Where do comic book characters go when they die? (Update)

That’s a trick question, comic book characters never die.  I’ve never understood the lyrics to Lake of Fire, what does the 4th of July have to do with souls condemned to the fires of Hell?  Did they pick that just because it rhymes?  Lazy. 

I feel weird and pompous when I give updates – queue Roman from Party Down “People respect my opinion, I have a prestigious blog sir”- but if I don’t post something, surely the few readers I do have would lose their minds and rise up against the government. 

Now that comic book Ela has joined D&D Ela on the fields of Ela-sium (wordplay!), I’m going to take a break before kicking up again with a new Ela.  Maybe I’ll try and do some website updates this weekend and maybe start posting Ela story 3 after that? 

If you can’t live without my awesome stories check out my other blog.  https://agtheshine.com/2021/08/10/bright-lights-bug-city-part-1/ Some people like it. 

My routine is all out of whack.  After crushing my work out because I am such a beast, I thought what do I do now that I don’t have a highly successful blog to curate?  What did I do before I spent a good amount of my free time creating a crummy world of plot holes and spelling errors?  I think I watched TV.  Before streaming came and killed TV. 

Sometimes my girlfriend and I wonder what we did before the lockdown.  Did we go places?  Where did we go?  What did we do?  How did we have time to do that?  Did we like it? 

I’ve started slowly watching World Championship Wrestling from 1987 one episode at a time, I could ratchet that up a notch.  Kick it up to two episodes a night. 

I could watch all the Pitch Meetings, those are pretty funny.  Surely watching hundreds of them in a row wouldn’t get tiresome and turn something I enjoy into something I hate.

I googled “What should I do” and it said to me “Visit a suburb in your city that you’ve never been to before, or somewhere you haven’t explored much.” I have been to ALL the suburbs of the mighty Des Moines Metro but pretty much all of them would count as somewhere I haven’t explored much.  But I’m probably not going to do that.

When I was in college and I had no friends nearby, when I got tired of writing and reading I would drive around sometimes.  This was before entertainment had been invented.  I never much liked it, I was literally just killing time.  They say youth is wasted on the young.  When I think how much of my childhood I spent being bored, that sounds right. 

In a meeting today at work someone said “We’re cooking on the front burner today!”  Is that an expression? 

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me.  How are you? 

Date unknown – We’ll dance again in our dreams

When I woke up I thought for a minute I was back in the hold of the Queen Mary or the Royal Sovereign or the Fancy Empress or whatever the name of the ship was that brought me to Madripoor and this thrilling new life of violence and horror.  But it was “just” a room, like on land I mean, not in a ship.  It didn’t have any bars like on the TV but it had a real prison vibe, maybe this is what solitary confinement is like.  I’m no architect but the place seemed to be designed for super-person containment, I’m not sure what’s harder and stronger than concrete but I think that’s what it was made out of.  The door wasn’t like a normal door, it was more like the door to a bank vault.   

There was a cord or cable or whatever around my neck that led into a metal grommet (is that the right word?) through the wall.  It was so tight around my neck that I couldn’t get my fingers behind it to get any leverage on it to break it, and the cord (or whatever) itself was some kind of slick material that I couldn’t get a good grip on for breaking either.  It felt like it was made of liquid metal.  No problem, just rip the wall down right?  I have the strength of twenty strong men, even super concrete should be breakable with that kind of awesome power.

And maybe it would have been ordinarily, but I wasn’t feeling great.  I smoke some grass now and then.  I tried ludes a couple times.  And like most people, I chewed on the adrenal gland of a coyote once.  But other than that, drugs aren’t really my thing.  So I don’t know what it feels like to be on heroin, but if I had to guess I think it felt like the way I feel now.  For the first time in one hundred and twenty eight days, I wasn’t being chewed up from the inside by hunger.  I had forgotten what it felt like to not be hungry.  For the first time in one hundred and twenty eight days, I didn’t have a splitting soul-slapping headache. 

That sounds good right?  But I wasn’t okay.  I think those things were still happening, I just couldn’t feel them.  It’s like I was cut off from my mind.  I could move, but it was like I was underwater.  No, it was like I was underneath an ocean made up of peanut butter instead of water.  The thick name brand stuff.   My fingers felt like they weighed a ton each.  Worst of all, I was having a hard time catching my breath.  I remember seeing an uncle of mine one time sleeping in a recliner and it seemed like he would stop breathing every few minutes.  He was almost dying without knowing.  That’s what I felt like.  Except I did know. 

I grabbed at the wall-hole but I couldn’t rip it down.  I was still stronger than normal, just not strong enough.  After a minute, I sat down and just panted like a worn out retriever.  It felt like someone was punching me in the chest every time my heart beat.  I started to hate my heart for beating and hurting me like that.

I don’t know how long she was there before I noticed.  Could have been hours.  The vault-door was open and sitting before me was Serpentina.  It took me a while to make my brain comprehend she was sitting on a chair, at first I thought she was hovering before me with her knees bent.  Which would be a strange superpower to have, but you know, Bouncing Boy.  She didn’t look like the last time I saw her – old and weak – she looked like the first time I saw her, young and powerful.  She had the magic necklace I had taken from her, bouncing against her firm bosoms again.  I wonder how a Madripoor crime asshole got a mystical South American necklace.  I’ll probably never find out.  Money I guess. 

I felt like I needed to hold my eyelids open with my hands to meet her gaze “Hey Tina . . . where’s Archie?  Where’s Big Moose?”  I realized that I was speaking English and she probably couldn’t understand me.  I tried, but I couldn’t access the part of my brain that knew French “Sorry T, I can’t seem to remember French right now because I’m so high.”

She crossed her legs, her stupid leather suit squeaking like mad, and leaned forward, probably because I wasn’t speaking very loudly and she had to hear me “I’m not sure I’d call having massive amounts of presynaptic neurotoxins in your body being high, but you have very little other frame of reference.”

I nodded once very, very slowly “Good, you speak English, I’d hate to do the James Bond villain banter through an interpreter.  That would ruin the dramatic tension.”

“I couldn’t agree more, although there’s no tension really.  I’ve won.  You have a very impressive constitution my foreign friend, you already have enough venom in you to kill twenty men and you’re still talking, but it shouldn’t take much more to finish the job.”

I couldn’t help but smile “Twenty normal men or twenty strong men?  I get it, right, snake venom, because of the serpent thing.  That’s good . . . uh, marketing . . . or whatever you call it.  Hey, you know, I want to apologize for that whole thing before where I ripped your necklace off and exposed your suddenly flabby old tits to everyone.  That wasn’t my intention.”

“No, you were just going back on your word seconds after giving it and trying to beat information out of me instead of following through with the deal we had just made.  Seconds before.  Literally seconds.”

“Yeah . . . and I feel really bad about the whole thing.  I heard your whole criminal empire fell apart after I took your necklace.  Actually what I heard is that you were dead.  I heard that one of your lieutenants cut your bloody throat.”

“They certainly tried.  I lost almost everything because of you, but I had a couple million stashed away for a rainy day.  It pays to be prepared when you’re the leader of a criminal conspiracy.  It’s a shame really, I used that money to hire a team of superpowered mercs ready to take you and your friends on.”

“Whoa, that sounds like it would have been a heck of a melee.  Super cool.”   

“Yes, but then a little blonde girl from the States comes to me and says that she has you trussed up like a chicken in a butcher’s window and heard I was offering a bounty.  I wonder if I can get some of my money refunded from the mercenaries since they didn’t end up doing anything.  Or maybe I should have them kill your lizard friend and your fish friend anyway, just for good measure.”

I wagged my finger at her “Yes, you should do that, and make me watch.  Killing me now?  That’s too good for me after what I did to you.  Keep me alive to see my friends die.”

She smiled “That would buy you some time, James Bond style.”

“Hey, how about this?  Since I crushed your criminal empire, you don’t kill me, what you do is you use me as your attack dog and help you build it back up again?  I got the superpowers, you know, we can do it together, just us girls.  Feminism.  Those Shadow Lords need to be taken down a peg or two.  How about we go after them?  Knock them off and install you as the numero uno crime gang around here.  And then once you’re back in power, you’ll kill me.  You can take my family back home as hostages to make sure I go through with it.  What do you say to that?”

“Charming to the end.  I think I’ll just kill you instead.”

“Final offer, how about instead of poisoning me more right now – instead, what if you torture me to death over the next several days?  Or weeks even?  Make it last as long as possible.  Really teach me the errors of what I’ve done.”

She stood up and someone came in to fold up her chair “Tempting, but I don’t think it would be wise to give your friends time to mount a rescue attempt.  They’re quite loyal.  God knows why.”

I wracked my brain for a moment and then I blew out a long breath “Well balls.”

January 10, 1974 – Madripoor Bloodsport Death Tournament Charity Pro-Am for the Cure

Now that Martialla’s dumb niece has been rescued, it’s on to the next order of business – winning the Madripoor annual super being super fight to the super death for charity.  As I’m sure you remember, the deal with the Shadow Lords is that we win the tournament and they give us Maggie.  I know the Wildman is in the thing.  Mr. X of course.  The Challenger probably would have been a contender if I hadn’t shattered his shinbones like walnut shells.  I’m pretty sure there is a guy called the Contender that’s here for it.  I should probably find out who all is in this thing. 

If we’re being honest, and I feel that we are, I wasn’t thinking about it much because I was expecting that Blue would do it.  Unfortunately he said that he can’t win the thing.  He said that he could probably survive a match but he didn’t think he could win.  In particular, he said that he would never be able to defeat Mr. X, who’s always in the finals since the whole thing is just kind of his private vanity project.  Blue didn’t think he could even make it out of the first round. 

Martialla agreed with him. As they tell it, his gimmick is that he reads your mind while you fight so he knows what you’re going to do and can avoid or block all your attacks.  I guess that’s why I was able to catch him with his pants down, so to speak, because of my brain thing. 

Speaking of pants being down, since Blue was out of the running I decided that it was time to pay a visit to the Star-Spangled Man with the Can (of beer).  He’s a super soldier (of sorts) and I think he has the same thing like me where he’s in constant pain from headaches so maybe that means he’s immune to mind stuff too.  If he’s still pissed about me sticking him with the bill at that restaurant, I’ll just sleep with him again and smooth that all over.  I’m wearing deodorant now so if he thought I was something before?  Wee-ow!  Buckle up buddy!

Regardless, I’m sure he’ll be super pumped to get into a deathmatch tournament for me.

The door to Frank’s (or was it Fred? Philip?) small mental hospital-esque apartment was ajar, so I walked in.  When I saw him spread eagle fully nude on his bed my first thought was “how did he know I was coming?”  When I saw that there was a second pair of legs underneath his, my next thought was “Whoa, what kind of sex position is that?  Seems very awkward.”  When I noticed that there was an arm around his throat and his face was a deep scary purple, I still wasn’t entirely convinced that it wasn’t a sex thing until a woman’s face popped out from behind his head and locked eyes with me.   

Her voice was that of a waitress who’s got a few too many people seated in her area, mildly harried but dealing with it “I’ll be with you in a minute honey.” 

It was at that point that I realized I had walked in not on some gross rough-type sex but rather a murder attempt.  I jumped on the pile (not like that) and grabbed her arm.  I was able to pull it off him, but it wasn’t easy.  It was like getting a rusty well pump going out on the farm.  She was strong.  Not as strong as me, but stronger than any normal person should be.  Strong enough that she was able to break my grasp and slither out from under Felix (Steve?  Eddy?) without too much trouble.  I scrambled off the bed and got some distance myself. 

She was a strawberry blonde and she was barely over five feet tall, which was exacerbated by the kind of fighting crouch she was in – I felt like I was towering over her.  I see boxers doing that sometimes too.  Why is getting low like that a good idea?  Don’t you want the high ground?  Squatting down like that seems like a good way to get blasted in the face.  Maybe it’s harder to get knocked over that way?  She was dressed like a real square.  She looked like she should have been working in accounts payable at the phone company rather than attempted murdering a former super-soldier.  I suppose that’s smart.  If you’re going to be an assassin, it probably makes a lot more sense to be inconspicuous than to wear a black leather suit with a target icon on the forehead. 

She straightened up when she saw that I wasn’t mirroring her with a fighting stance “That’s a hell of a grip you have there, you must be Ela.  What a happy coincidence, I was going to come find you next.” 

I raised an eyebrow “And you are?” 

She grinned “I’m the new model” she pointed at Flynn’s (Greg?  Michael?) unconscious form laying limply on the bed “That’s your model T over there, I don’t know what the hell you are, some concept car that never made it to the production line because of massive design flaws” She ran her hands over her own body like a loon “And then there’s me, the brand-new top of the line fully loaded Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.” 

“Give me a second, I’m sure I can come up with some witty response about loads or you being full of something.” 

She laughed “Oh I like you, we could have had some fun back home, I bet.  Head out for a few drinks, drive the guys crazy, have a good old time – I’ll try not to mess up your face, not that it will matter for long anyway.” 

Fred-Frank’s apartment was bare, very Spartan, but there was some kind of stupid martial arts weapon on the wall – it was like a spear but there were a bunch of other stupid blades and little cords on it and shit.  I hurled that at Shorty, she ducked, but that was just a distraction anyway.  While she was going low under the spear-thing I kicked a footlocker at her that smacked her across the shins.  She didn’t fall but she stumbled enough that I got a hold of her and hurled her face-first into the sink, which shattered like it had been hit with a wrecking ball.  She pushed herself off the wall and back to her feet calmly – she wasn’t even cut from all the broken porcelain, my attack looked to be about as effective as a soap opera slap. 

She started kind of bounce-dancing on the balls of her feet “Oh yeah, I like you, I like you a lot.” 

A wise man – well no, not a wise man just a man – said once “If you haven’t been close to supermen, you don’t understand what it’s like to fight them. Even when you’ve got powers yourself, the predominant feeling is shock. The forces are out of human scale, and your nervous system doesn’t know how to deal with it. It’s like being in a car accident, over and over again.”  He said something like that anyway.  Aside from being sexist, superPEOPLE thank you, it’s completely accurate.

I really need to learn how to fight.  I feel like they covered this in Superman once.  He’s just a dumb dirty farmboy from Kansas, he actually doesn’t know anything about fisticuffs.  He’s just so strong that normally it doesn’t matter.  I feel like he ran into someone as strong as him and got beat down and Wonder Woman had to save his butt because she’s actually a trained warrior.  I wonder who beat up Superman.  Probably Anti-Superman or a Super-Ape or something stupid like that.  Comic book writers are morons.   

January 6, 1974 – Now that’s what I call an anti-climax!

Blue and Martialla were questioned as well.  What we told the Prince’s lady in a lady business suit didn’t exactly line up.  We should have gotten our stories straight beforehand.  In our defense though, we had no idea that the Madripoor government (or royal family or whatever) would care about us turning up with a hundred people in a fishing net.  Despite what Salvacion (that’s the lady I was calling Uncle Fester’s real name) said, it certainly felt like we were in trouble.   

I hate to admit it, but Martialla got us out of that jam.  I guess she pulled a bunch of people out of a Japanese base or something so the Prince already knew her and was inclined to hear her out.  After talking to a bunch of other people, eventually we did go to a palace and talk to the Prince’s eighth wife’s cousin, who was a general or something.  We told him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (more or less) and the next thing I know we’re on a boat off the shore of Ape Island watching the Madripoor Royal Guard storm the place.  They said with all the shore batteries and stuff, a conventional military attack would result in lots of casualties so they went with an elite strike force of super people.  I think they just did it because it’s cool.   

And it was cool.  Baron Frankenstein had soldiers and his own band of super mercs defending his island so it was a real melee.  I watched through binoculars from the boat, which if you ask me is the best way to watch a NBH skirmish.  One guy made out of rocks was killed and a woman that had glowing Saturn rings around her was badly injured, but Blue and Martialla were impressed with the Royal Guard.  Sounds like they’re the real deal.   

Doctor Evil got away but Martialla’s niece was rescued.  Kid didn’t even know she had been kidnapped.  

She just thought she was on a trip with her long-lost uncle.  She’s not too bright apparently.  It was funny to see Martialla clamp onto her and start blubbering with the “thank god you’re alive” and the kid is all like “What’s your problem weirdo?”   

Her name is Elizaveta and she’s a funny little thing.  Spent the last months eating ice cream, watching cartoons, and running around the island of supervillain Jones.  What a world, huh?  The Baron had someone nab her because it turns out that the reason Martialla survived the experiment they did to turn her into a grouper-woman is because she has some funky genetics and they were hoping her niece would have the same thing.   

Which she must have, because Doctor Baron harvested some juice from the kid and he made the gas that Tiger Shark used to attack the undersea facility that Martialla is always winging on about.  I guess she wasn’t lying about that.  Some of the soldiers that were transformed wrecked the tanker ship that Alacazar was so interested in so his men could steal whatever was on it. 

Alacazar is pissed.  Not only did we not get whatever the thing was for him, but we lost the sub.  Since it (whatever it is) was already taken off the ship, I don’t know what he expected us to do about it.  And honestly if you lend a mini sub to super people, you have to expect that it ain’t coming back.  I told him if he figured out where his mystery package was, we’d go get it for him.  He told me to go to hell.  He’ll come around I’m sure. 

The Prince gave us the use of an apartment in Hightown for a few days and it has a satellite that gets the Tropics games!  During commercials of a game where Jackie Moon had fifteen rebounds in the first half, I was regaling Elizaveta with some age-appropriate stories while hammering down bottles of Coke and eating hot dogs like they’re going out of style.   

“So anyway, long story short it wasn’t the laundry detergent that was making it burn when I pee.  Let that be a lesson to you kid, men are liars.” 

She screwed up her little face “GAH-ROSS !!!” 

I nodded “Tell me about it.  It’s like this one time, I was trying to show Jeanie how to blow a bubble inside a bubble with some Yubba Bubba . . .” Martialla walked in wearing actual clothes for once instead of her stupid Canadian flag wetsuit “I’ll tell you later.”  I got up and followed her into the kitchen “Get everything squared away?” 

Martialla grabbed a beer out of the fridge and nodded “Yes, my sister will be here in a few days to take her home.” 

I frowned “What do you mean, why is she coming here?  I thought you were taking her home?” 

She smiled humorlessly “I’m a fugitive Ela, remember?”   

“I don’t mean home to Canada, I mean the Coalition with your sister.” 

“Someday maybe.  We still need to rescue your friend Maggie.  And we still need to kill the Duke.” She laughed “You’re not very good at revenge, are you?  Doesn’t seem like you’ve made any progress at all.” 

I shook my head in confusion “I can’t . . . you don’t . . . it doesn’t make any sense Martialla.  You only came here to get your niece back, you should go home, be with her and your sister.” 

“We had a deal Ela, you help me get my niece back and I help you kill the Duke.  I’m a woman my word.” 

“But I didn’t even really do anything.  The Royal Guard did that.” 

Martialla tilted her head “You didn’t give up.  Ela, you’re not very smart, you can’t fight for shit, you should be charming at least but you always say the worst thing possible, and even if you don’t, every decision you make is exactly wrong.  You’re a crazy bitch, Ela.  But you’re not afraid.  Of anything seemingly.  Even when you should be.  You did enough.  You did enough.  You brought her home.  What kind of a woman would I be if I didn’t see this through to the end?  I’m a fighter Ela, this is what I do.  At least this is a fight that means something.”  

“I can’t ask you to do this.” 

“You’re not asking me, I’m offering.” 

I couldn’t help but laugh “But you don’t even like me!” 

She looked at her beer for a moment as if it had the answer “And sometimes Downtown ‘Funky’ Malone doesn’t like Jackie Moon either I bet.  I bet sometimes they want nothing more than to strangle each other.  But they’re teammates – you don’t have to like someone to work with them.  The only thing you have to ask yourself, Ela, is this – are you ready to get Tropical?” 

January 1, 1974 – Happy New Year! Not really, they have a different calendar here, but you know

Sometimes I forget that Madripoor isn’t just a city.  It’s a Kingdom.  Ninety percent of the kingdom of Madripoor is the city of Madripoor but there’s still that other ten percent.  If you’re looking out the window of a high building out in the “countryside” you can see palaces.  And I mean actual palaces not just fancy houses for rich people.  That’s where the Prince and his concubines hang out.  Why a Prince and not a King?  No idea.   

I was told that after the Japanese occupation ended, a bunch of businesses got together and suggested that they could run a country.  And everyone was like “Sure, why not, businesses should be in charge of social services right?”  So there’s a council of rich businessmen (and women maybe but I wouldn’t bet on it) that make up the government.   

But I’ve been told that the REAL power in Madripoor is a mysterious crime boss of some kind.  No one can agree on who or what that crime boss is (or if they exist at all) but they insist they’re out there and they’re the one who is really in charge.  The rich corporate suits up on the hill are just figureheads. 

More people say that the Prince is the REAL REAL power in Madripoor.  He decides which rich people get to pretend to be in charge and what criminals get to do their thing.  From what I’ve seen here, it looks like no one is in charge of Madripoor.  It’s like a ship without a captain, careering towards the rocks while the crew goes nuts on the rum they found in the hold.  Maybe it’s a separation of duties, the rich people are the legislature, the criminals are the executive, and the Prince is the judicial branch.   

I bring this up because I am currently the guest of the Prince Himself.  Not in one of the palaces, but in what I was told was a government office of some kind but that looks suspiciously like a cruddy apartment.   The Prince isn’t actually around either, but there’s a woman that says she’s a member of his staff.  I think she’s Indo-Australian, her accent is more Western than local.  She has a shaved head, which I don’t care for.  I’ve seen some strange things in Madripoor but somehow that seems like the strangest.   A woman without hair?  What’s the world coming to? 

Remember that lady in the catsuit whose leg I twisted like a pipe cleaner because she was being a jerk?

Sure you do.  She may have had a point.  I shouldn’t really be commenting on how other women look.  We have enough problems.  This woman may look like Uncle Fester to me but that’s her choice, I shouldn’t chap her hide about it.  That broad in the catsuit is still a bitch though.   

I was sitting on Uncle Fester’s couch trying and failing not to make a pig of myself.  She had brought out a platter of lumpia the size of a small car and a shaker of yummy ginger beer that was bigger than a champagne bottle.  She was sitting on another couch opposite the coffee table (I’m sure they call it something else here) with her legs crossed primly in her grey (gray?) business woman power skirt watching me gorge myself.  After a moment she took out an electronic pad of some kind and a little pen with no tip to mark on it. 

I belched, but in a ladylike way “Is that alien technology?” 

She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow half a millimeter “Pardon me?” 

I gestured with a fistful of lumpia “That pad, I saw one like it before, guy got it from an alien.” 

“That would be illegal.  Possession of extraterrestrial technology is proscribed by dozens of international treaties.” 

I raised a shaggy eyebrow back at her “You guys care about that kind of stuff here?” 

She didn’t answer, just watched me pigging out for a moment before continuing “Do you want to finish eating before you give your account of what happened?” 

I waved some lumpia at her “Nah, there’s not much to tell really.  After the fight we found a boat that the hijackers used to get supplies and stuff.  We were coming back to . . . whatever island this is, is the island also called Madripoor?  Anyway, we were coming back here and we ran into a fishing ship – like a big one not one of those ones you see in the bay.  Anyway, Martialla used to work on ships before the Canadian government turned her into a water beast and she knew how to signal them or something.  So that ship came to the other island and used their nets to scoop up all the people, it was pretty funny actually, and brought them here.   So bingo bango Bob’s your brother.” 

“Uncle.” 

“What?” 

“The expression is Bob’s your uncle.” 

I shrugged “Oh well, whatever, we rescued the people from flight eight eight six zero or whatever it was.  The ones that were still alive anyway, we didn’t rescue the people that were already dead.  That would be impossible.  The pilot was killed in the fighting and the co-pilot was already cashiered.  I heard a few other people were deceased too.  We did our best.” 

“You skipped over a lot there. How did the three of you defeat the hijackers?  By our count there were eighty-nine of them and only three of you.” 

“One of the titty women, Lason, am I saying that right?  Lason, she was controlling them with her powers.  After I knocked out the Bruce Lee guy, sorry, is that offensive?  After I knocked out the Challenger with his table leg weapon, I bashed Lason with a staircase.  Like you know those little wooden stair things outside of a building.  I smashed her with one of those and when she was down, the hijackers lost their . . . you know . . . whatever, chain of command.  They were confused.  I’m sure Blue can explain it better but they didn’t have a lot of fight in them right from the open.” 

She looked at something on her alien pad “Blue, that’s Lucien Basilières?” 

I nodded “Yeah, big lizard guy.  He’s Canadian too, but the government didn’t do anything to him, that was aliens.” I winked “Good thing I don’t possess him right, otherwise I’d be in contravention of international law.  Anyway, once Blue and Martialla attacked, a lot of the guys ran, and the ones that didn’t couldn’t get their shit together.  I guess being under the influence of mind control sex pheromones is pretty confusing.   Super powers man, am I right?  Don’t make a lick of sense.” 

She consulted her pad again “What about the other non-baselines?” 

“The broad with her ass to the wind has a kind of power that messes up your senses I learned, but it didn’t work on me.  I have a splitting headache all the fucking time, excuse my French, but it seems like mind powers don’t work on me generally.  She’s also a good fighter, she kicked my ass once before, so I stayed away and threw shit at her.  I hit her in the hip with a big rock” I held my hands apart “About the size of a bowling ball, do you guys have bowling here? And she didn’t want to fight anymore after that.” 

“Yes, I imagine a broken pelvis will do that.” 

I winced “Eee, ouch.  I really don’t want to hurt anyone . . .  but . . . . I don’t know how to finish that sentence.  I don’t want to hurt anyone but I do . . . all the time . . . I guess.  Anyway, the one in the garters and cape knew that her power didn’t work on me from before so she bailed.  Martialla will tell you that I didn’t help with the fighting, but I took out all the super people before I hid and without me doing that, they never would have been able to rout the others.  So don’t buy into her narrative about me not doing anything.  She’s a pill that one.” 

“How did you know that Flight 853 was on Malimgum?” 

I laughed, accidentally shooting a glob of lumpia out of my mouth and quickly covering it “Sorry . . . . gees.  Uh . . . anyway, I laugh because we had no idea the plane was there.  We weren’t even trying to go to that island.  The Canadian Sea Monkey drove us to the wrong damn island.  This whole thing was pure happenstance.  Can you beat it?” 

“What island were you trying to reach?” 

I clucked my tongue “Uh . . . the one with the giant ape.  Man-Iguana?  Something like that.” 

“Mantiuana.  What were you going there for?” 

I gestured vaguely “Oh you know, just sightseeing, giant ape and so forth.”   

“Are you suggesting that you were joyriding in an XES class submarine?” 

I gazed at her coolly “Sure, why not?  Ultraweapon has a supersonic jet, why shouldn’t I have a submarine?” 

She pursed her lips “Patrick Zarous is an independently wealthy mechanical genius, you by all accounts are a homeless woman who’s been declared legally dead.” 

“Hey, speaking of, can you like use your government powers to contact the CS and let them know I’m still alive?  I don’t want to have to sneak back into my own country when all of this is over.” 

She made a node with her stick/pen “Of course, consider it taken care of.” 

I almost choked on my lumpia “Really?” 

She looked at me for a moment and then put her alien pad aside “Miss Preston, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that you’re in some manner of trouble.  You rescued one hundred and fifteen people and brought several international fugitives to justice.  The Prince is a generous man and he rewards those who have done him a service.  It would be in your best interest to be honest with me about what you did and what you want.  You’re a hero, Miss Preston.” 

I chewed lumpia for a long time before answering “I used to want to be a hero.  I’m not sure I believe in heroes anymore.  Being able to lift a car over my head?  What does that mean really?  Probably that someday the government will shoot me and everyone like me.” 

“That’s a very cynical attitude for someone so young.” 

I laughed and gestured towards the window “Madripoor, it’s a hell of a town!” 

December 29, 1973 – Come fly with me

I hunched down over the poor fellow “So this is the pilot huh?  Or was rather I guess.  Huh, is he still a pilot after he’s dead?  That’s like a philosophical question.” 

Blue nodded, from seemingly a hundred feet above since I was crouched down and he’s giant “Pandelela said this guy was the pilot.  Er, is the pilot.” 

I gingerly touched the wood protruding from his skull “What’s that through his head, a spear?” 

Blue peered down “I think it’s just a pointed stick.” 

I frowned at him as I stood up “Isn’t a spear just a pointed stick? What are you busting my chops for?” I looked around “What about the co-pilot?” 

Blue shook his lizard-head “No one seems to know what happened to the co-pilot.  A few people saw him trying to fight with the hijackers when they landed so probably they killed him.  Although I would have killed him in front of everyone if I was them.” 

“I don’t suppose you know how to fly a commercial airliner do you?”  Blue shook his head “Martialla can pilot a submarine, why can’t you fly a plane?  You’re really not holding up your end of this deal here buddy.”

He huffed in his lizard way “You can’t fly a plane either, why are you on my case?”

I stretched a kink in my back “I’m a singer, I’m not supposed to know how to fly a plane.  You’re a special forces operative slash organized crime heavy slash international mercenary.  No wonder you’re broke if you can’t even fly a plane.”

He flicked his tongue at me “Oh, you’re a singer?  Did you ever have a top forty hit?”

I reached up to get my finger in his muzzle “Watch it, big man.” 

I glanced over at the clump of surprisingly poised air hostesses in sarong kebaya organizing the larger mass of confused and dazed passengers to clear away the bodies from the “village”.  I think they were doing it just to give them something to do.  A task is a good way to distract people.  People who’ve been hijacked and tied to bamboo (or whatever) poles for a week on a stinking island in the middle of nowhere.

I blew out a long breath “So the plane is out huh?” I shook my head “Jesus Christ, it’s going to take us forever to ferry them all over to the city in that tiny sub.  Could we drive along the surface of the water and have them sit on the deck or something?” 

Blue flicked his tongue “Would you want to try hanging onto the slippery deck of a submarine like that?” 

“I guess we can just go back and get a bigger ship?” 

Before Blue could answer, Martialla walked into the clearing in the middle of the not-village, draped in a watery robe like she always is when she’s been swimming around “I wouldn’t worry about that, the sub is gone.” 

I laughed bitterly “You mean it drifted away while no one was in it?  I seem to remember someone worrying about that very thing happening and a certain someone else was mocking those concerns.” 

Martialla flapped her gills childishly “No, it didn’t drift away Ela, it fucking sank.” 

“What?  How does a submarine sink?  It’s already underwater, what does that even mean?” 

Martialla goggled her fish-eyes grotesquely “It means there’s a giant hole in it Ela.” She crossed her arms sourly “I thought I saw that crazy Hawaiian (DELETED RACIAL SLUR) skulking around, I should have chased her off before we left.” 

“Is this that Tiger Shark person that kicked your ass?” 

Martialla shook her head “No, this was someone else.”

I sighed “How can you have more than one archnemesis?  No one should care about you that much.”

“The same could be said about you Ela.  And Tiger Shark did NOT kick my ass, that was . . .” 

I admit there was a little hint of panic in my voice “Are you telling me we’re stuck here?!  After all the fighting we did to rescue these people and we can’t even get ourselves out of here now?!” 

Martialla snorted “What fighting did you do?  You jumped in the well and hid once the shooting started.” 

I gave her an arch look “You’re the one who said I was useless in a fight, I was just following your instructions.” I stretched my back again “I think I ended up the worst out of anyone, holding myself up in there really did a number on my back.

Martialla snorted and stuck her finger into one of the many bullet-holes in Blue’s scales.

“Okay fine, maybe second worse but . . . .

Martialla pointed to the corpse pile with a grim fish grimace.

“Okay, fine, maybe not even second worse but you know . . .  my back is really tight.  Those rocks or whatever that well is made of really did a number on my spine.”

Worldbuilding Wednesday – Madripoor Royal Guard

I bought some ice cream the other day.  Normally I’m great at buying ice cream.  But this doesn’t taste great.  It tastes like ice milk.  Anyone else remember that?  In school at lunch, you’d be all excited because someone said there was ice cream that day.  But it wasn’t ice cream, it was ice milk. 

I intended for there to be at least 8 members of the Madripoor Royal Guard but I ran out of steam.  Please imagine your own superhero creations of super people as part of the group.  I’m sure you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it. 

Speaking of, I was talking to my buddy Waxy Lou the other day and he said that he could never enjoy the Sony Venom-verse because he can’t like ancillary Spider-Man characters without Spider-Man involved at some point.  So I asked him how he would have liked Venom if they added in a legally distinct for copyright reasons facsimile of Spider-Man, Arachnid Lad or the like. 

He said that he would have liked that.  As would I.  For some reason I enjoy when they just tell the story anyway with a stand-in character.  But, I assume most people would be LIVID over something like that.  That’s not the REAL Spider-Man they would say.  And I would say to them, there is no real Spider-Man, it’s all made up bro, unless you mean Alain Robert.  But I’d I know very well what they meant, I’d just be saying that to be a jerk. 

The end of the Japanese occupation saw the reformation of the Prince of Madripoor’s Royal Guard.  In the past, this group had been made up of elite (but “normal”) troops directly reporting to the Prince serving not only as guards but also as an intelligence service and instrument of foreigner operations.  Going forward, the Royal Guard was to be a force comprised entirely of the best Non-Baselines that money can buy.  

When the old Royal Guard was informed that they were being replaced by NBH’s, many of their number volunteered for experiments intended to grant them superhuman abilities.  One of the few survivors is the current Captain of the Guard, Menak.  He is said to descend from a proud bloodline, though the names of his ancestors remain unknown.  Menak was a cadet during the period of the “old guard” and a resistance fighter during the occupation, proving himself an honorable person as well as an efficient warrior.  It is rumored that the rogue scientist Rust was paid 10 million US to turn Menak into a super soldier.  Whatever the source of his powers, Menak has been observed displaying wingless flight and projecting highly concentrated beams of energy from his eyes. The maximum temperature of these beams is unknown, but have been able to burn through the skin of several “invulnerable” NBHs.

The man known as Damar is one of those smart guys who never seemed to be able to make anything of himself.  He had every advantage in life but his taste for shortcuts always did him in.  He squandered all his advantages and good fortune, made enemies out of allies, learned the wrong lessons, and rubbed everyone the wrong way.  

All his vaunted intelligence and ego netted him a low paying construction job hauling bricks.  When he started taking on odd jobs for a gang running a gambling ring, he told himself it was so he could make ends meet, but really he was looking for something dangerous enough to kill him. By methods unknown, must have been a VERY odd job, Damar was transformed into a being of living rock.  

His first attempt at supervillainy with his rocklike body didn’t go well.  Angel (yes THE Angel) treated him to a tactic she often used (RIP Angel) against non-flying “bricks”. She threw him so high he would pass out from a lack of air and she could deal with him later.  That was the intent anyway. Instead, Damar bounced off a passing airplane and landed in the courtyard of one of the Prince’s mansions.  

Menak took him under his wing, training him not just to fight but to realize his potential. Soon enough, Damar mastered the ability to pass through rock and concrete, and also absorb energy from these materials.  Damar was blasted to pieces by the “particle beam power” of a potential assassin but the rocky pieces slowly reassembled themselves.  Given this event, it is unknown how, if at all, he can be killed.

The woman called Wulan was spoiled rotten since day one.  The only skill she mastered was manipulating adults to get whatever she wanted. Lazy and self-centered, she had no appetite for her schoolwork or any other kind of work.  At age 22, she had already been married and divorced twice over, astounded to discover that her ex-husbands’ lives didn’t revolve around serving her whims all the time.  Just most of the time?  Hell no!  She ended up back with her mother, where she did little more than watch television, order servants around, and burn through her inheritance.  

When she was upstaged at a red-carpet event by the appearance of a “superheroine” she decided that she needed powers of her own.  Shockingly, she succeeded in this goal, all it took was the entirety of her and her mother’s fortune.  After a series of high-profile crimes committed to return to her life of luxury, and several murder attempts on the woman who “showed her up”, she was given the option of joining the Prince’s guard or falling prey to her many enemies.  Her powers are wingless flight and the ability to generate and control electricity.  

Not many people would consider working for the Madripoor Prince as a hatchetwoman a moral step up from their last job, but most people don’t traffic in human lives either.  Calon Arang started as a victim of trafficking herself.  When her natural born superhuman abilities manifested, she used them to force others into bondage.  She was so good at it, eventually she killed her master and took his place – she had to kill several of his lieutenants as well before they got the message but she was fine with that.

Turning her own sister out wasn’t her wakeup call, that didn’t come until her sister was killed by a wealthy client.  Calon Arang set out on a roaring rampage of revenge which she had no expectation of surviving.  When she did survive, she didn’t know what to do with herself.  She realized that she had been broken and broken so badly that she did the same thing that was done to her to others.  When Menak approached her, offering a way to help people instead of hurt them (questionable), she never looked back.  Calon Arang has been documented to possess enhanced reflexes, killing hands, and the ability to project “stunbolts”.

Menak had originally conceived of an entire wing of elite guardsman in powered armor, but even for someone with the wealth of the Prince, there are limitations in that regard.  Turns out there’s a reason the militaries of the world are still mostly relying on tanks and planes instead of giant robots and men in powered suits – not only is that shit expensive but the cybernetic circuitry needed to control the armor stimulates regions of the brain that tend to cause total psychotic breakdowns.  Which is not ideal in a fighting force.  For the majority of pilots, even limited use of power armor has serious side effects on the user, including mental instability, nerve damage, and death.  The majority, but not all.  

If the CS military had known that “Jammer”, a Chi-Town native, was resistant to these effects, they would have pulled out all the stops to recruit him as a pilot in their RPA division – up to and including coercion.  But he was too busy being a gun-runner in and around Madripoor for them to figure it out.  Life as a black marketer taught Jammer to trust nobody but to be nice to everyone.  As a result, he’s very likable, even when he’s trying to kill you.  

Jammer pilots a powered exoskeleton of unknown origin that gives him superhuman strength, allowing him to lift 40 tons under optimal conditions for about 3 minutes. The armor’s high-carbon steel-alloy mesh and radiation shielding offers protection from most ballistic and energy weapons. The armor can fly via chemically-powered boot jets at a maximum speed of 250 mph for 3 hours and contains 30 minutes air supply for submersion or high-altitude flight.

Timun Mas grew up on the streets of Madripoor.  Life was hard, but it was simple at least – take what you can, hold what you need, if you can keep it it’s yours.  Timun Mas learned early that there’s two choices in life – get hurt or be the one doing the hurting.  The only path was to dish out more than you take.  She started with knives.  The key is to escalate conflict as quickly and wildly as possible – someone looks at you funny?  Cut their nuts off.  

She was destined for a short life and violent death until she was grabbed off the street and taken to Busan for enhancement.  Most of the other street rats that were experimented on died and died badly, but Timun Mas survived.  She never figured out if it was a jopok or Russian gangsters that took her, both seemed to be involved, but she didn’t care because she would never be unarmed again.  As long as they put her in a cage and let her cut up other people trying to cut her, it didn’t matter who they were.  

Eventually some goody-goody team of international superpeople broke up the fighting ring and chased away the gangsters that took care of her.  They said they “saved” her.  She slashed one of their faces off and made a run for home – the streets of Madripoor.  Timun Mas maintains no delusions of glory or honor to her position as a Royal Guard.  A job’s a job, and a fight is a fight, and a life is just money waiting to be earned.  

Timun Mas has highly advanced reflexes, retractable claws, and hardened skin roughly the durability of Kevlar.

Butho Ijo’s time in the army taught him a lot of things.  It taught him to shoot, but that was the least of it.  It taught him to be part of a team.  It taught him to trust others.  It taught him what it means for someone to trust him.  It taught him to lead.  It taught him patience.  It taught him the importance of being part of something bigger.  It taught him to be better.  

And none of those lessons meant anything when the Japanese Empire invaded.  The army was shattered in a matter of hours.  His country ceased to exist.  After ten years of service, he found himself sitting at a counter in Madripoor wondering how he was going to pay for his noodles.  He was nothing without a squad around him.  

The good and bad news is that Madripoor is the land of opportunity for trained killers.  Several drunken years and a mass of scars later, Menak pulled Butho Ijo out of the gutter and gave him an opportunity.  Killers are a dime a dozen (literally sometimes in Madripoor) what’s rare are leaders, people who can bring out the best in others.  Menak is the Captain of the Guard, but Butho Ijo is the leader of the Royal Guard.   Butho Ijo has advanced senses of vision, scent, and hearing as well as the ability to heal others by touch, enhanced bone density, short range telepathic communication, and minor appearance alteration. 

December 29, 1973 – It’s all in the reflexes

Blue waved his arm, which even to someone as tall and impressive as me is akin to when a cloud passes by overhead – it darkens the sky for a moment.   

“If you go down there you’ll be cut to pieces!” 

Martialla chortled in a wet sickeningly fishy way “Good, let her go then.” 

I glared art her “Shut up Martialla, everyone knows about your tilted uterus.” 

Martialla can’t really wink because her freaky fisheyes don’t work like that, but they flickered sideways or did something like fish-winking “No such thing as bad press, am I right?” 

“You are foul.” I turned back (and up) to Blue “You were planning on starting a big crazy fight where everyone was going to die anyway, just let me go down there and try to talk to them, if things go bad you can still try to kill everyone like you were going to anyway.” 

Blue looked at me soberly “Except you’ll be dead.” 

I waved away his concerns “I’ll be fine.  Just get in position and then if things take a turn for the worse, you’ll be ready to spring into action.” 

He looked as mournful as a lizard can “I don’t like this plan.” 

I winked “Jinx, buy me a Coke.” 

As soon as he slipped away (he’s very stealthy for an eight-hundred-pound human tegu) I realized that he was right, it was a terrible plan.  But what was I going to do?  Admit that I was wrong?  I tried to take a deep breath and collect myself, I could see how many people were down there.  People with machetes and guns that weren’t my friends.  I don’t know if I could have forced myself to take a step if Martialla hadn’t given me a look that said “I knew you wouldn’t do it”.  I wasn’t about to let her get the best of me, even if it meant that I got shot sixteen times and my arms and legs hacked off at the elbows and knees respectively. 

Before that moment, I had never using singing to calm my nerves.  One because I rarely get nervous, being the steely woman of action that I am, but also because I never thought of music that way before.  Music is a joyous thing that you enjoy when you’re already happy.  Or in a studio to make money no matter how you feel.  You’d think having a top 40 hit would pay well but you’d be wrong.  I mean, look where I am and what I’m doing right now.  You don’t see Joan Baez doing this shit.  Do you?  If you do, let me know because that would be amazing.  Not as amazing as seeing myself doing it in a mirror, but still.   

Point being that I licked my lips and started singing softly to myself as I headed down to the, well not village, but cluster of abandoned buildings by the mostly bombed-out airstrip.  “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald.  Quietly at first, just to calm my nerves, but by the time I got halfway down the hill, I was belting it out.  Not just because it felt good to do so, which it did, but also because I figure if you’re not trying to sneak up on a bunch of dudes with machine guns, it’s a wise policy to make sure they know you’re coming.   

A couple guys ran up on me and jabbed their rifles in my direction like they always seem to like to do – I guess for emphasis.  Bullets come out of guns, I don’t understand the compulsion to jam the barrel right into people. 

“Dare ga soko ni iku no ka!” 

I held my hands up “Uh . . . not sure what that means?  Do you speak French?  Hablas español vato?  I’m friends with your boss.  I know it doesn’t seem like that would be the case because I’m not dressed like a streetwalker but it’s true, I swear.” 

What we had there was a failure to communicate.  Verbally anyway, they did gun-jab me down where I wanted to go anyway so ultimately I guess we did communicate just fine, we just didn’t share a common language.  Miss Thong Boob-Strips was there, and as I was walking up, Lason came out of one of the huts too – I assume she’s the one controlling all these violent lunatics.  I was about to say something witty and awesome when the Challenger came limping out behind her.  Our eyes locked and then his went wide – not wide like saucers, wide like some other kind of dinnerware that’s full of furious anger. A saucière maybe. 

“You!” he shouted. 

“You!” I shouted back at the same time.  His was angry shouting though, mine was surprised shouting.   

Thong had a small, amused smile “You two know each other?  You really get around, don’t you Ela?” 

The Challenger started to come towards me, in a stiff Frankenstein lurch because of messed up legs, but Lason held up her hand and he stopped dead in his tracks like a trained hound.  I could see him straining against her control (however that works) quickly starting to sweat buckets, it seemed like every muscle in his body was tensed to the maximum. 

I lifted my hand in a half wave “Hey man.  Look, I want to apologize for shattering both your shins like I did.  You were attacking that guy in the street in front of everyone and I thought that wasn’t cool, but I have since realized that really it was none of my business right?  I should have just kept my nose out of it instead of snapping both your legs like thin twigs.  I’m really very sorry, I should not have done that.  Uh . . . so uh, how’s your quest to find all the best fighters in the world and kill them going?  Not too good I guess since you’ve fallen under the spell of these slut witches.” 

Lason said something in a language I didn’t understand and Thong raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow “That’s a good question, what are you doing here?” 

“Well I have great news for you . . . .uh, you know I realize now that I never actually caught your name before . . .” I waited for a moment for her to tell me her stupid supervillain name but she didn’t “that’s okay, I don’t need to know your name . . . right, so . . . uh, anyway, uh, girlfriend, the good news is that I’ve . . . reconsidered your offer.  I’d like to join your sexy lady super team.  Uh, yeah, so if you have like a go-go outfit or something for me to put on . . . like with modesty shorts maybe?  I don’t know how you keep your stuff in place, do you glue your tits down or something?” 

Lingerie & Cape came striding out of the building as well “Actually we never offered you anything, as I’m sure you recall.  We were looking for Lason, and as you can see, we found her. 

I plastered on a smile “Hey . . . you.  You’re here . . . that’s great, that’s . . . just great.  I know our first meeting was a little rocky but I think I can be an asset to your team, you know, I have the super strength.  You all have more subtle powers, more ladylike powers if you will, I think it would help to have someone more physical around – you know, for contrast.  Kind of round out the team.” 

L&C nodded “We do have an opening for the muscle position since you killed Malicia” 

I winced “Ooh . . . so she died huh? 

Thong snorted “Yeah, that’s what usually happens when you throw someone out a fifth-floor window.” 

I winced more “I don’t want to quibble, but I think it was only the fourth floor.  You know, I’m sorry about that, really, it was an accident.  And I mean, you guys did attack me.  It’s funny you know because I was just thinking. . .” 

L&C gestured to some of the goon squad “Sweep the area, find her friends.” 

I held my hands up “Ah no, no, no need for that, I came here alone . . . you know, to join you.” 

Lason looked towards her other members of her villainess trio “That might not be a good idea, I’ve seen that blue lizard guy in action and . . .” 

With a sudden shout, The Challenger surged forward like he had broken through some kind of invisible barrier.  He was so slick with sweat that he looked like he had just come out of the shower.  He grabbed something off his belt, it looked like a chair leg to me but I’m sure it was some kind of martial arts weapon with a crazy name like Seven Winds Folding Stick or Flying Shrimp Boat of the Heavens or Steamed Rice with Pea Pods.  He hurled it at me with all his might, and he had a lot of might, but without even really thinking about it I caught it out of the air and flicked it back at him like I was tossing a frisbee.  It hit him square between the eyes and knocked him out cold.  He tumbled and collapsed into a heap.   

I looked at the trio of scantily clad supervillianesses “Whoa, you have to admit, that was pretty cool.” 

December 29, 1973 – Queue up “run through the jungle” it’s go time

Martialla shook her head and swore sharply under her breath as she started checking her weapons and unloading pouches of ammo.   

“What’s your problem?” 

She ignored me and gave Blue a quick look “There’s at least forty down there, probably more in the buildings.” 

He gestured to the east “I should be able to flank them and you’ll have full field of fire up here.” 

She snorted “Flank them?  There’s two of us.  You dream monsieur.” 

I frowned “What are you guys talking about?  Aren’t we going back to the sub and leaving?  Since someone drove us to the wrong island.  We’re not going down there, are we?  You two are always telling me that there’s no such thing as superheroes, that it’s all just comic book bullshit.” 

Blue peered down from the ridge “Half of them don’t even have guns it looks like.” 

Martialla made a sour fish-face “Wonderful, that means there’s only twenty guys with guns down there.  Plus however many are in the buildings.” 

I waved my arms like I was flagging down a cab “Hello, are you listening to me?  Are we going to try and rescue the people from the plane?  Even though whenever I want to do something heroic you tell me that it’s stupid and childish?” 

Martialla flared her gills in what I assume is a rude manor “When did you ever want to do anything heroic?  I think you’re getting heroism and self-indulgent lunacy conflated again.” 

Blue started taking off his clothes “We have to try to rescue them Ela, you don’t bring a hijacked plane to a place like this because you want a ransom or because you have a political agenda, you bring people to a place like this because you’re going to sell them.” 

“What do you mean sell them?  Like slavery?” 

Martialla fish-eyed me “You’re not that naive, are you Ela?  Did you think slavery wasn’t around anymore?” 

“Well . . . I mean . . . yeah, I guess I did.  Why would you hijack a plane for that?  That can’t be a good way to make money.  That’s like robbing a bank because you want to take all the pens.” 

Martialla started moving things around on the ground seemingly at random “Maybe we can ask to see their business plan once the violent gun battle is over.  Assuming we’re still alive.  Which is unlikely.” 

I looked over at Blue who was taking his pants off “Why are you getting naked?” 

“Because in the event I survive, I don’t want bullet holes in my clothes.” He plucked at his shirt “I have to get this tailor made you know. This stuff is expensive, I can’t buy off the rack.” 

Martialla lay down on the ground with a rifle and looked back over her shoulder “You know the fact that half these guys have swords actually makes it more dangerous for you, right?  You’re unlikely to get killed by a bullet, but decapitation should do the trick just fine.” 

He huffed a weird unhappy lizard noise “Yes, I am very much aware of that fact, but thanks for pointing it out regardless.  I’ll try my level best not to get decapitated, just for you M.” He shook his head “Swords, what’s the world coming to?” 

Martialla made another strange fish-noise “I blame the Japanese army, when their officers started carrying around those crappy mass-produced steel katanas during the war, it made everyone think swords were cool.” 

I looked down the hillside “What exactly is the plan here guys?” 

Blue pointed “The plan is that I go down there and engage them at close range and Martialla stays up here and shoots at them, hopefully shooting at them enough that I don’t get my head cut off.  If there aren’t any NBHs down there, it has a good chance of working.  Better than fifty-fifty odds probably.” 

“Those are good odds?!” 

Martialla sighed “Unless there’s NBHs down there, which there probably are.” 

“What am I supposed to do?” 

Martialla sneered “Hide and cover your ears until all the fighting is over.”  I started to protest but she cut me off “You don’t even have a gun, Ela.” 

I stepped up to stand over her “I don’t need a gun.” 

She looked away dismissively “That might be true if you didn’t suck at hand-to-hand combat, but it turns out that you do.  Or it might be true if there was any chance of you getting close to them before they shot you a couple dozen times, but it turns out that there isn’t.  For someone as scrawny as you are, I don’t know how you manage to be so God damn loud, you crash around like a bull moose.” 

I held my hand out “Fine, give me a gun then.” 

Martialla rolled her shoulders, loosening them up “What would be the point?  You’re useless in a fight, Ela.  Maybe you can sing us a jaunty song afterwards if we win.  Or at least eat all our food.  That’s always really helpful.” 

I was about to pitch her off down the side of the hill when Blue hedged me away from her in that way he does.   

I glared at Martialla, who was ignoring me, before turning back to Blue “I don’t like this plan.  How about we get back in the sub, head back to the big island, and then come back with reinforcements?”

Blue glanced back towards the water “That would be great if we had any reinforcements to call upon.  I don’t think we have a lot of choices here.  What you should do is stay up here with Martialla, when the fighting starts you can throw rocks, big ones, but the truth is that she’s right, your strength doesn’t mean much in a situation like this.” 

“What if they start killing the hostages?” 

“Seems unlikely, that’s the problem with taking hostages, if you actually carry out your threats against them, you lose the leverage.  It’s a catch twenty-two of sorts.”  

“Okay, but there’s no reason to attack right now, is there?  We should just watch them for a while. If we figure out where the hostages are, maybe we can wait until nightfall and . . .” 

Martialla sat up and looked back at us “We have the initiative and the element of surprise, those are the only advantages we’re going to have and we’re not going to have them for long if we sit around . . .” 

I held my hand up “Shut up.”  I pointed “I know that woman.” 

Martialla laid back down and scanned the area “What woman, I didn’t see any women.” 

I pointed “I don’t know how you could fucking miss her, I don’t see anyone else down there in a Vampirella backless thong one piece.” 

Writing a space check for space frocks

I don’t really like posting non-Ela stuff here, but I was personally challenged to write 1000 words using the prompts – Space station, frock, and check – and since I refuse to start a fifth blog, I have no choice.

(Post picture here if you can figure how giving credit is supposed to work)

The first fully operational and permanently inhabited space station cost 150 billion dollars to build and launch.  That station was not only not self-sufficient, it’s estimated that it cost around one million dollars per day.  A dollar was a currency our ancestors used, it was a piece of paper that represented partial ownership in some chunks of rare metal in a fortress somewhere.  Hilarious right?  To put it in modern terms 150 billion dollars is about 12 billion crypto.  That’s tons of nanopods! 

How many people lived on the first station?  None, they just visited, and the only reason they were there is to study the effects of spaceflight on the human body.  What a bunch of morons eh?  I guess we shouldn’t be too hard on them, they were just starting to figure things out.  They hadn’t even been to other planets in their home solar system yet.   

You’re probably asking, who cares about space stations?  They don’t even make them anymore!

No they don’t make them anymore, but they’re still out there.  Nobody thinks about that.  Technology moves along, but it doesn’t bring everyone with it you know?  The “golden age” of space stations was hundreds of years ago, but all those space stations are still there.  And check this shit out jeepers, most of them still have people living on them.   

I know right?! 

At the time that first crappy space station was built, humans were very concerned about what they called a technology singularity – a point where technological advancement would become uncontrollable and irreversible and somehow destroy the human race.  That didn’t happen obviously, but what did happen is that as technology advanced, some people got stuck.  Until I said that there were still people on space stations, you probably assumed that everyone lived on Arkships.  Why wouldn’t they?  They’re the best.   

Well, get ready to freak your funk buddy because not only are space stations still inhabited, there’s still people that live ON PLANETS.  It’s disgusting to even think about.  They touch dirt!  And their air, where does it even come from?  Not machines that’s for sure. 

When new stuff is made into new stuff some people just miss out right?  They keep living on space stations when other people start living on ships like they should and they just never catch up.  Probably at some point they realize, “oh shit, I need to get on one of those ships” but it’s too late by then.  The universe has moved on and they’re stuck spinning around like idiots on a big metal wheel.  And then as more time goes by and they’re isolated on their stupid ring more and more they lose touch with what’s going on in the modern world.  All they know is an obsolete way of life on their obsolete hunk of junk. 

It’s sad, but the good news is they don’t realize how pathetic their lives are, so I guess it’s okay?  It’s like a rat that lives in a power conduit versus a rat that lives in the galley.  The power conduit rat doesn’t realize how much better the other rat’s life is so . . . shrug.  Also it’s a rat so who cares? 

I’m going to write a novel about a guy living on one of these relics.  He’s a frock maker.  What the heck is a frock and why would someone make one?  Space station people don’t have genetic skinsuits so they can’t download whatever appearance they want.  What they do is they weave together fibers into a sack and they put that over them to cover their sloppy dirty naked bodies.  It’s like when your dog picks up some ultracloth and is playing with it and it goes on their back.  

They have a bunch of different kinds of sacks and they have cool names.  Jorts, garter bells, lederhosen, musselbozen, sweatbands, socks, etc.  A frock is a sack that consists of a skirt, which is like a tube for your hips, and a cover for the upper body.  This is different from another kind of sack called a dress, which both covers the upper part of the body and includes skirts down below.  A running gag will be that people will come to the guy because they want a dress and he’ll get mad because he makes frocks damn it! 

The frock makers problem?  He got paid for some frocks with a check.  A check is another different piece of paper that says “hey, I have a bunch of those other pieces of paper in a fortress and you can have some if you go there!”  It’s like someone promising to give you crypto instead of actually giving it to you.

The frock maker tries to “cash” the check, which is where you turn it in at the fortress for the other pieces of paper.  I guess that’s where the term cashiered comes from.  It’s fun to think about where words came from.  But the fortress won’t give him any paper because it was fake.  Because of course it was, what kind of idiot would think a promise on a piece of paper had worth?   

This is a problem because the frock maker owes a lot of pieces of paper to space station mafia.  What’s a mafia?  On these space stations, people aren’t assigned jobs like they should be.  Everyone just does whatever they want!   What some people decide they want to do is loan other people pieces of paper and then if they don’t give them more paper later, they throw them out an airlock.  Crazy, but it’s true, I’ve done the research.   

What’s even crazier is that other people decide what they want to do is try and stop the mafias and throw them out an airlock.  It’s hard to imagine but I think it’s going to be pretty exciting as a backdrop for a novel.   

All I need now is a name for the frock maker.  I’m thinking something along the lines of Han Solo.