Bounty Hunted


“Section 7A, Section 7A,” River mumbled to himself on a loop, barely audible. As he walked, he looked haphazardly to each side, but every turn looked like the one before it, and there seemed to be more four-way crosswalks than there were actual doors or other visitors. The occasional Jeocolepian would saunter past, and they’d passed several stores of dubious function, but by and large this structure was too alien and confusing to find purpose in without their guide. Worse, signs marking each ‘section’ only appeared once for each large section of the building, so most of these turns were entirely unmarked. “7A, 7A…

“I get it already; we are looking for Section bloody fucking 7A!” Az finally snapped, on the verge of pulling their immaterial hair out.

“Sorry Az,” River chucked, “I didn’t even think I was saying it out loud.”

“You weren’t,” Az grumbled. “You were sending it telepathically as loudly as I’ve ever heard. It was like a Komo scream inside my mind.”

“Is a Komo scream a good thing?” Komo asked, cocking her head to one side.

“It’s…” Az winced, trying to find a reply that wouldn’t break her little heart or encourage her to break their proverbial ears. “…it builds character.”

“If Komo screams louder, Komo will create a new character!?” Komo gasped, bouncing her neck excitedly.

“No!” River and Az shouted at the same time. “Just…” Az continued, “…don’t worry about it.”

“0,” River sighed, referencing a spraypainted sign glued up on this section of the sprawling green plant walls. “We were just at 7. How the hell are we at 0 now instead of 7A!?”

“You’re mistaken to assume that numbers go in the same order in every culture,” Az replied. “It’s quite fortuitous they use Arabic numerals at all, if not also baffling. Contrary to primitive mattie beliefs, Earth is not in fact the center of the universe.”

“Noooo,” River facetiously groaned. “Here I thought I was the most important man in the universe because I was born on a nothing planet in the middle of nowhere. Good thing a down to earth demigod was here to correct me on that fact.”

“You may be the most important man in the universe right now, but that’s because a species-wide genocide was blamed on you, not because of a birth certificate.”

River rolled his eyes. “We can’t all be as super-duper special as you, Az.”

“I know,” Az beamed in reply.

“Komo am special,” Komo added, “because Komo am the last Komo in the whole world.”

“Way to River the mood, Komo,” Az sighed.

River raised a single silver eyebrow. “’River’ the mood?”

“Yes, ‘River.’ A verb, you know, like, ‘wow, that guy just Rivered a whole species.’ Or, ‘my mom is totally gonna River me when she sees what I did to her favorite vase.’”

“Because I—”

“Yes, because you wiped out an entire species.”

“Komo thought River didn’t actually do that.”

“River didn’t,” River replied, more exasperated than genuinely upset. “Great, now we’ve arrived at ‘△’. A fucking TRIANGLE. Reol really should have warned us the signs here were in Space Chinese if he was going to fuck off with his Godzilla boyfriend.”

“So triangle comes after 0 and before 7A,” Az said, thoughtfully. “Perhaps these ‘sections’ are non-sequential?”

“Komo didn’t know Komo was going to learn math today.”

“That’s not real math, Komo,” River replied.

“Komo was joking, Komo actually-“

“Oh, so Earth math is real math,” Az scoffed, “but Pisoksha math—”

“You’re the one who said these weren’t Arabic numbers, smartass.”

“I know, I’m merely teasing,” Az laughed. “Make like a Kirlian and… light-en up.”

“Komo gets the joke,” Komo replied, “but Komo isn’t laughing at it.” This part did make River laugh.

“In all truth,” Az mused, “I haven’t the slightest idea what this system of identification is. I thought it was numbers too, until it moved to letters as well, and now it’s shapes. I believe we’re lost.”

“I know it usually annoys me, but if you want to lightspeed around this place to find the damn clothing stores section, you have my full support,” River said, yawning and falling back against the cool, slightly-vibrating plant wall. “Our plant maze adventure was fun the first hour, now I’m just getting pissed off.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Az replied, deadpan. “The paths in here are too tight or I would have done it already when you weren’t looking. By the time I’m at speed I’d be inside a wall. This is one of those cases where I could only go about twice as fast as you and be able to process anything still, and that seems like a lot of hassle and rudeness for such a slight advantage.”

“Komo sometimes don’t say what Komo is thinking in case it’s stupid, but Komo am going to say it anyway." River and Az turned to face Komo, expectedly. “This language isn’t Komo, but the Komo language from Komo that Komo speak uses shapes too. Komo don’t think it was ever 7A. Komo think it was a shape like a 7 and a triangle, and Reol just calls it that because Reol is a nerd.”

Az and River froze, glanced at each other, then back at Komo. “Come to think of it,” River said, his eyes widening…

“A right angle does look like a stylized 7, and would be a logical inclusion in a shape-based lexicon,” Az continued… “I suppose the ‘0’ would be a fairly common geometrical figure as well….”

“Do you mean a circle, oh genius god?” River replied, stifling a cackle.

“And the letter ‘A’ looks like a triangle,” Komo replied. “Crew actually passed a right angle triangle sign a few turns back, but Komo didn’t say anything in case Komo was wrong.”

“Komo,” Az replied, frantically, “can you get us back to that spot!?”

“Komo am very good with directions,” Komo beamed, nodding. Sure enough, she led them back to a sign they’d overlooked on the inner turn of a path they hadn’t taken: “⌉△.”

“Seven A,” Az blurted, laughing wildly, “or should I say, left facing right angle triangle!?”

A warm tingling sensation of relief flowed euphorically through River’s organic bits. “Thank the Lord! Komo, you are a genius! You saved us, big time!”

“Komo will start speaking up sooner in the future,” Komo proudly replied, holding her large head high. She looked like she’d just been awarded a medal of honor.

“Yes, well done indeed, you big loud brilliant being, you,” Az added. “I know you don’t like violence, Komo, but if you want to fire just the tiiiiiniest little bitty laser at Reol for telling us to go to section BLOODY FUCKING Seven A, I am certain Captain River will uphold the decision…”

“Don’t kill Reol, Komo,” River replied.

“Kill him just a little bit,” Az added.

“Not even a little bit,” River replied.

“A tiny bit, maybe.”

“Not even a tiny bit.”

“A quantum—”

“Shut up, Az, we’re here.”

“Oh.” Az had been too caught up in their banter to realize they’d reached the end of the hallway, where a small staircase of carefully curated plants led to a vast, elevated rotunda with many small clothing “stores” nestled within its circular outer “wall.” Above each doorway, a crudely painted stick-figure on canvas was glued, each displaying the basic bodily form said shop could accommodate. One store, rather than having any actual clothing, appeared to be the checkout/service/dressing rooms for the others.

“Oh joy,” Az yawned. “Clothing. My material body just can’t wait to wear whatever I want—oh wait!” In an instant, Az was a famous Jeocolepian supermodel neither River nor Komo had ever seen before, wearing vintage old-Earth Gucci clothing.

“Show-off,” River mumbled. “Just treat this as a fashion gallery. Get ideas for stuff you can, I don’t know, ‘poof into’ later.”

“This is all utilitarian clothing, not high fashion a demigod should ever wish to emulate. I’m already bored.”

“You’re millions of years old, Az. I believe you’ll survive.”

--

“What do you think?” River asked, stepping out of one of three of the “central” store’s fitting rooms. His entire outfit was made of the same silky material in the same pleasing sandy-tan color. The top was cut like an extra-long duster, holding this appearance when River stood still but flowing like water with each slight movement. The matching pants were loose-fitting, growing more tapered as their legs descended—they were basically silk bell-bottoms, but they worked with this look. At the top, he wore a cowboy hat, made of light but sturdy Chxchxchx leather and wrapped lovingly in the same silken material as the rest.

“River looks like a space cowboy!” Komo squealed. She had found success in her shopping, too, opting to buy a scarf of the same material but in hot pink. It sat at the bottom of her enormous neck, doing absolutely nothing a scarf was intended to do, and it’s not like a Komo had any use for the protection or warmth of a scarf anyway. Nonetheless, she was immensely happy to be wearing it.

“Most impressive,” Az replied, thoughtfully stroking their chin. “I didn’t expect you to cobble together something stylish, but you look positively badass. Strike a pose for me.” River pulled the brim of his hat down slightly over his eyes, shot a finger gun with the other, then spun round, his top’s excess length fluttering dramatically like a cloak behind him.

As if in response to his finger gun, a loud “bang” rang out through the entire rotunda along with a flash of blinding blue light. River, startled, fell in a crumpled heap to the floor. Komo cheered, mistaking this for a cool River cyborg trick, but Az could immediately sense something was amiss. "Captain,” they shouted, telekinetically grabbing his arm to pull him back to his feet, “are you alright?”

“I am, but I have no idea what just happened,” River replied, dazed. “You process things twice as fast, right? What the fuck was that!?”

“In truth, I was too blinded by your coolness when it happened to process it in any more depth or understanding than you matties. However—” Az caught a blur of motion in their peripheral vision and spun round to see a base-ball sized metallic orb rolling right at them. “BRACE YOURSELF,” Az screamed into River’s mind. In a minute fraction of a second, they gave up their shape entirely and compressed themselves into as tangible a telekinetic field as possible before firing themself at River at dangerous speed. Az slammed like a cannonball into River, sending him careening over the service desk (where a very alarmed Jeocolepian male gazed on in amusement) and out of the main store entirely. As he flew through the air, time seemed to slow down for River. He watched as the orb on the ground exploded open into two halves, emitting a visible blue forcefield spanning nearly the entire room he had been standing in. “Komo!” he shrieked, instinctively reaching out for her though he knew he couldn’t reach.

River hit the ground at a shallow angle, sliding effortlessly across the polished, marble-like living plant-skin floor before ultimately slamming back-first into the frame between doorways of a many-legged clothing shop and one for beings the size to fit in a pocket. “Don’t worry,” Az said, “Komo won’t be hurt by it. She’s—somehow--fully organic. You, my dear Space Cowbot, are not.”

“An EMP,” River replied, his eyes widening. Their conversation was entirely mental, happening much faster than they could aloud as River’s heightened, panicked awareness further accelerated his own sense of time.

“Something like it,” Az replied. “That’s oversimplifying the complexity, but for your purposes as a half mechanical being—yes, an EMP.”

“I don’t know how I work, Az. I don’t know what happens if it hits me.”

“Well, my educated guess is that half your body stops functioning altogether, including your heart, and you’ll die.”

“And that’s a bad thing how?”

“It will also hurt, as they say, ‘like a bitch.’”

“Damn it. I was afraid of that.” River stumbled back to his feet. The pain of Az’s impact on his chest and the resulting wall-slam finally set in, making his teeth clench. He didn’t have lungs in the traditional sense, but he still felt a sharp, twisting pain from where his ribs slammed against the organic bits surrounding whatever machinations had taken their place from the impact. “You know what else hurt like a bitch?”

“Me saving your life in a fraction of a second?”

“Yeah, alright, point taken,” River replied, coughing. “Who’s after us here!? Reol said this was a safe planet!”

“Nowhere is safe, River. Let’s go ahead and tear that band-aid off now,” Az replied as he reformed as Chargeman Ken.

“Re-runs already?”

“My creativity is presently outweighed by my desire to keep us from getting murdered,” Az dryly replied.

“Us?”

“Energy being, remember? This shit includes the frequencies that totally scatter the energy making up my being. One of those hits me and it’s no more Az.” River tried to play it cool, but the prospect of losing one of his only living friends was much more horrifying than the threat of pain or death upon himself. “Don’t worry yet,” Az continued, though they were immensely worried themself. “Komo’s laser has pinpoint accuracy. She can likely vaporize our attacker in a single blast--”

“Komo won’t let you hurt Komo’s friends!” Komo screeched menacingly, staring down the curtain of the dressing room. She wasn’t privy to their mental dialogue and the flash of light had temporarily overloaded her hyper-sensitive eye.

“Annnd Komo’s blind,” Az mumbled, panicked. “River, retreat down the stairs. I have your mental frequency memorized. I’ll try to face this piece of shit head on. I will update you with every step.”

“I’m not leaving you, Az—”

“Yes, you are!” Az boomed, their voice in his head suddenly piercing and commanding. River had never heard them sound like this. It shook him to the core, and he couldn’t stand to turn tail and run while his friends fought for his life, but he knew as well as Az that he would be worthless in this particular scuffle.

“Alright, I trust you,” River hesitantly replied, turning and racing down the stairs leading back to the main floor of the complex.

Az marched forward, head held high, back into the main room. “Alright,” they boomed to all minds in the nearby vicinity (correctly assuming a universal language field such as the mall was in place here due to the otherwise unlikely coincidence of Ted appearing to speak English), “shall we let the festivities truly begin, or are you too cowardly to show yourself when it isn’t a sneak attack?”

Instead of an audible response, Az watched in slow motion as another steel orb emerged from inside the right-most dressing room (presumably where the others had as well), watching in confusion as it floated towards their head on its own. They shot at lightspeed to the inside of the dressing room, staying several seconds ahead of the resounding “BANG” behind them. They reared up, ready to concentrate into a single physical pinpoint and launch at full force into a weak spot on the enemy to incapacitate them, but found nothing but a pile of these EMP grenades in the corner. “Listen River,” Az hurriedly cautioned as they jumped back into the center of the rotunda (lest they become cornered), “you need to keep running, distance yourself as far as you possibly can. They’re still targeting you. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you can possibly meet up again with Reol--”

“Noted,” River thought back. “Have you seen the attacker yet?”

“No sir,” Az frantically replied, “it’s like they’re invisible.” Az concentrated all their tangibility into one ‘fist’ and punched away another incoming grenade before shooting at full speed to the other side of the room. The grenade bounced across the ground several times before detonating in another flash.

“KOMO’S EYES! NOT AGAIN! FUUUUUCK!” Komo shrieked, now writhing on the ground.

“Language, Komo!” Az hypocritically chided, telekinetically deflecting it back in the direction it was thrown. This one detonated mid-air, exploding in a brilliant sphere like a firework in the night sky. “Don’t worry about me, River. The enemy is cruel, but they aren’t fast. I could dodge these all day. I just don’t understand how I’m unable to see them, even a Kirlian should--”

“Could they be Feronian?” River suddenly blurted.

“Fer—how do you know about Feronians!?”

“Reol told me about them the other night. He’s still got PTSD from his last run-in with one.”

“Huh. Not a bad theory, Captain.”

“If it’s correct,” River added, pivoting on one foot to frantically cut down another main hallway, “then I should be safe out here, since they’re in statue form while they control their spirit form.”

“Well, yes and no,” Az replied. “’Statue form’ refers to their physical body’s stasis due to their inability to control both their etheric double and physical form at once. Their meditative, motionless position resembles a statue, deep in thought.”

“What!?” River shouted, accidentally saying it aloud as well, startling the horde of tourists he was currently shoving his way through. “Reol never said anything about that!”

“Why would he have? Were you specifically grilling him on Feronians? River, do you have a Feronian fetish?”

“Not the time for jokes, Az, tell me straight--Feronians can move!?” River snapped.

“As difficult as it is for me to do ANYTHING straight,” Az chortled, “that is indeed correct. They aren’t actually, you know, immobile stone beings or something. You’re thinking of Nyarkelz.”

“I’ve never heard of a fucking Nyarkelz, Az—”

“Well, you’d heard of Feronians, so I made a bloody assumption. To elaborate, Feronians can move their spirit form to back to their body, as well as project it away from them, nearly instantly—well, by mattie standards. They’re nowhere near as fast as a Kirlian, mind you, but their spirit form can reach close to one hundred miles per hour at their fastest. You’d have a GHOST of a chance of catching up to one, eh, River?”

Az waited for a response.

“River?”

A moment passed. Then another. This would have been a normal pause in vocal conversation, but in a state of mental link during a frenzied hostile encounter, Az should have at least heard his frantic inner monologue. “River?!”

Still no response. Az glanced towards the dressing room, readying themself to block some more orbs, but none came. In fact, none had for almost 30 seconds. Then it clicked—they wouldn’t have kept throwing orbs at Az when they would clearly never hit… unless, of course, the goal had been not to kill Az, but to distract them.

“Oh,” Az said aloud, the realization hitting them like a ton of immaterial bricks. “Ohhhh fuck.”

“Language, Az,” a seeing-but-dizzy Komo chided, hobbling over to them.

“Actually, Komo, this is perhaps the first instance in our journey that truly and utterly deserves a ‘fuck.’”

“Can Komo say it, then?” Komo asked, her neck bouncing eagerly up and down.

“By all means,” Az sighed.

“FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” Komo shrieked, her loudest and most piercing shriek ever. Az couldn’t even find it inside themself to be upset. For the first time, the loudness of her outburst was perfectly appropriate. It was no louder than Az was screaming on the inside.

“Komo,” Az said, inhaling deeply, “find help. Reol, preferably. Make sure the militias here know there’s a rogue attacker on the loose, and that there’s been a kidnapping. Make sure you tell them that it’s a Feronian. I’m not positive what Feronian physical bodies look like, but damn it, somebody has to.”

“Okay!” Komo bubbled, determination burning in her eye. “What is Az going to do?”

“Blindly bounce around this Pac-Man maze and hope for the best.”

Az shot as fast as they could down the stairs and through each and every possible hallway, desperately scanning for River’s mental frequency to no avail. “River? River!?” they mentally shrieked on repeat. They had totally given up on any semblance of stealth or appearance, a formless blob now on a mission. They subconsciously saw themselves as River’s guide and protector to the strange new worlds of deep space, so their panic was doubled with the phantasmic toxin of crushing guilt polluting every particle of their being.

“Az! Help me!”

For a split second, Az could pick up River’s projected thoughts, though something about them seemed… wrong. “I’m coming!” they frantically replied, racing in that direction, cutting intangibly through even the plant walls, rushing water, and generator inserts to reach him in the fastest route possible. They found themselves in the center of an underground room they hadn’t seen before, realizing all too late they had traveled outside of the complex in their last mad dash to River’s location.

As soon as they stopped and allowed their senses to catch up, they noticed the walls here were made of solid metal instead of plant matter. River stood in front of them, but something about him was…wrong. He didn’t look right out of his eyes, killer instinct burning behind his pupils, and his lips were curled into a psychotic grin Az had never him make before. He resembled the photoshopped mugshot ES had circulated. In his hand was a remote control of some sort—presumably controlling the various functions of his abhorrent room.

Next to River, a roughly seven-foot beast stood. The thing had no skin, made entirely of some sort of gray, muscly fibers. It had no face or head—its torso resembled a mammalian heart, beating powerfully once every two seconds and sending powerful pulses of blood and energy through its extremities. Instead of legs, it stood upon three insanely powerful and muscular arms like a tripod each ending in four opposable thumbs in the shape of a cross. A fourth arm, longer than the others, emerged from its top, its four thumbs all twitching with nervous anticipation. This, Az correctly deduced, must be the Feronian.

Az frantically looked for an exit--there was a hatch on the ceiling, but it was already closed. Before they could even react, a powerful electromagnetic charge began pulsating through every inch of the room’s walls, ceiling, and floor, creating a massive Kirlian-proof forcefield. This was even stronger than the field Reol had trapped them in at BOOMCOAST. Az tried to shift their form back to Chargeman Ken to appear more threatening than their current appearance as a formless mass of distorted space, but the field was so powerful that it hindered their ability to maintain a form. Twisted bits of their intended appearance formed around their core, but it was impossible to keep up. They were already slowly losing their form entirely, being torn apart and scattered with each passing moment.

“Don’t worry, you piece of shit,” River boomed through a toothy grin, “we won’t let you totally die. There’s no bounty for haulin’ your ass to Earth dead.” The voice was certainly River’s, but something akin to a thick, old-Earth, Southern accent now overlaid it. The Feronian added a retort in Feronian, but with the forcefield blocking out the universal language field, Az heard nothing but a series of incomprehensible, vaguely cello-like noises.

“You’re not River,” Az winced.

“No shit!” River’s body replied. “Well, technically speakin’, I am River. I’m inside of him, you see.”

“A Quidian/Feronian team,” Az thought, only to themself. “Beautiful. Just beautiful.”

“You ain’t puttin’ up much of a fight there, friend,” River’s body screamed, cackling. “I expected somethin’ more from the great ‘demigod’ Az. Those ES bastards were right, all you have to do to clip a Kirlian’s little devil wings is put them in a little fuckin box.” Az’s instinct was to lash out at this, but movement was nearly impossible. There was no way they were getting out of this alive. But…

“Listen up,” Az replied, putting all their strength into assuming a vaguely humanoid, stick-figure form. “You made one fatal error in your little plan.”

“Ooh, do tell, Mr. Genius God,” River’s body replied. The Feronian said something else as well, presumably something equally taunting in nature.

“I can’t beat you like this. That much is right. But you made the mistake of telling me that you have to capture me alive.”

River’s body blinked. “Yeah, that’s… that’s how the bounty works.”

“If I were to plunge myself at lightspeed into this forcefield, I won’t escape. But I will be instantly shattered into a sea of non-sentient, formless particles of quantum energy and light. There will be no Az. And that will mean no reward.”

River’s body visibly recoiled, their sardonic grin melting to a worried frown. “You wouldn’t. You like bein’ alive. You done it for millions of years, no reason to stop now.”

“I do like living, yes. But I’ll end it all in a heartbeat if you don’t comply with my demands.”

“You’re in no position to negotiate, you demonic bastard,” River’s body spat, gritting his teeth.

“Neither are you,” Az gravely replied. “And demonic? You’re the only one possessing someone against their will.”

“I’m only doin’ what it takes to restore peace to the galaxy! …and I’ll get half the reward for turnin’ just River in, so let’s not get crazy here. You’d be throwin’ away your life for nothing.”

“Not for nothing. To protect a friend.”

“What the hell are you talking about!? You ain’t gonna’ protect shit, box boy.”

“Let River go,” Az replied, more sternly this time. “Get out of his body. You can take me. Do whatever you want with me. Just let him go, let him live. Tell them you caught me alone, but he escaped. Nobody will blame you. You’ll still be a hero.”

“Or,” River’s body replied, gripping a dial on the remote, “I’ll just put you back in your fuckin’ place, then ride this body to Earth for a hundred million tokens.” The Feronian began speaking like mad. Az made one last desperate jump towards River’s body, but their speed had dwindled to a mere ten miles an hour. As they barely leapt into the air, the forcefield grew in intensity, stopping them in their tracks and pulling them back to the floor. They weren’t dead, but too much of their form had been destroyed to manipulate it any further. They appeared now to be a quivering blob of distorted space on the ground in a melting, pathetic heap, like a slug made of heat-mirages on a desert road. They could think to themself, but was entirely unable of even projecting their thoughts any longer, let alone manipulating the air to be heard “audibly.” There was no way out of this one.

“Thank you,” Az thought, desperately envisioning River, the real River, in their mind. They were mentally experiencing the same sensation a mattie would while weeping. “Thank you for giving me one real friend before my sins caught up to me… for being so much better than I deserved… for giving this old fallen demigod the space pirate adventure they’d dreamed of for their entire lifetime… I’m sorry it was so short. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.” It became harder to think, to even form coherent sentences in their own mind. Even the mental image of River was fading fast. “You… really were… my best friend… I’m… so… sorry…”

The field finally caught up to them. Az was no longer conscious. River’s body dialed down the field slightly, stopping the degenerative process from progressing further, but keeping it at just the levels required to keep Az in a perpetual near-death state. “Thanks, Al,” he said to the Feronian. “I would have killed the little dude if you hadn’t known just the right point. Guess it’s mighty close to how your spirit form works too, eh?” While slightly different from Az’s method, the Feronian had granted him the ability to understand Feronian, and the Feronian himself understood the intention of anything that was said to him in any language, as long as he could sense the user’s brainwaves as they spoke.

“Don’t mention it,” the Feronian replied. “Yes, while our physical makeup is different and my ‘spirit form’ cannot be described in terms of light, an electromagnetic field proves equally damaging at nearly the same rates and frequencies. A job most well done, my friend. Though I implore you, do not call me Al. My name has never been Al. You have never previously called me Al. I do not know why you now call me Al. I reject the title of ‘Al’ most thoroughly.”

“I like Al. River’s jumpy little bastard spirit buddy is called Az, so you can be Al.”

“It is undignified.”

“It’s fuckin’ badass, is what it is. Liquid Mike and Big Al, best buddies for life! The new heroes of space! Masters of the Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy, if you will--”

“I will not. In this moment, I despise you, Liquid Michael, as much as I despise everything about the wretched Old Earth culture with which you are obsessed--”

“No ya’ don’t. You looooove me. You looooove watching groovy old movies with me. And you looooooooove the name Big Al, because deep down inside, you know it’s totally bitchin’.”

“Yeah, yeah. We must make haste. We will jump, immediately. Reol remains at large, and assuming he lives up to his local reputation, it would be advantageous to avoid a conflict and leave him for other bounty hunters.”

“Nah, fuck that,” Liquid Mike replied. “We can take his Jigglypuff ass, our strategy is foolproof. It’s the Liquid Mike and Big Al special finisher! You grab em and hold em down, and I go inside em!”

“I strongly encourage you to reconsider that phrasing. And, of course, to get away from Reol as quickly as possible.”

“I ain’t scared of no Orvebean!” Mike boomed, stomping one foot. “I’m the Captain! What I say goes!”

“I am uncertain if the driver of a two-person crew can truly be considered a Captain,” Al calmly replied.

“Oh, so you’re gonna’ man the controls with that one arm of yours? You can’t even see unless you pop out of your body!”

“I can drive in spirit form,” Al replied, sounding slightly sad and defensive.

“Alright, fine,” Mike groaned, rolling River’s eyes. “We’ll go on without Reol. But I’m taking those lost credits out of your cut, mister."

"I have no use for financial compensation," Al replied, “so that is acceptable.”

“Nah, come on, amigo, everyone loves money!”

“It is the root of all evil,” Al moped. “My only compensation is the creation of a more peaceful universe stemming from our good deeds.”

“This is why we don’t get invited to parties,” Mike huffed. “Fiiiiine. You win. We’ll get the hell out of here. Scaredy cat.”

“It is not irrational fear to avoid conflict with a being who eliminated a demi-Zaxon in a single shot,” Al replied. “It is making an informed, logical decision to protect our investments.”

“Whatever,” Mike sighed, slipping through the hatch on the ceiling. While this did leave a break in the forcefield, Az was still knocked out cold. “Come on, queue up Space Jam for us while I get autopilot set up.”

 “I do not find enjoyment in Space Jam,” Al whined, climbing through the hatch behind him and fastening it from the outside. “The rules of the sport it centers around are not even followed throughout the film. It is thoroughly upsetting.

“Everyone likes Space Jam,” Mike snapped, sliding into the small cargo ship’s claustrophobic cockpit.

“If you insist,” Al mumbled, cramming himself into the back room to load the movie.



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