Let me knife you a question

About half the Wyomins left of their own accord went up into the mountains to try make it on their own.  A couple asked for a lift to Crow, a couple managed to integrate themselves into one of the bands on our side, and the rest resigned themselves to a life of mudding in Bosstown.   

Nemecrie was one of the contingent that she wanted to go to Crow, I was halfway considering asking her to join us since she seemed to know what was up but my enthusiasm for that project was dampened when she tried to stab me.  Martialla and I (and Paul) were sitting by J-Lo enjoying the bounty of our victory – cooking up some mashed dick-potato soup and enjoying the lights in the sky – when Nemecrie approached us with a ceramic jug of a wine-like liquid that was horrid but pretty good by the standards of the day.  She joined us for a bit and we chatted and drank and then when she was passing me the jug she lunged at me with a blade.   

I flopped back and she took a strip out of my jacket instead of my flesh.  Martialla tackled her and she had a brief moment to rant about how the Invincible were unbeatable (or invincible if you will) and that Duke Eagle was going to make me his personal slave and so on and so forth before Paul hobbled over and twisted her head like a soda bottle cap.  I guess she was a little more of a partisan for the Invincible than she let on before.

I nudged her dead body with my foot “You know if there’s one good thing about the world of tomorrow . . .” 

Martialla interrupted “Which there isn’t.” 

I nodded “Which there isn’t, but if there was it would be that there doesn’t seem to be a glass ceiling anymore.  Possibly because it’s kind of hard to tell a lot of time what gender people even are.” 

Martialla picked up the jug carefully to avoid spilling any more precious horrible wine “Here’s to you Emmeline Pankhurst, we did it!  Sort of.  And all it took was the total collapse and destruction of all society everywhere. 

“Good work bodyguarding guys” I said as I examined the hole in my jacket. 

Paul’s head snapped around and he stared me with strange wet eyes.  I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me and bite my jugular vein or if he was pleased or what was going on behind those crazy eyes.  After holding my gaze for a moment he kind of bobbed his head like an ostrich and then set about dragging the corpse away so it wouldn’t disturb our great feast.  Martialla sat back down and continuing stirring her punch bowl of potato moosh bisque.   

She glanced at his figure retreating into the shadows “I don’t think Paul’s gotten much positive reinforcement in his life so far.” 

I shook my head “I’d be locking my door with that guy around if I had a door.” 

Martialla shook her head absently “He’s harmless, well not harmless he’s killed tons of people, but you know what I mean.” 

“I have no idea what you mean.  So, why do you think this place is here?  Everywhere we’ve been there’s usually there’s some resource like mud or grass or stinking dead fish or some reason why people would want to live there.  I don’t see crops or anything, and it definitely isn’t a trade town so what’s the appea; of this place, why was anyone here?” 

She thought for a moment “That’s actually a good point.” 

“What do you mean actually?” 

Martialla made a vague conciliatory gesture “I just mean that . . . you know . . . usually you don’t . . . you know . . . uh, anyway maybe we should take a closer look around in the morning.  I’m sure they looted this place good but they may not have noticed some things that might be interesting to us.” 

“Speaking of, when the looting stage of the battle began I’m surprised that our side didn’t start fighting amongst themselves.” 

Martialla snorted “What makes you think that they didn’t?  Not all our casualties came during the fighting.  Not even most of them maybe.” 

“Wonderful.  Well, at least we got this campaign off on the right foot with a victory, that’s what matters right?  Good for morale and so forth.” 

“And what’s the next stage in the campaign fearless leader?”  

“We saw a couple Invincible towns or strongholds or whatever when we were scouting right?” 

Martialla raised an eyebrow “Stay on the attack?  Could be a good idea.  I think the general military opinion is that of offense over defense.” 

“Is that why the Lakers never play any defense?”

“Derek Fisher is a solid defender, and Shaq lead the leagues in blocks!”

I snorted “Blocking shots is not defense, you play defense with your feet not your hands.”

Martialla snorted right back “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I nodded my head “True.  My original thinking was that if we provoked the Invincible they’d mobilize more strongly against us and then we could use that to rally people to our cause, but I think now that if we’re going to keep this rabble together we need to stay on the move.  Like a shark we have to keep swimming or we’ll die.” 

“Except the nurse shark.  And the sand tiger.” 

“Shut up Martialla.” 

I’ve missed you, you know that’s true

I used to have no opinion about snakes.  Why would I?  We rarely had any cause to interact.  Early in my career I booked a gig where they put a snake on me for a vodka ad (or something, print ads are weird, you never know where the pictures end up) one of those pythons that guys with ponytails have.  I don’t know why that’s a thing, putting a snake on a sexy lady, are there that many snake weirdoes out there for that to be a thing?  Anyway, I didn’t mind that snake, I’ve had worse co-stars you know.  AHEM Matthew Broderick.  

That was before.  Now I hate snakes.  I hate them more than I hate the Valley.  I wasn’t doing anything to that snake, why did it have to bite me?  It’s unjust is what it is.  And consider this, it seems that human beings are universally ugly and lumpy and dirty now (not that 95% of them weren’t uggos before) that being the case, my ass is most likely the best ass in the world.  What happened to me would be like someone vandalizing the Mona Lisa in the olden times.  Or something better than the Mona Lisa since the Mona Lisa kind of sucks.  Have you ever seen it?  It’s like the size of a postcard.  

My ass shouldn’t be getting gnawed on by California mountain snakes, it should be getting rubbed with fine oils and liniments.  Who had the best ass in the world before was debatable, but there’s no question now – my ass is a national treasure.  Or it would be if nations still existed.  To the people of this world my ass must be like an eclipse, so powerful and majestic that you need to look at it through a hole in a cardboard box.  If and when they reinvent navigation, sailors will come to me and say “Ela, your butt is so round and perfect we need to use it to calibrate our nautical instruments – nothing else exists that is so precise.”  And I’ll allow it, with due care and reverence, knowing full well that the man who undertakes this glorious task will afterwards gouge his eyes out because once you have seen such flawlessness you never want any other image to sully your vision again.  

This is what I was thinking about when I was sitting by the side of the stinking lake of tar-water.  Cantilevered more than sitting upright because of the aforementioned snakebite, leaning against what I initially thought was an ugly scraggy dying tree but I think might be a rock.  That’s the world now, rocks and trees can’t be easily distinguished from each other. Martialla was eyeballing the creature wallowing in the muck trying to decide how best to kill it.  I have to say that she’s adjusting pretty well.  One day you’re picking up my dry cleaning and the next day you’re in the future trying to kill a walrus-bear-octopus-pig-lizard.  That would plumb rattle some folks.  

Although bizarre and large, the beast didn’t look all that dangerous to me.  Of course, neither do hippos and back in my time they killed people constantly.  Three sitting presidents were killed by hippos – one during their inauguration!  I remember seeing that on TV when I was a kid, George Bush running for his life, hapless Secret Service agents being tossed aside as a brutal hippo charged POTUS with murderous eyes rolling like those of a shark.  That’s not the kind of thing you forget.  My dad was laughing like a crazy person.  He voted for Dukakis.  I remember one time I was in New York for a photo shoot and a hippo pod came out of the subway tunnel and into Times Square.  What a mess.  (Martialla’s note, this is all bullshit, hippos are dangerous but everything else here is lies) [Editor’s note, stay away from my journal Martialla!]

“Do you really think you can kill that thing with a handgun?”

Martialla half-shrugged “You can kill anything if you shoot it enough.”

“I don’t know if that’s true.  Wasn’t there a story in the paper the other day about a zoo elephant going berserk and killing its trainer?  I believe the police shot it more than a hundred times with their sidearms to no effect until the SWAT guys showed up with an RPG and took it down.”

She turned around to scowl at me “The LAPD did not kill an elephant with a rocket propelled grenade!”

I bit my lip in thought “Maybe it was an APC.”

Martialla scowled harder, that woman could scowl the bark off a tree (or a rock that looks like a tree) “That . . . that doesn’t even make sense.”

“Whatever it was the point I was trying to make is that small arms fire didn’t hurt it.  Don’t you hear the same thing about alligators and bears and so forth?  This thing seems to be a combination of all of them, plus some other stuff.  I think there’s some garbage pail kid in there.”

“Weren’t you in the garbage pail kids movie?”

“No, that was Katie Barberi.”

Martialla nodded absently “Oh yeah.”

I watched her watching the motionless creature for a while “Even if you can kill this thing, is it worth the ammunition?  I’m pretty sure you don’t know how to forge bullets and even if you did, I doubt there’s any gunpowder to be had.  Shouldn’t we only use our guns as an absolute last resort?”

She let out a long breath “It does piss me off when the survivors in zombie movies shoot their guns into the air or just shoot at things to make a point.  It’s horribly wasteful.”

“No one would watch a movie where the characters didn’t make bad decisions constantly. What are you trying to do, put me out of a job?”

Martialla smiled shortly “I hate to break it to you L, but I think you’re already out of a job.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not, I could travel around doing Shakespeare like in that movie the Postman.”

Martialla shook her head “That movie was awful.  Could you do that?  Do you have any of the works of Shakespeare memorized?”

“No, but what difference does it make?  I can make up whatever I want and just tell people that it’s Shakespeare, everyone who knows better is dead.  I could tell them George Bush was eaten by a hippo and they’d believe it.”

“Now there’s an idea for a movie, they unfreeze a caveman from a glacier and he’s a huge liar.  All the historians and anthropologists come to talk to him and he tells them that in caveman times they had hot air balloons and thousand foot tall rollercoasters and they rode around on dinosaurs.”

I snorted “See, that right there is why there are no good parts for women in movies, why does it have to be a cave MAN, you traitor?”

“What about that movie where you played the CEO of an auto company who was also a superhero fighting aliens by night?”

“Okay, that was a good role.  That movie got really screwed up in editing though.”

Martialla continued eyeing the creature with a mixture of apprehension and eagerness “It probably is a waste of ammunition but I think the bottom line is that I just really want to shoot something.  I think it will make me feel better.  You know, about the world being destroyed and my husband being long dead.”

“Well as long as you have a good reason.  Do you think you can take it out with one shot?  What if it charges us?”

She looked back at me with a look of pure condescension “It’s not going to charge us Ela.”

December 20, 1973 – Women supporting women

“I’m starting to lose faith in the process.  I’ve seen at least two different bull-men walking about the streets of Madripoor and all we’re getting is guys with motorcycle helmets and creepy weirdos who torture the ghost of their dead twins.  Why aren’t we getting anyone good?”

Martialla shrugged  “Why are we getting anyone in here is the real question.  Where are these people coming from?  Also, those bull men are called Minotaurs.”

“What?”

“From the Greek myth?  The being that is part bull and part human is called the Minotaur.  The king of Minos was being a jerk to Poseidon so Poseidon made his wife fall in love with a bull and so she and the bull did it, and her baby was the Minotaur.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  This isn’t a classic literature class, these are just morons who were stupid enough to let some egghead scientists shove bull hormones up their butts and turn them into mutants.”

Martialla crossed her arms angrily “I’m just telling you what they’re called.”

Blue moved to block my sightline to Martialla as he does sometimes when we bicker “I know who you’re talking about. One of those guys is a ram, not a bull.”

I was about to tell Blue to shut up when I noticed that our next applicant was there.  And by applicant, I mean a woman in a black catsuit with a god damn whip.  She had heels on her god damn boots!  How the hell are you going to do anything with heels on your super-boots?  I’m not even going to mention her ridiculously pendulous breasts.  I stood up from behind Alcazar’s desk and pointed towards the door.

“No, no.  You get out of here with that shit!  We’re looking for superheroes, we’re not casting for a Russ Meyer movie!”

The small part of her face that I could see seemed puzzled “What?”

I gestured more emphatically “Get the hell out here!  You look like you belong in the window of a Times Square bondage store!”

Martialla peered around Blue to glower at me “Calm down Ela, just because you took a women’s studies class in community college doesn’t mean you have to shout at everyone all the time.  Maybe she can help us.  At least give her a chance.”

“Sure, here’s your chance – give me one good reason why you’d dress like that other than appearing in a fetish magazine!”

I couldn’t see her eyes because her get-up had some kind of goggle type thing, but her voice was flinty “Chill out, you don’t like the way I’m dressed that’s fine, but you don’t have to be a bitch about it.  This suit is what gives me my super powers.  I didn’t design it, I didn’t make it, I just wear it so I can do my job.  If I didn’t wear it just because of what it looks like, that would be wrong.  You think any of the people I’ve saved care what I look like?”

“What about the whip? You cannot tell me that serves any purpose!”

“It does actually. I can’t fly. I can jump pretty far, but I can’t fly – the whip helps extend my reach.  I jump, I get the whip around something, and I swing up.”

“Bullshit, there’s no way that works.  You can’t swing around from building to building with a ten foot whip.”

“Look I’m not here to debate you on whip physics.  I was told that you needed help, if you don’t want my help just say so, there’s no need for personal attacks. I don’t need to take your abuse, we can both just go our separate ways.  But since you brought it up, if you think you’re the arbiter of how women are dressed, you’re the one who’s the problem.  Restrictions on the way women can dress have been used as a way to control and restrict what we can and can’t do for centuries, so don’t sit there on your high horse and judge me.  The way I dress is none of your damn business.  You or anyone else.”

“You cannot be that stupid, you have to know what you’re doing when you run around in a skintight sex bag.”

She snorted “You’re going to sit there and judge me?  What have you ever done?  I save lives, I don’t sit on the sidelines clucking my tongue about the bellbottom pants and how two young people’s hips might touch if they do the Bump.  Just because you’re dressed like a train hopping hobo, don’t bark at me like a dog because I have some style.”

“The style of a Saigon whore maybe.”

She lifted her chin “Say that again.  Say that again and I’ll teach you some manners you prissy little flat-chested plain Jane.”

I laughed “Sure why not, violence, we come to it at last.  Somehow I knew we’d end up here.  I’m not going to fight you because I’m not a ten year old boy, I’m not going to meet you by the bike rack after sixth period because you said your dad was stronger than my dad.  Plus it wouldn’t be fair, with your fat flabby tits waving around, you have me outnumbered three to one.”

She laughed back at me “Figures, you’re all talk, like all big mouths.”

“I’m an adult.  I don’t get into fights like a dirty alley cat just because I disagree with someone.”

 She crossed her arms “Fifty grand.”

“What?”

“I’ll give you fifty thousand dollars if you fight me.  Looks like you could use it.  Win or lose the fifty is yours, you just have to show up.  What excuse are you going to come up with now?”

December 3, 1973 – Why couldn’t it have been girl scout cookies?

I don’t know if it’s something all military people do, but Blue and Martialla love planning.  They say things like PAWPERSO and draw diagrams on napkins and move around salt shakers on tables and stuff like that.  They should get some of those little army men like they have in the movies.  Blue and Martialla talk and talk and talk and in the end generally we don’t do anything.  I mean sure, maybe that’s because I get fed up and do something rash before their plan can happen, but they should account for that if they love planning so much. 

Who knew that navigating the world of criminal syndicates would be so boring?  Why do they need outsiders to do all their dirty work?   I guess it makes sense, if you’re a criminal mastermind, anyone you can handle without losing too much you’ve already handled, so you’re left with rivals that you can’t safely attack – it takes interlopers to break a stalemate.  And if they fail who cares because they’re not your people anyway.  Disposable assets. 

Martialla wasn’t entirely wrong about what she said.  She wasn’t totally fair either, but she wasn’t out of line to speak up.  We’ve been avoiding each other.  Honestly I’ve been sulking.  Just a little bit.  It’s one of those things you do where you know you’re doing it and you know you’re being immature, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.  Maybe I should go to one of the temples around here and learn to mediate, get some discipline or enlightenment or something.  If nothing else I hear those monks can fast for days without any issue, maybe at the least they could teach me a technique for suppressing my hunger.  Or maybe I could just find some diet pills.   

Blue and Martialla were out ‘scouting’ so I was sitting in the closet-apartment staring at the wall when there was a knock at the door.  No one has ever knocked on our door before.  It took me a moment to realize what I was hearing.  I theatrically pulled myself up off the floor with a sigh and went over to answer.  At the doorway were three women.  One of them was wearing a strip of sheer black fabric in the manner of a deep-V thong one piece swimsuit.  Another was literally dressed like a dominatrix, black leather dress, thigh high boots, she even had a riding crop.  The third was the most conservatively dressed of the bunch, because she had a cape over her black (of course) bustier and garters set. 

“Uh . . . can I help you?” 

The one with the cape frowned slightly “Are you Lason?” 

“I don’t know what that is.” 

They looked at each other and then the dominatrix spoke up “Maybe we have the name wrong, you’re the woman who robbed the casino, right?” 

“Uh . . . . maybe?” 

Vampirella had to get her voice heard “Can you control men’s minds with your pheromones or not?” 

I rolled my eyes “Oh lord, I should have known you were looking for her based on the way you’re dressed.  How did you even get here like that?  Do you have change for the bus in your crotch?  No, I am not the woman dressed as a hooker that TRIED to rob the casino with a bunch of mind-controlled morons and her ass hanging in the wind.  I’m the woman that successfully robbed the casino WITH PANTS ON like an adult.” 

Dominatrix looked over my shoulder “If you robbed the casino, why are you living in a closet?” 

“I’ve had some financial setbacks, shifting priorities in the marketplace and such.  I assume you’re looking for her because you’re recruiting, are you guys The Femme Force Five?  You’re going to lose the alliteration if you become The Femme Force Six.”

“No, and also the Femme Force Five already has seven members, according to them traditional counting is an oppressive patriarchal tool.”

“Of course, so who are you, the bikini bandits?  I’m not interested, but I’m glad you’re here because I have to tell you ladies something and you’re not going to like it but you need to hear it.  Now understand, I am not one of those bra-burning far left types that say all sex is rape, but . . .” 

Cape leaned in slightly “You don’t look like you’re wearing a bra.” 

“I lost my bra, forget about the bra, this is not about bras.  Well it sort of is . . .” 

Vampirella looked confused “How you lose your bra?” 

Dominatrix looked down the hallway “Did you check the laundry room?  I think I saw it on the way in.” 

“I . . . what?  Look, here’s the bottom line, I understand wanting to look sexy.  Really I do.  Especially when you’re performing, because what you’re doing really is a performance.  I get that.  When I’m on stage . . .” 

“On stage doing what?” 

“I’m a singer.  But that’s not important, I’m saying that . . .” 

Cape peered at me again, she must need glasses “A singer?  Should we know who you are?” 

Before I could answer, Vampirella snapped her fingers “I knew I knew you from somewhere! You’re that girl that sings Love Me Sexy, aren’t you?’ 

Dominatrix smirked “You sing a song called Love Me Sexy and you’re going to lecture us about the way we dress?” 

I shook my head “No, I mean yes, I do sing that song sometimes but that’s a Jackie Moon song not mine, and yes that’s actually exactly what I want to talk about.  When I’m on stage . . .” I took a deep breath, trying to gather my thoughts “I’m all discombobulated here.  Look, here’s what I’m saying.” I pointed at the whip the one with the cape had on her hip because of course she had a whip “This is a problem, okay?  What are you doing with a whip?  Why do you have a whip and your boobs out instead of a bulletproof vest and a rifle?  You don’t see a man running around with a whip, do you?  Because . . .” 

“Zorro had a whip.” 

“He did?  Well forget about Zorro, that’s a different thing than what I’m talking about here.” 

Cape put a finger to her mouth “Didn’t Alan Quatermain have a whip?” 

Dominatrix nodded “Yeah, and Sherlock Holmes did too.” 

“What?  Sherlock Holmes never had a whip!” 

Cape did that thing where you close one eye and look up when you’re trying to remember something “Yeah . . . yeah he did, in The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.” 

Vampirella shook her head “No, that was a loaded riding crop, it’s a Bartitsu thing.” 

“What the hell is barbijitsu?”

Dominatrix waved her riding crop around “But this is a whip basically right?” 

“Why do you guys know so much about Sherlock Holmes?  It doesn’t matter though because . . .” 

Cape stepped back behind her two pals “You’re right, it doesn’t matter because you’re not who we’re looking for.  Kill her.” 

The dominatrix stepped forward with a kick to the gut that sent me stumbling backwards into the room-closet.