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Comicron-1 zooms through space. Linkara is on his laptop when he has a flashback to his encounter with the King of Worms. He grasps his head in fear. The doorbell ‘rings.’

LINKARA

Come in.

MarzGurl enters.

MARZGURL

Hey, just wanted to let you know that Nash figured out how the engines work, so he should be fine in engineering. I would have used the intercom, but I haven’t figured out how it works yet.

LINKARA

Usually it’s just hold down the button, say who or what you wanna reach, and NIMUE will redirect the call for ya.

MARZGURL

Cool. Well, I’ll try it from the bridge, then.

Marzgurl starts to leave.

LINKARA

Before you go…you will be fine taking command of the ship if anything happens, right?

MARZGURL

Sure. Why? Don’t you trust me?

LINKARA

Of course I do. It’s why I gave you the job to begin with. It’s just…I should’ve asked you before I gave you the job.

MARZGURL

Maybe. Is there any reason who you think I’m going to need to take it?

LINKARA

Oh, no no no. It’s just…I just kind of assumed a leadership role without asking. I’m used to having my own entourage around with me and not you guys. I should’ve talked to you first.

MARZGURL

Well, as you said, it is your ship.

LINKARA

Right! Yeah. So…go and test out the intercom.

MARZGURL

Will do. Talk to you in a minute. Hopefully.

Marzgurl leaves.

Linkara’s hand starts shaking again; he holds it still with his other hand and sighs.

LINKARA

Get a hold of yourself, Linkara….

---

Lupa is looking on annoyed as 90’s Kid monopolizes the conversation.

90s KID

So anyway, that’s the annoying thing about BloodGunn #0. I mean, it still has some awesome stuff in it, like guns and bullets and stuff, but it totally contradicts what happened in BloodGunn Annual #1/2, where BloodGunn took the teeth of his enemies and turned them into…

LUPA

You have been talking about this comic book character for ten minutes! Can we talk about anything else?!

90s KID

I don’t understand why you would want to stop talking about him.

LUPA

There was more to the ‘90s than just really violent comic book characters! Talk about anything else!

90s KID

Sure! We can talk about, like, Saved by the Bell or Blossom or…

LUPA

Or how about not talking about the ‘90s at all?

90s KID

Cha right! Like anyone would not want to talk about Tequila and Bonetti!

Cinema Snob shows up out of nowhere.

SNOB

Whoa, hey! Did someone mention Tequila and Bonetti?

90s KID

Uh, yeah, but I actually didn’t wanna talk about it.

SNOB

(best Tequila impression) Man, B, that’s cold.

Snob disappears singing to himself.

90s KID

So anyway, in BloodGunn #3, which features a sweet trifold holofoil cover…

Lupa groans loudly.

LUPA

(whimpering) Why don’t I know any normal people?

---

The doorbell rings again.

LINKARA

Come in.

Allen enters.

ALLEN

Hey, birthday boy.

LINKARA

Hey.

ALLEN

Feeling any better than you were earlier?

LINKARA

I was. Then my friend asked me to go into space, and then it all came crashing down again, just how weird my life is.

ALLEN

Oh, well, please forgive me, Linkara. I am so sorry I am asking you to help out those in need.

Linkara closes his laptop.

LINKARA

No, no, no. That’s not what I meant, man. I’m happy to help, it’s just…when I’m being sent up into space to possibly rescue astronauts from God knows what, what the hell am I doing reviewing whatever editorially mandated garbage has been spewed out onto a comic book? Every week, I sit on a futon and review books that think that a G-string is appropriate attire for women’s battle armor…and then every other week, robots try to put their fists through my face! This is not normal.

ALLEN

A couple weeks ago, I had to keep lookout for the vice president while he took a piss in some bushes. Linkara, normal is relative.

Linkara sets his head in his hand.

ALLEN

Look, after we get back, just…take a couple weeks off, okay? Be a couch potato. Watch some television. I, personally, am a pretty big fan of Dragon Ball Z. I…

The intercom beeps.

LUPA

Hello? Is this thing on?

90s KID

Dude, you’ll never get his attention that way! You gotta do it more extreeeeme!

LUPA

I’ll newtstring your face if you don’t shut up!

90s KID

Newtstring my face? I-I don’t really know what that means.

LINKARA

Uh, c-can I help you two?

LUPA

Oh, good. I’ve got this thing working. Uh, we just got a call from Earth for Allen.

ALLEN

What was it?

90s KID

Yeah, dude. They’ve, like, totally lost all bioreadings from the astronauts. Oh! Maybe they became space cyborgs!

LUPA

I swear to God, those sunglasses are getting shoved down your esophagus to end the noise!

90s KID

See? Now you’re thinkin’ extreme!

LUPA

Ugh!

Intercom turns off.

ALLEN

If we lost bioreadings, then that means they either took off their equipment or…they’re dead.

Linkara turns on the intercom.

LINKARA

Bridge, this is Linkara. Increase speed to standard by ten.

MARZGURL

Will do.

Comicron-1 accelerates.

---

Harvey continues his tour of the ship with Joe and Nash.

HARVEY

So the main power lines are designed to be redundant. That way, if main power goes offline, auxiliary immediately kicks in. Mind you, we just finished a major refit of the ship and we haven’t had a chance to test it yet. As such, right now we’re only runnin’ on main power and partial auxiliary.

JOE

Yeah, but what if a badger gets into your main power lines and starts eatin’ away at ‘em?

HARVEY

You don’t see too many badgers in space.

JOE

Yeah, that’s what I said until I found one of those suckers eatin’ away at the power lines in the Angry Army Orbital Space Station.

NASH

Where do you get all these spaceships and shit?! Do they sell ‘em at Best Buy or something?

HARVEY

I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. The kid took this thing as the spoils of war from a jerk named Lord Vyce.

NASH

(to Joe) What about you?

JOE

Uh, I review games on YouTube. Duh. (laughs)

NASH

Got into the wrong line of work. All right, I think I understand the mechanics well enough.

HARVEY

Well, you should. This is the third time we’ve had to try to rebuild this thing from the ground up. Every time we do so, we try to make it easier to use. Oh, that reminds me…

Harvey opens a panel in the wall to reveal the inner wiring of the ship.

HARVEY

Ah, power’s out in this junction again. I need to put in a nine-volt or somethin’ in this thing.

JOE

Hang on, man. I got ya.

Joe shoots lightning into the battery; power comes back on. Nash’s jaw drops.

HARVEY

Nicely done, man.

NASH

You can shoot lightning out of your hands?!

JOE

Yeah. Can’t you?

NASH

No!

HARVEY

What, you can’t do that?

NASH

And you can?!

HARVEY

Of course I can. I’m Harvey Finevoice. Now swing, baby.

Harvey closes the panel and they continue down the hall.

JOE

Say, don’t you have a scientist guy or something that can work the engines instead of, uh…this guy?

HARVEY

Yeah, Dr. Linksano. He said he had to stay behind. Some personal project or something.

JOE

Oh.

---

Linkara’s apartment.

LINKSANO

(crazed laugh) So, they’re all impressed by Dr. Insano crossbreeding tarantulas and armadillos, are they? Well, let’s see how they like when I turn a clown into a jukebox! (crazed laugh)

Boffo the clown is chained up on the couch. He honks his horn.

LINKSANO

For the ninth time, I don’t speak clown!

---

Joe is driving the ship.

LINKARA

Report.

JOE

We’re coming up on the position that the Caelestis should be, but I am detecting a lot of debris in the area.

LINKARA

From the Caelestis?

LUPA

From the death bomb and the armada that had been protecting it.

MARZGURL

It’s still out there from when we attacked them.

LINKARA

Sorry, I was late to that party.

SNOB

(chuckles) That’s all right. I did enough cocaine for the both of us.

LINKARA

Really?

SNOB

No! I’m just fulfilling my obligation as the comic relief. (snorts)

LINKARA

Good work. Keep it up.

SNOB

That’s what she said!

JOE

But what were they doing next to the debris field? Their course shouldn’t have taken them anywhere near it.

LINKARA

Good question. Allen, care to enlighten us?

Allen is silent.

LINKARA

Allen?

ALLEN

I’m…I’m not at liberty to say.

MARZGURL

But we are at liberty to speculate. Weapons?

LINKARA

That would be my guess. Hoping to find a few intact guns in there?

ALLEN

Linkara, I hope you’re not naïve enough to believe that we wouldn’t want to get our hands on them.

LINKARA

No, but what irritates me is that you didn’t tell us.

ALLEN

And?

POLLO

And if you didn’t tell us that, it kinda makes us a teensy bit worried about what else you didn’t tell us.

ALLEN

There isn’t anything else to tell. The Caelestis’ mission was to go to Jupiter. And yes, it was possible that it would pass by the debris field, so we made it a parameter of said mission, that should not pose a threat to the ship or her crew, that it should pick up whatever it could and bring it back to Earth. That is all.

LINKARA

I certainly hope that was all, or else I won’t be able to trust you enough to…

NIMUE

Information: a vessel has been detected within the debris field.

NIMUE pinpoints an object on her camera.

LINKARA

Why didn’t we detect it sooner?

NIMUE

The metal in the debris field is made of an unknown material. It is making sensor scans difficult.

MARZGURL

Is it them?

NIMUE

General shape of the vessel approximately matches the silhouette of the Caelestis. However, its overall mass and appearance do not match the images provided.

LINKARA

Put it on screen.

NIMUE provides a close-up of the vessel.

SNOB

The hell?

JOE

Looks like someone took the debris and just glued it on the ship.

LINKARA

Well, Allen…looks like they did find something out there. Take us in closer. Full sensor sweep.

Comicron-1 approaches the Caelestis.

LINKARA

Anything?

ALLEN

No, the sensors can’t get a reading on the interior.

SNOB

What about the spiky bits? What are those supposed to do?

JOE

Weapons, maybe?

The intercom turns on.

90s KID

Dude, imagine how big the bullets would be on those guns! I would…

Lupa shuts off the intercom.

LINKARA

You do realize they’re still monitoring us from engineering, right?

LUPA

As long as I don’t hear him, then all is right with the world.

90s KID

Oh, sorry, dudes. Sounds like we got caught up with…

She shuts off the intercom again.

SNOB

If we can’t scan inside of it, how do we know who’s alive down there?

ALLEN

(sighs) We’ll have to go inside.

LINKARA

All right. NIMUE, prepare teleportation.

NIMUE

Information: the armor covering the vessel is blocking teleport signals.

LUPA

So what are we supposed to do, go out there and knock?

JOE

Couldn’t we just dock with it?

NIMUE

Sensors detect an exterior hatch that is not covered by armoring.

LINKARA

All right. Joe, maneuver us in closer.

JOE

God, I hate parallel parking…

Comicron-1 docks with the Caelestis.

MARZGURL

I just had a thought. Wouldn’t they have seen us coming?

LINKARA

What do you mean?

MARZGURL

Well, it’s pretty obvious from the looks of things that they’re trying to graft all this stuff onto their ship, trying to make it…well, improved. If they’re gathering all that technology and debris, they can see outside their ship. So wouldn’t they have seen us approaching?

LINKARA

But then why would they be sitting there dead in space?

MARZGURL

Well, if we were turned like this, the ship’s main weapons wouldn’t be aimed at them.

Linkara’s eyes widen.

LINKARA

Oh, no…

ALLEN

I’m detecting an energy spike!

LINKARA

Fire about! Raise the force wall!

The Caelestis begins shooting at Comicron-1, lighting up red. Alarms go off.

LINKARA

Joe, neutron blasters! Fire!

Comicron-1 returns fire; it has little effect. Caelestis continues shooting. The ship shakes, and controls short out, knocking Lupa to the ground.

SNOB

Lupa!

Snob runs to help her up.

LINKARA

There’s a med kit behind my chair to the left! NIMUE, raise the force wall, dammit!

NIMUE

Unable to comply. Insufficient power to raise force wall.

Linkara turns on the intercom.

LINKARA

Engineering, what the hell is going on down there?!

In engine controls, warning lights flash as everything is smoking. Nash waves the smoke out of his face.

NASH

(coughs) Ship’s goin’ down, that’s all.

Something explodes in a flurry of sparks. Nash picks up his mallet.

NASH

Oh, boot. I think we needed that. I’ll call you back!

He runs to fix whatever exploded.

LINKARA

Pollo, go down to engineering and give him a hand.

Snob tends to Lupa’s minor arm injury.

LINKARA

Joe, weapons status!

JOE

Their shields are too powerful! We can’t break them!

LINKARA

Turn us around and fire the forward lance!

NIMUE

Warning: power loss has affected weapon systems. Forward lance will not have sufficient power to pierce any vessel’s shield.

LINKARA

I don’t care! We have to hit them! We have to...

The camera shows that the Caelestis is approaching the Comicron-1 head-on.

LINKARA

Aw, hell! Evasive maneuvers!

Comicron-1 is shot several more times. Allen’s control panel shorts out, knocking him to the ground.

LINKARA

Allen!

MARZGURL

We gotta get out of here!

LINKARA

Divert all power to engines! Nash, floor it!

NASH

I-I’ll try, but some of the engines are down. We’re not moving too fast.

NIMUE

Information: we do not have sufficient power to outrun the enemy vessel.

MARZGURL

If we can’t outrun them, we’ve gotta stand and fight!

Linkara gets up and starts leaving.

LINKARA

I’ll take the scout ship out and try to distract them while you guys make an attack. MarzGurl, you’re in command.

NIMUE

The enemy vessel is transmitting a message.

LINKARA

Not in the mood to talk, NIMUE! Redirect power to weapons! MarzGurl, when you get a good distance away…

The transmission audio comes through. Linkara freezes in his tracks and turns around.

MECHAKARA

Is something wrong, Linkara? You have boasted before about your preparation, your anticipation of my presence. Yet when your enemy finally strikes, I find your defenses as weak and impotent as the skin and meat of your form.

Mechakara appears on screen. Shocked looks from the crew.

LINKARA

Mechakara…

MECHAKARA

That name that was never my name. You filthy organic mongrels spit that name at me, and it stuck!

LINKARA

You’re alive…

MECHAKARA

I always survive.

Flashback to To Boldly Flee, and activity within the Caelestis.

MECHAKARA

My body was vaporized, but I still had the artifact known as Malachite’s hand on my person. My consciousness was preserved inside of it. And when the crew of this vessel brought it aboard, the artifact absorbed enough energy from the craft to restore my form.

FLASHBACK!MECHAKARA

To be…

MECHAKARA

The power of the artifact and the ruined pieces of debris in this field have augmented this vessel into a superb weapon.

LINKARA

What about the astronauts?

Mechakara pulls Captain Romero into the camera’s view.

MECHAKARA

After they have been improved with the perfection of mechanical engineering…

Romero has a stitching on her cheek. The scar and her eyes flash red.

MECHAKARA

They make excellent drones.

LINKARA

You son of a…

Mechakara tosses Romero aside.

MECHAKARA

Do not presume that you still live for pointless conversation, meat sack! You exist now only because I want you to see that it was I who defeated you. The final victory of steel over skin!

LINKARA

Fine. Point made. What now?

MECHAKARA

What now? Now, I annihilate your vessel and use its flotsam to enhance mine!

LINKARA

Wait! Don’t you just wanna come over here and take it intact? You don’t have to destroy us.

MECHAKARA

What I want is to peel your flesh slowly. I want to hear you scream in agony, only to find that I’ve already cut your vocal chords! What I want… (stops his rant) I want many things. But I know what happens when I try to prolong your suffering. No. You will die now, Linkara! Take this knowledge with you to oblivion: as I floated through the vacuum of space in infinite tedium and boredom, the only thing that kept me from succumbing to madness was my hatred.

Linkara is speechless.

MECHAKARA

(to crew off-screen) Fire!

The Caelestis’ power fluctuates. Mechakara is startled. Linkara is frozen in shock.

MARZGURL

Linkara? Linkara!

No response.

MARZGURL

Joe, fire!

JOE

Right.

Comicron-1 fires at them.

MARZGURL

Again, Joe!

They fire again.

---

Inside the Caelestis. Mechakara sits between Romero and Anders.

MECHAKARA

Do we have enough power to escape?

ROMERO

Yes.

MECHAKARA

Do it!

She presses a button and the Caelestis speeds away.

---

Linkara finally snaps out of it.

LINKARA

W-We can’t let them escape! Joe, fire again! Finish them off!

Joe presses the button but nothing happens.

JOE

I can’t! We used up the last of our weapon power with those shots!

LINKARA

Damn it all! Allen, do a sensor sweep… Allen!

He realizes Allen is still on the ground, dying from his burns.

LINKARA

Med kit! Give me the med kit!

ALLEN

Linkara…

LINKARA

Don’t talk, don’t talk. Save your strength.

ALLEN

I’m…sorry…

LINKARA

Don’t apologize! Stop talking!

ALLEN

Couldn’t…get you the…chair…

Allen collapses, dead. Linkara is stunned.

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