Robbie, our struggling supervillain just met Mary, possibly the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Except he has met her before, as the Damsel, the city’s hero. Mary mistakenly encouraged Robbie to rob a fundraiser in order to solve his resource issue. And over at PaperClips, Eric has accepted a new career path.
The car was a little offended, “I didn’t say a word.”
Mary said, “That’s how I know you’re judging me.”
The car took an exit and headed towards Downtown. “Ok. Fine. Mary, honey, you always do this. You always fall for the wrong guy. You always fall for the bad boys, the guys that need help–“
Mary rolled her eyes. Sometimes she regretted using the brain engrams of her best friend. She felt the need to defend herself, “Listen, I fixed it, ok? He’s not going to be a supervillian. I put him on the straight and narrow.”
A moment, then, the car replied, “Really? Did you really ‘fix’ him? Like the others?”
Mary sighed. “Fine.” The car turned right, into an underground parking garage. “Let’s keep an eye on him.”
The fake mustache itched. But, Robbie didn’t dare touch it. He didn’t want to break character. This was deep cover and he didn’t want to blow it. He and a Supervisor were standing in the middle of the Community Center’s event room. The Supervisor was in her early 30s, straight red hair, wore business clothing that made her look older. She asked, “Who are you with again, Mr…?”
“Smith.” Robbie smiled to himself. Good luck trying to find this identity on Facebook. “James. Smith. Fire department. I got wind that you were doing a fundraiser–“
The Supervisor nodded, smiling politically, “For our Greatest Generation, God Bless.”
“God Bless,” Robbie added. He loved improvising. It made him really feel like the character. “I just wanted to come down, check out the layout, the room.” He touched her arm. “I would hate for something to happen that would put the Greatest Generation in any sort of danger.”
The Supervisor nodded, with great political earnestness.
Robert held up his smart phone, “You mind if I snap some photos?”
Eric was exhausted. Training had started right away. He didn’t realize there was much of a difference between 20 lb paper and 40 lb. But, the Manager was really excited about it. Eric’s thoughts kept drifting back to the Professor’s Lair and what trouble they might be getting into. But, then he would be snapped back to PaperClips because the Manager wanted to talk about pens. Pens, pens, pens.
Pens were Eric’s new domain. Certainly not as exciting as breaking into the City’s art museum and holding a priceless work of ransom. But, it was all his. And it depressed him.
Agatha was very excited about the first day. She felt good, really good, that for the first time she wasn’t worried about whether or not he’d make it home. She smiled at him as she drove. He smiled back.
They walked into the apartment to find Robbie, pacing in front of a giant blank piece of paper with photos of the Community Center all around the floor.
Agatha groaned. Annoyed.
Eric asked, “What’s going?”
Robbie turned, looked Eric up and down. He spotted Eric’s name tag. Right below the name it was printed: Here to Serve. “Sell out” he said.
Agatha hurumphed and headed to the kitchen. Eric rolled his eyes and took off the name tag. “Robbie, come on.”
Agatha poked her head out, “You are looking at the new manager of Aisle 4. Pens, markers and frames.”
“Oooo,” Robbie replied sarcastically.
Agatha grunted and headed back into kitchen. Pans started to bang around. Eric folded his arms. “You’re not being cool.”
“No. I’m not. I’m not being cool, Eric,” Robbie snapped. “Maybe I’m having some issues processing what happened.”
Eric frowned. “Is that supposed to be an apology?”
Robbie’s eyes narrowed, “Did it sound like one?”
Eric let it go. He looked at the photos on the ground. “What’s all this?”
Robbie started snatching at the photos. “You don’t get to know what all this is.” He yanked the giant blank piece of paper down. “This, all of this, top secret. For villains only. Not managers of Aisle 4.”
He headed towards his room. He turned, looked back at Eric. “Seriously, I’m having issues processing your betrayal. You’re still family.” He turned to go into his room. He turned back. “But, a stranger. A total stranger. A really attractive total stranger, she told me to go for it.” He nodded and went into his room, slamming the door shut.
The next morning, there was the expected tension around the breakfast table. Robbie paid a great deal of attention to his bowl of Cheerios. Agatha read the news and Eric desperately tried to find something to stare at as he ate.
Twenty minutes later, Agatha was at the door, waiting for Eric. “Are you ready?”
From their bedroom, Eric shouted, “I’m trying to find my tie. Have you seen it?” A moment later, “Found it.” He walked out struggling to tie it.
“Here.” Agatha took the tie and very quickly tied a perfect Windsor. She smiled at him. “So handsome.”
“Ugh.” Robbie was sitting on the couch. “Get. A. Room.” He was sorting through the photos.
Agatha rolled her eyes and was gone. Eric lingered. “You sure you don’t want my help?”
Robbie shook his head. Eric nodded and left.
Hours later, there was a knock on the apartment door. Or it was Robbie pounding his head against the floor? He wasn’t sure. So, he stopped pounding. Yeah. It was a knock at the door.
It was Mary. Holding two cups of coffee. Sunglasses on her head, a cute leather jacket. “Brought coffee!” she announced and stepped into the apartment.
Robbie wasn’t sure what was happening. “How did you… find me?”
Mary turned to him. “Um. Uh. You know. Asked around.” She smiled. “It’s not like I have a super computer in my car that I used to find you.” Her smiled faded. Then she started to laugh nervously. Her laughter faded. Mary asked, “Do you live alone?”
“You’re not wearing any pants.”
Robbie looked down, sure enough, he was just in his underwear. “I was trying to think. I was doing some work–“
“And you work better without pants?”
“You know what?” He started towards his room, “I’m just going to throw on some pants.”
“You don’t have to.” He stopped. She stopped talking. Silence. Then, she continued, “You should totally put on pants.”
He disappeared into his bedroom. She shook her head, rolled her eyes. “Focus on why you are here, please,” her car whispered to her by way of the two way communication device she had implanted in her tooth.
“Shut up,” she said quietly and headed over towards the crude drawing on the giant piece of paper.
Robbie walked out of his bedroom. “Shut up?”
“You said ‘shut up.’ I have extraordinary hearing. It’s almost like a super power.” He picked up the coffee and drank.
The car whispered, “You’re going to have to say something.”
Mary opened her mouth. Closed it. Then. “Yep. I did. I said shut up. I was looking at your plans. Here.” She thumbed the pictures. “Because they were so great. Like. You know. ‘SHUT UP.’”
“Hm,” was all the car could muster.
Robbie’s eyes lit up. “You think so?”
Mary looked back at the drawings. “I’m no expert on committing crimes, but, if you’re going to knock over a fundraiser, this will do it.” She smiled, awkwardly. Robbie frowned. She drank her coffee.
Robbie was confused. “I thought… I thought you were in the life. That’s what you were saying. Yesterday.”
The car whispered, “Abort, abort. Chop him in the neck and get out of there!”
“No. Yes. Yes. I am. I just.” She leaned in. “I am just so used to talking to civilians, and you know… hiding my true identity.”
Robbie nodded, smiled. “I totally get that. So you like my plans?”
She looked back, again, at the drawings. “If you want my expert opinion–,” she turned back to him. “And I am an expert.” And then back to the drawings. “There are several weak points. Here, here and here. You’ll barely get in, and I’m not sure if you’ll even get out.”
Robbie turned to the plans. His face fell. Then his heart sank. And then his stomach gurgled. “Shit.” Robbie flopped onto the couch.
“Hey, hey, hey, it’s ok.” Mary sat next to him. Close.
The car piped in again, “Ok. You’ve done it. Now get out.”
Robbie’s head was pounding. “It’s not OK. I quit my JOB for this. This is everything to me. This is my first real shot at the big time, and you’re telling me I blew it before I have even tried–“
Mary put her arms around his shoulders and pulled him to her. She closed her eyes and held him.
“What. Are. You. DOING?” asked the car.
Mary whispered, gently, “It’s going to be ok, Robbie. You’re plan doesn’t suck.”
The car gasped. Robbie looked up at her.
“It doesn’t. There are some good bones in it. It’s just. Well. You can’t do it alone.” She pointed at the plans. “If you had one more person, you would totally get away with the money.”
Robbie stood. He looked at the plans. And then, back to her. “You’re right. I could kiss you.”
A moment between the two of them. Oh, shit, Robbie thought. Did I just say that? Should I kiss her? Does she want me to kiss her? Mary didn’t move. She was holding her breath. She didn’t want to make the first move. Finally, Robbie said, “I gotta go.” And he was gone.
Mary finally breathed again. And a voice whispered in her ear. “Bravo, Damsel. Bravo.”