“Ever notice how transporter malfunctions always make more mayhem instead of less?”
The Monkeyboy elder didn’t return my goofy smile. Clearly diplomatic relations were breaking down.
“So, what exactly makes you an ‘elder?’ I thought all the Monkeyboys here were basically copies...”
Barry Goldwater tapped my arm, a subtle hint that the conversation was already over for today. Almost on cue, the obstinate elder and his cadre of duplicate guards bounced briskly out the room. I distinctly heard a scoff as the doors shut; nervously I slipped my negotiating pen back into my pocket protector. Sweet Grouse of Laos!
“What went wrong, Goldy?”
The senator wiped his glasses, sprayed them with Windex, then wiped them again. “You called him a Monkeyboy.”
“Elders prefer to be called ‘Monkeymen.’”
“Now how was I supposed to know that?! They don’t exactly make their internal customs public knowledge!” I spat indignantly. Wringing hands, still-stinging hands, I shuffled past the bust of Pallas perched above my chamber door and spread the curtains. “Nevermore. I say we go back to bombarding the surface world with atomics!”
“Sputniks of Phoenix! Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know. You’ll have the Monkeyboys eating out of your hands like a hungry cat in a fishery in no time.”
“Your enthusiasm is like candy to me,” I whispered, peering over the windowsill. At this altitude the topography of Hacknor looked just like a bumpy globe, but with no clearly marked lines of latitude or longitude. “Bitter, hard candy. Is the elder comfy in his quarters?”
It was a stroke of brilliance on Goldwater’s part to have the negotiations take place aboard his personal dirigible; it’s pretty hard to walk out on peace talks at 20,000 leagues in the air (although my engineering corps still hasn’t released a conclusive report on the limits of Monkeyboy pogo-stick technology). The best part was watching the Zeppelin crash and burn after the talks had completed, a tradition started by German President Paul von Hindenburg.
“I’ve spoken to the royal guards and they threw some banana pudding on me, which is their way of saying they’re happy.”
My nose twitched. “Tell me the truth. When do you think we’ll be able to get our hands on that teleporter?”
“Tough to say,” Goldwater said. “It’s like putting a hungry cat in a maze with cheese at the end.”
“Are we the cat, or are they?”
But Goldwater just looked on. The sky is so tranquil this time of night...
“Then we have a deal.”
Darl’s lips curled. He was, by far, the most-recommended freelance mercenary in these here parts. The sheer number of testimonials on his website is itself a testimonial to his overall greatness; I at first thought him overqualified.
“I still think you might be dangerously underqualified,” I lied, hoping to trick him into working for free. “What proof do you have that you and your band of renegade Novans can reach that teleporter machine? How do I know I’m not just wastin’ my precious time on you and yours?”
“While you were asking that I surgically removed your heart,” he perambulated, holding my still-beating heart up to the heavens. Glossy Gnu of Timbuktu!
“Glossy- I mean, Sweet Vole of Sol! If you can perambulate like that again, we might just win this challenge!” I laughed before collapsing from blood loss.
“...And by the second article of paragraph five, the aforementioned party agrees to cede control of the state legislatures to parliament.”
I buried my face in my muscular arms. The gentle hum of the rear propeller almost made me drift off to sleep, but the disgusting smell of burnt rubber and the constant, incessant hollering by the Monkeyboys kept me as alert as a hungry cat in a dog kennel.
“I’m glad we were able to spend so much time together,” the Monkeyboy elder wept. “Few people have been able to understand Monkeyboy culture as well as you have-”
“Aw, shucks. I’d say it t’weren’t nothin’, but that phrase is probably copyrighted,” I smiled.
“Sir, it’s been an honor to see the seeds of fiscal conservatism take root in the soil of an alien world, among a race of comical man-apes,” Goldwater said as he shook the elder’s hand.
“Yes... he’s made some serious inroads... now, can we get our hands on that teleporter?”
Goldwater ran his hands through his wispy hair, then shook his head back and forth like a rock star. “We never agreed to that.”
“Dryad of Hyderabad! What game are you playing at, Barlow?!” I bellowed. “Pinochle? Yahtzee?!”
“Nuts to that! You sank my battleship!”
“The Monkey Elders and I reached a... compromise.”
I eyed him suspiciously. “What kind of compromise?”
“The Monkeyboys will begin accepting aid from the United States government and begin transitioning to a capitalist economy.”
“How does codling those primitive sub-apes help us get our hands on-”
“The treaty is off,” the Monkeyboy elder (who hadn’t left the room) said, grinding his teeth. “And we’re leaving. Ready the pogo-sticks!”
“Th- my engineering corps will hear of this!” I called half-heartedly as the Monkeyboys stormed out, closing the door unreasonably lightly for someone so offended.
“Sweet Goat Calf of Flagstaff! You’ve just handed Hacknor over to the Soviets!” Goldwater said passionately, shaking his bare knuckles for added effect.
“Bah! You’re still running on a pre-Reagan mindset.” I shoved the old man. “What Soviets?”
“Micro-Soviets! They remade the entire Soviet Union to scale after it fell! They’re almost microscopic by now. And you’ve just given them a vibrant young economy of Monkeyboy go-getters!”
“Yes... or have I?” Looking out over the bough of the dirigible we saw a pack of Monkeyboys gliding gently to the ground on some top-secret pogo-sticks. As we watched, blue light shot up from the surface and splashed over them; seconds later there were a few pogo-sticks falling to the ground, but nobody was riding them. Phantom Pogo-sticks!
“Vulture of Horror! What did you do to those Monkeyboys?”
“I hired Darl the Bloody and his band of Novans to break into the Monkeyboy capital and reset the teleporter,” I admitted. “All the Monkeyboys are now dissipated, thanks to me!”
“Sweet Toucan of Tucson! You just sold your soul for a quick fix. I like that. Come by my office.” He handed me a business card with his 1964 campaign headquarters’ address on it.
“I’ll have to sleep on it,” I lied, tossing the card into the nearest garbage bin. It was on the other side of the room, and I’m sure he must have seen me throw it in because he winced when I spit my gum onto the card prior to disposal.