October 23, 1973 – You scream and you holler, ’bout my Chevy Impala

I don’t remember the events leading up to whatever happened to me that resulted in me being here in Madripoor where they have shitty smokes, weird booze, and strange food.  According to the official non-official reports, I was blown up in a terrorist attack.  I don’t remember that.   

I remember that a few days before all this, I went to see a movie at the Grenada.  I don’t remember the name because I was just walking by and went in on a lark.  I missed the first few minutes, but the movie was about this businessman and some spies or someone had kidnapped his wife.  In order to save her, he had to do something at the office for them but everything kept going wrong.   He kept coming up with plans to salvage the situation and save his wife – and they were good plans.  He was a smart and competent protagonist.   

But the exact right/wrong thing kept happening to screw up those plans, things he had no control over.  There was a scene where he’s sitting at his desk trying to keep it together because he’s running out of time and eight people stop by in succession to tell him some piece of bad news that ruins everything.  He’s screwed sixteen ways from Sunday but he keeps fighting.   

In the end though, it turns out that his wife was actually the ringleader of the whole scam and she was getting down with one of the spies or whatever they were and all his suffering and hard work was for nothing.  So then he kills himself. 

Pretty harsh.  But what I want to know is — why did someone make it?  Making a movie isn’t easy.  You don’t just bang that out over lunch one day.  The amount of work and money and effort and resources and people’s time that went into making that is something.  I don’t know how to quantify it.  With that many human effort units, could you have made a hundred cars?  Feed a thousand people?  I don’t know.   

Someone wrote a script and someone hired actors and someone built sets and someone scouted locations and those actors learned their parts and performed them and guys recorded it and a ton of other stuff happened to take the idea of “guy gets screwed and then kills himself” from an idea in someone’s brain to a thing I saw before my eyes.   

And for what?  Why did any of those people think that was a worthwhile thing to do?  Why do we as a society allow resources to be used for that?  At no point did anyone ask “why are we doing this?”  At the time I saw the movie, I didn’t think about any of this.  I just walked out, went across the street for a beer and a late night snack, and I went home.  But now, standing in an illegal doctor’s clinic in Madripoor where everyone has vanished into thin air, I thought about that movie.  Why did they do it?  Why? What was the message?

I nosed around the clinic for a while.  Everyone was gone.  I wandered back outside to where the flying red Aussie was pinned under a car.  One of his robo-arms was hanging out the side in a pool of some kind of blue grease – looked like alien blood – and I nudged it with my foot.   

“Are you alive?” 

I heard his non-robot voice coming from under the Impala “Oi, I think you broke my short ribs.” 

“Short ribs?  What are those?  Also we get it, you’re Australian, you don’t have to keep saying oi all the time.”  His only response was a wracking cough-groan, it sounded like the noise I heard a guy make in a pick-up basketball game when he tore his groin.  “Does your stupid suit have radar or something?  What happened to my friends?  Where did they go?” 

“Rack off, you bloody drongo!” 

“Drongo?  Is that the dog from Buck Rogers?  Was there a dog in Buck Rogers or is that the Lone Ranger?” 

I reached under the car until I felt something that seemed like a robo-suit and I pulled with one fifth of my might until something came out.  It was the helmet, which luckily for both of us didn’t have a head still inside it.  A torrent of groaning and cursing came from under the car. 

“I’m blind, you’ve blinded me!” 

The helmet smelled like a jockstrap soaked in old wine so I didn’t put it on, I held it at an angle and tried to peer inside expecting there to be some manner of lights or buttons or something but it was too dark to see inside.   

“How the hell do you use this thing?” The only response was a stream of incomprehensible Australian gibberish, so I tried a new tactic. “Look, use your sensors or whatever to tell me where my friends went, and I’ll get this car off you.” 

I heard more grunting, groaning, wheezing, and the car shifted – the hairy avenger crawling out from under like a crab emerging from under a slimy rock.  Although crab shells usually aren’t leaking weird fluids and emitting sparks and smoke.  As far as I know anyway. I’m no expert on crabs.  You’d have to ask my friend Molly about that.  Burn!  He dragged himself to his feet, the armor seeming like dead weight, and started cursing at me.  I grabbed the front of his suit – that’s the breastplate I guess, and ripped it off like I was shucking corn.  A goodly portion of other bits and bobs went shooting off into the night as well, but at least the sparks and smoke stopped. 

“What have you done?!” 

I gave him a look “Shut up, you know if I punched you right now you’d die, you know that right?” 

His eyes bulged precariously “Murderer!”

I sighed “Not yet.  Look man, we’re on the same side here.  Don’t you realize what this is?  Every time two superheroes meet for the first time in comic books, there’s some kind of mix’em’up and they end up fighting each other while the bad guy gets away.  Then they have to overcome their initial distrust to team up and get the bad guy in the end.  We’re only a few pages away from the advertisement for sea monkees, buddy, so let’s kiss and make up already, what do you say?”

“Huh?”

I frowned “Do they have comic books in Australia?”

He scowled “Comic books are tools of the Devil.”

I rolled my eyes “Jesus.”

He pointed at me as best he could in his busted suit “Blasphemer!”

“God . . . . damn it.” 

I loved the Wizkids Mechwarrior game, I don’t care what anyone says

The influence of German communists on the disparate socialist revolutionary groups of South America is significantly overestimated by the majority of the populace at large, and by some in the intelligence community, but one fact is true – without the introduction of powered armor into the hands of the Shining Path, National Liberation Action, and the National Liberation Army by German communist operatives in the late 60s, it is likely that these guerrilla elements would have been exterminated by US and CS military operations.  

The power armor technology is assumed to be the brainchild of Duke Eaglevane, although if this is true, given his enmity for communism, it’s difficult to theorize how such a powerful tool could have fallen into the hands of his enemies.  Some are quick to point out that communist groups in other parts of the world have no access to this advanced weaponry, implying that the Duke is somehow controlling the flow even through the hands of his groups opposed to him.  The concept goes that the Duke is introducing this technology to occupy North American governments and allow him free reign in his area of interest.

Experts in the field of robotics, cybernetics, and military exoskeletons consider the powered armor deployed by South American communist groups to be a failure of concept due to the use of titanium alloys rather than higher grade armor, rechargeable batteries instead of nuclear power supply, lack of flight capabilities, substandard electronics, and reliance on conventional projectile weaponry instead of beam technology.  Ubiquitous are jokes about the communist reliance on trucks carrying gas generators to charge their armored forces. 

What this majority of “experts” is failing to take into account is a truth staring them in the face – no other group has managed to yet deploy a single suit of powered armor into the field while it is confirmed that at least 8000 of these “inferior” suits are in action in the hands of the communists.  The US Defender prototype has so far cost 163 million US dollars in development and has yet to see any field test.  By contrast, it is estimated that the suits in use by the communist forces are produced for somewhere in the range of 80,000 US. 

As one analyst put it “Everyone else is trying to invent King Tigers while the communist have their T-34s on the board already.” 

In the final analysis these “cheap commie death traps” overpower any squad of standard infantryman and a small group of suits (often known as a wing or lance) is able to perform admirably in anti-tank operations.  Their use as an offensive weapon is limited due to their reliance on batteries, but since the communists are attacking local targets and defending their own gains, this limitation does not hinder them to any large extent in their current combat doctrine.

Burlington Industries is the first private enterprise trying to “split the difference”, designing and producing a “mid-range” powered armor suit that is not as overengineered and overcosted as most North American and European designs while still being considerably more powerful than the communist versions.  Their first prototype “the Crusader” was set to be field tested in southeast Africa, but the ship carrying this precious cargo was lost in the Straits of Malacca due to sabotage or piracy or both.  

October 23, 1973 – Dingo day afternoon (only at night, or morning, whatever)

Who leaves a six million dollar military grade prototype robot killsuit sitting unattended in a bar?  Who?  Can you tell me that?  Can you?

“Ela you keep saying you’re the leader – doesn’t that make everything ultimately your responsibility?”

No!  Don’t even try to pull that crap on me.  I shouldn’t have to tell people every little thing.  What about common sense?  Everyone should know NOT to leave a six million dollar military grade prototype robot killsuit sitting unattended in a bar where the asshole we stole it from could waltz right in, steal it back, slip it on, and then come find us for the killing. 

Do I have to do everything?  Do I need to tell people how to take a shower?  If I don’t tell them to turn on the water and how to use soap, will they just wander around the tub?  Granted I don’t think Blue showers because he’s a giant lizard and Martialla is a fish.  But you know what I’m saying.  Right?

Martialla asked the doctor for their guns back so they could kill the Red Bishop.  The JCPenney catalog model doctor was trying to kick us out for bringing trouble to his establishment.  I was trying to keep everyone calm and under control so I could deal with the situation.  And all the while, robot-voice was shrieking at us to “stand and deliver so that you may be judged.”  I went outside to see the robo-suit hovering in midair.  And by hovering I mean blasting giant fucking rocket boot flames at the ground.  I’m surprised the entire neighborhood wasn’t on fire.

I shielded my eyes from flying debris and shouted up at the annoying robot-suit man “This is a hospital damn it, stop shouting!”

“What?  I can’t hear you.”

“That’s because you have rockets strapped to your feet!”

“WHAT?!”

“LAND GOD DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!”

I don’t know if he heard me, but he did land, and then immediately he pointed one of the red gewgaws on his arm at me.  Just being targeted, but whatever it is made me feel like my stomach acid was bubbling.  I could feel my ovaries shriveling up inside me.  I’m pretty sure this guy is giving the entire city cancer just by flying around in that thing.

“Hey, don’t point that thing at me, I want to have kids some day!”

It’s amazing how well the suit’s voice whatever thingy conveys confusion “What?”

“Just point a missile at me or something while I still have a few eggs left!  What the hell do you want?”

“You and your friends are under arrest.”

“What are you talking about?  We didn’t do anything.”

“You were robbing the casino!”

“That was Lady Marmalade and her sex slaves, we were innocent bystanders!”

“I saw your friend picking up the money!  Plus you attacked me.”

“First of all, it wasn’t even that much money.  One night of drinking and it was gone.  I still can’t figure out how much the money here is worth.  The other day I saw someone give over a bill with a neon green shrimp on it and they got a whole bushel basket of some kind of fruit, but when I give someone the one with the winged goat on it . . .”

Something on his suit lights up with a dangerous red glow “Shut up!”

I held up my hands “Okay, okay I was getting off track.  We attacked you because you were the one killing everybody!  You popped one of those kids like a pimple.  For what?  A simple robbery?  What kind of justice is that?  Robbery is probably barely even illegal here.”

“They had guns, they were endangering lives.”

“YOU were the only one who was killing people, you’re the dangerous one.”

“I was protecting people!”

“Who were you protecting?  You probably gave everyone who looked eyeball cancer with that damn radiation machine you’re wearing.  And where did you get it anyway?  Somehow I have the feeling that you’re not a Burlington Industries test pilot.”

“I am the Crimson Cardinal!”

“Okay look, even if you arrest us, what does that mean?  I don’t think you’re part of the Madripoor police department.  What are you going to do with us?  I don’t think they’re going to put us in jail on your say so.  If they even understand you.  So what are you going to do with us?  Do you have a floating Cardinal Fortress somewhere nearby where you strap people to walls and punish them with your Cardinal Rod of Justice?  By which I mean your . . .”

“I know what you mean!”

“So what’s the plan here chief?  I’m giving myself up.  What are you going to do with me?”

“I must stop you!”

I threw up my hands “From doing what exactly?  I’m trying to get medical care for my friend who was stabbed.  Where were you when we were being attacked by the Stab Gang?  That’s some crime you could have stopped!”

His robo-head darted back and forth for a moment before locking back on me “This is an illegal clinic!  Drugs are sold here, it must be destroyed!”

He fired his rocket-boots, which I’m pretty sure melted some of the street, but before he could get off the ground, I threw a ’62 Impala at him.  It didn’t look like it was in very good shape, even for an 11 year old car.  Which is confusing.  There aren’t a lot of cars here.  The people that have them tend to be wealthy.  So who owns a beater like that?  If you’re rich, you’d keep it in good shape right?  But no one else can afford cars.  What’s the story of that Impala?

How does a robot suit work anyway?  Even if the metal is strong enough to not get broken up by a flying car, isn’t the bulk of that impact transferred to the guy inside it anyway?  I’ve been told that if you wear a bulletproof vest and you get shot, it’s still like getting kicked in the chest by an elephant – the vest just defuses some of the force and keeps the bullet from ripping through your heart.  How much can an armor suit of space-age metal protect you rather than just being indestructible itself while you get pulverized inside like the ice for a daiquiri?  If any engineers our there can explain it, let me know.

The car slammed the Red Rocket to the ground and pinned him there like a butterfly on display.  I was ninety percent expecting the car to go flying as he tossed it away with robo-strength and then he’d stand up like Dracula coming out of his coffin and fire an omega beam of death at me — but nothing happened.  The suit just laid there like a broken toy under the car.  Some kind of liquid may have been leaking out of it.  I waited for a moment and then shrugged and went back into the clinic.

Which was empty.  Elvis’s bed was empty.  Blue was gone.  Martialla was gone.  LBK was gone.  The doctor and his staff, everyone was gone. 

October 23, 1973 – It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

Do lizards have good night vision?  I wouldn’t think so.  They need the sun to move around right?  At night they’re just sitting around waiting for the sun, so why would they need good night vision?  Seems like all the other nocturnal animals would eat them while they were powered down.  Do bats eat lizards?  I wonder how that works.  Fish probably have good night vision.  It’s dark underwater right?  But how well do they see on land?  Martialla’s eyes are white like those blind cave animals on PBS.  But her vision seems pretty sharp.  Except when it comes to her wardrobe.  In that case she’s blind as a lizard at night.

Madripoor never gets very dark, even in the low city where things sometime seem like cowboy times, there are houselights all over the place.  There was enough darkness that I didn’t see anything though.  My first indication of trouble was when Blue and Martialla started shooting into the shadows.  That could have just been them shooting for fun though, what really convinced me that something was amiss was when I saw Elvis clutching his stomach and noticed that he was covered with blood.   That set off some alarm bells.

I’d never really been in a fight before.  Not like that.  Back home nothing like this ever happened obviously.  And the scrapes I’ve gotten into here so far have been quick reactions to someone trying to kill me personally – a couple seconds of fight and then time for flight.  I didn’t freeze exactly, but clearly I was the one of us that wasn’t used to this kind of thing.  Blue and Martialla were shooting and moving from cover to cover and making hand signals at each other and doing all kinds of shit.  LBK frog-leaped off one guy, slamming his head into the ground with his feet (it sounded like when you drop a bowling ball) to jump-kick another guy while executing a front flip onto a building roof where he jumped down on two other guys.  This was while I was still figuring out what was going on. 

A guy with a knife charged at me and I put my hand out reflexively to shove him away like a football player.  I’m sure anyone trained in fighting would tell me that was the worst thing I could do in that situation.  It worked out fine though on account of my hand caving in his chest like it was made of papier-mâché.  Which is was not.  It was made of flesh and bone and stuff.  I’m very strong you see.  The knife flew out of his hand and hit me on the ear like a punch to the side of the head.  It made me wonder what happened to the earrings I had on when I was blown up back home.  My grandmother gave me those.  Are they sitting in a pile of rubble or did some NFFA asshole give them to his girlfriend as a present?  How would she feel to know she’s wearing stolen earrings? 

I picked up Elvis and ran out of what I thought was the field of fire – I would later learn none of our attackers even had guns, all the shooting was being done by Martialla and Blue.  I tried to carry him as gently as possible, but if there’s a good way to run with someone in your arms without jostling them, I don’t know it.  With every step I took, he made gulping noises like he was being kicked in the gut.  Once we were “safe” I asked him where the nearest hospital was.  He managed to laugh, sort of, at the idea of a Madripoor hospital. 

“There have to be some hospitals here man, you can’t have a city of millions without any medical care!” 

“They’re all up the hill, they won’t care.” 

“They’ll care after I threaten to crush their heads in my palm.” 

Elvis managed a smile but before he could work his way into saying anything, Blue came up holding his rifle at a jaunty angle, barrel still smoking “Clear of hostiles.” 

“Already?!  That was like thirty seconds.” 

He flicked out his lizard-tongue “That’s what happens when you bring knives to a gun fight.  What happened to our boy?” 

Martialla appeared at his shoulder — well, under his shoulder I guess “Throwing knife, I saw it.  Must have been ten meters away, it was a hell of a toss.  Too bad for the thrower, you shot him three times in the chest a second later.  Nice grouping big man.” 

They touched elbows in some kind of weird military high five “This is what I do little darlin’.” 

I was annoyed they were congratulating each other while Elvis was bleeding out, but before I could lay into them, LBK drifted down like a leaf in the wind “Is anyone else hurt?  I know a place nearby.” 

With all the shooting and stabbing and super-brawling that goes on around here, I knew there had to be someplace for people to get patched up who weren’t among the elite.  I carried Elvis to a house a few blocks away that was set up with beds and beeping machines and all that stuff.  It was nicer than some of the clinics in rural areas back home.  The not-doctor looked more like a model than a medical professional – I’ve seen some good-looking blokes in my day and I’m telling you, this guy was gorgeous.  Granted, I have a thing for men from the Caribbean States but even so.  Yum.   

Those feelings were dashed when he made it clear that he wasn’t going to do shit without the promise of payment.  Somehow he divined that a lizard, a fish, and a woman in ratty ill-fitting, blood-splattered clothes were unlikely to have a lot of cash on hand.  My first instinct was to threaten him, like I planned to do at the actual hospital, but anyone who provides medical care to criminals probably has measures in place that makes bald-faced intimidation a bad idea.  I asked Martialla how much money was left from the casino “heist”.  She said we spent most of it on drinks.  I guess it wasn’t that much money.  I still haven’t figured out the conversion rate to CS dollars. 

Blue and Martialla turned over their guns which was enough to get doctor handsome and his much less attractive nurses in gear.  Elvis was stabilized and “resting comfortably” in short order.  Dr. Handsome knew his way around a knife-hole in the gut for sure.  I suppose there’s not much better trauma training you can get than operating an unlicensed clinic in Madripoor.  Maybe the CS should set up some kind of program where residents or interns or whatever can come over here for a year and learn how to patch people up, there’s no substitute for experience.  The ones that don’t get killed themselves will be great ER docs when they get back.

Once he was cleaned up, he handsomely came to discuss payment options. 

“A couple of used guns doesn’t cover much medical care I’m afraid.  Your friend was badly injured, a perforated bowel requires a lot of work.” 

“How much will you knock off the bill if I sleep with you?” 

He looked down his nose at me (figuratively, we were eye to eye) “You?” 

“Hey, I’ve had a rough day, I just need to shower and run a comb through my hair.  With that and some clean clothes . . .” 

He made an impatient gesture “I’m a professional madam, don’t waste my time with jokes.  Unless you have a real way to pay me, your friend has about four hours here based on what you’ve already given me.” 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get your money.  I’ll stay here as collateral and my friends will go get it.” 

“How do I know they won’t abandon you?” 

“Because I said so.” 

That’s when I heard a booming robot voice with a ridiculous Australian accent “Halt evildoers!” 

Legion of minor characters assemble

808 Ohana – An example of the ubiquitous low level street gangs that form in Madripoor and see the majority its members dead within a few years.  These groups are used as disposable assets by the real criminals in Madripoor – cannon fodder to be thrown at their enemies. 

Kalilimoku formed 808 Ohana for the purpose of rolling military personnel who come into Madirpoor’s red light district, and they have progressed to working for the syndicates and better gangs as enforcers and occasionally as hitters. 

Kalilimoku claims that his gang doesn’t use guns because they are dishonorable, but in truth they can’t afford them.  They have attempted to steal enough guns and ammo to equip themselves several times but have failed thus far. 

808 is open to any race or nationality, members shave their heads which they then cover with crude “tattoos” carved into their scalps with blades.

(Ela’s thoughts – a Hawaiian gang?  I thought they were a friendly and laid back people.  I guess that’s a stereotype.)

Lason – Guo Shu Xian was a junior air traffic controller at numerous major airports and cities around the Pacific Rim until she ran afoul of a smuggling operating run by Kenran-kai.  Initially willing to participate for promises of money, she was eventually wracked with guilt and decided that she would turn the smugglers in to the authorities.  When they caught wind of this, rather than kill her outright they sold her to a GEACPS research cell where she was subjected to experiments in human enhancement. 

One of only two survivors of these experiments, Lason was granted the ability to secrete an odorless pheromone that makes men extremely submissive and open to her commands. Initial contact with the pheromone and subsequent reinforcement over a period of a few months is sufficient to keep most men in her power almost permanently. These pheromones are highly addictive and if removed from her presence after the initial contact, the subject will go through period of painful withdrawal.

(Ela’s thoughts – ugh, not only does she dress like a hooker, but her power is controlling men with sex sweat?  What horny teenager came up with this crap?)

Gōngjī – Lim Boon Keng always felt that he was born in the wrong time.  He delighted in tales of old with brave honorable warriors slaying deadly beasts for the hands of demure maidens.  While he dreamed himself a defender of the weak, the reality of life in Madripoor was much different.

After being savagely beaten for standing up to a local gang, his parents sent him to live with relatives on the mainland, fearing he would get himself killed with his attempts at heroism.  His dreams were fulfilled when a mystical jungle being granted him agility, balance, reaction speed, and bodily coordination beyond the natural physical limits of the finest human athlete.

Although he has had no formal training, his superior physical abilities make him a formidable hand to hand combatant. He uses a freestyle type of fighting that allows him to make full use of his agility. 

(Ela’s thoughts – He told me specifically the “mystical being” was a giant chicken.  I kind of hope he’s crazy instead.)

The Crimson Cardinal – Mark DeFalco worked on various tramp freighters operating out of Port of Brisbane before he was left behind in Madripoor after being drunk on duty one time too many.  Originally able to scrape by on the docks as a mechanic and day laborer, he spiraled steadily downwards as his problems with drugs and alcohol have worsened. 

Being on the streets of Madripoor for five years teaches you one thing – how to scavenge.  When a ship went down in the harbor carrying goods from North America, he hoped to find something he could sell for a few bucks.  What he found instead was a prototype Strategic Armor Military Assault Suit.  His new friend Sam was surprisingly easy to use, it seemed to fit him like a glove.

He’s going to prove to everyone he’s a hero now, especially his mother – who’s worthless now, mom?!

(Ela’s thoughts – Even if he didn’t know they were being mind-raped by Lady Boobs-out, this guy murdered two kids over some cash money.  Ass.  Hole.)

Patron Patriot – Travis Willingham III loves the United States of America.  He loves it so much that when he was deemed mentally unfit for military duty and tested negative for the genetic makeup needed for application the super-soldier program, he wouldn’t take no, please god no, or “ah god it hurts please stop” for an answer.  He formed his own band of vigilantes with fellow military rejects and angry young men to clean up the streets of his beloved USA.

When they stumbled onto an actual plot by actual bad guys, everyone died horribly in a hail of bullets.  Except Travis.  But that’s okay because he came out of it with some sweet alien technology (which he insists is actually advanced tech made by the US army for totally justified black ops in South America – god bless the USA!) that makes him more than a match for any enemy of the state.

(Ela’s thoughts – Turns out this guy was just on vacation here and saw some shit he could stick his nose into.  I wish I knew about the alien tech, we should have robbed him too.)

The Four – The mysterious foursome in control of “the Shipyard”, one of Madripoor’s many quasi-legal open air markets.  This abandoned soccer stadium on the outskirts of downtown has been turned into a parody of a department store, with each low-life opening his own “store” and selling whatever goods or services they have to offer.

Nightwitch – Leader of the Four, rumored to be a “voodoo priestess” from the Arkansas Republic.

Yihetuan – An outcast from the Heavenly Kingdom, Yihetuan looks like a humanoid komodo dragon.  His appearance and powers seem to be the result of bionic engineering and cellular augmentation.  Has exhibited superhuman strength, endurance, and acute senses; particularly hearing and smell.  Mouth emits a foaming chemical poison, which can induce paralysis and possibly death if it enters a victim’s bloodstream.

Kezi – The daughter of a Yakuza kobun trying to establish operations in southeast China, Kezi wields the mystical Shadow Sword that allows her to walk unseen and drives her to commit acts of sadistic violence.

“Jolly” Red Rogers – A former member of one of Madripoor’s many pirate groups, Red decided there would be more chances to shoot people on land than on the high seas.  And he really likes shooting people.  No powers here, just guns.

(Ela’s thoughts – I haven’t even met these people yet but I’m sure they’re going to try and kill me or kidnap me or something.  The leader is a woman and she only gets one line that tells you nothing?  Typical.  Also Kezi is mentioned as being the daughter of a Yakuza guy?  Why?  How is that relevant?  Neither of the male characters have anything about their parents.  Her entry isn’t even about her, it’s about the sword.  Who writes this chauvinistic crap?

They have a lizard guy too, and the pirate guy is a disgruntled Canadian military washout like Martialla, I’m told.  Is this a mirror universe thing?  Does that make Nightwitch the evil me?  Does she have a Top 40 hit?  I doubt it.)

October 22, 1973 – Eat, Prey, Blood

We were presented with no bill at Le Petit Point d’Arret Parlant.  I don’t know if that’s because we’re ostensibly friends of Elvis or they thought we were robbing the place or what.  If it’s the first thing, they definitely took a loss on that transaction because I ate and drank the equivalent of roughly seventy to a hundred hours of dishwashing.   

I’ll give Elvis this, for a man under a death sentence from a violent mystical crime syndicate, he knows how to have a good time.  After he got off work we headed to a bar on the beach – not a shitty beach near the docks but not a crowded beach in touristville either.  It was nice and secluded, probably because it was one of those clothing optional deals.  I say this, Madripoor may be one of the ugliest places on earth but there are some beautiful people here.  I’m starting to get too pale.  I should be sure to find some time to lay out in-between being attacked by psychotic assassins and robbing casinos – keep a good base tan going.  You never know when you’ll be called upon to disrobe, best to stay in fighting shape.

That wasn’t Elvis’s surprise though.  We drank something that tasted like rum punch (but it’s probably something weird made out of tree sap and octopus ink) for maybe an hour at the beach and then we headed back into town.  Elvis took us to a place right outside of touristville tucked away in a Vietnamese neighborhood where they had this contraption that was something like an 8-track playback deck that people were singing along with.  I had a vocal coach once who had something like that, but this was more intricate.  You put a coin in the machine and selected one of the songs and then music would play for you to sing over.

There was also a band there that would play songs live as accompaniment instead if you preferred.  All it cost was one of the bills with a crab on it – or maybe a sailboat, abstract art you know.  As a professional singer, usually it grates on me when people try to sing that can’t, but everyone was hammered which made it much more tolerable.  Without the shame of sober inhibitions, at least people go for it you know, even if they can’t sing a lick – which most of them can’t.   

Show Me the Way to Go Home isn’t the kind of song I would normally sing, but they had a limited selection of western songs.  Curiously the band knew the entire soundtrack to Superfly, which rocked.  For the first time in a long time, since I got here probably, all my cares melted away.  I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  For a few minutes at a time, I felt totally free.  Sure, my voice sounded like crap because I’ve been smoking too much and not taking care of myself like I did back home, but it was still great.  There were maybe forty people in there but I felt like I was performing at a stadium show in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world.  It was wonderful. 

Martialla, Blue, and LBK are all actually decent singers.  Maybe that can be our gimmick as a super team. 

But that wasn’t the surprise either!  After singing our little hearts out (and more drinking), we walked a long way uphill (enough that I started to get crabby about it, I don’t get tired but my calves still get sore) to one of the second story house/apartment things they have around here, where I was greeted by the scent of something wonderful.  We walked up to an open kitchen (it was some kind of diner/food stand) where a woman who looked more like a Russian tsarina than a chef was cooking up a storm.  I saw she had just taken something out to cool – a pizza! 

I mean sure, if you want to be a jerk it was more of a flatbread than a real pizza – the sauce was on top of the cheese for instance – but I didn’t care, it was fucking pizza!  The sauce wasn’t quite right, it was more of an olive oil and diced tomato slurry, but again, I didn’t care.  It was fantastic.  I was drooling like a dog while I was eating it.  I managed to keep it together, but honestly the moment it hit my mouth, I was flooded with memories of home.  Artista Pizza Kitchen in New Orleans, hanging at The Piccadilly at Manhattan after a show, getting shitty carry-out pizza that tastes like cardboard on the road, it all came roaring into my mind.  Home.  I didn’t cry though.   

Afanasiya Andzhighatova, the cook, said that she wasn’t Russian but she and Martialla were chatting in what sure sounded like Russian to me.  Her take on pizza may have been deliciously off the mark, but she was spot-on with her bibollita, polenta, and ossobuco alla milanese.  When I asked her about it, she said that “one of” her husbands had been half Italian and he taught her a few things.  She had never heard of pizza before though.  Is that not really from Italy?  Have I been misled again? 

The wine she was serving was garbage but you can’t have everything.  I tried not to make a pig of myself, not sure I succeeded, but it was clear based on the seemingly endless food coming out that Elvis had given her the heads up about my “condition”.  Or he told her that she was catering an event for forty people.  That Elvis is a crafty jackrabbit, he wasn’t even expecting to see me that day so how did he get this set-up so quickly?  Truly Elvis works in mysterious ways. 

“Ela, didn’t you just eat approximately eight pounds of spicy noodles six hours before?” 

Shut up.  I have the paperwork (well I did but I lost it) from those science nerds saying that I need two hundred thousand calories a day to function properly.  So go take a leap.  For the first time in months I felt FULL.  It was like I could feel my body coming back to life – energy pouring into my limbs.  I felt like I could tear the peak off a mountain.  I felt like I could take on the whole world all by myself.   

I thanked Elvis profusely, it was easily the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I mean ever.  In my whole life.  He did his best to deflect everything I was throwing his way – the attention made him slightly embarrassed.  I think he’s just a good cat, you know?  In Madripoor!  Who knew?  Martialla made an “under the breath but really I want you to hear” comment about how “princess” gets homesick and everyone drops everything to wait on me hand and foot, but even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  I’ll get her a bucket of fish-heads to chew on later if she’s still feeling sore about it. 

I was feeling so good, I was starting to think that the whole thing about Elvis being killed had been a scam, which is of course when they came for him.