Tom Clancy presents

It took some work to get the steamroller-crane-buggy fired up.  You see these days, cars (or whatever) don’t have keys, they have a startup sequence like an airplane (that’s a thing with planes right?).  To get these monstrosities rolling, you have to tiggle the right toggles and swatch the right switches and cobb the right knobs and so forth.  Martialla thinks that they’re designed that way intentionally to prevent theft (like the one we’re committing) but I’m sure instead this is just what happens when you have junk mobiles knocked together by post-apocalyptic screwheads one at a time instead of having thousands of the same vehicles rolling off an assembly line.

Once we finally did get the thing moving, we immediately smashed into and through and over the rusted truck corpse because maneuvering it is like trying to steer a dead hippo down a river solely with body English.  I suppose that’s why it’s got that sheepsfoot roller thing on the front.  If I were building a conveyance, I would just build it so the damn thing could turn rather than putting an apparatus on front to crush everything in the way so you wouldn’t need to turn.  But what do I know about being a junk mechanic?  Nothing, that’s what.   

It took both of us to pilot the damn thing because the controls were down so low that you couldn’t see out the front driving hole while you were working them.  We switched off being the spotter and the driver because it turns out it’s really unnerving to “drive” when you can’t see where you’re going and you need a break after a bit.  The previous owner, you know the one Martialla murdered for probably no reason, was a good foot shorter than either of us.  How the hell did he drive this trash heap with this set up?  Martialla was crouched down below manning the controls while I sat up on the hood window trying to keep us going the right way.  And also wondering which the right way was.  And also drinking more than my fair share of the water we found. And by found I mean looted.

Martialla grumbled up at me “Why would someone even build something like this?” 

“Maybe it’s for the gladiator arena.” 

She growled at my back “We’re not going to find any car battle arenas Ela, it makes no sense for them to waste resources like that.” 

I leaned back and peered at her upside down “Have you see anything here that made sense?” 

She shoved at me “Get back up there!” 

I did, immediately regretting it as my core muscles turned to lightning, lightning that was on fire “Why?  You can’t fucking turn this thing fast enough to avoid any obstacles anyway, so what difference does it make?” 

“You can at least keep us from driving into the river!  This shitbucket was obviously built for combat but the sides are completely open to enemy fire.  It’s like . . . it’s like . . . well it’s like something.” 

“Well said.”  I glanced back at her by turning my head instead of lying back so the pain was only excruciating instead of agonizing “Remember that time I was driving and I went down that hill into that rice field where the Invincible were slaughtering all those mole people?” 

She made a half snort sound “Uh, yeah, I remember that time you almost got us killed.  It was last week.” 

“Oh pish, it was at least ten days ago.  And, in all fairness to me, we almost get killed every day now, so did I really do anything wrong?  Point being, after I endangered our lives on a whim, you asked me to check in with you before I endangered our lives again.  And I agreed to that request as it seemed reasonable.  Can I ask you to extend me the same courtesy before you straight up murder people without provocation?” 

She stood up, unfolding slowly and with a lot of grimacing like an elderly woman “You want me to check with you before I shoot someone?  You know that makes no sense right?  In those situations, I have to act in the moment.  That’s insane Ela, even for you.” 

“I’m not saying that if we’re in a firefight that you have to send me a written memo before you fire back, I’m just saying that when we’re talking to someone . . .” 

She sat back down and grabbed the controls like she was pretending they were my throat “He made a move on us Ela, what did you want me to do, wait until he bashed your pretty little head in before I did something?’ 

“He was taking a piss Martialla, he had his dick in his hand, what was he going to do?  Flick pee on us?” 

“He had a weapon in his other hand Ela, you saw it!” 

“You mean that sex toy looking thing that was probably about as dangerous as a rolled-up newspaper?” 

I could hear the flint in her voice “He was a threat, Ela.” 

“Was he though?”  When she didn’t answer, I let out a little sigh “Look, all I’m saying is that in a situation like that where there’s no immediate threat of violence, a clear and present danger as it were, how about you give me a chance to talk?  Maybe we could have made a bargain with him.” 

“I’m your bodyguard, right?  Let me do my job.  You don’t have to like how it’s done, you can just be alive to bitch and moan at me about it.” 

“Which you know I will.”

She nodded “Which I know you will.” She thought for a moment “Did you get fired from Clear and Present Danger or was that me?”

I snorted “First one and then the other.” 

OOC – We’re back baby!

A while ago it was announced that Futurama was coming back on Hulu.  I resisted the urge to blog about this because people don’t come here for my personal life rambling, they come to watch me create crummy worlds of plot holes and run-on sentences.  Plus I figured that a lot of other wordpressarians would be freaking out about it.  I found little to no freaking out despite the fact that 43% of the web is built on WordPress!  Maybe people were bummed out by the Bendergate Controversy before they could get excited about it. 

Anyway, Futurama is coming back and I’m excited and hope that it is good.  Now, my girlfriend has mounted yet another expedition to try and watch the Eternals.  On this attempt she’s gotten as far as the part where it’s implied that the Deviants were the true force behind Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.  At first blush this seems to contradict what we all know from Futurama, that the Big Brain of the Brainspawn was behind said extinction.  However, what are the Deviants?  And I quote “unstable creatures that were born in new and more horrifying forms each generation”.  Ergo I submit to you that the Brainspawn are Deviants.  Which makes the Nibblonians Eternals I guess.  And Frye is Kit Harrington?  That sounds right.

Futurama is a silly comedy of course, but the Brainspawn are actually a villain I like for real and true.  They’re jerks, but they’re not actually evil, sentient thought of other creatures is unbearably painful to them.  My head canon is they tried to isolate themselves as far away from everyone as they could but races kept expanding into their telepathy-pain range and some faction of them finally decided there was no way to stop that other than to wreck everyone else.   Eternal quiet. 

What does this have to do with Shang-Chi?  Nothing, but I watched the first part of it again the other day and I noticed that in one of the fight zone pods (sponsored by Mountain Dew Spark) there was a Window fighting against an Extremis guy.  Since everything in the MCU is an Easter egg I looked up what minor characters these were that had appeared in dozens of comics since the late 90s.  Imagine my surprise when I found out they were no one, just background extras for the movie.  Blasphemy.  There’s approximately 9871 trillion D-level Marvel characters.  You telling me they couldn’t have thrown in a 15 second fight scene between Harpoon and Speedball? 

If I wasn’t so lazy I’d write some backstory for those two.  But I am. 

It’s not clear when Shang-Chi takes place other than after Iron Man 3, but I’m going to assume that it’s after Black Window also.  Plenty of reasons that a Widow could be pit fighting, but the Extremis dude is more of a puzzler.  As in why he is he alive?  I’ve been forced to admit that Iron Man 3 is kind of a mess, but the implication was that without a cure all the Extremis people would blow up sooner rather than later.  But having said that a couple of Killian’s minions seemed to be just fine Extremising it up all across the land.  Pepper seemed like she was going to blow up within minutes.  I don’t know man, point is somehow that guy was alive and full of Extremis and fighting in a pod.  Seems interesting.  Probably there’s some kind of Lost-style twist in the story where the Widow was there specifically after that guy because or something in the past. 

Speaking of being lazy, one idea I’ve had for a long time is from the Next Gen episode Cause and Effect.  It would be a timeline where the Enterprise really did blow up and two of the very few people that managed to abandon ship in an escape pod land on a nearby Tatooine and have to try an survive and signal Starfleet to come get them. 

They say nobody survives a deadly kiss

Like many of the Frankenvehicles here in the future present, it’s hard to describe it exactly.  You know that old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee?  I feel like that applies to the cars (or whatever you want to call them) now.  It’s as if the decision was made to build a car and everyone involved showed up with one part without discussing anything about what it was supposed to be beforehand and then they went ahead and whatever they had was bolted together and everyone shrugged and said “this is fine”.   And they drove the monstrosity off into the desert.

This thing was part dune buggy and part steamroller.  I know what you’re thinking, “Ela that makes no sense, steamrollers are huge and rugged, dune buggies are small enough to fit in my pocket and they fall apart if you breathe on them too hard, how could they be joined together?  It’s unholy it is, that ain’t in the Bible”.  I’m just telling you what it looked like.  It also had some kind of crane-arm on it with a sawblade taller than me, so what do you think of that, smartypants?  It was parked beside what was left of a wall of a building.   

It was impressive (or weird maybe) enough that we didn’t notice the dude next to it taking a leak until a second later.  He looked pretty normal by the standards of the day. Other than the fact that he had no nose and his earlobes went down to his shoulders, he could have passed for a modern (past) day human.  The most interesting thing about him to me was that he was wearing what seemed to be a modern (past) day black t-shirt.  It looked like there should have been a logo on it for a shitty punk band.  He wheeled our way when Martialla dropped the “presso” sign she was holding with a loud clang (is there such a thing as a soft clang? Maybe.) and his little beady hominid eyes went wide at the sight of us.  And who can blame him?  We’re quite the pair to behold.

“Hel . . .” 

As far as I got before Martialla shot him in the face.  I have to give her this much, a headshot with a handgun is pretty hard to pull off at any kind of range.  You’re supposed to aim for the “center of mass” which is a nice way of saying the chest because that means you’re more likely to hit something vital. Headshots are for snipers I think.  She did it though.   

I spun on her, incredulous “Why did you do that?” 

She gestured with her pistol “He made a move.” 

“A move?  What move?  Like he was getting fresh with us at junior prom in the backseat of his mom’s El Torino?” 

She motioned again “He had a weapon.  He was going to try and kill us.” 

I looked and there was something by the body.  I guess it’s a weapon.  It was a flexible little stick-thing with a nest of spikes on the end.  Maybe it’s a blackjack, only for killing people instead of knocking them out?  It looked more like a torture tool from a museum exhibit about the Inquisition than a weapon weapon.  It looked like what they’d beat a woman with about the belly, groin, and buttocks who had committed the sin of their husband having impure thoughts about another woman.   

“Jesus Christ Martialla, maybe let me get a couple words out before you kill someone, will you?” 

She looked at me for a moment, a look that I couldn’t decipher.  That scared me more than anything else she’d done since we woke up because until that moment, I could always read her like a book.   

“He who hesitates is lost.  Or she in this case.” 

After waiting a bit to see if Earlobes had any friends in the area that were going to jump out at us, Martialla started looting the body.  Just like that.  I was more than a little disturbed by what had just happened, but what was I going to do about it? 

I can’t explain exactly why, but what came to my mind in that moment was a book they made us read in school about Vietnam.  We were only assigned to read some chapters but I read the whole thing.  Which wasn’t like me ordinarily, to do more work in school, but I did it that time for some reason.  One chapter is about the army guys finding a water buffalo or an ox or whatever they have in Vietnam and they befriend it and feed it and nurse it back to health and then they torture it almost to death and throw it down a well.  The narrator talks about how doing this filled them with an almost religious ecstasy and refilled them with purpose about what they were doing and gave them the strength to soldier on.  He wasn’t saying it was a good thing, he was saying it was objectively awful, but because the situation they were in was so insane, doing something like that somehow gave them hope.  It made no sense to me then.  I can understand why that part of the book wasn’t required reading.   

I don’t think Martialla killed that guy because of anything like that, but that’s where my mind went.  Maybe because it was about therapeutic violence.   I’ve never been afraid of Martialla before, why would I be, and I’m not afraid of her now.  That being said, it was like back home on the farm when I was a kid and saw our dog Lucky rip a possum in half and then drag the bloody half-possum up to the house wagging his tail.  It’s like “oh, right, I forgot this loyal and shaggy creature is also a killing machine”.   You have to remember that.

Whatever kind of moral quandary or existential crisis or whatever the heck may have been going on melted away in an instant when Martialla waved me over to the Frankencar and showed me what was wrapped in a coarse cloth in a little cubbyhole by the driver’s seat.  Blackberries.  Tons of them.  Like a quartsworth of blackberries.   And right next to that in a big ceramic pot was a mound of mulberries, figs, pecans, and walnuts.  It all looked like it had been picked (or whatever) just minutes before.   

Maybe that’s the lesson.  Get hungry enough and you don’t give a flying fuck what happens to anyone.   

I’ve got those down South blues

How long does untreated unrefrigerated giant armadillo meat stay good in one-hundred-degree weather with ninety-six percent humidity and persistent acid rain and acid smog?  I have no idea and I wasn’t about to find out despite Martialla saying it was probably fine.  The pile of dead armadillo we left behind is going to be a hell of a boon for whatever scavenging beast finds it.  Maybe that will really turn the luck around for some jackal-killer whale with the face of a gibbon.   

You see, here’s the problem with following the river south, plants grow up around rivers for some reason.  In order to avoid big tangles of “trees” that twisted around each other like a pile of snakes in a pit and dense fields of thorns and some other patches of little damn things that were like spears sticking straight out of the ground, we kept moving farther away from the river.  Eventually we couldn’t actually see the river for the vegetation anymore (new expression) but we figured that as long as we could see the wall of ugly stabby vegetation, we were still following it.   

And maybe that would have worked if we weren’t broken like the dreams of Elizabeth Berkley after Showgirls came out.  I was hunched over at a ninety-degree angle with my “good” right hand clasped onto Martialla’s belt letting her pull me forward like a sled dog when she came to a stop and I crashed into her boney ass.  I swear she has hips like a deli slicer.  Bouncing off, I almost fell and in trying to steady myself, I yanked on her belt so hard the damn thing snapped and then she lurched forward, almost falling herself, and in the process of her flailing for balance, she smacked me in the ear.   

I grabbed at the side of my head “Jesus, we need to cut out this Three Stooges bullshit.” 

Martialla pulled out the remaining half of her belt and watched it disintegrate in her hands “Maybe if you backed off me, we wouldn’t be running into each other all the time.  We don’t need to be roped together like mountaineers.  Where are we?  I can’t see the river anymore.” 

I was stunned for a moment “I was following you, how should I know?!” 

She gaped at me “I was following you!” 

“How could you be following me when I was behind you?” 

She thought about it for a minute “Good point.  You know I think that third concussion in two minutes really did a number on my brain.” She did a piss poor job of imitating my melodious voice “And you didn’t have much of a brain to begin with.” 

“Nice, real nice, you must be a hit at parties with that trick.” 

“Remember when David Spade called the cops on you at the Cinco De Mayo party?” 

I nodded absently “I had that coming but Chris Farley had no right to call me what he did.  I should have stabbed that Tommy Boy mother fucker.  Alright so we were on the east side of the river so we just need to go west to find it again right?  Which way is west?” 

“How the hell should I know?” 

“Can’t you tell from the sun or something?” 

“Can you?” 

We spun around a little, shielding our eyes and trying to look for the sun.  It was very bright out but also the air was so filled with particulate that it was hard to figure out where the sun was.  When we finally maybe pinpointed the location of the sun, it was right above us and off to the left a little.  Or the right depending on which way you were standing.  Or neither if you were standing a different way.   

Martialla had her arms out like she was about to start flapping and try and take flight “Alright so it’s morning and I’m facing the sun, so West is left.” 

I turned the other way “I mean we were going this way and the river was on our right side so . . . sure?” 

We both tilted our heads back and looked at each other upside for a minute before she both shrugged and headed to my right and her left.  As we trudged on our death march to nowhere, I wondered how it could be so muggy all the time.  At some point is all the moisture out of the air?  I guess it rains all the time in rainforests.  So the Northern Lights have come down and the rain forest moisture has come up? How does that make sense?  Next I thought about how there has to be a way to harvest and treat your sweat back into drinkable water.  Sweat is mostly just water right?  How do you get the salt out of it?  I thought I remembered something from school about boiling but that was to get rid of the water and end up with salt.  How does desalination work?  How hard could it be? 

Around the time I was going to suggest that we had gone the wrong way, I spotted something fire engine red off to the right.  Aside from some exotic birds, that is not a color you see much in nature, and it was way too big to be a golden pheasant (which is bright red).  It was a maybe six foot on a side red sheet of metal halfway stuck in the ground with a white arrow on it.  There were other pieces of rusty metal around it but it was mostly intact.  Not far away was a rusted-out sedan making love with a skeletonized truck on a bed of tire rims with all the rubber eaten away.  Martialla poked around and found another piece of red metal with a partial word on it “presso”.  Espresso?  I can’t think of what other word it could be.  But how does that fit with a big arrow?   

That’s when we saw it. 

The adventures of 2-Boobs Johnson

We didn’t see any of the Invincible still in the area but we still did our best to skulk through the crops and wiregrass anyway.  Just because we didn’t see them doesn’t mean they weren’t there.  Our best wasn’t very good but no one accosted us.  It seems strange that none of them would be hanging around after the battle looking for stragglers to knock off but maybe the Invincible didn’t even know there was an underground complex, maybe they were just burning fields.  Or maybe they don’t do things based on any logic I would understand.   

Martialla did get her gun to work finally and once we were on the move she shot an armadillo the size of a German Shepard after we chased it through the underbrush for what had to have been at least nine thousand hours.   It had some kind of yellow foam spilling out of its mouth but I’m sure it’s totally safe for us to eat it.  A crew guy on the set of No One Would Tell told me that you can cook an armadillo by just splitting it open down the middle and putting it on a fire – possum on the half shell he called it.  He was right.  It tasted like tender, tender pork.  I feel like I’ve been writing about how things have made me cry a lot lately and I don’t want people to think that I’m weepy so I’m going to say that I saw tears running down Martialla’s face instead as we shoved gobs of armadillo meat in our faces.   

I was licking my fingers like a country rube “I assume if we get leprosy the nanobots in our blood will save us?” 

Martialla gave me the finger gun “You know it.” 

“I’ve been thinking that I don’t really relish the idea of walking all the way back to J-Lo with two broken legs.” 

She snorted “Your legs aren’t broken.  You probably just have an MCL tear and a wrecked hip labrum.  Although your left ankle is for sure busted.  Busted like MC Hammer.” 

I nodded “Timely reference, you’re doing great.  Point being, setting aside your fictional nanobots, with all our various ailments, staggering a hundred miles downriver doesn’t appeal much to me.  How about we build a raft and Huck Finn it on down the river?” 

She chewed for a while before answering “Did you take a carpentry class at the learning annex that I don’t know about?” 

“What carpentry?  It’s a raft, not an armoire.” 

“And how do you propose we build a raft?” 

I gestured at the bounty around us “You just tie some sticks together and raft it up.” 

“Tie them together with what?  How do you get them in the shape of a raft instead of a ball of sticks kind of clumped together?  How do you launch it?  A raft that can carry two people is going to weigh a couple hundred pounds, isn’t it?  How do you make all the sticks the same length?  Didn’t Huck Finn escape in a canoe that he just conveniently happened to find?  I don’t think he built a raft at all.” 

I bit my lip, thinking “I swear in the movie that it was a raft.” 

“Well that’s helpful.  If you want to go by movie rules, think about Castaway.  That’s how you build a raft.” 

“Oh yeah, that did seem like it took a lot of time.  Like years maybe.  But that was a raft to go on the ocean, a river has to be easier right?” All she did was shrug as if to say ‘go ahead and try’.   “Did you cry when Wilson died?” 

“What are you talking about, it was a volleyball, it didn’t die because it was never alive.  It just floated away.” 

I shook my head “You are dead inside.  Aren’t you the one who pretended to be a boy so you could be a cub scout?  Why don’t you know how you build a raft?  What did you get all your badges in?  Being an emotionless robot?” 

She shook her head “That wasn’t cub scouts, that was basketball camp, and it would have worked too, if my boobs hadn’t come in that summer.” She paused for a moment “No comment there?  No joke about how you’re still waiting for my boobs to come in?” 

I shook my head grimly “I have no interest in insulting your boobs Mar, that’s how grim things are.” 

“Shit.” 

“Yeah.”   

Sock it to me

I suppose we passed out.  Sugar crash, adrenaline crash, pain crash (note to self, Pain Crash good band name yes/no?) exhaustion, whatever you want to attribute it to, we went down.  Maybe we were laughing so hard that we didn’t get enough oxygen to our brains.  Doesn’t matter why we passed out in the end.  Sometimes I think the same about waking up.   

It rained at some point and that didn’t even rouse us.   It rains all the damn time here and yet half the places we go are just dust and rocks.  Explain that.   Nutrient-deficient, acidic soils?   Fine, you win this round Mr. Explainseverything.  The rain didn’t wake up the guy we stabbed to death either but at least that makes sense, you don’t wake up when you’re dead.  Usually.  Just enough rain fell to make me wake up damp and uncomfortable, not enough to wash off the blood.  I never knew how sticky blood was until I came to the future present.  It seems like it should run off you like water but it’s more like simple syrup.   

It’s so rare that I wake up before Martialla I thought that she might be dead.  When I slithered over to shake her, I saw that she had one of her many knives clenched in her fist like a fat kid with a lollipop.  It wasn’t a very shiny knife but I was able to see my reflection in it anyway.  Lines.  Radiating out from my eyes.  Coming out from my mouth like demented cat whiskers.  I was repulsed and obsessed at the same time.  Who was that hideous old witch?  Did Ela die a hundred years ago and this beast took her place?  Is that what happened?  Ela never looked like this, not even after doing shots and chain smoking all night, Ela is pretty.  Oh, so very pretty.  Everyone said so.   

I stared at that reflection until the sun came up enough to obliterate it with bright light.  I wanted to peel off my wet stinking socks but I couldn’t reach my arms out that far with a probably dislocated shoulder and I couldn’t curl my legs up that far with a probably whatever happens to knees knee.  I hocked up and spat a sticky mass of something grey but somehow that action didn’t make my socks come off.   

I thought it might be easier to grab Martialla’s knife and cut them off my feet but the problem there is that there are no more socks.  If I destroy these ones, grey and filthy and dingy and wet as they were, that’s it.  No more socks for me.  What am I going to do, steal Martialla’s socks?  What good would that do me?  She has feet like Wylie Coyote.  I’d have to wear them like stockings and here I am without a garter belt.  Lesson learned, always carry an emergency garter belt in your purse in case of apocalypse.   

I kicked at Martialla to wake her finally (or see if she was alive) “Hey, what happened to my purse?”  She about stabbed me with her fist-knife so I kicked at her again “Hey, watch it, it’s me!” 

“Me who?”  Martialla’s voice was so ragged that she sounded like a different person.  Her eyes were crusted shut so firmly she had to pry them apart with her fingers, nearly stabbing herself in the face with the knife still clenched in her man-hand at first attempt.   

I snatched the blade away from her “Jesus, give me that before you put your eye out.” 

She rolled over and slowly levered herself up to hands and knees, blinking blearily at the dead man, at whom she grunted “So that did happen, I thought that was a dream.  Did anyone come looking for him?” 

“We’re still alive so I guess not.” 

“Weren’t you keeping watch?” 

A noise came out of my throat that sounded like a cricket in a food processor – I guess that’s what it sounds like when a laugh is trapped in your esophagus by a mucus plug.  We scuttled over to the corpse and painfully started stripping it to see if he had anything other than lice and a bad smell on him.  Aside from the requisite Mad Max knife, he had a wooden thing (canteen?  bottle?) filled with water which we drank too fast, and a flask made of resin filled with blue-sugar booze that we also drank too fast.  In his god damn boot, not even on the side but in the bottom, he had a wrapped-up leaf full of something that looked like tobacco leaves and tasted like varnish.  Even as hungry as I was, it took a while to force that down my gullet.  I should have saved some of the water to wash it down with.  I was considering standing up as Martialla was fiddling with the gun she found at the security station. 

“Is that thing going to work?” 

“I don’t know, I seem to have misplaced my firearms cleaning kit.  You left your purse in the car.” 

I frowned “Bullshit, that was a two-thousand-dollar Balencaiga bag, I wouldn’t have left it in the car.” 

“You did though, I remember scolding you about leaving it , what if someone breaks into the car and steals it I said, your wallet is in there I said, you said you weren’t bringing it in because you didn’t want to get a chemical smell on it.  It cost two thousand dollars you said.”  She aimed her gun and pulled the trigger but nothing happened “Well, it’s pretty heavy, I can at least throw it at someone.  How do you feel?” 

“Bad.  I feel bad.” 

She waggled her eyebrows at me “Yes, but not as bad as you should feel, all things considered hmm?  And why do you think that might be?” 

I rolled my eyes “If you say anything about nanorobots, I will kick you in the cervix.” 

She affected a Brooklyn accent “If you kick me in the ovaries in your dreams you better wake up and apologize.” 

I turn away from her in shame “That is the worse Harvey Keitel impression I have ever heard.  It’s too bad the world blew up, I heard there was an all-female reboot of Reservoir Dogs in the works.  I would have made a great Mrs. Pink.” 

“Wasn’t Mrs. Pink the name of your character in that softcore porn you did?” 

“The Girl in Room Two Oh Eight is not softcore porn!  It’s an action-adventure comedy!  There’s less nudity per minute in Two Oh Eight than there is in To the Limit!  Are you saying that To the Limit is softcore porn, Martialla?  Martialla, is that what you’re saying?” 

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

Martialla’s theory is that the blue stuff is a fermented sugar beet concoction.  She had no explanation for why it might be blue.  Is guzzling twelve to twenty ounces of alcoholic sugar on an empty stomach while you have several severe injuries a good idea?  Probably not . . . because it’s a great idea!  I felt like I was slamming shots of Jolt Cola and high proof rum.  A few months (and a hundred years) ago an alcoholic caffeine drink hit the market and was quickly banned by the FDA for being a threat to public health.  I’m glad all those FDA jerks a dead now because this is the best!

Riding a sugar high like never before, Martialla and I shimmied up that ladder like two happy little squirrels.  O-kay, maybe that’s a wee little bit of an exaggeration, but we were raring to go is my point.  There was no hatch or anything at the top, we were just barfed out in the fields.  Which is a real safety concern for anyone walking around up top if you ask me – this must be why everyone was falling into wells back in the 80s.  Get yourself some well covers, people!

It was night when we gophered out of the ground, but the night sky was even more illuminated than usual because to the northwest, some of the fields were on fire.  Fire gives off light, you see.  This was also giving off huge plumes of smoke which combined with the Not Northern Anymore Lights and the flickering light of the fire made some pretty trippy patterns in the air.  Some of that may have been because we were wasted as well.  I’ll admit that. 

Maybe the smoke was obstructing our view but from where we were, we didn’t see any deadly Invincible marauders marauding around.  We did see some wrecked vehicles and piles of dead bodies straight west of us but there didn’t seem to be anyone about.  I was just about to say to Martialla that there had to be someone still around, the battle wasn’t that long ago, when an ugly pig-face jutted out at us from the darkness.  I just mean that he was jowly and had an upturned nose, not that he was an actual pigman.  I need to be more careful about how I say things here in the future since there are some weird mutants around. 

He was carrying a vaguely gun-shaped thing that had an arrow sticking out of the end and he jabbed it at us in what I assume was supposed to be a menacing way and then squealed something at us in unintelligible futurespeak.  Probably something like “freeze” or “don’t move” or “my hovercraft is full of eels”.  Martialla and I looked at each other and then started laughing hysterically.  And I mean that literally.  I don’t mean we were laughing hard or that we were laughing uncontrollably.  I mean we were hysterical.  Stress, trauma, sugar, booze, starvation, blood poisoning, take your pick – a pigman was threatening us with an arrow rifle and we could not stop laughing.  Even if we hadn’t been bleeding internally from a car crash and a fall, it would have been painful to laugh as hard as we were laughing. 

Piggy didn’t know how to react to that.  I was still laughing when I held out the bag with the water filters for him to look at.  I was still laughing when he leaned forward to peer inside and I grabbed his arm.  Martialla was still laughing when she stabbed him to death as I wrestled with him like two drunks trying to waltz – laughing all the while.  When he was dead on the ground we finally managed to stop.  Then we looked at each other, all covered with the blood of a dead human man who had hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes and then we started up all over again.  Eventually we got our shit together and stopped laughing for a second time.  Martialla took up the arrow-thingy and pulled the trigger and the arrow flew off into the night with a loud bang.  She examined it for a minute and then declared that it was something like the weapon Captain Kirk made in the classic Star Trek episode “Arena” to defeat his Gorn opponent. 

“Nerd!” I taunted her. 

“It’s actually more like an ancient firearm that they made in China.  You want to know what they called it?”

I was already halfway laughing for no reason “What?”

She grinned maniacally “Orifice-penetrating flying sand magic mist tube.”

You better believe that set us off again.  We laughed so hard we ended up back on the ground.  I wonder if there was no one else around to hear us or if our wild cackling was enough to send them back to base camp saying they didn’t find anything.  Once we managed to calm ourselves again I looked over at Martialla, in the crazy dancing smoke lights of the sky she actually looked beautiful in a rave-y kind of way. 

I reached out as if to tap her even though she was too far away to reach “Hey, hey Mar, Mar, you want to hear something funny?” She started chuckling at the very idea and nodded with a Cheshire Cat grin. “If I, if, if, if I had to, if I had to, to get five minutes on a nice soft bed with clean sheets I would shove your face in a vat of acid.”

She guffawed wildly “What if instead of a bed it was a living room couch, THAT, a living room couch that they let a dog get on sometimes?  Not all the time, the dog doesn’t sleep there or anything, but it gets up there sometimes.”

I laughed for a moment “Hmm, for a dog couch?  I’d beat you with a pipe until one of your eyeballs fell out, BUT, but you’d have to supply your own pipe.”

She bent doubled in laughter for a moment “That’s fair, that’s fair.  What would you do for a tube of chapstick and some nice seared swordfish with lemon?”

I blew out a long breath “Oh, you don’t want to know.”

Freaky Friday – The Unreturn of Super Ela

I’ll pick back up with the Elapocalypse next week for anyone paying attention. The Super Ela storyline has been my favorite to write so far, it’s too bad she suddenly died. One of the 8-17 ideas I have for the future, assuming I don’t get bored of this blog, is doing another version of that. I had the urge to write a possible preview of what that might be.

When I got home, Mythandria was stretched out on my couch on her side idly playing some game on my tablet.  Like she always is.  She was wearing her magic metal monokini thing.  Like she always is.  As far as I know, she only ever took it off to shower and she doesn’t even do that anymore.  She’s a gorgeous being, truly and indisputably she is, but I’ve come to loathe the sight of her body.  You see all that skin every day, day after day, and it starts to wear on you.  I wonder if the same thing happens to security guards in a museum.  After you’ve looked at Michelangelo’s David hanging dong in your face for two hundred days in the row, can you still appreciate it or do you wish you had a sledgehammer?  She would be a little more gorgeous if not for the trail of Flamin’ Hot Cheeto dust on her smooth hairless belly and the smear of chocolate on her cheek (or maybe BBQ sauce) but that’s par for the course these days. 

Zamphour Santraginean was sitting in my chair watching my TV.  Like he often is.  His current appearance was that of Brad Pitt.  Like it often is.  I hate when he does that.  You know how weird it is to come home to find Brad Pitt sitting in your crappy apartment watching the news?  The worst part is his posture.  I don’t know if Skrulls are natural slouchers or what his issue is, but seeing Brad Pitt slumped over like a round-shouldered loser really ruins the mystique.  Same goes for a shirtless Tom Hardy struggling to open a pickle jar in a full body dry heave.  When you first start living with a shape-shifting alien you think “this will be fun” but after you’ve seen Kevin James come out of the bathroom after a shower with no towel, you change your mind in a hurry. 

At least Zamphour means well, he works a part time job at Sub Shack.  When he remembers what day he works and what day it is.  He has a real problem with earth dates.  Notwithstanding telling time, he pitches in whatever money he makes.  I could point out that he could make a lot more money as a celebrity impersonator or a model but I won’t, because at least he contributes.  Mythandria doesn’t do jack shit but lay around in her Mithril Return of the Jedi Princess Leia outfit and play Candy Crush.  She doesn’t pay rent, she doesn’t cook, she doesn’t clean, she doesn’t do anything.  She might as well be a house plant.  Actually no, at least a plant makes oxygen, she takes my oxygen so she’s worse than a plant.  I will point out that she could make a fortune as a model or an “actress” that can’t act because she doesn’t contribute anything.   

“Ghoram steel.” Mithandria’s voice is so luminous and melodic that sometimes it takes a moment to realize that it’s a person talking and not angels singing. 

“What?” I said confusedly in my tiny bit-too-low voice.  Sometimes on the phone people think I’m a dude. 

She tapped on one of her tit-plates, which was struggling to contain her bounty in a way that looked like some kind of bondage porn you’d see online “It’s made out of Ghoram steel, not Mithril.  Mithril isn’t real.” 

“Stay out of my mind!” 

“You were projecting, I couldn’t help it.” 

“Well at least put on some fucking pants.” 

She raised a naturally perfectly framed eyebrow that she never has to pluck or maintain at me “Language Ela, there’s no need for profanity.” 

I snorted “How many times have you been cited for public indecency?  Seventeen?  Who are you to lecture me?” 

“You can’t legislate the beauty of living creatures.” 

“They can legislate your ass cheeks jiggling in some six-year old’s face.” 

She hadn’t looked up from my tablet during this entire exchange but she gave Zamphour a look as if to say “this bitch right?”  I dropped my bag and keys on the table with a sigh.  What do I do?  I perform standardized lab tests on colors, flavors, and fragrances used mostly in pharmaceuticals but also for food and beverage, cosmetics, home and personal care products, and specialty printing ink.  For example, orange juice is stored in these giant tanks where they put so much gunk in it to keep it from going bad that it ends up having no flavor or scent.  So before they sell it to you, they buy orange juice taste and smell chemicals from us and dump it in the vat so you can drink it and pretend like it’s not a glassful of organo-nitrates.  It’s even more boring than it sounds.  But it pays the bills.  Like eighty percent of the time.  

Zamphour pointed his Pitt chin at the kitchen in a very awkward ugly un-Pittlike way “There’s sausage balls on the stove.” 

I walked into the kitchen “What the fuck is a sausage ball?” 

“Cream cheese, ground turkey sausage, flour, shortening, shredded cheese, bake at three hundred and fifty earth degrees.” 

I poked at the saucepan on the stove with a wooden spoon “You don’t have to say earth degrees, I know we’re on earth.  How old was that cream cheese?” 

He looked up, which is not a real gesture he does when thinking but something he does to try and mimic what humans look like when they think “Uh . . . three years.” 

“A year is how long it takes the planet to make a full orbit around the sun, try again.” 

He frowned in concentration, another affectation – Skrulls mostly emote with their ears I’ve come to know “Three minutes?” 

 I shook my head “Jesus dude, learn time.” 

The sausage balls didn’t smell too bad so I dumped some in a bowl and put them in the microwave.  While I was waiting, I leaned on the doorjamb and saw what Zamphour was so engrossed by on the TV.  There was a big commotion downtown with tons of cop cars and reporters and choppers and barricades and the usual rigmarole.   

“What’s going on?” 

“Duke Eaglevane took the city council hostage.  He’s got them wired up with bombs.” 

I halfway laughed “The city council?  Why would he take them hostage?  Most people don’t even know who’s on the city council.  He should have strapped a bomb to Kylie Jenner if he wanted people to pay him any attention.” 

Mythandria piped in helpfully “Kylie Jenner is in Curacao, I saw it on Instagram.” 

“Metroman hasn’t showed up yet?” 

Zamphour shook Brad Pitt’s head, which is a real thing he does, that seems to be a universal gesture even with aliens, human-like aliens anyway “No, Galactic Contest of Champions.” 

I thought about it for a moment “Oh shit, you’re right, I totally forgot that was coming up.  Have they given any updates on the Five?” 

“They’re across town helping the police deal with the Scorpion, bank robbery.” 

I shook my head “Fucking Duke does that every time, get some chump to rob a bank across town as a distraction, he needs some new material.” 

Mythandria chimed in again “Why would he change his tactics when it always works?” 

“Shut up Mythandria.  Have they said anything about his demands?” 

Zamphour clenched his hands together nervously as he does when I bicker with Mythandria “A thousand bitcoin.” 

“How much is that in actual money?” 

He pointed “They have a counter in the corner, it keeps going up.  The price of bitcoin has more than doubled since they started reporting on the hostage situation.” 

I shook my head again “Fucking savages.  Those people driving up the price are the real villains.  Have they said if anyone is on the way?  I feel like the Shadow Vigilantes would be next on the depth chart.” 

Mythandria finally looked away from her stupid tablet game “They’re out of town.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“Instagram.” She held up a picture of Dr. Midnight on a beach somewhere.  I don’t know who started the trend of superhero bikini pics with your mask on but I hate it, it creeps me out.   

“What about Amazonia and Shan-Ra?” 

Zamphour did a pretty poor job of making his Pitt-face imitate human bewilderment “Shan-ra?  She’s dead.” 

The microwave dinged just them “What?!  Shan-ra the She-Devil is dead?!  When did that happen?” 

Mythandria went back to her game “Week before last.  Talisman sawed her head off and left it on the steps of city hall.” 

I gawked at the callousness she was displaying “You remember how good and nice and kind you were when we first met?  What happened to you?” 

“Earth” she said sourly.  I can’t really disagree with her there.   

I grabbed the bowl of now way too hot sausage balls out of the microwave and came back into the living room “Jesus Christ, that crazy bastard finally did it huh?  He killed her.  What about Amazonia, where’s she?” 

Zamphour dipped his head with the proper respect “No one has seen her since the murder.  Probably she went back to her secret island in the Amazon to mourn.” 

I poked at the sausage balls with a fork, starving but not wanting to annihilate my mouth with hot meat (phrasing) “I’m surprised she didn’t tear Talisman limb from limb before she went.  Shit, it’s probably up to us then huh?  Maybe we should get geared up.” 

Mythandria settled deeper into the couch “You’re the only one who needs gear.” 

Before I could tell her to shut up, Zamphour stepped between us with an enthusiastic grin that did not fit Brad Pitt’s face at all “I’ll check the bus schedule.”     

Mythandria sighed theatrically “We wouldn’t have to take the bus to fight crime if someone could fly.” 

Before I could unleash a blistering retort, Zamphour jumped in again desperately “You go get ready Ela, I’ll call and see if anyone else can join us.  Cosmic Girl, Star Slayer, maybe that guy with the big axe, I forget his name but I have his number in your phone.” 

I went into the bedroom and started shrugging on my armor vest “Don’t call Star Slayer, that idiot almost blew my head off with his damn laser rifle last time we teamed up.” 

They gave a loud knock, and they gave a loud call

It took us about half an hour to extract the water filters from the pipe web.  The entire time we were expecting the intercom voice to send some armed goons to stop us.  We wanted them to send someone to stop us.  Martialla was filled with a lot of tough talk about how we’d take whoever they sent hostage and force Lizzie McGuire to let us in to the facility but the shape we were in, it was a pipe dream.  See what I did there?  But it could have done something.  We could have talked to them.  We could have begged them.  Something.  The intercom voice did come on a couple more times to ask us not to mess with their water supply but we ignored it. 

Once we had the filters, we debated for a long time if we should stay anyway.  Walking away seemed insane.  This was it.  This was the oasis in the desert.  But Martialla had a very compelling point – if we were the ones on the other side of the glass, would we let us in?  Even so, we probably stayed in that metal room for another hour after we decided to leave.  At least it was cool and dry in there. 

After having made the decision to leave, once we started moving we figured we would still probably wander around underground like moles until we died because we couldn’t find a way out, but instead it was actually super easy, barely an inconvenience.  Right next to the piperoom there was a ladder-tunnel that looked like what you might climb to get to a secret drug lab.  I know that because a French Portuguese guy I dated once took me to his drug lab.  Which probably turns some women on.  Didn’t work on old Ela. 

We sat down at the bottom of the ladder in theory because there might still be fighting above ground and/or the Invincible might be hanging around but in reality it’s because neither of us were confident that we had the strength to climb up it.  I barely had the strength to pull out one of the vials of blue stuff we took off the dead man and unstopper it to get punched in the face by the stench. 

I jerked back from the ceramic tube “Jesus, smells like rotting feet!”

Martialla leaning forward slightly and sniffed, her mangled nose bouncing like that of a little bunny rabbit “I can’t tell, I think I busted my nose, I can’t smell anything.”

“Consider yourself lucky.”

Martialla gestured weakly to the muddy hole we were squatting in “I got a bad break, but I consider myself the luckiest girl on the face of the earth.  And I don’t even have Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

I frowned “What?”

She rolled her hand in a vague fashion “You know, Lou Gehrig’s speech.”

I frowned more “Lou Gehrig made a speech about not having Lou Gehrig’s disease?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Unless the disease was made by the Nazis to try and get him and he avoided it.”

She frowned back at me “Nazis?  Lou Gehrig was a baseball player.”

“What?  Why would the Nazis bioengineer a disease to kill a baseball player?”

“They . . . there were no Nazis . . . I . . . forget about it.” She looked up at the ladder “You know the longer we sit here the harder it’s going to get to climb up there.  We’re not getting any stronger and the ladder isn’t getting any shorter.  We should just go now.”

I glanced up as well “Maybe if we wait a little bit we’ll get our second wind.”

“I’m not sure that’s a real thing.”

“How about a runner’s high?”

“We’re not running a marathon currently so that seems unlikely.”

“Alright well I’m going to drink this stuff and if I don’t die then we can go.”

Martialla’s eyes widened “Why would you do that?  It’s probably oil or lubricant or something, I don’t think it’s a beverage.”

I shrugged and took a drink.  I was expecting an immediate seizure of the bowel, like someone Mola Rammed into my body, grabbed my stomach and squeezed and twisted.  If I was expecting that, why did I drink it?  Good question.  My mouth was so dry I would have drunk just about anything.  Anything other than Diet Mountain Dew anyway.  Instead of a stomach rip and twist, I felt like my head exploded, but in a good way you know?  It smelled like death but it was some manner of extremely sweet moonshine.  It was akin to some kind of alcoholic simple syrup.  I’m sure in an empirical sense it tasted awful but it was so delicious I started dry-sobbing. 

Martialla halfway got to her feet, or tried anyway, in alarm “What’s happening?!”

“I looked at her with raw, dry eyes “Shakthi degi Kali ma.”

Her head whipped around desperately “What?!”

“It’s BOOZE!”

I hope you can see this because I am doing it as hard as I can

On the security desk beneath a layer of black mold (I’m sure it’s fine that we wiped that away and breathed in whatever spores it released) was a diagram of the area.  I think it was one of those “where to run if there’s a fire” things.  Based on examining that, we made our way to a cafeteria.  The tables were still bolted to the ground but otherwise there were piles of bones with little scraps of clothing stuck to them, which made it less cafeteria-like.  Someone must have been piling bodies here at some point because there were dozens of them.  I don’t know why but seeing all those bones depressed me more than the actual dead bodies (some of which I made) I’ve seen.  Maybe it’s because a dead body doesn’t look that much different from an alive person.  A bunch of scattered bones is a starker reminder of what’s to come. 

From the cafeteria, we went into the kitchen and both gasped like we had fallen through the ice of a frozen lake.  Before us was a gleaming oasis of spotless countertops.  The place was immaculate.  My first thought was that that must mean that it’s still in use but there wasn’t a scrap of food in the place, not even a scrap of a scrap.  Not even a crumb.  I looked through every damn cupboard and pantry in the place.  Twice.  Nothing.  Martialla said that she thought it might look clean because it was all made from a special anti-fungal ceramic instead of metal. 

I’m not sure I’ve been more crushed emotionally in my life.  Standing in a massive cafeteria kitchen and there not being any food.  Must be what it’s like to be dying of thirst in a boat in the ocean.  You can’t comprehend it.  We stood there in that kitchen for a good long time.

From there we came to an area that had a huge window where we could see an Indian woman (probably the one I saw before and Martialla denies) with Lizzy McGuire and another woman who looked like Soledad O’Brien.  They appeared to be performing an autopsy on one of the attacking warriors from the fight above.  According to the fire exit map we looked at, it should have been an office space but clearly things have changed since that map was accurate because instead it was outfitted with medical tables for slicing up dead bodies and had computers and lights and shit.  Functioning computers and lights and shit. 

We screamed and pounded on the glass (or whatever it was) but they didn’t even look at us.  I’m not sure they could hear us.  The glass (or whatever it was) didn’t seem all that thick but even to us, the sound we made was muffled, like it was absorbing the noise.  We kept waving our arms at them and they continued to ignore us.  Even when Martialla threatened to shoot the window they didn’t react.  The pistol she just looted wouldn’t fire, probably because it’s a century old, but she blasted off with the stupid pipegun and it was about as effective as a throwing a dry cotton ball. 

We stood there for even longer than we did in the kitchen.  They were right there.  People from our time.  People with clean clothing and food and climate control and lemon water and toothpaste.  Just feet away from us.  But they might as well have been on the moon.  It was a feeling even worse than dying of thirst on a life raft.  That must be what it feels like to be homeless.  All anyone has to do is help you, they’re right there and instead they just ignore you and leave you to die. 

Eventually they finished extracting that guy’s liver or whatever the hell they were doing and they started turning off lights and headed for a door.  I caught Soledad’s eye for a split second and I gave her my most ingratiating and sycophantic and pathetic appeal for help smile that I could have ever given in my life.  She looked away and left with Lizzy and the Indian woman. 

When all the lights went off in that room, we were left in the dark again.  We stood there in the utter blackness for a long time.  I took Martialla’s hand in my numb left hand and we pressed against the glass and leaned there breathing noisily and coughing and making the little uncategorized noises that you make when you’re hurt. 

Eventually we started shuffling along, feeling our way along the glass in the dark.  After a while we noticed that we were heading towards a flickering light.  The light was coming from a square metal room that had a spiderweb of pipes and vents spanning out from it.  In the middle of the web was not a spider but the silvery gleam of a set of medical-grade water filters.  I staggered over to see how to extract them while Martialla started bashing open a series of what looked like breaker boxes on the opposite wall.  She took out a knife and started stabbing incoherently at the innards of one of the boxes panting like a dog.  Shortly thereafter an accented voice came over a PA or an intercom or something sounding quite alarmed. 

“Please don’t tamper with that.”

Martialla spun around wildly, screaming that they could come and stop her and that she was going to snap their necks if they did.  She tried to jump and kick at one of the boxes and instead fell down and started hacking up blood and then choking on it.  As I tried to help her calm down, the voice spoke again.

“We can’t hear you, we can only see you.  Leave our equipment alone please.”

I couldn’t tell where the camera was they were using to observe us so to make sure they could see, I extended my middle finger in an upwards fashion and slowly turned to each corner of the room.