October 16, 1973 – Superfight 2! Papatayin natin silang lahat! (nude variant cover)

I’m tall and I like basketball.  This means that people (well, people back home) often ask me if I played basketball.  Technically the answer is yes, but what they mean to ask is was I good at basketball, which I was not.  Put me on Soul Train and I’ll knock you on your knickers with my moves, but for whatever reason, that specific kind of coordination needed for sports escaped me.  One of the reasons I started playing the guitar was because I thought it might help with my clumsy hands on the court.  It did not.  But I am a damn fine guitar player so there’s that.

Maybe if I’d stuck with basketball, I could have been a mediocre player but I wasn’t enamored with all the running.  My god the running.  Not just during the game, which was bad enough, but they wanted you to run all the time in practice too!  For what?  For what?  I hate running.  I never even run for the bus. There will be another bus.  And if there isn’t another bus then I didn’t need to go there anyway.  

My point is that given my history of poor eye-hand coordination, having something – such as a knife – thrown at my head isn’t the sort of thing I should react to quickly.  Physiologically speaking I mean, not emotionally.  I don’t know what all the geeks in lab coats did to me, but it’s been a while now since they did it and I’ve seen no evidence of increased reflexes or agility or reaction time or anything like that.  I’m as strong as twenty strong men and I can run all day without getting tired.  I wouldn’t, because I hate running, but I could.  

Apparently I have at least one other ability.   When Whitey Ford hurled the knife at me, it was like time slowed down and those little dotted lines from the physics textbook appeared.  I knew where it was going, I knew how fast it was going, I knew the angle, the acceleration, the force, everything.  It was an instinctive thing, like I had some kind of knife-radar in my head.  I’ll need to explore that more because I’ve had no such reaction to anything else.  What kind of stupid power would it be if it only worked on knives specifically?

Also, to forestall the whining of any knife nuts out there, no, it was not a throwing knife.  It was a six and three quarter inch M5 bayonet.  And yes, I know that a bayonet is not designed to be thrown.  But if you’re out there saying “well, given that it was never meant to be thrown, it was easy to avoid, you were never in any real danger,” send me your address and I’ll come and throw a bayonet at your head and we’ll see how that works out.  Jerk.  

The table was a twelve foot long mahogany and glass number, Italian I think, and estimating conservatively I would say that it weighed about 12 million tons.  As the knife seemingly hung in midair thanks to my wonderful and not at all inconsequential or obscure new superpower, I flipped the aforementioned table up into its path like I was an angry child overturning a Candyland board.  I was hoping to crush my hosts as well, but while the table performed admirably as a knife-knocker, it didn’t do nearly as well in the field of host-crushing. 

Whitey and his bimbos Betty and Veronica dodged out of the way like hippies dodging the draft while the Great Humungous just stood there and let the table shatter on him like my hit song shattered the top 40 charts.  It was cool looking, I can’t argue that, nor would I even if I could. But even if you’re a giant strong non-baseline human person, you can still get glass in your eye, right?  I doubt his eyeballs are super tough.  If you’re going to let a glass table smash over your face, you should at least cover your eyes with your arm or something.  Safety first, guys.

Remember that time Big Blue tried to kill me before we became best friends?  He smashed through the wall of the restaurant like the Kool-Aid Man.  That was pretty cool too, and I bet he protected his eyes while he did it.  Figuring it was time to get the hell out of there (before dessert!), I tried to do the same move, smashing through the wall of Whitey’s trophy/dining room.  There would be a few more walls to smash through on the way to freedom, but the shortest distance between two points right?  

Here’s what I learned.  Smashing through a wall like the Kool-Aid Man is a function of both mass and strength.  Such as, I could easily hold a car and keep it from moving even at maximum power, but if that same car hit me going at full speed, I would be crushed like a green snake in a sugar cane field.  I’m MUCH stronger than Blue (and he’s very strong!) but he also weighs as much as a Ford Highboy, so when he hurls himself at a wall, there’s what physicists call “a shitload of energy” that allows him to tear through like a donkey attacking a waffle.  I, on the other hand, who was svelte and feminine to begin with, and am now wasting away to nothing thanks to hypermetabolic induced voracity, just bounced off the wall due to a lack of mass.

I bet I could have easily kicked through the wall or torn open a hole given time, but sadly the Kool-Aid man method is not going to work for me.  With my moment of surprise wasted on wall bouncing, Veronica came at me with a whip she grabbed off the wall.  A fucking whip!  What kind of bullshit is that?  Is she a dominatrix now?  Are we doing a scene?  How are women ever supposed to be taken seriously making choices like this?  Grab a spear, or even the dumb thing that looks like a pear with spikes on it, or something else, anything else!  The walls were covered with weapons and you go for a lion tamer prop?  Betty was attending to Whitey, who seemed annoyed by her fussing, while Giganto extracted himself from the table he was wearing like a bib.

Veronica flicked her whip (if you know what I mean) at my face and I raised my arm to protect my eyes, getting slashed across the forearm.  Whereupon I was heard to remark; 

“Ow, fuck!  What is wrong with you!?” 

In retaliation, I grabbed a flamethrower off the wall.  Now that’s some good feminism, throwing fire on someone.  I wasn’t fooling around.

“How about a little fire, scarecrow!”

Nice.  Unfortunately, when I pulled the trigger nothing happened.  I guess flamethrowers have backpacks where all the flame juice is that they need to work, and not even this white-suited asshole is crazy enough to hang a tank of volatile chemicals on the wall.  Veronica tried to whip the flamethrower out of my hands which is stupid on two counts – one, it didn’t work anyway so why did she bother, and two, she just saw me flip over the table.  How did she think she was going to out-muscle me?  Instead, I ripped the whip away from her.  I was going to tear it apart like a Joray Fruit Roll as a feat of strength, you know to intimidate my foes, but I was interrupted when Betty karate-kicked me in the chest.  It felt like getting hit with a wrecking ball.  As I slumped to the ground I believe a made a noise like; 

“hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

Betty and Veronica came to pull me up to my feet while Whitey took a sword down off the wall.  This was a poor decision on their part.  While I’m sure it would have been aesthetically pleasing to be holding my arms out in the Jesus pose while their boss decapitated me, these people don’t seem to be catching on to how strong I am.  I whipped my arms forward like I was doing a dramatic interpretive dance about the commercialization of Christmas and they flew towards their boss, limbs akimbo like two Qiana and spandex clad whirligigs.

Whitey casually side-stepped through a door out of their way (and out of the room) and his two gal pals slammed into the wall behind him.  And I mean hard.  Betty actually flew through the wall.  Explain that.  She can’t weigh significantly more than me.  Leverage?  Can you throw something with more force than you can hurl your own body?  Where are the super-scientists when I need them?    

Huge-or charged at me like a runaway semi.  My plan was to duck under him and let him smash a hole in the wall for me, much like I had done with Blue, but he merely stopped short and picked me up off the floor.  Or tried to anyway.  He grabbed the front of the dress I was wearing and the thing ripped off me like the pants off a male stripper.  It was a fucking Halston, not a pair of mechanic’s overalls, why did he think he would be able to pick me up like that?  The fabric is weak, it can’t take that kind of rough treatment!  These people have no idea what they’re doing.    

And look, I’m not normally one of these sorts who run around without any underwear but what was I going to do?  I was in the bath and it was a whole thing.  I wasn’t going to root around in a stranger’s house looking for borrowed underwear.  In response, I tried to punch Goliath in the dick but he blocked it with his forearm.  I heard bones crack.  It was like punching a hot wad of Silly Putty with a toothpick in the middle.  I don’t know how many bones there are in your forearm but I’m confident I broke them all.  He barely even grunted.  I on the other hand said something like;   

“Ow, shit my hand!”

Whitey ducked back into the room at this point.  I tell you this much, it’s very strange to see a man holding a sword while wearing a Pierre Cardin suit.  He looked at me curiously.

“You don’t have any fighting skills at all, do you?” 

I grabbed a rifle off the wall (a Mosin–Nagant 1891 according to the placard) and hurled it at his stupid face.  Turns out whatever “they” did to me has made me really good at throwing things, even things that shouldn’t be thrown – like rifles.  He blocked the rifle with his sword but here’s the thing bubba, the sword is still right in front of your face!  The rifle, which I assume was going somewhere near Mach 73, hit the sword, the force is transferred from the rifle to the sword, and then the sword hits the face, transferring the force to the face.  Not all of it, but a lot.  Don’t these people know anything about physics?  I got a C in physics, I admit, but think about what you’re doing! Whitey went down like he had just taken a Steve Carlton fastball to the mush.

“Bullseye.”

October 16, 1973 – Let me KNIFE you a question! Wait, that only works with an ax

I haven’t explored much of Madripoor yet, I’ve been mostly close to the shore in the border area between the tourist zone and the sprawling expanse of . . . it doesn’t seem right to call them slums, but slums I guess.  The less developed part of the city, let’s say.  My new friends in the Eldorado took me north and east, skirting the mega high-rise district and taking me to a part of the city I hadn’t seen before – the playground of the rich.   

It was the only part of Madripoor (that I’ve seen) that wasn’t stacked with three or four buildings where there should have been one.  Driving into that open area with large lawns and swaying trees (eucalyptus maybe, what am I, a botanist?) I felt like I let out a breath that I had been unconsciously holding.  Even the big cities I’ve spent time in back home don’t feel half as cramped as Madripoor.  Sometimes it feels like people are standing right on top of you several deep, it’s so congested.  Just being able to see more than a few yards in any direction made me feel relief to an anxiety that I didn’t know was there.   

The compound they took me to was a sprawling affair that looked like it was made out of some kind of crumbly white stone, I feel like I saw an old church in the Caribbean States that looked like it was made out of that same material.  The complex didn’t look much like a church though, it looked a lot like a building that I saw on 60 Minutes where an old news dude was interviewing a drug kingpin (allegedly) that was somehow involved with the CS military in Eastern Africa (allegedly).  It was fancy but fortish, leaning more towards the fort than the fancy.  Say 60/40 fort.  You know, the kind of place you’d build if you were a drug kingpin with shady military shit going on. 

You know how in the spy movies, the barely-there female lead/eye candy will be kidnapped to serve as bait for the kind of rapey super spy guy and after the vaguely ethnic goons grab her, they put her in some big extravagant room and they’re like “make yourself pretty for Mister Evil Bad Guy”?  And you’re sitting there in the theater eating your popcorn and drinking your soda and going “come on, that would never happen”.  That’s exactly what happened.  The room was done up all white as well, this guy really likes white.  It was like being in a mental institution.  Not that I would know what that was like. 

I took a nice long bath.  I never knew how good it could feel to be clean.  There’s a kind of grit in the air here that turns into grease on your skin and even worse on your hair.  It feels like you haven’t showered for a week even when you have.  And between you, me, and the lamppost, I haven’t been showering much since I got here.  You know, on account of how I was kidnapped and dumped here against my will.   I can’t remember the last time I had a nice relaxing soak.  It’s curious how sitting in a vat of your own watery scum can be a journey to unique and scented self-discovery.  Some things just can’t be explained. 

Must have been too long of a bath, because eventually some of the Uzi crew came in to tell me that it wasn’t wise to keep my host waiting.  I put a washcloth over my face and told them to bring me a pack of 100s and a Piña colada.  About twenty minutes later, a woman came into the bathroom dressed for a night of disco and cocaine, wearing heart-shaped red shades with her bleach blonde hair in pigtails.  Her voice dripped with the honey-molasses of the south. 

“Time for your day of beauty to come to an end sweetie.” 

I peeked at her from under the washcloth “Nice to hear a voice from the states, even if it is the wrong states.  I don’t mean to be a bear, but I’m still waiting on that Piña colada, they’re great in the heat.  Be a dear and run and fetch that for me would you sweetie?” 

She had a quarter of a smile “You think you’re clever don’t you?”

“Well I did get a fourteen hundred on my SATs, but there’s always questions about the efficacy of standardized tests, aren’t there?  There’s well known racial biases on those things.” 

“I hate to break this to you sweetie, but you’re white.” 

“Sure, I’m just not white like you sweetie.” 

“It’s time for you to get out and get dressed.” 

“You said that already.” 

She put her hands on her hips “Do you want me to drag you out of there?  Are you that childish?” 

“What can I say, being abducted makes me crabby, I’m funny like that.  People always tell me that ‘Ela you’re so funny, you get really upset when people hold you captive’.  I don’t want you to drag me out of here, but if you do you should probably call your boss to come watch right?  The two of us all soapy and wresting around?  That would really be something to see.  We’re grabbing at each other and our hands are everywhere and then maybe we start kissing, right?  That’s just a good wholesome watching experience for everyone.” 

She was quiet for a moment “I don’t know how to respond to that.” 

“Makes yourself useful and fetch me a towel sweetie.” 

One difference from the movies is that the clothes they had there for me to put on didn’t fit very well.  You never see that in the movies.   I’m quite a bit taller than my peers back home, and here in southeast Asia that effect is exacerbated.  The white dress (of course) didn’t fall quite right on my frame.  I still looked fabulous of course, but I could have looked better is the point.   

The Uzi squad herded me into a dining room of sorts, actually no, it was a trophy room that had a table in it, not a dining room.  The walls had photos of dead people and news articles and weapons and shit like that.  One of the guns used in the Valentine’s Day Massacre, a knife that supposedly was used by Jack the Ripper, a musket from the Crimean war, other garbage like that.  One item I did pause to look at was some manner of machine pistol that was said to have been hand crafted by Duke Eaglevane.  My host’s voice wasn’t harsh but somehow it was ugly.  His accent was eastern European, I think.  If nothing else, I’m getting a lot of exposure to different dialects in Madripoor. 

“You must have a good eye for firearms, that’s a rare piece.” 

“I’ve never been much or one for guns myself, but the Duke is someone whose acquaintance I’d like to make.  Can you introduce me?” 

“Sadly I haven’t had the pleasure.” 

I took my seat and took the full measure of the man himself.  He was wearing a white suit (of course) which included gloves and very thick sunglasses – like they were meant to block out all light.  He might have looked okay if not for those ridiculous accessories.  He was certainly a well-proportioned individual, but he had his hair slicked back like a character from West Side Story which was not flattering at all.  The Disco southern Belle was at his side and on the other was a dark-haired local woman dressed similarly.  Looming behind him was a man large enough that he has to be some kind of super-person.  He was wearing a nice suit (where do you get something like that made for a man the size of an industrial refrigerator?) and what skin he had showing was covered with tattoos, Maori maybe?  I think I saw something like it in National Geographic.   

The entire scene was screaming “Look at me I’m evil” so hard it would have been funny if not for the very real chance that I was going to die. 

I helped myself to some eggs benedict “That’s quite the menagerie you have, did you bring me here because you need a brunette?  I know a redhead back home that would fit in well if you need a referral to complete the set.” 

“You consider yourself to be quite the wit, don’t you?” 

I nodded at blondie “Your maid said something similar, you should coordinate your menacing dialog better so you don’t trip over each other.”  I gestured at the walls and cases around the table. “Are you really into all this crap or is it just for show?” 

He smiled “I’m a connoisseur of deadly things.” 

I couldn’t help but laugh “Jesus Christ, did I wander onto the set of Cult of the Cobra here?  Did you actually just say that?  Is the red light on?  Are we shooting?  If you need me to get naked to boost international sales I’m willing to do that, but it has to be artistic you know?  It has to be saying something about reality, the nude scene can’t just be about body parts.  It has to be in character and the scenes need to be about something for me to feel comfortable doing a hot scene.  I’m not talking about me being in the shower just as an excuse, what I’m saying is . . .” 

He made a curt gesture “Shut up.” 

“Rude.” 

He stared at me for a while (I think, hard to say with those stupid glasses) as I devoured the food before me.  Strawberry crepes, fry bread, grillades and grits topped with scallions, rondón, roti, pan de sal, nasi goreng, mandoca, kokosbrood, all kinds of food.  I wonder if he normally has this much food for lunch and then throws most of it away, or if it was just for my benefit.  When he took his glasses off, I expected his eyes to be white as well but they were just normal. 

“Tell me, do you suffer from headaches?” 

I barked a bitter laugh “Does a bear shit in the pope’s hat?  Ever since I got here I feel like someone drove a railroad spike in through both temples, both eyes, both ears, and pretty much every other part of my head.  Also the railroad spikes are electrified and on fire.” 

He nodded “That must be why I can’t read you.” He smiled as he rolled up his sleeves. “No matter, I can always find out the old fashioned way.” 

“Find out what?” I said around a mouthful of mofongo. 

He took a knife off the wall and threw it at me. 

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 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 though is 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 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 about 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 on 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 him 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.”