“Serpent Tina, that’s such a stupid name. Is she from Riverdale? Did Archie give you this hot tip? Do we need to watch out for Moose when we go see her? Is Midge going to be there? She still owes me five bucks from when I bought Jughead a hoagie.”
Blue flicked his tongue crossly “It’s not Serpent Tina, it’s Serpentina.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No you’re saying it weird, her name isn’t Tina with serpent in front of it, it’s Serpentina, like the female form of serpent.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, there is no female form of serpent, that’s like saying the female form of cow is cowina.”
Martialla felt the need to interject “Cow is the female form, a bull is the male.”
“The male what? The male cow?”
She bit her weird fish-lip “Oh yeah, that really doesn’t make sense.”
“I guarantee you this broad is named Tina and she has a snake gimmick.”
Blue moved in front of us and turned around to stop us “Don’t piss her off, Ela. Can you take something seriously for once? Whatever you want to call this woman, we need her help, and moreover she’s dangerous. If you give her your American sassmouth, she will try to kill you and then I’ll have to protect you and I don’t want to fight her because then she’ll kill me too.”
“Why does everyone say I’m American. I’m from the Coalition, America is . . .”
Blue took a knee, which still left him half a foot over my head “Please, Ela, I am begging you. Be respectful.”
I took his giant lizard-claw and patted it “Of course I will. I don’t know why you think I wouldn’t.
Martialla gave me the side-eye with her weird giant fish-orbs “Yeah, why would anyone think you would make a flippant comment?”
“I’m just using humor as a defense mechanism during a very dark time in my life.”
“Then how come you never say anything funny?”
Blue shook his head “Oh my god, we’re going to die.”
The Shipyard looks like a wreck from the outside – there are beams or girders or whatever buildings are made out of sticking out of it at funny angles like they were going to put another stadium around it (remember the Shipyard is a soccer stadium not a shipyard because this place is nuts) but construction was stopped right after they got started.
The former field was jam-packed with vendors under a patchwork of canopies, it was like something I saw in an Allan Quatermain movie when he’s in far off Zanzibar. There’s markets all over in Madripoor with all kinds of goods being sold, but this was definitely the place you would come to sell a robot suit that you took off an Australian bible-thumper – anything and everything under the sun was being offered for sale there.
We made our way through that press, people seemed to know Blue and greeted him, and up the stadium stairs into the interior – which was a little more intense. On the field it seemed to be every man for himself, inside there were competent looking guards with competent looking guns and barriers and such – it was a little more organized. We made our way down a poorly lighted (lit?) hallway to an office. I wonder what soccer stadiums need offices for. What do soccer guys that don’t play soccer do?
There was another lizard guy standing guard outside, but he was very different from Blue. He had a big red thing on his head like a rooster and although he was big enough, he was hunched over so much he was shorter than me. He had more of a crocodile/turtle vibe going on than Blue. He hissed at Blue who shoved him to the ground like a kid would do to their younger brother. I tensed up but the guys with guns escorting us just laughed.
Inside the office, one wall was jammed with pachinko machines and the other was stacked with miscellaneous wooden crates. Sitting behind a desk between the piles was a woman in a leather catsuit complete with some kind of headpiece/helmet. I wanted to comment on how ridiculous she looked but I remembered my promise to Blue and held my tongue. Helping me so was the fact that she was flanked by two guys with shotguns. Guys who looked like they really wanted to shoot someone. I could see some hair peeping out from under the head thing and even though she was a local, her hair was red. Must be a dye job right? That doesn’t happen in nature does it?
No one was talking so I broke the ice “Hi.”
Blue shot me a look like I had made some terrible faux paus but she just looked up from the book she was reading, carefully laid a bookmark between the pages, and set it aside. Her accent was interesting, like she had learned to speak English from someone in South Africa.
“Ways of Seeing, have you read it?”
I wanted to make a comment about how she was just sitting in her evil lair reading a book like a normal person but I didn’t “I have not.”
“I thought it was going to be a book about art but there’s a lot of feminist theory. Do you feel repressed by traditional media representations of the female character?”
I shrugged “Maybe a little.”
“It’s thought-provoking, you should read it sometime.” She settled herself more fully in her chair “Lucien tells me that you’re interested in meeting with Baron Iorgu.”
I glanced over at Blue “Well, to be honest we think he might have kidnapped someone we’re looking for, so potentially it might be less cordial than a meeting in the traditional sense. I want to be up front with you about our motivation to asking about him in case you have dealings with the Baron, I don’t want to cause you problems.”
She smiled slightly “Honesty? In Madripoor? How novel. I don’t have business dealings with Baron Iorgu because the Baron is not a business man, he’s a lunatic.” She seemed to be musing to herself “You can’t do business with a crazy person because you never know how they’re going to act.” She returned her focus to me “I’m told you defeated Mr. X and the Challenger both, you must be quite a warrior.”
“You heard about that?”
“Word travels fast here.”
I shook my head “I’m no warrior, I’m a singer actually, I just got lucky.”
She smiled smugly and shook her head “Luck, such a western concept, nothing happens by accident. Luck is a reward for boldness and prominence. The victor makes the luck, not the other way around.” I wasn’t sure what to say to that so I said nothing “In any case you’re a woman that gets results. I’m told that you took care of Gwai’s operation as well. You aren’t making many friends here in Madripoor.”
“Madripoor isn’t a very friendly place, but I found Lucien and Martialla here so it’s not all bad. They’re better friends than I ever thought I would have.”
She glanced at Martialla “Yes, Lucien I know well, but I’m glad I get to meet the infamous ‘super-mermaid’, some day you’ll have to tell me what really happened at the Imperial Navy base Saipan. The rumors are quiet unbelievable.”
Martialla nodded demurely “I’d be happy to oblige any time.”
The woman looked up at Blue with a mirthless smile “Your friends are so polite Lucien, you had me expecting to be speaking with such brutes.”