“…and that’s where we’re at. We have no security, no trust from superheroes, we need to move or hide our special research projects, and we have a lot of people in jail who could talk at a moment’s notice. How are we doing on hiring supervillains to beat up Stang and maybe bust some people out of jail?” I glanced around the conference table over the pair of tiny glasses I’d started wearing because of how they made me look. Seriously, these glasses with this jacket and skirt make me look damn sexy. It projects an air of pissed-off inaccessibility that I’d find hot if it wasn’t me.
Then again, I don’t need a lot of help to appear pissed off. I’ve amassed a pair of piles in my office. The one beside the desk is made up ov various heavy objects I bring in with me. The one beside the door is made of the heavy objects I’ve thrown at people. At this point, nobody walks through my door who isn’t Crash or Carl.
Nobody answered me on the supervillain question. Just awkward coughing and in, Pom’s case, sniffling. If no one else wanted the floor, I figured I’d keep it. “We have a serious street rep problem, it seems. Right now, we’re the kid who gets crowded up on by people who make jokes about our momma. I, for one, am not gonna take it anymore! My fat, alcoholic momma deserves better than to have a bunch of people lay into her like they do with y’all’s mommas. I’ll be in my office if anyone needs me.”
I started to storm out of there, but stopped as I passed Shasta Jackson to eye her metal coffee thermos. I grabbed it and continued stomping out.
Crash followed after, but I whirled around and held up the thermos as I got to my desk. She took the hint and skedaddled. I sat down then to grab my phone and call her up immediately. “Crash, be a dear and get a store on the phone for me. Lessandro’s on Broadway and 13th. Oh, and call down to Hibachi Yum Yum and order me the steak and chicken to be delivered.” I took a moment, an evil grin spreading over my face. “And when the delivery person gets here, go ahead and send them in.”
Lessandro’s. I haven’t mentioned them to y’all before. They make costumes, so I rarely have any reason to bring them up. I build my own armor and even made my own costume for that Missile Patriot persona I’ve used before.
Well, time to add a new one to the bunch, though some might suggest it was a bad idea to get measured for a costume right after devouring a meal of tasty hibachi, some can also kiss my ass. The man who took my measurements muttered something about “prima donna rich kids” as he left. I didn’t think I looked that young, but that’s the second time somebody brought it up. Still, as Her Highness, the Trust Fund Queen of Double Cross, my money was still good enough to earn next-day completion and delivery.
From there, it was a simple thing to find out where Stang conducted business. Lucky me, I thought as I stepped into the strip club, the Mask and Garter. A couple in masks and extremely tiny outfits paid my way in, not that I needed the cover charge. They looked a bit older, late forties maybe, and I didn’t recognize them. Then again, I don’t recognize a lot of people. There’s not a whole lot of reason to keep track of people other than myself. For one thing, if I do that, who knows where my body will get to. I graciously accepted the offer of the pair, who both looked like bodybuilders, and walked in between their arms. The man whispered something in my ear that I couldn’t make out over the sound of loud music, while his wife winked at me.
Honestly, you’d think they wouldn’t even need to get in like that. Still, they probably wanted to see more. I didn’t show a lot of skin. Not in that coat and hat. Yeah, I wore leopard-spotted coat with a wide brim purple hat. A pair of giant gold sunglasses with purple lenses hid what parts of my face the hat didn’t. I strutted in with a cane in hand, the top of which resembled a silver-plated rooster in mid-crow. The body looked zebra-stripped the rest of the way down. I probably could have paid the cover charge with nothing but the gold chains and medallions hanging around my neck, though I somewhat enjoyed the jangling noise I made with each step of my pimpwalk. I had the coat pulled up tight enough to keep me warm and ward off any attempts to gaze upon the wonderful form of Psycho Gecko as I bopped my head to my own beat.
Everyone else bopped along to “Porn Star Dancing,” which no doubt became a hit strip club song ever since release.
Looking around, I realized my shoes looked more at home on some of the masked strippers than on their masked patrons. Then again, I think that’s because the club catered more towards those with a taste for a big pair of perky X chromosomes than a dangly Y. I held out my cane to stop a passing waitress. “Tell me, sugar baby, where the main man in the happy hap is?”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“What it is, big momma, my momma ain’t raise no dummies. Tell me what it is, what it could be.” I could practically hear the unspoken uproar. Then again, that could have been the real uproar. Between the music and catcalls, the woman may not have been able to hear me. If so, there’s no guarantee she had a translator handy who could speak jive.
In the defense of everyone else, the woman on stage had just done an impressive flip from a pole that stood crosswise on top of two of the bar’s vertical poles and landed on her feet in a pair of high-heeled boots. I stopped and gave her a golf clap for that one. That’s a level of dedication you just don’t see in every stripper. Good for her. I’d need a lot more practice to pull off the same thing.
Not that I intended to pull off anything until Stang showed himself. I cupped my hands around my mouth, poking a passing customer in the eye with my cane in the process. “Where. Is. Stang?!”
“No touching,” said someone from behind me. I glanced back over my shoulder, past the muscle man on my left arm. My hopeful escort looked bigger than the bouncer, whose eye had been replaced by a red lens. A tattoo of cogwheels and circuit boards covered part of his head. Just a tattoo. The bouncer tilted his head as if listening to something, then put his hand on the center of my back. “You’re wanted in the manager’s office.”
I slipped out of the arms of my swinging companions. “Sorry, dears. You’ll have to wait for me while I go see a man about a whore.”
The bouncer led me up a set of stairs off to the side to an office off in a dark corner. It didn’t stand out. I thought we were headed in, but the door opened and Stang stepped out on his own, smiling like the cat who ate the canary. Then again, you ever seen the legs on the Canary? Rawr.
“Welcome to my establishment. My doorman says your ID is one of the worst fakes he’s ever seen, you know. Here to apologize?” He spread his jacket open just a little as he settled his hands on his hips.
I settled both my hands on the cane that I pressed down on the floor between my legs. “I have nothing to apologize for. You were a dick. You’re still a dick.” I pointed the cane right at him. “I proclaim this man a dick!”
“Proclaim away. You still couldn’t get anybody on your side after you blew yourself up to frame me. Next time, blow someone besides yourself.” He giggled at his own joke.
I pushed up the volume on my voice. Ah, the joys of a prosthetic voice box. “Listen all you motherfuckers!” I yelled.
I could almost hear the record scratch from the DJ’s booth when the music stopped. I thought that was all digital now?
“You’re right,” I told Stang at a lower volume level while he rubbed his ear. “I should work on being taken more seriously among this community.” I tossed away the hat and coat.
I certainly had a tight enough costume. I was pearl white on my legs, arms, neck, and a portion of my torso. From there, it faded from pearl to purple that covered by belly and thighs. Near my belly button, I had a black diamond. The mask was a fairly standard setup: it left my nostrils open to breathe and exposed the area around my mouth down to just under my chin. My ears were covered, though it was difficult to tell that with my hair cascading down from the opening in the top of the mask. The suit looked like a solid piece, connecting to gloves and ending on bottom with a pair of platforms with a slight heel to them. Enough to make it seem like I could walk without trouble.
“What do we call you, Prima Donna?” Stang asked with a chuckle.
I rolled my eyes. “There’s that term again. But no. I am Banshee. When I sing, death follows.”
Stang snorted and pointed to the bouncer who had shown me to him. The bouncer’s eye glowed and he stepped forward.
“Hear me roar,” I said, then unleashed the paralysis scream. Starting at the ears, the white of my costume began to change colors to black. The purple was unaffected, but the black diamond turned white. When I heard Lessandro’s had this color-changing material, I thought it was pretty hot shit. I just had to make it work in sync with the ear protection.
When I stopped screaming, my costume reverted to its original coloration and I found myself the last woman standing.
I stepped over to the downed Stang. I wanted to kill him. Instead, I tapped him on the nose. “Boop. Think of it as counting coup. Congratulations, you get to survive another day.” I had to settle for humiliation, and the proliferation of the knowledge that I could incapacitate an entire club full of superhumans, strippers, and superhuman strippers that damn easily.
Carl’s interim security force informed me the next morning that some of the villains had approached our businesses dropping hints that they wanted to deal with us about safehouses, getaways, and so on. Asking what services we provide.
It turned out even better when Venus knocked on my terrace door. I slipped into my sling and fake bandage before opening it. “Hello Venus, my dear! What brings you to my neck of the woods? Here to not save me from more assassins?”
I didn’t show her in, so she tapped her toe on the ground. “You need to come with me.”
“Oh baby, I need more foreplay first,” I told her.
I noticed her jaw clench below the face visor. “You are a supervillain.”
“I’m a super something. What have I done that’s villainous?”
“You know what you’ve done.”
“No, I don’t. I’ve been attacked and undermined repeatedly, but I haven’t done a single provable piece of evil since I’ve been here.” I smiled at her. “I think there’s been a big misunderstanding.”
“Last night, reports say you went to the Mask and Garter strip club in costume and attacked the owner.” She folded her arms in front of her, no mean feat considering the exoskeleton.
“I went there to negotiate with the man who attacked me. Or maybe it was the disreputable Rayman that attacked me. Either way, I only sought peace. It was Stang who disrespected me and called for his bouncer to lay hands on me. You can hardly fault me for self defense, can you?”
“You went where you knew there’d be conflict to get yourself in a fight,” she said, sounding awfully frustrated.
I raised my pointer finger. “Hold up, I’m getting a call.” I retrieved my phone and held it to my ear. Then I offered it to her, “It’s for you. It’s the kettle calling. He says he prefers the term ‘African American’.” I hung up. “Listen, I’m sorry you think so much is wrong with me. I know there’s a lot of resentment there, because I have powers and you don’t, but that’s no reason to assume that every bad thing that happens to me is my own making. Can’t we just be friends?” I held out my hand for a handshake.
Rude hero that she is, Venus fired another rod into my terrace and swung away. I looked down at it, then called out to her, “I’ll bill you for that!”