I had to answer to the board for that little business with Stang. Some on there knew about the bombings being our business, specifically whats-her-name with Research and Development. They all tactfully kept their mouths shut and I framed it as an attempted extortion from a local crime leader.
Extortion, for those less well-versed in crime, is when you threaten someone with force if they don’t pay you. Protection rackets are a form of extortion, for example. They claim it’s a way to protect a business from any burglars or organized crime types causing trouble, but the implication is that if they don’t pay money, they’ll come back and wreck the place. This is not to be confused with blackmail, which is very similar but involves the release of damaging info rather than physical force. Though, technically blackmail is just a subgenre of extortion.
Oh, I know an example. Not sure if he’s over in your world, but there’s this fellow here named Charles Rodrick. If anyone in the United States is arrested for any kind of sex offense, this guy goes and puts them on his sex offender website. Not authorized by any government agency or anything. He doesn’t bother differentiating, either. Now, I’m not saying anyone who raped an adult didn’t do anything wrong, but there’s no reason one should be kept from coaching his kid’s tee ball team. But the part where this guy really gets insidious is that he never takes a person off. So if a person turns out innocent, or if they’re convicted but win an appeal and have their record expunged, he keeps it up there. People can only get it taken down with the help of a lawyer
The guy makes so much money off the racket, he keeps operating it even after losing millions of dollars in lawsuits. Nobody’s making him legally take it down, but the fact that he requires people to pay money to remove the information is enough to lose him time and time again. Hell, he could put anyone he wants to in that database since he doesn’t even claim to be providing current factual information. Maybe I could get the guy to put Venus in there.
And to think, y’all thought evil was the purview of supervillains like me.
Hell, if there’s anything you should have noticed by now, it’s that it takes someone as rare as Spinetingler or myself to even approach the kind of shit regular humans do to each other.
Like this mess with Stang. It’d be good business to work with him. It’d be good business to make his allies my allies. It might even help my overall cause somehow to work with him. But if I’m going to die for this fucking planet, I’m at least going to make sure that I’m dying for a better class of people than that.
That’s why the meeting didn’t last long. I believe I projected a certain air of disapproval, looking over them all. For so many, many reasons. “Sir,” started Festus, “I’ve also been, I mean, I meant to address the firing of Mr. Mazzo. I know you’re the boss, but I’m head of Human Resources and if you had a complaint…” He let it drift off rather than say what he was uncomfortable saying, all while glancing over at Ben Rayman, Security Chief. Or whatever title Ben has. Might have to ask Crash that one.
“Didn’t care about his general sexism, Festus,” I said, not bothering to look at him. I looked over the table in general. “Nobody’s perfect. We are, as we’re all mostly aware, the bad guys. It’d be unusual if there wasn’t a racist or a misogynist in this bunch, which doesn’t even count how normal it’d be in most companies. After all, such a backwards species as yours can hardly be held to the same standards as superior beings like myself. I do ask, however, that you don’t indulge your individual vices and obsessions in a way that’s going to hurt Double Cross or in a way that goes against me. I expected him to embezzle a little, but rather than admit to it with me there, he decided to treat me like an idiot. He thought he could be in complete control of the money because I had no way to trace it. He was wrong on so many points and so I fired him personally.” I waited a beat before adding, “Out of a cannon from the roof.”
Both Crash and Genae glanced at their phones at the same time.
Seeing as everyone had been such nice sports about me going ballistic on their comrade.“Ok, folks. Now I have an idea about this little war we’ve gotten into. Let all your friends know that we’re willing to pay good money for superhumans to lend us a hand in this business. Feel free to take them out to a nice dinner or lunch while you let them know, on me. In fact, everybody can go get started on that right now if you don’t have anything to do. Meeting over. Ta ta! Bye! Have a good day.” I beckoned them to the doors.
Crash and Genae lingered which prompted me to ask what part of “Bye” didn’t they understand. Genae and Crash looked at each other. “Something I should know about, you two?” I asked to circumvent the growing pointing war while they each suggested the other tell me something.
“Sir,” Crash said. “A superhero stopped by. She wants to talk to you about what happened.
I raised an eyebrow. “Just which hero are we talkin’ about here?”
“Venus,” Genae answered.
“Don’t be silly! I can handle a quick chat with a hero! There’s no need to make a big deal over any of this. Just send her on up to my penthouse.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather meet her in your office?” Crash asked.
I blinked. “I have an office?”
I went ahead on up to my penthouse without Crash or Genae, even though Genae suggested we get a spokesman or possibly even a lawyer. Lawyers? I know we employed crooks, but I didn’t think I had any of that scum on the payroll.
Up at the penthouse, I made sure to call out for Moai to hide. He took his special chute down to the art gallery made to impress investors. The reinforced floor is, of course, a security measure, while the emphasis on sculptures of nude women is just artistic taste and not indicative of the personal preferences of an animate Moai statue.
I wanted to put in a pole, but it took up too much room in the shaft and one of the construction guys made a comment about how good I would look on a pole. You know, you’d be surprised how far a stiletto heel can stab into a person even without a stiletto blade hidden in them. He probably didn’t need those nuts anyway.
With Moai out of the way, I sat facing the elevator, all ready to see Venus again, though with no idea what to say. I double-checked the color of my eyes. Can’t afford any mistakes.
Just when I thought she was taking her sweet time, I heard a knock off to the side. She stood out on the terrace to the helipad, having scaled the outside of the building in her…new armor? It looked a lot less bulky and armored than the last set, more like an exoskeleton over a padded vest and cargo pants, all with white, gold, and pink. I couldn’t see much of her face behind a gold visor now built into her mask.
At least my surprise appeared genuine as I got up to let her in. I even did those air kisses things in front of her cheek like I was fancy or something. “Hello there, come in, come in. I don’t meet many heroes.”
Technically that could be true, depending on if meeting someone requires them to be alive. It should be noted that I also have no problem lying if it turns out to be untrue.
“That should be a good thing. It means you don’t get into a lot of trouble,” Venus said. “If you remember, I’m Venus.”
I led her into the penthouse. “Yes, you’re something of a big deal around here. Would you care for any refreshment? A drink, perhaps?” While I offered, I had my eyes switching through vision modes to analyze Venus’s new gear.
“No, ma’am. I wanted to ask you a few questions about the attack. You look much better, by the by.” I took a seat, inviting her to join me on the sofa. I wanted to ask her to feel free to make herself at home. Kick off her shoes. Maybe join me for a bubble bath.
Only, I winced when she brought up the injury. “Oh, you know. We’re a medical company, and I didn’t get hurt that badly. More shock than anything, you know. It’s really my body man, Vasquez, who took the brunt of the explosion for me. I believe we can bring him out of the coma. He deserves no less for saving my life.”
Venus cocked her head to the side. “Are you aware there’s a cannon on the roof hidden behind a retractable shed?”
I raised an eyebrow. “We had that installed purely for self defense. You can never be too careful with all these supers flying around. I am well within my Second Amendment rights to own a cannon on my roof, just as the Framers envisioned when they wrote those famous words ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a-.”
The elevator dinged to let me know someone was coming up. I glanced over, not bothering to finish. “That might be my assistant coming to tell me you disappeared from what I assume was the ground floor?”
“It saved time,” Venus said.
The door opened, revealing an unkempt woman in a t-shirt and torn lab coat. She had pants on, too, but I didn’t focus on that so much because she held a handgun in one hand and her forehead in the other. It wasn’t removed or anything, she just held it to her head. Venus and I stood up, except Venus wobbled and fell back to her butt. Aside from a twitching in my eyebrow that made me want to close one eye, I didn’t feel a thing.
That must have caught her off guard, because she said, “What the?” and took her hand away from her head. Well, she still had a gun. I grabbed Venus and held her and her presumably-bulletproof suit in front of me while the assassin emptied her gun uselessly against Venus and my sofa.
When that didn’t work, she smacked the button on the elevator to head down. I called down to the security office, then remembered to pull out my cell phone because Venus was around. “We have a hostile intruder in the building. Armed. Superpowered, and, ugh, horrible split ends. Take her alive if reasonably possible.” To Venus, I asked, “Are you ok? She did something to you.”
“I’m fine. You…” She stood up, shaking her head. “You didn’t feel that?”
“She was in my head,” Venus explained. “She’s a telepath. I’ve felt what that’s like. You seriously didn’t feel that?”
I shook my head.
“I’d better get down there,” she checked her suit. “Smart move, hiding behind me.” She turned back to me for a moment. “Do you know you were laughing?”
“Really? Wow. I didn’t even realize, heh. I guess I’m one of those people who have unusual reactions. Really, shouldn’t you be going after the person who tried to take my laugh?” I pointed over to the elevator.
Venus nodded and ran instead for the helipad door, firing a metal rod into the terrace and jumping off, a cable trailing behind her to the rod.
In the end, we didn’t get the assassin. Somehow, she eluded both my elite team of criminals and the excellent superhero and got out of my building. I also had to deal with R&D getting a memo to me awfully late that our captured telepath broke out somehow and they suspected she was on the way to HQ. I informed them that I’d take that under advisement, and that perhaps they’d like to invest in these fancy new telegrams that will be all the rage in the upcoming century.
Idiots! I’m surrounded by idiots! Oh, yes, I threw the classic evil mastermind shitstorm, complete with tearing my Security Chief a new one. They’ll get out there and they’ll find that telepath, or they’ll be lucky if anyone finds all of their own bodies! But I’m not all bad. If they succeed, they’ll get a vacation. If they fail, certain parts of them will get a vacation. The good thing about using both a carrot and stick is that they can both be shoved such a wide variety of places.