Mixt and Nakishdan's prolonged argument began in the car and carried on as they approached group therapy.
'I still can't believe you abandoned me!'
'I didn't abandon you.'
'What do you mean, you didn't abandon me? I was fighting three ninja-like intruders and you were nowhere to be seen. I could have been killed!'
Mixt took the opportunity of stopping at traffic lights to glare at Nakishdan, something she'd been doing a lot of since the gig at the Moonlight Club.
'I didn't know it was happening! I'd have helped if I'd known.'
'How could you not know it was happening? We were in a small room and three men attacked me with knives!'
'Well Rainith didn't notice either.' Nakishdan was uncomfortable and defensive, despite his conviction that Mixt was being making too much of the unfortunate incident.
'Rainith is stupid and unreliable. We already know that. You're supposed to be my friend. My best friend. My best friend with psychic powers, finely tuned to pick up on any strange incidents during our missions. Despite which, you weren't there when I needed you.'
The car slowed as they approached the old school building which housed their group therapy sessions.
'I keep telling you, I didn't sense anything. I was on the other side of the room. The audience was in the way. Maybe they suppressed the field or something.'
'Or maybe you were just too interested in the girl you met to bother about me.'
Mixt fixed Nakishdan with a even harsher glare as they drove into the small area of cracked tarmac that served as a car-park. Nakishdan's admission that he had been distracted by a girl had not gone down well.
'So I was talking to a girl. That's not a crime.'
'It's pretty damn close! You're not meant to get distracted by girls when we're on a mission.'
'I couldn't help it. I spilled my drink on her feet. Which was a bit clumsy of me, I admit. So I had to apologise, naturally, and then we got talking and then - '
' - and then I got attacked and you didn't notice!'
They were still arguing as they entered the building, slightly late for their session, mainly due to Mixt being even more obsessive than usual about checking that all the windows were closed and locked before they left their house.
'Mixt, Nakishdan,' said Mr Baker, quite warmly, as they entered the room and took their place among the fifteen patients already there, all seated in a circle on the old wooden school chairs. 'I'm glad you've come.'
'So am I,' snapped Mixt. 'It's lucky I'm here. I could hardly make it out the house. But you can't expect your OCD to improve if your friends desert you. If for instance, you were facing some danger and they were nowhere to be seen. Just abandoned you, so to speak. It makes you realise that people you depend on can't really be trusted and are, when it comes right down to it, nothing more than selfish, incompetent rotters more interested in swanning off talking to girls than helping out their friends.'
'I resent these accusations,' said Nakishdan. 'Mixt is putting forward a very one-sided view of events.'
Princess Sowena hated London. She'd never have come near the city if it hadn't been for Rainith. Since Rainith's banishment, she'd visited several times, and disliked it more each time. It was so large, so dirty, so unlike the fairy Kingdom of Mercia where she belonged. She couldn't imagine why Rainith chose to live here, even after being banished. Flying towards Rainith's small flat near Walworth Road, she shuddered as two police cars raced along the road with their sirens blaring. A few pigeons looked at her curiously as she alighted on a window sill, but they were city birds, and not friendly like the birds in Mercia.
The window was open. Sowena hopped inside. Rainith's flat was still bare. She'd done nothing to decorate it and, as far as Sowena could judge, never would. Rainith never seemed to have any notion of improving her life.
When Sowena flew downstairs she was surprised to find Rainith, in her human size, sitting at a table surrounded by papers, marker pens, scissors and glue. Sowena made herself similarly large, and greeted her old friend. Unconsciously, she braced herself for Rainith's customary rudeness. Rainith looked up. Sowena laughed.
'Why are you laughing?'
'You have a piece of paper stuck to your nose.'
Rainith scowled, but didn't say anything hostile. She peeled the paper from her nose, where it appeared to have been accidentally affixed by glue.
'What are you doing?'
'Writing a gig review.'
Princes Sowena didn't know what that meant. Rainith, surprisingly talkative, explained it to her.
'I see. You have to write about the band. But why the scissors? And cutting up paper?'
'I have to cut up letters from other magazines to make a headline,' explained Rainith. 'It's for a punk fanzine, Sticky Glitter. That's the way it looks. They don't just write things, they have designs made from other letters and things like that.'
'Because that's how they do it.'
Rainith, despite her enthusiasm for the endeavour, didn't seem to be making great progress. She was attempting to paste letters spelling out X-Ray Spex but had managed to get so much glue on her hands as to make it almost impossible to manipulate anything. Princess Sowena sat down beside her.
'Let me help.'
Rainith stared at her. She stared at her for some time, as if weighing up the offer.
'All right. But don't do anything annoying.'
They began to position the letters to make the headline.
'I have some worrying news from home,' said the Princess.
'Tell me later. I need to get this review done. I'm on a deadline.'
After an entirely unsatisfactory therapy session, in which Mixt and Nakishdan succeeded in upsetting their fellow patients by their constant hostile bickering, their customary visit to the supermarket to load up with supplies before going home was more stressful than usual.
'I'm sick of that Japanese beer,' said Mixt, as Nakishdan loaded it into their trolley.
'Then buy your own beer.'
'It's not even Japanese. It's brewed in England.'
'So you keep saying. Why does that bother you?'
'It bothers me because your obsession with Japanese things is annoying.'
'It just is.'
'No it's not, you're just in a bad mood because I was talking to a girl.'
'I don't care if you were talking to a girl. Talk to any girls you want. Spares me from your tedious conversation. I'm annoyed because you almost let me be killed.'
'I've almost let you be killed before and you never got this mad about it.'
'You don't even have a real Japanese name.'
Nakishdan glared at Mixt. 'What?'
'Nakishdan. It's not a real Japanese name. I looked it up.'
Nakishdan looked uncomfortable. 'It sounds Japanese,' he said.
'Ha! Couldn't even pick a real one.'
'Well what sort of name is Mixt?'
'Traditional name given to female children of the Ancient British tribe of Ixtini.'
Nakishdan sneered. 'No one but you has ever heard of the Ancient British tribe of Ixtini.'
'It was four thousand years ago. We disappeared from the historical record. After triumphantly building Stonehenge.'
'How do we know you're not just making it up?'
Mixt grabbed the trolley and pushed it towards the spirits section where she loaded it up with litre bottles of gin.
By now, both Mixt and Nakishdan wished that they were home, away from the outside world. Neither were feeling well. Usually they had each other to rely on, to get them through difficult times. That wasn't the case at the moment, as their argument continued. Neither of them were good at bringing arguments to an end tactfully. Their obsessive natures tended rather to make them drag on for a long time. By the time they returned to their car they'd stopped speaking, and drove home in hostile silence.
StarMix pointed her pulse-rifle at the advancing mercenaries, letting go with a long burst of deadly, brightly-glowing particles. But her aim, usually so deadly, was off by a fraction, and the mercenaries made it to the shelter of a ruined space-fighter where they regrouped.
'What's the matter?' demanded StarNak, her fellow bounty hunter. 'You missed.'
'They were too quick.'
'You should have got them.'
'Well you didn't fire at all.'
'I was reloading.'
'Damn it,' muttered StarMix, as a bullet from a mercenary sniper caught her in the shoulder, causing her protective shields to go dim. 'Now there's another group landing behind them.'
The situation was looking bad. StarMix and StarNak, newly-arrived bounty hunters in Star Metal City, largest conurbation on Star Metal Planet, found themselves pinned down by a large group of mercenaries, with more arriving all the time. Soon they'd be outflanked. The mission, apparently straightforward when they'd taken it on, was threatening to go disastrously wrong.
'Just blast the space fighter out the way!' cried StarNak, and trained his guns on the wreckage.
'Our weapons aren't strong enough.'
'Didn't we upgrade?'
'No, we took the health upgrade instead.'
'They're on our flank!'
StarMix and StarNak and whirled round to face the mercenaries who, having skilfully outflanked them, were now streaming forward over the battle-scarred landscape. The bounty hunters fired pulse after pulse of deadly energy into their ranks but it was no use. The mercenaries were apparently unafraid of death, and there were too many of them.
'My shields have gone!' StarMix desperately tried to boost her shields but she was running out of power.
'I'm hit!' StarNak's shields were also depleted. They fought on furiously for a few seconds but it was hopeless. A Battle-Commander emerged from the ranks of the mercenaries, pointed his neutron cannon at them, and let fly with a thick beam of red energy which burned instantly through the remnants of their shielding and through their armoured space suits. The screen grew dim as StarMix and StarNak fell to the mercenaries, more casualties in the brutal war that raged around the violent Star Metal City.
Nakishdan put his controller down, and scowled at the Playstation.
'Well that was pretty bad.'
'Awful performance,' agreed Mixt.
'That's what happens when we're arguing when we play Star Metal City.'
'We should have made up before we started. I was distracted.'
'So was I. You can't be distracted when you're facing a Battle Commander.'
Mixt's phone rang. It was Rainith. That was a surprise. Rainith had never called them before. They weren't even certain she knew how to use a phone. Mixt listened for a few seconds.
'Rainith wants to know if we can remember what songs Raped played.'
'She wants to write a review. Apparently she's a massive fan.'