November 24, 1973 – Pillow talk, sorry, I mean closet talk

Blue and Martialla have managed to find the worst apartment in Madripoor.  It’s literally just an empty cleaning supply closet.  It’s the kind of thing you’d see in a movie and roll your eyes.  Because people don’t live in empty cleaning supply closets.  But here we are.  So.  I guess I’m Margaret Dumont now.  Except Margaret Dumont married a sugar baron and inherited a fortune when he died of the Spanish flu, and I live in a closet. 

I’d like to really give them the business about this living arrangement but two things hold me back.  One, this is a nicer place to stay than a good number of people in Madripoor have.  Which is depressing.  And B, even though this place sucks, they managed to get it with zero money – which is the amount of money we have.  Which is impressive.  And depressing.  Getting something that should be cheap for nothing is actually harder than getting something expensive for cheap.  Trust me, I know.  I don’t know why, but it’s easier to get someone to give you something worth three hundred dollars for a hundred than it is for get them to give you something worth a hundred for free.  People are odd ducks.   

I know why I’m broke, and Martialla probably thinks shells are money or something stupid like that, but why doesn’t Blue have any money?  Before I kicked his ass and we became best friends, he was hired muscle.  HIRED muscle.  That implies payment of some kind.  What happened to all his money?  Shouldn’t he have a wicked cool criminal enforcer penthouse or something?  Maybe he has a gambling problem that he’s keeping secret.  I should keep an eye on him.  I mean, I’ll take his money if that’s what he’s into.

On the plus side, at least I have somewhere to keep my smokes now.  They keep getting ruined in my pockets on account of all the superheroing I do all the time.  It’s really annoying when your cigarettes get smashed or drenched in blood.  I sat in my corner while Blue sat in the other three with Martialla perched on his back like a dirty seagull.  Turning to the matter at hand, Martialla and Blue said they would scout the location where Camila wanted us to make our move but I told them no – they stick out too much. 

“Send LBK, he can blend in better than any of us.”

Martialla shook her head “I don’t think he’s going to be interested.  He was pretty shaken up by what happened on Callisto.”

Blue looked mournful, which isn’t easy for a lizard “Yes, that battle extracted a heavy toll on us all.  You see Ela, there was an alien with us that used the highly advanced technologies, found in our headquarters, powered by immense energies from the ferocious alien storm outside to . . .”

“Jesus Christ, I knew it, I knew you were going to bring up this moon stuff all the damn time!”

Blue’s tongue flicked out low and to the right – hurt feelings “You asked!”

“I asked about LBK not to hear the dumb story of your supposed space adventure again.  What really happened?  Did someone bomp Martialla over the head and try and sell her at the fish market for two dollars a pound?”

Martialla sneered with her fish-lips “Aren’t you the one who usually sells herself?”

I shook my head “Really Martialla?  You’re going to go there?  What about the international cause of woman’s rights?  Words have power Martialla.  We need to build each other up, not cut each other down.”

“But you’re the one who . . .”

I waved my hand “Shush, the point is no more moon talk alright?  No one wants to hear it.  Before I forget, when I was laid up in the very expensive fake hospital because you two abandoned me to die, a thought occurred to me about your niece.  Why would someone travel all the way to the CS to kidnap a kid?  Your sister’s not rich right?  And even the most particular pedo surely has access to someone closer.  The only reason I can think that she was grabbed was because she’s related to you.”

“I can’t pay a ransom either.”

“No, but you do have the super-soldier gene.”

“Actually I don’t, I was tested many times.” She gestured to her revolting body “This experiment they did on me was something else.”

“Regardless it worked.  Either they don’t know you’re a negative or they do and they want to know what’s up with your genes so they can try and replicate it.  Nothing else makes sense to me.”

Martialla considered for a moment “If that was true, why wouldn’t they grab my sister?”

I shrugged “I don’t know, but I think this is a better lead than anything else we have.  Instead of tipping off the drug guy you should ask around, I have to believe that Madripoor has some kind of local Dr. Moreau mad geneticist freak-maker, probably several, and they seem like the most likely culprit to me.”

Blue piped in “Speaking of intel gathering, you need to be careful out on the street, the Crimson Cardinal and Patron Patriot are both looking for you.”

I snorted “They can get in line.  Since I broke all their technology, what threat could they be really?  That reminds me though, the USA guy’s stuff was all alieny with the symbols like you draw sometimes, Lucien.  Maybe we should grab him and see what he knows about it.”

Blue was too stunned to respond but Martialla jumped in “Or we could just talk to him.”

“Yeah maybe, but he didn’t seem like the helpful sort to me, you know how staties are.  Do you have to perch up there like a gargoyle?  You’re making me nervous.” 

Martialla held out her webbed hands “Where else do you want me to go?  We’re packed in here like . . . ” I grinned “. . . don’t you say it Ela, don’t you dare.”

One of these days Alice, bang, zoom, straight to the moon!

A brief summary of the history of space exploration.

In 1863 Project Epicus, an effort by Baltimore based industrialists and munitions manufacturers, succeeded in firing a projectile that impacted on the surface of the moon.  In 1865 a second mission was attempted with a capsule-projectile containing three passengers.  Although the projectile successfully circumnavigated the moon and return to splash down on earth, upon retrieval it was discovered that the first “space travelers” had been killed instantly by the force of the acceleration required to escape earth’s atmosphere.   

Despite various proposals to protect potential spacefarers, the fragility of the human body was considered an insurmountable obstacle to travel by means of space cannon.  This was proven incorrect (depending on your feelings about non-baseline humans, evolution, and genetics) in 1909 when Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as the indestructible man, was launched into space – although no one would know this until 21 years later. 

Able to withstand the incredible force involved due to his superhuman durability, Gaspard survived the launch, the 5-day trip around the moon, and was headed back towards earth when an encounter with space debris caused his module to deviate from its course.  Although the capsule was equipped with rudimentary maneuvering rockets, Gaspard was unable to course correct to achieve re-entry, and his craft ended up in orbit around the Earth and the moon which scientists predicted would last more than a century before decaying.   

Attempts were made to launch equipment into orbit that could be used to help Gaspard reach earth, but because there was no way to communicate with Gaspard, and due to the limitation of what equipment could be sent because of the large g-force experienced by a ballistic projectile, these efforts were failures.  Gaspard was given up for dead, his silver bullet circling earth a grim reminder of his presumed fate. 

Gaspard proved as good as his name however, his body entering a state of suspended animation after running out of oxygen.  Gaspard’s inert body was examined by an extraterrestrial scout ship that mistakenly took the projectile for an artificial satellite (which technically it was).  Incorrectly surmising that earth had achieved space flight (which technically it had) and therefore was primed for first contact, the alien ship instead found a dormant, yet still technically alive, Frenchman. 

The aliens returned the capsule to Earth in 1930 and a few weeks later, Gaspard revived to tell his astonishing tale.  Gaspard was ready for another trip, he hoped to visit Mars. But in his absence, space cannons had largely been abandoned in favor of rocketry research. 

Gaspard’s return reinvigorated interest in space exploration.  1933 saw the birth of Project Archimedes, which many consider the most progressive scientific undertaking in human history.  Project Archimedes was a top-level scientific exchange involving nearly every major industrial power in the world (the Empire of Japan being a notable exception) with the goal of space exploration and eventually, colonization.   

In order to facilitate this novel project, the city of Artesia on Merritt Island was carved off as a separate legal entity of the United States, like the District of Colombia, where laws could be crafted specifically to serve the needs of the exchange of sensitive scientific information between world powers and to allow for the project’s many unusual requirements.   This project was opposed by many in the US government but ultimately was pushed forward (possibly due to bribery, blackmail, and assassination depending on who you ask). 

Artesia became the site of a massive scientific center, home to more than 15,000 researchers and scientists as well as a residential and office complex for more than 50,000 support staff.  Buoyed by a surge of enthusiasm for space exploration, Project Archimedes was an unbridled success (and a massive financial windfall to the US).  Several of the project milestones are as follows: 

  •  1946 first artificial satellite is launched into orbit 
  •  1948 first pictures taken of the dark side of the moon 
  •  1950 first application satellite launched 
  •  1952 first data retrieved on another planet (Venus) 
  •  1955 first spacewalk
  •  1955 first pictures of Mars
  •  1956 first baseline humans walk on the moon

In 1957 with the aid of several NBH’s capable of orbital flight and surviving in space, a joint CSA, USA, and Canadian project began constructing space station Daedalus, largely using the once abandoned space cannon technology, which proved efficient for transporting freight, fuel, and ruggedized equipment into earth orbit.  This station would work in conjunction with Project Archimedes as part of an overarching plan to construct a base on the moon designed for launching craft to Mars.   

In 1960 as the station was nearing completion, Project Archimedes was derailed in a manner that no one anticipated.  An alien being appeared before Congress and accused many of the top scientists involved in the program of being alien imposters and moreover, galactic criminal fugitives.  The initial reaction of the governments involved in Archimedes was hostile to say the least, but a few months later one of the project leaders, Dr. Kyle David Pennington, came forward and confessed.  He and a dozen other critical members of the project really were criminal extraterrestrials posing as humans. 

The alien law officer declared her intention to arrest Dr. Pennington and his cohorts and remove them from the planet.   Since earth was benefiting from the actions of these criminals, many people were in favor of ignoring whatever extraterrestrial laws or covenants had been broken by Dr. Pennington.  Grant he and his fellow exiles asylum and make them citizens of earth nations – some claimed that the work of Project Archimedes would lead to a golden age, ending world hunger and war, and expanding human lifespans by a hundred years.   

The alien official declared that any such act would be considered unlawful and met with force, a small legion of additional aliens was called in as reinforcements to back up this threat.  The only card the technologically inferior earth governments had to match this force of “alien invaders” was to martial their NBH assets.  The world prepared for a war unlike any had seen before.  Spacefaring aliens against the supermen of earth. 

The conflict did not come to pass.  The governments involved in the project eventually offered their full cooperation with the alien authorities in the hopes that this would build goodwill towards earth’s early entry into The Alliance of Free Stars.  The alien forces took Dr. Pennington and his friends into custody as planned.  However, what was not expected was that hundreds of humans were taken into custody as well, their knowledge considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”.  The aliens stated they could not be allowed to continue teaching and using what they had learned from Dr. Pennington.  This was followed by the further outrage of the disassembly and destruction of all technology created by the project. 

Considering this a betrayal of their good faith agreement, several governments reversed course and once again prepared their NBH assets for an armed response.  However, public opinion had shifted.  Factions that had opposed the project spoke the loudest – earth is for earthlings, take away corrupt alien technology, we don’t need their help.  Rivals and political opponents whipped up anti-alien sentiment into a frenzy.  Many industrial business interests saw opportunity in the collapse of Archimedes and threw fuel on the fire.   

In the end, the project governments backed away from the edge of conflict.  In one of the more shameful moments in history, hundreds of citizens of various nations were allowed to be taken from their homes to spend the rest of their lives incarcerated on alien worlds for the crime of trying to make the world a better place for everyone.   

Many consider the spectacular collapse of Project Archimedes to be the death of space exploration as a human endeavor.  While enthusiasm for space research is certainly at a nadir, there are many who have already started to pick up the pieces and begin anew.  Government funding for space programs has been wildly curtailed, but it persists in one form or another.  As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”  The dream of space travel can be delayed only, never denied.

November 23, 1973 – Total multiversal war!!!!!!

I haven’t met many Spanish speakers in Madripoor, but enough that it seemed a little odd.  Dan (that’s the news guy) explained (by way of pointy hair translator) that Madripoor is a place where communists like to hang out, so there’s a decent contingent of Germans and South Americans in the mix.  Although, with that having been said, my hostess is from the Caribbean states rather than south of the equator.   

Said hostess looks like she’s ancient but I swear she said something that made me think she’s “only” in her fifties.  If she is (in her fifties) she’s had one hell of a hard life to end up looking like that.  I guess raising four sons by yourself could do that to you, before you even get what seems to be a variable number of grandkids in the mix.  I swear as soon as I felt like I had them all identified, a couple more kids would run through the place.  Camila and her boys took over an old hotel from its previous drug dealer owners (by shooting them) and converted half the place into greenhouses for a variety of exotic intoxicants they grow and sell (they are manufacturers not dealers), a quarter into living spaces for them, and a quarter into “safehouses” for people like me.  People with broken limbs and enemies.   

A couple different doctors came to see me while I was laid up at Camila’s.  One was clearly drunk enough that he had trouble standing up.  One I’m pretty sure is more versed in the care and maintenance of sex workers than tending to fractures.  And one of them I’m convinced was a veterinarian.  Luckily (for me), a broken arm and a sprained ankle are pretty basic medical scenarios.  I don’t know how long those things should take to heal normally but I was basically fine after three weeks.  Which seems quick.  Not fast enough to be all that useful, but maybe a minor super power?  Hard to say.  My life before didn’t involve a lot of injuries so I can’t compare. 

A bomb went off outside the “safehouse” at one point, followed by gunfire, and I’m pretty sure a flying guy, but Camila assured me that it wasn’t someone trying to kill me, it was related to something else.  Which was not reassuring in the slightest, on account of bombs being notoriously indiscriminate about who they kill.  Camila was harping at me the entire time about the amount of food I was consuming.  What did she want from me?  You need proper nutrition to heal.  And my proper nutrition is a lot.

In return for my story about the fight (such as it was) with Mr. X, Dan and his spiny-haired gal Friday found Blue and Martialla for me.  While I was out front with the Red Rocket, those two knuckleheads claimed they were chasing after the Shadow Lord assassin and the next thing they know, they’re on Callisto, Jupiter’s moon, where an “alien with a big head” force them to fight against other “champions” from around the galaxy to determine the ultimate fate of good and evil in the universe.  They didn’t think it was very funny when I asked which side they were on.  The whole story is bullshit anyway.  I’m sure they just got lost or something.  Probably Martialla got her head trapped in a fisherman’s net and had to marry him by the laws of the sea.   

They claimed once they had saved the universe by defeating a variety of colorful aliens and super people (many others were killed, they claim) in a flash they were back where they had disappeared from and it was several days later.  They said they were “searching high and low” for me when Dan found them.  I’m sure they were just lazing about. 

I can tell this moon battle thing is going to be annoying.  I just know they’re going to keep bringing it up like a stupid inside joke.  So you traveled to outerspace and battled the omniversal forces of evil for the fate of all life that exists and ever will exist.  I charted three times and you don’t hear me winging on about it.  I tell you, those two get on my last nerve.

When I asked them about Elvis, they looked confused.  They said he was dead.  I told them when I went back into the clinic, nobody was there so I assumed he went with them.  They said that LBK was with them but Elvis had already been killed by the assassin, which is why they were chasing him.  Or her.  Or it.  They claimed the assassin was a shapeshifter.   

They didn’t know what could have happened to the body.  Up until that point, I hadn’t really considered that Elvis might be dead.  As soon as I found out, I had Blue help me hobble to his grandmother’s house to ask if she had seen him.  When she said that she hadn’t, I told her what happened.  She was pretty blasé about it.  She said that she was sure he was fine.  She said that Elvis was always getting into one scrape or another and he might disappear for a few days but he always turned up.  I tried to impress upon her that was unlikely to be the case this time, that he was most likely gone, but she said that without a body she wasn’t going to worry about it.  It was a little surreal. 

So we’re basically back to square zero, only now we don’t have a robot-suit to sell for millions.  Our lack of forward momentum is starting to put me off my feed (not really – I’m eating more than ever – it’s an expression you see).  On top of that, Camila presented me with a large bill for services rendered.  I thought it was more of a charity type thing.  It was not.  The “good” news is that she’s willing to let us work it off.   

Things are going great.   

I want to say that what’s happening to me is not fair, but my grandma told me that only children complain about fairness.  She said (about fairness) “Death is the only thing that’s fair. Everybody dies, and everybody stays dead the same amount of time, forever.”

OOC – I have become old

Normally I would post this on my rambling blog but being the super macho alpha male that I am I’d be mildly embarrassed if my friends saw this.  So I’ll hide it here.

I’ve never really understood nostalgia.  Whenever someone was pining for our days of youth I thought they were crazy.  Generally speaking your life gets better over time.  It didn’t track to me why would you look back with fondness.  I don’t miss the days when I had a crappy temp job and lots of debt so I lived in a trailer because I couldn’t afford an apartment and ate disgusting generic pizza rolls because I could get a giant bag of them for five bucks. 

Sidenote I don’t mean to imply my life was ever really that hard, I was still a white boy in the easiest country to live in in the world, I’m saying that my life is much better now.

But today for the first time I got an inkling of what people mean why they reminisce.  I think you don’t really miss your youth, you miss the way your friendship used to be. 

Whereas, today I was putting together a new computer desk and I thought about how in the old days one of my friends would have been delighted to take my old one.  Now of course no one would touch it with a ten foot clown pole.  We’re all adults, if someone wants new furniture they just get it.  No one needs (or wants) hand me downs anymore.   I mean, also no one would want it anyway because I’m the only person in the world who still has a desktop computer, but that’s beside the point.

In the old days any time anyone got anything it set of a chain reaction.  One of my friends got married right after HS so they had TWO incomes and therefore they usually got stuff first.  They’d buy a couch and then friend B would get their old couch, and that second couch would go to friend C, and so on.  Someone was replacing a couch they found in a ditch by their uncle Skeeter’s out in Minden. 

Back then it wasn’t just that we had less responsibility, there was also more of a sense of community in a small scale.  We depended on each other.  Now if someone moves they just hire movers, which is better, but it’s also kind of a bummer because it’s a signal that we’re all kind of our own entities now.  Moving a bunch of shit and bickering with your friend’s GF because she didn’t drain all the water out of the waterbed like he said and those things are GD heavy was kind of a drag but it was also kind of fun.  Plus afterwards you’d eat the cheapest pizza in town and play basketball.

Now as adults we don’t need each other like we did then.  We still hang out and we’re still friends, but we’re not a team anymore.  We’re just people living lives.  So I understand missing that a little now.  I’m not sure why I never thought about it before.

Last summer here in the Midwest we had an inland hurricane (who knew that was a thing) and many people were without power and had lots of property damage.  That was the first time a long time any of us really needed each other.  And honestly even that was pretty minor.  Because we’re adults now.  Even in a crisis most adults handle their own shit.  These days if one my friends really needed me it would probably be because something truly horrible was happening. 

Anyway, I kind of understand what people mean now when they sigh and talk about old times.  They don’t miss their old lives exactly, because our lives our better, they miss the way we were all in the same boat trying to bail out water.

My favorite comedian of all the times, Paul F. Thompkins, has a bit about how you should never talk about your therapy because no one wants to hear it.  But I will anyway.  Years ago I saw a therapist at work for a while because it was free.  I don’t know if I really buy therapy but I was curious.  Which I realize now is kind of a dick move, I should have left that free therapy for someone else. 

Anyway, one time I told the lady how it bummed me out that I didn’t hang with my friends like in the old days and she said (in a nicer way) “yeah, you’re adults, that’s how it works, grow up buddy”.  Which was depressing in and of itself but is true.  Things change. 

October 31, 1973 – We must go upward, not downward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

You know what’s interesting about the ground?  Nothing really.  But when you’re dangling upside down clinging to the side of a hotel, you realize that the ground has no handholds.  It’s almost as if whoever designed this planet didn’t consider that someone would need to climb on the ground under the influence of an alien anti-gravity belt around her long shapely leg.  No one ever looks at the big picture.  It’s sad.   

I could have ripped the belt off then but I figured that Suzy Swordswoman would be after me in short order, and trying to escape on one good leg seemed like a poor idea.  I briefly considered trying to claw my way over to Betty’s motorcycle (remember when I dropped an armoire on her stupid head?  That was pretty cool, I bet she ain’t pretty no more – although to be clear, she wasn’t prettier than me to begin with) to make my escape but since I had never ridden a motorcycle before, trying to do so upside down hanging up from the handlebars seemed like a pretty bad idea too. 

I pulled myself down as close to the ground as I could along the façade of the hotel and then used my one good leg to kick myself towards the building across the street.  Terrifyingly, I immediately started “falling” upwards, although not nearly as fast as you fall downwards when physics is working the way it’s supposed to.  If I had flown up that fast, I would have missed my target and drifted up into the atmosphere to freeze or suffocate or have my brain melt – whatever happens when you leave the earth.  As it was, my trajectory allowed me to desperately grab onto the building by smashing my fingers into the brick – which hurt the hand on my non-broken arm quite a bit.   

I’ve learned today that cursing a lot helps when you’re in pain.  By my estimate, it took seven hundred hours for me to crawl down the side of the building, maybe ten feet or so, and into an open window where an old couple was watching – probably alerted by all my swearing.  They were fairly nonplussed as I pulled myself into the window of their apartment, although they had a bird that was freaking out.  Maybe it was jealous that I was flying around and it was trapped in a cage.  Once I was mostly in the window, I ripped the belt in half and fell (on my head of course) the rest of the way in.   

The alien belt made a sad electronic noise, barfed up a small amount of what I assume was highly toxic silver goop, and then started flashing those triangle symbols on the “buckle”.   

I looked up at the old couple “Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau?” 

They didn’t speak French or English.  I didn’t try Spanish.  Why couldn’t I have been abducted by a crime ring in Mexico?  I indicated to them that I was hurt by a variety of pantomime methods.  They stared at me.  I suppose in a place like Madripoor where occasionally a super-person is going to fall through your window, that is the best response – just stare at them until they go away or kill you.  I mean what else are you going to do?  I dragged myself to a sitting position by the window and lit a cigarette.  Everything seems better when you’re smoking.   

I gestured with my non-broken arm that had smashed fingers “Sorry to drop in unannounced like this, quite rude of me.  Do you have any food?  I am starving.  I’ll trade you a broken alien belt for whatever food you have around here.  Even broken, it has to be worth a lot right?  I mean it’s from space.  Someone can reverse engineer it or something.” 

They broke their silence finally, speaking to each other briefly and then leaving.  I thought maybe they were going to get me some food, or maybe they were giving up and I owned the apartment then, or most likely, they were going to rat me out to whatever crimeboss shakes this place down for money. 

Probably some kind of cyborg with hammers for hands that shoots fragmentation missiles out of his crotch.   

Maybe half an hour later, a different couple came into the apartment.  Although I could tell right away they weren’t a couple couple, just a couple of people, I have a sense about these things.  He had kind of an odd skin color for a local fellow, seemed kind of flushed or reddish.  His companion was wearing body armor after some fashion but it was just over normal clothes, which is a little weird.  More interestingly, she had one of the most bizarre hairstyles I’ve ever seen.  She had her hair in a dozen tight ringlets that were sticking out straight from her scalp.  It was wild.  It was like a space probe with a bunch of antenna jutting off of it. 

“Who did that to your head?” 

After the traditional language fumbling (she speaks French, he doesn’t) they claimed not to be assassins but to be reporters.  I could tell they were both uncomfortable with her having to translate between me and her boss – clearly that’s not their usual dynamic.   

“Do you work for Rolling Stone?  Are you here to talk about my new single?” 

They weren’t.  They wanted to know about my confrontation with Mr. X.  I told them I would give them all the information they wanted if they took me to a hospital.  They said that a hospital wasn’t a good idea with the enemies I had.  They said they could take me somewhere else though. 

“How good looking is the doctor?  Because if it’s the place where the doctor is really attractive, I think it’s closed for renovation right now.  There’s a little scoop for you right there.” 

A while back, Blue carried me for a little ways and I didn’t like it at all.  But at least he’s huge and strong and could do it easily – with these two jokers, it was like a Three Stooges routine trying to get me down the stairs.  I should have been wearing a helmet.  Spikey-head kept making comments about how ridiculously tall I am, which was not the issue – the issue was that they didn’t know what they were doing.  It’s like they never carried a woman down three flights of very narrow stairs before.  More than once around a corner they tried to bend me backwards.  I’m flexible (if you know what I mean) but I don’t bend that way.  They’re lucky with all the pain they were causing me that I didn’t involuntary (or intentionally) squeeze them to death.   

When we got down to the street, their car was even more strange than Spike’s haircut.  It was built like an armored car you’d see at a bank but it was long and flat, it kind of looked kind of like.  It was pretty dang weird, I tell you that.  As they loaded me into the back with all the care of a toddler dragging around a stuffed rabbit, I asked them what the hell it was.  They said it was a news van – as if I was the weird one for asking.   

The truth is out there

Pictured above “news van”

As one would anticipate from an international trading hub, Madripoor has newspapers from all over the world reprinted in many different languages, as well as a multiplicity of local newspapers.  The competition between these news outlets is often fierce, and like almost everything in Madripoor, sometimes crosses the line into criminal violence.  They range from the publications celebrated and respected across the world to glorified scandal sheets, half of each issue consisting of very poorly printed pornography.  Below all of them in terms of respect is the sporadic and confusing newsletter put out by Dan Hui sang.

Dan Hui sang aka News Dan of the News Dan News Van aka the Dan Man with the Dan Plan roams the city in his armored “news van” seemingly endlessly, day and night, like a shark always in motion – a shark that eats news.  Dan Hui promises to deliver news without “government propaganda or corporate spin” but largely presents news that no one would pay money for, which is why his newsletter is distributed for free out of the back of his van – and stuffed into doors of annoyed households at random when he has extras.   Which is always.

Dan Hui likes to focus on the NBH and “super” community for his news, which he feels is an area underreported by traditional news sources.  He weaves increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories about the underlying meaning of any action taken by superpowered individuals and their connections to what he sees as global shadow government controlled by corporate interests.  He reports on stories that he claims are “news that can’t be found anywhere else!”

If anyone bothered to check or pay attention, they would discover that once in a while, Dan Hui actually does scoop official sources, particularly when it comes to being first on the scene at some kind of super-powered incident.   Dan Hui has no fear when it comes to hurtling into dangerous situations to provide a first-hand account.  The two main reasons he has survived this reckless behavior (so far) are his tank-like armored vehicle and his intern/driver/bodyguard Xu Yiyang. 

Yiyang is able to elevate her adrenaline levels to give her superhuman strength, stamina, and agility for short periods of time.  This comes at the cost of exhausting herself and the probable eventuality of suffering total catastrophic organ failure.  The origin of these power and why someone with this ability would be serving as the assistant to a man who has significantly less credibility than The National Enquirer are both unknown.  

Despite his reputation and flamboyance, Dan Hui truly is a skilled reporter and works hard to pry the truth out from wherever it might be hiding.  He employs a network of informants to gather information for him that is staggering in its scope. He is fanatically devoted to what he does, believing that governments and corporations are all corrupt and represented by propaganda masters that fill the news with lies. His passion is exposing the truth, and he will go to great lengths to get it out there.

He is, predictably, quite paranoid. He believes that he “knows too much” and that the “secret masters” will take him out as soon as they get the chance, so as to stop him from exposing the truth.  In his more lucid and retrospective moments, Dan Hui wonders which truth would be worse – that there is a massive worldwide secret conspiracy trying to kill him, or that no one knows or cares what he’s doing.  

October 31, 1973 – Tu ne m’aimeras pas quand je suis en colère

I don’t know much about comic books, because I am not a pale friendless virgin.  Granted I am a little pale right now, and my only friends are a fish and a giant lizard, but I assure you I’ve had TONS of sex.  Tons.  I’ve done ALL the stuff.  One time after a show (and a couple beers and joints), my drummer kept asking everyone how Superman flies faster.  He said “I understand that Superman can fly, but how does he fly faster?”  I asked him “how do you walker faster?  You just do it”.  But he couldn’t stop obsessing about it.  If you’re going to be bothered about something in comics why not “how does Superman fly at all?” 

But also who even cares about comics?  We have real people that can fly.  Angel, before the commies murdered her, has been around for a while and she can (could) fly at like Mach 700.  Surely the science nerds must have studied how she did it.  I mean, what was going on there?  She didn’t have wings or rocket flames coming out of her ass.  And how did she accelerate so fast?  If you go from zero to

800 mphs in .01 seconds, shouldn’t that set the air on fire and start a chain reaction of nuclear implosions that would break the world into three easy pieces?  How is it that she can (could) fly at full speed into a giant commie robot and not get annihilated?  Is she made out of diamonds or some other harder thing?  Where is the science of superpowers? 

If I punch something harder than Jell-O with even a fraction of my mighty strength without having a super-support structure of super dense muscles and bones as strong as freeway onramps, my arm and shoulder should explode like my dad’s head when I told him I needed to go on the pill or else he needed to start an abortion fund for me.  But it doesn’t happen.  Somehow I can punch things without that happening.  Although if I punch something hard, I still rip the skin off my knuckles and it hurts.  That makes no sense.   

I should have thrown something at Mr. Maori, who I will now start calling the Flyin Hawaiian even though he does not fly and is not Hawaiian.   Instead I went for a double handed shove to the stomach (which was about at shoulder level for me because he’s torching huge, also I’m going to start saying torching, try to get that going as slang) which may not sound like much, but remember how strong I am.  It would have been like getting hit with a car.  At least.  Unfortunately, this time I was not catching him by surprise with a coke machine to the nose.  I lunged at him and he caught my arm, which instantly broke in his grip – my arm, I mean.  You see, this is what I am talking about.  If I put 88 million pounds of pressure on my limbs everything is fine, but this joker grabs me and my bones snap like my mom’s brain when I asked her “so what’s the deal with sex anyway?”  Explain that smart guy.   

I’d never been badly hurt before, not really.  One time when I was trying to get on the bus, a drunk driver slammed into the side of the bus and I fell back into sidewalk and bruised my tailbone.  That hurt pretty bad.  But getting my forearm crushed by a giant non-Hawaiian pacific islander was significantly more painful than that.  It probably made things worse that I was being held in the air by that self-same shattered limb which was therefore bearing all my weight.  Trim and sylphlike though I may be.   

If you had asked me “Ela how do you think you would react to being badly injured?” after I called the cops on you for blatantly threatening me, I would have thought about it.  And I don’t know what the answer would have been.  But I am surprised by my actual reaction.  I got angry.  Very angry.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more angry in my life.  The dull stabbing pain of my constant headaches was blown out of my mind by a white-hot poker of rage being plunged into my cortex (or whatever).  You’re going to break my arm?  Me?  Ela?  I had a top forty hit! 

It doesn’t make much sense either, because I already knew they were there to kill me.   If I was going to get angry, I should have already been angry about that.  The attempted murdering of me.  But for some reason I didn’t feel the blind rage until the non-Flyin non-Hawaiian broke my arm.  I guess that made it real in the way that having a knife thrown at my head or a whip around my neck didn’t.  El Hombre Gigante was holding me in such a way that I couldn’t reach his body, his arms were long you see, so instead in my rage I kicked him in the elbow.  I think you’re supposed to bend your toes back when you kick someone but I didn’t – I felt the tips of my toes hitting him right on the pointy part of the elbow that gets all dry and rough in the winter.  On other people I mean, I take care of my skin.

Unlike me, the New Zealander Brickman is super tough, but I am as strong as twenty strong men, so his arm still went the other way.  I hurt my toes too.  It was like the worst midnight walk to the bathroom toe-stubbing ever.  I yelped more than he did, he just grunted as he became suddenly and irrevocably double jointed.  He did drop me, and in my state of pissed offness, I moved forward and kicked him in the stomach – which was really something because as I said he was like 8 feet tall.  I had to jump like one of those karate dorks in their white pajamas.   

My foot went into his body.  Which was gross.  Remember that episode of I Love Lucy where she was stomping grapes?  It was like that.  Only with a guy’s guts.  And it was a real problem for me because my foot got stuck and I fell backwards.  I believe I remarked something like –  

“Ah god, my fucking ankle!” 

Making matters worse El Strongo Ligero fell over, on account of someone just collapsed his diaphragm with her foot, and since that was my foot stuck in his lower intestines I was dragged down also, with my ankle getting twisted like some kind of metaphor.  I think I said something like –  

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Fuck me!” 

All this happened in about six seconds.  What I’ve learned is that fighting isn’t like in the movies – it’s over quick one way or the other.  Six seconds is a long time in certain contexts though.  Veronica was approaching, intent on finishing me off with her stupid Samurai sword after carelessly parking her motorcycle in the bedroom and getting oil all over the carpet.

I held up my hands desperately “Wait, wait, doesn’t your boss want to kill me himself?” 

“No.” 

She came at me with her outdated weaponry and I levered up the two-thousand-pound man with my legs to block her angle of head cutoffery.  When you’re that heavy, how can you even walk around in a place like this?  If he stood on one leg, wouldn’t he crash right through the floor?  He groaned as his murder buddy accidentally (?) slashed him across the back.  I groaned as well, not even from the pain in my ankle, which was bad enough, but mostly from my arm – I had to brace myself against the floor to lever him up.  Somehow that hurt worse. 

I kicked the big man off my foot finally, at Veronica, but she dodged up and over him like a demented cheerleader leaping over a guy in a mascot costume.  Remember when Joey Fisher said that she and Eric O’Hallerhan had sex inside the Lancer costume during a game?  Bullshit.  There’s no way you could fit two people inside there.  She’s such a liar.  I think she’s a nurse in an old folks home now.   

I crab scrambled backwards with one arm and leg as best as I could and grabbed the space-gun I had discarded earlier with my non-broken arm.  Well, the hand on that arm.  You know what I mean.  I pointed it at the leaping swordswoman but there wasn’t even a trigger as far as I could tell.  Why is alien technology so hard to use?!   

“Gun, kill her!” 

I commanded, but it didn’t do anything.  She came at me with an unnecessary leaping downward slash (it did look cool) and I flipped the big metal case Captain Stars and Stripes Forever kept all his alien stuff in at her with my good foot.  I expected it to cut her in half, which seemed like the kind of stupid thing that would happen, but instead it banged off her like when Wille Pastrano bricked that free throw when he had a chance to win the state title.  I had a lot of money on that game.

I threw the gun at her, and even with a left handed toss it hit her square in the face, but it didn’t do anything.  It was made out of some kind of dumb alien plastic that weighed nothing – it was like throwing a whiffle ball.  I flipped the couch at her but she dodged that too – she’s a slippery one she is.  I grabbed Mr. America’s alien belt, my intention was to try and beat her with it like a chain, but when I touched it, it seemed to wrap around my upper thigh of its own accord (kind of like my manager at the Dairy Queen when I was 17).  Next thing I know, I’m hanging in the air halfway upside down.  Have you ever suddenly been weightless?  It’s not a good feeling.  I puked instantly.  Which is crazy in and of itself.  I’ve never gone from zero to puke spray in zero seconds flat.  Usually it takes a while to work up a good ralphing.  

The ceilings in The Goodwood (heehee) Park Hotel are high, but not that high.  I don’t know if she did it on purpose or if it’s just what happened because I was bouncing along in the air unpredictably, but Veronica whipped her sword around in an upward motion and the very tip of the blade sliced right through my left nipple.  And let me tell you, that HURTS.  I swear for one second that hurt worse than breaking my arm or dislocating my ankle. 

“Belt, fly me away!  God damn it!” 

That second part is when nothing happened.  Veronica did a little jump-jump-jump move where she vaulted off the wall and would have cut me in half like a magician’s assistant (except for real with blood and dying) if there suddenly wasn’t a force field around me.  After her cut slammed into invisible energy, she landed like a gymnast (by which I mean ably, not like she smiled and threw her hands up in the air for the judges) and regarded me curiously.   

I managed to awkwardly flip myself around to face the ceiling and pull myself along to the window.  I was terrified that I would just float away into the air and up and up until I suffocated in the ionosphere (or whatever) so I kept a firm grip on the façade of the building as I pulled myself out the window.  I tell you this, out of the many terrifying things I experienced in the last forty seconds, hanging in mid-air clinging to the side of a building feeling like I was falling UP, was the worst.  Veronica peered out the window up at me as I spider-crawled my way up to the roof feeling like I was hanging from a rope around my leg attached to a space shuttle blasting off. 

“Whelp, now what?” I said to myself.  And to any helpful ghosts, forgotten ancient gods, or invisible super people that might be nearby.  You never know.

October 31, 1973 – Every day is Halloween

Obviously my plan was to get Colonel Flagg to do my dirty work for me.  That plan was predicated on the assumption that he is a highly trained government agent that would be capable of tracking people down using a special set of skills honed over a long career of doing shady black ops stuff.  Unfortunately I found that this appears to be a false assumption.  If Stars and Stripes Forever is highly training in anything, it appears to be having very mechanical workmanlike intercourse with a variety of local sex workers. 

He claims to be a former Navy SEAL, have a black belt in some made-up sounding kind of karate, and be an undefeated underground fighting champion.  I’m pretty sure none of those things are true.  I feel like instead he was an adult paper “boy” that was denied military service due to failing the psych eval and formed a team of “mercenary commandos” with his loser buddies from HS that wear fatigues and shoot squirrels with assault rifles.  I would bet good money that they put an ad in the paper as “freelance problem solvers”.   

But he is staying in a high-end suite in a pretty nice hotel and he does have super power tech stuff, which is perplexing.  I know a three-time loser when I see one, so where is this stuff coming from? 

The conundrum is that if he was a real super-agent, it would have been harder to bamboozle him.  It’s a real issue when it comes to tricking people into doing things.  People who are good at things often aren’t that easily tricked.  He did ask one time why my accent sounded “funny” if I was from Atlanta like I claimed.  I told him I was a military brat and had spent my formative years in a variety of overseas military bases.  He was pretty jazzed about that.  He asked me all about what my father had done and I told him that I didn’t know because he never talked about it.  He was in hog heaven imagining all the covert ops my fictional poppa got up to – I bet he was imagining motorcycles jumping over things and flamethrowers.   

He suggested that we return to the area of the clinic to start our investigation, which seemed reasonable enough.  He then put on his full red, white, and blue costume to do so which seemed far less reasonable to me.  I said that it would probably be better to stay inconspicuous.  He said that when you’re on a mission, you wear your uniform.  I told him mine was being dry cleaned.   

The good news is that a man walking around in a US flag made into a onesie doesn’t draw much attention in a place like Madripoor.  I swear I saw an actual alien the other day – it was buying a newspaper and some smokes.  When we got to the clinic, he took out a piece of tech about the size of a notebook.  It had a glowing green screen and you could interact with it by touching it, and it seemed like it had a little radar dish on the side attached to a wire of some kind.  I’m not convinced that Travis had any idea how to use it.  I asked him what he was scanning for and he said it was “classified”.   

I noticed on the screen he was looking at there were some symbols that looked like three triangles daisy-chained together in various patterns.  I had seen Blue sketching similar things sometimes when we were just sitting around.  Blue doesn’t talk much about what happened to him, but one night after some truly epic drinking, he did say that some aliens had captured him and done stuff to him.  This pad the US Patriot has must be from those same people.  I wonder what that means. 

After that, we spent a couple days going around town “taking readings”, although he spent significantly more time bargaining with various brothel owners and berating the hotel staff about various “infractions” of the rules he’d invented for how he thought a hotel should be run.   

I got tired of that, so one day while he was in the bedroom doing his thing, I decided to see what I could figure out on my own.  He kept his super-stuff in a big metal case that appeared to have no seams.  I only saw him open it once and it seemed to just crack open when he pushed a button on an ugly bracelet he wore all the time.  I discovered that it also opens when you rip it apart with the strength of twenty strong men.  I set aside the belt, which I think allows him to fly and maybe puts a force field around him, and the gun which I assume murders people in some sufficiently sci-fi way, and went for the pad. 

I moved the triangle symbols around on the screen and sometimes the screen would change, but I had no clue what I was looking at.  Are those symbols an alien language or just symbols?  Why can’t aliens just learn Earth languages already?  Preferably one that I already know.  After messing with it for a while, I picked up the little dish thing and spoke into it like a microphone “English”.  It definitely did something so I tried again with “French” but then the screen turned red and it started making a sizzling noise.  A moment later, Travis came running in with his dick flopping in the breeze. 

“What are you doing with that?!” 

“Trying to get a reading.” I waved at his crotch area “Can you put that away please?” 

I saw his companion peering at us curiously as he growled and charged at me like a bull.  I swear I was just trying to push him away.  But as I was standing up, I shoved him harder than I expected – I’m still not used to all this strength – and he went flying backwards past the bedroom and smashed through the huge multi-paned window that gave a lovely view of the bay.  His lady friend was staring at me with her mouth in an O of surprise. 

“That was an accident.” 

I went to the window, expecting to look down and see a bloody and broken US Male below – it’s only the third floor, but falling thirty to forty feet is no joke – but instead I saw an angry naked man standing on the ground fiddling with a bracelet.  He looked up and our eyes locked – him with a death glare and me with an air of apology. 

“Hey man, sorry about that, that was totally my mistake, I . . . holy shit!” 

That exclamation was on account of as I was talking, a motorcycle drove up and the driver (rider?) lashed out with a long chain that had a hook on it and swept Travis off his feet.  A second motorcycle came up and ran over him and I swear the damn thing had blades or spikes on the wheels or something.  I don’t know if his magic bracelet was out of juice or what, but his belly was all torn to shreds.  He lay on the ground groaning and bleeding and leaking other stuff out of his bowels as the two motorcyclists dismounted and took off their helmets to reveal Mr. X’s handmaidens, Betty and Veronica as I call them.  Or did he actually call them that?  I forget. 

The one who tried to attack me with a whip before in his dining room was the one whirling the chain around.  The other one had a stupid sword, which she pointed up at me.   

“The time has come for you to die!” 

I gestured to the woman still on the bed looking horrified “Me or her?” 

In response, Whippy McChains snarled like a dog and threw her chain up to hook on the window – which is impossible because it wasn’t that long before.  She started shimmying up after me so I dropped a chest of drawers on her stupid head.  Travis’ underwear went flying everywhere when it smashed to pieces on her noggin and slammed her to the ground.  Swords McGee jumped back on her bike, did a little circle, and then ramped off a fountain through the window and into the god damn room.  Which is also impossible.  The statue part of a fountain is not a ramp!  There’s no reason that bike should have flown into the air like god damn chitty chitty bang bang. 

I scrambled back with a startled yelp on account of there was a woman on a motorcycle flying through the window and fell to the floor just in time for the door to come flying open and for Mr. X’s Maori man-mountain to come stalking in, eyes full of menace and the rest of him full of bigness.  I shouted “self-destruct mode” at the alien thing and tossed it on the floor between the two them.  But nothing happened.  

“Wellllll, shit.” 

October 28, 1973 – Missionary Impossible

[Editor’s NOTE – as you avid readers all know, normally I do world-building stuff on Wednesday but nothing really needs to be explained at this point germane to the story, so you get more narrative instead. Sorry. Sad face emoji.]

I’ve never cared for blonde men.  I make no bones about that.  Something about them just doesn’t seem right to me, it’s a woman’s hair color, why is your hair like that man?  For a kid, sure, a little blonde boy running around?  Adorable.  But an adult man?  No thank you.  Especially if they have long blonde hair.  Parker Stevenson is hiding something.  I bring this up because Travis, aka Captain USA Super Patriot USA #1, is blonde as a wheat field.  Or some other kind of field that’s more yellow.  It’s not long of course, that would be un-American, his hair style is appropriately conservative and butch, and somehow threatening. 

When Martialla and Blue didn’t come back to the bar, I got worried.  I guess I was worried about LBK too. But if we’re being honest, and I think we are, it’s harder to get worked up about him being missing.  He just kind of glommed onto us.  Speaking of, that ingrate Russian/Polish/Romanian/Whatever barman told me not to come back there anymore.  I asked him how he could do me like that after all I had done for him.  He pointed out that what I had done was drink his booze, eat every scrap of food that presented itself in two seconds flat, and bring a bunch of mutants around drawing attention to the place.  Which I guess is a fair point. 

I spent a couple days wandering the streets looking for Blue (because he stands out more in a crowd, and also because I like him more than Martialla) and sleeping in alleys until I realized that wasn’t going to work.  I came to this realization after I had broken into the kitchen of Via Emilia Jardin and was sitting on the floor eating some kind of fancy sauce out of what looked like one of those big white buckets that painters have.  I could see my distorted reflection in the shiny metal freezer door dipping whole loaves of bread into the delicious gloop and then devouring them like a duck with breadcrumbs and I thought – something needs to change here. 

So I asked myself, if I was a USA super patriot, where would I stay in Madripoor?  Not in the best hotel around town, that would be too un-American.  The only US company I’ve seen around here is Derecktor, so I went down to their shipyards at the end of the day and then followed men in suits until one of them went to a hotel.  The Goodwood (heehee) Park Hotel was built by an English guy for German expatriates and looks like a castle – definitely the kind of place Staties would be hanging out.   

I was loitering outside trying to figure out my next move when I saw a woman I thought might be from the CS walking up with an armful of shopping bags.  She looked so much like Angela Dorian I thought it might be Angela Dorian for a minute.  I approached, apologizing profusely, as is our tradition in the CS, asking if she had a moment to talk.  When she smiled and said “Of course sweetie, you look like you’ve been through the wringer” in a pure Saint Louis accent, I knew I was golden.  You see, in the Coalition States people help one another, we don’t stab each other in the back like people from the US.   

A few minutes later, I was in the bathtub in her suite eating room service Beignets while she was looking through her clothes to see if she had anything that would look nice on me.  And I hadn’t even asked her for anything yet.  That was just the result of me asking her if she had a minute to talk.  I told her that I had come with my boyfriend but then he ran off on me and left me penniless and passportless.  She had a thing or two to say about that kind of bounder.   

I told her that I thought he might be staying in this hotel and gave her a general description of the Stars and Stripes fellow who got mixed up in that casino dustup.  He was wearing a mask of course, as all heroes do that don’t want to get their butts sued for the extensive physical and structural damage they cause, but I described his build and his blonde aggressive haircut.  She knew exactly who I was talking about, her lips tightened and she said “Oh, the Statie”.  Turns out that he was staying there and was downstairs at the front desk complaining about something or other every few hours.  She even knew what room he was staying in. 

Over lunch, she said that if I couldn’t get my passport back from my ex, she could smuggle me home in her husband’s company’s private jet.  Said husband is a bigshot in some manner of industrial cooling company.  Or coolant maybe.  Or cooling pipes maybe.  Whichever.  It was an appealing idea, go home and forget all this, but I politely declined.  I told her I still had to find and kill the world’s most notorious terrorist before I headed home.  She laughed in delight at my “joke”, almost as much as she did after she remarked on how “healthy” my appetite is. 

After lunch, we parted ways with a hug.  For a moment I thought her hands drifted south of the line of propriety, but that must have been my imagination – we don’t do that sort of thing in the CS.  I went up to Captain Bald Eagle Flag Waver’s suite and the door wasn’t even locked.  Which was disappointing because I was looking forward to breaking it.   

His suite wasn’t quite as nice as Maggie’s was, but it was still pretty swanky.  I guess being a government sponsored superpowered-assassin pays pretty well.  I heard what sounded like a weightlifter grunting his way through a set of squats, but was actually Mr. USA plowing away at a bored looking local woman. 

Missionary of course, god bless the USA!  He had a surprisingly saggy ass for a covert US superman.

“Gees man, calm down, I don’t think the goal is to drive her pelvis through the mattress.” 

He yelped and jumped off the bed, covering himself with a sheet in a surprisingly girlish move – and leaving his partner stark naked.   

“Here’s another tip, Romeo. Close your mouth, you were spitting all over her face with your weird grunting.” 

His face was a competing mask of outrage and confusion and shame “Who are you and why are you my room!?” 

“My code name is Lady Liberty and I need your help with a mission critical to the health and prosperity of the nation.” 

 His eyes darted nervously to his companion “Mission, what do you mean?” 

I nodded “Oh right, secret identities, mild mannered Clark Kent and all that, we should speak in private.  I can wait in the other room if you want to finish up here first.” 

October 23, 1973 – They say Jesus is comin’, he must be walkin’ sure ain’t runnin’

I went to church with my parents when I was younger.  I liked getting dressed up but that was about all I liked about it.  Church was boring and there never seemed to be any kids there my age no matter what age I was.  Not that I could have talked to them anyway.  You just had to sit there for what seemed like half a day while a guy talked about stuff that happened thousands of years ago.  I’ve heard about girls fainting in church and no one knows why.  I know why – they’re bored and they just want to get out of there. 

I stopped going sometime around thirteen or fourteen. Like many things with my parents, we all just accepted that we were happier going our separate ways.  Religion is a big deal in the US, things are more casual in the CS.  I suppose because of all the different cultures mixing together there.  Sometimes I tell people I’m a Buddhist but it’s just to seem cool.  If we’re being honest, and I feel that we are, I have no idea what the tenants of Buddhism actually are.  I should probably stop doing that.  It’s disrespectful, I now realize. 

I suppose I believe in God, but it’s not something I really think about.  I’m sure the angry flying Aussie thinks about it a lot.  And unless I miss my mark, which I rarely do, I think it’s because he’s afraid.  Not of Hell or God or anything, but of himself.  He’s afraid of the decisions he makes on his own so he wants someone else to tell him what to do.  Not saying that this is what all religious people do, but I’m sure it’s what he’s doing.  Turning frat boys into chunky mustard is a lot easier when you think that the creator of the entire universe wants you to do it. 

The good news is it’s not hard to feign religion.  I don’t feel great about it, but it got the Scarlet Pope off my back.  We prayed together (well he was praying, thankfully he doesn’t know French) and then we were fast friends.  I gave him back his robo-helmet and he told me that before some dynamic and stunningly attractive female hero took his suit offline with her mighty might, he had scanned the tunnels under the clinic.  He made some comment about teaming up, but I could tell he was just being polite.  I let us both off the hook and told him I felt that God had another plan for him.  Having that lunatic on the team sounds like a terrible idea.  I wished him good luck repairing his tool of justice.  He said he didn’t need luck, but he looked a little worried when he said it. 

I went back into the clinic and ripped up the walls looking for secret escape hatches to hidden tunnels, but I had no luck.  I smashed a hole in the floor but that just led to the basement.  I was looking around down there when I heard footsteps up above.  Coming back upstairs, I saw Dr. Handsome examining the damage to his clinic in dismay.  He gave me an angry look. 

“What did you do to my clinic?!” 

“Pretty sure it was like this when I got here.” 

“Get out of here!” 

“What the hell happened?  I was outside for like three minutes and when I come back everyone is gone.” 

He crossed his arms “You are no longer welcome here, please leave.” 

“Just tell me what happened man.” 

He gestured imperiously “Go.” 

I picked up some fancy electronic boxy medical thing and crushed it like a crumbly muffin – slicing the shit out of my hands in the process, I need to start remembering to pull things apart instead of smashing them together.  

His eyes bulged in outrage “Do you know who I work for?!” 

I snorted “Let me guess, a crime boss of some kind?  With a gang of ruthless thugs and some super people assassins?  Once the bridge has already been burned there’s no harm in pissing on it.” 

“What?” 

“It’s an expression.” 

“Well I’ve never heard it.” 

Like that was our big point of contention at the moment.  After I kicked a hole in some other big beeping box medical thing on wheels, he told me that while everyone’s attention was on the flying Aussie robot out front, someone else took advantage of that distraction to finish the job.  He said that Elvis was dead, the victim of some manner of fast-acting toxin.  The assassin then took one of the nurses hostage and there was a slow walking standoff as Blue, Martialla, and LBK followed him out of the clinic onto the street behind the building. 

“What happened then?” 

He scowled, which somehow made him even more handsome “I’m certain I have no idea, I didn’t follow your degenerate friends.” 

“Because you were hiding in the tunnels?” 

“Tunnels?  What tunnels?  I was in my panic room.” 

“What about the other nurses?  What happened to them?” 

He shrugged “I don’t know, maybe they ran off, nurses aren’t hard to replace.” 

“You’re a real humanitarian aren’t you?  Is there any particular reason I shouldn’t squeeze your hands until your bones come out in a white paste the consistency of fondue?” 

“You’re the one who brought this trouble into my clinic and I’m guessing now will not even pay me for the time nor the damage you’ve done.  You’re the one that should be punished.  And I assure you, madam, that you will be soon enough.”