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Old 04-04-2006, 11:45 AM
Bullet Magnet's Avatar
Bullet Magnet Bullet Magnet is offline
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Default The Odd, the Bad and the Ugly. Chapter 1

Forget this. Until the file upload works, I'm posting my story in multiple threads.

Okay, this is just the first chapter. 2 is already complete, and is the same length. I'd rather not post it all til its done, as I frequently correct past chapters. I need feedback on this first one, so please reply and give me watcha got. (the plot is already fully formed). Oh yeah, "Ripperdarts" are what I call the enemy's ammo in Stranger's Wrath.

Chapter 1. Meetles, plots and ripperdarts: A new arrival.

"Ha ha! Look at all this Moolah!" said the outlaw. "The boss’ll be pleased f’r sure!" The outlaw was of the usual type, a nameless species common to this part of Oddworld, with small beady eyes, two rotting tusks jutting out from the lower jaw. His back was naturally hunched and rounded, covered in filthy stolen blue rags; it put his shoulders higher than his head. The outlaw’s two-toed feet seemed to have stepped in an unmentionable, and a tall, striped hat rested upon his unwashed yellow head. The creature scratched fleas from his stubbly chin. "Good haul today, eh Mugriff."
Mugriff, a similar but orange speckled specimen, with no tusks and a much more prominent jaw, straightened his hat. "Don’ coun’ on it, Rackleg. Dose morons up wiv da dine-no-mite blew up der passage." He pronounced "dynamite" slowly with as much concentration as his walnut-brain could muster. "D’aint no more wagon trains comin’ through dis way no more. We gotta find a new spot nowz."
Rackleg sat down on one of the wagons and squinted upwards. They were in a gorge about ten meters wide and the same again deep. The red-brown desert rock twisted and turned for five miles down to the town by Mongo River. Huge rocks and boulders now blocked the way, and black blast marks had scorched the ravine’s walls. Around them other outlaw goons picked at the spoils of their most recent convoy raid.
White (ish) feathered wings gripped the bars of the wagovan’s window, and a fearful avian face peered out of the darkness within.
"Hey, let us go now, ya-hear? You got what ya came for, pleeze Mister Outlaw!"
"No-one moves ‘til da boss arrives!" Roared Mugriff, striking the Clakker down through the bars.
"That was uncalled for!" Protested another Clakker in the wagon. "We’re roasting in here! We need water! Be reasonable!" A bead of sweat rolled down his wattle, which was flushed red in the heat.
Rackleg laughed and slid of the merchant wagovan. "Sure, we’ll be reasonable" he drew his ripper-pistol from a makeshift holster and pushed though the bars to the Clakker’s head.
"Reasonable enough for ya?" he growled. There was a tiny yelp and the Clakker dropped to the wagon’s floor and cried.
Rackleg and Mugriff roared with laughter and spat into the wagon.
"Hey jerkface, you’re so ugly the Vykker smacked yer momma!" squeaked a high pitched and irritating voice. The outlaws stopped laughing.
"You stink, brother! Poo! I bet the Stunkz flee when they smell you comin’!"
The outlaws cried out with rage and looked around for the source of the insults.
"Down here Smackhead! That’s right, I’m talking ta yoooooooooooou!"
They looked down at a scrubby ground-bush and saw a Chippunk. Its head was fused to its body (as is the norm), was round and covered in short sandy fur. Small ears curved over above the large eyes, its face came to a point, where its nose was, two rodent-like incisors poked out between the lips. A white striped and bushy tail swayed above his head, and the only legs to speak of were two short stumps waving beneath the chin.
"Grarrrr! I’ll killya, yer little runt!"
Rackleg stepped forwards and attempted to stamp on it.
"Stupid varmint! I hate these things"
The chippunk bounced between his legs, made a rude sign at them and disappeared into the dry, cracked dirt.
"Those furballs don’ do no one no good. Don’ tas’e good either, eh Mugriff. ‘Member that stoo ya made? Mugriff? Mug…?"
But Mugriff just keeled over and landed face first in the dust, out cold, a single ripper dart poking out of his neck.
"Wha-?"
Rackleg looked over at the top of the ravine. A tall silhouette stood in the low afternoon sun, a far-shot ripper in one hand, and its owner, the gang’s sniperscout on lookout, hung limp by the scruff of his neck. The figure tossed the outlaw down the rock face (who said: "oof" as he landed) and straightened his wide brimmed hat.
"BOUN’Y HUN’ER!"
The scream from one of the outlaws set them all into chaos, like stingbees defending their nest. Some drew their ripper-pistols, others ran for their pickaxe guns, - straight rifle like weapons with picks above and below the ripperdart barrel.
The bounty hunter slid down the canyon wall and skidded on the dirt. He raised two green, three fingered hands, a ripper in each, and began to fire them, one after another. Orange serrated darts sliced through the air, tearing cloth and skin and embedding themselves in bleeding outlaw flesh. But they had already returned the fire, and the canyon was thick with ripperdarts. The bounty hunter ran and dove behind a wagovan. The Clakkerz inside whimpered in fear, and the bounty hunter noticed his leg felt warm and damp, upon inspection found a rusty dart poking out.
Damn! Lucky shot thought the bounty hunter. No time to deal with it now though.
An outlaw appeared in front of the bounty hunter and raised his pickaxe-gun in the air, ready to strike it down. The bounty hunter shot at the outlaw but the rippers only clicked. It was empty!
The outlaw grinned and swung wildly at the hunter, but he jumped backwards and threw the rippers at the outlaw, one in the gut and one in the head. Taking advantage, the bounty hunter rushed him, grabbing the pickaxe-gun, twisting it out of his grasp and knocking him out with the blunt end.
Ripperdarts ricocheted around the hunter, so he turned and fired off the rifle in time to see a suicide berserker with several pound of TNT strapped to his back run screaming at him.
"We’re gonna be findin’ your guts all over the pla- ugh!" The bounty hunter smacked him in the jaw with a right hook, twisted him easily to the side and pressed his finger and thumb over the fuse, extinguishing it. The berserker struggled so he thumped him in the back of the head and let his unconscious body fall to the floor, still covered in dynamite.
Meanwhile one outlaw recovered from the onslaught. Dressed in blue, he pulled goggles over his face and picked up his machine-ripper, an automatic rifle spitting out serrated darts, and dipped out from behind a wagon train carriage. The outlaw set fire upon the bounty hunter, laughing maniacally. Instinctively the hunter back flipped from the line of fire and rolled behind a boulder, ripper darts rebounding off of it. He swore, a large dart was stuck deep in the back of his hand. Trying to pull it out, he instantly regretted it, the toothed edge had it stuck in there between two bones and a load of tendons. He felt relatively little pain, but knew that would soon change when the shock wore off. The crying of the Clakkerz brought him back to the current situation. Crawling, the bounty hunter made his way around the back of a wagovan, keeping his weight off of his injured hand. He drew back into a crouching position and peaked round the wagovans flank. The outlaw had stopped firing, and was cautiously advancing on the rock the bounty hunter had previously taken cover.
The outlaw jumped around the rock, ripper cocked triumphantly, but no one was there. Confused and annoyed, his face screwed up into an approximate look of irritation. A stone skittered between his legs from behind him.
"What the…" He turned around in time to see a ball of tumbleweed roll across the deserted canyon. There was a noise behind him and he spun around, but a green fist blocked his view.
The bounty hunter kicked away the machine ripper and stepped over towards the dazed outlaw. Coming to, the outlaw scrabbled at the dusty earth as he frantically tried to crawl away from the bounty hunter. The hunter just stepped on the outlaw’s back and pushed him to the ground. He then reached down and grabbed the outlaw’s collar and lifted him up, before slamming him into the side of a carriage. Ignoring the panicked squeals of the Clakkerz inside, he leaned menacingly towards the outlaw. It smelled so bad that he decided to look menacing leaning out.
"Your boss." Growled the bounty hunter. "Where is he?"
Rackleg whimpered. "I-I dunno, he’s not-"
The bounty hunter slammed him back into the wall. "WHERE IS HE?!"
"He was seein’ sum other gang bosses ‘bout sum big team up thing!"
"Team up thing? What’s that?
"I dunno, never heard of it- ARGH-oof! Okay! Something big is gonna go down wid all the gangs dat weren’t bagged by that other boun’y hun’er that came by not too long ago. Dunno what it is, though. NO! Pleeze! They don’ tell us much. Dat’s all I know, I swear!"
The bounty hunter narrowed his big eyes and took the kerchief down to hang round his neck, revealing his face. He had two large, round orange eyes and bloodshot pupils. His skin was green with a very faint bluish mottling, no visible nose and small pointed ears on the side of his head. His lips just blended with his skin as if they were not there, and beneath his hat you would see a bald head with a single long, thick black and purple feather grew from the very top, and slowly curved downwards. The bounty hunters outsized hands had a large thumb, one big finger and a semi-opposable "pinkie-thumb", with black nails. He stood tall, but with poor posture. Rackleg’s eyes widened.
"You- you’re a, a-," Rackleg fought for the words, he still didn’t believe it. "You’re a Mudokon!"
"Yeah. Gonna make something of it?"
"N-no! But, a mud? Here?" He looked around at all the other outlaws lying on the ground, and a great knot of anger in his chest grew. "A stupid Scrub did all this?!"
The mudokon bounty hunter hooked the outlaw in the face, sent an uppercut into his gut twice and threw him to the floor.
"I’m no scrub. Not any more…"
* * *
He looked around and observed the carnage surrounding the Clakkerz’ convoy. Everywhere ripperdarts lay on the ground or imbedded in surfaces. The bodies of unconscious outlaws lay in the dust. Some moaned, awake, but not daring to move for the rusty darts deep in their flesh. Clakkerz: safe. Bounties: many. Fatalities: zero. Nice job. He kicked Rackleg in the ribs and stepped over his body to the nearest caravan. Knocking on the door gave only frightened clucks, so he gripped the edge of the door and hauled it open.
He was immediately hit by a wave of hot air, before he noticed the stench and retched. The mudokon was then knocked to the ground by a pair of panicking Clakkerz running out of the wagon. They ran around in circles until they tripped over an outlaw and finally looked around and noticed their situation had changed.
"Now what in tarnation happened here?"
The bounty hunter took off his hat and fanned the foul stench away.
"Hplah, cagh, ahem. How long have you been stuck in there?" he spluttered.
The two birds stared at him, watching his single feather sway from the top of his head. Then they remembered their manners.
"We’ve been stuck inside f’r hours!" said one.
"We thought we’d never get out!" agreed the other. They continued to stare at him. The mudokon gave them a quizzical look, and proceeded to haul the nearest outlaw (Rackleg) to the middle of the canyon floor. This brought the Clakkerz back to reality.
"All right y’all! It’s safe to come out now!"
All around the wagovan doors slid open, and tired fowls staggered out, some moaning, some complaining, all tired.
"Billy! Whoo, it stinks in there!"
"Look, I’m all ruffled up!"
"I’ve smelled slegs sprayed by stunkz with a better fragrance than that!"
Even with the outlaws as still as they were the Clakkerz kept their distance. They shuffled into the clearing to let their wagons air, then stopped and stared at the bounty hunter.
This was more than he could ignore. "Okay, what are you all lookin’ at?"
The birds all shrugged and stared at their feet, But one Clakker had the courage to speak up.
"We’ve n-never seen your kind around h-here before. Thought you all worked in the G-glukkon factories eastward from here."
The mudokon looked sad and pensive for a moment. Finally he sighed and said
"We’re not all slaves of the Cartel."
One of the thirsty Clakkerz stopped mid-swig, eyes suddenly wide, and hid the bottle of SoulStorm Brew behind his back.
The bounty hunter reached inside his jacket and pulled out a rather fed up messenger bat he’d rented from the nearest town. It is a relative of the poisonous cave and desert bats, and of the boombat, but is neither poisonous nor explosive. It had a single leg that the wings connected to and only one ear. He unrolled a piece of paper tied to the black creature’s leg. There was a note on it. It said:
Stunks McCoy’s Yolkswagon Meetle
For all yer haulin needs
Next to it was a picture of the smiling mug of a Clakker in an outlaw’s hat (barely recognisable as one due to its being washed). There was also a sketch of some insect creature. He scribbled a note beneath all this with a pen he produced from his jacket, rolled the paper back up and launched the bat into the air. It recovered quickly, fluttered over the valley wall and was gone.
A nearby Clakker stepped in the unmentionable Rackleg had previously. His scaly yellow three-toed feet were covered in slimy gunk.
"Oh! I already took a bath today. My feet’re gonna need a good hard scrub-"
The mudokon’s reactions were immediate. He swept forward, knocked the Clakker off his smelly feet and lifted him up off the ground.
"What did you call me?" he hissed.
The Clakker was terrified and shocked. "I- g-g"
The other birds, surprised and disproving, gathered around. A nest-mate stepped forwards.
"Da-da da-da, da-da! Now cut that out! He didn’t do anything. What doya think your doin’?"
The mudokon snorted into the Clakker’s face, then his expression softened, before turning into one of horror when he realised what he’d done. He put the bird back on his feet, who ruffled his feathers indignantly beneath his red overalls.
"I’m sorry, I… I thought you said something." He sighed. Mudokons aren’t supposed to be like this. They were usually gentle creatures, happy-go-lucky who were often tricked into working as slaves for industrial mega-corporations like the Magog Cartel. Those few free muds- natives- lived in small clusters in the forests and plains of the continent Mudos, in balance with their immediate environment. He didn’t think any had taken to live like this. In fact, he hadn’t seen another Mudokon since he entered this country.
"I don’t like that word. It brings back- bad memories."
"What? ‘Feet’?"
"No."
"‘Bath’?"
"No."
"‘Scrub’?"
"…hmm."
"Oh."
Another Clakker beside him slapped his wing. "Very tactful," she said.
The hunter began to drag his bounties into a pile in the middle of the canyon. "You can help by shifting these outlaws."
The Clakkerz hesitated, then hopped to the unconscious and groaning bodies, and attempted to shift their reeking bulk. One stepped up to the mudokon.
"Hey, Bounty Hunter," he croaked. "What’s yer name?
* * *
On the outskirts of Mongo Harbour Town, a Clakker in a tall striped hat sat at his desk. The room he sat in was easily the biggest in the building: it was the shop floor. The house (if it can be called that) was on the end of a long line of terraced blocks that sat along side the street. Behind it was a large barn, with a roof that opens up. Streaks of sunlight shone through cracks in the wooden walls and dances upon the dust and downy feathers floating in the air, indicating that outside the noon sun was scorching Mongo Valley again. Rusty steel blades spun on the ceiling, keeping the stuffy air moving. Outside a lit sign hung off the wall above the green swing doors. It read: Stunks McCoy’s Yolkswagon Meetle.
Stunks himself leaned behind the counter, chewing on a piece of grass that poked out of his orange beak. Like other Clakkerz he had short, flightless wings, but a degree of control over the longest feathers to rival fingers and opposable thumbs. His orange beak was short but wide, and the middle of the top half rose up on his face to his orange cere, where his nostrils sat between and just above his eyes. His feathers were dirty cream, and he wore baggy denim overalls that came up to his chest, and denim braces held them up. The hat was taken from a captured outlaw, and boot spurs where strapped to his scaly ankles. His real name was Joe Cockera McCoy; how he got the name of "Stunks" he hadn’t a clue.
Behind the desk a narrow corridor ran back to the barn interior and other rooms, and the corridor wall was lined with cages. They were filled with hay and each one contained a little creature; thudslugs, messenger bats, pigeons and other birds, chippunks, fuzzles and a whole host of other interesting critters made the cages quite a menagerie. One cage had no bars, but was more of a metal crate with air holes, and a thick padlock keeping it chained shut. Periodically the crate shook and the lock rattled. All the rest had an occupant, but for one. A sliding door at the back of the cage was open, and a wooden shaft lead back, up and outside, one of many such pipes that where attached to each cage. A flapping and scrabbling noise echoed down this shaft, and a black, fuzzy messenger bat plopped down onto the base of the pipe, and using the claws at the end of his folded wings and its single leg, it half hopped, half galloped into its coop and onto the hay where food was. The sliding door fell shut and a bell rang.
"Jesse! Yer back!" exclaimed Stunks, turning to the bat’s cage. "And what’s this? You’ve brought back a message of course." He took a ring of keys from the pocket on the front of his overalls, counted through them and plunged on into the rusty lock. The barred front portion of the enclosure immediately clicked and swung open. Stunks put his wing down on the hay and Jesse crawled onto it. He removed the roll of paper tied to its single leg and opened it. Scanning the note, his eyes widened and his beak spread into a wide grin.
"Good work, Jesse! Another customer. Those bounty hunters sure do bring in a lot of work." McCoy let the little bat clamber back into its home. As he shut the cage door, the Fuzzles below growled and pined. A Chippunk in the cage next to them nodded in agreement.
"Hey smelly! Do we get food in here or not?"
Stunks McCoy turned away from the chattering critter, promising to give them their evening round when he got back. He strode over to grab his coat out of instinct (it was sweltering outside) and frightened away the one-legged ratz that where sleeping in it. A lot of animals seem to have just the one leg around here, he thought, as he did every week. He then turned and hopped back behind the counter, past his weird "employee zoo" and through the door at the back.
"Sear! We got work to do!" The door swung closed behind him. It was marked simply: Staff Only
No, below that: Meetle
* * *
"There sure are a lot more fish since the dam fell down," said one Grubb to the other. Grubbs, like Clakkerz, come in both sexes in equal amounts (not depending on a queen for reproduction). Amphibious and timid, they live similar to the way mudokons are supposed to. Grubbs have green yellow skin, stand about four feet high and have short fins above their elbows and where a tail would be. Two large, wet eyes sat on their faces, and their short, round muzzle had no visible nose. This one, like most grubbs, spoke in a throaty and almost comical voice. "Have you ever seen the waters this high?"
They stood on the shore of the Mongo River, on of the most important waterways on Mudos. To the trained eye it had all the signs of recently increasing in size and depth. To the even better trained eye it appeared to have regained its original capacity. The ground and rocks around it were still red, dusty and dry, however, but the bank was healthy; new plant life was growing from the ground, insects were darting across its surface and the oppressive heat of Oddworld’s single sun seemed more bearable here.
"Yeah, man. I haven’t seen a catch like this since the Wolvarks came and took all our water," said the other grubb, a female. "Word from the Chieftess is: Lastlegs is already being rebuilt!"
"Sekto never really destroyed it anyway, really."
"You weren’t there; you didn’t see what those wolvark jerks did! If the Steef didn’t arrive when he did, the Chieftess and Lastlegs would be lost. And we’d be toast, goners, dead!"
They looked back in the net they had just pulled out of the swollen Mongo River. A huge lurkfish lay on the round Bolamite silk net, among other smaller fish and aquatic creatures, gasping their last breaths. The lurkfish was longer than the grubbs themselves. It had a yellow body and the fins were orange. The caudal or tail fin had three lobes, it lacked pelvic and pectoral fins, but had one under the chin, the mandible fin. One of the grubbs leaned over, picked up a wriggling Gabbiwog from the net, and threw it back. There weren’t enough of these larvae left to let them die in the catch. The other grubb, looking over her friend’s shoulder, opened her eyes wide.
"Lookout! It’s one of those outlaw jerks, an’ it’s comin’ this way!"
The grubb pair scattered, scurrying away over the mossy rocks.
The outlaw staggered over the hill and limped towards the grubbs’ catch. He was dragging his leg, and leaving a red brown trail: blood. The Outlaw clutched at a wound on his leg, but that was by no means the only one he had. Ripperdarts protruded from his body, and he winced at every step. Despite all this, he was in a hurry.
The outlaw stopped for a breather by the fish. Ignoring it, he carried on toward the rock face at the side of the river. A piece of scrap from an old Magog train lay across the entrance to an old mineshaft. The outlaw made painfully slow progress towards the hunk of metal, but eventually he arrived, leaving a bloody trail behind him. He knocked twice on the scrap, and a small letterbox section came away at head height. Two bloodshot yellow eyes appeared in the darkness.
"Password," demanded a gruff voice.
"Hey come on, yer stupid Elum face, you know who I am!" whined the outlaw.
"No one gets in without da password. So, uh, password!?"
The injured outlaw recited a series of obscenities and bad grammar.
"Ah, hur hur! Dat’s right! Come on in."
The doorman began to turn the wench in the mine, and the train scrap rose from the ground, pulled by chains. Inside there was an old abandoned mine shaft, lit by dim lamps hanging from the ceiling and supported by old and mouldy wooden beams. The doorman was revealed to be a huge, armoured outlaw, with spikes on his knuckles and a mask over his eyes. Blinking in the bright sunlight, he stared at the wounded outlaw.
"Scrowlbag! What happened to ya?"
"There was- ambush. We- were attacked. Boun’y hun’er."
"Dammit! Where was dis? Buzzarton? Dead Hen’s Pass?"
"No- Ghost Scrab Canyon."
"Raargh! Vile cur! We were doin’ a heist down there. Supplies for the big- well, you know what’s happenin’. Wiv-out Castaraider’s help we needed dat Moolah."
"No one’s heard of-" the outlaw coughed, splattering blood. "-Of him since dat Steef rampaged through Mongo Harbour. Must’ve bin da one ‘e was lookin’ f’r."
"Haven’t seen Stranger since den neither. Reckon it got ‘im too."
"Or Castaraider finished ‘im for not telling where da Steef woz."
The scrap door swung shut behind Scrowlbag and the doorman with a loud echoing clang. Outside by the river, two pairs of wide eyes appeared over a rock.
"Do… Do you think they’re gone?"
"I can’t see ‘em. Perhaps they wen’ inside."
"Wow, man. Didn’t know anything was behind that metal thing."
"Nor me. Let’s get our stuff an’, an’ get back to our hang out; the village." The two Grubbs scurried over to the river’s edge, grabbed their fishing rods and hauled the net of fish over their shoulders. It dragged on the ground and the Grubb strained to carry it.
"I don’t even like lurkfish."
* * *
Scrowlbag ducked as a large bottle of Opple Cider exploded on the wall where his head had just been.
"Hey, boss! Careful!"
"You let a stupid bounty hunter interfere with my plans?" The Lockjaw Kid, so named because of his frequent use of rabid animals in terrorising local towns, was furious. He was not of the same species as most other outlaws. He had steely grey, calloused skin, a round belly and short limbs. His massive, almost unhinged jaw barely fit on his skull, and curved up and over at the front, a few teeth poking out of the gum. His head narrowed towards the top, nearly to a point, and here is where his small nostrils sat between his small, round eyes. Lockjaw wore a flat, curve brimmed hat and an elum leather waistcoat. To the Clakkerz, he seemed totally mad; some say he caught rabies from the slegs and fuzzles he used, and called him the Lockjaw Kid on their bounty posters. He is the boss of the Loco Motivs Gang.
"Not only do you tell me that the entire raid failed, but you also blew the entire pass! Dyoo know how long it took to set up those tunnels and hideouts for convoy raids? That’s where the flood relief goes by to New Yolk City! Rich pickings!" He paced the room, not looking at Scrowlbag. He drank another Cider bottle, then smashed it on the ground. "We needed that Moolah to bust the Booty Brothers out of Gizzard Gulch jail. How am I supposed to tell the other bosses that we’ve gotta go ahead with The Plan without Blisterz Booty?"
"Hey, there’s still time! Anyway, I didn’ tell the boun’y hun’er about The Plan, Rackleg did."
"HE WHAT?!" Lockjaw sent another bottle in Scrowlbag’s direction, scoring a glancing blow on the jaw. It didn’t hurt as much as he expected, and then he noticed dirty bandages wrapped around his throwing arm.
"You can’t trust dem other bosses, uh, boss. They all have their own ad-jen-daz."
"Don’t you think ah know that? I also gots my own plan."
"Dey beat you up! I see dose bandages," exclaimed Scrowlbag.
"You mangy cur! I won the fight that got me these. That’s more than ah can say f’r you." The ripperdarts had been removed but Scrowlbag’s wounds were not treated or covered. Lockjaw grunted a sigh. The Plan was going to be the biggest thing any outlaw had pulled off, but only if they get enough "boyz" to help. "We need to make up f’r Castaraider and get Blisterz and Boilz Booty out of jail. Who’ve we got to help us out on this one?"
"Um, er…" Srowlbag leafed through scrap and notes on the table (which was actually an upside-down mine cart). "Smoulder Railraid and his Dandy Diggerz Gang are hidin’ up outside Buzzarton, near Gizzard Gulch-"
"Yeah- we can use his boyz in the jail break, but I trust him less than a fleech at feedin’ time."
"Xplosives McGee broke out of New Yolk City Jail when Sekto’s Dam burst and the water washed away half the buildin’"
"No, not Xplosives. He’ll blow the whole jail to smithereens, with everyone in it."
"Pack Rat Palooka-"
"No way. That traitorous scumbag’ll slit our throats even as we share our Moolah," he drained another opple cider and continued to pace. "I didn’t know he was out."
"He’s not. Palooka’s still busted in Buzzarton. But his gang in the junkyard’s plannin’ on gettin’ him free since that Stranger guy disappeared."
"The other’s are gonna hear about this. Palooka’s cheated more ‘n one out of a good raid’s spoils. He’s a dead man. Who else is there?"
"Dere’s a gang of Wolvarks lookin’ f’r work, or more likely, trouble. I don’ know where they are, probable terrorisin’ sum Grubbs. Not a wise thing t’do nowadays. They are gettin’ bold now, an’ they’ll fight back. I dunno, maybe they’ll wan’ someone else t’pick on now-"
"Grr, I hate Wolvarks. Must be Sekto’s old boys. I’ll think about it. Now go get more booze."
Scrowlbag turned and limped into another tunnel; he’d barely got anywhere before:
"Hey Scrowlbag," called Lockjaw. "Make sure this bounty hunter gets what he deserves. You’re in charge o’ that."
The door shut, leaving the outlaw in the light of a single flickering light bulb. Face the bounty hunter again? I’d rather go toe to toe with a scrab. He limped off into the darkness to get more beer.
* * *
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Last edited by Bullet Magnet; 04-05-2006 at 09:05 AM.. Reason: I wox being cretinous yet again
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Old 04-04-2006, 11:49 AM
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Bullet Magnet Bullet Magnet is offline
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Here's the next bit of Chapter 1:
There would have been italics to put emphasis on some words, but...
enjoy!

* * *
"Koh-bay. My name is Kobe." The Bounty Hunter was surprised that he gave this away so willingly. The Clakker looked up at him.
"That’s a good name. What does it mean?"
If he had any eyebrows Kobe would have raised one. What an odd question. He sighed. "In the old tongue it means: ‘One who is called Kobe’."
"Oh," said the Clakker, taken aback by such a straight-forward answer. It wandered off to help the others shift the outlaws.
Kobe looked up at the sky. A "big team-up thing" eh? He didn’t like the sound of that at all. Outlaws couldn’t work together in such a large group no more than a pack of Alpha Scrabs could. Something or someone was holding things together. An outlaw plot is not going to be good for anyone concerned. But was it his concern? Kobe had only looked out for number one for a long time. Sure, if someone was in trouble he’d help them out if he could. Or would. Especially if there was a bounty involved. But ever since- no, he didn’t like to think about anything back then. All these outlaws were still alive, but there’s a bigger bounty for live ones than a straight body count. Is that why he wouldn’t kill, or was it some other reason?
"Hey! Boun’y hun’er! This one’s wakin’ up!"
He left that train of thought and jogged over to the Clakkerz gathered around a stirring outlaw. All these guys will be in trouble if this outlaw plot is realised. He’d just rescued them all, but would he have been here at all if the bounty store was not paying double? It was an emergency, they needed help quick, and they came to Kobe.
"Look! What do we do?"
The Clakkerz looked up at him fearfully. Rolling his orange eyes, Kobe reached down and plucked a stone from the ground in his three-fingered hand. The outlaw’s eyes flickered open and focused on the hated figure above him. Kobe slammed the rock into the outlaw’s head and his eyes shut, his breathing peaceful.
"Call me again when you have a real problem." He grabbed the outlaw’s unwashed legs and dragged him out into the middle of the passage, dropping him next to the others.
His green ears picked up a faint rumbling in the distance. Gradually it grew louder, a deep buzz like a swarm of thudslugs. The Clakkerz seemed unperturbed by the noise, so Kobe left a pickaxe-gun where it lay. The drone became deafening; every conscious creature in the canyon clutched their hands/wings to their ears. Chippunks dove underground, bolamites shrank back under the wagovans and fuzzles whimpered under their bushy homes. Kobe realised what it must be, almost laughing at his concern earlier. A shadow fell across the canyon as a great shape appeared overhead, blocking out the sun. A figure atop the flying monster leant over and waved down at them; some of the Clakkerz waved back. Kobe squinted against the wind blowing down from it, a raised a loose neck scarf over his face to keep the dust out. The flying shape lowered down towards the ground, rotating to find a good position, and landed in the chasm and the mudokon instantly recognised what it was.
It was a Meetle. It must have been five meters long and three meters tall. A great beetle-like creature, it was approximately dome shaped. Ten short legs gripped the ground from under the carapace, seven meter wings folded against its body, and shiny brown wing cases snapped down over them. The front of its flat face was dominated by its sideways mandibles: a short sandy-brown beak two meters tall and half a meter wide. Sleepy looking lids hung on each of its four eyes, two positioned close to the ground and two slightly smaller ones above and behind them. They had cute brown irises and docile pupils, the eyes betrayed a deep seated intelligence, but made it clear that it would not be revealing any of it any time soon. The impenetrable chitinous armour had been painted on: Stunks McCoy’s Yolkswagon Meetle. Stunks sat atop the creature, just behind its head, on a sort of seat with a large, windswept shade behind it. Stunks wore flight goggles and looked to be roasting alive under his coat. He let go of the reigns and slid expertly off of the meetle and landed in front of Kobe, who was staring in awe at it. Stunks spoke first.
"It’s a meetle."
"You don’t say."
Embarrassed by his stating of the obvious, Stunks turned back to the meetle, who watched them lazily with its two nearest eyes. "Her name’s Sear."
"Oh, good."
Stunks McCoy looked over at the pile of outlaws and the Clakkerz standing around them.
"So you’ll want those outlaws shifted then," suggested Stunks, who had totally lost his track.
"It is what I paid for," growled Kobe.
"Right then!" Stunks felt more comfortable getting straight to work. He brought his wing up to his face, put two feathers in his beak and issued a short sharp whistle. Sear twitched her legs and her wing cases rose and her wings flicked open. Kobe brought his scarf back over his face. The meetle rose from the ground and underneath her was gripping a large wooden plank; Kobe had not noticed it before. The meetle stopped three meters above the dry earth, and Stunks the Clakker fought against the wind, clutching his outlaw’s hat to his head, made his way underneath his meetle. Shielded from the air stream, he reached up and fiddled with something on the thick wooden square.
Suddenly there was a clang loud enough to be heard over the meetle’s drone and Stunks dived out from under the meetle, as wooden boards and metal bars fell down. His hat fell off and blew away; Kobe caught it, knocking his own hat off in the process. Glancing back at the huge creature and its owner, he was amazed to see that a makeshift cage had been assembled on the ground. Sear stopped flying, the roaring noise stopped and the sound of the metal bars groaning and the wooden parts creaking as the weight of the meetle strained the crate. Stunks staggered over to the bounty hunter, who gave his hat back.
"Yes, thank you. Now that wasn’t supposed to happen… Still, we got it open. Let’s shift these useless wasters inside." The Clakkerz helped the mudokon to haul the cataleptic outlaw forms into the cage through a door in the back. Sear the meetle watched them with sleepy interest.
One of the Clakkerz approached Stunks "Gee, Mr McCoy; d’you think they’ll all fit?"
Stunks peered over her shoulder at Kobe helping the Clakkerz push one more outlaw into the bulging crate.
"Er… Sure they will!" He turned to the others. "Hey! HEY! Push him into that space in the corner there! You can fit three more stenchies in there at least."
Luckily there were only three outlaws left. The last one, however, could not be crammed in at all, and kept waking up as they tried. Kobe grew impatient, so trussed him up and tied him to the side of the cage. The Clakkerz and the mudokon stepped back to admire their handiwork. It was a sight you’d have to see to believe. The crate bulged heavily at the sides, arms and legs protruded from odd places between the bars, and those outlaws who had come round were so disorientated by the ordeal that they could barely groan.
Barely.
"That’s all of ‘em," observed Stunks McCoy. He nodded at Kobe. "You coming with?"
Kobe looked around and decided that the ride to Mongo Harbour was a good idea. He nodded to Stunks, "S’pose so."
To the other Clakkerz he asked "You all alright now?"
"We’re fine now thanks," replied one. "We gotta tidy up our stuff an’ get it down to New Yolk City. It’s the flood relief, for, you know, when the Mongo River overflowed after Sekto Springs Dam burst. Thanks bounty hunter."
Kobe walked towards Sear the meetle and stopped by Stunks, who looked him up and down. His eyes widened.
"You’re bleedin’!"
Kobe followed McCoy’s eyes to where he was pointing. His left upper leg was indeed bleeding, his pants were stained. The ripperdart from his prior engagement was still there, lodged in his flesh. The pained had been numbed by adrenalin, but now that he noticed it the pain returned with a vengeance.
"For Odd’s sake!" Kobe gripped the serrated orange dart in a green fist, which increased the pain significantly; it felt like a hot poker was jammed in his Quoddriceps, which was not far off the truth. Not that he let it show. Kobe gritted the horny pads on his gums and yanked the ripperdart out. Blood splattered on the ground as muscle fibres tore on the ragged edges. The mudokon gasped at the pain, and a steady stream of crimson began oozing out. Stunks looked woozy.
"I’ve got some bandages on the meetle-"
"N-no… need." Kobe reached into his jacket and retrieved a white (ish) roll of fabric. Tugging out a length, ripped it off and pulled up the leg of his pants, wrapping the bandage tight around the wound. He stood and the trouser leg rolled back down. Stunks climbed back onto Sear and sat in the saddle-seat. Kobe looked at the ripperdart. Even covered in blood, he could tell it was filthy, rust and grime mixed with the mud’s blood. The mudokon dropped it onto the dust ground and scaled the meetle-crate combo, limping on his first step but strong after that. The other dart in his hand would not be coming out in a hurry, so he wrapped a bandage around it to hold back the bleeding.
Stunks McCoy waved at the rescued Clakkerz and picked up the reigns.
"You’ll have to sit in the front here, Kobe," he said to his passenger. "You’re on the wing case, it’s gonna up in the air when her wings open."
Kobe scrambled around the shade of the saddle and Stunks slid up to give him some room.
"You might also want these on," McCoy offered some flight goggles and sound dampeners. Kobe accepted them, remembering the noise the meetle’s wings make when in flight. He had to adjust the goggle to fit on his mudokon’s face, but the sound dampeners slid down over his ears, muting the world around him. Stunks threw on his own goggle, flicked the reigns and the meetle’s wing cases immediately raised and her wings unfolded. The whooshing of the wings soon became a shrill drone as their speed increased, though Kobe couldn’t here a thing. With great effort and obvious strain, the meetle lifted the crate o’ outlaws off the ground. They rose a meter up, then crashed back to the ground. The mudokon hit his face on his knees.
"C’mon girl, you can do it," Stunks encouraged the massive meetle, and with great exertion lifted up again, and they were flying.
They continued to gain altitude until the ravine they were in looked just like a dark squiggly line in the ground. The air was colder up here, the bounty hunter was glad he wore more clothed than your average mudokon. Kobe could see for miles around, he’d never before had such a view. Deep canyons cut into the ground, full of tall, knotted rock formations. The earth was patched with green and red brown, where flora and foliage had covered the dry rock. He could see the swollen Mongo River glinting silver in the afternoon sun, twisting and turning through scattered settlements. In the distance: snowy mountains jutting out of the horizon, where he knew the Mongo’s source: Ma’ Spa; to be. The collapsed dam at Sekto Springs, and the Wolvark camps. Kobe thought he could even see the Paramonian forest in the distance (he couldn’t). On the river he spied Grubb villas, boats and huts, the Clakker’s meep farms, the late Doc’s Retreat, and behind them, a black industrialised state, coughing black smoke into the pristine air, encroached on Oddworld’s surface like a malignant melanoma, a cancer of the planet. Banishing the thought from his mind, Kobe settled his gaze upon a small but bustling town on the edge of the river’s wider meanders. Mongo Harbour Town thought Kobe. Mongo Harbour for short. The "Town" postfix was part of a clever tax evasion by one of the harbour’s previous mayors: as harbours are a transportation hub, the import tax is higher than on normal towns. Another corporate exploit, no doubt engineered by the Magog Cartel. This was their destination. A newly constructed railtrack joined many of the towns like a black artery, it was clearly and industrialist venture. The track was held six or seven stories above the ground, and the trains hung beneath it. In fact, Kobe could see one now, one of the Cartel’s distinctive Gluk-Trains. Its engine was shaped like a Glukkon’s face; it had glowing yellow eyes, and left a black trail of smoke behind it. The engine was attached to the rail by a row of wheels that were turned by drive and coupling rods attached to each one, the movement of which made the train look like some kind of insect or centipede. This one pulled over fourteen carriages. Kobe realised they must have descended a long way to notice these details as the train passed Mongo Harbour and disappeared under the Meetle. He looked down to see that the outlaw tied to the side of the crate had woken up, spit off the gag, and was screaming at the top of his lungs. Kobe couldn’t hear him through the sound dampeners, and his attention was diverted when his ears started to pop from the increase in air pressure. They were just above the level of the buildings now, and Clakkerz in the street stopped to watch them, and point at the screaming outlaws. They had seen Stunks and his meetle before, but never with such a full cargo. They came to a halt above a large wooden edifice with a hanging sign on the street side, it read: Stunks McCoy’s Yolkswagon Meetle.
What appeared to be a large barn of sorts below them issued a rumble, then, by some unknown mechanism, the roof began to open. It split down the middle and each half moved to the side and revolved down into the hangar. The mechanical whirring stopped with a clunk. Kobe wondered how the meetle would land inside, as her wingspan was greater than the width of the barn, when the whirring started again and a platform rose up from the hay covered floor to roof height, atop a sturdy iron beam. Sear set down atop the stage and closed her wings, and the platform sank back down. The roof remained open.
"Good job, Sear," Stunks patted the meetle’s back and hopped off. He strode to a telephone on the wall. It had a rotary dial system, and as he spun it around he took off the earpiece; a metal cone topped by three metal rings. It was obviously made for Vykker fingers. Stunks waited patiently for the synthesised ringing to stop and the other end to answer.
"Hello, Mongo Harbour Bounty Store? Get the jail on the line; I have a client here who has captured fourteen-" he noticed the outlaw strapped to the side of the crate "-make that fifteen live bounties, ready for collecting at the Yolkswagon."
"How many live ones?"
"That’s fifteen live bounties here."
"Okay Stunks, we’ll be along in a minute. Any Bosses?"
"Nope, just stenchies," finished Stunks, and he put the earpiece back on the hook with a click. Kobe had been listening with idle interest. Stunks looked up at Kobe, who was taller by a head and a half. "The bounties will be collected later, let’s go into the front and wait, or maybe…" he trailed off as he opened the door and ambled through. Kobe took one last look at the meetle, and stole another glance at the roof. Marvelling at the machinery that worked it all, he followed Stunks McCoy through the door that was marked "meetle" on the other side.
The smell was worse in this part of the building. Kobe supposed that it is one thing the keep a huge great meetle clean, but quite another to sanitise thirty or so small, noisy and back-talking little beasts, one of which was complaining loudly.
"You promised food, pullet!" the Chippunk whined. "And fugly here soiled himself, an’ it’s seeping into my bed."
The fuzzle next to it growled menacingly through the bars, and the Chippunk stuck its tongue out and blew a raspberry. Stunks took exception to being called "pullet", but leaned down to get the food bag anyway. His eyes widened and he froze. Kobe motioned forward but McCoy’s wing snapped up and stopped him. He raised slowly and deliberately, eyes darting from shadow to shadow in the dark room.
"Nobody. Move." Stated Stunks with the kind of authority reserved only for sergeants, police sligs and maths teachers. Even the Chippunk shut up. Stunks pointed at a rusty iron box next to the food bag. The front had swung down and the padlock lay on the floor. It was empty.
"Oops," whispered the Chippunk, and burrowed under its wood shavings.
The door behind Kobe swung shut and plunged them into darkness.
* * *
The room was two storeys tall, with rafters and beams protruding in seemingly random directions. The dirty windows illuminated the room very badly; the ceiling could not be seen in the darkness. Stunks would have wondered how many bolamites were living up there if he was not so afraid of what he new was up there now, or, and his eyes flicked down the floor, what was down here now. Kobe was rather concerned with Stunks’ reaction to this turn of events, and the fact that his eyes were not adjusting to the dark as fast as he’d like. Suddenly he heard a strangely dry squelching sound, which created such a primal sense of revulsion in him that he felt an emotion he had not known in a long time: fear. He heard it again from the opposite side of the room, followed by a splat and a twang, and then a slurp as the thing ascended higher into the rafters. They all looked up, Kobe spun around as he heard a squelch squelch from behind him. Stunks’ attention was focused on the broken window at the top of the room.
"It must not leave this room!" he warned, urgency and near panic injected into his voice.
"What is- ?"
"There!" yelled Stunks, pointing at some shadows in the corner. Kobe could see nothing there, but then a wooden board leaning against the wall was knocked over from behind and a small silhouette inchwormed swiftly across the floor and into the darkness. There was a splat twang and it flew up into the roof again. The Clakker and the mudokon stared up at the spot where it disappeared. Kobe’s eyes were beginning to adjust, but he still could not see what was-
"Ark!" A short, sharp and high pitched bark echoed through the room and turned his blood to ice.
"I know that sound…"
"Ark, -arp!" The creature seemed to answer its own call before it had finished the first, like there were two.
"Where is it, McCoy?" Kobe growled. He crept slowly into the middle of the room, cautiously glancing around the dim wooden room. Suddenly a long fleshy vine lunged down the bounty hunter’s head. He leant back and twisted his head to the side just in time. Thick saliva splatted against his face, the slimy pink appendage adhered to the brim of his hat and it flew back the way it came, with Kobe’s hat.
This grated his nerves. Kobe liked his hat, and now some creepy little creature had stolen it. His heart was pumping wildly in his chest, his breathing was quick and shallow; Kobe could feel the adrenalin in his blood. Squelch squelch. The mudokon turned around, following the noise. There was a loud belch, then a disgusted spluttering.
"Arpf! Plapf! Ark ark arp!"
The hat fell to the floor with a gentle thud. Kobe stepped forward and picked it up, examining it. It was dripping with drool and hat a bite taken out of the brim.
"I have a very definite feeling about this."
He narrowed his eyes and listened carefully. The mudokon heard Stunks’ heavy panting, the animals in the cage whispering to each other. Sweat stung his eyes, when he sensed movement behind him. The fleshy whip dived back at him from the darkness, but the bounty hunter wad ready. Kobe whirled on the spot, and caught the tongue in his hand. The end wriggled in his fist for a moment, before Kobe yanked on it and the owner flew out of the shadows and into his arms. It appeared to be a worm, though it was a vertebrate. There where no eyes, but it still managed to "see" somehow. The thing was green and about a half a meter in length. The skin was smooth, thick and almost reptilian, coiled muscled bulged under its jade hide. The lips were fused with the gums and short, pointed teeth protruded from its narrow elongated jaws, which Kobe found his hand inside, still gripping the slimy tongue. The creature’s maw snapped shut; he yelped more in surprise than pain, and shook it around. He managed to prise it off with his free hand (the one with the ripperdart in it), and held its jaws shut. Then the creature’s tail end came up, there was no tail, but another head! It snapped at the mudokon for a moment before barking an "ark!" and another tongue licked out at him. Kobe wrestled with the thing for a moment and finally had both jaws under control (firmly held shut). He looked at Stunks menacingly.
"Step in anytime you want-" the worm struggled again, "feel free."
"Y-you seemed to have it all-"
"Ark!"
"-Under control."
Kobe marched behind the desk, threw the animal into the iron cage and slammed the padlock on.
"What on Oddworld are you doing with a fleech?!" he demanded, advancing on Stunks.
"I’m not doing anything with it. I keep it locked up in that box. I have no idea how it got out. But," he said, turning towards the Chippunk’s cage, "I’m going to find out."
The fuzzle next to the Chippunk looked up at Stunks McCoy. "Meemee mee mey moiyeemey" it squeaked in the fuzzles’ deceptively cute tongue. The Chippunk poked its face out of the wood shavings; "He’s lying! Don’t believe anything smelly says!"
The fuzzle grinned, revealing long, pointed sharp teeth, and snarled at its neighbour.
"I don’t care what he’s saying," Stunks interjected angrily. "You were all here when it got out, and you didn’t even warn us." The thudslugs and bolamites looked down, ashamed.
"Much as this little domestic dispute is fascinating," Kobe drawled, surveying the bizarre scene that had unfolded before him. "You still haven’t explained exactly how we nearly came to be fleech food."
Stunks pulled up a couple of chairs and indicated for Kobe to sit down. Kobe was uncomfortable in the Clakker-shaped seat, but didn’t show it.
"I came into possession of it five years ago. I was travelling through Mudos, and was on the outskirts of Scrabania when I ran into a convoy. They were mostly sligs, guarding a company of Glukkons. I didn’t ask what they were doing, but that night we played some cards. I did remarkably well, and that is what probably irked them, because my bag of winnings, when I came to open it on my return, contained not Moolah, but-"
"A fleech?"
"Let me finish," said Stunks. He took a deep breath. "A fleech!"
Quelling his growing frustration, Kobe asked him: "And you kept it why?"
Stunks shrugged. "I couldn’t just flush it. I thought it might come in useful," he gestured at the other animals and scowled at them. "Like these guys."
There was a short silence. "Is that all?" asked Kobe
"Huh?"
"Is that the end of the story?"
"Yes. Why?"
Kobe frowned at the Clakker. "It’s just that you asked me to sit," he stood up. "That usually precedes a long story."
"I just wanted to rest my legs."
It was then that the front door opened. Another Clakker came in, dressed in blue overalls and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
"Hey, Mister McCoy," he said. "We’re here to pick up the outlaws, and, er, take ‘em to jail."
"Through the back there, Gravy-Cheeks." Stunks pointed at the door to the meetle room that he and Kobe had just come through.
"Gravy-Cheeks?" asked Kobe.
"It’s a long story," whispered Stunks.
Gravy-Cheeks looked at Kobe, as if noticing him for the first time. "You must be the bounty hunter that brought in all these stenchies. When they said you were a mudokon, I didn’t believe ‘em. Fifteen live outlaws." He whistled. "No one’s seen that many brought in at once since, well, since that Stranger came through."
"Whatever happened to him?" asked Stunks.
Other Clakkerz were milling about behind Gravy-Cheeks now, waiting to shift Kobe’s bounties. He looked thoughtful. "Nobody’s heard from him since that Steef rampaged through town." He stepped over towards the meetle-door, then stopped and looked at Kobe’s bleeding hand. "Ouch! Did one of Stunks’ little beasts do that?" He turned to McCoy. "You oughta keep that Chippunk of yours under control!" His laughs were joined by the fuzzle’s, and only grew stronger at the Chippunk’s indignant remarks. Stunks shot a knowing look at Kobe, and waved goodbye. Kobe strode out towards the door, bandaging his hand, and caught the last words of Stunks’ and Gravy-Cheeks’ conversation before the door swung shut.
"The bounty store yard has been converted into a meetle delivery stage, so now you can deliver the bounties you transport straight to the-"
* * *
The evening sun was as bright as middy, and hit Kobe like a roundhouse kick to the face. His eyes where adjusted to the dark of The Yolkswagon Meetle and the outside was blinding. Kobe shielded his eyes and pulled his hat’s brim low, but the sun shone through the bite hole. Furiously, he twisted his hat around and stomped over to the bounty store, knocking over a Clakker couple as he went.
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