October 16, 1973 – It’s the Cadillac of kidnappings

Back home there was always a protest or petition or some kind of whoop-de-doo going on about this or that or the other thing.  People were forever getting riled up about an election or a law or a petion or something or other.  I’m not much of one for politics or rhetoric or community action, it’s all just so tiresome you know? Hmm, although it’s also much nicer back home.  Is there a connection of some kind there?  No, no, I should just keep on being selfish.

I think part of the problem is though that a lot of that action comes from the hippies.  I tell you true, I’m not a fan, I mean free love?  Nice try guys.  Granted, I haven’t shaved my legs since I was dumped in this hellhole but that’s a matter of circumstance not choice. One thing they’re often very upset about is the military industrial complex.  I don’t know what that is exactly but a lot of dudes with long hair really don’t think it’s a good idea.  Another thing that puts beans in their bindle is rich people.  

I wouldn’t mind being rich myself but I’m not that into it you know?  My grandmother used to say, as long as you’re pretty you don’t need money, which is true for the most part.  It helps if you’re charming too.  Which I am.  I am winsome as fuck.  Money corrupts they like to say, but I’ve met plenty of poor assholes so money isn’t doing all the lifting for sure.  But here in Madripoor I’m starting to understand what those long hairs were driving at.  There’s having money and then there’s being rich.  And then there’s having wealth.  

I decided to go and speak to the harbormaster alone, I didn’t want to try to strong-arming the guy right off the bat – save that for later in case my winsome charm doesn’t work.  With that tactic in mind showing up with a giant lizardman and a freaky fish lady at my flanks seemed like the wrong way to go.  I’ll need them for the rough stuff, but when it’s time to charm and disarm that’s Ela time.  Ergo, I left Martialla and Blue at the bar and headed out myself.

Sidenote, those two don’t seem to be gelling.  I figured they’d be fast friends in no time.  They’re both bitter ex-military French Canadian abominations.  How can they not have anything to talk about?  What kind of bullshit is that?  The odds against two people like them even being here are astronomical and when they meet they’re both like “eh, I can do better”?  Me, I like talking to anyone I can find from the CS just because they understand my references.   Even if they’re boorish at least we’re on the same page.

Side-sidenote the other day some customers actually came into the bar, tourists you know, and upon seeing a giant blue lizard and a soggy broad with giant white eyes they turned around and immediately walked back outside.  I have to admit seeing that was a trip.  

Anyway, I was heading down to the harbormasters office when a Cadillac Eldorado pulled up beside me.  In this part of Madripoor it’s pretty rare to see cars at all, let alone a monster like that.  It’s one of those cars that you expect to have horns mounted on the front and a loudmouthed oilman inside.  The streets in this part of town aren’t even really built for cars, I feel like driving here they probably knocked the corners off a couple people’s houses. And off some people too.

There was no fat Pecos oil baron inside though, instead there were a couple men in dark suits with Uzis (or whatever, I don’t know guns).  There are a lot of things about Madripoor that are strange to me.  And there are things and Madripoor that frighten me.  Chief among the latter group is the way that some people just have guns on them walking around.  In the CS you’d occasionally see someone with a hunting rifle or maybe a handgun here or there but there is something mildly terrifying about seeing men with assault rifles in normal clothes just out and about being casual.

Two of the men got out of the back seat and said something to me in Malay (or Indonesian, or one the many other languages spoken here) while one of them held the door open.  I couldn’t understand them of course but the request was clear – get in.  

You see this is what I’m starting to understand.  When you have wealth you do things like dispatching your goons in a luxury car to snatch a woman off the street like that’s a normal thing to do.  Rich people secretly fear that the poor will rise up and eat them someday so they don’t go too crazy.  The wealthy have no such fears.  They’re insulated.  They’re immune.  Once you have a fleet of private planes and your own army of loyal goons and emergency bunkers on volcanic islands what whim could you possibly not indulge?  

“Saya tidak bercakap bahasa melayu” I said while calculating if I could flip the car over and run before they riddled me bullets.  

The driver turned and repeated the command in French and while I was deciding if I wanted to pretend I didn’t understand that either the passenger got out and leaned on his door like someone waiting at a gas station.  He was a little taller and more slender than the other goons.  He would have been a decent looking guy if he wasn’t trying to abduct me.  He spoke English with a British accent.

“We’re not Shadow Lords.”  

I nodded “Sure, you’re just men with guns grabbing me off the street, nothing that I should worry about at all.  Hold a second while I let my guard down.”

He smiled and held his hands out like predators do when they want to seem harmless “Has anyone here grabbed you miss?  This is a polite invitation, my boss would like for you to join to at his compound for lunch.”

I laughed mirthlessly “Does he know how much I eat these days?  He might regret that.”

He nodded slightly “My patron is aware of your unfortunate . . . condition.  That’s why he wants to meet you in fact.”

“Yes, I’ve become very popular since several million dollars was spent turning me into a biological miracle slash sideshow freak.  I get invited to all the best parties these days.  Does your patron have a name?”

He shook his head slightly “Not one that he cares to share.”

I snorted “Ooh, very mysterious, he sounds like a real peach.  I’m sure all the other girls just love this shadowy mystery man.”  I looked at my wrist as if I was wearing a watch “I’m actually on my way to an appointment though, prior commitment and all that, you know how it is, business never stops.  What happens if I decline your polite gunpoint invitation?”

He sighed theatrically “Has anyone pointed a gun at you?  If you decline the invitation then we are going to have to grab you.  My boss is a generous man but he’s also very stern.  Yes, very stern indeed.”

I smiled slightly “And how do you think that would go?”

He seemed curious “I don’t know.  The extent of your abilities is unknown.  I know that you defeated Genderuwo, which isn’t a feat that many can boast about, so I know that you must be immensely strong.  But I also know that you didn’t kill him, which makes me wonder if you’re not so fearsome in the final analysis.”

“He’s pretty hard to kill.”

He nodded “That he is madam, that he is.  However unless I miss my mark I don’t think you gave that much sustained effort.  The choices before you are that you can either come with me for a nice little drive and then lunch or we can slug it out and see what happens.  My boss is going to learn what he wants to know in either case I think.  So the question is, which will you have love?”

Martialla returns – 70s style

Kirill Chernyshevsky was a black hundredist who fought against Bolshevik forces in the Russian Civil war in the 1920s and continued operating with militarized associations of anti-communist insurrectionists in Siberia through the early 1930s.  Operating mainly in Primorsky Krai, Kirill had close ties with a smuggling group associated with anti-Japanese Dongnipgun rebels.  It was through these contacts that he was smuggled into Yunshan in 1937 and from there made his way to Calgary. 

In Calgary, Kirill married Eugénie Caouette in 1939, the daughter of a prominent figure in the local criminal scene.  Kirill and Eugénie had two daughters, Martialla and Irena Chernyshevsky, before their murder in 1957, which remains unsolved.

Martialla, the elder sister, was able to get judicial dispensation for active military duty at the age of 16, joining the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service.  This allowed her to become the legal guardian of her sister Irena.  Martialla worked at the naval training center in Galt, Ontario until 1963 when Irena completed secondary school.

Leaving the service, Martiallia worked for transnational shipping company Horizon Lines while Irena attended Carleton University.  Martialla was on board the Horizon Spin in 1966 when it was attacked and captured by a splinter group of Alamo 400K terrorists who suspected that the ship was secretly illegally carrying liberated foreign fighters from a POW camp in South America.  She was held hostage for 7 months before being rescued in a joint Canadian-Pecos military operation.

Martialla worked various janitorial and service jobs in Ottawa until her sister graduated university in 1967.  Irena moved to the Coalition States and Martialla rejoined the Canadian Navy.  In 1972, she volunteered for a an experimental weapons program run by Department K, most likely because of the substantial cash incentive being offered for volunteers which she gave to her newly married sister for the purchase a house in Saint Louis.  During her service, Martialla had been tested several times for the necessary gene for creating “super-soldiers” by the Omega method, which had always been negative.

The Department K experiment was designed to see if people without the “super” gene could be enhanced by a chemical method.  The only segment of the tests that had any success was that attached to the combat diver program, of which Martialla was taking part.  Although it would be revealed to be a qualified success at best, 12 candidates were successfully granted the ability to breathe underwater and swim at speeds well outside of human norms.  However, over the next six months, 11 of these subjects developed “significant psychiatric symptoms including aggression and violence, mania, psychosis and suicide”, severe enough that all 11 were confined to a mental facility or killed during escape attempts or other clashes.

The only test subject that did not develop serious side effects was Martialla.  In addition to remaining free of mental health difficulties, Martialla’s granted abilities exceeded those of the other volunteers, exhibiting NBH physical capabilities in all physical areas on the Briggs-Hollymere scale, albeit only while submerged in water.  Department K and the Navy subjected her to intense testing as they attempted to understand and replicate this aberration.

Due to this confinement, isolation, and constant examination, Martialla became increasingly reclusive and bitter towards the Navy and the Canadian government.  Being treated as a test subject and an “asset” resulted in Martialla feeling that she had become a freak and she started directing anger and frustration at her handlers in Department K. 

When Irena got word to Martialla that her niece had been kidnapped, she escaped during a training exercise and is AWOL with no intention of returning.  She is suspected of damaging several vessels and is known to have attacked and sunk at least one whaling ship operating out of Vladivostok.  Over the past several months, hundreds of people have reporting seeing a real life “mermaid”, including a family that claim she towed their damaged and leaking boat over 20 miles to shore during a storm. 

October 15, 1973 – Enter Martialla the super-mermaid!

It was the perfect plan.  I need food and I need money.  The answer?  Sharks!  Of course, the answer is usually sharks.  Did you know the largest order of sharks is called ground sharks?  I didn’t.  How does that make sense?  They don’t live on the ground at all!  Quite the opposite in fact.  There’s also an order of sharks called carpet sharks which sounds like a type of VD.  “Sorry sweetie I know it’s your birthday but my carpet sharks are flaring up.  Maybe next week.” 

The plan was simple.  Step one, I wade out into the ocean.  Sharks, being the voracious killing machines that they are would immediately come to attack me.  Ah-ha but the stupid fish wouldn’t be counting on me having the strength of twenty men – twenty men that were also very strong, not twenty normal sissy men.  Step two, the shark charges at me, eyes rolling wildly full of murderous rage, and I flip it onto the shore as easily as some square flipping pancakes at a church breakfast.  The shark is helpless on the shore and Blue bashes its head in with a mighty lizard-fist.  And Robert’s your father’s brother. 

Step three, we drag the carcass of the deadly monster triumphantly through the streets while people cheer our mighty triumph over nature’s perfect assassin to my favorite grilled fish place where they buy half from me for a boatload of crazy purple and pink money and they cook up the other half for me to devour on the spot.  What delicious irony!  The shark thought it was going to eat me and instead I eat it!  What a country!

The plan was flawless.  But the issue with the execution of that flawless plan was that no sharks came to eat me.  The nature shows try to say that sharks are shy and no threat to people as long as we leave them alone but that’s bullshit.  I read Jaws, I know the deal.  All the sharks must have been busy eating people somewhere else.  Probably what happened is a bus full of school children fell off a bridge and the sharks were all over eating them.  And the children they didn’t eat they held for ransom in their sea-caves.  Which is a real dick move because sharks don’t even understand the concept of money!  They were just doing it to torment the parents.  Sharks are like that.

I was just about to give up on this flawless plan when not a shark or even a shark woman but just a normal (sort of) woman popped out of the water wearing a wetsuit but no SCUBA gear.  I guess surfers wear those suits sometimes but she had no surfboard either.  Oh, also her eyes were all white and her fingers were webbed.  She looked kind of like Jenny Kemp, except for the monster eyes and freak hands.  Her French was funky like Blue’s, so she must be Quebecois or some other kind of fake French person.  Someday I want to meet someone here who speaks proper French.  Not French like they speak in France, but proper French like we speak in Arkansas. 

She looked at me curiously (I think, hard to know for sure with those eyes you know) “What are you doing out here?”

I gestured “Fishing for sharks, isn’t that obvious?  What are you doing?”

She looked around with her crazy pale eyes “Is this Madripoor?  I’m looking for my niece.”

I nodded “It sure is.  Are you saying that you just swam here?  Like from a boat?”

“No, from Vladivostok.” When she saw the look of shock on my face she shrugged “I’m a pretty good swimmer.”

“Are you looking for your niece like she’s lost or you mean looking for her like you’re going to stay with her for the weekend and you don’t know where her apartment is?”

“She was kidnapped.  I’m here to take her home to my sister.  And to kill the men that took her.”

“Right on, right on.” I clapped her on the shoulder “Well good luck with that, I got sharks to catch and you have men to kill so I’ll let you get to it.”

“Where is the ship called Empire?’

I turned back to her “Well now, that is an interesting development, a clear cut situation with a promise of advancing the plot you might say!  It just so happens that I was kidnapped and brought here on a ship called the Empire.  We have much to discuss.  But first, can you use your powers to talk to fish?  Tell them to come up here so I can eat them.  Well, kill them and have someone cook them first and then eat them, but you know.”

She cocked her head “Talk to fish?  I can’t do that.  Why would you think I could?”

“What about whales?’ She shook her head “You can’t even communicate with marine life?  All you can do is swim?  So you’re even worse than Aquaman?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

I smiled “What’s your name?”

“Martialla Chernyshevsky”

I put an arm around her and headed for the shore where Blue was watching with interest. “Martialla Chernyshevsky, I have a feeling we’re going to be good friends.  There’s just something I like about you. And I don’t like many people. Let me introduce you to my other friend, the giant blue lizard monster.” I laughed in joy “Now things are really starting to snowball.  We’ll be a league of justice in no time!” 

October 14, 1973 – License to krill

I ate a bucket of krill today.  I don’t know exactly what krill is, but I know that it’s what whales eat.  This is where I’m at in life.  And the worst part, I couldn’t even pay for it.  It was a bucket of charity krill.  Actually the worst part was the taste.  Actually the worst part was how grateful I was to get a disgusting bucket of slime.  I was shoveling it into my mouth like . . . well like something. 

If you had talked to me before I came to Madripoor, I would have told you that I was a real hero for overcoming my hardscrabble upbringing on the wrong side of the tracks and making something of myself.  I would have told you about how I fought my way up from the gutter.  But now I know better.  There’s gutters and then there’s gutters you know?  Read national geographic all you want, but you can’t know what life is really like for some people out there.   

I’ve been eating Blue out of house and home.  Which isn’t hard because he has neither house nor home.  He flops in the backroom of some crazy store that sells herbal dick hardeners and powdered tiger penis and stuff like that.  The man was a fucking special forces commando and he’s barely one rung up the ladder from me – and I’m essentially homeless.  I guess this is why so many super people become super villains – how else are you going to make money?  Being super strong and super tough seems only to be valuable on the supply side of crime.  Superman never made any money saving the world from Solomon Grundy.  At least Grundy had a sewer to live in. 

I’m hungry all the time, but even more than that I want a GOD DAMN CIGARETTE.  I want that sweet, sweet poison in my bloodstream.  I want that feeling of floating, of being lifted aloft by a pair of tarry filthy wings to be carried away by the wind.  Everything’s better when you smoke.  Your fears and anxieties don’t seem so bad because you got your old pal with you – inside of you!  That’s closer than any stupid non-smoke friends can ever get.  Well, they can get inside you a couple inches, but that’s different.  Now that I’m super powered it’s probably not even bad for me!  The point is – with your pal nicotine on your side you can handle anything. 

But there’s no use whining about how I want a bottle of tequila and a pack of 100s and a big fat juicy triple bacon burger with fries and an entire peach pie, you just gotta push forward.  Crying don’t put cigarettes in your pocket.  I mean Blue is a monster and he doesn’t complain about it.  Much.   

When I was on my disastrous (although it resulted in me becoming friends with Canadian Wally Gator so maybe it was actually great?) path of trying to cozy up to the pirates of Madripoor (I like the sound of that, maybe I should write a musical) I learned a little about the maritime shipping trade, and I know a little from working on the docks.  But I still have no idea how it all works really.  There’s 88 billion ships coming and going all the time, how the hell do you organize that?  I don’t really want to know because it’s super boring.  I got trapped talking to (being talked at really) some crusty old British guy who went on and on about what transshipping actually means and some treaty in 1912 about how the Strait of Malacca gets used.  I think his attempt to bore me to death came closer to taking me out than anything else since I got here. 

Blue said that he didn’t know anything about it and I couldn’t find Elvis (I should check in with his grandma since the Shadow Lords said they were going to kill him and all) so I returned to the crappy confines of Pinetree International Exports and its owner, chief operator, and proprietor of Alcazar.  He wasn’t happy to see me even though I am a pure delight and my Spanish is flawless.  You really find out who your friends are when you’re marked for death by an underworld murder crew.  I told him I wanted to find out everything I could about the ship that brought me to Madripoor.  He asked what was in it for him.  I said not getting his arms torn off by Blue.  I could also tear his arms off, but for some reason people are more intimidated by a giant blue lizardman than a soulful and sexy singer with a top 40 hit.  People are strange like that.

He didn’t have much information for me other than the ship is called “Empire” and it’s owned by Ulysses Tanker Corporation of Liberia.  For more than that we’d have to seek out THE HARBORMASTER.  Seems like an importer/exporter should know more about a ship.  Blue and I were on our way to see THE HARBORMASTER when I did a double take.  On the other side of the street I saw a familiar face.  Not familiar in the sense that I knew the guy, but familiar in the sense that I had seen him on TV.  You don’t see too many westerners outside of touristville but that’s not the only thing that made him stand out – he was also head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.  I poked Blue and pointed him out.  My grandma always said that pointing is rude but sometimes it’s necessary.

“Is that Wildman Wayne Wiley?” 

Blue squinted, I think his lizard eyeballs don’t see so good “The wrestler?  Yeah, I think it is.” 

“What the heck is he doing here?” 

“Probably here for the tournament.” 

I frowned “I thought that death sport you all are so proud of here was for super people.” 

“I’m not from here so don’t lump me into the death sports crowd.  Maybe he is a super person, didn’t he have to flee from the states because he beat a man to death in the ring?” 

“Did that really happen?  I assumed that was something they made up to make him seem tough, wrestling is fake you know.” 

He made a lizard huffing noise that I have come to understand is a snicker “You don’t say.” 

“Shut up.  Maybe we should talk to him.” 

“The murderer who came here to fight other men to the death for laughs?  Why would we want to talk to someone like that?” 

“It would be nice to hear someone speaking English for one.  But more because maybe he has a private jet that can get us out of here.” 

“Why would he let us on his private jet?” 

“Maybe he’s a music fan.  I had a top forty hit you know.” 

He flicked his tongue out in a reptile equivalent of an eye-roll “No, you never mention it.” 

“You’re just a jealous blue lizard.  Okay, forget the wildman let’s just find his jet and I’ll flash my boobs at the pilot and he’ll fly us to Zanzibar.” 

He gave me a side-eye “You have a pretty healthy opinion about your boobs.” 

“Can you blame me?  They’ve gotten me out of plenty of jams.” 

“And into just as many more I bet.  How about we just stick with the harbormaster plan?  Stealing the jet of a killing machine doesn’t seem like a great idea to me.” 

“You didn’t even like that plan to begin with!” 

“I know, but you just keep coming up with worse ones.” 

“Well I don’t hear any big amount of ideas coming from you!  Aren’t you supposed to be a tactician or a strategist or something?  Strategy us a way out of this!  Don’t just complain about my plans.  What did you learn to do in the Canadian military anyway!” 

His mouth hung open on the sides, a lizard-grin “Make maple syrup mostly.  I’m so glad I met you, I really value our friendship.” 

Out of character interlude – Expert professional writing tips from the world’s greatest writer and human (me)

Writing that title reminded me that I worked with a lady who said that she was the third smartest person in the world – her parents being the first and second.  She didn’t seem that smart to me but the third smartest person in the world would be smart enough to not seem smart right?

Since I started writing on wordpress I’ve been reading a lot blogs about D&D and some about writing.  A common topic people bring up is how playing D&D (and other roleplaying games of course) can help you become a better writer.  Which is true.  Character development, plot, worldbuilding, playing roleplaying games can really help you with those things.  Among others. 

But I’m starting to realize that it can be a double-edged sword.   

I’ve done a lot of writing in my life.  In college and the years afterwards I often wrote several hours a day.  I don’t write nearly as much anymore but I still do some writing most days.  It’s a toss-up if I’ve done more roleplaying or writing.  There was a year where we played D&D every damn day for hours and hours and hours.  Probably half my life I’ve had a regular weekly game.  There were years when I had 2-3 regular weekly games.  Then add in conventions and one shots and other stuff – that’s a lot of time roleplaying.   

Tangent, when I first started online dating sometimes I would tell women one of my hobbies was roleplaying – boy were they disappointed when they found out I meant D&D and not sexy sexy sex times.  I hate homonyms.   

Before my writing was whatever I wanted.  I have dozens of half finished “novels”, tons of partially written screenplays, hundreds of short stories, and thousands of blog posts where I talked about whatever was on my mind.  I wrote until it wasn’t fun and then I stopped.   

Starting the Ela blog, and later the Grace blog (hugely popular and read by millions) “forced” me to write about the same thing and it’s exposed some flaws.  Chief among them, tossing out story hooks without any idea where to take them. 

I think this comes from D&D.  When you put together a D&D adventure sometimes you have everything planned out.  But sometimes you just have a neat idea and you throw it out and see what the players do and react to that, “writing” on the fly. 

Such as, one time my players found a cane that had a secret compartment in it.  I had forgotten that they had found a similar item in the last adventure and they spun out a whole conspiracy theory around them.  I had no such intention of that being a thing but as they were talking I was thinking “wow that’s a pretty cool idea, that’s definitely what happened now”. 

Players give DMs way too much credit in terms of foreshadowing and callbacks and call-forwards and things like that – it’s that old chestnut about the human mind looking for patterns, and making them up even if they’re not there. Your players come up with all kinds of ideas as to what the DM may be up to, even when they’re not up to anything.

The collaborative nature of rpgs results in some pretty cool ideas.  D&D is kind of like writing with several writing partners.   

But since my “real” writing it just me, myself, and not Irene I really need to break myself of the habit of throwing out half-formed ideas that I think are neat because there’s no players to react to them and shape the narrative.   Telling a story all by myself requires discipline.

The idea for the Grace blog came from How To Survive Camping, from reddit/no sleep.  The idea of HTSC is that it is an interactive thing where the commenters act like it’s real and suggest ways to solve problems and the like.  It’s a style that allows for collaborating in a way D&D type where you’re writing it but lots of people are adding in ideas.  It’s a pretty cool concept.  I wanted to do something like that. But since I’m old and scared of reddit because I don’t understand it I just did a “normal” blog.   

The end.  Good writers always say “the end”.  Otherwise how would you know it was the end? 

Retro Ela throwback post/rip-off

I swear I won’t ever do this again, I know how SUPER invested you all are in 70s Ela story.  Ela Classic was written ad hoc based on random charts and whatnot, rules turned into a narrative, but I did wake up late one night and write this bit about her being forced into a battle in THE NORTH.  I think I had it for more than a year waiting to fit it into the “story”. 

I figured I’d post it because I’m lazy and clearly I have to stick to the pretend schedule I came up with of posting Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 

Why was Ela forced into this battle?

Who is Keorl Thunderhand? 

Is it still called polygamy if you have wives and husbands?

We’ll never know. 

I’ve never seen a battle down south and I hope I never do, but from what I understand it’s quite an affair.  Huge blocks of men lumbering around in ragged squares getting into lines.  Banners and pennants and tents and guys with big hats and all kind of shit like that.  I’ve heard that the reason army people get up at dawn is it takes them until lunch just to get everyone to the battlefield and ready to kill one another.  There’s barely enough hours to even get on with the slaughter before it gets dark.  And you can’t fight in the dark.  It’s too scary.

Clearly things are a little more loose up here.  People seemed to be milling about and wandering down to the front lines like it’s a county fair.  Some people were already killing each other when I got up.  Others were still asleep.  Seems like it would have been the perfect situation to avoid the battle and just say you were there after the fact but I don’t think I can fool magic like that.  Always the damn magic.  So Instead of doing the smart thing and staying under cover until all the killing and dying was over, I went in search of Keorl Thunderhand, finding him in a heap with his wives and husbands.

I tossed a bucket of . . . something on him “Come on, the battle’s starting and it’s a race between which is going to freeze off first, my nips or my nose.”

Grinning, he disentangled himself from the pile and came out of his tent shrugging on a chain shirt and slapping on a helmet “That’s the problem with you southern women, too skinny.  You need some blubber on your bones to stay warm.”

I rubbed my hands together and blew on them “I don’t see how you people get so big up here with the warmed up dogshit you call food.”

He laughed and led me over to the “cavalry wing” which was a bunch of dudes and horses just as disorganized and chaotic as the rest.  He motioned for me to mount up on a grey and black beast that was eyeing me as dubiously as I was it.  These northern horses are so small and shaggy they’re more like sheep than equines if you ask me.

“Shouldn’t I put on some armor or something first?”

He shrugged “Sure, grab that cmail and slip it on.”

I grabbed the pile of metal he gestured to and could barely lift it “Okay, never mind, point taken.”

“Yes, and a fine point it was too.  Put on that helmet.”

I picked it up gingerly “Seems too big for me.”

He shrugged “Better than too small.” He surveyed the half-battle going on below as we mounted “Do you have any battle training?”

“Minimal.”

“How good a rider are you?”

“Excellent.”

“Good, that’s more important anyway.  If you want to survive, and you’ve certainly made it seem like you do, there’s two things you need to do.  First, stay mounted.  That may seem obvious, but I need to emphasize this because footmen do most of the dying.  You do not want to be anywhere near the earth in that mess.  Mounted, you have two things someone on foot doesn’t – vision and mobility, and that’s what you use to stay alive.  Don’t get near the middle, stay on the edges of the action where you can see what’s happening and react.  React meaning ride away of course.

If you get knocked off your horse get back on immediately, don’t worry about anything else – get back in the saddle.  If your horse gets killed, find another.  I’ll deny ever saying this but if you have to take one from someone on your own side, do that.  People tend not to expect their battle-brothers, or sisters in this case,  to kill them and take their horse so you can catch them off guard.  Your horse is your best armor and your best weapon.  Keep it between you and the people trying to kill you.  If you can, use it to crush them, if you can’t, let it take the hits for you.  How do you feel about horses?”

“I love them.”

“Will that prevent you from using one to keep yourself alive?”

“No.  I’ve done it before unfortunately.”

“That’s good. Horses are fine animals but they’re not worth risking your life over.  I’ve seen men in the middle of battle trying to save a horse.  You can imagine how well that goes.  If someone wants to take time to murder your horse, that’s time they’re not using to murder you – let them use it while you find another mount.  What you have to avoid is getting down in the melee with the foot soldiers.  You may have heard some old veteran waxing nihilistic about the chaos and blood and horror of being in the press of combat and you may have dismissed it as bold talk – it isn’t.  It is the absolute worst thing you can ever be involved with.  Call it nightmarish, call it Hellish, call it whatever you want, just avoid it. 

When you’re up on your horse, unless a man has a spear or a pike they’re going to have a hard time striking at you effectively.  Once you’re on foot they won’t even need to bother, at your size you’ll get knocked down and trampled to death.  It’s a risk for even a strong man – you got a dozen men behind you pushing you into another man who’s got a dozen men shoving him into you.  You’re pinned together so that you can’t even fight unless you have a knife.  Men trapped like that bite at each other like dogs.  It’s no lie that in the crush of battle, you don’t even know who you’re attacking. 

That’s first.  The second thing is don’t take your helmet off.  Not ever.  It’s heavy and it makes it hard to hear and it cuts off your vision and it’s going to get so hot in there you’re going to feel like you can’t breathe.  But don’t take it off, not even for a second.  If your helmet gets knocked off, find it, or another, and get it back on as fast as possible.  Don’t worry about anything else.  If it gets knocked askew and you can’t see, don’t try to take it off and put it back on, just turn it around.  If you can’t get it back right way around you’re almost better off being blind than taking it off, it’s a hard call.

There’s filthy weakling healers around that can heal you as long as you don’t get stabbed directly in the heart or in one of the main bloodlines in your thigh.  You have a chance to survive most wounds long enough to get healed.  What you can’t survive is getting your brains bashed in or an arrow through the skull.  If you get hit in the helmet it’s going to make you dizzy, you’re going to want to pull it off – do not do this.  If you lose your helmet and you can’t find another, you may be tempted to pick up a shield to protect your head.  Don’t.  If you can even lift it, you’re not going to be able to hold it high for long and then you’re just going to be tired.  You’re better off shielding your head with your weapon or even your arm – even if you’re not wearing armor.  You can live just fine with one arm, you don’t have a spare head.  Not to mention you’re rich you can regrow a new arm magically.

Stay mounted, protect your head.  Horse, helmet, that’s how you stay alive.”

“Got it.  What about attacking the enemy?”

He laughed “I wouldn’t worry about that, you don’t look like you could break an egg.”   

October 11, 1973 – That’s a long wait for a horse that ain’t coming as my grandma used to say

I mentioned that my parents and I were never really on the same page.  It wasn’t that they disapproved of me or I hated them or any of the normal young person-parent stuff, we just didn’t belong together.  I think somewhere along the line, someone passing out babies mixed me up with someone else.  I think my parents were supposed to have a son who was a solid B student, played sports but wasn’t great at them, became an aluminum siding salesman, married his HS sweetheart – pretty (but not too pretty), nice but kind of stupid – had some kids and ran out the clock like everyone else.  

I don’t blame my parents for anything, they just didn’t know what to do with the loud rambunctious little girl that burst into their mild life wanting to be a singer and a dancer and an actress and travel the world.  I told my mother once I wanted to experience everything that life has to offer, that I wanted to “wine and dine with kings and queens, and sleep in the alley eating pork and beans”.  I think she needed a glass to sherry to get to sleep that night.   What would the neighbors think if they knew!

My parents didn’t beat me or lock me in my room or say that I was possessed by the devil, and I think that was the best they could do.  They could have made my childhood Hell, but they didn’t.  It’s weird to say about a child-parent relationship, but we just stayed out of each other’s way.  If you want to be uncharitable, you can say there was some neglect there.  Such as, when I was sixteen I went with some friends to a concert.  There was another concert in another city the next night and on a whim I went to that one too.  At that concert I met some other folks and went to a festival with them in the US.  Six months later when I got home, my parents had moved all my stuff out of my room.  They said they didn’t think I was coming back.   

While my mother and I are not close, my grandma (dad’s mom) and I were very much the otherway.  No offense to my dad, but it’s hard to see how a woman like her raised a square like him.  She was born in New Orleans and always kept a place there.  She said she liked living somewhere the entire world came to visit.  She used to tell stories and say things like “This was after the Irish mob came for my father and we went into the swamp with my mother’s kin for a few years of course” as if it was no big deal.  She told me a thousand tales about her life and I guarantee you that was just the tip of the iceberg.  If anyone should have written a memoir, it was my grandma, but she had no time for that, she had a life to live. 

She was a dance hall girl, she attended Straight University where some people hassled her because she was mostly white, she studied law where some people hassled her because she was a woman, she shacked up with a painter in Panama, she lived in a commune in Australia, she drove in a cross-country race in Russia, she had an affair with the mayor of New Orleans (she broke his heart of course) she dabbled with communism, she visited every continent, she didn’t take shit from anyone, and when the doctors told her she had to stop smoking, drinking, and eating rich food she said “I live the way I live and I’ll die the way I’ll die.”  When the end did come she planned the whole thing, it was like a pharaoh preparing a tomb, only instead of a pyramid she was putting together a party that people still talk about today.  Clark Gable was there and no one knows why. 

Again, not to be a jerk, but I never really give my parents a thought – I miss my grandma every day.  She had a million sayings, not all of them were gems, but she had one for every occasion.  She felt that it was part of her duty to make sure I knew what the world was and how to deal with it.  The thing my grandma used to say that is relevant right now is “If you’re going to do something stupid, make sure it’s really stupid.”   

Blue and I have been hanging around the Russian (actually I now think he’s Polish) guy’s bar in touristville, which never has any customers and is clearly not a front for money laundering.  Just two unemployed, down on their luck superpeople drinking gallons of booze and talking hoops.  Somehow Blue managed to attach wires and foil to the bunny ears on the crappy TV in the back and get a signal from the CS.  It was a game between the Spirits and Pacers but hey, I hadn’t seen any hoops in months.  Any port in a storm right? 

Blue didn’t like my idea of approaching the yakuza.  I figured that since the Shadow Lords are their enemies, that would make us friends, but Blue said that was an even worse plan than trying to befriend pirates.   So I asked Blue if it was true that the Shadow Lords have some supermen on the payroll.  He said that he knew of at least two.  I told him my plan was to find one of them and confront them in some kind of high noon type scenario to show the Shadow Lords that messing with me was more trouble than it’s worth.  He said that was the worst idea he ever heard.  He said that a show of power wasn’t going to back off the Shadow Lords.   

I said that maybe if I beat one of their champions, that would allow me to bargain with them from a position of power.  He asked me what I would be bargaining for.  My goal is to leave and never come back, their goal is to have me make money for them – he said that didn’t allow for much of a meeting of the minds.  Plus he said that I probably wouldn’t win anyway.  When I pointed out that I kicked his ass, he had an answer for that. 

“You caught me by surprise, I underestimated you I admit.  But that wasn’t a fight, that was you breaking my neck in a couple seconds.  If you want to ambush one of these guys and throw a car at him that might work, but these guys are killers, you don’t want to get involved in any kind of straight up hand to hand combat with them.” 

“If I’m such a worthless fighter like everyone keeps saying, why did they kidnap me in the first place?  What did they want me for if not breaking heads?” 

He shrugged, which made his blue lizard skin ripple in an unpleasant way “Maybe they had some heavy boxes they wanted moved.” 

That’s when I had my brilliant idea “Okay forget about the high noon plan, what about the ship?  Maybe the ship that brought me had other people on it like me, brought here against their will.  Maybe I can find them and gather more allies.” 

He sighed “Are you still on this idea of creating a super team of crime fighting heroes?  That’s comic book shit.  And if there was anyone else on that ship, the Shadow Lords already have them.” 

I grinned and clapped him on the back “All the more reason to save them!” 

He made a weird puffing sound that I think is the lizard equivalent of a sour grunt “This is even worse than your first idea.” 

I laughed “You got anywhere else to be, big man?  I’ll give you a moment to check your day planner.” 

Lucien Basilières aka Genderuwo aka Big Blue

Born in Saskatoon 1930, Lucien Basilières spent his youth in Montreal. Volunteering for the Army Special Force at 17, he was shipped to boot camp in Denver before being deployed to the fighting in Borneo in 1948.  He would go on to fight with the 1st Commonwealth Division in 1950-1952 on the mainland.  After returning to Canada, Lucien’s records indicate that he was assigned to an ill-defined unit that at various times appeared to be an attachment of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a branch of RCMP Security Service, or an independent agency.  It is suspected that Lucien was involved in anti-terrorist and espionage operations, many of which were extralegal or illegal. 

Lucien was ousted from the Canadian military after the issuance of Canadian Forces Administrative Order (CFAO) 19-20, Sexual Deviation – Investigation, Medical Investigation and Disposal, which required members of the military suspected of being homosexual to be investigated and then subsequently released from service.  The officer that headed this investigation was murdered, a crime for which Lucien was questioned but never charged.  The case remains unsolved.   

It is believed that for the next two years, Lucien used his skills on behalf of Aboriginal-based organized crime groups with connections to the Rizzuto crime family.  The fact that he hastily left Canada in 1970 with false papers indicates a falling out with these criminal groups.   

Lucien joined a group of “military advisors” made up of English, Welsh, and Dutch mercenaries expelled from or fleeing prosecution in southern Africa.  He was working in this capacity in Pakistan during the alien contact labeled Deep Space 99.  Most alien visitors to earth are the result of crash landings or other accidents, making enforcing the Covarrubias Convention, which requires the immediate extermination of all alien lifeforms on earth, relatively easy.   

The DS 99 incident was one of the rare cases of intentional alien landing – seven ships carrying highly trained teams of alien explorers with a mission to study earth.  Russian alien extermination teams were able to destroy five of the smaller ships and kill dozens of the explorers, but hundreds more were able to scuttle their remaining damaged craft and escape.  Making their pursuit and extermination difficult is the fact that the DS99 aliens, dubbed HIET (humanoid intelligent extra-terrestrial) 277 are indistinguishable from humans in visible light (they are noticeably different in the UV band).   

Lucien was captured by a splinter cell of HIET aliens and subjected to experimentation.  Although HIET 277 are known to be human in appearance, Lucien claims that his main tormentor had a prominent lizard-like face and long scaled fingers.  Whether this is an additional species associated with HIET 277 or merely the hallucinations of a man under intense pain and stress remains unknown.   

Lucien claims that he saw other humans being experimented on, or merely tortured, many of whom died.  Lucien does not remember escaping the facility or being set free, his next memory being waking up with his new form in the custody of authorities in Karachi.  Authorities who had very little interest in dealing with a massive blue lizardman.   

Left a stateless outcast, Lucien made his way to Madripoor where he makes a poor living as muscle for hire to various criminal enterprises.   

The physical mutations of the alien experiments by HIET 277 on Lucien are obvious.  He is now close to eight feet tall and weighs more than fifteen hundred pounds, not only because of the physical bulk but also due to hard calcified dermal deposits and superdense bone and muscle structure.  His skin has been replaced with blue scales similar in appearance to the Martinique anole, although in function they are similar to the armored scales of crocodilians.   

In addition to this enormous body size, Lucian’s ratio of arm-to-leg length is significantly higher than a similar sized human form would dictate.  His strength, reflexes, and speed are all outside of human norms.  He has not been formally tested but his observed abilities appear to be on the low end of the Briggs-Hollymere scale for NBHs.  Due to his mass, scales, and dermal deposits, Lucian is highly resistant to physical trauma.  Lucien’s vision encompasses a broader spectrum than baseline humans, extending into infrared. 

His most noteworthy demonstrated ability is regenerative power, allowing him to heal rapidly to the point of restoring lost limbs and quickly recovering from injuries that would otherwise be fatal.  Based on observations, it is speculated that Lucien can eventually recover from any damage that does not result in instant death (decapitation, massive heart trauma, some spinal injuries, etc). 

October 8, 1973 – Let’s get tropical!

Since the Shadow Lords have chased me out of my apartment with their wicked ways, I’ve been flopping with whoever Elvis, Mary, or Saysamore have been able to talk into letting me crash with for a few days.  I’ve been a couch hopper before but I was the one choosing the couches.  I don’t like being at the mercy of others like this but there’s not much I can do about it.  Also most people here don’t have couches, so it’s more like borrowing some floor.

Since I have no income I’ve been mooching food as well, which normally wouldn’t bother me too much but I need a trucker’s buffet worth of food just to feel like I’m not going to pass out.  Something’s got to give here or I’m going to use up all the goodwill of Elvis and his friends and be left to die in the gutter.  It’s a precarious position when every day things get a little worse.

Sidenote, Elvis has a lot of girl friends for me to stay with.  Not girlfriends, he doesn’t seem to have any of those, but a lot of friends that are girls.  So many that it seems like something is going on.  I don’t know what that something could be, but it’s odd.  I’ll have to figure that out one of those days.

Last night I slept in the store room of a bar in touristville.  The deal was that I could stay there for a couple days if I got this giant oil drum out of the basement.  I don’t mean like a 50 gallon barrel, I mean like a rusty old hunk of metal that used to hold fuel oil.  It looked kind of like a giant BBQ smoker.  Or just a normal BBQ smoker in Lone Star. 

I ripped it out of the concrete and crumpled it up like a wad of tinfoil which was good.  I cut the shit out of my hands doing so which was bad.  I need to get used to being super strong.  Things like that keep catching me by surprise.  My skin certainly isn’t super-strong.  Hopefully my super metabolism can protect me from tetanus.  The owner, who I think is Russian, watched me do all this with a cigarette in his mouth and little to no reaction.  Like a woman ripping a half ton of old metal out of the ground was something he’s seen so much it’s become tedious.  These Madripoor folk seem like they’re pretty jaded. 

In the morning he made me some kind of spicy egg dish and then we sat around the bar staring at each other.  He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Russian (or whatever) so there wasn’t much to say.  I found an old guitar and was messing around with that for a while.  When I started to sing he said “przestań robić” and waved for me to stop.  Everyone’s a critic.  I had a top 40 hit damn it!

I’ll grant you that most bars aren’t really hopping during the day, but for a tourist bar this place was absolutely dead.  Which didn’t seem to bother the owner and seeming only employee in the slightest.  Probably a front for money laundering or something.  Everything here seems to be a little crooked at least.

No one came in until around five o’clock and the person who did come in wasn’t looking to drink.  It was my friend the blue alligator-rhino man from the other day.  The fact that he was able to find me so easily calls into question the effectiveness of my Shadow Lord evasion strategy.  Perhaps they’re not hunting for me as ruthlessly as I think.

I was ready to duck out the side door, figuring Big Blue was there for round 2, but it wasn’t that at all.  He’s one of these guys where if you kick his ass then you’re his friend.  Usually with this kind of guy, that doesn’t cross gender lines but when superpowers get in the mix the lines are blurry. Nice to know that he doesn’t discriminate. 

He started ordering whiskey sours and once he found out that I could out-drink him as well as out-fight him, I think he fell in love with me.  His French was funny sounding to my ear but we understood each other well enough.  He loves basketball.  And, as you all know, the only thing I love as much as music is the Tropics.  We sat there drinking and talking hoops all night long.  He thinks Willis Reed is better than Mel Daniels but he was watching the game where Jackie Moon got thirty rebounds against San Diego so I’ll let that slide.

He seems kind of sad.  You know, on the inside.  I guess being a seven foot tall blue dinosaur man is about as lonely as being a CS girl stranded in a foreign land hunted by a ruthless international criminal syndicate and presumed dead by everyone back home.  We freaks have to stick together.