“Vegas?” I asked.
“That would be the only Vegas I know of,” replied Max.
“I felt we needed a vacation. I’ve gotten too familiar with what it’s like to be a damsel in distress lately and Holly was starting to crack. I thought I would try my luck with bandits who only have one arm instead of two.”
“Uh huh. What about my stuff?”
“It’s fine. Moai, too. I left your car and the trailer with my sister. I told Moai she was a friend, too. Just remote control it back to you if you’re worried about it.”
I glanced around me. The city of New Orleans was significantly safer than before my captivity. Most of the monsters had been cleaned up either by the police, Faustus, or the newly-arrived National Guard. I hadn’t heard who won the little fight that broke out there between Faustus and Hephaestus, but things were still tense between the groups that I saw in the streets. They were moving out of the streets, though, and back behind the scenes. Everything was slowly going back to normal, with fights moving out of the public eye. Now that the city was opened up again, nobody wanted to risk causing too big a catastrophe.
So it was a pretty good idea for me to skedaddle.
“You know what, I think I’ll head up there and get it.’
“Do you need some directions?”
“Nah, I have a GPS lock on the car, remember?”
“Yeah, right, I remember now. Are you ok?”
“I’m ok. It takes more than a little bit of inhumane treatment to break me. Speaking of breaks, how’s Holly?”
“Better than she was. I heard what happened. Thanks. Don’t ever do that again or I’ll cut you. But thanks.”
“Nothing to thank me for. I’m always happy to break someone’s arm for no reason.”
“No reason? I thought you broke it because you didn’t want her killed.”
“Oh come on, like I don’t want someone hurt.”
“You like her. She’s your friend.”
He got all sing-song then. “You liiiike her. You wanna make baaabies with her!”
“Don’t make me wreck Vegas.”
“Maybe you two can get a quickie wedding here.”
“I’ve always wanted to crucify people outside Caesar’s Palace.”
“Ow!” he said.
“That’s how I roll, bitch. I can kill you with my mind.”
“Not you, Gecko. Sam’s been listening in and just slapped me on the ear.”
“Serves you right. Hit him again, Sam?”
“She said ‘no’.”
“You hit him for her, now hit him for me, Sam.”
“I think we’re going to hang up now. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
“Of all the conversations on all the phones in the world, she had to walk into mine.”
“You’re getting weird again, Gecko. Call me back if you need something.”
I hung up from my helmet and continued my inconspicuous trek through the city, taking on various guises when I figured no one would notice the change. I did need one thing, but not from Max. I still needed a car. I knew of someone I could take one from that nobody would mind. Good thing I had a pretty good idea of where this guy would be on a certain day.
That day was the Fourth of July. Independence Day. The day the Declaration of Independence went to the printers after having been signed a couple days earlier. The national day of fireworks, grilling, flags, and hot wings. Want to know an easy way to rile up a Canadian? Wish them a happy Fourth of July.
Anyway, I walked into the AllWays Lounge to the sound of a collective buttclench of epic proportions. They didn’t have anything special going on, but there were still plenty of people in there with red, white, and blue on. I was surprised to find out how patriotic criminals are on this version of the planet, but then I was the guy who wanted to blow up my old planet at one point. Heck, people in the Cosa Nostra, what y’all know as the Sicilian mafia, even joined the military back in the old World War II days. Even guys who liked to buy their enemies a new pair of cement shoes hated Nazis.
Case in point, the Hitler clone was surrounded by empty tables. The only people helping him down the set of frothing pitchers in front of him were a pair of neo-Nazis in brown uniforms. At least Hitler made an effort of sorts. He had on a Confederate flag shirt that said “Heritage, Not Hate” on the back.
I walked right over, giving Belle a good view of my middle finger as I passed her table. People stayed out of my way as much for the smell coming off my armor as all the other good reasons.
Hitler grabbed the handle of one pitcher. I raised a foot up onto the table, my crotch right there next to his hand. We may have even touched. His hand left that pitcher like it was on fire. “Good lord!” he yelled in surprise and a Southern accent.
“I thought you’d sound more like the movies.” I said.
“I had tutors in German, but I was cloned here,” he said, pointing down at the shirt.
“Huh. What about these two assistant assholes-in-chief?” I waved to the guys seated on either side of him. “What are they, the Third Reich out of Kansas?”
“This is Jeremy, this is Christopher,” he motioned to the two brownshirts with him.
I brought my other foot up and dropped to a crouch on Cloned Hitler’s table. “Hey, I saw a fancy black polished Beetle outside. Has a bumper sticker on it that says, ‘Hitler is the Shit-ler.’ Is that yours by any chance?”
“Ja,” he said, adopting his German accent again.
“Well then, Cloney Boy, it looks like you should have brought brown pants instead of brownshirts.”
“Why?” he asked. The question was moot a moment later as I grabbed his buddies by their necks and lifted them into the air. I tossed them up above me to give me time to grab the pitchers. Those I used to nail them in the balls, shattering them. The pitchers, I mean. Well, the balls too. I assume. I didn’t exactly give them a prostate exam before I pulled Hitler up and slammed him on the table.
“Keys.” I said. Out of my peripheral vision, I noticed muscular men in black shirts come to stiff attention. Not that way, pervs. No one bothered to approach. Good for them. They just helped the two brownshirts who crawled away and left the copy of their idol to his fate.
“What are you doing?!” screamed Hitler.
“I’m jacking your ride. Ain’t you ever heard how bad New Orleans is about crime?”
“I expected this from the negros, but not from-“ Ladies and gentlemen, that’s when I gave him das boot. Right up in his asshole. I used his boot this time. I’d been in my armor since before getting incarcerated in a magic egg. I did Nazi any reason to get Adolf Jr.’s shit on my boots.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” is how the story went for a couple minutes, but I decided to go easy on the crowd and I stuck the boot in his mouth to shut him up. Then I held him down in his chair so we could talk like two civilized mass murderers.
“You done crying, or are you still not used to getting the shaft?” I said as I sat down across from him. Then I held out my hand. “Right, keys, that’s one of the things I came here for.” It was listed on a little checklist on the side of my HUD, along with “Chimichangas,” “Hephaestus,” and “Leah.”
Fumbling around and teary eyed, he finally fished the keys out of his pockets and slid them across to me. “Was that so hard?”
“Ja. It was real hard. I’m not going to shit right for a week.” He reached back to rub at his butt. Hopefully he didn’t reach too far. Just sliding along skin until, surprise!, you’re touching colon. It was probably easier on the sphincter than a normal colonoscopy camera, save for the part where a boot was shoved up his there.
Then again, I’m sure modern medicine would often work better if doctors were allowed to take boots to asses.
As I said, though, that was only one of the reasons I went there. I waved over a waitress. “We’re going to need another pitcher here. A last drink for Adolf here.”
“What?” Cloned Hitler asked. He tried to get his feet under him but got tripped up in his chair and fell over. I got up, grabbed him and his chair, and set him firmly back in it.
“You know, Hitler, old chap, there are some people who everyone hates. Universally. Maybe they fear them too, but in the end, they hate them. They hate them so very much that if they are killed, it’s celebrated. To be fair, in one of those bizarre examples of the crowd being a genius where individuals are morons, they tend to pick people who actually do deserve it.”
“What are you doing this for? Why is no one helping? Help!” cried the artificial Adolph.
“They aren’t helping because you are one of those people. Don’t worry, if it was me about to die, they wouldn’t me help me either. Ah, here’s your drink.” The waitress stopped by and left a pitcher on the table for us. I let him drink as much as he wanted while I explained, “I’m doing this as a gag. Something a little like Andy Kaufman, you might say.”
“This isn’t funny. This is just because I’m a clone of Hitler? I was born this way. I didn’t get a say in how I was brought into the world or who they took the genetic material from. Are you saying it’s right to kill me just for how I look and, and, and because of what the people who raised me taught me to say? Is that any better than my father?”
“Ooooh, sure, throw Godwin’s Law at me why don’t you? You know who else compared people to Hitler? Hitler, that’s who!” He jumped in his seat as I thrust a finger at his nose.
“For Gott’s sake, man, I’m the forgotten vanity project of a Nazi scientist, not the dictator himself! I’m ceremonial, like the Queen of England.” He sweated profusely. It matted his bangs down and left big, dark blotches at his armpits.
“Come on, let’s take a walk. Get you some air and leave all these nice, happy folks a little more ignorant about what’s going to happen. What do you say?”
My hand clamped down on his shoulder was all the answer I needed. I led him outside to a bicycle. A bicycle that had a rocket launcher strapped to the handlebars just above the basket. I stopped the clone in front of it. “Junior, can you tell me what that is?”
He stuttered as he said, “A-an R-R-RPG?”
If I took into consideration the moogles, chocobos, and cactaurs painted on the bike, I could see where he got that idea. ”No, not unless you mean rocket-propelled grenade, and that’s not what this is either. That’s a rocket launcher. Inside is a rocket, but there’s no grenade in sight.”
“What is it for?”
“It’s for America, Adolph. It’s for patriotism. Freedom. The smell of hot wings and hot dogs on a warm summer’s day. The worry over watering a lawn enough and taunting the Middle East about there being water every-fucking-where over here. It’s blood, oil, and fake tits. This July Fourth, I’m giving America a present. I’m going to kill Adolph Hitler, again, with that fucking rocket launcher right there.”
I took my hand off his shoulder. He looked at his shoulder, then up at my helmeted face, then down the street. He looked both ways, then hightailed it across St. Claude Avenue.
“Oooh, it’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood, a wonderful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” I sang to myself as I casually strode over and hefted the launcher. I sighted the clone through the scope, but then I was all like fuck that. I waved my arms in the air like I just didn’t care, arms in this case referring to weaponry. When I fired, the blowback dirtied up my armor a bit, made it slightly hot under the collar, but I had more important things to worry about. I had a rocket to direct.
You didn’t think you saw the last of my remote control rockets, did you? I swerved this puppy around quickly so I could bring it parallel to the street. Hitler was still trying to run for his life down Marigny Street.
I know, you’ve seen it in movies and wondered why they don’t do that. It’s animal instinct. Run directly away from a pursuer. Then again, Marigny was lined with a bunch of cheap little houses all crammed up against one another, so he didn’t have many options
Anyway, Hitler was maced and this night just wasn’t going his way. Maybe he’d get lucky?
Nah. Seeing through a camera mounted on the rocket itself, I directed it right where I wanted it to go. A handy little target area I created earlier. If you think back, you can probably identify when I created the perfect target on him earlier. A nice, wide open hole.
I doubt it helped the rocket glide on in. My view through the camera wasn’t too pleasant either. So Cloned Hitler became a rocket-propelled Nazi. Don’t worry, it only lasted up until he got far enough into the air, a distance my computer said was 500 feet. Then I detonated it, blowing him apart in a patriotic display of red, white, and blue strobing peony.
It was just one of many bright bursts in the sky. Looking up at that lit sky with its fireworks and the death of a resurrected specter of racial hatred, I was aware that some people could read something symbolic into all that. Because instead of anything grand, those events were merely the result of a pissed-off and increasingly pissed-on supervillain stealing a car from a clone. But in the end, maybe that revisionist grandiosity which transforms a murderer with prosthetic parts into the father of a nation is what Independence Day is about. Sure as hell explains celebrating the delivery to the printer.
That’s how I handled the Big Easy. Now take it easy, folks, and don’t go choking on any weenies. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In that case, when life gives you wieners, find some buns to stick them in.