Chapter Two

The Hip Hog Heaven was dead quiet. At the bar a lone, red-haired, skinny man was seated.

Torn was guzzling his seventh drink, not yet drunk but not quite sober. It was his grand plan to drown himself in liquor and wash away all the guilt and sanity he had.

Jinx was asleep in one of the booths, dozing softly. He'd decided he would rather follow Torn than Ashelin; if he'd chosen different, the yelling would have driven him insane. Even Torn had to agree with that because he knew Ashelin's temper—Baron Praxis would hear it from her.

Torn, however didn't want to scream or talk, or sort things out. He wanted to fight; and not just a punch here, a kick there. His fingers itched to pull the trigger of his rifle, to blow a hole though the Baron's thick skull. He wanted, more than anything, to kill Praxis—nice and slow—as payment for the lives he'd wasted. For the blood he had shed.

Torn wanted to stab him in the heart and twist the blade.

"Why the long face, eh?" Krew was a hovering mass just behind Torn, his stink obvious. The rotund man had a white shirt stretched over his tremendous torso, with sweat stains at the arm pits. The lower half that could be seen of him above his hovering chair was clad in tight green slacks. He had supposedly lost some weight form his five hundred pound frame, so he thought that the tight clothes were a compliment to his "new" figure.

"You know, the drinks aren't free, mmm?" the mound of blubber floated slowly over Torn's head and rested just above the bar.

"My money's good . . ." Torn flipped a few credits onto the counter. "Shut up."

Krew took time to carefully inspect the currency, and after a minute or two of scrutiny, he glared instantly at Torn. "This isn't enough." Krew huffed, shoving what Torn had given him back at the skinny commander. Torn gave a strong, throaty growl. When he traced the hilt of his blade with his hand, a sleepy Jinx stumbled over and flopped down on the stool beside Torn.

"Put it on my tab," the pilot said and he put a half-smoked cigar in his mouth, lighting up. He took a long, slow pull and released a small cloud of blue-gray smog. Torn waved it away.

"D'you have to smoke that around me?"

Jinx's tired brain barely registered what Torn had said. He studied the tattooed face for a moment then . . .


Torn glowered, then set his empty bottled down hard and slid lopsidedly off the stool. Jinx continued to puff on his cigar, but swiveled to watch the commander. Torn stood stock still, staring into space.

"Ya know Torn . . . you outta relax—I mean, it ain't your fault, what happened, so you should just, you know—"

"Relax?" Torn turned to the blonde, his word dangerously quiet, for the moment. His jaw was clenched, his head was throbbing with the rush of the liquor. This was it. "Let's see you relax!" He was going to beat the shit out of something. Jinx seemed to be the current focus. Torn stood and pulled the cigar from Jinx's mouth, threw it on the floor, then proceeded to stomp it into a pile of pulverized ash and brown paper. Jinx's brain was awake, now that it had received it's dose of nicotine. He slid off of the bar stool and met Torn's eyes. His hands were up in a disarming posture.

"Look man, I'm just sayin'."

"Saying what?" Torn asked, outraged. This was what he'd been hoping for—a reason to beat the hell out of something.

"Do all of us a favor," Jinx took another cigar from his pocket, "and get laid."

Torn had no choice, not now. He threw a punch at Jinx. It was on.

Ashelin's wrath could still be heard throughout the halls, even with the doors of the throne room shut. Erol stood beside Praxis, looking as smug and haughty as ever. Ashelin was busy (and had been for the past five minutes) screaming her throat raw at her father, who was keeping quiet; However, if looks could kill, Ashelin would have been dead.

"Just blow it UP! Is that your grand master plan? Those men gave their lives to protect your city, and you just kill them? What kind of monster are you?"

"I couldn't risk the city's infiltration," Praxis's voice was swollen with anger. "I had no other choice! Do you think I wanted to kill my own men?"

Ashelin's features narrowed, "You're no better than the metal heads." Her voice was barely a whisper, but Praxis heard what she'd said. He heard, and he landed the punch in his own daughter's face.

The sound of the blow echoed through the room. Erol's smug features chanced a smile as a minute stream of blood tumbled down Ashelin's chin.

"Don't EVER compare me with those monsters! EVER!"

Ashelin wiped the blood away with a single hand and watched her father move to the windows. He was staring absently at the blast site. His eyes watched as the smoke roiled up in black gasps of dust and grime, jaw clenched.

"Ashelin," his voice was gentle, "I had no choice. The people need protection. If that requires sacrifice . . . then, I have no qualms. A few die for the price of many . . ." he went quiet. His thoughts were black and terrible, just like the aftermath of the bomb. Ashelin shook her head as she left.

"I don't blame Torn for quitting."

The doors slammed shut behind her in a flourish. Erol seemed to spring to life the second she had gone. He was like the snake with Eve, only Eve was Praxis. Erol loved the power he had over the Baron—he was such an easy pawn.

"Sir, did you hear? Torn . . . has quit the force." He slid around to the Baron's side, his voice a whisper. "He will try to sway her to quit too."

Praxis nodded slowly. "Follow her."

"GET OFFA ME!" Jinx kicked at Torn's stomach, but he wouldn't move. Another fist collided with Jinx's already bloody nose. Jinx elbowed him in the chest for what seemed the sixtieth time. "C'mon, I said I was sorry!"

Torn's knee didn't seem to care that Jinx had apologized because it somehow found its way to his groin. Torn twisted his leg and Jinx's already high voice went up another octave and he writhed, squeaking, and curled into a blubbering mass as Torn backed away. He kicked the pilot in the side, then flopped back onto a bar stool.

"Jinx . . . you're an ass."

"Y-you did-didn't haff—" Jinx wheezed as he unrolled himself from the fetal position. The ache between his legs was dull then, but he still felt like vomiting. "You didn't hafta go ape-shit." He was now on his feet, doubled over with his hands resting on his knees, coughing and regaining his balance. Torn shook his head and turned back to the bar, behind which Krew was floating. His gelatin-like form was the straw that broke the camel's back for Jinx's already nauseated gut. He rushed to the bathroom to make a deposit at the bank, so to speak.

"Good pilot, eh?" Krew watched Jinx leave the room. "I'm grateful that you didn't rough him up too badly. I need his . . . unique skills for a job later, mmm."

Torn's liquored up brain vaguely registered how wrong the phrase had sounded. I need his unique skills for a job . . . It scared him that his mind actually made the connection. He ventured to ask.


"I've asked him to retrieve a rather preeminent artifact from the eco mines. Rare . . . worth more than I'm paying him." Krew eyed Torn with quiet consideration. "I think I may have a lucrative proposition for you, Torn."

Torn didn't like how the fat guy was looking at him, or the way he said his name, but he had to ask. "Lucrative?"

"Very," Krew replied. "Jinx needs someone to watch his back. There are nasties in the mines and he is one of my most useful hired hands. If you can be swayed to join him and keep him safe, I'll pay you double his fee, eh?"

Torn scowled in thought. He was still pissed and beating the crap out of Jinx had alleviated some of his rage, but not all of it: He could still stand to knock some heads around.

Krew's already overpowering stink was joined by the smell of cigar smoke. It was like Jinx's theme song that told everyone that he was in the room.

"I said I'd be fine," Jinx sounded like a kid whining to his nagging parents. He filled the seat beside Torn, issued another puff of thick smoke, and took a bottle of brew from behind the bar. The top popped off with a twist of his hand, and he proceeded to chug.

"You are one of the best with explosives," Krew admitted. "This job has to be perfect. I won't risk you getting killed."

"Touching, ain't it?" Jinx said to no one in particular. Krew gave a sigh. His chair floated down in front of Jinx so that they were nose to nose.

"I won't have you killed because I want my artifact!"

"Yeah, yeah." Jinx waved a hand. "Just watch that breath, King Kong. Ya could kill a herd of Yakkows." Jinx finished the bottle as Krew floated away and grabbed another. "But cha'know, I've gotta blow the shit outta that old mine quarry, right?" He looked at Torn as he swung the brew bottled between three fingers. "It's collapsed. There's rocks and crap blocking the mine entrance, and with as much bang as I'm packin' it's risky. We might get caved in on."

"I don't care how you get it!" Krew was turning the color of Torn's K.G. uniform from all of Jinx's complaining. "Just get the artifact!"

-Strangely enough, I never posted this story because I thought people would hate it, and they probably do. But, anyhoo, I need some reviews, for I am not sure as to how to start out chapter three. I know what I want to do, but not how I wish to begin it. Any suggestions? –