Ela Halloween Special #12

“So anyway folks, where to? I’ve got the meter running so you better make up your minds quick. You kids from outta town? Newlyweds on your honeymoon?  Just a little taxicab character I’m doing there.  A little humor in a dark time.  Hey, remember that show taxi cab confessions?”

Ela keeps up a constant chatter as she drives aimlessly around Sueno Beach running over zombies with mucho gusto.  To say she’s punchy would be putting it lightly, she’s too hurt, too tired, too mentally drained to stop talking.   She’s worried if she does, she’ll pass out. 

In the back, Duke and Martialla do more or less pass out, slumping down into a weird kind of half-sleep.  Have you ever been so tired that you couldn’t fall asleep but you didn’t feel awake either?  That’s the spot I’m talking about.  They’re snapped out of their reverie toot sweet by something, that something being a zombie smashing through the windshield and into Ela’s lap at a high rate of speed. The car starts swerving wildly, Ela screaming her head off as the zombie chews into her stomach. Duke and Martialla do their level best to help, which isn’t much from the backseat, as the car fishtails and starts to spin wildly.

Between the three of them, they eventually manage to hurl the zombie out the broken driver’s side window. It slams into a light post and folds over backwards to such a degree that its heels slam into the back of its head with a loud coconut cracking noise.  Seconds later, the back of the car crashes into a building and they end up all turned about in the lobby of a bank.  After a beat, Duke and Martialla flop out of the car onto the ground moaning like zombies themselves. A moment after that, Ela steps out of the front and looks down at them.

“You see what I was saying before? Safety.  You should have been wearing your seatbelts – driving is about three things, safety, safety, and safety.”

While Ela lectures them, Martialla and Duke recover enough to crawl to their feet and save Ela from a zombie bank teller coming up behind her.  They bash its head in with one of them things that holds up the velvet rope for the bank maze.  Afterwards Ela takes the revolver off the belt of the dead old bank security guy.  And for good measure she swaps her ripped and bloody clownsuit for his uniform as well. 

Martialla watches critically as Ela adjusts her new hat “Why do you get the gun?”

Ela sighs “Do we need to go through this again?  I feel like we’ve had this same conversation six times tonight.”

Duke looks like he’s sizing Ela up to try and grab for the gun “Yes.”

Ela points at Martialla “You don’t get the gun because someone needs to shoot you if you can’t really fly a helicopter and I don’t trust you to kill yourself.” She points at Duke “And you don’t get the gun because I hate you.”

“I guess that’s fair.”

Martialla shuffles to the shattered front of the bank “How are we going to get there now?  The car’s trashed.”

Ela points “Shouldn’t be too hard.  The TV station is across the street.”

Luck? Or is there a method to Ela’s madness? The world will probably never know.  I sure won’t anyhow.  Martialla and Duke certainly don’t care either – against all odds it looks like they just might get out of Sueno Beach alive.  They wait until the street is free of zombies and then make a mad yet not very fast dash across to the TV station – home of WSBF channel fourteen, the local NBC affiliate.  In the lobby there are a couple of zombies, which Ela takes out with a quick succession of shots to the head. 

Duke’s face drops “Jesus, you just went six for six!”

Ela tosses the spent revolver aside “Well that’s the end of that.  I’m surprised the old man even had the thing loaded.”

Martialla points to a monitor in the lobby in amazement “Look, they’re still broadcasting.”

After a commercial for a new kind of fat-free muffin mix and it switches to a news graphic with the bold words “Zombiestorm 2002” on the screen, complete with a cartoon animation of a zombie chasing a sexy lady in a bikini with an “arrgh” sounds effect.  They watch in utter disbelief as an anchorwoman in a lipstick red ladysuit reports from behind a blood-spattered desk.  In the background a guy with a headset and a clipboard is struggling with a zombie, fighting for his life.

“Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the on-going zombie crisis in Sueno Beach, a channel fourteen news exclusive.”  Behind her the struggling man goes down and blood sprays up in the air with a scream. “There seems to be no end in sight to the zombie hordes that began attacking our fair city several hours ago.  Estimates put the arrival of the zombies at sometime between the hours of eleven and midnight. There is no way to know for sure how many zombies there are, but one reliable source has told channel fourteen that there sure seem to be a lot of them.” Behind her three guys with makeshift weapons run into frame and start clubbing the zombie devouring their friend. “We go now live to reporter Marcus Robinson at the governor’s mansion.”

Cut to a black man in a sharp suit clutching a microphone in one hand while clinging tightly yet impassively to a chandelier.  Underneath him zombies stand on an extravagant diner table heedlessly stepping on an impressive dinner spread as they reach for him and groan hungrily.

“Thank you Susan. Here at the governor’s mansion things are not going well.  The governor’s annual charity dinner, attended by some of Sueno Beach’s most outstanding citizens, has been crashed by some very uninvited guests.  They arrived fashionably late around eleven thirty but there was nothing fashionable about these guests, Susan. They were zombies. And unlike their other guests, they weren’t hungry for crab cakes or shrimp cocktails, they had another menu item on their minds, human flesh.”

“How is the governor holding up in this time of crisis, Marcus?”

“Well Susan, right now he seems to be doing as well as you could expect at a time like this. A zombie is chewing on his thigh right now and most of his leg is gone, but despite that, sources close to the governor have told me he still thinks he has a good chance of getting away and surviving for at least a few more hours.”

“What’s the general mood down there, Marcus?”

“Well, I’d have to say it’s a pretty somber scene here right now, Susan.  Not at all the night of merriment and networking that we were so looking forward to. People were especially disheartened just moments ago when the mayor’s much-loved wife was eaten alive before their very eyes. She had climbed the drapes to escape the zombies but then the zombies pulled the drapes down and she was at their mercy. Truly a tragic end to such a respected member of the community.”

“Yes, she was a great lady and will be sorely missed.  Especially in a time of crisis like this. Marcus, can you tell me . . .”

“I’m sorry to interrupt you Susan, but the zombies seem to be forming a human pyramid of sorts to try and reach me. I’ll have to get back to you in a minute.”

“Marcus Robinson, live at the governor’s mansion.  And now we’d like to take you to Professor Ramonovich from nearby Coral Gables University, a foremost scholar of the occult.  Professor Ramonovich is going to give us some background on . . .  oh, I’m sorry, I’ve just been informed that Professor Ramonovich is dead. Sorry folks, we’re doing our best here, things are a little chaotic in the station tonight.  Let’s take a look at our interactive map of the city and where zombies have been reported as being sighted, which you can find on our website. As you can see, the reported incidents of zombie activity are quite widespread and . . .”

Lucien is gaping at the TV screen “Am I really seeing this?”

Ela barks a not-laugh “Let’s just go.”

They get on the elevator and push the button for the roof but between the fifth and sixth floor it grinds to a halt.  Ela manages to pry the doors open and Martialla and Duke use her as a stepping stool to crawl out onto the sixth floor.  They pull Ela up after them and they look for the stairs, but they have to duck into a room to avoid a few zombies shuffling down the hallway.  It happens to be the very room where Susan is broadcasting from, bright smile plastered on her face as all around her, hapless interns are struggling with zombies.

“The word we’ve been getting from the national wires is . . .” She frowns as Ela rushes into the shot “Hey! I’m doing a newscast here!”

“How do we get to the helipad?!”

Susan leans to try and get back in frame “You’re blocking my shot, get out of the way! We’re the only station with coverage of this crisis and I’m not going to let you ruin our exclusive.  This is my ticket out of this dump!  Go on, get!”

Ela grabs for her across the news desk “You’re the only station with coverage because everyone at all the other stations is dead! Your exclusive doesn’t mean dick because no one is watching it – THEY’RE ALL DEAD!”

Susan slaps her hands away and tries to shove her out of the way “Get out of my shot!”

Ela grabs at her desperately “Just tell us how to get to the news copter and we can all get out of here together!  We’ll take you with us, just tell us how to get there. We can all get away!”

“Look, this is the story of a lifetime, I could get a local Emmy for this!  I’m not about to . . .”

A kid with a nose ring holding a clipboard wanders onto the set behind her, drinking a cup of coffee.

“Hey Susan, we lost the broadcast.”

She turns on him like a thundercloud “What?! What’s wrong, why did we lose the feed?!”

He takes a sip of coffee “Well, the camera guys are all dead, the people in the control room are dead, pretty much everyone on the crew is dead now except for me and you. And that guy over there. Okay, now it’s just me and you because that guy is dead now too.”

Ela leans in angrily “So how about that chopper?”

December 6, 1973 – Old Glory superhero insurance, are you covered?

Finding New Dan and the News Dan News Van was harder than I thought.  I didn’t realize how fast that guy zips all over the city.  It took a few days but eventually I found whatever that beast of a vehicle is parked down by the docks.  I think it might be an old Ford Gorgonzola or maybe a Chevy Jabroni.  It doesn’t really have windows so I stood on one of the huge wheels and peeped in one of the slit-holes and knocked.  A hatch on top opened up and a dude that wasn’t Dan popped out like a gopher.  Or maybe a prairie dog.  Some kind of rodent anyhow.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Hunter, I’m the new intern.”

“What happened to Xu?  I need to talk to her.”

He looked around like someone was going to tell him what to say “I don’t think I’m supposed to say, she and Dan are working on a big story.”

“What are you afraid of?  That I’ll scoop New Dan and print whatever insane story he’s working on my own poorly Xeroxed and misspelled newsletter that no one wants?”

“Uh . . . yes?”

“Jesus Christ kid, since you’re here I assume they have to be nearby as well, are they going to be back soon?” He just shrugged and I sat down on the hood of their armored duck boat and lit up a cigarette “How’d you end up here?  You look like you should be flunking out Nebraska University right now.”

He frowned “Nebraska?  I’m American.”

I snorted “You must be from the US then, no one else thinks their country encompasses the entire continent of North America.  There’s like five other countries in ‘America’ champ.  Hey, did you just get here?  Do you have any cigarettes?  The cigarettes here suck, I would kill for a pack of Reds right now.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Figures.  So are you going to tell me what you’re doing here or what?  We’ve got some time to kill so we might as well talk.”

“Why do you want to talk to Dan?”

“I don’t, I want to talk to Xu.  Dan is worthless, he won’t give out information about anything.  Xu on the other hand gets pretty loose once she gets a couple vodka stingers in her.” I gestured with my cigarette “You should keep that in mind if you want to get in her pants.  Be careful though because I think she has some kind of super strength, don’t get her too worked up with your lovemaking or she might accidentally squeeze you to death.”

He turned beet red “I have a girlfriend!”

I dropped him a sassy wink “We’re a long way from Tallahassee, Jimmy Olsen, it doesn’t count when you’re sixteen thousand miles away.”

He shook his head insistently “No, she’s here, in Madripoor, that’s why I’m here, I came to find her.”

 I raised an eyebrow “Oh yeah?  That sounds like quite a tale.  Lay it on me.”

He started off by talking about said girlfriend for an inordinate amount of time rather than telling me what had happened.  It didn’t click for me until he said she had been staying at the Goodwood Hotel that he was talking about Maggie.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, are you saying that you came here to find Margaret Cortland?  And that she’s your girlfriend?  The married super rich lady that looks like Angela Dorian?  Is that what you’re telling me?” He nodded slowly “Why would she cheat on her husband with you?  You look like an upturned mop kid.”

He looked unreasonably hurt “We’re in love.”

“Jesus Christ, you came all the way to this hole following after her like a puppy dog?  You’ve got to get the hell out of here before someone kills you.  I’m not just talking about her husband, I’m talking about everyone here!  I’m surprised you lasted this long.”

“No, no, she’s in trouble, I have to save her.  I saw on the news that the hotel she was staying at was destroyed!”

I snorted “Destroyed?  We barely even wrecked one floor.  The hotel management probably exaggerated the damages as part of an insurance scam.  Although I have to assume there’s an exclusion in most policies for super-brawls.  You’d be a fool not to include that when you’re writing a policy, a fool I say!”

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.