December 6, 1973 – Let’s take a tangent from that tangent to tangent this tangent over here

Dan and Xu eventually did show up back at their armored RV or whatever that monster is.  Dan immediately freaked out because he thought I was following him.  That guy needs to lay off the coke or whatever he’s on that makes him so paranoid.  Once Xu and I peeled off and hit a couple bars, she gave me the information I was after regarding Baron Orlock’s Island.  I wrote it all down so Martialla and Blue wouldn’t get on my ass for not having “complete” information, it was boring so I knew I would have forgotten most of it. 

I assumed that Maggie had just returned to the CS after the hotel incident or moved to another hotel at the least, but Xu told me that no one has seen her since that day when I “destroyed” the Goodwhatever Hotel, which for the record was more than a month ago.  I’m starting to feel like the protagonist of a mystery novel series – does everyone I meet end up getting kidnapped or murdered?  Maggie had said that her husband had been up to some underhanded dealings, but what kind of criminal dealings that result in a kidnapping could you have when you’re in the business of making pipes for industrial cooling?  Or was it coolant for industrial pipes?  It definitely had something to do with pipes or cooling or coolant.  Or engineering? 

I was eating ribs out of a garbage bag (not BBQ ribs, some kind of vinegary rib dish they make around here, I don’t even know what animal of ribs they’re made of) while Blue and Martialla passed my scribbled notes back and forth and made various astonished and disgusted noises. 

Blue waved one of the cocktail napkins at me like a flag “Are you serious?  Gun emplacements?  How are we supposed to attack this place?”

When I just shrugged, Martialla cast a suspicious fish eye on me “Why are you being so quiet?”

I sighed “A friend of mine has gone missing, I think I need to look for her.”

She made a gross fish-face “What friend?  You don’t have any friends other than us, and we’re not really your friends either.  More importantly, NO!  Bad Ela.  We just talked about this!  You do this every time, we just start down one path and then you flutter away.  You’re like a butterfly!”

“I think you mean I’m like a kid chasing after a butterfly if you’re implying that I have a short attention span.  Saying someone is like a butterfly means they’re beautiful and fragile, which I guess is also correct.”

“Whatever, the point is . . .”

“She’s rich.”

Blue leaned in “What’s that now?”

“Her husband is the owner or CEO or something of Kruger-Donovan-Miter Industrial something or other.  He was here doing some business stuff with Derecktor and she tagged along.  They’re loaded.  Now, doesn’t that sound like the kind of person we want to have on our side if we’re going to attack an island fortress?  You’re always crying about how we don’t have any resources.  How much do you think saving a wife is worth?  And keep in mind she’s a good looking one and I bet she really tries in bed, too.  That has to be a million at least right?  Then you can buy all the guns you want.  This is Madirpoor, you can probably buy a god damn attack helicopter.”

Martialla continued to scowl “A helicopter costs more than a million dollars, Ela.”

“Yeah, that’s the important thing to focus on.  I’m suggesting that if we find Maggie we’ll be rewarded handsomely and that money could be put to good use in rescuing your niece.”

Blue sat back and flicked his tongue thoughtfully “How long has she been missing?”

“About a month.”

His tail twitched in surprise “A month?!  Ela, she’s dead.  You’ve got seventy-two hours to find someone at the outside.  No one would hold a person for that long, it just doesn’t . . .” His head swiveled to look at Martialla “I mean I’m sure . . . your niece is fine . . . sometimes . . . uh . . .

Martialla rolled her eyes “Nice recovery, Lucien.  The good news is you don’t know what you’re talking about.  This isn’t a serial killer we’re dealing with, I was held captive for six months by Pecos terrorists, it all depends on what they want.  When was the last time she was seen?”

“Well, remember that last time Mr. X sent his merry band of murder girls after me?  The second time I mean, not the first or third time.”

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

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

“Who are you?”

“I’m Hunter, I’m the new intern.”

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

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

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

“Uh . . . yes?”

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

He frowned “Nebraska?  I’m American.”

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

“I don’t smoke.”

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

“Why do you want to talk to Dan?”

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

He turned beet red “I have a girlfriend!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay so I’m not exactly Audrey Hepburn – How to steal a thousand

In the early days, I mentioned that I had never hurt anyone before with one exception.  I wasn’t trying to be mysterious and intriguing, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would talk about.  But it’s time to talk about it.  You can’t say you robbed banks and then just let that lay there.  Ela is no tease, ya dig?   

As you know, when I was a teenager I wandered away from my parents’ house for a summer that turned into two years.  And when I came back, it was clear that no one was happy with me being there so I split again.  I had this “kind of” boyfriend at the time that I was hanging around with.  I spent a couple months driving cross country in his VW van going to concerts with a bunch of his pals.  One night we’re sitting around the campfire and I asked how they live like this without jobs.  And he tells me he does have a job, he tells me that he and his pals do stick ups.  At the time I thought he was trying to impress me, but looking back on it now I think he was tired of me and thought that telling me that would scare me off.  Which is kind of stupid because if it had worked, then what’s to stop me from going to the cops? 

For a while, I traveled around with him and his buddies in the Denver area because it turns out that that little slip of Canada between Arkansas, Pecos, and Taiping is a where you want to be when you’re into armed robbery.  Dip across the border, steal some shit, and then pop back to Canada and hide out in the hills. A lot of their jobs were in Taiping, partially because they were racist assholes and partially because there’s a lot of border towns there.  I’m not sure why exactly.  It’s probably because they want to keep the white people on this side of the Rockies.   

The guy I was with, I’ll call him Chris, was technically the leader but there was this other guy I’ll call Ernie.  Ernie was an ex-military guy and he was the one that did all the planning.  He was pretty weird.  I thought it was because he had been in the fighting in Africa, but Chris said he was always like that, even when they were kids.  As long as they were flush with cash, everything was fine.  When they weren’t, Ernie’s partner Bert was always stirring up shit about how Ernie should be the one calling the shots.  Bert wasn’t pumped about me tagging along with them either.  He thought I was too conspicuous. 

I was young and stupid and thought it was cool to be hanging around with “outlaws”.  In my defense, at that time the area around Denver was like the wild west – what we were doing didn’t even seem illegal, not really.  No one seemed to care.  They’d pull a job and we’d party our way from town to town.  Lots of good music festivals out there.  Things took a turn when one of the crew got drunk and fell off a bridge and broke his neck.  They had a job coming up in a little town in Pecos and they were a man short.  Chris said it would be fine without him, Ernie said they had to scrub the job.  I did something really stupid and volunteered to take the place of the dead man.  No one really liked that idea except Ernie, and no one was going to cross Ernie. 

So I robbed a bank.  By which I mean I sat in the back of a van with a gun and waited.  Even though I didn’t really do anything, it was terrifying.  I barely even knew how to shoot a gun.  At that point I didn’t know if I could shoot someone.  That question would be answered shortly.  After that, Chris got distant and weird, but for some reason Ernie really had taken a shine to me, I guess because I had “proven” myself.  In whatever case, Bert did not care for it.   

After the second job I did, I decided I should pursue a career in music instead of armed robbery, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making that jump.  A third job came and went while I was still trying to figure it out.  Bert was getting more vocal about his displeasure in me being there.  That last time, I went into the bank with them and his opinion was that having a woman would make them too easy to identify.  Which is probably a fair point.  Bunch of dudes wearing masks?  Could be anybody.  Get a woman in the mix and things get easier to iron out for anyone looking into it.

At this point I was spending more time with another guy in the crew than Chris, and one night we’re laying in our sleeping bag and Bert rolls up on us.  He’s got a gun.  There’s a lot of shouting and cursing and Not Chris slinks away into the night, but Chris turns up.  Not sure what sense of loyalty he still had to me.  Things escalate and Bert shoots Chris like in the hip or upper thigh on the side.  I had this little revolver that I had started carrying and I shot Bert.  He had his arm bent and the bullet went through his forearm and into his bicep.   Ernie shows up and grabs my gun and takes off in the car with both Chris and Bert bleeding all over the place.  He said he was taking them to a doctor, but I wonder now if he killed them. 

At this point, I’m there at the campsite with the only guy left and his lady of the night.  He grabs up all the cash the crew had, gives us each a hundred-dollar bill and says “see you in the funny papers” and splits.  A few hours later, I’m sitting in a diner with Roci, the aforementioned prostitute, and her pimp Ringo.  He was such a stoner doofus I didn’t even realize he was trying to turn me out. He had to be the worst pimp in the world.  But he did introduce me to the booker at a club that got me my first gig as a singer. 

Sometimes when I think about that time of my life, it doesn’t seem real.  How could I have robbed a bank?  Seems impossible.  I wonder sometimes if it was all a dream.  But it happened.  I was drunk or high a lot of the time, so I may have some details mixed up but it happened.  Looking back on it, it’s a miracle that I came out of that situation alive.  A nineteen-year-old girl mixed up with armed robbers?  That’s not a story that’s going to have a happy ending most of the time.   

So anyway, that’s the story.  I robbed banks.  And I shot a guy once.  And that’s the time that I hurt someone.  You know, before.  When things were “normal”.  If I hadn’t been punch drunk at the time, I wouldn’t have said anything about it to Martialla.  But since I did, I figure it deserved an explanation. 

If violence isn’t the answer, you misunderstood the question – Madripoor the City (part 1)

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

I’ve already introduced News Dan and the News Dan New Van, but he’s more of the underground conspiracy nut, so let’s have another character on the reporting scene.  If you’re going to have a super-world why not Superman it up?  Let’s say that Lim Boon Keng is a reporter in his civilian identity.  Some people say that having an existing character fill a new role is lazy.  Others say that’s character development.

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

I haven’t thought much about the Madripoor police other than they don’t care about the poor areas down the hill.  I figured that meant it didn’t matter, but that does mean they do care about the business downtown and the rich people zones.  Rich people have their own goons, but they probably want other people to yell at, too.  I’ll say that there’s not enough need for a full time “supercrime” division, instead the best (most murdery) cops are tagged for being brought together into a task force as needed and they’re totally badass like in the Raid.  The ace of this squad is surely a superperson, I’ll think on that.

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

There has to be someone who keeps tabs on things and pulls the taskforce together when needed.  That will be Captain Raden Wijaya, a former counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist agent with the Indonesian government.  In order to do his job he maintains connections with the various criminal syndicates in Madripoor.  He’s not corrupt though, not really.

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

What manner of sinister agenda could exist in what is already a wretched hive of scum and villainy?  I suppose what it would be is a group that wants Madripoor to lose its independence.  Not a government agency but a secret conspiracy of government officials who want to see Madripoor annexed to the Empire of Japan.  Quislings – is that what you call people like that?  I don’t know but it’s a cool word.

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

Much like the police, I never thought about Madripoor having a superteam.  But, it doesn’t have to be a superhero team right?  The idea is that there are too many factions and too much money being thrown around for one person or group to take over, but there would still be someone at the top of the super-evil heap even if they’re not in control.  I imagine they would be somewhat reclusive, an alliance of older villains in semi-retirement who came to Madripoor to live out their days in wealth and safety. 

I’ll have to think more about that as well.  One character idea I’ve wanted to work in but couldn’t find a place was a Coalition States communist who thought that robbing banks would help bring down capitalism in the CS but eventually realized they were just wasting their time and gave up.  Seems like a good candidate for this group.

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

I’ve introduced several superpeople of various stripes but not many true blue heroes.  Another half-idea I’ve had is for a super team of aliens ripping off the X-men (how they used to be anyway, I don’t know what they are now) doing the “protecting a world that hates us” thing.  Another kernel to follow up on and flesh out.

• Two Villains who work in The City

Several of these are already in the mix.  But there’s always room for more.  I’ve mentioned a minotaur guy walking around, let’s say he’s one of these two extra villains.  In the Marvel universe there’s a thing called the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation which is a fighting deal for superpowered people.  It’s never been taken all that seriously aside from giving the Power Broker a reason to give people powers once in a while, but as a wrestling person I find it amusing. 

The “man” calling himself Jefray Kurnia Arwadi actually is THE minotaur of legend, awoken in the modern age (the 70s) from some manner of stasis.  How did they explain Heracles in the Marvel universe?  Was he just supposed to be out and about doing Heracles stuff for a thousand years?  Surely he was asleep in a cave or something.  I’ll have to look into that. 

Anyway minotaur-Jef wakes up and gets involved in a short lived superpowered boxing league and then UCWF before finally making his way to Madripoor to fight other super-people for money.  He’s likes fighting, you see.  How about this, the Minotaur survived to Roman times and got into the gladiator scene and the rich folks got tired of him winning all the time so they had a sorceress put him to sleep for a thousand years and chucked him down a mine shaft.  They had mines.  But did they have shafts?  There’s so much about Ancient Roman mining I don’t know

A while ago someone asked me why there are not many African superheroes and my idea was that the colonial powers employed a super-squad of hitmen to kill any African people with powers to help prevent them from becoming symbols for the African people and fomenting revolution.  In recent times, this group has been destroyed and one of the survivors is our second guy here – coming to Madripoor to hide from the many people that want him dead.  He’s not a white supremacist himself but just an amoral mercenary.  I shall name him Steelwing.

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

Ela isn’t really an “organization” but I have thought it would be amusing for her to run into a super-powered singer who’s rich and famous to really torque her off.  I’ll flesh that out some more.  She shall be called Songbird.  Which is a little on the nose, but hey, comic books right?

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.” 

OOC – The City

Do I still need to put OOC on these things? It’s always clear right? I guess I should so people can skip them if they want. Or only read them maybe.

“Ah, the City. I will spread my buttery justice over your every nook and cranny.” – The Tick

I recently purchased an RPG called Henchmen from Canterbury Games Studio.  It’s one of many cool games that I’ll probably never play.  The idea, as you can probably guess, is that you’re the minions of a supervillain trying to survive and become elite mooks.  For me it’s the right amount of tongue-in-cheek without being full on silly. 

There’s a section about creating you city that I think can be helpful for writing and roleplaying both.  The worldbuilding between the two isn’t exactly the same as I’ve very geniusly pointed out before but there’s a lot of overlap, my genius notwithstanding. 

When I’m playing an RPG what really gets me engaged, especially in a modern or future setting, is a city that seems like a real place.  It’s somewhat less important to me when I’m reading but it’s still always kind of a breaker when the story takes place somewhere that doesn’t seem like a real place.

Here’s there’s list of things you should come up with to populate your city, all credit given to Canterbury Games Studio mea culpa etc.  It’s superhero focused of course, but I still think it’s a good way to get the ideas popping around.

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

• Two Villains who work in The City

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

• The heads of the three richest families in The City

• The mayor and chief of police – to give harried no comments to the news anchor

• A TV news anchor – for when the henchmen see their crimes on the news

• A famous rock/pop star, who is really ‘big’ in The City

• A famous industrialist

• Two ‘ordinary’ criminal gangs

• A no-questions-asked fleapit hotel

• A major hospital

• A university with an active research department

• A bank with extensive vaults

• Three facilities, like labs or factories, that work on advanced technology, experimental science or chemicals

• The docks and/or an airport where foreign material and individuals can enter or leave the city

• An infamous prison, holding facility or insane asylum

• A casino, either legitimate or illegitimate depending on the laws of the city

• The fanciest hotel in the city

• A slum with a sinister or ironic nickname where the police only go in force

• A bar or club where the lowlifes hang out

• A bar or club that only the elite can enter

• A public park or open space – good for covert meetings and public showdowns

• The known public headquarters of a superhero or superteam

• A district full of the mansions and houses of the elite

• A big public entertainment venue such a stadium or concert hall

• The City’s biggest shopping district

• The City’s financial district

• The headquarters of a major news organization

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. 

Legion of minor characters 3 – The Multiple Malicious Mercenary Minions of the Four

Maeve – see previous post https://elatheexpert.com/2021/04/21/red-hair-dont-care/

Wildcat

Ruth Rig is a poor Manchester girl rejected and taunted for her bizarre appearance.  When her father started beating her for the crime of being ugly, she lashed out at him with her claws, drawing blood.  Shortly thereafter, she became the ward of a special government project tasked with the study of NBHs.  For some reason, being raised in a sterile laboratory as a trained beast without love or affection made her turn cruel and callous.

This personality served her well later when she was used as a tool against the NBH assets of other nations and factions.  She was an effective agent and became marginally happier.  When she was sent to kill someone not unlike herself, things changed.  The two fell instantly and hopelessly in love and now they work together, fighting for themselves.

Ruth has a deeply held resentment for “normal” humans, male humans in particular.  Even during serious combat she can’t help but taunt and insult them, wanting her victims to be terrified and humiliated before they die.  She’s been confined and abused her entire life and now it’s her turn to repay the world for what’s been done to her.  Her one soft spot is Elizabeth, who she truly loves and is showing her that not everyone is cruel and awful, just most people. 

Ruth has enhanced hearing and seems to be able to literally sense danger, which combined with her heightened agility and speed makes her a very difficult opponent to land a blow on.  Ruth is very, very, very quick.  She attacks viciously and without remorse. 

Wildcat (also, she’s thinking of changing it now)

Elizabeth Page was born to a wealthy family – a family wealthy enough to hide her from the world so thoroughly that she hardly even existed.  They gave her as much attention and affection as they could stomach but eventually Elizabeth decided that a lifetime of confinement and familial shame wasn’t going to work for her.  When she escaped her special room in the basement and ran away, her family breathed a sigh of relief. 

On her own she was quickly captured by one of the many shadowy organizations that like to use NBHs as their attack beasts.  She was trained to the best of their abilities and became one of their most loyal operatives.  Until she saw Ruth.  She never believed in love at first sight before, maybe not love at all, but in an instant, all that mattered was the two of them.  Elizabeth betrayed her support team, killing them to a man and she and Ruth ran off together to fight against anyone who wanted to fight.  And also for money.

Elizabeth has never been bothered by her appearance, she finds herself to be beautiful and interesting – normal humans look like ugly shaved apes to her.  She is a natural show-off, as well as incredibly cocky, and believes herself to be undefeatable in combat, not having picked up on the fact that Ruth is actually much more powerful than she is. 

Elizabeth is overprotective of Ruth, especially given that Ruth is the stronger of the two, and sometimes her love comes close to smothering – a fact that is exacerbated by Ruth’s background and discomfort with any kind of emotional connection.  Elizabeth is swift and highly mobile and well trained in fighting, but her “natural” abilities are nowhere near as significant as Ruth’s.

Sledge

Travis Mann was a Pecos high school football hero.  He was six foot tall his 7th-grade year and ran the forty in 5.2 seconds.  He was a god among men at the age of 15.  Everyone expected him to go pro and become a big star.  Didn’t exactly work out like that.  His professional career consisted of one game as a Cowboy’s second-stringer before a failed drug test got him shown the door.  He bounced around from practice squad to practice squad for a few years before moving home and telling everyone that he had a career-ending knee injury.

People didn’t quite look at him the same way, but it’s not like he failed, he was injured tragically, so he retained enough celebrity to get his name put on the water tower. That was the high-water mark of his success. His car dealership flopped, his realty business tanked, and his steakhouse lasted less than a year. His marriage didn’t last even that long.  When you never have anything denied, you never learn how to say “no”.  After his fifth affair (fifth that was discovered anyway), his wife left him.  Which was depressing, but the cocaine made that problem go away.  

When his old pal that used to get him the good steroids told him there was a way that he could get back to the NAFL, he didn’t need to be told twice.  He was barely told once before he was on the table.  He woke up stronger, faster, and tougher than ever.  He was also a hairless freak with skin the color and texture of concrete.  The ladies weren’t going to be interested in that!  Travis went berserk, destroying everything in his path before falling into the common role of hired muscle.

Warrior  

When Liew Sun Yee escaped from the repressive regime of the Taiping Kingdom, she headed for the Arkansas Republic, world-renowned for its racial harmony and multiculturalism.  The reality was a little less rosy.  Everywhere you go there are people on top and there are people on bottom, things were better in the Republic than in the Kingdom, but the environment was not as enlightened as they would have the world believe.  

Firmly ensconced as second-class citizens, her son Danny grew up determined to make things better for himself and his mother.  He worked hard and started a career in electrical engineering while still in high school.  In his early twenties he founded his own company, and within a few years he was worth millions.  He found that people liked his money well enough but they didn’t much change their opinion about him, and especially not about his mother who they viewed as an ignorant peasant.  

His bitterness reached a tipping point when his mother revealed the identity of his father – a member of Taiping’s super-powered national organization, Tiger Force. He was known as the Green Dragon, a man considered a terrorist and an enemy of the state in several North American nations.  Danny decided to use his wealth to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He designed a chamber that “supercharges” him with a specific heliomagnetic frequency that makes him resistant to harm and amplifies his strength temporarily.  When in this supercharged state, his most powerful ability is the manipulation of electromagnetic resonance fields that allow him to create constructs of glowing green hard light.

Dragonfly

Jimmy James spent most of his early life hitching rides all across Pecos, the CS, and Canada working odd jobs and doing copious amounts of drugs.  Jimmy likes to tell people that he uses substances as tools to access deeper inner exploration of the mind, but really he just likes to get high off his ass.  

Jimmy joined various “movements” and the like because they often have access to the “good stuff” but was usually so lazy and unmotivated that even cults couldn’t find much use for him.  Until he bumped into the pithily nicknamed “Nightmare Factory” – a criminal organization run by a “doctor” that claimed to be from an alternate dimension.  Their success rate at creating super-beings was frightfully low, but that mattered little to the wealthy individuals that were sold the rare successes as guards or enforcers. 

To avoid notice, the Factory mostly conducted their punishing experiments on animals but weren’t above kidnapping transients as well.  Jimmy had fallen into their clutches when a joint US-Pecos military operation crushed the organization, culminating in the good doctor detonating his main complex and killing more than 200 people – but not Jimmy, who escaped during the battle.

Jimmy is unwittingly the Factory’s greatest success – not only is he gifted with gliding, superhuman agility, natural fighting abilities, and mimetic muscle memory that allows him to replicate any physical movement or fighting style he sees perfectly, but he also looks completely human.  The same cannot be said for any of his fellows, there was a reason the place was called the Nightmare Factory.

Jimmy figured he should do something with his new abilities, and settled on stalking his ex-girlfriend and stealing drugs that he wanted.  When the police tried to shoot him, he decided that he should beat them up.  And suddenly he’s a criminal?  Harsh man, harsh.  

Mauler

Petro Groza lived a pretty ordinary life until he died for the first time.  Dying and coming back to life was strange enough, but upon doing so, he found himself to be incredibly strong as well.  Petro likes to play up that he brought something back with him from the other side, something that tempts him into a life of crimes, but the truth is that once you’ve died and been resurrected a couple times, it’s pretty easy to decide that nothing matters and you should do whatever you want.

Petro never thinks too far ahead and likes to leave the planning to others, which is why he’s spent half his lives incarcerated in one fashion or another, until he manages to break out.  He’s been killed three times by the police and once by another super criminal who accidentally blew him up while trying to break him out of a secure facility in Germany.  

Petro’s a basic knockdown kind of guy, in that he knocks down whoever gets in his way.  He walks into any sort of trouble without too much worry, assuming he can handle it. And if not, he’ll be back from the dead quickly anyway.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) he’ll piss off someone that will keep killing him until he stays dead.

Shake & Rattle 

Otto Franklin’s mother died when he was young, leaving him to be raised solely by his father – a drill sergeant in the US Army.  To say that papa Franklin was a stern disciplinarian is putting it lightly.  Otto was expected to maintain his room, his grades, and himself in a certain proscribed condition and any infraction resulted in bounteous amounts of push-ups, sit-ups, and five-mile runs.  Every year on his birthday, Otto was required to run as many miles as years he was old with his father pacing him – if he was “dogging” it, he had to do it again until he got it right.  By the time he was 12, Otto could outshoot most of his father’s trainees.  

When he joined the Marines at 18, Otto found that his new life was pretty easy compared to the murderous discipline of his childhood.  Otto was badly wounded in ‘64 taking out a terrorist camp in the Andes and spent over a year learning how to walk again.  Given an honorable discharge, Otto found that he had a hard time finding a job but that his skills were great at helping him rob loan sharks and numbers runners.  When the organized crime groups behind these victims decided that Otto was a problem, he discovered that his skills were pretty useful in taking care of them too.

Otto used his ill-gotten gains to purchase and design state of the art weaponry and equipment, in particular a non-powered armored environmental suit.  Otto was freelancing for various groups until he really hit the bigtime when he joined up with two similar technologically based “super criminals”.  Under the callsigns Shake, Rattle, and Roll the trio was able to make some big-time money and build an excellent reputation as “troubleshooters”.

The alliance took a hit when “Roll” was killed in a firefight during a job in Toronto.  Otto, who was never that friendly to begin with was left with just Rattle, who he finds annoying and stupid.  Otto resents that he had to work hard to make it whereas Rattle just fell backwards into his tech.  Otto doesn’t end the partnership because he realizes that he and Rattle make a formidable team and have a lucrative future together, which makes him begrudge his partner even more.

Aloisio Abreu started out as a small-time smuggler moving various illegal goods from South America into the Caribbean States.  Things changed for him when he spotted what he thought was a downed aircraft on Chacachacare Island.  It was a downed craft alright, a downed spacecraft.  

Aloisio was only able to grab one item before fleeing from a joint US-CS Alien Extermination squad – a collapsible cannon-like smart rifle with multiple firing modes, holographic scope, seemingly infinite ammo, self-securing and self-storage features, capable of destroying fairly large objects in one blast, not to mention vaporizing a human size target.  But that’s not all!  The alien weapon also features a helpful AI that speaks a variety of earth languages, not to mention a personal protective barrier generator proven to be effective against bullets, concussive forces, fire, explosions, and car crashes.

Deciding that his smuggling days were over, Aloisio dubbed himself Laser (which his gun does not fire) and began a career as hired muscle, which usually degenerated into his employers trying to steal his fantastic super gun.  Things turned around for Aloisio when he met up with Otto, although a bitter fight about being called “Rattle” instead of Laser highlighted that their personal relationship wasn’t going to be a bed of roses.  Aloisio is scared to his very core that people will think he’s named after a baby rattle and before Roll’s body was even cold, he was asking to be switched to “Roll” which to him is short for Rock & Roll and therefore a perfect name for a cool guy like himself.  Otto refuses to change the names just to annoy Aloisio.   

Aloisio plays the role of the patsy for Otto, pretending not to take offense at his insults and pretending not to be aware of his enmity, but secretly Aloisio dreams of the day that their partnership becomes unprofitable and he can annihilate his arrogant and selfish “partner” without regret.  

November 29, 1973 – Winners, some days there aren’t any

After getting tossed from the Shipyard, I was just about to ask what we were going to do about Elvis when Martialla sucker-punched me.  What’s the origin of that term?  Is the person punching the sucker or the person being punched?  I hate getting punched.  That may seem like a stupid thing to say, no one likes getting punched (well, almost no one) but I really don’t like it.  She punched me right in the mouth too, which is a real bitch move if you ask me.  Out of the water she has no super-strength but she’s still someone trained in punching.  I mean compared to getting shot in the damn foot it didn’t hurt that much, but it still god damn hurt.  What hurt more is getting knocked on my ass.  I think I bruised my coccyx. 

I put a hand to my mouth and saw blood “Jesus Christ, what was that for?!”

Instead of answering, she ducked and slithered under Blue’s restraining arm and tried to get me in some kind of hold.  Fat chance lady.  Some of us are strong all the time.  I hurled her away like a bull shaking off a clod of shit and she rolled across the ground a couple times before popping up into some kind of fighting stance.  Blue got a hold of her as I probed my mouth (phrasing) where she had belted me.

“I think you cracked one of my fucking teeth!  What is wrong with you?!”

Even on her dumb fish face, I could tell she was incredulous “Me?  What’s wrong with me?”

“Yeah, what are you, six years old?  Why did you attack me?  We don’t fight each other, use your words like a big girl.”

Blue was speechless as Martialla gave me a death stare “Ela, why can’t you ever just follow the plan?  I am being serious right now, do you have some kind of mental disease?  What makes you act like this?  We had everything worked out!”

“I didn’t want to do her thing, it sounded dumb.  She told me where Baron Iaogo . . .” 

Blue interjected “Iorgu.” 

“. . . WHATEVER, she told me where the Baron is so we just go straight to him.  None of this bullshit where we help one criminal against another and then wait to see if we get double-crossed. What are you so pissed about?  Now we can go get your niece, because of ME.  How about a little fucking gratitude?”

She laughed bitterly “Yes, it’s all about you Ela.  My problem is that you keep making enemies out of our allies!  How are we going to live long enough to rescue my niece when you keep doing moronic things like this?”

I gestured angrily “I got the information, how is that moronic?  I feel . . .”

Martialla spread her arms out and yelled at the few people not staying far away from us “Attention! Attention everyone!  Princess has a feeling, let’s all stop whatever we’re doing and listen while she explains how hard her life is and how it makes her feel.” 

“What the hell is your problem?” 

“You almost got us all killed!  We should have been killed!  I’m tired of you acting like a child because you feel sorry for yourself.  What?  Your head hurts?  You’re hungry?  Let’s hear about that for the nine hundredth time!  You sit there pretty as a picture and whine and whine and whine.” She held out her webbed hands “LOOK what they did to ME!  LOOK at me!  I’m the creature from the black lagoon!

You got powers and yet all you can do is complain.  They took my niece!  I literally swam hundreds of miles to get here and find her and since day one all you do is talk about how sad you are.”  She gestured at Blue “And what they did to me was nothing compare to what they did to Lucien.  Look at him, you think he likes being like that?  And all he does is wait on you hand and fucking foot.  And do you ever thank him for anything?  You are the most selfish person I’ve ever met in my life and I’m sick of it!

Toughen the hell up!” 

She stared at me for a long while before continuing “It isn’t easy for me either you know.  You like to talk about how bad you have it, but I had it way worse than you.  I was on my own.” She gestured expansively “Out there.  I had my sister to worry about and keep safe.  You think your life is such a fucking tragedy?   Who was looking out for me?  Fucking nobody!  You complain all the time about how you can’t trust anyone, you think it’s easy for me to trust anyone?”

“I never thought about it.”

“Of course not, why would you ever think about anyone else?  Ela you are selfish, and you are cruel, and you treat me and Blue like servants.  What kind of friendship is that?”

“The only one I’ve ever really had.”

She took a breath like she was steeling herself before plunging into cold water “I think we’ve reached the end of the trail, Ela.  I can’t afford to be your friend anymore.  It’s too dangerous.  I think it’s best that we go our separate ways.”

The words came a lot easier than I expected “Please don’t leave me.  I know I’m a bad friend, I wish I could say that I’ll change but I don’t know if I can.  I’m scared all the time, I’m not a fighter like you and Blue, I can’t even speak the language here.  I feel like I’m stuck in molasses, going nowhere slowly.  I’m starting to realize that I’ve never faced true adversity in my life before.  The hardships I‘ve had – not getting a record deal, not getting on with my parents, money problems, relationship issues, things like that back home – that was nothing.  I realize that now.  Homeless, rootless, penniless, hunted, stranded in a strange land – I’m not cut out for it.  But here I am anyway.  I know that I don’t deserve your loyalty, but I’m asking for it.  Please don’t leave me alone.”

After what seemed like an eternity, she spoke “Do what you said Ela, help me get my niece back like you said when the first met.  Show me that my concerns matter to you at all.  Then we’ll just see what happens after that.”

She walked away and I started to go after her but Blue told me to give her some time to cool off.  We both watched her disappear into the crowd and then after a beat, Blue looked down at me curiously.

“What?”

Blue flicked is tongue in my direction “How did you get Serpentina to tell you where the Baron is?”

“I kicked her ass and made her tell me.  Well I guess really all I did was push her down and step on her.  I’m not sure why you were so afraid of her, she wasn’t very tough.”

Blue threw his hands up “That’s impossible, I’ve seen her file!  She’s got sixty confirmed kills.  And who knows how many others?!  You can’t fight!  You just said so!” I shrugged again “Apparently I can enough.  Plus, you don’t have to be a good fighter to kill people.  You should know that.  You said she was an assassin right?  Not a soldier.  She probably shook her ass in her marks’ faces and then poisoned them.  That doesn’t make you a good fighter.”

November 29, 1973 – Elvis has left the building

The good news is that my leg had gone numb so the pain was gone.  That’s also the bad news because I feel that losing sensation in a limb is a bad sign.  Remind me never to get shot in the bottom of the foot again.  I don’t care for it.  My leg wasn’t able to bear weight so I was unable to kneel with my hands behind my head like we were instructed.  I was in more of a classic centerfold position with one hand on my head and the other on the ground to support me.  Instead of sitting back on her heels like a normal person, Martialla was upright on her knees so she could glare down at me angrily.   

Blue was up on his feet talking to the Nightwitch a little ways off.  My man had a crater in his back the size of a basketball from where he had been blasted by a god damn bazooka but it didn’t seem to bother him much.  He is one tough blue lizard.  There was barely even any blood seeping out, I’ve seen more blood when I cut a bump on my leg shaving.  His healing factor isn’t so fast that you could watch it happening, but the hole was markedly smaller than it was just fifteen minutes ago.

The freak legion had taken us through a series of hallways and down a tunnel to emerge in what looked like another soccer field.  I really need to see a blueprint of this place, how can there be two fields in one stadium?  Is this like a practice facility?  Unlike the main arena, this was just an empty field rather than a teeming open air market of guns and drugs and super-guns and super-drugs.  There was a helicopter parked there but that was the only thing not normally found on a soccer field.

We had been brought before THE FOUR, the secretive masters of the Shipyard, to answer for our crimes.  Although at the moment, it was only THE THREE because the pirate guy wasn’t around.  Unless he was around and he was invisible.  The word on the street is that he’s a “normal” guy whose only power is having lots of guns, but that’s what I would want people to think if I could turn invisible too.  I’d keep my invisibility ability on the QT.  

I had assumed that chick in the white suit with the sword that Blue had knocked cold was Kezi, but that proved to be incorrect.  She was just some other woman with a magic sword, because the real Kezi was there standing around looking disdainful and supervillainy with HER magic sword.  She had a similar outfit to Serpentina, I wonder if there’s just the one supplier for ladies to get their form-fitting all-covering vinyl sexy villain suits.  At least she hadn’t dyed her hair red.

I had also assumed that lizard guy that Blue had messed up was Yihetuan but I was wrong about that too, because the real Yihetuan was there with Kezi and the Nightwitch, looking massive and lizardy.  If you had asked me before I came to Madripoor, I would have told you that all lizard guys would mostly look the same like a real lizard racist.  That preMadripoor me could not have been more wrong.  The lizard guy in the hallway, whoever he was, had a vibe of being an actual lizard stood upright like a man.  Blue is more along the lines of a humanoid lizard.  And this new guy is different again, looking like a big dude with scales more than an actual lizard.  And they’re all different colors as well, Blue is the best in that regard.  I’ve only seen four lizard guys and they’re all very different.

When the Nightwitch was done talking to Blue, she came over to me.  Despite the rumors, she didn’t look much like a voodoo priestess to me.  She didn’t have dreadlocks, there was no snake draped across her shoulders, she wasn’t wearing a top hat and carrying a lantern made from a human head, she didn’t even have a stick with an animal skull on it – she looked more like the women you’d see in a company pamphlet about how great they are at hiring people of color.  She wasn’t wearing a lady business suit or anything, she just had that businessperson air about her.  Like the guy in The Mattei Affair, only a lady.

I looked up at her hopefully “I can explain.”

“I’m sure you can but it doesn’t matter, this kind of thing is very bad for business.  People need to feel safe here.  If Lucien wasn’t a friend, you’d already be dead.”

“Uh . . . thanks?”

She smiled humorlessly “Don’t mention it.  I don’t know much about you, white girl, but from what I hear, you are unpredictable, you fight when you should make deals, and even worse you run when you should fight. That kind of behavior makes people nervous. It’s hard to make money when you don’t know what to expect and there’s no other reason for anyone to be in Madripoor.”

“Are you going to be coming to a point any time soon?”

She threw her head back and laughed uproariously “Oh sorry, am I wasting your time?  I can see why Lucien likes you, I’ll feel sorry for him when your smart mouth gets you killed.  I would wager on that happening before the year is out.  Maybe we can start a pool around the office.  The point that you’re so eager for me to get to is that this is your lucky day.  It turns out that you can help my partner with something she’s very keen on, so you and Lucien and your Canadian mermaid friend all get to live.  Assuming you’re willing to give Kezi the aid she needs.”

“Of course, I love helping people.” 

She smiled again “Yes, I can tell that about you just from the short conversation we’ve had here.  I’ll leave you and Kezi to it then, and sadly I must inform you that you are no longer welcome in my fine establishment.  Should you be caught inside these walls again once our business here is concluded, you will be killed on sight.  You understand how it is.”

“Certainly, business is business, I wouldn’t want to interfere in the process of making money, capital and amalgamation and so forth.  And may I say that I really admire what you have accomplished here, making it to the top of a criminal enterprise as a black woman can’t be easy, you have my respect.”

She chuckled “You just can’t help yourself, can you?  Good luck to you, white girl, you’re going to need it.”

Before we got down to brass tacks, Kezi was nice enough to heal my leg.  Remember when I said that getting shot was the worst pain I’ve felt?  I now have a new benchmark.  Getting shot felt like my entire leg was on fire.  Whatever she did made it feel like the bullet-tunnel through my leg was filled with gunpower and then set on fire from the inside.  It was the kind of thing that made me wish that I had never been born.  It only lasted a few moments, but it felt like enough pain for an entire lifetime.  I screamed so loudly and comprehensively that I felt something “go” in my throat.  No singing for me for a while.  When it was over, my leg was fine but I felt drained.  Since I was given my powers I never feel tired anymore, but at that moment I felt weak like I had just run a double marathon, it was a few minutes before I could even sit up.

Martialla seemed to be taking no small amount of delight in my discomfort and even Blue didn’t seem all that sympathetic.  Once I was able to gather myself, Kezi instructed me through an interpreter. All I had to do was touch her blade and say some words in what I assume was Japanese.  It was just that simple.  

Next thing I know, Elvis is standing there beside me.  He didn’t look like Elvis though, he looked like a photo negative of Elvis – the color was all wrong.  The visual was so bizarre and preposterous that it didn’t look real, it looked like a crappy effect from a movie with no budget for effects.  It was hard to look at it, it hurt the eyes.  Kezi gestured and negative Elvis shuffled forward and was absorbed into her blade like water soaking into a sponge.  With that, she turned and walked away.

“What the fuck was that?!  What did you do?!”

The interpreter, a small woman in a yellow and white dress, patted me on the shoulder “It would be a shame to let fighting ability like that go to waste, you should be happy, now your friend can serve mistress even in death.”