September 13th, 1973 – Duke Eaglevane

I stood looking out the window of Pinetree Exports, also known as Alcazar’s office, which despite its small size and generally messiness would have been a much nicer place to stay than his apartment.  I was watching the steady flow of pedestrian traffic down on the street as he looked for my file in his stacks of papers.

(translated from Spanish)

“What is the deal with this place?”

“You’ll have to be more specific, Madripoor has many ‘deals’ at any given time.”

I pointed down at the street “There’s a dude wearing like a space helmet.  And the other day I saw a woman riding a bike whose skin was yellow, like banana yellow.  I’m pretty sure I saw a guy jump into a second story window too.”

“That was probably Bayu, he jumps all over the city.  Usually into the windows of married ladies.” 

I turned and gave him a look “Hey can you do me a favor and be a little more nonchalant about impossible things people can do around here?”

He stared at me for a moment “Sorry, I guess I’ve gotten used to it.  The ‘deal’ is that Madripoor, for this reason or that, has more than its fair share of NBHs – that’s non baseline humans – like you.  And not for nothing, there may also be an alien or two in residence as well.  The military usually finds aliens and shoots them in the head as soon as they crash-land but a few slip through the net.” 

“Oh sure, aliens exist and are on earth and that’s normal.  How about you give me a little build up to these shocking revelations?  Are your CIA buddies the ones that kill the poor little green bastards as they stumble out of their wrecked saucers looking for their triple A cards?”

He snorted “If I was in the CIA it would have been much easier for me to get this.” 

He waved a stained folder at me that had budget written on the tab, then crossed out and written 1968 redeposit which was itself crossed out and replaced with something I couldn’t read.  I sat down across the desk from him, he handed me the folder and helped himself to a cup of coffee while I thumbed through the papers inside.

“So I’m dead huh?  That’s very dispiriting.”

He nodded with a grin “I know, it’s a real shame you were cut down in your prime like that.”

“Who’s Duke Eaglevane and why did he blow me up?”

He raised an eyebrow “Don’t you read the newspaper?”

“Just the box score of the Tropics game and my horoscope.”

“Duke Eaglevane is someone who a man that was actually in the CIA would call a ‘bad guy’.  He’s a super terrorist, or supervillain if you want to be theatrical.   He’s maybe hundreds of years old and when he’s not killing German communists, he spends his time running the largest criminal organization in the world.  An organization that does things like blow up pretty singers in the heart of the Coalition.” 

“Why would he blow me up, what did I ever do to him?”

“I would imagine that you are what people who blow buildings up call ‘collateral damage’, I wouldn’t take it personally.”

“Of course not, it’s just my life.” I shuffled through some more papers “So I was blown to bits and then the government scooped up the pieces and put them back together?  Like the Six Million Dollar man?  That was nice of them.  And then these Shadow Lords stole me?  I would have expected the Coalition Super Soldier Division to have better security.”

“If I was with the CIA I could answer that for you, but since I’m just a humble businessman, all I can give you is guesses.  I don’t think it was the Coalition, from what I gather a private organization did the Humpty Dumpty job on you.  Maybe they sold you to the Shadow Lords, maybe you were stolen, maybe they were funding the whole operation, I don’t know.  But it wasn’t the super soldier program, that medical report says you’re negative, this was something lower key.  Just saving your life and giving you some ‘minor’ super powers.  You’re stronger than you have any right to be but I’m pretty sure Angel would rip you apart, if she wasn’t dead.”

“Being dead does increase the degree of difficulty.” I flapped the folder at him “How did you gather all this, non-CIA man?”

“I have a lot of friends, I keep my ear to the ground. Information is critical in my line of work, other vague answers are available at request.”

I read from one of the pages ‘Due to the stimulation of neurological, chemical, and glandular activity, subject will suffer from chronic headaches and will need to consume fifteen to twenty thousand calories a day to avoid rapid weight loss and death.’ “Well that’s just great.  I thought my head hurt because I wasn’t smoking enough.”

“You may as well smoke up, on the next page they anticipate that with your increased metabolism and all the damage it’s doing to your systems, you’re going to die of organ failure in another five to seven years.  Live fast and die young, etcetera.”

I tossed the file on the desk “This day just keeps getting better and better.  So who did the Shadow Lords want me to fight so badly that they went through all this trouble?”

“Other gangs probably.  Or maybe they were going to rent you out as a mercenary, there’s always fighting on the mainland.  Or maybe they wanted you for the tournament.  Madripoor is the proud home of the only super powered death sport in the world.”

“That sounds pretty illegal.”

“Even though you’ve only been with us a couple of days, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that legality is a flexible concept around here, especially for people with money.  And the psycho that does the annual tournament has gobs of it.”

“Lovely.  This is all good information but how is the project of getting me home coming along?”

He leaned back and steepled his fingers for a moment “Not great.  Since you’re legally dead, that complicates things.  And being an NBH complicates things even more.  It means that you have to register with all kinds of groups with three letter names.  Smuggling you into the States would be super illegal.  People are going to be very interested in you, Ela.  It’s a good thing that I’m not with the CIA because if I was, you’d probably be knocking over some east African dictatorship right now.”

“I feel like you’re saying you’re not going to help me without saying it.”    

He held his hands out “I ship matchbooks and crummy electronics, what do you expect that I could do for you?  I don’t know anything about sneaking people through multiple countries illegally.  You’re too hot for me to handle.”

“That would be a good name for a song.”  

“I think Otis Redding already did that one.”

September 9th, 1973 – Secret Agent Man

Pinetree International Exports is closer towards the Vegas/New York City portion of Madripoor than the “lowlands” but still in what I am calling the border zone.  This is the part of the city that seems almost familiar to me, if there weren’t so many people on bikes zipping around, it wouldn’t be out of place back in the CS.  It was the same kind of little office-prison you’d expect some guy with a comb-over to be selling insurance out of in Tallahassee or Gary. 

Alcazar, the owner, chief operator, and proprietor of Pinetree International Exports is from the Caribbean states of the US I think.  He has a long beard, not like a hippy beard but more akin to what you’d see in an old photo of a soldier from the First American Revolution.  It doesn’t suit him well at all.  His teeth are a mess as well, it looks like someone hit him in the mouth with a hammer at some point.  If he shaved his beard and kept his mouth shut he would be a handsome man.  After Elvis introduced us, I looked around at his cluttered and shabby office.

“So what is this operation?  An Air America type thing?”

He laughed loudly, putting his mouthful of crooked teeth on display, jerking his thumb at Elvis “This guy been telling stories about the CIA again? Would I be in a place like this if I was with the CIA?”

“Spies are supposed to be inconspicuous so yeah, this seems about right.”

He looked like he had never considered that before “That’s a good point actually.  But the fact remains that I am merely a humble importer/exporter.”

I picked up a card off his desk and examined it “What does that mean?  I know it literally means that you buy stuff somewhere else and bring it here and vice versa, but that doesn’t sound like a full time gig to me.  How much time does it take to buy something and then have it shipped somewhere else?  What do you do all day?”

He picked up a wad of papers and shook them at me like a wagging finger of disapproval “Trust me sweetheart, I got plenty to do.  So why did my good friend Elvis drag you into my office?”

“I’m in need of exporting.”

“Exporting what?”

I gestured like a showroom model “You’re looking at it tiger.”

After I explained my situation, Alcazar was nice enough to let me stay with him for a couple days while he did some research.  I definitely don’t think he’s in the CIA anymore.  I think even a CIA agent working undercover would have more than a single room above a dance studio with a mattress on the floor.  Clearly the import/export business isn’t going so great.  

I think he likes having me around just to he has someone to speak Spanish with.  I asked him how the Tropics are doing but he said that he doesn’t follow sports back home.  I asked him how he ended up in Madripoor and he said (I’m paraphrasing here)

“Madripoor is the only free place left in the world, as free as it gets these days anyway.  If you want to make some money and you don’t mind getting down and dirty, Madripoor is the place to be.  Madripoor doesn’t dance to the tune of politics or corporate interests.”

He went on to say that Madripoor was “a modern day Port Royale”.  It was enough of a non-answer that despite this crappy apartment, it made me think a little that maybe he is CIA again.  On the other hand, being into lawless pseudo-anarchy doesn’t seem like what a CIA man would be into.  Or maybe it does?

Alcazar and Elvis both suggested that I stay put since the Shadow Lords might be looking for me, but I got bored so I went to work with Alcazar a couple days.  Being his secretary was slightly less boring than sitting in his crummy apartment staring at the walls.  Against their advice I got myself a gig at a local joint.  I did The Witch Queen of New Orleans, Never Been to Spain, and Day Dreaming to scattered polite applause.  Don’t these people know I had a top 40 hit in ’70?  Where’s the respect?

September 6th, 1973 – Which way to the embassy?

I asked my new best friend Elvis to point me towards the consulate for the Coalition States.  He didn’t know what I was talking about.  Doesn’t every country have a place in every other country where you go after you get kidnapped?  I tried to explain to him what an embassy was but I was hamstrung by the fact that I don’t really know what an embassy is.  It’s where the ambassador lives right?  That went nowhere but since I was still starving he took me to an open air noodle place.  It was like a shelter in a park, only it was a restaurant.  Elvis watched with mild disgust as I shoved noodles in my mouth.

“Why are you so scrawny if you eat like that?”

“Scrawny?!  I’m perfectly proportioned!”

He shrugged slightly “I guess.  Where does all the food go, that’s what I want to know.”

I looked around at the surrounding buildings “What I want to know is where the real food is around here.  I would die for a cheeseburger right now.  And some fries.  And a Coke.  And some cookies.  And a hot dog.  And some pizza.  And some ice cream.  I think those guys gave me a tapeworm or something.”

“What makes you think they did anything to you?”

“Well aside from the fact that I’m starving to death and I have a headache that would kill a gorilla, there’s this.” I twisted a fork around into a blob as easily as if it was a pipe cleaner.

He made a face “There’s no reason to ruin a good fork.  Are you saying you couldn’t do that before?” I shook my head “Huh.  I thought you were one of those American superwomen.  If the Shadow Lords have figured out how to give people superpowers that’s not going to be good for anyone.”

“What are you talking about?  What superwomen?”

He cocked his head slightly “I see in the news all the time about Americans flying around and blowing up bases and thwarting missile attacks.  Stuff like that.”

I chewed for a moment “You mean those two guys in the military that are always overthrowing regimes in South America?  And that Angel woman who just died?  What does that have to do with me?”

“Nothing apparently.  Supermen and women come from America and you have superpowers and are from America so I thought that’s what was happening.”

“You keep saying America like that’s a country.  I’m from the Coalition, I was born in the States and moved to the Pecos Republic but . . .”

Elvis held his hands up “Don’t get bent out of shape at me, I’m pretty sure you don’t have a strong grasp on the geography of southeast Asia either.”

“Fair enough.  Any thoughts on how I can get home?”

“Hmm, can’t you just fly?”

“How would I know if I could?”

He considered for a moment “Jump off a roof and see what happens?”

“Pass.”

“You’re going to need a plane ticket then sounds like.  Which means you’re going to need money.  I heard the Shadow Lords are looking for people like you.  I don’t know how well they pay though.  I think it’s more of an unpaid internship.”

“Hilarious.  You want to loan me some of your funny purple money to get home?  I’ll wire you the money back.  Eventually.  It may take a while, I’m kind of between jobs at the moment.”

He plucked at his dirty shirt “Do I look like I have any money to you?”

“No you don’t.  So what is your deal?  You just wander around picking fights with sex traffickers?”

He tilted his head “More or less yeah.  I know I guy you can talk to.  He’s in the CIA so he should be able to get you home somehow.”

“If he’s in the CIA how do you know about him?”

“I didn’t say he was good at his job.”