Written by Link, Lengna Olio, and Ronwea

Epic, Jako, 8Ball, Ora, and Ron

Jako's Junk by Lengna

Part 1: Throught the Desert

The Tianti Len desert stretched out before them in all its hot miserable glory. The drop ship was blessedly cooled compared to the outside, but the dryness was what really got to Liza, even space felt moister to her than this horrid sand pit.
She didn't complain though, Kennit was doing a fine job enough job of it for the both of them. She smiled to herself as the crew bickered and teased each other, her eyes locked on the distance ahead.
They were following along the rail way that connected the north and south regens of actual livable land on either side of the dessert. The mining towns of the north sent cargo south to the factories of the swamp, then it went on to the cities of the rainforest. And this dessert rail was the only useful means of transporting it.
This wasn't her first trip to into the dessert, of course, as they had to stop by for repairs to 8Ball's eyes and leg (and likely a few things you couldn't see) on a semi regular bases. The bugs out in the dessert where really the only ones able to do what they did.
Going to their settlement was off the table though, at least if you wanted any service. So meeting in the closest train town was the only real option. It was a near lawless sanctuary town until the war ended. Now the Vonrden and Alliance military both tried to keep it in check as it was the hub of bug interaction with the rest of the planet.
Though they had their hands full with that, and Liza expected no real problems from them on most trips. Those spacer military boys were too used to air conditioning to cause much trouble out in the desert...   Kennit was on the floor, having melted down to it from out of his chair. At least the floor was cool, surprisingly, and helped taper down his heat stroke he was currently having. He would've whined again to 8Ball about upgrading their air-conditioning unit in the ship, but she had threatened to shooting a hole in his beak if he made another peep.
He couldn't help but give her a pathetic glance from his spot on the floor though, as if it'd make her do something about it.

Jaguar was curled up in one of the chair's, the front of her outfit unzipped partially in her attempt to cool off as she waved her book in front of her face.
Glancing over at 8ball she said in a teasing tone, "So you plan on making me jealous again with 'flirting' with the shopkeeper again?" Her tail twitched in silent amusement.   8Ball scoffed and leaned back. Her legs were folded and her hands rested behind her head, with a smug expression across her face. The heat didn't bother her as much – her artificial internals kept her cool for the most part, and, in the spots they didn't, she enjoyed the burning sensation.
"Only if it gets me a better price. You know how it is."
She glanced at Kennit. He was such an embarrassment... It made her feel sick at times to acknowledge he was a part of her crew, but, he had his upsides. She gritted her teeth, "Get up, numbskull. If you want to cool down, I can shoot you into space."   Kennit whined as he got up, rubbing the cold floor fondly before he left it. "But I'm cooking in here though." He couldn't help but complain as he fanned himself. He just wasn't meant for this kind of weather, and no matter how many times they came out here he never could get use to it.

"You could help him cool off with putting him to your chest." Jaguar stretched in her seat and looked out the window to get a gauge as to where they were at.   Liza debated slowing down a bit just to be an ass, but decided she didn't like the heat any more than Kennit did and headed to the town at a speed just over what would be considered safe.   8Ball gave a slight smile and rolled her eyes at Jaguar's comment. She got up and approached Lisa, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Nothing to hit in a desert, right? Think you'd be able to handle going even faster?" She turned away and put a hand over her mouth to yawn, "This is fine and all, but, I'm getting bored."   "Only giant sand beasts and other traffic." Lisa replied, picking up the pace. "Maybe a patrol tank."   8Ball shrugged, "Nothing we can't handle, then?" She returned to her seat.   "Exactly." Liza agreed.
The little cargo carrier picked up speed, rushing over dunes and slower vessels. The little town in the distance grew in size quickly. They buzzed a patrol vessel but were long ahead of it before it could even react. Lisa mimed shooting the rockets as they passed.   "What are you needing this time anyway?" Jaguar asked, getting up out of her seat to put an arm over Lisa's seat and the other over 8ball's shoulder.   8Ball smiled and rolled her eyes, "Tch. Wouldn't you like to know?" She adjusted her fringe to keep the hair out of her eyes. She'd have to get a haircut soon, she thought, but she hated haircuts.   "Yes I would like to know." She poked and wiggled 8ball's ear. "It is why I asked." She said in a teasing tone, wondering if she was going to have to bribe it out of her.   8Ball shook her head lightly and cracked her knuckles, "That's too bad. It's confidential."   "Trying to shake someone down again?" She probed, obviously not going to let the topic go just yet. "Am I going to need to get the medkit?"   Liza wondered if the medkit would be for Jaguar if she kept pushing it.   Jaguar chuckled and leaned back, "Alright keep your secrets." She didn't want to get hit.

Part 2: Manning the Counter

Oratoal leaned on the counter and fanned himself lazily. He was fighting another yawn as he counted in his head. Any moment now Ron would know what he'd done in the work shop... and then it would get fun.
It took ten seconds before a loud screech was heard from the shop and the sounds of feet stomping rapidly towards his way came.   "ORRRAAAAA!" She yelled, a wrench came flying at him, though it wasn't aimed to actually hit him.   Ora grinned gleefully at the wrench flying toward him and laughed as it missed him and bounced off into the main area of the shop.
"You'll have to try harder than that if you want to kill me, my sweet little cookie." He called back cheerfully.   "You'll wish I did when I get my claws on you!" She screeched, stomping in as she wrestled with a piece of duct tape that got stuck around them.   "Such a spicey little treat we are this morning." He set down the fliers he'd been fanning himself with and sauntered over to her, offering a hand to help free her. "I do hope that's a promise you'll keep."   "After what you've done to my shop you'll be lucky if that's the only thing I do to you!" She trilled in annoyance as she spun around in a angry huff, the duct tape was getting more stuck to her hands than actually coming off. Ron was just about ready to get her beak into the mix there if it didn't come off soon.   Ora put his arm around her shoulder and leaned up to kiss her cheek. "Come love, let me help you." He tried to lead her back toward the counter. "Lets get you free so you can smack me good, how does that sound?"   "I should do it right now!" She fought some more against the tape, but only managed to get the feathers in her head stuck in it. Giving a loud screech she gave Ora a dirty look.   He didn't even bother holding in his laughter at her disgruntled taped face. "You've had ample opportunity, my little cookie. Yet, here we are." He took her hands in his and gently worked at removing the tape. "How do you get yourself into these things." He tsked as if he had no idea and had nothing to do with it.   "You know perfectly well who the culprit is." She nipped at him lightly with her beak. She didn't want to hurt him or to stop helping her get free. "You relish seeing me struggle with your confounded tape."   "Of course I do. I relish everything you do, my hot tempered little snack." He chuckled at her nipping as he worked at the tape. "Slow day today, I was wondering if you wanted to show me how to use that new gizmo I got you."   "Hrmph, don't think I won't forget this." She grumbled as she started thinking about which gizmo he was talking about. Her eyes then glazed over as she pinpointed on one.
"Ohhhh the Flux Pump coordinator! Ohhh that thing is so beautiful." She almost drooled.   "Ah yes, that was it." Her excitement and quick mood change was only made better by his innuendo going right over her head. Today was shaping up to be a good day by the looks of it. Now to hurry her into the workshop before the boy got home or a real customer showed up. "Want to take me into the workshop and give me a good showing of how it works?"   "Oh yes! I think you'll like how it works just as much as me. It just makes everything run so much smoother and quieter!" She gushed, nearly drooling as she was already walking back towards her shop, the ducttape incident already forgotten for now.   Ora tossed the discarded tape behind his shoulder and rubbed his hands together, eager to pounce.

Part 3: Arrival

Liza parked the small landing craft with the others and went about securing it as the rest piled out. Sometimes they all split up to get what they wanted from the divers little community of merchants and entertainers, and some times they all went together. She wasn't sure what they planned to do today though.   Kennit happily piled out of the ship, glad to be out of it and go into a shop that possibly had much better air conditioning. He would've gone ahead and trailed off to a bar, but he stuck to 8ball's side. For some reason he had put it upon himself that he had to stick with her to make sure she was safe, even if she wanted to gut him over it.   Jaguar stretched and looked around, flicking her tail.
People bustled around trying to hawk their goods to the newly landed. Some offering to clean ships, a pointless task here in the desert, some had small contraband for sell or limited time offers on rental properties for visitors. Most of it was garbage or a scam of some sort, the usual. It wasn't what one came here for, people came for the shops where you could get things you couldn't get anywhere else. Though you still had to wade through the fare share of junk and scams there too. But if you knew what you were looking for and who to talk to and how to talk to them the place was a treasure trove.
A treasure trove now carefully guarded by the dragon of the Vondren military.   Liza got out of the drop ship and was about to head off in a random direction when a billboard caught her eye. It was much newer than the others around it. She frowned slightly, bearly managing to get her bored expression to leave her face. She looked back to the ship and motioned toward the sign to see if 8Ball had caught it. It was a billboard for the FourE's corp. What where they doing putting them way out this way? Some how it made her uneasy feeling.   8Ball looked at the billboard with her arms folded. She squinted and shook her head. "I don't like this." She coughed into a fist and spun on her heel, "This way. Be on the lookout." She walked confidently through the crowds, doing her best to slip past any pesky con artists. She was ready to dickpunch anyone who wouldn't get out of her way.   "You look like a woman who knows what she wants." A smarmy looking Chiuov saddled up along side them. "I don't usualy deal with Vivies but for you I'll make an expetion, what do you say? Looking to buy some top of the line cappachino machines? Fresh off the assembler from Heliocorp. Real cheep, don't ask me how i can sell them so cheep you don't really want to know. What do you say? Hey slow down."
He stopped as she was clearly not going to and mumbled to himself, "Gibface Hedge-creeper..", before turning to pester the next lucky customer. "Excuse me sir!"   8Ball's ears perked up as she slowed to a stop. She lowered her head and took a deep, calm breath. She turned and approached the frog from behind. She tapped his shoulder. "Excuse me."   He turned back around, all smiles. "Change your mind did you? I could tell just by looking that you were a smart one. If you'd follow me to my land runner I can hook you up!"   8Ball glared into the frog's eyes with an expression of emptiness. She leaned in closer, looking over his shoulder as she spoke up into his ear.
"I've heard stories that death takes the form of a white cat. It hides in plain sight and preys on the cancers among us. My hunger grows, Henry Crendon."   Henry seemed confused and angry at this strange woman, but, just before he got the chance to speak in retaliation, 8Ball pushed her claws into his stomach and delivered an intense electric shock; powerful enough to burn his flesh and cause him to go into a partially stunned state of pain and convulsion.   8Ball grinned down at Henry's abdomen as it lit up in her thermal vision, then took a half step back and turned around. "The next time you cross me will be your last. Consider yourself marked. Death comes."
An evil, almost childish expression of satisfaction was on 8Ball's face as Henry collapsed behind her as she walked away. She needed that to calm her nerves, she reasoned; it was okay to do what she just did. She took a flask from her bag and drank a mouthful from it.

Part 4: In the Back

Jako lost count again. He sighed and impatiently facepalm-smacked himself. C'mon, Jako, it's not that hard. Fifth time lucky. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the stack of boxes and again began counting. Jako had always hated this aspect of the job, saying goodbye to boxes of parts that were to be sent out for refurbishment and reuse. He looked at his junk pile and thought about how shrinking it, while it may have fattened his pockets, always gave his heart a little ache. The scent of rusted steel wafted into Jako's nostrils and he chuckled to himself, stroking the fluffy feathers on his neck as he drifted into thought about his rover...
... Damn it. Have to start counting again. He sighed, even more impatient now, and once again facepalm-smacked himself. Sleep tonight, he ordered himself, but he knew he'd likely fail at that as well. He yawned from exhaustion, sun baking down on him, and started to count.   "Knock knock. You busy in here Jako?" Kendra smiled and waved a stack of mail around as she leaned into the the back area where he was. "Sorry I was going to leave it up front but theres no one at the counter."
"I uh, may have looked it over a bit while I was waiting, looks you got some offical letters from the military, you're not thinking of joining those jerks are you?"   Jako jumped slightly and span around to face the voice. He smiled, and his brought his palms up to wipe his tired, paranoid eyes as Kendra spoke. "Hey Kendra, you startled me, heh." Jako took his talons away from his face and put a hand to the back of his head. "The military? I dunno, I'm not sure if they'd like me much there."
Jako walked over to Kendra and put a hand out to receive the stack of letters. "... Sorry, did you just say nobody was at the counter?"   "Promise me you won't run off and join those jerks." Kendra smiled at him. "You're too cute for the military."
"Oh yeah. No one was there." She knew his care takers were near the counter, she could here them flirting, but why interrupt old people making out when she could use it as an excuse to talk to Jako alone? "I didn't think you'd mind if I came to see you instead of waiting."   "Oh, uhm..." Jako looked down at the ground for a moment, then back at Kendra, "I should probably go, like, fix that..." He looked to the door to the shop then back at Kendra a few times.   Kendra hung back a second, then aroudn the second glance back she winked and followed after him. "I really should get going on my route..." She said with a sigh, though she didn't leave.   To Be Continued...

Cover image: Story Cover by Lengna(Paper)