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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

Can't Get Good Help Nohow These Days

The Copperhead was lounging in Captain Zip's office chair when they returned from their afternoon run.

He was a long, lanky, raw-boned man with nondescript brown hair graying in patches and wrinkled skin tanned cosmetically orange. He affected a Stetson cowboy hat (black, of course), a leather vest with copper fittings over a blue dress shirt, a string tie in the shape of a copper snake, stonewashed blue jeans, and stiff, shiny cowboy boots. He had small, pale eyes behind tinted glasses, and the worst teeth Megan had seen in years.

His bodyguard, a muscular black woman nearly as tall as Megan, stood nearby, arms crossed. She was dressed in clothing that was clearly put together by some person's Victorian-anthropologist-meets-Hollywood idea of "African savage"-wear, complete with leopard skin, spear, and grass skirt. Judging by her expression, that person was probably the man sitting in Captain Zip's chair. Megan suspected that she'd put her foot down about her hair, which was done in perfectly reasonable braids.

"Weeeeell, Captain," the Copperhead drawled. "Fayncy meetin' you-uh heear."

Captain Zip snarled wordlessly. Megan decided to fade to one side.

Finally, the apoplectic Captain said, "Get outta my chair, you two-bit cowboy wannbe."

"Now, now, Cap'n," Copperhead said, dropping most of his fake drawl. "I'm here to talk business, since you're not answering your voicemail lately."

Megan sidled up to the bodyguard. "Hey," she said out of the corner of her mouth.

"Hey," said the bodyguard.

They watched the two men squabble for a moment. Megan finally said, "Come here often?"

The bodyguard snorted. Megan looked at her sidewise and saw a quirk at the corner of her mouth.

"Should I ask what your sign is?" the bodyguard said after a minute.

"How about, 'I'm not being paid enough for this shit'?"

The bodyguard snorted again. "You're telling me." She had a perfect BBC accent.

"I'm Megan."

"Zenobia the Congo Queen, at your service."

"That's never your real name."

"Well, no, but I'm paid to introduce myself that way."

"Paid enough?"

Zenobia eyed the Copperhead, who was brick-red in the face, tendons in his throat straining, as he bellowed about money that Captain Zip had owed him for several years now. "Probably not," she admitted.

They watched for a while longer. As far as Megan could tell, the Copperhead had loaned Captain Zip a rather large sum of money, apparently to keep up the business and maintain the truck, and possibly to renovate parts of the garage that were falling in. However, the Captain had failed to continue to make the Copperhead's rather exorbitant payments. The Copperhead was proposing an even more exorbitant payment schedule, which mostly consisted of some of the Captain's body parts.

"Why is he making these threats himself?" Megan asked Zenobia. "I mean, I thought mob bosses had mooks to do their dirty work for them."

Zenobia pursed her lips. "I believe that his mooks all told him to shove his 'heap big wampum' up his 'heap big ass'."

Megan facepalmed.

"He takes his theme a little too far," Zenobia added unnecessarily.

"Well, Zip, we'll just see what you have to say," boomed the Copperhead, "to the WRATH of ZENOBIA THE CONGO QUEEN!"

The two men looked over expectantly.

Zenobia the Congo Queen sighed and rattled her spear. "Rar," she said.

"Oh, come on, girl!" the Copperhead said, hands on hips. "I hired you to be scary. You're about as scary as a chipmunk!"

"Chipmunks get to dress better," Megan said.

"You keep a civil tongue in your head, girlie!" he said to Megan with a poisonous glare.

"Look," Megan said with as much of her mother's infuriating reasonableness as she could muster, "let's just talk this through, shall we? You order Zenobia to attack Captain Zip. I may not be his hired bodyguard, but my mother would have my hide if I just walked away. Zenobia, are you para?"

"Me?" Zenobia said. "I should bloody well say not."

"Right," Megan said, cutting off the Copperhead and Captain Zip, who both attempted to say something. "I am, however. Superstrong AND invulnerable. A fight would result in Zenobia getting hurt, my clothes getting ripped, and Mr. Coppertone there getting a black eye as my final word on the subject."

"CopperHEAD," he and the Captain both corrected.

"So I propose that you two gentlemen sit down with a pencil and a calculator," Megan said, moving a chair over to the desk and excavating the Captain's ancient calculator. "You work out some sort of payment plan that doesn't ruin the Captain, but provides the Copperhead with sufficient cash flow to attempt to hire more underemployed people of color to humiliate with racist stereotypes. I'll take Zenobia out for dinner and a drink. Everyone's happy, and no one gets hurt."

The Copperhead and Captain Zip glowered at her, then eyed each other. Finally, the Captain shrugged. "She's the Amazon's daughter."

"Oh, HELL," the Copperhead said, throwing himself into a chair and jabbing the "on" button of the calculator. "Hire a consarned boy next time, will you? Then we'd get a proper throwdown."

Date: 2011-09-30 06:09 pm (UTC)
pheyne: Cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] pheyne
Dinner, drink, & a wardrobe change, poor thing. Were chicken feathers involved? Victorians & their chicken feathers, you know

Date: 2011-09-30 06:54 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I am morally certain that chicken or turkey feathers were involved.

Date: 2012-01-27 06:04 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Definitely not paid enough for that shit.

And can I just say for this and all the previous installments, I *love* the hell out of all the dialogue. Well, and the narration, but the dialogue makes me extra happy.

Date: 2012-01-28 04:39 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you! I enjoy writing dialogue -- I'm glad I've gotten good at it. :)

Date: 2012-02-26 07:09 am (UTC)
sepdet: Samhain worshipping the veggies. Oooommm. (Okay, yes, catnip was involved.) (Default)
From: [personal profile] sepdet
The dialogue is indeed good. I love Megan exploding the bust-up scene by forcing the dudes to sit down and hash things out in a sensible manner rather than waving penes around.

Also, poor Zenobia. I'm waiting to see whether "anything has got to be better than this job" is really true. But she's great, and the convo between her and Megan over their respective employers is priceless. Come to think of it, nearly the only non-para we've met so far, eh?

Date: 2015-01-10 12:22 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just started reading and live the story-lines! I'm happily looking forward to many more chapters. Thanks for starting this!! ^_^

-Jesp

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