adjusted for the wind, and fired two shots at him.
The shots bounced off of the shiny surface of Stan D’Numbley, disappearing into the sky above.
Stan D’Numbley was silent for a moment.
Then, he pointed at Haizea and laughed heartily and disjointedly, his deep metallic chuckles pervading the Martin countryside, deeply unsettling Haizea, Space Team One, and the various whisky distillers who were still clinging onto the train. He charged forwards at her, his feet leaving deep dents in the train roof, though he was large and slow enough that Haizea was able to leap to the side. She spun around as Stan D’Numbley lumbered to a halt, and turned to face her once more.
Flashing her laser revolver to her hip, another laser bolt flew through the air and bounced harmlessly off him.
Stan D’Numbley chuckled again at this ineffectual second try, waved his arms around to limber up, and then noticed Haizea was smiling.
Haizea pointed off to his left.
Stan D’Numbley turned to find that Proverbial Dickens was dying, his chest still smoking from a reflected laser blast wound.
“Brother!” cried Platonic Dickens, clutching Proverbial Dickens in a purple, pectorally perfect Pieta pose.
“Avenge me…” said Proverbial Dickens as he coughed up blood, some of it his.
Platonic Dickens dropped Proverbial Dickens.
“You killed my brother!” he shouted at Haizea.
“Technically, that guy killed your brother,” said Aleya lightly.
Platonic Dickens looked at Stan D’Numbley.
“Stan, how could you do that?” he shouted indignantly.
Stan D’Numbley shrugged and made noises that sounded like a confused whale mixed with someone hitting piano strings.
“Arrrrrgh!” screamed Platonic Dickens, tearing off his shirt. “ARRRGH! RARRRGH! RRR-”
He was interrupted by Haizea shooting him as well.
Aleya pushed the Dickenses’ bodies off the train with her foot, where they bowled over a cowboy. She and Haizea walked past each other and high-fived, as Haizea caught a now-airborne cowboy hat that swooped up to them in the train’s slipstream.
“It looks like they weren’t trained for this,” said Haizea, trailing her fingers across the hat’s brim as she slipped it onto her head. “Because now, they’re dead.”
“…keep at it,” said Aleya, patting her on the arm.
She turned around to look at Robert, further down the train.
“Hurry up, Robert!” she called out to him. “Haizea’s killed two guys already, and you’re still stuck on one robot.”
“He is a very strong and potentially disease-ridden robot!” snapped Robert testily, trying to push Doctor Circuits’ defibrillator pads back up at him.
As the two of them were grappling on the carriage roof, Doctor Circuits had no hands free, so he pushed his shoulder button down with the side of his head.
“Why, thankyou,” he said.
He sized up Robert as best he could, given their position.
“You’re very well assembled,” he said. “If I wasn’t trying to kill you, I’d say we should buy drinks together.”
“…what?” asked Robert.
“Oh, come now!” said Doctor Circuits. “It gets lonely, being third in command of the Ahab.”
He jabbed in Robert’s direction with a very large syringe, full of a bubbling green liquid.
“We could work something out.”
“No thanks,” said Robert, cautiously watching the aforementioned ship hover above.
“Oh well,” said Doctor Circuits, his head still on his shoulder. “Ahab, prepare to fire on the train!”
“Stan D’Numbley and I will survive the barrage,” said Doctor Circuits, as the Ahab’s guns were drawn. “You won’t.”
“Circuits, you slime!” cried Mopiuth.
She flew out of the carriage away from Safety Ninja, making a bee-line for Doctor Circuits. She yanked him off the top of Robert in mid-flight, and started laying into him as they skidded along the roof.
“Cancel!” screeched Doctor Circuits, as Mopiuth clawed at his sphygmomanometer. “Cancel the barrage!”
“Are you alright?” Haizea asked Robert.
“Are you flattered?” asked Aleya.
“First VAL, now this,” muttered Robert, as Haizea helped him up. “If the Foodcombinator starts making me candy hearts…”
“What’s that?” asked Aleya, pointing to an enormous open-topped silo up in the distance.
“Yoghurt silo,” said Haizea.
“Why would you keep yoghurt out in the hot sun?” asked Robert. “Where it will either go off or… I guess on Mars, explode?”
“It’s too dangerous to keep it near towns,” said Haizea, “and if we put a lid on it, it could explode under pressure and send it flying hundreds of metres up in the air, then land on somebody.”
“Then why even have yoghurt at all?” asked Robert.
“Yoghurt is delicious,” shrugged Haizea.
Robert conceded the point.
A large red fist bashed its way through the roof below them, making the trio jump.
“Quick, you guys!” shouted Hibiya, sticking his head out of the hole. “You’re gonna miss out on fightin’ all the people in here!”
“We’re fine up here, Hibiya!” said Haizea.
She clenched a fist, and squinted at the end of the train.
“Just as long as Space Dan’s okay,” she said quietly.
“Sure thing!” said Hibiya, letting himself fall back down. “Mind the hole!”
Safety Ninja smiled at Hibiya’s thoughtfulness, as the latter did something violent.
There was a sudden howling noise as Stan D’Numbley charged at the four of them, and they all scattered out of his way, Safety Ninja sprinting quite close to the edge.
“Be careful, Safety Ninja!” said Robert. “You could fall off the train!”
Mortified, Safety Ninja took a big step forward, although in his heart, he knew that this wasn’t a particularly safe position either.
“That’s wonderful, both of you,” said Aleya, “but how do we fight Slaggy The Pyramid here?”
Stan D’Numbley huffed loudly to make them look at him again, and smacked his fists together.
Aleya and Safety Ninja glanced forwards and then met each other’s eyes, both thinking the same thing. They nodded.
“Hey!” yelled Aleya, as she and Safety Ninja danced around Stan D’Numbley, “over here!”
Stan D’Numbley shifted his weighty metal frame back and forth, trying to face his quickly-dodging foes.
“Wimpy Ninja,” said Aleya, “turtle!”
Safety Ninja nodded, and they both dropped to the roof on their backs as Stan D’Numbley roared and charged at them.
“…how did he get that from ‘turtle’?” asked Robert.
“What’s a turtle?” asked Haizea.
“It’s like a very small dog without fur that has a biological house and lives in the sea,” said Robert irritably.
“…what’s the sea?” asked Haizea.
“It’s not important!” snapped Robert. “Wait, what’re they doing?”
Stan D’Numbley bellowed as he leapt forwards to flatten Aleya and Safety Ninja.
“Now!” Aleya yelled.
They both pushed their legs up into Stan D’Numbley, straining with exertion as together they managed to send his leap soaring onwards, straight off the train and into the silo of yoghurt as it whipped past.
Stan D’Numbley’s body scraped against the side of the inside of the silo as he ploughed through it, sending twisted metal and sparks everywhere, and all the yoghurt burst into a towering diary-smelling fireball above the desert.
“Quickly, Rocky Pillow Cow II!” cried Martin, as he thundered through the deserts of Mars atop his trilobite steed.
The trilobite made a whinnying noise, and clicked its mandibles.
“Git off our whisky!” shouted a frontiersman, and Martin dropped down low to avoid his laser-shots.
Ahead, a great red valley stretched out in front of Martin, its large dusky stones glinting slightly in the Martian sun. To Martin’s left were the white sands of the salt flats, fuel for a thousand impromptu batteries, the heat shimmering off the surface. Martin, keen to avoid ghost-oni, wheeled his trilobyte around and down towards the red valley. There was a tiny wooden structure at the base of the valley’s entrance, and Martin slowed down his trilobite as he realised it was a lemonade stand.
“Hello!” said Martin. “If I ride through this valley, will I get to Pequod’s Albatross?”
“Sure, Mister!” said the one-legged Martian boy running the stand. “Do you want a lemonade?”
“Yes,” said Martin.
The child poured it out for Martin.
“Careful!” said the boy. “Don’t drink it for a few months, or it won’t be alcoholic!”
Martin drank the lemonade down in a single shot.
“Kid,” he said, patting him on the shoulder, “sugar is my alcohol.”
He reared up on his trilobite like a beloved Mexican hero with a cool black hat, and then rode off into the valley.
“Pfft,” said the boy. “Lightweight.”
The trilobite and rider sped across the valley’s floor, and sand was kicked up by the speeding bug-legs sprinting there. Red clouds of dust hung in the air behind the insect steed, as Martin urged it onwards, through the sunlight and the heat.
The valley curved up either side of them, and Martin had to dodge the trilobyte to-and-fro around the large rocks. They were almost as tall as Martin was, and about as wide as his and Space Dan’s desks pushed together back at the fire police news department, if they hadn’t been burned and then inadvertently destroyed by a jubilant Hibiya.
One of the rocks up ahead began to sparkle with light, and as Martin galloped past it, more had begun to gleam around him.
“Ba-da-da-da, ba-ba!” said a rock, glowing.
“What?!” asked Martin, jumping in his saddle, then immediately regretting it as he landed.
All of a sudden, the rocks around him began to glow and harmonise in a frantic acapella, keeping a frenetic beat as Martin urged his trilobyte onwards, ever faster between them.
“He’s riding through the valley,
He’s heading for the town
The hero with a mop
who will bring the villains down!
Martin, Martin, his cookery is great!
Martin, Martin, a feast on ev’ry plate!”
“Bom, bom, bom, bom,” said the bass-voiced rocks, who all flashed red, as the tenor and soprano rocks harmonised.
Martin buckled down on the trilobyte and whipped the reins, his steed’s thundering pace increasing as they flew down the dusty valley.
“He’ll save all Pequod’s Albatross
He’ll get there very soon,
He lost a Mango Smooshee
To the Faeries on the Moon!
Martin, Martin, he had some lemonade!
Martin, Martin, let’s give him a parade!”
“Thankyou, singing rocks,” said Martin, as he rode out of the valley.
The rocks all took deep breaths, then sang:
“Come-A-Gain-Sooooooon!” added the bass rocks.
“Hyah!” finished Martin enthusiastically, waving an imaginary hat in the air as his trilobyte dashed out of the red valley away from the stones, their harmonies and light fading as Pequod’s Albatross came into view over the horizon.
As the town grew close a laser-shot rang out, and Martin rapidly dismounted his trilobite to roll down behind a boulder.
“Who’s there?” asked a voice.
Martin peeked out behind his boulder. The streets of Pequod’s Albatross were empty, save for one guard at the lack-of wall – the lizard-man, Natak Neaks.
“Come out and face me like a lizard!” said Natak Neaks.
Martin slowly stepped out from behind the boulder, keeping his hands in plain view, mop stowed uselessly at his back.
“Hssssss!” said Martin, waving his arms around.
“That’s racist,” said Natak Neaks. “Snakes say ‘hsss’. Do you think all reptiles sound the same?”
“Sorry,” said Martin.
“Well, now I feel even less bad about shooting you,” said Natak Neaks, shouldering his laser rifle and coming closer.
“Say,” Martin said. “You’ve got dirt on your face. Before you kill me, can I clean it up for you?”
“…fine,” said Natak Neaks.
Martin slowly and carefully raised his mop to Natak Neaks’ face, then violently jabbed him with it. Natak Neaks gave an undignified gurgle and collapsed, skidding backwards through the dust.
Martin crouched down and carefully snuck into Pequod’s Albatross, making such great strides that if he were a cartoon character, an orchestra would be scoring him with a great deal of trombones. He snuck through the empty main street, under the shadow of the dilapidated clock tower, and past the empty blacksmith’s shop.
The theoretical orchestra would be drowned out by the sounds of pianee music as Martin, who was careful to make no noise at all, drew closer to the Millstone. Crouching down by the corner of a window, he breathed on it and polished it with his sleeve before peering in, but upon closer inspection, he realised it was blacked out.
Martin glanced up at the sky nervously, in case the Luftwaffe were around.
Since they weren’t, he didn’t know what the window was blacked out for. But he could hear voices inside, hidden behind layers of loud pianee, so he screwed up his eyes closed extra tight to make his ears work harder, and pressed one of them up against the glass.
Tannoy Clong’s other town guard, who unfortunately resembled a collection of brightly coloured fuzzy pipecleaners, turned the corner and noticed Martin. Grinning, he spun the small warhammer in his hand, and silently crept up behind him.
Standing right above Martin, he raised the hammer, and did three preparation-taps in midair, just to make sure he wouldn’t miss Martin’s head and accidentally hammer his thumb.
As the guard raised the hammer high, Agamemnon climbed out of Martin’s collar where he had been hiding, and merrily buzzed into the guard’s eye.
“Agh!” screamed the guard in surprise, dropping the hammer on his foot and grabbing wildly at his eye.
He stumbled back a few paces and tipped over the Millstone’s porch railing, falling face-first into a water trough. The guard did not know how to swim, and so helpless bubbles of air floated up from the trough, until they stopped.
“Hm,” said Martin, pulling his ear away from the window and rubbing his eyes. “I’d better go insi-…oh, hello, Agamemnon!”
He patted his popcorn fly fondly, then stood up and pushed open the saloon doors into the Millstone.
“Agh!” the patrons screamed, and Martin found himself looking down the barrel of a great deal of guns, including Heyurr Stone’s.
“…play the pianee again, fool!” whisper-shouted the bartender.
The preying mantis in spectacles groaned, and started playing again.
“It’s the only way we can talk without Clong hearin’,” said a frog woman.
“What?” said Martin.
“I said, it’s the only way we can talk without Clong hearing!” the woman repeated.
“What?” said Martin.
“We’re trying to come up with a plan to save the town!” said another preying mantis. “He’s in the Mayor’s office, holdin’ him hostage!”
The townsfolk agreed, nodding, as they covered their ears.
“What are you going to do?” asked Martin. “Because I have a plan.”
“What?” said the bartender.
Martin huffed, found a chair, and stood up on it. He waved his hands around in big motions, and then began an inspiring speech, as conveyed in the language of the Velurans.
“…oh!” said the bartender, as it ended. “That makes sense!”
Heyurr Stone wiped a tear from his eye.
“Them’s the most beautiful words anyone’s ever mimed,” he said.
Martin dramatically pointed to the front door.
“No!” said a one-legged man, clutching protectively at his dirt-covered pigeons. “Clong’ll be expecting that, if we all go that way.”
“…I have tunnels for smugglin’,” said the bartender.
“Oooh, do you have someone special?” said the frog woman.
“Smugglin’!” snapped the bartender.
“What?” said Martin.
The bartender shook his head.
He pointed to the spectacled mantis.
“You stay here,” he said, “keep playin’, or they’ll know somethin’s wrong.”
The mantis huffed, but kept tickling the ivories.
“I’m sorry we’ll have to get rid of the whisky,” said Martin, as the townspeople began filing behind the bar and disappearing below it.
“That’s alright,” said the frog woman. “Pretty much everyone’s got their own distilleries anyhow. I’ll miss Wavy Onion, though.”
“Wavy Onion is just Church Refectory with more sarsaparilla,” said the one-legged man dismissively.
“And Church Refectory is really just stolen batches of Partially Blind Duck,” whispered the bartender.
As they walked and/or hopped through the tunnels, Martin hoped that his plan would work. He’d hate to be up against a bunch of angry Martians after he’d destroyed all their whisky silos.
 By which we mean that they narrowly grazed her arm to the point of scarring, not that they stole her arm. They could have stolen her wooden leg, but they would have no use for it, as they both had all their legs, and were rich enough to buy more advanced cybernetic limbs if they needed them.
 Well, really a moth-line.
 Technically, the train did constitute Safety Ninja’s current workplace, as he had originally been sent by the Brotherhood of the Deep Sai to protect Martin and Robert in his capacity as a ninja. They hadn’t anticipated that Safety Ninja would end up on other planets, though this in itself was not inherently unsafe or contradictory to the Brotherhood’s rules.
 His appearance made it difficult for anybody to take him seriously, and the fact that his name was Alf Bonkers made things even worse.