October 31, 1973 – We must go upward, not downward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

You know what’s interesting about the ground?  Nothing really.  But when you’re dangling upside down clinging to the side of a hotel, you realize that the ground has no handholds.  It’s almost as if whoever designed this planet didn’t consider that someone would need to climb on the ground under the influence of an alien anti-gravity belt around her long shapely leg.  No one ever looks at the big picture.  It’s sad.   

I could have ripped the belt off then but I figured that Suzy Swordswoman would be after me in short order, and trying to escape on one good leg seemed like a poor idea.  I briefly considered trying to claw my way over to Betty’s motorcycle (remember when I dropped an armoire on her stupid head?  That was pretty cool, I bet she ain’t pretty no more – although to be clear, she wasn’t prettier than me to begin with) to make my escape but since I had never ridden a motorcycle before, trying to do so upside down hanging up from the handlebars seemed like a pretty bad idea too. 

I pulled myself down as close to the ground as I could along the façade of the hotel and then used my one good leg to kick myself towards the building across the street.  Terrifyingly, I immediately started “falling” upwards, although not nearly as fast as you fall downwards when physics is working the way it’s supposed to.  If I had flown up that fast, I would have missed my target and drifted up into the atmosphere to freeze or suffocate or have my brain melt – whatever happens when you leave the earth.  As it was, my trajectory allowed me to desperately grab onto the building by smashing my fingers into the brick – which hurt the hand on my non-broken arm quite a bit.   

I’ve learned today that cursing a lot helps when you’re in pain.  By my estimate, it took seven hundred hours for me to crawl down the side of the building, maybe ten feet or so, and into an open window where an old couple was watching – probably alerted by all my swearing.  They were fairly nonplussed as I pulled myself into the window of their apartment, although they had a bird that was freaking out.  Maybe it was jealous that I was flying around and it was trapped in a cage.  Once I was mostly in the window, I ripped the belt in half and fell (on my head of course) the rest of the way in.   

The alien belt made a sad electronic noise, barfed up a small amount of what I assume was highly toxic silver goop, and then started flashing those triangle symbols on the “buckle”.   

I looked up at the old couple “Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau?” 

They didn’t speak French or English.  I didn’t try Spanish.  Why couldn’t I have been abducted by a crime ring in Mexico?  I indicated to them that I was hurt by a variety of pantomime methods.  They stared at me.  I suppose in a place like Madripoor where occasionally a super-person is going to fall through your window, that is the best response – just stare at them until they go away or kill you.  I mean what else are you going to do?  I dragged myself to a sitting position by the window and lit a cigarette.  Everything seems better when you’re smoking.   

I gestured with my non-broken arm that had smashed fingers “Sorry to drop in unannounced like this, quite rude of me.  Do you have any food?  I am starving.  I’ll trade you a broken alien belt for whatever food you have around here.  Even broken, it has to be worth a lot right?  I mean it’s from space.  Someone can reverse engineer it or something.” 

They broke their silence finally, speaking to each other briefly and then leaving.  I thought maybe they were going to get me some food, or maybe they were giving up and I owned the apartment then, or most likely, they were going to rat me out to whatever crimeboss shakes this place down for money. 

Probably some kind of cyborg with hammers for hands that shoots fragmentation missiles out of his crotch.   

Maybe half an hour later, a different couple came into the apartment.  Although I could tell right away they weren’t a couple couple, just a couple of people, I have a sense about these things.  He had kind of an odd skin color for a local fellow, seemed kind of flushed or reddish.  His companion was wearing body armor after some fashion but it was just over normal clothes, which is a little weird.  More interestingly, she had one of the most bizarre hairstyles I’ve ever seen.  She had her hair in a dozen tight ringlets that were sticking out straight from her scalp.  It was wild.  It was like a space probe with a bunch of antenna jutting off of it. 

“Who did that to your head?” 

After the traditional language fumbling (she speaks French, he doesn’t) they claimed not to be assassins but to be reporters.  I could tell they were both uncomfortable with her having to translate between me and her boss – clearly that’s not their usual dynamic.   

“Do you work for Rolling Stone?  Are you here to talk about my new single?” 

They weren’t.  They wanted to know about my confrontation with Mr. X.  I told them I would give them all the information they wanted if they took me to a hospital.  They said that a hospital wasn’t a good idea with the enemies I had.  They said they could take me somewhere else though. 

“How good looking is the doctor?  Because if it’s the place where the doctor is really attractive, I think it’s closed for renovation right now.  There’s a little scoop for you right there.” 

A while back, Blue carried me for a little ways and I didn’t like it at all.  But at least he’s huge and strong and could do it easily – with these two jokers, it was like a Three Stooges routine trying to get me down the stairs.  I should have been wearing a helmet.  Spikey-head kept making comments about how ridiculously tall I am, which was not the issue – the issue was that they didn’t know what they were doing.  It’s like they never carried a woman down three flights of very narrow stairs before.  More than once around a corner they tried to bend me backwards.  I’m flexible (if you know what I mean) but I don’t bend that way.  They’re lucky with all the pain they were causing me that I didn’t involuntary (or intentionally) squeeze them to death.   

When we got down to the street, their car was even more strange than Spike’s haircut.  It was built like an armored car you’d see at a bank but it was long and flat, it kind of looked kind of like.  It was pretty dang weird, I tell you that.  As they loaded me into the back with all the care of a toddler dragging around a stuffed rabbit, I asked them what the hell it was.  They said it was a news van – as if I was the weird one for asking.   

The truth is out there

Pictured above “news van”

As one would anticipate from an international trading hub, Madripoor has newspapers from all over the world reprinted in many different languages, as well as a multiplicity of local newspapers.  The competition between these news outlets is often fierce, and like almost everything in Madripoor, sometimes crosses the line into criminal violence.  They range from the publications celebrated and respected across the world to glorified scandal sheets, half of each issue consisting of very poorly printed pornography.  Below all of them in terms of respect is the sporadic and confusing newsletter put out by Dan Hui sang.

Dan Hui sang aka News Dan of the News Dan News Van aka the Dan Man with the Dan Plan roams the city in his armored “news van” seemingly endlessly, day and night, like a shark always in motion – a shark that eats news.  Dan Hui promises to deliver news without “government propaganda or corporate spin” but largely presents news that no one would pay money for, which is why his newsletter is distributed for free out of the back of his van – and stuffed into doors of annoyed households at random when he has extras.   Which is always.

Dan Hui likes to focus on the NBH and “super” community for his news, which he feels is an area underreported by traditional news sources.  He weaves increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories about the underlying meaning of any action taken by superpowered individuals and their connections to what he sees as global shadow government controlled by corporate interests.  He reports on stories that he claims are “news that can’t be found anywhere else!”

If anyone bothered to check or pay attention, they would discover that once in a while, Dan Hui actually does scoop official sources, particularly when it comes to being first on the scene at some kind of super-powered incident.   Dan Hui has no fear when it comes to hurtling into dangerous situations to provide a first-hand account.  The two main reasons he has survived this reckless behavior (so far) are his tank-like armored vehicle and his intern/driver/bodyguard Xu Yiyang. 

Yiyang is able to elevate her adrenaline levels to give her superhuman strength, stamina, and agility for short periods of time.  This comes at the cost of exhausting herself and the probable eventuality of suffering total catastrophic organ failure.  The origin of these power and why someone with this ability would be serving as the assistant to a man who has significantly less credibility than The National Enquirer are both unknown.  

Despite his reputation and flamboyance, Dan Hui truly is a skilled reporter and works hard to pry the truth out from wherever it might be hiding.  He employs a network of informants to gather information for him that is staggering in its scope. He is fanatically devoted to what he does, believing that governments and corporations are all corrupt and represented by propaganda masters that fill the news with lies. His passion is exposing the truth, and he will go to great lengths to get it out there.

He is, predictably, quite paranoid. He believes that he “knows too much” and that the “secret masters” will take him out as soon as they get the chance, so as to stop him from exposing the truth.  In his more lucid and retrospective moments, Dan Hui wonders which truth would be worse – that there is a massive worldwide secret conspiracy trying to kill him, or that no one knows or cares what he’s doing.