The ice cream bicyclist fished in his small cooler for a couple red-white-and-blue rocket-ship popsicles. He handed them to his two customers and politely asked for the two dollars owed.
He looked at the adult, a tall bald man in wide wrap-around shades that swam with oil-slick colours. He seemed to be dressed in an astronaut's suit, complete with a huge black-visored helmut tucked under one arm. But the suit was all wrong, made of words and sentences and metaphors rather than sensible materials.
The bald man took one of the popsicles without a word.
The bicyclist cleared his throat and held out his hand.
"Oh, wait," said the astronaut's companion, an eight-year-old boy with curly black hair a huge round glasses. Biting on his tongue, he fished out a handful of quarters from his pocket and paid the bicyclist. "Thank you!"
"You two, you're visiting?" asked the bicyclist as he counted out the change.
"Yes!" answered the boy proudly, trying his best to tear open the popsicle wrapping. "This is our first time in Net.ropolis! My name is Billy. This is Grant."
"Well, you guys, you picked a hellava time of year. Lots of great tourist spots 'round here... can't name any offa the top of my head, but I hear all the other outatowners talk about 'em. Any you hoping to see?"
"I'm hoping to meet the Legion!"
"Legion, huh? Are you, um, you supposed to be sooper-heroes?" asked the bicyclist, looking up and down the astronaut's word-suit.
The astronaut didn't say anything. He only enjoyed his popsicle.
"Nah. Grant says there's so many that we'd never get noticed. So we're going to be bad guys instead! Bad guys are keen, they get to spend a whole buncha time with the heroes!"
"Bad guys, huh? Well, good luck with that," said the bicyclist encouragingly. "By the way, you're short about ten cents."
"Oops! Sorry!" said Billy apologetically. He stuck the popsicle in his mouth and dug into his pocket until he found another dime. "Here you go! Thanks again!"
The bicyclist stared at the pair for a long moment, then shook his head and drifted off to pedal his chilled confections elsewhere.
Billy jogged over to a nearby bench and sat down, taking a moment to make whooshing-zooming actions with his popsicle before jamming it into his mouth. The astronaut sat beside him stiffly. They sat quietly for a while, letting the world pass by until they had only the sticks left.
"Mine has a writing on it," Billy said without surprise, rubbing a finger over the thin wood. "This will be the first guy we should meet. I guess that means he'll be around here..." he trailed off, looking around the relatively empty street, "...somewhere."
As if responding to the leading question, the big window of a pleasant looking cafe exploded. A man landed on the sidewalk like a rag-doll, his face so heavily bruised that it was impossible to identify him. A few moments later, an equally-battered man came slamming out the door, almost catching his feet before running face-first into a lamppost and knocking himself out.
The astronaut pointed at the scene. "Ha, thats easy," Billy laughed, enjoying the convenience. They hopped off the bench and walked over to the cafe's entrance, pausing at a public trashcan and deposited the wrapper and sticks.
They entered a cafe that they could see was probably quite welcoming, but had a thick sooty cloud of cheap cigarette smoke hanging at the ceiling. There was shattered espresso cups all over the place, a couple chairs that looked like they had been cracked over people's backs, and a disturbingly sticky redness on the floor. There we half-a-dozen patrons, all jammed in the men's bathroom at the back, peeking out a barely open door. The bartender, an aged fellow in specs, was trying to turn off a bullet-ridden frappuccino machine that was fizzing and frothing chaotically.
Standing in the center of the room was a grizzled looking man, poorly kept, with dirty, leathery with the dust and soil long years sleeping under wide open skies. He had an old stetson hat pulled down low over his narrow squinting eyes, a well worn grey duster over a striped pecos vest, and filthy preacher boots that left muddy prints on every step. He levered a solid-looking winchester rifle, which spit out a smoking shell with a crack that filled the silent room.
Billy cleared his throat.
The head of the grizzled man turned slightly, his mean grey eyes looking over his shoulder to the sound.
"Excuse me. Sorry. I'm looking for someone called," Billy checked his popsicle stick, "the Ultimate Cowboy?"
The man looked over the boy and the astronaut, as if weighing the distance and looking for weapons. Eventually, he let the rifle hang down lazily in one hand and nodded, "There are warrants out for me in that name." He marched over to the bar, laying the gun atop it. Reaching into his coat, he pulls out paper and fixings, rolling a cigarette. The bartender almost headed over to serve him, but a murderous stare changed his mind.
Billy waited a moment, then when he realized no other answer was coming, walked over to the bar himself. He sat on stool beside the cowboy, with the astronaut sitting on the far side.
The cowboy licked the paper closed and put the cigarette in his mouth. "I know you," he said flatly to the astronaut, "Or rather, I have heard of yer kind. You are a Fictionaut. I have met one like you a long time ago, under far sunnier skies." He snorted. "We did not take well to one another."
The astronaut did not reply.
"Mr. Cowboy, sir? We are, I mean, Grant and me, we're putting together a bad guy team. We'd like you to be the leader."
The cowboy barked a laugh. "Ha ha! And this band of hard men are... who? A baby and a bald scotsman? Ha!"
"Well, just Grant actually. So far. I'll be mostly just watching. And you."
"I heard yer offer, boy, but I did not agree to it."
"But... you have to! I bought a popsicle and everything!"
The cowboy waved dismissively.
"...and you'd fit great. When we do it, I mean. Our bad guy plan."
"And what would that be? Rob a toy store?"
"No," said Billy, puffing up his chest. "We're going to fight the Legion."
The cowboy's chuckled disappeared. He stepped back from the bar and stared right at Billy, his muscles sounding like marble rubbing against sand. He raised his head, staring down his nose at the boy, and asked with a sudden, deadly seriousness, "The Legion?"
"The real one? With the Ultimate Ninja?"
"Yes sir. I think he's the leader of them. I haven't been keeping up as much as I should..."
The cowboy grabbed his rifle from the bar. The motion quieted the room again. The patrons in the bathroom watched with nervous excitement, hoping eventually to escape. The bartender watched with dread, hoping his insurance covered violent character development.
Narrow suspicious eyes turned to meet oil-coloured sunglasses, the two seemingly having a silent conversation. Then he nodded to himself, and finally, turning back to the boy, nodded in agreement to him. He shifted the rifle to his left hand and suck out his arm to Billy.
"All right. I offer you my hand," the Ultimate Cowboy said. "Boy, if you can give me a fair chance to call out that ninja brushpopper, I will lead your posse. I would lead them to the gates of hell themselves. With blood and bile and spit."
The idea of doing an looniverse story had been banging in my head for a while now. It was partially due to some character concepts I really liked and partially due the recent LNH Comics Presents story. This story came out fairly light-hearted and with a straight written-as-i-thought-it-up process, and I want it to remain quick slammed-out fun. It will be a fuller experiment in improving my comedy writing, so bear with me. Also, though I want it to run alongside Super Wizard (in an attempt to write more weekly), don't be surprised if it's schedule gets sporadic at best :)
The streets of chinatown were crowded and busy and loud. People were rushing to and fro, pushing through the many pedestrians and bicyclists, yelling in a mishmash of english and chinese. It was a breezy bright afternoon, and despite the shoulder-to-shoulder shoving, everyone seemed to be in good cheer. Everyone, that is, except the cowboy and the astronaut waiting impatiently outside a small convenience store.