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.
"Will he be requiring to do this every single time?" the Ultimate Cowboy asked, pulling his hat down lower over his eyes. "Seems like a lick and a promise to me."
The Fictionaut did not respond. In fact, with the helmet on, it was hard to tell if he had even heard.
The cowboy glanced at the still figure, only seeing himself in the reflection of the black visor. "Ain't the flannel-mouthed sort, are you?" he said gruffly.
A light tickling of a bell and Billy exited from the store, eating a fudgesicle and dabbing his mouth with a paper napkin. "Sorry. Sorry. I got distracted by the magazine rack. They had the new issue of..."
The cowboy scoffed and began shoving his way down the street. The Fictionaut followed, with Billy hopping along behind, trying to strategically eat his melting ice cream.
They pushed their way down a block or two, eventually arriving at a construction site. There was a skeleton of red girders, a naked ten-story building being built by hurried looking asian workers, all in hardhats and shirts sporting the same union badge. It was a sandy dust lot, with wide green pipes stacked neatly to one side, a blue drum to one side with a small fire unattended, and barrels of rivets being hustled up the sturdy looking elevator to the workers waiting high above.
No one seemed to pay the trio any attention. They all seemed to be purposely ignoring them, giving them a wide berth without looking any of them in the eye. The cowboy moseyed between them, watching them pass by like a bear eyeing a fast-moving river until, with a lightning quick arm, grabbed one of them by the collar. The worker yelped in surprise, dropping the pile of mallets he was carting.
"I would be having words with the man in charge here," the cowboy demanded, looming over the worker.
Despite the larger stature off his assailant and the murderous look in those old eyes, the asian worker was holding in his fear well. He set his jaw and spat out, "Boss not here. Long lunch with architects. Try again tomorrow."
"I did ask for your foreman," the cowboy growled, "I was referring to your khan."
All the workers suddenly stopped in their tracks and looked at the commotion. They had the attention of the entire construction yard, and none of the workers looked friendly. Billy's stomach was suddenly filled with butterflies, and he tried to stand between his two companions.
The walkie-talkies in the manhandled worker's tool belt crackled to life and a heavy slow mandarin barked out sharp orders. The cowboy looked up the girders, seeing a shadow at the top of the structure looking down. Though it had the sun behind it, obscuring its features, it was clearly waving for them to come up. The cowboy looked back down at the worker he held, and after a moment's consideration, let go.
The worker took a step back, puffing up his chest a bit and saying something that they couldn't understand but didn't sound friendly. However, he grabbed his walkie-talkie and had a short exchange before nodding. He then looked at the three of them and said, "Follow me up. No monkey business."
"No monkey business," the cowboy agreed and they boarded the wide construction elevator. All but the Fictionaut, who remained on the ground. The cowboy gave a flick on his head and said, "Off you go. Be back directly."
The Fictionaut turned and walked into the thick of the paragraph, disappearing between the gaps of the narrative. The workers around didn't seem to notice his absence as they punched chunky buttons to get the elevator moving.
"Where did Grant go?" Billy asked the cowboy, tugging on his duster.
"Insurance," was the curt reply. "Now hush up."
The elevator lurched to a stop at the top, where they were greeted by a large number of green-shirted workers. They had laid out planks of wood between the girders, providing a rickety floor for the visitor to walk along. At the far corner, waiting for them beside a stack of brown barrels and blue ladders, was a wide man with the head of a mule.
"This is Donkey Kahn, direct descendant of Emperor Fatian Qiyun Shegwu, leader of the secret horde of the modern mongul empire, and head of Net.tropolis Construction & Specialized Workers Union," introduced one of the workers, who immediately bowed. With military precision, the rest of the workers did the same.
The khan stomped toward them. He was huge, apparently made entirely of muscle. His biceps alone were larger than Billy. He looked like a giant of a man with a sparse thin grey fur covering everywhere, oversized hooves instead of feet, and a mule's head. His eyes were thin and beady, his ears were tall and straight, and he had a long thin mustache falling from upper lip of his snout.
"You are a jack!" said the cowboy matter-of-factly.
"Temujin was very promiscuous man," answered Donkey Khan in a slow heavy english that was clearly not his preferred language. "Had many children. Many bastards. With those odds, should not be surprised one of offspring would be interested in... cruder experimentation."
Billy looked at his popsicle stick, the words printed on the side, then back at the mule-headed man. "I thought he would be a gorilla."
"Bosh," the cowboy told the boy, "Where's the sense in that? He would have to have the name Gorilla Khan, then, wouldn't he?"
"Oh," said Billy, disappointed. "I just though that, you know, it would make more sense."
"But hardly original, boy. How would team you gin's randy grandkids even find a gorilla to make a mash on in old china-land? Out of the way for that big an ape."
"Enough," brayed the kahn in a burst of anger, give a heavy kick to the stack of barrels beside him. With a smash and a clatter they toppled over, rolling down the planks and off the edge of the building.
The cowboy and Billy barely had time to dodge to the sides to avoid getting bowled over. The cowboy landed on a cross girder nimbly but Billy missed, slamming into one and barely grasping it with his arms. "Help!" Billy squeaked out, trying to hang on.
"How dare you! Donkey Khan has blood of mongol kings. Donkey Khan has blood of thunderous horses. Yet you come here and mock? Laugh and joke? This is a game to you?"
The construction workers all reached into their tool belts and drew out long, wicked looking swords. Their teeth were showing, a ferocity seemed to fill their wide stares.
"Game over," said the khan.