Back home there was always a protest or petition or some kind of whoop-de-doo going on about this or that or the other thing. People were forever getting riled up about an election or a law or something or other. I’m not much of one for politics or rhetoric or community action, it’s all just so tiresome you know? Hmm, although it’s also much nicer back home. Is there a connection of some kind there? No, no, I should just keep on being selfish.
I think part of the problem though is that a lot of that action comes from the hippies. I tell you true, I’m not a fan, I mean free love? Nice try guys. Granted, I haven’t shaved my legs since I was dumped in this hellhole but that’s a matter of circumstance, not choice. One thing they’re often very upset about is the military industrial complex. I don’t know what that is exactly, but a lot of dudes with long hair really don’t think it’s a good idea. Another thing that puts beans in their bindle is rich people.
I wouldn’t mind being rich myself but I’m not that into it you know? My grandmother used to say, as long as you’re pretty you don’t need money, which is true for the most part. It helps if you’re charming too. Which I am. I am winsome as fuck. Money corrupts, they like to say, but I’ve met plenty of poor assholes so money isn’t doing all the lifting for sure. But here in Madripoor, I’m starting to understand what those long hairs were driving at. There’s having money and then there’s being rich. And then there’s having wealth.
I decided to go and speak to the harbormaster alone, I didn’t want to try strong-arming the guy right off the bat – save that for later in case my winsome charm doesn’t work. With that tactic in mind, showing up with a giant lizardman and a freaky fish lady at my flanks seemed like the wrong way to go. I’ll need them for the rough stuff, but when it’s time to charm and disarm, that’s Ela time. Ergo, I left Martialla and Blue at the bar and headed out myself.
Sidenote, those two don’t seem to be gelling. I figured they’d be fast friends in no time. They’re both bitter ex-military French Canadian abominations. How can they not have anything to talk about? What kind of bullshit is that? The odds against two people like them even being here are astronomical and when they meet they’re both like “eh, I can do better”? Me, I like talking to anyone I can find from the CS just because they understand my references. Even if they’re boorish, at least we’re on the same page.
Side-sidenote the other day some customers actually came into the bar, tourists you know, and upon seeing a giant blue lizard and a soggy broad with giant white eyes, they turned around and immediately walked back outside. I have to admit seeing that was a trip.
Anyway, I was heading down to the harbormasters office when a Cadillac Eldorado pulled up beside me. In this part of Madripoor, it’s pretty rare to see cars at all, let alone a monster like that. It’s one of those cars that you expect to have horns mounted on the front and a loudmouthed oilman inside. The streets in this part of town aren’t even really built for cars, I feel like driving here they probably knocked the corners off a couple people’s houses. And off some people too.
There was no fat Pecos oil baron inside though, instead there were a couple men in dark suits with Uzis (or whatever, I don’t know guns). There are a lot of things about Madripoor that are strange to me. And there are things about Madripoor that frighten me. Chief among the latter group is the way that some people just have guns on them walking around. In the CS, you’d occasionally see someone with a hunting rifle or maybe a handgun here or there, but there is something mildly terrifying about seeing men with assault rifles in normal clothes just out and about being casual.
Two of the men got out of the back seat and said something to me in Malay (or Indonesian, or one the many other languages spoken here) while one of them held the door open. I couldn’t understand them of course, but the request was clear – get in.
You see, this is what I’m starting to understand. When you have wealth, you do things like dispatching your goons in a luxury car to snatch a woman off the street like that’s a normal thing to do. Rich people secretly fear that the poor will rise up and eat them someday, so they don’t go too crazy. The wealthy have no such fears. They’re insulated. They’re immune. Once you have a fleet of private planes and your own army of loyal goons and emergency bunkers on volcanic islands, what whim could you possibly not indulge?
“Saya tidak bercakap bahasa melayu” I said while calculating if I could flip the car over and run before they riddled me bullets.
The driver turned and repeated the command in French and while I was deciding if I wanted to pretend I didn’t understand that either, the passenger got out and leaned on his door like someone waiting at a gas station. He was a little taller and more slender than the other goons. He would have been a decent looking guy if he wasn’t trying to abduct me. He spoke English with a British accent.
“We’re not Shadow Lords.”
I nodded “Sure, you’re just men with guns grabbing me off the street, nothing that I should worry about at all. Hold on a second while I let my guard down.”
He smiled and held his hands out like predators do when they want to seem harmless “Has anyone here grabbed you miss? This is a polite invitation, my boss would like for you to join him at his compound for lunch.”
I laughed mirthlessly “Does he know how much I eat these days? He might regret that.”
He nodded slightly “My patron is aware of your unfortunate . . . condition. That’s why he wants to meet you, in fact.”
“Yes, I’ve become very popular since several million dollars was spent turning me into a biological miracle slash sideshow freak. I get invited to all the best parties these days. Does your patron have a name?”
He shook his head slightly “Not one that he cares to share.”
I snorted “Ooh, very mysterious, he sounds like a real peach. I’m sure all the other girls just love this shadowy mystery man.” I looked at my wrist as if I was wearing a watch “I’m actually on my way to an appointment though, prior commitment and all that, you know how it is, business never stops. What happens if I decline your polite gunpoint invitation?”
He sighed theatrically “Has anyone pointed a gun at you? If you decline the invitation then we are going to have to grab you. My boss is a generous man but he’s also very stern. Yes, very stern indeed.”
I smiled slightly “And how do you think that would go?”
He seemed curious “I don’t know. The extent of your abilities is unknown. I know that you defeated Genderuwo, which isn’t a feat that many can boast about, so I know that you must be immensely strong. But I also know that you didn’t kill him, which makes me wonder if you’re not so fearsome in the final analysis.”
“He’s pretty hard to kill.”
He nodded “That he is madam, that he is. However, unless I miss my mark I don’t think you gave that much sustained effort. The choices before you are that you can either come with me for a nice little drive and then lunch, or we can slug it out and see what happens. My boss is going to learn what he wants to know in either case I think. So the question is, which will you have, love?”