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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is the ship called Empire?’

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

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

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

“I don’t know what that is.”

I smiled “What’s your name?”

“Martialla Chernyshevsky”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”