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!” 

October 22, 1973 – Ultimate Super Team-Ups Issue 17 (2nd vol. first printing)

Part of a man’s lungs went in my mouth today.  I think it was a piece of lung anyway.  It was a pinkish greyish slime lump.  Even if I was a forensic pathologist (which I am not) I think it would be hard to identify the chunks that come flying out when a human being has been stuffed into a Cuisinart.  Whatever it was, it went into my mouth.  I had no problem identifying which part of my body it was.  It tasted terrible.   Indescribably so.  And I’ve tasted some terrible stuff lately.

I’m officially done with this . . . this . . . whatever.  I want to get drunk.  But I can’t because no matter how much I imbue I barely feel anything.  I want to sleep for a couple days but I can’t because I don’t have a home.  I want to change out of these god damn clothes which were gross and dirty before a man exploded on them but I can’t because I don’t have any other clothes.  I don’t have anything.  

Wait, that’s not true.  I have two things.  I have a headache all the time.  Always.  All the time.  When I wake up I feel like there’s an iron band around my skull that slowly gets tightened throughout the day.  And the next day it gets tighter.   Always.  All the time.  It’s maddening.  Sometimes if I smoke enough or drink enough caffeine, it lessens to a dull pain for a few minutes.  I have a hard time paying attention because of the throbbing in my skull.  When people talk, it’s like I’m watching TV with the sound turned way down.  If I had to club a basketful of puppies to death to get the headaches to stop for one damn minute, I’d do it.  

But the second thing that I have is a nice distraction from the first thing – constant gnawing hunger in my belly.  It’s like I swallowed a baby shark and it’s swimming around in there eating me from the inside.  I think about food constantly.  I dream about it.  When I see someone who has food I want to take it from them.   The other day I ate thirty Bánh xèo and it was like swallowing a piece of gum – no effect on my appetite at all.  Sometimes when I get scraps that someone is going to throw out and I’m choking down some gross food I don’t even like, I feel like crying out of the relief I feel just to get it.  I feel like I’m dying.

I hate it here.  It’s ninety-six degrees with one hundred percent humidity all the time.  I sweat so much I’m constantly dehydrated.  I feel filthy and grimy all the time.  My hair is a mess.  I can’t speak the language. Everyone looks at me like I’m a freak.  I never know what’s going on.  I never thought I’d be pining for my crappy apartment – the heat doesn’t work, the wallpaper is peeling, the people next door argue loudly every night, the rent is a crime, but I just want to go home.  

How did a guy explode in my mouth (rephrase before posting)?  The Kato looking guy (not racist I swear) was trying to translate between the hooker plus frat boys robbery team and the vigilante in the red space suit but it wasn’t going well because the Kato looking guy (not racist I swear) and the underwear lady are enemies.  She’s not actually a hooker, she just dresses like one.  Seriously, she was wearing garters and a bustier, and she just walks around like that.  

I understand that if you’re a supervillain you want to have a cool costume to let people know about it, but seriously, you have to think about the bigger picture.  If female supervillains all walk around with their tits hanging out, how are we ever going to make progress as a society towards gender equality?  If you’re wearing a black lace babydoll, no one is going to be talking about how you used your pheromone powers to mind-control a bunch of collegiate jerks into robbing a casino, they’re going to say things like “Whoa, check out the rack on that broad”.  

And trust me, I get it, when you’re a stone-cold fox there’s a desire to flaunt yourself, but it’s like that snake eating its own tail – you’re participating in a system characterized by its own abuse.  And yes, even if you do dress in a more conservative manner people are still going to talk about what you’re wearing instead of your awesome crimes, but at least that way there’s a path to breaking the cycle and rising above it.  If you’re the titty woman that’s all you’re ever going to be, but if you’re the supervillain in the bullet proof vest and protective shin guards, eventually people will get tired of talking about how you need to tart up your outfit and start talking about how you kidnapped the president’s daughter and held her for ransom.  They’re not going to get tired of tits and ass.  Not ever.

Anyway, I was trying to explain to the Red Robot that he needed to calm down and wait for Kato (not racist I swear) to translate, but he pointed his laser-arm and one of the frat boys (he actually looked a lot like that guy from Scooby-Doo, only, you know, not a cartoon) and there was a noise like when your toast pops and the kid exploded.  I mean that literally.  Remember that creepy kid in your neighborhood that put firecrackers up frogs’ butts and blew them up and now as an adult works spaying dogs?  It was like that.  Only with a guy instead of a frog.  I didn’t see a beam or a laser or anything, Red pointed his arm at a human and then that human was transformed into loose organs and gristle flying through the air.

That’s when I decided I was done.  I grabbed the arm of the guy holding me and flipped him to the ground.  That’s what I meant to do anyway.  Instead I tore his arm off.  But it was an accident.  I’m sure the Red Robot exploded the other guy on purpose.  The mind-slaves of the inappropriately dressed villainess that weren’t exploded or had their arms ripped off (by accident) all started shooting.  The Man in Black (I’m going to stop calling him Kato because I guess that is racist even though he does look like Kato) ninja-flipped onto the roof of a nearby building while bullets bounced off the Red Robot – ricocheting and hitting people passing by.

There were people passing by, you see.  They gave the scene playing out a wide berth, but they just went about their day like this kind of stand-off happens all the time in Madripoor.  Like a car wreck at a busy intersection back home, you take a look as you walk by, but unless someone you know is involved, you keep walking.  I ran for cover – which in this case was Blue who was coming out of the casino into the fracas.  He’s not exactly bulletproof but he’s more bulletproof than me.

While I hid behind Blue, Red pointed at another robber and he flew into the air like he had been shot out of a cannon.  At that point I didn’t know the robbers were under the control of Stars and Garters or I would have shouted something like “Stop you idiot, they’re being mind controlled!”  Which is not something you expect to have to shout ever.  

Martialla appeared out of nowhere, commando style, and got lingerie lassy in some manner of commando-choke maneuver.  While she was scooping up the money, some other asshole came flying in to get in the mix – a guy in a red, white & blue outfit with a US flag on the chest.  Where did he come from?  And why is he in Madripoor?  The Star-Spangled Kid went after the robot and while they were fighting, The Man in Black super-flipped back down like Olga Korbutand.  It looked like he was going to attack Martialla, so Blue grabbed him and slammed him into the ground.   And I mean hard. 

The whole thing was a god damn mess.  Why is it that cops never show up at the same crime and start shooting at each other, but super people do shit like this?  I guess because the cops aren’t lone wolf jerk-offs who play by their own rules.  Blue shouted that we should get out of there, which we should have, but I was pissed because the Red Robot blew a guy up for nothing.  He had flattened Stars and Stripes Forever and I ran at him, Blue backing me up. Which was nice of him.   Glad to know he has my back.

We got him by the robo-arms and he fired his boot-rockets.  I jumped away because I didn’t want my lower body to be incinerated, but Blue had him held fast – the smell of burning lizard meat made my mouth water.  Blue was too heavy for the robot to lift off with him in tow.  I jumped back into the fray and went to rip off the robo-head, but that’s when I found out it wasn’t a robot.   I yanked on the head-thing and I heard some metal-tearing sounds and then a different robo-voice announced “CRITICAL DAMAGE SUSTAINED” and the suit opened up like a sardine can and barfed out a skinny sweaty hairy dude in his undies.    

“Oi what have you done?!”

In that moment I found his Australian accent utterly ridiculous.  

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 4, 1973 – SUPERFIGHT!!!!

Editor’s note – I know what you’re thinking “Jeremy, the Kool-Aid Man character didn’t come out until 1974 you moron!  You’re the worst writer ever.”  Well I am the worst writer ever but you’re forgetting that this is an alternate history deal.  In this world the Kool-Aid Man commercials started airing in 1972!  The changes that led up to this alteration and the staggering ramifications of it will be explored in my forthcoming graphic novel Kool-Aid: 1972.

A quarter of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Malacca Straits.  Half of all seaborne chemical and gas shipments pass through. So of course the area is infested with well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless pirates.  When they aren’t chased off by local brutal corporate-sponsored hired goons anyway. It’s estimated by people that estimate things that over one hundred ships a year go missing around Madripoor.  Hijacked and redirected to another port.  This does not include the innumerable others attacked and raided on their journeys.

When I first heard people in Madripoor talking about pirates, it threw me for a loop.  I never hear anyone in the CS talking about pirates.  The word pirate makes me think of ships with sails and guys with swords.  But I guess, thinking about it logically, there’s no reason for pirates to have gone away.  If you can’t stop people from stealing your shit, they’re going to steal it.  That’s a rule of some kind.

Grain of salt because it’s all rumors, but I understand that it’s sometimes part of an insurance scam.  You got a shipful of hot pants headed for Africa and suddenly hot pants aren’t cool anymore.  They’re just going to take up room in your warehouse in Johannesburg.  So you get in touch with your fixer who knows a pirate boss.  They “attack” the ship, you get the insurance, and they get some ransom money.  You dump the hotpants into the sea and everyone wins.  Except the insurance company.

I figured that pirates wouldn’t be afraid of the Shadow Lords and also could get me out of here.  You may be thinking “Dealing with pirates, Ela?  That sounds like a terrible idea.”  You happen to be right but where were you yesterday asshole? 

In my defense I’m a singer, not a . . . person who deals with whatever this situation is.  Whatever Steve McQueen would be if he was a real badass and not just an actor.  Whatever that is, I’m not that.  I’m all alone here and I don’t know what’s going on.  Plus, you don’t understand what kind of place Madripoor is.  If you were here you’d think that buddying up to pirates was perfectly normal.

Elvis’s friend Say likes to party so we went to a couple bars, a couple clubs, a couple parties, and it just so happens that I managed to rub elbows with a couple people in the piracy world.  Sidenote, about twenty percent of the men here are super into me because I’m white.  And about twenty percent think I’m super gross for the same reason.  It’s interesting. 

I met a guy I thought was named Preman.  I learned later that “preman” means gangster in Indonesian.  Although it’s actually from the Dutch language and means rooster.  Language is complicated.  “Preman” and I hung out a few times, smoked something like weed, drank some weird booze, and got to know each other.  Once we were good pals, he said a friend of a friend of a friend of his could help me out and wasn’t scared of the Shadow Lords and I should meet him at a restaurant the next morning to talk details.

It was a set-up of course.  What I didn’t know then is that the Shadow Lords were basically the seaside agents of the local pirates when the first came to Madirpoor.  The pirates would steal the stuff and then pass it off to the Shadow Lords as the middlemen.  Not only that, but most of the pirates around here are groups that grew out of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, a resistance group from the Philippines that fought against Japanese occupation.  The Huk and the Shadow Lords both hate the yazuka so they bond over that.  The point is that the entire idea was more or less the worst thing I could have done.

“Preman” and a friend came in to the restaurant, we sat down, and next thing I know someone is behind me and has a rag over my mouth.  Here’s the thing though, with my new metabolism nothing like that seems to affect me much.  I don’t know if the Shadow Lords didn’t warn them or if they didn’t know. 

I grabbed the ragman’s arm and flung him across the room like I was tossing a Frisbee (or a bag of rags, a ragbag if you will).  When I swung him around, I felt his arm come out of the socket.  Which was a little nauseating, but if we’re being honest it felt good too.  I was angry and frustrated and it felt good to hurt someone.  Does that make me awful?  I don’t know. 

“Preman” got the hell out of there but his buddy went for a gun.  I flipped the table into him and the gun fired.  You always forget how LOUD those damn things are.  As he raised the gun again, trying to get disentangled from the table, I tried to yank the gun out of his hand.  Instead I crushed them both.  The gun and the hand.  I never heard a human being make a noise like he did as he fell back against the wall cradling his hand to his chest.  It was truly chilling.

I took a hold of his forehead in one hand like Jackie Moon palming a basketball.  I wanted so badly to squeeze it.  That’s all it would have taken.  One little squeeze and a man is dead.  It would have been no more effort than checking the ripeness of a peach.  Just a little squeeze.  I wanted it more than I wanted any cigarette or any drink.  A part of my brain told me it would make everything better.  It would make all the pain go away.  No one would ever fuck with me again.  He was a bad guy, wasn’t he?  Why did he deserve to live? 

I wanted it. 

But I didn’t do it.  Just as I let the guman go, their ace in the hole came smashing in.  And I mean that literally.  He crashed through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man.  I have no idea why, the door was wide open.  He was easily over seven feet tall and he had electric blue scales.  It was like the skin of a technicolor crocodile on acid.   Only you know, on a big dude.  He didn’t look like a rhino but something about him made me think of a rhino.  Maybe just because he was massive and leathery and mean looking.

He came charging at me like a bull (a bull rhino) and I threw another table at him.  He batted it aside like he was swatting a volleyball.  I managed to leap out of the way of his crashing tackle and he slammed into and through the other wall out into the street.  I hope this restaurant is owned by the pirates or the Shadow Lords, because I’d hate to think some innocent people got their place wrecked just because this is where some assholes chose as their kidnap location.

As the blue alligator rhino man was getting back to his feet in the wall-hole, I grabbed him around the waist and hurled him back over my shoulders like a sack of grain.  It feels weird when you can throw someone ten times your size, but I knew from working on the docks I could lift him easily.  He slammed into the ground hard enough to shake the building.  Which was getting pretty shaky already from being run through on both sides.  I think I saw “Run through on both sides” on the marquee of a movie theater once.  You know the kind I mean.

I was ready to rumble but I saw that blueman’s head was twisted at a funny angle.  Not funny ha-ha but funny “oh shit I just killed a guy”.  I won’t lie, I stood there staring, mouth agape for a moment.  I’m not a murderer you know.  But while I stood there I heard a crazy crackling, snapping, popping noise and his head jerked back to the right way and his eyes opened.  I guess he can heal super-fast.

Since he wasn’t dead, I went outside and pushed the building down on him.  I should have grabbed something to drink before I did that.  Fighting is thirsty business.

September 27, 1973 – Avengers Assemble!

Elvis and I ended up on a couple of rickety chairs on the roof of his grandma’s place.  Not like a roof roof you know, it was like a patio with a garden.  Sort of.  It’s a different building style out here so I don’t know how to explain it.  Check it out sometime and you’ll know what I mean.  The first time I saw Elvis, I thought he looked like he had been sleeping in a dirty alley.  Now I think that’s just what he looks like after a day of crawling under sinks and on roofs to fix things.  Also he may have been sleeping in a dirty alley.  He handed me a bottle of . . . something alcoholic.  It tasted sort of like candy.  Shitty candy.  The kind that the bad house gives away at Halloween. 

I took another drink and grimaced “I don’t mean to sound provincial but what you people need is some decent booze.” 

“Sorry, for some reason it’s hard to find good American Kentucky bourbon here.  Must be eight thousand years of having our own culture.  I’m sure your Imperial overlords will straighten us out soon enough.” 

“You keep acting like I’m from the US, and I keep telling you I’m from the Coalition, we save all our military atrocities for South America, not south Asia.” 

He nodded apologetically “My mistake.” 

I asked him to tell me about the Shadow Lords and he did.  Nothing terribly useful though.  In the 1800s someone starts cultivating drugs and selling them to a cartel in the Andes and that leads to one gang which leads to another and Triads from China get involved and then the yakuza during the war and a bunch of people get killed and one group takes over another and etc. etc.  Long story short they’re an organization of violent gangsters in a place where the authorities don’t really care as long as they don’t stop rich people from becoming richer.   

“So, Madripoor has more than its fair share of NBHs right?  What we need to do is gather them together to stand against the criminals.” 

“Stand against how?  You want to kill them?  Gang warfare?” 

“No of course not.  I mean just . . . stop them . . . somehow.  You know, with superpowers.  We could form a league of justice of some kind.  Or a justice league if you will.” 

“Hmm, I’m not sure how being able to jump really high or lift heavy boxes helps with the societal and economic conditions that lead to crime.  Plus anyone like that is more likely to be working for the Shadow Lords or another gang rather than against them.  I know they have two people like that at least in their crew.” 

“Like that guy who pulled that weird knife?” 

Elvis shook his head “No, that’s just a shadowknife.” 

I waved irritably “Sure just a shadowknife, we all know what that is.” 

“It’s a mystic weapon that cuts not just the flesh but also the soul, to enslave the spirits of the people killed by it.  You know how that goes.  Also it allows you to travel to the Plateau of Leng if you believe in that kind of thing.” Elvis raised his glass as if in a toast “The leaders of the Shadow Lords all have them, stolen from a monastery on the mainland, hence the name.” 

“Wonderful.  So I’m not hearing a ton of support for my league of justice idea coming from you.” 

“Well, there’s a guy I know a little who has bulletproof skin, he’s an asshole but he likes money.  He’ll help if you pay him.  There’s a guy around who can turn into a tiger that’s not affiliated with any gang in particular.  He might help if you want to kill these guys.  He likes killing people.” 

“I don’t want to kill anyone!  I just . . . want to do whatever Superman does.” 

“What does Superman do?” 

“I don’t know, send them to the Phantom Zone?  I’m not a dork that reads comics.  What if I made a deal with the Shadow Lords?  If I defeat their champion then they leave me alone.” 

“Why would they agree to that?  And why would you trust them even if they did?” 

“Uh, honor?” 

He ticked off on his fingers “Drug trafficking, sex trafficking, slavery, murder, what makes you think these people have honor?  This isn’t a kung fu movie, the bad guys don’t have a code you can exploit.  Besides which, and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, you’d never win anyway.” 

“Why do you say that?  I could knock this whole house down.” 

“First, please don’t knock my grandma’s house down.  Second, strength is fine, but who would you bet on in a fight – Joe Frazier or Vasily Alekseyev?” 

“Who’s Vasily Alekseyev?” 

“A Russian power lifter.  The strongest man in the world.  The strongest normal man anyhow.” 

“I take your point but you said it yourself, they’re normal.  I’m stronger than him.  I’m superhuman.  That has to count for something.”

Elvis stood up “Try and hit me.” 

“I’ll kill you.” 

He shook his head “You wont hurt me.” 

After much prompting I eventually got up and stood in front of him.  I threw the lightest punch I could and he slapped it away like a fly.  I tried a little harder and he avoided it again.  He didn’t really dodge or block it, but kind of did both – sliding away and moving my hand a little at the same time.  After the third time, he not only slipped my strike but he smacked me back in the face. 

“Hey!  Don’t do that!” 

“Is that what you’re going to tell the man you want to fight?  Don’t hit me?  All your strength you’re so proud of, what good does it do you if it’s going the wrong way?  Try and hit me for real.  Don’t hold back.” 

I did hold back some, but even a half-strength punch would have killed him I’m sure.  Which made what I was doing rather stupid.  If you’re going to hold back it should be enough to make a difference, otherwise what’s the point in doing it at all?  I did almost catch him once and as he twisted away he threw a strike of his own, I think without even meaning to.  He barely touched me, but I dropped to the ground and started to bawl. 

“You hit me!” 

He came forward with his hands out “Oh shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to . . .” 

When he came to comfort me I grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him up off the ground and held him over the edge of the roof “I win.  Don’t tell me I can’t beat someone.  I just need different tactics.” 

He gulped and looked down at the street “No one in the Shadow Lords has any feelings for you to take advantage of.” 

I set him down “Sure they do, they’re just different feelings than you have.  I need to think about your advice, use my opponent’s strength against them.  I can’t win a fistfight or a gunfight, but there are other ways to fight.” 

Montresor 14 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I hope Jonah got clear of that mess yesterday without too much trouble.  But also I don’t really care you know?  It’s like when you see a yak crossing a river frequented by dracodolphins, you’re cheering for the yak to make it across but if it gets slaughtered by a dragon-porpoise hybrid you just shrug go about your day.  You know what I mean?  I think you do.  I suppose either way Jonah’s career as a proxy duelist is over, which I think we can all agree is for the best.  He wasn’t cut out for that line of work.  The worst thing about that grand melee is that I lost my crossbow in the press.  Seems like every time I get a nice shooter something happens to it.  I guess that could be the one good thing about magic, no one can take it from you.  All they can do is break your hands and rip out your tongue so you can’t cast spells. 

I found the road today and was mildly taken aback to arrive in Ardint instead of Tybhurst.  I guess I got a little off course.  No big surprise there eh?  I arrived there just as the markets were closing down (a place like Ardint has no night markets) and was able to get a replacement crossbow and a nice bracelet as well.  Not bad for a quick shopping trip in a place like this.  I was surprised to find that the place wasn’t swarming with soldiers, since the last time I had been here I alerted them to a Vielander plot to infiltrate the Lodge Woods and conquer the entire region with the help of dirty traitors.  Maybe the soldiers all in the forest slaughtering Vielanders gloriously.  I didn’t even hear much chatter about the sacking of Malgareth.  For a town basically on the front lines the Ardintites don’t seem to be taking the war too seriously. 

After my hasty trip to the market I found the only decent inn in town – I believe it used to be student housing for the third rate university they have here so it was much larger and kind of an odd layout for a hostelry.  They had done some renovations to create a common room and when I walked in who did I see sitting at a table but the Missplitters – Peronell and his wife, who probably has a name.  Remember how bent out of shape I used to get about women being called just Miss Their Husband’s Name?  And now here I am doing the same thing.  Shame on me.  It’s undoubtedly the worst thing I’ve ever done. 

Since things didn’t work out for them in Three Rivers (you know because of me) they must be fleeing to Heathgrove to throw themselves at the mercy of Psyhundt and his hairy chest.  Peronell looked much the same, being a shabby wizard or alchemist or whatever kind of potion making schlep he is but his wife was dressed in common traveler’s garb.  Gone was the magenta lace and tulle gown and the crystal wine glass and she didn’t look happy about that fact.  I on the other hand took great amusement in that fact. 

When I spotted them I immediately took on a difference appearance but it was too late – they had both swung around and made me the moment I walked in.  I’ll give this to Peronell he’s a decisive fellow – he instantly ordered his drug addict goons and slovenly bodyguards to grab me.  They surged forward as I dashed out the door, swapped appearances again, and circled back around.  While they thugs were searching the area I walked right past them back into the converted dormitory.  I had forgotten how annoying this Peronell guy is though, even disguised he clearly knew who I was and did some sort of magic shenanigans at me – two things happened.  One I felt like I was punched in the chest, getting knocked against the wall and to the floor.  Two, my disguise melted away and somehow my ability to generate another was blocked.  Although since his goons only ever saw me in a different disguise anyway I’m not sure what good that did.

The ladywife Missplitter overturned a table and ducked before it for cover with shrieking in a most unladylike way for the remaining thug to “kill that little bitch”.  Which I take exception to, I am not little.  Said goon leapt into action at his mistress’s command and started whirling about a length of chain covered with barbs.  I’ve heard about these things but I’ve never seen one before.  Seems like a nonsensical weapon even for a gladiatorial performance, and those people use fucking nets.  A sword has a sheath, an axe you kind of just strap on your back, a spear you just hold but that’s fine because it’s like a walking stick – how the Hells do you even transport an eleven foot length of spiked chain?  Where do you put it?  And how do you “draw” it?  Seems like it would get tangled up ALL the time. 

Notwithstanding how do you even learn to use the damn thing?  Seems like the first time you swung it you’d rip your own face off and then maybe decide to get a real weapon.  This fellow, wearing a chainmail and leather number and possessing an oddly bestial face, had it all figured out however it happens.  He flicked that thing out like a dancer’s ribbon and caught me around the lower leg.  As he dragged me towards him the spikes dug into my ankle so far I could feel them touching bone.  I believe I said something like “Ah, my fucking ankle!”  I say things like that in combat far more often than witty quips.  I should work on that.  Winning is one thing, but poise counts too.

Peronell came over and stood directly over me like a jerk to cast a spell – didn’t seem to do anything.  That would have been a perfect time for a wisecrack about impotence but there’s just no time you know?  Instead I called upon the magic of my Stole and blasted him in the face with some razor shards courtesy of the refrain from “A Kiss At the End of the World”.  He fell back with a bloody face and his goon snapped the chain entangling me like a dockworker trying to shake out a knot and got the chain around my throat as well.  You know what’s worse than being strangled with a chain?  Being strangled with a chain that has GODS DAMN SPIKES!!!

I managed to get a hand up on the front of my throat to prevent a spines from going through my jugular (and whatever else important is in there) but they were still digging into the back and sides of my neck.  I didn’t care for that at all.  I expressed this displeasure by retrieving my Belt Sword and stabbing the chain wielder through the groin.  Which is what he gets for wearing a chain shirt instead of the full deal.  A groinful of rapier dampened his enthusiasm for chain swinging and I managed to wriggle loose.  I was gulping down some healing potion when the Missus clobbered me with a chair.  Looking up at her I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more hatred in a person’s eyes.  I guess that I of all people should know what kind of ire is stirred up when you’re dragged out of a life of luxury and prominence and thrown down to wallow in the mud with everyone else.

She swung at me again but I rolled out of the way and got a hold of her – she wasn’t much of a fighter she was just enthusiastic about bashing my skull in.  I got the tip of my sword under her chin as Peronell was regaining his wits, clutching at his horrendously bleeding eye with one hand.

“Alright, everybody be cool or the dame gets it.”

I halfway (maybe three-quarters) expected him not to care about the fate of his wife, but he seemed very concerned.  Peronell took a step back and waved off his goons as some of them came running back into the common room.  The chain wielding man remained bleeding and crying on the ground.  I’ve been stabbed a good many places at this point, but never the crotch.  I’m grateful for that.

Peronell’s one eye glared at me “What are we going to do here?”

“How about we call this one a draw?  Your wife and I are going to slowly back out of here while you and your men stay here and once I’m clear I’ll let her go.  Sounds good right?  We can conclude out business a later date.  Assuming that Psyhundt doesn’t skin you alive in the meantime.”

“What guarantee . . .”

“Do you have that I’ll let her go?  Let’s not get into that whole thing, you have no choice.”

It looked to me like he was starting to cast a spell but just then several watchmen burst onto the scene and started shouting for people to drop their weapons and such.  Their leader was quite a statuesque fellow.  He looked like the watch captain from a romance novel, in real life they tend to look more like human bulldogs.  Or disapproving tutors.  But this fellow was handsome as you like.  After quickly taking a measure of the situation he looked me in the eye.  His voice was strong and commanding, the kind that could make you weak in the knees if you let it.

“What’s going on here?”

“Would you believe that we’re rehearsing a play?

Montresor 11 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

Halflings tend to the same size of livestock as everyone else so why would they make barns that are half the dimensions?  They don’t have special Halfling sheep the size of dogs.  Or do they?  No, no they don’t.  Don’t get me wrong, a half sized barn is still pretty big, I’m just saying that waking up in one is a little disorientating.  Did I grow to twelve feet tall is what you wonder until you figure it out.  I suppose the explanation is that shirefolk being so much small don’t raise as many animals and therefore they don’t need as much room?  Yeah, that makes sense, giants (if they had barns) would make them bigger even though their animals would be the same size because they need more of them.  Excepting cloudgoats of course which are very large indeed. 

Normally I’d be pretty upset about being tossed in a barn but I have a little touch of a soft spot for shirelings.  They’re so little and everyone is so mean to them and yet they still just cheerfully go about their business and overcome through perseverance.  You have to admire that in a heartbreaking kind of way – they got the short end of the stick (not a pun) and they don’t bellyache about it, they get to getting.  Not unlike myself.  Despite the fact that I am impressively tall, I have a lot in common with the smallfolk.  Which is probably why when I ran until I collapsed they came upon me and stuck me in a barn.  Which I don’t blame them for doing, it’s not like they could drag me into their little badger-hole homes. 

Moments after I crawled out of the half-sized barn a smiling welcome committee of Halflings were there to greet me with overflowing baskets of tea-cakes, banana oat muffins, lemon poppy seed cake, toast with jam, jam with toast, and enough other pasties and sweets to choke a mongoose.  They assumed I was Baroness Saltwheel on account of I had the Saltwheel staff of office clutched in my hand when they found me passed out in the dirt – and on account of my elegant clothing and noble manner.  You can’t blame them really.  I saw no reason to correct them.  They surmised appropriately that I had fled from the Saltwheel country manor due to violent unrest.  They clucked their tongues about the foibles of the bigfolk – always fighting and feuding when we should be getting down to drinking and eating and making merry.  They’re not wrong about that.

We were having a gay old time until my tattoos started shining through my clothing like a brilliant star.  Should I be happy that I have these to warn me, or is their very presence what it making these abominable things come after me?  It’s a chicken egg situation.  I stood up from my cross-legged position on the ground and dusted crumbs off my jackets (lucky birds!).

“Sorry my friends, but trouble is coming and I need to be on my way.  I don’t suppose you have a fast horse around here do you?  A fast horse suited for someone of my stature?”

They did not.  Did you know that the word sheriff comes from Halflings?  I didn’t, although I suppose I should have known – Halflings live in shires, hence shire reeve, contracted to sheriff.  Although they say it shirriff.  When I suggested a hasty departure the little folk wouldn’t hear of it – if there was danger the shirriff’s would protect me.  They were four little men wearing feathered hats, jackets, and waistcoats each with a stout club.  One of them was wearing a cravat for the Gods’ sake.  Now I know why I so often catch people off guard when it comes to combat – you don’t seem threatened at all in fancy clothing.

I told them that I appreciated it but this was trouble they couldn’t handle.  They wouldn’t hear of it – what kind of hosts would they be if they allowed me to come to harm?  My plan was to ignore them and run anyway, but it was already too late just with that small amount of back and forth.  A field of darkness appeared in the hilly meadow and out of it strode three forms.  Two I recognized from the carnage yesterday.  One was the horned man, although I saw then that what I thought was a robe the day before was in fact more of a leather jerkin and kirtle type scenario worn over trousers.  In one hand he held a short crooked stick carved with sigils and topped with what appeared to be a still functioning eyeball.  His other hand already danced with magical flame.

The second familiar face was one of the women I saw stark naked and covered with filth yesterday – now heavily garbed in a blue and purple robe and dress combination.  Makes sense, you wouldn’t want your cult robes to be damaged in battle.  She was startlingly white, pale as chalk she was, and she had some kind of crude writing tattooed on her arms and face.  She held in her hand a long staff topped with the skull and horns of a goat.  The newcomer with them had the appearance of a young nobleman, handsome as you like and dressed to the nines albeit with clothing that was several seasons out of fashion.  His boots in particular were immaculate and shiny.  The only thing ruining the effect was that nasty little human-faced rat monster clinging to the lapel of this overcoat.

I turned to the Halflings who were standing in shock at the dramatic appearance of the devilish trio “You need to run my friends.  Run and hide.  And don’t come out.”

The horned man sneered and rasped in the voice if a nightmare “Yesssssss, run away little morssssssssels!”

The woman all but rolled her eyes at him and the dandy fellow smiled apologetically, he spoke in that slow sleepy voice that some nobles affect for reasons unknown “Don’t mind him, he gets excited.  No one needs to get hurt, just give us the necklace.”

“Are you kidding me?  All this has been about that stupid ugly necklace?” I tossed the chunky crude thing at their feet “Here, you could have just asked, there was no reason to attack the Saltwheel house with your freak legion.”

The woman smiled as the sharp dressed man picked up the necklace and tucked it into his vest pocket “Freak legion, I like that, what better name for the brave fighting men and women of the dark goat of the woods?”

“Sounds like you’re done here, best be on your way, I’m sure you have all sorts of rituals you need to conduct involving goat piss and the blood of virgins and so forth.”

The dapper dandy mirrored his lady friend’s smile “Well, being totally honest, retrieving the necklace wasn’t our only reason for coming here.”

At this point the horned man released his magic fire in a Hellsish vortex of fiery death that would have engulfed me and burned me to death if not for the fact that the gold stitching on my Greatcoat flared to life and cancelled out his magic.  I’m not sure if I knew that it could do that.  Good purchase past Ela.  The magic absorption made the jacket sparkle in a pleasing way, it would have been a great time for witty quip if I was into that sort of thing, but the problem with real life fights to the death is your opponents never give you time to banter.  In the novels when the hero is fighting with the big bad guy there’s always several minutes between thrusts for them to trade insults and explain whose great-grandfather stole whose land and so on and so forth.  Murdering people in the real world is sadly allows for far less exposition.

Although I was doing very little murdering.  I shot with my crossbow once, which was deflected by a gust of wind and then pretty much the rest of the time I was running for my life, dodging and ducking and diving as they hurled spells at me.  It hardly seems fair to send three spellcasters to kill one normal person.  I suppose that’s the point though.  The horned man flew up into the sky and was lancing out with burning shafts of light all around me.  I feel like I could have shaken them and made a run for it without him hovering above and spotting me like hunting bird out no matter where I ran.  The woman with the ram-stick preferred summoning bolts of lightning at me but the dandy dresser was the real jack of all trades.  He summoned a wall of spinning blades, he blasted me with freezing wind, he summoned a massive rain of sleet, he had all manner of tricks up his fashionable sleeves. 

It wouldn’t even really be fair to call it a fight, it was more like a fox hunt – and if you know anything about fox hunts it’s that the fox never gets away.  I’ve said this once before but I’ll repeat it now because it’s probably the best advice I can give you about fighting, aside from don’t.  Only morons die like heroes – accepting their fate with a brave face.  When you’re been beaten like a dog act like a dog – beg, grovel, whine for mercy, show your belly.  Do whatever they want, offer them anything they want.  Do whatever humiliating revolting thing you need to do to gain yourself one more precious second of life.  You wouldn’t think that would work with these lunatics but they found my abasement amusing.  They stood smirking as I pleaded for my life.  They laughed when I offered them my womb for their twisted monster-babies.  They sneered as I cried so hard I choked and blew big bubbles of snot. 

And then they died when the earth beneath them opened up and they plummeted into the forty foot wide maw of a Shoddy Hills land serpent, also known to some as death worms, and until that very moment not something I thought existed.  Looking down its throat (do worms have throats?) in total shock it looked like a striated flesh-cave ringed with thousands of shark-teeth the size of my head.  My tormentors and their dirty rat friend were shredded as they were swallowed alive, being ripped to bloody shards in a manner of seconds.  The creature’s emergence had been so swift and sudden it threw up a cloud of dirt like the water from a breaching whale. As shocked as I was by its appearance I was even more stunned by what happened next.  That massive worm-maw closed, making it look like just a huge brown leather rope and the Halflings emerged to start patting its hide like it was a prize pig!  I swear to you one of them fed it a bushel of corn!

It took me several tries to find my voice “What . . . what . . . . just what?”

One of the shirriff (sans club) looked over at me “Oh this is just Sally.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Behind the curtain: Ela hit level 17 taking another level of Rogue, making her Rogue 15/Master Spy 2 is anyone interested in the details of her leveling up?  Nah.  I’ve been playing pathfinder forever and I just found out there’s a Noble Scion prestige class.  I’m thinking about rebuilding her for that.  If nothing else I can get another rip-off OOC post out of it.   

Funds: 53,940 platinum, 27,309 gold

XP: 1,329,951

Inventory: +3 Thundering Distance Light Crossbow, Ela’s Fashionable Belt, Cerulean Sign Tattoo, Hat of Effortless Style, Ela’s Wonderful Flask, Ela’s Dazzling Garment,  Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat, Ring of Eloquence, Cheating Gloves, Clothier’s Closet Rod, Singer’s Stole, Saltwheel’s Cane 

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (631), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, diamond and pearl lover’s knot tiara,  Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone, Peronell Missplitter, Nightmare Hag