At last, I have arrived at Isla Tropica. They had a ceremony and everything. Carl very much enjoyed it when he got off the plane. The archipelago nation loves its tourist industry, so they treated their all their guests to a special welcome.
I got one of my own a little while later when they unloaded my crate from the cargo plane and pulled the side open. I wished they chose a different side. That was the bookshelf side. They knocked a few of them out of place when they lowered it to the ground and found me sitting there in my recliner and smoking jacket. I lowered my copy of “Letters From The Earth” by Mark Twain and looked out at Carl, the dockworkers, the teamsters, and a dozen armed members of Isla Tropica’s military.
I shifted slipper-clad legs around so I’d be able to stand in a hurry and addressed the men with the guns, albeit in the native Spanish of the nation. I expect I’ll do that a lot, so it has been automatically translated for your reading pleasure. Your dirty, ribbed reading pleasure. Who’s a naughty bibliophile? Say it!
Anyway, I told them, “We’re here already? Are you sure you can’t close the wall up and let me find a stopping point?”
Along with violating a basic rule of gun safety by pointing weapons at me, they also fired a warning shot. All at once. Completely wrecked the paneling, but at least it missed my self-portrait on one of the other walls. I memorized my spot and set the book down, then stood up. “Ok. Seeing as I’m technically an alien by a couple definitions of the word, I just want to say that I come in peace and fast-moving vehicles. Lay down plastic on the seats and take me to your leader.”
They marched Carl and me to a nearby technical, our wrists restrained by plastic zip ties. During the short trip, Carl asked me, “Boss, how did you read in there, anyway? The air holes didn’t look big enough.”
“It’s fine, I had Moai hold a lamp.” I nodded back toward the crate. He glanced back, no doubt seeing Moai standing in the corner holding a lamp.
“That cord isn’t plugged in to anything,” Carl said, his tone suggesting it was more of a question.
“Ok,” is all I said.
“Are you going to tell them about Moai?” he asked.
“No, he’ll follow us in case we need it,” I told him.
The soldiers ushered the two of us into the back of the pickup truck with a 50 MM cannon mounted on the back. To the soldiers, I asked, “I hate bring this up, but I didn’t have to use the bathroom until just now.” One of them handed me a beer bottle. I shrugged and grabbed hold of it as we set off on our trip.
Despite the presence of traffic lights, they refused to stop until we got to the presidential palace. I think it had more to do with security concerns than crazy driving habits. Every few minutes, I checked and found Moai riding in the back of various cars behind us.
When we pulled up in front of the palace, the soldier in back knocked the bottle out of my hand with the butt of his rifle, shooting me a look instead of bullets. “I don’t know what the problem is, I told you I had to go. Just be amazed that I managed to crap into a beer bottle. You guys didn’t make it easy. And that’ll wash out of your pant leg.”
They weren’t amused, but they were happy to hand me over to the palace sentries. They took me the rest of the way through the place to a room with a long wooden table and a few extra guards. Only a couple dozen or so. Nothing too big. Oh wait, I didn’t have armor on. I suppose that should have changed my perspective at the time if I’d thought about it.
At the center of the group, a large leatherbound chair swiveled around to reveal… “Friend!” I held out my arms wide as I saw the President sitting there, grinning behind a large cigar.
“Aha, my friend! I had you worried, I know.” He stood up and clapped his hands. The guards lowered their weapons and began filing out of the room. “You have a new friend of your own, eh?”
“Carl, this is the President. President, this is Carl.” I gestured between the two, speaking in English.
“Nice to meet you…uh…President. Sir. Can you translate for me, boss?”
“He understands English. Don’t worry about the name. He’s President for life.”
Carl looked between the President and I. “Why were you worried about the soldiers?”
I pulled a chair out of the table and took a seat. “There could have been a revolution.”
In English, the President added, “Being President For Life is not easy. I am president during vacation and I can never retire. This is not easy on me.”
I pointed over at him, “See? It’s hard out there for a dic- President For Life. Poor guy can’t catch a break. Think about the constant judgment. This man is running for election all the time, and this is an office for life. He can’t afford to lose that election. That’s serious pressure. You know what pressure causes?”
Carl sat as well while venturing a guess. “Hemorrhoids?”
“Impotency, Carl.” I pointed at him, then turned my finger toward the President, “That’s why this man keeps at least a half dozen specialists on retainer to make sure he’s not going impotent.”
“Only five. Lupe fell for an American and went back with him. My foreign policy adviser is a loyalist. He thought I should send men to kill her. I told him, ‘No’ because I knew the United States better. Lupe calls me from the store she works at every week and begs me to come back. Death is too good for her. She and her husband live with his parents. Bahahahaha!” The President laughed heartily. The sound carried me away and I joined in. For lack of anything better to do, Carl shrugged and laughed as well.
We were interrupted by a crashing sound from a window all along the wall to my left. Moai swung through with a line, a large black balaclava on his giant head. I hopped to my feet and pantomimed lowering my hands. “Yo, Moai, it’s ok. The President here is on our side. His opponents can’t afford to change that.”
Though it drew the attention of the guards, there wasn’t a big fuss over the window. If anything, the President told me it would help the local glassblowing economy. He enjoyed meeting Moai as well. He kept asking if he could get samples taken, or if Moai could reproduce somehow. I don’t know if he’s thinking in terms of labor or tourism, but I informed the President that Moai would have to decide on that issue, and Moai’s decision would be backed up by me.
Rather than ask right away, the Pres showed us to a spare suite and gave us a few minutes to freshen up. After all, I still hadn’t changed out of my smoking jacket. He wanted to meet me out back, in the Presidential Gardens, for a walk. That’s when we’d discuss why I showed up and any business I might do while I was around. Most people would have handled that right away, but the President liked to take his time and see to his guests. Even if that involves kidnapping them first.
“Ah, my friend! I have been waiting!” he told me upon my arrival while drinking a multi-colored drink out of a glass that more closely resembled a bowl. He swung his other hand around as he continued his exaggerated gesturing. I noticed his bodyguards calmly duck out of the way every time. As for me, I just didn’t much like to see that gold-gripped, pearl white Desert Eagle pointed at me. It somehow reminded me of fighting the original Gecko. Both times.
The bodyguards spread out and gave us the illusion of privacy as we walked along. The President was curious about what he’d heard happened in the U.S. Most importantly… “Why have you paid me a visit after so long?”
I grinned at him as we walked along, then turned my attention to the bright blooming flowers as I answered. “Things got a bit too serious for me, amigo. I’ve been having some bad encounters lately and I’m worried they might be driving me sane. I need a vacation to find myself again.”
Without missing a beat, the President said, “I know exactly how you feel,” and tossed the glass away.
It shattered as it landed in a bush, accompanied by a yelp of surprise. In a kung fu drunken haze of badassery, the President spun around and fired into the bush three times. The third time, he fell over on his back but was stopped by one of his bodyguards catching him and helping him back to his feet. Others advanced on the bush and pulled out a dead man wearing camouflage and a little listening device.
“Who were you reporting to? Huh? The donkey knows more than you, you son of an ugly, fat mother!” It sounded better in the original Spanish. I walked up and pulled the President away from the man, who had taken three to various parts of the chest, including one nice hole to and through the heart.
“Easy, there, easy. He’s dead. You can’t interrogate him anymore. Not unless we bring him back. The brain’s not damaged, is it? Somebody get me a ladder, some jumper cables, and a lemon!” I started to take the corpse onto my shoulders, but then the President grabbed me.
“No, no. Do not do this. I am drunk and I am tired of assassins.” He pushed the body off my shoulders and waved his guards toward it. While they took care of it, he put his arms around my shoulders and led me off. “By the way, what would the lemon be for?”
I shrugged. “He might’ve needed first aid, and the first ade I ever heard of was lemonade.”
The President shook his head and clucked, showing far more concern at the bad joke than the dead man in his bush. “That was bad. We will both have many opportunities to try better. They are after me every day now. You can not throw a stone without hitting an assassin. That is another reason why I worried about you.”
We stopped under a tree as the moon lazily rose above us. “Now, isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? Who would want to kill a charming fella like you?”
He raised both hands as if to say “I don’t know,” and squeezed the trigger. The bodyguard in the way had ducked, but the guerrilla sneaking up on the gathering hadn’t. The shot caught him in the collar and he dropped. Bodyguards fell on him to make sure that was all he did in the presence of their boss.
“Huh. Ok, that is an unusual population density of assassins. But that may not mean anything unusual,” I mused. The President shot into the palm tree above us. A man dressed in a fuzzy brown suit fell to the ground next to us. “Hmm. Alright, so maybe you’re not overstating things. Can I see something?”
I reached over and grabbed the President’s wrist. I noticed a woman bodyguard scowl underneath her shades. I stuck my tongue out at her, then moved the President’s wrist so it pointed at the moon. “Alright, fire.”
He did at which point, the moon fell down on us. Or, more precisely, a man off a scaffold and through an awning designed to look like the night sky from the ground. “I concede the point,” I told the President.
We moved on to a quieter are of the Gardens. We were pretty confident in our safety, though. I figured that all the other assassins ran off when they noticed the first four get killed. Any remaining were too dumb to be capable of killing us.
“Now that it’s no longer raining men, let me tell you the other reason I’m here. I need this.” I passed the President a note. Instead of telling him to meet me after school or wondering if he thought the scowling bodyguard had a crush on me, it featured a short list of materials I needed to rebuilt my power core.
“This is going to cost you, especially outside the United States.” He gulped, almost appearing sober. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this guy sober.
“Well there was definitely no way I could get a hold of that stuff inside the U.S., was there?”
The President folded the note up and stuck it in his inner coat pocket. “This is going to cost me.”
We began walking again. “I’m sure you could just issue another one of your famous building permits or have someone at your bank move the numbers around.”
“It will cost you a lot, more than money alone,” he told me, glancing at me, his face breaking out into a wide smile. “I have just the heist in mind. But first, let’s do some shots!”
Shots were fun, or at least that’s what we thought. The prisoners weren’t so fond of it. You know what they say: when you swallow the tequila, someone else has to swallow the worm. Or I said that, at least. That’s life for you. Or death, rather.