You know, it wasn’t that hard to get the hang of driving in Australia. I don’t know what everybody fusses about. Sure, the numbering system was something new to get used to, but most people don’t understand the pattern to their freeways. Or highways. Motorways. Whatever.
I used my GPS to keep pointing in the right direction and cut through traffic however I needed. The police were even nice enough to give me an escort. Neat cruisers, too, with these strips of checkerboard patterns on the side. I just couldn’t remember, as I was leaving Brisbane, if Australian cops used guns. So I slowed down a bit long enough for one of them to catch up to me. Over the siren, I called out, “Hey, do you guys have guns?!”
He raised his gun, though he didn’t point it at me, and yelled back, “Pull over!”
I shook my head. “Officer, this is all a big misunderstanding! I don’t give a shit!”
Just like that, I pulled my shades down to cover my eyes, gave him the finger, and tossed a rubber chicken in his window. The chicken didn’t make it to the other side of the road. Neither did a lot of people when it exploded. The others chasing me didn’t do too well having to deal with such a sudden and shocking obstacle. They crashed into the wreckage or into each other.
If Carl had been with me, he probably would have been crossing himself or something. I sent him out with Moai to find me some space. I wasn’t planning on staying long, so the hotel wasn’t bad housing. But I planned on getting a whole bunch of animals and improving them. That called for a hell of a lot of room that wouldn’t get easily found out if animals hooted or howled or shit all over the place.
That left me to go alone with my armor to meet a man about a horde. I could have met him about a horse, too. Apparently things get real rural, which seems like a bad idea in a place where even the plants are good at killing people. Found that out, right there in the news. Eucalyptus trees even kill people. Something about dropping branches unexpectedly and exploding if they get too hot.
Someone needs to tell those trees to chill and save it for Isengard. They’re the reason why vegatarianism in Australia technically counts as self defense.
So the guy I needed to see lived more toward the interior of Australia. You know, I don’t mind civilization so much when it provides fun things to blow up. But out there? Not so much a fan of it. It wasn’t hard to find the address I’d been given, though. It was the only human settlement around. Plus, it was a ranch. A ranch with lots of hippity, hoppity kangaroos hippin’ and hoppin’. Hip and hop.
I said a hip hop, hippie to the hippie, the hip, hip a hop, and they don’t stop. Rock it to the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.
What you heard was just a test of the emergency Rapper’s Delight broadcast service. If this had been a real emergency, I’d be rappin’ to the beat. And me, the groove, and my friends would try to move your feet.
The place was big, I know that. Had to be to accommodate that many animals all in one place. The roos were most prominent, but I noticed wombats crawling around too. Dingoes, too. It was like a collection of everything people hate about Australia, except for the Australian Prime Minister. And I hear one of those is still unaccounted for. He’s out there somewhere, stalking through the world’s oceans, ready to nab unsuspecting prey or naughty children who try to swim away from home…
I projected an unarmored front, but I had my gear on. Just in case. Not like I was anywhere near water. Harold Holt couldn’t get me. Probably.
I quickly wondered if I got that water part wrong when I met the man who ran the place. The people feeding the animals directed me to a house at the center of the fenced-in ranch where a lobster man opened the door. Or at least that’s my guess. He could have been part crab or crawfish. Either way, he had lobster claws.
I should clarify something here. There is a condition some people have where their hands and feet split and resemble claws. Some of the people like that got jobs as “lobster people” at old freakshows. That’s not what I meant. These things were just fucking claws. They had a hard shell exterior and everything.
“I understand you’re a man that knows how to get hostile indigenous wildlife,” I said, ignoring a giant spider on the wall of the house.
“I’ve been known to locate certain things from time to time,” he answered back.
“I wonder if you might get me some animals to use in an evil scheme-” I stopped when he poked me in the chest with the claw. Dark brown eyes flicked down over me as they clacked against something that definitely wasn’t flesh and blood.
“You aren’t all you appear to be, mister, and that’s fine. But I care for these animals. I look after them. I used to be involved in schemes, but I retired and do this now. You want to abuse animals you go elsewhere. I’d start with hell first.” He raised his claw up in front of my face and snapped it shut.
I held up both hands, palms toward him. “You’ve got things wrong. My plan is to ship the wildlife to my nemesis. She’s a hero, a real do-gooder. One tough daughter of a bitch, but she wouldn’t even kill me, and I’m a lot worse than any kangaroos or wombats. I’ll pass on the spiders and dingoes, though. Packs of wild dogs and giant arachnids don’t exactly fit with that plan. I want to use cuddly creatures. It’s more evil that way.”
He clasped his chin in one claw and thought about it. After a few seconds, he nodded. “We may do business. I have Tasmanian devils if you want those.”
“I thought those were in Tasmania?”
He waved with a claw to indicate the land around us, “I provide a safe environment for dangerous species from all over the country. People send me the animals they catch as well. I could get back whatever you send to your hero friend if she’s as good as you say. You want to go see the devils?”
I clapped my hands together. “Could I? I love devils. I was once, you know. Rode on a shoulder with a pitchfork and everything.” He and I stepped out of the house and started walking around the porch to toward the rear of the house. “You must need some money if you’re willing to sell to me but are that protective.”
“Food, veterinarians, land, helpers, fencing…” He pointed to the side to illustrate that last point. I looked and saw where a kangaroo and a woman in a white jumpsuit stood opposite each other, each holding a fencing foil. The woman nodded to a nearby judge and put on her mask.
“Huh. You train them in combat,” I said.
The ranch’s owner stared at my head. “You didn’t turn your head.”
When we got around back to find a bunch of Tasmanian devils roughhousing with one another, I had to stop him. “Nope.”
This isn’t the same sort of nope that the Huntsman spiders evoked. It’s just that wombats look like giant rats in a good way. They’re cute and fuzzy, but they can also kill people. Tasmanian devils can kill people too. The problem is that they look like giant rats in a bad way. They have wirey fur and aren’t fuzzy at all. So, in addition to my nope, I added, “These are not the animals we’re looking for. They’re so ugly, somebody might kill them. I’m asking for weaponized dolphins here, and you’re giving me anglerfish.”
The owner walked over to one curious devil and knelt down to scratch behind its ear with his claw. “Aww, they’re not ugly.” Clearly, a swift kangaroo kick to the head compromised this man’s mental faculties some time in the past. Or perhaps it occurred accidentally when he encountered a bad pun or play on words.
The man stood up and glanced over his shoulder at me. “You have money?”
I pulled out a rolled up bundle of cash and held it out for him. He narrowed his eyes as he stared at the cash roll. “What the fuck is this?”
“It’s money. I had some converted to whatever they have here in Australia. France has Frank, so I guess these are called Sheilas? Or maybe Barbies. Like, maybe the smallest denomination are shrimps, and it takes some of them to make a Barbie, hence-”
“You know what I mean!” he pointed at the bundle, then quickly withdrew his claw.
I broke down into laughter that bent me over. “It wasn’t intentional, but when I saw the claws, I knew I had to.”
The reason he was offended? I kept the roll of money held together with a rubber band.
I gave him an idea about the numbers I wanted, preferably if any of the cuddly ones were combat-trained, but we never settled things because I still needed to figure out a place for me to store them. He could have kept them part of the time, but he’d have objected to the upgrades I planned to make.
Nature can always be upgraded. Which sounds a lot like Technolutionary’s way of thinking. The difference is that he thinks of it as some moral imperative to an extent I can tell won’t go over smoothly. Nazi Germany mixed with the Borg kind of kind of not smoothly. As Terry Pratchett once wrote, it isn’t that you have the wrong kind of government. It’s that you have the wrong kind of people. Suddenly, all those implants provide a nifty way to take other people’s minds out of the equation.
It’d make things so much more boring, even though most people suck and probably would be better off if someone else did the thinking for them. That’s why they’re fun to kill on an individual basis, or as collateral damage. But if everyone was like that, I wouldn’t get to have my Venus. She couldn’t be so very exceptional in comparison to the punctured douchebags walking about if both groups were made unthinking automatons.
Though an unthinking automaton version of Venus would be kinda hot.
Anyway, back to pressing events. I left that fellow, who introduced himself simply as Chris, and decided to head back toward Brisbane when Carl refused to answer his phone. Service providers be damned, there’s no reason my head couldn’t get a hold of him.
Or it turns out there was a good reason, if good reasons were shitty. Which, come to think of it, is the usual excuse for when someone has a good reason for why they weren’t able to do something.
“I couldn’t go hiking with you. A badger humped a hole through my knee.”
“Oh, that’s a good reason.” No, it’s a shitty good reason.
A good good reason would be something like “Sorry I couldn’t go hiking. I accidentally walked into a sorority where the sisters were arguing over who gave the best head and insisted I be the judge.”
It’s a hard knock life, being the protagonist of my fantasies.
It’s not so fun being my real life allies or the hotels we’re all staying in. They blew the place up. Fire, smoke, emergency workers…this wasn’t just another of those flashbacks I get.
I spent that night homeless to confound anyone searching through hotels and motels for me, and tried Carl every once in awhile. My suit protected me from the elements and prying eyes while I flung my consciousness into the digital world in search of clues. Emergency services didn’t know anything. Neither did city or state governments, so I went straight to the top.
Network security lags far behind for the majority of users. That’d be a point against Technolutionary’s ideas if I ever find out how he signals and controls the robot people. In this instance, I found memos being passed around between the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Governor-General, and senior members of Parliament about a raid in Brisbane carried out by the Special Power Reactionary Task Force of 2nd Commando Regiment that failed to acquire their prime target, known as PG. They were worried it may have risked their positions politically to have done so much public damage while only succeeding in capturing two lesser targets on the basis of a tip from another superpowered person.
Yeah, they should worry about some blowback. Them and Technolutionary both. He must be stalking me. Next thing I know, I’ll get a love letter written crookedly on a piece of paper about how we can be together now that no one stands between us. Or maybe Venus did this because she misses me and knows that trying to have me assassinated just makes me horny. Then again, maybe it’s…ya know, I forgot just how many people might want me dead until I started down this train of thought.
Anyway, this is why it’s so rare for me to take a vacation. Every time I visit a new place, I wind up in a war with another country. This “kidnapping Carl” shit is getting real old, too. I should put a tracker in a brownie and give it to him as a gift when I get him out of this one.