Epic fight music

Once the hooting and hollering of the assembled horde reached a fever pitch it seemed like it was time to go.  Martialla and I sat across from one another perched in J-Lo’s empty window holes and looked at each other.  Why didn’t we just get in the car and look at each other?  It is a little dark in there but mostly because it was cooler.  Actually that’s a lie, the real reason is that it seemed like once we were inside that it was really happening.  You know what I mean?  I tapped on the roof a couple of times and she did the same like that was a thing we did. 

I glanced at all the dust being kicked up by the mile long demolition derby about to unfold “Too bad we don’t have a tape deck, some tunes would be nice.”

Martialla nodded “Ride of the Valkyries or Eye of the Tiger, something like that?”

I rolled my eyes “You are such a hack Martialla, next you’re going to be suggesting Fortunate Son.”

She looked hurt “I thought you liked Credence.”

“I do, everyone loves CCR, but that song lost its luster in this context after playing over a scene of chopper in Vietnam after the fiftieth time.”

Martialla glanced out at the field as the sound of chattering automatic weapon fire and the screeching of metal on metal was growing into a roar “I suppose we should go.”

I took a look as well, although there wasn’t much you could see with all the grit in the air “Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to go into battle with Fantasy playing in our heads.  Did you know that was the first song to debut at number by a female artist?  And that was nineteen ninety five.  It took that long Mar, think about all the great female singers throughout history and not until the end of the century did a woman debut at number one.”

“Well that was over a hundred years ago Ela, it was a different time.  Do you think Mariah Carey really knows how to rollerblade?”

I snorted “Hell no, I’m sure they had her trussed up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to keep her upright.  She carries fifty percent of her weight in her boobs, I’m surprised she can even stand up, there’s no way she can operate on wheels.”

“Unlike us.”

“Unlike us.”

We slide inside, put the armor in place, and strapped in.  I asked Martialla if she was good but the battle had grown so loud that I don’t know if she could hear me.  Either way she gave me a thumbs up, clutching the nanocanister to her breast like a mother chimp with a baby.  The idea was that we would drive along the road (flanking Martialla insisted on calling it) and then turn towards the fighting and try to ram the Invincible vehicles from the side.  Since J-Lo has no weapons and she’s great off-road this seemed like the way to go. 

Of course there were Invincible vehicles on the road coming at us head-on the entire idea was rendered moot immediately. 

The first thing coming at us looked like the front of a semi (the tractor I guess it’s called, but to me and everyone else a tractor is a farm machine) cut in half horizontally with a little platform on the back that had a rocket launcher.  The mutant on the back fired off the rocket, seemingly engulfing him/herself in flames in the process, and the projectile whirled around like a bottle rocket.  It was spinning so crazily and randomly that I figured there was no chance it would hit us but it did.  Direct hit from something that seemed to have the flight path of a drunken one winged grasshopper.  How is that possible?  J-Lo jumped up in the air but it was just like hitting a speed bump.  I have no idea what she’s made of but it seems to be pretty closed to being indestructible.  Or invincible if you prefer. 

The visibility out J-Los driving slit isn’t great so I couldn’t tell where it was coming from but I could hear bullets clattering off the front armor.  You cannot imagine how loud that is from the inside.  It’s like putting a bunch of batteries in a blender and then putting your ear where the top thing goes before you turn it on.  What is that top thin on a blender called?  It must have a name.  Some shrapel ricocheted through the vision-hole and hit me right in the earlobe.  I wonder if that would count for a purple heart back in the day.  No more earlobe for a bit.

Even in a nigh-indestructible car a head on collision seems like a bad idea so I cut to the right and whipped back over immediately for a sideswipe (a rake actually, but I’m not going to go over that again, except I just did I suppose).  I guess there must have been enough clearance for J-Lo to get underneath them like a cougar flipping over a porcupine because the next thing I see is wheels going over the vision slit and we were rocked like a VW Bug being crushed by a monster truck. 

When I came around I saw the half-semi (quarteri?) standing up on its nose like a seal balancing a ball.  It was  as if it had been dropped from a crane.  I saw a couple people struggling to crawl out and I floored it at them like a dirty redneck splattering a family of raccoons crossing a gravel road.  Chunks of what used to be people flew in through the slits like we were at the front row of a Gallagher concert.  Which we were not.

Splash one bandit I guess.  That’s what they say in the war plane fighter movies right?

Something slammed into us from behind but by the time I could swing around I didn’t see anything.  Could have been someone on our own side for all I know since we weren’t even facing the right away anymore.  Although how could there be a right way?  All I could see of the battle looked like a prison riot, how could you even tell who was on your side? 

Coming around again back the right away and continuing up the road some Invincible bikes scattered like frightened birds ahead of us.  One of the crazy fuckers jumped onto J-Lo.  I know this because his arm came through the vision-hole with a knife like that guy who was stabbing women through the windows of their apartments.  What did they call that guy?  The papers gave him a name.  I didn’t get a chance to learn this guy’s name because Martialla reared back and stomped on his wrist and made his arm bend the wrong way and then I threw him free with a hard swerve.  A couple of his fingers ripped off his hand as he was hurled and landed in my lap.  I’ll think of a joke for that later.  Something dirty.

Off the side of the road I saw one of those stupid Invincible log cabin machines just sitting there and I decided it was time to get in the fight.  I took a gentle left and hit it in the side.  The damn thing split in half like the boat in Man with the Golden Gun.  It would be crazy to say that it was like driving through tissue paper but it was easier than it seems like it should be to literally drive through another vehicle.  Maybe the front part attaches to the stupid wood part with duct tape.  It was ridiculously easy to destroy. 

Splash two. 

I started off after one of the Invincible observation vehicles were the bumpy-head people sit and watch (although this time they were shooting a SAW like mad, I saw bullet casings flying off like candy in an explosion at a piñata factory) but I was intercepted by a thing that looked like the Munster’s car with three Mad Max spinning engine things on the front.  The Munsters cut in front and fired a thing at us that looked like a bunch of harpoon guns from a whaling ship banked together like a missile carrier. 

That hit sent us spinning like an old Mo-Town singer when they take their hat off during the chorus.  By the time I got my bearings the Munsters had reloaded and were lining up another shot.  We spun around each other three times like two drunks both trying to grab each other’s ass for a conga line before I slammed on the breaks and whipped the wheel around to plow into them like a butt-first torpedo.

Martialla shot through the hole and peppered the driver in the chest while their gunner launched the harpoons.  The impact felt worse than any of the crashes we’ve been in.  I swear it knocked J-Lo back ten feet.  How can those things have more force behind them than actual rockets?  One guy was trying to re-load harpoons while another tried to drag the dead driver out of the seat while a third jumped off and hoofed it.  I guess he was the smart one because I backed up and bifurcated the Munster-mobile like a fruit stand in an action movie car chase. 

Splash three.

Next thing I know one of the log-cabin mobiles slammed into us.  I don’t know if it was an intention ram or if it was just a crash in the chaos.  What I do know is that J-Lo slide inside them like a very sensual leg into a silk stocking – only with way more splintering wood and scraps of metal and screaming and blood flying everywhere.  Suddenly we were in the pitch dark.  I drive to reverse out of the wreckage but the tires spun uselessly like we were on ice.  Martialla waved for me to stop and then injected herself with some red nanos – right in the chest like a psycho.  She could have at least done it into the arm or the thigh for my benefit. 

She unstrapped herself, took down the armor panel on her side and spun to the side to kick her legs out the window into the shell of the other car around us.  Since she wasn’t anchored in any way she flew back into me like that time my dad put me in the pack of the old pick-up with a washing machine and told me to old onto it while we drove out to the junkpile.  I elbowed her in the back of head.

“Jesus, watch it, you’re fucking crushing me!”  She slithered partway out the window between the two cars like a sliver between your fingernail and skin, and I saw her grabbing the J-Lo’s edge for support “Hey, don’t bend her frame!”

Martialla managed to swing-kick off enough of the wrecked Invici-car to get around the back and pull J-Lo free.  Since the armor was down on her side I saw a spike-buggy thing coming at us and shouted a warning at her.  She jumped out of the way and the spike-buggy slammed into J-Lo’s side with several spikes coming free and flying in the “open” window and hitting me in in both elbows.  One on the outside and the other going across to hit me on the inside of the other.  You ever have a rusty spike driven through your elbow?  It fucking hurts. 

While I fumbled for the nanoinjector with my suddenly bloody hands Martialla grabbed the side of the buggy and flipped it over like an angry toddler with a toy truck.  The driver tried to crawl out and she stomped on his melon, which crushed under her boot far more easily than an actual melon would have.  I’ve seen a lot of twisted stuff lately but that’s really going to stick with me.  That guy’s skull cracked like it was an egg, barely any resistance.  Those red nanos are no joke.

I finally managed to shakily inject myself with some blue nanos as I watched Martialla yank an axle (something long anyway) off the bottom of the overturned buggy and leap onto the wreckage of the first machine where she used it like she was spear-fishing to pin another Invincible car to the ground like that one kid in class did to bugs. 

The blue nanos are weird, they immediately make you feel high off your ass but they also make you feel like you’re not really in control of your limbs for a moment.  I should have just waited for them to do their thing but it felt important in that moment to try and drag the spike out of my arm even though I had the coordination of a drunk teenager playing pin the tail on the donkey. 

I shouted out the window at Martialla “Get back in here!”

She jumped back down by the window and I handed her the injector on account of the bloody bullet-hole in her side and she helped herself to some blues well “I don’t think I need to.”

“Why not?”

She looked right and left “I think we won.”

You may remember me from such films as the Boatjacking of Supership ’79

Despite Martialla’s snide remarks I really am a good shot with a pistol.  The guys that said I could shoot competitively were only exaggerating because they want to sleep with me, not lying because they wanted to sleep with me.  But here’s the thing, pistols are kind of useless.  Which is likely cold comfort to the however many people I’ve shot dead since falling out of a cryo-tube on account of it doesn’t make them any less dead. 

Armorers on movie sets come in two kinds, Loquacious Larrys and Taciturn Teddys.  A common Larry topic is how in movies everyone is running around with handguns but in real combat pistols are nobody’s primary weapon, they are a last resort when you have nothing better.  Some Larrys will even claim that a knife is better than a pistol, which is insane.  A Larry said to me once “only purpose of a sidearm is to give you a chance to stay alive long enough to find a better weapon”.  Other Larrys have said similar things, a few will admit (grudgingly it seems) that in very tight quarters where a rifle is not practical a pistol may come in handy.   

The closest enemy to me was around twenty yards away, which is not tight quarters.  I can make a shot at twenty yards, oh don’t think that I can’t, but a moving target at twenty yards with cover?  Not as much.  Plus here’s something to keep in mind, when people are trying to shoot you while you want to shoot them the degree of difficulty goes up a lot.  I mean a lot.  Point being that crouching where I was with a pistol I didn’t have a lot that I could do so I figured why not try to open up a dialog? 

“Hey . . . uh . . . hello there!  I don’t think we’ve been introduced.  You guys don’t look like Invincible . . . uh . . . so, are you just . . . uh . . . who are you?  What are your names?  My name is Ela.  Do you guys like movies?  You know what movies are?  You ever a find an old DVD player . . . uh, you know, like in a ruined city or something?  You guys see Slumber Party Massacre Four?  I was Millie in Slumber Party Massacre Four.  You guys see that one?  How about Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die or David and Goliath?   Martialla was in that one too.  She’s my friend over there.  She . . .” 

I was interrupted by Martialla sidling out behind J-Lo to shoot one of them who was breaking cover to flank Paul’s hiding tree.  When the flanker went down another guy tried to dash out and grab him and Martialla shot him as well.  This isn’t something I’ve seen wastelanders do before, leave no man behind isn’t a popular doctrine in the future.  She ducked back down behind J-Lo as some return fire came back her way.  The two wounded men were able to crawl into the underbrush but their designs on Paul were forgotten.

“Don’t . . . ah, don’t worry about that.  We’re not mad, people shoot at us all the time.  It’s . . . uh . . . no big deal you know?  Can we talk for a minute?  Are you with the Invincible?  Or is this your tower?  Maybe you just got startled?  Uh . . .” 

I heard a garbled voice from farther back in the trees “Aronto bosch!  Barton smarsh amine!  Dental hygienists!” 

“Uh . . . I didn’t catch that.  Are you guys dentists did you say?” 

Martialla hissed at me “They shot at us.  We killed three of them, they’re not going to talk to us Ela!” 

I tried to peek around the J-Lo’s front “We haven’t killed anyone yet have we?” 

“Paul split that first guy’s head open like a melon!” 

I squirmed around and tried to look underneath the car “Uh . . . okay then . . . I’m going for the window, cover me.” 

I noticed that Martialla’s left hand was gushing blood and her arm was streaked red as she nodded to me with her rifle clenched in her other hand.  J-Lo having no doors like the General Lee is usually super cool but in situations like this it’s a real drag.  I tried to stay as low as I could and slip in subtly like a sneaky snake but someone was waiting for that very move.  I think they call that overwatch.

The shots sounded almost simultaneous – one of the forest people shooting me in the left butt cheek, a through and through that let the bullet also smash into the bottom of my left foot, and Martialla’s answering shot.  I heard her shoot several more times as I hurtled into J-Lo and bashed my face on the shifter while simultaneously I banged my elbows and knees and every other hard pointy part of the interior.   

Have I ever mentioned that being shot hurts?  Try getting shot through the bottom of the fucking foot.  JFK assassination people talk about the “magic bullet”, I’d like for them to explain to me how the hell does a bullet go through my ass and then through the bottom of my foot?  Sure I was horizontal going through a window, and my legs were up in the air for a nanosecond but still.  You want to know the stupid thing?  In that instant my nose hurt worse.  Pretty sure I broke it.  Which is a crying shame because I have a great nose.  Everyone said so.   

Martialla was yelling something, I don’t know if her bawling was directed at me or at Paul or at the people shooting at us but I couldn’t hear it anyway.  I grabbed one of the plastic CHiPs rifles out of the back and stuck it out the window on the other side, holding down the trigger until it either ran out of ammo or jammed.  Tossing it back, I shifted the forty-ton window armor into place (wo)manfully and then lay there panting for a moment.  Martialla’s giant face appeared in the other window and I handed her a bomb/grenade from storage.  This one had fuse type thing on the top that you don’t have to light so it seems more grenade-y to me.  She bashed it on J-Lo’s side and then hurled it into the woods.  One thing I give Martialla, the girl can hurl.  I think she played college softball or something.   

After the boom I heard a lot of shouting and shooting and the distinctive “thwap” of Paul’s machete removing human flesh from a human body.  I wish that wasn’t a sound I could identify.  I rustled up the nano-canister and gave myself an injection of some sweet blue nanos.  The rush is intense I tell you what.  It’s like the first time you try coke, only better, makes you feel strong, like you can take on the whole world by yourself.  I wonder if they ever made ones that were purely recreational rather than therapeutic.  I suppose we might have some recro-nanos since we only know what the blue ones do.  Assuming the different colors even do different things.   Why doesn’t it have instructions on the side?

I slipped into the driver’s seat, which didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would with a busted ass, and hauled up the armor on that side as well.  J-Lo’s complicated ignition sequence may make her harder to steal but like the no-doors thing it’s annoying in situations like this.  Once I got her fired up I could faintly hear Martialla yelling at me to swing towards the tower and back up slowly.  As I did so I could see/feel/hear her creeping along using the car as cover as she fired into the woods.   

She signaled for me to stop and I heard her saying to Paul “Go after them, don’t let any get away.” 

What was the name of the other bar in Cheers?

From Mad Max, credit to ???

Despite never having ridden (driven?) a motorcycle before, I was able to pick up how to excite-bike my way across the wasteland without dying.  Martialla had a much harder time getting the hang of it.  She almost busted the ass that she doesn’t even have the first time we got into rough terrain.  Probably because she’s so gangly and mantis-like.  I’m not sure why it was so much easier for me than it was for her.  Are there transferrable skills from horsewomanship to motorcyclemania?  I’m a great equestrian you know.  Maybe she’s just not used to having anything with so much power between her legs.  Mega-burn!  Call the trauma ward for that burn!  I guess that’s really more of a burn on her dead husband than her, now that I think about it, which is less fun. 

The following day we came to another trading fort.  The last one wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs but it was fine, this one was much less fun. You know how in your home town there’s that bar that people consider to be kind of shady but is actually fine?  And everyone calls that the bad bar?  Well there’s another bar across town that makes that bar look like the swankest yuppie gin joint around, a bar where you can shoot up in the bathroom and no one gives a shit because a hooker just got stabbed in the parking lot.  This place had that vibe.   

I admit that I may only think that because of the sign though.  It said (in English surprisingly) that what they had for sale was water and slaves only, because they were out of stock on ammo.  I’ve assumed/expected that slavery was a thing because that seems awful so why wouldn’t it be, but seeing a sign for slaves was still a kick in the snizz.  Of course my first thought was to buy them and set them free.  There are two problems with that idea. 

Back home one time, a church group got the idea that they would go around to all the places that sold magazines and buy up all the dirty, dirty pornography so no one else could get it.  Anyone who took economics in college or has been alive in the world can see the problem with that.  As long as you pay for the stuff, the person selling it could give a shit what you do with it, all you’re doing is creating demand which results in more supply.   

The other problem is that turning these people loose right there with no food or water is either a death sentence or more likely the fort-traders would just grab them up again and sell them once more.  The only solution, as always, is murder – kill all the slave sellers and then the former slaves could have their stuff and live in their trade fort if they want.  I gave Martialla the “should we” look but she shook her head.  The two of us and our one gun against them didn’t seem like a great plan, I admit.   

If you ask me (and you are in a way by reading this) why we even went in the place after seeing that sign, I couldn’t tell you.  It’s probably for the same reason those same Christian porn people went to see The Last Temptation of Christ, they wanted to get upset about it.  Unlike the last trade fort, you could just walk right into this one.  There were definitely people with guns around, but no one seemed to be a “guard”; they were just armed and loitering.   

As soon as we walked in, a dude that looked like Tigris of Gaul if you melted that helmet to his head and sprinkled in some mushrooms to the molten silver and then that mess turned into skin sauntered up and tried to put a collar on me.  Just walked up like I was presenting myself to him to sign up for his slavery program.  Like he thought I was just going to stand there and let him collar me up.  Like he was a dog catcher sweeping up friendly strays.   

I will admit that when I twisted away from him and kicked him in the knee, it didn’t do jack shit.  It felt like I was kicking a tree stump.  I’m fifty percent sure I broke a bone in my foot with that kick.  I credit him that.  What I don’t credit him for was when I swung the crowbar-hatchet-cleaver that we just traded for the other day at him, he tried to block it with his forearm like it was a Nerf bat.  All the flesh from the mid-part of his lower arm to the elbow sheared off so easily that I lost my balance and almost faceplanted into the dirt.  It was like swinging a sledgehammer at a concrete wall and finding out the wall was actually made of soap bubbles.   

Have you ever see in an action movie or a kung fu flick or whatever when a bad guy gets his hand chopped off and he holds up the stump and looks at it like “huh”?  And you think “that is so stupid, that would never happen”.  Well, that’s exactly what he did.  He held up his arm, showering down blood like water when you open the washing machine before it’s done, and gazed at it with a stupid look until Martialla sunk a meat hook-spear-golf club into his chest.  His response then was to swing a wild backhand at her that she fell ass over twat trying to dodge.   

I don’t know if he was trying to tackle me or if he just fell or what happened, but the next thing I knew I was being crushed into the ground with him on top of me reaching for my throat.  It was like I was a mechanic working under a car and the jack fell out from behind the wheel.  I’ve never felt pressure like that.  I swear to god a horse rolled on me once and this felt seven thousand times heavier than that.  I tried to keep his hands away from my throat but I would have had better luck bending the wing of a Seven Forty Seven.  There was no fucking way.   

Thankfully for everyone involved, Martialla shot him through the ear.  First the left, then the right.  And when he still didn’t go down, she shot him twice at the base of the skull.  When he finally collapsed on me, I thought that I had died as well.  Martialla used her murder stick as a lever to shift him enough for me to slither out from under him.  Once I stopped gasping for air, I realized that no one was even watching.  That skirmish wasn’t even an interesting enough occurrence for anyone to turn their head for more than a second.  Martialla gave me a hand getting to my feet and a greasy looking guy with a furry hat wiped his filthy hands on his filthy pants and came over to us.   

“We sharrig the needies same to us?” 

Keep your hands inside the vehicle until it comes to a complete stop

Driving around with Martialla trying to fire on the move proved to be useless.  Part of the reason was my wrist was hurting so badly that I couldn’t grip the wheel with that hand.  I had one hand on the wheel and then I jammed my forearm through the wheel-hole on the other side to kind of make it so I could steer.  Point being it was much easier to turn one way than the other.  Shifting was a problem.  

But shattered wrists aside, I figured out quickly that it made more sense to get into what I thought was a good field of fire and then come to a complete stop so Martialla could shoot from a stationary position.  Then when a clump of enemies started coming our way, I’d take off again.  That worked better than the old run and gun, until Martialla ran out of ammo.  Which happened in very short order.  

She switched to the crappy plastic assault rifle from the swap meet and we were able to take out a couple of Invincible vehicles (the drivers really) by way of me pulling up aside them and her firing off a burst.  Their machines seem to have a lot less armor on them than J-Lo.  Which I wish we were in at the time instead of that fucking flimsy dune buggy.  I heard Martialla cursing and slamming her rifle into the buggy frame, I think it jammed almost every time she fired and had to be cleared.  That ammo was gone even more quickly.  Quicklier?     

Looking back on things, that is the point when we should have gotten the hell out of there, if not before.  In the moment it’s hard to realize what’s going on.  The defenders were fucked.  Nothing we were doing was going to make a difference.  And what’s worse was we had done enough damage to the Invincible to start attracting too much attention.  I wonder if there’s a military term for getting into a fight and kicking ass at first so hard that it makes you blind to the fact that you’re about to get bent over the barrel.  I suppose that’s just called overconfidence.   

Two very clear things stick in my memory.  One is that I was mouthing the words to “Got Your Money” under my breath while I was driving.  I’m not much of a rap fan, I don’t know why I was chanting that like a mantra, but I was.  The second thing is that one of the Invincible-mobiles tried to sideswipe us with spinning blades on the side and it made me think of Grease and how strange that drag race scene is.  

So these are high school kids right, and they’re racing around, and one of them pushes a button and some whirling blades of death come out of the Scorpion guy’s car like it’s James Bond and tear the shit out of John Travolta’s car?  What the fuck is that about?  Where did that come from?  That would be like if Anna suddenly lashed out at someone with a lethal karate kick to the head in the King and I.  It’s nonsensical.  But when you’re a kid you just think “oh yeah, that’s how street racing works, why wouldn’t it?”  

I turned to get out of the path of the spinning blade machine and I cut too hard and the buggy went over on its side.  When I was a kid once I fell off a horse and broke my collarbone.  That was bad.  I must have learned something from the experience though because somehow I managed to come through flipping that damn buggy without much more than bumps and bruises – honestly it barely felt different to me than when you’re drunk and you go to sit down and you fall on your ass because there was no chair there.  

Back in Martialla’s position there was no harness exactly but there was like a cargo net thing that kept her from flying off the back.  When we went wheels up, I distinctly heard a thud-ping that I’m pretty sure based on the massive amount of blood on her face was Martialla’s skull smashing into the bar she was holding onto on the back.  I scrambled out and saw Martialla hanging onto the net with one arm and clutching a pistol with the other.  Somehow she didn’t drop her gun, it looked like she was eighty percent unconscious.  Points for persistence. 

I drew my pistol and fired at the spike-car as it wheeled around towards us until it went “click, click, click”.  I must have hit something (or someone more likely) because it veered slightly and then continued our way at like three miles an hour.  I didn’t slap Martialla so much as I pushed her in the face with my hand and I yelled for her to help me get the thing back onto its wheels.  When she didn’t move, I yanked on her hair and demanded that she help me but she barely even moved then.   

I think I could have rocked it back over on my own, like I said before it didn’t weigh a ton and it seemed like it was kind of built to flip back around, but it turns out that I didn’t have to because while I was trying to push on the frame, another Invincible car (with a limbless torso stuck into the front grill) came at us with a sideswipe maneuver.  I think technically a sideswipe is when both vehicles are going in the same direction, and it’s called a rake when they’re coming at you head on, but no one would know what I was talking about if I said it tried to rake us.  

I jumped up out of the way and did like a hanging crunch on the frame of the buggy to avoid getting my pretty little guts splattered across the plains.  My trainer Maurice would have been so proud of me if he wasn’t long super dead.  He was always on my ass about working out my core.  I told him a hundred times that I don’t need core strength because I’m a sexy actress not a lady athlete but he never listened.  He was Algerian or something so his grasp of English wasn’t great.  I doubt I could do that again under normal circumstances, adrenaline is a hell of a thing.  I didn’t even feel the oblique I ripped to shreds doing it until later.  

The impact of the rake ram sideswipe knocked the buggy back upright and I jumped back into the seat and floored it.  Martialla wasn’t shooting anymore but I don’t know if that’s because she was out of it and wasn’t able to shoot on account of being bashed or because there was nothing much more she could do because our two longarms were both out of ammo.  

I realized at this point that more and more hostiles were buzzing by us subjecting us to wildly inaccurate gunfire and stabbing at us with various long implements and/or trying to ram us while simultaneously realizing that there seemed to be no defenders left in our area at all.   Aside from the looming threat of death, the scariest part was how fast it happened.  Even though we were engaged in a deadly fight, it felt like we were safe until then you know?  It felt like we were on the side (the flank they call it in the army I think) and we had better range and maneuverability and we were kind of okay.  Then all of a sudden we were surrounded in like eight seconds flat.

I tried to get off the dirt tracks and cut through the fields hoping that we had better ability to travel through the wheat crop (or whatever the hell it was) but this backfired horribly as we were immediately slowed down and the Invincible machines seemed to handle it just fine.  I jerked to the right to avoid a fucking rocket that someone fired off the back of a truck at us and moved directly into the path of a thing that looked like an airplane engine that someone had put wheels on.  Out of all the insane bullshit vehicles I’ve seen in this junkyard of a world, that one was the insanest and bullshitest.  It slammed into us a dozen times harder than that rocket would have, I bet.  

I remember a brief feeling of weightlessness and then boom, lights out.

It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life

One thing I’m trying to do for myself is think about the good aspects of waking up in a post-apocalyptic hellscape.  For example, in the before time I dated a guy who would use the expression “all fucked out”.  Such as, we’d be at a restaurant and we’d be out of bread and he’d say “Ela, can you grab the waiter next time he comes by, this bread is all fucked out.”  Or I’d ask him to get me a beer and he’d say “Sorry, the beer is all fucked out”.  I told him that I hated this expression but he still kept saying it.  In his defense I don’t think he was doing it to be a dick, I think he was just used to saying it and he didn’t make an effort to change.

One time he said “all fucked out” at brunch with my friends and I wanted to stab him in the forehead with a fork.  But I couldn’t because pre-apocalypse you got in trouble if you fork stabbed someone.  At the very least, people would be upset.  At worst I might go to jail.  Can you even imagine?  Me?  Ela?  In jail.  Martialla will tell you that I was in one of those “caged heat” type movies but Certainty of Debt wasn’t like that.  They did add in a shower-fight scene post-production but that wasn’t me, they shot that with a body double.  They really screwed that movie up in editing.  Anyway, my point is that now I can stab whoever I want and it’s fine.  So that’s a good thing about my current predicament.  

Even though he was just accusing us of being part of the attack, Mr. Codpiece scooted off after his friends a second later and left us standing there.  We heard more bells ringing and some of the bug people tending the fields ran and jumped into little tunnel-holes in the ground while some of them ran towards the northwest.  We saw a bunch more of the non-bug warrior types coming out of the woodwork too, on horseback, on those stupid scooters, and on foot.  They didn’t seem to have much in the way of sturdy vehicles or firearms.  Some of them did have bangsticks, I learned all about those when I was in Shark Huntress 2: Blue Eyes.  Fun fact, I got warm water hypothermia working on that movie.

In retrospect, going towards the sound of fighting was not a wise thing to do.  Martialla and I probably should have just driven the other way as fast as we could.  When I jumped behind the wheel of our borrowed buggy though, I knew where we were going.  Martialla did too because she didn’t get in the seat beside me, she jumped on the back thingy where you go when you want to shoot stuff and unlimbered the rifle we took from the traders that tried to kill us for no reason.  

I know why I did what I did.  I was desperate to see what was going on at the doctor’s lab and figured this was a good way to curry favor.  Not the research, I don’t care about that, I mean does she have power?  And maybe therefore air conditioning?  Refrigeration?  And maybe therefore real food instead of smashed-up worms fried with mud?  Are there beds?  Showers?  Could I shave my legs?  I know a lot of women hated shaving their legs but I like it.  And all the feminists who gave me shit about it are all dead now so there’s another good thing.  

But why did Martialla immediately jump into battle mode?  Despite her churlishness did she realize that making nice with the doctor was our best chance for survival and she didn’t want the place to burn just like I did?  Was she merely backing me up, falling back into the old pattern of following my lead?  Or was she simply in the mood to shoot something?  Ever since she found out that her husband was super duper dead along with all her friends and family (except me, her best friend) she’s been in a mood.  Maybe I’ll ask her later.  

War movies have told me that after a battle, soldiers have to write a report about what happened in that battle.  Maybe that’s just the officers.  I wonder if they learn how to do that in soldier school because it seems impossible to me now that I’ve done it.  There’s a lot going on in a battle.  It would be like trying to write a report about what happened when a three-ring circus exploded because a train hauling dynamite and bouncy balls and hookers collided with an airplane carrying some of the worst criminals living and the US president.  I was supposed to be in Con Air you know, but my idiot manager double booked me and I was on set as a corpse on ER the day I was supposed to shoot my Con Air scene.  

Broad strokes are the best I’m going to be able to do here.  The main thing I can tell you is that being in a battle sucks.  And yet it’s kind of easier than the couple of scrapes Martialla and I have been in so far.  See when you shoot a dude in the neck and then just stand there and watch him bleed out/suffocate, that’s troubling.  On the other than when you’re zipping around all over the place shooting at dozens of people, you can kind of ignore the results.  It’s like the difference between hitting a raccoon with your car and having to beat a raccoon to death with a sharp rock.  As long as it’s over quick you can go back to listening to the radio and put it out of your mind.  

The attackers were Invincible.  I saw those fucking stupid red and blue fists they like painted on a bunch of their shit.  I think it may have been the same crew we saw attacking those people outside of Bosstown.  Some of the vehicles looked familiar.  It’s hard to say for sure but I think there were a lot more of them.  I saw a couple bigger armored things that I never saw before, they were kind of like tanks but maybe more like garbage trucks with armor bolted on them and some platforms.  They build some top-heavy shit around these parts.

The Invincible opening move was a bunch of truck/bus type things that came forward and offloaded dudes on foot who charged forward.  They all had blades and clubs, I didn’t see a single firearm in that first group.  After wave one was engaged with the defenders, the Invincible bikes and buggies moved in to attack.  I’m no military strategist (obviously) but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Isn’t the idea behind armor that it goes first and punches a hole for the infantry to exploit? (phrasing)  Maybe it’s a cannon fodder scenario.  Maybe the machines are more valuable than the people.  

The bigger vehicles stayed back out of the fray which makes even less sense to me since they seem like they’re the ones that would be the hardest to damage or destroy.  Some of them had cannons or harpoon launchers but a bunch of them had, I shit you not, catapults on them that hurled jagged scraps of metal and rocks into the fight, but a lot of them just sat there and did nothing other than offer the people in them a good view of the battle.  

The defenders were outnumbered badly I think.  The Invincible seemed like they were everywhere.  When the guys trying to fight them stood their ground, it didn’t go well.  Things worked out much better for them when they hid in the rows of crops and jumped out with their bangsticks to attack the wheels of the attackers’ vehicles.  I don’t know why they didn’t do that more.  The worst was the little bee-people.  They had no weapons, they ran forward and threw themselves at the attackers like suicide bombers – only without the bombs.  They were just trying to gum up the machines with their flesh.  It was nauseating but it worked a couple times.  More than once I saw one of the leech guys grab one of the little people and “bite” onto them with their hideous lamprey-mouths and then toss them aside like a crushed soda can.  I don’t know if that actually did anything to make them fight better or if they just liked doing it.

Unhinged

I hung my arm out the window and glanced over at Martialla as the ugly landscape crawled by “You know I haven’t seen a single roach here in the future.”

“Present, you mean.  You say that like you’re disappointed.  Why do you want to see roaches?”

“I don’t want to see roaches, who would want to see a roach?”

“An entomologist.”

“Shut up Martialla!  The point I’m trying to make is that back in our time they always said that after the end of the world the only thing left would be the roaches, so where are the roaches?  Swarms of giant carnivorous roaches hungry for our tender meat.”

Martialla frowned “Why do you want there to be roaches?”

“God damn it Martialla, I’m not saying that I want there to be roaches. What I’m saying is that they told us there were going to be roaches everywhere after the world blew up so where are they?”

“They were wrong.  Roaches being left after the bombs drop is one of those things that someone said once based on nothing and it sounded good, so other people kept parroting it.  Like that old chestnut about how you lose ninety percent of your heat from your head or that if you wake up a sleepwalker they could die.  Roaches evolved in tropical rain forests, the only reason they can survive in other environments is because humans have heated houses for them to live in and create literally tons of garbage for them to eat.  Anything that took out humans would take out the roaches too, except in the jungles where they evolved to live.”

I scowled at her “Why do you know so much about roaches?”

“I dated an entomologist in college.”

“Stop saying entomologist!  I don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about, need I remind you that you’re an adult woman who doesn’t know what third base is.”

I know what third base is, you’re the one who thinks that millions of women are out there getting fingered all the time in the back of cars!”

“I never said anything about fingers going inside anything, everyone knows that third base is when you . . .”

I trailed off when I saw the smoke. The road was elevated maybe thirty feet, the parts of it that are left anyway, some of it had dropped off on the north side.  I’ve driven out to Reno before (don’t ask) and I don’t remember the interstate being on the side of a hill like this.  How could any of the road be intact if the topography has shifted that much?  The future present makes no sense. 

I think we’re in the general area of what used to be Truckee, but I don’t think there were ever rice fields in Truckee before.  That’s what was off the road to the north.  It looked like something out of a movie about Vietnam.  Not just the terraces and the rice plants but the scene – blood and mayhem – was what you would expect from one of those movies too.  I mean except for the motorcycles.

The smoke was coming from a burning stand of trees crowded in-between the fields.  Most of the smoke was issuing from little huts that were built into the branches like a treehouse for a little kid.  Tearing ass around the fields were a half dozen guys on dirtbike-like contraptions flailing about with chains and clubs as other people on foot fled in terror before them.  They tried to flee in terror anyway, a lot of them got bashed down from behind, you know because you can’t run faster than a minibike.  Generally speaking.

I saw a clump of a dozen or so people with spears form up into a little square like they were going to fend off a cavalry charge in olden times.  One of the bikers skidded to a stop in front of them, spraying up a big wave of mud and rice-stalks (?) and then hurled a stick of dynamite at them [Martialla’s note, it was a black powder fuse grenade, not dynamite] and blew them to pieces.  It was just a thing that happened.  A bunch of people turned into bloody mist right before my eyes like that’s normal. 

Across the field there was a vehicle that was one of the ugliest wrecks I’ve seen here so far.  The frame looked like it was that of a big off-road truck or utility vehicle but the body looked like a horizontal tepee or something – I swear that a lot of it looked like it was wood.  There was a friggin’ turret on this thing.  I have no idea where the engine even would be in something like that.  Standing near this Frankencar were three of those lumpy-headed people watching the carnage and having themselves a laugh.  They were bald like all the potato-head people we’ve seen so far, so I can’t say for sure, but I think the one in the middle was a woman.  She (?) had a crazy looking gun over her shoulder that looked like it was four feet long. 

“Jesus Christ what are you doing!”

That’s what Martialla said when I turned our car, fishtailed like crazy, and took us over the side into the field.  I guess it was a pretty steep decline.  I should have given her a heads up.  Especially since this thing has no seat belts.  Here’s the problem with J-Lo.  Armored plates are all well and good for protection, but it leaves you with just a small slit to look through.  It’s not so bad when you’re on the road, but when you’re driving around a terraced rice field trying to run over nimble dirt bikes you really need a full field of vision.  I never wondered before how tank drivers in World War Two were able to see where they were going but now I do.  How the hell did they know where they were going? 

I stuck my head out the window so I could see better and in doing so I managed to clip one of the bikers on the back wheel and send it and him tumbling through the air.  I tried to come around to take another crack at him but J-Lo got bogged down in the mud and plant material in the fields as I turned.  We weren’t going anywhere.  Martialla grabbed me by the seat of the pants and dragged me back inside.

“Get the fucking armor up, that’s a saw!”

I would find out later that saw can mean Squad Automatic Weapon.  Why couldn’t she just say machine gun like a normal person?  Why did she have to say saw?  Say saw.  Say saw.  That sounds weird.  A moment later the car started trembling like it had those hardware store paint can shakers on each wheel.  The sounds of the bullets slamming into the armor was outrageous.  You cannot imagine how loud it was.  I ducked down in the seat and prayed not to get hit with a ricochet.  Based on the sound alone, I imagine that even a deflected bullet would have ripped me in half. 

My ears were ringing when the firing stopped so I didn’t even realize that it had stopped until I felt Martialla yanking on me again and shouting.  I couldn’t hear what she was yelling about but she dove out the window and a second later I saw one of those dynamite things [Martialla’s note, it was another fuse grenade, see above] clatter onto the hood of the car.  I guess Martialla didn’t think J-Lo would be able to take the blast.  Oh she of little faith. 

The explosion was actually surprisingly tame by comparison to the sound of that gunfire.  All it did was knock J-Lo out of her rut.  I put the hammer down with my sights set on one of the motocross murderers.  Another one of the bastards came whirring up beside and tried to stab in through the window with an L-shaped blade.  That didn’t work so well though because Martialla sprayed him with a burst of fire in the back from her position hugging the side of one of the terraces.  I could hear her cursing as the rifle jammed on her after a split second of fire. 

I felt a big thump, so the blade-guy must have fallen right under the back wheels.  I tried to bring J-Lo around to head up towards the woman (?) with the SAW but the incline was too steep and the purchase was too poor for me to make any headway.  I watched as the remaining bikers excite-biked their way up there and the potatohead people piled into their stupid looking machine and slowly drove away.  Martialla was yelling for me to turn, go laterally, and head up a dirt path on the other side of the burning trees but by the time I realized what she was trying to get me to do, they were gone. 

From the moment I spotted them to the time I saw them drive away wasn’t more than thirty seconds I bet.

December 3, 1973 – Don’t accept generics, don’t you deserve the best?

I think the one in the lingerie and cape was a psychic, she may have been standing there doing nothing because she’s the leader, but I don’t think so.  I think she was trying to melt my brain.  She didn’t put her hand to her temple like the psychics do in the movies, but she was staring at me intently and I could feel something happening.  Whatever it was wasn’t working though.  Someday I’d like to find out if they intended to protect my thoughts like Fred said they did for him or if it’s just a side effect of my horrible headaches.   

After that initial kick I grabbed the dominatrix woman by the collar (see, that’s why you don’t dress like that) and threw her through the wall, the exterior wall behind us.  I hope she’s got some kind of super toughness because you can probably survive going through a wall but a four story drop is another story.  I wasn’t trying to kill her I swear, I just reacted.      

Cape and dominatrix weren’t an issue, but the one wearing the piece of floss was trouble.  She was fast and she hit hard.  I don’t know if she knew that I had super strength or just knew that she was better off keeping her distance in general, but either way she was elusive.  She’d snap me with a couple punches and then be back out of reach.  Feminism aside, I’ve never before seen a woman that could throw a decent punch.  She was like Muhammad freaking Ali.   

Even more amazing though, her outfit stayed on somehow.  It must have been be glued to her tits.  Which can’t be good for your skin.  As I was getting pummeled I wondered – where do these women come from?  I’ve been told that natural super people are very rare, so rare that you’ll never meet one.  So unless Playboy has their own “super-soldier” program, I can’t understand where women like this could have come from.  There are only a handful of militaries that can successfully create super people, and the ones that can manage it can’t do it in any kind of volume, I can’t imagine they’d allow any of their assets to get away and end up in slutty Halloween costumes robbing banks.   

However consider this, Martialla, Blue, and I are all NBH’s that were created by different kinds of experiments.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  And maybe it wasn’t before, but now things are changing.  Maybe this is a thing like with generic brands at grocery stores.  The super-soldiers like Angel (God rest her soul) are your Honey Nut Cheerios and your Count Chocula, but now people have figured out how to make Apple Blasties and Flakie Flakes and they’re starting to flood the market with knock offs.  Is that what’s happening?  Are we about to live in a world full of cut-rate defective super beings?  That doesn’t sound good for anyone.

I’d like to say it was a stratagem on my part, that I feigned being really hurt to draw her in, but it was just happenstance.  After a hard shot to the ribs, I slumped into the corner and Boobs McGee finally danced too close and I caught her by the hair.  I yanked down and ripped out a good chunk of hair and scalp off her (good thing for me it wasn’t a wig) and the whiplash effect of her head getting snapped down knocked her out cold.  Ironically given our previous conversation, her body flexed out like I was cracking a whip, contorting her in an odd way as she flopped to the ground.  I looked out in the hallway where the leader was still trying to explode my head with her mind powers (or maybe just standing there) and failing (or succeeding). 

“Are we done here?” Her eyes darted around wildly for a second and then she nodded quickly “Get your friend and get out of here.” 

While she struggled to drag her friend away I saw that said friend was still breathing, so at least I didn’t break her neck accidentally.  I should probably have Blue teach me a few moves one of these days so when I fight I only kill people who I want to kill.  I snorted out a big blob of blood and sat down in the corner with the last of my smokes.  I was never unconscious exactly, more like when you accidentally get way too high and you just kind of forget that time is a thing.  I flicked my ash out the hole in the wall.  Next thing I knew, Martialla was standing over me. 

“I think my nose is broken.” 

She crouched down to look me in the eyes “I think you got your bell rung.” She gestured at the hole in the wall “What happened?” 

“Wrong address.” 

“You seem to attract more than your fair share of trouble.” 

“Yeah.  Look, I’m sorry I complain all the time.  I’m doing the best I can.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m not a soldier.  From now on I’ll listen to you and Blue, I’ll do whatever you guys think is best.” 

She snorted “You must have really gotten dinged if you think that.  I’m sure that’s not going to last long once you shake it off.  What you need to realize, Ela, is we’re not superheroes.  There’s no such thing.

That’s comic book stuff.  We’re just trying to make our way.  And that means we’re going to have to do whatever we need to.  Can you accept that?” 

“I guess.  I mean, I did rob some banks back home.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah god, my fucking ankle!” 

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

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Fuck me!” 

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

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

“No.” 

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

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

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

“Gun, kill her!” 

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

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

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

“Belt, fly me away!  God damn it!” 

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

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

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

October 31, 1973 – Every day is Halloween

Obviously my plan was to get Colonel Flagg to do my dirty work for me.  That plan was predicated on the assumption that he is a highly trained government agent that would be capable of tracking people down using a special set of skills honed over a long career of doing shady black ops stuff.  Unfortunately I found that this appears to be a false assumption.  If Stars and Stripes Forever is highly training in anything, it appears to be having very mechanical workmanlike intercourse with a variety of local sex workers. 

He claims to be a former Navy SEAL, have a black belt in some made-up sounding kind of karate, and be an undefeated underground fighting champion.  I’m pretty sure none of those things are true.  I feel like instead he was an adult paper “boy” that was denied military service due to failing the psych eval and formed a team of “mercenary commandos” with his loser buddies from HS that wear fatigues and shoot squirrels with assault rifles.  I would bet good money that they put an ad in the paper as “freelance problem solvers”.   

But he is staying in a high-end suite in a pretty nice hotel and he does have super power tech stuff, which is perplexing.  I know a three-time loser when I see one, so where is this stuff coming from? 

The conundrum is that if he was a real super-agent, it would have been harder to bamboozle him.  It’s a real issue when it comes to tricking people into doing things.  People who are good at things often aren’t that easily tricked.  He did ask one time why my accent sounded “funny” if I was from Atlanta like I claimed.  I told him I was a military brat and had spent my formative years in a variety of overseas military bases.  He was pretty jazzed about that.  He asked me all about what my father had done and I told him that I didn’t know because he never talked about it.  He was in hog heaven imagining all the covert ops my fictional poppa got up to – I bet he was imagining motorcycles jumping over things and flamethrowers.   

He suggested that we return to the area of the clinic to start our investigation, which seemed reasonable enough.  He then put on his full red, white, and blue costume to do so which seemed far less reasonable to me.  I said that it would probably be better to stay inconspicuous.  He said that when you’re on a mission, you wear your uniform.  I told him mine was being dry cleaned.   

The good news is that a man walking around in a US flag made into a onesie doesn’t draw much attention in a place like Madripoor.  I swear I saw an actual alien the other day – it was buying a newspaper and some smokes.  When we got to the clinic, he took out a piece of tech about the size of a notebook.  It had a glowing green screen and you could interact with it by touching it, and it seemed like it had a little radar dish on the side attached to a wire of some kind.  I’m not convinced that Travis had any idea how to use it.  I asked him what he was scanning for and he said it was “classified”.   

I noticed on the screen he was looking at there were some symbols that looked like three triangles daisy-chained together in various patterns.  I had seen Blue sketching similar things sometimes when we were just sitting around.  Blue doesn’t talk much about what happened to him, but one night after some truly epic drinking, he did say that some aliens had captured him and done stuff to him.  This pad the US Patriot has must be from those same people.  I wonder what that means. 

After that, we spent a couple days going around town “taking readings”, although he spent significantly more time bargaining with various brothel owners and berating the hotel staff about various “infractions” of the rules he’d invented for how he thought a hotel should be run.   

I got tired of that, so one day while he was in the bedroom doing his thing, I decided to see what I could figure out on my own.  He kept his super-stuff in a big metal case that appeared to have no seams.  I only saw him open it once and it seemed to just crack open when he pushed a button on an ugly bracelet he wore all the time.  I discovered that it also opens when you rip it apart with the strength of twenty strong men.  I set aside the belt, which I think allows him to fly and maybe puts a force field around him, and the gun which I assume murders people in some sufficiently sci-fi way, and went for the pad. 

I moved the triangle symbols around on the screen and sometimes the screen would change, but I had no clue what I was looking at.  Are those symbols an alien language or just symbols?  Why can’t aliens just learn Earth languages already?  Preferably one that I already know.  After messing with it for a while, I picked up the little dish thing and spoke into it like a microphone “English”.  It definitely did something so I tried again with “French” but then the screen turned red and it started making a sizzling noise.  A moment later, Travis came running in with his dick flopping in the breeze. 

“What are you doing with that?!” 

“Trying to get a reading.” I waved at his crotch area “Can you put that away please?” 

I saw his companion peering at us curiously as he growled and charged at me like a bull.  I swear I was just trying to push him away.  But as I was standing up, I shoved him harder than I expected – I’m still not used to all this strength – and he went flying backwards past the bedroom and smashed through the huge multi-paned window that gave a lovely view of the bay.  His lady friend was staring at me with her mouth in an O of surprise. 

“That was an accident.” 

I went to the window, expecting to look down and see a bloody and broken US Male below – it’s only the third floor, but falling thirty to forty feet is no joke – but instead I saw an angry naked man standing on the ground fiddling with a bracelet.  He looked up and our eyes locked – him with a death glare and me with an air of apology. 

“Hey man, sorry about that, that was totally my mistake, I . . . holy shit!” 

That exclamation was on account of as I was talking, a motorcycle drove up and the driver (rider?) lashed out with a long chain that had a hook on it and swept Travis off his feet.  A second motorcycle came up and ran over him and I swear the damn thing had blades or spikes on the wheels or something.  I don’t know if his magic bracelet was out of juice or what, but his belly was all torn to shreds.  He lay on the ground groaning and bleeding and leaking other stuff out of his bowels as the two motorcyclists dismounted and took off their helmets to reveal Mr. X’s handmaidens, Betty and Veronica as I call them.  Or did he actually call them that?  I forget. 

The one who tried to attack me with a whip before in his dining room was the one whirling the chain around.  The other one had a stupid sword, which she pointed up at me.   

“The time has come for you to die!” 

I gestured to the woman still on the bed looking horrified “Me or her?” 

In response, Whippy McChains snarled like a dog and threw her chain up to hook on the window – which is impossible because it wasn’t that long before.  She started shimmying up after me so I dropped a chest of drawers on her stupid head.  Travis’ underwear went flying everywhere when it smashed to pieces on her noggin and slammed her to the ground.  Swords McGee jumped back on her bike, did a little circle, and then ramped off a fountain through the window and into the god damn room.  Which is also impossible.  The statue part of a fountain is not a ramp!  There’s no reason that bike should have flown into the air like god damn chitty chitty bang bang. 

I scrambled back with a startled yelp on account of there was a woman on a motorcycle flying through the window and fell to the floor just in time for the door to come flying open and for Mr. X’s Maori man-mountain to come stalking in, eyes full of menace and the rest of him full of bigness.  I shouted “self-destruct mode” at the alien thing and tossed it on the floor between the two them.  But nothing happened.  

“Wellllll, shit.” 

October 23, 1973 – It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

Do lizards have good night vision?  I wouldn’t think so.  They need the sun to move around right?  At night they’re just sitting around waiting for the sun, so why would they need good night vision?  Seems like all the other nocturnal animals would eat them while they were powered down.  Do bats eat lizards?  I wonder how that works.  Fish probably have good night vision.  It’s dark underwater right?  But how well do they see on land?  Martialla’s eyes are white like those blind cave animals on PBS.  But her vision seems pretty sharp.  Except when it comes to her wardrobe.  In that case she’s blind as a lizard at night.

Madripoor never gets very dark, even in the low city where things sometime seem like cowboy times, there are houselights all over the place.  There was enough darkness that I didn’t see anything though.  My first indication of trouble was when Blue and Martialla started shooting into the shadows.  That could have just been them shooting for fun though, what really convinced me that something was amiss was when I saw Elvis clutching his stomach and noticed that he was covered with blood.   That set off some alarm bells.

I’d never really been in a fight before.  Not like that.  Back home nothing like this ever happened obviously.  And the scrapes I’ve gotten into here so far have been quick reactions to someone trying to kill me personally – a couple seconds of fight and then time for flight.  I didn’t freeze exactly, but clearly I was the one of us that wasn’t used to this kind of thing.  Blue and Martialla were shooting and moving from cover to cover and making hand signals at each other and doing all kinds of shit.  LBK frog-leaped off one guy, slamming his head into the ground with his feet (it sounded like when you drop a bowling ball) to jump-kick another guy while executing a front flip onto a building roof where he jumped down on two other guys.  This was while I was still figuring out what was going on. 

A guy with a knife charged at me and I put my hand out reflexively to shove him away like a football player.  I’m sure anyone trained in fighting would tell me that was the worst thing I could do in that situation.  It worked out fine though on account of my hand caving in his chest like it was made of papier-mâché.  Which is was not.  It was made of flesh and bone and stuff.  I’m very strong you see.  The knife flew out of his hand and hit me on the ear like a punch to the side of the head.  It made me wonder what happened to the earrings I had on when I was blown up back home.  My grandmother gave me those.  Are they sitting in a pile of rubble or did some NFFA asshole give them to his girlfriend as a present?  How would she feel to know she’s wearing stolen earrings? 

I picked up Elvis and ran out of what I thought was the field of fire – I would later learn none of our attackers even had guns, all the shooting was being done by Martialla and Blue.  I tried to carry him as gently as possible, but if there’s a good way to run with someone in your arms without jostling them, I don’t know it.  With every step I took, he made gulping noises like he was being kicked in the gut.  Once we were “safe” I asked him where the nearest hospital was.  He managed to laugh, sort of, at the idea of a Madripoor hospital. 

“There have to be some hospitals here man, you can’t have a city of millions without any medical care!” 

“They’re all up the hill, they won’t care.” 

“They’ll care after I threaten to crush their heads in my palm.” 

Elvis managed a smile but before he could work his way into saying anything, Blue came up holding his rifle at a jaunty angle, barrel still smoking “Clear of hostiles.” 

“Already?!  That was like thirty seconds.” 

He flicked out his lizard-tongue “That’s what happens when you bring knives to a gun fight.  What happened to our boy?” 

Martialla appeared at his shoulder — well, under his shoulder I guess “Throwing knife, I saw it.  Must have been ten meters away, it was a hell of a toss.  Too bad for the thrower, you shot him three times in the chest a second later.  Nice grouping big man.” 

They touched elbows in some kind of weird military high five “This is what I do little darlin’.” 

I was annoyed they were congratulating each other while Elvis was bleeding out, but before I could lay into them, LBK drifted down like a leaf in the wind “Is anyone else hurt?  I know a place nearby.” 

With all the shooting and stabbing and super-brawling that goes on around here, I knew there had to be someplace for people to get patched up who weren’t among the elite.  I carried Elvis to a house a few blocks away that was set up with beds and beeping machines and all that stuff.  It was nicer than some of the clinics in rural areas back home.  The not-doctor looked more like a model than a medical professional – I’ve seen some good-looking blokes in my day and I’m telling you, this guy was gorgeous.  Granted, I have a thing for men from the Caribbean States but even so.  Yum.   

Those feelings were dashed when he made it clear that he wasn’t going to do shit without the promise of payment.  Somehow he divined that a lizard, a fish, and a woman in ratty ill-fitting, blood-splattered clothes were unlikely to have a lot of cash on hand.  My first instinct was to threaten him, like I planned to do at the actual hospital, but anyone who provides medical care to criminals probably has measures in place that makes bald-faced intimidation a bad idea.  I asked Martialla how much money was left from the casino “heist”.  She said we spent most of it on drinks.  I guess it wasn’t that much money.  I still haven’t figured out the conversion rate to CS dollars. 

Blue and Martialla turned over their guns which was enough to get doctor handsome and his much less attractive nurses in gear.  Elvis was stabilized and “resting comfortably” in short order.  Dr. Handsome knew his way around a knife-hole in the gut for sure.  I suppose there’s not much better trauma training you can get than operating an unlicensed clinic in Madripoor.  Maybe the CS should set up some kind of program where residents or interns or whatever can come over here for a year and learn how to patch people up, there’s no substitute for experience.  The ones that don’t get killed themselves will be great ER docs when they get back.

Once he was cleaned up, he handsomely came to discuss payment options. 

“A couple of used guns doesn’t cover much medical care I’m afraid.  Your friend was badly injured, a perforated bowel requires a lot of work.” 

“How much will you knock off the bill if I sleep with you?” 

He looked down his nose at me (figuratively, we were eye to eye) “You?” 

“Hey, I’ve had a rough day, I just need to shower and run a comb through my hair.  With that and some clean clothes . . .” 

He made an impatient gesture “I’m a professional madam, don’t waste my time with jokes.  Unless you have a real way to pay me, your friend has about four hours here based on what you’ve already given me.” 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get your money.  I’ll stay here as collateral and my friends will go get it.” 

“How do I know they won’t abandon you?” 

“Because I said so.” 

That’s when I heard a booming robot voice with a ridiculous Australian accent “Halt evildoers!”