“Yes, I auctioned off property seized from supervillains,” Richard Avast admitted over video. “What I’ve done is no different than any police force within the United States. They auction guns and other property off, and so did I.”
“What about people? Why did you enslave and sell off people?” asked the news host who landed the remote interview.
Richard Avast laughed. “Prison labor is a normal part of any sentence. This is the same, with added cost due to the difficult logistics and enhanced security measures necessary to keep the laborers at bay. There’s essentially no difference between what I did and prison labor firefighters and farmworkers. Even if you find some technical loophole, outer space is not United States jurisdiction. No one has any right to interfere with what is essentially a privatized police force funded by me instead of spineless politicians. I’m keeping people safe, tax-free, funded by these auctions.”
Lots of views and likes on Youtube and twitter. Libertarians, conservatives, and, oddly enough, some socialists were fans of the statement. There’s also turning out to be a lot of problems with anyone doing anything about it. With the United States not doing manned spaceflights anymore, that means anyone who wants to go up there and stop it would have to go through Russia, China, or a private space program. Anyone wanting to simply blow it out of the sky with a missile risks Kessler syndrome, a cascading effect where debris from a destroyed satellite goes on to cause more destruction wreck everything in orbit.
So the law isn’t exactly jumping on this one. Money saw to that. That he’s right about police and prisons doing the same doesn’t help anyone. On the plus side, Dick Avast isn’t actually in space right now. He did the video while wearing a spacesuit and in front of a green screen, but he himself is actually in Avast Tower. It’s amazingly phallic, even for a skyscraper. He tried to show off his futuristic green credentials by building a pair of geodesic domes at the base, and there’s this weird bulge near the top, which houses a lush garden… in a non-geodesic dome. The giant A on the side takes away from it.
The Exemplars were putting together a space mission with most of their resources. It’s complicated because they’re still hunting down some of the last buyers who are running and hiding with their purchases. The Exemplars only have so much manpower, so they’re bringing in heroes. A lot of people who have a problem with the extralegal operations of the Exemplars turn out to be perfectly fine working with them to take down slavers.
That leaves another operation that the Exemplars can’t formally be part of. Medusa personally handed me the files they had on Avast Tower, including a half dozen conflicting sets of blueprints. I was minding my own business, maintaining my armor, when she put all this valuable intel in front of a villain that just can’t help her instincts. I can hardly be responsible for my actions, especially when she said, “I want you to wreck this place and drag Avast out by his figgin, unofficially.”
“So you need me to act on my own as a villain to take down someone you don’t like.” I gave her a big wink.
“I’m leaving this here. You use your best judgment. You’re not an Exemplar. You’re a known supervillain. It’s reasonable villains would be angry someone’s kidnapping them. But be careful, ok?” She gave me a kiss for emphasis.
My super ex-girlfriend had a point. Us villains were not happy that some non-powered bastard had decided to kidnap and sell us off. It was bad enough selling off stolen gadgets and weapons. There’s something really insulting about someone taking your big gimmick and using it against you. It’s not always unexpected; some heroes have made good money copywriting gear made from a villain they caught. Doesn’t mean we like it. Doesn’t mean we enjoy the slavery angle either.
The secret was out about me anyway. The heroes that returned thanks to time travel spilled the beans. Guess it’s time to lean into that. I still had my VillaiNet profile. I logged on to see what messages I had left. A few well wishes, a lot of good riddances, and a lot of bots trying to sell me stuff. More recently, some people were asking variations on “Are you really dead?”
“Please allow me to reintroduce myself,” I posted. “I’m woman of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long time; stolen many a man’s soul and faith.” I’m a fan of classical music I guess. Then it was getting on the line with the big guns, including Ouroboros. The ruler of Paradise City has a lot of pull with the supervillain community; it’s why I made him such a big part of VillaiNet in the first place.
“I’m looking for some folks to take down Avast’s big phallus building. Snip it down to size a bit and drag Avast out.” We were on voice chat for this one.
“You just came back to life and you’re already working again. What have you gotten involved in?” he asked.
“The Avast situation. I may be doing a bit of freelancing, like some other people. I don’t like the liberties he’s taken with us. I’m thinking we ought to take his liberty, or worse. I’m a little low on assets, but I think a lot of folks might be personally invested in this one or find good loot along the way. I want to take his tower.”
He hmmed. “We just approved a measure to declare open season on Avast and all of his holdings in their entirety. Avast Tower is a big prize for the public. Did you know he bought the ‘A’ from Marvel Studios? That’s the Avengers Tower A.”
“See? Could be good money to people who like those kinds of things,” I said, trying to grease things. “If you know anyone who’d like to be part of this, I’d appreciate it if you send them my way. Otherwise, I’m going to put out a public call in an hour.”
It took longer than that to get into position, of course. I set the Flyer to hover over the roof of a nearby building. I wasn’t going to park at street level, where protesters surrounded the building. I zoomed in on the crowd, several of whom wore masks and costumes. Not all of them were actual supers, or they were and were buying up Halloween costumes. I think it might have been a sign of solidarity. That was nice. If I was an emotional person, I might even sniffle.
The police weren’t quite so stoic. They stood between the protesters and Avast’s private security, the A-Team. He bought the rights to the name after the movie adaptation. They wore Starship Troopers uniforms with phaser pistols and bat’leth’s in hand. I guess they could afford to keep toy weapons on hand. They had a city-sponsored army between them and the perceived threat. Further down the street, a Chinese dragon was weaving in and out of traffic toward the building. Elsewhere, Empyreal City’s local criminal element were going wild. That was my favorite suggestion over VillaiNet: while the police were publicly concentrated around Avast Tower, the villains would take advantage. They can’t blame the protesters, just the fact that the cops would rather guard a rich guy’s private security force than do their job.
It probably gets repetitive hearing me be down on the cops, but I’m a criminal. And they’re raging cloaca scuzz. We’re never going to get together, unless you count my sexy superhero ex-girlfriend I’m sleeping with again.
The Chinese dragon served two purposes; it hid the approach of the villains and it was made out of a material that blocks Avast’s transporter. We were all set for a delicate approach. I crashed the Flyer into the upper dome, blasting the material apart and sending glass falling onto the trees of the garden below. I fired plasma down through the trees and bushes to melt open the floor. The floating automaton I brought with me dropped down, making it look like an elevator hurtling down to the floor below it. Out on the street, the Chinese dragon was raised as the villains charged with a single goal in mind: to steal everything that wasn’t bolted down from the entire rest of this giant penis building.
Richard Avast sat at his desk, snatching up a metal cylinder. The fake elevator door opened and the elevator disappeared to reveal my classic, most well-known grey and orange armor. Avast stood up, holding out the cylinder. A humming blade of light extended from the cylinder. “I’m not going quietly.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t,” I told him through the machine. I’m not actually over there. I crawled in through the hole and was sliding up beside Avast. “By the way, is that a…?”
“Yeah. A working model straight from the source. I’m a collector.”
“I noticed,” I laughed.
He joined me, shaking his wild, graying, dirty blonde-dyed hair out of his face. “No, you haven’t. I collect so many things. Memorabilia.” He raised the lightsaber, then pointed it to a coin on his desk showing an old gold coin. “Coins. That’s the first one ever.” He then pointed to a painting on the wall. It was the Mona Lisa, but taller. There was more to the bottom, with Lisa’s dress coming up short to reveal Renaissance Era lingerie, “Artwork. That’s the true original.” Finally, he waved the lightsaber at a crystal case holding a short metal can. “Even food. That is the original sausage from Vienna. That’s right. Even my transporter is an authentic part of my collection. And now, I’m going to own you. A-Station, one to beam up!”
There was the transporter glow where he thought I was, but the hologram stayed there. I had it wave its hand.
“Oh shit,” he said. He held up a bracelet and an Iron Man armor on a stand flew at him. I had to dodge it to avoid getting it, which is why it had time to reach him and latch onto his body. Another working collectible, I guess. What kind of madman wouldn’t even leave it in the packaging? I sent the hologram after him to distract him while I rushed. He turned both to the sound and to the hologram before trying to cut the light projection in half. The lightsaber went right through it.
“Fuck. Beam me up, A-Station!”
I grabbed his arm, thinking I could keep him with me. “Don’t you do it, A-Hole!” I pulled it free of the glowing transporter effect and ended up with an arm neatly severed while the rest of him went to space.
“Fuck nuggets!” I called, slapping his silly coin and sausage off his desk with his own hand. The glove fell off and I dropped the limb on the desk where it landed on a black pad that lit up and scanned the hand.
“Identity confirmed, Big Dick.”
His wall opened up, revealing a priceless collection of artwork, jewels, Battlestar Galactica wardrobe, and tasteful nudes photos of Margaret Thatcher, mostly from her younger days. Damn, even his loot was booby-trapped.
I sat at the desk, taking a moment to feel disappointed in the lack of murder on this operation. Even the shaking of the building from the attack of the supervillains. In response to my but, a pressure pad in the chair caused the desk to flip over and reveal neatly laid-out lines of cocaine.
So at least I got a nifty desk and a bunch of valuables out of this useless, silly little raid. Looks like I’m going to space. Again.