Blue carried me away from the fracas and down to the docks. I suppose maybe that should have made me feel safe or something, but it didn’t. It made me feel like a damn baby – helpless and vulnerable. Also, his arms feel like leather on account of he’s a giant scaly monster – in case you forgot that. When he set me down, he grabbed a hose and started rinsing the exploded human remains off me. It took a good half an hour – I had a lot of exploded guy on me. The entire time, despite the fact that it was nine hundred degrees like it always is here, I stood there shivering like a dog that’s being hosed down behind the barn after being sprayed by a skunk.
When I looked down at the rapidly pinking water, I saw little silver fish coming up to nibble on the chunks of human flesh bobbing in the ocean. I was in shock at that point, I guess. I suppose I thought having super powers and fighting crime would be fun. It’s not. It’s pretty fucking terrible so far. I don’t remember Bat-Girl ever struggling to comb chunks of brain matter out of her hair with a gaff hook while being sprayed like a mental patient with a dock hose. Turns out the real world isn’t like TV. Who knew? I have a serious bone to pick with Archibald Low.
After I was “clean” Blue made like he was going to carry me back to Kruszarka 495 but I made him put me down so I could walk myself. I’m not going to be carried twice in one day. Not unless my legs are broken. Or if I’m tired. Or if I don’t feel like walking. The point is if it happens, it’s going to be my choice. I was pretty shaky at first as we walked, but for once the streets were mostly empty which helped me find my footing. Before that moment, I don’t think I had been outside in Madripoor for two seconds without five to nine people pressed up against me like I was on the subway. Or at a key party. You know.
While we were walking, Blue looked down at me and said that he thought I needed some new threads. I looked down at my borrowed clothing, comprehensively soiled with blood and human remains, and started laughing hysterically. I don’t know why. Probably because I was hysterical. Hence the expression. It was just what I needed though. Nothing like a cheap laugh to help you shake off a little thing like a guy exploding all over you (phrasing).
When we got to the bar, Martialla was there with the Man in Black. They were sitting at a table drinking a concoction of rice wine and corn spirits they mix up around here and talking animatedly like they were old friends. His name, I discovered, was Lim Boon Keng, and like Elvis he’s a neighborhood defender. Although unlike Elvis, he’s not just a gritty little nobody, LBK has been gifted with super-agility and enhanced reflexes and “fighting spirit”. He was cagey about where these gifts came from though. He had followed Martialla back here and I guess they hit it off even though she’s a disgusting fish-monster. There’s no accounting for taste. I think Anton Chekhov said that. Or maybe my grandma. I get those two mixed up sometimes.
Martialla had grabbed a bunch of the crazy pink and purple money they have around here when the frat boys dropped it to start shooting (or because they exploded) but the big coup was that she dragged the robot-armor back as well, which she claimed would be worth millions. The only thing I know about robot-suits is that the commies in South America have them so that’s why we need to create superheroes like Angel (before she got killed I mean) in order to fight them so they don’t turn us all into dirty commies. But if each suit is worth millions, how do the commies afford them? Isn’t being poor their whole thing? I should learn more about global politics.
I don’t know what military-grade killer robot suits have – label doesn’t seem right – that’s for clothing. But whatever it had said that it was made by Burlington Industries, which I’ve actually heard of. They’re a US company that makes fabrics that came up with a kind of new bullet-resistant stuff back in the 50’s and then got in a bunch of trouble for selling it to law enforcement people in the CS. I guess they’re getting into the robot-suit game now? Robotics seems like a far cry from making socks if you ask me, even bulletproof socks, but then again the Calloway Golf people also make parts for tanks, so what do I know about it? I suppose you need to diversify to make money.
Martialla and LBK were jazzed up because they thought we could take the suit to “the Shipyard” and sell it quick and be rich. First of all, I’m not sure why the Man in Black thought he was getting a cut of money – he’s not part of our crew. Second of all, taking a multi-million dollar robot-suit to a lawless criminal swap meet doesn’t seem like a wise move. Why am I the only one who thinks of these things?
By the way, in classic Madripoor tradition, the Shipyard is not a shipyard at all, but rather an old soccer stadium that has been turned into a bazaar because it turns out no one here gives a shit about soccer. I want to call it a black market but there’s really no such thing in Madirpoor, no one cares, sell whatever you want. Making things more confusing is the fact that Madripoor has many actual shipyards. When I voiced my concerns, Blue did chime in with the little tidbit that the Shipyard is the territory of a criminal quartet with the imaginative name of The Four. Because there’s four of them.
“See there you go, if we take this suit down there, these people are just going to take it from us. No honor among thieves and so forth. Now what we could maybe do is head down there and feel things out, see if someone seems like a likely buyer and set up a deal.”
LBK shook his head “If they find out, they won’t like that – they get a portion of all the sales in the Shipyard, so we’d be cutting them out.”
Blue’s tail was twitching curiously “I’ve dealt with them before, I’m sure we can work something out.”
While we were discussing one of Elvis’s sisters (or cousins, or maybe just friends, I can’t keep track – and not because I’m racist and think they all look alike, but because there’s a lot of them and I only meet them briefly) came in looking for me. Which is a disturbing development. Is this where I live now? Is it known that I live in a bar? That can’t be good. That’s very low class. She was clearly upset by something but it took a while to figure out what. She spoke a different language than LBK, so it was Blue that was doing the translating with his twenty percent pidgin of the local patois. Is that the right word? What is a patois? Sounds French so I should know.
Eventually we figured it out – the Shadow Lords had declared that Elvis would be killed that night. I guess this is a thing they do when they’re going to murder someone who’s really been a thorn in their side. They made a grand proclamation so that everyone knows what’s going to go down and that they shouldn’t be messed with. I took a last drink of cheap vodka and stood up feeling dog tired. Even though I have super endurance.
I let out what I have to admit was a very theatrical sigh “Well, grab your guns, it’s go time.”
Martialla frowned “What do you mean?”
I gestured “Didn’t you just hear? We have to protect Elvis.”
Martialla looked confused “The singer?”
“No, the guy who saved me from the Shadow Lords when I first got here!”
“I thought you saved yourself.”
“Well I did, sort of, but he was the first person who helped me. He’s my friend. We need to go help him. Plus, then you grab one of the Shadow Lords and beat him until he tells you where your niece is. It’s a win-win.”
She looked at Blue who shrugged (lizard style with the tongue) “I’ll go get in a fight. I don’t know what Elvis Presley is doing here but I always liked Suspicious Minds.”
LBK nodded “Good, good, you go do that and I’ll see about selling this suit.”
“The fuck you will, buddy. You want in on this then you’re coming with us.”
Blue lizard-grinned at me “Look, we’re a super team just like you wanted, Ela. I’m the big guy, M is the water specialist, you’re the leader, and now we have a stealthy guy. It’s all coming together.”
I lit up one of the shitty local smokes they have here “Yeah, when I was on tour with KC and The Sunshine Band, this is exactly how I imagined my life going.”