The wild pursuit had abruptly ended, and with nowhere to travel, nor means of propelling, it was concluded by Ogdan that the vigilantes had lost the battle. He had finally overcome the dismay of this realization, but still he remained trembling in his chair.

Blu, feeling comparatively opposite of his comrade, was delighted to see the approaching military vehicles. The convoy of rangers had not yet fired their cannons. In fact, it was quite impossible for them to do so after the iridescent blast that had transpired. Their transmitters had been disabled from the power of the mysterious cannon shell, their dashboards were wailing incessantly, then altogether ceased to function, and their radios were more than likely frazzled.

The Anupaman was not privy to this detail, and from his perspective it was another agonizing torment; observing the soldiers slowly advance toward their position, creeping closer and closer without warning of when they might strike. Blu welcomed the idea of the broke down vessel being breached by the rangers. It was his intention. He understood the position he had rendered his opponents, and all was conducting according to his plan.

"Stop your bellyaching, horn-head." He drew a breath, then he spoke in a tone which mimicked, or rather mocked, his comrade, "misery of miseries, all is misery! My last breath is precious, but what of the breath after my last? Why did I spend my life endeavoring to look past my heavy horn? What could I possibly find interesting beyond my own snout? If fate had been kind, I'd have turned my sad and pathetic life around, but now I'm cursed to wallow in self pity and die along side of the most dashing alien in the universe."

Ogdan turned around in his chair, quick as lightning, then he shook a fist at Blu as he retorted with a furious roar, "I don't sound like that, you miserable bastard! I ought to wring your scrawny Earthian neck. But I don't understand why they await to pull the trigger. This is worse than torture; the anticipation is maddening, and that damned beeping is only heaping insanity onto insanity." His attention drew back to the porthole, and he shouted aloud, half believing his request would be executed with prompt immediacy, "just finish the job already!"

"If you were worried about wasting your breath before, I reckon you are despairing now. Needless to say that you're ignorant of our current predicament, but try to understand that their cannons and radios are useless - for now."

Blu's countenance was solidified with confidence, and the determination which had possessed him before became more pronounced. His eyes flashed brilliantly, and he continued in a stern voice, "they are coming to attach one of their vehicles to this ship, and with the lust and rage of demons they will infiltrate, consumed by the solitary command to retrieve our heads. It's best that you wait to kill me until after we commandeer one of their ships; that is if you care for some help fighting them off and flying to freedom."

Ogdan shrugged casually. "It's come to my attention that sparing you from the might of my fists would be beneficial in prolonging my health, so consider yourself off the spear for the moment." He unstrapped himself, then he crossed to the other side of the hub, though this time the effort was much less treacherous than before.

"I think you mean to say 'off the hook,' though I can imagine an Anupaman like yourself fishing with a spear. On second thought, I'll wager you would use a hand grenade to catch a gillfish." Blu snickered at the thought; picturing Ogdan hurling grenades into ponds which were reduced to mere puddles by the make-believe explosions, just to catch a fish that a blind alien could net without really even trying.

"I mean to say that I've decided to generously postpone kicking your ass, smooth-brain. You press your luck any more with me, and I will turn you over to the rangers without a single measure of regret. You know, that doesn't sound like a bad idea at all."

"I reckon I'd break off that horn of yours before you could even touch me."

While the vigilantes exchanged crude and profane banter with one another, an unpredicted change disturbed their dialogue. The remaining vehicles, which had been so near to achieving total triumph, suddenly began to retreat back toward the route they traveled during the galactic chase. Ogdan's spirit was once again revived, and he stared on more bewildered than he had ever been before. He witnessed what he thought to be the makings of a miracle; the soldiers were letting them go. Blu, who continued to maintain the opposite demeanor of his comrade, suddenly became uneasy at the sight. His grin melted into an expression of disbelief and puzzlement.

All was silent between the vigilantes. The only noise filling the spacecraft was the sound of the dashboard relentlessly ringing its warnings, and it was beginning to grind against the patience of Blu and Ogdan.

"Something is wrong. This is not how the plan was supposed to work," the Earthian's voice became abject, imitating the same lowliness that his spirit had descended, "they were clustered too close together. The shell disabled too many of their vehicles. That must be it, that must be why..."

Ogdan failed to perceive that Blu was merely addressing himself when he spoke aloud, so he replied enthusiastically, "what do you mean something is wrong? We're saved! We must act quick, before they return. Well, what on Anupama are you waiting for...another friendly escort provided by the ever-gratuitous Office of Rangers?"

"There was too much damage," Blu continued rhetorically, "and the lack of communication has them utterly confused. They must be retreating back to aid their fellow soldiers; the ones who have become as stranded and helpless as we are. Accountability, I should've factored in accountability."

He glanced up, locking eyes with his comrade, and a sudden weight anchored Ogdan's soaring delight. "The plan was to escape by swapping ships. It would have been less difficult if we were coasting through the stars under the guise of rangers, but this turn of events changes everything. They are going to rally, and once they have all of their soldiers accounted for, they will come back and begin their search for this floating heap."

"How dare you-"

The Anupaman glowered with anger at such a detestable word, and he felt the sting of his pride being tested, but before he could protest any more, Blu directed Ogdan's attention to the obvious lack of engines. The vessel was indeed a floating heap. His expression transformed into a combination of misshaped misery, furious frustration, and dumfounded surprise. He was initially stunned and at a loss for words, but eventually he cried out, "what have you done to my poor ship?!"

"Until now, I have been striving to save our skins, and I reckon I've done so with profound success. We have, somehow, despite your bounteous generosity and clumsy aim, lived to eat another day as the saying goes." As Blu was saying this, the very last military spacecraft disappeared amid the darkness of the universe, and the illustrious glow of the ever expanding cosmos cloaked itself around the drifting vessel.

Ogdan curled one of his hands into a fist, raising it high above his head. Blu anticipated the strike, yet he did not flinch in the least, nor did he attempt to deflect the deserving blow; this was, after all, completely his fault. The fist dropped like a falling hammer, driving through the atmosphere with painful intent, then it collided with the dashboard; a spark of electricity flickered, wily bluish voltage slithered like snakes, then the monotonous beeping, which had far surpassed the boundary of annoyance, ceased immediately.

"So what now, smooth-brain?" The murmured question passed through the clinched teeth of the Anupaman, and he posed his inquiry with obvious discontent.

Blu quit the pilot's chair, slowly rising as to not agitate the wound he had yet to address, then he crossed over to the compartment that contained his equipment. His countenance was eerily placid, and his mild movements suggested that he had no desire to hasten himself. Quietly, without uttering a single word, he withdrew a smoking device from his duffle bag, lit the end of it using a matchstick, then inhaled. 

Ogdan remained still during the suspenseful lack of verbal explanation, awaiting the reply of some brilliant scheme or plot to turn the tide of their fortunes. It was understood by both of the vigilantes that their circumstance was dire.

He inhaled deeply, drawing in his breath and meditatively collecting his thoughts, then Blu calmly remarked as nonchalantly as ever, "we wait." He retrieved the medical supplies from their respective pouch and commenced tending to his wounds. The aroma of astro turf ascended from the smoking device, quickly filling the interior of the hub.

"That's it? We just wait? What sort of plan is that?!" The Anupaman was irked by his comrade's cryptic remark.

"The only course of action we can take at this point. Unless you have a spare engine hiding away in that empty head of yours, there is little we can do." Blu exhaled a large cloud of smoke through his nostrils as he provided another answer to his interrogator; an answer which did little to satisfy or pacify.

"And what exactly are we waiting for, an apology from the rangers?" The response roused laughter from Blu, but it was suddenly quelled by the stinging sensations being induced from the ointment he was applying to his burnt epidermis.

At length, after another hesitation from speech, Blu casually replied, "we wait for someone, anyone, to find us. We have no engines to speak of, but we are drifting, which means once our friends return to see us off for good, we will be elsewhere. All of our electronic equipment is broken, obliterated, or floating somewhere outside of this ship. Our pursuers, or any other vessel for that matter, will be unable to detect us on any scanners; a fact that will prove to be either fortunate, or disastrous. We weren't hit directly with the shell, so we can still send or receive frequencies with our radio, but I reckon the only aliens to converse with for the next while will happen to be enlisted in the galactic military, and I don't need to illustrate the counterproductive implications it would incur if we were to ask them for help, or a free tow to the nearest planet."

Ogdan slumped down into the pilot's chair like a puddle of slog, covering his face with his hands. The situation he found himself in was dismal, and hope was abandoning him just like the debris of his spaceship, which drifted along in the empty voids of the universe like scattered specks. He groaned and mumbled, but the sounds he made were incomprehensible, then he muttered with dismay, "damn you, Blu. The rumor about Earthians holds true after all - they destroy everything they touch. My poor ship!"

"Not this again," Blu said, rubbing another layer of ointment into his burns, "look at the solar side of things, pal. We're still very much alive, we're no longer being viciously pursued by rangers, and now we have the great fortune of admiring the beauty of the cosmos, which I reckon will be our only source of entertainment until we are discovered...or die."

The last part of that statement caused Ogdan to shudder at the thought, and he sighed with great displeasure. 

"Here," Blu tossed a capsule of astro turf to his comrade, "this will help you relax. Our situation could be much worse, believe me, though I still am very unaware of our current circumstance. Tell me, how much oxygen do we have left in this thing? And what is the quantity of your foodstuffs? We won't survive long if we can't breathe, or if we starve."

Ogdan wallowed in his miseries for a brief moment, shaking his head from side to side, then he finally lifted his head from his hands, placing the smoking device between his lips. "I just had this ship refueled, and the air supply tanks were filled to their maximum capacity. As long as there isn't a breach or hole somewhere in the hull, we should have enough air to last us without concern. As for the food, I have enough to last one alien about a month or so...but I can always rely your carcass if we exhaust the provisions prematurely."

Blu finished wrapping white medical bandages around his wounds, then he crossed over to the copilot's chair and eased into the seat. He handed his capsule over to Ogdan, who used it to light his own. After the astro turf was returned to Blu, he smirked and said, "perhaps you've taken too many blows to the head. The day you're able to turn me into a carcass will be the day the universe draws to an end."

The Anupaman puffed away on his capsule, and almost instantly his attitude transformed. Feeling much more carefree then he had been a second ago, he kicked up his feet onto the busted dashboard, blissfully reclining as far back as his chair would allow, and heaved a heavy sigh that subsumed a mist of smoky fumes. "You're still as confident as ever, and the same old cowboy. I already know the answer to this, but are you worried about helplessly drifting in the least? Do you realize that nine out of every ten ships that become stranded are never heard from again, and the one that is discovered is always a galactic tomb that sealed away its damned crew?"

"Oh you of little faith, Ogdan. We've been given a second chance at life, and already you're alluding to the prospect of death; remind me never to invite you to a party, buzz killer. I reckon as soon as we find our boots on the ground of another planet, we will be laughing about all of this. Why, I feel like laughing already, but then again that could be the astro turf."

"There you go again, speaking like you're onto the next adventure already. You are certainly a strange one, Blu. In fact, I'm quite curious to know what you were up to in that particular Office of Rangers. Imagine my surprise; I was awaiting permission to depart from that awful place, my patience running its limit, then the alarm sounded. I decided to investigate the reason for it all, and I find you standing there with a weapon pointed at a woman's head, all of the while attempting a showdown with a dozen armed rangers. I know you to be a thrill seeker, but since when did you lose your damned mind?"

"When you paint the picture like that, I reckon an explanation is in order," he replied nonchalantly. "Originally my plan was to collect the reward money from a few bounties I managed to nab on Arneid. It was just like old times pal, if you remember some of our glory days. One of my alternate aliases, Gilliam Rook, became comprised, although I'm still unsure how this happened," he remarked suspiciously, then added, "I was merely trying to mount my cruiser and cross the stars, once the money was mine. I would have fared much better had I not promised my hostage to play nice."

Blu followed his comrade's example, leaning back in his seat, his demeanor as cool as the depths of space. "And what about you, Ogdan? What was such an upstanding alien like yourself doing inside a militarized station? Please forgive my laughter if you dare say you were enlisting to became a ranger."

"Hardly! I'd never dawn the uniform of the Cosmic Order, even if it meant being saved and rid of you this very instant. The reason for my presence there was to clear up some misunderstandings; some bastard pressed for legal action after I beat him senseless."

"Why fight the wretch in the first place?"

"He did the unthinkable, Blu," the Anupaman started, as if what he was about to say was so bizarre that it was utterly unbelievable, "the smooth-brain had the audacity to point a knife at me. At me! You know how I detest weapons in my face; such an act is considered hostile, and if any alien wants to challenge me, let it be known that I'm always prepared for a fight," be bellowed stoutly, slapping his chest like a brute.

"Say it isn't so," came the reply, blanketed with a sheet of sarcasm mixed with disappointment. Blu was hoping his comrade's reason would be a bit more interesting, rather than a typical response that derived from the ordinary.

Ogdan was on the edge of his seat by the end of his statement, then he gradually reclined the chair back again, the influence of astro turf seized his recollection, allowing retrospective thoughts to enter his mind. "Now that I think about it, I sympathize for the fool. He was ignorant of my condition; perhaps I should have struck him a few times less...perhaps."

"Am I succumbing to madness, or did I just hear the mighty Anupaman confess the wish to hold his punches? If there is a prominent quality that you possess, Ogdan, it's that your fist quite resembles something known as a wrecking ball; especially when it swings."

"And what about you, Blu? Wherever you go, destruction follows in your wake. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm grateful to be freed from the aspect of apprehension and imprisonment, but you could've, in the very least, attempted to spare my ship. The damned thing was a birthday present after all! It was nearly a virgin vessel when my name was signed onto the registration form."

"I'm very much obliged for your help back there. If we survive this I'll buy you a new ship, an ever better one, then you can sail among the stars in style. I managed to purloin the bounty money while inside the Office of Rangers, along with a little extra incentive. It's lining my pockets as we speak, but right now I reckon it's of little use."

Ogdan's delight could not be concealed. The prospect of an improved spacecraft multiplied the merriment that the astro turf induced within the alien. His lips stretched out with a smile, though his bliss altogether faded once his concentration focused upon the reality of his situation. An immense curiosity burdened his dreams of piloting some sporty cruiser. "Are we going to survive this?  I've never really drifted helplessly through deep space before, though I'd be content with remaining ignorant to the experience."

Blu sat up, snuffed out his smoking device upon the busted dashboard with an audible sizzle, then he covered his eyes using the brim of his hat and reclined backward again. He replied with an air of jest, "more importantly, will we be able to survive each other? All that any alien can ever do is live one moment at a time. I'm going to rest my eyes for a while; it would be best to sleep in shifts, just in case a ship happens to stray toward our direction. You can take the first watch, horn-head. If the rangers return to kill us, don't bother waking me up."

He slowly slipped into a sleep that was neither serene nor dismal, and when he was finally roused from his slumber, he discovered Ogdan with two large lumps stuffed in his cheeks, already eating his second meal as if the Anupaman was expecting to be delivered from their plight within the week. 

Three days lapsed, but within the damaged and drifting vessel it seemed to be three years, and time yielded no trace of hope or opportunity for rescue. The vigilantes lacked any form of electronic entertainment, but as Blu had previously stated, there was a wealth of grandeur and beauty just beyond the windows and portholes. There was no music, only the silence which was interrupted now and again by mild conversation; there was no light, save the illustrious illuminations of stars from both far and near; there were no other aliens to interact with besides the two unfortunate vigilantes, and after three days their conversation began to run dry.

The first week passed without incident, though time after time Blu had to advise Ogdan to monitor his appetite, and after his precautionary warnings became blatantly ignored, he had to resort to hiding the remaining foodstuffs; including the rations that were tucked away inside of his duffle bag. This action, though meant to benefit rather than harm, affected the rhinoceros-man in such a way that an animalistic nature surfaced from within him.

Ogdan grew more irritable with each passing day, and the hunger that slowly gnawed away at him became the ultimate source of his pugnacious behavior. He had fits of infuriated anger, and often his speech consisted of harsh criticisms or unwarranted insults. His demeanor, despite chronic exposure to astro turf, became bitter toward Blu, and every day he bitterly reminded his comrade exactly who it was that caused his prevailing misfortune. His friendship and past memories with his comrade were gradually burned away by the flames of a disconcerting dementia.

At length time became irrelevant, as did the fading fantasy that any spaceship might somehow spot the floating heap within the vastness of the universe. The moments spent conscious were unbearable once Blu's supply of astro turf depleted. Every few hours or so, Ogdan would scour the darkest recesses of his mind, finding some reason or other to argue with Blu; these feverish debates almost always concluded with the exchange of fists and drawn blood.

The magnitude of violence Blu was forced to tolerate during the time spent awake was incomparable to the dread of his terrors while he slumbered. His dreams became plagued with vile memories that were twisted, and without the medicinal aid of astro turf, he suffered tainted visions that tormented his very soul; the nightmares were reoccurring, and always the haunting visage of a young child appeared in some form or another.

He would occasionally awaken from these night terrors convulsing in a cold sweat, or be shaken back into grim reality by his comrade; at times with Ogdan's hands clenched tightly around his throat. The Anupaman's outbursts became more frequent, as did his desire to animate his wild abusiveness. It was uncertain what would expedite the Earthian's demise first; the total lack of nourishment, or the horn upon his comrade's head.

During one of those moments which seemed too seldom and passed too quickly, Blu was savoring the silence of the spaceship while his capricious comrade slept soundly, and quietly he nibbled on his last specks of food. Though equally divided, the Earthian's portion of sustenance lasted much longer than Ogdan's, but to an aware and aching stomach, it measured far too little. He swallowed the minuscule crumbs of bread, and at once his parched tongue longed for a beverage, even if it meant swallowing a glass of salty water.

While his thoughts wandered as far as the span of the cosmos, Blu began to reminisce upon the life he had lived up until this precarious circumstance that was brought upon him, and an abrupt snore from Ogdan forced his concentration to focus solely on the first time he had ever been acquainted with the Anupaman. The mists of reminiscence swirled in his mind.

In the earlier years of his heroism and gallantry, Blu was still fresh to the thrill of the galactic chase as a bounty hunter, but his lack of experience never once impeded his ambition. He traveled from solar system to solar system, with the ardent aid of his close friend Gully, and commenced to propagate justice with his own hands. It was a strange and interesting time during his lifespan, yet with remarkable fortune he managed to help the downtrodden and avenge those who suffered under scornful tyranny or suffocating oppression.

It was during one of these initial escapades, the word 'escapade' only fitting correct description under the assumption that his adventure was stained with less blood back then, when Blu had guided his cruiser to the planet Plebe. He was hunting a wanted criminal by the name of Sandret, though the sultry miscreant's profoundly nefarious deeds earned her a nickname that roughly translated to Skinner.

Plebe is mostly a commercial and corporate planet, though it offers nearly any and every possible entertainment imaginable; if one knows where to look. Needless to say, underneath the glittering veneer of scintillating allure, there is a network of avarice and greed that continuously spreads like some breeding disease. Within the confines of over stimulated advertisements and virtually endless product placement, masses of consumers gather like herded sheep, and their predators whet their rapacious fangs like wolves eagerly awaiting the slaughter.

The surface of the planet is almost entirely a singular spacetropolis; it is sizeable, and makes for a well fortified labyrinth for villains and scum which dwell among the nooks and hidden places of Plebe. Sandret perceived this was the most suitable location for her, and she imbedded herself like a salacious parasite into the underlying network of cruelty and malice that Plebe is comprised of.

The criminal was an alien known as a Sylph; a creature of exquisite external beauty that possesses a wealth of charisma said to be enchanting, and such an amatory physique said to be truly divine. This particular Sylph inherited three generations worth of radiance, and her ability to manipulate her surroundings became second nature after a time. Not only did doors open for her without any prompting, but even mountains would move for her if she batted her eyes enough. 

Although she was as entrancing as one of the Great Nebulas, her captivating countenance did not reflect the despicable and rotten spirit that occupied her celestial anatomy; she was the embodiment of malevolence, and as wicked as a witch.

Sylphs are found within the highest acmes of social cliques, due to their charismatic nature. They make for legendary lawyers and practiced politicians, or various entertainers that are rewarded handsomely, solely for their appearance. Sandret was accustomed to arming herself with the weapon of seduction, and she endeavored to use her charm while performing one of the most ancient professions; she posed as a prostitute, and lured unsuspecting aliens to a den of temptation shrouded in ghastly death. She was like an Earthian spider that delighted in catching tiny flies with the aid of a sweetly scented web, spun in such a fashion as to deceive all of the senses.

She was well acquainted with aliens of renown and celebrity status, and her immaculate guise granted her a position of power among other heinous villains. Sendret was employed at a well established and frequently visited brothel called the Candy Shoppe. There, the criminal concealed her identity, then before long a clamor in the Red Lantern district of Plebe about a new delectable treat arose, and many aliens sought out to taste the Sylph known as Cherry Blossom.

It was by her hand that several vile crimes were committed; adultery being the first that comes to mind, though she recorded many of her intimate encounters for the purpose of future entrapment. She exposed her hypnotic assets at a high price, effortlessly withdrawing the most cryptic secrets from her clients. She sold her dignity for highly classified information, and used her gains to purchase even more power. All of this could have been excusable or even forgivable to a heart that welcomes mercy, yet darker were Sandret's unquenchable obsessions and vices.

Some of her clientele would mysteriously vanish under her care, and later be discovered gruesomely murdered, but never once was she convicted; her beauty blinded any trace of evidence that might have roused the suspicion of her involvement in the deaths. Her wretched pseudonym, Skinner, was spawned by when description was given to her victims; every single cadaver was found with their epidermis missing entirely. The skin could not be accounted for anywhere at the sanguinary scenes of murder, but it is rumored that the deeply disturbed Sylph would consume the flesh after peeling it from those she preyed upon while they remained conscious, heavily sedated by a special tranquilizer.

Cherry Blossom was well protected by covert alliances and private investors, but not even the intervention of fate could have prevented her eminent bounty. One of the sexually fueled aliens she happened to seduce, and dispose of by previously mentioned means, was a high ranking ranger who had questionable connections with the sleaze of Plebe's underworld. This particular captain had a desire for top quality lesbian companionship, but demanded discretion from her all-female consorts. This combination introduced her to a luscious demise; the passionate embrace from such a Sylph as Sandret would prepare any alien to die from orgasmic elation, but it is beyond difficult to maintain any sense of bliss while someone is snatching up your skin directly in front of you.

The ranger's corpse was eventually discovered, and her epidermis suffered the same bizarre disappearance, yet this affair was quite unlike those that preceded it. The interrogations of the Cosmic Order could not be avoided, but every investigation ended in vain; even the overlooking eyes of particular rangers can be priced and purchased through beauty, or through the promise of 'special' favors. Lawyers and politicians labored feverishly to thwart a witch-hunt among the prostitutes dwelling on Plebe, and Sandret remained secure in her domain of erotic pleasures. The only action left for the Cosmic Order to take was to issue a bounty for a vile and murderous prostitute last seen with the deceased captain; criteria worthy of Blu's attention at the time.

The Earthian had scoured every back alley and street corner of the spacetropolis, but his searches always concluded in drunken debauchery with lowly runaways who had little intention of ending their marvelous evenings murdering Blu. He gathered as much information as he could from the moans of the prostitutes he encountered, and by methods familiar to Cherry Blossom, he acquired access to the fabled Candy Shoppe.

The vigilante disguised himself as a entrepreneurial astronaut; another façade he maintained during his universal travels. His cool demeanor earned the intrigue of Sandret, and frequently he would rendezvous with the wretch during devilish hours for steamy sessions of sexual intercourse.

On one such occasion, Blu was certain of his suspicions and anticipated to surprise Cherry Blossom earlier than expected while she entertained another client in her den of sensual destruction. Since he regularly visited the Candy Shoppe, he was guided to the very chamber of the hellion without resistance, and his escort dismissed herself to return to her duties without a trace of curiosity or suspicion. He hesitated briefly, then Blu crept silently into the chamber of Cherry Blossom.

He moved unnoticed through the apartment, and the continuous thundering of digital music aided his stealthy gait. Dim lights emanated and exaggerated the happenings within the shadows of the room. After taking five steps into chamber Blu immediately halted. His eyes fixated upon an unfathomable vision. The horror of such an atrocious sight initially could not be comprehended by his own mind; he had been exposed to the truest degradation of pitiful existence, but never to this degree of abominable behavior. Blu, and only Blu, would be able to affirm whether or not the Sylph was actually consuming her client's skinned flesh.

Whatever terrible image that transpired before him, Blu's bewilderment coerced him to instinctively cry out in absolute disgust, "I'll be damned!"

Sandret became aware of his presence, and she shrieked out a loud scream that pierced through the music blaring through a multitude of speakers. He darted toward her, readying to subdue her, then he placed his hands upon her. She was a fragile alien, dainty and frail, therefore it was not difficult to overcome her, although the initial wave of petrification negatively affected Blu. He fumbled the Sylph within his grasp; mostly because she was still satiated in blood from her most recent victim. A slight apprehension muddled his strength as well, once his gaze beheld her enticing beauty.

Sandret was caught off her guard, but a sudden revelation flashed in her eyes, and she firmly curled her grip around the handle of the blade she had used to skin her client. The knife struck Blu on the side of his chest, though his good fortune was just as keen in his past as it was during future endeavors. One of his ribs caught the blade before it could fatally puncture deeper into him.

Just as he worked free the knife from his rib bone, he felt a stony grasp of might from behind. This appendage was quite opposite to that of a Sylph's, whose hands were tender and light, like being caressed by a cloud. The hand on his shoulder possessed a raw strength within it, and its might clamped down upon his shoulder with a crushing force like a vise.

Sandret perceived the impeccable opportunity to escape this unforeseen incident. The bloodstained prostitute wailed aloud in pretended hysteria, "help, my God help me, Oggy! This maniac just murdered Jance in a fit of jealousy, and now he's trying to kill me!"

Coincidently, Ogdan was employed at the Candy Shoppe during the same time as the charming Cherry Blossom. His masculine and rugged exterior might have excited the sexual arousal of some aliens, and the stereotypes of the stamina of his species may have granted him the occupation of a prostitute, if he was willing to perform as one, but Ogdan was part of the brawn of the brothel. His alternate fist was clenched, and a fierce expression permeated itself behind a pointed horn.

"Play time is over," he said flatly.

Blu shrugged off the grasp, turning toward the Anupaman while brandishing the katana he had concealed under his long coat. He was stained with blood from manhandling Sandret, so he determined that explaining any excuse, or rather any truth, would be ineffectual. The blade sung a heavenly pitch as it quitted the scabbard. "This isn't a cordial visit. Turn away, or I'll cut you down where you stand," Blu hazarded, pointing his sword at the bulky bodyguard.

The retaliating aggression of the Earthian was met with a reply of the sudden collision of rigid knuckles against his cheek. Ogdan's temperamental disposition was made evident at that very moment. His fist was startlingly strong; Blu had, by this time, received many blows upon his sturdy jaw throughout, but the magnitude of this punch reduced all of its predecessors to the same impact equaling that of an itch.

He spat a stream of blood from his mouth, and a pearly tooth painted in scarlet rattled upon the floor beneath him. His head reeled back while his vision was engulfed in a flash of white blankness. The immensity of the light that overtook him could be compared to that of the powerful cannon shell which was launched from the drifting vessel during pursuit.

Blu had dropped his sword once he was struck by Ogdan's fist, so he engaged the bodyguard armed only with his bare hands. The pair immediately commenced to brawl with one another, each refusing to yield to the incredibly unmerciful blows from their opponent.

While they continued to wrestle back and forth, crashing into furniture and exotic décor, breaking through glass fixtures and cushioned bamboo chairs, Sandret slipped unnoticed through the chamber door and immediately set forth to find help; not the kind of aid that comes from galactic authority or poetic justice, but the wicked kind that will cover up internal disaster when circumstances go awry at the Candy Shoppe.

Meanwhile, the brawling had yet to subside, and it began to cause an uproar at the brothel. Doubtless that all of the blame would fall upon Blu's head, he darted toward the door without delay when granted the chance. He was waylaid by the Anupaman almost immediately; Ogdan was steadfast like some legendary warrior, determined to wage battle until reaching an undisputable conclusion of triumph.

Strike after strike, blow after blow, they fought one another with equaling contusive results, but the bodyguard had what an Earthian may describe as 'horsepower,' and it became apparent that a plan was necessary in order to escape. The length of time Blu spent deliberating was brief, and a scheme emerged as he stared at the erect horn of the Anupaman.

Since his adversary's mountainous physique was blockading the nearest exit, Blu crossed the apartment in an attempt to retrieve his katana. Ogdan rushed toward him in an effort to intercept the retrieval, but this was all according to the plan. Suddenly, Blu dropped to the ground, falling onto his back with his palms open wide. He braced himself.

The Anupaman had decided that bowling over the intruder was a fitting punishment, and once Blu sprang for the sword, he charged like the blast of a cannon shell at his target. It was a startling surprise when the Earthian dove to the floor, but Ogdan was already in steam-rolling motion, and his masculine weight could not be slowed in the least. His wrists were grabbed, and he felt his opponent gliding on a pool of slick blood beneath him. There came a loud banging sound that rattled the entire wall; a horn punctured through it, and was stuck inside of it.

Blu recovered his weapon once Ogdan was no longer a threat, and he held the blade to the bodyguard's neck. "Thank you for the dance, horn-head, but Cherry Blossom was supposed to be my partner. The mistress isn't as sweet as she reveals herself to be. Remember that." Then he paused with a smug expression and added, "but she sure tastes like sugar." The katana was sheathed, and Blu quit the apartment before it could spawn more doom within its walls; his head turned to examine one side of the hallway, then the other, and he fled in the direction that was deemed safest.

Ogdan roared, infuriated that he was upstaged and somewhat outclassed during the brawl. He punched the wall wildly until working his horn free, then crossing to the door, he bounded out into the hallway, muscles bulging with rage, but Blu had disappeared entirely.

Such a frightful scare may have been worrisome to those who only heard the fragments of gossip that spread around the Candy Shoppe, but Sandret was plagued with dread more than any other alien; Blu had discovered her truest self, knew the whole truth, and was still running around out there, somewhere, lurking in the crevices of Plebe's alleys. The blame of Jance's death inevitably fell upon the cowboy dressed in black, who was labeled a perverted and undeniably deranged intruder, easing the concerns of some, yet the story of Cherry Blossom's chamber lingered in the minds of the brothel's employees, and eventually spread to the ears of its visitors.




The conclusion of the tale between Ogdan and Blu's acquaintance, as well as the fate of the drifting vessel, can be read in the next installment.





The End

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