PART IIIMature

 

Five dead aliens littered the floor of the tavern, and all was still and quiet, however Grigg was quick to act as soon as the brawl came to an end. He commanded his security squad to block the exits of the tavern, and with haste they drew their weapons, barricading the entryways with tactical formations and brute force. All of the aliens who witnessed the entire occurrence were now in a panic, and they grew frightful and frantically uncertain, suspecting that Grigg was plotting another one of his wicked schemes. Iren remained close to the Earthian, who stood like a statue and did not move or shift a muscle, not even to holster the sidearm that was still pointing at the corpse of the criminal he had just executed without hesitation.

Finally, after the tension rose to its acme, Grigg shouted in an angry tone, "Earthian scum! You trashed my tavern, scared my customers, and killed five well paying patrons inside my establishment. You better have a damned good reason why I shouldn't strike you down where you stand, along with that two timing whore next to you." His bitterness and greed surfaced in unison, and already he was beginning to delight more and more in the thought of ridding himself of the Felisian woman he cared so little for.

The stranger slowly began to move, and his first action was to holster his weapon. "Not so fast!" Grigg cried out, and he added with a cold sternness, "Drop it, cowboy."

He had perceived with an accurate clairvoyance his fate, and he knew that if he dared to disobey the command of the tavern owner his chances of survival would suddenly and drastically plummet, so the Earthian turned his weapon toward a non-threatening direction, then tossed it behind the bar at Grigg's feet. When he noticed the gesture put the infuriated proprietor into the slightest bit of ease, the stranger continued to execute subtle actions.

With calculated speed rivaling that of cold molasses or drying paint, he reached into the left side of his black coat, as if to withdraw something from inside it. The security guards tightened their trigger fingers and became unnerved, but still they awaited Grigg's orders like trained pets. First the Earthian pulled out a long and slender capsule filled with grounded up bits of plant, which is commonly referred to as astro turf by its consumers, and he slid the capsule between his lips with concentrated steadiness. 

Next he flicked a match head, which instantly sparked into a miniature blaze, then lit one end of the smoking device, drawing a long and meditative breath as he waved the match to extinguish its flame. After a moment, he reached once more into his coat and grasped a small electronic device; a black and red gadget used to display basic holographic imaging.

The Earthian approached an empty table that still remained intact despite the brawl, though he moved in gradual motions, and he placed the electronic device upon the table, passively pressing one of its small buttons. There was the sound of a click that came from the initial press, then a dull humming filled the otherwise silent atmosphere. Grigg and his tavern's patrons blankly stared on as a glowing image emanated out from the base of the gadget, and every alien recognized the picture displayed within the holographic message; it was that of the recently deceased Big Lizard. Typed in many different cosmic languages were small paragraphs of detailed information, but the most visibly legible word that distinctly proclaimed itself above the portrait of the late ruffian simply translated to:

W A N T E D.

The stranger spoke aloud, and at length he said, "Your dearly departed customer, notoriously known as Big Lizard, was a vile criminal wanted by the Cosmic Order, as well as his band of equally detestable miscreants, for crimes and grievances too many and gruesome to recount at the present time. Therefore, a generous reward has been offered for the capture or execution of these unforgivable alien scumbags." He spat upon the ground, possibly cursing the corpses, and continued, "by my account I claim four of the five bounties, and the lady here may claim the other if she so desires. As for the mess; my condolences if you feel upset about the tables and glasses, though I reckon the tavern itself doesn't look much different than before. If it's retribution you seek, then I willingly pay a pittance of gubuls." He pulled a small leather sack from his belt and tossed it toward the bar just as he previously did his weapon, then he paused for a moment and looked from side to side at Grigg's security guards saying, "I have no cause or means to fight any longer, and if I have scared any patrons this evening, I ask only for a spare moment to verify Big Lizard's death and then I will cross the stars."

To cross the stars means bidding someone a farewell, and it is the proper one given when an alien intends never to see that individual again, if it can be helped. The stranger hoped that his expectations would be realized, and that he would collect the evidence of his victory without hassle, but he soon perceived that the nefarious tavern owner had other plans; dastardly plans.

"Are you a ranger? I pay my taxes, I know my rights!" Grigg said this to the Earthian, curious to know if the stranger was acting under the direction of the Cosmic Order. The title of ranger is given to any alien employed by the Cosmic Order to enforce the universal codes of law, order, and societal conduct.

"Unlike your mindless puppets here I take orders from no one, but speaking of orders; I still want that whiskey, dry." The Earthian was telling the truth when he spoke, and it was clear to Grigg that he was no more than a hapless vigilante who wandered into the wrong tavern.

He had a severe distaste for the stranger's impudence, and already Grigg's devious mind was turning its wretched cogs. His supreme sense of parasitic opportunity swelled up once again, and a crooked smile dragged itself across his face. He pointed at the Earthian and at Iren shouting, "You two stay, everyone else leave. Now!"

The command in Grigg's voice was more stern than ever before, laden with absolute treachery, and the panicked patrons of the tavern frantically shot up from their seats, quickly departing the chamber in a hastened and disorderly fashion. The commotion ceased as the last alien left through the entryway, too frightened to look back and witness the conclusion of the evening. Then the doors of the tavern were slammed shut.

Iren was trembling from both the fear and  the pain she was experiencing, and she continued covering her bleeding flesh wound with one of her hands. She could sense all too well that something terrible was about to happen. The bar maiden was accustomed to Grigg's demeanor; she knew he had some small seed of treacherous plot in his mind, though she could not guess the root of it. In that moment Iren dreaded what might happen next, so she took her free hand and wrapped it partially around the stranger, hoping for his protection once more. She embraced him tightly.

The Earthian stood still, and though the injured bar maiden sheltered herself behind him, he dared not move, but instead he remained standing motionless and defiant like a lone mountain against a horizon of prairie. Fear did not enter his heart; no one fears the slumber of death after traversing through the fires of hell in life, but concern for Iren's sake flooded his thoughts and muddled any chance of a quick escape. He had witnessed her torment and mistreatment, and it was obvious to him that Grigg would just as soon end her life without a single trace of cause or care.

In that moment, the stranger did a thing far greater for Iren than any alien dared to since her grievous doom; instead of charging for a window and bursting through it to avoid Grigg's impending onslaught, he stayed beside the bar maiden, in hopes that the slightest chance to rescue the poor Felisian woman would reveal itself.

Iren barely had time to desperately cling to the stranger, however. Grigg motioned to one of his security guards that stealthily approached the pair from behind, and the obedient soldier crudely grabbed the Felisian woman by her long head of hair, which at the moment was pulled back into a messy bun. He wrenched her from her savior's side, and Iren screamed aloud both in pain and in sudden surprise, but the stranger could do nothing for the bar maiden as she was cruelly handled and forcibly transported to the bar.

"Tie her down," Grigg said, throwing a string of loose rope upon the bar top. The security guard replied with a menacing tone uttering, "My pleasure," and he wrenched back the arm Iren was using to dress her bleeding wound;  he handled her cruelly while she struggled in his grasp, but her efforts were in vain, and Iren's protest ended after she was bound to the bar directly in front of Grigg. She cried aloud once more, yet the Earthian refused to make any sudden movements. The obedient soldier placed his weapon to the back of Iren's head, and the Felisian woman could no longer fight back her tears. She pitifully wept under the pressure of her current and terrible circumstances.

"Quit your sobbing, you blubbering bitch, or I will give you something to really cry about," Grigg said in a harsh seriousness. He struck Iren across her face once, then he turned his attention toward the vigilante. "Here's what is going to happen; you are going to collect your evidence of the gang's death, after which you will take the information to the nearest Office of Rangers. When you have attained the reward money you will return here, and you will personally deliver it to me. If you bring any rangers back with you I will kill this whimpering wench, and if you depart from here and decide never to return, know this; I will keep this bitch tied up and let my men do whatever they like to her, then I will personally dispatch of her slowly and painfully, piece by piece. If you're the type of alien who can live with that on his conscience, then understand that I will send my men to hunt you down and deliver the same fate upon your damned head."

The Earthian said nothing, but he quietly reflected upon Grigg's request. All of the security guards stared on at the stranger, their weapons remained pointed at their target. He waited for a moment, then withdrew another small gadget from underneath his long coat. The device was activated, and it whistled and beeped as one by one he hovered over the dead thugs. With this gadget in at hand, he scanned their corpses and stored their information.

The scanner cataloged the identities of the aliens, and it recorded their current conditions, which presently remained bloody and deceased. The Earthian passed over one of the bodies however, and he deliberately avoiding it with the scanner; the cadaver was the one wretched alien that Iren had brutally and fatally murdered, and in a strange sense of honorable and respectable fairness he did not claim the kill.

After completing the initial task, the stranger approached an entryway surrounded by Grigg's security guards. Each of the aliens flashed grim and dirty looks at him, but his courage never wavered as he pushed his way past the well-armed brutes.

"One more thing," Grigg shouted out, and the stranger stopped in his tracks, but did not turn to look in the alien's direction. The tavern owner's hands caressed Iren's face past her reddened and tear soaked cheek, then his fingers curled themselves through her hair as he roughly pulled back and yanked hard, forcing her to cry out in agony.

"You have one hour," he said flatly.

The door to Grigg's tavern shut behind the Earthian, and he began walking through the ghettos of Myris while the humidity lingered heavy all around the city like a thick net. The very tops of Myris were lit by the technicolored hues of the moon moss, and its allure once again shined down on the faces of the lowly and misfortunate from high above, as it ever does.

Every second was fleeting  as the Earthian sprinted down the faintly illuminated streets of the ghetto. While he was making his way toward his cruiser, and not to the nearest Office of Rangers, he could sense something odd and amiss, so he listened carefully as he rushed passed by dark alleys and dilapidated buildings. When his hunch proved correct, he ditched the remainder of his smoking device and took the opportunity to dive into concealing shadows, then he stealthily awaited his pursuers.

Grigg had ordered two soldiers to follow the stranger, and demanded that they apprehend him and bring him back to the tavern if he attempted any sort of feeble rescue on Iren's part. They were well on his heels until he sprinted forward at an exhaustible speed. The security guards gave chase as best they could, but after a while they were no longer able to keep up with his pace. They stopped in the middle of a deserted intersection, panting and perspiring, then one guard said wearily to the other, "I think...he got...away," and the other huffed in reply, "I don't...see where...he went."

Suddenly the Earthian leapt from the shadows, and wrapped around his hands, extending from side to side, was the blue scarf he had been wearing earlier. His initial attack surprised the brutes, and they were caught completely off guard. He kicked a weapon one of the aliens was holding, disarming the soldier as it rattled upon the concrete surface of the road. With a swift and steady motion, the vigilante wrapped the garment around the neck of the other alien, and began to strangle him with an unrivaled strength.

The throttled soldier's comrade had fumbled his weapon from the initial kick, but he reached for a sharpened knife that was resting sheathed upon his belt. He withdrew the blade and swung it directly at the stranger wildly. The knife caught his right shoulder and slightly cut it open, but he felt little pain and did not flinch from the attack. Next the soldier leaned back and prepared a fatal blow to deliver to his opponent, but the vigilante spun around with an unmatched quickness, and before the security guard could retreat his blade, he planted his knife deep into the alien that was being strangled.

A look of surprise swept over the soldier as he witnessed his comrade fade into death by his own hands. The Earthian tossed the corpse off to one side, and he tackled the remaining alien onto the ground. They grappled with each other for a moment, but the combative skill of the stranger far exceeded that of his enemy's. After the security guard was pinned under him, he stretched out an arm and retrieved the weapon laying upon the road; the same weapon his opponent had dropped from the first attack. With the firearm in hand, he rolled off of the alien and rose to his feet. Immediately Grigg's subordinate began to plead for his life.

"Please - please don't shoot me!" He was whimpering at the thought of his own demise, and he hoped and wished that the stranger might let him live; but as stated previously, wishes are not realized in Myris.

"Shoot you? Who said I was going to shoot you?" The Earthian turned the weapon aside as if to drop it, then he firmly gripped the long firearm with both hands, and began to cruelly slam its back end into the head of the wretched scum over and over. He finished his assault, after the sound of bone grinding into the concrete beneath the head became too grotesque to bare.

After the scuffle, he withdrew a small handkerchief from a pocket, dabbing away the blood that stained his face and tossed the firearm upon the brutally battered and unidentifiable corpse, then the Earthian retrieved his blue scarf and promptly continued his progress toward his spacecraft. This was no cowardly retreat, however.

His plan of action was simple; he was going to head back to his cruiser and fetch his one of a kind samurai sword, then return to the tavern, reclaim Iren and his equally unique, custom-made pistol, at which point he would consider what weapon he would mercilessly execute Grigg with, as well as the remaining well-armed security force guarding the bar. A great length of time passed when he finally arrived at his cruiser. He pulled off the colored netting that was concealing the spacecraft in camouflage, then he routinely typed in a well memorized pass code on its exterior, and the cockpit of the vehicle unlocked and opened with a distinguishable hiss.

The Earthian's cruiser was a spaceship designed to be piloted through the universe, and among the stars of galaxies far and near. The vehicle was constructed to seat two aliens, and each chair of the cockpit had a dashboard full of flashing buttons, twistable knobs, and miniature switches. In the copilot's seat of the cruiser there was a dark and bulky duffle bag, and he wasted little time opening the bag, digging recklessly through its contents. He pulled out a large pouch from the bag, and from that he withdrew a sparse amount of medical supplies, ointments, and bottled creams. While he began to perform basic first aid upon his shoulder, he noticed one of the buttons on his dashboard was flashing rapidly and repeatedly. Curiosity entered his mind as he pressed it inward; a beeping sound rang out, then a recorded voice message began to play.

The vigilante recognized the voice that left the message with certain familiarity. "Hey Blu, it's Gully. Sorry if I have sent this at a bad time. I hope you're still in Myris when you finally receive this message. I hear the city is breathtaking and beautiful. You'll have to tell me how you enjoyed it when you can. I bet right now you are delighting in some fine cuisine, flirting your way around the ritzy cantinas while hunting down that lizard-prick."

"Yeah, I'm having a ball down here Gully," Blu unenthusiastically replied to the voice message as he finalized the bandaging of his shoulder, then he dawned his black trench coat once more while the recording continued playing.

"The reason for the buzz was to let you know that another bounty came through, and the reward may be a little less than you usually go for, but it so happens the alien is on Arneid, and resides in Myris of all places. According to his picture he is one ugly fucker, I mean really fucking ugly, and judging by his crimes he is a total slime ball. Apparently this guy owns some kind of seedy bar that he named after himself; conceited bastard. Anyway, his name is Grigg, and if you're still in Myris you should look into it if you have the time. Well, that's all I have for you right now, old friend. I hope to hear from you soon. Buzz me an update when you can." The beeping noise ceased as the message came to its end, then the flashing light of the button stopped.

Blu stared on for a moment, and he was swept in a wave of stupor and disbelief, then he said to himself in a half chuckle, "I reckon today must be my lucky day." The medical pouch was placed once more into the dark duffle bag, and the only thing left for him to do was retrieve his masterwork sword and lock up his spacecraft before departing. The door of the cockpit dropped closed and latched shut, and the vigilante began walking in the direction of the tavern with thoughts of violence overwhelming his mind; he was thirsting for bloodshed, and hungry for vengeance.

 

 

 

 

 

Whether or not Iren was rescued, and the bond between Blu and Gully are both revealed in the next installment.

 

The End

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