Ela Halloween Special #3

Luciens howls and scrambles forward as a zombie grabs at him relentlessly.  Crawling, hopping, and staggering after Ela with his bad leg.  He yells curses at her in Canadian for leaving him behind and eventually she stops and waits – slapping him across the face and then helping him to catch up with the others.  A few minutes later they’re together on Main Street Sueno Beach.  A street strewn with poorly parked cars, doors open and clogged with half-devoured bodies. There’s blood, bile, guts, bullets, and octane everywhere. Ela and the gang hunker down behind a mini-van in front of a movie theater – the lobby filled with more gnawed-on bodies. There don’t seem to be any zombies in this area for now, but you can hear them not too far away.

Ela is sweeping her eyes around the area alertly “Okay, here’s the plan, we need weapons, and lots of them. So what we’re going to do is . . .”

Elvis wipes at the blood seeping off Lucien’s gnarled leg with his bee-suit “Weapons? We need to get to Lucien to the hospital. His leg is bleeding badly and I don’t think I can stop it.  We need to fix him up and then we can . . .”

Ela all but spits at him “Are you stupid? What do they have at hospitals? Morgues. And what do they have at morgues?  Dead bodies. And what are zombies?  Your honor, I rest my case.  The hospital is zombie central, that’s the last place we’d want to go.”

Martialla is almost in Ela’s hip pocket she’s so close to her “Besides, all the doctors are probably dead anyway.”

Lucien is streaked with sweat and laboring “I think going to the hospital is good idea, no matter what the risk is.  Not just for [untranslatable Canadian gibberish] but for all of us.  Even if there are no doctors left there’s going to be medical supplies, bandages, painkillers and the like.  I think we’re going to need supplies like that before the night is out one way or the other.  I know I could use some prescription strength shit right now.”

Ela is rummaging around in a blood-spattered sedan “Whatever we do, I say we leave Duke to die as we do it, it’s his fault all these zombies are here anyway.”

Duke’s eyes about bug out of his head “WHAT?!”

“Oh yeah, that’s what happens buddy – you mess with Ela and the whole world goes to hell.”

He throws his arms up helplessly/angrily “How did I ever mess with you?  I never did anything to you, why do you hate me?

Ela slaps him “I said shut up.  Fine, we’ll go to the hospital, but first we need to get some weapons if we’re going to have any chance of making it there.  I’ll head to the police station. Martialla, you head to the army surplus store. John, you filthy trash-eating stink bug, you go to the hardware store. Tina, you’re going to head for the sporting goods place.  Elvis, you stay here with Lucien and watch over him.  Look for weapons that are easy to carry and don’t weigh much.”

Martialla waves her hands like a referee calling off a play “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa there lady.  I am amazed at you, split up?” She laughs incredulously. “Split up?” She laughs again, but it’s kind of fake laughing. “What is this, amateur hour? Splitting up is the worst thing we could possibly do! If we split up, they’ll pick us off one by one – we need to stay together! Above everything else we need to stay together, safety in numbers.”

Duke gets in Ela’s grill “Yeah, what gives you the right to boss everyone around?  Who died and made you pope?”

Ela shoves him back angrily “I’m the only one here who’s fit to lead.  I’m the only one here with the guts to get us out of here alive.  Who do you want to put in charge, you human cockroach?”

Elvis points “What about Lucien?”

Ela scowls “What about him?”

Martialla looks down at her injured friend “Yeah, what do you think Lucien, do you want to be in charge?”

Lucien shifts uncomfortably as all eyes turn to him “I think we should stay together and head for the hospital, if any of those places are on the way, we can stop and see what we can find. But I think either way, weapons aren’t as important as staying on the move, we should get out of here right now.”

Elvis helps pull Lucien to his feet “Great, let’s go.”

Ela, holding a tire iron she scavenged from a car looks like she’s about to say something, but just then zombies come bursting out of the shadows. The smell of human flesh fills their flapping rotten nostrils and they hungrily surge forward as fast as they can.  Ela swings the tire iron and bashes one of the zombies in the noggin – its skull bursting like an over-ripe melon and spraying her with some kind of thick, blackish liquid.

Ela looks at her comprehensively befouled clown shirt with dismay “Gross! Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit drinking.”

In their mad dash to escape, our survivors scramble over cars, slip and slide through bloody pools, dodge half-eaten corpses like they’re running through tires at football practice, and struggle to stay together.  This last part is hard because each and every time they come to a crossway, they all start to head in different directions. It turns out their argument about where to go was completely pointless because they can’t head to the hospital anyway – all they can do is go where the zombies aren’t. They end up in a veterinarian clinic, where Elvis and Duke are doing what they can for Lucien’s masticated leg while Tina looks on, concerned and useless. Ela and Martialla stand outside the front of the building keeping watch.

Lucien is gritting his teeth so hard it seems like they’re going to fly out of his head like Pez “[incomprehensible Canadian gibberish] it burns like the fires of Hades!”

Duke is sewing him up with callous disregard for his discomfort “Don’t be such a baby.”

Elvis looks on apologetically, holding Lucien’s hands for comfort “Sorry, but I don’t know anything about dog tranquilizers, I didn’t want to give you too much.”

Ela pokes her head back in through the door “So what’s the prognosis?” Lucien gives her a thumbs up with an unconvincing grimace.  “Good, finish up.” She jerks her hand at Tina. “Come on, Riverdale, we’re going to take a look around.”  They stride out together and Ela waves at Martialla to move out. “Let’s check this street out and see what’s what.”

Martialla mumbles under her breath “That’s a semantically null sentence.”

Tina looks around as she trails after them “Shouldn’t someone stay here to guard the door?”

Ela scoffs “If a zombie gets inside they’ll notice, they don’t need you to tell them about it.”

Martialla frowns “But the point of keeping a watch is to tell them before the zombies get inside isn’t it?”

Ela raises her hand “Do you want to get smacked?”

Martialla shrugs “I little, I’m not proud of it.”

Tina sighs “Can we just go die?  Getting eaten alive is better than listening to you two flirt.”

They carefully creep around to the nearby buildings – trying to stay hidden while not sure that it makes any difference to stay hidden.  How do zombie senses operate? Do they need to see you?  Any which way, keeping a low profile can’t hurt. They don’t find anything useful right away, aside from a couple of flashlights at Radioshack, but the lawn and garden store has some goodies.  Ela and Martialla are standing in an aisle arguing, as is tradition.

Martialla throws a shovel down angrily with a clang “I told you Ela, get hoes, not shovels!”

Ela purses her lips and puts her hands on her hips “Martialla, I hardly think this is the time for that kind of thing.  I admire your womanly desires, being able to keep up your carnal appetite at a time like this, but it’s not really helpful. Not to mention which, I’m sure all the prostitutes got killed already since they were out on the streets walking around, as is tradition.”

She grabs up a hoe “NOT HOOKERS you dolt!! Hoes!  Like this! You know, the kind you use in the garden?” She swings it through the air, kind of near Ela’s head.  “See that, it’s more effective as a weapon than a shovel, what are you going to do with a shovel?  Dig your own grave?”

She gets to not prove her point immediately, as zombies come busting in the big front window with much shattering of glass and moaning, scaring the holy beejeeses out of the both of them. Martialla attacks with her hoe but it gets stuck in a zombie’s chest – which doesn’t seem to inconvenience it one little bit.  Ela knocks it down with her shovel and then whacks off his head, putting an end to his flesh-eating days.  But there’s a whole heapin’ helpin’ of visceral pain coming in zombie form right behind that one, so they high tail it once more.

Ela shouts at Tina as they run past her “Incoming!”

Tina turns to follow them, but her eyes spot something and she gets a gleeful grin on her face. It’s one of them glass cases with a fire axe inside that boldly declares “Break in Case of Emergency”.  This certainly seems like it qualifies, don’t you think?

Tina smashes the glass with a flower pot and reaches through gingerly “Jackpot.” She seizes the axe like a llama attacking a waffle and turns back to the shambling horde coming up behind her.  “Who wants a piece?  You want a piece?”

Ela and Martialla have exited out the back and are out in the street ten yards or so away from the lawn and garden store, once again arguing.  Although for variety this time, they’re also wrestling over the shovel like two tweens in a jeans commercial.

Ela yanks the shovel her way “No! You are not going to lose our only weapon, Martialla!  Tina is dead! Forget about her! She’d be out here by now if she was going to come out!”

Martialla yanks the shovel back her way “We can’t leave her behind! It’s not right, just let me go back in there and check!”

Ela shakes her head and yanks the shovel back her way “Go back in there if you want, but you’re not going to get this shovel out of my hands! It’s all we have, we can’t risk it on the hopeless notion that Tina might be alive in there still. Face facts, she’s zombie-chow!  Which is more use than she ever was in life, honestly”

Martialla lets go of the shovel and Ela suddenly almost falls over backwards “You are such a coward! You never think about anyone but yourself!”

Before Ela can respond, Tina comes walking up to them with an axe over her shoulder – covered from head to toe with gore and zombie skruge “Come on, we better get back to Lucien and the others.”

October 23, 1973 – Dingo day afternoon (only at night, or morning, whatever)

Who leaves a six million dollar military grade prototype robot killsuit sitting unattended in a bar?  Who?  Can you tell me that?  Can you?

“Ela you keep saying you’re the leader – doesn’t that make everything ultimately your responsibility?”

No!  Don’t even try to pull that crap on me.  I shouldn’t have to tell people every little thing.  What about common sense?  Everyone should know NOT to leave a six million dollar military grade prototype robot killsuit sitting unattended in a bar where the asshole we stole it from could waltz right in, steal it back, slip it on, and then come find us for the killing. 

Do I have to do everything?  Do I need to tell people how to take a shower?  If I don’t tell them to turn on the water and how to use soap, will they just wander around the tub?  Granted I don’t think Blue showers because he’s a giant lizard and Martialla is a fish.  But you know what I’m saying.  Right?

Martialla asked the doctor for their guns back so they could kill the Red Bishop.  The JCPenney catalog model doctor was trying to kick us out for bringing trouble to his establishment.  I was trying to keep everyone calm and under control so I could deal with the situation.  And all the while, robot-voice was shrieking at us to “stand and deliver so that you may be judged.”  I went outside to see the robo-suit hovering in midair.  And by hovering I mean blasting giant fucking rocket boot flames at the ground.  I’m surprised the entire neighborhood wasn’t on fire.

I shielded my eyes from flying debris and shouted up at the annoying robot-suit man “This is a hospital damn it, stop shouting!”

“What?  I can’t hear you.”

“That’s because you have rockets strapped to your feet!”

“WHAT?!”

“LAND GOD DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!”

I don’t know if he heard me, but he did land, and then immediately he pointed one of the red gewgaws on his arm at me.  Just being targeted, but whatever it is made me feel like my stomach acid was bubbling.  I could feel my ovaries shriveling up inside me.  I’m pretty sure this guy is giving the entire city cancer just by flying around in that thing.

“Hey, don’t point that thing at me, I want to have kids some day!”

It’s amazing how well the suit’s voice whatever thingy conveys confusion “What?”

“Just point a missile at me or something while I still have a few eggs left!  What the hell do you want?”

“You and your friends are under arrest.”

“What are you talking about?  We didn’t do anything.”

“You were robbing the casino!”

“That was Lady Marmalade and her sex slaves, we were innocent bystanders!”

“I saw your friend picking up the money!  Plus you attacked me.”

“First of all, it wasn’t even that much money.  One night of drinking and it was gone.  I still can’t figure out how much the money here is worth.  The other day I saw someone give over a bill with a neon green shrimp on it and they got a whole bushel basket of some kind of fruit, but when I give someone the one with the winged goat on it . . .”

Something on his suit lights up with a dangerous red glow “Shut up!”

I held up my hands “Okay, okay I was getting off track.  We attacked you because you were the one killing everybody!  You popped one of those kids like a pimple.  For what?  A simple robbery?  What kind of justice is that?  Robbery is probably barely even illegal here.”

“They had guns, they were endangering lives.”

“YOU were the only one who was killing people, you’re the dangerous one.”

“I was protecting people!”

“Who were you protecting?  You probably gave everyone who looked eyeball cancer with that damn radiation machine you’re wearing.  And where did you get it anyway?  Somehow I have the feeling that you’re not a Burlington Industries test pilot.”

“I am the Crimson Cardinal!”

“Okay look, even if you arrest us, what does that mean?  I don’t think you’re part of the Madripoor police department.  What are you going to do with us?  I don’t think they’re going to put us in jail on your say so.  If they even understand you.  So what are you going to do with us?  Do you have a floating Cardinal Fortress somewhere nearby where you strap people to walls and punish them with your Cardinal Rod of Justice?  By which I mean your . . .”

“I know what you mean!”

“So what’s the plan here chief?  I’m giving myself up.  What are you going to do with me?”

“I must stop you!”

I threw up my hands “From doing what exactly?  I’m trying to get medical care for my friend who was stabbed.  Where were you when we were being attacked by the Stab Gang?  That’s some crime you could have stopped!”

His robo-head darted back and forth for a moment before locking back on me “This is an illegal clinic!  Drugs are sold here, it must be destroyed!”

He fired his rocket-boots, which I’m pretty sure melted some of the street, but before he could get off the ground, I threw a ’62 Impala at him.  It didn’t look like it was in very good shape, even for an 11 year old car.  Which is confusing.  There aren’t a lot of cars here.  The people that have them tend to be wealthy.  So who owns a beater like that?  If you’re rich, you’d keep it in good shape right?  But no one else can afford cars.  What’s the story of that Impala?

How does a robot suit work anyway?  Even if the metal is strong enough to not get broken up by a flying car, isn’t the bulk of that impact transferred to the guy inside it anyway?  I’ve been told that if you wear a bulletproof vest and you get shot, it’s still like getting kicked in the chest by an elephant – the vest just defuses some of the force and keeps the bullet from ripping through your heart.  How much can an armor suit of space-age metal protect you rather than just being indestructible itself while you get pulverized inside like the ice for a daiquiri?  If any engineers our there can explain it, let me know.

The car slammed the Red Rocket to the ground and pinned him there like a butterfly on display.  I was ninety percent expecting the car to go flying as he tossed it away with robo-strength and then he’d stand up like Dracula coming out of his coffin and fire an omega beam of death at me — but nothing happened.  The suit just laid there like a broken toy under the car.  Some kind of liquid may have been leaking out of it.  I waited for a moment and then shrugged and went back into the clinic.

Which was empty.  Elvis’s bed was empty.  Blue was gone.  Martialla was gone.  LBK was gone.  The doctor and his staff, everyone was gone. 

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?