November 27, 1973 – The Old Man and the Sea Creature

Even in the not so nice parts of Madripoor, there are some good beachside cafes.  I didn’t catch the name of the place we were at but they were bringing me buckets of chili crab and Golden Cadillacs on an endless loop so I was in heaven.  Human heaven not hog heaven.  I never understood that expression.  Wouldn’t hog heaven just be mud?  And, even better, for once I was not the one looking shabby and blood-spattered.   My clothing was a little worse for wear but I was freshly showered and free of any dust or dirt.  What they don’t tell you about crashing through walls and wrecking buildings with super-strength is how much white powder it throws into the air.  And not the good kind.  I swear, you throw one person through one wall and you look like you fell into a giant bag of flour. 

US Patriot Commando Eagleman, on the other hand, looked like he had been run over by a truck.  Which he may have been.  There was a lot of commotion inside that warehouse, even beside the gunshots – which were plentiful – there was all manner of loud noise that I could hear from across the street.  Sounded like he got himself into quite a fracas in there.  Good thing he’s a highly trained deliverer of cruel justice.  Even so, one side of his head looked like it was a giant prune it was so bruised, and he was limping pretty badly when we walked over here as well.  The staff was polite enough not to mention that, nor the fact that his bloody nunchakus were ruining the tablecloth.  With blood. 

After polishing off another whole crab, I sighed contentedly and sat back to survey “You know, it had a rocky start but I have a feeling this is going to turn out to be a great day.  Do you have that feeling?  I have that feeling.” 

He was agog as another crab was delivered before me “You weren’t kidding were you.  I need to eat a lot more than I did before I was enhanced, I get that, they cranked up my metabolism, but you?” He shook his head “This is like some kind of circus freak act here.” 

“Rude.  You shouldn’t comment on what a lady is eating.” 

He yanked off his boot to examine his bloody foot “So far I have yet to see you display any behavior that would make me think you’re a lady.” 

“Says the man waving around his bloody stump at the lunch table.  Get with the times man, I’m not going to hold my parasol and sashay my pretty little self around the town square like in your day.” 

He grunted sourly as he pulled his sock off “How old do you think I am?” 

“I don’t know, somewhere between forty and a hundred.” 

“When they did the surgery on me I aged rapidly in an instant, but since then I’ve stayed exactly the same.  When I volunteered for the experiment I was in my twenties, when I woke up and looked in a mirror I saw that the geeks in lab coats made me look older than my dad, but I haven’t aged a day since.  I may look like this forever.” 

“So I’m going to look young and beautiful forever?  Nice.” 

“I wouldn’t count on it, I don’t think we got exactly the same treatment.” 

It was nice to talk to someone who had been through what I was going through, or at least something similar.  Blue and Martialla are both freaks, but they’re not freaks like me.  Even though the science should have advanced by twenty years in the meantime, it sounds like the people that worked on me weren’t the A team that he got.  I’m not sure they were even the B team.  I’m much stronger than he is, but otherwise he got a better deal – he’s tougher, faster, more agile, and he only needs to eat three or four times as much as normal rather than fifty.  One thing that’s the same is the brutally violent never-goes-away headaches.  It’s pretty clear that’s why he drinks himself stupid all the time.  Although it’s interesting that he can even get drunk, I thought the reason I can’t is part of the super endurance, maybe I have a separate thing.   

“Do you have the throwing thing?” 

He was rubbing his foot and not really paying attention “What’s that?” I flipped a piece of crab shell into a waste bin across the cafe without looking “Oh yeah, I have that.  I used to carry around throwing knives for a while but it got annoying having to go pull them out of corpses all the time.” 

“Cool, we should play horse sometime.  If there’s anywhere there’s a court around here.” 

He said something but I was distracted by seeing Martialla walking out of the water onto the beach.  She was holding her side and seemed to be in pain.  I waved her over and she laboriously climbed up the beach, pulling up a chair and joining us.  She was soaking wet of course, but moreover it seemed like she was wetter than someone should be even after getting out of the ocean– like the water was sticking to her somehow.  She slumped down like she was bone tired and drained a glass of water. 

“What happened to you?” 

“Tiger Shark.” 

“You got bit by a shark?!” 

She looked at me like I was stupid “No, I got into a fight with a guy called Tiger Shark.  I’d be dead if a shark bit me.” 

I raised an eyebrow “There’s other water mutants out there?” 

“I’m not a mutant.  But yeah a couple.” 

“How are you not a mutant?” 

She lifted her chin “Who’s this old guy?” 

I gestured “This is my friend . . . uh . . . uh . . .” 

He frowned “Frank.” 

I nodded “Yes, my good friend Frank.” 

“We made love and you don’t even remember my name?” 

I chortled “Made love?  Get over yourself chief.” I turned back to Martialla “If there’s other water people in the bay, we should get them on our side.  Are there any that are good on the land or are they useless like you where their powers only work underwater?” 

I’m the useless one?  You don’t do anything but eat all the food and smoke.  Ela, why do you have this notion in your head that people with superpowers are going to form teams and work together?  They’re just people, and people are assholes.  Just because someone has laser vision or a robot-arm doesn’t mean they want to help the world.” 

“Not with that attitude they won’t.  You and Blue and I are a team, aren’t we?  And now we have Fred here too.” 

Frank’s eyes widened “Frank, and I never said . . .” 

“What were you doing in the water fighting with a shark guy anyway?” Martialla ignored me while she ordered supreme flounder from the waiter “Why do you need to order anything?  Don’t you suck algae off rocks or something?” 

“Why was I in the water?  I go in the water all the time, Ela.  You’d have noticed that if you weren’t a self-absorbed narcissist.  I like being in the water.” She shielded her freak white eyes “It’s too bright up here for me now.  And it’s too hot.  After whatever they did to me I’m a little agoraphobic too, having the sky above me feels uncanny.  It just goes up forever.  I like having an end above me.” 

“The surface of the water isn’t the end.” 

“Seems like it when you’re down there.  When this is all over I’m going to have to live on the coast, I think if I stayed on land for a long time I’d get really sick.” 

“Speaking of, I took care of Gwai so . . .” 

Frank made a weird cough/bark noise “You took care of it?” 

“I told you to do it, so yes, it’s the chain of command.  As a military man, you should understand how it works.  The point is Gwai has been sorted, so we can move on to phase two and find your niece.  Where’s Blue? 

“Talking to the Nightwitch about just that.” 

“Excellent, things are really moving now, after the rescue then we can move on to phase three – killing Duke Eaglevane.” 

Frank looked dubious “You’re going to try and kill Duke Eaglevane?” 

I dropped him a sassy wink “Killing him will be the easy part, we need to find him first.  That’s the tricky bit.” 

“Not really, I know where he is.” 

November 27, 1973 – Songbird and the Summer Soldier

I couldn’t remember exactly where Gwai’s drug warehouse was, so we wandered around for quite a while before I could find someone who spoke French to give me directions.  Old Man River didn’t seem to notice the delay, likely because he was too busy chaffering on about the various injustices the US government had done to him.  In my opinion, when you’re illegally inserted into Cambodia to assassinate someone and you get caught, you should expect the government to disavow you.   Isn’t that the entire point of black ops?  Deniability?  And if he was so sore about it after he escaped, why did he then spend six more years working for the CIA and another three with the United States official super team before he was cashiered for punching a senator on national TV?   

Eventually we found the warehouse on the west side of town.  I’ve never been over this way before. 

Looking back at the city from here, it actually looks nice.  You can’t see the downside homes of the poor and the garbage-infested waters of the docks, all you see are fancy buildings, bright lights, and lots of greenery.  I can see why rich people would want to hang out here.  I pointed out the building while my new friend was busy grousing about having to babysit for clueless lieutenants in Columduras in ‘67. 

“Can you drop the disgruntled vet act for a minute and look where I’m pointing?  That is the stash house of a Chinese drug lord called Gwai, and . . .” 

He shook his head “I think you have some bad intel.  Gwai is a slur for a white person in Cantonese, no one would call a Chinese person Gwai.” 

“Really?  I thought Camila said he was Chinese.  Anyway . . .” 

“Camila?!  What are you doing mixed up with that old viper?” 

“Don’t worry about it.  So maybe the guy isn’t Chinese, and if we’re being totally honest, and I feel like we are, I’m not super sure this is the right building.  But if you go up there and there’s guys with guns guarding the place, go ahead and kill them and smash up the joint.  Then we’ll steal a truck or something and drive the drugs into the ocean.” 

“This is Madripoor – every place has guys with guns outside of it!  Are you insane?” 

“Probably.  I’ve experienced a lot of trauma recently.  What do they call that?  Battle fatigue?” 

He scoffed “Battle fatigue.  Bleeding heart bullshit.  You can either hack it or you can’t.  You want to know about trauma, those (DELETED) Cambodians kept me chained in a cell for three years and . . .” 

I chopped my hand through the air “Enough about Cambodia, shut up about Cambodia!  So you got left for dead and tortured for three years, we all have problems, buddy. A few years ago, I had nodes on my vocal cords and you don’t hear me complaining about it.  I didn’t let that stop me, I went out and recorded an album that included a top forty hit!  What you need to do is . . . wait, did you say they kept you chained up?  Why didn’t you break the chains?” 

He scowled “Break the chains?  I’m not that strong!  I can’t break a chain.” 

“You can’t break a chain?  What kind of super-soldier are you?  I broke the biggest thicket chains in the world on my first day!  Anyway, forget the chains, just go over there and if anyone shoots you, we’ll know we’re in the right place.” 

“That’s a terrible plan.” 

“What kind of bitter drunken suicidal glory hound are you?  Get out there and fight a murderous drug gang.” 

“And what are you going to be doing?” 

“Providing moral support from afar.” 

“I never said anything about suicide.” 

“Come on, your whole vibe is pure The Man Who Came to Play, don’t kid yourself about that.  Just kiss your wrinkled black and white picture of your half-Cambodian twin daughters that you always keep in your pocket and go out there seeking the violent death you secretly feel should have happened twenty years ago when you were still a hero, before everything fell apart.” 

His jaw dropped “How did you know about the twins?” 

My jaw dropped “You actually have illegitimate twin daughters?  I was just winding you up.” 

He pulled something out of his waistband “I’m going over there now, but it’s just to get away from you.” 

“Are you kidding me?  Are those nunchakus with a red, white, and blue flag pattern?  Where do you even get something like that?  Where’s your helmet?  If getting hit by a bullet is like getting hit with a bat, don’t you need a helmet?” 

“That’s not how armor works, you don’t put something weaker over the thing you’re trying to protect.” 

“Baseball players wear helmets specifically!” 

“They’re not super soldiers.” 

“A baseball helmet is not stronger than a human skull. They’re made out of plastic!” 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Are you trying to tell me that if a normal human was going to get hit in the head . . .” 

“Forget it, I don’t have a helmet anyway, who walks around with a helmet?  What do you want me to have next, a shield?  Made out of some magic super metal?  As if.  Can I go die now?” 

“That’s what I’ve been saying this whole time, you’re the one dragging your heels!” 

November 27, 1973 – Singing in the rain

I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  As I was belting out Ride Captain Ride, I got to wondering why you sound better singing in the shower.  Part of it is probably the freedom that comes from singing naked.  Makes you feel powerful.  You can’t generally do that on stage.  Part of it is probably the shower itself.  It’s like a little sound booth.  I’m no sound engineer, but I feel like the walls of the shower absorb no sound at all, which gives you a good power and resonance.  I have a pretty good ear for these things and I feel like somehow it evens out the pitch as well.  Which is not an issue for me because I’m pitch perfect, but still. 

I feel like four pounds of gunk slithered off me while I was in there.  I think I saw the slime form a face and look up at me forlornly before getting sucked town the drain.  So long Slime Ela, see you in hell!  As I was getting dressed, I had to take a moment to lament the shabby condition of the clothes that Maggie had given me.  It was some high-end stuff.  I’m sure I saw Goldie Hawn in a magazine wearing this same shirt.  I suppose it’s my own fault, I should find some clothes more suited to my high-octane super brawling lifestyle.  But as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.  Well they can, but it’s annoying.   

When I came out of the bathroom, Grumpy Gus was still in bed looking confused and kind of afraid. 

“Your place is clean, I’ll give you that, but this looks like the room of a mental patient.  Put a painting on the wall or something, man.” 

He looked around slowly “Yeah . . . .” 

I snorted “Good talk.  It’s like I’m playing tennis against a wall here.” I headed for the door “Well, don’t be a stranger.” 

He held out a hand “Wait.” 

I looked back “What?”  He just stared at me “What man?  What do you need?  I got places to be.” 

He looked weirdly vulnerable sitting there with his white scratchy sheets in a pile around his waist and legs “So . . . . you’re just . . . . going?” 

“Was there something else?” I looked around eagerly “Do you have any food around here?  I tell you, I am STARVING.  I would love to pound a cheeseburger right now.  Or you know, twenty or thirty cheeseburgers.  Do you get that?  I have to eat like fifty times what I did before just to feel like I’m not going to pass out.” 

He seemed taken aback “I have to eat more than I did before but not that much.” 

“Of course, I don’t get super toughness and I have to eat a ton, women always get the shaft.  So to speak.  Anyway, it’s been something, see you out there okay?”  I turned to the door again and I saw a hurt expression on his face and turned back “What is with you?  I know you were born in nineteen hundred but you’re not that old fashioned, are you?  It’s the seventies man, get with it.  Did you think we were going steady now?  Do you have a letter jacket I’m supposed to wear?  Do you have a promise ring around here somewhere?” 

He frowned slightly “I just . . .” he sighed “Forget it.” 

“You got it skipper.” I turned to leave once more but then turned back once more as well “Hey, are you bulletproof?  I hit you pretty hard and you didn’t die.  And I’m so strong.” 

“Uh, not bulletproof, more like bullet resistant.” 

“Jesus Christ, do you ever start a sentence without saying ‘uh’ or ‘um’?  Why are you so nervous?  Have you never talked to a girl before?  Surely there must have been a USO dance or something back in ‘22.  Did Sergeant Rock make fun of you so you were too afraid to ask anyone to dance?  Did he show you a nude playing card of Marlena Dietrich that made you feel funny?” 

“You have a real sharp tongue in your mouth, you know that?” 

I smiled sweetly “It’s been said a time or two.  Point is, you can stand up to a hail of bullets right?” 

“I wouldn’t say that, I have enhanced musculature and mass that protect me from small arms fire, but it still feels like getting hit with a baseball bat.  A short burst from an assault rifle makes me feel like how Patterson felt after the first Johansson fight.” 

I laughed “Had to go back a while didn’t you, to find a white heavyweight that could punch?” 

His face fell “I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . . I’m not . . .” 

“Good god man, the super soldier process sure didn’t give you super eloquence, did it?  Anyway, you’re a big tough USA macho man, so I’m sure a few bullets won’t bother you.  Good news, you get to spend some more time with me.  Get your pants on and grab your nunchakus, Methuselah, because we’re going to fight some crime.” 

He looked dumbfounded “We are?” 

“Well you are anyway, I’ll probably hide around the corner.  I don’t have elephant hide like you, I’m quite easily penetrated.” 

October 28, 1973 – Missionary Impossible

[Editor’s NOTE – as you avid readers all know, normally I do world-building stuff on Wednesday but nothing really needs to be explained at this point germane to the story, so you get more narrative instead. Sorry. Sad face emoji.]

I’ve never cared for blonde men.  I make no bones about that.  Something about them just doesn’t seem right to me, it’s a woman’s hair color, why is your hair like that man?  For a kid, sure, a little blonde boy running around?  Adorable.  But an adult man?  No thank you.  Especially if they have long blonde hair.  Parker Stevenson is hiding something.  I bring this up because Travis, aka Captain USA Super Patriot USA #1, is blonde as a wheat field.  Or some other kind of field that’s more yellow.  It’s not long of course, that would be un-American, his hair style is appropriately conservative and butch, and somehow threatening. 

When Martialla and Blue didn’t come back to the bar, I got worried.  I guess I was worried about LBK too. But if we’re being honest, and I think we are, it’s harder to get worked up about him being missing.  He just kind of glommed onto us.  Speaking of, that ingrate Russian/Polish/Romanian/Whatever barman told me not to come back there anymore.  I asked him how he could do me like that after all I had done for him.  He pointed out that what I had done was drink his booze, eat every scrap of food that presented itself in two seconds flat, and bring a bunch of mutants around drawing attention to the place.  Which I guess is a fair point. 

I spent a couple days wandering the streets looking for Blue (because he stands out more in a crowd, and also because I like him more than Martialla) and sleeping in alleys until I realized that wasn’t going to work.  I came to this realization after I had broken into the kitchen of Via Emilia Jardin and was sitting on the floor eating some kind of fancy sauce out of what looked like one of those big white buckets that painters have.  I could see my distorted reflection in the shiny metal freezer door dipping whole loaves of bread into the delicious gloop and then devouring them like a duck with breadcrumbs and I thought – something needs to change here. 

So I asked myself, if I was a USA super patriot, where would I stay in Madripoor?  Not in the best hotel around town, that would be too un-American.  The only US company I’ve seen around here is Derecktor, so I went down to their shipyards at the end of the day and then followed men in suits until one of them went to a hotel.  The Goodwood (heehee) Park Hotel was built by an English guy for German expatriates and looks like a castle – definitely the kind of place Staties would be hanging out.   

I was loitering outside trying to figure out my next move when I saw a woman I thought might be from the CS walking up with an armful of shopping bags.  She looked so much like Angela Dorian I thought it might be Angela Dorian for a minute.  I approached, apologizing profusely, as is our tradition in the CS, asking if she had a moment to talk.  When she smiled and said “Of course sweetie, you look like you’ve been through the wringer” in a pure Saint Louis accent, I knew I was golden.  You see, in the Coalition States people help one another, we don’t stab each other in the back like people from the US.   

A few minutes later, I was in the bathtub in her suite eating room service Beignets while she was looking through her clothes to see if she had anything that would look nice on me.  And I hadn’t even asked her for anything yet.  That was just the result of me asking her if she had a minute to talk.  I told her that I had come with my boyfriend but then he ran off on me and left me penniless and passportless.  She had a thing or two to say about that kind of bounder.   

I told her that I thought he might be staying in this hotel and gave her a general description of the Stars and Stripes fellow who got mixed up in that casino dustup.  He was wearing a mask of course, as all heroes do that don’t want to get their butts sued for the extensive physical and structural damage they cause, but I described his build and his blonde aggressive haircut.  She knew exactly who I was talking about, her lips tightened and she said “Oh, the Statie”.  Turns out that he was staying there and was downstairs at the front desk complaining about something or other every few hours.  She even knew what room he was staying in. 

Over lunch, she said that if I couldn’t get my passport back from my ex, she could smuggle me home in her husband’s company’s private jet.  Said husband is a bigshot in some manner of industrial cooling company.  Or coolant maybe.  Or cooling pipes maybe.  Whichever.  It was an appealing idea, go home and forget all this, but I politely declined.  I told her I still had to find and kill the world’s most notorious terrorist before I headed home.  She laughed in delight at my “joke”, almost as much as she did after she remarked on how “healthy” my appetite is. 

After lunch, we parted ways with a hug.  For a moment I thought her hands drifted south of the line of propriety, but that must have been my imagination – we don’t do that sort of thing in the CS.  I went up to Captain Bald Eagle Flag Waver’s suite and the door wasn’t even locked.  Which was disappointing because I was looking forward to breaking it.   

His suite wasn’t quite as nice as Maggie’s was, but it was still pretty swanky.  I guess being a government sponsored superpowered-assassin pays pretty well.  I heard what sounded like a weightlifter grunting his way through a set of squats, but was actually Mr. USA plowing away at a bored looking local woman. 

Missionary of course, god bless the USA!  He had a surprisingly saggy ass for a covert US superman.

“Gees man, calm down, I don’t think the goal is to drive her pelvis through the mattress.” 

He yelped and jumped off the bed, covering himself with a sheet in a surprisingly girlish move – and leaving his partner stark naked.   

“Here’s another tip, Romeo. Close your mouth, you were spitting all over her face with your weird grunting.” 

His face was a competing mask of outrage and confusion and shame “Who are you and why are you my room!?” 

“My code name is Lady Liberty and I need your help with a mission critical to the health and prosperity of the nation.” 

 His eyes darted nervously to his companion “Mission, what do you mean?” 

I nodded “Oh right, secret identities, mild mannered Clark Kent and all that, we should speak in private.  I can wait in the other room if you want to finish up here first.” 

I loved the Wizkids Mechwarrior game, I don’t care what anyone says

The influence of German communists on the disparate socialist revolutionary groups of South America is significantly overestimated by the majority of the populace at large, and by some in the intelligence community, but one fact is true – without the introduction of powered armor into the hands of the Shining Path, National Liberation Action, and the National Liberation Army by German communist operatives in the late 60s, it is likely that these guerrilla elements would have been exterminated by US and CS military operations.  

The power armor technology is assumed to be the brainchild of Duke Eaglevane, although if this is true, given his enmity for communism, it’s difficult to theorize how such a powerful tool could have fallen into the hands of his enemies.  Some are quick to point out that communist groups in other parts of the world have no access to this advanced weaponry, implying that the Duke is somehow controlling the flow even through the hands of his groups opposed to him.  The concept goes that the Duke is introducing this technology to occupy North American governments and allow him free reign in his area of interest.

Experts in the field of robotics, cybernetics, and military exoskeletons consider the powered armor deployed by South American communist groups to be a failure of concept due to the use of titanium alloys rather than higher grade armor, rechargeable batteries instead of nuclear power supply, lack of flight capabilities, substandard electronics, and reliance on conventional projectile weaponry instead of beam technology.  Ubiquitous are jokes about the communist reliance on trucks carrying gas generators to charge their armored forces. 

What this majority of “experts” is failing to take into account is a truth staring them in the face – no other group has managed to yet deploy a single suit of powered armor into the field while it is confirmed that at least 8000 of these “inferior” suits are in action in the hands of the communists.  The US Defender prototype has so far cost 163 million US dollars in development and has yet to see any field test.  By contrast, it is estimated that the suits in use by the communist forces are produced for somewhere in the range of 80,000 US. 

As one analyst put it “Everyone else is trying to invent King Tigers while the communist have their T-34s on the board already.” 

In the final analysis these “cheap commie death traps” overpower any squad of standard infantryman and a small group of suits (often known as a wing or lance) is able to perform admirably in anti-tank operations.  Their use as an offensive weapon is limited due to their reliance on batteries, but since the communists are attacking local targets and defending their own gains, this limitation does not hinder them to any large extent in their current combat doctrine.

Burlington Industries is the first private enterprise trying to “split the difference”, designing and producing a “mid-range” powered armor suit that is not as overengineered and overcosted as most North American and European designs while still being considerably more powerful than the communist versions.  Their first prototype “the Crusader” was set to be field tested in southeast Africa, but the ship carrying this precious cargo was lost in the Straits of Malacca due to sabotage or piracy or both.  

September 13th, 1973 – Duke Eaglevane

I stood looking out the window of Pinetree Exports, also known as Alcazar’s office, which despite its small size and generally messiness would have been a much nicer place to stay than his apartment.  I was watching the steady flow of pedestrian traffic down on the street as he looked for my file in his stacks of papers.

(translated from Spanish)

“What is the deal with this place?”

“You’ll have to be more specific, Madripoor has many ‘deals’ at any given time.”

I pointed down at the street “There’s a dude wearing like a space helmet.  And the other day I saw a woman riding a bike whose skin was yellow, like banana yellow.  I’m pretty sure I saw a guy jump into a second story window too.”

“That was probably Bayu, he jumps all over the city.  Usually into the windows of married ladies.” 

I turned and gave him a look “Hey can you do me a favor and be a little more nonchalant about impossible things people can do around here?”

He stared at me for a moment “Sorry, I guess I’ve gotten used to it.  The ‘deal’ is that Madripoor, for this reason or that, has more than its fair share of NBHs – that’s non baseline humans – like you.  And not for nothing, there may also be an alien or two in residence as well.  The military usually finds aliens and shoots them in the head as soon as they crash-land but a few slip through the net.” 

“Oh sure, aliens exist and are on earth and that’s normal.  How about you give me a little build up to these shocking revelations?  Are your CIA buddies the ones that kill the poor little green bastards as they stumble out of their wrecked saucers looking for their triple A cards?”

He snorted “If I was in the CIA it would have been much easier for me to get this.” 

He waved a stained folder at me that had budget written on the tab, then crossed out and written 1968 redeposit which was itself crossed out and replaced with something I couldn’t read.  I sat down across the desk from him, he handed me the folder and helped himself to a cup of coffee while I thumbed through the papers inside.

“So I’m dead huh?  That’s very dispiriting.”

He nodded with a grin “I know, it’s a real shame you were cut down in your prime like that.”

“Who’s Duke Eaglevane and why did he blow me up?”

He raised an eyebrow “Don’t you read the newspaper?”

“Just the box score of the Tropics game and my horoscope.”

“Duke Eaglevane is someone who a man that was actually in the CIA would call a ‘bad guy’.  He’s a super terrorist, or supervillain if you want to be theatrical.   He’s maybe hundreds of years old and when he’s not killing German communists, he spends his time running the largest criminal organization in the world.  An organization that does things like blow up pretty singers in the heart of the Coalition.” 

“Why would he blow me up, what did I ever do to him?”

“I would imagine that you are what people who blow buildings up call ‘collateral damage’, I wouldn’t take it personally.”

“Of course not, it’s just my life.” I shuffled through some more papers “So I was blown to bits and then the government scooped up the pieces and put them back together?  Like the Six Million Dollar man?  That was nice of them.  And then these Shadow Lords stole me?  I would have expected the Coalition Super Soldier Division to have better security.”

“If I was with the CIA I could answer that for you, but since I’m just a humble businessman, all I can give you is guesses.  I don’t think it was the Coalition, from what I gather a private organization did the Humpty Dumpty job on you.  Maybe they sold you to the Shadow Lords, maybe you were stolen, maybe they were funding the whole operation, I don’t know.  But it wasn’t the super soldier program, that medical report says you’re negative, this was something lower key.  Just saving your life and giving you some ‘minor’ super powers.  You’re stronger than you have any right to be but I’m pretty sure Angel would rip you apart, if she wasn’t dead.”

“Being dead does increase the degree of difficulty.” I flapped the folder at him “How did you gather all this, non-CIA man?”

“I have a lot of friends, I keep my ear to the ground. Information is critical in my line of work, other vague answers are available at request.”

I read from one of the pages ‘Due to the stimulation of neurological, chemical, and glandular activity, subject will suffer from chronic headaches and will need to consume fifteen to twenty thousand calories a day to avoid rapid weight loss and death.’ “Well that’s just great.  I thought my head hurt because I wasn’t smoking enough.”

“You may as well smoke up, on the next page they anticipate that with your increased metabolism and all the damage it’s doing to your systems, you’re going to die of organ failure in another five to seven years.  Live fast and die young, etcetera.”

I tossed the file on the desk “This day just keeps getting better and better.  So who did the Shadow Lords want me to fight so badly that they went through all this trouble?”

“Other gangs probably.  Or maybe they were going to rent you out as a mercenary, there’s always fighting on the mainland.  Or maybe they wanted you for the tournament.  Madripoor is the proud home of the only super powered death sport in the world.”

“That sounds pretty illegal.”

“Even though you’ve only been with us a couple of days, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that legality is a flexible concept around here, especially for people with money.  And the psycho that does the annual tournament has gobs of it.”

“Lovely.  This is all good information but how is the project of getting me home coming along?”

He leaned back and steepled his fingers for a moment “Not great.  Since you’re legally dead, that complicates things.  And being an NBH complicates things even more.  It means that you have to register with all kinds of groups with three letter names.  Smuggling you into the States would be super illegal.  People are going to be very interested in you, Ela.  It’s a good thing that I’m not with the CIA because if I was, you’d probably be knocking over some east African dictatorship right now.”

“I feel like you’re saying you’re not going to help me without saying it.”    

He held his hands out “I ship matchbooks and crummy electronics, what do you expect that I could do for you?  I don’t know anything about sneaking people through multiple countries illegally.  You’re too hot for me to handle.”

“That would be a good name for a song.”  

“I think Otis Redding already did that one.”