Fletch Erring – better known to some as Razzle – didn’t like his new job.
As far as he was concerned, life had been perfect before. Him, Laura, Jimmy, Cad, Pete and then Linda. Especially Linda, even if he’d disliked her for intruding at first. But she’d been sweet, and confident, and really, really pretty; and she’d treated him really well, much better than his own family. He’d fallen for her, hard, though now that he knew her background, he was pretty sure she’d just seen him as a little brother, and not as… well, not as what he would have hoped for.
But all that was gone. Linda was dead, gone, for no reason at all but bad luck.
And then Terry had convinced them to go on that fool’s errand, and Laura (who had been his first crush) had almost died as well. He’d never have joined Dajisi, had Laura not desperately needed healing. He couldn’t lose another friend, and he couldn’t have abandoned them, either.
He’d never wanted to be a real supervillain. He’d been just fine having some minor turf wars, and doing small jobs, and just having fun with his friends (and being away from his family).
Now he was sitting on a bench, his ass on the back and his feet on the seat, watching over their hostages. Men, women and – this part really made took him to a whole new level of uncomfortable – children. Why the fuck did they have to keep the children here?
Well, there was actually a good reason, as Kudzu had explained. He didn’t trust the man, but his explanation had made sense – Lanning had rigged the system so that it required a certain minimal amount of people in the mall to open, and a minimal amount of women and children among them. He’d quoted some statistics about the ratio of men to women to children on average days in a mall, but what it boiled down to was that they had to keep the children along with their parents.
Which didn’t mean they had to make this a nightmare. Razzle had ordered the foot soldiers (if there was one upside to being a real supervillain, it was having minions) to get blankets, snacks and drinks for the people. He’d even had some of the hostages man their booths to serve ice cream, coffee and other treats.
Most of the children were acting more like they were having the time of their life, eating ice cream while drinking hot chocolate with extra marshmallows (Fletch had a steaming plastic mug of extra bitter chocolate and a strawberry scone).
It was thus that he was just taking a sip of his hot chocolate when the ear-piercing shriek came out of the shop the specialists had been working in (a bakery).
Fletch fell off the bench, spilling his hot drink over his chest, but he barely felt the pain from that (his costume was rather thickly padded, anyway), as opposed to the explosive pain in his head.
The world fell silent as he fought for composure and turned around on his back, looking around.
The hostages were huddled up, holding their ears – at least those who hadn’t been knocked out.
What was that?
He looked at the storefront as he immediately began to use his power. He drew on the store of power inside him, pushing small pellets of power outside. Each pellet exploded into light, sound and smoke (though neither affected him) and threw out more pellets, which also exploded into light, sound and smoke, quickly covering him and his immediate surroundings in his trademark firework-mist. With barely an effort, he directed the explosions once he was covered, spreading it towards and over the hostages as well.
And not a second too soon, as the entire front of the bakery exploded – soundlessly – as three burly men in eight pieces were thrown through the window and the wall.
Oh God. He nearly threw up when he saw the ragged edges of their torn bodies, the intestines that trailed after them…
And then the machine stepped out of the store.
Fletch hesitated to call it a robot because it looked nothing like what one would expect of a robot; it looked like it had been haphazardly thrown together out of countless other devices. It had five “limbs”, multi-jointed spidery appendages, really. Each was tipped by a slew of different blades, guns and… other instruments whose purpose the young boy didn’t even want to think about. Its core was made of bigger, more rigid devices, with a single large red eye built into a hole in the whole construction. The whole thing had probably originally been coloured like a patchwork art piece, but someone had taken red dye and just dumped it over the whole thing, making it mostly bright red like a stop sign.
The eye moved within its socket, left and right, up and down, as the whole thing left the storefront with slow, ponderous movements.
Please, God, don’t let it see me. He didn’t know how his smoke interacted with contrivances. It was real, physical, but it only worked on normal vision and hearing (as well as heat vision, as the pellets generated quite a bit of heat), so if that thing had some weirder contrived senses, he’d have to abandon the hostages and flee.
He really didn’t want that on his conscience as well.
The mechanical abomination turned away from them and shambled – there really was no other way to describe the lurching steps, each of which seemed to bring it dangerously close to just collapsing into its constituent parts – away from them, all without making any sounds at all.
The young supervillain didn’t dare breath until it had left the place.
Pushing himself up, he tried to whisper into his communicator – but he couldn’t make a sound. Confused, he looked for his minions, calling out to them – but there were no sounds, at all.
A flash of understanding made him reach up to his ears. His fingers came off with blood on them.
Could my day possibly get any worse?
And that was when the hot girl with the multi-coloured hair and the guy in the white coat dropped down from the second level of the atrium. Before Fletch could even react, the two were already inside his smoke cloud, with the girl moving straight towards him.
Oh, come on!, he thought as they got to within a few feet of him.
Tapping into his second power, he sped up, rushing at the girl to tackle her down – briefing said she was a gadgeteer, and she didn’t seem to be packing any tech aside from her glove, which he should be able to easily evade as long as he stayed inside the cloud – and slammed right into her steel-like belly, knocked out before he even realised that he was outmatched.