November 29, 1973 – Elvis has left the building

The good news is that my leg had gone numb so the pain was gone.  That’s also the bad news because I feel that losing sensation in a limb is a bad sign.  Remind me never to get shot in the bottom of the foot again.  I don’t care for it.  My leg wasn’t able to bear weight so I was unable to kneel with my hands behind my head like we were instructed.  I was in more of a classic centerfold position with one hand on my head and the other on the ground to support me.  Instead of sitting back on her heels like a normal person, Martialla was upright on her knees so she could glare down at me angrily.   

Blue was up on his feet talking to the Nightwitch a little ways off.  My man had a crater in his back the size of a basketball from where he had been blasted by a god damn bazooka but it didn’t seem to bother him much.  He is one tough blue lizard.  There was barely even any blood seeping out, I’ve seen more blood when I cut a bump on my leg shaving.  His healing factor isn’t so fast that you could watch it happening, but the hole was markedly smaller than it was just fifteen minutes ago.

The freak legion had taken us through a series of hallways and down a tunnel to emerge in what looked like another soccer field.  I really need to see a blueprint of this place, how can there be two fields in one stadium?  Is this like a practice facility?  Unlike the main arena, this was just an empty field rather than a teeming open air market of guns and drugs and super-guns and super-drugs.  There was a helicopter parked there but that was the only thing not normally found on a soccer field.

We had been brought before THE FOUR, the secretive masters of the Shipyard, to answer for our crimes.  Although at the moment, it was only THE THREE because the pirate guy wasn’t around.  Unless he was around and he was invisible.  The word on the street is that he’s a “normal” guy whose only power is having lots of guns, but that’s what I would want people to think if I could turn invisible too.  I’d keep my invisibility ability on the QT.  

I had assumed that chick in the white suit with the sword that Blue had knocked cold was Kezi, but that proved to be incorrect.  She was just some other woman with a magic sword, because the real Kezi was there standing around looking disdainful and supervillainy with HER magic sword.  She had a similar outfit to Serpentina, I wonder if there’s just the one supplier for ladies to get their form-fitting all-covering vinyl sexy villain suits.  At least she hadn’t dyed her hair red.

I had also assumed that lizard guy that Blue had messed up was Yihetuan but I was wrong about that too, because the real Yihetuan was there with Kezi and the Nightwitch, looking massive and lizardy.  If you had asked me before I came to Madripoor, I would have told you that all lizard guys would mostly look the same like a real lizard racist.  That preMadripoor me could not have been more wrong.  The lizard guy in the hallway, whoever he was, had a vibe of being an actual lizard stood upright like a man.  Blue is more along the lines of a humanoid lizard.  And this new guy is different again, looking like a big dude with scales more than an actual lizard.  And they’re all different colors as well, Blue is the best in that regard.  I’ve only seen four lizard guys and they’re all very different.

When the Nightwitch was done talking to Blue, she came over to me.  Despite the rumors, she didn’t look much like a voodoo priestess to me.  She didn’t have dreadlocks, there was no snake draped across her shoulders, she wasn’t wearing a top hat and carrying a lantern made from a human head, she didn’t even have a stick with an animal skull on it – she looked more like the women you’d see in a company pamphlet about how great they are at hiring people of color.  She wasn’t wearing a lady business suit or anything, she just had that businessperson air about her.  Like the guy in The Mattei Affair, only a lady.

I looked up at her hopefully “I can explain.”

“I’m sure you can but it doesn’t matter, this kind of thing is very bad for business.  People need to feel safe here.  If Lucien wasn’t a friend, you’d already be dead.”

“Uh . . . thanks?”

She smiled humorlessly “Don’t mention it.  I don’t know much about you, white girl, but from what I hear, you are unpredictable, you fight when you should make deals, and even worse you run when you should fight. That kind of behavior makes people nervous. It’s hard to make money when you don’t know what to expect and there’s no other reason for anyone to be in Madripoor.”

“Are you going to be coming to a point any time soon?”

She threw her head back and laughed uproariously “Oh sorry, am I wasting your time?  I can see why Lucien likes you, I’ll feel sorry for him when your smart mouth gets you killed.  I would wager on that happening before the year is out.  Maybe we can start a pool around the office.  The point that you’re so eager for me to get to is that this is your lucky day.  It turns out that you can help my partner with something she’s very keen on, so you and Lucien and your Canadian mermaid friend all get to live.  Assuming you’re willing to give Kezi the aid she needs.”

“Of course, I love helping people.” 

She smiled again “Yes, I can tell that about you just from the short conversation we’ve had here.  I’ll leave you and Kezi to it then, and sadly I must inform you that you are no longer welcome in my fine establishment.  Should you be caught inside these walls again once our business here is concluded, you will be killed on sight.  You understand how it is.”

“Certainly, business is business, I wouldn’t want to interfere in the process of making money, capital and amalgamation and so forth.  And may I say that I really admire what you have accomplished here, making it to the top of a criminal enterprise as a black woman can’t be easy, you have my respect.”

She chuckled “You just can’t help yourself, can you?  Good luck to you, white girl, you’re going to need it.”

Before we got down to brass tacks, Kezi was nice enough to heal my leg.  Remember when I said that getting shot was the worst pain I’ve felt?  I now have a new benchmark.  Getting shot felt like my entire leg was on fire.  Whatever she did made it feel like the bullet-tunnel through my leg was filled with gunpower and then set on fire from the inside.  It was the kind of thing that made me wish that I had never been born.  It only lasted a few moments, but it felt like enough pain for an entire lifetime.  I screamed so loudly and comprehensively that I felt something “go” in my throat.  No singing for me for a while.  When it was over, my leg was fine but I felt drained.  Since I was given my powers I never feel tired anymore, but at that moment I felt weak like I had just run a double marathon, it was a few minutes before I could even sit up.

Martialla seemed to be taking no small amount of delight in my discomfort and even Blue didn’t seem all that sympathetic.  Once I was able to gather myself, Kezi instructed me through an interpreter. All I had to do was touch her blade and say some words in what I assume was Japanese.  It was just that simple.  

Next thing I know, Elvis is standing there beside me.  He didn’t look like Elvis though, he looked like a photo negative of Elvis – the color was all wrong.  The visual was so bizarre and preposterous that it didn’t look real, it looked like a crappy effect from a movie with no budget for effects.  It was hard to look at it, it hurt the eyes.  Kezi gestured and negative Elvis shuffled forward and was absorbed into her blade like water soaking into a sponge.  With that, she turned and walked away.

“What the fuck was that?!  What did you do?!”

The interpreter, a small woman in a yellow and white dress, patted me on the shoulder “It would be a shame to let fighting ability like that go to waste, you should be happy, now your friend can serve mistress even in death.”

Legion of minor characters 2 – Serpentina’s Sneaky Subtle Serpentine Super Servants


Klaus Voorhees was one of those kids that was born competitive.  He strove to beat anyone and everyone at anything.  The only thing Klaus liked more than challenging others to races or fights or dangerous “dares” was being challenged to them.  His parents tried to channel that competitive drive into team sports, but while Klaus excelled at soccer, he didn’t find it to his taste.  He liked the running and competing but what was lacking for him was brutality.

Despite his indifference, Klaus attracted attention in the athletic world and he made it his goal to become the youngest player ever on the national team.  Finally his competitive nature and ego outpaced his skill.  He fell into the trap of booze, partying, and the feeling of being “untouchable”.  When he missed a practice due to a hangover and was told he wasn’t going to play in an upcoming game, Klaus attacked his coach.  When his teammates tried to restrain him, he attacked them too. 

Klaus left the field in a fury and tore off in his car, striking two pedestrians before slamming into an oncoming truck.  In addition to a concussion, Klaus was left with fractured ribs, a broken collarbone, two separated shoulders, a perforated bowel, and a leg that would be mostly pins for the rest of his life.  Had he bothered to ask, he would have found out that the driver of the truck died.

Facing a lengthy physical recovery which would likely be followed by an even more lengthy prison sentence, Klaus couldn’t say “yes” fast enough when approached by an agent for a mysterious company seeking test subjects for a new performance-enhancing drug.  The drug was concocted from material harvested from dead NBH’s with reptilian blood enzymes as a stabilizer.  When the first injection worked miracles in healing his broken body, Klaus demanded a second.  This was unwise. 

Within moments of the second shot entering his system, Klaus underwent a catastrophically painful transformation into a huge reptilian beast.  He smashed through the wall of the hospital, fell thirtysome feet to the sidewalk, wrecked two police cars, and put five officers in the hospital he had just come from before disappearing into the night.  After coming to some sort of terms with what he had become, he chose a life of crime and resurfaced working as hired muscle in Australia where, much to his chagrin, he was dubbed “Salty” due to his mild resemblance to a salt water crocodile as well as his crummy personality.


Tigerclaw never had a desire to be involved in a globe-spanning criminal enterprise.  She had intended a life of peaceful seclusion far away from civilization.  But the order that trained her had other ideas.  The abbot of the temple where she became a master of the Tiger Crane style owed a favor to some unsavory types and 10 years of her service was payment of that debt.  After a year of her service was up, her masters passed her along to fulfill another favor for a different group of criminals and so on, with her ten years of service turning into the life of an assassin for hire – only without the part where you get any money.

Honor-bound to obey the dictates of her order, Tigerclaw will fulfill her obligation despite the fact that her loyalty is neither earned nor deserved by those giving the commands.  She tells herself that she bears no responsibility for the crimes she is guilty of while acting on the orders of others. Most of the time, she believes this.  Her vice is her pride.  She will seek to overturn any defeat she suffers. She is not driven by revenge – only the desire to be the best.  She has vanity about her abilities, a long memory, and infinite patience.

Tigerclaw is so called for the relic of her order she carries of the same name, a deadly sword said to be crafted by a smith consumed with such pain and suffering that he abandoned his humanity to overcome the torment and turned his heart into a cold, dark rock.  Those feelings were poured into the blade as it was forged and are said to give it the capability of draining both the nightmares of its owner and the life of its victims.


Jessi Bardin grew up in southern Canada and married her high school sweetheart, Jason.  Jessi and Jason loved the outdoors and spent much of their time hunting and camping.  Jason’s belief that federal taxes were unconstitutional resulted in them spending more and more time camping away from things like jails and federal marshals.  In Jason’s mind, legal authority ended at the beginning of his land.  Or maybe just anywhere he happened to be.

Jessi and Jason started spending more and more time with like-minded couples and when it was time to start raising a family, they moved to a large piece of land north of Denver with several of these new friends.  In ’71 the RCMP, backed up by several enhanced individuals associated with law enforcement, raided the compound with a warrant for illegal weapons, and to the surprise of no-one, it turned into a small warzone.  Jason was killed in the fighting and Jessi murdered the “superhero” Badger before escaping the firefight.

Traumatized and filled with hatred for the federal government and their costumed lackeys, Jessi, now calling herself Militia, is absolutely convinced that the federal government is unlawful and that she is a true patriot. She is directly responsible for the murder of another Canadian “superhero”, the death of two servicemen, and the drowning of a Navy recruiter.

Jessi and her followers have fled to Madripoor to build up the forces and armory necessary to free a country that exists only in her mind.  Jessi’s only “power” is never being without a sidearm and having access to assault rifles, grenades and chemical weapons, and anti-vehicle or anti-aircraft weaponry such as rocket propelled grenades.  Given enough time she can acquire military vehicles, weapons, and other gear.

November 29, 1973 – The long, long hallway

Things were going well at first.  Blue isn’t exactly bulletproof, but he’s bullet resistant and when you add in his healing ability, guys with guns aren’t a huge challenge for him.  I tossed Martialla out the two shotguns and she used Blue as a mobile shield as they advanced.  Things took a turn once the poison gas came.  I didn’t see any grenade or anything, there was just suddenly yellowish smoke around us. Martialla went down quickly and Blue was clearly affected as well – he kept fighting but he was unsteady and clumsy.  I don’t know what all my new magic necklace does, but one thing for sure is that is protects against whatever that gas was.  I dragged Martialla out of the cloud in the hallway back into the office.  As I did so, I noticed a woman in a white bodysuit striding into the fray with a sword in hand.

You know how I feel about sword people.  She started carving Blue up like an Easter ham, but I have to believe that’s because the gas was making him sluggish – normally he’d never be bothered by a sword wielder.  I tried to help him out by hurling Serpentina at her, but she sliced her out of the air like I had thrown a tomato into a big ass industrial fan.  Did she not know she was killing her boss or did she not care?  Also, once Serpentina was dead, why were we still fighting?  I threw the bruised nutsack guy at her and the mostly unconscious guy as well and while she was dodging them, Blue cracked her on the jaw with a punch that looked like it would have knocked out a rhino. 

While she was staggered, I hit her with Serpentina’s desk.  I think it was teak.  It definitely weighed as much as a small car.  That was around the time another woman stepped around the corner and blasted Blue in the back with an RPG.  I dove back into the office as Gun Bunny dropped her rocket tube and unlimbered an assault rifle.  As I was crawling around the corner, I took a bullet to the bottom of the foot.  There was enough impact to spin me around like I had been ejected from a tilt-a-whirl.  I feel like the bullet went all the way up into my knee.  It felt like my entire leg was on fire.  I grabbed Martialla, partially to try and shake her awake and partially to drag her out of the line of fire. 

And what did I get for my efforts?  She tried to stab me with her diving knife!  She didn’t do it very well but she still tried.  I did a one legged scuttle backwards like a badly injured crab to the “safety” of the pachinko machines.

I assumed she was confused from the gas “It’s me, Martialla!”

She dragged herself into cover on the other side “I know!”

So much for that assumption “What?”

She held the knife up and pointed it at me in a weird way, immediately sweat starting pouring down her ashen face from even that small amount of effort “Stay away from me Ela, I mean it!  Don’t touch me!”

“What are you talking about?  We’re in a situation here!  Blue is down, we need to get out there and . . .”

“We’re in a situation because of YOU, because of what you did!” She gave me a death glare “Ela, why can’t you ever just follow the plan?  Seriously, is something broken in your brain?  Did you get dropped on your head as a child?!”

I gestured “Look if you hate me now fine, but there’s no point in laying here to die – let’s get the hell out of here and then you can hate me real good when you’re hale and healthy.”

Her hand was shaking like that of an old man “I’m serious Ela, if you take a step towards me, I’ll cut you.”

“Jesus Christ can we have this little spat later, we’re in the middle of something right now!”

Her lip curled, I don’t think she liked me calling it a “spat” but the conversation came to an abrupt end when another cloud of gas came billowing towards us.  Martialla passed out again.  I hurled a pachinko machine at the wall but those things are flimsier than they look, it smashed to bits without doing much damage.  From my back I managed to kick a decent sized hole in the wall, but there was just a gap and then more wall.  I need to find a blueprint of this place, how thick are the interior walls?  I was trying to wriggle into the gap when it was too late.   

A dude walked in that was completely hairless.  I don’t mean he was bald, I mean he had no hair of any kind.  Have you ever seen a guy without eyebrows and not even a hint of facial hair?  It’s oddly feminine.  Even though his skin was slate grey and he was wearing what looked like mechanic’s coveralls.  I threw the paperweight thing I had used to take out guard number one and when it hit him, it sounded like two bowling balls smashing together.  It had about the same effect as a crumpled-up piece of paper.  Behind him was RPG girl, now wearing a gasmask and brandishing a gun that looked like what Steve McQueen has in Wanted Dead or Alive.  I didn’t know that was a real thing, it looks like a pistol and a rifle had a baby.  Is that a carbine?

I held my hands up “Uh, I surrender.”  Gasmask gestured with her gun for me to get up “I can’t stand up, you shot me in the foot.”

Coveralls came forward and grabbed a fistful of hair and dragged me out of there like a caveman.  I had a pretty strong urge to try and rip his leg off, but I figured that was probably a bad idea.  Outside of the gas cloud there was a whole menagerie waiting for us – there was a guy floating in the air holding Blue’s motionless body with some kind of green energy he was emitting, two women that looked like bears or dogs or something and seemed to think that meant they could walk around topless, a tiny man (not tiny tiny like the Amazing Ant, I mean like five feet) in a black robot-suit, a stoner looking dude in a god damn Betty Boop t-shirt, a big no-neck type, and two dudes that looked like riot cops with complicated looking rifles instead of normal guns.    

A few thoughts.  I see now that when you get a team of super people together, it looks ridiculous.  And I understand why the comic books always give them matching outfits. When you have one guy in overalls and other people in armor, and some half nude badger women, and whatever else, it doesn’t look right.  Giving them the same speed suit to wear helps.  If I ever get my superteam off the ground, I’m going to need to think about some kind of uniform that we can wear so we don’t look like idiots.

Another thought, why is everyone so into laser guns?  Why are lasers better than bullets? Do they make you more dead?  Are they better at shooting through things?  Couldn’t you protect yourself from a laser with a compact mirror?  It’s just light, right?   My final thought is that attacking Serpentina may have been a bad idea.

I should have taken those warnings on the side of the cigarette packs more seriously – turns out smoking is bad for your health.

November 29, 1973 – Mesoamerican jade turtles are a girl’s best friend (and also are forever)

Think of something you like.  Now imagine that someone said that you couldn’t have that thing.  They’re not going to prevent you from having it, they’re just telling you that you shouldn’t have it.  Now think of something you don’t just like, think of something you love.  Love with all your heart.  And the same thing happens. 

Someone says, don’t enjoy that thing you love anymore.  They’re not taking it away from you, it’s still going to be EVERYWHERE around you, you’re just supposed to refrain by choice.  They’re telling you to ignore the constant ads for the thing you love, and the boundless opportunities to get it, and the fact that everyone else is doing it all the time, and just not do it.   

Now imagine that this thing you love also makes you physically feel really good, and not having it makes you feel like shit.  As soon as we walked out of Snakey Sally’s office, I realized I left my smokes in there.  I had the pack in my hand when we walked in and I set them on the corner of her desk when I sat down to talk to her.  There were only two cigarettes left in there but there was no way I was leaving them behind.  You ever see in the movies when a character is upset and they try to light up and it doesn’t work right away and they get mad and throw the pack of cigarettes away?   

That is the most unrealistic thing in movies.  More unrealistic than a woman jogging with her hair down.  More unrealistic than a flimsy table stopping bullets.  More unrealistic than people ordering food in a restaurant and it showing up four seconds later.  More unrealistic than someone going through a giant glass window without a scratch.  More unrealistic than people finding parking spaces.  More unrealistic than women running full speed in heels.  More unrealistic than characters in clubs being able to hear each other talk.  Because you NEVER throw away a cigarette.  Never.  That would be like a woman drop-kicking her newborn baby off a cliff.  I can’t say that it’s literally impossible, but if it does happen it’s noteworthy.   

I went back in to grab the pack and I saw Serpent Tina sitting there in her stupid catsuit happy and healthy, lording over her sad little domain of criminal assholes and I felt something coming over me like someone tossing a blanket over their stupid pet bird’s cage – it’s not FAIR.  Childish, I know, but I still felt it.  Say it however you want, I believe Oscar Meyer stated it best “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not”.  This woman is a criminal and she gets to have a fully belly and shampoo and clean clothes and deodorant and I never did anything wrong (I mean not REALLY) and I have nothing?  In that moment, it was just too much. 

While I picked up my smokes, I also picked up some stupid globe thing she had on her desk, a paperweight I guess, and I hurled it sidearm at her shotgun toting bodyguard on the left (my left).  It cracked him on the side of the head and he dropped to his knees and sat there – I think he was unconscious – up against the wall.  Bodyguard number two swung his shotgun down as I kicked the desk back at him – the corner hitting him right in the dick.  I’m not normally one to feel sympathy for that kind of thing, but it looked like it hurt.  His mouth flopped open like he was trying to yelp, but no sound came out – like all his air had been taken away.   

Serpent Tina meanwhile had executed some kind of gymnast cartwheel thingee over the desk while it was in motion and landed agilely in a kind of fighting crouch with her hands in some kind of dumb snake kung fu stance.   

“Okay now that was cool, I have to admit that.” 

“Why are you doing this, I thought we had a deal.” 

“Just tell me where Count Yorba is man, I’m tired of running errands for crimelords, just tell me will you?  Why do you have to get something out of it?  Why can’t you just tell me?” 

I will never know the answer to that because she came forward in a very dumb manner with like a shuffle-step sideways move like a fencer would do maybe.  Her hand darted at me in a chicken-shape, I think she was trying to snatch out my eye, but I managed to move enough that she hit me in the bridge of the nose.  I tell you this, you wouldn’t think a hand-chicken to the nose would hurt much, but you’d be wrong.  My vision went away for a split second and then I was seeing stars.  She followed up with a kick that hit me high on the ribs right under my armpit.  I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, but for a kick to the ribs it didn’t hurt that much.  I caught her around the calf and shoved her down – she hit the ground so hard the floor cracked and stuff came flying up.  I’m very strong you see.   

I rubbed at my watering eyes “Jesus, that stings.” I looked down to the floor where Tina was writhing like a snake having a seizure while making the noises of a skinny kid having an asthma attack. “You know, I think I saw Bruce Lee on TV once saying you should never try a kick above the knee.”  She managed to gasp out something about how she wasn’t going to tell me anything and I grabbed the back of her head – squeezing lightly “Are you sure about that?” 

With effort she managed to force out another whisper “You’re no killer.” 

I nodded “True, but why would I kill you?  You have the information I want, if I kill you then I don’t get it.  So killing you would make no sense, I’m just going to hurt you until you tell.” 

“You don’t have it in you.” 

“Six months ago, you would have been right about that.  But I’ve grown as a person.  Being in this horrible place, on top of my physiological issues, has really changed my mind about the nature of pain, and more salient here, my willingness to inflict it on others.  I think if I put my foot on your butt and push down slightly until your pelvis cracks, I would be just fine with that.” 

She was strong, much stronger than a ninety-pound Asian woman should be, but not nearly as strong as I am.  She struggled to get up and I held her down without much effort.  I grabbed the back of her stupid catsuit, intent on moving her, but the damn thing ripped like it was made out of tissue.  I wonder if Cathy Gale ever had that issue.  What kind of shoddy leather was it made out of?  The dead cow that spawned that pelt should feel ashamed of itself.  When I tore the suit up, I also accidentally snapped a jade necklace that she had on underneath.  It didn’t look like jewelry you’d wear, it looked like something that should be in a museum.   

All at once the strength went out of her.  I think she looked suddenly older too, it’s hard to say.  The look on her face was so terrified that I felt sorry for her, just for a second.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone look so scared in my life.  She grabbed the end of the necklace but I pulled it away from her without feeling any resistance.  The necklace itself didn’t break again though, which must mean it’s pretty robust, which probably means it was choking the hell out of her when I snapped it.  Examining it, I saw that the jade was carved into little turtles. 


November 29, 1973 – Crimelord book club is on Thursdays

“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.”

A certain point of view? Day in the life of Martialla

Martialla hadn’t liked Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi from day one.  Martialla is in favor of protecting the oceans as much as anyone (more than most actually) but she looks dimly on anyone who brags about being an “eco-warrior”.  Making things worse though was the fact that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi clearly had no idea what she was doing.  When they first met, she was bragging about sinking an oil tanker and when Martialla asked how she prevented the oil in the tanker from spilling into the ocean, Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi just stared at her like she didn’t know what she meant.

So they didn’t get off on a good foot and things just went downhill the more Martialla learned about her – namely that her most frequent acts of “eco-warrioring” were attacking the crews of shipping vessels and drowning them.  Not being a fan of casual murder in general this was bad, but given that Martialla had also worked on such a vessel for years herself, you can imagine she didn’t love what Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was doing. 

Martialla was mostly convinced that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was not just stupid, but also that she didn’t even truly care that much about the cause she professed to be doing it for – that she was just using environmentalism as an excuse for doing what she wanted to do anyway, wreck stuff and hurt people.  And if we’re being honest, and I think that we are, Martialla is just a little bit racist against pacific islanders.  She would tell you that it’s because of some bad experiences she had, but people always have an excuse for their ugly little prejudices don’t they?

So when Rusalka told Martialla that Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi was causing some kind of trouble for the Shachi undersea mobile research facility, which was nearby at the time, she went to check it out not because she cares a whit about the Empire of Japan and their aquatic research projects, but because she wanted an excuse to take a strip off Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and be in the right doing so.

The Shachi mobile complex looked to Martialla’s eye vaguely like an aircraft carrier underwater, although more symmetrical and sleek than a real surface dwelling one.  It was resting on the ocean floor which she was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be doing, and the bodies of several Japanese sailors were hanging in the water which was also a tip off that something was not going the way everyone expected.  One of them was being nibbled at by a trio of circling whitetip sharks. 

Funny story, when she was an able seaman (woman but you know) she wasn’t afraid of sharks.  She never really even thought about sharks.  Why would she?  It’s not something sailors think about.  But now that she’s an undersea super person, she hates sharks.  And she knows that it’s completely irrational because even if a shark did try and take a bite out of her (which it wouldn’t) she’s not only much faster than any shark in the sea (even the short fin mako!) and could get away, even if it did get close to her, when she’s underwater she’s fast and strong enough to catch it and tear it in half like a sadistic little boy with a minnow from the bait shop.

So she kept an eye on those harmless to her sharks as she approached the Shachi and entered through the submarine bay.  Some people call it a wet dock, but Martialla finds that term crass and suggestive.  There was no one at the C&C center as she came out of the water and no lights on, which wasn’t a problem for her fish eyeballs.  Looking around, she did notice a woman in diving gear laying on the floor in a supply area and trying not to be noticed.  After initial language fumbling, they were able to communicate in Russian. 

Im Geum-ja started off by begging Martialla not to eat her (offensive) but once they got over that, she explained what she knew.  Im Geum-ja had been outside the station doing routine maintenance when she saw several of her fellow navy people swimming around without any sort of gear.  That would have been strange enough, but then they planted explosives on a supply sub and blew it up. That really got her attention.  She fled back to the Shachi at best speed where she found her comrades beating the shit out of her commanding officer. 

She watched in horror as they held her commander up while a “green water devil” came into the bay and ate his head.  Literally just bit his head off, crunched it up and swallowed it.  They tossed the headless body into the water and sauntered off.  She had been laying there ever since paralyzed with fear. 

Martialla told her to get a fresh tank and head for the surface and Madripoor.  When Im protested that this was a secret facility, Martialla told her if she wanted to live, it was time to leave.  When Im asked her if it was safe outside, Martialla, not one to mince words, told her “probably not”. 

Martialla made her way through several maintenance bays and the head (where she found a dead sailor with his throat slashed) into the officer’s quarters where she found a man tied to a sink and badly beaten.  Im, who had been trailing her unobtrusively, called him Kurokodairu and immediately untied him – even as he seemed to be shouting abuse at her. 

Im stood downcast as he shouted at her until Martialla demanded to know what was going on.  A three-way translated conversation from Japanese to Russian ensued.  The Senior Chief Petty Officer was not happy that Im was there without a mark on her while mutineers ran free.  He made a big deal of showing off his wounds and said that the only reason he was still alive is because the “monsters” needed his knowledge of the ship. 

Martialla remembered idiots like him from her time in the military and her civilian jobs as well – guys who seem to really want to go down with the ship and take everyone else with them.  She had worked with a guy named Fitzroy that was a former close combat instructor and worked as an “anti-piracy specialist”.  Ass.  Hole.  Even though she couldn’t understand what he was saying, she knew this guy was a Fitzroy.  In a way it was comforting to know that as different as Canada and the Empire of Japan are, you still find the same kind of people.

Martialla was tempted to tie him back up, especially when he started talking about how Im needed to find a weapon so they could take back the ship, but she didn’t.  Instead she locked them both in the room and continued on her way.  She passed a few sailors that had undergone some kind of transformation – their skin having the blue pallor of a body that’s been left in the water for weeks or months.  They didn’t pay her any attention. 

On the bridge she found Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi, Tiger Shark, the aforementioned “green water devil” who looked more like a lizard guy than a fish guy, and someone else she didn’t know that looked like a whale crossed with a catfish crossed with a guy.  Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi rolled her eyes like you do when you’re trying to impress your friends with your new skates and your little sister runs over with her stupid pogo stick for stupid babies. 

Even though he looked like a lizard, the green guy called himself the Great White (are there any water guys that don’t name themselves sharks?) and he seemed to be the brains of the operation.  He started blathering on about created a new world where everyone lived under the water.  He said that he had released a gas that was turning the loyal crew here into mer-people and they were quashing all opposition.  

Over Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi’s objections, he invited Martialla to join in his grand vision of a better world – a world under the sea.  Martialla shot him in the head.  Martialla chased after the Tiger Shark and shot him a couple times too, but he escaped into the water and she knows from experience that he’s a fast healer. 

When she got back to the bridge, Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi and the catfish-whale guy were gone.  Martialla went back to let Im and Kurokodairu loose and explain to them that it was time to abandon ship.  Kurokodairu was a real pill about it at first but eventually was convinced there was no way to get things back on track.  Together the three of them gathered up a half dozen other loyalists and headed out to sea.  Some of the newly made mer-people tried to stop them, but the only power the gas gave them seemed to be the ability to breathe under water, they couldn’t even swim any faster – they were no match for Martialla. 

Martialla coming out of the water onto the beach has become a common enough sight that people don’t flip their lid about it anymore, but doing so with eight Japanese Navy divers raised a few eyebrows.  Once they were on land, Im revealed that she was less of a Japanese navy woman and more of a Korean unwilling conscript.  Martialla shrugged and told her she was in Madrpoor now, she could be whatever she wanted.

Twenty minutes later, Martialla met up with Ela and Lucien at a seaside café where Ela was doing what she’s always doing – stuffing her face with food she didn’t pay for and giving Martialla judgmental looks. 

“Why are you late?  What were you doing?!”

Martialla picked up a menu “Nothing.”