Now, we couldn’t just unleash our blimp on the world and expect people to think straight in the panic. I mean, I could. Creeper didn’t want to. But it gave me time to work out a few last minute kinks and see what I could do to catch Rouge before he interferes further with our plans. So Creeper started planning a bit of advertising while I practiced with my swords, finished my boots, and began tinkering with my new motorcycle.
“What are you doing there?” Creeper stopped by to ask. He mostly kept his attention on his tablet, pushing buttons on it.
“Well, since I got the boots fixed, they gave me an idea for this thing. Hopefully it’ll be ready by the time things go into the air. What about you? I thought you had some gasses to mix,” I looked up from wrenching away at my bike with a crescent.
He looked around for a chair and plopped into the nearby recliner I’d set up before holding up the tablet. “I can monitor that here. I love these new computers. My daugher showed me how to use them.”
“Yeah, you said she was going by the traditional name. How’s she doing? Have I had run-ins with her?”
He went back to examining his tablet, putting a finger to something and dragging it elsewhere. “She saw you in a bar once but she didn’t think you noticed her.”
“Huh,” I suppose there are plenty of people like that. “Well, at least things didn’t turn violent.”
“She said the bouncer didn’t recognize you, so you forced him to grab your balls, then cut his hand off. That was the first time she ever saw the rocket launchers come out there. You worried everyone.”
Huh. I mean, I don’t remember the specific incident. It just doesn’t stand out that much, though it has been awhile. “Sounds like something I’d do.”
“You worry a lot of people. She said half the villains are worried you will turn on them. I understand it more after our encounter with the Canucks and Moose Knuckles. It seems like the supervillains fight each other a lot.” He leaned over his tablet even more, watching something closely.
“True,” I grabbed a screwdriver and tried attaching a little something near the muffler. “Oligarch had his plan, and I stopped that. The Fluidic aliens had their plan, but I stopped that. I took over, and Cercopagis Lysis tried to take me out. Then the heroes unleashed a copy of me to fight me. If they hadn’t done that, I bet the Claw had a plan to betray me. And now I might be the one to stop Claw. Probably will, all things considered.”
“Why can’t the heroes do it?” he asked, looking up.
I shrugged. “Dunno. Technically, he’s the legitimate ruler of his country. If, by legitimate, you mean he killed the previous dictator, rules with an unquestioned iron fist, sends tutors to third world countries to teach torture techniques, and has been legally recognized by every country in the United Nations. To be fair, the United States does that torture tutor thing, too.”
“Why does that stop the heroes?” Creeper asked.
I scratched my head with the screwdriver, then grabbed a socket wrench. “Superheroes keep the peace and uphold law and order. In his kind of country, they uphold his kind of law and order. It gets extremely iffy if our superheroes go around toppling other countries. Other countries might reasonably ask why it is that a citizen of another country is allowed to impose foreign values on a place they probably don’t even speak the language of. That, and there’s all kinds of legal grey areas there that heroes don’t like to get tangled up in. So heroes aren’t good for the really important things like that. Except maybe Titan.”
Creeper looked up. “I thought of joining him. Maybe after this is over, I’ll help him with weather and robotic farming in another country. Think about it, towering Nazi-designed robots marching through the verdant fields of sub-Saharan Africa.”
“As fun as towering, Nazi-designed robots make anything, agriculture’s using drones now. But we’ll blow that bridge up when we get to it. For now, we have a ransom to make.”
We decided to raid this legislative session of the city council. On a good day, they might have a single bored reporter there, or a couple of high ones. Creeper got on the phone and spread some rumors about a scandal coming out. That might even double the journalistic turnout. I went behind his back and sent in a rumor that a supervillain would attack the session. If it bleeds, it leads.
I brought along the Hussar Cycle and lagged behind the others quite a bit, since I wasn’t really disguised. We had earpieces on this job, so I could stay in contact while the others went on ahead in the cars.
The plan involved them busting into the session, with Creeper’s ray gun waving around. If the cops were stupid, they might get laser beamed. If not, no casualties. They’re really nice about it all. Creeper would take the stage, or whatever they have in the city council, and make his big announcement.
“Citizens of Vancouver, you are now on the verge of an ice age! I am here to wreak havoc on your environmentalist efforts, unless you pay me one billion dollars!”
There was much gasping. Then, “Um, how?”
“Cash. Or gold! I will take bearer bonds, even.”
“Like, right now? Nobody has that kind of money on them.”
“We will set up a dead drop!”
I knew we forgot something. I reached over and grabbed the cell phone from some woman walking by next to me. “Hey-!” she started to say, until she suddenly fell asleep after taking a fist-sized sleeping pill.
I gave my phone a call from the new one, then told Creeper the phone number. “If they call that number, we’ll give them the location of the dead drop.”
“And here is the number to call once you have the money. Tie up the line if you wish. It is your loss.”
“Who are you, mysterious and menacing stranger?” Geez, is someone feeding these reporters lines? I wonder if that’s the kind of stupid phrasing they come up with when they know this sort of thing is coming.
“I am Dr. Creeper! Mwahahahaha!”
Ouch. He needed more work on the laugh.
I heard the sound of doors bursting open as someone fell to the ground. Then a smack, a thud, and someone moaning in pain. “It will certainly be a cold day in hell before I let you turn my city into a block of ice. Allow me to express my pointed discontent with your plan,” said a voice it took me a moment to place.
Luckily, I had some help from one of the reporters, “Rouge!”
I took off, heading for the council building. As the assistant to the bad guy, I get to make my own separate cool entrance, and this was the time for it.
I passed by Rouge’s cycle by the sidewalk, along with some limping henchmen who cheered upon seeing me. I circled around until I found a reinforced van sitting a few feet back from a hole in the wall. I zipped right through, clipping a retreating minion as I did so. I found Rouge there, running on a fucking wall to dodge ray blasts from Dr. Creeper with a sword in his hand. I headed for them. Rouge landed right in front of Creeper and brought his sword down to knock the raygun from the Doctor’s hands. My sword blocked it.
“Hussar, deal with this man,” said Dr. Creeper.
“You won’t stop me unless you step up your game,” said Rouge.
I swung my blade at Rouge’s head, causing him to back off. He tried to get around me toward the old man as the other villain gathered up his henchmen to go. I drove a tight circle around to get back in front of him and block his path. I then began to circle him as tightly as I could, stabbing. Rouge put his skill to use blocking and deflecting my stabs. I kept him off balance enough to prevent him from stopping Creeper’s retreat. And even from attacking me. Then he deflected a strike too little and I gave him a small cut on the arm. Despite that, a smile grew on his face. I almost felt it coming when he changed that and whipped his sword around to give me a small slice on the shoulder. Then he vaulted over the back of my bike.
I had to spin the bike around, leaving skid marks on the floor, but Rouge’s focus was entirely on me. He had that darn smile on his face still. He raised his sword in a salute. “I needed that scratch to awaken me.”
“Are you having fun yet?” I asked.
“It is rare for common criminals to give me a challenge,” he responded.
“I’m far from a common criminal, myself and my friends. Careful, if you focus on me, you’ll never catch him.”
His smile twitched. “You’re right. I should focus on the others. What reason do I have to pursue you instead?”
I reached over and grabbed the first person I could get my hands on and pulled him across my boke. A blond young man, a bit of a looker. I left my hand on his ass, purely to steady him on the bike. “Can’t let an innocent hostage get hurt, can you?” I gunned the bike and headed out for the gap in the wall. The rest of the team had taken off in the cars. I took a little longer to navigate the wreckage. Rouge took the time to run outside to his bike. Since I’d deliberately taken so long, I only had a few seconds of head-start. I wasn’t going my fastest, either. Extra weight of a hostage in an awkward position.
I soon saw Rouge approach in my rear view. A gunshot took off the rearview on my side. I turned and raised a blade, catching his as a weak swipe came my way. I slowed down to move alongside him. I sat up then to give myself better range of movement. Cocky bastard decided to outdo me by jumping up to his feet. I pressed down on the hostage slung over in front of me and got to my feet.
Rouge and I exchanged thrusts and swings like that. When a car threatened to come between us the first time, he kicked his handlebars to steer around it. We met again in front, sparks flying off our blades as I leveraged our words up in between us. We both stood there, looking into each other’s eyes with blades between us and either grins or gritted teeth.
A bus was coming up, and I adjusted my footing to plant a foot on the handlebars. I swerved around it and took a breath that I soon cut short as a swipe from atop the bus almost knocked my sword free. Rouge ran atop it, but dodging was as easy as ducking now that I knew he was there. At the front, he lept down onto his bike.
When I brought us together, we caught blades again. This time, I whipped out my butterfly sword from behind my back. Rouge hopped onto the front of my bike then, with the hostage between us. I backed off to avoid a stabbin’, at which point Rouge reached down and grabbed the back of the hostage’s belt to help him across to his own bike. “Let’s keep this between the two of us, shall we?” He winked at me.
I nodded. “Fine. I like it… intimate.”
“Perhaps once I have you in handcuffs,” he said, “we shall have time to get to know each other better. It is a shame to lose someone so exciting and refreshing.”
Ok, so he’s into me. Somehow. Must be because he doesn’t know me. Or he’s trying to get to me. Little does he know, when I play gay chicken, I play gay chicken all the way.
“I hope you feel the same when you’re in cuffs.” I kicked at a newly-installed button between Rouge’s legs. The rocket engines attached to the bike kicked in. I grabbed my spear in its holster to hold on. Rouge flew back toward me and almost went off the end of the bike, losing his sword. I grabbed hold of his rear collar and held onto him, then threw him onto the hood of a car we passed. Then I dropped down to kill the rockets and circle back around to grab him.
I found him conked unconscious with a crack in the windshield of an extremely distraught driver who wasn’t in the mood to argue once I pulled Rouge’s gun and held it on him.
As for Rouge, he awoke to find himself handcuffed in a little cell in the lab, watched by camera. He should really get a brain scan, but we had to settle for giving him a couple aspirin next to a plate of food and some water.
“Now, Doctor,” I said, looking at the monitor’s screen at him as Creeper observed the trapped hero. “I believe your plan can now proceed with no obstructions at all.”