December 14, 1973 – I love the Drifters but they’re full of shit about roofs

Remember when I was complaining about living in a broom closet?  I miss those days.  After someone, who was just doing her best, threw a super powered dominatrix through the wall of that broom closet and made a big hole it in we had to bail before the landlord found out.  We were already on thin ice with him because we’re not supposed to have pets and Martialla is legally classified as a goldfish.  Our new home is a tarp on the roof of a fireworks factory.  And we all know how safe fireworks factories are.  Even by roof-tarp standards it’s pretty grim.  I was under said tarp smoking while Blue was stretched out nearby in the sun.  I could practically hear him baking in the heat but he was as happy as a lizard in the sun.  I told him about the jumper and he opened one eye to regard me. 

“Sure, I’ll kill whoever you want.” 

“You will?  I’m . . . surprised.” 

“Why?” 

I gestured vaguely “You know . . . you’re the nice one.” 

“The nice one what?  Are you forgetting how we met?” 

I chuckled “Our eyes locked across a crowded room?  No, I mean I know, you were like a mercenary, but not one of the bad ones.  You weren’t the guy flame throwing, throwering?  Throwing, villages, you were the one who beat up the guy that did that right?  You’re like the guy from the Long Goodbye.  Heart of gold, sucker for a hard luck case, all of that.  A moral and decent man cast adrift in a selfish, self-obsessed society where lives can be thrown away without a backward glance.”   

“Was that Peter Segal?” 

“What?” 

“In the movie.” 

“I’m talking about the book.” 

“Isn’t the moral of The Long Goodbye that loyalty and friendship are meaningless?” 

“Look, we’re getting off track here.” 

He lizard-grinned “Imagine that.” He sat up and turned my direction “Here’s the thing Ela, I can kill this guy if you want, but then what?  You want to help this girl, that’s admirable, but after he’s dead what comes next?  I don’t think she can pop over to the steno pool and gab with the gals while she waits for Mr. Business to need her to take some notes.  I doubt her resume is up to date is what I’m saying.  A lot of bad breaks led to her being where she is now and one killing, as satisfying as it might be, what does it really change?  What’s the best-case scenario here?  She bounces around on the street for a while until gets grabbed up by a less abusive pimp?” 

“Uh, in the comics the heroes always save people and then they become a network of informants for that hero.  How about something like that?” 

“In the comics how does the network of informants pay their rent?” 

I bit my lip “I don’t know, they don’t go into detail about those sorts of things.  I think the heroes in comic strips are usually independently wealthy.” 

“That’s nice for the, I imagine that does make things easier.  Another thing you need to consider.  This guy is probably connected with some outfit or other, if we take him down we’re most likely buying into a conflict with another group – and we already have a couple of those cooking as you may remember.” 

“So you’re saying that I shouldn’t do it?” 

“No, I’m just saying that it’s not as simple as ‘and the handsome magic blue lizard killed the pimp and she lived happily ever after’ if we do it this isn’t the end of the story, it’s the beginning.” 

“Maybe you don’t have to kill him, maybe you can just rough him up and scare him off.” 

“Oh for sure we could, but you’re missing the point.  We can get rid of him one way or the other, that part doesn’t really matter.  Once he’s gone by whatever method it happens, all those things I just said are still hanging over us.” 

I looked up at him glumly “Why is everything impossible?” 

He reached put his giant scaly hand on my foot “Some people would say that hardship makes you stronger.” 

“And what do you say?” 

“I say that in the end, life is horrific, and teaches us nothing.” 

“How very French of you.” 

“Yeah, but I don’t let it affect my sunny disposition, that’s what makes me French Canadian.” 

December 14, 1973 – Justice is a noncorrosive metal, but metals can be melted by the heat of revenge!

“Oh hey Blue, I was just thinking . . . oh shit!”

When he turned and snarled at me I realized that it wasn’t Blue.  That was my mistake on several counts.  First of all I was going to meet Blue and Martialla, so it would be strange to bump into him on the street.  Second of all he wasn’t even blue, he was kind of greyish-brown with some pale yellow marks.  Once I got a good look at him I realized my mistake, but at the risk of being a lizard-racist, when you’re walking about and you see someone who’s got scales and is three feet taller than everyone else your mind kind of fills in the blank.  It’s not like there’s SO many lizard guys around here that it’s unreasonable when you’re not paying attention right?  I mean there’s like four lizard guys tops.  Sidenote why aren’t there any lizard women?  Probably because lizards don’t have boobs.  Why would any male scientist turn a woman into something without boobs?

He roared something at me, his breath was simply AWFUL with the stench of rotting meat, and I was so distracted by that that I didn’t realize I actually understood (mostly) what he we saying until he referred to himself as “Bestia-lagarto cornuda devoradora.  Beside the color he was much different from (than?) Blue, he did indeed have little (and big) horns jutting out from his dinosoury skull.  Although he didn’t really look like a dinosaur, maybe more like a dragon guy?  Really what it was was like one of those little thorny desert lizards, only you know, a huge monster-guy.  He said “Me cago en la leche. Déjame solo!” to me which is some kind of slang (or he’s insane) I didn’t understand in full but I got the gist of it.

I was tempted to give him a good shove, but we were in a crowd and he probably would have plowed down fifty people.  He may weigh eight hundred pounds but I have the strength of twenty strong men.  And that’s only forty pounds per man, which is something a non-strong man should be able to handle.  Not wanting to crush a bunch of locals I contented myself by telling him “estás bien pendejo” – but I totally could have knocked him on his ass.  For sure. 

No sooner had I walked away from that dust-up when I heard someone shouting (in English, well sort of, Australian) at me from the street.  I turned to see that a small gap at formed in the crowd where my old friend the Crimson Cardinal was holding one giant red robo-fist in the air – which seemed to be the only piece of his suit left.  For reasons unknown he wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he really should have been – not a lot of meat on those bones you know what I mean?  There was a network of wires running down his dirty bare arm to some kind of glowing chest-piece strapped to him like a bullet-vest.  He was making such a spectacle that I didn’t notice at first that Captain Patriot USA was at this side furiously swooshing his finger around his glowing green alien pad.

“Stand and deliver Jezebel!  Your time of judgement is at hand, for you face the Hammer of God!”  He threw his hand up dramatically and made a fist, which resonated with a thunderous clap.

“Is the hammer invisible?”

“What?”

“Are you holding an invisible hammer above your head?”

“No . . . I . . . the gauntlet is the hammer of God.”

“Why wouldn’t you say the fist of God then?  Or the hand of God?”

Patriot muttered “I told you it didn’t make sense.”

Red Fist all but spat at him “You’re the one that wanted to call us the Ela Revenge Squad.”

“Like the Superman Revenge Squad?  That would have been cool.  But there’s only two of you, that’s hardly a squad, that’s the problem.”

A local guy I thought was just watching shouting something angrily and the Scarlet Fingerman gestured “Yes, Halimah is a member as well.  Three is enough for a squad.”

I peered at the man “Uh, what did I do to him?  He doesn’t look familiar.”

They spoke briefly “He says you wrecked his kiosk.”

I made a face “Oh yeah, I did do that.  Can you tell him I’m sorry?  There’s not enough big heavy things to throw around here, I don’t know what they want me to do.  Are there boulders around here?”

“Silence!  The time is nigh, you shall be punished for your insolence!”

“Why are you the one with the robot fist?  No offense, but you’re like the guy in those Charles Atlas ads before he does the program.” I pointed at the Blond Bomber “Isn’t that guy like a special forces army ranger marine commando?  Shouldn’t he be the one with the robo attack glove?”

The Aussie pulled his fist back and made some awkward looking punching motion and a wave of concussive force went in my general direction and knocked over a bunch of boxes. 

“No more questions!  I demand satisfaction!”

I pointed “The red light district is over there.” I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Because I am hilarious.  

Mr. America growled “Just kill her already!  You only have enough power for . . .”

The Aussie’s eyes went wide “Don’t tell her how much power we have!”

I walked towards them “Alright, look guys, we had some issues in the past but surely you’re not going to kill me just because I wrecked your suit are you?  You didn’t even really own that suit, didn’t you steal it?  Plus, I was defending myself.  Are you really suggesting that you’re going to kill me for the crime of not letting you kill me?  That makes no sense.”

“I’m not going to kill you, I’m just going to defeat you.”

I shrugged “Okay, I’m defeated.”

He frowned “What do you mean?”

“What do YOU mean?” I raised my hands “Everyone, everyone, your attention please, I Ela hereby admit defeat.  I am officially defeated.” I went down to one knee “I submit to you good sir.  You are the better man.”

His head whipped around at the curious crowd “Get up!”

I looked up at him incredulously “What?  Do you want to hit me?  You’re going to punch a defenseless woman in the face with a cracking bionic fist?”

Blondie’s face was flushed with bloodlust “Yes, do it!”

The Aussie looked around desperately “No . . . I . . . just . . . what . . . I mean . . .”

I stood up and tapped the rig on his chest, which seemed to be burning his skin “Did you guys rig this all up yourselves?”

He shook his head slowly “No, we . . .”

Blondie spit-screamed at his back “Don’t tell her!”

“Yes, do tell her.  My crew needs a contact with a good tech guy.  There have to be some of them around here right?  Some guy who worked for a company and then flew off with one of their prototypes suits and came here to sell it and now he’s like an underground outlaw tech guy?  Something like that?  I feel like that happens all the time.  There would probably be a lot less criminals in supersuits if the superheroes quit forming companies to make supershit.  Can you hook me up with your guy?  I’m about to come into some money and I need an equipment source.”

He looked back uncertainly at the rest of his squad, Blondie was freaking out and Dr. Kiosk looked like he had no idea what was going on “Yeeeah.”

Ela’s bar tour #1 – The cybernetic ghost of Christmas past from the future

(When I first started “worldbuilding Wednesday” a term I totally invented, it was pretty easy. Lately I’ve been struggling with it. But I remain steadfast in my devotion to provide 80% less content than my last story. So here’s what I’m going to try now. On Wednesdays I’ll write something that is canon – I know you’re all tracking the Ela canon very closely – but it doesn’t matter when it happened because it’s just chit-chat and pit-pat. Mostly it’s just a way to wedge in characters that have nothing to do with the plot. “But Jeremy there is no plot as far as I can tell”. Good one, you burned me.)

As you might expect there’s a lot of bars in Madripoor.  Unfortunately most of the bars where they speak English or French are in Touristville and I stay away that area there because the Shadow Lords have that place covered.  The good news is that you don’t really need to speak the language to get a drink at a bar.  The bad news is most of these others bars are under the umbrella of some other criminal jerkoffs.  That’s just the kind of place Madripoor is.  As long as I keep to myself and get in and out without linger usually things are okay.

Today I’m at a place called Theusiga, does that mean something in Bahasa or Malay or Javanese?  Is it just a guy’s name?  Hell if I know.  In the street outside of the place there’s a smashed car that also looks halfway melted.  Based on the bits that are left I think it was an old Chevy Bel Air.  It made me think of when I bought a Chevy Nomad from Malibu Al when I was seventeen.  That dude had four kids and he was still always on the prowl you know?  It’s a strange feeling when remembering a creepy assgrabber with a shitty beard makes you miss home.  

The bar had a bunch of weird glasses that looked like little bent vases but I wouldn’t be dealing with any of those.  I would be drinking cheap mainland beer that comes in a “can” that feels like it’s made out of wallpaper.  One thing I have learned to say is “berikan aku minuman termurahmu” – give me your cheapest booze.   I think that’s what it means anyway.  It works whatever it is.

There wasn’t much of a crowd there, possibly because it was ten AM and possible because one the other patrons had a huge shiny metal rifle across his back – it looked like it was made of chrome but I don’t think you make guns out of chrome.  It also looked like some kind of laser-beam firing thing rather than a normal gun.  The man wearing the gun backpack had on like a red half poncho that looked like it would do just a terrible job of protecting you from the rain.  I suppose it was more of a style choice.  

The man himself was built like a linebacker, and I mean a linebacker for a good team like the Bucks, not some losers like a linebacker for the Bears.  His drinking arm (ah, that’s why he had a half-poncho!) was bare and was home to both shitty tattoos that were just lines and some pretty gnarly scars.  Looks like he stuck his arm in a grain auger like Arty McGill did back home in 9th grade.  He had one of those real grumpy faces like a long-haired cat that just got doused with rain.  He looked like a foreigner though so I figured we might share a common tongue.  

I gestured with my crummy beer “Nice gun.”

He glanced over at me “Thanks.”

I turned in my stool to lean against the bar “Where does someone get a fancy gun like that?”

“This is the twenty-nine model made by the Russo-American Mercantile Company, in sixty years they’re going to be available pretty much anywhere you can buy guns.  But they aren’t cheap and most of the places that sell don’t accept credits.”

“Huh.  So are you crazy or are you a future guy?”

He stopped to look at his mug for a second before drinking “One for sure.  Both probably.”

“So how are the Tropics doing in whatever year you come from?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“The Flint Tropics?  The best basketball team in the world?  Do you not have basketball in the future?  Is it all just Rollerball and Death Races and teenagers hacking each other to bits with axes on TV?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know sports, competition, entertainment?  Or is this what people in the future do for entertainment?  Travel back in time and drink in bars?  Is this some form of sex tourism?  In the future does everyone have VD so you all come back here to get laid?”

“No, I came back to kill a guy.”

“Whoa, so it’s like a most dangerous game thing?  Hunting humans for sport?  That’s pretty grim my man.  Although in your time the guy who killed was already dead right?  So what does that mean exactly?  Time travel brings up some tricky ethical issues.  If you kill someone who’s already dead is that wrong?  I should have paid more attention in my philosophy class at Oberlin.  But in my defense I was pretty high most of the time.”

“I didn’t do it for fun, I did it to prevent the future I came from coming to pass.”

I nodded as I signaled for another beer “Okay, I feel you there, that makes more sense with your whole vibe – grim soldier from the future coming back to prevent some kind of worldwide catastrophe.  How’s it coming along?”

“I did it.  I killed him.  And a couple other people just to make sure.” He seemed a little surprised “It wasn’t very hard.”

I slapped him on the back “Congratulations!  I knew you could do it future man.  Good on ya!  So what are you still hanging around here for?  You gonna bet on some horse races before you head back?  Or just put some cash in the bank?  Sixty years of interest has to really add up.”

He shrugged slightly “Where else am I going to go?”

“Back to your time.”

“My time doesn’t exist anymore, that’s the whole point.”

“You know what I mean though, go back to whatever year you came from and enjoy the fruits of your murderous labors.”

“I fundamentally changed the history of the world, if I went back nothing would even be recognizable to me, no one I knew would even exist.  But it doesn’t matter because I can’t go back anyway.  As soon as I killed my target I lost my signal to the future.  Most likely because in the new timeline that was created time travel was never invented.  I’m stuck here.”

“Whoa, that’s a major bucket of bummer balls.  But if time travel was never invented why are you here?  That’s like a paradox right?”

“No, I came here before time travel wasn’t invented.  You can’t undo things that already happened.”

“But that is literally what you did.”

“I mean relative to the time traveler.  If you travel back in time and kill your parents you don’t cease to exist because you were already born in the now defunct timeline that you came from.  That change effects other people but not you because the things that already happen to you already happened.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

He shrugged “I’m not a scientist, I’m just a guy who shoots people.”

“So by coming back in time you made it so where you come from doesn’t exist, I assume because it sucked.  How is that any different from setting off all the nukes and killing everyone?  Non-existence is non-existence right?  Like if your car is broken smashing it in a trash compactor doesn’t fix it, only fixing it fixes it.  You know?”

He sighed “I didn’t really think it all through honestly.  Things were bad and someone came to me and said that I could go back in time and fix it all.  I’m not sure anyone really expected it to work.  Or that they really knew what would happen if it did.  I definitely didn’t think about what I would be doing afterwards.  I’m not sure I really accomplish anything other than marooning myself in a stupid period of time without any technology.”

“We have technology.”

He gave me a look “Yeah?  You think so?  Can you imagine yourself living happily in 1910?”

“I suppose not.  Just because we don’t have flying cars and jetpacks doesn’t mean you can’t be happy here right?  This is the golden age of music.  Plus we have drugs, and women, good looking ones.  Or men if that’s your thing.  Sell your futuregun to some high-tech company for millions and live the sweet life here in the greatest decade of all time.   Being a rich guy in nineteen seventy-three has to be better than whatever future you lived in that you came back in time to stop from happening right?” His only response was a non-committal grunt “Hey, you know what would be fun?  Let’s go back in time a little more and stop Duke Eaglevane from blowing me up.”

He cast one eye at me for a moment “You look pretty good for someone that got blown up.”

“You’re damn right I do, but I have health issues as a result of my blowed upness, you help me out with that and I’ll show how to live high on the hog in the seventies.”

“But then there would be two of you, what’s your plan for dealing with that?  Plus you would still have those health issues because you did get blown up, just the original version of you wouldn’t because she didn’t.”

“What?  I’m the original me!”

He smiled slightly “I can see you would handle it well.  But it doesn’t matter because I can’t go back either.  My device is just like a clip on a rope, the machine in my time was the rope, which is now gone, I can’t go anywhere.”

I raised my glass “Huh.  Well here’s to you future man, I guess you did . . . something?”

December 13, 1973 – High above

I didn’t see her up there.  It would be a better story if I climbed up there because I saw her but I didn’t.  I just wanted to a place to smoke in peace, away from the crowds, and I’ve dined and dashed at pretty much every café around so there aren’t a lot of choices left.  I never really climbed before, why would I?  But I figured since I’m super strong now climbing up a building would be easy.  And it was.  Mostly.

When I first saw her, Madripoor being Madripoor, I figured she was a sniper about to blow some guy’s face out the back of his skull.  Suddenly climbing up the side of a building seemed like a really bad idea.  You find yourself in somebody’s crosshairs and you’re on the side of a building what are you going to do?  Hope there’s a window nearby you can duck though I suppose. 

But it was just a girl.  My second thought was she was an NBH, Madripoor has way more than their fair share of those – must be a Little Italy kind of thing.  One NBH comes to Madripoor and then that makes a couple more come and so on and so on until there’s a whole community of them.  Plus no extradition, which is nice when you’re a would-be world conqueror or world ender or a guy that shrinks down to climb into women’s underwear drawers or whatever. 

But I don’t think she was.  I didn’t see her do anything “super” anyway.  She was just sitting on the ledge with her knees up and her head down.  I climbed up to the same ledge but I kept my distance.  It was a very pretty view of a very ugly city.  I took out a pack of these weird really long cigarettes from Manila that are so cheap even I can afford them.  They’re not bad actually.  I’ve smoked worse for sure.  I mean they’re not good, but what am I going to do?  Not smoke?  Hilarious. 

After a few minutes she looked over at me.  She wasn’t crying then but I could tell that she had been. 

“Parlez-vous français?”

She looked at me for a long time before answering, I’m not sure she thought I was real. “Un peu.”

“Thinking about getting off this ride huh?  I get that.  It’s tough out there.  I mean you probably came up here specifically so no one would talk to you right?  And yet here I am.  Life is a real honking bitch sometimes.  I mean what are the odds you pick the very building a super person is going to be climbing up.  It’s the kind of coincidence that really makes you wonder isn’t it?  You don’t mind if I smoke do you?”

She shook her head.

“Thanks.” I looked at the cigarette in my hand “I guess I’m killing myself too, just much more slowly.  I’m not from here, just in case you thought I was a very pale woman from East Timor, and one of the first days I was here I saw a woman drown herself.  It was pretty shocking.  I’m not sure I could have done anything about it, but I didn’t try to do anything about it.  I was in low place at the time – I figured she knew what she was doing.  I mean Madripoor, no offense intended, it’s pretty awful.  I imagine you’re up here because you know that all too well.

But I regret not trying to help her now.  And that’s probably going to stick with me.  Maybe I couldn’t have done anything, but I should have tried.  That’s all we can do is try.  Sometimes it seems like I can’t even save myself, that I can’t do anything, but if we don’t push back whenever we can that’s when things get really bad.  It may not seem like we can do much because maybe we can’t, put every little bit counts.  It’s like voting, I voted for the president of my home country, but so did twenty million other people.  And he didn’t win by one vote, so my vote didn’t matter right?  But if everyone thought that way then he would have lost.  It’s tricky, because it does matter even when it doesn’t. 

Do you guys vote here?  Maybe that story is culturally biased.  I’m rambling here but I guess the point is that I’m not going to tell you not to jump because I don’t know what your life is like.  It could be a nightmare all day every day.  But I am going to say this, you’re very young, which means if you want you could have a lot of years ahead of you.  I can’t promise that those will be better years, I can’t even promise you they won’t get worse, but they could get better.  There’s a chance.

I had this friend named Elvis, not the singer a different guy, and his grandma as far as I can tell is like a million years old.  She’s had more hard years than I’ve been alive.  But she’s had good times too.  She has stories that put my floor on the jaw.  She’s old as dirt and she gets up every day and takes on the world all over again because there are good things out there.  She knows she’s going to take some hits but she’s going to stand in there and take it on the chin anyway because it’s worth it. 

I don’t know if I’m making much sense here, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this.  If you know, and I mean really know inside where it counts, not in your head but in your soul, that you’re never going to have another good day – never ever – then you should do what you have to do.  But if there’s a chance, any chance at all, that you could have a happy day isn’t it worth it to find out?  See if you can string a couple of those days together.  One thing leads to another and you have a life going that’s worth fighting for. 

You take one step and that’s it.  Everything you have and everything you’re ever going to have is gone.  It’s the kind of thing you need to be really God damn sure about because there’s for sure no backsies.  I imagine that you’re out here because you feel like you don’t have any love in your life.  But I’m here talking to you now, which may not be much, but it’s something.  The rose that grew from concrete you know?”

I don’t know how long we sat up there, several hours at least.  I offered her a cigarette but she declined.  I wasn’t sure she even understood most of what I had said.  It was kind of nice watching the city from above.  When you don’t think about what goes on down there it almost looks beautiful from this far up.  It was helpful for me just to take some time and sit with my thoughts, and a lot of the time not to think at all – just be.  It was like meditation, with smoking.  I say this about Madripoor – they have some glorious sunsets out here.  Because of all the pollution you see.

She finally spoke as it was growing dark “You said you had a friend named Elvis.  What happened to him?”

I lit up another cigarette “He was murdered because he helped me.  He was a good person, he was always trying to help everyone.”

“That’s very sad.”

A sudden wave of sorrow snuck up on me and a few tears sneaked out before I could clamp it down “Yes, it is very sad.  I try not to think about it too much.”

“Do you want to kill my pimp?”

I shook my head “No.  I’m not a killer.  I may have killed two people by accident but I don’t do that generally.” I look a long drag off my smoke “But I do have friends that are killers.  I think the same speech applies though, you need to be sure before you do something like that.”

“I missed a lot of you what you said, it’s windy up here and my French isn’t strong.”

“Too bad, I think it was a pretty good one.  For my first try anyway.”

December 11, 1973 – Drydock doesn’t sound great either when you think about it

“What is this place?”  

Blue continued with his “visual scans” which is what normal people call looking around “It’s a drydock.”

I pointed “But there’s water right there.”

“A drydock is where you take a ship out of the water to work on it, you still need a channel of water to get the ship to the place, how else are you going to move a ship?  A wetdock is where the ship is still in the water while you do maintenance.”  

“Wetdock, I hate that word.  Sounds gross.  Where is everyone?”

“It’s shut down right now because the workers are on strike.”

“Workers have rights in Madripoor?”

“No, that’s why they’re on strike.  Well that’s not exactly true, some of them do.  Or at least they try to have them.  I know for a fact that there’s a union of exotic entertainers.”

I shook my head “Of course there is.” I looked around for the fiftieth time “Why did you choose this place?”

“This way Martialla can be lurking in the water.  She’s our ace in the hole.”

“She’s an acehole alright.”

I tensed up when a man came walking into the place wearing a ridiculous duster and a cowboy hat – what year does he think this is – but Blue met him with a handshake and they exchanged words in some language I didn’t understand.  Mr. Longcoat looked at me with mild curiosity and then took up a position at me side across from Blue.  

“Who’s this guy?”  

“This is that bulletproof man I was telling you about.”

“I thought he only did stuff like this for money.”

“He does.”

“But we don’t have any money.”

Blue’s tongue flicked out guilty “We have a little money.”

I gave him a sidelong look “Why is he dressed like that?  Is he a cowboy?”

“He’s from down south, I guess they dress like that down there.”

I turned to out new friend “¿Dónde está tu caballo vaquero?”

He look at me uncomprehendingly and then said something to Blue again, who turned to me “He doesn’t speak Spanish.”  

“I thought you said . . .”

My train of thought was interrupted when three more fellows sauntered into the place – they weren’t dressed like cowboys but they walked like they were.  I didn’t notice it at first, but I’ve come to realize that there’s definitely a preference for long hair amongst the criminals of Madripoor – the local ones anyway.  I think it’s a status symbol some kind.  One guy had a double pistol holster rig thing set up inside his suitcoat, it’s rare to see a bad guy with a holster – they seem to like the gun in the pants method.  I guess this guy didn’t want to shoot his dick off.  One of his friends had a shotgun and the other guy had a god damned sword.  A sword!  Who does that?  What they didn’t have with them was Maggie.

I noticed that shotgun was smoking an Embassy Gold “Hey, can I have one of those?”

Holsters responded in English “He doesn’t speak French.”

“Would you mind asking him if I can bum a smoke?” He stared at me, stone-faced “Okay, straight to business then, I don’t see Maggie so is she around the corner in a van or something?  How is this going to work?” 

He sneered “How it works is you give us the formula and once we know it works we release our prisoner.”

Blue glared down at him “That wasn’t what we agreed on.”

I sighed and grabbed holsters by the front of his suit and tossed him into the water.  The cowboy stepped in front of me as shotgun tried to give me both barrels – and as promised the cowboy proved to  indeed be bulletproof.  The wandering swordsman came forward with a vicious slash that Blue caught on his forearm, drawing a tiny line of blood across his scales, and then hammered the attacker to the ground with a fist – which drew all kinds of blood.  I stepped around the cowboy and hurled the now discarded shotgun at the rapidly fleeing third man – clocking him in the back of the head and sending him hurtling ass over teakettle.  A moment later Martialla dragged the leader out of the water and across the floor by us.  It looked like something had taken a bite out of his face.

“What happened?”

She waved vaguely “Barnacle, they’re really sharp.”

“Ouch.” I knelt down by the sopping went man “Do we have to do the whole thing where we threaten you and then you say you’ll never talk and then we break your foot and you say if you tell us you’ll die and then we say if you don’t tell us you’re going to die or can we skip all that?”

A new voice responded “I think we can skip that.” 

I turned to see my old friend Mr. Smiles walking towards us.  Instead of a tan leisure suit he was wearing some kind of cornflower blue number that I think was a Kareeba suit, wasn’t quite like anything I had seen before.  

“Long time no see, you never call, you never write.  Makes a girl feel unappreciated.”

He smiled his punchable smile “We were always nearby, I’m sure you could feel us watching over you.”

“That must be why things always go so well for me.  So what?  These dorks were just your stalking horse and the Shadow Lords actually have Maggie?  Is that the game?”

He nodded “An oversimplification but correct for this negotiation.”

“What are we negotiating?  Haven’t you guys given up on me by now?  I can’t be worth all this trouble to you.”

“Indeed you are not.  It seems we were sold a bill of sale for goods that didn’t live up to what we were promised.  You’re very strong but there’s no chance if you winning the tournament.”

“Jesus, that’s what this has all been about?  That fucking tournament?  Why do you care so much about it?”

“That doesn’t concern you.  The fact is that we paid for a champion and you’re what we got.  You owe us someone capable of winning.  Give us someone who can do that and we shall return Margaret to you.”

“Why didn’t you give me that choice with Elvis?  Why did you have to kill him?”  

“He was warned.  He chose his fate.”

Top Marvel characters of the 70s

One of my staples in a blog I had 7 blogs ago was making fun of listicles.  It wasn’t very creative but hey, what do you want from me.  Anyway, I saw a listicle this morning of the best superhero to debut in each year of the 1970’s and figured I’d write about it for old times’ sake.  Since this blog is currently sort of about 70’s superhero stuff I thought I’d post it here too.  

1970 – Valkyrie – No

Correct Answer – Conan the Barbarian

According to the writer of the article Valkyrie is a break-out star from the MCU.  She was neat in Ragnarök but I felt to me like that character barely did anything.  Seemed like a tacked-on third wheel to me rather than a break-out star.  But either way Conan is way more of a thing than Valkyrie.  

1971 – Man-Thing – No

Correct Answer – Doc Sampson

No one even knows who Man-Thing is.  Granted probably not a lot of people know who Doc Sampson is either, but I think MORE people know about him at least.  I was tempted to say Mockingbird because she’s one of my favorites but I admit she’s not that well known.  She could be though because the Black Widow character in the MCU is really just re-skinned Mockingbird than Black Window as I remember her from the comics.  So the Black Widow you know and love really is Mockingbird.  I wondered why Mockingbird didn’t show up in the MCU but they already had one woman so obviously they didn’t want to double up.  

Doc Sampson has technically been introduced in the MCU, the dude from Modern Family played him in the Incredible Hulk and then all those scenes were cut from the movie.  What’s going on with the Hulk?  Is that still going to be a thing in the MCU?  If so I hope Doc Sampson gets in the mix.  Maybe in She-Hulk?  I hear they’re going to use She-Hulk to bring the Incredible Hulk movie more actively into the MCU.  Without the guy from Fight Club of course.

1972 – Luke Cage – Yes  

They nailed this one, although I would like to see Tigra in the Avengers line-up.  I suppose after the Cats movie made everyone go blind they’re gunshy about cat people.  

1973 – Howard the Duck – No  

Fucking Thanos was introduced in 1973 (and is the correct answer).  I assume this is a joke.  Blade and Shang-Chi also debuted in ‘73 who are also far more important than a duck that tried to nail Lea Thompson.  Not that I blame him.  Also in ‘73, Killmonger.

1974 – Wolverine – Yes  

As Wolverine has slowly taken over 80% of the comics in the Marvel library I’ve grown to hate him.  But this is correct, I can’t say he’s not the biggest deal from 1974.  Poor Punisher.  Although if you wanted to, you could argue that for a couple years in the general public perception Punisher was probably more well-known than Wolverine.  When the Punisher movie came out a dude I game with was super pissed that he was played by Tom Jayne because he was a big Punisher fan and hated Tom Jayne.  That guy from Walking Dead is a much better Punisher.  

1975 – Storm – Yes

I’ve never much cared for Storm myself, but she’s got the pedigree to be number one here over some of my favorites, Jamie Maddrox, Moon Knight, and freaking Nightcrawler!  What a year ‘75 was. 

1976 – Rocket Raccoon – Maybe

This is a tough one because no one in the world knew who Rocket was until Guardians of the Galaxy came out.  Now everyone loves him, but can such an obscure character be the best from ‘76?  The thing is there’s not a lot of competition.  Black Tom Cassidy is an X-people staple but even with a small funny bit in Deadpool I doubt anyone knows him.  For me it’s Captain Britian but I don’t know if anyone else in the world liked Excalibur but me.  I guess it is Rocket by default?

1977 – Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) – No

Correct Answer – Sabertooth 

I may be biased on this because all I remember about Jessica Drew from the comics is that it seemed like she was Spider-Woman for like half a second and then was de-powered and was a normal person just hanging around.  I’m not a fan of the Jimmy Olsen types.  But in any case Sabertooth is much more recognizable if for no other reason than being Wolverine’s archenemy slash best friend slash brother slash father slash whatever.  Those Wolverine movies were pretty terrible but I really liked Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth.  I hoped I might see that again but I saw an interview were Liev said that playing Sabertooth was lame and he wasn’t going to do it again.  

I would further argue that Jessica Drew isn’t even the most well-known lady spider person – which is obviously Gwen Stacy.  Even May Parker is ahead of Jessica Drew.  Also when that Netflix show came out Jessica Jones I was confused because I got it mixed up with Jessica Drew.  They violated the two Jessica rule.

  

1978- Mystique – Yes

Not much to say her, you can’t really compete with a nude Rebecca Romajin followed by a nude Jennifer Lawrence.  I actually think the way Mystique has been portrayed in the movies is really crappy but whatever, she’s clearly more well-known than Arcade.  Speaking of Arcade, I just read Avenger’s Arena.  I liked that they just said flat out that it was a rip off of the Hunger games.  

1979 – Northstar – No

Correct answer – ???

To me it’s the Shadow King, but even with that Legion show I don’t know if everyone else knows or cares about the Shadow King.  Ant-Man and War Machine both came around in ‘79.  War Machine feels like a bigger presence in the MCU as Tony’s buddy, but Ant-Man gets his own movies so it seems like something of a toss-up.  

Is Ela ever going to leave Madripoor?!

Getting back to some world-building.  Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands (note to self, invent new salad dressing called 17 thousand island) let’s look at one (that’s fake).   

Like many of the island in the archipelago Malimgum has not historically been home to sustained human habitation.  The southern side of the island is steep with cliffs and the water carries a heavy current and swells that make approaching from the island by water difficult.   

There is some evidence that the island may have been visited and served as a fishing camp in prehistory but it has been little studied to date.  Recorded human habitation began in the 18th century when the island was used as a pirate base until the late 1730s.  Presumably this is when the island’s many wild goats and sheep were introduced.   

After the decline of piracy in the area, Malimgum was undisturbed by man again until an emergency airstrip was constructed on the island by the Dutch in the 1930s.  The airstrip was to be expanded during the conflict with the Empire of Japan but was bombed before the worked could be completed, then captured by the Japanese navy and rebuilt, and then bombed again by the RAF before ultimately being abandoned by both sides in the conflict. 

The airstrip was partially repaired and expanded in the 60s as a stop on the network of a smuggling ring run by a group that was either under the control of the Kenran-kai or had  a working relationship with them.  This group was the project by an NBH known by a variety of monikers but mostly generally called Silbaco.  Silbaco was a former member of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional before its destruction at the hands of the Warmasters and a joint CS-US expeditionary force.  Abandoning dreams of a communist utopia Silbaco settled instead for growing wealthy off heroin trafficking.   

Silbaco is presumed dead after his plane was shot down by a Japanese pilot in ’69, an assumption supported by the fact that there is no evidence of the smuggling operation was abandoned after this incident, leaving Mulimgum uninhabited once again. Or so people think, dun-dun-dun! 

Also it occurs to me that I mentioned the Kenran-kai before without going back and saying who they are.   

The Kenran-kai is a clan at the bottom of the Yakuza hierarchy.  Formed out of the remnants of the traitorous faction whose lives were spared by virtue of their loyalty to the Shotozumi-rengo they are given the worst jobs possible as penance for their sin of having disloyal friends. They are put in charge the most unproductive and dangerous Yakuza territories (like Madripoor). Their main actives are smuggling and providing “protection” to the neighborhoods in their domains.  They have had some success in bringing the small gangs under their control, anything more ambitious than this is currently outside of their reach.   

Whether it’s because they are more enlightened than the other Yakuza clans or because of necessity, the Kenran-kai have been accused of recruiting non-Japanese into the clan which only serves to lower their esteem in the eyes of those they are trying to impress.  

December 9, 1973 – Even more boring than the Andromeda Strain

This morning I saw two guys fight because they both called themselves Glacier.  There was a big blocky white dude with a blonde crew cut and a scrawny local dude.  They both had cold/ice/whatever powers but Blondie didn’t seem to be immune to cold himself, unlike his competitor.  Ergo it wasn’t much of a fight.  Seeing a man frozen solid in the middle of the street is a great way to start your day.  Bloody frozen chunks of human flesh look a lot like some of the fish dishes they serve around here.  Even that couldn’t make me lose my appetite.  

I have to assume this kind of bullshit happens all the time.  I don’t really understand why some people feel like they need to have a codename and a stupid stretchy suit once they have superpowers, but they do.  And many of those people probably chose the same name unless their power is super-creativity.  I bet these two aren’t the only Glaciers out there.  Anyone who ends up with cold powers is probably going to call themselves Mr. Freeze or Snowman or something like that.  People aren’t that imaginative, I bet fifty percent of the time people think of a name that’s already in use.  I bet there’s at least a dozen Captain Fantastics and Major Victory’s and Guardians and Defenders out there.  Maybe Mr. X should change his stupid tournament to people fighting over naming rights.

I figured the best way to find Maggie was to go straight to the source.  And by source, I mean her husband.  Asking around with my charming charm, I found out that Mr. Maggie has been flying into and out of Madripoor frantically since she disappeared.  By all accounts, he’s looking pretty haggard.  Seemed to me like he was worth a conversation.  Since his movements were erratic and didn’t seem to be part of a schedule (at least not one I could divine), I staked out the airport for a couple days.  

That alternated between being boring and awful.  Boring because airports aren’t all that interesting.  Awful because on a shockingly regular basis, women who were clearly not happy with what was happening were taken off and put on airplanes.  Would I have done something if heavily-armed gangsters hadn’t been eyeballing me the entire time?  Should I have done something anyway?  I think Blue is a good person but routinely ignores horrible things going on around here.  I guess that’s just what happens when you’re in a place like this.  If you want to stay alive, you learn to keep your head down and pick your battles.  I’ve heard that New York is the same way.  

Eventually Mr. Maggie showed up without any luggage, I wouldn’t say that he looked haggard but certainly worried and harried both.  He all but ran through the airport to a waiting ugly yellow Lincoln Continental.  I got in the backseat right after he got in the passenger side, just like they do in the movies.  It was pretty cool.  The driver, who I swear looked like Oddjob from Goldfinger even though that probably sounds racist, pulled out a gun but Mr. Maggie put a restraining hand on him and looked back at me.

“I’m working on it, I just need more time.”

I shook my head with a slight smile “Wrong side.”  

He frowned “What?”

“Wrong side.  I’m not one their side, I’m on your side.  Tell me who has Maggie and I’ll run and fetch her.  Well not literally, I hate running, it’s like an expression.  You know what I mean.”

We went to an oddly constructed hotel that seemed to be styled after the Tower of Pisa.  If I was building a hotel I wouldn’t choose to model it on something that’s renowned for being about to fall over, but what do I know about architecture?  Mr. Maggie told me that Maggie had been taken by the Thousand Thunders who were holding her hostage to extort him into handing over “The Formula”.  Some employee of his boring company had been turned into a super-person accidentally during the production of something or other and they wanted the secret recipe.  

I asked him how an industrial cooling or piping or whatever company could accidentally make a superbeing, I made a pretty good joke about “Pipe-man”, a guy with pipes for arms but he didn’t laugh.  Probably because he’s worried about his wife being chained to a radiator and getting cornholed regularly by her captors.  Otherwise he would have been laughing his ass off.  Trust me on that.  

He proceeded to lay out to me the most boring conspiracy that could ever possibly exist.  As we all know, the nations of the world (except the ones that are jerks) have all agreed to murder any aliens they find and destroy their technology.  It’s a balance of power thing.  Well it turns out they’re pretty faithful about the first part and more philandrist when it comes to the second part – everyone is trying to get their hands on alien tech so they can reverse engineer it and leap ahead scientifically and not have a balance of power.

This sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  The CEO of boring industries spent what seemed like forever telling me about some compound the government alien murder teams gave his company that allowed them to make some alloy that makes their evaporative, forced draft open-loop cooling towers reject heat from the condenser water loops of industrial chiller units 30% more efficiently.  When you think alien tech you think about flying belts and rayguns, not this bullshit.  

Anyway, one of their chemical engineers was messing with the alien goo and it blew up in her face and now she’s super and the Thousand Thunders want to know how to do it.  Which is a problem because the woman who got a faceful of super goo (phrasing) has disappeared and took all her notes with her – they think, there may not even be any notes since the whole thing was an accident.  So Mr. Maggie has been bankrupting the company trying to find his runaway scientist and alternately flying back here to beg for more time from the kidnappers.  

He told me all this without much prodding.  I guess that shows how desperate he is.  He threw back the last of his fourth highball (to calm his nerves) and looked at me desperately.  

“You can help me find her?”

I nodded “Well we know who has her so just tell them you have the formula and you’re ready to make the trade, then we just take her.”

His eyes darted around desperately “What?  No, we need to find . . .”

I waved off his concerns “No. Forget about your scientist, that’s a no-go, your problem was that you didn’t have the muscle to force the issue with these assholes, now you do.  Tell them to bring Maggie wherever to make the trade and then we just take her.  Simple as peach pie.”

He looked at me dubiously “You’re the muscle?”

I flexed my arm and kissed my bicep “I sure am.  You want me to arm wrestle Oddjob to prove it?  Or throw the bed out the window?  Plus it’s not just me, I have some friends that will be helping as well.  One guy is like eight feet tall and has blue scales, it’s really something.”

“Why are you doing this?’

“Because we’re good people.  Although, since you mention it, a monetary reward of some kind wouldn’t be off the table, would it?  Nobody tells you that superheroing has shit pay.”

December 6, 1973 – Let’s take a tangent from that tangent to tangent this tangent over here

Dan and Xu eventually did show up back at their armored RV or whatever that monster is.  Dan immediately freaked out because he thought I was following him.  That guy needs to lay off the coke or whatever he’s on that makes him so paranoid.  Once Xu and I peeled off and hit a couple bars, she gave me the information I was after regarding Baron Orlock’s Island.  I wrote it all down so Martialla and Blue wouldn’t get on my ass for not having “complete” information, it was boring so I knew I would have forgotten most of it. 

I assumed that Maggie had just returned to the CS after the hotel incident or moved to another hotel at the least, but Xu told me that no one has seen her since that day when I “destroyed” the Goodwhatever Hotel, which for the record was more than a month ago.  I’m starting to feel like the protagonist of a mystery novel series – does everyone I meet end up getting kidnapped or murdered?  Maggie had said that her husband had been up to some underhanded dealings, but what kind of criminal dealings that result in a kidnapping could you have when you’re in the business of making pipes for industrial cooling?  Or was it coolant for industrial pipes?  It definitely had something to do with pipes or cooling or coolant.  Or engineering? 

I was eating ribs out of a garbage bag (not BBQ ribs, some kind of vinegary rib dish they make around here, I don’t even know what animal of ribs they’re made of) while Blue and Martialla passed my scribbled notes back and forth and made various astonished and disgusted noises. 

Blue waved one of the cocktail napkins at me like a flag “Are you serious?  Gun emplacements?  How are we supposed to attack this place?”

When I just shrugged, Martialla cast a suspicious fish eye on me “Why are you being so quiet?”

I sighed “A friend of mine has gone missing, I think I need to look for her.”

She made a gross fish-face “What friend?  You don’t have any friends other than us, and we’re not really your friends either.  More importantly, NO!  Bad Ela.  We just talked about this!  You do this every time, we just start down one path and then you flutter away.  You’re like a butterfly!”

“I think you mean I’m like a kid chasing after a butterfly if you’re implying that I have a short attention span.  Saying someone is like a butterfly means they’re beautiful and fragile, which I guess is also correct.”

“Whatever, the point is . . .”

“She’s rich.”

Blue leaned in “What’s that now?”

“Her husband is the owner or CEO or something of Kruger-Donovan-Miter Industrial something or other.  He was here doing some business stuff with Derecktor and she tagged along.  They’re loaded.  Now, doesn’t that sound like the kind of person we want to have on our side if we’re going to attack an island fortress?  You’re always crying about how we don’t have any resources.  How much do you think saving a wife is worth?  And keep in mind she’s a good looking one and I bet she really tries in bed, too.  That has to be a million at least right?  Then you can buy all the guns you want.  This is Madirpoor, you can probably buy a god damn attack helicopter.”

Martialla continued to scowl “A helicopter costs more than a million dollars, Ela.”

“Yeah, that’s the important thing to focus on.  I’m suggesting that if we find Maggie we’ll be rewarded handsomely and that money could be put to good use in rescuing your niece.”

Blue sat back and flicked his tongue thoughtfully “How long has she been missing?”

“About a month.”

His tail twitched in surprise “A month?!  Ela, she’s dead.  You’ve got seventy-two hours to find someone at the outside.  No one would hold a person for that long, it just doesn’t . . .” His head swiveled to look at Martialla “I mean I’m sure . . . your niece is fine . . . sometimes . . . uh . . .

Martialla rolled her eyes “Nice recovery, Lucien.  The good news is you don’t know what you’re talking about.  This isn’t a serial killer we’re dealing with, I was held captive for six months by Pecos terrorists, it all depends on what they want.  When was the last time she was seen?”

“Well, remember that last time Mr. X sent his merry band of murder girls after me?  The second time I mean, not the first or third time.”