Friday, December 5, 2014

E.L.F: Chapter Nine

Author's Note: Man, I had a great Thanksgiving. In fact, I had three - once with my family, then again with my family, then a third time with my friends. This does explain why I am so fat and lazy. But my birthday is rapidly approaching, so I'll be sure to give you all presents. That's how birthday's work, right?

Chapter Nine: Tortuga

The Urtish, whose name was Zed apparently, shoved Jimmy and Pix into the box before squeezing in after them, leaving his chair-gun on the ground outside of the box. The door closed and everything went dark.

"So, uh,'s kinda cramped in here," Pix said after a few moments of silence.

"I know, it is." Zed didn't sound particularly annoyed to be jammed in up close to two aliens he had never met before.

"Wait, aren't you going to tell us to shut up?" Pix asked.

"Nope. In fact, I'd love to hear more about you, mostly so I know how much you're worth when I sell you."

"Great." Pix nodded, her pink eyes bobbling up and down in the darkness. "Greeeat. We get to be sold into slavery in a box smaller than my closet!"

Well, to be fair...” The Urtish said, then paused. He kept pausing. “Uh, wait, sorry, my timing is-”

The floor of the blue box dropped out from under them. Well, it didn't really drop, but rather dropped a few inches than started to click downwards, as if each click was a ratchet not quite engaging. Jimmy put his hand on the wall and felt it sliding against his palm – they were moving down a shaft. The clicking sound continued and the elevator continued to go down, and Pix managed to slid around the Urtish – apologizing softly every few seconds – until she stood beside Jimmy and could hold his hand. He smiled at her, even if it was too dark for her to see.

After what felt like forever, the elevator hit the ground with a loud CLANG!

Zed barely staggered, but Jimmy almost took Pix down. Zed grinned at the two of them as they struggled to stay afoot – Jimmy could tell, because Zed had used bioluminescent toothpaste recently, though it was only visible in the darkness of the elevator.

The door opened and light bust into the chamber, blinding Jimmy and Pix for a moment.

"Welcome to Tortuga!"

One second!” Jimmy siad, holding up his hand, still rubbing his eyes.

Zed sighed, shook his head, and muttered something that his translator helpfully picked up and piped out at full volume: “Pansy ass human eyes.”


Tortuga seemed instantly familiar to Jimmy. It sat in a cavernous room that was almost the exact shape and layout of the elevator junction that they had taken into the Armory. Where Tinsel and Tortuga wildly diverged was what had been crammed into the place. Buildings of every species and architectural style were smashed together with gleeful disregard for safety or urban planning. Graffiti was splashed on every wall and sidewalk. There were human neons, Yetel pictographs that blazed in infrared and UV light that Jimmy knew would blind him if he looked at them too long, Slor scentdibbles, and freaking Basilisk hacks that skirted the edge between provocative street art and potential war crime.

It was beautiful. But it was also dangerous.

Jimmy rubbed at his eyes, and looked at Pix, who was shaking her head. “Have these people ever heard of restraint?”

No,” Jimmy said, though he was just guessing.

"That's just about right," Zed said, slapping him on the back. "Oh, look who's come down to visit."

Jimmy and Pix looked up, even though Pix's eyes were kept closed. "Who is it?" She whispered.

"I'm guessing," Jimmy bit his lip.

"That's my mom's jacket," Edna spoke with a prim, almost pinched voice. She looked nothing like anything like Jimmy expected. She was thin as a reed, had a pinched, almost ugly face that made her look closer to thirty than twenty despite her being Anna's daughter – though, the relationship didn't seem to be a blood relation, as she had no tail. She wore a simple, body-hugging jumpsuit that had been covered with hanging straps and catches that themselves were wrapped around a profusion of useful gadgets and tools. The most disconcerting thing was that she looked like she could and would kill you if you twitched in the wrong direction, at the wrong time, or with the wrong intent. Or, even, the right intent.

The Yetel soldiers and the Xorquin had been too alien for facial expressions to matter. But this girl was human through and through. She looked like she was half a hat from shooting Jimmy right there. He didn't see any guns in her sprawl of tools, but the two burly men behind her looked more than willing to use the shredder rifles they had strapped onto their shoulder.

"Uh, yeah," Jimmy took it off in a hurry and held it out to Edna. "It was the only thing of her's we could bring that didn't get stolen."

Edna bit her lip. Her expression softened, and for a moment, her ugly face reworked itself to look about Jimmy's age – a strange changing of lines, the set of her jaw, and frownlines smoothing away. Then, the hardness flowed back up like a sewer tide and she took the jacket. She looked at it, sighed, then handed it back.

"Thank you," she said, almost too soft to hear. "I don't want it."

Jimmy took the jacket back and slipped it back on. It was his jacket now. And it was comfortable like no one's business on top of that. He thrust his hands into his pockets as Zed spoke somewhat plaintively. "They owe me at least-"

Edna threw him a bag of coins. "Zed, make sure that Xorquin doesn't get in."

Zed, who was busy gaping at the bag he had caught, nodded. "Y-yeah. He won't get past me."

He turned around and hustled back into the blue box elevator. The elevator went up and Jimmy turned back to Edna. There was a moment of silence – interrupted only by the crowds of Tortuga doing their own thing – they acted as if two burly men with shredder rifles on their shoulders were nothing much of a much. Of course, Jimmy wasn't entirely sure why he should react like they were anything much of a much, considering how much he had to deal with.

"Well." Pix broke the silence. "We made it."

She reached down and tugged her shirt up, revealing her data port. "Here's the data. Now, we're not going to move," she glanced at the two men with guns. "till we figure out terms."

"What's going to stop me?" Edna asked.

"Well, this, this is going to stop you." Pix grinned. "I can wipe every bit of data if you shoot us, and you'll have to shoot us to get us to do anything we don't want to do." She raised her eyebrows up. Jimmy worked on keeping his face as blank as humanly possible – Pix was bluffing people with guns. If they called the bluff – they'd find out that Pix didn't and couldn't interface with the crystal.

Edna looked like she wanted to kill them again.

"Hey, mowing us down gets you nothing. And all we need is some protection. Shouldn't be that hard, right?"

"Fine!" Edna thrust her hand out. "You have a deal!"

Pix glanced at Jimmy. He gestured with his head. Take it, he tried to say with his eyes. Pix grinned, and took the hand that was offered.

They both squeezed as hard as they could.

Edna winced. But Pix let go first, rubbing her hand. "I've got reinforced bones. Hard to break."

"I killed more people by the time I was twelve than you have in your life."

Pix managed, somehow, to look nonchalant, but her eyes whirred as she clamped her iris down. After a moment, she said, "Well, what now?"

"Now? Now we go to our base, pay off whoever we need to pay off, then decrypt the information." Edna sighed. "But first, is there anything you need? Food?"



The city of Tortuga writhed with life. People were constantly doing things, twitching, bouncing, running to and fro. Xorquin clattered at one another, Urtish smoked their heads off, Tette<click><click>...sat there, but they were probably thinking really really loudly. Slor and Yetel that seemed to have forgotten, or were just ignoring, the war outside bargained and traded. Robots hummed in the sky, and the few E.L.Fs that were mixed among the profusion of aliens hawked their services from virtual street corners - Holograms and augmented realities shaped storefronts, turning cubical-sized physical locations into sprawling buildings, like dimensions were unfolding before your eyes – dimensions full of drugs and sex and bootleg guns.

Edna and her bodyguards flowed through the crowd like water through more water.

And Jimmy really needed to work on his similes.

Still, all the scrambling Jimmy and Pix had to do to keep up with Edna proved to be worth it: Soon, she led them to a restaurant built out of sheet metal with smart cloth strung between the gaps. The front door had a sign painted in glowing colors: BBQ. The scent that wafted from the deliberately less than perfect seals around the walls and cloth was, well, it sure beat the sewage out of protein bars. Jimmy's mouth filled with spit and his stomach growled. Pix started to giggle, then she sniffed loudly, and made a face.
“Like what you smell?" Edna cocked an eyebrow.

"Very yes." Jimmy grinned. Pix shrugged and shook her head at the same time.

"I dunno, smells to spicy to me."

"Oh, Pix, nothing can be too spicy, didn't you know that?” Jimmy asked. Pix stuck her tongue out at him.

One of the body guards, at a gesture from Edna, opened the door and ushered them inside. The room was dark and the smell was even stronger. Various people, mostly displaced humans, were eating there. From what Jimmy could see, the meat was slicked with a thick, delicious, and very brightly glowing sauce – it made the tables shimmer like embers in the rather darkly lit place.

Edna, Pix and Jimmy were seated by a pleasant E.L.F. waitress with a really big grin and three menus tucked under one armpit. The bodyguards sat at a different table. The waitress handed out the menus, and Pix got to flipping with a will. Jimmy chose a salad he knew he'd enjoy, then glanced at Edna, who was watching them both.

"Okay," she said, softly. "This place is pretty safe for talking, but Jack might have gotten a few bugs in here."

She slid out a small circle of metal and plastic with a dome on-top. Her thumb pressed down on the dome and it lit up bright red.

"This'll make sure any listening devices at this table won't work. Our guards-"

The body guards started to talk loudly about the latest football game. Their table was close enough that the conversation overlapped and covered their whispers.

Jimmy nodded. Clever. Cleverish, at the very least. He looked at Pix, and saw that she was still looking through the menu.

"The first question I have is: Can you translate anything on the data crystal into stuff we can understand? Wait, no, my actual first question is: Who is Jack?" Jimmy asked.
"If it's in Xorquin, we can translate it. And he's a rival crime lord, no need for you to worry about it."

"Well, there is something else." Jimmy glanced at Pix. "What did you call that stuff? That security stuff?"

"I called it security stuff." Pix grinned up at him, closing the menu with a snap. "The accurate name would be hardware scrambling programs. They screw up the power allotment of whatever you plug it in. Makes it short itself out. That's why it hurt when I tried to log into it. Not that I need to log into it to delete the files. And why it melted his computer." She jerked her thumb at Jimmy.

Edna nodded. "We can handle that but first, food." She whistled and the waitress came back, brushing a flop of green hair away from her eye. "I'll have the Brahman ribs. Double sauce. And a beer."

The waitress didn't even ask for an ID.

"Do you have root beer?" Jimmy's ears burned and he looked down.

"Beer, got it." The waitress grinned. "What do you want with that?"

"But, I-"

"Salad." Edna broke in. "He was looking at salads."

"Salad?" The waitress shook her head. "Young men need meat. I'll get you some ribs."

"But I'm-"

"And you'll have?" The waitress looked at Pix.

"Steak. Rare. Not bloody or anything. But rare. And I'll take a beer too."

The waitress walked off, leaving Jimmy feeling profoundly out of his depth. He looked at Pix, who winked at him.

"Pix," he whispered, leaning in next to her. "We're underage."

"So?" She grinned. "I drink."

Jimmy's blinked. "You what?"

"Oh, not to excess, and definitely when I'm not driving. Which is easy, cause I don't own a car."

"You drink!?" Jimmy gulped, his throat suddenly dry. Why did this feel so creepy? Other kids drank, and Jimmy knew intellectually that drinking a bit of alcohol before you were twenty-eight wouldn't turn you into a horrible layabout drunkard. But, felt so weird, to freak out about that when he had been dealing with guns and murderers and criminals.

But then again, he expected that stuff to shock him. But drinking and being underaged slipped back his growing jaded shell and stabbed him right in the back, because it was something close to normal.

Pix interrupted his inner thoughts. "What? You don't drink?"

"Well, no! And where did you get the drinks anyway?"

She snorted. "It's not like it's Red Sand or Dust or anything, Jimmy. I just nicked some of Richy's secret stash."

The waitress came back with some tall, frosty drinks. Jimmy looked at it. Pix knocked her dink back and hiccuped. Jimmy sighed. Edna sipped her beer, taking it slower. Jimmy scowled at her, then tried to drink a whole cup of beer at once, without ever having tasted it before.

Ow. That had been a mistake.

Pix snorted and slapped him on the back. He grinned at her. "I feel warm."

"That will happen."

"You're looking prettier by the moment."

"Don't you know you're not supposed to judge people by their looks?" Pix asked.

Jimmy sipped again, knowing to go slower this time. "You're also getting smarter by the moment."

"That's better." Pix poked him in the nose.

Edna glared at them. Jimmy shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. It had been almost two days since her mother's death. It had to be tearing at her insides. Jimmy felt rotten for his good mood. He shifted in his seat and coughed.

"So, uh." He bit his lip. "Are...your mom was a-"

"No, stop." Edna looked up at him. "I can't feel anything right now. We're in the middle of a tense situation, and I'm young and I'm a girl. This gang isn't a bunch of enlightened, modern people." Her eyes went flinty hard. "I can't let them see weakness."

"Ah." Jimmy felt cold despite the beer. He sipped again. "Those body guards, are they loyal?"

"As loyal as anyone can be in this stupid city." Edna grumbled. She played with one of their bottle caps, using her fingers to scoot it around. Jimmy felt a weight on his shoulder. Pix's head.

"Not very, eh?" Pix sighed. The waitress came back with the ribs and steak. Jimmy had to admit it smelled really good. And, heck, Edna was paying. Might as well enjoy the steak. It was not the best steak he had ever eaten but it wasn't the worst. Good. Pretty good even. Pix made soft mumbling sounds as she ate her.

"No, not very." Edna picked the conversation up again with ease. "Now, once this meal is done, we are going to make it to HQ. There, we can translate for you, and then we can dicker over how much this is worth us. Who knows-" Edna shrugged. "You two might be good business partners in the future, if you play things smart and don't screw up what leverage you have."

"You've got to be insane." Jimmy leaned forward. "We're not criminals."

"Fine." Edna shrugged. "But knowing I'll get more use out of you is one more reason why I should not just sell the info and then ransom you off."

Jimmy scowled. Pix sighed, sitting up. She said one word that summed up everything Jimmy thought.



The super computer in Edna's hands was less impressive looking than Jimmy had hoped for. It looked like several other computers that had all been stitched together. But, as Pix whisper-explained to him, the older junk acted like a failsafe. So, if the Counter-Defense Protocols failed and the crystal tried to short out the machine, the old junk would die rather than the new and shiney stuff. If the CDP did work, then the old stuff would wire the info to the new stuff and it would get cracking. At least...he thought that was the translation of what she had excitedly whispered. She had said “quantum” a lot, though. There was only one question that Jimmy had.

Won't Edna realized you bluffed her?”

Pix blinked, then shrugged, and mimed crossing her fingers: I don't know, she seemed to say. Lets hope not!

Jimmy crossed his fingers. Barring treachery, this was their ticket home. And, in case of treachery, he was ready to...

To sign up with Edna, if she either called their bluff or just demanded it either-way. He knew Pix wanted to run. To try something heroic and brave and futile. Before Friday, Jimmy knew he if he was in a life or death situation, he'd want to run and try things that were brave and futile and heroic. Before Friday, he hadn't kissed a girl. He hadn't drunk beer or known just how amazing it was to...

Yes, to love someone. To be near someone who loved you for your flaws and your qualities. To be held. And before Friday, he hadn't known how alarmingly final death was, how absolutely fast it could happen.

He didn't want to lose that. So, Architects help him, he was going to do anything to live.

He looked at Pix. She connected her eyes with him. She smiled, slowly.

Yes, he thought. Anything.

Edna slid the data crystal into the computer. "Note." She held her finger up. "This computer doesn't have a copying drive. That is a different computer entirely."

"Good." Pix crossed her arms over her chest. She paused, then whispered to Jimmy: “It really doesn't.”

Jimmy nodded. If he couldn't trust Pix about computers, who could he trust?

Edna scowled, then pushed the start button. The center computer whirred on, humming softly. Something dinged and the central housing rotated till the center computer and the outer computer were connected. Information sparked down the wires, the entire machine humming now. The view screen flickered on and Jimmy grinned at Pix.

"It worked." Edna stepped back, rubbing her hands together. "Watch and let's see how much this is worth."

First, there were the indecipherable diagrams. Then, the Xorquin that Jimmy remembered from so long ago, appeared on the screen.

"James," he said. "I am going to send this message to you and Monica by way of Walter." He sighed. "It's true. The crazy bastards are really planning it. The schematics...they detail the entire plan. James, I th-"

Jimmy closed his eyes a moment before the shot rang out. That part he still remembered all too well.

Edna scowled. "Computer, play back the first bit of the message. Frame by frame, only going forward by command."

The first frame. Now that it didn't go by so fast, Jimmy saw that the lettering was translated as well. First, it showed a series of symbols: A square thing, a stick figure daggit, a half circle and a small blue box. Then it showed one of Harbinger's thousands of shuttle ports. The words "open" appeared and the shuttle port opened, letting out a shuttle. Something was attached to it, a big bobbly something. The word next to it translated after a few moments of whirring from the computer: Antimatter Warheads (5,000,000,000 Megaton Yield)

Jimmy gasped. Pix put her hand over her face. Edna's reaction was far more prosaic: “FUCK!”

The next frame was the shuttle attaching itself to one of Harbinger's engine pod. When it left, the AM-bomb stayed behind. The shuttle went back into the shuttle port. The last diagram, now it was labeled, turned from a nonsensical cone to a estimated blast damage and radiation exposure from the rupturing of the engine pod.

The thing Jimmy noticed the most was how the cone of radiation was aimed right at his city, at his people's home. And then the expected casualty charts showed up. If the Xorquin's plan was right, it would sterilize the entire sewage deck – blasting it with enough hard radiation that even Harbinger's inexplicable hull wouldn't be able to stop the humans from dying. And they would die fast...die with their hair falling out and vomiting up blood.

Jimmy felt sick.

"Those bastard," Pix whispered.

Edna slammed the off button on the screen, shutting down the images for the moment.

"Monica....James. Those are my parents names!" Jimmy blinked. "I got no idea who Walter is...but..."

"What?" Pix looked up at him

"It's just a theory." Jimmy waved his hand. "It's not important. What is important is...what the hell are we gonna do about that!?"

He and Pix looked at Edna. She was still staring at the screen as if she could still see the projected casualty lists on it. Then, she turned to face Jimmy and Pix. She drew in a deep breath...then let it out. "I have no idea."

They all looked at one another.

"Well, this is it." Pix stuck her hands in her pockets. "We're going to die."

Jimmy looked at her again. “Pix, you said that last time.”

Pix tried for a smile. It looked like a death's head grin. “It's still true, isn't it?”

Jimmy couldn't argue with that. 


Did you enjoy the story? I'm glad! Please, support me on Patreon, or at the very least, tell your friends about it. LINK! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

E.L.F: Chapter Eight

Author's Note: This has been a week made of moving stuff from my grandmother's house during my free time! Stuff like a cadenza. Cerdenzer? Carduzur? I don't even know! What I do know is that it was HEAVY! But you know what they say about heavy things.

They are heavy.

Chapter 8: Looted

Jimmy and Pix spent the next day pretending they were safe. It started off easy enough – there was just the occasional supersonic screech of tacjets going overhead, leaving behind faintly visible contrails – white spreading lines against the darkness of the Armory ceiling, lit up like greenish veins by the omnipresent green glow. But then the battle intensified: Distant booms became chattering became something only heard in historical and faux-parks.

Jimmy ignored it.


When the time came to rest, Pix pointed at a small semi-circle of piled up...well, Jimmy wanted to say guns. They looked like guns. But they were also clearly made by the Architects: Their material, their greenish crystalline studs, their alien and yet familiar look. Until he was told otherwise, Jimmy was going to call them guns, and they were piled up in a semi-circle. Pix glanced from the circle to him, raising an eyebrow curiously. Jimmy nodded, and together they walked inside the protective circling. Sitting down, Jimmy put his flashlight handle first on the ground, then pushed the edge of the frame down, revealing the glowrod within, turning it from a flashlight to a lamp. Pix leaned back on her palms. "We are so lucky it's not too cold in here."

"Yeah. Lucky. Really, have we been lucky since Friday?"

"No, not really, no." Pix leaned her head forward. "It's, uh, Sunday night. It feels like we've been walking and running for more than a year."

"A lifetime?"

"The time it takes to read the original translation of Lord of the Rings." Pix snorted.

Jimmy scooted over and leaned his head against her shoulder. She smiled and they leaned on one another, looking up at the sky. There were striations to the darkness, ranging from purple to pure deep deep black – those were broken up only by the unnatural streaks of rockets and tacjets flying overhead. But it seemed that the Slor and the Yettel were thinking along the same lines as they were – the battle's sounds slowed down, growing quieter and quieter as they looked at the sky.

Pix sighed. "I never knew a big splotch of blackness could look so pretty. Let alone with all the killing things flying around in it."

Jimmy smiled. "I never knew a girl could look so pretty. Till I was fourteen. Which is four years ago. So, really, this is a terrible way to compliment you. Just the worst."

Yeah, it was pretty bad,” Pix said, nodding solemnly.

How will I make it up to you?” Jimmy asked.

Gold,” Pix said. “Gold doubloons. Huge ones. Like, easily this big.” She spread her hands wide.

W...What would you do with them?”

Throw them at you for not complimenting me properly. Duh.”

Later, they slept, spooning up against one another for warmth – the Armory not being cold didn't make it “warm.” With his eyes closed and the sounds of the battle fading into silence, all that Jimmy could do was focus on Pix. He smelled her. He felt her. His hand was over her hand, resting on her belly. He tried to think of anything but sex. It was surprisingly easy, as tired as he was. Was this growing up? Was he growing up?

He sure as heck hoped not.

Sex was fun.

"Okay, Edna says we're about a half a days walk away!" Pix grinned at Jimmy as he fished around in his jacket pockets for more food. He bit his lip. Anna's jacket. Not his.

He found a nutribar and scowled. "I think this is the last one..."

Pix grinned. "You take it."


"Yeah. I can last longer without food."

"Well, I'm not hungry."

"Neither am I!"

"Just shut up and e-"

They walked around a corner and into five or so Yetel who had their guns aimed right at em.

"Eat." Jimmy finished, even as Pix thrust her hands into the air.


In old and new war movies, the one thing everyone seemed to forgot to film was the part where the soldiers robbed you blind. First, they took Jimmy's jacket. Anna's jacket. Whatever. Then one of them started to pat Pix down, fishing things out of her pockets and the various hidden nooks and crannies that Pix had all over her person – Jimmy wasn't sure if it was part of her clothes, or if she had cybernetic compartments. In the end, they got a pile of things that had once belonged to Jimmy and Pix set up, and the soldiers started to sort through it.

While they did so, the one Yetel with a translator- Jimmy didn't know Yetel insignia but he was guessing it was something around Sergeant- started to question them.

"Who are you! Where are you from? Why are you here? Are you partisans? Mercenaries? Criminals? Answer me!"

Jimmy had not been planning on not answering his questions, but the presence of the three or so guns aimed at his face made it easier to come up with answers off the top of his head.

"I'm Jimmy and that's Pix."

Pix waved, keeping her hands above her heads.

"We're from the PS-1...uh, City-18." Jimmy gestured in the vague area of the sewage systems. How far away was he from home? How were dad and mom coping? Did they think he was dead? He felt that, no matter how many guns he aimed at the universe, he'd never get an answer to those questions until this adventure was over.

The Yetel jerked with his gun. That motion needed no translation. Jimmy continued: "And, uh, we're here cause we...well, it's kinda a long story."

One of the Yetel said something that wasn't translated. The Sergeant tapped his translator then spoke back. They exchanged a few words while the other Yetel finished stuffing their pockets with everything they wanted. It left the pile o' stuff much smaller than before.

"Can you at least leave the gun?" Jimmy asked. The Sergeant glared at him. In the end, the Yetel left behind a can of Yetel rations, a can opener, and then they trooped off, heading towards where the big booms were coming from – the battle had started up again.

"Well, at least we're still alive. And not in a prison camp! Win win!" Pix held up Jimmy's jacket as Jimmy shoved the stuff they had left into the pockets. When he slipped the jacket back on, it was way lighter and way more comfortable. But, if he had the choice between lighter and more alive, he'd choose the alive part.

He shook himself. "There is that."

Pix stepped back and stroked her chin, still holding the can of rations. "You do cut a dashing figure in that."

Jimmy sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I still feel like a thief and a graverobber."

"I'd rather feel guilty than be dead." Pix sighed.

"How many horrible things have happened to the human race because of people who said things like that?" They started to walk, Pix making the 'wiggle fingers' gesture that meant she was updating Edna on their situation.

"Uh." Pix cocked her head. "Edna says to keeping going straight. She says we have a thirty percent of surviving."


"And to answer your question...lots."


"Oh. Wow." Pix put down the binoculars and looked at Jimmy. "This is what we've walked through a warzone for? This epic, amazing city of hidden crime, where the scum and villainy of the entire ship meets for their nefarious planning and so on."

"Yup." Jimmy took the binoculars and started to scope it out.

"It's a shack."


"With an old Urtish sitting in front of it, smoking a medicinal."


"A SHACK!" Pix reached over and started to shake him.

Jimmy put down the binoculars as he rocked back and forth, closing his eyes. "Actually, it's more of a box. A big blue box."

"Yeah, a-" She stopped shaking him so she could grab the binoculars back and looked through them. “Well, really, it's more of a rectangle if you ask me.”

Jimmy shrugged. "Ask Edna if we need to know anything or if we can just head right there."

Pix nodded. Her antennas sparked.

A bullet slammed into the ground and bounced up. The binoculars exploded into a cloud of fragments – most of them flying straight up into the air, rather than backwards. Pix yelped, clapping her hands to her face. Jimmy reached for the gun that wasn't there, then grabbed Pix and yanked her behind what little cover they had ontop of the thingy they were laying on. Another bullet bounced off their cover with a flash of sparks.

"Are you okay?!" Jimmy shouted.

"Do I look okay!?" Pix held her hand to her forehead, blood streaming down her forehead and into her eyes. "The binoculars exploded! Jimmy, can we go anywhere without something exploding!? "

Jimmy gently pried her hand away from her forehead and winced. "That's gonna hurt."

Pix described exactly what Jimmy could do with his diagnostic skills and where he could put them. The sniper, the Xorquin doubtlessly, was holding back on his shooting. Jimmy peeked around the corner just long enough to try and get a bead on the Urtish sitting before the entrance to Tortuga. He looked completely unconcerned, as much as a tiny figure in the distance could look unconcerned. There had been no really loud crack of a gunshot, so maybe the gun was silenced or something. A bullet whined past his head and Jimmy ducked back down. He had no idea where the shot had come from

Pix, who was still hissing and holding her forehead, glanced at him. "Great, great. Relative safety and all we have to do to get to it is sprint across, what, a billion miles of open ground, right into a bullet?"

"Looks like." Jimmy sighed. "And the Yetel took all the smoke grenades. The Yetel took all the grenades, period!"

Pix closed her eyes. Jimmy rummaged around, but the Yetel had taken the bandages too. Shit! Oh, wait, a tissue. He put the tissue over Pix's wound and she sighed.

"Hey!" she suddenly shouted. "Urtish?"

Jimmy gaped at her.

Then the Urtish shouted back. He wasn't translated.

"You have a translator?" Pix shouted.

"Yup. Why you yellin over there?" The Urtish's translator, fortunately, was able to enhance its volume to match the Urtish's shout.

"Cause we're getting shot at!"

"I didn't see no bullets."

Pix rolled her eyes, pressing the tissue against her bleeding forehead even harder. She shifted so that she could shout over the edge of their cover: "It's a silenced sniper rifle. Listen, we sorta kinda need help."

In the pause before a response, Jimmy peeked around the corner and saw movement near the 'horizon' of piled guns that spread along the ground across from their cover – a greenish, blurry speck. The Xorquin. And he was moving. Towards them. "Pix!" he hissed. "Xorquin, coming this way."

"How much is my help worth to you?" The Urtish asked.

"LOTS! Lots and lots! Also, the big bad who's shooting at us is heading your way."

Jimmy peeked again. Now the Urtish looked like he was holding a big old gun. Either that or he was holding his chair over his head.

Jimmy ducked back and the bullets started flying every which way. The Urtish's machine gun wasn't the loudest gun Jimmy had ever heard, but it sure took the cake in terms of bullet to air ratio. The shooting and banging and exploding went on for what seemed like forever, but Pix swore up and down it was less than five minutes.

Then: "Hey! Hey! He ran away."

The Urtish sounded absurdly offended by this.

Jimmy peeked out. The Urtish waved at him. Jimmy gulped. "Okay, Pix," he said. "If I get shot in the face, this was a real bad idea."

He stood up, eyes closed. He waited for the big bang and the white flash that lead down to death boulevard.

Nothing. He opened one eye. The Urtish ambled over towards them. He was a bit lanky for one of his kind, and...yes, his chair doubled as a machine gun. How cool was that?

"So, that'll be three hundred credits." The Urtish smiled up at him. Jimmy blinked.

"Um, if I were would that affect this situation?"

The Urtish laughed and aimed the machine gun at him. "It makes this a bit more interesting." 


Enjoying the story? I sure hope so! If you are, please support me with Patreon!