October 8, 1973 – Let’s get tropical!

Since the Shadow Lords have chased me out of my apartment with their wicked ways, I’ve been flopping with whoever Elvis, Mary, or Saysamore have been able to talk into letting me crash with for a few days.  I’ve been a couch hopper before but I was the one choosing the couches.  I don’t like being at the mercy of others like this but there’s not much I can do about it.  Also most people here don’t have couches, so it’s more like borrowing some floor.

Since I have no income I’ve been mooching food as well, which normally wouldn’t bother me too much but I need a trucker’s buffet worth of food just to feel like I’m not going to pass out.  Something’s got to give here or I’m going to use up all the goodwill of Elvis and his friends and be left to die in the gutter.  It’s a precarious position when every day things get a little worse.

Sidenote, Elvis has a lot of girl friends for me to stay with.  Not girlfriends, he doesn’t seem to have any of those, but a lot of friends that are girls.  So many that it seems like something is going on.  I don’t know what that something could be, but it’s odd.  I’ll have to figure that out one of those days.

Last night I slept in the store room of a bar in touristville.  The deal was that I could stay there for a couple days if I got this giant oil drum out of the basement.  I don’t mean like a 50 gallon barrel, I mean like a rusty old hunk of metal that used to hold fuel oil.  It looked kind of like a giant BBQ smoker.  Or just a normal BBQ smoker in Lone Star. 

I ripped it out of the concrete and crumpled it up like a wad of tinfoil which was good.  I cut the shit out of my hands doing so which was bad.  I need to get used to being super strong.  Things like that keep catching me by surprise.  My skin certainly isn’t super-strong.  Hopefully my super metabolism can protect me from tetanus.  The owner, who I think is Russian, watched me do all this with a cigarette in his mouth and little to no reaction.  Like a woman ripping a half ton of old metal out of the ground was something he’s seen so much it’s become tedious.  These Madripoor folk seem like they’re pretty jaded. 

In the morning he made me some kind of spicy egg dish and then we sat around the bar staring at each other.  He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Russian (or whatever) so there wasn’t much to say.  I found an old guitar and was messing around with that for a while.  When I started to sing he said “przestań robić” and waved for me to stop.  Everyone’s a critic.  I had a top 40 hit damn it!

I’ll grant you that most bars aren’t really hopping during the day, but for a tourist bar this place was absolutely dead.  Which didn’t seem to bother the owner and seeming only employee in the slightest.  Probably a front for money laundering or something.  Everything here seems to be a little crooked at least.

No one came in until around five o’clock and the person who did come in wasn’t looking to drink.  It was my friend the blue alligator-rhino man from the other day.  The fact that he was able to find me so easily calls into question the effectiveness of my Shadow Lord evasion strategy.  Perhaps they’re not hunting for me as ruthlessly as I think.

I was ready to duck out the side door, figuring Big Blue was there for round 2, but it wasn’t that at all.  He’s one of these guys where if you kick his ass then you’re his friend.  Usually with this kind of guy, that doesn’t cross gender lines but when superpowers get in the mix the lines are blurry. Nice to know that he doesn’t discriminate. 

He started ordering whiskey sours and once he found out that I could out-drink him as well as out-fight him, I think he fell in love with me.  His French was funny sounding to my ear but we understood each other well enough.  He loves basketball.  And, as you all know, the only thing I love as much as music is the Tropics.  We sat there drinking and talking hoops all night long.  He thinks Willis Reed is better than Mel Daniels but he was watching the game where Jackie Moon got thirty rebounds against San Diego so I’ll let that slide.

He seems kind of sad.  You know, on the inside.  I guess being a seven foot tall blue dinosaur man is about as lonely as being a CS girl stranded in a foreign land hunted by a ruthless international criminal syndicate and presumed dead by everyone back home.  We freaks have to stick together.

October 4, 1973 – SUPERFIGHT!!!!

Editor’s note – I know what you’re thinking “Jeremy, the Kool-Aid Man character didn’t come out until 1974 you moron!  You’re the worst writer ever.”  Well I am the worst writer ever but you’re forgetting that this is an alternate history deal.  In this world the Kool-Aid Man commercials started airing in 1972!  The changes that led up to this alteration and the staggering ramifications of it will be explored in my forthcoming graphic novel Kool-Aid: 1972.

A quarter of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Malacca Straits.  Half of all seaborne chemical and gas shipments pass through. So of course the area is infested with well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless pirates.  When they aren’t chased off by local brutal corporate-sponsored hired goons anyway. It’s estimated by people that estimate things that over one hundred ships a year go missing around Madripoor.  Hijacked and redirected to another port.  This does not include the innumerable others attacked and raided on their journeys.

When I first heard people in Madripoor talking about pirates, it threw me for a loop.  I never hear anyone in the CS talking about pirates.  The word pirate makes me think of ships with sails and guys with swords.  But I guess, thinking about it logically, there’s no reason for pirates to have gone away.  If you can’t stop people from stealing your shit, they’re going to steal it.  That’s a rule of some kind.

Grain of salt because it’s all rumors, but I understand that it’s sometimes part of an insurance scam.  You got a shipful of hot pants headed for Africa and suddenly hot pants aren’t cool anymore.  They’re just going to take up room in your warehouse in Johannesburg.  So you get in touch with your fixer who knows a pirate boss.  They “attack” the ship, you get the insurance, and they get some ransom money.  You dump the hotpants into the sea and everyone wins.  Except the insurance company.

I figured that pirates wouldn’t be afraid of the Shadow Lords and also could get me out of here.  You may be thinking “Dealing with pirates, Ela?  That sounds like a terrible idea.”  You happen to be right but where were you yesterday asshole? 

In my defense I’m a singer, not a . . . person who deals with whatever this situation is.  Whatever Steve McQueen would be if he was a real badass and not just an actor.  Whatever that is, I’m not that.  I’m all alone here and I don’t know what’s going on.  Plus, you don’t understand what kind of place Madripoor is.  If you were here you’d think that buddying up to pirates was perfectly normal.

Elvis’s friend Say likes to party so we went to a couple bars, a couple clubs, a couple parties, and it just so happens that I managed to rub elbows with a couple people in the piracy world.  Sidenote, about twenty percent of the men here are super into me because I’m white.  And about twenty percent think I’m super gross for the same reason.  It’s interesting. 

I met a guy I thought was named Preman.  I learned later that “preman” means gangster in Indonesian.  Although it’s actually from the Dutch language and means rooster.  Language is complicated.  “Preman” and I hung out a few times, smoked something like weed, drank some weird booze, and got to know each other.  Once we were good pals, he said a friend of a friend of a friend of his could help me out and wasn’t scared of the Shadow Lords and I should meet him at a restaurant the next morning to talk details.

It was a set-up of course.  What I didn’t know then is that the Shadow Lords were basically the seaside agents of the local pirates when the first came to Madirpoor.  The pirates would steal the stuff and then pass it off to the Shadow Lords as the middlemen.  Not only that, but most of the pirates around here are groups that grew out of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, a resistance group from the Philippines that fought against Japanese occupation.  The Huk and the Shadow Lords both hate the yazuka so they bond over that.  The point is that the entire idea was more or less the worst thing I could have done.

“Preman” and a friend came in to the restaurant, we sat down, and next thing I know someone is behind me and has a rag over my mouth.  Here’s the thing though, with my new metabolism nothing like that seems to affect me much.  I don’t know if the Shadow Lords didn’t warn them or if they didn’t know. 

I grabbed the ragman’s arm and flung him across the room like I was tossing a Frisbee (or a bag of rags, a ragbag if you will).  When I swung him around, I felt his arm come out of the socket.  Which was a little nauseating, but if we’re being honest it felt good too.  I was angry and frustrated and it felt good to hurt someone.  Does that make me awful?  I don’t know. 

“Preman” got the hell out of there but his buddy went for a gun.  I flipped the table into him and the gun fired.  You always forget how LOUD those damn things are.  As he raised the gun again, trying to get disentangled from the table, I tried to yank the gun out of his hand.  Instead I crushed them both.  The gun and the hand.  I never heard a human being make a noise like he did as he fell back against the wall cradling his hand to his chest.  It was truly chilling.

I took a hold of his forehead in one hand like Jackie Moon palming a basketball.  I wanted so badly to squeeze it.  That’s all it would have taken.  One little squeeze and a man is dead.  It would have been no more effort than checking the ripeness of a peach.  Just a little squeeze.  I wanted it more than I wanted any cigarette or any drink.  A part of my brain told me it would make everything better.  It would make all the pain go away.  No one would ever fuck with me again.  He was a bad guy, wasn’t he?  Why did he deserve to live? 

I wanted it. 

But I didn’t do it.  Just as I let the guman go, their ace in the hole came smashing in.  And I mean that literally.  He crashed through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man.  I have no idea why, the door was wide open.  He was easily over seven feet tall and he had electric blue scales.  It was like the skin of a technicolor crocodile on acid.   Only you know, on a big dude.  He didn’t look like a rhino but something about him made me think of a rhino.  Maybe just because he was massive and leathery and mean looking.

He came charging at me like a bull (a bull rhino) and I threw another table at him.  He batted it aside like he was swatting a volleyball.  I managed to leap out of the way of his crashing tackle and he slammed into and through the other wall out into the street.  I hope this restaurant is owned by the pirates or the Shadow Lords, because I’d hate to think some innocent people got their place wrecked just because this is where some assholes chose as their kidnap location.

As the blue alligator rhino man was getting back to his feet in the wall-hole, I grabbed him around the waist and hurled him back over my shoulders like a sack of grain.  It feels weird when you can throw someone ten times your size, but I knew from working on the docks I could lift him easily.  He slammed into the ground hard enough to shake the building.  Which was getting pretty shaky already from being run through on both sides.  I think I saw “Run through on both sides” on the marquee of a movie theater once.  You know the kind I mean.

I was ready to rumble but I saw that blueman’s head was twisted at a funny angle.  Not funny ha-ha but funny “oh shit I just killed a guy”.  I won’t lie, I stood there staring, mouth agape for a moment.  I’m not a murderer you know.  But while I stood there I heard a crazy crackling, snapping, popping noise and his head jerked back to the right way and his eyes opened.  I guess he can heal super-fast.

Since he wasn’t dead, I went outside and pushed the building down on him.  I should have grabbed something to drink before I did that.  Fighting is thirsty business.

The Lords in Shadow

The Shadow Lords have their origin in the 1937 invasion of China by the Empire of Japan.  The Japanese Imperial Army brought coastal China under their control and they were followed by the yakuza as closely as lightening after a storm.  All the local criminal groups either fled or were killed.   

One of the survivors of this purge was a member of the Green Gang called Fat Yuan.  Rumors say that he was half Japanese, the son of a powerful oyabun and his Chinese mistress.   As the story goes, he was able to survive and escape the extermination of the Green Gang due to his superhuman abilities and inside information about the activities of those that sought his death.   

Fat Yuan fled south before the oncoming Imperial tide and began studying at the monastery of Four Winds outside of Vientiane.  When Fat Yuan and his followers stole the mystical shadowknives protected by the masters of the Four Winds, it instigated bloody infighting that saw the destruction of the Four Winds sect and the deaths of the teachers Howling Over Thunder and Crimson Mask.   

Lacking the resources to challenge the Yakuza directly, Fat Yuan and his followers traveled the Indonesian Archipelago, Polynesia, and Australia each recruiting their own followers – creating many small gangs that would eventually coalesce into the Shadow Lords.  Their ranks were swelled by other Chinese gangsters who had survived the purge, but included a diverse cross section of criminals from across the region.  This loose collection of criminal enterprises began to establish their own small spheres of influence in the Madripoor underworld. 

The Shadow Lords are essentially cults of personality formed around a specific individual.  As such, they usually disintegrate if that leader is killed or removed from power.  Experienced members will break off from their parent gangs to establish their own independent outfits with the approval of their former leader.  The Shadow Lords are not overseen by a central authority like the Mafia or similar groups.

Despite this lack of top down leadership, conflict between Shadow Lords is rare, unlike the mob wars between Yakuza clans, Mafia families, or Triads. 

In contrast to those other organized crime syndicates, the Shadow Lords are small, consisting of fewer than thirty sworn members.  Those members control front gangs, larger networks of criminal associations on the street. Due to the necessity of protecting themselves from larger rivals, the members never inform the operatives on the street that they are actually in the employment of the Shadow Lords.  

When a group becomes too big and attracts the attention of their enemies, it fragments into two or three smaller groups.  By splitting up and recruiting, they evolve and change their face and shape, keeping a low profile.   

In essence, the Shadow Lords are a confederacy of criminal outfits that share the same goals.  Each leader has their own culture, their own separate hierarchy, and what motivates them may be different, but they all help each other survive while they strike at the Yakuza.  Due to their single-minded obsession with hurting the Yakuza, the Shadow Lords have not grown as fast as they could. 

The Shadow Lords use every resource possible and are willing to take greater risks than rival syndicates.  Compared to the larger crime syndicates, the Shadow Lords are far more likely to cooperate with outsiders.  Besides their comfort with magical artifacts, this manifests by the Shadow Lords being one of the few organized crime groups that actively recruits “superhumans”, which are not welcome in more traditional enterprises.   

September 27, 1973 – Avengers Assemble!

Elvis and I ended up on a couple of rickety chairs on the roof of his grandma’s place.  Not like a roof roof you know, it was like a patio with a garden.  Sort of.  It’s a different building style out here so I don’t know how to explain it.  Check it out sometime and you’ll know what I mean.  The first time I saw Elvis, I thought he looked like he had been sleeping in a dirty alley.  Now I think that’s just what he looks like after a day of crawling under sinks and on roofs to fix things.  Also he may have been sleeping in a dirty alley.  He handed me a bottle of . . . something alcoholic.  It tasted sort of like candy.  Shitty candy.  The kind that the bad house gives away at Halloween. 

I took another drink and grimaced “I don’t mean to sound provincial but what you people need is some decent booze.” 

“Sorry, for some reason it’s hard to find good American Kentucky bourbon here.  Must be eight thousand years of having our own culture.  I’m sure your Imperial overlords will straighten us out soon enough.” 

“You keep acting like I’m from the US, and I keep telling you I’m from the Coalition, we save all our military atrocities for South America, not south Asia.” 

He nodded apologetically “My mistake.” 

I asked him to tell me about the Shadow Lords and he did.  Nothing terribly useful though.  In the 1800s someone starts cultivating drugs and selling them to a cartel in the Andes and that leads to one gang which leads to another and Triads from China get involved and then the yakuza during the war and a bunch of people get killed and one group takes over another and etc. etc.  Long story short they’re an organization of violent gangsters in a place where the authorities don’t really care as long as they don’t stop rich people from becoming richer.   

“So, Madripoor has more than its fair share of NBHs right?  What we need to do is gather them together to stand against the criminals.” 

“Stand against how?  You want to kill them?  Gang warfare?” 

“No of course not.  I mean just . . . stop them . . . somehow.  You know, with superpowers.  We could form a league of justice of some kind.  Or a justice league if you will.” 

“Hmm, I’m not sure how being able to jump really high or lift heavy boxes helps with the societal and economic conditions that lead to crime.  Plus anyone like that is more likely to be working for the Shadow Lords or another gang rather than against them.  I know they have two people like that at least in their crew.” 

“Like that guy who pulled that weird knife?” 

Elvis shook his head “No, that’s just a shadowknife.” 

I waved irritably “Sure just a shadowknife, we all know what that is.” 

“It’s a mystic weapon that cuts not just the flesh but also the soul, to enslave the spirits of the people killed by it.  You know how that goes.  Also it allows you to travel to the Plateau of Leng if you believe in that kind of thing.” Elvis raised his glass as if in a toast “The leaders of the Shadow Lords all have them, stolen from a monastery on the mainland, hence the name.” 

“Wonderful.  So I’m not hearing a ton of support for my league of justice idea coming from you.” 

“Well, there’s a guy I know a little who has bulletproof skin, he’s an asshole but he likes money.  He’ll help if you pay him.  There’s a guy around who can turn into a tiger that’s not affiliated with any gang in particular.  He might help if you want to kill these guys.  He likes killing people.” 

“I don’t want to kill anyone!  I just . . . want to do whatever Superman does.” 

“What does Superman do?” 

“I don’t know, send them to the Phantom Zone?  I’m not a dork that reads comics.  What if I made a deal with the Shadow Lords?  If I defeat their champion then they leave me alone.” 

“Why would they agree to that?  And why would you trust them even if they did?” 

“Uh, honor?” 

He ticked off on his fingers “Drug trafficking, sex trafficking, slavery, murder, what makes you think these people have honor?  This isn’t a kung fu movie, the bad guys don’t have a code you can exploit.  Besides which, and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, you’d never win anyway.” 

“Why do you say that?  I could knock this whole house down.” 

“First, please don’t knock my grandma’s house down.  Second, strength is fine, but who would you bet on in a fight – Joe Frazier or Vasily Alekseyev?” 

“Who’s Vasily Alekseyev?” 

“A Russian power lifter.  The strongest man in the world.  The strongest normal man anyhow.” 

“I take your point but you said it yourself, they’re normal.  I’m stronger than him.  I’m superhuman.  That has to count for something.”

Elvis stood up “Try and hit me.” 

“I’ll kill you.” 

He shook his head “You wont hurt me.” 

After much prompting I eventually got up and stood in front of him.  I threw the lightest punch I could and he slapped it away like a fly.  I tried a little harder and he avoided it again.  He didn’t really dodge or block it, but kind of did both – sliding away and moving my hand a little at the same time.  After the third time, he not only slipped my strike but he smacked me back in the face. 

“Hey!  Don’t do that!” 

“Is that what you’re going to tell the man you want to fight?  Don’t hit me?  All your strength you’re so proud of, what good does it do you if it’s going the wrong way?  Try and hit me for real.  Don’t hold back.” 

I did hold back some, but even a half-strength punch would have killed him I’m sure.  Which made what I was doing rather stupid.  If you’re going to hold back it should be enough to make a difference, otherwise what’s the point in doing it at all?  I did almost catch him once and as he twisted away he threw a strike of his own, I think without even meaning to.  He barely touched me, but I dropped to the ground and started to bawl. 

“You hit me!” 

He came forward with his hands out “Oh shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to . . .” 

When he came to comfort me I grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him up off the ground and held him over the edge of the roof “I win.  Don’t tell me I can’t beat someone.  I just need different tactics.” 

He gulped and looked down at the street “No one in the Shadow Lords has any feelings for you to take advantage of.” 

I set him down “Sure they do, they’re just different feelings than you have.  I need to think about your advice, use my opponent’s strength against them.  I can’t win a fistfight or a gunfight, but there are other ways to fight.” 

September 27, 1973 – You deserve a break today

I’ve had some hard times in my life.  The music business isn’t a cakewalk.  Even when you have a top 40 hit.  Which I do.  There’ve been times in my life when I was just crashing on couches and not sure where my next meal would come from.  Hitching across the CS and the US and the Republics playing in whatever clubs you can find isn’t a life people would call secure, and I’ve done that too.   

But I’ve never felt like this before.  No money, no place to stay, no friends.  People bitch about the CS because that’s what people do, but it’s a place with a lot of safety nets.  You can fall pretty hard in the CS but they’re there.  Madripoor is different.  I could very easily starve to death here.  The other day I saw a woman walk into the ocean.  She had just had enough.  No one even spared her a second glance. 

If there’s any silver lining to my current predicament, it’s that working down at the docks was getting me nowhere anyway.  Hopefully I would have realized that on my own sooner rather than later, but regardless I don’t have to worry about that now.   

What’s my main problem?  The Shadow Lords.  So what can I do about it?  Back in the States I’d go to the police right?  I feel like they have to have police here but I’ve never seen one of them.  Given the general vibe of the place, I have a feeling that wouldn’t do me any good.  So what next?  If I’m going to do something about the Shadow Lords I need to know more about them.   

The only person I met who didn’t seem afraid of them, or maybe he was just willing to face them anyway, is Elvis.  I wandered a long time trying to find the street he said his grandma lives on.  A guy grabbed me at one point.  I don’t know if it was to rob me or what.  I pulled his arm off of me and I felt it snap like a candy cane in my fingers.  He made a weird sound and spun to the ground cradling his arm.   

Part of me thought I should pick him up and throw him into a brick wall.  That caught me off guard.  I’ve never been a violent person.  I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone before.  Well, that one time back home, but that was special circumstances.  The voice telling me to wreck this guy scared me more than him attacking me.   

I guess this is what they mean when they say that power corrupts.  It’s easy to say give peace a chance when you’re the one who’s likely to get victimized.  Once you have the power things look a little different.  I’ll have to keep an eye on that.  I’m not sure what I think of having this strength yet.  It doesn’t feel real.  How strong you are isn’t something that comes up in everyday life.  So it’s easy to forget.   

I didn’t have much of a plan, okay I didn’t have any plan, of what to do when I got to the street I was looking for.  I don’t know if Elvis even stays here, I just know that his grandma’s street is the only piece of information I have about him.  I guess I was just going to walk around and see if I saw him, but I didn’t even make it down the street once before an old woman was in a doorway waving me over.   

Her French was atrocious. She told me that Elvis wasn’t there and I should come in and help her while I waited for him.  Cooking has never been my thing but she set me to helping her anyway.  Did you know that you can make pasta out of rice?  I didn’t.  Until I came here I never saw pasta in soup either.  If nothing else, getting left for dead in Madripoor has enriched my culinary experience.   

Cooking may not seem like hard work, but it is.  Although part of that was that we seemed to be making enough food for an army.  A small army, but still an army.  Every so often a kid would show up on a bike and take away several pots of food.  I don’t get tired anymore because I’m enhanced, but how can you explain the same thing for a tiny million year old Asian woman?  Maybe all those right wingers in the US are right, maybe we are getting soft in the west.   

I asked her if this was her business and she gave me a funny look and didn’t say anything.  I don’t know if it was because she didn’t understand me or what.  When I tried again, I asked her who the food was for and she gave me another weird look and said “Tout le monde” – everybody.   

I missed at least three quarters of what she said because as I mentioned her French was awful, but in addition she often slipped (intentionally maybe) into a language I didn’t know.  But what I did pick up was mostly her grousing about how Elvis needed to find a nice girl and settle down, stop all this nonsense with getting in fights.  It took me a while to pick up on the subtext because of the language barrier, but eventually I figured out that her looks and comments were trying to communicate to me that Elvis needed a nice girl like him, not some crazy white foreigner who shamelessly flaunts herself with improper clothing.  I have long pants on, what more does she want from me?  Not that I’m interested anyway.  Point is grandmothers are grandmothers the world over.   

When we took a break for lunch, she told me about how she had an affair with a Frenchman back on the mainland.  This I gather resulted in Elvis’s mother, who granny had nothing good to say about.  She blamed herself for not keeping her away from the communists.  She cast a cold eye on me and asked me if I was a communist.  I assured her that I wasn’t.  So far she’s the only person I’ve eaten in front of who didn’t freak out over the amount of food I was packing away.  She just kept bringing me more.   

Elvis did show up in the afternoon and upon seeing me, his first comment was that I looked like a “soggy peacock” which I guess is the same as a drowned rat.   

“Give me a break, it’s like a steam room back in that kitchen.  You try spending twelve hours in there and see how you look.” 

How to talk to your kids about super-soldiers and death

The Coalition States of America “super-soldier” project is renowned to be the most successful in the world.  Many people would be surprised to learn that the project (secretly dubbed “Godlike”) has only produced three viable outcomes.  At the cost of dozens of non-operable results (“zeroes” as they are deemed by the research team) and hundreds of deaths.  Even more surprising is that, despite that fact, it is the most successful program of its kind.  

The common belief is that people with the gene that allows for chemical manipulation to exceed human baselines are one in a million.  The truth is that they’re even rarer than that.  The chances of someone having the necessary gene already being in the CSA military were exceedingly small.  When Private First Class Amy Albright tested positive, the results were initially kept under wraps due to the high number of project failures.  After she emerged from the program a complete success, she became a media darling.  

A wholesome blonde girl-next-door type who had volunteered to serve her country that could fly at supersonic speeds and rip apart a tank with her bare hands?  It was a public relations windfall beyond the wildest dreams of the military spin doctors.  Her smiling face on 60 Minutes and the evening news did much to mitigate the (true) accusations of forced conscriptions and deadly consequences of the program.  

She went from being the face of a public relations campaign to a true national hero following the release of the 1970 documentary “Angel” showing footage of her in action during the Argentine Conflict.  The opening scene of a brutal looking staff sergeant explaining in no uncertain terms to his men that Angel One is a soldier and not “some mark in a pick-up bar” and will be treated as such in his unit unless they want a boot up their ass has become as iconic as the live footage of her turning the tide at Cordoba and saving the lives of thousands of CSA soldiers.  

It is because of this movie that she is known mostly to the public by her callsign used during that conflict – “Angel” or “Angel One” rather than her focus group-chosen public persona “Iron Heart”.  Angel One was reported KIA on March 4th, 1973, the details of which have not yet been released to the public.  It is widely assumed that a new chemical weapon provided to Ñancahuazú Guerrilla fighters by German communists is responsible for her death.  A sound clip of a CSA officer reporting “Angel One is down”, voice cracking with emotion, has become iconic.

September 27, 1973 – Nothing to do with all your strength

I haven’t slept well lately.  I’ve been rattled since that incident with the ships colliding.  If you have super strength, aren’t you supposed to be able to rescue people?  Some boats did come out and pull people out of the water.  But not all of them.  Over the next few mornings, bodies would wash up on the shore with pieces missing.  Sharks, people said. 

Working on the docks has helped me know my new limits better.  I can lift a ton without exerting myself too much. I mean that literally.  I picked up a 900 kilo crate and raced against a forklift.  I can’t knock down buildings like Angel can, or could before she died anyway, but I’m pretty damn strong.  I tried to go to some bars to hustle people by lifting heavy stuff but there must be enough NBH’s around here that hardly anyone falls for that. 

I never get tired either.  Not physically tired I mean, I still need to sleep.  But I can work as hard as I want all day and feel fresh as a daisy.  If I didn’t hate running, I bet I could run at full speed forever.  This makes me one hell of a stevedore for whatever that’s worth.  Not much in terms of wages definitely.  Bad news is that I can now out-drink several frat houses combined all by myself.  The other day I drank a quart of Jack Daniels and I didn’t feel anything. 

More items on the downside, my GOD, I am hungry all the time.  I found a place that has grilled fish and fried chicken and I feel like I spend all the money I make there.  When they see me coming they look at me like a fisherman who’s hooked a tiger shark – both fear and excitement.  Is it unworldly of me that I was surprised they have fried chicken here?  Worse than the hunger though is that my head is constantly pounding.  If I drink enough coffee and smoke enough, I can get it down to the level of a moderate hang-over but it never goes away completely.  Never. 

There’s nothing like a continuous unrelenting headache to make you want to seek revenge.  I’m definitely going to find this Duke Eaglevane person and rip his guts out.  I don’t care if he’s the baddest man on the planet.  I’ll see how immortal he is. 

Working on the docks for fish money isn’t going to make that happen.  I’ve been here almost a month now and that’s a month too long.  The “good” news is that I’m out of a job anyway.  A couple days ago, I saw Omar and another guy arguing.  When I asked him what it was about, he wouldn’t say at first but I got it out of him.  The other man, Tuah I think he’s called, wanted Omar to translate for him to talk to me about some kind of pit fighting.  Omar didn’t like that. 

Two days after that, Omar didn’t show up for work.  When I went to his house, his wife at first refused to let me speak to him – she had come to my place once to scream at me because she thought we were having an affair – but I smooth talked my way past her.  Omar said that Tuah had told the Shadow Lords where I was and he didn’t want to get caught in the middle.  I was pissed that he didn’t give me a heads up, but I guess he has his own problems to worry about. 

Then this morning a woman showed up at my door before sunrise to warn me not to go to work.  She was a friend of Elvis’ and she said that I shouldn’t go back to work.  She looked like a local, I mean to the area, hardly anyone seems to be local to Madripoor, but she had a US accent and she said her name was Mary.  Madripoor is a crossroads and a lot of people here seem like they’re at a crossroads too.  I think that makes sense. 

She hovered in the doorway while I started making coffee “The Shadow Lords are onto me huh?”

She nodded “Yes.  You should probably move out of this place too.”

I gestured at the nothing I had acquired “And give up all this?  I’m getting real tired of these shadow men.”

“Shadow Lords, the shadowmen are something else.”

I laughed mirthlessly “Of course they are.  You seem like a smart girl, how do I get these guys off my back?”

“Do you have a lot of money or drugs to give them?” I shook my head “Then no, I can’t think of anything.”

I swung my empty coffee cup for emphasis “I’m super strong, can’t I beat them all up or something and then they’ll leave me alone?”

She thought about it for a moment “Does being strong protect you from bullets?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then no, probably you can’t.”

September 20, 1973 – Revenge, and a shipwreck

So now what?  I’m in a foreign land (where they don’t seem to like my music) with no money, and as far as anyone back home knows I’m dead.  I tried to think of someone I could call for help, assuming I could figure out how to make an international call, but I came up empty.  My parents and I aren’t close, my friends are mostly pretty casual acquaintances or broke.  Most of them are both.  I have a manager I haven’t heard from in months, and that was before I was blown up and kidnapped and lost several months of my memory.  He wouldn’t be terribly interested in anything that would cost him money anyway.  My ex could probably afford to bring me back, but I don’t know if he would.  Or where he lives currently.  

I assume the easiest route back to the CS from here would be through Panama.  And then somehow convince the police or someone that I’m me.  Fingerprints?  I’ve been arrested so I would have fingerprints on file right?  But that was in the CS, not the US.  Do they share information?  Is getting home what I even want?  Eventually, yes.  But someone by the name of Duke Eaglevane tried to blow me up.  Did blow me up.  I’d be dead now if not for . . . whoever did . . . uh, whatever they did to me.  I never thought of myself as vindictive or vengeful, but that’s a much easier attitude to have before someone murders you.  

I asked where Duke Eaglevane was and Alcazar laughed.  He’s the most wanted man in the world.  Several countries are offering millions of dollars to anyone who can give information on where he might be.  Not even for his capture, just for information.  When he asked me why I wanted to know, I told him I was thinking about killing Duke Eaglevane.  He didn’t laugh at all.  He looked at me like I said that I was thinking about swallowing molten lava.  He was pretty harsh in expressing his view that a singer from the “softest” country in the world with no training, no resources, and no support should not attempt to hunt down the world’s most dangerous and notorious terrorist.  Correction, the world’s most dangerous and notorious terrorist who may possibly be immortal.  

I barely know the guy, where does he get off talking to me like he’s my father?  I couldn’t get too mad at him though because he loaned me some money to get a place to stay and got me a job down at the docks with a French shipping company unloading ships.  The manager, who was skinnier than me, didn’t bat an eye when I picked up a crate that had to weigh a couple hundred pounds.  I guess Madripoor does have its fair share of weirdos.  

I foolishly thought that since it was a French company, most of the other workers would speak French, but they didn’t, even though it seems like some of the locals do.  The one guy there who spoke Spanish told me they were Vietnamese, but don’t they speak French there too?  I should have paid more attention in model UN.  So I can’t understand whatever horrible things my co-workers are saying about me.  Which is probably for the best.  Out of the many paths I thought my life might take, I would not have put lugging boxes on that list in ten thousand years.

While I was working one day, I heard a horrendous noise and looked out in the harbor to see that two ships had collided.  Actually it looked like one ship had sliced another in half.  Everyone came to gawk as the one ship listed badly with a half-ship stuck in its side while the other half sank like a rock.  I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that what I was seeing in the water were people.  My Spanish speaking “friend” Omar happened to be nearby and I asked him what I should do.  He thought about it for a moment, looked around and then shrugged.   

(translated from Spanish) 

“I don’t see anything you can do.”

“I have super strength.  I must be able to do something.”

He squinted out at the water “Like what?”

“I don’t know, hold up the ship until everyone gets off?”

“How would you do that?  There would be nothing to support you.”

“Maybe I could rip the side open in case anyone is trapped inside.”

He looked at me appraisingly “Could you?”

“I could try.  I mean I have to do something don’t I?”  At that moment the bossman, not the skinny guy who hired me, a big bald bastard with a mess of tattoos on his arms, came over and bellowed something not in English, French or Spanish.  “What did he say?”

“Boss says back to work.”

I gestured “But what about the people in the water?”

Omar and the boss exchanged a few words, Omar gesturing at a small boat nearby, and then he turned back to me with another shrug “Boss says back to work.”

Bonus Post – It’s a map! Beeeaaaaaaaaah!

I really wanted to write bonus pope instead of bonus post. I wonder what a bonus pope would be. Just an extra pope I guess.

Talking about how great Dolly Parton is has become so trendy that I now hate Dolly Parton. And she didn’t even do anything. You did it.

Here’s North America in the alternate world of Elaverse #2. If you look very closely you can see there are some very subtle differences from the North America we know today.

Character – Duke Eaglevane (Elaverse version 2)

The terrorist known publicly as Duke Eaglevane is presumed by many in the intelligence community to be Duke Sigismund Adelsperger of Prussia, born in 1857.  However, there are some that claim he’s been active since at least 1185 as a member (or possibly founder) of a secret order of the Holy Roman Empire dedicated to using money and influence to manipulate covert global events. 

Although many acts of global terrorism are suspected to be the actions of Duke Eaglevane and his followers, due to the covert nature of the organization it’s difficult to assess their true activities with any degree of certainty.  The Duke almost always operates through proxies or under a false flag of extremist groups.  Despite this secrecy, it is agreed in the international community that the following incidents can reliably be attributed to Duke Eaglevane. 

  • Supplying arms and tactical support for rebels in the East Africa Protectorate
  • The assassination of Émile Loubet
  • The 1912 Olympic bombing
  • The discrediting of US Senator and presidential candidate Jacob Black
  • Sinking of the 8 Royal Navy Leander-class frigates in 1960

One of the Duke’s few open operations was the invasion of the Kachin.  This act was undertaken with the approval of the majority of the world governments based on Kachin’s corrupt regime that profited off the international drug trade.   It is believed that as part of this military action, the Duke stole Kachin’s gold reserves while the ultimate goal of the action was seizing control of one of the major drug sources not already in the Duke’s hands. 

Analysts believe that the Duke’s standard procedure is to destabilize developing nations with economic manipulation, and then fund domestic rebels that naturally arise from the unrest in depressed areas. The Duke hires out one of several mercenary outfits under his control to that country’s leadership and slowly usurps control, as well as forcing the subject nation to sell off its national assets to companies controlled by the Duke. 

Aside from unnatural longevity, the Duke’s metahuman capabilities, if any, are unknown.  His organization has access to a level of technology that exceeds many known global standards including cybernetics and a “computer network” that allows communication and electronic data sharing.  It is assumed, but unconfirmed, that the Duke is beyond a genius level intellect in the field of electrical engineering and is responsible for the development of these technologies personally.