Walking up the hill into Madripoor I felt like I was stepping off of a space capsule on another planet. I’ve traveled quite a bite in the States, the Coalition, and the Republics, I’ve experienced a lot of different places. But nothing like this. The sounds, the smells, the feel of the air – it was all different. Part of the feeling was probably created by not hearing much English. Some of the people I passed were speaking French but most of them weren’t speaking anything I recognized.
The crowded homes at the bottom of the hill seemed clearly like the “bad” part of town, but no one bothered me. Beyond a few curious looks no one paid me any mind at all. Half the people seemed like they were too busy to notice me and the other half looked too relaxed to care. I wanted to know where I was, but more than that I wanted a shot, a beer, a pack of Newports, and some FOOD.
I hadn’t fully passed into the garish high-rise Vegas part of town, but was in a borderlands of sorts when I saw a subway counter type thing with a paunchy old guy serving up . . . something. Bowls of what looked like grey water with noodles and some fish chunks. It smelled bad and looked worse but my stomach was rumbling so loudly people were turning to look at me.
The guy behind the counter didn’t speak English or French (I didn’t try Spanish) but I held out the money and he gave me a bowl. On its own it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. At that moment it was the BEST THING I EVER TASTED. Seriously, I cannot express how hungry I was. I shoved the noodles and chunks into my face with my hands, much to the disgust of the cook/owner/counterman/whatever. It was pretty gross but I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want to.
He tried to give me change but I waved him off and gestured for more food. After bowl four I started using utensils. The counterman was shocked by the amount of food I was inhaling in such a short period of time. After a couple more bowls he gestured at me angrily and shoved some bills back in my hand. These ones were dark red and pale blue. It’s quite a color wheel they have going on here with their mint. I held up one of the bills trying to decipher what was on it.
“It’s a turtle.”
I turned to see the origin of the voice that had just the smallest hint of a French accent. It was a smooth looking fellow in a tan leisure suit, I think I saw Carson wearing that same thing. The suit, not the guy. He was one of these types that you can tell is an operator just by looking at him. Very friendly. Several guys with him in dark suits didn’t look friendly at all. But he was the dangerous one.
I turned the bill the other way around “I guess.”
He came and sat on the stool next to me, closer than was necessary “You ran off before we could talk.”
I turned to get a better look at him “You’re from the ship then? Who are you the skipper? Where’s your hat? Where’s Gilligan?”
He smiled humorlessly “I’m your new boss.”