November 29, 1973 – Mesoamerican jade turtles are a girl’s best friend (and also are forever)

Think of something you like.  Now imagine that someone said that you couldn’t have that thing.  They’re not going to prevent you from having it, they’re just telling you that you shouldn’t have it.  Now think of something you don’t just like, think of something you love.  Love with all your heart.  And the same thing happens. 

Someone says, don’t enjoy that thing you love anymore.  They’re not taking it away from you, it’s still going to be EVERYWHERE around you, you’re just supposed to refrain by choice.  They’re telling you to ignore the constant ads for the thing you love, and the boundless opportunities to get it, and the fact that everyone else is doing it all the time, and just not do it.   

Now imagine that this thing you love also makes you physically feel really good, and not having it makes you feel like shit.  As soon as we walked out of Snakey Sally’s office, I realized I left my smokes in there.  I had the pack in my hand when we walked in and I set them on the corner of her desk when I sat down to talk to her.  There were only two cigarettes left in there but there was no way I was leaving them behind.  You ever see in the movies when a character is upset and they try to light up and it doesn’t work right away and they get mad and throw the pack of cigarettes away?   

That is the most unrealistic thing in movies.  More unrealistic than a woman jogging with her hair down.  More unrealistic than a flimsy table stopping bullets.  More unrealistic than people ordering food in a restaurant and it showing up four seconds later.  More unrealistic than someone going through a giant glass window without a scratch.  More unrealistic than people finding parking spaces.  More unrealistic than women running full speed in heels.  More unrealistic than characters in clubs being able to hear each other talk.  Because you NEVER throw away a cigarette.  Never.  That would be like a woman drop-kicking her newborn baby off a cliff.  I can’t say that it’s literally impossible, but if it does happen it’s noteworthy.   

I went back in to grab the pack and I saw Serpent Tina sitting there in her stupid catsuit happy and healthy, lording over her sad little domain of criminal assholes and I felt something coming over me like someone tossing a blanket over their stupid pet bird’s cage – it’s not FAIR.  Childish, I know, but I still felt it.  Say it however you want, I believe Oscar Meyer stated it best “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not”.  This woman is a criminal and she gets to have a fully belly and shampoo and clean clothes and deodorant and I never did anything wrong (I mean not REALLY) and I have nothing?  In that moment, it was just too much. 

While I picked up my smokes, I also picked up some stupid globe thing she had on her desk, a paperweight I guess, and I hurled it sidearm at her shotgun toting bodyguard on the left (my left).  It cracked him on the side of the head and he dropped to his knees and sat there – I think he was unconscious – up against the wall.  Bodyguard number two swung his shotgun down as I kicked the desk back at him – the corner hitting him right in the dick.  I’m not normally one to feel sympathy for that kind of thing, but it looked like it hurt.  His mouth flopped open like he was trying to yelp, but no sound came out – like all his air had been taken away.   

Serpent Tina meanwhile had executed some kind of gymnast cartwheel thingee over the desk while it was in motion and landed agilely in a kind of fighting crouch with her hands in some kind of dumb snake kung fu stance.   

“Okay now that was cool, I have to admit that.” 

“Why are you doing this, I thought we had a deal.” 

“Just tell me where Count Yorba is man, I’m tired of running errands for crimelords, just tell me will you?  Why do you have to get something out of it?  Why can’t you just tell me?” 

I will never know the answer to that because she came forward in a very dumb manner with like a shuffle-step sideways move like a fencer would do maybe.  Her hand darted at me in a chicken-shape, I think she was trying to snatch out my eye, but I managed to move enough that she hit me in the bridge of the nose.  I tell you this, you wouldn’t think a hand-chicken to the nose would hurt much, but you’d be wrong.  My vision went away for a split second and then I was seeing stars.  She followed up with a kick that hit me high on the ribs right under my armpit.  I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, but for a kick to the ribs it didn’t hurt that much.  I caught her around the calf and shoved her down – she hit the ground so hard the floor cracked and stuff came flying up.  I’m very strong you see.   

I rubbed at my watering eyes “Jesus, that stings.” I looked down to the floor where Tina was writhing like a snake having a seizure while making the noises of a skinny kid having an asthma attack. “You know, I think I saw Bruce Lee on TV once saying you should never try a kick above the knee.”  She managed to gasp out something about how she wasn’t going to tell me anything and I grabbed the back of her head – squeezing lightly “Are you sure about that?” 

With effort she managed to force out another whisper “You’re no killer.” 

I nodded “True, but why would I kill you?  You have the information I want, if I kill you then I don’t get it.  So killing you would make no sense, I’m just going to hurt you until you tell.” 

“You don’t have it in you.” 

“Six months ago, you would have been right about that.  But I’ve grown as a person.  Being in this horrible place, on top of my physiological issues, has really changed my mind about the nature of pain, and more salient here, my willingness to inflict it on others.  I think if I put my foot on your butt and push down slightly until your pelvis cracks, I would be just fine with that.” 

She was strong, much stronger than a ninety-pound Asian woman should be, but not nearly as strong as I am.  She struggled to get up and I held her down without much effort.  I grabbed the back of her stupid catsuit, intent on moving her, but the damn thing ripped like it was made out of tissue.  I wonder if Cathy Gale ever had that issue.  What kind of shoddy leather was it made out of?  The dead cow that spawned that pelt should feel ashamed of itself.  When I tore the suit up, I also accidentally snapped a jade necklace that she had on underneath.  It didn’t look like jewelry you’d wear, it looked like something that should be in a museum.   

All at once the strength went out of her.  I think she looked suddenly older too, it’s hard to say.  The look on her face was so terrified that I felt sorry for her, just for a second.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone look so scared in my life.  She grabbed the end of the necklace but I pulled it away from her without feeling any resistance.  The necklace itself didn’t break again though, which must mean it’s pretty robust, which probably means it was choking the hell out of her when I snapped it.  Examining it, I saw that the jade was carved into little turtles. 

“Huh.” 

November 29, 1973 – Crimelord book club is on Thursdays

“Serpent Tina, that’s such a stupid name.  Is she from Riverdale?  Did Archie give you this hot tip?  Do we need to watch out for Moose when we go see her?  Is Midge going to be there?  She still owes me five bucks from when I bought Jughead a hoagie.”

Blue flicked his tongue crossly “It’s not Serpent Tina, it’s Serpentina.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No you’re saying it weird, her name isn’t Tina with serpent in front of it, it’s Serpentina, like the female form of serpent.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, there is no female form of serpent, that’s like saying the female form of cow is cowina.”

Martialla felt the need to interject “Cow is the female form, a bull is the male.”

“The male what?  The male cow?”

She bit her weird fish-lip “Oh yeah, that really doesn’t make sense.”

“I guarantee you this broad is named Tina and she has a snake gimmick.”

Blue moved in front of us and turned around to stop us “Don’t piss her off, Ela.  Can you take something seriously for once?  Whatever you want to call this woman, we need her help, and moreover she’s dangerous.  If you give her your American sassmouth, she will try to kill you and then I’ll have to protect you and I don’t want to fight her because then she’ll kill me too.”

“Why does everyone say I’m American. I’m from the Coalition, America is . . .”

Blue took a knee, which still left him half a foot over my head “Please, Ela, I am begging you.  Be respectful.”

I took his giant lizard-claw and patted it “Of course I will.  I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t. 

Martialla gave me the side-eye with her weird giant fish-orbs “Yeah, why would anyone think you would make a flippant comment?”

“I’m just using humor as a defense mechanism during a very dark time in my life.”

“Then how come you never say anything funny?”

Blue shook his head “Oh my god, we’re going to die.”

The Shipyard looks like a wreck from the outside – there are beams or girders or whatever buildings are made out of sticking out of it at funny angles like they were going to put another stadium around it (remember the Shipyard is a soccer stadium not a shipyard because this place is nuts) but construction was stopped right after they got started. 

The former field was jam-packed with vendors under a patchwork of canopies, it was like something I saw in an Allan Quatermain movie when he’s in far off Zanzibar.  There’s markets all over in Madripoor with all kinds of goods being sold, but this was definitely the place you would come to sell a robot suit that you took off an Australian bible-thumper – anything and everything under the sun was being offered for sale there. 

We made our way through that press, people seemed to know Blue and greeted him, and up the stadium stairs into the interior – which was a little more intense.  On the field it seemed to be every man for himself, inside there were competent looking guards with competent looking guns and barriers and such – it was a little more organized.  We made our way down a poorly lighted (lit?) hallway to an office.  I wonder what soccer stadiums need offices for.  What do soccer guys that don’t play soccer do? 

There was another lizard guy standing guard outside, but he was very different from Blue.  He had a big red thing on his head like a rooster and although he was big enough, he was hunched over so much he was shorter than me.  He had more of a crocodile/turtle vibe going on than Blue.  He hissed at Blue who shoved him to the ground like a kid would do to their younger brother.  I tensed up but the guys with guns escorting us just laughed.

Inside the office, one wall was jammed with pachinko machines and the other was stacked with miscellaneous wooden crates.  Sitting behind a desk between the piles was a woman in a leather catsuit complete with some kind of headpiece/helmet.  I wanted to comment on how ridiculous she looked but I remembered my promise to Blue and held my tongue.  Helping me so was the fact that she was flanked by two guys with shotguns. Guys who looked like they really wanted to shoot someone.  I could see some hair peeping out from under the head thing and even though she was a local, her hair was red.  Must be a dye job right?  That doesn’t happen in nature does it? 

No one was talking so I broke the ice “Hi.”

Blue shot me a look like I had made some terrible faux paus but she just looked up from the book she was reading, carefully laid a bookmark between the pages, and set it aside.  Her accent was interesting, like she had learned to speak English from someone in South Africa.

“Ways of Seeing, have you read it?”

I wanted to make a comment about how she was just sitting in her evil lair reading a book like a normal person but I didn’t “I have not.”

“I thought it was going to be a book about art but there’s a lot of feminist theory.  Do you feel repressed by traditional media representations of the female character?”

I shrugged “Maybe a little.”

“It’s thought-provoking, you should read it sometime.” She settled herself more fully in her chair “Lucien tells me that you’re interested in meeting with Baron Iorgu.”

I glanced over at Blue “Well, to be honest we think he might have kidnapped someone we’re looking for, so potentially it might be less cordial than a meeting in the traditional sense.  I want to be up front with you about our motivation to asking about him in case you have dealings with the Baron, I don’t want to cause you problems.”

She smiled slightly “Honesty?  In Madripoor?  How novel.  I don’t have business dealings with Baron Iorgu because the Baron is not a business man, he’s a lunatic.” She seemed to be musing to herself “You can’t do business with a crazy person because you never know how they’re going to act.” She returned her focus to me “I’m told you defeated Mr. X and the Challenger both, you must be quite a warrior.”

“You heard about that?”

“Word travels fast here.”

I shook my head “I’m no warrior, I’m a singer actually, I just got lucky.”

She smiled smugly and shook her head “Luck, such a western concept, nothing happens by accident.  Luck is a reward for boldness and prominence.  The victor makes the luck, not the other way around.” I wasn’t sure what to say to that so I said nothing “In any case you’re a woman that gets results.  I’m told that you took care of Gwai’s operation as well.  You aren’t making many friends here in Madripoor.”

“Madripoor isn’t a very friendly place, but I found Lucien and Martialla here so it’s not all bad.  They’re better friends than I ever thought I would have.”

She glanced at Martialla “Yes, Lucien I know well, but I’m glad I get to meet the infamous ‘super-mermaid’, some day you’ll have to tell me what really happened at the Imperial Navy base Saipan.  The rumors are quiet unbelievable.”

Martialla nodded demurely “I’d be happy to oblige any time.”

The woman looked up at Blue with a mirthless smile “Your friends are so polite Lucien, you had me expecting to be speaking with such brutes.”

A certain point of view? Day in the life of Martialla

Martialla hadn’t liked Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi from day one.  Martialla is in favor of protecting the oceans as much as anyone (more than most actually) but she looks dimly on anyone who brags about being an “eco-warrior”.  Making things worse though was the fact that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi clearly had no idea what she was doing.  When they first met, she was bragging about sinking an oil tanker and when Martialla asked how she prevented the oil in the tanker from spilling into the ocean, Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi just stared at her like she didn’t know what she meant.

So they didn’t get off on a good foot and things just went downhill the more Martialla learned about her – namely that her most frequent acts of “eco-warrioring” were attacking the crews of shipping vessels and drowning them.  Not being a fan of casual murder in general this was bad, but given that Martialla had also worked on such a vessel for years herself, you can imagine she didn’t love what Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was doing. 

Martialla was mostly convinced that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was not just stupid, but also that she didn’t even truly care that much about the cause she professed to be doing it for – that she was just using environmentalism as an excuse for doing what she wanted to do anyway, wreck stuff and hurt people.  And if we’re being honest, and I think that we are, Martialla is just a little bit racist against pacific islanders.  She would tell you that it’s because of some bad experiences she had, but people always have an excuse for their ugly little prejudices don’t they?

So when Rusalka told Martialla that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was causing some kind of trouble for the Shachi undersea mobile research facility, which was nearby at the time, she went to check it out not because she cares a whit about the Empire of Japan and their aquatic research projects, but because she wanted an excuse to take a strip off Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and be in the right doing so.

The Shachi mobile complex looked to Martialla’s eye vaguely like an aircraft carrier underwater, although more symmetrical and sleek than a real surface dwelling one.  It was resting on the ocean floor which she was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be doing, and the bodies of several Japanese sailors were hanging in the water which was also a tip off that something was not going the way everyone expected.  One of them was being nibbled at by a trio of circling whitetip sharks. 

Funny story, when she was an able seaman (woman but you know) she wasn’t afraid of sharks.  She never really even thought about sharks.  Why would she?  It’s not something sailors think about.  But now that she’s an undersea super person, she hates sharks.  And she knows that it’s completely irrational because even if a shark did try and take a bite out of her (which it wouldn’t) she’s not only much faster than any shark in the sea (even the short fin mako!) and could get away, even if it did get close to her, when she’s underwater she’s fast and strong enough to catch it and tear it in half like a sadistic little boy with a minnow from the bait shop.

So she kept an eye on those harmless to her sharks as she approached the Shachi and entered through the submarine bay.  Some people call it a wet dock, but Martialla finds that term crass and suggestive.  There was no one at the C&C center as she came out of the water and no lights on, which wasn’t a problem for her fish eyeballs.  Looking around, she did notice a woman in diving gear laying on the floor in a supply area and trying not to be noticed.  After initial language fumbling, they were able to communicate in Russian. 

Im Geum-ja started off by begging Martialla not to eat her (offensive) but once they got over that, she explained what she knew.  Im Geum-ja had been outside the station doing routine maintenance when she saw several of her fellow navy people swimming around without any sort of gear.  That would have been strange enough, but then they planted explosives on a supply sub and blew it up. That really got her attention.  She fled back to the Shachi at best speed where she found her comrades beating the shit out of her commanding officer. 

She watched in horror as they held her commander up while a “green water devil” came into the bay and ate his head.  Literally just bit his head off, crunched it up and swallowed it.  They tossed the headless body into the water and sauntered off.  She had been laying there ever since paralyzed with fear. 

Martialla told her to get a fresh tank and head for the surface and Madripoor.  When Im protested that this was a secret facility, Martialla told her if she wanted to live, it was time to leave.  When Im asked her if it was safe outside, Martialla, not one to mince words, told her “probably not”. 

Martialla made her way through several maintenance bays and the head (where she found a dead sailor with his throat slashed) into the officer’s quarters where she found a man tied to a sink and badly beaten.  Im, who had been trailing her unobtrusively, called him Kurokodairu and immediately untied him – even as he seemed to be shouting abuse at her. 

Im stood downcast as he shouted at her until Martialla demanded to know what was going on.  A three-way translated conversation from Japanese to Russian ensued.  The Senior Chief Petty Officer was not happy that Im was there without a mark on her while mutineers ran free.  He made a big deal of showing off his wounds and said that the only reason he was still alive is because the “monsters” needed his knowledge of the ship. 

Martialla remembered idiots like him from her time in the military and her civilian jobs as well – guys who seem to really want to go down with the ship and take everyone else with them.  She had worked with a guy named Fitzroy that was a former close combat instructor and worked as an “anti-piracy specialist”.  Ass.  Hole.  Even though she couldn’t understand what he was saying, she knew this guy was a Fitzroy.  In a way it was comforting to know that as different as Canada and the Empire of Japan are, you still find the same kind of people.

Martialla was tempted to tie him back up, especially when he started talking about how Im needed to find a weapon so they could take back the ship, but she didn’t.  Instead she locked them both in the room and continued on her way.  She passed a few sailors that had undergone some kind of transformation – their skin having the blue pallor of a body that’s been left in the water for weeks or months.  They didn’t pay her any attention. 

On the bridge she found Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi, Tiger Shark, the aforementioned “green water devil” who looked more like a lizard guy than a fish guy, and someone else she didn’t know that looked like a whale crossed with a catfish crossed with a guy.  Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi rolled her eyes like you do when you’re trying to impress your friends with your new skates and your little sister runs over with her stupid pogo stick for stupid babies. 

Even though he looked like a lizard, the green guy called himself the Great White (are there any water guys that don’t name themselves sharks?) and he seemed to be the brains of the operation.  He started blathering on about created a new world where everyone lived under the water.  He said that he had released a gas that was turning the loyal crew here into mer-people and they were quashing all opposition.  

Over Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi’s objections, he invited Martialla to join in his grand vision of a better world – a world under the sea.  Martialla shot him in the head.  Martialla chased after the Tiger Shark and shot him a couple times too, but he escaped into the water and she knows from experience that he’s a fast healer. 

When she got back to the bridge, Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and the catfish-whale guy were gone.  Martialla went back to let Im and Kurokodairu loose and explain to them that it was time to abandon ship.  Kurokodairu was a real pill about it at first but eventually was convinced there was no way to get things back on track.  Together the three of them gathered up a half dozen other loyalists and headed out to sea.  Some of the newly made mer-people tried to stop them, but the only power the gas gave them seemed to be the ability to breathe under water, they couldn’t even swim any faster – they were no match for Martialla. 

Martialla coming out of the water onto the beach has become a common enough sight that people don’t flip their lid about it anymore, but doing so with eight Japanese Navy divers raised a few eyebrows.  Once they were on land, Im revealed that she was less of a Japanese navy woman and more of a Korean unwilling conscript.  Martialla shrugged and told her she was in Madrpoor now, she could be whatever she wanted.

Twenty minutes later, Martialla met up with Ela and Lucien at a seaside café where Ela was doing what she’s always doing – stuffing her face with food she didn’t pay for and giving Martialla judgmental looks. 

“Why are you late?  What were you doing?!”

Martialla picked up a menu “Nothing.”

November 28, 1973 – The Challenging Challenge of the Challenger!

I try to spend as little time in our “apartment” as possible.  I never noticed it before because I wasn’t sleeping on top of him, but Blue has an unpleasant acrid scent to him.  And given that I’m sweating (sorry, girls don’t sweat, I mean glistening) through my clothes every three hours I probably don’t smell like roses myself.  Martialla surprisingly seems to have no odor at all, probably it matches her bland personality. 

And, smells aside, it’s pretty claustrophobic when we’re all in there, you know because it’s a utility closet.  As a result, we spend a lot of time walking around the city and sleeping in shifts when possible.  Blue and Martialla keep calling it “hot bunking” which is gross sounding and not accurate because we don’t even have a bunk.  Their insistence on using military jargon annoys me, Blue hasn’t been in the army for years and despite all her gung-ho commando bullshit, I’m pretty sure Martialla was like a secretary or something.  Anyway, we were strolling down a little strip between the part of town where all the vice places are by the docks called the Flats.

“So I don’t think we’re going to see Fred (editor’s note: she means Frank) anymore, he was pretty pissed that we stuck him with the bill.”

Martialla smirked, which is awful with her dumb fish-lips “Why was he upset, wasn’t it a standard food to sex deal?”

I scowled at her “Don’t be like that Martialla.”

She nodded “Ah, so you slept with him for free, you’re not a hooker, you’re just easy.”

“I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice, what’s your problem?”

“I grew up in Canada but I’m Russian.  Lucien is actually from Canada, that’s why he’s such a good natured doormat.”

“That explains it.”

We had to pause our perambulation because in the middle of the street there was a shirtless man in karate/pajama pants with a torso covered with tattoos of red and green dragons (not dragons like you think, here dragons are skinny snakes that have no wings and weird tentacle mustaches) attacking a breakdancer.  The one guy was breakdancing for his life while the shirtless dragon guy was trying to kick his head off.  In standard Madripoor fashion, most people were ignoring this and going around it, one enterprising fellow was taking bets.

“What’s this?

Blue pointed “The guy with the tattoos is called the Challenger.  He goes around the world attacking martial arts guys to prove he’s the best fighter in the world.”

“Isn’t that Mr. X’s deal exactly?  How many of these ever loving people are there traveling the world trying to fight everyone?”

“Enough that they have a tournament where they fight to the death every year and there’s still more of them the next year I guess.”

“Good point.  Why is he attacking a street dancer?  What does that prove?”

Blue flicked his tongue out in confusion “He’s not a dancer, he’s a capoeirista.”

“What?  He looks human to me.”

“Huh?”

“You said he was a capybara, isn’t that the giant rat-pig they have in South America?  The ones they tried to import into the swamps around New Orleans and now they’re everywhere?  Our tour bus hit one of those damn things back in seventy-one.  Nearly sent us off the road.  Of course the driver was also drunk so that may have been a factor as well.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What are YOU talking about?” We both looked at each other cluelessly for a moment before turning back to the fight “Should we do something?”

“Like what?  Do you want to fight a guy who goes around the world picking fights with the best fighters he can find?”

“No, but can’t you shoot him or something?”

Martialla snorted bitterly “With what?  We had to give all our guns to the doctor for Elvis, may he rest in peace.”

Blue crossed himself “May he rest in peace.  We’re just here with our dicks in our hands unless you want to go hand to hand with this guy.”

I looked at him curiously “Do you still have a dick?”

His eyes bulged, which I didn’t know could happen with his lizard-head “What?!”

I glanced at his pants crotch area “I mean to lizards even have dicks?  What’s going on down there?”

He turned away “This is not a productive area of discussion!”

I snapped my fingers “Is that why you’re so mad at those aliens?  When they turned you into a lizard you lost your penis?  That makes a lot of sense now that I think about it.”

Martialla slapped me on the arm “What if he’s a lizard but he still has his normal human penis?  That would be so freaky!”

“Eeeeew, is that what happened?!”

Blue stomped away in a huff and Martialla followed after him with a grin.  I stayed behind to watch the two men fighting, or really one man attacking and the other trying desperately to stay alive.  If two men (or women, although I think they’re generally too smart to do it) mutually and consensually decided they want to karate fight each other to the death I guess that’s fine, but it didn’t look like that to me, it looked like the breakdancing guy was just trying to live his life and the dragon guy attacked him. 

I picked up one of those three wheeled delivery bikes (I guess that’s a trike, but you know not the thing for kids) with the big cargo area and threw it at the dragon man.  There’s not enough heavy things laying around on the street for me to throw at people.  Maybe I should start carrying around a satchel of metals balls I can throw, made out of some really heavy metal.  What’s a heavy metal?  Tungsten?  Where do I get Tungsten? 

Unfortunately for me, and for the breakdancer, the dragon man – even though there’s no way he could have seen it coming – Fosbury flopped over the flying bicycle and it continued on its way to flatten the poor dancing guy.  It hit him so hard the frame bent around him like a hula hoop. 

“Oh!  Oh . . . shit, sorry man.”

Upon landing the Challenger spun to face me with an angry look, whipping his hand into an imperious point “You!  You have interfered in my affairs for the last time!”

“For the last time?  Have we met before?”

His response was to charge at me like they do in those Sunny Chiba movies.  The actor karate guy, not the dirty movie lady.  I threw a kiosk at him.  Not sure what it was, it looked like Lucy’s stand from Peanuts – honestly.  It was just a couple pieces of wood with a “marquee” above it advertising something not on English (or French or Spanish).  I heard someone exclaim what I assume translates to “My kiosk!”

Remember that time I threw a couch at that dumb lady with a sword?  I expected her to cut it in half but she didn’t.  This guy met expectations, he jumped in the air and karate-kicked the thing in half.  Well not literally in half but it broke is the point.  He didn’t fly through it though, he kind of bounced backwards and landed awkwardly.  Whereupon I threw one of those big stick things that I see people carrying two huge baskets on at him that I think broke both his legs.  He fell amongst the kiosk debris with a shout of pain.  I looked around for the breakdancing guy but he was gone.

“Well that’s not very gracious.”

The Challenger hauled himself up to his hands, looking up at me with fury “I’m going to kill you!”

“Yeah, once you learn to walk again I’ll be sure to watch out for that.”

OOC – Danger Zone!

When I was a kid I used to watch classic boxing in the basement Sunday mornings.  In my memory, it was on IPTV but that can’t be right, why would boxing be on public television?  I occasionally watch YouTube clips of classic fights.  But I can’t really say that I’m a boxing fan.  Not even a casual fan.  It’s more like something that I keep half an eye on sometimes.  And yet I still manage to get all riled up whenever anyone talks about Mike Tyson being a great boxer.  Who did he ever beat?  He knocked out a bunch of chumps and then lost to anyone decent he faced.  

That’s not relevant to anything really, but I thought about it because I’m going to talk about Million Dollar Baby which is a good movie with a stupid name.  I never saw Baby Driver because that is also a stupid name.  I did like Gone Baby Gone though, I guess the key is not to start or end your title with baby.

Million Dollar B is not in my top X favorite movies ever but I really like it.  It’s a movie that I always stop and watch if I see it’s on, or I did when I had satellite TV anyway.  Now I just roam around the house rootless and rudderless.    

I watched it with my lady the other day and after it was over she asked me “What is the point of the Danger character?”  I’ve seen that movie in part at least a dozen times and I never thought about that before.  What is the point of that character?  I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I really have no idea.

At first you think, well he’s the comic relief right?  But nothing he does is really that funny.  And I would suggest that it’s not that it was supposed to be funny and wasn’t.  So what is he?  Generally, I think a character like Danger would be a morality pet but he’s definitely not that.  I don’t think he interacts with Maggie at all and she doesn’t need a Jiminy Cricket anyway, she’s fine on her own.    

So what does Danger provide?  He gets his ass kicked and then comes back.  So you’d think that he’s the example of how you should never give up.  But he’s not, because again Maggie never thinks about giving up (on boxing anyway) and he doesn’t come back to the gym until after she’s gone anyway.  

The only thing that Danger really does is give Scrap a reason to punch out Anthony Mackie.  Which is kind of a neat scene, who doesn’t like seeing an asshole get their comeuppance, but is ultimately pointless.  Is that scene supposed to let us know that Scrap was a hard mofo in his day?  That’s pretty firmly established already I think.  And even if it wasn’t established, that isn’t important to the story either.  Is that supposed to tell us that Anthony Mackie is a puss?  Why would that be important?  

Thinking about it, the Anthony Mackie character doesn’t bring much to the story either.  He harasses Maggie in one scene and she blows him off and that’s pretty much it.  Sidenote, in my mind I remembered the harassment as being much harder to watch.  By the standards of women being harassed in movies these days, it was pretty mild.  If that movie was made today, there for sure would have been an attempted sexual assault or something. 

So I got to wondering if the character of Danger is from the book.  I was slightly wrong about the origin of the movie it turns out, there is no book, the screenplay was “inspired” by the book Rope Burns which was written by a cutman and longtime boxing trainer about his real experiences in boxing.  Which is probably why a lot of people think that Million Dollar Baby is based on a real story.  

The only thing I can figure is that one of the stories in Rope Burns was about a goofy kid that came in to train and wanted to fight Tommy Hearns for the middleweight championship and they put that story in the movie even though it didn’t really have anything to do with anything.  I feel like that’s a thing that happens when a screenplay is written based on a collection of short stories, the writer falls in love with one thing that really doesn’t belong and wedges it in there anyway.  I have no examples, but I think it’s a thing.  

Anyone else have any ideas on what the Danger character is supposed to be or accomplish in that movie?  Also, should I start a new segment where I take Best Picture winners and talk about how much better they would be with changes I would make since I’m a better writer than all the writers that have written best pictures.  I mean, you didn’t win best screenplay did you, Million Dollar Baby?  DID YOU?!

In other news I watched a couple episodes of an Amazon show called Red Oaks.  It’s highly touted and recommended.  I don’t get it.  Is there a twist coming or some subtle context I’m missing?  It appears to be a very standard 80s teen movie turned into a TV show.  The fact that so many people think it’s great makes me think I’m missing something.  

Is this a Jennifer’s Body situation?  When I watched Jennifer’s Body I thought “this is a horrible cheesy horror movie like any other” but instead I guess it’s some kind of powerful statement about feminism and is lauded as something great.  I re-watched it and I still don’t get it.  It seems like the exact opposite to me.  Seems to me like the screenwriter’s whole pitch was “What if Megan Fox makes out with Amanda Seyfried and we make it a movie?”  But I acknowledge that I’m wrong about that.  

Is that what’s going on here?  Is Red Oaks Jennifer’s Bodying me?  What am I missing? 

OR do people just like it because the 80s have a weird nostalgia for people my age even though they were little kids for most of that decade?  

One thing that really irks me about Red Oaks is that I know for sure that in 2013, we all decided that we were done with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and then WHAM Red Oaks slaps me right in the face with Skye.  

Hot Ela on Ela action outside of time and space

She was stunning.  Statuesque I’d call her.  Or I would if I was the kind of person that would call someone that.  I’ve heard that term before, but never had I seen anyone I felt deserved the moniker until I saw her.  We were exactly eye to eye, but somehow she seemed a few inches taller than me.  She looked a lot like me.  A LOT like me.  It wasn’t exactly like looking in a mirror because there were differences.  Minor differences, but they were there.  Her skin was nearly flawless but I could see one tiny white line from the corner of her mouth, it was artfully hidden with make-up, I doubt anyone who wasn’t examining what was almost their own face would notice it.  Her eyes were really something.  They weren’t cold exactly, they certainly weren’t friendly, they were hard – like diamonds.  Never seen eyes like that.

Her clothing was odd to my eye, it was sort of what I think of from Robin Hood or movies like that with swords and stuff, but it wasn’t exactly that.  They weren’t fancy clothes but they were extremely well made, some material I’m not even familiar with.  It looked like what a queen would wear when she wasn’t dressed like a queen if that makes sense.  Like a queen going out for a ride maybe.  In particular she had longcoat of white and silver trimmed with black that was gorgeous.  I have no idea what I would do with something like that but I kind of wanted it.   

She had a cane or a walking stick made of a fine dark wood that was topped with an ivory cobra-head.  The detail was insane.  It looked like an actual cobra had been petrified and its head sliced off for the top of the cane.  She didn’t hold it like a person that needed a cane, she held it like a staff of office, or like a pharaoh with that little crook thing you see on Egypt stuff.  Or maybe she held it like a weapon.  Point is she didn’t have it because she had a limp, she certainly didn’t need a cane.

The snake tattoo on the back of my hand, a souvenir from a night of drinking with sailors on leave, was tingling in a strange way.  It was like pins and needles all across the back of my hand. The tattoo itself looked sharper and more realistic – like an actual snake might jump off my hand.  It seemed like it could start moving at any moment and it kind of freaked me out. 

She was examining me just as I was her and I got the sense that she wasn’t impressed, suddenly I felt self-conscious of my shabby clothing.  Her voice was rich and resonate, she’d make a wonderful singer if she was so inclined.  

She smiled almost imperceptivity “Blood stains?  I had the same problem in the beginning.  You need to get yourself a magically self-cleaning and self-repairing wardrobe, after I was able to do that it made my life much easier.” 

“Is magic a thing?” 

“Sometimes.”  Even though we were nowhere that I could tell, she looked around “Your world does seem very dull though, perhaps there is no magic for you.  That’s a pity my dear, magic is awful and common but I’ve found that it can do many helpful things.  If you can afford it.” 

I was at a loss of what to say “Nice coat.” 

She looked at her sleeve “Isn’t it just?  I took it off the body of one of those horrible Vulcari people.  It was already enchanted but I took it to a craftmage in Barrinton and had more magic imbued in it.  It’s saved my life several times, and it looks very fetching if I do say so myself.”  She looked at me curiously “Do you have Vulcar here?” 

“Uh, I don’t know what that is.  Did you say you killed someone?” 

Her smiled widened.  People talk about shark smiles.  It wasn’t that.  Not exactly.  It was something predatory, but nothing so obvious as a shark.  It was the smile that comes before poison is fed with a spoon.  It was the smile before the pillow goes over your face to smother you.  I could see how most people would love for that smile to be directed at them, it was radiant, men especially would turn to butter under it – but it made me shiver.  I’ve never seen a smile like that before and I hope I never do again.  It wasn’t cold, it was otherworldly. 

“Well aren’t you a peach?  Are you truly as innocent as all that?  Maybe you’re who I would have been if I stayed on the farm.” She laughed.  “Yes, I’ve killed people.  Many times.  Revenge is a dirty business, my dear.  You’re going to have to get your hands bloody if you want to get Duke Eaglevane.” 

“This is quite an odd dream.” 

Her smiled turned wry “You don’t know the half of it.  I was plagued by nightmares for months sent by a wicked creature from beyond the stars that laid a curse on me.  This is a walk in the park by comparison to what I went through on a nightly basis, I assure you.  Although, I suppose without that particular magical infection I wouldn’t be here now.  Koma played a part as well but without that seed . . . I wonder.” 

“Uh . . . what?” 

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it dear.  I’d love to stay and chat with you about the well of many worlds or other more interesting topics, but unfortunately I don’t have much time here so it’s best we get to business.  I’ve come to warn you not to make the same mistake that I did.  When I woke up in that pigsty Graltontown, I thought that I would head straight for the Duke and destroy him.  But I kept getting distracted by this and that and every other little thing.  Two years I spent running here and there and getting into one jackpot after the other and I got no closer to my revenge.  Sure, it was mostly Martialla’s fault, but still . . .” 

“Wait, Martialla?  You know her?  What is this?” 

Her face barely changed but I could tell it turned cold, a shiver went up my spine “I’m trying to tell you, don’t interrupt me, it’s unspeakably rude.  Don’t follow in my path.  Whatever you’re doing right now that seems important, stop doing it, go wherever the Duke is and kill him.  Don’t worry about anything else.  Don’t go down the same path that I did.  You must succeed where I failed.” 

“I don’t understand.  This isn’t real right?” 

She smirked “Have you ever had a dream where you asked if the dream was a dream?  Don’t get tangled in the details, just take my advice.  No detours, no side treks, no distractions, just go straight for the Duke.  Unless you want to end up like me.” 

“And how did you end up?  You look pretty spiffy to me.” 

Her mouth tightened “Dead.  Dead is how I ended up.  If you jump into every situation that comes your way, eventually you run out of luck.  I was so stupid, I see that now.  I started with nothing and I got money and power, and I never made my move.  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” 

“I’ve never understood that expression.” 

“Well say you have some trees . . . actually no, forget about it, there’s no time for lessons.  Heed my warning, learn from my mistake.  Don’t get yourself killed in some random ditch like I did, grab a horse right now and head for the Duke.” 

“A horse?  Why would I grab a horse?” 

She rolled her eyes “Or whatever you have here, just get there as fast as you can is what I meant.” 

“O . . . kay.  So, uh, what’s the afterlife like?” 

“Where you are?  I have no idea.  Where I am?  Never-ending torment.  Well, mostly never-ending, I’m not being tormented right this second so it did end once at least.  Which is nice for me.”   

“Oh. You’re in Hell?  So you were pretty bad huh?” 

She smiled pleasantly “Sweetie, I was the absolute worst.” 

Critical update please read immediately

I just realized that I accidentally named two characters Maggie. Good thing I caught it before the fiction police came after me.

Maggie McGraw will now be rechristened Maeve McGraw, which ruins the joke that only one person in the world got, but these are the sacrifices that have to be made in the name of art.

As all real writers know, no two characters in a work of fiction should share the same first name. They can’t even have similar-sounding names. If there’s a Laura in your story, there sure as hell better NOT be a Lyra. If there’s an Ed, you’d be a damn fool to include a Ted . Of course this is all opposite when it comes to twins – twins MUST have similar sounding names.

The good news is that this rule can help you determine if you’re real or not. If you realize that you don’t know any two people with the same first name and that your phone number begins with 555, you can safely assume you live in a fictional world. Depending on what fictional world you live in, you may want to escape to the real world. Things aren’t all roses here, but if you’re a character in the Road or some other horrible depressing novel you probably want out.

If you send me 200 dollars I’ll tell you the secret word that will let you jump into the real world.

“But Jeremy, if you’re real and I’m fictional how am I even reading this? And how can I get you the money?”

The internet is a confluence of the real world and the world of make believe, it’s funny how many people don’t seem to realize that. It’s pretty obvious folks. And I know how to cross over.

“But how do I know that you’re real?”

Because I’m not even in the number one roster slot of Jeremys amongst my peers. I’m Jeremy #2. I was Jeremy #3 for a long time but I managed to move up a place.

The reason for the one name limit is that when you’re writing, you’re supposed to imagine that your audience is stupid. People like it when you treat them like they’re six years old. Obviously they would be confused by multiple characters with the same name: “Wait, was it good-guy Steve or bad-guy Steve who launched the missile at France?” Clearly there’s NO way to figure it out from context.

That’s why the Two Jakes was just a horrible flop.

Along the same lines, good writing is having your characters say things they would never say for the benefit of the audience. “I’m a lawyer and I’m talking to you, a fellow lawyer, but I will now explain what a pre-trial hearing is for the sake of the audience because they’re morons.”

I don’t remember what I watched the other day but it was pretty good and then at the end, the main character literally just explained the whole plot of the show. That’s what made it go from good to great. Now that’s writing!

November 27, 1973 – A Duke by any other name something something revenge

I’m working on a new song.  I wish I could find a guitar so I could really get into the nitty-gritty of it, but I’ve got some good ideas in my head at least.  It’s a song about who we are on the inside.  About how, for a bunch of reasons, we’re perceived very differently from who we are.  Some people try really hard to make people think that, but even the people that don’t are thought to be something they’re not.  It’s not a new or revolutionary idea but that’s why music is the truest and greatest form of art.  

Want proof?  There are a million songs about getting your heart broken, and there needs to be a million songs about getting your heart broken because each one speaks to people in different ways.  With music, the same basic message in a different package really is something different because it hits people in a different way.  You can’t achieve that with any other medium.  

If you’re into mountain climbing, you may read a bunch of books about climbing Everest but one is all you need to get the message.  The other ones are just entertainment.  With literature, the same story is the same story.  Maybe one writer is better than the other or there’s one perspective that you identify with more, but you don’t need more books about the same thing like you do with songs.  

Paintings and sculptures and drawings and things like that can evoke feelings and ideas but it’s open to interpretation.  Maybe the artist intended those three red lines to signify the sunrise but you see what you see.  When I look at ‘The Poetess’ by Joan Miro, I have a strong reaction, but it’s one that I can’t really explain.  When I hear Etta James singing about how she’d rather go blind than see her man walking away from her, I know exactly what she’s talking about.  

The point is while that song speaks to me, maybe someone else really feels it when Janis Joplin is telling them about someone taking a piece of her heart.  And maybe another body feels it when Otis Rush is telling them.  They’re all singing about the same thing, getting hurt by love, but we need all those different ways to say it because everyone is different.  Music speaks to the soul in a way that other art doesn’t.  Sorry other kinds artist, but as a singer I’m better than you.   At least you’re still better than horrible non-creative types.

Fred (editor’s note, she means Frank) told me that Duke Eaglevane is in a prison in German East Africa.  When I suggested that the world’s most wanted man being captured and put in jail was something that would have been in the papers, he said that they don’t know that’s who they have.  According to Fred, a few months ago the Pecos military launched a missile attack at a guerilla camp in southern Mexico under the impression that in residence at the time was an international criminal by the name of Miro Viga, wanted in connection with several violent uprisings in South America.  Miro, who either wasn’t there or survived the attack, in retaliation, tried to enter the Pecos Republic intent on blowing up several government buildings.  There was a battle at the border in which six men were killed and thirty more wounded before Miro was taken into custody by one of the only PR NBH operatives, Justice Ranger – which is a terrible name.

Fred claims that Miro Viga is none other than Duke Eaglevane.  As Fred tells it, the good Duke has many different personas that have been constructed and maintained with such detail as to be practically different people – hence why the Pecos authorities don’t know who they really have.  He said that this is at least the third time the Duke has been captured without the authorities knowing who they really have.  Seems pretty far-fetched to me.  I asked Fred if this was so super-duper secret how did he know about it, and he said that he was part of an “op” that broke the Miro Viga identity back when he was still in the good graces of the US spymasters.  

“If this is true, why didn’t your government tell the Texans who they had?”

He half-shrugged “I don’t know, I’m not in the loop anymore.  Maybe they did and the Pecos authorities didn’t believe it.  Or maybe they like having one of the Dukes identities that no one else knows about.  There are a lot of angles they could be playing.”

I glanced at Martialla “So all we need to do is get to German Africa once we wrap up this other thing.”

Fred looked somber “Get there quickly is my advice. As I said, this has happened before – the Duke’s minions always break him out in a couple of months.  That’s the whole point of these supplementary personas, if they knew who they had, Duke Eaglevane would be in some black site where you’d never find him.  Actually, he’d never be taken into custody in the first place, if they had him in their sights they’d kill him.  But Miro is just an ordinary terrorist wanted by fifteen world governments, so he’s merely in a normal maximum security facility.   If you want to kill him, this is the best chance you’re going to get.”

“Do you know any of his other identities?”

“I did, but it doesn’t matter, the Duke knows those ones are burned.  Miro Viga is the only one that’s still active that I know about.”

While I was thinking, Martialla gave me a look “I think you’re overlooking an obvious course of action, Ela.  Half the world wants the Duke dead.  The safe bet is to give this information to someone who has the juice to make sure he goes down.”

I shook my head slowly “No.  It has to be me.  He has to know I’m the one that got him.”  

Martialla frowned “But he doesn’t even know who you are.”

“He will.  For a few seconds.”

Red hair don’t care

It’s been brought to my attention that these random character creation posts are “unreadable” and “awful”. But it’s fun for me so I’m going to do it again. I could do it and not post it but what’s the point of doing something without desperately begging for attention afterwards?

I think all RPG people would agree that the best part of any game is character creation – before the gross GM ruins everything with their stupid plot. And the other players think their characters should get to do stuff too?! It’s lunacy.

I would say half of the people that I’ve gamed with that I didn’t care for should have been writing instead of playing an RPG, they would have been much happier if they were in control of everything.

Type – Hardware, Analytical Genius  

Appearance – Short, average 

Disposition – Mean, suspicious  

Age – Mid-20s 

Origin – Europe, English speaking, small city 

Background – Criminal  

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Legacy 

Budget – 4 million  

Analytical genius in this context means your standard super science person.  I would imagine that IRL most super smart people are only super smart in a couple of areas at best – if you’re a great heart surgeon you’re probably not also a wiz at coding and can build a new kind of airplane in your backyard.  But in comics, smart heroes can do everything.  They get budget instead of abilities for their super-gear. 

Europe-English speaking is an odd inclusion on a random chart, isn’t that just two countries, England and Ireland?  I’ll say this short mean suspicious lady is Irish.  Irish ladies in media always have red hair. The only Irish person I’ve met IRL had red hair.  It got me to wondering how common it actually is.  Per the internet no one knows really, but estimates range from 10% to 30%.  Remember a few years ago when it was “news” that red hair would be gone in a few generations because we’re not all trapped on an island anymore?  I do. 

I don’t know much about Ireland but I don’t think they have many cities there, I’m given to understand it’s more of a small-town vibe most places.  I’m not sure it matters much, but I’ll say she’s from Derry.  I was just thinking the other day for a period of time it seemed like all media portrayals of Irish people were related to the IRA and/or the conflict in Northern Ireland.  I wondered “is that not cool?”  But if you’re going to do something involving action and violence, I suppose it would be weird to ignore it.   

So I’ll cave to convention and possibly be un-PC to Irish people (sorry Irish people) and say that Maggie McGraw’s father was a Red Hand Commando.  Her mother was out of the picture at a young age so Maggie was reared by her hellraising father and his secret paramilitary buddies.  Having a knack for machines and the like from a young age, she was the armorer for her father’s “platoon” and if anyone had an issue with a little girl taking care of their weapons, her da would beat them senseless.   

Legacy usually means that you have the same powers or abilities, but I’ll say that’s not the case here.  The legacy in this case being that she followed in her father’s footsteps in the conflict.  Maggie is a genius intellect inventor type, her father was not, he was a hard charging, hard fighting, tough as nails SOB.  As Maggie got older she started building devices for her father and his crew to use, and eventually started participating in “operations” herself.  Not the really violent stuff, but robberies to support the cause and the like.  Which were still pretty violent. 

When she was a teen her father’s luck ran out – he and his commandos were caught and ended up dead or in prison.  Maggie was shuttled from relative to relative and hidden with various people sympathetic to the cause.  This continued until she attempted an attack on her own and was caught in the process. Playing up her youth and gender, Maggie got off “merely” with a ten-year sentence.  In prison she meets Mairéad Devaney, who unbeknownst to the authorities, was actually the tech-villain Complex.   

Mairéad spotted Maggie turning a radio into a transmitter and the two immediately began conspiring to escape.  Which they did successfully a few months later, by being smart and doing way cool tech stuff.  Once they were away from the prison at Mairéad’s hideout, Maggie did away with her new friend and occupied herself building and modifying equipment with the components and materials Mairéad had stored up.   

Even though Maggie was imprisoned only for a short time, she lost her passion for her father’s cause.  Her goal now is to make money and live the high life.  She plans to do this eventually by becoming a supplier of high-tech gear for other criminals but first she needs the seed money to get started.  And what better place to make some quick cash than the wealthiest and most corrupt city in the world, Madripoor? 

Maggie’s sweet gear –  Armored bodysuit w/ telemental multi-optics combat computer helmet, rocket boots, wireless communication, reflex enhancers, and supercharged punchin’ gauntlets with frickin’ lasers