(The Boat That Goes On Land)
By Chase Verdugo
(discovered by Oren Brimer)
Prepare for a punch to be not pulled. Chase Verdugo never shied from hot-button issues, and with subtlety and nuance, he weaved his opinio-facts into a tale where boats can talk and crime lives on the high seas. At the beginning of his career, Verdugo struggled to find a publisher. Yet, always resilient, he refused to take no, “Hell no!” and “Why would we ever publish this crap?” for an answer. Instead he got creative, as creative writers do, turning to corporate sponsorship to get his novels out to the public.
OREN BRIMER found L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. in the desk drawer of a Carnival® cruise line cabin, right next to the Bible and a brochure for Nicaraguan timeshares.
Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet. Boat fuel painted a refracted spectrum onto the surface of the cool Caribbean water. But the gasoline rainbow only had one to one-and-three-quarters moments to play in the sun before it was dashed by the wake of a matte-black speedboat. A speedboat named L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.
Brick Argus’ sun-bleached shoulder-length hair whipped behind him as his wrap-around polarized Oakley® sunglasses expertly shielded his eyes from the mist and also the UV rays. He adeptly guided the steering wheel of L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., weaving the vessel through the chop like some sort of weaving machine, a loom maybe, set to fast.
“L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., proximity?” Brick asked his boat.
“Thirty-seven meters until contact with the target. The target being drug runners smuggling drugs,” said a robotic voice from ultra-sonic projection speakers.
Brick commanded, “Activate thrusters, initiate high-velocity rudder.”
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. calculated. “Ocean current analytics calculate that we have a ninety-five percent chance of capsize if we hyper-thrust.”
Brick smiled. “I like those odds.”
A small screen in the dashboard crackled awake. “Don’t even think about it, Argus!” said the angry, eye-patched man on the screen.
“Ferce,” Brick spat.
“The eXperimental Yachting Laboratory Organized to Promote Heroism and Operations in Nautical Equality didn’t spend three decades building that boat to have some hotshot destroy it on its first mission.”
“It sounds like the head of X.Y.L.O.P.H.O.N.E. prefers that these drug runners get away.” Brick said defiantly.
“You and I both know that’s hooey,” Ferce cursed. “Don’t turn your rage into stupidity, Argus. I know what you’re going through.”
“How could you? How could you know what it’s like to have amnesia, to not remember anything before a year ago, except for the occasional memory which comes flooding back at the most inopportune times?” Brick foreshadowed.
“Don’t forget who’s in charge here,” Ferce countered. “Me. I am in charge.”
“Well, last I checked, drugs still flow into America nonstop and until our nation’s leaders wake up and enact tough legislation, it’s my job to stop these drug runners the old-fashioned way: with a talking boat.”
Ferce hesitated, then spoke. “You’re right, Argus. You’re a true American—”
The screen blinked off, Brick’s hand on the “screen off” switch.
“Whatever,” said Brick, “Activate thrusters, L-B.” A panel on the aft of the boat slid open and a class-6 jet propulsion hyper-engine slid out smoothly. Brick got a semi. “It’s drug stopping time.”
Blue flame burped out of the jet engine. L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. sliced through the water like a samurai sword through water. Brick’s trained hands conducted a symphony of speed in the key of fast, the drug runners’ cigarette boat growing in size. It wasn’t actually growing in size, but as they got closer, the perspective made it seem like it was getting larger. That could only mean one thing: they were getting closer.
The drug runners’ boat was a shiny white number with chrome detailing to match the white suits and silver guns of the criminals onboard. One fat drug runner drove and the other, skinny, sat on a pile of black duffel bags surely filled with addictive drugs. As L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. neared, the drug runners’ boat screeched to a halt.
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. slowed and Brick eyed the criminals. Beneath their cheaply constructed aviator sunglasses, which lacked even the most basic scratch-resistant coating (standard on every pair of Oakleys®), they wore smiles.
Scientists have concluded that there are five senses: smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch. Brick had a sixth: the sense of danger. A blessing and a curse, the sharp realization that danger had reared its dangerous face could save your life or make you want to take a long nap. Longer than two hours, even. A forever nap.
Brick felt this sixth sense, the danger one, stab him in the gut as two more cigarette boats closed in. They looked dangerous; each piloted by a crew of maniacal gun-toting drug runners and equipped with a machine gun turret ready to clear its throat of lead phlegm. And, unfortunately, the machine guns had just come down with a cold. And they were all out of tissues. Brick, on the other hand, had plenty of tissues, a box of Kleenex® Puffs™ he kept under the dash whenever he needed soft comfort.
Brick steeled himself. “Thanks for coming, gents. Let me slip into something … more comfortable.”
“Like a pair of Champion® sweatpants?” The drug runner called out.
“No,” Brick responded. “Nothing is that comfortable.”
With the whir of servos, L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.’s arsenal presented itself. Two high-capacity sub-structure Gatling guns shot forth from the fore. A liquid fire launcher, complete with indo-destructor fuel cells, erected itself from the stern. Turbo-steel mesh plating clanked all around. Then, a section of the deck slid away, and out rose a laser-guided helix missile rack loaded with ultra-infrared–guided hollow-core warheads.
“Is that a laser-guided helix missile rack loaded with ultra-infrared–guided hollow-core warheads?” the skinny drug runner asked in slack-jawed awe as a cigarette dropped from his mouth.
“Is it?” Brick asked L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.
“It is,” L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. said to Brick.
“It is,” Brick said to the drug runner.
“YAAAAAAAAAH!” The drug runner fired his chrome AK-47 at L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., each bullet ricocheting off the turbo mesh steel plating. The flanking boats tore off, circling, preparing to attack. L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. rotated towards the stationary boat. Two lasers found their home on the fat and skinny drug runners.
“You guys seem like fish out of water.” Brick grunted through gritted teeth. “Let’s fix that.”
Gatling guns whirred a metal storm, replacing the drug runners’ bodies with red Swiss cheese. There was no time to pair the cheese with wine, maybe a Boone’s Farm® Bordeaux or a Chianti depending on what dish followed the cheese (although Boone’s Farm® wines were delicious with any meal). One of the other cigarette boats was approaching fast, the silver-toothed drug runner onboard aiming an RPG straight at L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. He wasn’t only aiming it; he was also shooting it.
The rocket rocketed towards L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., and with aquacatlike reflexes, Brick roared the super-thrust fuel-cell hydro injection engine and turned one hundred and eighty degrees, sending a huge plume of water into the air, knocking the RPG off its path and into the deep.
“Thanks, water,” Brick said.
Facing the oncoming boat, Brick manned the liquid fire launcher and fired fire, a hot melty stream of napalm arcing in an arc of pain towards the boat. The cigarette boat ground to a halt, the napalm landing on the surface of the water in front of it, burning harmlessly.
The silver-toothed drug runner laughed. “What’s the use of a fancy boat that shoots fire that burns on water if you can’t aim? Huh? What’s the use?”
Brick scoffed at the drug runner’s ignorance. Of course he was ignorant. He did drugs. He hit a large red switch.
A muted pop filled the air. Then, silence.
“Is that it?” screamed the drug runner. And then he and the driver laughed. It would be their last. Yet, Brick was the one having the last laugh. And he wasn’t even laughing.
Suddenly, a giant wave rose and freight-trained through the napalm. The wave mixed with the fire-liquid, causing what was once a simple wave of water to transform into a not-so-simple wave of flame.
The drug runners’ cigarettes dropped from their mouths as hellfire charged them like a bull seeing all the kinds of red. Dark red, light red, middle red, and maybe even a pink or two. The criminals were instantly melted. The duffel bags of drugs exploded, releasing a cloud of drug smoke into the air.
“It’s not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean,” Brick whispered to himself and any psychics listening in.
He turned to the final boat, whose occupants stared slack-jawed at the carnage, their cigarettes falling from their mouths. The driver cranked the engine and fled the scene.
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. and Brick gave chase, quickly gaining. The fleeing boat’s motor was no match for the pure power of hyper-jet propulsion.
Brick thought of his amnesia. “I hate my amnesia. I have amazing boat-driving and combat skills, yet I don’t know where, or even how, I got them. Hopefully,” he hoped, “these clouds will part and my memory will return.”
Brick’s thoughts were interrupted by L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.’s digi-voice. “Brick! They are surrendering!” The boat that goes on land was right. The fleeing drug runners’ boat had stopped and their hands were raised to the sky.
“Surrendering, huh?” Brick asked rhetorically. The laser guided helix missile rack loaded with ultra-infrared–guided hollow-core warheads swiveled towards the drug runners. “What about the countless children who have surrendered to the ravages of the drugs you provide?”
“We are just filling a niche created by the failure of your government to crack down on the flow of illegal drugs into your country,” said the drug runner.
“I agree with you there,” Brick responded. “But until the day where our nation’s leaders wake up, which is why we’re paying them with our hard-earned tax dollars, it’s missile time.”
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. gave Brick a status update. “Missiles engaged, ready to fire.”
“I was born ready,” said Brick.
Brick looked up to the drug runners one last time. Something was amiss. There were those smiles again. Their cigarettes were still in their mouths.
A cruise ship flickered into existence, its cloaking shield deactivating. A deck-mounted electromagnetic pulse cannon pointed straight at L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. and a sound cannon straight at Brick. L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. went dark, Brick seconds later.
Single frames raced through Brick’s unconscious mind. A beautiful island. A beautiful island woman. Beautiful island sex. Oh, no. Guns. Guns. More guns. Bullets from those guns. Screams of pain. Screams of rage. Generic screams. The deep roar of a motorcycle engine from the sky.
The zip of a nylon rope around Brick’s wrists truncated his nightmare. “Memories,” Brick thought as his consciousness awakened. His eyes opened to discover that he was tied to a chair in a cruise ship cabin.
The clean lines, the Airsoft™ bed with thousand-thread-count sheets and modern, yet sophisticated décor; it had to be a Carnival® cruise ship. Brick could recognize its elevated luxury and style anywhere. And while the cabin could fit a family of four comfortably or act as a luxurious escape for a solo traveler, two people occupied the room in this instance: Brick and a wiry, leather-skinned man in a lab coat. Brick had seen his file at X.Y.L.O.P.H.O.N.E. H.Q. This was Doctor Death.
“I am Dr. Death,” said Dr. Death.
“I know who you are,” Brick croaked, mouth dry. If only he could reach the complimentary Fiji® water bottle that came standard in every Carnival® room.
“Thank you for delivering the Land Able Neo Destructor-class Boat (with) Optimized Automated Tech, Mr. Argus,” Dr. Death said. “It will be a boon for our drug trade.”
“His name is L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.,” Brick said defensively. “And his loyalty protocols are octo-quadruple encrypted. He’ll never work for you.”
Dr. Death positioned an IV stand above Brick’s head. “I’ve broken the wills of countless men, Mr. Argus. I don’t think a boat will be that difficult. My will-breaking talent is the reason your old friend The Captain hired me.”
Brick stared into Dr. Death’s dead eyes. “I don’t know any The Captain.” Brick turned away, recalling his amnesia. “But then again, I don’t know much of anything, anymore.”
Dr. Death placed an IV bag filled with liquid onto the stand. “Do you know what Chinese water torture is, Mr. Argus?”
“Yes, but I hate to break it to you, Dr. Death—you aren’t Chinese. You’re Korean,” Brick said, calling forth his impeccably accurate ability to discern Asian races. “So this isn’t officially Chinese water torture.”
Dr. Death smiled out of the corner of his mouth. “You’re right. Mr. Argus.” His corner-mouth smile dropped. “I’m also using acid.”
Dr. Death turned the nozzle, and a drop of acid dropped. Brick leaned over and the acid burned into his shoulder, sizzling. Brick gritted his teeth but released no sound.
“Well, that won’t do,” Dr. Death tsked. Dr. Death’s tulle-skinned hands gripped the sides of Brick’s head, keeping it still. The next drop fell towards Brick’s eye.
At the last possible millisecond, Brick tilted his head back and let the acid land in his mouth. He swished it around and spat at Dr. Death’s face. The thin man emitted a fat scream. Brick flung his legs back, kicking Dr. Death into the rich mahogany walls of the perfectly arranged cabin. Brick’s bound hands reached into his boot and retrieved an SPR-422 compact hand spear gun. He quickly calculated trajectory and velocity, as was his way, and fired. The harpoon whizzed through Dr. Death’s eye socket and didn’t stop until it hit brain cavity. Brick scooped his arms under his legs and spat at his bonds, the nylon melting. Brick tore his bonds away like they were acid-melted nylon ropes.
Brick went to the adjoining bathroom and gargled the complimentary Crest® mouthwash. It refreshed him with Winterfresh™ goodness. He loaded another spear into the SPR-418 compact spear gun and left Dr. Death’s face to its melting.
Brick dashed onto the deck and tactically maneuvered past the fun for the whole family Family Fun Time™ Waterslides. He spoke into his wrist communicator, which Dr. Death stupidly forgot to remove. Stupid Dr. Death. “L-B. What’s your status?”
“I electrocuted two gear-monkeys trying to tinker with me, so my electro-shielding works. Hyper-weaponry inactive, self-repair protocol at fifty-three percent, mega-engines functional, but they won’t do me any good where I am.”
“And that would be?”
“Suspended in a lifeboat rig, alongside plenty of lifeboats, enough for everyone on the ship plus backup, as is Carnival®’s way.”
“Of course.” Brick said, already mentally planning his next vacation as he moved through the ship like a one-man SWAT team. “I have a plan. We rig your thermo-induced hyper thruster engine to blow, and when we’re safely off the ship … blamo, we destroy the ship, the drugs, and the bad guys.”
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. processed the statistics of success. “Good plan.”
Brick peeked into the dining hall and immediately changed his mind about the goodness of the plan. Right beside the plentiful buffet of steak, lobster, and chicken fingers for the kids was another buffet. A buffet of problems. And it was all-you-can-eat. Just like the other buffet, which was also all-you-can-eat. There, bound and gagged, sat the cruise ship’s staff and passengers. They were guarded by guards who fingered their guns’ triggers like twelve-year-olds at camp.
“Abort plan,” Brick whispered into his communicator.
“But it’s a statistically perfect plan!”
“Add this variable to the equation, L-B. Hostages.”
“It’s no longer a good plan, Brick.”
“We have to take over the ship,” Brick deduced.
“That’s the only way I know how.”
The guard looked down at the protruding polycarbonate meta-barbed projectile that had just thunked into his chest. He tried to gasp, but instead he fell. The other guard did a double take: one take, then the other, then opened his mouth to produce a warning cry, but no air escaped his throat.
Brick, still reloading his SP-480 compact spear gun, looked up to find a twenty-one-year-old raven beauty strangling the silent guard from behind with zip-tied hands. There was fire in her eyes. Almost as much fire as in Brick’s loins. A sex fire. And that fire was big enough to take out a five-acre swath of unsexed forest. Brick watched in erotic appreciation as the girl waited for the guard’s death rattle.
Brick pulled the spear out of the other guard and cut the girl’s bonds. “Who are you and what happened?”
“Well, I …”
“Make it quick, sister, we don’t have all day,” Brick interrupted.
“We were …”
“There are sure to be more guards on their way. Spit it out,” Brick said, becoming annoyed.
The girl smiled at Brick, enjoying his forcefulness. “Lily Kershaw. My family and I were taking a Carnival® cruise. A perfect vacation for any family, whether you’re on a budget or not.”
Brick nodded in agreement. “Well, you made a great choice. The best, actually.”
She rubbed her raw wrists. “Then these criminals took over the ship.”
Brick eyed Lily from head to toe and then eyed all of her non-head and non-toe parts. “You look like you can take care of yourself. Can you use an SPV-437 compact spear gun?” Brick said as he tossed her his side-spear-arm.
“Of course,” Lily said, catching it.
Brick grabbed the guards’ machine guns and turned to Lily. “Come with me.”
Lily winked at Brick. “Yes, I will, eventually.”
Brick cocked his head quizzically. “What do you mean, ‘eventually’? I need you to come with me now.”
“Right, but ‘come with you.’ You know, it could mean two things, depending on the context.”
“I don’t follow. Are you coming with me now or not?”
“I am. But I’ll also come with you later. In a very different way.”
Ten seconds of silence passed.
Finally, Brick spoke. “So … you’re coming with me now …”
Lily dropped her head. “Yes.”
“Good. We have to act fast. If the guards find out I escaped, they’ll come, quickly and all over the place.”
Lily looked at Brick deadpan. “So you did get the double entendre.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, baby. Never learned French. But time’s a-wastin’ and we don’t want to lose the element of surprise.”
“Surprise is the best weapon,” Lily added.
“Well, it’s the second best,” Brick retorted.
“What’s the first?”
“The best weapon,” Brick said, “is two machine guns.”
Brick and Lily fought upstream through a river of hench towards the boat’s steering room, drug runners falling at the snap, crackle, and pop of Brick’s machine guns and the silent whispers of Lily’s spears. They reached the steering room, a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of blood behind them should they ever want to get back. But there was no going back. Unless back meant forward, into danger.
Brick punched open the door and stepped into the steering room. It was dark. Too dark. Which made it the very definition of dark.
“Bravo, Argus,” said a manhole cover scraping concrete.
A name shot through Brick’s amnesia.
“Grid!” Brick growled.
“I’m happy you could be here to see this historic collaboration: the drug runners and the tech cartel, working together to get drugs into your country. For a healthy profit, of course.”
Lily scowled. “I’m going to spear him like an hors d’oeuvre.”
“Cocktail hour hasn’t started yet, baby,” Brick said, holding his arm out. “I need answers first. About my past.”
“Oh, you’ll get answers, Brick,” Grid seethed. “Gun-answers!”
The lights slammed on, blinding Brick and Lily. But not seeing wasn’t something that ever stopped Brick from firing a gun. He opened dual-fire while Lily snapped spears towards the voice. When their eyes adjusted, they saw a plush chair riddled with holes and spears and a speaker lying on the seat.
Brick squinted at the unoccupied chair. “I may have amnesia, but I know that’s not Grid.”
A voice from behind them scraped, “You’re telling me.”
The butt of a gun slammed against Brick’s temple, shooting sparks, comets, and shooting stars through his corneas. These weren’t the delicious kind you find in every box of iron-fortified Lucky Charms® cereal, but the concussiony kind. Grid appeared behind Lily, a vicious Bowie knife sliding around her neck.
Grid had an expressionist painting of a face, clearly made in the artist’s Ugly Period. Four facial scars created a tic-tac-toe grid, but in this game, the only outcome was ugly. He was ugly. Grid lifted an enormous hand-cannon towards Brick. “Oh, Brick. Will you never learn that I always win?”
“What do you mean, always?” Brick said, quizzically, staring down the nose of the housecat-sized revolver.
“Hahahaha!” Grid ha-ha’d. “You really don’t remember! What do you have, amnesia?”
“Yes. I have amnesia.” Brick said, remembering the words necessary to form the response, but not his past.
Grid harrumphed. “Killing you won’t be nearly as sweet if you don’t remember who I am and what I did …”
“WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DID YOU DO?” Brick roared.
“I think I’ll leave that mystery”—Grid cocked his industrial heater—“a mystery.”
He squeezed the trigger.
A spear snapped into Grid’s foot. Lily had covertly loaded her spear gun and waited for the perfect time to fire it. Which was then. Grid’s shot fired errantly into the ceiling as Brick lunged. With the power of a front-kick, Brick punched Grid, causing the antagonist to fall back and drop his pocket-mortar.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Brick said as he lifted the wrist-breaker, giving it a couple cowboy spins. Brick aimed the handheld-Howitzer at Grid but only found Lily in his sights. Grid was using her as a shield. A shield made of human.
Grid dragged Lily out of the steering room and down the deck. Brick followed, keeping his distance, the really, really big gun trained on Grid. He wouldn’t dare take the shot, for risk of leaving a football-sized hole in one of Lily’s football-sized breasts.
Brick followed them down the starboard side of the Fiesta Deck, with its comfortable lounge chairs and endless supply of Martha Stewart Signature™ towels, and up to a helicopter pad. Brick was impressed. “A helicopter pad,” he thought. “For mid-voyage resupplies, flown-in entertainment, and flying island tours. What hasn’t Carnival® thought of?” Brick refocused on the task at hand: killing Grid with his bare hands then putting those same hands all over Lily’s body.
Grid dragged Lily towards a large, jet-black motorcycle that lay dormant in the middle of the helicopter pad. Brick had been briefed on the Aeronautical Intelligent Robobike Built for Immediate Killing and Extermination. Oscilli-rotor slug cannons framed either side of its spiked front wheel, a laser-guided Mach rail gun shone in the moonlight, and installed between the handlebars was a cyclone sensor hydro-vacuum launcher. It also had a sidecar, for passengers.
Grid sat backwards on the bike, slinging Lily onto the seat in front of him like a sack of hamburger meat. Brick grimaced. He knew she was a prime cut of USDA Choice Angus steak. He wanted to put her in his mouth and taste her juices. But the steak would have to be for desert, because the main course was revenge. And that meal was about to be served. Cold. Like a chef salad or some other cold entrée.
Brick approached. “You got nowhere to go. Except a grave. And I hope you like your graves watery. Because we’re on a boat. Your account has run dry, Grid, and I’m the debt collector.”
“Oh, are you?” Grid retorted.
“Yes,” Brick seethed. “And I don’t take kindly to late payments. And my interest rates? They’ll kill you. And also, so will my guns.”
Grid waited for Brick to finish, then spoke. “Remember that first part, where you said I had nowhere to go?”
“Of course. I may have amnesia, but when it comes to threats, I’m like an elephant. I never forget. To destroy my enemies. With my guns. And I’m still sure that you have nowhere to go.”
“Nowhere to go but up!” Grid turned his head. “A.I.R.B.I.K.E., activate!”
The motorcycle lit up like a Christmas tree plugged into a nuclear power plant. As the weapons whirred awake, an all-too-familiar roar screamed out of the exhaust pipes and straight up Brick’s spine and into his memory.
“Ow! My memory!” Brick said.
Then, the motorcycle spoke. “Ready to engage.”
As the motorcycle lifted into the air, life became slow motion. Lily let out a deep scream, her hands clutching the sides of the motorcycle for dear life as the bike flew farther into the air. A sidewinder missile erupted from the bike towards the cruise ship, exploding into the lower hull and ripping a giant hole into the beautiful curves of the ship. Water rushed in. The cruise ship began a slow descent into the dark blue.
“What a shame,” Brick thought to himself. “This cruise liner could have taken countless families on vacations to the Bahamas, Trinidad, or many other affordable destinations. Fortunately, Carnival® has the largest fleet on the market. And the most advanced.”
Brick’s lamentation was interrupted by the formal introduction of a steel-mesh motorcycle tire going eighty miles an hour to his face. The force sent the back of his head against the immaculately clean deck. And in the case of Deck v. Head, Head was guilty of being softer than Deck. Brick saw airborne motorcycle taillights disappear. Then the stars faded, leaving him in simple black space.
Brick woke up in bed, soft floral sheets a haphazard knot that could only mean one thing: wild, passionate lovemaking. He looked to the thatched roof of his hut, turned, and smiled. There was Dalia. Her naked D-cup breasts lay flat against her chest; they were natural. She blinked herself awake and smiled at Brick. Brick closed his eyes and kissed her, his tongue making its way all the way into her mouth.
When Brick’s eyes opened, he found himself on his fishing boat, mending a net that had been cut by the local youth. They were good kids, but they needed guidance, as their fathers chose to work jobs far less noble than fishing. Unless, of course, you consider drugs fish, which they aren’t. Brick looked to shore to see Dalia waving at him. They played a long-distance game of peek-a-boo; a game that had brought them together before Brick learned her island language. She laughed and blew him a kiss.
Brick woke with a start to the deep, bassy throb of an engine. Brick could aurally identify every boat on the island, and this definitely wasn’t a boat. Brick took his harpoon off the wall—the one he used to fight the great whites that sneaked into his nets—and stepped out of his hut.
Outside, the frogs croaked, the crickets chirped, and the wabu bird let out its soft nighttime lullaby. But no engine. Maybe it had been a dream. Brick turned back to his hut, excited at the prospect of eating a midnight snack, the snack being Dalia. Then the island went silent. The wind stopped whispering, the air grew still, and all the animals fell quiet, even the wabu bird. And you know how wabu birds are.
The vacuum was broken by the hiss of a missile snaking past Brick. It flew directly into the hut and exploded in an explosion of fire and other, smaller explosions. Then, the gunfire began, Dalia’s screams somehow rising above the cacophony. Brick’s mind was blank, his new realities causing a neural traffic jam and bottlenecking his paralyzed psyche.
Out of the fire, a form formed, forming the form of a man riding a motorcycle. It was a man with tic-tac-toe face scars. And he was laughing. It was a guttural, bassy, machine-gun laugh. Much like the engine of the motorcycle he was flying.
“GRID!” Brick screamed as he woke, the cool deck of the cruise ship cradling his face. He rose wincing. If only he has some Tylenol® Extra Strength™, it could help him with his headache and the pain of rediscovered memories. And while the generic brands were cheaper, he just felt better buying a name he trusted: Tylenol®.
Brick remembered his life before X.Y.L.O.P.H.O.N.E. He remembered learning the ways of the sea. He remembered meeting Dalia at the tiki bar where she served drinks and danced the hula. And he remembered all the way back to his arrival on the island, a broken man struggling with amnesia.
“Darn,” Brick cursed. “Double amnesia. I’ve heard about this … somewhere … but where, I can’t remember. Because of the other amnesia.”
It seemed Brick had another mysterious past to uncover. But that could wait. Brick had a hankering for a game of tic-tac-toe, but he had never learned the game’s rules. He only knew the rules of war. And there was only one rule: kill and destroy. And also, noncombatants should be protected for any unnecessary suffering, as per the Geneva Convention.
Brick dashed along the top deck, looking down the port side. He found L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.
“L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.!” Brick shouted.
“Brick! My Aura-sonic multisensor is picking up A.I.R.B.I.K.E. to the west.”
“Are you repaired?” Brick asked.
“One hundred percent functionality, Brick.”
Brick leapt off the deck, landing in the driver’s seat. The impact broke the tethers holding L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., dropping them into the water. Brick gritted his teeth. “Well, let’s make it one hundred and ten percent, L-B. We have a flying motorcycle to catch.”
With a roar, L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. pounced through the water at breakneck knots. Much like the delicious and refreshing cranberry juice of the same name, the cold ocean spray snapped Brick into laser-focus. He looked back and saw all the hostages safely on the lifeboats as the cruise ship sank deeper into the water. They must have freed themselves. That was fortunate.
The Eastern horizon lightened as L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. neared A.I.R.B.I.K.E. Grid grimaced at the Land Able Neo Destructor-class Boat (with) Optimized Automated Tech and rained depth charge after depth charge down into the ocean. Brick grabbed the steering wheel and swung it to the right, causing L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. to stop on a water-dime. One second later and ten feet ahead of them, a plume of water spiked up.
“That was close,” Brick said, his voice deep with adrenaline, “but not close enough to hurt us, which is good.”
Brick snaked L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. through the water, avoiding the depth charges.
“Arm laser-guided helix missile rack load with ultra-infrared–guided hollow-core warheads!” Brick ordered.
“L.G.H.M.R.L.W.U.I.G.H.C.W. armed,” L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. responded.
“Aim them at a point which will stop the bike, yet fling Lily off safely.”
Lily called from the seat of A.I.R.B.I.K.E. “I trust you, Brick!”
“I don’t care!” Brick called out. “Fire!”
Two rockets leapt from the missile launcher. Like thoroughbreds, they vied for lead position in the race to the explosion-line. A rain of flares shot from beneath A.I.R.B.I.K.E., confusing the rockets like thoroughbreds that just saw the first-place horse explode at the explosion-line. The rockets slammed into each other, exploding harmlessly, except for maybe some birds or flying bugs in the area.
Brick perused his mental catalogue of weaponry. “Arm water pulse barrage cannon!”
With a whir and a click, a gun rose from the aft. It was a like a Hasbro® Super Soaker™ that was somehow given a circulatory system, injected with steroids, then turned back into a gun without a circulatory system.
“Set PSI to one million,” Brick said. “Let’s drown this bird.”
The water that L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. rode on dropped away, its mass sucked into the cannon and fired into the sky. As the jet of seawater neared the flying motorcycle, it dispersed into millions of tiny droplets.
Grid shouted down to Brick, now directly below him. “How do you like my hyper-tronic wind disrupter, Argus?”
Brick scoffed. “I know how much you blow, Talon. But I never knew how hard.”
The insult stung Grid, who growled over the collective roars of the two ultra-vehicles’ engines. “How did you like it when I killed your wife, Argus?”
Lily’s eyes widened. She shouted down to Brick. “You had a wife?”
“I did,” Brick shouted back. “She was the love of my life. And Grid killed her. I will never love again until I have my revenge.”
Brick was interrupted by Grid. “I guess that means you’ll never love again. Or breathe!” Grid slammed a large red button on A.I.R.B.I.K.E.’s dash. The sidecar disengaged.
Brick looked up, curious. “Why would he drop his sidecar?”
“That’s not a sidecar,” L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. said, a semblance of fear in his robotic voice. “That’s a sidecar-sized bomb!!!!!”
Lily’s jaw went slack, the cigarette dropping from her mouth. “NOOOOOOOOoooooo!” she wailed.
Brick reached under his seat and retrieved the harpoon he brought with him wherever he went. With the strength of an American Gladiator, he hucked it at the bomb. The harpoon met the bomb, piercing through the thick metal shell and poking the warhead inside. The bomb exploded midair, the blast blasting A.I.R.B.I.K.E. forward, upside-down, and over.
Lily flew from the aeromotorcycle and plunged into the ocean. She rose for air and was immediately plucked from the salty water and onto the deck of L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. Brick’s hands were around her. He kissed her face.
“I thought you could never love again,” she protested.
Brick looked into her eyes. “My love was extinguished years ago by a bucket of liquid death. And bullets. And a missile. But this isn’t love. This is survival.”
She swooned into Brick’s arms, which glistened from the ocean spray (once again, not to be confused with the delicious beverages from Ocean Spray®. Did you know that cranberry juice is great for urinary infections?). Brick laid her down and manned the helm once again. He lowered his sleek, Oakley® wraparounds with their one-year warranty over his eyes and locked onto the now-smoking A.I.R.B.I.K.E. which careened towards a seaside road. When the flight bike’s wheels met the earth, Brick’s face dropped.
“Damn! Land!” Brick exclaimed, smashing his hand against the metal steering wheel.
“Brick,” said L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.
“Yeah?” Brick asked.
“They don’t call me L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. for nothing,” said L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.’s jet engine spat fire like a dragon with an engine and blasted towards land. A.I.R.B.I.K.E. puttered down the seaside road.
Then, with the ferocity of a lion and the rage of a bull, L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. went on land.
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.’s glimmering black hull knocked Grid from his seat. A.I.R.B.I.K.E. toppled and fell, the sand etching its name into the motorcycle’s paint job. Brick deboated L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T., grabbed Grid by his greasy hair, and dragged him to the ocean.
Grid screamed, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do it!”
Brick spoke calmly, the surf churning around them. “You should know that no amount of land can stop me or my boat. My boat that goes on land.” Brick brought his face close to Grid’s. “Did you know the human body is made up of seventy percent water?”
Grid shuddered in the surf. “It wasn’t me! I was being controlled!”
Brick ignored Grid. “Let’s see what happens when that percentage becomes one hundred.”
Brick extended his arms, submerging Grid’s game board face into the brine. Grid clawed at Brick futilely. Brick’s unblinking eyes refused to close until the eyes of his enemy did. After two minutes, Brick blinked.
Brick walked ashore and into Lily’s arms. “It’s over,” he whispered. They kissed passionately, with tongues and everything.
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha,” a robotic voice chimed.
Brick turned to see A.I.R.B.I.K.E. upright, lights glowing. “Glad to see you have your memory back, Argus,” it croaked in monotone. “Thank you for disposing of my puppet. He was growing tiresome. I like your new girl. I can’t wait to kill her too.”
Brick’s eyes widened. Grid was telling the truth. It had been A.I.R.B.I.K.E. all along. Brick screamed, “L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. FIRE!”
A.I.R.B.I.K.E. rose vertically, evading the stream of bullets. Its guttural engine rumbled its staccato laugh. “HA. HA. HA. HA. HA.”
Brick embraced Lily as they watched A.I.R.B.I.K.E. disappear. “It looks like I have a new enemy to destroy. And a more distant past to uncover.”
Lily joined his stare into the sunrise. “Since you killed Grid, does that mean that you can love again? Or does the fact that your true nemesis is that flying motorcycle mean that you still can’t love?”
“Yes … one of those,” Brick said.
They embraced, falling to the sand. Brick looked to L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. “You may want to turn off your high-compression ultra-infrared sensors, L-B.”
L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T. chirped quizzically, “Why would I? … Oh, gotcha.” The boat’s lights dimmed.
As Brick and Lily embarked on a naval voyage of passion, the spray from the surf rose up to the sky where the rising sun caught it just right, creating an arc of glorious color: Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.
Just like in the beginning.
Oren Brimer is a writer, director, and comedian. He has produced field segments for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and directs/co-writes CollegeHumor’s popular Dark Knight parody series, Badman. Currently, he is a supervising producer on the forthcoming Conan companion show starring Pete Holmes, which will premiere on TBS this fall. “L.A.N.D.B.O.A.T.” is his first published short story.