I’ve taken in the sights here at whatever they call this place. Libersea, I think. Penny mentioned it once when I wasn’t looking. I could only stall for so long because, unlike with the President, I wasn’t here on vacation. I came here to end this little feud between Mr. Gold and the President. Gee, I wonder how I’m going to do that.
They eventually figured out Carl was with me, but they didn’t catch him anywhere sensitive. They didn’t catch him at all; they spotted him heading to my suite. No one stood guard to keep people out of sensitive areas. Apparently I didn’t notice it because Penny brought me straight to my rooms, but Carl informed me there are no public restrooms. He found that out when he really had to go.
The place isn’t exactly overrun with people yet, but they have some shops and restaurants. Even a Burrito Bell. Despite being packed together in places, they each had their own bathrooms. He said it was like a mall that was closing or opening in some places, which made that weird. They all wanted him to buy a minimum before he could use the bathrooms, and almost every place had their own guard. The staff looked pissed, and the food was even pricier, so Carl broke into one of the empty stores and took a whiz there. None of the guards tried to stop him or anything.
They weren’t the mercenaries we’d fought on the cargo ship. I noticed that, too. Those guys had harnesses and better quality of guns. They looked and moved right. It’s something you pick up on when you’ve seen it enough. These guys are using cheaper M4s and AKs, and look like regular guys who are holding guns. Which leads to some dumb situations, like pointing them at people accidentally.
Carl said it didn’t feel right here. I know he didn’t mean the rocking back and forth, because there wasn’t any. “The areas where no one’s at are just dark. No lights. It’s spooky. The workers all look nervous. They tell you anything if you pay. This kid I talked to look like a teenager. He said he came to make his fortune without government regulation and got stuck here. Pawned stuff from his parents to afford the ride out but nothing pays good. There’s no minimum wage and he bought his own cleaning supplies. His rent is too high, too.”
“That hardly explains the nerves,” I mused, sipping on a wineglass full of a good year of Pepsi.
“Sometimes people get mugged by the guards or other workers and there’s no police. You have to hire guards. He’s saving up to get offa here. He said he’s worried about someone mugging him because they do stuff to people who can’t pay rent.”
I raised an eyebrow. I thought I did a nice job. Proper eyebrow-raising has to convey interest, skepticism, and authority. Nonverbal communication can be such a stress sometimes. So I didn’t stay nonverbal. “I bet they throw them overboard.”
Carl shook his head. “He don’t know what they do to them. They disappear. He told me if you really look at the place, it looks bad because a whole bunch of contractors disappeared when they got together to protest. ‘Cept for the ones died when the boss around here told the guards to shoot into the crowd. Anyway, I looked around and he’s right. For an extra hundred, he showed me some of the electrical boxes. Almost everything new leads to closed sections. The stuff underwater, boss.”
“That might be handy to know. You get down there any?” I pulled another case of luggage over and took out my outfit for the big meeting to come.
“Sorry, boss. I found an elevator, but they locked it. You going down there now?” He motioned to the suitcase.
“Nah, gotta get ready. I’ve stalled long enough. It’s about time I go meet Mr. Gold and ease the worries of his life. If you can, see about getting us transport off this high school sociology project.”
Carl raised two fingers. “Two things, boss. The plane’s gone right now.”
“Find us a boat if you have to,” I said with a shrug.
He scowled and lowered one finger. “Second, you wanted to see their science guy.”
I started undressing. “You’ve seen stuff, I’ve seen stuff. This place is dysfunctional. I’ve been in his assistant’s computer system, which means I’ve been up his ass with a magnifying glass. Everything related to his money-making is handled by staff without any day to day input. He had a keen mind in the past, but almost everything he’s done on his own impetus in years is work at this place. You told me how that turned out for him. This is a man who uses money like soldiers use…no, not like soldiers use guns. They can actually be quite thoughtful and find peaceful resolutions. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine anyone signing up with him who could build weapons like what he used on Isla Tropica. He might not even be our guy, but I suspect he just farmed. I don’t know, maybe Hephaestus improved on the old weather controllers.”
As if in perfect timing, Penny knocked on the door. I knew it was her from her tablet’s GPS, which also explains the perfect timing. When I threw open the door, I looked resplendent in a jaguar skin suit. I kept my black bowler hat, showing off a band of tiger fur with a pair of large feline canines attached to the front. I tipped my hat to Penny. “M’lady.”
She gaped at me. Regardless of her stance on conservation, I expect most people would have. I’d say I looked as bad as a Captain Planet villain, but the guy I had in mind only had tiger skin on the trim and lapel of his suit. Plus, the skin looked pink, so I doubt it was real. Regardless, I stepped out and pulled Penny close to me in a hug. “I’m so glad we’ve reached an agreement.”
I felt it’d be funny to loudly sniff her hair and whisper that she smells nice, but I ignored the urge and let go. “Alright, let’s go meet this boss of yours.” I clapped my hands and Moai stepped out, wearing a black suit and shades of his own. “I hope you don’t mind if I bring some protection.”
She blinked, “Whatever you want, Ferdinand.”
She led us to an elevator that looked a bit higher quality than the rest of the spot. “Wow, nicer than the rest of this hunk of junk,” I mentioned as we stepped inside.
“We expect renovations if more people arrive to buy real estate,” she said, not glancing at Moai or myself. Gold’s email, accessible through her tablet, contained an angry email from some militia group at the price of buying a space on Libersea.
“Yeah, good luck with that. What about you, is this where you see yourself ending up?”
That got a laugh. “I’ll never afford to live here. I might die here with all the work I do. Here we are.” She quickly ushered me out to a room that was, by Libersea standards, huge. Mall analogy for the downstairs wasn’t a bad one. The corridors at their widest were maybe eight feet wide. I didn’t get a good look at the layout, but it was big enough to hold a small town’s worth of people and quarters in a couple of stories of old metal. The tower stretched far, but I couldn’t see any magnificent view out the window. Just water and sky.
“This way,” she said, opening a door to the side. Moai and I stepped into the conference room and I took a seat. He made us wait. A power play, supposed to start me off on weak negotiating ground. Maybe it works well in the business world, but we’re not in that world. At least he made it to the meeting five minutes later.
“Hello there! You must be Psycho Gecko. I’m Gold. McIntosh Gold,” he said enthusaistically, holding out his hand for a handshake. “This meeting is a long time coming.”
I stood up and shook his hand. “You’re wanting me to kill the President on Isla Tropica, right?”
He shook his head. “That’s exactly what I want.” He tried to let go of my hand, but I pulled him back.
“And that’s all I needed to know. Now I’m here to take something from you.” I dropped the hologram of my suit, revealing my shiny new armor instead.
The meeting was a long time coming but a short time going. What’d you expect, an epic battle of lasers and explosions? I ended it playing a nice game of golf with him. Sure, I had to smash out the window, but you can’t poison an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
“How’s your eggs feelin’, Goldilocks?” I asked as I swung the severed leg down and hit a ball off Gold’s head. If you’re wondering where I got the ball, you might need to retake human anatomy. Barring certain mistakes in the process of building a human body, humans are born with between two and four balls capable of being hit.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Behind me, Penny screamed. She’d been at it awhile. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”
“You didn’t take up anything relaxing, did you? Golf’s not really my sport, personally. Hard to call it a sport, but people did some sort of technicality wrangling and figured it counted. Some people find it relaxing. You gotta control your stress level. Don’t take things too seriously.” Swing!
“I didn’t kill him for no reason. Granted, he probably wasn’t as big a piece of shit as I imagined him, but the good thing about people is that most of them have done something bad enough to kill them for.”
I tried to see where the ball landed, but then I noticed a sort of wall. Rain. “El Presidente happens to be a good fellow. Or, at least he’s a fellow on my good side. We met at an arms gathering in Switzerland. They call it the Geneva Convention. He’s a bit trigger happy, but I think we bonded over mutual contempt for human life. It’s important to have friends, don’t you think?”
“You have to take a breath sometime. After all, you just got an email about your boss’s investments in that landmine company.” I turned toward her just in time for the ball I hit to smack into the back of my helmet as a strong gust of wind crashed into all of us. Not just rain. Lightning lit up the clouds. “Huh. I’m going down. Moai, elevator.” I walked past the screeching Penny, who turned to watch me as I passed by. Then I stopped, took a step back, and slapped her across the face. That shut her up. Then I threw her over my shoulder and carried her into the elevator. I don’t know why. Sometimes I just do things.
It was on the ride down that she regained her senses. “You can let me down now.”
“Nope,” I said.
“I don’t want to be close to you when the doors open and they shoot you.” She tried to push at my back, as if that would help her escape.
“Really? Perhaps I’d better have a human shield to protect my bullet-proof armor.”
“Let me go you evil bastard!” She started hitting at me. Just then, the elevator dinged and opened up. Four men with guns stood outside, looking at Moai, Penny in my arms, and me in my armor.
I pointed up. “I killed your boss, so he can’t sign your paychecks anymore. I’d find a new job if I were y’all.”
They grumbled and slumped off.
“That’s it?! Guys, help me out!” Penny whined.
I patted her on the butt. “There, there. It’s not your fault. They were just loyal to the almighty dollar.”
Groaning, she asked, “What are you going to do to me?”
“I don’t know. Thinking about kidnapping you. Not for any more kissing or that stuff, that was an act. I was stalling for time.” I stepped out, headed for the landing. “Moai, see about our bags.”
My pet rock bounded off to see to the luggage.
“Why? You killed who you were here for, right?” She tried to adjust her positioning. It’s not the most comfortable way to be kidnapped. Not nearly the worst, though. Not like I showed up on the shores of this place with an army of angry Greeks.
“I got questions. Questions about bank accounts and scientists. You know more about that than that guy up there, and I like you better. I could live with your survival. Yo, Carl!” The last bit wasn’t directed at her. Carl came jogging up, soaked.
“Boss! We aren’t getting off!” He stopped to bend over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
I considered a joke about that directed at Penny, but her earlier bout of screaming indicated a low tolerance jokes about ravishing her. It was a close one, though. I really had to try to hold that in. The setup…
“The boats all crashed,” Carl said when he sucked down some air. “This huge storm came in and it’s wrecking the place. Even if the plane was here, it couldn’t fly in this weather. We’re stranded.”
Dammit. Just my luck, I actually have to tie up my hostage. Of all the inconveniences.