Madripoor – People at their most beautiful, humanity at its ugliest

As part of my continuing promise to deliver significantly less content with 70s super-Ela than D&D Ela I think what I might do is make narrative posts on Monday and Friday and have Wednesday for backgrounds posts.   When I was thinking about where to kick this story off I thought of someplace like Madripoor.  Then I decided to just call it Madripoor.  It’s already an expy of Singapore, no reason to get meta-removed another level.  Unless I get sued by Marvel.   

Madripoor 

The city of Madripoor is the capital and lone urban area of the Kingdom of Madripoor, located in the southern portion of the Strait of Malacca, southwest of Singapore.  There is no official data but most estimates put the population of Madripoor around 9 million, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.  

Madripoor is controlled by a cartel of influential individuals and families that reestablished the government after the death of the King and the dissolution of the parliament during the Japanese Empire’s invasion in 1942.  A treaty constructed under the influence of the United Nations in the early 50s secured Madripoor’s sovereignty, ending years of occupation.  

After independence Madripoor saw a population explosion as refugees from other Japanese Imperial conquests, having lost both home and property, flooded into the “free” city.  Madripoor does not extradite criminals making it a haven for people fleeing political or criminal issues as well.  

Dutch political scientist Amelia Guttmann described Madripoor as a “non-aligned crypto libertarian pseudo republic”.  Heiress Robin Hayworth said that Madripoor was “a great place to be rich”.  Travel author Kimble Anders called Madripoor “the closest thing I’ve seen to Hell on earth away from an active battlefield”.

Languages

The major languages spoken in in Madripoor are Indonesian, Malay, English, French, and Filipino.

Economy

Madripoor is home to the most luxurious and expensive hotels and high-end service industry in the world, while also possessing one of the most severe wealth inequities in history. This economic polarization has effectively divided the city into the ultra-modern haven of the very rich and powerful, and the domain of the hopelessly poor.

Madripoor grew prominent as a transshipment hub port during the days of wind-powered shipping. In modern times this aspect has declined but it remains a duty-free port with a high volume of re-export trade.

For several years, Madripoor has been one of the few countries with an AAA credit rating and the only Asian country to achieve this rating.  Madripoor attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates, and advanced infrastructure.  Despite market freedom, Madripoor’s government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 44% of the GDP. It is a popular location for conferences and events.

September 6th, 1973 – Kidnap is such an ugly word

I crossed my legs, mostly so I could lean away from Mr. Smiles “New boss huh?  What label do you work for?  You guys must really be hard up to sign me if you went through all the trouble of kidnapping me and dragging me across the globe.  I do have a new song that will knock you on your ass but it’s not going to come cheap I have a lot of demands.”

He laughed thinly “Kidnap?  You have a very suspicious mind for a young lady.  We didn’t kidnap you, we set you free.”

I raised an eyebrow “I suppose I was chained to the floor for my own protection then?  And what exactly was I being freed me from?  I seem to remember doing just fine.  The heat didn’t work in my apartment but that’s not something that warrants at rescue at this time of year.  My landlord and I have a contentious relationship you see.  I won’t pay my rent until he fixes the heat and he won’t fix the heat until I pay the rent.  It’s a chicken egg situation.”

His look turned to one of curiosity “Is the last thing you remember being in an apartment?”

I chuckled “I know, good looking gal like me home on a Saturday night?  What’s the world coming to?  I went for a bike ride, I had lunch with some friends, I watched a little TV, I practiced the guitar for a while, and then I read a little bit before going to bed.  Next thing I know I’m in . . . Korea?”

“Fascinating.”

“That’s all pretty mundane stuff there Mr. Spock, what’s so fascinating about it?”  He snapped his fingers and one of his dark suited lackeys picked up a newspaper from a nearby stand and handed it to him.  He folded it over and handed it to me. “September sixth huh?  Is that supposed to mean something?  Do you guys use a different calendar here?  Wherever here is?”

He shook his head slowly smiling “No, same calendar, you must have been in that facility for quite a while.  And you remember nothing?”

I sighed theatrically “Look man, I get that you’re trying to creep me out and be mysterious and whatnot but it’s annoying.  Just tell me why you brought me here.”

“I told you, you work for me now.”

“Are you that hard up for singers around here that you have to resort to kidnapping?”

“We have plenty of singers, what we need are fighters.”

I couldn’t help but laugh “Fighters?  Are you high man?  The last fight I was in was with my sister when I was twelve.  And I remembering thinking at the time that I was a little too old for it.  I’m a musician.  Who could I possible fight?”

He grabbed my arm and I yanked out of his grip instinctively – it wasn’t hard.  It was like pulling away from the hand of a baby.  I did so with such force that my elbow hit the counter and splintered it like when a guy in one of those karate movies slams his hand down on something.

His smile widened “Who indeed.”

I rubbed my elbow “Yeah, I meant to ask about that, what have you done to me?  Why does my head feel like someone is hitting it with a wrench?  And why am I so damn hungry?”

Date unknown – Meet the new boss, etc. etc. you know the rest

Walking up the hill into Madripoor I felt like I was stepping off of a space capsule on another planet.  I’ve traveled quite a bite in the States, the Coalition, and the Republics, I’ve experienced a lot of different places.  But nothing like this.  The sounds, the smells, the feel of the air – it was all different.  Part of the feeling was probably created by not hearing much English.  Some of the people I passed were speaking French but most of them weren’t speaking anything I recognized. 

The crowded homes at the bottom of the hill seemed clearly like the “bad” part of town, but no one bothered me.  Beyond a few curious looks no on paid me any mind at all.  Half the people seemed like they were too busy to notice me and the other have looked too relaxed to care.   I wanted to know where I was, but more than that I wanted a shot, a beer, a pack of Newports, and some FOOD. 

I hadn’t fully passed into the garish high-rise Vegas part of town but was in a borderlands of sorts when I saw a subway counter type thing with a paunchy old guy serving up . . . something.  Bowls of what looked like grey water with noodles and some fish chunks.  It smelled bad and looked worse but my stomach was rumbling so loudly people were turning to look at me.

The guy behind the counter didn’t speak English or French (I didn’t try Spanish) but I held out the money and he gave me a bowl.  On its own it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.  At that moment it was the BEST THING I EVER TASTED.  Seriously, I cannot express how hungry I was.  I shoved the noodles and chunks into my face with my hands, much to the disgust of the cook/owner/counterman/whatever.  It was pretty gross but I couldn’t help myself.  I didn’t want to.

He tried to give me change but I waved him off and gestured for more food.  After bowl four I started using utensils.  The counterman was shocked by the amount of food I was inhaling in such a short period of time.  After a couple more bowls he gestured at me angrily and shoved some bills back in my hand.  These ones were dark red and pale blue.  It’s quite a color wheel they have going on here with their mint.  I held up one of the bills trying to decipher what was on it. 

“It’s a turtle.”

I turned to see the origin of the voice that had just the smallest hint of a French accent.  It was a smooth looking fellow in a tan leisure suit,  I think I saw Carson wearing that same thing.  The suit, not the guy.  He was one of these types that you can tell is an operator just by looking at him.  Very friendly.  Several guys with him in dark suits didn’t look friendly at all.  But he was the dangerous one.

I turned the bill the other way around “I guess.”

He came and sat on the stool next to me, closer than was necessary “You ran off before we could talk.”

I turned to get a better look at him “You’re from the ship then?  Who are you the skipper?  Where’s your hat?  Where’s Gilligan?”

He smiled humorlessly “I’m your new boss.”

Date unknown – Fresh off the boat

I walked up the weird metal stairs for what seemed like a really long time and came out a short (I mean vertically, I bumped my head) corridor onto the deck of a ship that seemed like a mile long.  Or maybe not the deck, like the side thing?  I don’t know how ships work.  It was a like a walkway.  There was another guy like the one below who was smoking a cigarette and had a strap around his neck.  For some reason I thought it was for a canteen when I first saw it.  It wasn’t.  It was for a gun.  A submachinegun maybe?  I know about as much about guns as I do about ships.  He frowned at me and said something in a language I didn’t understand.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a gun pointed at me.  I don’t care forit.  It was a stupid thing to do, but I turned my back to him because I wanted to get away.  He barked something at me and I turned back to see he had the gun in his hands and was shouting.  I told him in French that I didn’t know what he was saying and he jerked the barrel of his gun to the side like he was telling me to do something.  I don’t know what he was trying to communicate.  Did he want me to jump over the side?

I know porthole isn’t the right word, but that’s what I keep thinking was at the top of the stairs.  It was like a big metal protuberance – I guess it was like the fire door on the roof of an apartment building.  I grabbed at the door because I wanted to put something between me and the gun but when I seized it the door ripped off the hinges (or whatever) like it was held on by toothpaste.  When it tore off the frame it flew out of my hands and slammed into the gunman, knocking him over the side.  I saw his cigarette sitting on the desk and I grabbed it, taking a deep drag.  It was the worst cigarette I ever tasted but it felt so good.    

I was a little afraid to look over the side, but I had to.  I didn’t hear a splash and I saw why.  The man was lying on a . . . wharf maybe?  Is that those things for ships are called?  Was it a jetty?  A pier?  Whatever it was it was ten or twelve feet down.  The man was still moving, which was good, but he wasn’t moving enough to shoot me, which was even better. 

I didn’t see any way down in the immediate area and I didn’t want to explore so I finished the cigarette and then jumped over the side myself.  That was probably a bad idea as well.  I landed on that concrete (or whatever) like I was stepping out of bed, I’ve hurt myself worse stumbling on heels.  I grabbed some more garish red and purple bills out or the groaning gunman’s pocket and headed away from the water.

The city that lay before me was like nothing I had ever seen before.  It was built on an upward slope, the bottom portion closest to the water was a massive sprawl of bungalows and row houses that were piled on top of each other like debris that the tide had carried in.  Directly behind them was an explosion of bright lights and flashy buildings like the Vegas strip had exploded to cover an entire city the size of Chicago. 

I’m pretty sure that Madripoor isn’t in Arkansas

Who’s going to tell Ela’s momma that her little girl ain’t coming home?

By now the word of Ela’s death has probably hit all the major news media outlets.  I was a little stunned yesterday when I was rolling that up.  It would be easy to bring her back, death is cheap in Pathfinder and D&D after all, but that’s the coward’s way.

I’ll be taking a different coward’s way.  I’m going to continue with the same character in a new story with the same basic framework.  I’m going to update Ela’s stodgy image and give her the sleek, dazzling veneer of the 1970’s.  Plus superpowers. 

My plan is for this new story to have 80% less content.  I realized when I stumbled across a similar D&D blog that I liked that if you’re coming in in the middle there’s no way you’re ever going to care enough to read the thousands of pages of backlog.  My not posting 3-10 pages every day for 2 years I hope it will be more approachable. 

Also my goal is to make Ela 60% less reprehensible. 

I’ll be tinkering with the site a bit to make it more awesome and 70s-riffic and then I’ll get started with the stuff. 

In the meantime if you just can’t live without my awkward writing please check out my other tale – https://cultissuchanuglyword.wordpress.com/blog/ my girlfriend has said that it made her uncomfortable only twice!

I know what you’re thinking, “Jeremy, you were born in the 70’s but do you actually know anything about them?”  Heck no, but this will be an alternative world where stuff is different so it’s fine.   If you read the new story and ever think “that doesn’t seem right” I did that on purpose.  That’s a choice.  Worldbuilding.  Etc.