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Rick gave the cheering alien crowd one last middle finger as the ramp slowly retracted. He hadn't given them a show of leaving last time--he'd been in a hurry to get out of there. Still they hadn't seemed to mind, at least they hadn't brought it up. Blank-faced, blank-brained, sheeple mother fuckers. Didn't matter, so long as they kept making him power. As the metal door finally slid into place he turned and ditched the headgear, sidling into the driver's seat.  

 

"Well Summer," he said without glancing up, "looks like Zanflorp's learned his lesson. He's still working on his 'miniverse'," Rick made quotation marks in the air with his fingers, "but he's got another one in development which added to the first should produce power for both his planet and my car. He knows his existence hangs in the balance now, so I don't think we should have any more…" he glanced up "problems…" 

She sat in the shotgun seat-- if a high-concept sci-fi setup like this could be said to have a shotgun seat. Her hair was down, which y'know, whatever, but he knew Summer hated having hair in her eyes. She wouldn't let it down unless… He reached out and pushed it back. 

"Hey, back off!--" A bright red bruise blossomed upon her temple, just beginning to turn purple. Unbidden, his heart jumped into his throat. 

"The fuck is this?" he asked, flatly. "I told you to stay in the ship." 

"I was looking around in the back for some water and I fell." She was huffy and evasive. 

He grabbed her chin, not gently, and turned her head to face him. Another bruise, along the right side of her jaw. "You fell, huh?"

"That's right." 

"Onto both sides of your face at the same time?" 

"Ugh. Fine," she growled, shoving his hands away from her face. "I was bored, okay? I went looking for something to drink, and some random aliens came up to me, flipped me the bird and told me my top looked slutty." (That was right, he'd told the president's wife a couple years ago that "slutty" meant "pretty"). Rick pinched the bridge of his nose.  

"So you picked a fight with them?"  

"Yeah, so?"  

"You can't just go around picking fights, Summer."

"Whatever. They were the ones who started it, anyway." 

"Trust me, you j-just can't, Summer." He fired up the engine, and they rose into the air. 

"It didn't bother you when I picked a fight with that Nazi." 

"Th-th-is is different, Summer! They're aliens! Th-they they might'a had poison spit or something, you don't know!" 

She turned away from him to face the window, where the ship had begun its descent into the volcano. After a moment of hostile silence, she muttered under her breath. "Didn't bother you when we picked a fight with the literal Devil."

He rolled his eyes as the ship locked in place, and pressed the button that would vaporise them in the microverse and restructure them in the real one. At last they were home again, standing in front of Rick's ship in the garage. He glared at her over the hood, before going over to his work bench and picking up his hip-flask. 

"You know, I don't even know why I brought you in the first place, Morty would'a never pulled a stunt like that." 

"Morty gets to actually leave the car and have fun." 

"You know what? Fine."  

He poured what was left of his whiskey down his throat in one smooth motion, tossing the empty flask onto his desk and picking up his portal gun. "Let's g-*urp*-o." He fired a portal into the garage door, and walked through it without waiting for her. Summer followed him through, suspicious eyes trained on his back. 

They were in a vast desert of cracked orange clay, only a few tall rocky outcrops and boulders breaking up the flat skyline.  

"Here you go Summer," he gestured expansively to the wasteland around them. "A whole alien planet for you to explore. Go nuts. Kick one of the rocks. Start a rock-war. I'll wait here." 

She narrowed her eyes, shifting her weight to one hip. She looked more like him than her mother, with her face all beat-up like that.

"Why are you such an asshole?" she asked. 

"W-why are you s-*urp*- such a pain in my ass?" 

"Grandpa Rick, if you don't want to take me on adventures in space with you, just don't take me. I don't need you to make up bullshit fake ones to keep me happy. I'm not Morty, I won't have a meltdown if I realise I'm the unfavourite grandchild." Her passive-aggression was really starting to get on his nerves, now.

"That's not what this is about, Summer." 

"Really? Cause it feels like you're using this lame-ass excuse for an adventure to make sure I never ask to come with you again." 

"Alright then w-w-hat did you want to do instead, then, huh? What's your idea of an adventure, Summer? Did you wanna live in the wild with red-moon raptors because every planet with a police force has a warrant out for your arrest? And red-moon raptors are exactly what they sound like, Summer. And they eat fifty per cent of their babies, too, Summer, so even getting one of them to think they're your mother is a crapshoot. Does that sound like fun to you? How about intergalactic prison? Would that be hard-core enough for you, Summer? That's a real thing, Summer, and they don't segregate by gender either-- and there's like 20 genders in space-- and you're all stuffed into these sweaty little boxes selling your own teeth to stay out of trouble with the Korblox. But I'm sure you'd just breeze though it, I mean we all saw how you handled that pack of Gazorpians last time. Oh w-*urp*-ait, no, you were saved from brutal gang-rape at the last second by the sheer luck I'd grabbed my laser pistol before you walked too close to the portal like a fucking idiot. D-d-did you think you'd be able to t-take them on now? With- what, what are these, spaghetti arms? Little noodly... fuckin'…" he gestured erratically at her, "appendages… w-w-what is this? What do you expect to do with this bullshit?"

She clenched her teeth, and her fists. "It's not my fault YOU won't drive me to the gym anymore and what's left of MY car--"

"Y-you mean your--" 

"is sitting in the garage--"

"lame girly pink spacesh--"

"-cause YOU broke it up for parts!"

"W-what y-y-ou want me to do, s-Summer, you want me to work out with you ag-urp-ain? Y-you want me to take you to the gym? I'll take you to the gym, I don't care, why should I care? I don't care. Just don't ever- j-just don't…" He faltered, unable to look at her face all of a sudden. 

"What?" 

"Just do what I fucking tell you." He turned his back on her and started to walk away. It was an evasion, and they both knew it. 

"What is it, Grandpa Rick?" Her voice issued high-pitched and annoying as ever from somewhere near is right elbow. She was keeping up a couple paces behind him. She wasn't going to back down. He groaned. This was the problem with her. This was why her brother was a much better sidekick. He ignored her. She made a huffing sound. "Come on! What the fuck is your problem!?" 

"You wanna know!?" he snapped, whirling around.

"Yeah!"

"You really wanna know, Summer!? You think your little brain can handle it?" 

"Oh," she narrowed her eyes, voice raised, "like it matters what I think I can handle--" She was cut off when he waved something in front of her face. She snatched it and glared at him, before looking at the piece of paper in her hands. It was silver and gold, and bore a picture of her brother. "The hell is this?" she snapped at him, his back turned to her again. She had got her way, but she hadn't quite calmed down yet. He waited for the inevitable breakdown. "It says… one free replacement Morty… Wh- what does that mean?" 

"It means that in the likely event that your brother dies, the council of Ricks will send me a new one. One that isn't already assigned to a Rick, obviously." He turned back around to face her. She was staring at him, dumbstruck. He enjoyed that look. Probably why he was such an asshole all the time. "It means a free refill on the sidekick soda fountain." 

"Huh." She blinked. "Okay," she said.

Rick frowned. 

"You took that better than I thought you would," he observed, cautiously. Summer shrugged, handing him back the voucher. 

"I already know my real brother is buried in the garden. At this point I figure they're all pretty much the same." He was silent, looking at her through narrowed eyes. She blinked. "What? Were you expecting me to be horrified or something? As far as I can tell, it at least means that you don't necessarily hate us. You only treat us like we're expendable because we actually are." She crossed her arms, defensively. "Whatever, I mean I don't give a shit, I've read Nietzsche too." 

He suppressed a growl deep in his throat, scrunching up the voucher in his fist. "That's the problem, Summer, you're not!" She frowned, confused. "Expandable!" he exploded. "Morty is. You're not!" 

"Wh-- what do you mean?" 

Rick sat down on a nearby boulder. He pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand, feeling inside his lab coat for his hip flask, before remembering that he'd tossed it away. He half-sighed, half-growled. "You've seen the alternate realities. In how many of them exactly did you exist?" 

"I--"  

"About four percent, Summer. In most timelines your parents never had you. They graduated, followed their dreams, and the ingredients that went into you died on a tissue in your father's trashcan--" 

She put up her hands to stop him. "Okay, ew--"

"-- or or or on the floor of some Planned Parenthood clinic. Subtract from that the amount of realities where a version of Morty and me already exist. Not that I wouldn't steal from myself, I've done it before, but they've started expecting it-- and that's not to mention all the other Ricks out there trying the same game. And now I know what you're thinking--"

"Grandpa, you're freaking me out--" 

"-- four percent of infinity is still infinity -- well you're wrong, Summer, at least in a practical sense. Because I'm just one g-guy I can't g-g-*urp*-et to infinity dimensions, Summer, I can't look through every universe on the off chance that I'll find you there, conveniently Rickless and Mortyless and parentless and not some weird cephalopod version of yourself--" 

"Grandpa Rick, what are you talking about?"

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She knelt in front of him, her eyes glassy and frightened. He took her face in his hands. A few tears slid down her cheeks and he wiped them away with his thumbs, leaving grimy smears in their wake.  

"You're one of a kind, Summer," he whispered. His breath smelled like scotch and stomach acid, and she cringed beneath it. "I mean, at least you are now, trust me, after the last time I scanned every dimension within jumping distance for another version of you and- and- and n-n-othing. Not a thing, Summer. It's just you. You're a shiny fucking Pokemon card and if I lose you this time, I'm not gonna be able to get you back." He closed his eyes. "Which is why…" his hands slid down to her shoulders, "when I say stay in the spacesHIP I MEAN STAY IN THE FUCKING SPACESHIP!" Her head bobbed like rag doll's as he violently shook her shoulders. "DO! YOU! UNDERSTAND!" 

In an unexpected move, she batted his arms away. "No!" 

"What d'you mean, no!? Jesus H Christ, Summer, I'm trying to have a meaningful moment with ya here--" 

"Well, your moment sucks. I'm not a Pokemon card or something that you can collect. I'm a person. And I don't belong to you, Grandpa, any more than you belong to this dimension. And you can take me with you or leave me behind, that's your prerogative, but DON'T," she growled, "think you can tell me what to do."  

He glared into her eyes for a second, before he stood in silence, and started to walk in the direction they had come.   

She frowned. "What are you doing?"

"Walking."

She scoffed. "Where?"

"I think there's a burger joint over that hill."

"Wait-- … are we on Earth?" No reply. "We haven't even left Earth? … I can't BELIEVE YOU!"