Adventures of Corkhorn Issue 1: Bubble Tea Blues

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Chapter 4

“Yee gads,” Corkhorn panted, “I thought I was going to die.”

He felt around the collar to see what was inside. It looked like what the pirates wore but less sophisticated. Corkhorn could run his hoof tips over the circuitry inside. His hooves however didn’t have the delicacy fingers did to undo circuits.

“There’s probably a tracking chip and alarm too,” Corkhorn sighed, “I was hoping to avoid confrontation.”

He unconsciously pushed the cork on his horn. Limbs ached. Slight dizziness preceded. Corkhorn shook himself of the last dizziness. Those needles embedded into his neck still held strong.

“At least not for a little bit longer,” he hoped, “Why did the doctor laugh at that last remark I wonder?”

Corkhorn’s ears pricked forward at the thunder of footsteps down the hall.

“Where is he?” Captain Cluck-vers shouted, “Activate the collar. We will have no stone left unturned here.”

Corkhorn scrambled for distance. He had to make tracks before the collar overwhelmed him again. The dizzy spell caught before the vent fell out beneath him. Corkhorn crashed into piping and rolled all the way down. His cork coming loose in the fall. Corkhorn rammed the cork on his head.

His world kept swimming. He toddled across on all fours like a kitten just figuring out his legs. One, two, whoopsies, three and four steps down he huddled into a pipe. Head spinning. Worldview split into double vision. Our hero slumped against the inside. Horn glowed with held back glitter. What glitter did seep into his collar short circuited something. Corkhorn didn’t want to guess what.

“Gyugh, collar has got to go,” Corkhorn slurred. He shook himself of debris. The dizzy spell ebbed away. Corkhorn slumped out to stand bipedal and surveyed something short of a horror flick. His hackles rose. Ears pricked forward in alarm.

“Oh mama,” Corkhorn gulped.

The cargo bay and construction bay was one whole room. Walls peeling of the same springtime colors as the rest of the ship’s interior. Chains rattled from the ceiling. Gigantic crates Stacked to the ceiling in an entire mountain range of stolen goods. Corkhorn’s boba pearls to deliver was lost around there.

“Where’s a manifest when you need one,” Corkhorn sighed.

One of those coils moved. Small feet pitter-pattered quickly behind him.

Corkhorn jumped. The slightest skittering at the edges of the light had his ears swivel one after another to pinpoint a sound. Chains rattled , Corkhorn instinctively ducked, and footfalls pattered outside. Corkhorn brandished a pipe with a practice swing.

“Who goesss there?” hissed a voice from the rafters, “shshhsshow your-ssself.”

Unicorn Ears swiveled to attain the slightest noise. One of those giant chains was a solid coil slithering in and out. Our hero steadied his feet. He swung the pipe. He stood at Bat. Corkhorn pounded his chest with one fist.

“Well here I am!” Corkhorn challenged, “Come and get me.”

The giant snake torpedoed towards him. Corkhorn swung.


The pipe met skull with a crack. The rest of the snake’s body streamed the opposite direction. Rib cage as thick as Corkhorn’s height. Gunfire aimed at his back hoof threw him off ground. Corkhorn tripped right into the snake’s waiting embrace. The snake bundled Corkhorn in mounds of asphyxiation.

Corkhorn’s face turned blue. His struggles earned him another coil around his neck. Snakes do have quite a curious anatomy. Their tails exploring nooks and crannies just as much as their heads. While that snake’s head wound around front. That tail wound around back.

Corkhorn got that back leg unwound. He risked his neck curling away until that snake’s coils only had his arms bound. That tail scooted inch by inch until he dangled from the snake via a granny knot. metal glinted from the ground. The shooter pitter pattered into the light.

“Watch where you pointing that thing Ottero,” spoke the snake.

Corkhorn flailed his back legs. The snake readjusted his grip while Corkhorn’s face turned blue. The pipe waned in Corkhorn’s grip. If he could move more than his wrists he’d have a better headshot between the snake’s giant orange eyes.

“If’n you don’t over-squeeze him first Roger,” Ottero chidded, “Live Hostage. Master Squaregate. Remember?”

Now that our hero had a good look at his shooter, it was the Boatswain from the bridge. Small Lutra lutra otter by the looks it. Deep baritone voice. White underbelly. Same type of gun Captain Cluck-vers had in shotgun form.

When did those guns get mass produced,’ Corkhorn thought, ’Cudgemuffins.

“Oh okay,” noted Roger, “Can I choke him out first?”

One coil tightened around Corkhorn’s neck. Corkhorn’s eyes bulged.

“No!” screamed Ottero.

No asphixiation was a swell idea Corkhorn could get behind.

A electric buzz had Ottero stiffening. That shock collar. Ottero, with a wince, ignored the pain. He patted himself down for something. Microphone was Corkhorn’s guess.

“Did you get the hostage?” Captain Cluck-vers demanded.

“Oh yeah I’m fine thanks for ZZZZZT,” Oterro flinched from the shock collar. “Ouch!”

“Where’s my hostage.” Captain Cluck-vers demanded.

“He’s here,” Ottero chimed in, “But near the cargo. Come get him.”

“You bring him,” corrected Captain Cluck-vers, “Or I am going to snap someone’s neck and blast hot air down the new hole I make.”

Whimpers escaped the nearest mouths all around except for Ottero. His whimper drowned in a gulp. Captain Cluck-vers laughed.

“I’m joking,” Captain Cluck-vers crooned.

Corkhorn still remembered that nasty hot air Captain Cluck-vers fired from the primary feathers of her wings. It burned the ship somehow. Her crewmates feared her.



Yeah right.

Corkhorn’s gaze zeroed in on the barcode scanner attached to Ottero’s waistband. The Manifest logo emblazed across the holster. It wasn’t the main manifest itself but it’d do, Corkhorn decided. Now all he needed was a smart way out.

“Say you do a swell job keeping this ship in ship shape,” Corkhorn began. He began choking.

“Roger! Stop that,” Ottero scolded.

Roger the snake shrugged.

“Hostage can’t butter ya up if he’s passed out,” bargained Roger.

Roger grinned. The snake’s ripened grin was a ghastly little picture to behold. Between the blow to the face and the scowl between Ottero’s whiskers Corkhorn rolled his eyes at the zip ties, again.

Plastic cinched his wrist to his belt loops.

“Oi. Not you Hostage,” warned Ottero, “You’re coming with me.”

“I was afraid of that,” Corkhorn sighed.

Corkhorn’s nearest wrist was bound out of reach of the barcode scanner to his belt loop. Ottero dragged him by his arm in an iron grip. However his tail was free to grab a cro from the nearest box.

“So,” ammended Corkhorn. His ears drooped as Ottero stared ahead. The tension so thick even the air in his mouth was hard to swallow. “Um not much for small talk huh?”

Ottero could cut diamonds on that bloodshot glare.

“Hostages. Don’t. Talk,” Ottero stated.

“They wear fancy collars,” Corkhorn quipped. He tugged on his own collar.

Again with the bloodshot glare. Ottero’s collar was a little rustier but the same collar the collar that bit into Corkhorn’s skin. Yet the Quartermaster also had the same collar model. The flesh Ottero’s collar rested on was rubbed bald of fur and ruddy in sores. The electrical burns, some long past, puckered the skin underneath with pearlescent burns.

Corkhorn grimanced. His ears flattened against his skull. His head sunk between his shoulders. Maybe that joke wasn’t the best. Some of the crates were pried open. A couple of them he went straight by the label. Anthro-Resources: Life Support. The package was so flat he could slip it under the front of his shirt with one limb.

The zip-tie chaffed his wrists but not as much as the next blow to his own pride.

“Boy what an accomplished woman your Captain is,” praised Corkhorn.

Blood vessals popped up across Ottero’s forehead. Corkhorn’s gut cringed into his diaphram.

“Oh golly gee she sounds so independent and powerful,” Corkhorn continued. While he ignored the bile churning his stomach, “This ship sure didn’t go to the wrong bird.”

Ottero clenched his fists. Urge to kill radiated off the irate Boatswain in waves. Corkhorn turned away to hide the sweat on his face.

“<Gulp>I-I hope she doesn’t kick my tail. She already has enough men to belittle.” Corkhorn admitted.

Something snapped and the otter let loose a high pitched roar.

“Sonnuva Gizzard when I get my paws on that Air Fried Chicken Witch I’ll GAHHH.” Ottero’s rant was lost amidst the screams. Screams everywhere.


Ottero’s fist slammed Corkhorn’s cheek. Teeth and spittle flew. The electricity jolted through the punch into Corkhorn’s face and down he went. Motor skills floundered. Corkhorn vibrated on the ground, vision hazy.

Ottero’s eyes went white. Lightning crackled down his body. His neck glowed white hot. Knees shook but he wouldn’t bow down.

Corkhorn’s nerves alit on fire. If that much electricity knocked him down . . .

Ottero charged forward. Blind with rage, he surged forth. Corkhorn stepped up to bat against an electrified, raging tank.

“Please go down.” Corkhorn begged, “For the love of goodness go down.”


With ½ the crew preoccupied, ship’s stability systems waned. The ship careened sideways into the nearest asteroid belt. Crew members slid across the floor. Asteroids slapped the poor thing dangling back and fourth on one thruster. Packages bounced willy nilly like dice in a yahtzee cup.

Corkhorn and Ottero ricocheted off boxes. Ottero cussed with every rebound.

“Stupid sonnuva-BZZZZZT! When I get my paws on that,” Ottero screamed. The shock collar crackled akin to a taser at close range. “My ship won’t be the only thing browning. Air . . . Fried . . . Chicken-WITCH!”

Corkhorn grabbed the Boatswain. Electricity coursed his body. Magic ached in his horn. The cork vibrated ready to launch. As Corkhorn struggled with one forelimb to keep Ottero from rebounding around. Electricity throbbed on collars across the Cargo bay, down the corridors and all over the crew room of the ship.

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