The spy who just liked me as a friend (content warning, lady boobs!!!)

Also god-butt.

This blog https://sarahholz.com/2022/05/20/of-pirates-and-persians-chariton-of-aphrodisias-callirhoe/ made me aware of this painting. 

It’s called “A Girl Defending Herself against Eros” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  Eros is (was?) the Greek god of love who shoots people with love arrows to make them fall in love. 

I imagine in this scene that Eros has already tried to shoot the girl a few times and she ducked and dodged and/or kung-fu chopped the love arrows out of the air so now he’s coming at her stabby style.  She’s not into it, she doesn’t want to be in love, she has things to do. 

I’ve been showing this around and one person asked why Eros was trying to kill the girl and I explained that it was “just” a love arrow stab not attempted murder.  It made me realized how messed up the power to make people fall in love would be.  “Oh, you’re in a relationship, well WHAM now you love this other person!  How you like that?!”

My first thought was that it’s a violation of free will it is!  But that’s not right.  Because you don’t choose who you love.  Or maybe you do sort of but it’s still not cool to love arrow people. 

I vaguely remember a guy in Marvel comics who had some kind of love power.  I think he was in the She-Hulk universe.  He just used the power to sexually assault ladies though.  Mainstreams comics don’t normally touch on those sort of things but they throw you a weird curveball every now and then like that whole Dr. Light thing.

Or when that guy hypnotized Superman and Barda into making a porno so he could blackmail them afterwards.  Which makes no sense because if you can hypnotize Superman and Barda why do you need to resort to blackmail?  Maybe the subtext is that his power was that he only hypnotize people into making porn.  There’s definitely weirder powers in DC than that.

A person told me that the most unrealistic thing about my writing is that Martialla and Ela make jokes about porn.  No woman would ever do that they said. 

Taylor Tomlinson has a funny bit about how proud men are of themselves when they fall in love.  She really got me with that one.  I do kind of feel proud of myself sometimes.  The other half of the joke is that in contrast women congratulate themselves on not falling in love with a guy on the first date.  I don’t know if that’s true but it was funny also. 

Anyway, I’ve explained love to you all so now you know. 

OOC – Wandering Wednesday

(I’m still too lazy to continue the story so here’s yet another idea for another superhero run.  The deal here would be the person journaling from prison about their journey through supervillainy.  But then in a SHOCKING SURPRISE TWIST another supervillain busts them out and we go into real time stuff mode.  Why did they do it?  What’s the motivation?  You don’t break someone out of superjail just for a smash and grab, what’s going on?  We’ll probably never find out.)

The prison chaplain said that I should start a journal.  So I am.  It won’t help anything but what else am I going to do?  I have time.  When it became clear that I was going down my lawyer told me that women’s prisons aren’t nightmare factories like men’s prisons.  She told me that in prison I could take classes and help train puppies and do crafts.  That might be true but I wouldn’t know because I’m not in a women’s prison. 

What I do know, now, is that there are only two super-being containment facilities in the world and both of them are for everyone.  There’s no money to be made in creating a separate facility for women super beings, there aren’t enough of us.  We’re not all mixed together, that would be a nightmare.  There’s a rule that there can be no “sight or sound contact that is not brief and inadvertent” between male and female inmates.  What this means is that the handful of women here are essentially in lockdown all the time.  Once a month they chase all the men out of the yard so we get an hour of exercise time.  Other than that we’re in our cells.

Sounds illegal right?  Well here’s something else I’ve learned, super-beings don’t have the same protections and civil liberties as everyone else.  They don’t advertise this fact but the law doesn’t treat us like human beings exactly, in the eyes of the law we’re more like circus animals or barrels of acid.  It’s not that we don’t have any rights, but the law is far more concerned with keeping us from hurting anyone than they are about us not being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. 

What sucks is that there’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t even be here.  There’s one doctrine that says that anyone who’s “enhanced” counts as a super-being.  Which I probably am but it’s never been proven.  But there’s another legal theory that says that in order to be a categorized as a super-being you have to have abilities that exceed established baseline human thresholds.  Which I do not. 

Neither one of these are written into law, they’re just guidelines that people use and no one has ever decided that one or the other is “right”.  If I could contact my lawyer I would tell her this and she could make a case for getting me transferring to a normal correction facility, but here’s the double suck to the suck, since I’ve already been labeled a super-being and convicted and sentenced I’m not allowed any contact with the outside world, not even for legal stuff.

Being falsely labeled a super-being is a real catch-22 because part of the super-being label is that you lose the much of your ability to appeal that label. 

Anyway, I should start at the beginning.  When I was younger I liked telling people that my mom is a supervillain.  You know, to get attention.  It is true that she was a villain but there was nothing super about her. 

She worked for AIM, those goofy people that run around in stupid yellow suits with the big helmets.  You know, the organization whose leader is a giant Mardi Gras head with no body and proportionally tiny arms and legs that can’t support it or do anything.  My mom was one of them.  She always told me that AIM was different from HYDRA because AIM aren’t Nazis but they brought back Red Skull like three times and he’s the king Nazi. 

Her big contribution to AIM was that she reversed engineered Calvin Zabo’s formula for hormonal transformation and made a pill that temporarily increases strength, stamina, durability, and resistance to physical injury.  Like a professor with tenure I think she pretty much coasted after that and just made super-pills for low-level criminal assholes. 

She made this break-through by experimenting on sex workers without their consent.  Some of them died, which I why when I turned her notes over to the police she went to prison and I went to live with my grandma.  It’s also why you might bump into a super-powered sex worker if you’re into that sort of thing.  It’s not likely but they’re out there.  A few of them.

I wish that I had been able to speak to my mom without her trying to kill me because I’d really like to know the story of how she ended up working for AIM.  How do someone go from biochemistry and pharmaceutical master’s programs at prestigious universities to wearing a skin-tight giant yellow suit with a Minecraft box head?  

If that’s my mom who’s my dad?  Good question, I’m glad you asked.   I have no dad in the sense of a dude that helped raise me.  My mom says that biologically my father is Steve Rogers.  Captain America Steve Rogers.  My mom lied to me a lot but I think this is true because I can bench press 700 pounds, I run a 4.2 40, and I am unbeatable at Frisbee golf.  I think it’s reasonable to believe that my physical abilities, which are all within normal human ranges I would like to remind you for the record, come from whatever’s crazy 1940’s “vita-rays” are bouncing around in my DNA from old Steve Rogers. 

To be clear my mom didn’t say that she bounced around with Cap.  In fact she claims that Steve Rogers is a virgin but I don’t believe that.  I’ve seen old pictures of that Sidewinder woman he used to hang out with.  I know women aren’t supposed to say this about other women but based on her appearance there’s no way she wasn’t getting some action from Captain GD America.  Or maybe that is okay to say?  Is that sex positivity?  I get confused with that stuff. 

As she tells it she was on the scene when Cap and Falcon and maybe Mockingbird broke up one of her super-pill sales and while Cap was fighting with her business partner Cyberiad Captain Steve got cyber-walloped right in the smacker.  Busted up America’s most kissable man-lips.  While the fight was going on my mom slipped in and grabbed some of Steve Roger’s blood.  Which she then extracted the DNA from to synthesize whatever you use for IVF and used that to fertilize one of her eggs.  Which she did not implant in her womb of course, she made a big tube full of goo to grow me in.  Maybe that means the tube is my real mom.    

My mom was pretty good at science.  I wonder what she could have accomplished if she didn’t focus her science-ing on evil super- pills and making Steve Rogers babies on a lark.  But even more I wonder what mental disorder made her do those things. 

I guess that’s a good enough introduction to start off with.  I have a wall I need to stare at for six to ten hours now. 

Freaky Friday – The Unreturn of Super Ela

I’ll pick back up with the Elapocalypse next week for anyone paying attention. The Super Ela storyline has been my favorite to write so far, it’s too bad she suddenly died. One of the 8-17 ideas I have for the future, assuming I don’t get bored of this blog, is doing another version of that. I had the urge to write a possible preview of what that might be.

When I got home, Mythandria was stretched out on my couch on her side idly playing some game on my tablet.  Like she always is.  She was wearing her magic metal monokini thing.  Like she always is.  As far as I know, she only ever took it off to shower and she doesn’t even do that anymore.  She’s a gorgeous being, truly and indisputably she is, but I’ve come to loathe the sight of her body.  You see all that skin every day, day after day, and it starts to wear on you.  I wonder if the same thing happens to security guards in a museum.  After you’ve looked at Michelangelo’s David hanging dong in your face for two hundred days in the row, can you still appreciate it or do you wish you had a sledgehammer?  She would be a little more gorgeous if not for the trail of Flamin’ Hot Cheeto dust on her smooth hairless belly and the smear of chocolate on her cheek (or maybe BBQ sauce) but that’s par for the course these days. 

Zamphour Santraginean was sitting in my chair watching my TV.  Like he often is.  His current appearance was that of Brad Pitt.  Like it often is.  I hate when he does that.  You know how weird it is to come home to find Brad Pitt sitting in your crappy apartment watching the news?  The worst part is his posture.  I don’t know if Skrulls are natural slouchers or what his issue is, but seeing Brad Pitt slumped over like a round-shouldered loser really ruins the mystique.  Same goes for a shirtless Tom Hardy struggling to open a pickle jar in a full body dry heave.  When you first start living with a shape-shifting alien you think “this will be fun” but after you’ve seen Kevin James come out of the bathroom after a shower with no towel, you change your mind in a hurry. 

At least Zamphour means well, he works a part time job at Sub Shack.  When he remembers what day he works and what day it is.  He has a real problem with earth dates.  Notwithstanding telling time, he pitches in whatever money he makes.  I could point out that he could make a lot more money as a celebrity impersonator or a model but I won’t, because at least he contributes.  Mythandria doesn’t do jack shit but lay around in her Mithril Return of the Jedi Princess Leia outfit and play Candy Crush.  She doesn’t pay rent, she doesn’t cook, she doesn’t clean, she doesn’t do anything.  She might as well be a house plant.  Actually no, at least a plant makes oxygen, she takes my oxygen so she’s worse than a plant.  I will point out that she could make a fortune as a model or an “actress” that can’t act because she doesn’t contribute anything.   

“Ghoram steel.” Mithandria’s voice is so luminous and melodic that sometimes it takes a moment to realize that it’s a person talking and not angels singing. 

“What?” I said confusedly in my tiny bit-too-low voice.  Sometimes on the phone people think I’m a dude. 

She tapped on one of her tit-plates, which was struggling to contain her bounty in a way that looked like some kind of bondage porn you’d see online “It’s made out of Ghoram steel, not Mithril.  Mithril isn’t real.” 

“Stay out of my mind!” 

“You were projecting, I couldn’t help it.” 

“Well at least put on some fucking pants.” 

She raised a naturally perfectly framed eyebrow that she never has to pluck or maintain at me “Language Ela, there’s no need for profanity.” 

I snorted “How many times have you been cited for public indecency?  Seventeen?  Who are you to lecture me?” 

“You can’t legislate the beauty of living creatures.” 

“They can legislate your ass cheeks jiggling in some six-year old’s face.” 

She hadn’t looked up from my tablet during this entire exchange but she gave Zamphour a look as if to say “this bitch right?”  I dropped my bag and keys on the table with a sigh.  What do I do?  I perform standardized lab tests on colors, flavors, and fragrances used mostly in pharmaceuticals but also for food and beverage, cosmetics, home and personal care products, and specialty printing ink.  For example, orange juice is stored in these giant tanks where they put so much gunk in it to keep it from going bad that it ends up having no flavor or scent.  So before they sell it to you, they buy orange juice taste and smell chemicals from us and dump it in the vat so you can drink it and pretend like it’s not a glassful of organo-nitrates.  It’s even more boring than it sounds.  But it pays the bills.  Like eighty percent of the time.  

Zamphour pointed his Pitt chin at the kitchen in a very awkward ugly un-Pittlike way “There’s sausage balls on the stove.” 

I walked into the kitchen “What the fuck is a sausage ball?” 

“Cream cheese, ground turkey sausage, flour, shortening, shredded cheese, bake at three hundred and fifty earth degrees.” 

I poked at the saucepan on the stove with a wooden spoon “You don’t have to say earth degrees, I know we’re on earth.  How old was that cream cheese?” 

He looked up, which is not a real gesture he does when thinking but something he does to try and mimic what humans look like when they think “Uh . . . three years.” 

“A year is how long it takes the planet to make a full orbit around the sun, try again.” 

He frowned in concentration, another affectation – Skrulls mostly emote with their ears I’ve come to know “Three minutes?” 

 I shook my head “Jesus dude, learn time.” 

The sausage balls didn’t smell too bad so I dumped some in a bowl and put them in the microwave.  While I was waiting, I leaned on the doorjamb and saw what Zamphour was so engrossed by on the TV.  There was a big commotion downtown with tons of cop cars and reporters and choppers and barricades and the usual rigmarole.   

“What’s going on?” 

“Duke Eaglevane took the city council hostage.  He’s got them wired up with bombs.” 

I halfway laughed “The city council?  Why would he take them hostage?  Most people don’t even know who’s on the city council.  He should have strapped a bomb to Kylie Jenner if he wanted people to pay him any attention.” 

Mythandria piped in helpfully “Kylie Jenner is in Curacao, I saw it on Instagram.” 

“Metroman hasn’t showed up yet?” 

Zamphour shook Brad Pitt’s head, which is a real thing he does, that seems to be a universal gesture even with aliens, human-like aliens anyway “No, Galactic Contest of Champions.” 

I thought about it for a moment “Oh shit, you’re right, I totally forgot that was coming up.  Have they given any updates on the Five?” 

“They’re across town helping the police deal with the Scorpion, bank robbery.” 

I shook my head “Fucking Duke does that every time, get some chump to rob a bank across town as a distraction, he needs some new material.” 

Mythandria chimed in again “Why would he change his tactics when it always works?” 

“Shut up Mythandria.  Have they said anything about his demands?” 

Zamphour clenched his hands together nervously as he does when I bicker with Mythandria “A thousand bitcoin.” 

“How much is that in actual money?” 

He pointed “They have a counter in the corner, it keeps going up.  The price of bitcoin has more than doubled since they started reporting on the hostage situation.” 

I shook my head again “Fucking savages.  Those people driving up the price are the real villains.  Have they said if anyone is on the way?  I feel like the Shadow Vigilantes would be next on the depth chart.” 

Mythandria finally looked away from her stupid tablet game “They’re out of town.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“Instagram.” She held up a picture of Dr. Midnight on a beach somewhere.  I don’t know who started the trend of superhero bikini pics with your mask on but I hate it, it creeps me out.   

“What about Amazonia and Shan-Ra?” 

Zamphour did a pretty poor job of making his Pitt-face imitate human bewilderment “Shan-ra?  She’s dead.” 

The microwave dinged just them “What?!  Shan-ra the She-Devil is dead?!  When did that happen?” 

Mythandria went back to her game “Week before last.  Talisman sawed her head off and left it on the steps of city hall.” 

I gawked at the callousness she was displaying “You remember how good and nice and kind you were when we first met?  What happened to you?” 

“Earth” she said sourly.  I can’t really disagree with her there.   

I grabbed the bowl of now way too hot sausage balls out of the microwave and came back into the living room “Jesus Christ, that crazy bastard finally did it huh?  He killed her.  What about Amazonia, where’s she?” 

Zamphour dipped his head with the proper respect “No one has seen her since the murder.  Probably she went back to her secret island in the Amazon to mourn.” 

I poked at the sausage balls with a fork, starving but not wanting to annihilate my mouth with hot meat (phrasing) “I’m surprised she didn’t tear Talisman limb from limb before she went.  Shit, it’s probably up to us then huh?  Maybe we should get geared up.” 

Mythandria settled deeper into the couch “You’re the only one who needs gear.” 

Before I could tell her to shut up, Zamphour stepped between us with an enthusiastic grin that did not fit Brad Pitt’s face at all “I’ll check the bus schedule.”     

Mythandria sighed theatrically “We wouldn’t have to take the bus to fight crime if someone could fly.” 

Before I could unleash a blistering retort, Zamphour jumped in again desperately “You go get ready Ela, I’ll call and see if anyone else can join us.  Cosmic Girl, Star Slayer, maybe that guy with the big axe, I forget his name but I have his number in your phone.” 

I went into the bedroom and started shrugging on my armor vest “Don’t call Star Slayer, that idiot almost blew my head off with his damn laser rifle last time we teamed up.” 

OOC – Bay of whistlepigs

Note for anyone who doesn’t know, whistlepig is another term for groundhog.

Groundhog’s Day is easily the worst holiday. It’s the beginning of February, of course there’s going to be 6 more weeks of winter. It’s winter! Also even though I really like Bill Murray, I never got the fuss about the movie Groundhog Day. I found it boring.

However. Today it was brought to my attention that Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog they drag out of the ground for this festival, is 136 years old. Which if you’re not aware is 130 years longer than a whistlepig normally lives.

That’s as may be you say?

Check out this shit from groundhog DOT org – “Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the “elixir of life,” a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.”

First of all if he drinks every year and gets 7 more years of life each time, that means he’s banked 956 years of life. Why are they still giving it to him every year?!

Secondly someone needs to steal this elixir. I don’t care if it only works on whistlepigs, the knowledge needs to be shared. I may write a story about the great whistlepig elixir theft but I’m probably too lazy. Do people like writing prompts? If so this is one. If not it’s not. I don’t want you to think I’m not cool by talking about writing prompts if you don’t like them.

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. 

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.” 

“Uncle.” 

“What?” 

“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.”