Other stuff post – #1 With a Bullet

I remember turning on the TV and seeing my dad fighting King Bullet.  It’s probably stupid to start by saying that I remember the most influential moment of my life, but I’m not sure how to start this.

That was the first and only time I ever saw my dad on TV.  He wasn’t on the national news often like Omega or Bluebird, but in the Midwest he was on the news all the time.  My mom never let me watch it.  She always turned off the TV or changed the channel.  I knew my dad was a superhero but that was the first time I ever saw him in action.

The only reason I saw it then is because my mom was on the phone.  Back then a phone was a thing that you had on the wall of your kitchen.  It had a curly cord that was like a little slinky covered in plastic.  I used to spend time fixing the cord after my sisters got it all tangled up.  I liked straightening it out. 

Point is that she was in the kitchen when I turned on the TV.  I almost changed the channel right away because I wanted to watch GI Joe, but then I realized that was my dad flying around above a big bridge.  I had seen his white and gold super-suit in the house before but never saw him wearing it until then. 

I wish that I had felt proud or excited about seeing my dad doing superhero stuff but I was just confused.  I couldn’t reconcile seeing my dad like that.  He was just a guy who could never start the grill and always bought the wrong thing at the grocery.   I don’t think kids can handle seeing their parents out of context.  I wonder if kids with parents who are pro athletes or famous actors have the same thing at first.  It probably takes a while to get used to.

It wasn’t even thirty seconds after I turned it on that he fell out of the sky.  At that point I had no idea that he was dead.  I think most kids, even if they kinda understand death at that age, can’t imagine their parents being vulnerable to anything.  And then throw in your dad being a literal superman on top of that?  There’s no way you can really understand what’s happened. 

Despite that, I was worried about what I saw so I ran in and told my mom that dad was on TV.  I don’t think she really heard me at first.  She gave me the “don’t bother me while I’m on the phone” look but I said that that dad was on TV and he fell into the water.  The look on her face scared me more than I’ve ever been scared before or since in my life. 

Seeing my mom so scared made me feel like the entire world was going to end or something.  I tried to grab onto her leg but she kind of shoved me off and ran into the living room.  I used to tell people that she picked me up and ran in with me because when I said that she pushed me, people would look at me like my mom was a monster.  But that’s not the truth.

My mom is the kindest nicest person ever.  People have said that if she did that, she must have been abusive.  If you judge her for that one moment of panic and fear, you’re wrong.  You weren’t there.  You don’t know what it was like.  You can’t say that. 

When I came in, she was on her knees in front of the TV switching the channel back and forth.  This was before TVs had remote controls, you had to change the channel on the actual TV with a knob.  After a little while she started to cry.  Not sobbing or anything like that, but tears streaking down her face.  I know this is a weird thing to think/remember, but what really struck me is how ugly it made her look.  Up until then, she had been the prettiest women in the world.  In that moment, it was like she had turned into a witch or a monster.  That scared me pretty good too.

She told me to go to my room and when I did, she shut the door behind me, which she never did.  She always wanted to be able to see me, make sure I was okay.  I hunched over by the door and listened for a while but eventually I started reading some of my books.  I was still freaked out, but I went about my little kid business.  It’s hard to explain what it felt like.  Maybe because I didn’t understand what I was feeling at the time. 

I remember that my aunt (my dad’s sister) and a neighbor came over with their kids and we were playing in the backyard while they talked in the living room.  I knew that something was on, but I felt like it was grown up stuff.  One of my cousins asked me what was going on and I said that I thought maybe my dad was in trouble.  But that was the extent of it.

The strangest thing of all to me at that time is when my mom left and my aunt stayed over with me.  I had stayed at her house before, but it was very weird to me that she was there in my house without my mom or dad.  She took me to MacDonald’s for dinner which wasn’t right either.  I told her that we only had that after church on Sunday.  She said that it was okay, but that really upset me. 

The next day, my mom told me that I wouldn’t see dad anymore because he had died.  She really tried and I think she said all the right things, whatever that means, but I still didn’t really understand. For a long time after, I expected him to come home.  I think I was ten before I really got it.  And even then there was a part of me that still thought he was out there somewhere.

I talked to a couple different child therapists over those years, but it never helped.  I don’t blame them, I doubt there’s much anyone can do, but talking to these strangers about how my dad was never coming home just made me more confused. 

I was 12 when I did what any good red-blooded American kid would do, I swore that I would grow up and become a superhero myself and I’d get revenge on King Bullet for killing my dad.  When I told people that, some of them said that superheroes don’t kill people.  I asked them, what about Skull Malone?  Or Crosswire?  Or Red Skurge?  They killed bad guys all the time.

I become a connoisseur of those who killed the killers.  They didn’t get talked about on TV as much, but there were magazines all about the heroes that killed.  I knew I couldn’t have them in the house but I’d buy them at the drug store, read them, and then throw them away before I got home.  People said those men weren’t heroes, they were vigilantes.  Fine by me, I’d be a vigilante then.  And King Bullet would pay for what he did.

In my memory, I didn’t see my mom much after that.  I know that’s wrong, I know that she still spent a lot of time with me, but I can’t help but remember it the other way.  Even though I was only with my aunt or a neighbor a few nights a week, in my mind it was most of the time.  Memory is funny like that.  I felt abandoned so that’s what I remember even though it wasn’t strictly true.

In HS, I was writing a paper about my dad and I asked my mom who she was on the phone with that day and she got very upset.  I didn’t get it at the time, but she felt guilty for not protecting me.  Part of the reason it didn’t feel like she was always there when she was, is because she had her own problems.  And I was a real asshole to her.  I guess you can’t help that when you’re a kid.   

I know more than one summer, I went to live with my cousins in Idaho because she was in rehab.  The really sad thing is when she finally did get herself straight for real and tried to reconnect with me, I was an angry teenage douchebag and I pushed her away.  We barely had any kind of relationship for several years.  All my doing.

Most kids grow out of the revenge thing, or at least sublimate it into some other kind of self-destructive behavior, but I didn’t.  I didn’t have powers like my dad, but I figured that was okay because there are plenty of heroes without powers.  The Archer.  Wraith.  Ultraweapon and Nighthawk don’t have any powers and they’re founding members of the freaking Sentinels!

I actually did become pretty good with a bow, but where the hell do you get exploding arrows?  Let alone arrows that turn into a giant net or release sleeping gas.  Plus, as I found out, even a hunting bow isn’t durable enough to be running around getting into fights with.  That’s just not what they’re made for.  Go figure, right?

I tried bodybuilding and training in martial arts but it became clear pretty quickly I was never going to be able to forge myself into a living weapon.  It helped me realize that when a kid from my gym got beaten so badly trying to be a vigilante himself that he never walked without aid again.  There’s a reason there’s only a few people like Wraith out there. 

I read somewhere that being rich is the best superpower and I came to the bitter understanding that that’s true.  Whoever Nighthawk is in real life, he has to be rich as hell to afford to design and build all those gadgets.  And Ultraweapon runs a Fortune 500 company.  Unless I won the lottery, I wasn’t going to be a tech-hero either.

Someone asked me why I never just loaded up on guns and threw on a flak vest like Skull Malone or all those other killers I was once so eager to read about.  Honestly, it never occurred to me.  I think deep down in my soul, I knew that my dad wouldn’t approve of that, that they weren’t real heroes so I shouldn’t be like them.  Strange but true. 

Not that the path I did go down was any more heroic. 

After Ace and the Four Kings were brought down, other villains kept popping up who had some (usually less effective) version of the Megatron Serum that Ace had invented (or stolen depending on who you believe).  If anyone knows why a highly addictive super-steroid is named after the leader of the Deceptions, let me know.  I figured that was my path to super-powers.

After HS (I did graduate despite what Wikipedia says) I made it my mission to get my hands on some “meg”.  A 19 year-old kid from the suburbs looking for some illegal super drugs?  That went about as well as you can imagine. 

The first time I got a hold of what I was told was a version of meg “only better,” all it did was make me crap my pants and give me awful night terrors for three weeks.  Which is luckier than most kids like me.  A lot of people died trying to do exactly what I was doing. 

Much has been written and said about how searching for super-drugs led to my own issues with substance abuse, but that’s not right.  I was angry and depressed and looking for an escape.  The two things have nothing to do with each other.

I spent the next several years doing fuck-all other than getting high and mooching off everyone I knew.  I got a lot of mileage out of the “poor me, my dad died” act.  I got a lot of people to give me a lot of money.  I feel sick about it now.  Hell, I felt sick about it then, but I still did it. 

I still talked loudly and longly about how I was going to get my revenge on King Bullet to anyone who would listen, but it was all just talk.  I wasn’t going to do shit other than party and then feel bad about it.  The funny thing about it is when I sobered up, things actually got much worse. 

Getting clean gave me the motivation and clarity I needed to actually make progress.  If you want illegal stuff, you need to make contacts with criminals.  I knew plenty of dealers after all, and some of them I hadn’t ripped off.  I may not be Wraith or Nighthawk but I knew enough about the practical applications of violence to be useful.  More than anything, what you need is the willingness to do violence.  People would be surprised how many folks involved in the drug trade don’t have the stomach for that. 

In honesty though, I rarely had to actually mix it up with anyone.  Just standing there and looking tough is usually enough to prevent any issues, most criminals aren’t looking for a fight, they’re looking for an easy mark.  Just having some back-up makes a world of difference. 

The final irony of all of this is that I’m 90% sure I had a line on some legit meg when I heard that King Bullet was dead, killed in that mess in Cincinnati. 

It wasn’t like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.  It was more like an itch that you can’t help scratching suddenly being gone.   For a while you keep scratching that spot anyway because that’s what you’ve always done, but ultimately what’s the point?  The itch is gone.

I was very afraid that I would fall back into my old bad habits, but I was able to work around that.  I got a real job.  I talked to my mom and my sisters for the first time in years.  What really helped me is meeting my nieces.  It’s a total cliché but it made me feel hope for the future. 

It would be nice if you could just turn a corner and then everything would be fine after that, but it doesn’t happen.  Your problems and issues are still there, under the surface, and you have to figure out every day how to keep moving forward.  As someone said in group once, there’s no solution to life, every day is a new challenge.  It’s easy to roll your eyes at someone who says that they’re a work in progress, but we all are really.

Sometimes I feel like my life has passed me by, that I’ve wasted all my time and it’s too late for me to do anything.  But I’m not that old.  There’s still time.  It’s never too late to do some good in the world. 

OOC – Bonus buffooneries

WordPress is 42% of the internet I hear.  Of that 42%, 80% is reviewing (mostly complaining) about Marvel movies.  Never let it be said that I don’t conform.  Since a couple new Marvel movies have come out lately, Longtail Turtle and I had to update our rankings.  I figured I’d compare and throw in the rankings from Rotten Tomatoes as well.

Iron Man

My rank – 13

LTT rank – 9

Tomato rank – 2

We’re pretty close to each other but off the norm.  It’s a good movie for sure but I’m shocked that it’s reckoned the second best Marvel movie.  It’s pretty good for the first two acts.  The ending is a strong “meh”.  There’s something about two robots punching each other that doesn’t do much for me.  And why introduce the 10 Rings and then not have them be the end villain? 

Incredible Hulk

My rank – 22

LTT rank – 22 (yay, the same!)

Tomato rank – 24

No one likes this one.  It’s not terrible, it’s just not good.  I’m not sure the Hulk is a good character for storytelling.  I loved the Hulk as a kid probably for the same reason a lot of kids go through a dinosaur phase – when you have no power of anything it’s fun to think about a giant beast that smashes everything.  What would a good Hulk movie be?  Two hours of Hulk smashing shit?  I’m not sure you can do anything with the Hulk.  When he’s Bruce Banner his whole thing is not turning into the Hulk, which is what we want.  And when he’s the Hulk, nothing is a threat to him. 

Iron man 2

My rank – 7

LTT rank – 5

Tomato rank – 23

Whoa.  I knew people didn’t love this movie but the general public says it’s almost as bad as Thor Dark World?  That’s bonkers to me.  There’s another robot fight at the end, which is lame, but other than that what’s so bad about this movie?  Hammer is entertaining and I like Vanko as an enemy.  Sidenote LTT hates the Pepper Potts character.  I guess she is only there to be Tony’s love interest but as far as love interest characters go, I think she’s good.


My rank – 24

LTT rank – 23

Tomato rank – 21

Alignment here, this movie is lame.  Another one without a real antagonist.  Seems like they were real coy with having villains in these early movies.  I wonder why.  But then Thor doesn’t really have any classic enemies other than Loki.  Although in my mind Enchantress is Thor’s archnemesis, maybe because I read the wrong comics.  I can see why they don’t do anything with her though since she’s a magic trickster just like Loki.  Samesies!

Captain American – The First Avenger

My rank – 21

LTT rank – 7

Tomato rank – 18

This movie is okay before Steve gets the Super-Soldier serum, and the scene right after it is great.  Then it’s weak.  Also, how long was that montage supposed to be?  It seemed like Captain America was in WW2 for like a week but was it supposed to be longer?  Is there even a montage?  Am I remembering that right?  Red Skull was disappointing. 

THE Avengers

My rank – 16

LTT rank – 6

Tomato rank – 8

The actual title of this movie is Marvel’s The Avengers, I wonder if that’s because of the Uma Thurman Avengers movie.  I guess I’m on the outside on this one.  This movie was just kind of blah for me.  The opening scene is pretty cool and then it’s you know, whatever.  The Chitari are lame, the “double-cross” of SHIELD making weapons is lame, Coulson dying to bring them together is lame. 

It’s not fair to judge like this but I will anyway, after the rest of the movies came out this one makes no sense.  Thanos gave Loki the Mind Stone so he could go to earth and get the Space Stone?  Why would he do that?  Were all his loyal minions busy?  Why would he trust Loki?  Also he just saw Captain Marvel blow up an entire Kree warfleet, what did he think some lame-os on hoverboards were going to accomplish?  The space whales were cool.

Iron Man 3

My rank – 11

LTT rank – 19

Tomato rank – 19

I think people were pretty mad about the Mandarin fake out.  That was probably one twist too many.  Also it was kind of a throwaway of AIM.  Maybe this would have been better if it was just “we’re AIM and we’re doing AIM shit” without the fake terrorist threat.  Also I can’t remember now, what was the point of that?  So they could sell Extremis?  I think you could have sold that just fine without a fake terror threat.  If it worked.  I guess this movie is kind of a mess, but I liked the Tony without a suit stuff and the kid was funny.

Thor The Dark World

My rank – 24

LTT rank – 25

Tomato rank – 25

Yeah, that’s right, I say there’s a Marvel movie worse than this one.  What I find interesting is that no one seems to remember what actually happened in this movie but they still hate it.  Several people have told me that have no memory of the plot.  I remember that some red stuff goes into Natalie Sportsman and that red stuff is one of the Infinity Stones.  And there are Dark Elfs. 

TV Loki told me that this movie is where Loki accidentally (?) kills his adopted momma.  Which seems important.  I wonder what a good Thor movie would be.  Something with Beta Ray Bill probably.

Captain America The Winter Soldier

My rank – 2

LTT rank – 8

Tomato rank – 9

I like that this is in the top 10 but I clearly enjoy it more than most.  I’ll admit that “oh, it turns out SHIELD was HYDRA all along” is kind of lame but otherwise it’s fantastic.  The only thing that would have made it better is if Nick Fury had really died.  But no one dies in comic book land.  Sidenote I was reading some old comics the other day and as always happens I was surprised to see a white Nick Fury.  Sam Jackson has become Nick Fury so hard that’s all I can think of.  Sorry David Hasselhoff.  I would have liked to have seen them sneak the Hoff into a SHIELD part somewhere.

Guardians of the Galaxy

My rank – 1

LTT rank – 2

Tomato rank – 5

This movie made me feel like when I saw Star Wars for the first time.  It was awesome and it made me feel awesome.  If you want to nitpick you can, some of Peter’s quips make no sense since he left earth when he was a kid, and the “we’re family now even though we’ve known each other for 2 days” thing isn’t super strong, but it’s great anyway.  I hate 3D but one of the many times I saw this in the theater I went to see it in 3D because I wanted glowing Groot spores all around me.  Wonderful.

Avengers Age of Ultron

My rank – 5

LTT rank – 20

Tomato rank – 22

Another big WHOA.  I didn’t think people disliked this movie this much.  It’s worse than Thor?  I know people didn’t like the opening scene which is weird to be because it’s the only time the Avengers are really doing Avengers stuff.  It made me feel like they went on all kinds of adventures we didn’t see in the movies.  I really liked Ultron as a villain. 

What didn’t people like about it?  I’ve heard that people don’t like it when heroes fight big hordes of robots because they want real people to get slaughtered by the hundreds by the good guys.  I will say that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are kind of pointless.  Would people like it more without them?  Maybe Iron Man 3 should have been Iron Man against AIM and the twins who are totally not Magneto’s kids because they don’t have the rights.  Except now they do?  So maybe they are?


My rank – 20

LTT rank – 17

Tomato rank – 16

It takes me a minute to remember what happened in this movie.  Yellowjacket.  What did Pym want his technology to be used for it not military murder?  What are the practical applications of shrinking?  Fantastic Voyage surgery?  Exterminators that go into the walls with lasers instead of having to use poison?  Because of when I was into comics the Wasp and Ant-Man are founding members of the Avengers and the newfangled version where they’re just people hanging around is weird.  Paul Rudd is likeable of course but it’s all pretty mediocre. 

Captain America Civil War

My rank – 17

LTT rank – 21

Tomato rank – 10

Huh, I guess people at large liked this a lot more than we did.  I’m not sure why it wasn’t Avengers Civil War.  I guess Spider-Man showing up was a cool.  It’s hard for me not to think that Cap isn’t being unreasonable in this movie, which is not how I like to think of Captain American being.  The Avengers should be above the law and do whatever they want?  That doesn’t sound right.  And the whole thing with Bucky killing Howard Stark doesn’t do much for me.  For that matter the whole Baron Zemo thing doesn’t work for me. 

Doctor Strange

My rank – 10

LTT rank – 15

Tomato rank – 12

Dormammu I’ve come to bargain.  Is Mordo ever going to show up again?  I hope so.  One time in the comics Blade and Dr. Strange teamed up to cast a spell to kill all vampires.  But then the spell was reversed.  There’s a Dr. Strange action figure that comes with a big battle axe, you know because of all the times Dr. Strange attacks people with an axe.  This movie was good.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

My rank – 25

LTT rank – 24

Tomato rank – 14

This movie is garbage and I hate it.  Rocket is a super asshole for no reason.  Drax is FUCKING ANNOYING the entire movie.  All the Ravager stuff is stupid.  All the dad stuff is literally groan inducing.  Ego the Living Planet is dumb.  They set up Adam Warlock, aka the guy who beats Thanos for the Infinity Stones, and then did nothing with him.  Mantis is okay. 

Do I judge this movie too harshly because I loved the first one and I was so excited for this one and I never get excited and then they threw this turd in my face?  Probably.  Still I cannot fathom that many people this this is a middle of the pack Marvel movie. 

Spider-Man Homecoming

My rank – 6

LTT rank – 13

Tomato rank – 6

Donald Glover has a funny bit in his stand-up special about when there was some talk about him being Spider-Man.  I’m not a huge Spider-Man fan in general but this movie is perfect for Spider-Man.  The only thing I don’t like about it is when Peter is all “school is for losers, I’m a superhero!”  That doesn’t seem very Peter Parkery to me.  I love that they didn’t waste our time with an origin story.  I love that Vulture is actually cool for once. 

Thor Ragnarok

My rank – 4

LTT rank – 3

Tomato rank – 4

Alignment, this movie will Ragnarok your face off.  I asked how you could make a good Thor movie before, and a good Hulk movie, I guess the answer is make Plane Hulk into a movie and then replace the Silver Surfer with Thor.  Although I am bummed that they didn’t do the bit from the comic where Iron Man and Dr. Strange shot Hulk into space because they were sick of his bullshit.  I suppose that would have been too cold for the MCU.  It would have been cool if they spent less time on Asgard and instead had another gladiator fight or two with some other Marvel characters but you can’t have everything.

Black Panther

My rank – 14

LTT rank – 12

Tomato rank – 1

Major WHOA.  The world at large says this is the best Marvel movie?  It was fine.  Killmonger was cool.  Throwing in Klaw and then killing him seemed kind of pointless.  The guy from Fargo seemed totally pointless.  All in all not a lot happened in this movie.  The last scene was cool where Killmonger choses to die. 

Avengers Infinity War

My rank – 3

LTT rank – 10

Tomato rank – 15

This is shocking to me.  The general populace says there are 14 Marvel movies better than Infinity War?  This movie kicks ass.  Stuff happens!  People die (temporarily)!  Am I supposed to believe that the lame original recipe Avengers was better than this?   And Civil War?  And Ant-Man + WASP?  This is crazy.  Infinity War is great.  I still watch it sometimes. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp

My rank – 18

LTT rank – 14

Tomato rank – 13

It’s better than Ant-Man.  There are some funny parts.  The guy from Justified is there and he’s basically playing Hammer from Iron Man 2 so that’s fun.  Ghost is there for some reason.  Do they cure her at the end?  Maybe.  They rescue the original Wasp from Quantumtown I remember that.  The best part is the point credit scene where Paul Rudd is in the Quantum Realm and everyone else gets dusted and you’re like “oh man, how is he gonna get out of this one?!”

Captain Marvel

My rank – 9

LTT rank – 16

Tomato rank – 20

I throw out LTT’s score for this one because she thinks Alison Brie runs like a mutant and it’s all she can see.  I remember when this movie came out lots of people were real mad because a girl was a superhero and girls are gross.  I really liked it.  The Skrull being not the bad guys was a fun twist.  Not sure about it in the long run.  I would have liked a little something in the dialog to explain why there are pink and blue Kree.  For that matter I would have liked to see more super Kree.  I listened to a podcast where some non-woman haters really tore this movie apart so I guess lots of people didn’t like it.

Avengers Endgame

My rank – 15

LTT rank – 1

Tomato rank – 3

The fact that most people say this is one of the best Marvel movies freaks my funk.  I understand that there’s no stakes in any of the Marvel movies, but this is the one where I can’t even pretend anything is on the line.  Of course they’re going to defeat Thanos and of course they’re going to bring everyone back to life.  Not only that but they already have the ultimate plot cheating device in the infinity gauntlet and then they throw in TIME TRAVEL on top?  Why not just have Superman show up and make the world spin backwards while you’re at it? 

The one scene where Steve is all messed up and then everyone shows up to help him is cool, but then it’s followed by a 40 minute CGI barf-fest.  And then Thanos is all like “I’ll just destroy all life this time” because of reasons?  Two Nebulas is cool, but that’s about it.  And that Ronin stuff with Clint?  Utterly pointless.

Spider-Man Far From Home

My rank – 19

LTT rank – 18

Tomato rank – 11

It’s fine.  Since “everyone” knows that Mysterio is a bad guy it would have been cool if he actually was a hero from another dimension.  Also it would have been cool if they illusions he made to defeat and look like a hero weren’t lame elementals.  Meh.

Black Widow

My rank – 8

LTT rank – 4

Tomato rank – 17

People were mad about this one because not only was the main character a gross girl but there were other girls in it!  And Taskmaster was a girl!  They were real upset about that.  I guess the good news for them is that Scar-Jo has been excommunicated from the MCU so Black Widow may really be dead for real.  J/K, they’ll recast her.  Do you think they added in the first part just because of the Americans?  I kind of do. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

My rank – 12

LTT rank – 11

Tomato rank – 7

Pretty good.  For me it didn’t really do anything to resolve the fake Mandarin 10 Rings thing.  Also the rings themselves weren’t like I remember from the comic.  I remember really thinking the Mandarin was cool as a kid but apparently he’s a hugely racist caricature so I guess I’m a monster.  Tag-along Awkwafina character comedy relief didn’t do much for me, I would have ditched her and given more time to the sister and her criminal shenanigans.  Much like with Thor arena I would have liked to have seen a couple other Marvel character fights.  Maybe I just want to see Enter the Dragon with super people? 

Applied Cryogenics West – where it all begins again for the first time forever

Since I updated the site the map section has been blank for a while, but it’s still the most visited page on the site. The main thing I’ve learned from this blog is that people LOVE maps. I don’t really get it. I hate when my RPG group cries for maps all the time. Does everything have to be exactly nailed down 100% all the time? Does it? Oh, it does? My mistake.

Date unknown – We’ll dance again in our dreams

When I woke up I thought for a minute I was back in the hold of the Queen Mary or the Royal Sovereign or the Fancy Empress or whatever the name of the ship was that brought me to Madripoor and this thrilling new life of violence and horror.  But it was “just” a room, like on land I mean, not in a ship.  It didn’t have any bars like on the TV but it had a real prison vibe, maybe this is what solitary confinement is like.  I’m no architect but the place seemed to be designed for super-person containment, I’m not sure what’s harder and stronger than concrete but I think that’s what it was made out of.  The door wasn’t like a normal door, it was more like the door to a bank vault.   

There was a cord or cable or whatever around my neck that led into a metal grommet (is that the right word?) through the wall.  It was so tight around my neck that I couldn’t get my fingers behind it to get any leverage on it to break it, and the cord (or whatever) itself was some kind of slick material that I couldn’t get a good grip on for breaking either.  It felt like it was made of liquid metal.  No problem, just rip the wall down right?  I have the strength of twenty strong men, even super concrete should be breakable with that kind of awesome power.

And maybe it would have been ordinarily, but I wasn’t feeling great.  I smoke some grass now and then.  I tried ludes a couple times.  And like most people, I chewed on the adrenal gland of a coyote once.  But other than that, drugs aren’t really my thing.  So I don’t know what it feels like to be on heroin, but if I had to guess I think it felt like the way I feel now.  For the first time in one hundred and twenty eight days, I wasn’t being chewed up from the inside by hunger.  I had forgotten what it felt like to not be hungry.  For the first time in one hundred and twenty eight days, I didn’t have a splitting soul-slapping headache. 

That sounds good right?  But I wasn’t okay.  I think those things were still happening, I just couldn’t feel them.  It’s like I was cut off from my mind.  I could move, but it was like I was underwater.  No, it was like I was underneath an ocean made up of peanut butter instead of water.  The thick name brand stuff.   My fingers felt like they weighed a ton each.  Worst of all, I was having a hard time catching my breath.  I remember seeing an uncle of mine one time sleeping in a recliner and it seemed like he would stop breathing every few minutes.  He was almost dying without knowing.  That’s what I felt like.  Except I did know. 

I grabbed at the wall-hole but I couldn’t rip it down.  I was still stronger than normal, just not strong enough.  After a minute, I sat down and just panted like a worn out retriever.  It felt like someone was punching me in the chest every time my heart beat.  I started to hate my heart for beating and hurting me like that.

I don’t know how long she was there before I noticed.  Could have been hours.  The vault-door was open and sitting before me was Serpentina.  It took me a while to make my brain comprehend she was sitting on a chair, at first I thought she was hovering before me with her knees bent.  Which would be a strange superpower to have, but you know, Bouncing Boy.  She didn’t look like the last time I saw her – old and weak – she looked like the first time I saw her, young and powerful.  She had the magic necklace I had taken from her, bouncing against her firm bosoms again.  I wonder how a Madripoor crime asshole got a mystical South American necklace.  I’ll probably never find out.  Money I guess. 

I felt like I needed to hold my eyelids open with my hands to meet her gaze “Hey Tina . . . where’s Archie?  Where’s Big Moose?”  I realized that I was speaking English and she probably couldn’t understand me.  I tried, but I couldn’t access the part of my brain that knew French “Sorry T, I can’t seem to remember French right now because I’m so high.”

She crossed her legs, her stupid leather suit squeaking like mad, and leaned forward, probably because I wasn’t speaking very loudly and she had to hear me “I’m not sure I’d call having massive amounts of presynaptic neurotoxins in your body being high, but you have very little other frame of reference.”

I nodded once very, very slowly “Good, you speak English, I’d hate to do the James Bond villain banter through an interpreter.  That would ruin the dramatic tension.”

“I couldn’t agree more, although there’s no tension really.  I’ve won.  You have a very impressive constitution my foreign friend, you already have enough venom in you to kill twenty men and you’re still talking, but it shouldn’t take much more to finish the job.”

I couldn’t help but smile “Twenty normal men or twenty strong men?  I get it, right, snake venom, because of the serpent thing.  That’s good . . . uh, marketing . . . or whatever you call it.  Hey, you know, I want to apologize for that whole thing before where I ripped your necklace off and exposed your suddenly flabby old tits to everyone.  That wasn’t my intention.”

“No, you were just going back on your word seconds after giving it and trying to beat information out of me instead of following through with the deal we had just made.  Seconds before.  Literally seconds.”

“Yeah . . . and I feel really bad about the whole thing.  I heard your whole criminal empire fell apart after I took your necklace.  Actually what I heard is that you were dead.  I heard that one of your lieutenants cut your bloody throat.”

“They certainly tried.  I lost almost everything because of you, but I had a couple million stashed away for a rainy day.  It pays to be prepared when you’re the leader of a criminal conspiracy.  It’s a shame really, I used that money to hire a team of superpowered mercs ready to take you and your friends on.”

“Whoa, that sounds like it would have been a heck of a melee.  Super cool.”   

“Yes, but then a little blonde girl from the States comes to me and says that she has you trussed up like a chicken in a butcher’s window and heard I was offering a bounty.  I wonder if I can get some of my money refunded from the mercenaries since they didn’t end up doing anything.  Or maybe I should have them kill your lizard friend and your fish friend anyway, just for good measure.”

I wagged my finger at her “Yes, you should do that, and make me watch.  Killing me now?  That’s too good for me after what I did to you.  Keep me alive to see my friends die.”

She smiled “That would buy you some time, James Bond style.”

“Hey, how about this?  Since I crushed your criminal empire, you don’t kill me, what you do is you use me as your attack dog and help you build it back up again?  I got the superpowers, you know, we can do it together, just us girls.  Feminism.  Those Shadow Lords need to be taken down a peg or two.  How about we go after them?  Knock them off and install you as the numero uno crime gang around here.  And then once you’re back in power, you’ll kill me.  You can take my family back home as hostages to make sure I go through with it.  What do you say to that?”

“Charming to the end.  I think I’ll just kill you instead.”

“Final offer, how about instead of poisoning me more right now – instead, what if you torture me to death over the next several days?  Or weeks even?  Make it last as long as possible.  Really teach me the errors of what I’ve done.”

She stood up and someone came in to fold up her chair “Tempting, but I don’t think it would be wise to give your friends time to mount a rescue attempt.  They’re quite loyal.  God knows why.”

I wracked my brain for a moment and then I blew out a long breath “Well balls.”

January 10, 1974 – Madripoor Bloodsport Death Tournament Charity Pro-Am for the Cure

Now that Martialla’s dumb niece has been rescued, it’s on to the next order of business – winning the Madripoor annual super being super fight to the super death for charity.  As I’m sure you remember, the deal with the Shadow Lords is that we win the tournament and they give us Maggie.  I know the Wildman is in the thing.  Mr. X of course.  The Challenger probably would have been a contender if I hadn’t shattered his shinbones like walnut shells.  I’m pretty sure there is a guy called the Contender that’s here for it.  I should probably find out who all is in this thing. 

If we’re being honest, and I feel that we are, I wasn’t thinking about it much because I was expecting that Blue would do it.  Unfortunately he said that he can’t win the thing.  He said that he could probably survive a match but he didn’t think he could win.  In particular, he said that he would never be able to defeat Mr. X, who’s always in the finals since the whole thing is just kind of his private vanity project.  Blue didn’t think he could even make it out of the first round. 

Martialla agreed with him. As they tell it, his gimmick is that he reads your mind while you fight so he knows what you’re going to do and can avoid or block all your attacks.  I guess that’s why I was able to catch him with his pants down, so to speak, because of my brain thing. 

Speaking of pants being down, since Blue was out of the running I decided that it was time to pay a visit to the Star-Spangled Man with the Can (of beer).  He’s a super soldier (of sorts) and I think he has the same thing like me where he’s in constant pain from headaches so maybe that means he’s immune to mind stuff too.  If he’s still pissed about me sticking him with the bill at that restaurant, I’ll just sleep with him again and smooth that all over.  I’m wearing deodorant now so if he thought I was something before?  Wee-ow!  Buckle up buddy!

Regardless, I’m sure he’ll be super pumped to get into a deathmatch tournament for me.

The door to Frank’s (or was it Fred? Philip?) small mental hospital-esque apartment was ajar, so I walked in.  When I saw him spread eagle fully nude on his bed my first thought was “how did he know I was coming?”  When I saw that there was a second pair of legs underneath his, my next thought was “Whoa, what kind of sex position is that?  Seems very awkward.”  When I noticed that there was an arm around his throat and his face was a deep scary purple, I still wasn’t entirely convinced that it wasn’t a sex thing until a woman’s face popped out from behind his head and locked eyes with me.   

Her voice was that of a waitress who’s got a few too many people seated in her area, mildly harried but dealing with it “I’ll be with you in a minute honey.” 

It was at that point that I realized I had walked in not on some gross rough-type sex but rather a murder attempt.  I jumped on the pile (not like that) and grabbed her arm.  I was able to pull it off him, but it wasn’t easy.  It was like getting a rusty well pump going out on the farm.  She was strong.  Not as strong as me, but stronger than any normal person should be.  Strong enough that she was able to break my grasp and slither out from under Felix (Steve?  Eddy?) without too much trouble.  I scrambled off the bed and got some distance myself. 

She was a strawberry blonde and she was barely over five feet tall, which was exacerbated by the kind of fighting crouch she was in – I felt like I was towering over her.  I see boxers doing that sometimes too.  Why is getting low like that a good idea?  Don’t you want the high ground?  Squatting down like that seems like a good way to get blasted in the face.  Maybe it’s harder to get knocked over that way?  She was dressed like a real square.  She looked like she should have been working in accounts payable at the phone company rather than attempted murdering a former super-soldier.  I suppose that’s smart.  If you’re going to be an assassin, it probably makes a lot more sense to be inconspicuous than to wear a black leather suit with a target icon on the forehead. 

She straightened up when she saw that I wasn’t mirroring her with a fighting stance “That’s a hell of a grip you have there, you must be Ela.  What a happy coincidence, I was going to come find you next.” 

I raised an eyebrow “And you are?” 

She grinned “I’m the new model” she pointed at Flynn’s (Greg?  Michael?) unconscious form laying limply on the bed “That’s your model T over there, I don’t know what the hell you are, some concept car that never made it to the production line because of massive design flaws” She ran her hands over her own body like a loon “And then there’s me, the brand-new top of the line fully loaded Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.” 

“Give me a second, I’m sure I can come up with some witty response about loads or you being full of something.” 

She laughed “Oh I like you, we could have had some fun back home, I bet.  Head out for a few drinks, drive the guys crazy, have a good old time – I’ll try not to mess up your face, not that it will matter for long anyway.” 

Fred-Frank’s apartment was bare, very Spartan, but there was some kind of stupid martial arts weapon on the wall – it was like a spear but there were a bunch of other stupid blades and little cords on it and shit.  I hurled that at Shorty, she ducked, but that was just a distraction anyway.  While she was going low under the spear-thing I kicked a footlocker at her that smacked her across the shins.  She didn’t fall but she stumbled enough that I got a hold of her and hurled her face-first into the sink, which shattered like it had been hit with a wrecking ball.  She pushed herself off the wall and back to her feet calmly – she wasn’t even cut from all the broken porcelain, my attack looked to be about as effective as a soap opera slap. 

She started kind of bounce-dancing on the balls of her feet “Oh yeah, I like you, I like you a lot.” 

A wise man – well no, not a wise man just a man – said once “If you haven’t been close to supermen, you don’t understand what it’s like to fight them. Even when you’ve got powers yourself, the predominant feeling is shock. The forces are out of human scale, and your nervous system doesn’t know how to deal with it. It’s like being in a car accident, over and over again.”  He said something like that anyway.  Aside from being sexist, superPEOPLE thank you, it’s completely accurate.

I really need to learn how to fight.  I feel like they covered this in Superman once.  He’s just a dumb dirty farmboy from Kansas, he actually doesn’t know anything about fisticuffs.  He’s just so strong that normally it doesn’t matter.  I feel like he ran into someone as strong as him and got beat down and Wonder Woman had to save his butt because she’s actually a trained warrior.  I wonder who beat up Superman.  Probably Anti-Superman or a Super-Ape or something stupid like that.  Comic book writers are morons.   

January 6, 1974 – Now that’s what I call an anti-climax!

Blue and Martialla were questioned as well.  What we told the Prince’s lady in a lady business suit didn’t exactly line up.  We should have gotten our stories straight beforehand.  In our defense though, we had no idea that the Madripoor government (or royal family or whatever) would care about us turning up with a hundred people in a fishing net.  Despite what Salvacion (that’s the lady I was calling Uncle Fester’s real name) said, it certainly felt like we were in trouble.   

I hate to admit it, but Martialla got us out of that jam.  I guess she pulled a bunch of people out of a Japanese base or something so the Prince already knew her and was inclined to hear her out.  After talking to a bunch of other people, eventually we did go to a palace and talk to the Prince’s eighth wife’s cousin, who was a general or something.  We told him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (more or less) and the next thing I know we’re on a boat off the shore of Ape Island watching the Madripoor Royal Guard storm the place.  They said with all the shore batteries and stuff, a conventional military attack would result in lots of casualties so they went with an elite strike force of super people.  I think they just did it because it’s cool.   

And it was cool.  Baron Frankenstein had soldiers and his own band of super mercs defending his island so it was a real melee.  I watched through binoculars from the boat, which if you ask me is the best way to watch a NBH skirmish.  One guy made out of rocks was killed and a woman that had glowing Saturn rings around her was badly injured, but Blue and Martialla were impressed with the Royal Guard.  Sounds like they’re the real deal.   

Doctor Evil got away but Martialla’s niece was rescued.  Kid didn’t even know she had been kidnapped.  

She just thought she was on a trip with her long-lost uncle.  She’s not too bright apparently.  It was funny to see Martialla clamp onto her and start blubbering with the “thank god you’re alive” and the kid is all like “What’s your problem weirdo?”   

Her name is Elizaveta and she’s a funny little thing.  Spent the last months eating ice cream, watching cartoons, and running around the island of supervillain Jones.  What a world, huh?  The Baron had someone nab her because it turns out that the reason Martialla survived the experiment they did to turn her into a grouper-woman is because she has some funky genetics and they were hoping her niece would have the same thing.   

Which she must have, because Doctor Baron harvested some juice from the kid and he made the gas that Tiger Shark used to attack the undersea facility that Martialla is always winging on about.  I guess she wasn’t lying about that.  Some of the soldiers that were transformed wrecked the tanker ship that Alacazar was so interested in so his men could steal whatever was on it. 

Alacazar is pissed.  Not only did we not get whatever the thing was for him, but we lost the sub.  Since it (whatever it is) was already taken off the ship, I don’t know what he expected us to do about it.  And honestly if you lend a mini sub to super people, you have to expect that it ain’t coming back.  I told him if he figured out where his mystery package was, we’d go get it for him.  He told me to go to hell.  He’ll come around I’m sure. 

The Prince gave us the use of an apartment in Hightown for a few days and it has a satellite that gets the Tropics games!  During commercials of a game where Jackie Moon had fifteen rebounds in the first half, I was regaling Elizaveta with some age-appropriate stories while hammering down bottles of Coke and eating hot dogs like they’re going out of style.   

“So anyway, long story short it wasn’t the laundry detergent that was making it burn when I pee.  Let that be a lesson to you kid, men are liars.” 

She screwed up her little face “GAH-ROSS !!!” 

I nodded “Tell me about it.  It’s like this one time, I was trying to show Jeanie how to blow a bubble inside a bubble with some Yubba Bubba . . .” Martialla walked in wearing actual clothes for once instead of her stupid Canadian flag wetsuit “I’ll tell you later.”  I got up and followed her into the kitchen “Get everything squared away?” 

Martialla grabbed a beer out of the fridge and nodded “Yes, my sister will be here in a few days to take her home.” 

I frowned “What do you mean, why is she coming here?  I thought you were taking her home?” 

She smiled humorlessly “I’m a fugitive Ela, remember?”   

“I don’t mean home to Canada, I mean the Coalition with your sister.” 

“Someday maybe.  We still need to rescue your friend Maggie.  And we still need to kill the Duke.” She laughed “You’re not very good at revenge, are you?  Doesn’t seem like you’ve made any progress at all.” 

I shook my head in confusion “I can’t . . . you don’t . . . it doesn’t make any sense Martialla.  You only came here to get your niece back, you should go home, be with her and your sister.” 

“We had a deal Ela, you help me get my niece back and I help you kill the Duke.  I’m a woman my word.” 

“But I didn’t even really do anything.  The Royal Guard did that.” 

Martialla tilted her head “You didn’t give up.  Ela, you’re not very smart, you can’t fight for shit, you should be charming at least but you always say the worst thing possible, and even if you don’t, every decision you make is exactly wrong.  You’re a crazy bitch, Ela.  But you’re not afraid.  Of anything seemingly.  Even when you should be.  You did enough.  You did enough.  You brought her home.  What kind of a woman would I be if I didn’t see this through to the end?  I’m a fighter Ela, this is what I do.  At least this is a fight that means something.”  

“I can’t ask you to do this.” 

“You’re not asking me, I’m offering.” 

I couldn’t help but laugh “But you don’t even like me!” 

She looked at her beer for a moment as if it had the answer “And sometimes Downtown ‘Funky’ Malone doesn’t like Jackie Moon either I bet.  I bet sometimes they want nothing more than to strangle each other.  But they’re teammates – you don’t have to like someone to work with them.  The only thing you have to ask yourself, Ela, is this – are you ready to get Tropical?” 

January 1, 1974 – Happy New Year! Not really, they have a different calendar here, but you know

Sometimes I forget that Madripoor isn’t just a city.  It’s a Kingdom.  Ninety percent of the kingdom of Madripoor is the city of Madripoor but there’s still that other ten percent.  If you’re looking out the window of a high building out in the “countryside” you can see palaces.  And I mean actual palaces not just fancy houses for rich people.  That’s where the Prince and his concubines hang out.  Why a Prince and not a King?  No idea.   

I was told that after the Japanese occupation ended, a bunch of businesses got together and suggested that they could run a country.  And everyone was like “Sure, why not, businesses should be in charge of social services right?”  So there’s a council of rich businessmen (and women maybe but I wouldn’t bet on it) that make up the government.   

But I’ve been told that the REAL power in Madripoor is a mysterious crime boss of some kind.  No one can agree on who or what that crime boss is (or if they exist at all) but they insist they’re out there and they’re the one who is really in charge.  The rich corporate suits up on the hill are just figureheads. 

More people say that the Prince is the REAL REAL power in Madripoor.  He decides which rich people get to pretend to be in charge and what criminals get to do their thing.  From what I’ve seen here, it looks like no one is in charge of Madripoor.  It’s like a ship without a captain, careering towards the rocks while the crew goes nuts on the rum they found in the hold.  Maybe it’s a separation of duties, the rich people are the legislature, the criminals are the executive, and the Prince is the judicial branch.   

I bring this up because I am currently the guest of the Prince Himself.  Not in one of the palaces, but in what I was told was a government office of some kind but that looks suspiciously like a cruddy apartment.   The Prince isn’t actually around either, but there’s a woman that says she’s a member of his staff.  I think she’s Indo-Australian, her accent is more Western than local.  She has a shaved head, which I don’t care for.  I’ve seen some strange things in Madripoor but somehow that seems like the strangest.   A woman without hair?  What’s the world coming to? 

Remember that lady in the catsuit whose leg I twisted like a pipe cleaner because she was being a jerk?

Sure you do.  She may have had a point.  I shouldn’t really be commenting on how other women look.  We have enough problems.  This woman may look like Uncle Fester to me but that’s her choice, I shouldn’t chap her hide about it.  That broad in the catsuit is still a bitch though.   

I was sitting on Uncle Fester’s couch trying and failing not to make a pig of myself.  She had brought out a platter of lumpia the size of a small car and a shaker of yummy ginger beer that was bigger than a champagne bottle.  She was sitting on another couch opposite the coffee table (I’m sure they call it something else here) with her legs crossed primly in her grey (gray?) business woman power skirt watching me gorge myself.  After a moment she took out an electronic pad of some kind and a little pen with no tip to mark on it. 

I belched, but in a ladylike way “Is that alien technology?” 

She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow half a millimeter “Pardon me?” 

I gestured with a fistful of lumpia “That pad, I saw one like it before, guy got it from an alien.” 

“That would be illegal.  Possession of extraterrestrial technology is proscribed by dozens of international treaties.” 

I raised a shaggy eyebrow back at her “You guys care about that kind of stuff here?” 

She didn’t answer, just watched me pigging out for a moment before continuing “Do you want to finish eating before you give your account of what happened?” 

I waved some lumpia at her “Nah, there’s not much to tell really.  After the fight we found a boat that the hijackers used to get supplies and stuff.  We were coming back to . . . whatever island this is, is the island also called Madripoor?  Anyway, we were coming back here and we ran into a fishing ship – like a big one not one of those ones you see in the bay.  Anyway, Martialla used to work on ships before the Canadian government turned her into a water beast and she knew how to signal them or something.  So that ship came to the other island and used their nets to scoop up all the people, it was pretty funny actually, and brought them here.   So bingo bango Bob’s your brother.” 



“The expression is Bob’s your uncle.” 

I shrugged “Oh well, whatever, we rescued the people from flight eight eight six zero or whatever it was.  The ones that were still alive anyway, we didn’t rescue the people that were already dead.  That would be impossible.  The pilot was killed in the fighting and the co-pilot was already cashiered.  I heard a few other people were deceased too.  We did our best.” 

“You skipped over a lot there. How did the three of you defeat the hijackers?  By our count there were eighty-nine of them and only three of you.” 

“One of the titty women, Lason, am I saying that right?  Lason, she was controlling them with her powers.  After I knocked out the Bruce Lee guy, sorry, is that offensive?  After I knocked out the Challenger with his table leg weapon, I bashed Lason with a staircase.  Like you know those little wooden stair things outside of a building.  I smashed her with one of those and when she was down, the hijackers lost their . . . you know . . . whatever, chain of command.  They were confused.  I’m sure Blue can explain it better but they didn’t have a lot of fight in them right from the open.” 

She looked at something on her alien pad “Blue, that’s Lucien Basilières?” 

I nodded “Yeah, big lizard guy.  He’s Canadian too, but the government didn’t do anything to him, that was aliens.” I winked “Good thing I don’t possess him right, otherwise I’d be in contravention of international law.  Anyway, once Blue and Martialla attacked, a lot of the guys ran, and the ones that didn’t couldn’t get their shit together.  I guess being under the influence of mind control sex pheromones is pretty confusing.   Super powers man, am I right?  Don’t make a lick of sense.” 

She consulted her pad again “What about the other non-baselines?” 

“The broad with her ass to the wind has a kind of power that messes up your senses I learned, but it didn’t work on me.  I have a splitting headache all the fucking time, excuse my French, but it seems like mind powers don’t work on me generally.  She’s also a good fighter, she kicked my ass once before, so I stayed away and threw shit at her.  I hit her in the hip with a big rock” I held my hands apart “About the size of a bowling ball, do you guys have bowling here? And she didn’t want to fight anymore after that.” 

“Yes, I imagine a broken pelvis will do that.” 

I winced “Eee, ouch.  I really don’t want to hurt anyone . . .  but . . . . I don’t know how to finish that sentence.  I don’t want to hurt anyone but I do . . . all the time . . . I guess.  Anyway, the one in the garters and cape knew that her power didn’t work on me from before so she bailed.  Martialla will tell you that I didn’t help with the fighting, but I took out all the super people before I hid and without me doing that, they never would have been able to rout the others.  So don’t buy into her narrative about me not doing anything.  She’s a pill that one.” 

“How did you know that Flight 853 was on Malimgum?” 

I laughed, accidentally shooting a glob of lumpia out of my mouth and quickly covering it “Sorry . . . . gees.  Uh . . . anyway, I laugh because we had no idea the plane was there.  We weren’t even trying to go to that island.  The Canadian Sea Monkey drove us to the wrong damn island.  This whole thing was pure happenstance.  Can you beat it?” 

“What island were you trying to reach?” 

I clucked my tongue “Uh . . . the one with the giant ape.  Man-Iguana?  Something like that.” 

“Mantiuana.  What were you going there for?” 

I gestured vaguely “Oh you know, just sightseeing, giant ape and so forth.”   

“Are you suggesting that you were joyriding in an XES class submarine?” 

I gazed at her coolly “Sure, why not?  Ultraweapon has a supersonic jet, why shouldn’t I have a submarine?” 

She pursed her lips “Patrick Zarous is an independently wealthy mechanical genius, you by all accounts are a homeless woman who’s been declared legally dead.” 

“Hey, speaking of, can you like use your government powers to contact the CS and let them know I’m still alive?  I don’t want to have to sneak back into my own country when all of this is over.” 

She made a node with her stick/pen “Of course, consider it taken care of.” 

I almost choked on my lumpia “Really?” 

She looked at me for a moment and then put her alien pad aside “Miss Preston, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that you’re in some manner of trouble.  You rescued one hundred and fifteen people and brought several international fugitives to justice.  The Prince is a generous man and he rewards those who have done him a service.  It would be in your best interest to be honest with me about what you did and what you want.  You’re a hero, Miss Preston.” 

I chewed lumpia for a long time before answering “I used to want to be a hero.  I’m not sure I believe in heroes anymore.  Being able to lift a car over my head?  What does that mean really?  Probably that someday the government will shoot me and everyone like me.” 

“That’s a very cynical attitude for someone so young.” 

I laughed and gestured towards the window “Madripoor, it’s a hell of a town!” 

December 29, 1973 – Come fly with me

I hunched down over the poor fellow “So this is the pilot huh?  Or was rather I guess.  Huh, is he still a pilot after he’s dead?  That’s like a philosophical question.” 

Blue nodded, from seemingly a hundred feet above since I was crouched down and he’s giant “Pandelela said this guy was the pilot.  Er, is the pilot.” 

I gingerly touched the wood protruding from his skull “What’s that through his head, a spear?” 

Blue peered down “I think it’s just a pointed stick.” 

I frowned at him as I stood up “Isn’t a spear just a pointed stick? What are you busting my chops for?” I looked around “What about the co-pilot?” 

Blue shook his lizard-head “No one seems to know what happened to the co-pilot.  A few people saw him trying to fight with the hijackers when they landed so probably they killed him.  Although I would have killed him in front of everyone if I was them.” 

“I don’t suppose you know how to fly a commercial airliner do you?”  Blue shook his head “Martialla can pilot a submarine, why can’t you fly a plane?  You’re really not holding up your end of this deal here buddy.”

He huffed in his lizard way “You can’t fly a plane either, why are you on my case?”

I stretched a kink in my back “I’m a singer, I’m not supposed to know how to fly a plane.  You’re a special forces operative slash organized crime heavy slash international mercenary.  No wonder you’re broke if you can’t even fly a plane.”

He flicked his tongue at me “Oh, you’re a singer?  Did you ever have a top forty hit?”

I reached up to get my finger in his muzzle “Watch it, big man.” 

I glanced over at the clump of surprisingly poised air hostesses in sarong kebaya organizing the larger mass of confused and dazed passengers to clear away the bodies from the “village”.  I think they were doing it just to give them something to do.  A task is a good way to distract people.  People who’ve been hijacked and tied to bamboo (or whatever) poles for a week on a stinking island in the middle of nowhere.

I blew out a long breath “So the plane is out huh?” I shook my head “Jesus Christ, it’s going to take us forever to ferry them all over to the city in that tiny sub.  Could we drive along the surface of the water and have them sit on the deck or something?” 

Blue flicked his tongue “Would you want to try hanging onto the slippery deck of a submarine like that?” 

“I guess we can just go back and get a bigger ship?” 

Before Blue could answer, Martialla walked into the clearing in the middle of the not-village, draped in a watery robe like she always is when she’s been swimming around “I wouldn’t worry about that, the sub is gone.” 

I laughed bitterly “You mean it drifted away while no one was in it?  I seem to remember someone worrying about that very thing happening and a certain someone else was mocking those concerns.” 

Martialla flapped her gills childishly “No, it didn’t drift away Ela, it fucking sank.” 

“What?  How does a submarine sink?  It’s already underwater, what does that even mean?” 

Martialla goggled her fish-eyes grotesquely “It means there’s a giant hole in it Ela.” She crossed her arms sourly “I thought I saw that crazy Hawaiian (DELETED RACIAL SLUR) skulking around, I should have chased her off before we left.” 

“Is this that Tiger Shark person that kicked your ass?” 

Martialla shook her head “No, this was someone else.”

I sighed “How can you have more than one archnemesis?  No one should care about you that much.”

“The same could be said about you Ela.  And Tiger Shark did NOT kick my ass, that was . . .” 

I admit there was a little hint of panic in my voice “Are you telling me we’re stuck here?!  After all the fighting we did to rescue these people and we can’t even get ourselves out of here now?!” 

Martialla snorted “What fighting did you do?  You jumped in the well and hid once the shooting started.” 

I gave her an arch look “You’re the one who said I was useless in a fight, I was just following your instructions.” I stretched my back again “I think I ended up the worst out of anyone, holding myself up in there really did a number on my back.

Martialla snorted and stuck her finger into one of the many bullet-holes in Blue’s scales.

“Okay fine, maybe second worse but . . . .

Martialla pointed to the corpse pile with a grim fish grimace.

“Okay, fine, maybe not even second worse but you know . . .  my back is really tight.  Those rocks or whatever that well is made of really did a number on my spine.”

December 29, 1973 – Queue up “run through the jungle” it’s go time

Martialla shook her head and swore sharply under her breath as she started checking her weapons and unloading pouches of ammo.   

“What’s your problem?” 

She ignored me and gave Blue a quick look “There’s at least forty down there, probably more in the buildings.” 

He gestured to the east “I should be able to flank them and you’ll have full field of fire up here.” 

She snorted “Flank them?  There’s two of us.  You dream monsieur.” 

I frowned “What are you guys talking about?  Aren’t we going back to the sub and leaving?  Since someone drove us to the wrong island.  We’re not going down there, are we?  You two are always telling me that there’s no such thing as superheroes, that it’s all just comic book bullshit.” 

Blue peered down from the ridge “Half of them don’t even have guns it looks like.” 

Martialla made a sour fish-face “Wonderful, that means there’s only twenty guys with guns down there.  Plus however many are in the buildings.” 

I waved my arms like I was flagging down a cab “Hello, are you listening to me?  Are we going to try and rescue the people from the plane?  Even though whenever I want to do something heroic you tell me that it’s stupid and childish?” 

Martialla flared her gills in what I assume is a rude manor “When did you ever want to do anything heroic?  I think you’re getting heroism and self-indulgent lunacy conflated again.” 

Blue started taking off his clothes “We have to try to rescue them Ela, you don’t bring a hijacked plane to a place like this because you want a ransom or because you have a political agenda, you bring people to a place like this because you’re going to sell them.” 

“What do you mean sell them?  Like slavery?” 

Martialla fish-eyed me “You’re not that naive, are you Ela?  Did you think slavery wasn’t around anymore?” 

“Well . . . I mean . . . yeah, I guess I did.  Why would you hijack a plane for that?  That can’t be a good way to make money.  That’s like robbing a bank because you want to take all the pens.” 

Martialla started moving things around on the ground seemingly at random “Maybe we can ask to see their business plan once the violent gun battle is over.  Assuming we’re still alive.  Which is unlikely.” 

I looked over at Blue who was taking his pants off “Why are you getting naked?” 

“Because in the event I survive, I don’t want bullet holes in my clothes.” He plucked at his shirt “I have to get this tailor made you know. This stuff is expensive, I can’t buy off the rack.” 

Martialla lay down on the ground with a rifle and looked back over her shoulder “You know the fact that half these guys have swords actually makes it more dangerous for you, right?  You’re unlikely to get killed by a bullet, but decapitation should do the trick just fine.” 

He huffed a weird unhappy lizard noise “Yes, I am very much aware of that fact, but thanks for pointing it out regardless.  I’ll try my level best not to get decapitated, just for you M.” He shook his head “Swords, what’s the world coming to?” 

Martialla made another strange fish-noise “I blame the Japanese army, when their officers started carrying around those crappy mass-produced steel katanas during the war, it made everyone think swords were cool.” 

I looked down the hillside “What exactly is the plan here guys?” 

Blue pointed “The plan is that I go down there and engage them at close range and Martialla stays up here and shoots at them, hopefully shooting at them enough that I don’t get my head cut off.  If there aren’t any NBHs down there, it has a good chance of working.  Better than fifty-fifty odds probably.” 

“Those are good odds?!” 

Martialla sighed “Unless there’s NBHs down there, which there probably are.” 

“What am I supposed to do?” 

Martialla sneered “Hide and cover your ears until all the fighting is over.”  I started to protest but she cut me off “You don’t even have a gun, Ela.” 

I stepped up to stand over her “I don’t need a gun.” 

She looked away dismissively “That might be true if you didn’t suck at hand-to-hand combat, but it turns out that you do.  Or it might be true if there was any chance of you getting close to them before they shot you a couple dozen times, but it turns out that there isn’t.  For someone as scrawny as you are, I don’t know how you manage to be so God damn loud, you crash around like a bull moose.” 

I held my hand out “Fine, give me a gun then.” 

Martialla rolled her shoulders, loosening them up “What would be the point?  You’re useless in a fight, Ela.  Maybe you can sing us a jaunty song afterwards if we win.  Or at least eat all our food.  That’s always really helpful.” 

I was about to pitch her off down the side of the hill when Blue hedged me away from her in that way he does.   

I glared at Martialla, who was ignoring me, before turning back to Blue “I don’t like this plan.  How about we get back in the sub, head back to the big island, and then come back with reinforcements?”

Blue glanced back towards the water “That would be great if we had any reinforcements to call upon.  I don’t think we have a lot of choices here.  What you should do is stay up here with Martialla, when the fighting starts you can throw rocks, big ones, but the truth is that she’s right, your strength doesn’t mean much in a situation like this.” 

“What if they start killing the hostages?” 

“Seems unlikely, that’s the problem with taking hostages, if you actually carry out your threats against them, you lose the leverage.  It’s a catch twenty-two of sorts.”  

“Okay, but there’s no reason to attack right now, is there?  We should just watch them for a while. If we figure out where the hostages are, maybe we can wait until nightfall and . . .” 

Martialla sat up and looked back at us “We have the initiative and the element of surprise, those are the only advantages we’re going to have and we’re not going to have them for long if we sit around . . .” 

I held my hand up “Shut up.”  I pointed “I know that woman.” 

Martialla laid back down and scanned the area “What woman, I didn’t see any women.” 

I pointed “I don’t know how you could fucking miss her, I don’t see anyone else down there in a Vampirella backless thong one piece.” 

World explaining Wednesday – The Dominatrix Matrix

Remember in the Matrix when Neo sees the cat walk by twice and says “Deja vu?”  That makes no sense to me.  Seeing the same thing twice isn’t déjà vu, déjà vu is when you get into your car to go to work and a song comes on the radio and suddenly that moment seems exactly like one you’ve already lived.  If I saw two black cats I’d just assume there were two of them.  Which would still be weird enough to comment on but I wouldn’t say déjà vu.

Maybe they’ll explain that in Matrix 4. 

For a tenth of a second today I thought I saw my girlfriend’s cat in my house.  Brains and vision are wacky huh?  According to an episode of the X-files from 25 years ago “they” still don’t know how a two dimensional retinal image is translated into our 3 dimensional vision. 

According to the hugely popular podcast about this massively successful blog, people were confused by the presence of the woman in the catsuit in the “job interview” posts.  Since I am bad at describing things (which is a great attribute to have both for writing and running RPGs, two of my favorite things) people thought that was the same woman from the fight in the “apartment” closet.  It was not.   

I thought about posting some pictures but ultimately didn’t.  10% because I don’t understand how giving people credit for things works.  90% because I assume tons of kids read this and they don’t need to see that.  “But Jeremy, you talk about how this is not appropriate for all audiences all the time”.  Sure, but reading is harmless.  Seeing things?  That has impact. 

Anyway here’s a character breakdown or whatever of those two separate and unique people.

Let’s start with the apartment lady.  I envision her looking like Catwoman from the 1992 movie Batman Returns only without the cat ears and more straps and buckles.  Kind of like that weird Edward Scissorhands leather suit maybe.  Hence in Ela’s eyes she looked like a dominatrix.  Would the average person in the 1970s know what a dominatrix was?  No clue.  Write what you know, they say.  Nah, I say back.   

A rebellious girl from not the best home, Susan Draper quickly learned the easiest path to excitement and the finer things in life was to attach herself to men who lived dangerous lifestyles, feeding off the thrills and money of those relationships.  She was the “main squeeze” of a gang leader in Basin City when she decided that it would be a real thrill to cheat on such a violent and dangerous man.  Which it was until he found out.   

Rather than kill her, said boyfriend went the time-honored comic book route of selling her into the clutches of unscrupulous scientists for experimentation – in this case the much-maligned Pecos Republic super soldier program.  The Pecos facility at Lone Star is known far and wide for its dismal success rate at creating viable super soldiers and its great success rate at creating corpses unrecognizable as having once been human.   

Given this reputation, Susan was grateful when she was turned loose without any visible effects as a “zero”.  A few months later she developed empathic powers, which is kind of lame, but a few months after that she developed the ability to manipulate the pain and pleasure centers of the brain as well – which is really something.  A few months later she developed enhanced agility which was nice.  A few months after that she developed the ability to inject people with ink from her fingers to create tattoos which is just silly.  If Ela hadn’t thrown her through a wall to her death, who knows what additional powers she would have gained.  How long would that have gone on?  New powers every few months?  That sounds like a great idea for a comic! 

Susan eventually grew bored of seducing and betraying various low-level villains and joined up with some fellow female crime people that came to Madripoor to recruit for some “big time” criminal undertakings.  It didn’t work out great for Suze.  But in Ela’s defense, she threw the first kick. 

Now the job applicant.  Wealthy socialite Marina Elizabeth Sieber has no innate superpowers but she was bequeathed a magic panther skin suit by her uncle, you all know how that goes.  He told her that it came from “African witch doctors” but it’s actually a Mesoamerican artifact related to the necklace that Ela took off Serpentina.  It’s part of a panoply of enchanted items that, if assembled completely, would give you all kinds of powers!  No one knows that except for an evil archeologist in Britain by the name of Sutter Cane.  And you better believe he’s looking for them!  He’s just not very good at it.   

Point is, when Marina wears the skinsuit, it grants her increased strength and speed (but doesn’t do anything to protect her legs obviously) which she uses to fight crime sometimes.  As a wealthy socialite, saving lives and beating up supervillains is more of a hobby than an obsession like with some super people.  She is known to have captured the dastardly Ace of Spades, a serial killer dubbed the Subway Slayer, and one of the several dozen villains with the moniker of the Vulture.   

She has a vacation home in Madripoor that she maintains when she wants to get away from the tedium of being a wealthy socialite part-time crime fighter with a magic panther suit.  She heard about a chance to do some freelance superheroing and thought, why not?  And you know how that turned out.   

I envision her looking more like 1993 purple suit Catwoman from the comics.  You know the one I mean.  The one that captured small satellites in the gravity well of her chest.

See, 1992 movie Catwoman and 1993 comic book Catwoman, completely different.  I don’t know how you didn’t get that from my highly detailed and richly descriptive passages.