It goes without saying that I had to tie up a few loose ends. Our journey back didn’t take as long, if anyone’s wondering. Fortune Cookie and I took the snowmobiles back up until we found Moai, who caught a ride on the rental truck. Without the inexplicable aging effects of the temporal phenomena related to the now-averted disaster, we could ignore all those long words and just drive back.
Cookie relaxed quite a bit as we sighted Targu. She dropped her shoulders and rolled them over in the driver’s seat. She wanted to drive the way back, and insisted I sit in the passenger seat instead of anywhere behind her. I suspect she’d grown uncomfortable around me over the course of our trip, especially the part where I killed someone outside of self defense. Like with Mobian, she didn’t seem comfortable with the necessity of the action.
Clearly, she’s never worked a service job. Now, before y’all go calling me a hypocrite, remember two things: it’s not hypocrisy when I do it, and, technically speaking, being a hitman is a service job. And yes, it takes a special kind of idiot to complain about that service. Before y’all ask, yes, I’ve encountered some people like that. Fewer of them around than there used to be.
Speaking of that particular service, Cookie asked me about it. “Are you going to kill that man as you promised?”
I made a show of glancing over from my reclined seat. I’d kept my armor on, as usual, so I affected the gesture in deference to her. “He gonna die!” I said, putting aside the program compiling on my HUD. “Why? You want to watch? No, wait, you don’t want to watch. Otherwise, you’d have peeped into the future and watched it happen, wouldn’t you? How’s your hindsight? Fifty-fifty, or twenty-twenty? Five by five?”
“My vision is fine. Time doesn’t stop anymore, but you’re right. I don’t want to watch you kill more people. Do not try to tell me that’s a bad thing.”
I scooted over into her lap, putting my arms around her shoulders. “There there, puddin’. It’ll be ok. I won’t kill anyone else in front of you.” I turned to look out the windshield as she made a valiant effort to control the truck. “Hey, is that a hitchhiker?” I grabbed the wheel and gave it a small turn toward the side of the road.
There weren’t any hitchhikers, but Cookie grabbed the wheel anyway to keep us from kissing a tree. “Stop that! Get off me.”
Sad that she added the “me” to the end of that sentence, I moved back over to my side of the cab. “Fine, party pooper. So, anyway, about that ability to see the future…”
She stiffened up. She shook her head. “It’s a responsibility and a valuable gift. I don’t know what you want it for, but it can’t be good.”
“I believe it will be. It involves something I saw in one of those timeshifts that could be pretty important. You might want to know about it just because it’s interesting.”
Cookie kept one hand on the wheel, the other going to adjust her hair, then her coat, subtly edging toward her recovered pistol. It wouldn’t do her a whole lot of good with my in my armor, but I began to suspect by her body language that our intercourse was making her uncomfortable. If she didn’t have anything of value to me, I’d point out the uselessness of the weapon.
“It’s when I got sick. Thanks for your help there, by the way. I got a virus. Nothing communicable to you in case you had that on your mind. If you do, it’ll take a hell of a lot more talking to get something from the hot dog cart.” I pretended to peer out the window at the boring wilderness outside. Trees. Shrubs. Dirt. Natural light. Horrible place. “In trying to figure out what happened, I traced the virus back to an alien invasion fleet that had recently attacked Empyreal City. Why an advanced space-faring civilization would feel the need to conquer not just Earth but a part of Earth remains a mystery. But I won’t get the chance to find out because I am going to have died in the future. People who don’t like me would probably enjoy that bit.”
“I’m…sorry.” Cookie didn’t sound sympathetic.
I held up my hands. “Please, please, save your tears. Wouldn’t want you to die of dehydration over me.Besides, knowing it’s going to happen is a bit of a confidence booster. I know nothing gets me before then.”
“Actually…” she started. “The aliens could show up no matter what you do, but you might not be there. I’ve seen something like that happen before. Don’t take it for granted.”
That made sense. I should have remembered that bit from my own experience. I really should have remembered that. Then again, I’d been shot in the brain and emerged in a murderous rampage, so I guess I should allow myself a bit of slack.
It’s rather difficult to think about anything other than how to kill people in the middle of such a rampage. After all, if you could think of anything else, it’d be a murderous but somewhat contemplative rampage. “I’m going to rip your teeth out through your navel, but have you ever considered what the Dao De Jing says about the pursuit of knowledge? Long story short, you’re not going to need that brain I’m going to kick out of your face.”
“Well, thank you for destroying my peace of mind. Why can’t people ever let other people live with a comforting fantasy? Oh, wait, that’s right. Believing in said fantasy could cause me to take actions that directly result in my death.” Fake hysterics finished, I lowered my voice. “If you want to drop me off back where Moai and I stayed, that’d be fine. I’m sure you’re eager to get as far away as possible. You know, in case you wanted to let me know when that invasion happens by phone instead.”
As tense as our parting was, Mobian didn’t even show up to say bye. Some people really aren’t team players.
Thus began my stalking of a Romanian politician. Accuse me of being sentimental, why don’t you? I figured I owed it to my prior victim to kill the person that ruined his life. Pissed as I was when I took out the guy in the tower, I never caught his name. At least I got his kid’s name, as well as his grandkid. Plus, turns out Romanian parliament members, or PMs, don’t get into car accidents every day. I mean, they’re not like the Russians, after all. Though, of course, they issued a statement condemning the recent Neo-Mongolian invasion.
He was one of the younger ones. Not from money or anything, though I may be judging him according to the American ones I’ve been exposed to. Unfortunate incident in an airport men’s room once with a Congressman from Alaska. Fellow had an accident, things got covered up, and then his constituents began complaining about him changing votes and hanging them out to dry.
If it hadn’t been for the conspiracy, I think I’d have found a way to kill him that didn’t involve talking to him. I was busy, after all. I needed to figure out where I was going next. Options are somewhat limited with my translation program FUBAR. For those who don’t know, that stands for Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. So off Moai and I went to Bucharest.
I picked him up in a taxi just outside the Parliamentary place. Well, Moai picked him up. I was the obnoxious guy who tried to cut in ahead of the PM and steal his cab. “That’s mine!” he said indignantly at who he thought was just another guy in a suit with a laptop case. That’s because this time I didn’t have my armor. It had needed cleaning and airing out.
He head of brown hair with bangs that swept to the side. Handsome enough face, except for a slightly thick nose and a mole by his lip the same color as the rest of his skin. He wore a suit and an annoyed expression that marred his face.
“Can we share? I’m late for my meeting with the American ambassador.” I smiled at him. Namedropping couldn’t hurt.
He adjusted his coat and said, “Yes, fine, but don’t leave without paying.”
I held the door open for him as he got in. Poor fellow. I fully intended to stiff him. When I slid in after him, I noticed him gaping at our driver, a large statue wearing a turban and sunglasses. I shook my head and buckled up. “Way to look racist, Moai. Now, let’s get our friend here to a nice secluded location for a little talk.” I glanced at the PM and gave him a winning smile.
“Fuck that!” He reached for the door and tried to open it. I pointed to Moai, who saw us in the mirror and hit the hydraulics. I expected it and wore my belt. He didn’t and…uh…didn’t. After bouncing his head off the ceiling a few times, he settled down enough for me to strap him down. For his own safety, of course. If he ran off too soon, I might just have to kill him and get it over with. I didn’t want to resort to that. It wouldn’t be fun. I had ideas in mind, starting with handing him a bottle of teriyaki glaze and telling him to put the lotion on his skin or else he gets concussed again.
I took him alive to ascertain if a conspiracy existed. I wouldn’t have considered it except for the change in his voting patterns. If there’s even a chance I get to kill more people in this country, I’d like to take it.
Extracting the information proved boring, however. I sat down across a table from him in a darkened room and gave him my least homicidal smile. I slid a sandwich across to him. “Now, you’re in a bit of trouble, but it’s not the end of the world. It almost was, though that’s been averted. All we’re doing now is filling in some blanks in what we know. Come on, help me out, and we’ll get you out of here in a hurry.”
I felt reasonably assured of his truthfulness when he gave me the story of a sad accident on a wet road with a couple drinks in him that allowed his political enemies to help him out for a price. I know, right? It’s so very disappointing.
He made a much better headline. “PM assaulted by horse dildo attached to passenger train while lubed, tied to tracks on all fours.”
Sometimes, being a bad guy is not about money… it’s about sending a message: everybody’s fucked. Hard. So buy new Double Cross brand lubricant.
Double Cross Lubricant: anything, anywhere.