November 27, 1973 – First we eat, then we do everything else

I’m honestly starting to believe I might be dying.  I think about food all the time.  I dream about it.  No matter what else is going on, part of my mind is wondering where I can get some food.  How do you know if you’re starving to death?  One of the signs is lethargy and lack of energy.  But what does that mean when you have super endurance?  I never feel fatigue.  Does that mean I’m not starving to death?  Probably not right?  Mentally I feel exhausted, it’s like there’s a disconnect between my mind and body.  In my conscious thought I feel like I can’t take a single step but I know that I could do push-ups all day and it wouldn’t bother me. 

Another sign of starvation is irritability and trouble concentrating.  But I have that anyway because of the god damn chronic headaches I have ALL THE TIME.  Even when I eat enough to feel full (which has happened maybe twice) my head is still pounding, which makes me angry all the time.  I swear I’m usually a very pleasant person but I admit that I’ve been a monster later.  Immedicable throbbing will do that do a person is what I’ve found.   

Bottom line is that the same thing that’s making me need to eat so much is also making it so I don’t know if I’m slowly dying.  Which is a pretty shitty design if you ask me.  If I ever meet the people that did this to me I’ll have a cross word with them.  Another symptom is supposed to be feeling cold all the time, which I don’t, but that could be because it’s two hundred degrees with one thousand percent humidity here all the god damn time.  I can tell you that my hair and nails are brittle and shitty.  And my skin is taking on a weird pallor.  Is that a sign that you’re not getting enough to eat?  It’s not good whatever it is. 

We don’t talk about it because it’s not the kind of thing you talk about, but Martialla and Blue spend time most days just trying to find me (sort of) enough food.  Totally honest, I eat garbage a lot of the time.  Usually we can get it before they literally throw it out, but not always.  There are a lot of other people after it.  Because this is a very impoverished place.  And they’re not going to get it over me or Blue or Martialla.  It’s probably set off a chain reaction in the world of people who depend on urban scavenging for food.  I don’t like to think about it.  You might assume that this experience would make me feel more sympathy for people in “food insecurity” (what a fucking cop out term that is) but mostly it just makes me feel ashamed of myself.  It’s hard to feel self-possessed when you’re eating noodles out of the trash because you’re so hungry you can’t even wait to take them somewhere else. 

The last thing I thought when I woke up chained in the hull of a ship nine thousand miles from home was “I better get a job soon” but here we are.  I need some way to make sure I get enough to eat.  I spent the morning going around to restaurants to beg them for work.  I even went to the place where Elvis used to wash dishes because I knew they had an opening since he’s fucking dead.  I felt like a ghoul and a monster.  But I did it anyway.  None of the local places want me because I’m a white girl who can’t speak the language and none of the tourist places want me because I look like crap.  I’ve had one bath in like six weeks and I have one pair of clothes that are ripped and bloody.  Surprisingly that doesn’t make a good impression in a job interview.

The only place that gave me any consideration was German ex-pat dive bar that gave me some seriously bad vibes.  So clearly what I need to do is rob the place instead of work there.  I don’t know what’s going on with those crazy Krouts, but it’s something shady so they have it coming right?  After my weird interview with the sleazy manager I sat down at the bar to case the joint.  I don’t really know how to do that, but I was looking around, what else is there to it? 

My casing efforts were hampered by one of the only other patrons at that hour, a loud-mouth

statie who was clearly drunk and had a lot to say about the US president even though no one was listening.  He looked like one of those guys you’d see in a steelworkers guildhall in Pennsylvania – his face looked fifty but his body looked hard as concrete.  He didn’t look big, just heavy, you know – he was a stack.  I knew that anything I said would provoke him but I couldn’t help myself, I was having a bad time. 

“Would you take it down like fifty decibels there partner?  I’ve got a headache working over there and your kibitzing isn’t helping anything.  Who are you even talking to?” 

He looked around for a moment and then back incredulous “Are you talking to me little girl?” 

“I don’t see anyone else here so I must be talking to you.  Also, little?  I’m like three inches taller than you tiger.” 

I saw that he was gathering himself to come over and try and intimidate me so I beat him to the punch but standing up and kicking his stool out from underneath him.  He fell on his ass with the most surprised look I have ever seen on a human (or lizard or fish) face.  I think he would have been less shocked if I grew a second head. 

He started to get up, huffing and puffing to blow my house down, and while he was doing so I slapped him across the face.  Hard.  Not as hard as I can, but too hard.  I knew that immediately.  A pretty hard slap from me is going to kill most people, or at least seriously mess them up.  Remember, I’m as strong as twenty strong men.  I gasped involuntarily because I thought I had just murdered a guy. 

But he was fine.  Not fine-fine, but his neck wasn’t broken nor his face caved in.  He was like a boxer who just got bopped on the nose.  He needed a standing eight count but his manager didn’t need to throw in the towel.  He wobbled to his feet, turned his stool back over, and sat back down – giving me side eye.

“You’re lucky I don’t have my nunchakus, I’d beat your ass.”

I sat back down as well “Ooh, kinky.  Also, nunchakus?  What are you twelve?”

He looked me up and down several times and then hocked something up “This is what the world’s coming to huh?  This is what a super-solider looks like now?  I wish they had never discovered that damn gene.  Now you have all types in the military.” He shook his head “All types.”

“Sorry buddy, I’m no super-soldier, I’m just normal girl from the heartland – we’re tough out there, not like your weedy US women.”

He laughed mirthlessly “Ah, the Coalition, I should have known from the bong stink.”

I laughed in return “And you must be the reason why no one ever talks about the US super-soldier program if you’re what it turns out.”

He grunted “No one talks about us because we’re out doing the real work while those two (DELETED) wonks of yours glad-hand and sell insurance.  The Warmasters.  Give me a fucking break.  They don’t know shit about war.”

“They are pretty annoying.  The blonde one is like that kid who wore his boy scout uniform to school, and the one with the scar?  That guy looks like a damn psycho.  He looks like the kid who drilled a hole in the wall to the girl’s locker room.”

He started at me for a minute and then laughed legitimately “Still, I have to give you Angel, she was the real deal even if she was Coalition.  I would have been proud to have served with her.  God rest her soul.”

“God rest her soul.  So, do you want to have sex?”

He did an actual spit take, I thought that was just in movies, and looked over at me suspiciously “What?”

“It’s pretty simple, do you want to have sex with me or do you not want to have sex with me?”

“Uh . . . yes, I do.”

“Do you have a place?  And is it not a roach-infested shithole?  Are the super anal spit and polish kind of military guy or the other kind who just throws their garbage in the corner?”

“Umm . . . I have a place.  It’s clean . . . ish.” His face took on an expression like a rabbit caught in a trap “Why is this happening?”

I finished the crappy German beer I was drinking “You’re ugly, you’re unpleasant in demeanor, I dislike you, and I bet you’re a lousy lay.  But I’ve had like sixty bad days in a row so I want to do something stupid.  I want to feel the embarrassment, self-loathing and regret that will come afterwards.  You’re from the US, you like baseball right?  Think of yourself as a slumpbuster.”

I could see the wheels turning in his head “That’s . . . . hurtful.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to take me home anyway aren’t you?”

Tremble before my procedurally generated terror!

I don’t really have anything for background this week so I’ll roll some random tables for a new character and build them.  That should be interesting?

Type – Magic, Mystically Bestowed 

Appearance – Tall, overweight 

Disposition – Self-reliant, tough 

Age – Elderly 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, large city 

Background – Wealthy 

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Physical limitations 

Abilities – Spellcasting 

In this context mystically bestowed is a power source like Shazam, you speak the magic word or drink your magic tea and you’re transformed from whatever, in this case an old man with physical ailments, to a young strong alternate self.  Who in this case also knows magic.  Which is a little weird, seems like if you knew magic you’d just know it no matter what. 

I’ll say this guy is from Italy.  The only big city that I know of in Italy is Rome, but that seems too on the nose.  Internet says Milan is the second biggest city in Italy so we’ll go with that.  So we have a wealthy old man in Milan.   

What was going on in Italy in this alternate timeline?  The Great War (aka WW1) was pretty much the same.  If this guy is old in 1973 he was probably the right age to be in the mix in 1914.  As a rich man who fancies himself a tough guy he was likely an officer in the Italian army.  I don’t know a ton about WW1 but I think Italy fought a bunch of battles against Austria and lots of people died and it was all kind of pointless.  Which is more or less WW1 in a nutshell.   

I should probably give this guy a name, I’ll go with Dino Fossella, which I think is the name of one of the kidnappers in Man on Fire.  The novel, the movie was in Mexico instead of Italy.  Sidenote I love the movie and I don’t care what anyone says about it.   

Dino was embittered by his experience in the war, he expected to come home and be a big hero and get a parade and instead no really cared because they didn’t get all the sweet Austrian booty they were after. (note to self, register domain name sweetAustrianbooty) But old Dino wasn’t going to be denied his fame so easily.  Let’s say he was a big-time piano man and after the war his goal was to become a celebrated concert pianist. 

He was good, but he wasn’t that good.  But, as a pretty good pianist with a boatload of cash he managed to get his name out there at the expense of other better pianists.  So he spends a good decade being a man about town and having concerts that are really just parties for his rich pals.   

I’ve established that there was no WW2 as we know it, just “another war in Europe”.  Without an expansionist Germany and a more laid-back USSR what was going on?  I’m no historian, so I don’t know the roots of Italian fascism but let’s say the march on Rome in ‘22 still happened.  So we have France and Britain fighting the Empire of Japan in the east while Germany and Russia are playing it cool.  That probably leaves Italy free to attack the Balkans like they always wanted. 

So we have Italy at war again.  Dino once again wants to be an officer but they say he’s too old – go back to your piano old man.  Dino doesn’t like that.  He likes it even less when his villa is bombed by Greek and Yugoslavian operatives.  Dino survives but his legs and hands are damaged, no more piano for him, also he can’t get around so well.   

If you thought Dino was embittered before, oh man, watch out now.  But what sparks Dino’s interest in the occult?  Perhaps one of the operatives was mystically inclined.  One of the bombers supernaturally clouded the minds of Dino’s men and walked right in with the bomb.  Dino saw his guards standing there like statues while a dude just rolls up and plants a bomb.  He becomes obsessed with finding out more about it. 

He spends the next thirty years or so frittering away all his money on raiding Egyptian tombs and whatnot looking for magic.  I don’t know much about Italian folklore, but google told me there’s a tale of a 7-headed dragon that was causing a ruckus in Bergamo province and a big army went to fight it.  The battle was a draw and the dragon retreated into the river.  Folklorist say there was a “maga” – a sorceress – involved somehow but that part of the story is lost.  Here’s the deal, the sorceress was the dragon, transformation style. 

And check this shit out, Milan is in Bergamo!  So old lady 7-heads is injured and she goes into the river to sleep it off for a couple centuries and when she wakes up and looks around she’s like “da fuck? Where’s all the old timey shit I know?”  She goes to the first place she sees, the now empty villa of Dino, where he sits alone and broke being old and bitter.  Probably it would be hard for them to communicate, the Italian language surely changed some in a thousand years, but she’s magic so she figures it out. 

She asks Dino what’s up.  He says give me the magic power and I’ll tell you.  She’s all like “sure” and he wigs out because he’s been after magic forever and now it just falls into his lap.  Dino speaks the word of magic power she bestows upon him, “Drago” and suddenly he’s a young strong able-bodied man that has a little magic of his own. 

But why can he only do magic when transformed?  Let’s say that this form of magic is physically taxing and in his old broken body he can’t manage it.  Dino says “thanks old time Italian sorceress! Now I shall have the fame and coolness I deserve, by being a supervillain!”  And she’s like, whatever floats your boat man.    

I like duos (of people, not the gum, although the gum is okay) so he’ll probably have a partner but this post is already long so maybe I’ll do that next week.   

November 26, 1973 – A war on some drugs

Since we didn’t have a great way of scouting out the location of Camila’s rival drug gang, I floated the idea of stiffing her to Martialla and Blue, but they weren’t into it.  “Don’t you have enough enemies already?” was the gist of their argument.  I suppose, to be fair, Camila didn’t do anything to me really, she doesn’t deserve to be ripped off.  Although I didn’t deserve to be blown up and turned into a remorseless eating machine either and no one is apologizing to me about that. 

Blowing up notwithstanding, I caved in to their demands, as I always do, because I’m a people pleaser at heart.  I’m the leader, but I’m what’s known as a servant leader – I’m here for my people, not myself.  Empathy, listening, conceptualizing, I’m great at all that bullshit.  Martialla and Blue are probably taking advantage of my easy-going nature somewhat, but what can you do you know? 

When she was telling us who to attack, Camila spent a lot of time explaining to me about how the drugs she and her boys grow are natural and organic from plants and therefore are superior to the garbage that her rival, Gwai the Butcher, mixes up in his labs.  She’s awfully morally superior for a drug dealer.  Sorry, I mean drug manufacturer.  I guess she was trying to get me on her side beyond the part where I’m indebted to her.  I don’t understand why people think natural things are good.  Arsenic is natural.  So is getting eaten by a python.  And on the other hand, lots of unnatural things are great.  Cheese.  Music.  Condoms.  Vodka.

I turned to News Dan as a source of information but he was offended by the very notion.  He said that he was a reporter, not an informant.  He was also very high and mighty about not getting involved in my “criminal dealings”.  This from a man who claims that alien reptile psi-vampires control the United Nations.  The good news is his assistant Yiyang blabbed the whole thing after a couple of beers, or some kind of alcohol in a can anyway, it’s hard to know sometimes around here.  It may have been paint thinner.  Hmm, is there paint thickener?  I’ll have to check on that.   

Y tattled to me about the warehouse where (heh warehouse where) Gwai stashes his fishgut drugs and I told Martialla and Blue.  They began planning the assault with Canadian military precision.  It’s too bad our broom closet isn’t big enough for maps and little miniature tanks – military people love that stuff.  I interrupted their warmongering with a practical concern.   

“And then what?”  They both looked at me with their dull inhuman eyeballs “After you commando murder all these guys guarding the place, what do we do then?  How do we destroy all the drugs?” 

Blue glanced at Martialla “How about a fire?” 

“Sounds like a good way to burn the entire city down.  Somehow I have a feeling that the Madripoor fire department isn’t a crack squad.  If there even is one.  In the poor part of town anyway, the rich areas would probably be fine.” 

Martialla shrugged her weird skinny fish-shoulders “We can just toss the drugs in the bay.” 

“How are we going to do that?  We don’t even have a car.  Aren’t we talking about a warehouse full of drugs?  How can we carry all that down to the shore?” 

She fish-snorted “You’re always bragging about how strong you are, can’t you lift it all?”

“How would I do that?  Are you going to wrap it all up like a Christmas present with a bow?” 

Martialla looked confused and Blue piped up “She means Boxing Day.” 

“What?  No I don’t.  Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, if you know what Boxing Day is, how can you not know what Christmas is?” 

Martialla’s gross fish-lips frowned further “I thought that Boxing Day was when the Boxer Rebellion happened.  I think you meant to say Saint Swithin’s Day.” 

“I don’t even know what Saint Swilling’s Day is!” 

Blue flicked his tongue pedantically (I’ve been around him long enough to know) “Swith-IN.” 

“Shut up you.” 

They suggested that we could blow the place up, but we can’t because we don’t have any explosives or the money to buy them.  Which is an important component in blowing things up.  They proposed in the alternative that we could steal some money.  The whole thing unraveled quickly.  Why does being a superhero always end up with robbing something to get money for bombs to blow up drugs?  It’s uncanny how often you need to commit seven or eight crimes to stop one.  Is there a lesson in there somewhere about something?  No.

Since we were going nowhere with that line of questioning, I asked them if they had any leads on the kind of people that I thought might have grabbed Martialla’s niece.  All they could find out is that if you want a gene splicer, you head to the Shipyard (which remember, is not a shipyard, but a soccer stadium turned into criminal bazaar – uhg, I hate this place) because that’s where you can find anything.  So that’s where we’re going.  After we have some kind of deadly confrontation with a drug gang.  You know how it is.

The best writers use pictures instead of words

The other day my random Microsoft screensaver showed me this – Guatapé in Colombia. It looks like what I imagine the part of Madripoor where the rich people have their villas looks like. I share it because I am a terrible writer and can’t describe things. If you look closely you can see Mr. X waving!

IMAGE MAY BE SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT!!!!

In other news, SPOILER ALERT, Madripoor was on the latest episode of Falcon & the Winter Soldier so now this entire blog is ruined because it seems like I was ripping off a TV show when I wasn’t at all, I was ripping off a comic book. Since Madripoor is already an expy of Singapore, I’ll have to re-write everything and make the place Ela is stuck in currently Thirteenapour.

BONUS MAILBAG – Since Ela is occasionally referencing Superman and other DC comic people, someone asked me if Marvel comics exist in this part of the Elaverse. They’re not supposed to. Since I already ripped off Madripoor, some very minor Marvel characters might turn up from time to time. Is that fair usage? I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer. Yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you’re the one who . . .”

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

“I can’t pay a ransom either.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A brief summary of the history of space exploration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are going great.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who did that to your head?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is out there

Pictured above “news van”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah god, my fucking ankle!” 

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

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Fuck me!” 

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

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

“No.” 

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

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

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

“Gun, kill her!” 

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

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

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

“Belt, fly me away!  God damn it!” 

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

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

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