A foul stench wafted through the bar, a mixture of smoke and piss. On one side, some revelers watched a hologame, their friends betting on who would win. The jukebox blasted out heavy technometal at a sound level that would deafen a normal person. A feline dancer in an extremely skimpy outfit snaked her way through the tables, all the while dancing, looking for her target. Crumpled up in her hand was a small piece of paper with a job contract for one Mr. Ace Cooper. Spying the hairless apelike man sitting at a small table in the corner of the room, she waltzed over to his table, and discreetly slipped the paper in his hand.
Ace nodded at her as she danced away to another patron’s table, occupied by a lizard that turned a deep shade of red as she mounted him and gave him an extremely sensual lap dance. Ace paid them no mind as he returned his focus to the holochess game he was showing to his first mate, a blue vixen who went by the name Kursed. She, a bounty hunter by trade, found herself under the employ of Ace when he saved her life from a rogue Venomian she had hunted down no more than five years ago. Despite a slip up that nearly ended her life, her skills in combat, aided by her peculiar and unique telepathic powers, were nothing to laugh at. As such, Ace had no qualms inviting her aboard his ship as the first member of his bounty hunting crew.
Ace moved his queen across the holographic board, taking out one of Kursed’s rooks in the process.
“Damn, that was a good move, boss” she said with a hint of frustration.
“Face it, Kursed,” Ace replied, “you’ll never be able to win this game. This is an ancient game from my homeworld, and not many people have been able to master it. With the exception of myself, there is no one left alive who knows how to play this game, much less win it.”
“Oh, really?” she retorted.
Scrunching her muzzle, she found an opening and moved her queen past a discreet hole in Ace’s defenses and trapped his king in a corner of the board.
“Checkmate,” she quipped.
Ace leaned forward to get a better look at the board. Realizing his mistake, he shook his head. “Son of a bitch. I can’t believe you saw that before I did.”
Kursed smirked. “What were you were saying, captain, about me not being able to win it?” she retorted.
Ace leaned back. “All right, I concede. You’re able to play the game after all.”
“Damn straight,” came her almost-cocky reply.
“I guess that’s another drink I owe you.”
Kursed suddenly turned serious. “It can wait, boss. Looks like we’ve got company.”
Ace looked up to see a big burly ape standing over their table. The beast grabbed Ace by his collar and hauled him over to the bar. “All right, skinjob,” the ape growled, “pay up.”
“For what,” Ace asked in a faux-worried tone.
“For the drink you made me spill when I was looking at your ugly mug.”
“Seems like that’s your own fault, monkey-boy,” Ace spat.
The ape narrowed his eyes. “Look buddy, you don’t want to mess with the likes of me. Now hand over the dough or you’ll regret it.”
Ace just raised his eyebrows in response. “And what if I say no?”
“Then I’ll rip your limbs off and take the money from you by force.”
Ace gasped sarcastically. “Well, that doesn’t seem very nice.”
The beast flashed a toothy grin, showing off his yellowed teeth. He got up in Ace’s face. “Oh yeah,” he asked, “well what are you gonna do about it?”
Ace flashed a smile of his own. “Nothing. I just wanted you to face me so she could get behind you.”
A confused look descended upon the drunk ape’s face as he turned around and got slammed in the jaw by the butt of Kursed’s blaster. He went down like a sack of bananas. Kursed shoved her blaster back into its holster and helped Ace off the counter. “Drunks are so cute, aren’t they?” Ace said.
Suddenly, a hand reached out and grabbed Kursed by the shoulder. Kursed instantly reacted, grabbed the person’s hand, and threw him over her shoulder, where he crashed into the counter. “A buddy of his,” she said. “They were sitting at the same table.”
Suddenly, more people got up from their seats and started slowly advancing towards the pair. “Uh-oh. Now ain’t this a happy development?” Ace asked, smirking.
“Hope you got a mean hook, boss, looks like we got nice little fight on our hands,” Kursed replied.
“Been itching for one for a while now. What do you say we have a little fun today, Kursed?”
“Took the words right out of my mouth.”
Ace licked his lips. “Good. Let’s do this.”
The lizard that received a lap dance charged forward and met the business end of Ace’s fist. He spun around with a dazed look in his eyes. Ace caught him and glanced over to Kursed. “Hey Kursed,” he said, “you know what this fight is missing? Some good music to go along with it!”
With that, he threw the reptile into the jukebox, making it skip. The jukebox suddenly started playing an energetic western-style track
, making Kursed, who was in the middle of fighting one of the apes, smirk. “Perfect, boss!” she replied, as she landed a hard kick to the ape’s crotch. The ape crumpled again, but this time was grabbed by Kursed and thrown halfway across the room in a feat that seemed unimaginable to many, but to a strong vixen like Kursed, not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
As the chaos began to disrupt other patron’s good time, more and more people joined the brawl. Ace grabbed a wooden bar stool and smashed it down on the other ape’s head, causing him to faint. A hawk grabbed Ace’s shoulders, only to get his face punched in by the back of Ace’s fist. Ace grabbed the hawk by the arms and threw him over the counter, where his dazed body smashed into a shelf full of bottles of booze. Some of the drinks began mixing together on the floor and started to smoke. Nobody seemed to noticed the increasingly violent reaction bubbling up between the two liquids.
Kursed all of a sudden found herself in a bear hug by a giant of a bear as she was lifted off the ground. She struggled to escape his grasp, but found it useless. Suddenly she had an idea. Contorting her body somewhat, she swung her leg upwards and over her body, right into the bear’s skull. The bear released his grip on Kursed and grasped his aching head, howling in pain. Kursed took this opportunity to land a swift kick to the bear’s balls, causing him to sink to his knees, where she finished him off with a roundhouse kick. The bear, rendered unconscious, crashed into a nearby table, shattering it into a million pieces.
Unfortunately, Kursed’s victory was short lived, as she found herself next to Ace against the wall on the other side of the room, surrounded by the other brawlers. The ape who accosted Ace pointed a blaster at the two. “Any last words?” he snarled.
Thinking back to an old cliché Ace remembered from his home planet, he shouted, “Behind you!” causing the crowd to turn around.
As if by happy accident, the mixing drinks suddenly unleashed the cataclysmic result of their reaction and caused an explosion that sent the entire crowd flying backwards. Ace and Kursed took this opportunity to book it for the door as the bartender, who hid throughout the duration of the fight, let out a steady stream of curse words as he lamented the destruction of his business.
As the two ran down the street, Ace opened a communications line on his wrist communicator to the AI on his ship. “Zara, we’ve had some local color happen. Get the ship prepped,” he almost screamed into the communicator.
“Roger that, boss!” came a female voice’s reply.
Ace and Kursed headed towards the shipyard where ships ranging from small puddle jumpers to entire freighters littered the available lots. They ran towards a white ship that bore resemblance to an ancient spacecraft from the early days of space travel from Ace’s homeworld, but larger and with heavy modifications. A ramp on the black underbelly of the ship lowered just in time as Ace and Kursed reached the ship.
They stopped briefly on the ramp to catch their breath. “Did we lose them?” Kursed panted.
Ace was too winded to reply at first, but when he heard a commotion a short distance away and saw a giant crowd racing towards them, his eyes widened. “Nope!” he screamed as he grabbed Kursed’s arm and pulled her inside the ship. The ramp closed up behind them, locking the approaching mob out. Ace dashed to a communications console and immediately hailed Zara. “Zara, we’re on! Take off, now!”
On cue, the ship suddenly rumbled to life and rose into the air, knocking the mob flat on their backs. The ship turned around and blasted off into the atmosphere, leaving the shipyard and the stunned mob behind in a cloud of dust.
As they left the planet’s atmosphere, Ace and Kursed took a few moments to catch their breath. As the adrenaline wore off, they found themselves laughing euphorically at the near-death scenario they found themselves in. “Looks like that explosion blew a new crater into that rock,” Kursed stated.
“I think it adds to the charm,” Ace replied.
Kursed laughed even more at that. Suddenly, they were interrupted by a voice behind them. They turned around to see the ship’s engineer, Goldie Triever. “Aww, what’s so funny, and why am I not laughing along with you guys?” she playfully whined
“We’ll tell you all about it later, Goldie,” Kursed said.
“How’d the ship fare while we were away?” Ace asked.
“Nothing to report, boss. Everything’s furry,” Goldie cheerfully replied.
“Good,” Ace said. “Go start preparations to leave orbit.”
With that, Goldie skipped off to the engine room to prep the engines. Ace and Kursed couldn’t help but look on warmly. “Sure must be nice to have such a cheerful demeanor amongst a crew of hardened bounty hunters like ourselves,” Kursed said.
“Always have to have one of those on any sort of crew, otherwise it gets too depressing, especially on a boat like this” Ace replied as they started making their way towards the bridge.
“Do you honestly think, though,” Kursed asked, “that it improves morale?”
“I do, Kursed,” Ace said. “It’s a very rare talent to pull somebody up out of a depressive state with just a smile. It comes to Goldie naturally. That, and working on ship engines.”
Kursed giggled at this. “I just hope she is able to hold her own in a firefight,” she said in a somewhat glum tone.
“Remember, Kursed, everyone on this ship, even Zara, knows how to shoot a gun.”
“Maybe so, but what about having the will to pull the trigger, to take someone’s life? I just don’t see her being able to do that.”
“There’s a lot this crew doesn’t know about each other, Kursed. I’m sure that, when the time comes, Goldie will be able to do anything she needs to do to protect herself or any of us,” Ace replied.
“I hope you’re right. We’ll see soon enough.”
As they walked onto the bridge, they found themselves greeted by a blue hologram that bore resemblance to a female member of Ace’s species. “Greetings, captain,” the hologram spoke. “I trust you found a job for us?”
Ace smirked. “That I did, Zara,” he replied as he held up the piece of paper.
Unfolding it, he looked at the details of the mission. “Looks like the infamous space gang from the Lylat System known as Star Wolf is holed up on the planet Kew. We’ve been asked by a liaison from the Cornerian government to flush them out and bring them in, dead or alive.”
Kursed blinked in surprise. Star Wolf. That was a name she hadn’t heard in a long time, not since...
“What do you think they’re doing on Kew?” Zara asked.
“Says here they raided a Cornerian supply depot on the planet Macbeth,” Ace replied. “If they’re here in the Kew System, their trails must be too hot in Lylat to lay low there. They must be hiding out here until things cool down.”
Kursed spoke up next. “Well, then, we’d better get going. If Star Wolf is our bounty, then it’s guaranteed to be a big one.”
“Right,” Ace said. “Better go get Buck to help you with prepping the weapons. I’ve gotta make a couple transmits, call in a few favors. We’re going to need all the help we can get with this one.”
Kursed gave a two-finger salute. “On it, boss.” She turned around and went to find their weapons specialist, Buck.
Ace turned around to face Zara. “I think we’re ready to leave orbit. Fire up the engines, Zara.”
“Roger that, boss.”
With that, the ship’s three main engines roared to life once again and sped off into deep space.
Unbeknownst to them, this new mission would be harder than they thought, in more ways than one...