Inspired by the musical works of Stan Rogers, and intended purely as parody, I present: Obama vs. the Pirates of Wichita.
I need you to understand: we didn’t take the Ronpaul’s marque out of greed, or because we loved his cause. I have met the Ronpaul’s people, but I can’t fathom the mind of a man who would believe in such a rabid font of craziness. No, we took his gold out of necessity. The Abigail Adams is a whaler, and land-whales have been few and runty these last three years, and their oil is thin and impotent.
We voted on it, according to ancient telluritime law. We cast our lots in front of the woodstove: red stick for aye, black stick for nay. Captain Fogarty took the five lots accorded to him by tradition and broke them over his knee, and cast the splinters into the fire. “I’ll do it, damn you, because I don’t see a better way, but I’ll be goddamned if I have to like it.”
None of us liked it, much. Even old Tom Finch, the Abigail’s gunner, didn’t like it, and he had proposed it. Old Tom had grown up down south, in the Texas Empire, and though he didn’t like to speak of it much, we all guessed that he had been a soldier for Mad King George. I could see why he might like to keep it quiet: the terrible scytheplanes of the Texas Air National Guard were the source of half my childhood nightmares. Regardless, Finch claimed that he could fix the Abigail’s guns to shoot something a lot more dangerous than harpoons.
We followed the Ronpaul’s trail for fifteen days, from Joplin to Springfield to Peoria, until we were down to our last drum of corn-whisky, and Abigail’s turbines were smoking hot. We passed the days with tales of the Beltway Lords, and their incessant warring. Barrister was our navigator, and kept the ship’s logs, and he knew every Fed-yarn there ever was. He sang of Lord Gore: how he gained the power to speak the language of beasts by killing the god of werewolves, and how he called the last seven living griffins to him, and harnessed them to a chariot, and flew to the moon. I have been assured that he lives their still, in a city of silver and marble, and that all that dwell there are immortal, but cursed never to know laughter or joy, and there is no music allowed but Air Supply. He sang of Romney Three-faced, the Great Salt Pope, who wields the spiked and golden miter of Moroni and has twelve thousand brides, all fashioned, through surgery and sorcery, to look like Jessica Alba. He sang of fey Kucinich, who loved the queen of Faerie so much that he ceded her the great redwoods of California in which to make her court, and went to dwell there with her, and put up a girdle around the forest so that no man who enters can ever leave. He sang of Dame Hillary, and how she summoned up Old Man Coyote, and tricked him into wearing a manacle on his paw, and refused to release him until he taught her the secret of Skinchanging. The trickster-god denied her until she killed all his seven and seventy mistresses, and cut off his tail, and starved him for forty seven years.
“Is that true?” I asked.
“True enough,” Barrister said. “I was there when she laid siege to New York. The White Queen took the form of an ice wyvern, and tore down the walls of every one of Giuliani’s fortresses. The Thane-Mac-Ferr retreated ten times, and she pursued, until she finally broke her fangs against the great steel doors of Madison Square, the final fortress, and went away with her tail between her legs. And that’s why Iron Giuliani is still Gotham’s king.”
We spotted the Ronpaul’s zeppelin near Skokie, where he was conducting his terrible market. For the Ronpaul may travel unimpeded through every duchy and fiefdom, and buys and sells all manner of goods, and always trades fairly. But everywhere he goes, he is hated, for he will only accept payment in gold or firstborn daughters. We passed into the shadow if his air-ship, and marveled at the snub-nosed tips of his powerful lightning cannons.
The Ronpaul sent a representative to meet us, one of his black-clad Sturmfrunten. Fogarty examined the gilt-edged letter of marque in great detail, while the rest of us stared greedily: even the Sturmfrunten’s coat buttons were made of solid gold. The Ronpaul was in possession of the second largest gold reserves in the world, following only upon the heels of the Elder-Wyrm Thompson, who lay sleeping, his scaled bulk curled around the shattered halls of Fort Knox. He rolled over in his sleep from time to time and shouted angrily for bourbon and chewing tobacco.
“You understand thisss?” the Ronpaul-man hissed through teeth filed to points. “We extend to you protection and supplies, and in return you bring us the head of the man Obama. When the outlaw is dead, each man who survives will be rewarded with their weight in gold.”
“I understand,” Fogarty growled.
The Sturmfrunten’s eye-lenses clicked and whirred in the silence. They say the Ronpaul can see everything his agents see. “Good. This one will accompany you, to ensure that you complete your task.” Fogarty grumbled, but could not object beneath the zeppelin’s foul shadow.
We sailed west, towards Topeka. We were confident, in the beginning: the Abigail was a stout ship, trim and true, and we were doughty men, we whalers of the Flyover Country. We daily braved terrors the civilized world could not dream of: the predations of the wretched carnivorous quick-buffalo herds, the choking sargassum maize, and the constant threat of earthswimming praire sharks. A skilled whaling-ship captain can bring fame and fortune and fat barrels of whale oil to his crew. Poor captains face mutiny and marooning and the dreadful “prairie mercy”: a stiff shot of Napolean brandy and a pistol with only one shot.
For ninety one days we scoured the prairie harbors, and always we were informed that we had just missed him, that the man Obama had departed only yesterday, with a destination that no one could ever recall. It was clear that the outlaw prince had the sympathy of these common people, and we would find no succor here. We grew discouraged, and considered pitching the Sturmfrunten overboard and making for St. Louis, and points east. Then, on the ninety sixth day, as we put out of Wichita, we spotted the dust plume of a fat hover-ship.
It would be another two days until Obama’s ship as in sight. The Audacity of Hope was gravid and low and loose in stays, but she still gave us a merry chase. For a day and a night we pursued him, choking and half-blinded by the dust of his passage. At length, we stood two cables away. The Sturmfrunten – we never did learn his name, if such creatures have them - crouched on the foredeck and spat obscenities as we readied our cracked four pounders. Our guns made an awful din as we pulled aslant of the Audacity. For a moment there, I really thought we would win.
There was a tremendous explosion. The Abigail Adams shook and pitched on her side. With one fat ball the bandits had stolen the fight, and crushed our rigging and spread Captain Fogarty across the deck like a skillet of hash.
I was the second in command. I started to give the order to retreat, and heard two sharp reports. The Sturmfrunten had drawn a pepperbox revolver, and had killed old Tom Finch and taken the wheel from him. “No cutting and running! We take the man Obama, or we die trying.”
You can’t argue with bullets. We limped after Obama, smoking and quaking. The Audacity easily outpaced us, until the Sturmfrunten dropped the lever that poured pure corn-ethanol into the Abigail’s fuel hopper.
“She’ll blow, if we don’t slow down,” I murmured, and got a wad of spittle for a reply.
The Audacity turned, and opened her gun ports. One volley did us in, cracking her air skirt and making shrapnel of her aft turbine and sending her sinking, deflated, to the ground. After that, there was nothing to do but sit and glumly watch the prairie sharks gather.
A cry went up. The Audacity had pulled astern of us, and dropped anchor, and pinned us with her swivel guns. I heard a snap of cording, and a thump, and then the man Obama stood on our deck, still gripping the rope he had swung over on.
We stared. Perhaps it was the fact that he was nine feet tall; perhaps it was his eyes, which were as gentle and compassionate and fierce as a mother bear’s; perhaps it was his armor, each chain link of which had been forged from the smoking remains of the Liberty Bell. Not even the Ronpaul’s man thought to raise a hand against him.
“Bravely fought!” he cried. “Who is your captain?”
We pointed mutely at the corpse and, I swear, I saw a single tear trickle down his face. He wiped it away and I gasped, for I suddenly understood why the Ronpaul wanted him dead; his hand came away gilded with dust, for Obama cries tears of molten gold.
“Bravely fought indeed,” he whispered, and walked among us. The entire time I have been with him, I never saw Obama give a single thought to his own safety. “I am the Prince of Outlaws, and, I am sorry to say, that puts this ship under Bandit Law. Your fuel I will take, for you no longer have need of it, and any loose valuables, but your lives are your own. You may accompany me if you wish, for my band of merry thieves is small as yet, and I always have need of brave women and men. If not, I will leave you alone; we will lend you use of our radio or flares, to signal for help, or we can dispense prairie mercy to those who prefer it.”
We mulled it over: the only ones likely to rescue us this far out were traveling Romnists, and they would only save stranded sailors if they agreed to become one of the Pope’s salt wives. The Sturmfrunten shrieked and quivered and thrust his face up towards Obama. “I would rather die than betray the Ronpaul!”
Obama laid one shovel-sized palm upon the quaking creature’s forehead and, with infinite compassion on his face, brought his fingers together. “Civic responsibility begins with personal responsibility,” he explained, with brains still dripping from his clenched fist.
After that, the vote was unanimous. Obama embraced each man, and called him brother. He shook each of our hands, staring us firmly in the eye, and in this way divined the fiber of our character, and our futures, and our true names, by which we could be bound or commanded. These last two he kept to himself.
The crew of the Audacity of Hope welcomed us with open arms. Time passed. I adjusted easily to my new duties, as did all of us. It was simple, easy work; and while I was said to see the end of the Abigail Adams, I was not unhappy in my new position as command third. The man Obama spoke seldom, which was just as well, for even the simplest utterance from his mouth would cause some among the crew to break into grateful tears. He spent his days alone, in his cabin or standing at the bow and watching the horizon.
On the fifteenth day since our battle the man Obama took me to the side, and pointed at a distant light in the eastern sky. “We have been spotted by my lookouts. They light a beacon to call us home.” The next day we could see the source of the light; a pillar of fire twenty feet high, gripped in an enormous green hand, twice the height of a man.
Barrister gasped, “That... That’s the—“
“The Lady,” Obama agreed. “What little of her we could salvage.”
He turned to us, as we passed beneath the shadows of the two gateposts of Obama’s camp, between the huge green arm and the crowned head, and opened his arms. “Welcome, friends, old and new, to the camp of the Outlaw Prince. Welcome to the last free city in America. Welcome to the last bastion of democracy. Welcome home.”
There was a sign nailed over the gate. I read the word awkwardly, unsure of its meaning.
“Iowa,” I whispered.
It sounded like hope.