Acid Rock Riot
Asteroids drifted past the Bebop. Illuminated by the bridge lights, Jet leaned forward and peered through the field of flying jagged rocks. His brow furrowed. Behind him Ed's merry tapping on the keys carried as an undercurrent beneath the barrage of proximity alarms.
"Seriously," he grunted, "how do we get into messes like this? It was an easy job."
Ed laughed. "Mr. Spike-person said it was the cheap missiles you buy."
"Mr. Spike-person is about to buy his own damn missiles!" Jet leaned on the controls, narrowly avoiding a collision with a smaller rock. "Come on Ed, you got anything?"
"Rock, rock, rock … lotsa rocks. No tail to follow."
He heaved a sigh. "This is impossible."
Footsteps carried up the stairs to the bridge. Faye's sharp voice echoed up, "I can't believe you missed the mark!"
Spike answered her tersely, "Well if I hadn't suddenly been fighting the jetwash from someone else's ship maybe I wouldn't have!"
"Huh, that coming from the loudmouth who brags about his piloting skills and can out fly anyone on this ship."
"Any day of the week, Romany. You just gotta learn how to stay outta my way."
Stomping onto the bridge she turned on him and snapped, "Well, Mr. Hawkeye, how come you couldn't trail him? You've flown through tighter paths than this."
Spike huffed and lit a cigarette before replying. "Stayed out there longer than you did. I wasn't the one who shrieked when a pebble nearly hit her craft. You're damn lucky I rolled or the Swordfish would have rode right up the Redtail's rear. That would have been worse on you than me."
Sparing only a glance over his shoulder, Jet bellowed, "Knock it off! I need to concentrate, unless you useless pieces of shit want to die!"
Ed threw her hands in the air and cheered, "Weeee!"
Spike half-lidded his eyes and shook his head. "That kid isn't right."
"No. Look!" She held up her computer to Jet. "The trail! A blip blip on that big asteroid."
"'Bout time. Alright, link me to the coordinates." In a flash, the screen highlighted the target in the ring of spinning space rock.
Ed pressed against the window. With a click of claws, Ein joined her, his ears flared up. As Bebop shifted through the field she jumped on her toes. "Green green! Bright green! Jelly Bean!"
Spike and Faye furrowed their brows at the odd looking terraform ring on the asteroid. Faye lit her own cigarette and smirked. "Looks like a moldy potato."
"Hate to agree with you … but uhh … yeah. How'd they get that much plantlife in there?"
"Veggies!" Ed grabbed Ein and spun him around in the air. "Ed wants to walk in the green stuffs."
Gritting his teeth, Jet maneuvered the ship around another careening rock. "Ed, get back on your computer and get me more info on this thing. We gotta land."
"Nyyyooo." Taking her computer back up, she swiftly grabbed a better scan of the terrform colony. "No access codes. It's shut down, abandoned. But … see the shiny? There's a big lake!"
"Perfect. At least one of us is lucky today."
Spike shrugged a shoulder. "Hey, someone, and I'm not naming names here, did manage to smoke out the mark's engine and force him to land. Just sayin'."
The Bebop floated on the algae encrusted lake tethered to the rusted dock. The crew filed out onto the creaking structure into the air dripping with moisture. The sun beat down onto the jungle choked terraform ring miles wide. Spike hooded his eyes with a hand and peered into the leaves at the remaining structures. "Well, this place has seen better days."
Faye shielded her eyes from the blinding glint coming from between some branches far up a distant slop. "Are those buildings?"
"Look to be." Jet stepped off the ship onto the dock and took in the silence surrounding them. Nothing but vines and tall trees growing into the lake's banks. There were rolling hills within the ring, the final edges sweeping up the sides of the weather barrier. "Good news is we have atmo."
"Yeah." Spike snorted a laugh. "Or else we'd kinda be turnin' blue by now."
Faye flashed him a snide smile. "Well we know someone with experience in that."
In unison, Jet and Spike replied, "Shut up, Faye."
Like a shot, Ed came spinning around a mossy pole. "Eeeeee!" At her heels Ein danced along with her computer strapped to his back. His tongue lolled out as he snuffled along the rusted planks.
Shaking off Faye's remark Spike searched the sky. "No sign of smoke. We sure he's in here?"
Jet tapped his foot. "Alright, Ed. I said you could come if you helped us find where he crashed. Now, time to make good on your promise. Where is he?"
Ein stood in front of her providing the perfect platform. She typed in a quick sequence and rocked back and forth waiting for the reply. At last she swung her arm towards a bridge crossing a ravine. "Over that way. His beacon is still blinky, but the ship is kaput."
Double checking to make sure his gun was fully loaded, Spike patted it back in place. "I'm not missing this time." He shot Faye a glare. She stuck her tongue out at him. Without another word he strode for the bridge with the others in tow.
Following the overgrown path they pushed tropical trees draped in moss covered vines out of the way. The jungle had swallowed all but the tiniest glimpse of structures. There was no telling what the place had initially been, other than belonging to some insanely rich nature nut.
Reaching the rickety suspension bridge, Spike eyed the rusted chains holding it up. The metal mesh planks gleamed with juicy green moss. He edged out onto the first one and tested his weight on it, his foot slipped a bit. "Hrm. Should hold. Just be careful, it's slick."
"Spike," Jet held up a hand, "Are you—" His question died in a groan as Spike walked easily across the bridge without further inspection. As soon as he was across, Ed and Ein dashed over sending the bridge swaying as she giggled. Faye shrugged and stepped onto the planks, hanging on to the chains as she went. Shaking his head, Jet muttered, "Wouldn't listen to me anyway." With his hands in his pockets he stepped across the groaning structure. Every motion set the chain reaction. Beneath him a great chasm yawned appearing like a gigantic hungry mouth. He tensed and pushed himself across to the other side heaving a sigh of relief the moment his feet touched solid ground.
Faye glanced over her shoulder at him and raised an eyebrow.
"What? Let's get moving. I want to get this bounty and get off of here." Well ahead of him, Spike was already climbing the path over a hill. The path turned out to be a long and winding one without the sight of a crashed ship. And the further they went, the narrower it became. Branches reached out beneath the enclosing tree caps and tried to trip them.
Wiping his brow, Spike turned and glanced back at the others. "Is it me or are we going in circles?"
Jet, bringing up the rear, grumbled as he freed his foot from a root. "Let me go!"
"Men are such babies." Faye folded her arms. "You two have never been in a forest before, have you."
Instantly they took interest in looking into the foliage while Faye laughed.
"Well, that's kinda besides the point." Spike shrugged. "Where the devil is this guy? I can't see a dang thing in all this … " Motion caught his eyes. As silent as possible, Spike slid through the underbrush vanishing from sight.
Faye shot Jet a scowl and mouthed, Where is he going?
Unable to do a whole helluva lot, Jet just shrugged and let it go.
Through a gap in the leaves Spike spied a patch of gray shifting around. Almost looked like a bit of armor. It made sense for a gun runner to wear gear. Obviously he was distracted. With a sly grin, Spike creapt up to within striking distance. He'd never see it coming. He drew his left hand back in a fist …
With a whine of gears, the gray plate shifted up revealing two beady eyes glaring at Spike. He blinked at the strangest creature he'd ever seen. It looked like a lizard wearing a smooth domed helmet. Its eyes fixed on Spike with all the intensity of a street-brawler.
"Heh, so you wanna fight. Alright." Spike grinned and drove his left fist straight at the beast.
It tucked its head at the last second. Spike's hard strike connected with the center of the dome, dead on. It sounded like a gong struck by a slab of meat—with a crack. Immediately, Spike's breath locked in his chest, he staggered back, cradling his hand. The creature raised its head out of the brush, towering over him. Every motion producing a shriek of metal against metal. The beast opened its mouth and roared, scraping huge three toed feet on the ground in a clear threat.
"Oh shit!" Spike turned and darted back into the brush. The bipedal beast stomped where he had been a moment before. "Run! Run! We're not alone!"
Jerking upright, Jet tried to see through the crashing foliage. "What did you do, Spike?"
"I pissed it off!" Spike's high-pitched wail cut through the series of low thuds. "Run!" He broke through and passed them.
A second later the enraged creature smashed a tree in its path into splinters. Jet grabbed Ed and threw himself into the brush. He drew his gun and squeezed off a shot. It hit the thing with a metallic ping and the bullet plunked harmlessly into the reeds. The beast kept charging accompanied by the sounds of hydraulics firing at full speed.
Faye, carting Ein with Ed's computer still strapped to his diminutive body, gasped. "What the hell is it?"
"Bullet proof and pissed!" Jet snapped. "And gaining on us. We need to get higher!"
"There!" Ed pointed up at the glint of broken glass up in what looked like a cluster of trees. Like a monkey, she flew up and into the branches. Jet scrambled up behind her. The moment he was on the platform high above the forest floor, Faye, halfway up, tossed Ein into his arms. Ein whimpered and dashed between a gap in the panels, seeking refuge from the thunderous charge below. Faye clung to the tree, using the branches to lever herself up.
Jet leaned over, his eyes wide. "Spike! Get up here!"
From below Faye, Spike gripped a branch with his right hand. The moment he tried to grasp with his left, he slid down, panic welling in his eyes. Faye glanced over her shoulders. The beast slammed into the tree, knocking Spike's precarious hold loose. He screamed in shock.
"Give me you hand!" Faye leaned down, her open hand stretched out.
Spike threw his left wrist into her hand without even a snide remark. She tugged him up. Like a strange symbiotic treeclinger, they made their way up onto the platform. The beast below, now joined by several others, repeatedly drove their domed heads into the tree, shaking it.
Taking refuge in the vine shrouded building, Spike panted. Jet loomed over him, staring at his left hand. "Lemme guess, you couldn't climb cause you broke your hand."
"No." Spike's rebuke turned into a shrill cry as Jet grabbed his hand and moved the already swelling knuckles.
"Yes! Damn it!" Jet scowled. "Need something to hold things in place. Take your tie off."
"I'll be fine—owwww! Stop squeezing it! That hurts!"
"Take it off, if I have to you'll regret it."
Spike rolled his eyes and tugged the knot loose. "You're making a big deal—owww owww!"
Jet snuffed. "Well, I could just leave this a mess. You hear that?"
"That's bone on bone."
Spike growled, "That's what happens when you punch something metal."
Faye tapped her foot. "Why the hell did you hit it?"
"I didn't know it was armored! What the hell was that thing, anyway?"
Ed grinned into her computer screen. "Hehehe, Pachycephalosarus."
All three adults stared blankly at her until she turned Ein around so the screen was visible. A bipedal dinosaur appeared on the screen. Cradling his bandaged hand, Spike cocked his head. "Yeah, that's Ugly alright. But … what the hell is that?"
Ed rocked back and forth. "A dinosaur. There were lots of different kinds on Earth."
Jet scratched his head. "I've never seen anything like that on Earth."
"A long long time ago. T-Rexs, brontosaurs, raptors, troodons, compsonathus, allosaurs. Lots and lots. Now there's just plastic ones to play with."
"Uhh." Spike glanced down at the beasts now bashing eachothers heads together as they circled the tree. One had a metal plate missing exposing gears and mechanics. "They weren't real bright, clearly."
Leaning through the window, Faye smirked, "You'd get along with them, looks like they enjoy hitting things."
"Oh haha, Faye. We have a problem here, in case you haven't noticed. They've got us trapped."
"And who decided on the brilliant plan to go and punch one?"
He threw her an acidic glare before turning to Ed. "If there were these uhhh … dinosaurs on Earth, where did they go? Why aren't they there now?"
She threw her hands wide. "Cause of the big old space rock colliding with Earth. Boom! Bang! No more dinos."
For a moment they just sat there in the silence. Then it struck Jet, he sat bolt upright. "We're on an asteroid! Don't anybody even think about sending this thing colliding with a planet to get rid of them!"
Spike wrinkled his brow. "You seriously thought I would pull something of that magnitude?"
Faye folded her arms and glared at him. "We need to have a talk about past behavior, Spike."
He was about to reply when he dashed to the edge of the platform and pointed. "Great … isn't that the bridge we crossed to get here?"
In the distance a rather large creature attempted to cross. A tremendous squeal of fatigued metal echoed in the valley before the bridge let go. The creature fell screaming into the chasm.
Jet's shoulders dropped. The Bebop, all their ships, their supplies … everything was on the other side. Finding the bounty now fell to the bottom of their list. Faye's jibe had been right. He'd never been in the jungle before. As street savvy as Spike was, he couldn't imagine he'd spent much time away from the city.
Spike's half-lidded gaze took in the rutting pachycephalosaurs below. He lit a cigarette and sighed out the smoke. "Well. Looks like we'll be here for a while."
See You Space Cowboy …