December 24, 1973 – Float like a Hot Rock & Alternative artist sting like an Adult Contemporary Artist

Blue looked down at me like a disapproving father, but you know, a lizard “So let’s recap what we accomplished.  We interviewed fifty people and what did we come away with?  Zero people to help us and you’re going to get your ass kicked in front of a big crowd of people?”

I mumbled defensively “It wasn’t fifty people, it wasn’t even half that many.”

Martialla finished taping up my hands and clapped me on the back “Don’t forget about the money.  Ela’s gotten beaten up for a lot less than fifty thousand dollars before!”

I looked around at the crowd “Where did all these people come from?  How did so many people hear about this?”

Martialla laughed “You’re kidding right?  Super-powered bloodsports are a third of Madripoor’s gross domestic product, and chick fights are super rare.  I’m sure someone was taking bets on this as soon as the words were out of your mouth that you were game.”

“Is anyone betting on me?”

Martialla laughed again “Ela, the odds against you are an unprecedented one thousand to zero, which means a bet of zero dollars on you pays out a thousand if you win, still very few takers.” She laughed a third time, uproariously “It’s just not a smart bet!”

Blue started rubbing my shoulders as Martialla walked away “Don’t listen to her, just remember what I told you, no strikes are allowed to the groin or joints of the legs, and no elbows to the head.  What you want to do is clinch but you need to stay active.”

“You didn’t tell me any of these things!

“I did tell you, last night, you don’t always listen Ela.”

“Shut up, I do too listen!  Jesus Christ, is that Mr. X over there in the audience?  What the hell is he doing here?  You think he’s going to try and kill me?!”

Blue looked over at the humorless psychic sociopath and then shook his head slowly “I don’t think so, interfering in a fight like this is one of the few true taboos in Madripoor, I don’t think even he would do that.  Still, might be a good idea to keep your head down.” He glanced around “Keep an eye out for snipers.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”

It was about three seconds into the fight when I realized that I was woefully overmatched.  Or outclassed.  Do those mean the same thing?  She may look like a sex toy turned into a human form through Pinocchio magic, but she was both trained and experienced at fighting – and as you may remember, I’m neither of those things. 

Here’s the thing.  She was a better fighter than me, fine, I’ll accept that.  I would have been willing to take a few lumps and that’s that.  Beating me up doesn’t make her right.  But just smacking me around wasn’t enough for her.  She had to humiliate me.  She was dancing around and toying with me.  And I could have even taken that with good grace.  I mean that’s why people love Muhammad Ali, he’s a great fighter and he knows it and he taunts his opponents like a real asshole.  People love that shit. 

I can handle that.  She wants to make a big show out of beating me up, fine.  That’s life.  One thing Martialla was right about is I’ve gotten hurt worse for a lot less.  But then she knocks me down and I’m a little out of it and when I realize what’s happening, she has her foot on the back of my neck and she’s waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.  Everyone was having a good laugh at her antics.  And then she spit on me.

No.

You’re not going to do that and get away with it.  There’s a bully inside everyone that just loves it when someone else is being embarrassed.  It’s a sick little part of the human soul.  I wasn’t going to be the object of everyone else’s good time.  I got a hold of her around the ankle and I flicked my wrist like I was throwing a Frisbee.  I had zero leverage, you know because of the position she put me in, but it didn’t matter.  I’m very strong. 

I heard some cracking.  I heard her halfway scream – it was like she started to scream but then passed out before she could let it loose.  Like she drew in all the air for a scream and then it just dribbled back out because she was unconscious.  When I stood up she was on the ground and her one leg was like a kinked up garden hose that you drag out of the shed after winter.  I didn’t know a human leg could look like that.  I bet if she hadn’t been wearing her magic hooker suit, I would have ripped her leg off.  I saw what I assume was bone poking into the side of the material. 

A moment before, the crowd was howling and screaming and having a good old time.  Now they were dead silent.  I feel like I could hear people’s hearts beating, it was so silent.  I got a cigarette out of my pocket and stuck it in my bloody lips.  I lit up, I took a long drag, and looked over at the referee. 

“So did I win?  Is this like a TKO?  Can I get an official ruling?”  I crouched a little and grabbed my aching ribs “I should have got the money up front.  I bet she’s going to weltch.  Welsh?  Do you weltch on a debt or welsh?”

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.” 

December 3, 1973 – Why couldn’t it have been girl scout cookies?

I don’t know if it’s something all military people do, but Blue and Martialla love planning.  They say things like PAWPERSO and draw diagrams on napkins and move around salt shakers on tables and stuff like that.  They should get some of those little army men like they have in the movies.  Blue and Martialla talk and talk and talk and in the end generally we don’t do anything.  I mean sure, maybe that’s because I get fed up and do something rash before their plan can happen, but they should account for that if they love planning so much. 

Who knew that navigating the world of criminal syndicates would be so boring?  Why do they need outsiders to do all their dirty work?   I guess it makes sense, if you’re a criminal mastermind, anyone you can handle without losing too much you’ve already handled, so you’re left with rivals that you can’t safely attack – it takes interlopers to break a stalemate.  And if they fail who cares because they’re not your people anyway.  Disposable assets. 

Martialla wasn’t entirely wrong about what she said.  She wasn’t totally fair either, but she wasn’t out of line to speak up.  We’ve been avoiding each other.  Honestly I’ve been sulking.  Just a little bit.  It’s one of those things you do where you know you’re doing it and you know you’re being immature, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.  Maybe I should go to one of the temples around here and learn to mediate, get some discipline or enlightenment or something.  If nothing else I hear those monks can fast for days without any issue, maybe at the least they could teach me a technique for suppressing my hunger.  Or maybe I could just find some diet pills.   

Blue and Martialla were out ‘scouting’ so I was sitting in the closet-apartment staring at the wall when there was a knock at the door.  No one has ever knocked on our door before.  It took me a moment to realize what I was hearing.  I theatrically pulled myself up off the floor with a sigh and went over to answer.  At the doorway were three women.  One of them was wearing a strip of sheer black fabric in the manner of a deep-V thong one piece swimsuit.  Another was literally dressed like a dominatrix, black leather dress, thigh high boots, she even had a riding crop.  The third was the most conservatively dressed of the bunch, because she had a cape over her black (of course) bustier and garters set. 

“Uh . . . can I help you?” 

The one with the cape frowned slightly “Are you Lason?” 

“I don’t know what that is.” 

They looked at each other and then the dominatrix spoke up “Maybe we have the name wrong, you’re the woman who robbed the casino, right?” 

“Uh . . . . maybe?” 

Vampirella had to get her voice heard “Can you control men’s minds with your pheromones or not?” 

I rolled my eyes “Oh lord, I should have known you were looking for her based on the way you’re dressed.  How did you even get here like that?  Do you have change for the bus in your crotch?  No, I am not the woman dressed as a hooker that TRIED to rob the casino with a bunch of mind-controlled morons and her ass hanging in the wind.  I’m the woman that successfully robbed the casino WITH PANTS ON like an adult.” 

Dominatrix looked over my shoulder “If you robbed the casino, why are you living in a closet?” 

“I’ve had some financial setbacks, shifting priorities in the marketplace and such.  I assume you’re looking for her because you’re recruiting, are you guys The Femme Force Five?  You’re going to lose the alliteration if you become The Femme Force Six.”

“No, and also the Femme Force Five already has seven members, according to them traditional counting is an oppressive patriarchal tool.”

“Of course, so who are you, the bikini bandits?  I’m not interested, but I’m glad you’re here because I have to tell you ladies something and you’re not going to like it but you need to hear it.  Now understand, I am not one of those bra-burning far left types that say all sex is rape, but . . .” 

Cape leaned in slightly “You don’t look like you’re wearing a bra.” 

“I lost my bra, forget about the bra, this is not about bras.  Well it sort of is . . .” 

Vampirella looked confused “How you lose your bra?” 

Dominatrix looked down the hallway “Did you check the laundry room?  I think I saw it on the way in.” 

“I . . . what?  Look, here’s the bottom line, I understand wanting to look sexy.  Really I do.  Especially when you’re performing, because what you’re doing really is a performance.  I get that.  When I’m on stage . . .” 

“On stage doing what?” 

“I’m a singer.  But that’s not important, I’m saying that . . .” 

Cape peered at me again, she must need glasses “A singer?  Should we know who you are?” 

Before I could answer, Vampirella snapped her fingers “I knew I knew you from somewhere! You’re that girl that sings Love Me Sexy, aren’t you?’ 

Dominatrix smirked “You sing a song called Love Me Sexy and you’re going to lecture us about the way we dress?” 

I shook my head “No, I mean yes, I do sing that song sometimes but that’s a Jackie Moon song not mine, and yes that’s actually exactly what I want to talk about.  When I’m on stage . . .” I took a deep breath, trying to gather my thoughts “I’m all discombobulated here.  Look, here’s what I’m saying.” I pointed at the whip the one with the cape had on her hip because of course she had a whip “This is a problem, okay?  What are you doing with a whip?  Why do you have a whip and your boobs out instead of a bulletproof vest and a rifle?  You don’t see a man running around with a whip, do you?  Because . . .” 

“Zorro had a whip.” 

“He did?  Well forget about Zorro, that’s a different thing than what I’m talking about here.” 

Cape put a finger to her mouth “Didn’t Alan Quatermain have a whip?” 

Dominatrix nodded “Yeah, and Sherlock Holmes did too.” 

“What?  Sherlock Holmes never had a whip!” 

Cape did that thing where you close one eye and look up when you’re trying to remember something “Yeah . . . yeah he did, in The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.” 

Vampirella shook her head “No, that was a loaded riding crop, it’s a Bartitsu thing.” 

“What the hell is barbijitsu?”

Dominatrix waved her riding crop around “But this is a whip basically right?” 

“Why do you guys know so much about Sherlock Holmes?  It doesn’t matter though because . . .” 

Cape stepped back behind her two pals “You’re right, it doesn’t matter because you’re not who we’re looking for.  Kill her.” 

The dominatrix stepped forward with a kick to the gut that sent me stumbling backwards into the room-closet. 

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.”