November 27, 1973 – The Old Man and the Sea Creature

Even in the not so nice parts of Madripoor, there are some good beachside cafes.  I didn’t catch the name of the place we were at but they were bringing me buckets of chili crab and Golden Cadillacs on an endless loop so I was in heaven.  Human heaven not hog heaven.  I never understood that expression.  Wouldn’t hog heaven just be mud?  And, even better, for once I was not the one looking shabby and blood-spattered.   My clothing was a little worse for wear but I was freshly showered and free of any dust or dirt.  What they don’t tell you about crashing through walls and wrecking buildings with super-strength is how much white powder it throws into the air.  And not the good kind.  I swear, you throw one person through one wall and you look like you fell into a giant bag of flour. 

US Patriot Commando Eagleman, on the other hand, looked like he had been run over by a truck.  Which he may have been.  There was a lot of commotion inside that warehouse, even beside the gunshots – which were plentiful – there was all manner of loud noise that I could hear from across the street.  Sounded like he got himself into quite a fracas in there.  Good thing he’s a highly trained deliverer of cruel justice.  Even so, one side of his head looked like it was a giant prune it was so bruised, and he was limping pretty badly when we walked over here as well.  The staff was polite enough not to mention that, nor the fact that his bloody nunchakus were ruining the tablecloth.  With blood. 

After polishing off another whole crab, I sighed contentedly and sat back to survey “You know, it had a rocky start but I have a feeling this is going to turn out to be a great day.  Do you have that feeling?  I have that feeling.” 

He was agog as another crab was delivered before me “You weren’t kidding were you.  I need to eat a lot more than I did before I was enhanced, I get that, they cranked up my metabolism, but you?” He shook his head “This is like some kind of circus freak act here.” 

“Rude.  You shouldn’t comment on what a lady is eating.” 

He yanked off his boot to examine his bloody foot “So far I have yet to see you display any behavior that would make me think you’re a lady.” 

“Says the man waving around his bloody stump at the lunch table.  Get with the times man, I’m not going to hold my parasol and sashay my pretty little self around the town square like in your day.” 

He grunted sourly as he pulled his sock off “How old do you think I am?” 

“I don’t know, somewhere between forty and a hundred.” 

“When they did the surgery on me I aged rapidly in an instant, but since then I’ve stayed exactly the same.  When I volunteered for the experiment I was in my twenties, when I woke up and looked in a mirror I saw that the geeks in lab coats made me look older than my dad, but I haven’t aged a day since.  I may look like this forever.” 

“So I’m going to look young and beautiful forever?  Nice.” 

“I wouldn’t count on it, I don’t think we got exactly the same treatment.” 

It was nice to talk to someone who had been through what I was going through, or at least something similar.  Blue and Martialla are both freaks, but they’re not freaks like me.  Even though the science should have advanced by twenty years in the meantime, it sounds like the people that worked on me weren’t the A team that he got.  I’m not sure they were even the B team.  I’m much stronger than he is, but otherwise he got a better deal – he’s tougher, faster, more agile, and he only needs to eat three or four times as much as normal rather than fifty.  One thing that’s the same is the brutally violent never-goes-away headaches.  It’s pretty clear that’s why he drinks himself stupid all the time.  Although it’s interesting that he can even get drunk, I thought the reason I can’t is part of the super endurance, maybe I have a separate thing.   

“Do you have the throwing thing?” 

He was rubbing his foot and not really paying attention “What’s that?” I flipped a piece of crab shell into a waste bin across the cafe without looking “Oh yeah, I have that.  I used to carry around throwing knives for a while but it got annoying having to go pull them out of corpses all the time.” 

“Cool, we should play horse sometime.  If there’s anywhere there’s a court around here.” 

He said something but I was distracted by seeing Martialla walking out of the water onto the beach.  She was holding her side and seemed to be in pain.  I waved her over and she laboriously climbed up the beach, pulling up a chair and joining us.  She was soaking wet of course, but moreover it seemed like she was wetter than someone should be even after getting out of the ocean– like the water was sticking to her somehow.  She slumped down like she was bone tired and drained a glass of water. 

“What happened to you?” 

“Tiger Shark.” 

“You got bit by a shark?!” 

She looked at me like I was stupid “No, I got into a fight with a guy called Tiger Shark.  I’d be dead if a shark bit me.” 

I raised an eyebrow “There’s other water mutants out there?” 

“I’m not a mutant.  But yeah a couple.” 

“How are you not a mutant?” 

She lifted her chin “Who’s this old guy?” 

I gestured “This is my friend . . . uh . . . uh . . .” 

He frowned “Frank.” 

I nodded “Yes, my good friend Frank.” 

“We made love and you don’t even remember my name?” 

I chortled “Made love?  Get over yourself chief.” I turned back to Martialla “If there’s other water people in the bay, we should get them on our side.  Are there any that are good on the land or are they useless like you where their powers only work underwater?” 

I’m the useless one?  You don’t do anything but eat all the food and smoke.  Ela, why do you have this notion in your head that people with superpowers are going to form teams and work together?  They’re just people, and people are assholes.  Just because someone has laser vision or a robot-arm doesn’t mean they want to help the world.” 

“Not with that attitude they won’t.  You and Blue and I are a team, aren’t we?  And now we have Fred here too.” 

Frank’s eyes widened “Frank, and I never said . . .” 

“What were you doing in the water fighting with a shark guy anyway?” Martialla ignored me while she ordered supreme flounder from the waiter “Why do you need to order anything?  Don’t you suck algae off rocks or something?” 

“Why was I in the water?  I go in the water all the time, Ela.  You’d have noticed that if you weren’t a self-absorbed narcissist.  I like being in the water.” She shielded her freak white eyes “It’s too bright up here for me now.  And it’s too hot.  After whatever they did to me I’m a little agoraphobic too, having the sky above me feels uncanny.  It just goes up forever.  I like having an end above me.” 

“The surface of the water isn’t the end.” 

“Seems like it when you’re down there.  When this is all over I’m going to have to live on the coast, I think if I stayed on land for a long time I’d get really sick.” 

“Speaking of, I took care of Gwai so . . .” 

Frank made a weird cough/bark noise “You took care of it?” 

“I told you to do it, so yes, it’s the chain of command.  As a military man, you should understand how it works.  The point is Gwai has been sorted, so we can move on to phase two and find your niece.  Where’s Blue? 

“Talking to the Nightwitch about just that.” 

“Excellent, things are really moving now, after the rescue then we can move on to phase three – killing Duke Eaglevane.” 

Frank looked dubious “You’re going to try and kill Duke Eaglevane?” 

I dropped him a sassy wink “Killing him will be the easy part, we need to find him first.  That’s the tricky bit.” 

“Not really, I know where he is.” 

Roleplaying Game : The RPG

The GM of the Shadowrun game I’m playing in asked for requests and constructive criticism about the campaign so far.  For reasons unknown, that made me think about how long I’ve been playing RPGs.  I doubt this is of interest to anyone but no one is forcing you to read this.  I hope anyway.  If someone is forcing you to read this please let me know.  I doubt I can do anything about it but you never know. 

Here is my thrilling tale.

The year was 1987.  Iron-Contra was a thing.  A person was convicted of a crime based on DNA for the first time.  Prozac hit the market.  A bee parasite was killing all the bees in the US.  Wrestlemania 3 happened and somehow I watched it on Betamax and became a wrestling person.  The first Final Fantasy game was released (I would sue when Final Fantasy 2 came out for deceptive advertising just like I did with the Neverending Story).  Baggy dresses were WAY in.  Karate Kid action figures were totally radical.  World population reached 5 billion.  Whitney Houston released “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” from her album “Whitney”.

I was at my grandma’s house hanging out with my cousin.  We were best pals when we were kids.  I haven’t talked to him in several years now.  Life, you know?  Plus he’s a like a good person who works for the UN and feeds starving people and I spend my energy on blogs and D&D campaigns that no one is even playing in. 

My cousin had a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, the TMNT RPG.  I thought it was super cool.  He said it was a game and I asked if we could play and he said “no” and my little 10 year old brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  Later on when I figured out how RPGs worked I realized why he said no, but at the time I was hurt and pissed.  But he was only 9, so it’s not like he could explain really. 

When I got home I VOWED that I would get my own RPG book and play.  I saved up my nickels and dimes for a few months and then rode my bike to the local game store and asked the dude behind the counter what I should buy if I wanted to start playing RPGs and with an aggrieved and HEAVY sigh and without looking up from his tentacle-porn hentai bullshit comic, he pointed at a weird upright rack that looked like it was for greeting cards.  Upon it was the “red box” – the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.  I think I paid 8 dollars for it.

I was hooked immediately.  I didn’t even really understand what RPGs were until I read that book and my mind was blown.  My friends, since they were friends with me, were all down to play and we were off to the races.  I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had they turned their noses up at D&D and I had lost interest.  Two of those people I still game with today. 

I few months later when I saw my cousin again, I was telling him all about how I was playing D&D ALL the time and I bragged to him “I’m the best DM ever, no one ever survives my adventures” and he looked down his nose at me and asked “But do they have fun?”.  My little head exploded.  I never thought about trying to maximize the fun of my players before. 

I say this as a joke, but kind of not, right then I became a better DM/GM/whatever than a lot of people. 

Eventually I saved up enough to buy my own copy of TMNT & Other Strangeness (note to self, start erotica blog called Other Strangeness) and we started playing that a ton in addition to D&D.  As an adult I realize that the Palladium System is pretty terrible, but as a kid I loved it.  Especially TMNT with the pages and pages of hundreds of different animals (that were 97% exactly the same statistically) you could make into characters. 

We still have fun laughing at our young selves and the adventures we went on.  Two staples were “you go to this place for a fighting tournament and fight!” and “you’re going to rob Fort Knox”.  We have a personal meme of saying “How could I miss, I rolled a 20?!  You need special training!” I was by far the best GM of the group because my adventures had a little tiny bit of a story and sometimes even NPCS you weren’t supposed to kill! 

As someone once said, “On some level, it’s natural to look at the things your teenage self liked with some amount of disdain. To distance ourselves from our most embarrassing years, we often throw the things we loved under the bus.”

When we were a little older and had some money we got into a cycle of someone buying a new game, which we would play for a while, and then always coming back to D&D.  It was pretty much an unbreakable cycle of New Game – D&D – New Game – D&D. 

In ‘91 when Vampire the Masquerade came out, like all dorks we got super into it.  It seemed so much more mature and grown up than D&D.  I mean what’s a better sign of being a budding adult than being 14 and sitting in your parent’s basement pretending to be a vampire?  That’s when some cracks started to appear in our group though because some people didn’t WANT to pretend to be vampires, they wanted to be werewolfs and when you’re 14 you don’t know how to deal with that.  I’ve lived a SUPER hard life, these are my problems.

One guy in our group drifted away because he wanted to get drunk and throw up on girls while he was having sex with them, but for the most part we stayed strong.  Things slowed down a little during college but we still played a lot on weekends.  At this point I got into Shadowrun and various superhero games and we didn’t play D&D too much – we still Vampired sometimes. 

Gaming precious memory.  A guy I played games with but who had never played Vampire before came to play and I asked what clan his character was and he said “Wu-Tang”.  Classic.

A few years after college but before everyone had kids was the golden age of gaming.  There were times when I was playing (running mostly) three games a week.  Then came the dark times when everyone started having babies and I was forced to start going to game stores and playing with STRANGERS!!!

Those games were 99.99% stupid but at least I could laugh about them with my real friends.  It was interesting to find out that there’s 40 year old men that never “outgrow” the “my character is better than yours!” PVP all the time style of play.  It was also fun to find out how terrible a lot of people are at running games.  I suppose it’s mean to reminisce about how other people suck, but I still do it. 

Gaming precious memory.  I was running a game for STRANGERS at a game shop and during the third session one guy who was uber min-max power gamer man looks at me suspiciously and says “you’re just making this up aren’t you?!”  He was super pissed that I had the gall to create my own adventures instead of using published materials.  How was he supposed to win if I wasn’t using established material? 

It was at this point I was also introduced to the gamer phenomena of the guy who always plays sexy dark elfs with a weird BDSM background who want to roleplay out their seduction-assassination attack.  I assume with the internet and the free flow of porn, that’s not as much of a thing anymore.  I hope to god it isn’t anyway. 

Then came the times when people’s kids were old enough that we entered the silver age of gaming, still quite a lot but not enough for me.  The only bumps in the road were everyone wanting to have games at their house so they didn’t have to get someone to watch their kids and the great Jimmy Johns scandal of 2008 when everyone felt like they were getting ripped off because they always put in $10 and all they got was a $5 sandwich and a pickle and they never got any change!  “Dinner” was a part of gaming no more!

Then came the times when everyone was getting to a stage in their life where they had serious stuff going on at work and lots of activities to take their kids to and for SOME reason they started enjoying hobbies other than gaming!  They went on vacations and did things and went places and had non-gaming friends.  It was madness. 

Sidenote, I was single for most of this time and when I would hear about my couple friends getting together with other couples to game as a couple thing, I was jealous.  But then one time I did get invited with the other single dude in the group and that was worse.  Be careful what you wish for. 

For a while games dried up and I figured it was done.  I was bummed about it for a couple years, but I made my peace with it.  I came to find out that my friends were still my friends even if they didn’t want to play D&D all the time – shocking!  Just about the time I figured it was all done though, we started up a regular game night again. 

It became semi-regular instead of regular at times, but it was still going on when the pandemic hit.  Some of the crew stuck with gaming on Roll20 and the like but I didn’t care for it, I popped in and out here and there.  Now that we’re all getting vaccinated, hopefully in a few months we can get something going IRL again. 

Some people I know talk blatantly about gaming to anyone, I tend to keep it on the down low when I’m around outsiders.  At my core there’s a part of me that says “dude you’re 40, this is childish” but I don’t really let it get to me.  There’s not so much awesome fun stuff going on in life that you can afford to not do something you like just because it’s not “cool.  Because “dude you’re 40 and you were never cool anyway”.

What does the future hold for old Jerdog?  Once in a while at a game store or a convention or something you run into an old gamer dude.  I hope to be one of those.  I think it would great to be an old man in a nursing home playing D&D.  But if my friends stop being into it, probably I will too.  At this point I love RPGs but mostly I just love an excuse to shoot the shit with my pals.  There’s not as much appeal for RPGs just as RPGs for me anymore.  That’s a young man’s game. 

November 27, 1973 – Songbird and the Summer Soldier

I couldn’t remember exactly where Gwai’s drug warehouse was, so we wandered around for quite a while before I could find someone who spoke French to give me directions.  Old Man River didn’t seem to notice the delay, likely because he was too busy chaffering on about the various injustices the US government had done to him.  In my opinion, when you’re illegally inserted into Cambodia to assassinate someone and you get caught, you should expect the government to disavow you.   Isn’t that the entire point of black ops?  Deniability?  And if he was so sore about it after he escaped, why did he then spend six more years working for the CIA and another three with the United States official super team before he was cashiered for punching a senator on national TV?   

Eventually we found the warehouse on the west side of town.  I’ve never been over this way before. 

Looking back at the city from here, it actually looks nice.  You can’t see the downside homes of the poor and the garbage-infested waters of the docks, all you see are fancy buildings, bright lights, and lots of greenery.  I can see why rich people would want to hang out here.  I pointed out the building while my new friend was busy grousing about having to babysit for clueless lieutenants in Columduras in ‘67. 

“Can you drop the disgruntled vet act for a minute and look where I’m pointing?  That is the stash house of a Chinese drug lord called Gwai, and . . .” 

He shook his head “I think you have some bad intel.  Gwai is a slur for a white person in Cantonese, no one would call a Chinese person Gwai.” 

“Really?  I thought Camila said he was Chinese.  Anyway . . .” 

“Camila?!  What are you doing mixed up with that old viper?” 

“Don’t worry about it.  So maybe the guy isn’t Chinese, and if we’re being totally honest, and I feel like we are, I’m not super sure this is the right building.  But if you go up there and there’s guys with guns guarding the place, go ahead and kill them and smash up the joint.  Then we’ll steal a truck or something and drive the drugs into the ocean.” 

“This is Madripoor – every place has guys with guns outside of it!  Are you insane?” 

“Probably.  I’ve experienced a lot of trauma recently.  What do they call that?  Battle fatigue?” 

He scoffed “Battle fatigue.  Bleeding heart bullshit.  You can either hack it or you can’t.  You want to know about trauma, those (DELETED) Cambodians kept me chained in a cell for three years and . . .” 

I chopped my hand through the air “Enough about Cambodia, shut up about Cambodia!  So you got left for dead and tortured for three years, we all have problems, buddy. A few years ago, I had nodes on my vocal cords and you don’t hear me complaining about it.  I didn’t let that stop me, I went out and recorded an album that included a top forty hit!  What you need to do is . . . wait, did you say they kept you chained up?  Why didn’t you break the chains?” 

He scowled “Break the chains?  I’m not that strong!  I can’t break a chain.” 

“You can’t break a chain?  What kind of super-soldier are you?  I broke the biggest thicket chains in the world on my first day!  Anyway, forget the chains, just go over there and if anyone shoots you, we’ll know we’re in the right place.” 

“That’s a terrible plan.” 

“What kind of bitter drunken suicidal glory hound are you?  Get out there and fight a murderous drug gang.” 

“And what are you going to be doing?” 

“Providing moral support from afar.” 

“I never said anything about suicide.” 

“Come on, your whole vibe is pure The Man Who Came to Play, don’t kid yourself about that.  Just kiss your wrinkled black and white picture of your half-Cambodian twin daughters that you always keep in your pocket and go out there seeking the violent death you secretly feel should have happened twenty years ago when you were still a hero, before everything fell apart.” 

His jaw dropped “How did you know about the twins?” 

My jaw dropped “You actually have illegitimate twin daughters?  I was just winding you up.” 

He pulled something out of his waistband “I’m going over there now, but it’s just to get away from you.” 

“Are you kidding me?  Are those nunchakus with a red, white, and blue flag pattern?  Where do you even get something like that?  Where’s your helmet?  If getting hit by a bullet is like getting hit with a bat, don’t you need a helmet?” 

“That’s not how armor works, you don’t put something weaker over the thing you’re trying to protect.” 

“Baseball players wear helmets specifically!” 

“They’re not super soldiers.” 

“A baseball helmet is not stronger than a human skull. They’re made out of plastic!” 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Are you trying to tell me that if a normal human was going to get hit in the head . . .” 

“Forget it, I don’t have a helmet anyway, who walks around with a helmet?  What do you want me to have next, a shield?  Made out of some magic super metal?  As if.  Can I go die now?” 

“That’s what I’ve been saying this whole time, you’re the one dragging your heels!” 

Procedurally generated duo part 2

Type – Magic, Magic Object  

Appearance – Medium, athletic 

Disposition – Laconic, fatalistic 

Age – 40s 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, countryside 

Background – Military 

Powers manifested – Early adulthood 

Other – World traveler

Abilities – Animal abilities (insect) 

Doc already did the work on this for me, thanks Doc!  The randomness lines up pretty well.  I’ll call this guy Amerigo Vespucci.  Do they still name people Amerigo in Italy?  I don’t know, but they do in my pretend world. 

At a young age, Amerigo decided that the country life was not for him and ran away from home, stowing away on a ship bound for Italian Libya.  With no marketable skills and a hostile populace, Amerigo was facing a grim and short life on the streets when he was swept up as labor by one of the many Italian government-funded excavations of Roman cities – which were used as propaganda to justify their claim to the area. 

Barely literate and with no education to speak of, Amerigo nevertheless was fascinated by archaeology.  Ignorant to the political nature of their missions, he looked up to the “scientists” leading these expeditions as brilliant men of knowledge.   At night, he would lie in his tent and marvel over the artifacts he had pilfered and dream of what the world had once been.

Amerigo resolved to become an archaeologist himself, but with no money and no real interest in “book learning” this was a pipe dream.  Amerigo did discover two talents on these trips though – an ear for languages, within a few years he could speak passably in several native tongues and enough to get by in several others.  His other talent was for getting into and out of places very quietly, especially places people didn’t want him.

One of those places was a temple with a bird motif in the deep desert.  Exploring the temple, Amerigo found a jewel-scarab of malachite and garnet – which he felt the overwhelming urge to swallow.  Upon doing so, he was mystically granted beetle-strength and beetle-agility!  Some old god with a beetle-head showed up to tell him something about it, but Amerigo ditched him and ran away from the temple.  He couldn’t understand what the old codger was saying anyhow.

Amerigo figured the best way to cash in on his abilities was to travel south to join the fighting in Italian East Africa.  It wasn’t.  Being beetle-fast and beetle-strong is fine and all, but in a conflict with personnel armed with machine-guns and flamethrowers, not to mention copious amounts of airstrikes and heavy weaponry, it doesn’t mean much.

Amerigo lost his stomach for the conflict quickly, but found that he was able to make money as a scout – leave the killing the dying to others.  Beetle-agility is a lot more useful for avoiding a fight, Amerigo found. 

Once the fighting was over, Amerigo discovered there was even more money to be made as a mercenary.  There seemed to be all manner of conflicts up and down the east coast of Africa and plenty of demand for someone who knew the terrain and could speak the language. 

Amerigo could have made a lot more money if he wanted, but typically after a paying job, he would spend months traveling and exploring alone, only returning to “civilization” when he ran out of resources.  Eventually, this resulted in Amerigo getting a reputation as being “unreliable” even though he always did what he was paid to do. 

Amerigo and Dino ended up being a perfect match – no one would hire Amerigo anymore and no one wanted to work for a crazy old man looking for “magic”.   Amerigo never mentioned to Dino that he knew magic was real because he had already found it, but he did take the old man’s money and lead him all across Africa with forays into the Middle East and even India looking for some true magic. 

Once the old man’s money ran out, Amerigo wondered where he was going to find his next meal ticket. But shortly thereafter, Dino returned, looking 60 years younger and ready to cause some trouble.

November 27, 1973 – Singing in the rain

I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  As I was belting out Ride Captain Ride, I got to wondering why you sound better singing in the shower.  Part of it is probably the freedom that comes from singing naked.  Makes you feel powerful.  You can’t generally do that on stage.  Part of it is probably the shower itself.  It’s like a little sound booth.  I’m no sound engineer, but I feel like the walls of the shower absorb no sound at all, which gives you a good power and resonance.  I have a pretty good ear for these things and I feel like somehow it evens out the pitch as well.  Which is not an issue for me because I’m pitch perfect, but still. 

I feel like four pounds of gunk slithered off me while I was in there.  I think I saw the slime form a face and look up at me forlornly before getting sucked town the drain.  So long Slime Ela, see you in hell!  As I was getting dressed, I had to take a moment to lament the shabby condition of the clothes that Maggie had given me.  It was some high-end stuff.  I’m sure I saw Goldie Hawn in a magazine wearing this same shirt.  I suppose it’s my own fault, I should find some clothes more suited to my high-octane super brawling lifestyle.  But as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.  Well they can, but it’s annoying.   

When I came out of the bathroom, Grumpy Gus was still in bed looking confused and kind of afraid. 

“Your place is clean, I’ll give you that, but this looks like the room of a mental patient.  Put a painting on the wall or something, man.” 

He looked around slowly “Yeah . . . .” 

I snorted “Good talk.  It’s like I’m playing tennis against a wall here.” I headed for the door “Well, don’t be a stranger.” 

He held out a hand “Wait.” 

I looked back “What?”  He just stared at me “What man?  What do you need?  I got places to be.” 

He looked weirdly vulnerable sitting there with his white scratchy sheets in a pile around his waist and legs “So . . . . you’re just . . . . going?” 

“Was there something else?” I looked around eagerly “Do you have any food around here?  I tell you, I am STARVING.  I would love to pound a cheeseburger right now.  Or you know, twenty or thirty cheeseburgers.  Do you get that?  I have to eat like fifty times what I did before just to feel like I’m not going to pass out.” 

He seemed taken aback “I have to eat more than I did before but not that much.” 

“Of course, I don’t get super toughness and I have to eat a ton, women always get the shaft.  So to speak.  Anyway, it’s been something, see you out there okay?”  I turned to the door again and I saw a hurt expression on his face and turned back “What is with you?  I know you were born in nineteen hundred but you’re not that old fashioned, are you?  It’s the seventies man, get with it.  Did you think we were going steady now?  Do you have a letter jacket I’m supposed to wear?  Do you have a promise ring around here somewhere?” 

He frowned slightly “I just . . .” he sighed “Forget it.” 

“You got it skipper.” I turned to leave once more but then turned back once more as well “Hey, are you bulletproof?  I hit you pretty hard and you didn’t die.  And I’m so strong.” 

“Uh, not bulletproof, more like bullet resistant.” 

“Jesus Christ, do you ever start a sentence without saying ‘uh’ or ‘um’?  Why are you so nervous?  Have you never talked to a girl before?  Surely there must have been a USO dance or something back in ‘22.  Did Sergeant Rock make fun of you so you were too afraid to ask anyone to dance?  Did he show you a nude playing card of Marlena Dietrich that made you feel funny?” 

“You have a real sharp tongue in your mouth, you know that?” 

I smiled sweetly “It’s been said a time or two.  Point is, you can stand up to a hail of bullets right?” 

“I wouldn’t say that, I have enhanced musculature and mass that protect me from small arms fire, but it still feels like getting hit with a baseball bat.  A short burst from an assault rifle makes me feel like how Patterson felt after the first Johansson fight.” 

I laughed “Had to go back a while didn’t you, to find a white heavyweight that could punch?” 

His face fell “I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . . I’m not . . .” 

“Good god man, the super soldier process sure didn’t give you super eloquence, did it?  Anyway, you’re a big tough USA macho man, so I’m sure a few bullets won’t bother you.  Good news, you get to spend some more time with me.  Get your pants on and grab your nunchakus, Methuselah, because we’re going to fight some crime.” 

He looked dumbfounded “We are?” 

“Well you are anyway, I’ll probably hide around the corner.  I don’t have elephant hide like you, I’m quite easily penetrated.” 

November 27, 1973 – First we eat, then we do everything else

I’m honestly starting to believe I might be dying.  I think about food all the time.  I dream about it.  No matter what else is going on, part of my mind is wondering where I can get some food.  How do you know if you’re starving to death?  One of the signs is lethargy and lack of energy.  But what does that mean when you have super endurance?  I never feel fatigue.  Does that mean I’m not starving to death?  Probably not, right?  Mentally I feel exhausted, it’s like there’s a disconnect between my mind and body.  In my conscious thought, I feel like I can’t take a single step but I know that I could do push-ups all day and it wouldn’t bother me. 

Another sign of starvation is irritability and trouble concentrating.  But I have that anyway because of the god damn chronic headaches I have ALL THE TIME.  Even when I eat enough to feel full (which has happened maybe twice) my head is still pounding, which makes me angry all the time.  I swear I’m usually a very pleasant person but I admit that I’ve been a monster lately.  Immedicable throbbing will do that to a person is what I’ve found.   

Bottom line is that the same thing that’s making me need to eat so much is also making it so I don’t know if I’m slowly dying.  Which is a pretty shitty design if you ask me.  If I ever meet the people that did this to me, I’ll have a cross word with them.  Another symptom is supposed to be feeling cold all the time, which I don’t, but that could be because it’s two hundred degrees with one thousand percent humidity here all the god damn time.  I can tell you that my hair and nails are brittle and shitty.  And my skin is taking on a weird pallor.  Is that a sign that you’re not getting enough to eat?  It’s not good whatever it is. 

We don’t talk about it because it’s not the kind of thing you talk about, but Martialla and Blue spend time most days just trying to find me (sort of) enough food.  Totally honest, I eat garbage a lot of the time.  Usually we can get it before they literally throw it out, but not always.  There are a lot of other people after it.  Because this is a very impoverished place.  And they’re not going to get it over me or Blue or Martialla.  It’s probably set off a chain reaction in the world of people who depend on urban scavenging for food.  I don’t like to think about it.  You might assume that this experience would make me feel more sympathy for people in “food insecurity” (what a fucking cop out term that is) but mostly it just makes me feel ashamed of myself.  It’s hard to feel self-possessed when you’re eating noodles out of the trash because you’re so hungry you can’t even wait to take them somewhere else. 

The last thing I would’ve thought when I woke up chained in the hull of a ship nine thousand miles from home was “I better get a job soon” but here we are.  I need some way to make sure I get enough to eat.  I spent the morning going around to restaurants to beg them for work.  I even went to the place where Elvis used to wash dishes because I knew they had an opening since he’s fucking dead.  I felt like a ghoul and a monster.  But I did it anyway.  None of the local places want me because I’m a white girl who can’t speak the language and none of the tourist places want me because I look like crap.  I’ve had one bath in like six weeks and I have one set of clothes that are ripped and bloody.  Surprisingly, that doesn’t make a good impression in a job interview.

The only place that gave me any consideration was a German ex-pat dive bar that gave me some seriously bad vibes.  So clearly what I need to do is rob the place instead of work there.  I don’t know what’s going on with those crazy Krauts, but it’s something shady so they have it coming right?  After my weird interview with the sleazy manager, I sat down at the bar to case the joint.  I don’t really know how to do that, but I was looking around, what else is there to it? 

My casing efforts were hampered by one of the only other patrons at that hour, a loud-mouth statie who was clearly drunk and had a lot to say about the US president even though no one was listening.  He looked like one of those guys you’d see in a steelworkers guildhall in Pennsylvania – his face looked fifty but his body looked hard as concrete.  He didn’t look big, just heavy, you know – he was a stack.  I knew that anything I said would provoke him but I couldn’t help myself, I was having a bad time. 

“Would you take it down like fifty decibels there, partner?  I’ve got a headache working over here and your kibitzing isn’t helping anything.  Who are you even talking to?” 

He looked around for a moment and then back to me, incredulous. “Are you talking to me, little girl?” 

“I don’t see anyone else here so I must be talking to you.  Also, little?  I’m like three inches taller than you, tiger.” 

I saw that he was gathering himself to come over and try to intimidate me, so I beat him to the punch by standing up and kicking his stool out from underneath him.  He fell on his ass with the most surprised look I have ever seen on a human (or lizard or fish) face.  I think he would have been less shocked if I grew a second head. 

He started to get up, huffing and puffing to blow my house down, and while he was doing so, I slapped him across the face.  Hard.  Not as hard as I can, but too hard.  I knew that immediately.  A pretty hard slap from me is going to kill most people, or at least seriously mess them up.  Remember, I’m as strong as twenty strong men.  I gasped involuntarily because I thought I had just murdered a guy. 

But he was fine.  Not fine-fine, but his neck wasn’t broken nor his face caved in.  He was like a boxer who just got bopped on the nose.  He needed a standing eight count but his manager didn’t need to throw in the towel.  He wobbled to his feet, turned his stool back over, and sat back down – giving me side eye.

“You’re lucky I don’t have my nunchakus, I’d beat your ass.”

I sat back down as well “Ooh, kinky.  Also, nunchakus?  What are you, twelve?”

He looked me up and down several times and then hocked something up “This is what the world’s coming to huh?  This is what a super-solider looks like now?  I wish they had never discovered that damn gene.  Now you have all types in the military.” He shook his head “All types.”

“Sorry buddy, I’m no super-soldier, I’m just a normal girl from the heartland – we’re tough out there, not like your weedy US women.”

He laughed mirthlessly “Ah, the Coalition, I should have known from the bong stink.”

I laughed in return “And you must be the reason why no one ever talks about the US super-soldier program, if you’re what it turns out.”

He grunted “No one talks about us because we’re out doing the real work while those two (DELETED) wonks of yours glad-hand and sell insurance.  The Warmasters.  Give me a fucking break.  They don’t know shit about war.”

“They are pretty annoying.  The blonde one is like that kid who wore his boy scout uniform to school, and the one with the scar?  That guy looks like a damn psycho.  He looks like the kid who drilled a hole in the wall to the girl’s locker room.”

He started at me for a minute and then laughed legitimately “Still, I have to give it to your Angel, she was the real deal, even if she was Coalition.  I would have been proud to have served with her.  God rest her soul.”

“God rest her soul.  So, do you want to have sex?”

He did an actual spit take, I thought that was just in movies, and looked over at me suspiciously “What?”

“It’s pretty simple, do you want to have sex with me or do you not want to have sex with me?”

“Uh . . . yes, I do.”

“Do you have a place?  And is it not a roach-infested shithole?  Are you the super anal spit and polish kind of military guy or the other kind who just throws their garbage in the corner?”

“Umm . . . I have a place.  It’s clean . . . ish.” His face took on an expression like a rabbit caught in a trap “Why is this happening?”

I finished the crappy German beer I was drinking “You’re ugly, you’re unpleasant in demeanor, I dislike you, and I bet you’re a lousy lay.  But I’ve had like sixty bad days in a row so I want to do something stupid.  I want to feel the embarrassment, self-loathing, and regret that will come afterwards.  You’re from the US, you like baseball right?  Think of yourself as a slumpbuster.”

I could see the wheels turning in his head “That’s . . . . hurtful.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to take me home anyway, aren’t you?”

Tremble before my procedurally generated terror!

I don’t really have anything for background this week so I’ll roll some random tables for a new character and build them.  That should be interesting?

Type – Magic, Mystically Bestowed 

Appearance – Tall, overweight 

Disposition – Self-reliant, tough 

Age – Elderly 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, large city 

Background – Wealthy 

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Physical limitations 

Abilities – Spellcasting 

In this context, mystically bestowed is a power source like Shazam, you speak the magic word or drink your magic tea and you’re transformed from whatever, in this case an old man with physical ailments, to a young strong alternate self.  Who in this case also knows magic.  Which is a little weird, seems like if you knew magic, you’d just know it no matter what. 

I’ll say this guy is from Italy.  The only big city that I know of in Italy is Rome, but that seems too on the nose.  Internet says Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, so we’ll go with that.  So we have a wealthy old man in Milan.   

What was going on in Italy in this alternate timeline?  The Great War (aka WW1) was pretty much the same.  If this guy is old in 1973, he was probably the right age to be in the mix in 1914.  As a rich man who fancies himself a tough guy, he was likely an officer in the Italian army.  I don’t know a ton about WW1, but I think Italy fought a bunch of battles against Austria and lots of people died and it was all kind of pointless.  Which is more or less WW1 in a nutshell.   

I should probably give this guy a name, I’ll go with Dino Fossella, which I think is the name of one of the kidnappers in Man on Fire.  The novel. The movie was in Mexico instead of Italy.  Sidenote – I love that movie and I don’t care what anyone says about it.   

Dino was embittered by his experience in the war, he expected to come home and be a big hero and get a parade but instead, no really cared because they didn’t get all the sweet Austrian booty they were after. (note to self, register domain name sweetAustrianbooty) But old Dino wasn’t going to be denied his fame so easily.  Let’s say he was a big-time piano man and after the war, his goal was to become a celebrated concert pianist. 

He was good, but he wasn’t that good.  But, as a pretty good pianist with a boatload of cash, he managed to get his name out there at the expense of other, better pianists.  So he spends a good decade being a man about town and having concerts that are really just parties for his rich pals.   

I’ve established that there was no WW2 as we know it, just “another war in Europe”.  Without an expansionist Germany and a more laid-back USSR, what was going on?  I’m no historian, so I don’t know the roots of Italian fascism – but let’s say the march on Rome in ‘22 still happened.  So we have France and Britain fighting the Empire of Japan in the east while Germany and Russia are playing it cool.  That probably leaves Italy free to attack the Balkans like they always wanted. 

So we have Italy at war again.  Dino once again wants to be an officer but they say he’s too old – go back to your piano, old man.  Dino doesn’t like that.  He likes it even less when his villa is bombed by Greek and Yugoslavian operatives.  Dino survives but his legs and hands are damaged, no more piano for him, also now he can’t get around so well.   

If you thought Dino was embittered before, oh man, watch out now.  But what sparks Dino’s interest in the occult?  Perhaps one of the operatives was mystically inclined.  One of the bombers supernaturally clouded the minds of Dino’s men and walked right in with the bomb.  Dino saw his guards standing there like statues while a dude just rolls up and plants a bomb.  He becomes obsessed with finding out more about it. 

He spends the next thirty years or so frittering away all his money on raiding Egyptian tombs and whatnot looking for magic.  I don’t know much about Italian folklore, but google told me there’s a tale of a 7-headed dragon that was causing a ruckus in Bergamo province and a big army went to fight it.  The battle was a draw and the dragon retreated into the river.  Folklorists say there was a “maga” – a sorceress – involved somehow but that part of the story is lost.  Here’s the deal, the sorceress was the dragon, transformation style. 

And check this shit out, Milan is in Bergamo!  So old lady 7-heads is injured and she goes into the river to sleep it off for a couple centuries and when she wakes up and looks around she’s like “da fuck? Where’s all the old timey shit I know?”  She goes to the first place she sees, the now empty villa of Dino, where he sits alone and broke being old and bitter.  Probably it would be hard for them to communicate, the Italian language surely changed some in a thousand years, but she’s magic so she figures it out. 

She asks Dino what’s up.  He says give me the magic power and I’ll tell you.  She’s all like “sure” and he wigs out because he’s been after magic forever and now it just falls into his lap.  Dino speaks the word of magic power she bestows upon him, “Drago” and suddenly he’s a young strong able-bodied man that has a little magic of his own. 

But why can he only do magic when transformed?  Let’s say that this form of magic is physically taxing and in his old broken body he can’t manage it.  Dino says “thanks, old time Italian sorceress! Now I shall have the fame and coolness I deserve, by being a supervillain!”  And she’s like, whatever floats your boat man.    

I like duos (of people, not the gum, although the gum is okay) so he’ll probably have a partner but this post is already long so maybe I’ll do that next week.   

November 26, 1973 – A war on some drugs

Since we didn’t have a great way of scouting out the location of Camila’s rival drug gang, I floated the idea of stiffing her to Martialla and Blue, but they weren’t into it.  “Don’t you have enough enemies already?” was the gist of their argument.  I suppose, to be fair, Camila didn’t do anything to me really, she doesn’t deserve to be ripped off.  Although I didn’t deserve to be blown up and turned into a remorseless eating machine either and no one is apologizing to me about that. 

Blowing up notwithstanding, I caved in to their demands, as I always do, because I’m a people pleaser at heart.  I’m the leader, but I’m what’s known as a servant leader – I’m here for my people, not myself.  Empathy, listening, conceptualizing, I’m great at all that bullshit.  Martialla and Blue are probably taking advantage of my easy-going nature somewhat, but what can you do you know? 

When she was telling us who to attack, Camila spent a lot of time explaining to me about how the drugs she and her boys grow are natural and organic from plants and therefore are superior to the garbage that her rival, Gwai the Butcher, mixes up in his labs.  She’s awfully morally superior for a drug dealer.  Sorry, I mean drug manufacturer.  I guess she was trying to get me on her side beyond the part where I’m indebted to her.  I don’t understand why people think natural things are good.  Arsenic is natural.  So is getting eaten by a python.  And on the other hand, lots of unnatural things are great.  Cheese.  Music.  Condoms.  Vodka.

I turned to News Dan as a source of information but he was offended by the very notion.  He said that he was a reporter, not an informant.  He was also very high and mighty about not getting involved in my “criminal dealings”.  This from a man who claims that alien reptile psi-vampires control the United Nations.  The good news is his assistant Yiyang blabbed the whole thing after a couple of beers, or some kind of alcohol in a can anyway, it’s hard to know sometimes around here.  It may have been paint thinner.  Hmm, is there paint thickener?  I’ll have to check on that.   

Y tattled to me about the warehouse where (heh warehouse where) Gwai stashes his fishgut drugs and I told Martialla and Blue.  They began planning the assault with Canadian military precision.  It’s too bad our broom closet isn’t big enough for maps and little miniature tanks – military people love that stuff.  I interrupted their warmongering with a practical concern.   

“And then what?”  They both looked at me with their dull inhuman eyeballs “After you commando murder all these guys guarding the place, what do we do then?  How do we destroy all the drugs?” 

Blue glanced at Martialla “How about a fire?” 

“Sounds like a good way to burn the entire city down.  Somehow I have a feeling that the Madripoor fire department isn’t a crack squad.  If there even is one.  In the poor part of town anyway, the rich areas would probably be fine.” 

Martialla shrugged her weird skinny fish-shoulders “We can just toss the drugs in the bay.” 

“How are we going to do that?  We don’t even have a car.  Aren’t we talking about a warehouse full of drugs?  How can we carry all that down to the shore?” 

She fish-snorted “You’re always bragging about how strong you are, can’t you lift it all?”

“How would I do that?  Are you going to wrap it all up like a Christmas present with a bow?” 

Martialla looked confused and Blue piped up “She means Boxing Day.” 

“What?  No I don’t.  Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, if you know what Boxing Day is, how can you not know what Christmas is?” 

Martialla’s gross fish-lips frowned further “I thought that Boxing Day was when the Boxer Rebellion happened.  I think you meant to say Saint Swithin’s Day.” 

“I don’t even know what Saint Swilling’s Day is!” 

Blue flicked his tongue pedantically (I’ve been around him long enough to know) “Swith-IN.” 

“Shut up you.” 

They suggested that we could blow the place up, but we can’t because we don’t have any explosives or the money to buy them.  Which is an important component in blowing things up.  They proposed in the alternative that we could steal some money.  The whole thing unraveled quickly.  Why does being a superhero always end up with robbing something to get money for bombs to blow up drugs?  It’s uncanny how often you need to commit seven or eight crimes to stop one.  Is there a lesson in there somewhere about something?  No.

Since we were going nowhere with that line of questioning, I asked them if they had any leads on the kind of people that I thought might have grabbed Martialla’s niece.  All they could find out is that if you want a gene splicer, you head to the Shipyard (which remember, is not a shipyard, but a soccer stadium turned into criminal bazaar – uhg, I hate this place) because that’s where you can find anything.  So that’s where we’re going.  After we have some kind of deadly confrontation with a drug gang.  You know how it is.

Stolen writing advice from someone better

Being a soulless Gen X mutant, normally I don’t try to help people or do anything, I just sit in my flannel shirt in my dimly lit basement listening to Alice in Chains and reveling in the fact that I don’t care about anything and only being happy when it rains.  And also not even then.  As a Xer I spend my time normally not caring about money or success or anything but Bikini Kill. 

Normally I wouldn’t post twice in a day either, but if I wait I’ll forget.  Sometimes I write myself notes of things to write about later and then I never remember what they mean later.  This has been going on for 30 years.

There’s a pretty common piece of writing advice which is “write a lot”.  If you feel blocked it’s because you’re thinking too much.  Just write something, anything.  Write every day all the time.  The theory is that you get better at something by doing it.  A basketball player doesn’t get better by thinking about shooting, they get better by shooting baskets in an empty gym. 

Part of the idea is that most of what everyone writes, except for a few geniuses, sucks.  So if ten percent of what you write is going to be good, you need to write tons and tons to make that ten percent pile as big as possible. 

For me, this advice was one of those things where I said “That sounds right” but didn’t really take it to heart.  Today though I heard something that really made it land for me. 

This information is coming to me 5th hand so the details are probably wrong but the gist is correct I think.  There’s a book called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  According to a different book that referenced that book that was referenced on a YouTube video that was referenced on a TV show that was referenced on a podcast I listen to, in Art &Fear they talk about an art teacher.

This art teacher decided to play a cruel joke on their class in the name of the social sciences.  They divided the class into two groups.  Group one was told their grade would be based on the number of pots they made.  Group two was told that their grade would be based on their best pot.  But hold onto your butts folks, because the first group was lied to, everyone was judged on their best pot. 

The gag is at the end of the semester (or whatever) the first group had made better pots.  The theory is that while group two spent all their time trying to make one or a few good pots, group one was cranking out pots right and left; ergo they got good at making pots, ergo they made a lot of crappy pots but the good ones they made were better than the people who were trying to make good ones. 

This may not even be a true story, but it made the “write a lot” advice sink in for me. 

I already write almost every day but nevertheless in order to write more, I will be starting a 5th blog with a new fiction narrative,  working title – Blood Orgy in The House of Pain.

The best writers use pictures instead of words

The other day my random Microsoft screensaver showed me this – Guatapé in Colombia. It looks like what I imagine the part of Madripoor where the rich people have their villas looks like. I share it because I am a terrible writer and can’t describe things. If you look closely you can see Mr. X waving!

IMAGE MAY BE SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT!!!!

In other news, SPOILER ALERT, Madripoor was on the latest episode of Falcon & the Winter Soldier so now this entire blog is ruined because it seems like I was ripping off a TV show when I wasn’t at all, I was ripping off a comic book. Since Madripoor is already an expy of Singapore, I’ll have to re-write everything and make the place Ela is stuck in currently Thirteenapour.

BONUS MAILBAG – Since Ela is occasionally referencing Superman and other DC comic people, someone asked me if Marvel comics exist in this part of the Elaverse. They’re not supposed to. Since I already ripped off Madripoor, some very minor Marvel characters might turn up from time to time. Is that fair usage? I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer. Yet.