December 28, 1973 – A few days of alcohol, buffets and chain-smoking later

“You have a submarine?!” 

“No, I have the use of a submarine for a little while.  A very little while.” 

I cocked an eyebrow “So you’re NOT in the CIA but somehow you have access to a submarine?” 

“It’s a mini-sub.” 

I laughed “Oh, well you didn’t say it was a mini-sub, who doesn’t have one of those?  So this is a water mission?” I gestured at Martialla, who was leaning against the window and looking down at the street “Good news then, we can just send fish sticks here.  She’s a water beast and she claims that underwater she’s super strong.  Mission accomplished!  Break out the Cubans and premium rum, it’s time to celebrate!” 

“All indications are that the container we need isn’t going to be underwater, so you’re going to have to go.” He looked up at Blue “Unless you’re strong enough to rip open what is essentially a bank vault” Blue shook his head “Well there you go then.” 

“If the containers are not underwater, what do we need a sub for?” 

“Mini-sub.” 

“Whatever, why can’t we just take a boat and then have Aqua Lass swim around as necessary once we get there?” 

“It would be best if you weren’t spotted.” 

“Spotted by who?  Sea otters?” 

Alcazar held his hands out with his fingers splayed wide “Well that’s the thing, we don’t know . . . exactly . . . what happened.  There’s no reason the ship should have been so close to shore at that point.  And surveillance doesn’t indicate any visible damage.  So we don’t know what we’re dealing with.  Exactly.” 

Martialla turned towards us, sitting on the windowsill “Mutated Japanese Navy sailors capable of breathing underwater disabled the ship with explosives under the sealine and then two NBHs calling themselves Great White and Tiger Shark pushed the ship onto the shelf.” 

Alcazar did a double take “How do you know that?” 

I glared at her “Shut up, Martialla!  We don’t have time for your nonsense.  Alcazar, please continue.” 

Alcazar looked at Martialla for a moment, who shrugged and turned back to the window “In any case . . . uh, regardless of what happened, the scene is technically in the Jurisdiction of the Madripoor police and we know that a private security team hired by the shipping company is in town from Europe so it’s best to keep a low profile.  Hence the mini-submarine.” 

“How mini is a mini-submarine?” 

Martialla answered without looking back this time “Thirty ton displacement usually.” 

I scowled “What the hell does that mean?” 

Alcazar continued “It means it’s tight quarters in there.  How many additional people did you recruit?” 

“None.” 

Alcazar raised an eyebrow “None?” 

“We didn’t have many candidates.” 

Martialla snorted “We had lots of candidates.” 

“I meant we didn’t have any suitable candidates!  They were all either weirdoes or murderers and I won’t have any weirdo murderers on my super team.” 

Alcazar looked at Martialla and Blue back and forth a couple times “Okay then.  Well I suppose that’s good because as I said, there’s not going to be a lot of room down there anyway.  One thing you’re going to have to be careful of is the kelp forest.  Your best bet is to stick close to the seabed and make sure you keep orientated.  The kelp can clog up the fans and ports on the mini-sub so you may need to perform maintenance as you go.” 

“You make it sound like we’re going to be driving this thing ourselves.” 

“Who else is going to pilot it?” 

“You’re not providing someone to drive the damn thing?!” I held my arms out “Do we look like people that know anything about operating a submarine?” 

Martialla turned to lean/sit in the windowsill facing us again “I can do it.” 

“Shut up Martialla, no you can’t.” 

“After the experiment they used to take me out for free water tests all the time in min-subs.  I can handle a short trip like this.  Ela this isn’t a big nuclear attack submarine, it’s barely more than a submersible canoe, I can handle it.” 

“Submersible canoe?  You made that up.” 

“Starting in the 1930s special operations divers working in areas too shallow for conventional midget submarines . . .” 

Worldbuilding Wednesday – Tour of the islands 2 of 17,000

Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands, let’s look at one (that’s fake).    

In 1942 a FBDACOM (French British Dutch Australian Command) task force consisting of two light cruisers and three destroyers docked at Balikpapan with wild tales of the supposedly uninhabited island of Mantiuana.  They claimed to have encountered cannibal soldiers sworn to kill and die for Hirohito and savage tribes that worshiped Golyeong, a mighty gorilla the size of a blue whale with the savage cunning of a man (and a thing for blondes). 

Widely dismissed as sailor’s tales, there was one man who believed them, retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe who (for the record) made his fortune conducting illegal salvage diving operations and not in industrial tire manufacturing as he claims.  Retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe mounted expeditions to Mantiuana in 1957, 1959, and 1962, returning with a lurid narrative of a land inhabited by immortal outcast Topará demigods, the descendants of Austronesian explorers, and of course, dinosaurs possessed by Babylonian earthbound demons.   Retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe claimed that he collected many artifacts from Mantiuana during his visits but they would fade out of existence when taken off the island.  This led him to conclude that the island actually inhabited “the Fourth Realm” and therefore could not exist on earth, which is the Third Realm in the Colonels’ bizarre cosmology.  As we all know.

Neither the FBDACOM sailors nor retired Colonel Reginald Braxoton-Smythe and his “adventurers” were lying, but none of them ever set foot on Mantiuana either.  This is because for many years, Mantiuana was the home of Diane Dream, the Mistress of Illusions, one of the “golden age” heroes of the 1930s.  Born Iwalani Haia, “Diane Dream” traveled extensively around the Pacific pitting her powers against the cult of the Dreaming Dark.  Her years of thwarting the Dreaming Dark took its toll.  Their dark sorcerers also made extensive use of illusions, and living in a world where nothing is what it seemed began to wear on her mentally.  In her middle age, she started having trouble with the nature of reality.  If someone believes in an illusion, does that make it real?  Even worse, she began experiencing episodes of memory loss and possibly memory manipulation.  After she found that she was no longer able to conclusively remember what she had actually done and what was illusion, she decided it was time to hang up her cloak and domino mask.   

She retired to the island of Mantiuana and used her abilities to keep away any trespassers or interlopers with fantastic mental manipulation.  As the years passed, several of her fellow crimefighters came to her seeking solace and retirement on her “invisible island”.  They wanted the peace she had found.  Her charity proved to be her undoing.  Among others, she was joined by her old companions Power Man and Jackknife, who unfortunately were sworn enemies of Baron Iorgu.  And the good Baron doesn’t forget his enemies.   

The Mistress of Illusion was skilled at keeping away sailors and retired Colonels, but Baron Iorgu was not dissuaded so easily.  He led a force of super powered mercenaries and Imperial Japan soldiers (it’s debated if this was an official action or someone’s pet project off the books) to attack the island in 1967.  The inhabitants of the island fought fiercely for their lives.  They may have been past their prime, but they were some of the most powerful heroes of their age.  Problem is, the world had caught up with them. 

An old woman with ice powers may be able to kill regular soldiers easily, but if they have insulated suits specifically designed to protect against her abilities, well, then it becomes a sixty-year-old lady with a useless power against a squad of heavily-armed, trained soldiers.  Some rare Superman-esque NBH like Angel (god rest her soul) can’t be cracked by copious amounts of airstrikes and heavy weaponry, but them being alive after a naval barrage is cold comfort to the rest that can.  Power Man and the majority of the “retirees” on the island were killed. The body of Diane Dream was never found and it’s generally assumed that she escaped and now hides herself behind so many illusions that she can’t be found even by well-meaning old friends.   

Once his enemies were dead, Baron Iorgu realized that Mantiuana would be a good place to conduct his maniacal and inhuman experiments in peace and started settling in.  No part of the island is shaped like a skull nor is there an active volcano, but hey, you can’t have everything you want in an evil island supervillain lair right?   

December 24, 1973 – Float like a Hot Rock & Alternative artist sting like an Adult Contemporary Artist

Blue looked down at me like a disapproving father, but you know, a lizard “So let’s recap what we accomplished.  We interviewed fifty people and what did we come away with?  Zero people to help us and you’re going to get your ass kicked in front of a big crowd of people?”

I mumbled defensively “It wasn’t fifty people, it wasn’t even half that many.”

Martialla finished taping up my hands and clapped me on the back “Don’t forget about the money.  Ela’s gotten beaten up for a lot less than fifty thousand dollars before!”

I looked around at the crowd “Where did all these people come from?  How did so many people hear about this?”

Martialla laughed “You’re kidding right?  Super-powered bloodsports are a third of Madripoor’s gross domestic product, and chick fights are super rare.  I’m sure someone was taking bets on this as soon as the words were out of your mouth that you were game.”

“Is anyone betting on me?”

Martialla laughed again “Ela, the odds against you are an unprecedented one thousand to zero, which means a bet of zero dollars on you pays out a thousand if you win, still very few takers.” She laughed a third time, uproariously “It’s just not a smart bet!”

Blue started rubbing my shoulders as Martialla walked away “Don’t listen to her, just remember what I told you, no strikes are allowed to the groin or joints of the legs, and no elbows to the head.  What you want to do is clinch but you need to stay active.”

“You didn’t tell me any of these things!

“I did tell you, last night, you don’t always listen Ela.”

“Shut up, I do too listen!  Jesus Christ, is that Mr. X over there in the audience?  What the hell is he doing here?  You think he’s going to try and kill me?!”

Blue looked over at the humorless psychic sociopath and then shook his head slowly “I don’t think so, interfering in a fight like this is one of the few true taboos in Madripoor, I don’t think even he would do that.  Still, might be a good idea to keep your head down.” He glanced around “Keep an eye out for snipers.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”

It was about three seconds into the fight when I realized that I was woefully overmatched.  Or outclassed.  Do those mean the same thing?  She may look like a sex toy turned into a human form through Pinocchio magic, but she was both trained and experienced at fighting – and as you may remember, I’m neither of those things. 

Here’s the thing.  She was a better fighter than me, fine, I’ll accept that.  I would have been willing to take a few lumps and that’s that.  Beating me up doesn’t make her right.  But just smacking me around wasn’t enough for her.  She had to humiliate me.  She was dancing around and toying with me.  And I could have even taken that with good grace.  I mean that’s why people love Muhammad Ali, he’s a great fighter and he knows it and he taunts his opponents like a real asshole.  People love that shit. 

I can handle that.  She wants to make a big show out of beating me up, fine.  That’s life.  One thing Martialla was right about is I’ve gotten hurt worse for a lot less.  But then she knocks me down and I’m a little out of it and when I realize what’s happening, she has her foot on the back of my neck and she’s waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.  Everyone was having a good laugh at her antics.  And then she spit on me.

No.

You’re not going to do that and get away with it.  There’s a bully inside everyone that just loves it when someone else is being embarrassed.  It’s a sick little part of the human soul.  I wasn’t going to be the object of everyone else’s good time.  I got a hold of her around the ankle and I flicked my wrist like I was throwing a Frisbee.  I had zero leverage, you know because of the position she put me in, but it didn’t matter.  I’m very strong. 

I heard some cracking.  I heard her halfway scream – it was like she started to scream but then passed out before she could let it loose.  Like she drew in all the air for a scream and then it just dribbled back out because she was unconscious.  When I stood up she was on the ground and her one leg was like a kinked up garden hose that you drag out of the shed after winter.  I didn’t know a human leg could look like that.  I bet if she hadn’t been wearing her magic hooker suit, I would have ripped her leg off.  I saw what I assume was bone poking into the side of the material. 

A moment before, the crowd was howling and screaming and having a good old time.  Now they were dead silent.  I feel like I could hear people’s hearts beating, it was so silent.  I got a cigarette out of my pocket and stuck it in my bloody lips.  I lit up, I took a long drag, and looked over at the referee. 

“So did I win?  Is this like a TKO?  Can I get an official ruling?”  I crouched a little and grabbed my aching ribs “I should have got the money up front.  I bet she’s going to weltch.  Welsh?  Do you weltch on a debt or welsh?”

December 20, 1973 – Women supporting women

“I’m starting to lose faith in the process.  I’ve seen at least two different bull-men walking about the streets of Madripoor and all we’re getting is guys with motorcycle helmets and creepy weirdos who torture the ghost of their dead twins.  Why aren’t we getting anyone good?”

Martialla shrugged  “Why are we getting anyone in here is the real question.  Where are these people coming from?  Also, those bull men are called Minotaurs.”

“What?”

“From the Greek myth?  The being that is part bull and part human is called the Minotaur.  The king of Minos was being a jerk to Poseidon so Poseidon made his wife fall in love with a bull and so she and the bull did it, and her baby was the Minotaur.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  This isn’t a classic literature class, these are just morons who were stupid enough to let some egghead scientists shove bull hormones up their butts and turn them into mutants.”

Martialla crossed her arms angrily “I’m just telling you what they’re called.”

Blue moved to block my sightline to Martialla as he does sometimes when we bicker “I know who you’re talking about. One of those guys is a ram, not a bull.”

I was about to tell Blue to shut up when I noticed that our next applicant was there.  And by applicant, I mean a woman in a black catsuit with a god damn whip.  She had heels on her god damn boots!  How the hell are you going to do anything with heels on your super-boots?  I’m not even going to mention her ridiculously pendulous breasts.  I stood up from behind Alcazar’s desk and pointed towards the door.

“No, no.  You get out of here with that shit!  We’re looking for superheroes, we’re not casting for a Russ Meyer movie!”

The small part of her face that I could see seemed puzzled “What?”

I gestured more emphatically “Get the hell out here!  You look like you belong in the window of a Times Square bondage store!”

Martialla peered around Blue to glower at me “Calm down Ela, just because you took a women’s studies class in community college doesn’t mean you have to shout at everyone all the time.  Maybe she can help us.  At least give her a chance.”

“Sure, here’s your chance – give me one good reason why you’d dress like that other than appearing in a fetish magazine!”

I couldn’t see her eyes because her get-up had some kind of goggle type thing, but her voice was flinty “Chill out, you don’t like the way I’m dressed that’s fine, but you don’t have to be a bitch about it.  This suit is what gives me my super powers.  I didn’t design it, I didn’t make it, I just wear it so I can do my job.  If I didn’t wear it just because of what it looks like, that would be wrong.  You think any of the people I’ve saved care what I look like?”

“What about the whip? You cannot tell me that serves any purpose!”

“It does actually. I can’t fly. I can jump pretty far, but I can’t fly – the whip helps extend my reach.  I jump, I get the whip around something, and I swing up.”

“Bullshit, there’s no way that works.  You can’t swing around from building to building with a ten foot whip.”

“Look I’m not here to debate you on whip physics.  I was told that you needed help, if you don’t want my help just say so, there’s no need for personal attacks. I don’t need to take your abuse, we can both just go our separate ways.  But since you brought it up, if you think you’re the arbiter of how women are dressed, you’re the one who’s the problem.  Restrictions on the way women can dress have been used as a way to control and restrict what we can and can’t do for centuries, so don’t sit there on your high horse and judge me.  The way I dress is none of your damn business.  You or anyone else.”

“You cannot be that stupid, you have to know what you’re doing when you run around in a skintight sex bag.”

She snorted “You’re going to sit there and judge me?  What have you ever done?  I save lives, I don’t sit on the sidelines clucking my tongue about the bellbottom pants and how two young people’s hips might touch if they do the Bump.  Just because you’re dressed like a train hopping hobo, don’t bark at me like a dog because I have some style.”

“The style of a Saigon whore maybe.”

She lifted her chin “Say that again.  Say that again and I’ll teach you some manners you prissy little flat-chested plain Jane.”

I laughed “Sure why not, violence, we come to it at last.  Somehow I knew we’d end up here.  I’m not going to fight you because I’m not a ten year old boy, I’m not going to meet you by the bike rack after sixth period because you said your dad was stronger than my dad.  Plus it wouldn’t be fair, with your fat flabby tits waving around, you have me outnumbered three to one.”

She laughed back at me “Figures, you’re all talk, like all big mouths.”

“I’m an adult.  I don’t get into fights like a dirty alley cat just because I disagree with someone.”

 She crossed her arms “Fifty grand.”

“What?”

“I’ll give you fifty thousand dollars if you fight me.  Looks like you could use it.  Win or lose the fifty is yours, you just have to show up.  What excuse are you going to come up with now?”

Worldbuilding Wednesday – Alamo 400k

Setting the bar tour aside for a while because it’s basically the same thing as the job interview thread in the main story. I should have realized that a while ago. Oh well. Back to normal worldbuilding.

If you asked the average North American what Alamo 400k is, most would say they’re terrorists (although some people would think ‘heroes’ in the head while they said it) but beyond that, answers would vary.  Some would say they’re anti-globalists.  Some would say they’re anarchists.  Some would say they’re white nationalists.  Some would say they’re anti-NBHs.  Some would say they’re nothing more than a drug cartel.  The stated goal of the Alamo 400k group would surprise many –  

“To provide overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to counteract pro-communist movements in Africa, Asia, and South America.” 

The origins of the group would be even more confounding to the “man on the street”.  In the late 1860s, a former Texas Ranger was discovered to be funding and organizing an extralegal secret police force designed to keep the Pecos Republic free of “undesirables” such as labor organizers, anti-capitalists, pacifists, anarchists and the like.  It took until 1870 for the for the legitimate Pecos authorities to uncover the full extent of this network and their operations.   

While a few ringleaders (or scapegoats depending on who you ask) were imprisoned, this organization was incorporated almost wholly into the Pecos government structure in 1871 with the founding of Branch 4, an ill-defined and shadowy organization that has at various times acted as investigative law enforcement, intelligence service, and expeditionary military force.  For the majority of the 19th century, Branch 4 focused on infiltration and intelligence gathering of anarcho-communist organizations and other social anarchists.   

No later than 1920 (but possibly much earlier) Branch 4 began focusing the bulk of its assets on communist groups, most critical including those based outside the Pecos Republic.  Branch 4 was dissolved in 1943 after numerous incidents of unwarranted appropriation of government funds and military matériel, political corruption, and illegal activity on foreign soil.  The core of Branch 4 true believers continued to operate in secret using funds and equipment stashed away in hidden depots for just such an occurrence.   

The former operatives of Branch 4 became associated with the name Alamo 400k after the 1947 San Antonio bombing by South American extremists (retaliating for the Pecos-US air strike on Sao Paulo) which they claim killed 400,000 people (the official number of dead and missing from that attack is closer to 20,000).  It is also variously claimed that 400k refers to the number of members in the group, but no reasonable intelligence agency believes they have even a hundredth that size of organization.    

The decentralized and highly secretive nature of the organization makes it difficult to gather concrete information on.  The widely varied actions it undertakes are evidence of several key members with unaligned personal agendas.  Each of these key leaders seeks to increase their own authority and resources while weakening those of their ideological or personal enemies within the group.

Each claims to have the true vision of what Alamo 400k is and does their best to prove it by games of one-upsmanship and occasionally outright conflict.  Individual agents follow their leader’s example and often compete for power, profits, and prestige.  A successful, high-earning agent gains more influence within the organization than a weaker, less profitable one, and some try to improve their own track records by stealing from or hindering other agents, usually covertly but sometimes openly.

Alamo 400k’s own culture and rules exacerbate this behavior — the best way to find an opportunity for advancement is to create a vacancy yourself. 

The Royal Ramble (that’s a wrestling pun)

I love wrestling.  I don’t know why exactly because it’s objectively bad for everyone involved.  I stopped watching for a while after a lot of women started speaking out about sexual abuse and general assholery in the business.  But eventually I started watching again because I guess I hate women.  Then I stopped watching for a while again just because I had no way to watch because I gave up on cable and I don’t like streaming services. 

But I finally broke down and got Peacock and now I’m watching wrestling again.  The other day I watched Walter against Zach Sabre Jr at Progress 77 and was like “oh right, I love this”. 

Which is a heartbreaking indictment of how much time I am wasting in my fleeting, ephemeral life watching grown men and women pretend to fight.  I often wonder what kind of bizarre personal defect makes me a wrestling fan.  What kind of a sociopath would watch this for fun?  Answer: me, apparently.

The best I can come up with is that wrestling is a sad demonstration of the tribalistic bloodlust that permeates the baser elements of the human emotional spectrum.

Anyway, this is a preamble to me talking about the new extended trailer for the program Heels.  There’s this guy call Stephen Amell.  He was in the Green Arrow as the titular Green Arrow. Like me, he loves wrestling.  He loves it so much he used all the clout that comes from being on the CW to be on wrestling shows sometimes – as a wrestler I mean, he wasn’t just hanging out like Jon Stewart.  And now that Green Arrow is over, he’s used that clout to make a new show about wrestling called Heels.  Also, I now think that show was maybe just called Arrow, not Green Arrow.  But he played the Green Arrow as a kid or something. 

Sidenote: one of my friends stood in line for hours to get Stephen Amell’s autograph for his daughter because he’s dreamy.  I don’t know if he’ll ever stop being mad about that.

The Heels trailer looks pretty good but there’s one bit that really annoyed me.  The show is about two wrestling brothers and they’re outside a bar and some dudes are like “wrestling is fake, we’re going to beat you up!” and so Stephen Amell and his brother are ready to throw down because you can’t let anyone call your fake sport fake. But before they can throw down, Stephen Amell’s brother’s girlfriend takes out one of the dudes in one move because she’s also a wrestler. 

Nothing wrong with that conceptually, except the move she does is to jump on the guy, wrap her legs around his head, and backflip him to the ground – AKA the lady move that lady actioners do in every lady action thing ever.  Because how else would a lady fight other than wrapping her legs around a guy’s head?

“But Jeremy that’s a wrestling move, it’s called a hurricanrana.”

Yes I know that.  It’s one of the wrestling moves that is clearly two people working together and has nothing to do with real fighting.  But that’s not really the point.  It annoys me that in all action things, this is the lady action move.  Flying genitals to the face. 

Sidenote, does hurricanrana mean hurricane frog in Spanish? 

Six blogs back, I ranted extensively about how much I hate the lady flying head scissors maneuver in movies and TV (I don’t love it in wrestling either, for the record) but I’m too lazy to go back and grab that and repost it here.  Which is good news. 

Remember when that lady on Heroes with the Taskmaster power to copy anything she sees does a Tiger Feint Kick to stop a robbery because she saw her son watching WrestleMania 22?  Did she ever show up again?  I give Lost a lot of crap for having a strong start and then seeming to be written with no plan at all, but Heroes was probably worse.

I feel like after the first couple of episodes, a writer would say “What if we had a character with this power?” and everyone would think it was cool and they’d show up for one episode and then the writers would be like “What’s the plot of this show again?” and everyone would shrug and go back to thinking up new characters. 

Hey, that’s kind of like the comic book Ela blog that I’m writing.  Oh no, I’ve been hoisted by my own petard!

A petard of course being a special outfit like a leotard, with a lot of fancy buckles and loops on it, that rich people would wear when they were feeling especially smug, but then poor people would tie a rope through one of the loops, and hoist them up a pole and then let them dangle there as punishment for being cocky.

One time there was a wrestler named Lita.  She did the hurricanrana because she was one of the first women in the WWE that could do much of anything and they weren’t not going to have a lady throwing her stuff in people’s faces.  That’s not fair actually, she was trained in Mexico and that’s just a standard move in Lucha Libre. 

Anyway, one time she broke her neck and was out of action for a year and a half.  I always assumed this was from wrestling, because that’s a thing that happens, but I just found out that instead, she was on that show Jessica Alba Wears Leather and Rides A Motorcycle, and she broke her neck doing that because a stunt woman dropped her on her head.  Is wrestling safer than Hollywood stunts?  I suppose if you count each move a wrestler does as a separate stunt, it probably is per capita.  Huh. 

I read a couple wrestling blogs on here and sometimes I go to leave a comment and they have the comments turned off.  And I wonder why that is.  Then I remember that most people that like wrestling and will go to the trouble of making a comment are going to say something mean or insulting.

December 20, 1973 – This is going on too long

The next guy standing before us was completely covered by red and black motorcycle leathers, and not the kind you might see a guy who’s super into motorcycles wear.  This was thick stuff that maybe off road bike people would wear.  Given the heat and humidity, he must have been roasting like a Thanksgiving turkey in there.  He even had the helmet on.  He also had a pair of holsters which was the only concession to anything that might be non-motorcycle related.  There were a bunch of straps and buckles and pouches on the suit that I’m not sure were supposed to be there, or if they were added to show what a badass he is.  For the record, the only thing that I count as badass is a bandoleer of bullets like Pierce’s outriders had in War Wagon.  Although even that was kind of a cop-out, because what you really need to be a badass is no shirt and then the bullet-bandolier.

Blue can’t whistle because he doesn’t have lips anymore but I could tell that he wanted to.  He also can’t raise his eyebrows because he doesn’t have those either, being turned into a lizard monster really curtails your ability to express yourself nonverbally.

Blue gestured “Are those custom forty-four Automags?  Where did you get those?”

Motorcycle man said something but it was muffled because of the helmet.  I think maybe he said something about “Mo Pow” is that anything?  Is there a gun manufacturer with a name like Mo Pow or something similar?

I cocked my head “What was that?  Can you take off that helmet?  It’s very hard to hear you with it on.”

He responded with something that sounded like “murffermurrfermurrfer secret identity.”

“You’re worried that if you take off the helmet we’ll know who you are?  But we don’t know who you are anyway?  Unless we went to the same high school or something, how would we know who you are even if we saw your face?  And why would it matter?”  I turned over to Martialla after he maybe responded “Did you catch any of that?” She shook her head “Hey, we can’t hear you man, can you at least crack open the visor or something?

Blue leaned forward  and peered “Doesn’t look like it opens.”

Leatherboy made some kind of a hand gesture and then LOUDLY mumbled something that no one could understand. 

I stood up and gestured angrily “Get the hell out of here!” I sat back down as he clomped off with what I have to assume were combat boots that would be terrible for motorcycle riding.  I chuckled “The funny thing is, I know who that is.”

Martialla snorted “How could you know who it was, he was all covered up!”

“I guess I don’t know for sure that it’s the same guy under there, but I can’t believe anyone else would walk around in that exact same stupid outfit.  He was a vigilante in Basin City back home.  I wonder what he’s doing here.”

“So you don’t know who he really is, just his . . . whatever, public persona.”

I grinned “No, I know that too.  It’s a long story.  Maybe I’ll tell you about it some time.  If you’re nice.”

Our next applicant was halfway dressed normally but he was also wearing a motorcycle jacket and some kind of matching motorcyclish boots.  He had his hair long like a lot of the local troublemakers do and I wondered how that worked with a helmet.  Do you stuff it all under there or just let it hang out the back?  Seems like it would pull your hair.  I guess I don’t know how tight those things are.  But they’d have to be pretty tight to work right?  Or do you want them to be loose to absorb impact? 

“Jesus, what the hell is this, motorcycle day?”

He frowned slightly “Pardon me?”

Blue made a conciliatory gesture “Don’t mind her.”

“Yeah, don’t mind me, I’m just the one asking all the questions.  You speak English, that’s a good start.”

He nodded slightly “Yeah, I’m from Hong Kong.”

“They speak English in Hong Kong?”

“Sometimes.  It was controlled by Britain until the war.”

“Who controls it now?”

He smiled mirthlessly “Depends who you ask.”

Martialla glared at me “Do we have time for a poly-sci discussion?”

I shook my head “Why do you have to suck the joy out of everything?  I like getting to know people.  Anyway, since we’re apparently in a big hurry, do you have powers or what’s your story?”

“I can duplicate myself.”

“So there’s two of you?  How is that useful?  Couldn’t we just hire two guys?”

Blue held up a finger “But this way we only have to pay one.”

The applicant did smile a little at that “Yes, but more importantly, I send my dupe to do something dangerous because I can just make another one.  I’ve been working as a stunt man but I’m looking to branch out into super capers.”

“Huh, so you like have your duplicate jump off a building for real and they film it?  Something like that?  Meanwhile you’re sitting in a director’s chair drinking a Pina colada?  Why do they call them director’s chairs when other people sit in them too?”

“I don’t know, but yes, that’s basically it.  Saves money on special effects too.”

“Okay so you can summon like a suicide copy of yourself?  I suppose I can see how that could be helpful.  I’ve never heard of anything like this, how did you get this ability?”

“I don’t know how it happened, after my twin brother died, I could just do it.”

“So you summon your dead twin brother into the world of the living to die over and over again?  Is that what we’re talking about?  I don’t like the sound of that at all.” 

Blue shuffled some papers “We’ll put you in the maybe pile.”

December 20, 1973 – It says here that you left your last job because your boss was sleeping with your wife?

I’ve never really been on a job interview before.  Because I’ve never had a job.  A job job you know.  I remember one of my friends going for a job interview for a job where you sold nails over the phone or something stupid like that.  He was reading an article about what to do or not do, and it said that you should wait to light up until the person interviewing you did so first.  The advice for women was not to wear your fancy diamonds because then it would look like you didn’t need a job.  I assume the first question an interviewer asks a woman is “So are you gonna put out or are you a stick in the mud?” 

I don’t suppose that experience would be transferrable to putting together a super-team for a covert op anyway.  How many words a minute you type is unlikely to come up.  Maybe I should watch the Dirty Dozen again to get in the zone.  Or the Devil’s Brigade.  Of course I’d need a TV for that.  Or you know, access to electricity.  While I was intensively considering such things (or daydreaming about food and clean clothing) a couple applicants came and went without me noticing.  When I brought my attention back around, the guy in front of us was in a black leotard thing and had big guns on his forearms with a kind of metal framework.

“Where did you get that costume?”

He gestured vaguely with his gum-forearm “There’s a guy that makes them.”

“Give me his address, will you?”

“Sure, but it’s pretty expensive.”

“Thanks.  So . . .  it looks like you’re just a guy with guns?”

He gestured again with his gun limbs “Well as you can see, I have an exoskeleton to support them but mostly, yes, I’m ‘just’ a guy with guns.  I do also have combat luck.”

Blue’s tongue flicked out in confusion “What’s combat luck?”

He replied deadpan “It means I’m lucky in combat.”

Martialla shook her head “Even if that was true, how would you know you had that power?”

“Hmm, I guess I wouldn’t.  Maybe I’m just lucky.”

I snapped my fingers “Hey, are you that guy that killed that bird man in Chi-Town?” He nodded “I knew you looked familiar!  I saw your picture in the paper.  What exactly is the point of having a mask on your costume anyway?  I know you’re the guy that did that.”

“But you don’t know my name.”

“I wouldn’t know your name anyway.”

We looked at each other for a while and then Blue broke the silence “Was that a hit or what was that all about?”

“He was sleeping with my wife.”

I raised an eyebrow “So you shot him fifty times?”

“Yeah.”

“Isn’t that murder?”

“I mean, yeah.”

Martialla leaned forward slightly “Why did you kill the guy?  Isn’t your wife the one that betrayed you?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Why do you want to be on a crime fighting super-team if you’re a murderer?  Are you the reformed villain?  It’s always good to have one of them in the mix, people love that stuff.  Redemption arcs are big.  That would help with the press release.”

He frowned slightly “Crime fighting?  I was told this was for a heist.”

“Well yeah . . . it is, but we’re the good guys.”

“If you say so.”

The next guy up had a very similar looking leotard, only it was red and blue instead of black and it had a big blue eagle on the chest with the wings stretching onto the shoulders.

I shook my head “No, no, sorry, I’ve had my fill of Statie super-soldier assholes.  Why are there so many of you here?  This is like a helter skelter amount of USA super patriot people in exile or on vacation or whatever.  Sorry but I just can’t do it.”

The only part of his face that was visible frowned “I’m from Kansas City, why would you think I’m from the states?”

“You’re wearing a red and blue suit with a giant eagle on it.”

He looked down at himself “It doesn’t really look like a flag though.  I have the eagle because I’m Eagle-Eye.”

“What about the red and blue?”

“It was the only suit they had.”

“Okay, so you have really good vision?  Is that it?”

“All my senses are enhanced.  Plus I have the extrasensory ability to perceive stress points, fracture planes, or weaknesses in people or objects – combined with my martial arts skills, this makes me able to deliver devastating blows.”

“Aren’t everyone’s weak points pretty much the same?”

“Uh . . . no.”

I looked over at Blue who just shrugged “I lived in Kansas City when I was kid, what high school did you go to?”

“John Burroughs.”

“No shit, I went to Parkway Central, do you remember that time . . .”

Martialla glared over at me “What does this have to do anything?”

“I don’t hear you asking any questions!”  Martialla shook her head and crossed her skinny fish-arms “Okay how about this question, why are you in Madripoor?”

“I’m on the run from the mob.”

“Like the mafia in New York?  There’s no mob in the CS.”

“Yes, there is, the Kansas City mob, among others.”

“What?!  There’s no mob in Kansas City!”

“Actually there is.  The DiGiovanni brothers came to Kansas City in 1912 from Sicily and . . .”

Martialla threw up her slimy webbed hands “Jesus Christ!”

Ela’s bar tour #5 – Somewhere, beyond the sea

I wonder who first came up with the idea of a bar on the beach.  Probably someone who got busted for drinking on a public beach.  I don’t know why wearing a bikini makes rum taste better but it does.  It just does.  If you get drunk enough you don’t even care that there’s sand in your crack.  Which there is.  There just is. 

Beach bars come in three types in Madripoor as far as I’ve been able to gather so far.  You have your tourist joints on the west side by the bridge.  You have places that are similar but are for locals further down, and then you have your spots in lowtown that probably started out as normal bars and then erosion made them a bar on the beach.  Which gives me hope that this entire stinking island will wash away some day.  No offense.

The place I was at today was sort of in-between the first two.  It’s hard to say because there weren’t many people there.  Possibly because it was ten in the morning.  It was halfway decked out like a Hawaiian place but the bartender was Aussie.  I regaled him with tales of my encounters with his countryman in the red power armor suit but he didn’t think it was funny at all.  I thought Australians were supposed to be boisterous and fun-loving.  Alvin Purple lied to me.

Since the bartender wasn’t interested in my hilarious and well-told anecdotes, I turned my back on him and watched the ocean while I drank, a time honored tradition.  Watching the waves roll in can be calming if you don’t look at the dirty foam at the beach were all the garbage is washing up.  Crushing a dozen glasses of ranch water is pretty calming too.  They call it something different of course and it’s made with lemongrass instead of lime juice, but I know ranch water when I taste it.  It’s a light bubbly version of the classic margarita without being as sweet.  I’m sweet enough as is. 

I was mildly hypnotized by the rhythm of the water as I watched a floating lump and wondered what it was.  A dead walrus?  A crate of hot pants that fell off a freighter?  A bunch of dead bodies tied together by the testicles?  They do that here you know.  Another reason I’m glad I don’t have testicles.  I don’t even see how you could walk with those things clanging around. 

I was distracted enough thinking about testicle-walking that it didn’t really register right away when the mound grew a long neck out of it – I saw it but I didn’t see it you know?  When the little head at the end of the long neck turned towards me and I saw eyeballs is when I really took notice.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I jumped out of my chair and maybe screamed a little.  I grabbed one of the few other patrons.

“Holy shit, are you seeing this?!” He plucked his shirt out of my grasp finickyily.  Is that a word?  He did it with finickiness. “Do you see that man?  Can you understand me?  Do you speak French?!”

He squinted out at the water “Elasmosaurus.”

I grabbed at him again unconsciously “What?  What does that mean?”

He nodded at the water “That’s what that is, elasmosaurus, it’s a kind of plesiosaurus.”

I won’t lie, my jaw dropped “What?  Like dinosaurs?!”

“Uh, I think they’re aquatic reptiles rather than dinosaurs but I’ve never been clear on what the difference is.  Something about the hip bones?  I don’t know, I’m no dinosaur biologist.”

“You mean archeologist?”

He shook his head “No, that would be for fossils, that’s a living thing there.  So biologist I think is right. Yeah.”

I gestured so wildly I spilled some of my drink and had to slurp it off my hand “It’s the Loch Ness Monster!  Why are you not freaking out?!” I looked around at the few people there “Why is everyone not freaking out!?”

He flicked some droplets of tequila off his shirt “They’re rare, but you see them in his part of the bay sometimes.  They don’t come close to shore so it’s safe.” He smiled faintly “It is pretty cool when you think about it I suppose.”

I spun around looking for someone else who was going nuts “I don’t . . . I can’t . . . why . . .” I flung one arm towards the water “What the fuck?!  Dinosaurs went extinct billions of years ago right?  What is going on?”

“They still around in the Savage Lands.”

I finally managed to sit back down and watched the long-necked beast paddling around in the water “I’m going to assume you don’t mean the gay bar in downtown Chicago.”

“In Antarctica there’s a lost world with dinosaurs, they call it the Savage Lands.”

I gawked at him “How would you know that?”

He crossed his arms smugly “I went there once.  I worked on a ship that went to the Savage Lands.  A rich man in Sao Paulo hired us to go there and bring him back a deinonychus.  Try to bring him back a deinonychus anyhow.  The thing got sick and died on the way back.”

“So you’re telling me that you went to a secret dinosaur world in Antarctica and captured a dinosaur?”

He seemed irritated “I didn’t say that I captured it myself, I was just working on a ship that went there and I saw it.”

I slammed my hand down on the bar, although not very hard since I have the strength of twenty strong men and I didn’t want to smash it to bits “Bullshit!  I can accept a lot of crazy shit that goes on here but there is not a dinosaur land in the fucking South Pole!  It makes no sense!  If there was, everyone would know about it!  Everyone!”

He shrugged and turned back to the bar “You asked, I told you.”

Ela’s dead, the final Ela-mare

One time there was this movie called Adventures in Babysitting, the 1987 one I mean, I think they did a remake and I don’t mean that one.  In the movie Adventures in Babysitting, Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, tries to buy a hot dog from a hot dog cart guy by signing over a third-party check to him.  It is the greatest scene in movie history.   

When I was a kid I loved that movie for a variety of reasons, chief among them because one of the kids being babysat was a girl that liked the Mighty Thor and I didn’t know until then that girls could like comic books.  It was a revelation it was.  I found out later that not many girls like comic books but some of them do. 

It’s the first movie Elizabeth Shue was in, and the first PG-13 rated Disney movie.  There’s a lot of history there.  I know what you’re thinking “wasn’t esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller briefly married to Will Arnett?”  Yes, yes she was.  And you’re probably also wondering why Will Arnett and Amy Poehler got divorced.  Sometimes people just fall out of love.  Yes, Canadians are allowed to get divorced, I was surprised too.   

“Jeremy was esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller the lead in the movie the Relic?  You know, the lead character that got licked up and down by the titular Relic, which was a cabinet monkey lizard monster?” 

Yes she was, it wasn’t one of her more esteemed character roles.  But she got paid 1.5 million dollars for doing it.  Invested at a 7 percent rate of return, which is generous I admit, that’s 7.6 million dollars today.  A lizard licked me once and I didn’t get a red cent. 

“Jeremy why do you keeping spelling Ann with an E, isn’t that incorrect?” 

Yes it is.   

“Jeremy why wasn’t the Relic a better movie?” 

Well, it’s not like the source material was super strong you know?  And even if it was, the underlying message about museums and their negative role in society and the scientific community isn’t going to be easy to communicate in a movie.  Plus, 1997 was smack dab in the middle of the wonky CGI era so the creature didn’t look great.  I wonder if they used a practical effect tongue for the licking scene.  I wonder further what esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller would say about how you drop in to a scene where you’re getting licked by a cabinet lizard monkey monster.  I’ll ask her at the next family reunion. 

Dropping-in is a technique Tina and Kristin Linklater developed in the early 1970s as a method to create a spontaneous emotional connection to your role. 

https://wordsdeferred.com/2021/07/12/filling-plot-holes/

I thought this post about plot holes was pretty good, check it out if you want.  One time I “promoted” a post I thought was neat and the guy that wrote it took the time to message me and tell me that he has 20,000 followers and he doesn’t need me to help him.  I cried for three weeks.  Not because of that, because of the shark hormones I take.  And to be clear, no sharks are being killed to harvest these hormones, they’re taken from humans with shark DNA spliced in.  Which is fine. 

There are probably lots of plot holes in Ela’s narrative because the spine of it is random RPG tables and I don’t have an outline or anything guiding the tale.  There are probably even more unresolved plots.  My other blog is even worse and I don’t even have the excuse of RPG nonsense on that one.  The other day someone said to me “Why don’t you stop this solo campaign bullshit and do some real writing?” and I says to them I says “I don’t have the creativity for that” and then they reminded me of that other blog and that shut me up.  I had forgotten about it.  How did I forget a blog that I post on three times a week and write for almost every day?  Dunno.  But I did.   

For D&D Ela I was content to let the dice dictate everything, hence her sudden and unceremonious death.  For comic book Ela I’ve been more flexible, but I’m at a real crossroads now.  Not to give anything away but decisions need to be made.  Dice or free will? 

I can’t remember if I blogged about this, possibly blogged about it twice, or if I just thought about it and blogged about it no times, but now that I’m back in the swing of TTRPGs I’ve been thinking about running a campaign again.  And what I’ve been thinking is that I don’t know if I will.  I have a lot of desire but more and more I find it a stumbling block that my game friends all like games but they don’t really like the same thing.   

I’ll start planning a modern investigative spooky campaign and then remember that no one likes that but me.  Then I’ll start working on a cyberpunk intrigue-based campaign and then I’ll remember that no one likes that but me.  So then I’ll think about the kind of campaigns they like and I groan because it’s all stuff I don’t like.  My gaming circle is hilariously mismatched like sitcom roommates.   

And I know that it doesn’t really matter, we’ll all get together and have a fun time no matter what, but it’s hard to want to spend a lot of time on shit when you’re the only one who’s really into it.   

There’s a scene in Adventures in Babysitting where Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, loses her glasses and thinks that a giant rat is a fluffy kitty and tries to pet it.  When I was younger, one time when I didn’t have my glasses on, I thought a baseball cap was our cat TJ.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to me because she was super friendly.  It was because she was a baseball cap in that scenario.  And they’re not known for being overly personable.   

Now my eyes are great because I had the laser eyeball surgery.  Also, not for nothing, but I have fantastic knees.  Maybe the best knees in the world.  There’s no way to know for sure.   

The movie Adventures in Babysitting was released with the title A Night On The Town in other countries.  Does that mean babysitting isn’t a thing in other countries?  Or do they call it something else?  Must be the first thing otherwise they would have called it Adventures in BLANK right?   I wonder what that says about American child rearing.  I know the movie Date Night was called Crazy Night in many other countries because date night is an American concept.  I wonder what that means about Americans and our relationships.   

Writing tip of the day – When writing a female character, make sure that in the middle of a scene apropos of nothing you have her start thinking about when she first started “developing”.  That’s totally cool.  Remember that scene in Die Hard when in the middle of a firefight, Bruce Willis starts talking about how he got hair on his balls?  You need to apply that same level of care to female characters.