The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led

We figured that it would be wise to give the Road Runners the right of first refusal on our Wyo attack scheme, which I have codenamed Operation Destiny’s Child – Bootylicious.  As the people who are extorting/supposed to be keeping the valleyites safe from the Invincible, the Roadrunners haven’t been happy about . . . well, pretty much everything Martialla and I have been doing since we got here.  And yet despite that deep unhappiness they haven’t tried to kill us even once, which is probably why they suck at their job.  Their incompetence notwithstanding, it seems prudent to try and get them on our side.   

Being nomadic predatory miscreants that need to stay on the move, the Road Runners have no settlements or gathering places we could go chat with them.  So instead we spent a few days driving around the stretch of the shitty roads they “control” trying to bump into them.  It was like when you get a good haircut and you stop by the coffee shop you know your ex goes to on the way to work.  Oh, funny running into you here, yes I am doing something different with my hair, do you like it? 

It was nice to be back in J-Lo (phrasing) after all the time we’ve spent flying around lately.  I understand that objectively and logically, we’re much safer in the sky than we are on the ground since there appear to be no other aircraft in operation nor have we seen any pterodactyls, sky squids, flying killer whales, smog sharks, carnivorous clouds, or any other manner of aerial menace while there is all kind of stuff on the ground that can and will kill us.  Despite those facts, I just don’t feel comfortable up there.   

Maybe it’s because Martialla is the only one who can pilot the thing.  She drops dead and that thing is going down, nothing I can do about it.  Maybe it’s because the plane itself is a rickety piece of crap that could fall out of the sky at any moment even with a pilot.  Maybe it’s because Paul is always lurking behind me being an insane psycho-sexual manchild with a Jason Voorhees machete and the same charm as Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy.  Maybe it’s because humans are meant to be on the ground.  Whatever the case is, I feel much safer cocooned in J-Lo’s armored bosom than flying through the air in bloody defiance of god and gravity.   

Eventually we did pass/get passed by a truck and a couple of buggy-trike-bikes with stupid birds painted on them and swung around to get their attention.  We did so by ramming the truck from behind, but you know, in a friendly way.  Tap-tap-taparoo.  In response the Roadrunners threw a couple shots at us of course, but that’s to be expected, standard wasteland etiquette.  Jo-L can take a hit, whereas I’m pretty sure that plane would explode if Martialla pinged it with her forearm slingshot thingee.  Anyway, after the desultory (is that a word?) hello shooting we all got stopped and not killing each other.  I explained to the head Road Runner, who ironically has giant Wiley Coyote feet, that we needed to talk to head birdbrain about a major upcoming venture.   

In response to this, Bigfoot did the only thing he could do in the situation and challenged us to a race.  J-Lo smoked their garbage scow on wheels but afterwards I regretted agreeing to the demand.  When someone is being stupid you shouldn’t get down in the muck with them, you should call them stupid to their face and tell them no.  It’s like when a dude at a party bets you they can eat all the cigarette butts in the ashtray.  Just don’t engage.   Instead of thinking to myself “oh, we can win this easily so it’s fine” I should have thought “this moron is willing to risk something this important on the outcome a race?”  That one was my bad.   

Now, Martialla opined that maybe Big Bird suggested the race knowing that we would win as a gambit – a way for him to ingratiate us with his scumbag crew.  Such as, if he just said “sure” to our request his scabby minions might resent us for bossing them around as outsiders, but by showing off our sweet wheels and “winning” their respect instead, they would think that we were a valuable addition to their team.  Possible, but I think she’s giving him way too much credit.   

Regardless, because we won the race we joined up with that group until we ran into another glob of Roadrunners and were passed along from glob to glob until we ended up at the crossroads of what’s left of interstates Eighty and Five.  There we were joined by a slightly bigger band of yahoos with better equipment – the lead yahoo tooling around in a car a lot like J-Lo with better (or worse since it allows more fire at your vulnerable face meat) vision slits and a mounted machine gun.  The person that got out was short even by apocalypse standards and was wrinkled like a shaved Shar Pei with a Frankenstein neck and a huge upper lip that I swear to you went down over his chin when his mouth was closed.   

I told Frank the same thing I told Birdie and all the other leaders down the chain of command.  He did the only logical thing he could based on this information, he challenged us to a race.  See, this is what I mean, once you start down the path of stupidity it becomes a lot harder to get off than if you never started down it in the first place.  It’s like a waterslide.  A waterslide of morons.  I told him that we were putting together a raiding party to attack Wyo, he could come or not.  His response (I think, he was pretty hard to understand) was that we had to earn his respect if we wanted his endorsement.  I was about say that I didn’t care enough to waste our time but Martialla made a good point “We’re already here, why not?”  Solid argument.   

First thing Frank did was cut us off at the starting line and with a bone-rattling ram to the front left panel got out to an early lead.  I don’t know why, but that whack rattled my bones even more than the times people have literally tried to blow J-Lo up.  This gave Frank a good head start but J-Lo was faster.  He tried to box me out but I’m not such a bad driver myself.  I know a few maneuvers.  Once we got in front he started firing with the machine gun, so I guess in his terms a “race” also includes attempted murder.  I should have expected that I suppose.  The sound of automatic fire bouncing off J-Lo’s armor is maddening.  We need some kind of noise suppression in here is what we need.  Some of that soundproofing foam or something. 

All his shooting did was waste a bunch of ammunition and make my ears ring like crazy, we won the race handily.  When it was over, he hopped out of his car and came over to say something and I grabbed his arm and took off again, back towards the crossroad where this all started.  Not the most mature thing I’ve ever done, but I was pissed that he was trying to fucking shoot us in a stupid race.  I almost lost hold of him right away, he was much heavier than I thought he would be, but I managed to keep a grip on him.  For his part, he also managed to fold up and not get dragged much, but when I let go he took a good tumble.  Which you have to expect when you’re going forty miles per hour.   

He lay unmoving long enough that I thought I had killed him, but eventually I saw his fingers twitch.  No one in his crew seemed to care much that I had done that.  Leadership roles are tough here in the future.  I mean present.  Whatever. 

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