October 22, 1973 – Eat, Prey, Blood

We were presented with no bill at Le Petit Point d’Arret Parlant.  I don’t know if that’s because we’re ostensibly friends of Elvis or they thought we were robbing the place or what.  If it’s the first thing, they definitely took a loss on that transaction because I ate and drank the equivalent of roughly seventy to a hundred hours of dishwashing.   

I’ll give Elvis this, for a man under a death sentence from a violent mystical crime syndicate, he knows how to have a good time.  After he got off work we headed to a bar on the beach – not a shitty beach near the docks but not a crowded beach in touristville either.  It was nice and secluded, probably because it was one of those clothing optional deals.  I say this, Madripoor may be one of the ugliest places on earth but there are some beautiful people here.  I’m starting to get too pale.  I should be sure to find some time to lay out in-between being attacked by psychotic assassins and robbing casinos – keep a good base tan going.  You never know when you’ll be called upon to disrobe, best to stay in fighting shape.

That wasn’t Elvis’s surprise though.  We drank something that tasted like rum punch (but it’s probably something weird made out of tree sap and octopus ink) for maybe an hour at the beach and then we headed back into town.  Elvis took us to a place right outside of touristville tucked away in a Vietnamese neighborhood where they had this contraption that was something like an 8-track playback deck that people were singing along with.  I had a vocal coach once who had something like that, but this was more intricate.  You put a coin in the machine and selected one of the songs and then music would play for you to sing over.

There was also a band there that would play songs live as accompaniment instead if you preferred.  All it cost was one of the bills with a crab on it – or maybe a sailboat, abstract art you know.  As a professional singer, usually it grates on me when people try to sing that can’t, but everyone was hammered which made it much more tolerable.  Without the shame of sober inhibitions, at least people go for it you know, even if they can’t sing a lick – which most of them can’t.   

Show Me the Way to Go Home isn’t the kind of song I would normally sing, but they had a limited selection of western songs.  Curiously the band knew the entire soundtrack to Superfly, which rocked.  For the first time in a long time, since I got here probably, all my cares melted away.  I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  For a few minutes at a time, I felt totally free.  Sure, my voice sounded like crap because I’ve been smoking too much and not taking care of myself like I did back home, but it was still great.  There were maybe forty people in there but I felt like I was performing at a stadium show in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world.  It was wonderful. 

Martialla, Blue, and LBK are all actually decent singers.  Maybe that can be our gimmick as a super team. 

But that wasn’t the surprise either!  After singing our little hearts out (and more drinking), we walked a long way uphill (enough that I started to get crabby about it, I don’t get tired but my calves still get sore) to one of the second story house/apartment things they have around here, where I was greeted by the scent of something wonderful.  We walked up to an open kitchen (it was some kind of diner/food stand) where a woman who looked more like a Russian tsarina than a chef was cooking up a storm.  I saw she had just taken something out to cool – a pizza! 

I mean sure, if you want to be a jerk it was more of a flatbread than a real pizza – the sauce was on top of the cheese for instance – but I didn’t care, it was fucking pizza!  The sauce wasn’t quite right, it was more of an olive oil and diced tomato slurry, but again, I didn’t care.  It was fantastic.  I was drooling like a dog while I was eating it.  I managed to keep it together, but honestly the moment it hit my mouth, I was flooded with memories of home.  Artista Pizza Kitchen in New Orleans, hanging at The Piccadilly at Manhattan after a show, getting shitty carry-out pizza that tastes like cardboard on the road, it all came roaring into my mind.  Home.  I didn’t cry though.   

Afanasiya Andzhighatova, the cook, said that she wasn’t Russian but she and Martialla were chatting in what sure sounded like Russian to me.  Her take on pizza may have been deliciously off the mark, but she was spot-on with her bibollita, polenta, and ossobuco alla milanese.  When I asked her about it, she said that “one of” her husbands had been half Italian and he taught her a few things.  She had never heard of pizza before though.  Is that not really from Italy?  Have I been misled again? 

The wine she was serving was garbage but you can’t have everything.  I tried not to make a pig of myself, not sure I succeeded, but it was clear based on the seemingly endless food coming out that Elvis had given her the heads up about my “condition”.  Or he told her that she was catering an event for forty people.  That Elvis is a crafty jackrabbit, he wasn’t even expecting to see me that day so how did he get this set-up so quickly?  Truly Elvis works in mysterious ways. 

“Ela, didn’t you just eat approximately eight pounds of spicy noodles six hours before?” 

Shut up.  I have the paperwork (well I did but I lost it) from those science nerds saying that I need two hundred thousand calories a day to function properly.  So go take a leap.  For the first time in months I felt FULL.  It was like I could feel my body coming back to life – energy pouring into my limbs.  I felt like I could tear the peak off a mountain.  I felt like I could take on the whole world all by myself.   

I thanked Elvis profusely, it was easily the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I mean ever.  In my whole life.  He did his best to deflect everything I was throwing his way – the attention made him slightly embarrassed.  I think he’s just a good cat, you know?  In Madripoor!  Who knew?  Martialla made an “under the breath but really I want you to hear” comment about how “princess” gets homesick and everyone drops everything to wait on me hand and foot, but even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  I’ll get her a bucket of fish-heads to chew on later if she’s still feeling sore about it. 

I was feeling so good, I was starting to think that the whole thing about Elvis being killed had been a scam, which is of course when they came for him.   

October 22, 1973 (STILL) – We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out

Thao (that’s the woman who came to warn us, who actually is Elvis’s cousin) didn’t know where Elvis was.  No one ever seems to know where he is.  I wonder if his reputation for wandering the neighborhood like an itinerant monk fixing people’s clogged sinks and babysitting and helping them pirate electricity is just a cover and really he’s doing something nefarious.  Madripoor seems like that kind of place.  I read a book about Port Royal once called The Wickedest City in the World.  It was about how the place was run by pirates.  I remembering thinking – this can’t all be true, you can’t have a city where everyone is on the hustle.  You need most people to be squares, otherwise who’s going to collect the garbage and clean toilets and other things no criminal wants to do?

But here we are.  I realize now that notion was narrow-minded.  In the Coalition, surrounded by roads and parks and Dairy Queens and drive-in movies and nude hot tubbing it’s easy to think that the world is a safe place, a tame place.  It isn’t.  

Thao didn’t know where Elvis was, but she knew where he was going to be later, washing dishes at a noodle house called Le Petit Point d’Arret Parlant.  Which is a pretty weird name.  I wanted to go looking for him, but Blue and Martialla said that roaming the streets like Hensel and Gretel (I always forget that birds came and ate their trail of crumbs, I wonder why that expression caught on since it didn’t work in the fable) would do no good, and in any case the Shadow Lords weren’t likely to kill him until later.  Thao didn’t even support me, she agreed that “probably” nothing was going to happen to her cousin until that night.

I kind of checked out while they continued talking about the best way to sell the Burlington Industries murder suit to maximize profits and minimize risk.  LBK doesn’t speak French, and even though they’re Canadian, Blue and Martialla don’t have real strong English (how does that make sense?) and the Tower of Babel stuff was getting old, so I chain smoked crappy cigarettes and drank crummy Chinese beer that seems to come in a “can” made of paper instead of paying much attention to what they were saying.

My grandmother would be very disappointed in me being sullen and withdrawn just because things aren’t going my way.  I loved her dearly but she was a hard woman.  It would have been nice if I had another grandmother who was more the nurturing sort to balance things out.  I’m the leader of this group (obviously) so I should always be doing most of the talking, but I found myself sinking further back into my chair and wondering how the Tropics are doing this year.  I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  

I haven’t even been in Madripoor for two months but it feels like I’ve been here forever.  And I don’t see any chance of getting out any time soon.  There’s no way we’re getting that money, I just know we won’t.  Something will happen.  When we try to sell this stupid robot suit, Mr. X or Superkill Shadow Lord or someone else I’ve pissed off is going to attack us.  And then some other supervillain asshole crimeboss is going to show up while we’re fighting them and steal the suit.  And then use it to give me tinnitus or an itchy rash on my thighs or some other damn thing to annoy me all day every day.  I started wallowing in self-pity and it’s challenging to pull out of a good wallow.  

While I was wallowing, I had a thought.  That Stars and Stripes jerk who showed up during the fight – who was he and what was he doing there?  Blue told me that a group called the New Founding Fathers are the ones that supered me up – a dude with an America flag chest seems like the sort that would be associated with a group like that.  Maybe this is some kind of field test of my powers and he’s been watching me this whole time.  Maybe the whole thing is a set-up.  I started peering suspiciously over my beer at everyone and wondering who else might be in on it.  I need some weed to calm my nerves.  Of course, they probably don’t even smoke weed in Madripoor, they probably smoke something like weed that’s made from sea urchin venom or some bullshit that gets you high but also causes violent cramping.  Stupid Madripoor.

Eventually it was time to go save Elvis so I had to pull myself out of my funk.  Martialla found some clothes that she put on OVER her wetsuit like a lunatic.  I think that thing is melded to her sick fish-flesh, she never takes it off.  How does she pee?  And she wasn’t even getting dressed to try and blend in, she just wanted someplace to hide her guns.  Blue didn’t even bother, he had an AK (or whatever) in his hand – which is actually fine in Madripoor.  How does he even pull the trigger with his giant lizard fingers?  He must use the claw.  Which seems fiddle.  LBK didn’t need any guns of course, since his hands are registered as deadly weapons with the deadly weapon registration bureau.  

I let Blue and Martialla go first (“taking point” as they called it) and I drifted back with LBK so I could feel normal for a minute.  Just a foreign lady and her friend out for a stroll.  I asked him how he came to speak English and he said that he went to a British School in Manilla before it was taken over by Japan.  We chit-chatted amiably for a while and then he confided in me that he got his powers from a mystical jungle rooster that was fifteen feet high.  So much for normal.

When we got to the noodle house, the woman in a red Cheongsam that was running the place acted like asking to speak to a dishwasher was stranger than the fact that we were there at all.  A giant blue lizard with a machine gun and a fish-woman walk into your restaurant and what fazes you is that they want to talk to the help?  She told us that we couldn’t talk to Elvis just then on account of he was washing dishes but she’d send him out on his break.  

I was only too happy to take a seat and start shoveling mie goreng into my maw and hammering bintang beer.  Blue and Martialla are used to it but LBK watched with fascination/horror.  The fact that my super-metabolism seemingly makes it impossible for me to get drunk really makes me try that much harder to get drunk.  I think I had four dozen beers that night.  I didn’t even get a buzz.

Fun fact, even though he’s huge, Blue hardly eats anything.  I guess lizards need far less food than mammals.  I don’t even know what Martialla eats, she probably sucks slime off the bottoms of ships or something like a catfish.  When my twentieth plate of noodles arrived, Blue gave me a concerned look (I think, lizard facial expressions are tough to decipher even for someone as emotionally keyed in as me).

“How are we going to pay for all of this?”

I ducked my head at LBK and talked around a mouthful of noodles “The new guy pays, it’s like an initiation.”

Lim seemed like he was going to say something but just then Elvis came over to our table.  He looked clean for once and grinned at the sight of me.  I never noticed before that he’s actually pretty handsome.  Or maybe that was the forty-eight beers talking.  

He wiped his hands on a towel and then threw it over his shoulder “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

I managed to stop eating for a second “We’re here to rescue you.”

He smiled slightly “From washing dishes?”

I shook my head “No, this is serious, the Shadow Lords say they’re coming for you tonight.”

He nodded “Yeah, I heard about that.  Ela, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, there’s always someone gunning for me.  I’ve learned the appropriate response is just to live my life.  I live the way I like and I’ll die the way I’ll die.  I get threatened all the time.”

“I think they mean it this time.”

He looked over at the other people at the table “So you came to defend me?  I barely know you, these other people I don’t know at all.”  

I gestured “These are my friends.” I pointed at LBK “Except him, he just glommed onto us like a slug.”

LBK threw his hands up “You told me to come!”  

“Nobody told you to follow fish-lips back to our secret lair from the robbery.”

“Secret lair?  It’s a bar in touristville!”

Elvis smiled “And you all came out to risk your lives for me?  I’m touched, truly.  But it’s not necessary.  However, if you want to protect me at a few bars after I get off work, that sounds great.  In fact, I was hoping I would see you, I’ve been working on a little surprise for you.”

October 22, 1973 – Elvis dies tonight

Blue carried me away from the fracas and down to the docks.  I suppose maybe that should have made me feel safe or something, but it didn’t.  It made me feel like a damn baby – helpless and vulnerable.  Also, his arms feel like leather on account of he’s a giant scaly monster – in case you forgot that.  When he set me down, he grabbed a hose and started rinsing the exploded human remains off me.  It took a good half an hour – I had a lot of exploded guy on me.  The entire time, despite the fact that it was nine hundred degrees like it always is here, I stood there shivering like a dog that’s being hosed down behind the barn after being sprayed by a skunk.  

When I looked down at the rapidly pinking water, I saw little silver fish coming up to nibble on the chunks of human flesh bobbing in the ocean.  I was in shock at that point, I guess.  I suppose I thought having super powers and fighting crime would be fun.  It’s not.  It’s pretty fucking terrible so far.  I don’t remember Bat-Girl ever struggling to comb chunks of brain matter out of her hair with a gaff hook while being sprayed like a mental patient with a dock hose.  Turns out the real world isn’t like TV.  Who knew?  I have a serious bone to pick with Archibald Low.

After I was “clean” Blue made like he was going to carry me back to Kruszarka 495 but I made him put me down so I could walk myself.  I’m not going to be carried twice in one day.  Not unless my legs are broken.  Or if I’m tired.  Or if I don’t feel like walking.  The point is if it happens, it’s going to be my choice.  I was pretty shaky at first as we walked, but for once the streets were mostly empty which helped me find my footing.  Before that moment, I don’t think I had been outside in Madripoor for two seconds without five to nine people pressed up against me like I was on the subway.  Or at a key party.  You know.

While we were walking, Blue looked down at me and said that he thought I needed some new threads.  I looked down at my borrowed clothing, comprehensively soiled with blood and human remains, and started laughing hysterically. I don’t know why.  Probably because I was hysterical.  Hence the expression.  It was just what I needed though.  Nothing like a cheap laugh to help you shake off a little thing like a guy exploding all over you (phrasing).

When we got to the bar, Martialla was there with the Man in Black.  They were sitting at a table drinking a concoction of rice wine and corn spirits they mix up around here and talking animatedly like they were old friends.  His name, I discovered, was Lim Boon Keng, and like Elvis he’s a neighborhood defender.  Although unlike Elvis, he’s not just a gritty little nobody, LBK has been gifted with super-agility and enhanced reflexes and “fighting spirit”.  He was cagey about where these gifts came from though.  He had followed Martialla back here and I guess they hit it off even though she’s a disgusting fish-monster.  There’s no accounting for taste.  I think Anton Chekhov said that.  Or maybe my grandma.  I get those two mixed up sometimes.

Martialla had grabbed a bunch of the crazy pink and purple money they have around here when the frat boys dropped it to start shooting (or because they exploded) but the big coup was that she dragged the robot-armor back as well, which she claimed would be worth millions.  The only thing I know about robot-suits is that the commies in South America have them so that’s why we need to create superheroes like Angel (before she got killed I mean) in order to fight them so they don’t turn us all into dirty commies.  But if each suit is worth millions, how do the commies afford them?  Isn’t being poor their whole thing?  I should learn more about global politics. 

I don’t know what military-grade killer robot suits have – label doesn’t seem right – that’s for clothing.  But whatever it had said that it was made by Burlington Industries, which I’ve actually heard of.  They’re a US company that makes fabrics that came up with a kind of new bullet-resistant stuff back in the 50’s and then got in a bunch of trouble for selling it to law enforcement people in the CS.  I guess they’re getting into the robot-suit game now?  Robotics seems like a far cry from making socks if you ask me, even bulletproof socks, but then again the Calloway Golf people also make parts for tanks, so what do I know about it?  I suppose you need to diversify to make money. 

Martialla and LBK were jazzed up because they thought we could take the suit to “the Shipyard” and sell it quick and be rich.  First of all, I’m not sure why the Man in Black thought he was getting a cut of money – he’s not part of our crew.  Second of all, taking a multi-million dollar robot-suit to a lawless criminal swap meet doesn’t seem like a wise move.  Why am I the only one who thinks of these things?

By the way, in classic Madripoor tradition, the Shipyard is not a shipyard at all, but rather an old soccer stadium that has been turned into a bazaar because it turns out no one here gives a shit about soccer.  I want to call it a black market but there’s really no such thing in Madirpoor, no one cares, sell whatever you want.  Making things more confusing is the fact that Madripoor has many actual shipyards.  When I voiced my concerns, Blue did chime in with the little tidbit that the Shipyard is the territory of a criminal quartet with the imaginative name of The Four.  Because there’s four of them. 

“See there you go, if we take this suit down there, these people are just going to take it from us.  No honor among thieves and so forth.  Now what we could maybe do is head down there and feel things out, see if someone seems like a likely buyer and set up a deal.”

LBK shook his head “If they find out, they won’t like that – they get a portion of all the sales in the Shipyard, so we’d be cutting them out.”

Blue’s tail was twitching curiously “I’ve dealt with them before, I’m sure we can work something out.”

While we were discussing one of Elvis’s sisters (or cousins, or maybe just friends, I can’t keep track – and not because I’m racist and think they all look alike, but because there’s a lot of them and I only meet them briefly) came in looking for me.  Which is a disturbing development.  Is this where I live now?  Is it known that I live in a bar?  That can’t be good.  That’s very low class.  She was clearly upset by something but it took a while to figure out what.  She spoke a different language than LBK, so it was Blue that was doing the translating with his twenty percent pidgin of the local patois.  Is that the right word?  What is a patois?  Sounds French so I should know. 

Eventually we figured it out – the Shadow Lords had declared that Elvis would be killed that night.  I guess this is a thing they do when they’re going to murder someone who’s really been a thorn in their side.  They made a grand proclamation so that everyone knows what’s going to go down and that they shouldn’t be messed with.  I took a last drink of cheap vodka and stood up feeling dog tired.  Even though I have super endurance. 

I let out what I have to admit was a very theatrical sigh “Well, grab your guns, it’s go time.”

Martialla frowned “What do you mean?”

I gestured “Didn’t you just hear?  We have to protect Elvis.”

Martialla looked confused “The singer?”

“No, the guy who saved me from the Shadow Lords when I first got here!”

“I thought you saved yourself.”

“Well I did, sort of, but he was the first person who helped me.  He’s my friend.  We need to go help him.  Plus, then you grab one of the Shadow Lords and beat him until he tells you where your niece is.  It’s a win-win.”

She looked at Blue who shrugged (lizard style with the tongue) “I’ll go get in a fight.  I don’t know what Elvis Presley is doing here but I always liked Suspicious Minds.”

LBK nodded “Good, good, you go do that and I’ll see about selling this suit.”

“The fuck you will, buddy.  You want in on this then you’re coming with us.”

Blue lizard-grinned at me “Look, we’re a super team just like you wanted, Ela.  I’m the big guy, M is the water specialist, you’re the leader, and now we have a stealthy guy.  It’s all coming together.”

I lit up one of the shitty local smokes they have here “Yeah, when I was on tour with KC and The Sunshine Band, this is exactly how I imagined my life going.”

October 22, 1973 – Ultimate Super Team-Ups Issue 17 (2nd vol. first printing)

Part of a man’s lungs went in my mouth today.  I think it was a piece of lung anyway.  It was a pinkish greyish slime lump.  Even if I was a forensic pathologist (which I am not) I think it would be hard to identify the chunks that come flying out when a human being has been stuffed into a Cuisinart.  Whatever it was, it went into my mouth.  I had no problem identifying which part of my body it was.  It tasted terrible.   Indescribably so.  And I’ve tasted some terrible stuff lately.

I’m officially done with this . . . this . . . whatever.  I want to get drunk.  But I can’t because no matter how much I imbue I barely feel anything.  I want to sleep for a couple days but I can’t because I don’t have a home.  I want to change out of these god damn clothes which were gross and dirty before a man exploded on them but I can’t because I don’t have any other clothes.  I don’t have anything.  

Wait, that’s not true.  I have two things.  I have a headache all the time.  Always.  All the time.  When I wake up I feel like there’s an iron band around my skull that slowly gets tightened throughout the day.  And the next day it gets tighter.   Always.  All the time.  It’s maddening.  Sometimes if I smoke enough or drink enough caffeine, it lessens to a dull pain for a few minutes.  I have a hard time paying attention because of the throbbing in my skull.  When people talk, it’s like I’m watching TV with the sound turned way down.  If I had to club a basketful of puppies to death to get the headaches to stop for one damn minute, I’d do it.  

But the second thing that I have is a nice distraction from the first thing – constant gnawing hunger in my belly.  It’s like I swallowed a baby shark and it’s swimming around in there eating me from the inside.  I think about food constantly.  I dream about it.  When I see someone who has food I want to take it from them.   The other day I ate thirty Bánh xèo and it was like swallowing a piece of gum – no effect on my appetite at all.  Sometimes when I get scraps that someone is going to throw out and I’m choking down some gross food I don’t even like, I feel like crying out of the relief I feel just to get it.  I feel like I’m dying.

I hate it here.  It’s ninety-six degrees with one hundred percent humidity all the time.  I sweat so much I’m constantly dehydrated.  I feel filthy and grimy all the time.  My hair is a mess.  I can’t speak the language. Everyone looks at me like I’m a freak.  I never know what’s going on.  I never thought I’d be pining for my crappy apartment – the heat doesn’t work, the wallpaper is peeling, the people next door argue loudly every night, the rent is a crime, but I just want to go home.  

How did a guy explode in my mouth (rephrase before posting)?  The Kato looking guy (not racist I swear) was trying to translate between the hooker plus frat boys robbery team and the vigilante in the red space suit but it wasn’t going well because the Kato looking guy (not racist I swear) and the underwear lady are enemies.  She’s not actually a hooker, she just dresses like one.  Seriously, she was wearing garters and a bustier, and she just walks around like that.  

I understand that if you’re a supervillain you want to have a cool costume to let people know about it, but seriously, you have to think about the bigger picture.  If female supervillains all walk around with their tits hanging out, how are we ever going to make progress as a society towards gender equality?  If you’re wearing a black lace babydoll, no one is going to be talking about how you used your pheromone powers to mind-control a bunch of collegiate jerks into robbing a casino, they’re going to say things like “Whoa, check out the rack on that broad”.  

And trust me, I get it, when you’re a stone-cold fox there’s a desire to flaunt yourself, but it’s like that snake eating its own tail – you’re participating in a system characterized by its own abuse.  And yes, even if you do dress in a more conservative manner people are still going to talk about what you’re wearing instead of your awesome crimes, but at least that way there’s a path to breaking the cycle and rising above it.  If you’re the titty woman that’s all you’re ever going to be, but if you’re the supervillain in the bullet proof vest and protective shin guards, eventually people will get tired of talking about how you need to tart up your outfit and start talking about how you kidnapped the president’s daughter and held her for ransom.  They’re not going to get tired of tits and ass.  Not ever.

Anyway, I was trying to explain to the Red Robot that he needed to calm down and wait for Kato (not racist I swear) to translate, but he pointed his laser-arm and one of the frat boys (he actually looked a lot like that guy from Scooby-Doo, only, you know, not a cartoon) and there was a noise like when your toast pops and the kid exploded.  I mean that literally.  Remember that creepy kid in your neighborhood that put firecrackers up frogs’ butts and blew them up and now as an adult works spaying dogs?  It was like that.  Only with a guy instead of a frog.  I didn’t see a beam or a laser or anything, Red pointed his arm at a human and then that human was transformed into loose organs and gristle flying through the air.

That’s when I decided I was done.  I grabbed the arm of the guy holding me and flipped him to the ground.  That’s what I meant to do anyway.  Instead I tore his arm off.  But it was an accident.  I’m sure the Red Robot exploded the other guy on purpose.  The mind-slaves of the inappropriately dressed villainess that weren’t exploded or had their arms ripped off (by accident) all started shooting.  The Man in Black (I’m going to stop calling him Kato because I guess that is racist even though he does look like Kato) ninja-flipped onto the roof of a nearby building while bullets bounced off the Red Robot – ricocheting and hitting people passing by.

There were people passing by, you see.  They gave the scene playing out a wide berth, but they just went about their day like this kind of stand-off happens all the time in Madripoor.  Like a car wreck at a busy intersection back home, you take a look as you walk by, but unless someone you know is involved, you keep walking.  I ran for cover – which in this case was Blue who was coming out of the casino into the fracas.  He’s not exactly bulletproof but he’s more bulletproof than me.

While I hid behind Blue, Red pointed at another robber and he flew into the air like he had been shot out of a cannon.  At that point I didn’t know the robbers were under the control of Stars and Garters or I would have shouted something like “Stop you idiot, they’re being mind controlled!”  Which is not something you expect to have to shout ever.  

Martialla appeared out of nowhere, commando style, and got lingerie lassy in some manner of commando-choke maneuver.  While she was scooping up the money, some other asshole came flying in to get in the mix – a guy in a red, white & blue outfit with a US flag on the chest.  Where did he come from?  And why is he in Madripoor?  The Star-Spangled Kid went after the robot and while they were fighting, The Man in Black super-flipped back down like Olga Korbutand.  It looked like he was going to attack Martialla, so Blue grabbed him and slammed him into the ground.   And I mean hard. 

The whole thing was a god damn mess.  Why is it that cops never show up at the same crime and start shooting at each other, but super people do shit like this?  I guess because the cops aren’t lone wolf jerk-offs who play by their own rules.  Blue shouted that we should get out of there, which we should have, but I was pissed because the Red Robot blew a guy up for nothing.  He had flattened Stars and Stripes Forever and I ran at him, Blue backing me up. Which was nice of him.   Glad to know he has my back.

We got him by the robo-arms and he fired his boot-rockets.  I jumped away because I didn’t want my lower body to be incinerated, but Blue had him held fast – the smell of burning lizard meat made my mouth water.  Blue was too heavy for the robot to lift off with him in tow.  I jumped back into the fray and went to rip off the robo-head, but that’s when I found out it wasn’t a robot.   I yanked on the head-thing and I heard some metal-tearing sounds and then a different robo-voice announced “CRITICAL DAMAGE SUSTAINED” and the suit opened up like a sardine can and barfed out a skinny sweaty hairy dude in his undies.    

“Oi what have you done?!”

In that moment I found his Australian accent utterly ridiculous.  

The New Founding Fathers of America

(In retrospect, I wish I had called them something else but I didn’t. Its not like I can change it now, my hardcore fanbase would be outraged.)

The New Founding Fathers are a radical underground organization dedicated to unification of the Coalition States of America and the United States of America into a single nation.  In the intelligence community, it is accepted that the ultimate goal of the NFFA post this theoretical unification is using the resulting military power of a combined CSA-USA state to consolidate the entire North American continent into a single entity – One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.

The New Founding Fathers operate in many groups they call circles – Science, Military, Government, Business, Medical, Military, Intelligence, and so on.  Operationally these groups all can be divided into those that pursue unification through political efforts by infiltrating political parties, influencing media outlets, and swaying public policy.  And those that prepare for the contingency plan – the violent overthrow of the CSA and USA governments – by providing weapons, money, and tactical advice to a wide range of terrorist groups and establishing sympathetic sleepers in military and paramilitary groups in both the CS and US to support a coup attempt if necessary. 

The duties of the first groups (aside from acquiring capital needed for the group to operate) are undermining the existing governments of the CS and US by making them look inept, tyrannical, and uncaring.  They particularly focus on sabotaging diplomatic relations with other nations, trying to isolate the CS and US from foreign support.  This wing love political scandal and use their media contacts to fan the flames of any government agent caught involved in shady dealings (real or manufactured by the NFFA themselves).  The endgame of these activities is that the citizens of the two nations themselves would support the removal of the current regimes and the takeover by the NFFA. 

Working in concert with these efforts are propaganda activities and the support and organization political action groups like One Nation and the True Americans.  The NFFA has controlling stakes in several advertising agencies to help them build popular support for the idea of unification.  Also within the umbrella of the non-violent wing of the NFFA are the intellectuals and career politicians who are laying the groundwork for the new government – cultivating contacts with the industries and organizations that will be critical to the transition of power. 

The other wing of the NFFA is responsible for supporting violent civil unrest of any stripe – even those groups with goals ultimately unpalatable to the NFFA.  Pro-America groups tend to get the most support, but the military branch of the NFFA provides aid to any group looking to perform terrorist attacks that will weaken the faith in the current administration.   

On the other side of the coin, while some NFFA groups support extremists, others spend their time garnering the sympathy of law enforcement and the militaries of both nations.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the US, as well as the federal police in the CS have both been substantially suborned by the NFFA.  While the NFFA does not yet have a significant presence in the active-duty militaries of either nation, they have made noteworthy in-roads in creating pockets of support in the reserve and various militias units.

To date, their attempts to recruit or suborn NBH assets have been failures.  As a result, their science and medical personnel have partnered with the military operators recently to begin a program of illegal human enhancement.

October 22, 1973 – Still better than Ocean’s 11

Turns out that finding what the Shadow Lords are up to so that their establishments may be robbed is tricky.  Their activates are veiled in secrecy and . . . shadows.  Elusive.  A lot of the criminals around here don’t seem to hide what they’re doing at all.  I guess the Shadow Lords are more traditional, they keep their dirty dealings under wraps.

I figured Kinuyo Yoshizumi could turn me on to a good target, but even though I know she has people following me and keeping an eye on me, I couldn’t figure out how to contact her.  And since Martialla’s scouting is restricted to the coastline that was a bust as well.  What are we going to rob, a fishing boat?  A trawler?  What is a trawler anyway?  How does one trawl?  And to what end?  Our potential target came from Alojzy, which is apparently the name of the sole employee of Kruszarka 495.  One day Blue, Martialla and I are discussing our plans – talking in circles really – Alojzy puts down his newspaper and sets aside his cigarette and says;

“You want to make robbery?”

I didn’t even know she spoke English. 

He pointed us at a place called the Level 1 Bar, which is not a bar at all but a cathouse.  And in the back there’s gambling.  But all of that is just a front, what it really is is a safehouse where a local gang called the 451s stashes their stuff.  The gangs around here really seem to be into numbers.  Back home all the gangs have names like the Hell’s Angels or Murder Inc. but around here numbers seem to be really popular with the criminal element.  I asked what that was about but no one knew.  I should really make friends with someone who’s actually from here, speaks the language, and knows that the hell is going on.  I’m good at making friends you know.

Once they were pointed at a target, Blue and Martialla were ready to lock and load and make their move right then.  They started talking about amphibious landings and taking the initiative, they said the words “operational control” like fifty times.  They’re awfully gung-ho for former special forces people.  I thought their whole thing was planning, not charging in with a sawed off M79 grenade launcher in each hand blowing shit up like the 14 Fists of McCluskey.  Maybe that’s why they got drummed out of the service.

I suggested reasonably that we case the joint first – see what we’re dealing with.  Blue agreed but then added that we should “rob the place a little bit” while we cased it.  We had a lengthy conversation about that.  Once I used the term “rules of engagement” that seemed to settle him down.  Blue said that what he really wanted for this “op” was a DynaTAC 856.  I’m really starting to wonder about this guy.  I thought Canadians were supposed to be level-headed.  I guess being turned into a horrible lizard monster changes a person.

As I said, the Level 1 Bar is not a bar, but walking up to it it doesn’t look like the things that it is either – it looks like a movie theater from the 1950s.  It has a massive facade up front that looks like a marquee.  I’ve said it before and I say it again now.  Madripoor is a crazy place.  You have a brothel/gambling hall that is called a bar and looks like a cinema from the outside.  Explain that.  You can’t.

We got some looks when we walked in, none of the three of us being the sort you’d be expecting to frequent a house of prostitution.  Jesus, at least I hope Blue doesn’t do that, for the sake of the women involved.  But everyone calmed down when we asked which way to the gambling. 

I’ve never been a gambler.  If I’m going to waste my money I’d at least like a hang-over as a result of it, but I know the basics.  Everything here is different.  They have these machines that are kind of like slot machines but they’re not.  They’re a bit like vertical pinball machines maybe.  Whatever they are, people love them.  There are table games too, but none that I understand.  Even if I wanted to gamble here (which I don’t, also I can’t because I have no money) I couldn’t because I have no clue what’s even going on.  I watched one of the tables for a while and just when I thought I understood who the dealer was, that guy started placing bets. 

Blue and Martialla were taking note of how many guards there were and security measures and so forth, whispering to each other about fields of fire and sight lines when I realized that I should have cased the place by myself.  They’re not exactly inconspicuous.  Even in Madripoor you’re going to remember the eight foot lizard and the fish-woman in the wet suit walking around.  Although they’re going to remember them from the robbery anyway.  It’s not like Blue can slap panty-hose on his head and be good to go.  This robbery stuff is harder than you think.

The good news is that around that time I was having that realization it became moot, because that’s when someone else beat us to the punch and started robbing the place.  When I saw some statie frat boys (I’ve seen a few packs of them around here strangely, sex tourists I suppose) wander in in their flared pants and Penn-Prest Towncraft shirts straight from the JCPenny catalog, I assumed they just got done in the brothel and were in the mood to lose more money.  But then they pulled out guns and started shouting.  In English, which was not very effective.

I expected a shoot-out to start right then, but the guards were curiously sanguine about it.  Maybe because the Alpha Alpha Epilsons were just trying to rob the casino and not the safehouse?  I could tell that Blue and Martialla wanted to jump right into the middle of this jackpot and I was furiously trying to eye-shout at them not to do that when one of the How to Stuff A Wild Bikini boys suddenly grabbed me.  He jammed his gun into the side of my head so hard it felt like a punch.  He kept screaming at no one in particular to give up the money.

“They don’t understand you, moron, no one here speaks English.”

He fired his gun into the air “They understand this!”

My hand flew to my ear, which was ringing painfully “Jesus Christ!  I’m a singer, damn it!  You better not have screwed up my hearing.”

He switched to jamming the gun into my side so hard I swear I could feel the barrel going between two ribs “You tell them to give us the money!”

“I don’t speak Malay either!  Or Tagalong.  Or Bahasa.  Or Javanese.  They speak a lot of languages here, it’s very multicultural.”

“Shut up!”

“You just spit in my hair.”

I guess the good news is that watching that comedy of errors gave us some good ideas on how not to pull off a robbery.  After a lot of chaos, the frat boys, some paper bags of money, myself, and the rest of the hostages ended up out front where the red carpet would be when they have a premier at this movie theater/whorehouse/casino.  I noticed that one of the hookers had come out with us.  At first I thought she was a very lackadaisically handled hostage, but then they started giving her all the money.  She was the leader? 

And that’s when a little dude glided down like a leaf and hit the ground with a ninja-roll in front of the whole sorry scene.  He was wearing a tight black suit and one of those silly little masks like the Spirit has.  What is that supposed to do?  Disguise your cheekbones?  He looked like Kato from the Green Hornet.  Which might seem racist but seriously, he looked just like Kato.  Except without the hat.  Why did Kato have that hat?  Was he a chauffeur?  Now that’s racist. 

The woman standing on the street in lingerie but who was somehow in charge of a gang of frat boys curled her lip in disgust and said something to him that I didn’t understand.  Mister Black Suit said something back that I also didn’t understand but I am 100% sure was something like “You’ll never get away with this Catwoman!”  While they were bantering, a red suit of armor that looked like something a Catholic Bishop would wear in a space-war against alien heathens also landed – the jets from his boots setting some shit on fire.  He held up an arm and some kind of laser-canon popped out cracking with eye-watering radiation.

“Let those people go” came the robot-voice speaking English out the suit in an Australian accent.  “What the hell is going on here?!” I shouted at no one in particular. 

October 17, 1973 – Measure twice, rob once

I rummaged around behind the bar looking for the bottle of vodka “You are giving me such a headache.” 

Blue put down the gun he was examining “You always have a headache.” 

“We can’t rob a bank, we’re the good guys!” 

Martialla and Blue glanced at each other and then spoke simultaneously “We are?” 

“Of course we are!  Why would you think that we weren’t?” 

Martialla frowned slightly “I sank a whaling ship the other day.” 

I grabbed another caffeine (or some other stimulant) berry to add to the vodka “Whaling is immoral, so that’s fine.” 

“Most of the people on board probably died.  I certainly didn’t rescue any of them and I didn’t see any other water people in the area.” 

I waved my hand as if I could wave away her point “Sure that’s more of a grey area but collateral damage and so forth. . .” 

Blue snorted “Don’t you watch movies? People like me are always villains.” 

“What movie has someone like you in it?  Creature from the Black Lagoon?” 

Martialla raised her hand “Wouldn’t I be the one from the Black Lagoon?  Because of the gills you see.” 

I pressed my palms to my eyes “You two are giving me such a headache.” 

Martialla looked at Blue “I heard somewhere that you always have a headache.” 

“Why would you even want to rob a bank?” I pointed furiously “And don’t you even say ‘because that’s where the money is’ or I swear to god I will throw someone into the ocean.” 

Martialla looked like she was going to crack wise again but Blue put a restraining paw on her shoulder.  Do lizards have paws?  What do they have?  Hands?  That doesn’t sound right.  Claws?  He has claws but what is the whole thing called?  It can’t be a hand right?

“Ela take a breath, you’re getting all worked up over nothing.  Serenity now.  After you disappeared we paid a visit to the harbor ourselves and found out that the Shadow Lords have Martialla’s niece.  So we need to get her.  That means we need to go to war with the Shadow Lords.  That means we need guns.” 

I gestured to the pile on the table “You have guns.” 

Martialla grinned with her sick fish lips “More guns.” 

Blue flicked his tongue sideways “Yes, more guns.  What we have here is a good start but if we’re going to take on the Shadow Lords, we need a lot more.  And not just guns, also grenades, body armor, communications equipment, the whole nine yards.  We need to put together an operation, like in the old days.” 

Is it possible for a lizard to be wistful?  He sounded wistful.   

“Well where did you get the money for these guns?” 

Martialla jerked her thumb over her shoulder “There’s like a million shipwrecks out there.  I found one that had a waterproof safe in it and Lucien ripped it open once I brought it up.  Inside there were a bunch of papers – insurance documents, Alojzy’s friend said.  Someone wanted them really bad and they paid us, and then we got the guns.  And now we use those guns to get money for more guns.” 

“Why do you need to rob a bank?  Just dive back down for more treasure, there’s probably gold down there!” 

Martialla snickered “Gold?  Why would there be gold?  Those aren’t 16th century Spanish galleons down there, they’re container ships.  There’s not a lot of resale value for boots with seaweed growing on them and crates of potatoes infested with eels.” 

“You found a safe though, there has to be other valuable stuff down there.” 

Martialla shook her head resolutely “It would take too long to check them all, I got lucky with that safe.  I need to get my niece now.” 

“Okay.” I thought for a moment “But why a bank?  I’ve never even seen a bank around here.” 

Blue piped up “They’re all downtown.” 

I gestured “Exactly.  Downtown is where all the police are.  And by police I mean dudes with machine guns who have no compunctions about shooting anyone they don’t like.  This isn’t the RCMP we’re dealing with here, these guys are serious.” 

Martialla cocked her head “Machine guns?  You mean sub-machine guns.  I doubt very much anyone down there is lugging around an RPK.” She and Blue laughed like that was the height of wit. 

“Whatever!  Men with guns is the point.  You want to go downtown and start a firefight?  How do you think that’s going to work out?  Even if you get away with it, you’re not going to get away with it.  How many other eight-foot blue lizards do you think are in town?” 

Blue set down a handgun he had been fiddling with “That’s a good point actually.” 

I scowled “Actually?  What do you mean?  I’m always making good points.  Look, I’m not saying that we couldn’t use some cash to fund our league of heroes, but we need a more palatable target.  Why not go after one of the Shadow Lords operations?  We get the funds we need and we hurt our enemy was well. It’s a two for one deal.   They must have casinos or drug-holes or slave auctions on creepy yachts or something.  We make one of those the target.” 

Martialla set down another weapon and glanced at Blue “That actually is a good point.  My only concern would be tipping off the Shadow people that we’re after them.” 

“They’re already after me, and they already took your niece, I feel like the cat is out of the bag on that score.” 

After some consideration, they agreed that robbing a bank was not the best first step.  Martialla went to scout some potential non-bank targets while Blue stashed and organized the small arsenal they had acquired.  Not sure that the owner, who is totally not laundering money for some other criminal syndicate, is going to be okay with that, but one problem at a time. 

Blue tossed over his shoulder “By the way, we talked to some other people from the ship.  The word is the people that experimented on you and then sold you to the Shadow Lords are a group called the New Founding Fathers. 

“Who the fuck are the New Founding Fathers?” 

October 17, 1973 – But before you go, baby just show me what I gotta do

When my most recent kidnapper dismissed me from the hallowed halls of her cramped office above a fully operational whorehouse, she had one of her goons on hand to drive me wherever I wanted.  I gave some serious consideration to refusing that offer and trying to find my own way “home” since I figured there was an eighty-nine percent chance that I would be driven into the clutches of another crimelord where I would be forced to perform “Come Home Baby” at gunpoint over a tank of voracious tiger sharks.  And that song isn’t in my natural register!  It would still sound great, don’t get me wrong, it just wouldn’t be a true reflection of my abilities.  Which would be a shame.  Because I am a fantastic singer.  You don’t smash your way into the top 40 hits without the goods.  

In the end though, I decided to get into the back of that Toyota Corona Mark II T70 coupé utility on account of I was sleepy and didn’t feel like walking.  Also I had no idea where I was.  I need to get a map of Madripoor or something.  Besides which, in terms of kidnapping, while the first one didn’t end up great, the second one was a draw I’d say, and this last one wasn’t so bad – with a record of 1-1-1, I’m getting the hang of being kidnapped I think.  I feel confident that my fourth kidnapping will turn out okay whenever it occurs – tiger sharks notwithstanding.  

I was literally starving to death so I had the driver swing by a fish market where he stood by with thinly veiled disgust as I ate (drank?) a gallon of shark fin soup and a quart of grilled octopus with a kind of spicy sausage and peppers.  I had him pick me up a carton of smokes too.  The cigarettes around here are weak and unsatisfying but any port in a storm you know?  I’ll say one thing about the United States, whatever you think of their politics and problems, they know how to make a smooth, rich, and fulfilling cigarette.  When I smoke the local brands, I feel like I’m smoking a chicken bone.  I’m sure madam crime lady won’t mind that I charged all this stuff to her.  

When I got to Kruszarka 495 (I essentially live in a bar right now, that’s how well things are going) Blue and Martialla weren’t there, but I assumed that was because they were out hitting the streets and cracking skulls looking for me.  The guy who seems to be the only employee wasn’t there either, so I drank a half a bottle of vodka and then took a little nap behind the bar.  I dreamed of banana splits and mountains of juicy duck and ding-dongs and pizza and thick sizzling steaks and pecan pie with seventeen scoops of ice cream.  Don’t think me unworldly, but I miss the good old fat and sugar-based cuisine of Northern America.  I don’t think they even have Crisco here.  Or mayonnaise. 

I was rudely awakened by the sounds of heavy things (heavy to normal people, I’m super strong you know) being banged onto tables and loud speaking in French accompanied by raucous laughter.  I smiled to myself and listened for a moment, expecting to hear Blue and Martialla discussing how worried they were about me being missing and imagining how relived they would be when I popped out behind the bar like a jack in the box.  But they were talking so fast in their stupid Canadian dialect that I couldn’t exactly tell what they were talking about.  It didn’t seem to be about me though. Which was troubling.

I stood up with a flourish “Ta-da!”

Blue and Martialla were standing by a table loaded with guns and ammo.  Blue glanced over at me and then nodded. “You’re alive, good, you can help.”

I frowned “That’s it?  You’ve been out looking for me all night and you can’t show a little more enthusiasm that I saved myself yet again?  It was quite a sticky situation but I managed to fight my way free.  You see what happened . . .”

Blue picked up a rifle or a shotgun or something and examined it “We weren’t looking for you, we assumed you were dead.”

Martialla hadn’t even bothered to look over, she seemed to be sorting loose bullets “He thought you were dead, I assumed that you were distracted by a disco ball and spent the night dancing.” She awkwardly mimed a little dance move and they both laughed.  I’ve scarcely been more outraged in all my life.  

“First of all, no one does the Hustle anymore.  Second of all, when did you two become such good friends?  And third of all, you weren’t even looking for me?  What kind of bullbird is that?  I go out on a mission for the team and you don’t even try to save me when I don’t come back?  Whatever happened to leave no man behind?”

Martialla grinned with her gross fish-lips “That’s what you staties do, in Canada we leave people behind all the time.  We’re known for it.  They tell you in basic ‘don’t dawdle or you’ll be left behind’.”

Blue laughed and then flicked his tongue sideways in what I’ve come to understand is a lizard shrug “Once you were dead, we had to make a move.  If you were alive, we knew you’d find your way back and you did.  Look, there you are.  Roaming the streets of Madripoor looking for you wouldn’t have done any good.”

Martialla said something to him that I didn’t catch and they both laughed again.  I was furious.  I’m the leader and they just moved on without me?  They should have been tearing this city apart looking for me.  They should have been burning this place to the ground until they got answers.  It’s hard to stay furious when the people you’re mad at don’t even seem to notice though.  To mollify myself, I started chewing on some of these local berries they have that are like coffee beans.  The barman keeps a bag of them behind the counter but I’ve never seen him eat one.

“How’d you get all the guns?”

Blue opened his freaky lizard mouth slightly in what I think is a lizard head shake “This place is crazy, you can buy anything here.  We just got all this stuff on the street.” He looked at Martialla “What I’d really like is a Lee–Enfield.”

She scowled.  I think, her face is scowly all the time “Are you nuts, you can’t be robbing a bank with a service rifle.  What I wanted was an Inglis Hi-Power.”

Blue flicked his tongue out “A nine-millimeter?  That’s a lady gun.”

Martialla put her hands on the table angrily “I meant the forty caliber not the nine, besides which the Inglis Hi-Power is not a lady gun, the stopping power . . .”

I threw a hand up “Whoa, whoa, whoa what are you talking about?  Robbing a bank?  What bank?  What’s happening?”

Martialla grinned “We’re gonna rob a bank.” Blue nodded and gave me a thumbs up.

I was so shocked I let a berry drop out of my mouth, which is very unladylike “What?!”

October 17, 1973 – Kidnap me five or less times shame on you, kidnap me six or more times shame on me

Remember when I was going on and on like an idiot about how there are good people in the world and not everyone is an unrelenting asshole and there is a reason to be happy and hopeful about the future?  Forget all that.  Put it out of your mind.  Pretend I never said that.  People are monsters through and through and nothing will ever change.  People are dumb, selfish, dangerous beasts and the only thing keeping them from cracking each other’s skulls open and feasting upon the goo that flows forth like mantids is the military power of authoritarian governments and the threat of worse violence to come.  

Why the change of heart?  Turns out that the guy driving Meylupa and her friends around, Kỳ, is Elvis’s cousin.  Or something, I didn’t quite follow the thread of what he was saying about that even though he speaks English just fine.  It may be that his grandfather and Elvis’s grandfather were “spiritual” brothers in some religious sense and Kỳ and Elvis aren’t blood related.  Or maybe they are.  There’s a lot of culture going on here you know?  Don’t judge me.

This guy maybe being related to Elvis isn’t what reminded me that everyone is horrible.  What did that is when Kỳ and Meylupa sold me down the god damn river.  There we were, bar-hopping and drinking and maybe doing a little coke (it was some kind of powder anyway) having a gay old time and I mentioned that it was getting late (or early technically) and Blue and Martialla were waiting for me so I should probably get back to Kruszarka 495 (that’s the bar in Touristville that is totally not a front for money laundering) before they came looking for me.  So we pile in the Checker Marathon and Meylupa says that there’s one more spot we need to hit before we call it a night (morning).  And I’m game because everyone knows that Ela is no wet blanket.

We drive to a place and then we go down some stairs and there’s a secret knock and a whole thing and it seems like we’re going into an underground casino – in both senses of the term.  There are gambling halls all over the place in Madripoor but that doesn’t stop people from setting up their own operations to avoid paying protection money to the various criminal syndicates that seem to control everything outside of the financial district.  Or maybe because they are part of those syndicates.  I don’t know why they’re there but they’re there.  

Next thing I know, Meylupa and Kỳ are gone and men pointing guns at me.  

Let me diverge from my prepared remarks for a moment.  My goal is revenge on Duke Eaglevane for blowing me up.  But I’m starting to think that I need to get revenge on whoever scienced me up into a super person as well.  Because what the fuck?  Why aren’t I bulletproof?  Is this what they were going for?  Why would they do that?  Super strength without invulnerability?  What’s the point?  I have to assume these were some military assholes because they’re the only ones who make super-people, so what were they doing?  A bullet-resistant soldier?  Wonderful!  Make me a million of those, says the general.  A super-strong soldier?  Who gives a shit?  This isn’t the fifteenth century.  No one is swinging a battle axe now.  Why bother?  

Super speed, now that would be something.  Super vision?  Sure, that could help spot the enemy and so forth.  Any kind of super power that would make you shoot better would be good.  Perhaps some kind of danger sense, you know like spiders have.  Flying would obviously be helpful.  Even Martialla’s breathing underwater bullshit is practical at least, what with your amphibious landings and underwater demolitions and shark-soldiers and all.  Invisibility, internal radar, some kind of electricity control thing, weevil-agility, laser shooting nipples, all fine.  But super-strength?  Why?  For what?  For what?

Divergence over.

Thankfully it was after midnight, so I wasn’t kidnapped twice in the same day.  That happened to me once before and people still give me shit about it.  I was herded through a tunnel and up some different stairs and through what looked like a cheap brothel into an office where a woman was waiting for me.  Aside from the fact that she was wearing a veil, she looked pretty normal.  The woman standing by her side was wearing a cheongsam even though she was just a boring white lady like me.  The woman in the veil was speaking Japanese I think, and her pal was translating with a French accent.  I tell you this about Madripoor, it’s multi-cultural as fuck.  

“You must have many questions.”

“Yeah, I do, how do my powers work?  How can I be super strong without being super tough too?  I can lift a ton of weight, ergo I have the force of a ton acting on my body and that’s fine.  But I hurt my shoulder jumping over a fence.  There’s no way I hit the ground with two thousand pounds of force.  That doesn’t make any sense.  If my bones are normal, shouldn’t they snap in half when I lift a compact car over my head?  And if they aren’t, why are my bones not unbreakable all the time?  None of this adds up.  How does the physics support what’s happening here?”

She raised a meticulously curated eyebrow “Do you really want me to translate that?”

“I guess not.  Does she wear that veil to look mysterious or is her face messed up?”

“Her face is messed up.”

“Oh.  Sorry I asked.”

“Me too.”

At this point, the woman in the veil angrily said something that I assume was “You’re supposed to be translating, moron!”  Getting down to brass tacks (what does that mean? Something to do with laying carpet maybe?) she told me (via translator but we already covered that) that her name was Kinuyo Yoshizumi and she’s the leader of yet another organized crime bullshit club.  Her husband was a Yazuka martial arts guy who was massacred by Mr. X.  She went to his Yakuza pals for revenge help and they said “gross you’re a girl get away”.  So she did what any woman would do, she built her own criminal empire (using proxies because of the girl thing) to get revenge herself.  

Problem is, after the first few assassins she hired to take out Mr. X turned up on her step with their arms and legs hacked off at the elbow and knee respectively, people stopped taking her calls.  Somehow within hours of my skirmish with Mr. X and his S&M bondage murder posse, she found out about it and then also communicated her desire to speak to me out to her agents.  Which is some pretty impressive logistical operation.  People (you know the ones I mean) like to paint women as bad leaders, but when it comes to organization and planning, I think they have some real skills that could be valuable in group situations.  Give women a chance will you?

When she asked me how I penetrated Mr. X’s defenses (unintentional rhyme?), I told her I was just walking around and his goons scooped me up much like her own goons just did.  She didn’t find this answer very pleasing.  But I explained to her that she was thinking about it all wrong.  Getting to him is not the issue – I’m sure he’s going to be coming after me.  All she has to do is wait around for him to show up to kill me.  The trick is finding someone who can take him out. 

I suggested that a sniper rifle at two hundred yards is pretty hard for anyone to defend against no matter how cool you are with a katana.  She said that the reason people get into arm and leg hacking range with the guy is because he’s a psychic and he knows beforehand if the sniping is coming.  He knows when people are coming into hacking range too, but he likes that so he doesn’t avoid it.  I said that he didn’t seem very psychic to me when I bifurcated his nose with his own sword but the Frenchwoman didn’t translate that.  

I told her I was up for acting as bait in whatever kind of trap she wanted to set up (within reason) as long as she had someone capable of doing the deed.  In return, she would get me the hell out of Madripoor.  She said that she had just the person in mind.  But the way the translator said it sounded like she wasn’t really sure.  But was that actually her or just the translator?