2015年10月30日 星期五

The Justice League of America v. Taiwan (Part One of Three)

 
Back in the late 70s, after Taiwan lost its seat in the U.N., the Taipei Economic and Cultural Affairs Office (TECO), organized an island-wide activity to reaffirm America's commitment to a free and democratic Taiwan.

To this end they invited America's most famous superheroes, the Justice League of America, over for a tour of Taiwan.  They would have invited the Marvel superheroes as well, but they were already engaged in a similar "goodwill tour" of Mainland Chinese industrial centers.  This kind of situation was an often-seen result of Kissinger-era geopolitics, with the DC and the Marvel superheroes serving different, and sometimes competing, goals within U.S. foreign policy.

Early on it was agreed that only half of the League would tour Taiwan during the first week, with the other half touring Taiwan during the second week.  At that time the JLA's roster consisted of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash, so for the purposes of the tour the superheroes were divided into two groups of three.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman would visit first, and during the following week the Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash would visit after the first three superheroes had departed.

Monday

The anticipation was palpable at the new Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Airport as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman arrived in Taiwan.  Wonder Woman was flying her invisible jet, Batman piloted his Batwing, and Superman characteristically descended without the aid of machinery.

"Greetings, Taiwan!" said Superman to enormous applause.  President Chiang Ching-kuo and the head of the TECO office were seated before them, in front of a huge welcoming committee, and they had risen along with many others to greet the Man of Steel.  As Chiang Ching-kuo offered a warm, Western-style handshake to Superman he ogled Wonder Woman, taking in the bounty of her Amazonian form and her scarcity of clothing.  Batman he also greeted warmly, commenting upon the auspicious nature of bats in traditional Chinese culture. 
      
“I got lost three times on the way over here,”fumbled Wonder Woman as she timidly shook the President’s hand.  “You know how we women are with directions!  Why if I didn’t have these two fellows to point me in the right direction, I never would have made it!”

Back then north Taiwan was much dirtier than it is now, and much more difficult to navigate.  The airport (which we now refer to as Terminal 1) where the superheroes met the representatives of the R.O.C.,  had just been constructed, and most of the roads between there and Taipei, the capital, were in bad condition.  A newer two-lane highway led from the airport to Taiwan's first freeway, itself not much older than the airport, yet besides these few, gleaming symbols of modernity there were endless small villages between rice fields, canals choked with refuse, and tanned, squinting farmers who emerged from brick houses within view of the airport.

"What a dump," whispered Superman as they were ushered into a waiting limousine.  "This place has nothing on Metropolis."

Various officials ushered the Americans into a waiting limousine.  The President was in a second limousine, with the three superheroes’ limousine following at a respectful distance.  Having passed through the formalities of their arrival, the superheroes allowed themselves to relax a bit, and gave vent to some of the feelings and impressions that had been forming since they had approached the island.  It had looked very beautiful as they had flown in from the east, but on the ground Taiwan took on a different cast.

"Fucking chinks," said the Man of Steel as he put an arm around Wonder Woman, "I figured this place would look like shit.  These people don't know how to take care of themselves.  They're dirty.  After I became mayor of Metropolis, one of the first things I did was to kick them out.  You can't trust these people.  They're shifty!"

"You might want to tone down the racial talk," said Batman from the other side of the car, "The driver might be listening to us."

"I don't give a shit," said Superman.  Then, to Wonder Woman, "Isn't that right, honey?"

"Anyway," added the Kryptonian to Batman, "After we get settled in Taipei we'll get you set up with some Asian pussy, Bruce!  I know what a pussy fiend you are!"

And as he said this the driver smirked knowingly, his eyes glinting at the three from the rearview mirror.  The limousine exited onto the island's main freeway, and they headed north toward Taipei.

Tuesday

At that time Taipei lacked the gleaming glass and steel high-rises that it's known for today.  The buildings were much lower to the ground, and brown, white, and gray were the dominant colors.  The mountains, however, still gleamed emerald around the capital, and the skies still shimmered with a subtropical haze.

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were put up in a hotel near the Presidential Palace.  This hotel was very Western in appearance, with large windows and a swimming pool. 

The superheroes were treated to a Western-style breakfast with various functionaries, and afterward they were led to a large auditorium where speeches were given.  Chiang Ching-kuo was the first to give a speech, which was followed by speeches by several other members of the government.  These speeches were translated from Mandarin into English for the superheroes, and at various points in the speeches Superman farted loudly.

Then the Americans took the stage.  Superman offered a short yet rambling speech that made little sense to anyone.  Batman offered a better speech stressing economic cooperation.  Wonder Woman encouraged the women of Taiwan to be more submissive to their husbands, and to never try too hard at sports.

Later that evening there was a gala dinner held for the visiting superpowered dignitaries at the hotel where they were staying.  A popular Taiwanese singer commanded the stage, and members of the audience started dancing around an open space in the center of the ballroom.  Batman found himself the center of female attention that evening, with several unaccompanied females surrounding him at a corner table.  Wonder Woman and Superman found themselves alone at another table, and they took great pleasure in ignoring those who ventured near them.

"Look at that guy," said Superman to his Amazonian companion, "Guy could get pussy at a faggot convention.  Well at least I've got you, right honey?  And oh yeah - I've got Lois, too!  Good thing she can't see us here together!  Think of how jealous she'd be!"

Wonder Woman gazed off into the distance, not wanting to encourage him.  The term "date rape" hadn't been invented yet, but it would have described Kal-el's method of courtship perfectly.  She could feel his eyes upon her breasts, and hoped that his heat vision wouldn't leave any marks upon her person.

Just then a familiar-looking waiter came over and offered them two glasses, each containing a green liquid.  "What the hell is this?" asked Superman.

"It is a drink my company has invented," said the waiter.  "I call it Super Supau.  It is what we are calling a sports drink.  Soon you Americans will have them as well.  It will give you energy!"

"Really?" scoffed Superman, "Well I am tired.  Looks weird though.  Anyway, down the hatch..."

The waiter's eyes glinted as the two superheroes drank down the proffered beverage.  It was only then that Wonder Woman recognized him as the man who had driven their limousine the day before. 

"Tastes funny, too," said Superman, "But I kind of..."

He stopped, and slowly rose to his feet.  "But I kind of..."

And then clutching at his belly, he emitted the most pitiful groan that Wonder Woman had ever heard, and dropped to the floor, stone dead.

"Yes," said the waiter/driver, "Super Supau.  And the active ingredient is kryptonite.  I learned about such things in Metropolis, where I attended university.  Just before you had us ‘chinks’ kicked out!"

"Oh my God!  You've killed him!" shouted Wonder Woman, "You murderer!"

But the waiter/driver had already disappeared into the dancing couples before she had finished her exclamation, and no one heard them over the music.  She looked down at the corpse of Superman, wondering what else could go wrong, and why.

Wednesday

Wonder Woman grew quite hysterical after the death of Superman, to the point that a tranquilizer was dropped into a glass of water and given to her.  Several hotel staff members carried her back to her room, where she awoke the next morning.

As for Batman, he was nowhere to be found.  Wonder Woman arose from bed very confused the following morning, and her inquiries into the whereabouts of Batman were all met with an embarrassed silence.


Eventually she had to remind herself that she was a superhero, too, and that even though it was the men who did all the heavy lifting, and jar opening, and all of the really heroic tasks, she had learned a thing or two on Paradise Island.  She could bake an upside-down cake, couldn't she?  She could mend a tear in Aquaman's chain-mail, couldn't she?  And who else could operate the Justice League's washer/dryer unit if not her?


So, after gathering up all of her Amazonian courage, after carefully applying her makeup and combing her long, lustrous black hair, she left her room and accosted the first person she met.  "WHERE IS BATMAN?!" she roared at the helpless maid, "WHAT HAVE YOU PEOPLE DONE WITH BATMAN?!?"


A police officer quickly walked over from the other end of the hall, and after placing himself between the maid and the furious Amazon he took her to a room downstairs, where he seated her at a table.  Soon another man in a suit arrived, and he sat down across from her.  They were in a small room on the first floor, and there were many windows looking out on the hotel's swimming pool.  Wonder Woman had been unconscious since the previous night, and she was surprised to learn that the day was well advanced.


"I know you are distressed after the events of last night," said the man in the suit.  The policeman remained in the room, standing behind him.  "And I want you to know that the authorities are still searching for Superman's killer.  But we have located your associate Batman, though I doubt you'll be happy once you learn where he is."


As they spoke several other guests of the hotel peered through the large windows at Wonder Woman.  It wasn't every day that you saw a superhero.


"Well, where is he?" she said.  "Can you take me to him?"


The man in the suit considered this for a moment, and then nodded in assent.  "Yes," he answered, "I think it is better if I do.  If I tell you, I don't think you'll believe me."


With that Wonder Woman followed the man in the suit out of the hotel, and they entered a waiting police car.  The policeman from the hotel was behind the wheel, and he left the hotel's main entrance without any instructions from the man in the suit.


"Where are we going?" said Wonder Woman.


The man in the suit was very careful with his words.  "It is," he said, "A local tourist attraction, not far from here.  Only a few minutes, and we'll be there.  Your companion was found there early this morning, and there was nothing we could do."


"Nothing you could do?" she asked, "Is he alright?  Has he been hurt?"


"Again," said the man very carefully, "I think it's better if you see for yourself.  In a short time you will understand everything."


"OK," gulped the Amazonian, "But... what about Superman?  After last night..."


"Arrangements have been made with your government," said the man in the suit.  "There is no need to worry about him, though of course we are very sorry for your loss."


The car pulled to a stop along a crowded street, and in front of them there was an alley, over which a sign in Chinese stood.  Taxis buzzed back and forth, and Wonder Woman had to squint her eyes against the glare of the sun.  She remembered the alley from somewhere.  A picture she had seen...


"This is Huaxi Street Night Market," said the man in the suit, "Also referred to as 'Snake Alley' in some foreign guidebooks.  Do you know what this place is famous for?"


"Snakes?" said Wonder Woman timidly.  She could recall hearing the name before, but... what did all of this have to do with Batman?


"Not only snakes," pursued the man, "There are many other exotic foods to be found here.  It seems that after the party last night, your Batman accompanied several other guests here.  He was of course very intoxicated by that point, and..."


"And what?" said Wonder Woman.  She was growing impatient with the proceedings, and something about the man in the suit's manner disturbed her.  Every time he spoke the policeman cast his eyes to the ground, afraid to meet her gaze.


"Again, I think it's better if I just show you," said the man in the suit.  Follow us into the alley.  This way please."


She did as she was told.  They walked a short distance across a garbage-strewn street, and entered into the dark confines of the alley.  It occurred to her that this was a place where Batman would feel most comfortable, where he would be most inclined to drop his guard.  There was a narrow, shadowed lane between food stalls where she saw snakes in cages, turtles in water tanks, and low tables where a few people sat on stools, eating.  The back of the alley was separated from the rest of the market by several lengths of yellow police tape, the kind used to mark the scene of a crime.


"You'll have to understand that he came here at night," began the man in the suit, "Dressed as a bat..."


"Oh my God!" shrieked Wonder Woman, just before she fainted.  


"Yes," said the man in the suit.  "I would have explained at the hotel, but I didn't think you would believe me."


Because there, at the farthest removed table in Snake Alley, at the most shadowed of all the tables there, they found the remains of Batman.  He had come into the stalls dressed as a giant bat of course, and somewhere, in the midst of their nighttime revels, his companions had eaten him.  His partially devoured head swam in a bowl of soup in the center of the table, and around the perimeter of the table the man in the suit could see some of Batman’s larger bones, dishes composed of his meat fried with peppers, and many, many bottles of rice wine.  It had been a grand feast, and Batman had been the guest of honor.


"Help me get her back to the hotel," said the man in the suit.  "I think she's seen enough."


Thursday

As could be imagined, by Thursday Wonder Woman was ready to leave Taiwan.  She was heavily sedated, she had broken a nail or two at Snake Alley, and in her dreams recurred the images of both Superman’s and Batman’s untimely demises.

A limousine drove her back to the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport.  The only trouble was finding her invisible jet.  It had somehow been moved during her absence, and since no one could see it they had no easy way of finding it.  Airport workers fanned out in every direction like blind men, their outstretched arms searching for the vanished jet.

Eventually they found it parked on a nearby rice field.  It was a lot of work to pull it back onto the tarmac, but after hours of labor they succeeded in positioning it at the end of a runway.  At least they thought they had positioned it at the end of a runway.  Not being able to see it, it was difficult to tell.

After this they led the heavily sedated Wonder Woman to her invisible jet.  As they did so she rambled on incoherently about cannibalism and poisoners, most of her words slurred and indistinct.  "You killd em," muttered the Amazonian, "Yer guys killd... superdrink... what cud I do..."

Nearly tranquilized into unconsciousness, she unsteadily climbed the invisible ladder up into the cockpit of her invisible jet.  She muttered some kind of farewell as the invisible cockpit (they assumed) closed, and then they heard the sound of engines.  President Chiang Ching-kuo was not there to witness her departure, as the deaths of both Superman and Batman were seen as a major loss of face for the Republic of China.

The roar of invisible engines cut through the chatter, and Wonder Woman began to accelerate down the runway.  It was only as she thus accelerated that the crowd noticed her form begin to slump over the invisible controls.  Had she fainted again?  Was it the sedatives?  For a moment she ascended upward at a ninety degree angle - perhaps a hundred feet or so from the ground - and then, to everyone's horror, the sound of her engines ceased, and she began to descend backwards towards the airport.

Then there was a great explosion, and Wonder Woman was no more.

"Fuck," said the suited man in English, "How am I supposed to explain this?"

Friday

"Is everything OK over there?" said the President of the United States to the head of the TECO office in Taipei, "We've been getting some reports."

"Sure, everything's fine, sir," answered the man in the TECO office, "Nothing to worry about.  Superman just had a bit of indigestion at the dinner.  Batman?  He... might have caused some indigestion.  Wonder Woman is at the airport now, on the runway.  Nothing to worry about at all."

And with that the head of the TECO office said his goodbyes and hung up.  I am so fired, he thought.  And in a couple days the other three will be here.

Saturday

The really annoying thing about an invisible jet is finding and disposing of all the wreckage.  Wonder Woman had been incinerated in the explosion, so all that remained was finding all the parts of her jet, and depositing them in the nearest landfill.

Batman's remains mostly took care of themselves.  When the police returned to Snake Alley, the rest of him had been consumed.  His fried bits had been eaten, and his bones had been used for soup.  For days the "giant bat pot" was the talk of the town.

Superman's corpse was the only real problem.  His body didn't decay in the normal fashion, and the authorities worried that his corpse would stand as evidence against them.  Then, in an inspired decision, they dressed him as Chiang Kai-shek and bronzed him.  He remains to this day in front of the National Palace Museum, where he gazes down upon Chinese and non-Chinese visitors alike.  It was decided that this was the best way to honor the Man of Steel, since his love for his Chinese brothers and sisters was well known.

"I am so fired," said the head of the TECO office as he looked upon the statue for the first time.  "I think it's time I took that vacation I've got coming.  I'd rather not be around when the next set of superheroes arrive!"

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