Ok, ok, we didn’t leave immediately, but not entirely by choice. You expected more? I suppose I can see that. Why else would I lure my enemies to New Orleans while blowing up the Ziggurat? Well, readers, as you may have figured out by now, one of the traditional signs of a psychopath is poor long-term planning. And some people accuse me of being a psychopath. Psychopathic like a fox!
Much like a fox, I found out that Hephaestus had finally gotten up their fat asses while I was eating chicken eggs. Breakfast, to be precise. Not just any breakfast, though. It was a cheap Waffle House breakfast, with cheese eggs, grits, bacon, and a pair of waffles off to the side. Cheap food, crappy, not very nutritional. Delicious, it goes without saying. You know how they say “pick three?” about t-shirts or services? Cheap, good, or fast? When it comes to food, you have a spectrum from “tastes good” on one end to “healthy for you” on the other. The cheap part doesn’t matter too much. You could charge people a hundred dollars to eat a plate of dog shit if you call it something French and act snooty about it.
So there I was, sitting in my booth, nomming on food that was terrible for me. Moai had squeezed into the other side of the table by pushing that seat out of the way, which had greatly inconvenienced the person trying to sit on the other side of the seat. In the end, the old man had decided not to push the issue, perhaps because I was in my armor, save for the helmet I’d removed for eating, and Moai was Moai. Truly, he was a wise man. A little stinky, too. Smelled like cigarettes.
That was where we were when someone opened the door to leave and came back in, spitting and wiping at his eyes. There were always several reasons to act like, from certain news channels all the way to pop stars trying too hard to be edgy. In this case, it was due to sand. I found that out when the pieces of sand ricocheted off the glass windows of the Waffle House and came together in a solid mass that then shot at the windows in a solid stream. It was Quick Sand, the guy I covered in goo back at Newark. While he was busy sandblasting the window, I hopped over the counter and grabbed some drinks. He reformed in time for me to play catch with some coffee.
A couple pots of coffee made most of him plop to the floor in a muddy heap. “What’s that, Quick Sand? You like your coffee with milk?” I hopped on the counter and poured milk out of the jugs onto him. He let out a sound scraping glass and tried to punch me, but his muddy fist broke apart against me. He stumbled back, significantly smaller, trying to hold himself together and crumbling. I slid down off the counter and kicked him between the legs. And between the ribs too. Yeah, he didn’t stay together very well.
At that point, a gorilla entered the fight. I didn’t see much at first. He grabbed the building’s overhang and swung at me, catching me in the face with a balled-up foot and the brass knuckles he wore on it. That sent me spinning back without some of my teeth.
Bye bye, little Gecko teeth. Sniff. I knew you had to leave the nest some day. I’ll miss you!
He jumped on my back and grabbed at my hair with one foot, pulling my head back. My head was swimming a little, but I knew I’d be in trouble if I just stayed there on my knees and let him punch me all day. I had learned very early on that was a poor way to win a fight. Before he could, he was headbutted off me by Moai.
That’s why I love the guy. Statue. Whatever. If I knew he was capable of having sex, I’d have bought him a bushel of prostitutes by now so he could get his rocks off.
After that monumental save, I stumbled over to the table and slipped on my helmet. Instantly, a full 360 view came on for me. I could see that Quick Sand was still down, but the gorilla was back on his feet. He was not the strangest-looking primate I had ever seen, not with all the humans out there. He was lean, dressed in a leather vest, because apparently every badass has to wear leather. He had a chain around his waist and the aforementioned knuckleduster on one foot. His long, partially gray head fur was long and hung on either side of his face. The fur above his lip was unusually thick as well. Almost looked like a mustache. In the middle of his scarred and pockmarked face, he held a cigar in his mouth. It had a yellow band around the base. Banana flavored.
He roared at me, spewing cigar smoke into the air. He jumped up and grabbed the counter, dropkicking Moai to the side, then ran along the counter at me until leaping once more. He turned upside down in midair, feet at the ready, but I’ve never been insecure about taking a lesson from my favorite living minion. Rather than block or dodge, I headbutted him between the legs. “Hoomf!” he grunted as he fell at my feet, his momentum diverted by the force of the blow.
“I could have knocked open your skull with that,” I said as I bent over him. “But it looks like I cracked your nuts instead. You’re obviously not Gorilla Awesome. Who are you supposed to be, ‘Gorilla Eunuch’?”
He rolled over suddenly, whipping his chain belt up and around my throat. I leaned over to take the pressure off and he growled at me, “No, I’m Gorilla Badass.” He then pushed on my chest with both his legs so he could choke me with the chain.
He didn’t learn anything from the last time he had attacked me, though. I knew that in some sports you weren’t supposed to touch the ball with your hand, but I decided that monkey ball wasn’t one of them and brought my fist down. Ok, so he was an ape instead of a monkey. Sure. I just had trouble believing he was one of the great apes.
I grabbed his legs and started swinging him around. He tried to sandbag me, but the armor compensated. I tossed him back out the window prompting some scared woman clutching a child to yelp and run for better cover than the bench by the street.
“Here, choke this for me!” I called as I whipped out a chicken grenade, popped its head off, and threw it after him.
The chicken veered off course and exploded well away from him, which struck me as odd, but the rocking chord accompanying it also seemed odd.
“Huh. Weird. Alright, Moai, let’s bounce.” He nodded and I led the way out the door, bunny hopping out the door.
I was knocked off my stride by another chord ripping threw the air and slamming into me. It cracked against my armor and against Moai, actually chipping a little off him. It came from a woman in tattered, dark clothes. Boots, torn red and black plaid pants, a shirt that had been sewed together out of two different shirts, all topped with a face pale from makeup. She had Asian features and long black hair that she kept up in a pair of pigtails wrapped around round speakers. Presumably that was to help with the guitar she held, which had enough jagged edges on the body that it could have been wielded like a weapon.
To make matters worse, I saw Gorilla Badass was up and limping after us from the other direction. He stopped when she yelled at him, “Take a break, Gorilla. They’re mine now.”
I had to say something. “How about you two fight about it instead of standing any chance at all with teamwork? I’ll even let the victor have a break while they try and find me, how’s that?”
She made a scrunched up face at me, “Thanks, but no thanks. We settled on taking turns.”
I held up my hands, “Whoa, you’re all kinda interesting and all, but why would anyone hire a bunch of idiots who won’t even team up to take me on?”
She scoffed and rolled her eyes, sunlight glinting off the paperclip piercing her eyebrow. “You’re going to stop to criticize the people hunting you at a time like this?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, are you going to hold a question and answer session after I kick your hind end? How do you think I’d feel, knowing I was killed by a bunch of morons?”
“Look, we’re all paid to be part of this group, but only one of us can get the bounty from bringing in your head. Now shut up and die already before anyone else shows up.”
“Fine by me, little miss Harajuku.”
“My name is Motley Sue!” she yelled and began shredding. When I say shred, I mean that it literally shredded the pavement as a shockwave headed toward Moai and I, which seemed really strange considering the speed of sound moved faster than that. Moai and I dove to opposite sides. She kept aiming at me. Sound blast after sound blast followed, even after I hit the stealth, even after I projected more of myself. Hell, she was fighting me with her eyes closed, I saw. Echolo-fucking-cation.
“Free Bird!” I yelled to try and throw her off. I’ve heard that’s the easiest way to annoy a musician.
She snarled, but kept up the barrage of harmful music tearing into the street, sidewalk, and buildings around me.
Of course, she had mistaken fighting me alone with fighting me one-on-one. She couldn’t keep on after me with Moai rolling at her. Instead, she had to aim downward and strum her guitar, a burst of whatever she was does launching her into the air and sending a rolling Moai right at me.
Doubtless she thought she had me when she landed with a smirk. Then she saw me running toward her while Moai rolled me away. “Here’s some free birds for ya!” I called out, giving her a pair of middle fingers.
She nearly got me with a blast, but Moai was paying attention and turned down a side street.
Our fight was over for the day, but it disturbed everyone back at the trailer. They wanted to just go ahead and leave as soon as it got dark. That was a long wait, but finally we were all heading out, with Moai and I hanging out in the trailer to patch ourselves up. I was repairing parts of my armor that took a beating in the recent festivities; he had a can of crack filler quick-dry cement. I had been filling him in on what happened since his capture.
“And that’s another reason I’m glad to have you back. This bunch, the Annihilation Eight, have me a little outnumbered, at least in theory. If you count brains, I have them surrounded. Still, one of these days they’re going to fight me as a group and then we’ll have problems. They did a pretty good number on me back in Newark, even if that was mostly Dr. Typhoon’s power. Hey, whatcha doing? Did someone fall down a well?”
I asked because Moai had started gesturing with his head toward the front of the trailer. Then I figured out what he wanted to tell me. The car was stopped. I threw open the door and stuck my head out to find we were indeed stopped, with Max, Sam, and Holly out of the car and looking at the road. Or, to be more accurate, looking at where the road should have been.
“The fuck is this now?” I asked as I stepped out.
“It’s just gone!” said Sam, throwing her hands up. She was right. The road looked like it had collapsed in a huge sinkhole. We were on the highway heading out of there, at the head of a group that had stopped. Other people were confused and scared. The fellow next to us was on the phone and slipped back into his car. He began to try and turn the car around when we all saw headlights toward us in the other lane. Someone was heading into New Orleans and about to make one hell of a pit stop. A lot of people began to wave their arms and shout. Others flashed their lights. I climbed the trailer and waved the driver on in.
Somehow, his car just flew over the gap like nothing was wrong. The driver looked confused to see all of us but kept going, though a child’s arm waved back at me from the back of the car.
The guy trying to back up his car threw up his hands, then went back to his phone call as he drove straight at the hole, figuring it was an illusion or something. His car fell, traveling a short distance before bouncing off a barrier that briefly lit up to reveal various words in a swirly script I couldn’t read. This barrier disappeared as quickly as it appeared, but showed up again once I tried throwing a rock. There was both a hole and a forcefield of some sort.
We found out on our way to try another road out that people all over the city were reporting the roads all collapsed and a field of some sort keeping them in the city, though people had no problem driving into New Orleans. Even hearing that, we checked as many of them out as we could.
Faustus and Hephaestus had us trapped, but there was good news: they trapped themselves in with me.