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The Sword and the Scone

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A brief jet of flame followed Max down the vent tube for a short distance, the force from its thermal expansion adding marginally to his downward momentum. The vent’s surface was unusually smooth and Max quickly discovered that he could not find purchase within the narrow tube that he was now sliding down at a rather alarming velocity. The angle of the tube turned sharply downward, forcing Max into free-fall for a brief moment before shallowing once more, a pattern that, if continued, would do Max’s weak stomach no favors.


The segments of the tunnel zipped past Max’s face and, upon staring at his reflection in their polished surfaces, the bounty hunter noticed that the nanites had already repaired most of his face shield and a good bit of his acid-etched armor.


Growing accustomed to the fact that he may very well be sliding through this tunnel for eternity, Max pondered the recent events allowing his mind to dwell on the battle with ‘Sally’ and his companions who had so valiantly fought by his side. He shuddered at the thought of the worm’s stinking, acrid breath and marveled at his last-minute save by his shape-shifting traveling companion and the man's overtly sophisticated taste in fine furs. But, there was one thing that he could not get out of his mind. It was the way that the solider, Kane, had called him ‘Maxie’. Almost as if he had known him. There was only one person Max had ever known who called him that, the way that Kane had, but he had disappeared from this universe long ago…


Another hard angle down, and free-fall, but this time was different. The lighted tunnel gave way to darkness that seemed to envelope his very soul. Max reached out to touch the sides of the tunnel only to find that he was no longer in the safety of a tunnel at all! He fell through the abyss for a brief moment before slamming face down onto a strange, squishy surface that gave slightly beneath the weight of his Grabeth armor. Though the consistency of the ground he had landed upon had surely cushioned his fall, it was doubtless that the impact would have crushed every bone in his body if it had not been for the tensile strength of the Grabeth that encased his fragile frame.


"Ouch!" Max said as he picked himself up off of the gooey ground and trekked a few paces into the unsettling blackness, his metallic boots leaving sticky foot prints on the ground as he went. Just then, the still somewhat dazed bounty hunter spotted a ray of light cascading down from a point so high above that he could not locate the source. In the center of the beam of ominous light stood a magnificent sword, sparkling in the brilliance in which it was shrouded, erect with point down protruding firmly from the floor beneath.


Max approached it, his eyes glittering as they gazed upon the luminous sword.


"Excalibur?" he thought aloud, wondering if the Unknown Garden had pulled him here to behold such a powerful weapon.


He reached out to grab the handle and pull the blade from the steel beneath when another armored hand mirrored his action, and reached out from the darkness opposite the sword, grasping the blade near its entry point into the floor.


"No," a voice said. Not Excalibur. Zantetsuken!


"Who’s there?" Max shouted aloud, wondering who was there. He stepped back a few paces, readying the Shriek.


"Great pity strikes this chivalric heart for every soul who knows not the voice of the great Gilgamesh!" said the figure, who could now safely be referred to, once more, as Gilgamesh.


Max fumbled for his helmet light, briefly determining that the reason he had not used it before was either due to his fall-induced disorientation or some logic-defying plot mechanism.


The dim light cast by the helmet lantern revealed the front half of a large, armored man protruding from a hard, sticky, dark-brown surface.


“Now cut me from this cursed confection!†Gilgamesh demanded referring to the chocolate which had partially submerged his body before hardening into a thick bark and entrapping the now rather alert yet immobile demigod.


“LOL!†Max said in text-speek.


“'LOL?' What strange, misbegotten tongue do you speak in, knavish simpleton?†Gilgamesh demanded, unable to turn his head as he struggled to maintain his decency.


“It means, ‘laugh out loud’,†said Max, attempting to explain text culture to the encased hero, a task which proved to be rather difficult in the context of his lingering insult.


“Then why did you not simply laugh out loud, you girlish waif! I should fell you for your audacious discourtesy!†Gilgamesh exclaimed, his dishonorable condition contributing to his growing frustration which was further augmented by the misguided slurs of this pompous ne’er-do-well and his lack of haste in cleaving him from the sugary quagmire.


“Relax, subdued hero. I’ll have you out of this before you can toss another empty threat my way,†said Max, yanking Zantetsuken from the chocolaty goodness and skillfully carving Gilgamesh from the yummy bark.


Max looked around for a way out, while Gilgamesh righted himself, picking chunks of milk-chocolate from his garments. He spotted a massive stalactite of chocolate which had formed as the ooze dripped from the opening above and hardened as it cascaded into the chamber below. “That looks like our way out!†Max shouted over his shoulder just before receiving a massive boot in his back which sent him face forward into the chocolate. He quickly righted himself by somersaulting forward and spinning around to face his attacker.


“What kind of valiant hero kicks another man in the back?†Max queried, rather off-put by the fact that the man who he had freed only moments ago had turned on him.


“The kind who faces no man at all, but a quivering charlatan capable only of acronymic insults! Now stand there like the coward you most surely are as I gut you like a felled beast!†raged Gilgamesh who, in his anger and haste had forgotten that he had yielded his sword to his now estranged emancipator.


“Not while I have THIS!†cried Max as he swung Zantetsuken towards Gilgamesh who briefly pondered the irony of having his own weapon turned against him by the man who had facilitated his freedom.

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Sasuke followed the cavern’s path through the strangely florescent mushrooms. He sighed as he wiped a boredom induced tear from his eye. He stopped and stared at it, wondering for the moment first that he was sure he was experiencing some sort of odd déjà vu. Then he wondered where the tear had come from in the first place? Being a robot, he didn’t cry…Much. He stared at the tear, and then felt something drop onto his head. He looked up to see water dripping down from a large mushroom hanging from the ceiling. He quickly side stepped out of the drips path, only to be startled as it seemed to follow him. He stood in place, pondering this odd occurrence and moved again only to have the drops follow him one more. Sasuke frowned, and a beam of light shot from his eyes illuminating the source of the water. What he beheld at first looked like a normal mushroom with water dripping over its top. But then the mushroom let out a startled eep, and moved across the ceiling away from the sudden light. Sasuke, wondering at the possibility of a living race of mushroom men, and also of what a strange race of mushroom men might taste like, chased after it.

The strange mushroom man, or woman Sasuke wasn’t sure, ran quickly through the forest of mushrooms that resided on the ceiling, with the robotic man in close chase. It seemed for a moment that Sasuke would catch the strange creature, when suddenly a wall loomed in front of him, and the creature disappeared. Sasuke skidded to a halt, just an inch short of slamming into the wall, and searched around. He scratched the top of his head in bewildered contemplation.


“Huh, odd,†He said, quite confused.


Sasuke searched the area quickly, but quickly came to the conclusion that the strange mushroom man, or woman, had indeed vanished at the wall. He pondered a moment, and then cautiously reached his hand out to feel the stone. Although all he felt was air as his hand passed right through the wall. He grinned and waved his hand around, finding the edge of what felt like a doorway.


“I figured out your little trick you odd mushroom menace!†He said, although this was completely uncalled for as he didn’t know a thing about the mushroom man, or woman, that could have been enough to call him, or her, a menace.

But the universe is a tricky thing, and quite often you reap what you sow. Sometimes it just happens sooner rather than later. This instance was one of the former instead of the latter. Because as soon as Sasuke stepped through the doorway, he found out he had made an error in judgment. While he had indeed checked the width and height of the doorway he had, in fact, forgotten to check the floor, of which there was none on the other side of the invisible door. And thus, payback being what it is, the strange mushroom creature, which was eagerly waiting on the other side of said door, waved as Sasuke disappeared down the hole.

“Crap!†Was Sasuke’s only thought, thus vocalized because nobody wants to bother with yet another text style thing to make said word into italics.

The hole quickly rounded itself into what appeared to be some sort of stone pillar which was filled with smoke. As Sasuke fell, he realized that the temperature was also rising around him, and was soon to the point of had he had skin, it would have been quite painful and blistering at this point. Light bloomed ahead of him, and quickly solidified in his vision as flames.

“Oh joy,†Sasuke said.

As he neared what appeared to be a large fireplace, complete with a goose roasting on a spit over the flames, Sasuke could see what appeared to be a vent of some kind just above the flames. Using reflexes that only a robot, and anybody else who attended these battles, could have, he caught the wall right above the vent, his robotic fingers digging into the stone, and flipped himself through the vent. Said vent, having been made to only let air through and not large robots, shattered. Sasuke flipped through the air, taking in the view of what appeared to be a giant kitchen, filled to nearly bursting with the strange mushroom men, and women of course. They moved quickly from one end of the room to the other, some pushing carts, others carrying large plates of giant food to what appeared to be a table that could have held several oliphants. You know, the giant mammoth looking things from Lord of the Rings? But seeing as how there was only one chair at the table, Sasuke doubted that carnivorous oliphants was what the mushroom men…Sorry, mushroom people…were attempting to appease. At any point, the topic was irrelevant.

Remember those mushroom people who had been pushing the carts? Well, Sasuke happened to fly, and crash, directly into one, landing on said cart and propelling himself across the kitchen to a spiraling ramp that dipped down to a cavernous floor, and then shot back up into a jump that, thankfully, landed Sasuke on the giant table. The cart continued with its forward momentum across the table, until a rather large crack in the wood loomed ahead.

“Crap…†Sasuke said…â€Don’t I get to say anything else? Or are you going to pretty much make me continue using the same four letter word?â€

Stop whining.


Oh look, Sasuke now has donkey ears!

“Oh real mature jackass!â€

You’re the only one looking like a jackass here mister donkey ears? Would you like a tail to go along with those?

“You know…I’m done fighting with the narrator…but I wont forget this.â€

Well good…And yeah your right…I went a little far with the donkey ears…Sorry dude.

“Meh, don’t sweat it.â€

Can we get back to the endless narration with too little dialog now?


Ok! …Where was I?

“Crack in the table’s wood loomed in front of the cart that I was still riding for God only knows why.â€

Ah right…




The cart slammed into the wood, and Sasuke found himself flying once again through the air. His mind flew through a thousand plans in which he could land safely. None of which included the giant muffin that loomed in front of him. And seeing as how the thing was the size of several elephants, normal ones this time, it would have to include any plan that the robot came up with. Sadly, Sasuke, crashed into the giant muffin with a startled-

“Agh! A muffin!â€

-and then quickly rolled off the table with said giant muffin. As the muffin, the giant one I mean with the robot riding on it, rolled off the table and crashed to the floor, a single thought entered Sasuke’s mind.

“Its actually quite soft.â€

And then, clutching onto the rolling piece of odd bread, Sasuke once again saw a large hole loom into view.


And then him and the muffin, which was still giant, rolled into the darkness. An amount of time, of which even the narrator is uncertain of, passed. Sasuke continued to clutch to the rolling muffin, but could see that his surroundings had changed dramatically from the stone that had surrounded him before. Now, it seemed, the walls were made of a strange concoction of chocolate. His eye beams flashed to life again, and sure enough, chocolate…And a strange metal clad person wielding a strangely shaped blade…Actually there were two metal clad warriors getting ready to face off. At least they were, until they heard the rumble of a giant muffin crashing through chocolate towards them. They both turned and saw what their ears had indeed told them.


“Agh! A muffin!†They screamed, and then they were quickly bowled over by said muffin, and joined Sasuke on his unknown journey of discovery, of strange giant muffins.


“You know,†one of the metal clad warriors said, “its actually quite soft.â€

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Max clung to the offending baked good as it rolled over him, then righted himself the moment that its rolling motion brought the particular bit that he clung to (two chocolate chips and a blueberry, incidentally) to the top of the gyrating yeasty monstrosity. Running on a rolling muffin is a bit different than, say, running on a rolling log (and in fact is more difficult), but Max somehow managed to stay right-side up despite having to hurdle Sasuke's bulk every time the muffin rolled over to that side. Gilgamesh, not one to be outdone (if he could possibly prevent it, that is), flipped onto his feet and joined Max in running madly along the tumbling muffin.


"You really must teach me the muffin-summoning technique when we're done with this. It would come in handy when I get peckish in limbo." said Gilgamesh between breaths and the occasional swing of his sword (Masamune, as Zantetsuken was still in Max's hand). Before Max could reply, however (or interject that they really should get off the muffin before trying to continue the fight), Gilgamesh continued in his normal long-winded manner. "All I can summon is... ENKIDU!"


"Whaff vuff?!" said Sasuke through a half-mouthful of muffin as Enkidu landed on him from dimensions unknown. Through one eye, he'd caught a few glimpses of the muffin's passengers as he rolled along with the muffin and they didn't, but since said glimpses were punctuated by random viewings of the ground and random surrounds, it was hard to keep track of what was going on. It was also difficult to hear the banter when the muffin kept rolling over him and blocking the sound.


"Attack, my faithf..." heard Sasuke as the ground came up to meet him.




"Is that a wolf, a dragon, or a..." he heard on his next rotation, during which he saw Gilgamesh's left foot and also a weird tentacled thing in the distance fighting some people with swords.




"Yes!" CLANG! "In tandem, you cur!" shouted Gilgamesh at Enkidu as Sasuke tumbled once more against the ground.




"...not fair having teammates...", Max's hand holding Zantetsuken.




"Just because you're an unpopular vagrant an...", Enkidu's... limb of some kind.




"VVAT IV ENUFF!" said Sasuke, bursting free of his muffin prison and planting himself against its bulk. The muffin skidded to a halt, sending its other occupants tumbling head-over-heels onto the ground behind Sasuke. Enkidu disappeared in a puff of purplish nether, though this fact escaped the vapid Gilgamesh as he righted himself and pulled out a second sword with his other hand.


"Thank you, oh marverlous metallic muffin-stop!" quoth Gilgamesh, finding it uniquely hard to carry his inexplicable halberd under his arm whilst wielding two swords.


"Ptooey!" replied Sasuke, spitting out gritty pieces of muffin. There was a reason he didn't eat things after they fell on the ground for more than ten seconds. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh hobbled over to Max, who drew his Shriek with his off-hand to mimic Gilgamesh's stance, sans the impediment of the halberd.


"You sure you got the, er, grip strength for that?" mused Max through an amused smirk.


"With the help of Enkidu, I shall surely vanquish..." came the warrior's retort, until he realized that his "faithful" companion had disappeared. "OH, COME ON!!!"


Max took the opportunity to attack furiously, boosting his already-impressive attack speed and dual-wielding combat prowess with his suit. The shriek and also Zantetsuken clanged off of Gilgamesh's armor, weapons, and ever-motionless halberd as random attack after random attack nailed the stalwart interdimensional warrior. Armor shards, chunks of Excalipoor (which Gilgamesh now sorrowfully realized was the weapon he'd drawn into his off-hand and seriously hampered his overall dexterity to dual-wield), and spurts of blood fell from Gilgamesh under the assault. "Had enough?!" taunted the bounty hunter.


"UNLIKELY, YOU SCURRILOUS BUFFOON! IT'S MORPHING TIME!!" shouted Gilgamesh above the din, sprouting six extra arms and the remnants of his sword collection. Rooting himself firmly in place, he swung, parried, slashed, feinted, and punched at Max (usually more of a kicking man, he adopted a new technique due to the fact that Max still had his other sword which left him with a free hand), who, even with his boosted speed and reflexes, fell back under the onslaught of five blades and a fist.


"Wowza." remarked Sasuke, leaning up against the now-stationary muffin and momentarily distracting attention from the epic sword battle.


"I turn your question upon you as you turned my blade upon me!" taunted Gilgamesh. "HAD ENOUGH?!" Max made one final attempt to stop the onslaught by sweeping Zantetsuken through both Gilgamesh's (fake) Sword of Geburah and (fake) Black Blade and lopping off one of the warrior's extra arms, leaving Crystalis also out of reach for the time being. Gilgamesh, however, returned the favor and severed Max's left arm with his beam saber, sending the Shriek to the ground along with two (fake) half-swords and another armored limb. Max grunted and sank to his knees, noting that even though the pain was excruciating, he wouldn't bleed to death because the beam saber had mercifully cauterized the wound on its way through. "Hah! And ouch! Yield, I say!"


"Don't think so." said Max, attempting to get to his feet, which was difficult as the magnificent sword Zantetsuken simply punched through the ground they were standing on as he tried to invert it and use it as a crutch to get up. Still struggling, he managed to regain one knee with a tremendous effort as he looked down at Zantetsuken, still firmly planted in the "earth." He stopped short as a gauntleted hand entered his vision, open and palm-upward.


"Then yield, you shall not." said the suddenly-calm voice of Gilgamesh, offering Max a "hand up." Oh, I slay me.


Max begrudgingly took the proffered palm, looking Gilgamesh (now without his extra arms) in the eye as the warrior helped him to his feet. Before he could ask him why he'd suddenly changed his tune, as it were, and hear some goofy remembrance of honor and bravery in the face of adversity, they both turned to discern the source of a loud metallic clapping.


"Bravo, bravo." said Sasuke, putting his hands together in appreciation of the spectacle. Max grimaced in semi-shock and looked at Gilgamesh, who shrugged. "Good show, guys. Two arms in one fight? From two guys? That's pretty cool." He strode up to the bewildered combatants and inspected Max's stump. "I can fix that, I think, if you don't mind a metal one and some short-term muscle memory reprogramming. Oh, and you'll probably be unable to fight anybody for a while... though that's pretty much where you are right now anyway, am I right?"


Gilgamesh was the first to speak. "Uh... what?"

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"And it looks like you got some of your weapons diced up," Sasuke continued, looking over at Gilgamesh and then towards the scraps of decorative metal littering the ground. "I know a guy that can get those things good as new, even better."


"By Kraken's seafaring stench, you do not jest?" Gilgamesh said, his upper body showing shock as his legs apparently acted of their own accord and swept the sword chunks under his flowing garb like dust under a carpet.


"You'd have to wait 'til this is all over, but yeah, that kind of weapon repair would be child's play to him."


"I'd rather have my old arm back, whoever you are," Max said, walking back with dismembered limb in his only functional grasper. "I was kind of attached to it, you know. Had it since I was born."


"Well I could do that too, if you don't want an awesome robotic replacement," Sasuke shrugged. "You better get that thing on ice first."


"Oh, okay then," Max said, starting to get a bit wobbly. "I better... start looking for a fridge... then... 'ello grandmaaaa..."


The heads of both Gilgamesh and Sasuke tilted downwards to watch as Max fell to the ground with an unpleasant thump, the built-up shock from losing an appendage followed by the bizarre turn of events having been more than his body could cope with. There was a sudden lapse in the space-time fabric behind the fallen bounty hunter's body, a Bouncer stepping out of the flux and looming over the unconscious fighter.


"Innnkapasssitayyshunnn," the skinny enigma droned, prodding Max once with the end of his trident.


"That's what most people call it," Sasuke said, then gave the Bouncer a suspicious look. "You're not going to kill the guy, are you?"


"Waaytingzzz roooommz," the Bouncer droned.


"Oh, okay then," Sasuke said, dropping his previously indicated suspicion. "Make sure you get that arm of his on ice."


"Hnnnnngggguhhhgagahhhh," the Bouncer again droned, fading away with Max and all affiliated parts of the bounty hunter in an upward spray of sparkles.


"Load off our shoulders, huh?" Sasuke said, looking down into his belly compartment as he went to retrieve another snack. As his hand rummaged through his inwardly kept belongings, a paperback book fell out, opening up and unveiling visions of voluptuous vixens very vividly. "Oops."


"By Marilith's blazing bosoms!" Gilgamesh exclaimed, reeling back and yet unable to tear his eyes away from what he saw. "Those damsels have left themselves exposed to the elements! What madness is this!?"


"Maybe you should spend less time studying swords and more time studying sheathes, eh?" Sasuke joked. "Har har, that probably wasn't funny."


It was then that a giant furry burrowing worm of shpladger dadger heights came out of the ceiling and snatched Gilgamesh up in its toothless jaws, carrying him off to parts left to be described by another writer.


"Egad!" Gilgamesh's voice echoed as he disappeared. "Now I am being abducted by a foul-smelling creature of unpleasantly phallic properties! When will the great Gilgamesh finally get what karma so dearly owes him!?"


"Toasty," Sasuke said, devouring what was left of the crispy sub he started consuming halfway through the deflowering of Gilgamesh's vision. "Don't do drugs, kids."

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