“That’s why we need registration! These are dangerous people, dangerous beings. They aren’t human. Clearly they don’t hold themselves to human laws. The law I’m discussing isn’t meant for every ma and pa, their children, their neighbors. It won’t affect the rights of normal folks, but it will make your lives safer!”
I switched off the TV with a blink. The election cycle had fired back up the registration crowd. I’m actually considering supporting it, just to make things more difficult for the heroes. It’d help if I didn’t do that whole Banshee thing. Prior to that incident at the Mask & Garter, I’d have been a perfect spokeswoman for an innocent, hard-working business owner hassled by superhumans.
Now, I settled for wearing a fake sling and doing business out of my penthouse because I was supposed to be wounded as far as the general public knew. Secret identity problems, except it’s worse. Now my secret identity has a secret identity. All that’s left now is for me to secretly be Marilyn Monroe having found the fountain of youth and now a supervillain. Perhaps I’ll arrange for someone to discover that about me so my secret identity’s secret identity has a secret identity.
So I sat in my penthouse, avoiding the news because they can’t stop talking about the latest clown car of candidates. I had more important things to do. If I want to pick who is president, I’ll go make it happen. Kidnapping, mind control, evil clones, assassination. There’s a thousand different ways for supervillains to participate in politics. Still, the lack of good television had me irritable. I had hoped we’d be on to showing horror movies. It’s October now, after all.
One of the things I was working through was personally overseeing some major operations. We’ve burned through a shitload of money and taken a lot of losses lately. Luckily, we’re insured for meddling superheroes. Now Wildflower is actually wanted for breaking and entering, theft, assault, and maybe corporate espionage. I’m not sure if that one’s a legal matter, but I told them that all the same. Either way, I called the cops on the hero who broke into my hidden secret lab where Technolutionary was turning hobos into robots and growing a cloned T-rex. Then I filed an insurance claim and bribed the adjuster. That stolen lab equipment can get real expensive.
I did something similar with the telepath. There, public prejudice is on my side. People are uncomfortable with someone reading their thoughts. I don’t have to deal with that problem, I type as I share my inner thoughts with almost tens of people in another dimension. Also, the security guys are playing ball and claiming she forced them.
I stand by my poor, deluded guards and paid their bail. They’ll fit right in, working for Carl.
I showed mercy to the poor girl, too. The District Attorney’s going to try and get her treatment for her obvious mental issues. I spoke with him about it personally. It means a lot, you know, when the near-victim makes an effort to get their assailant some help. Good guy, that DA. I’ll have to make sure he gets reelected. I’m sure that’s nothing money can’t solve. It’s a shame Venus is probably going to be harder on the poor woman.
Hey, there’s an idea. I fired off an email to Marketing and Sales to have someone manufacture a link between Venus and the Super Registration crowd. Ain’t I a stinker?
I think I’ve mentioned I’m getting proposals from some villains? Not the marriage kind. Those go to the spam folder. These are people looking for investors. Some people just need a bit of funding to make their dreams into other people’s nightmares. Mad scientists, homegrown inventors, and thieves; all need just a little bit of help to get things started. It’s not just money. A centrifuge. Work space. A getaway van. I’m not funding that one. Anyone who can’t steal their own van for a plan to rob an armored car hasn’t earned a lot of confidence in their abilities. Even the ones I turned down, I still informed them they were welcome to make use of other services like the hideaways and secret medical care.
Hospitals ask questions if you get shot. Imagine how many more questions they ask if you come to them with one of The Saurus’s teeth sticking out of your leg. With my labs undergoing extensive renovation, it won’t be that unusual for my people to operate out of unusual facilities with strange equipment. It’s not perfect, and I really should acquire my own hospital, but it’s not a bad alternative to seeing someone whose license was removed. Or a vet. Then again, some superhuman physiologies have so many other species mixed in that a vet is entirely appropriate. Just look at Urban Croc, Terrorjaw, or Venus’s late boyfriend, the Human Sloth.
Add in the tendency for equipment mishaps and cybernetics, you might as well bring a car mechanic and a computer programmer into the hospital visit.
One curious little thing I received: an invitation. I was invited to bring along one armed guard to meet in Rothstein’s Executive Dining Room. Ah, Rothstein’s Executive Dining Room. The perfect place for a bunch of supervillains to meet in fancy dress without having to openly admit that they lack the influence or money to avoid fancy dining at other places.
I know I haven’t made this argument very well, but super crime doesn’t often pay that well. I don’t care about money, but I had to steal from pretty much every bank in this city to be able to burn through all the cash I’m spending now, and others usually have it worse. I already mentioned problems finding healthcare, and that also means that most villains pay a bit more. Factor in costumes, gadgets, special tools and equipment to build gadgets, materials, programmers, henchmen, lairs, and the possibility of losing all that with one badly-timed raid. It can be hard for even a frugal supervillain to hold onto money.
Won’t anyone think of the starving villains? For just eighty cents a day, you could provide clean water and good food to a grown man who wants to tear down civilization with his army of mutated flying scorpions.
Why do it if not for the money? Now that’s a good question.
I arrived at Rothstein’s in a limo with Carl at my side. I’m letting Crash stay innocent. Well, innocent of this supervillain stuff. Not saying anything about anything else she may or may not be innocent of. When it comes to criminal records, Double Cross is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Carl got out first, adjusting his suit before helping me out. The bouncer, a short but wide man with glowing purple skin, actually opened the door for me. While I’ve enjoyed the hospitality of Rothstein’s many times as Psycho Gecko, rarely have they been so welcome to me. Nobody even cussed at the sight of me. Wait, scratch that, I do remember somebody saying “Damn, would you look at the legs on her.”
I walked those fine legs of mine past the bar and normal dining area where some of the patrons enjoyed their sports shows. One floor up, I came to the Executive Dining Room and found a few other costumed or suited men and women milling around. Some were watching it, but none objected as I entered. Carl peeked his head in long enough to see nothing but a crowd of costumes and decided to wait outside.
The room was nice; lit by a chandelier with antique wallpaper. I know, you wouldn’t think wallpaper could be antique, but I actually recognized this one from the Louvre. The Grande Chasse, and one of less than ten remaining from the 1850s. Old wallpaper, old paneling, old wood flooring, and an old table in the middle of the room. I suspected the tablecloth probably wasn’t as old. I’m just guessing that part based on basic human nature. Specifically, human eating habits.
The inhabitants painted quite a contrast to the setting. I recognized Terrorjaw, the sharkman. He sat across from Man-Opener, who left his normal white and black walker at home on this trip. Surprisingly, he’d popped a section of his black faceless helmet off so he could eat. There were others, including a wild-haired, bespectacled old man in an ill-fitting suit. He sat at one end of the table. Didn’t recognize him. I just mentioned him because it worked well with pointing out the other end of the table: The Oligarch. That oldtimer’s hair wasn’t wild at all, and his suit looked custom. Nice vest, too. Diamond stud, ruby ring on platinum. Money, but not gaudy.
You’d never know it if you’d ever seen his armor. The guy favors purple and gold.
So let’s see who all I’ve accounted for…four, along with me. There were more, but I could spend up the entire interdimensional data ration describing costumes on people of little to no importance. So how about we move things along?
Oligarch stood up and raised his hand. “Wonderful to see you, Banshee. I apologize if we get right to our meal, but we are eager to start the meeting, though your presence truly blesses and enchants our gathering. Please, sit and enjoy the hospitality of Rothstein’s.”
Perhaps if I was George R.R. Martin or Brian Jacques, I’d waste a lot of time describing food in intimate, almost sensual detail. As the humble Psycho Gecko, I can merely say that it was pretty good. The rice was a little cold, and the gravy could have been thicker on the chicken. It’s just that some of us have better things to do than pad our autobiographies with all the meals we eye-fucked. That’s fucking with the eyes, not in the eyes.
Unfortunately, since no one talked about why we were all there until after dinner, it didn’t leave us with a lot to talk about during dinner, though Terrorjaw and Man-Opener looked chummy. They should be. The bastards were part of that team once to kill me. Didn’t I disembowel Terrorjaw? Ah hell, everyone kept coming back to life from that mess anyway. Why should it be a surprise he’s back now? Can’t ask them about it anyway. Damn secret identity problems.
“It’s a nice meal, and all,” I started once staff began clearing dishes. “I’m sure y’all understand that I’m a busy woman in my position, so please enlighten me and anyone else not in the know. Why are we here, Oligarch?”
He smiled the brightest smile I ever saw on a human being. Damn, he can afford lots of dental work. “I am here in order to prevent my old wayward friends at the Master Academy from extending their good works to the east coast. They believe I am dead.” Come to think of it, I’d heard that rumor too. See, this is why someone like me is so valuable. I’m really good at making sure people stay dead, Terrorjaw notwithstanding. “This city is different after Spinetingler’s visit. Much is up in the air in the largest city under the eagle’s wing. Conventional order is tenuous and the Master Academy moves in to take replace it. Captain Lightning patrols on occasion. Organized crime has become unorganized. Ironically, the anarchist Psycho Gecko is no longer present to frighten away those who would bring order when the city needs it most. Ladies and gentlemen, we can be that order. We can take this city, and hold the largest city population in the United States hostage against any attempts to oust us from power. You hear the politicians. They preach against us, afraid, uncertain. The human species is becoming obsolete. It’s time we hasten their end. My dear friends, let us join forces and we can rule this city. We can forge a new nation. We can forge a new…world.”
This has got to be the dumbest plan I’ve ever heard. Eh, I might as well see how this plays out. Who knows, maybe I can get a bronze statue in my likeness before we all inevitably turn on each other. It’s like this one cop explained when talking about this high speed chase he joined in: how often do you get to be part of a thirty-two-cop-car-pileup?
And that’s how Banshee became a member of The Order.