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Episode Three, Western - "How the West was Punned"

In our previous episode, intrepid space troopers Beau and Trixie chased after an alien who had run off with their secret shuttle schematics. When they tried to pursue him in their shuttle, they learned that he was mysterious criminal called the Baron who had stolen the schematics to sell to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, he had also sabotaged their shuttle, and he escaped, leaving them to a crash-land on an uninhabited planet...

Rugged pioneers Beau and Trixie stood in the morning light staring unhappily at their surroundings. Beau kicked at the broken wagon wheel and shielded his eyes to stare off at the horizon. "I can't even see the horse anymore," he said.

"Whoever rigged the wheel to break also cut partway through the reins," Trixie replied, holding up the torn straps.

"Curse that cattle baron," Beau spat. "He's got both our land deeds, and if we don't stop him, he'll annex our land to his and make it part of his ranch!"

Trixie jumped and pointed into the grass. "There are rodents out here!"

"Aw, are you scared of a little mouse on the prairie?" Beau jeered.

Trixie glared at him. "We've got to get to town," she said, stalking off. Beau gave the sabotaged wagon one last glance before following.

They hadn't walked far when Beau stopped and pointed to the horizon. "Look! There's something out there. Is that my horse?"

Trixie shielded her eyes and looked for a moment. "No," she said at last. "See, there are others beside it. Let's meet them - maybe they'll take us back into town."

As they drew closer, Beau stopped again.

Trixie glanced back, annoyed. "What now?" She looked where he did, and in a moment, she saw that the three riders wore bandanas over their faces. "Uh-oh," she muttered. She and Beau looked about the field helplessly, but there was no place to hide, and it was too late, anyway - the riders were coming straight toward them.

They waited until the riders drew up close to them. The rider in the lead wore an orange sleeveless jacket decorated with multicolored patches.

"That is a vile, vile vest," Trixie said.

"Vest" stopped in front of them while the other two went around behind to hem them in. "What are you people doing out here?" he demanded.

Behind them, one of the riders coughed and coughed into his hand.

"What's his problem?" Trixie asked.

"He's our sick shooter," Vest replied. "Now, answer me. Are you two in league with that fellow we tied up a ways back?"

Beau and Trixie looked at each other. "A portly fellow with black hair and a monocle?" Beau asked.

Vest nodded.

"That's the cattle baron! He stole our land deeds!" Trixie cried. "Did you find them?"

Beau shot her a glare, and Vest said, "Land deeds, eh? Well, we can go back for them later. We've got something a little more immediate in mind, and you are just what we need." He nodded to one of his gang and pointed at Beau. "Reach for this guy!"

Beau and Trixie had no choice but to cooperate as the armed bandits tied their hands. Then they put Trixie on a horse behind one bandit and Beau behind another, and they all headed out to town.

When they reached the edge of the little town, they paused in the brush and peered out from behind the trees.

"Here's the plan," Vest said. "We aim to take all the gold out of this little town's bank, and the best way to do that is with hostages."

"That isn't going to work," Beau said. He caught Trixie's eye, and she nodded that she would play along with his ruse. "This plan only works if the bank manager wants to save us."

The bandits stared at him.

"That's right," Trixie spoke up. "And I don't suppose you realized when you captured us that the bank manager and I had a torrid love affair last year - well, maybe it could be more accurately described as a temperate love affair - but still, I jilted him and now he hates the very sight of me."

"That's right," Beau said. "And as for me, I'm the last person that manager will want to see, because-" To his surprise, he hit a moment of liar's block, but Trixie took over.

"He's an old friend of the bank manager's from the war, except part way through a battle they got surrounded on all sides, and my friend here decided to defect to the other side, and he shoved the bank manager into the line of enemy fire, and that's why, to this day, he - the bank manager, I mean - makes a jingling sound when he walks, 'cause of all the buckshot rattling around inside his left knee."

When Trixie stopped, they all stared at her. Beau put his head in his hand and thought he might as well just volunteer to be shot and get it over with.

But then the bandits began to mutter, and Vest looked confused, so Beau spoke up again. "So I'd have to tell you, if you take us in there with you, you won't be a bit closer to getting your money."

"Then I'll leave one of my men here with you," Vest said.

"One of him and two of us?" Trixie shook her head. "Not smart. You really ought to think about expanding your gang, you know. Besides, you need all your firepower for this robbery. Nope, your lowest risk scenario is to turn us loose and hightail it to the bank." She pointed off toward the town. "Go left down the main street almost to the end, and you'll see it."

"Uh, thanks," Vest muttered, holstering his gun. He still looked confused as he led the other two bandits off into town.

"Well, that saves us," Beau said. "But what about the banker?"

"Didn't you hear what I said?" Trixie grinned. "The bank's on the right; I said go left. That takes them straight to-"

"The sheriff!" Beau laughed as even then, they saw the deputies chase the robbers out in the street and tackle them.

"Want to go pick up those land deeds?" Trixie said with a grin.

"Indeed!"

They borrowed two of the bandits' horses and rode out through the big valley to the glen where the bandits had left the cattle baron tied up.

But when they entered the clearing, all they saw was trampled grass. "He's gone!" Trixie cried in dismay.

"No - look there," Beau said, pointing at something he saw in the grass. "He's left something behind..."

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