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!”