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 

November 27, 1973 – The Old Man and the Sea Creature

Even in the not so nice parts of Madripoor, there are some good beachside cafes.  I didn’t catch the name of the place we were at but they were bringing me buckets of chili crab and Golden Cadillacs on an endless loop so I was in heaven.  Human heaven not hog heaven.  I never understood that expression.  Wouldn’t hog heaven just be mud?  And, even better, for once I was not the one looking shabby and blood-spattered.   My clothing was a little worse for wear but I was freshly showered and free of any dust or dirt.  What they don’t tell you about crashing through walls and wrecking buildings with super-strength is how much white powder it throws into the air.  And not the good kind.  I swear, you throw one person through one wall and you look like you fell into a giant bag of flour. 

US Patriot Commando Eagleman, on the other hand, looked like he had been run over by a truck.  Which he may have been.  There was a lot of commotion inside that warehouse, even beside the gunshots – which were plentiful – there was all manner of loud noise that I could hear from across the street.  Sounded like he got himself into quite a fracas in there.  Good thing he’s a highly trained deliverer of cruel justice.  Even so, one side of his head looked like it was a giant prune it was so bruised, and he was limping pretty badly when we walked over here as well.  The staff was polite enough not to mention that, nor the fact that his bloody nunchakus were ruining the tablecloth.  With blood. 

After polishing off another whole crab, I sighed contentedly and sat back to survey “You know, it had a rocky start but I have a feeling this is going to turn out to be a great day.  Do you have that feeling?  I have that feeling.” 

He was agog as another crab was delivered before me “You weren’t kidding were you.  I need to eat a lot more than I did before I was enhanced, I get that, they cranked up my metabolism, but you?” He shook his head “This is like some kind of circus freak act here.” 

“Rude.  You shouldn’t comment on what a lady is eating.” 

He yanked off his boot to examine his bloody foot “So far I have yet to see you display any behavior that would make me think you’re a lady.” 

“Says the man waving around his bloody stump at the lunch table.  Get with the times man, I’m not going to hold my parasol and sashay my pretty little self around the town square like in your day.” 

He grunted sourly as he pulled his sock off “How old do you think I am?” 

“I don’t know, somewhere between forty and a hundred.” 

“When they did the surgery on me I aged rapidly in an instant, but since then I’ve stayed exactly the same.  When I volunteered for the experiment I was in my twenties, when I woke up and looked in a mirror I saw that the geeks in lab coats made me look older than my dad, but I haven’t aged a day since.  I may look like this forever.” 

“So I’m going to look young and beautiful forever?  Nice.” 

“I wouldn’t count on it, I don’t think we got exactly the same treatment.” 

It was nice to talk to someone who had been through what I was going through, or at least something similar.  Blue and Martialla are both freaks, but they’re not freaks like me.  Even though the science should have advanced by twenty years in the meantime, it sounds like the people that worked on me weren’t the A team that he got.  I’m not sure they were even the B team.  I’m much stronger than he is, but otherwise he got a better deal – he’s tougher, faster, more agile, and he only needs to eat three or four times as much as normal rather than fifty.  One thing that’s the same is the brutally violent never-goes-away headaches.  It’s pretty clear that’s why he drinks himself stupid all the time.  Although it’s interesting that he can even get drunk, I thought the reason I can’t is part of the super endurance, maybe I have a separate thing.   

“Do you have the throwing thing?” 

He was rubbing his foot and not really paying attention “What’s that?” I flipped a piece of crab shell into a waste bin across the cafe without looking “Oh yeah, I have that.  I used to carry around throwing knives for a while but it got annoying having to go pull them out of corpses all the time.” 

“Cool, we should play horse sometime.  If there’s anywhere there’s a court around here.” 

He said something but I was distracted by seeing Martialla walking out of the water onto the beach.  She was holding her side and seemed to be in pain.  I waved her over and she laboriously climbed up the beach, pulling up a chair and joining us.  She was soaking wet of course, but moreover it seemed like she was wetter than someone should be even after getting out of the ocean– like the water was sticking to her somehow.  She slumped down like she was bone tired and drained a glass of water. 

“What happened to you?” 

“Tiger Shark.” 

“You got bit by a shark?!” 

She looked at me like I was stupid “No, I got into a fight with a guy called Tiger Shark.  I’d be dead if a shark bit me.” 

I raised an eyebrow “There’s other water mutants out there?” 

“I’m not a mutant.  But yeah a couple.” 

“How are you not a mutant?” 

She lifted her chin “Who’s this old guy?” 

I gestured “This is my friend . . . uh . . . uh . . .” 

He frowned “Frank.” 

I nodded “Yes, my good friend Frank.” 

“We made love and you don’t even remember my name?” 

I chortled “Made love?  Get over yourself chief.” I turned back to Martialla “If there’s other water people in the bay, we should get them on our side.  Are there any that are good on the land or are they useless like you where their powers only work underwater?” 

I’m the useless one?  You don’t do anything but eat all the food and smoke.  Ela, why do you have this notion in your head that people with superpowers are going to form teams and work together?  They’re just people, and people are assholes.  Just because someone has laser vision or a robot-arm doesn’t mean they want to help the world.” 

“Not with that attitude they won’t.  You and Blue and I are a team, aren’t we?  And now we have Fred here too.” 

Frank’s eyes widened “Frank, and I never said . . .” 

“What were you doing in the water fighting with a shark guy anyway?” Martialla ignored me while she ordered supreme flounder from the waiter “Why do you need to order anything?  Don’t you suck algae off rocks or something?” 

“Why was I in the water?  I go in the water all the time, Ela.  You’d have noticed that if you weren’t a self-absorbed narcissist.  I like being in the water.” She shielded her freak white eyes “It’s too bright up here for me now.  And it’s too hot.  After whatever they did to me I’m a little agoraphobic too, having the sky above me feels uncanny.  It just goes up forever.  I like having an end above me.” 

“The surface of the water isn’t the end.” 

“Seems like it when you’re down there.  When this is all over I’m going to have to live on the coast, I think if I stayed on land for a long time I’d get really sick.” 

“Speaking of, I took care of Gwai so . . .” 

Frank made a weird cough/bark noise “You took care of it?” 

“I told you to do it, so yes, it’s the chain of command.  As a military man, you should understand how it works.  The point is Gwai has been sorted, so we can move on to phase two and find your niece.  Where’s Blue? 

“Talking to the Nightwitch about just that.” 

“Excellent, things are really moving now, after the rescue then we can move on to phase three – killing Duke Eaglevane.” 

Frank looked dubious “You’re going to try and kill Duke Eaglevane?” 

I dropped him a sassy wink “Killing him will be the easy part, we need to find him first.  That’s the tricky bit.” 

“Not really, I know where he is.” 

Roleplaying Game : The RPG

The GM of the Shadowrun game I’m playing in asked for requests and constructive criticism about the campaign so far.  For reasons unknown, that made me think about how long I’ve been playing RPGs.  I doubt this is of interest to anyone but no one is forcing you to read this.  I hope anyway.  If someone is forcing you to read this please let me know.  I doubt I can do anything about it but you never know. 

Here is my thrilling tale.

The year was 1987.  Iron-Contra was a thing.  A person was convicted of a crime based on DNA for the first time.  Prozac hit the market.  A bee parasite was killing all the bees in the US.  Wrestlemania 3 happened and somehow I watched it on Betamax and became a wrestling person.  The first Final Fantasy game was released (I would sue when Final Fantasy 2 came out for deceptive advertising just like I did with the Neverending Story).  Baggy dresses were WAY in.  Karate Kid action figures were totally radical.  World population reached 5 billion.  Whitney Houston released “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” from her album “Whitney”.

I was at my grandma’s house hanging out with my cousin.  We were best pals when we were kids.  I haven’t talked to him in several years now.  Life, you know?  Plus he’s a like a good person who works for the UN and feeds starving people and I spend my energy on blogs and D&D campaigns that no one is even playing in. 

My cousin had a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, the TMNT RPG.  I thought it was super cool.  He said it was a game and I asked if we could play and he said “no” and my little 10 year old brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  Later on when I figured out how RPGs worked I realized why he said no, but at the time I was hurt and pissed.  But he was only 9, so it’s not like he could explain really. 

When I got home I VOWED that I would get my own RPG book and play.  I saved up my nickels and dimes for a few months and then rode my bike to the local game store and asked the dude behind the counter what I should buy if I wanted to start playing RPGs and with an aggrieved and HEAVY sigh and without looking up from his tentacle-porn hentai bullshit comic, he pointed at a weird upright rack that looked like it was for greeting cards.  Upon it was the “red box” – the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.  I think I paid 8 dollars for it.

I was hooked immediately.  I didn’t even really understand what RPGs were until I read that book and my mind was blown.  My friends, since they were friends with me, were all down to play and we were off to the races.  I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had they turned their noses up at D&D and I had lost interest.  Two of those people I still game with today. 

I few months later when I saw my cousin again, I was telling him all about how I was playing D&D ALL the time and I bragged to him “I’m the best DM ever, no one ever survives my adventures” and he looked down his nose at me and asked “But do they have fun?”.  My little head exploded.  I never thought about trying to maximize the fun of my players before. 

I say this as a joke, but kind of not, right then I became a better DM/GM/whatever than a lot of people. 

Eventually I saved up enough to buy my own copy of TMNT & Other Strangeness (note to self, start erotica blog called Other Strangeness) and we started playing that a ton in addition to D&D.  As an adult I realize that the Palladium System is pretty terrible, but as a kid I loved it.  Especially TMNT with the pages and pages of hundreds of different animals (that were 97% exactly the same statistically) you could make into characters. 

We still have fun laughing at our young selves and the adventures we went on.  Two staples were “you go to this place for a fighting tournament and fight!” and “you’re going to rob Fort Knox”.  We have a personal meme of saying “How could I miss, I rolled a 20?!  You need special training!” I was by far the best GM of the group because my adventures had a little tiny bit of a story and sometimes even NPCS you weren’t supposed to kill! 

As someone once said, “On some level, it’s natural to look at the things your teenage self liked with some amount of disdain. To distance ourselves from our most embarrassing years, we often throw the things we loved under the bus.”

When we were a little older and had some money we got into a cycle of someone buying a new game, which we would play for a while, and then always coming back to D&D.  It was pretty much an unbreakable cycle of New Game – D&D – New Game – D&D. 

In ‘91 when Vampire the Masquerade came out, like all dorks we got super into it.  It seemed so much more mature and grown up than D&D.  I mean what’s a better sign of being a budding adult than being 14 and sitting in your parent’s basement pretending to be a vampire?  That’s when some cracks started to appear in our group though because some people didn’t WANT to pretend to be vampires, they wanted to be werewolfs and when you’re 14 you don’t know how to deal with that.  I’ve lived a SUPER hard life, these are my problems.

One guy in our group drifted away because he wanted to get drunk and throw up on girls while he was having sex with them, but for the most part we stayed strong.  Things slowed down a little during college but we still played a lot on weekends.  At this point I got into Shadowrun and various superhero games and we didn’t play D&D too much – we still Vampired sometimes. 

Gaming precious memory.  A guy I played games with but who had never played Vampire before came to play and I asked what clan his character was and he said “Wu-Tang”.  Classic.

A few years after college but before everyone had kids was the golden age of gaming.  There were times when I was playing (running mostly) three games a week.  Then came the dark times when everyone started having babies and I was forced to start going to game stores and playing with STRANGERS!!!

Those games were 99.99% stupid but at least I could laugh about them with my real friends.  It was interesting to find out that there’s 40 year old men that never “outgrow” the “my character is better than yours!” PVP all the time style of play.  It was also fun to find out how terrible a lot of people are at running games.  I suppose it’s mean to reminisce about how other people suck, but I still do it. 

Gaming precious memory.  I was running a game for STRANGERS at a game shop and during the third session one guy who was uber min-max power gamer man looks at me suspiciously and says “you’re just making this up aren’t you?!”  He was super pissed that I had the gall to create my own adventures instead of using published materials.  How was he supposed to win if I wasn’t using established material? 

It was at this point I was also introduced to the gamer phenomena of the guy who always plays sexy dark elfs with a weird BDSM background who want to roleplay out their seduction-assassination attack.  I assume with the internet and the free flow of porn, that’s not as much of a thing anymore.  I hope to god it isn’t anyway. 

Then came the times when people’s kids were old enough that we entered the silver age of gaming, still quite a lot but not enough for me.  The only bumps in the road were everyone wanting to have games at their house so they didn’t have to get someone to watch their kids and the great Jimmy Johns scandal of 2008 when everyone felt like they were getting ripped off because they always put in $10 and all they got was a $5 sandwich and a pickle and they never got any change!  “Dinner” was a part of gaming no more!

Then came the times when everyone was getting to a stage in their life where they had serious stuff going on at work and lots of activities to take their kids to and for SOME reason they started enjoying hobbies other than gaming!  They went on vacations and did things and went places and had non-gaming friends.  It was madness. 

Sidenote, I was single for most of this time and when I would hear about my couple friends getting together with other couples to game as a couple thing, I was jealous.  But then one time I did get invited with the other single dude in the group and that was worse.  Be careful what you wish for. 

For a while games dried up and I figured it was done.  I was bummed about it for a couple years, but I made my peace with it.  I came to find out that my friends were still my friends even if they didn’t want to play D&D all the time – shocking!  Just about the time I figured it was all done though, we started up a regular game night again. 

It became semi-regular instead of regular at times, but it was still going on when the pandemic hit.  Some of the crew stuck with gaming on Roll20 and the like but I didn’t care for it, I popped in and out here and there.  Now that we’re all getting vaccinated, hopefully in a few months we can get something going IRL again. 

Some people I know talk blatantly about gaming to anyone, I tend to keep it on the down low when I’m around outsiders.  At my core there’s a part of me that says “dude you’re 40, this is childish” but I don’t really let it get to me.  There’s not so much awesome fun stuff going on in life that you can afford to not do something you like just because it’s not “cool.  Because “dude you’re 40 and you were never cool anyway”.

What does the future hold for old Jerdog?  Once in a while at a game store or a convention or something you run into an old gamer dude.  I hope to be one of those.  I think it would great to be an old man in a nursing home playing D&D.  But if my friends stop being into it, probably I will too.  At this point I love RPGs but mostly I just love an excuse to shoot the shit with my pals.  There’s not as much appeal for RPGs just as RPGs for me anymore.  That’s a young man’s game. 

November 27, 1973 – Songbird and the Summer Soldier

I couldn’t remember exactly where Gwai’s drug warehouse was, so we wandered around for quite a while before I could find someone who spoke French to give me directions.  Old Man River didn’t seem to notice the delay, likely because he was too busy chaffering on about the various injustices the US government had done to him.  In my opinion, when you’re illegally inserted into Cambodia to assassinate someone and you get caught, you should expect the government to disavow you.   Isn’t that the entire point of black ops?  Deniability?  And if he was so sore about it after he escaped, why did he then spend six more years working for the CIA and another three with the United States official super team before he was cashiered for punching a senator on national TV?   

Eventually we found the warehouse on the west side of town.  I’ve never been over this way before. 

Looking back at the city from here, it actually looks nice.  You can’t see the downside homes of the poor and the garbage-infested waters of the docks, all you see are fancy buildings, bright lights, and lots of greenery.  I can see why rich people would want to hang out here.  I pointed out the building while my new friend was busy grousing about having to babysit for clueless lieutenants in Columduras in ‘67. 

“Can you drop the disgruntled vet act for a minute and look where I’m pointing?  That is the stash house of a Chinese drug lord called Gwai, and . . .” 

He shook his head “I think you have some bad intel.  Gwai is a slur for a white person in Cantonese, no one would call a Chinese person Gwai.” 

“Really?  I thought Camila said he was Chinese.  Anyway . . .” 

“Camila?!  What are you doing mixed up with that old viper?” 

“Don’t worry about it.  So maybe the guy isn’t Chinese, and if we’re being totally honest, and I feel like we are, I’m not super sure this is the right building.  But if you go up there and there’s guys with guns guarding the place, go ahead and kill them and smash up the joint.  Then we’ll steal a truck or something and drive the drugs into the ocean.” 

“This is Madripoor – every place has guys with guns outside of it!  Are you insane?” 

“Probably.  I’ve experienced a lot of trauma recently.  What do they call that?  Battle fatigue?” 

He scoffed “Battle fatigue.  Bleeding heart bullshit.  You can either hack it or you can’t.  You want to know about trauma, those (DELETED) Cambodians kept me chained in a cell for three years and . . .” 

I chopped my hand through the air “Enough about Cambodia, shut up about Cambodia!  So you got left for dead and tortured for three years, we all have problems, buddy. A few years ago, I had nodes on my vocal cords and you don’t hear me complaining about it.  I didn’t let that stop me, I went out and recorded an album that included a top forty hit!  What you need to do is . . . wait, did you say they kept you chained up?  Why didn’t you break the chains?” 

He scowled “Break the chains?  I’m not that strong!  I can’t break a chain.” 

“You can’t break a chain?  What kind of super-soldier are you?  I broke the biggest thicket chains in the world on my first day!  Anyway, forget the chains, just go over there and if anyone shoots you, we’ll know we’re in the right place.” 

“That’s a terrible plan.” 

“What kind of bitter drunken suicidal glory hound are you?  Get out there and fight a murderous drug gang.” 

“And what are you going to be doing?” 

“Providing moral support from afar.” 

“I never said anything about suicide.” 

“Come on, your whole vibe is pure The Man Who Came to Play, don’t kid yourself about that.  Just kiss your wrinkled black and white picture of your half-Cambodian twin daughters that you always keep in your pocket and go out there seeking the violent death you secretly feel should have happened twenty years ago when you were still a hero, before everything fell apart.” 

His jaw dropped “How did you know about the twins?” 

My jaw dropped “You actually have illegitimate twin daughters?  I was just winding you up.” 

He pulled something out of his waistband “I’m going over there now, but it’s just to get away from you.” 

“Are you kidding me?  Are those nunchakus with a red, white, and blue flag pattern?  Where do you even get something like that?  Where’s your helmet?  If getting hit by a bullet is like getting hit with a bat, don’t you need a helmet?” 

“That’s not how armor works, you don’t put something weaker over the thing you’re trying to protect.” 

“Baseball players wear helmets specifically!” 

“They’re not super soldiers.” 

“A baseball helmet is not stronger than a human skull. They’re made out of plastic!” 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Are you trying to tell me that if a normal human was going to get hit in the head . . .” 

“Forget it, I don’t have a helmet anyway, who walks around with a helmet?  What do you want me to have next, a shield?  Made out of some magic super metal?  As if.  Can I go die now?” 

“That’s what I’ve been saying this whole time, you’re the one dragging your heels!”