It was surprisingly difficult to find a magic Moai in New Orleans. Maybe it’s because I didn’t take part in the feeding frenzy at the Ziggurat. Or maybe it’s because the records we stole from Hephaestus didn’t include the locations of any Faustus sites except for the ones like the Newark distribution site. I wish that place had a cool name like “The Ziggurat” or “The Zaggurat” or something. Faustus must have gotten all the creativity when the organization split into two branches. The style too. The place didn’t look anything like a ziggurat, but that was a seriously cool name. Sumerian temple to the gods cool.
Those guys got it. All this super shit didn’t have to be boring. It didn’t have to be corporatized and reduced to bureaucracy. You leave naming up to someone who isn’t having any fun and you get stuff like Forcelight or Queen Administrator. It didn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Well, it could be, but at least some people had the good sense to name things Doomhammer and Gloom Shroom.
Not bad guys, though a little bit standoff-ish. Saw them at this bar. The AllWays Lounge. This place didn’t even have to specialize to become the kind of bar that let in supers. That’s just how they always were. They didn’t give a fuck. Plays. Burlesque. Odd little bands. Dance lessons. Erotica readings. That’s the kind of shit they put on in an average week.
Needless to say, folks like myself got along quite well with that establishment. A little heavy on the red, I think, but otherwise my sort of place.
Wearing my armor, I sidled in there to look for information. They didn’t have the biggest bar, but I headed up there next to a big hoss in black plate mail that hid his whole body. There was some weird pattern of dark red markings along the armor that turned into a series of lines that ran down the visor and formed into hanging red droplets that clung to the edge. Couldn’t see the guy’s face inside it at all. On the other side of me was a man in brown and black, with a brown Asian-style cone hat, and fluorescent green face paint meant to look like a skull. His bomber jacket was painted up with a glowing green mushroom that had its own maliciously grinning face.
“Hey there, guys. What’s the dealio, huh? Killed any good people lately?”
The guy in the armor raised his right hand toward me, the gauntlet shifting into a warhammer. I think it was supposed to be a hand gesture of some sort. Then he and the mushroom guy left me at the bar. A hammer on the hand and a big ole mushroom. Those guys were a bit Freudian.
The bartender leaned over, wiping away the condensation from where the pair had been drinking. “Don’t worry, Psycho Gecko” the curly-headed woman with the pink hair told me. “You stepped on a lot of people’s toes with you and your friend’s rampage, but I don’t think Doom and Gloom care enough to really do anything about it.”
“Doom and Gloom, eh? They didn’t seem the happiest sort.”
“Doomhammer and Gloom Shroom,” she pointed out for me. See, I told you I met them!
“Ah…now how do you know who I am, or that a friend of mine did anything around here?”
The bartender took an empty glass someone handed her and set about refilling it. I gave her a once over, glad that whoever was coming up on the bar near me wasn’t blocking my view of her. Curly hair, stockings, boots, a pale corset of a color I couldn’t determine in that lighting. Someone had good taste in work clothes.
She caught me looking and flashed me a smile. See, that made me want to give her a big tip. Not that one, you pervs! The money shot. I mean the money tip. Cream. Cash, I was talking about cash!
She stood up and handed a new drink to the guy on my right. “Word’s been getting out about Psycho Gecko and Mix N’Max. He turned half of Bourbon Street into jungle animals and you broke half of hell out of its cage. Word is you’re here to fight Faustus.”
“There are a lot of words being said about me. Do I smell a rat?”
“Hey!” said a nasally voice from my right. I turned to find a man-sized rat. Or a rat-like man. He was human in size, covered in wiry black fur, and had the claws and head of a rat. I knew he was a “he” because pants were optional at the AllWays Lounge. Just the way George Washington intended when he fought and nearly died to create the United States of America. Behold the glorious vision of the president with the wooden smile and the smiling woody.
“Sorry, man,” I told the thing. “I meant something smells fishy around here.”
There was a gurgling noise from behind me. I turned to find the guy on the other side of me was a moist, gurgling amphibious fish person. A Deep One. “Huh. I will be honest with you, fella, I did not see that coming.”
“Did somebody say Nazi?!” asked a slurred voice with a thick German accent of some sort. Maybe some Bavarian mixed with Austrian? Ok, I never learned dialects that well, I cheated to impress y’all.
So anyway, this guy claps his hand down on my shoulder and held on firmly. “More beer for mein freund!”
“I didn’t have a beer in the first place.” I checked the guy out in my rearview and found him to be right about my height, actually. He had disheveled hair, puffy red eyes, and a Charlie Chaplin mustache. There was no need to look up who this guy was. I shook my shoulder to try and get him loose. “Leggo Hitler! Shoo.”
He didn’t take the hint. He only clung to me more, clamping his hand down on my other shoulder. I tried to squirm out from under him, then I just up and pushed him. He flew back and crashed through one of the small floor tables. Security came out, but rather having to kill them and starting a superhuman brawl, they grabbed Hitler and escorted him out.
I turned back around toward the bar. “Whew. Who the hell went and cloned Hitler this time? I had to give him a bit of a putsch there, but he was getting…clingy.” I was trying to play nice. I needed the cooperation of people in that establishment, starting with the bartender.
“It’s alright,” she said to me. Then, she yelled out after the Hitler clone, “Go home, Hitler, you’re drunk!”
I chuckled. “Huh. Well at people still hate that guy worse than me.”
“It’s a Hitler clone, guy. That’s not much of an accomplishment.”
“Thank you for that, missy. I don’t suppose I could find anybody to give me a brief helping hand around here?”
“That’s a tall order,” she said while shaking up some sort of drink. “Got any reason someone would help you?”
“I understand that some things are valued higher than money. I think I established that I am a dangerous force to keep around in the Big Easy. The sooner I get what I want, the sooner I get out of here.” I pulled out a money roll and slipped it in the nearest tip jar. I never bothered to count it, but there were a few thousand dollars in there. Just a little bit of spare change I picked up in traffic when I got caught behind an armored car the other day. “I’m looking for someone who is really good at finding things, specifically animated magical statues. I broke hell loose, as you said, because I was looking for that statue. How many more underworlds do I have to set free before I find what I’m after? I’ll make it just one if you give me a useful name.”
The bartender’s eyebrows rose even before she pulled out the roll and counted. She didn’t finish before pointing me towards someone.
The someone in question turned out to be a woman contact juggling a pair of small crystal balls. I checked for tight pants and an 80s hairdo before getting close enough to introduce myself, but she didn’t appear to be David Bowie after all. Instead, she had almost no hair. It was shaved close to her head. Her dark colored but physically light-looking blouse and capris wouldn’t have looked out of place in the normal world, though her purse looked more like a carrying case, presumably to hold the crystal balls and whatever else she needed for her particular brand of magic.
“You really know how to handle those balls. I hear you’re a woman who knows where to find things,” I said, a bottle of Bailey’s in one hand, a drink called “Hurricane” in the other. “May I sit down?”
“Why should I want anything to do with you? Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused around here?”
“Very little, at least when compared to what I could do. Luckily, you’re in a position to mitigate the amount of damage I can do. How would you like to kick my ass out of New Orleans?”
“I’d love to, but that doesn’t sound as simple as you put it. Sit.”
I sat down and looked to the stage to enjoy the evening’s entertainment: an unusual little steampunk band with a circus theme. This Way to Egress, they called themselves. I recognized it as a reference to one of P.T. Barnum’s tricks. Back when he had his museum full of wondrous, and sometimes faked, exhibits, he sometimes found that people would stay a long time enjoying themselves. When the place was full, that meant he couldn’t make more money off ticket sales, so at some point he put up a sign pointing toward the exit, but saying “This Way to the Egress” with egress being another word for exit. It was an unlucky bastard who made the egress their first stop.
“Alrighty then. I’m Psycho Gecko, as you know. You are?”
“Not going to tell you my name. What are you looking for insight into? For what purpose do you seek enlightenment?”
“Enlightening? Hey, most of my weight is from the armor right now, and the rest is all this crappy fast food. Now, if you’re done with cracks about my weight, here’s why I need your balls so much…” and so I explained that I sought out Moai.
She started to explain to me that three creatures had been interfering with her personal life lately and she’d like a hand with them before helping me. Then she started talking about little fairy people. Pixies or nixies or sprites or brownies. Bored with hearing her ask me to save her from junk food, I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard back and forth.
“Shut. Up. Now, does any of this mess with your ability to find Moai for me?”
She shook her head. “Can’t we work this into the deal, though? It won’t take long-”
I picked her up this time and shook her whole body. I think she kicked over her drink in the process. No, wait, that was my drink. My fruity little alcoholic hurricane. There went my attempt to weird her out by pouring it on my armor and acting like I was downing it. At least she didn’t fucking touch my Bailey’s. I set her back in her seat and warned her about it too. I poked a finger in front of her face and said, “Don’t fucking touch the Bailey’s or I’ll split you open like a roadkilled armadillo.”
“O-okay,” she stammered. After all that, negotiations went swimmingly. She agreed to give me the location of Moai. I agreed not to wear her skull as my new codpiece.
The only issue was her insisting Moai was likely to be moved between various locations now they knew I was in town. So, out of what I’m sure was the goodness of her heart instead of any attempt to trick me, she gave me a small list of addresses and assured me I could find him at one of those convenient locations.
I would have given her eyes a proper examination to see if she could focus in a little more clearly, but security showed up. They looked nervous, but most of the rest of the crowd didn’t. Once again, I didn’t know how many it would have taken to kick my ass, but I knew how many they were going to use. The next stop on my Saturday night was the egress.