The last time we saw Lonk. Jr, he had jumped out of a moving vehicle after getting into a verbal scuffle with van-mate Buddy “Big Boy” Steele.

Will Lonk. Jr be able to survive in the unforgiving heat of the Desiccant Desert without his parents (or any of his fellow Video Game Rejects) there to help him?

Lonk woke with his body twisted in the windward side of the dune, squinting up at the blistering sun. White sand swirled up from the desert floor where he lay — churning his clothes, gnashing his face. He turned to fend it with his hands.

Lonk Jr.

*making spitting noises* Ptuh! Dammit. Why’d Anakin Skywalker have to be so right about sand and how it gets everywhere?

*grabbing waistband of his pants and shaking* These Triforce underoos Mom bought me for Christmas… they do nothing for my loinparts!

Armi

The type of mental image that sends a chill down my tiny spine despite being stranded in a sweltering desert. This is almost as bad as that time your father wanted to play “Sand Sculpture Time” at the beach.

Lonk Jr.

Armi? You’re still alive?! Oh thank the Golden Goddesses, you’re still alive! Wait… “Sand Sculpture Time”? What are you talking about?

Armi

You know, that time your father buried you up to your neck in sand at Zola Beach and then ditched you to play slots at Flimflam Casino? Left you there immobile for six hours, little kids treating your head as a garbage receptacle and seagulls doing their business on your face the entire time? Or was that the other way around?

… Anyway, yeah. “Sand Sculpture Time.”

Lonk Jr.

Thank you for reminding me of that “wonderful” outing, Armi. Again, real glad to see you survived the fall.

The wind finally died down and he lurched to his feet and clutched his growling stomach.

Lonk Jr.

Freakin’ starving.

Armi

All that fickle, adolescent rebelliousness sure works up an appetite.

Lonk Jr.

*fumbling around in his backpack* What’d you say?

Armi

Hey! Nothing. What are you looking for?

Lonk Jr.

*still fumbling around in his backpack* The bacon ranch pizza Mom packed for us… and the Lon Lon Milk? You haven’t seen them, have you?

Armi

*flitting past Lonk Jr.’s right shoulder* No. But those creatures over there might have an idea.

In the distance loud crackling sounds. A wake of vultures had surrounded something and they fought for the spoils with their long necks unwinding sinuous as snakes and their dark plumage ruffling and their hooked beaks snapping.

vulures-fighting-in-desert

Lonk Jr.

Wait a minute…

One of the vultures had leapt away from the others with a cardboard pizza box clamped in its talons, clumps of cheese and bacon spuming from its chattering beak.

Lonk Jr.

My pizza! You little shit, give it back!

He chased after it. The vulture veered from the dusty path, past sparse clumps of brittle bush and ocotillo and into a maze of sunbleached bones. Here a horse skull with a gaping jawbone that clapped shut in their wake and there a set of scattered U-shaped bones he had to leap over with arms flailing and seemingly everywhere an enormous ribcage under and through which they scuttled on all fours, rodent-like, until the curved bones that encompassed them grew longer and broader than elephant tusks and others larger and more daunting still as they scrambled deeper and deeper within that skeletal arrangement.

Armi

Listen! Maybe we should turn back.

Lonk Jr.

*panting* And let some stupid bird steal all our food? No way.

Armi

Look! I’m not gonna beat around the bush here; you’re drenched in sweat and redder than a lobster. You look like absolute ass. You can’t keep chasing this thing around. Come on, I thought I saw some water back th-

The vulture turned its head and let out a series of squawks that sounded like laughter.

Lonk Jr.

*pointing* You see that? It’s laughing at me. I’m sick of being the butt of everyone’s joke!

Armi

It’s a scavenging bird. It has no concept of self-awareness let alone laughter. I think a much better use of our time would be heading towards that oasis we passed about five-

Lonk Jr.

Take my food and laugh, right? Tell me I’m a papa’s boy?

*tears welling in his eyes* I let that stinkin’ prick Dwido steal my lunch and and eat it right there in front of me… and the whole rest of the cafeteria. I was the laughingstock of the school. Never again…

Armi

*sighs* Thousands of companions in the entire game to choose from… the Great Deku Tree chooses him.

They continued the chase beneath the white-hot sun. Lonk with his gnomic cap bobbing, sweat stinging his red-rimmed eyes. Finally, they had it cornered at the far end of the bonecage. Lonk was dripping sweat and the sunlight as it filtered through that latticework of bones made kaleidoscopic patterns that gyrated about he and the vulture’s feet. When he approached it flapped its wings like a bat and hunched over the pizza box. Lonk tried to talk and nearly choked; his chalk-dry mouth, his tongue aflame. He cleared his throat and put his hands on his knees.

Lonk Jr.

*coughing* Alright, alright. Just calm down. Look, I know you’re hungry too. Just hand the box back over and I’ll share what I can. That sound fair?

The buzzard raised its head. Surprising cognizance in its dark, beady eyes. It held the pizza box out to him in a single claw and let out a muted squawk.

Lonk Jr.

*reaching for the pizza box* See? We didn’t have to go to all this trouble, little buddy.

A boomerang came slicing through the hot desert air; it passed just shy of Lonk’s chin and struck the vulture’s outstretched claw. It dropped the pizza box, hopped away all ungainly on its one good foot, let out a series of shrills and tumbled headfirst into the sand. Lonk turned and saw three figures cresting a sand dune to the east.

A woman appeared first. She had been peering with one eye through a looking glass and when she saw the pizza box hit the sand she pushed the retractable end flat with her palm and began clapping.

Woman

Ooh, nice shot Rutherford. Got the filthy, little pilferer right on his tarsus.

An anthropomorphic rat with coarse blue-green fur came beside her and brandished another boomerang.

Rutherford

*raspy chuckling* Ooh, you hear that Red? Right on his filthy tarsus. You ever hit something right on the filthy tarsus from… 50 yards out? I didn’t think so.

A knight clad in gleaming red armor came last, enormous red shield in one hand and equally massive red broadsword in the other.

Red

You don’t even know what a tarsus is, nor an inkling of humbleness. And we’re 40 yards out at the most.

Rutherford

Pfft. What does your tin can lookin’ ass know about measurements? You can barely see outta that garbage bin you call a helmet.

Woman

Now boys — enough bickering. Go retrieve your boomerang, Rutherford dear.

Rutherford

Yeah, Princess. My pleasure. And what about Legolas and his little fairy godmommy down there?

Woman

Kill them. Make the very desert sands fecund with the tree-huggers’ blood.

Rutherford

Uh. Really?

Woman

*giggling* You thought I was being seri- come on. I have a plan, of course. Now go get him, steal his food and bring him here. It’s due time we recruited a new acolyte to our cause.

To Be Continued. . .

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