Part 1- here
Part 2 -here
Part 3 -here
Part 4 -here
Part 5 -here
Part 6 -here
Part 7 -here
The two new best friends crowded around the only table in the Wordsworth establishment. He hadn’t found a reason to get another table when all of his clients wound up on the floor anyway. Devtony eyed the Amazonian nervously; he’d only heard legends and rumors of their proclivity to make testicle soup and rip arms and legs off their enemies when in a mood (didn’t matter which one, it was one of the favorite past times on Amazonia). He’d always chalked that up to bravado and tales that drink tended to incur but sitting across from one he was beginning to believe it all.
“So,” he started, the silence thundering upon their heads breaking him, “what brings you to hell’s mouth?”
“Bartender!” the woman called out loudly, “A round of libations for my friend and I!”
Wordy peered over his counter, cautiously eyeing the pair that for some reason refused to leave. Had it been anyone else he’d just send another round of headaches on the house but the way the female’s eyes burned and the fact he wasn’t so certain he could run fast enough away from the large one weighed on his mind. Oh grapthor! He was going to have to . . . serve them!
Wordsworth looked down at the man who everyone assumed was the puppet master, “Get out two glasses and find whatever liquid we have in the pile in stock.” The man bowed and scurried off to the backroom filled to the brim with Wordy’s finds. He’d been a great discovery in the pockets of one of his early customers. For some reason no one ever took a walking puppet seriously (even if he carried a giant silver hammer and was not afraid to use it) unless they thought they could see what they believed was the puppet master. No one thought much of the fact that the puppet seemed to do all the thinking and most of the talking for the duo.
Glasses clinking in his arms the man returned, craving the warm darkness of the back of the bar that made up Sgnp’s entire life when he wasn’t searching the universe desperately for his lost vowels. Wordsworth pulled open the bottle of the only thing he could find, a curious dark green that smelled acrid. Eh, it seemed to be mostly fluid it’d do. He poured the duo a round and crawled back to his hideaway feeling dirty.
Hellena scooped up the glass and in one quick move gulped half the contents down. Devtony, on the other hand, cautiously poked the sizzling concoction with a finger. The green leeched onto his nail dissolving the ends away. Grasping his hand away from the deadly whatever he stared at his half dissolved nail, a few seconds longer and it would have eaten away at his entire finger. He looked up at the woman, “I wouldn’t drink anymore if I were,” just as she threw back the rest of the green, “never mind.”
Absentmindedly wiping away the last bits of the last known species of the fluid people from Cmdrsue-15 on his dirty pants he tried to jump start the conversation again, “So you’re an Amazonian huh?”
Hellena laughed, thumping the table for good measure, “Oh me, god no.”
“Then what about all the,” he tried to motion to her outfit, or lack there of, but it once again came down to him staring at her chest.
“This? I just play one at parties sometimes. Mostly for the kiddies.”
Kids parties had changed a lot since his days, “Funny all I ever got was a half clown who dropped the cake down his pants and then hit on my mom.”
“What was the other half?”
“So if you’re not an Amazonian . . . “ realization was slowly approaching that he could just leave without fear of losing something vital but the allure of curiosity and the open chair in a warm spot kept him rooted.
Hellena grinned at him again baring all her teeth, he shifted nervously remembering just how much a swift kick of steel could hurt sensitive areas, “Is like I told you, I’m getting into the biz. Gonna be famous,” at that she leaned back sending her sword that was perched behind her clattering to the floor. Most ignored the loud bang in the din of merchants and people all crying to be heard but it caught the attention of one individual.
That was the strange thing about Tw’ iter, there were people stacked high to the rafters, every imaginable item you could ever want to own but no walls. Most sleeping was done if not in a quiet corner or a forgotten chair in the bed zone, that was nothing more than pull out gurneys slid into the side of the station. And they cost a good 2 gold a night so really only for tourists and rich businessmen who probably didn’t sleep like the dead alone. Everything was done out in the open for all to see, that was Tw’ iter’s motto. Or would be if anyone could ever come to an agreement outside of “I like bacon!”
“So how about you,” Hellena asked as she steadied her sword behind her, “what are you doing here?”
“Me? I’m a bounty hunter,” Devtony rolled around his glass, forgetting what it did to his hand.
“Oh,” it was a bit like telling someone you were a bank teller or a mailman. Yes they were necessary and occasionally you needed to see one for a specific purpose but generally bounty hunters were background fodder, something to grease the already slippery wheels of life. “Not some long lost prince of such and such galaxy?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Do ya get a jet pack?”
He sighed, here we go. There was no jet pack, no cool helmet, no giant slug overlord and no army made up entirely of his clones. Wasn’t it enough to be someone that snagged up a few law breakers (preferably the meek and mild ones) in exchange for a few coins? Devtony started to open his mouth to tell the woman just how dull a low level bounty hunter’s life really is when a figure appeared on the edge of his vision. It was clothed in a long cowl and cape number. Whatever face or unface and body was obscured, not an uncommon occurrence on the station but secrecy was usually used by the higher ranking officials.
“You’re a bounty hunter?” A female voice asked from beneath the piles of fabric.
“One of the best in the universe,” Hellena chimed in, gesturing to the only other chair next to them. Devtony tried to glare at her but it bounced off her endless enthusiasm.
“Then you may be my only hope,” the woman said, pushing back her cowl to reveal blonde curls tightly wound and pinned back except for a few errant strands and a lightly painted porcelain mask over her face. It gave one the strange impression of talking to a doll. “Please good sir, my people are in dire straights. They have been attacked and are on the verge of destruction. I was sent to find the only person who could save them.”
“And you think that’s me?!” He was about to jump out of his chair and make a break for the door (well if there’d been a door) but Hellena had a look as a child that found a new toy. It glued him in his chair.
“I am the Lady Pearl of the Gogo clan,” the woman continued. Her vision and hearing obscured by the mask, she was uncertain what was passing between the two new companions.
“That’s nice, and I’m Lord outta here of the bye clan!” He began to stand one eye on the puppet when a flash of metal and a sword appeared out of nowhere placed at his neck. Hellena smiled at him, and nodded towards the bit of steel she held close to his jugular. For being a cosplaying Amazonian she sure was quick with a blade and where in the hell was she hiding that thing on her anyway?!
“I am Hellena Heavenly, this is Devtony a famed bounty hunter and together we shall save your people from needless slaughter and other bad things that could lead to our imminent death.”
She looked at him, and slid the blade a little closer, “Yeah, what she said,” and sunk down into his chair grumbling.
Pearl ignored the strange exchange as some human custom, “So, what brings you to Tw’ iter?” Hellena asked.
“I am the final hope, sent here to find the leader of this station.”
Had he been drinking whatever Wordsworth offered them Devtony would have done a spit take. Instead he made a strange gargling sound like a cross between a laugh and a cry, “Number one? Good luck with that then.”
“Why? I don’t understand. Can I not appeal to him?” Pearl shook her head, this wasn’t going at all how she hoped.
The bounty hunter stood up slowly and at the flash of metal from the Amazonian (he didn’t care what she said she was) raised one hand and dug into his back pocket extricating a small card. He tossed it onto the table with a grunt. It was a plain white cardboard rectangle with holographic writing. It simply said FC: 108 Level 560
Hellena inspected the paper carefully, “What is that, your business card?”
“What? Did none of ya watch the instructional video on the way in?” The two women shrugged. It is a known fact that in the universe there is only one person per audience who watches any video that begins “Thank you for flying . . .” and they’re usually the last person you want in charge of rescuing you should the ship take its inevitable crash into some ocean planet. “It’s your FC, they measure you based on your Idunno usefulness and assign that number. Tells ya what level you can go on.”
“I see, so I would need one of these cards for where Number one is?” Pearl questioned cautiously.
“What happens if you go to some other level?” Hellena asked, the glint in her eye again.
“Anything above’s fine, you’re allowed to travel down to your allotted point but if you try to go below that well that’s why all these bounty hunters are around.”
“You catch them and toss them in jail?”
“Jail? Yeah sure, why not.” The demon dog was in a rather giving mood, it had been a long time since anyone tried to break rank in his presence. Sad, they usually had some nice boots on ‘em.
“How do we get lower cards?” Pearl asked.
“Now that’s the trick. Don’t no one know. They just up and assign you a new number one day and down you go or you get a new card from the person you bust,” It had taken a few years but the bounty hunter managed to move down almost 500 levels from 10,189 where he was born.
“What level are we on right now?” Hellena asked, uncertain of where she could have stored any scrap or card she was given would have been stored?
The demon smiled for the first time since the day began, “Level 560, end of the line. I can’t go any lower unless I bust someone and it’s been ages since,” he laughed as a ludicrous idea took hold of his brain, “Or I suppose you could always try asking someone to take you down, but fat lot of good that’ll do ya. Ain’t no one willing to look out for none but themselves here.”
The words dropped from his lips as the monotonous swarm of the constant passerby’s broke ranks and like waves crashing against a new stone in the stream parted for a new torment on the bounty hunter’s life. It was covered in some kind of strange light green coat that extended all the way down to its shoes and on top of its head. Only a pair of eyes blazed from beneath the sterile garb. “HIDE ME!” it shouted to the uncommon group and dove under the table.
They barely had time to shift when a garrison of men in frankly rather ratty looking uniforms approached, “Where is she?” Oh of course it’s another she Devtony thought.
“Where is who?” Hellena asked.
The men turned to take in the woman with the giant sword, the barely there clothes and the demented glare to her eyes. A few at the back started to edge away slowly, in no mood to be castrated. Just then Wordsworth appeared from behind his counter, not one to miss a chance to beat someone up, “What can I get ya?”
The head guard was about to ask the puppet when one of his minions grabbed his sleeve and whispered something in his ear. “Oh, well obviously we were mistaken. She must have taken off somewhere else. Forgive the intrusion.” And as quickly as they appeared they vanished once again back into the throngs a bit slower on the chase a few looking behind themselves for any hammers.
“They’re gone,” Devtony mumbled, trying to shake the woman off his foot.
A gloved hand latched onto the table and she peered out, “Really? Wow, thanks so much. You guys are great, really. I can’t thank you enough. The name’s Steph by the way. Stepharooni. You’re all lifesavers let me tell ya. If there’s anything you need, anything at all please ask.”
Hellena exchanged a glance at Devtony who groaned. “You wouldn’t happen to have an FC card would you?” she asked grinning.
“I never leave my pod without it,” the gloved hand slipped into her pocket and pulled out a card somewhat similar to Devtony’s. “There we go, FC: 265 Level 500. Why?”
“I think we could use your help greatly Steph.”