“Listen, you Hephaestus scumbags, I got you the anti-gravity thingy and it worked perfectly, unless you dare besmirch my technical prowess. And let me tell you, I’m technical like a motherfucker. So you are going to pay me the rest of what we agreed to or I will transform your world into a personal Armageddon that would make field of bloodlusting demons scream in agony and abandon sleep lest they face in a few hours’ nightmares the hellscapes I will sentence you to for an eternity!”
Supervillain’s tip: if you need help thinking up good threats, try to channel your inner Chris Farley. It also helps to wear something intimidating, like how I had my power armor on for this conversation.
I was yelling at a Hephaestus negotiator over the giant screen. For those who don’t remember, Hephaestus is part of a two-pronged organization that deals in superpowers. The Hephaestus portion handles science and technology. Its magical division is called Faustus. Due to the mercenary nature of their work, they insist on referring to their handlers as “negotiators”. This one in particular had worked out a deal that led to me crashing the lab I talked about last time.
Despite the dark sunglasses meant to hide his reactions, I still saw the negotiator swallow at the threat. “We assumed you were joking about that particular condition. You have to understand, most of our deals are for either barter or currency. Your request to forgo payment in favor of six pizzas and the rights to,” he paused to read something off his tablet,” the song ‘Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!’ by some group called ‘Vengaboys’, left us…flabbergasted. That’s the best word I can come up with.”
“I don’t care if you understand it. I don’t need you to understand it. All I need is for you to do it. You guys have a legal department for a reason. Keep stonewalling me on this and you’ll need a funerary department.”
“We have a funerary department. In fact, I have a note here on your profile saying that they’d like to work out contact with your noted associates Mix N’Max and The Good Doctor regarding work.”
“Doc is currently retired. Max is currently hungover, I think.” A glance confirmed that Max was indeed hanging over the catwalk, drinking a keg of beer from the keg walker through a hose. Gotta be careful working with a hose since they kink up so much. Things can get kinky in a hurry if you don’t keep your hose in line. I really expected something a little less mundane from him, though at least the hose was wrapped around the wrists and bellies of a group of girls done up like the place was a rave. Even their dreadlocks were lit up like nightlights. They didn’t seem all that out of place next to people in superhuman costumes, emos, Goths, punks, furries, fake vampires, and at least one real vampire that I heard was in the crowd from the bouncer. I kept track of that one through thermal imaging.
“That’s disappointing. It might expedite payment toward you if you showed yourself to be a valued resource by introducing us anyway…” The negotiator thought he was being clever.
“You’ll expedite my request or I’m going to have to make my own pizzas out of you and you’ll live long enough for a taste test. If you don’t believe that I take breach of contract seriously, you can check your notes there.”
The blanching negotiator did just that. He read something on his tablet, did a double take, reread it, then told me, “You’ve got it. Please give us twenty-four hours. Thank you for dealing with Hephaestus.” Then he cut the connection.
With that bit of business dealt with, I checked on other things going on. The world’s kept on spinning all this time, of course. Russia has its hands full with Ukraine despite rumors that some European undesirables were airlifted behind Russian lines. I’m sure the Russians had some government-controlled supers of their own, but they were going up against the current Count Berlin, Barghest, the original Rubberman, and the latest Fire Eater. Not the toughest guys around, but vicious, and Rubberman fought in World War II. He was a Nazi, so he’s really in a Russian-killing mood. I didn’t believe the rumors about the Deathless Brain being involved though.
Still, the EU must be pretty damn serious if they’re throwing prisoners at the Russians. I know from personal experience that it’s pretty hard to sell soldiers on a war when a serial killer is running around back at their home city and possibly killing their families.
A lot of stuff making big news here in the U.S. wasn’t all that interesting. Eschaton was interviewed denouncing the Russians. Captain Thunder destroyed some sort of armed alien probe from space. A bunch of gimmicky killers tried and failed to assassinate some guy called Menthor. People apparently love some show on the internet called House of Cards. A guy who believes the planet is only 6,000 years old criticized the movie they haven’t released yet about Noah’s Ark, claiming they’re not sticking to the real story. Fairly mundane things over here.
See? The news that doesn’t involve me is so boring. Speaking of which, there are still anonymous rumors that I’m back from the dead already, but no trustworthy sources have revealed that I’m around yet. That would still be enough for at least one network to be manufacturing cries of terror and indignation, but that’s the same network my accomplice Harlon works at. I killed some people once, took him on a small adventure, got him a promotion. He’s in my pocket, right next to the dirty old penny and crumpled receipt for a bunch of vibrators I donated to an asylum. Why? Because it’s fucking crazy.
Enough puns for now, though.
I slid off my throne and pulled a lever that opened the trap door under my feet to drop me straight down. Along the way, I slapped a hidden button on the crotch of the metal superhero sculpture. This opened another trap door that dropped me on hard concrete in a shaft just under the floor. It was about a wookie and a half deep and had a small ladder for climbing. Not a very good entrance for when you’re stealing stuff, but that’s why there are a couple others around the place, like in the rear loading dock/garage area, the bathrooms, and the showers. I’m working on getting one to lead to a manhole out on the street, too.
I’d need to worry about infiltrators if I had that escape route, though. You’ve got to watch your manhole in case somebody tries to slip inside who you don’t want up in there.
I found Leah hiding in my sparsely-furnished underground lair, which I didn’t expect. She was sitting at a computer with multiple browser windows open. She had stuff on tattooing, anatomy, and injuries open. See? Being a villain means research. Heroes can just show up and fight whoever’s there, but villains have to make something happen.
“Not out on surveillance tonight?” She practiced changing the colors of her face. Her lips switched between different shades that resembled lipstick. Her eyes changed color. She even tried out black shapes on her face that resembled masks. Ever since we had that lesson on weakpoints and how to get into another person’s head, she had gotten better about her powers. I even let her try out a tattoo on me. She was funny. I have a tramp stamp of a stylized me in power armor with my back to the view, peeing on ground. I might keep it.
“No. I know a good time to come after her now. And that stuff about asymmetric warfare was really handy. I don’t know if I’m going to use the weak points in a fight, but the psychological stuff was good. I think I can use it.”
“When are you going to use it, by the way?”
“I’m heading out tomorrow night. Maybe you ought to come with me? You’re the bigger boogeyman.”
“You’d never make that comparison if you actually met one, you know.”
“Yeah, they’re funny guys.”
“Yeah, but don’t worry. They’re more drawn towards situations where magic is drastically interwoven throughout the whole thing. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.”
Carl called in on my helmet. “Hey boss, don’t know what you’re doing right now, but we got a pizza delivery guy here who says we have an order?”
“Ooh, very good service. Pay the man and bring them in.”
“What was that about? If I can ask, I mean.” Leah grabbed a scrunchie and fixed her hair back.
“Aight stop…pizza time! You want some?”
Yeah, Hephaestus was real prompt there. Glad to see they stopped bullshitting me. Speaking of promptness and no more bullshit, there’s something else worth talking about.
The next night at about two in the morning, I drove Leah along to a house not far from her friends’. It was the bully’s place. She sat there awhile in the passenger seat, looking at it through a wet windshield. She was wearing a black shirt, gloves, and pants with a black camera strapped to her chest. I let her keep thinking about what she was going to do for a minute, then said, “It’s a lot like a pool, you know. The best way to deal with it is to jump on in and get submerged. Then worry about putting on clothes until after the police stopped chasing you. You ready?”
“You gonna do this?”
“I’m going to do this.”
“Alright, time to get out there and be lean, mean, asskicking machine. Put your hand in here.”
I held my hand out. She put hers on top.
“Give her a night of well-deserved hell for the days and weeks she’s given you and your mother. Tell the angel to go to sleep and listen to that devil on your shoulder instead. Now go on and give her one hell of an anal raping!”
She was pumped when she left the car. I stayed and kept an eye on things via the camera. She snuck in pretty well. “No alarm system. They’ve snuck Nicky in before,” she whispered as she checked a fake rock for the key underneath. She let herself in and stalked quietly through the house.
She knew where she was going, though. She found her way through the house to one certain room. She bent down and used some little strips to stick it to the door. Kinda like the stuff you use to stick a mirror to a wall without screws. Less noisy than tape. She let herself in without making all that much noise. From there, she found her way to the closet, opened the sliding door, and got inside, leaving it open just enough to peek out and let me see.
First came the scratching sounds and whimpering noises. That woke up the occupant of the bed, who was sleeping on her belly.
“Go away Muffin! Get someone else, I’m sleeeeeping.”
The scratching and whimpering didn’t stop.
It kept on or ten minutes before the girl pulled the covers off, grabbed her crutches from the side of the bed, and went to check. The sounds stopped as soon as the door opened. “The fuck?” she said upon finding nothing there.
There was the sound of her closing it, followed by more whimpering. Just the whimpering that time. She turned hobbled around and jerked the door open. No more whimpering. Through the camera, I could see the walls warping, forming vaguely humanoid silhouettes in the dark. She didn’t seem to notice them at first.
At first. She stopped on her way back to her bed, looking at walls that changed. Whispering came from the recorder. It was loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to make out what, if anything, was being said. Then came the sound of a baby crying as one of the shapes on the wall took on bright red eyes and looked at the bully. She threw those crutches aside and dove for the light switch.
In the light, the wall looked like normal again. Mostly normal. The color was a little off, but close enough given the circumstances. The sounds stopped as well. She stood up shakily and took a few pained steps toward her crutches, grabbing one to hold it like a bat. Then she saw the dresser mirror. It had bloody stains on it. She approached it, and that’s when the people appeared in the mirror. One was Leah. The other was her mother. They just stared at the bully for a moment before red splashed all over the mirror as if from the other side of it.
The bully just stared at it, paralyzed. The blood didn’t cover the entire mirror, and I could actually see that her eyes were bulging way the fuck out. Most people only think about the instinctive threat responses of flight or fight, but there’s also paralysis. It can be pretty damn useful to freeze up, because predators can often catch on quicker to movement than they can to something standing stock still.
Hands from the other side of the mirror wiped the blood away to reveal Leah and her mother standing there, hurt. Leah must have looked at car crash photos too, because stuff was hanging out and punctured and all kinds of ooey gooey.
Leah herself moved from the closet as the video took on a red hue. She stood behind and a little to the side of the bully when the images of Leah, her mother, and the blood all disappeared from the mirror, leaving the girl’s reflection. And the reflection of Leah, who was deathly pale, with sunken eyes that looked like holes carved into her face. She was covered in what looked like blood, including a part where the camera was strapped that looked like something sticking out. She had a red line running around her forearms and underarms to meet in a circle around her wrists. Her teeth were black and shiny and opened up to reveal a pale green tongue. She had hair of purple, black, blue, and even a dull yellow. The color of bruises. It framed eyes that were bright red. Unlike the other images, this one wasn’t in the fore of the bully’s own.
Slowly, the girl turned around. When she saw that this was something standing in the middle of her own room, she opened her mouth to scream. Leah thrust a hand against the girl’s solar plexus, forcing the air out of her and keeping her from screaming. I taught her that. She also smacked the girl in the throat, messing somewhat with her ability to take in air. Leah kept her hand there and wrapped her fingers around it, squeezing in a few particular places to cut off the blood flow to the brain. As soon as the girl was out, Leah let her fall. She panted to herself, then set to work again.
She had to be quick about it and let a couple minutes later, before the girl could wake up. She took back her recorder and was setting the fake rock back over the key when a scream cut through the air.
When she settled into the car, Leah tore at the straps holding the camera in place and threw it into the floorboard, then wrapped herself and her knees in a hug. She still looked like in the house, but those colors faded and she returned to looking like herself. A very quiet herself who closed her eyes and didn’t say anything on the trip back.
I thought she did an awesome job. I’m sure the bully appreciated it when she woke up and saw the rest of what happened when she was knocked out. I got a good view through the cameras, but I wish I’d seen her reaction when she stood up and saw the reflection of that bloody girl with the dark pits for eyes and the bruised hair in the mirror again. This time, the reflection was hers. She was now the monster from the mirror. Now and until the day she dies.
In honor of Leah, an evil laugh: bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!