Some people work well under stress. I guess I'm one of them.
And let me tell you, nothing in the world can be quite as stressful as police cars, helicopters, and caped crusaders all chasing after you at once. I had to hurry this time to slap a sticker across my handiwork, a half-melted room full of safes which ironically were pretty easy to find. I've robbed a lot of banks in my time, but this one was child's play.
I don't particularly care for peoples' personal effects – old jewelry, out-of-circulation coins – none of that really matters to me. I'm interested in cold, hard cash. Show me the green, baby. A robber like me would've done great in the good old days, but now ninety-seven percent of the world's currency doesn't even exist in paper money. I suppose I could go after precious metals. Gold and silver are worth quite a lot these days. But money inflates. Gold doesn't. Half the fun is the thrill of the chase, knowing that I'll never be able to collect all of the money... not until I do. I really will do it. Then I'll just buy the gold up and have what I estimate to be a few quintillions of play money still laying around.
I guess once I control the world's currency, I'll control its land, too. Everyone's land is founded on gold. That's why China technically owns all of America. But the thing is, I don't want the land. If I have all the money in circulation, if I just keep it close to me like a blankie, I'll be happy.
People tell me, the other villains, "The things you could do with all that money!" They ask, "Hey, Syn, spot me a thousand?" But the thing is, I don't want to give it up. I don't want to spend it. It's power, you know? Just having all that money. Just owning it. Paying people when I need to, paying them off, paying them on. That's all I want. After all, anything I spend will eventually come back to me anyway. Like a gold-plated boomerang. A representational gold-plated boomerang, but let's face it. We all like the smell of crisp new bills. Gold doesn't smell.
Speaking of those nice green bills, though, that's my problem. I collect all the bills in the world, and I've still only got three percent of the planet's money. It's nothing. And I'm no hacker. Truthfully, I'm not even that smart. I'm great at physical robbery, but I just don't have the resources to tap into all that electronic mumbo-jumbo. It's like a foreign language. Besides that, technology doesn't seem to take too kindly to my special brand of psychic energy. The whole science versus magic thing; I'm sure you're familiar. It's not like I haven't done my research. I've been putting it off, but the man is gaining leverage, however slowly.
I've been all over the world, accumulated close to thirty trillion dollars, including savings bonds I've stolen when redeemed at their full value. No small sum, certainly. But there's only twenty trillion or so left in the world. Sure, I've been at this for years, but eventually it'll run out. And they're devising ways to stop me. You can't steal over half of the world's paper money and not have people know your name. Your supervillain name, that is.
Anyway, I need help, fast. I need to attack them in new ways they haven't seen coming. I need someone innovative. Someone who can build weapons. Someone who can take all that land off my hands once I get what I came here for. Someone who knows technology in ways I don't. Someone who speaks to it. Like I said, I've done my research. Mad scientists today aren't what they used to be, so I started looking at yesterday. I need the World's Smartest Man.
Don't ask me how I rigged up the time machine. They've had them since 1940, and I managed to snag a handy little wristwatch-sized one from a museum of superhero paraphernalia. That's probably about all you're interested in knowing. It was costly and too complicated for my tastes, but it was my only hope. Besides, it isn't just a time machine but a sort of teleportation device, which I think will be pretty useful for getting exactly where and when I want to go.
Time traveling feels something like being knocked out. You seem to fall and rise in a few seconds, but there's a definite feeling that more time than that has passed. Maybe it makes it easier for your body to deal with. I'm no scientist; I don't know. What I do know is, one second I'm in my hideout, safe and sound in the year 2041 (and in a location I'm not going to disclose to the likes of you), and the next I'm in 2009 in a maximum security prison for metahumans. One glance tells me I've made it to the right place. Before I introduce myself, I cloak myself in a layer of plasma.
I guess I should explain what it is I'm doing here, because "plasma" isn't exactly a suitable word for what really goes on. It's pure mental energy, really. Call it what you will; psychic power, magic, telekinesis, I've got it. I call it plasma because it seems to flow like some sort of ooze, and it interferes with the physical world more than the authorities might like.
This stuff is superheated. I can already feel it beginning to melt through the metal floor of the cell. This'll be a cinch. But the real reason for the cloak is that it fries all sorts of waves. Now I'm just a lump of flickering static to the cameras. Still suspicious, but not nearly as much.
"Doctor Impossible," I greet the man standing across the cell from me. He's in a fighting stance, ready to take me out, and my green aura flickers across his skin in the dull light of the cell. He looks older than he did in the pictures, but, with hope, I chock it up to the weird lighting.
"Synergy dares," I reply, with a concise nod. I stretch out my hand toward him and pull the plasma away from it. "Million Dollar Woman. Pleasure to meet you, Smartest Man in the World."
He still looks shocked, probably calculating the situation or something smart that I don't do, so I pull my hand back and try to crack a smile. "Just flew in from 2041, and boy, are my arms tired." God, I need to work on my routine. Did I mention I wasn't one of those take-over-the-world-speech villains? This is why I need the man.
He seems to notice my wristband, and it makes a little more sense to him. "What are you doing here?"
"Breaking you out of jail, sir." Even when I try to be genuinely decent, my remarks seem to drip with condescension. I've never been a people person, but then, have most supervillains?
"I said I'm breaking you out. Let's get out of here." My feet have melted about an inch and a half down, but I'm afraid to move lest Doctor Impossible try to tackle me, and they probably make the floors here thick anyway. "We should probably go. I don't know what guarding systems are like here, but I have a feeling..."
"Put your hands in the air!" comes a voice from behind me.
"Here we go again." I turn around to face the guard, but unless he's been to more eras than I give him credit for, he doesn't recognize me. I wasn't even born yet. A few long tendrils of plasma snake toward one remarkably thick glass wall. I sense some sort of force field acting on it, but this cage was meant to keep Doctor Impossible in, not me. Still, this makes things harder.
"Shut down your powers, ma'am," says a second guard. They're both carrying guns, and I can see tasers at their belts. Not that either of those things will do me much harm. "Obey and we will escort you out peacefully." I do as they say, removing the cloak. Someone's going to have to come in here to get me to make sure I don't try anything funny, and when they do, I'm totally trying something funny.
I guess I'm a little trigger-happy, so to speak. As soon as the door opens, a seamless rectangle in one wall of the glass tank, I'm on it. One tendril after another, shot from my fingertips, singes the guards. I'm not turning the heat on yet, but I don't want to really hurt anybody. The Doctor doesn't do much, but he's probably as shocked as they are. And I wouldn't want to get close to a psychic power either unless I'd known what it was.
Pretty soon I'm out of whiplashes, but the jail doesn't seem to be out of guards. Starting to panic a little, I turn back to the man in the far side of the room. I wouldn't call it cowering, but he's keeping his distance. "Come on," I urge. "I'm almost out of juice, and the time machine only works one way." This probably wasn't something to be thrifty with, but I figured I'd spent enough money stealing it and having it repaired to (halfway) working order.
This time the World's Smartest Man is way ahead of me. He shoots past me, faster than I'd thought, and leaps over the prone, moaning bodies of a few of the guards I'd felled. I follow eagerly. He's probably already got his own plan for after his inevitable escape (or assisted breakout) and I'll have to convince him to follow mine instead. Afraid to use the last of my energy until I have time to rest, I chase him on foot, and I can just about keep up.
Certain things most metahumans are endowed with. We have inhuman strength, speed, and agility, some greater than others. Generally people are pretty balanced out. I'm not the strongest or fastest in the world, but my psychic abilities compensate for it. Doctor Impossible, on the other hand, is stronger than me and pretty damn quick on his feet. I'm winded by the time I reach him, standing in front of a metal door I assume is pretty thick, considering the punch marks on it have only made dents a couple of inches deep. A red light flashes and a siren blares above the doorway.
"Almost home free," I pant. "What now, genius?"
"I thought you were breaking me out."
I lift a finger. Good point. "Promise me you won't run off and start on your next evil scheme before I can rest enough to restrain you if I have to."
Doctor Impossible glances nervously behind us. I can hear guards coming, and I guess he's given the door his all. "Or what?"
"Or you can have another attempted breakout added to your list of crimes."
He contemplates it for a second. "Fine. I promise. What did you say your name was again?"
"Synergy." I focus all my energy into the palms of my hands. Seventy percent off, everything must go. Slowly, but surely, a hole melts in the center of the door. Molten metal drips down and sizzles on the floor. It has a foul stench, and I wonder what they must've put in the door to make it do that. Probably nothing pleasant.
A three foot tall hole, about two feet across, and I'm spent, but we can both get through. I make sure to slap a sticker on the door on my way out. It won't become relevant for another twenty years or so, but I have to leave my calling card. Doctor Impossible isn't terribly tall for a metahuman, and I'm not terribly tall compared to him, even with the heels on. A girl has to look her best.
Once we're past that final door, I can almost smell the fresh air. It's been a long time since the last time I was locked up, which I guess is something to brag about. I've been pretty good about slipping out of the man's grasp. From here on out, it's just punching and kicking through your average jail hallways, which doesn't pose much of a threat, especially with the Doctor in front of me. I can punch through a wall alright, but his strength is still titanic next to mine.
Finally, we're out in the grass, running for our lives. Bullets ping off the smart fabric of my bodysuit and don't seem to hurt Doctor Impossible when they hit him, and we can't help but share a smile. I'm sure this is a lot more gratifying for him than for me, but all supervillains share the experience of special moments like these. Jailbreaks are as universally appealing as a nice game of Monopoly, at least until someone decimates the board with their death ray. Villains aren't the greatest crowd for game night.
Once we make it a good way into a stand of trees, I'm tired of running. Who knew maximum security jailbreaks would be so much work? I grab Doctor Impossible's wrist and pull him to the ground. He probably could've shrugged me off if he'd been expecting it, but luckily I'd had surprise on my side.
He gives me a dirty look. "We're not staying here."
I shake my head. "Are too."
"Let me rephrase that," he says. "I'm not staying here."
"You have a promise to make good on, Doctor."
"For Christ's sake, I'm a supervillain. I don't keep promises."
"I'm a supervillain, too. That's like a double negative. It's a positive. And you owe me."
"Owe you what?"
"Oh, nothing. Just a chance to give you my sales pitch."
"You go all out with this business thing, don't you?" Doctor Impossible makes a tch sound. "Theme villains."
"Let me finish. How'd you like a chance to take over the world? The future world? And all the land you could ever want? By that, I mean Earth."
"All of it?"
"All of it."
"What's the catch? Why break me out of jail and offer me that?"
I wave my hand in the air, a swift, cutting motion under the stars. You don't get stars like that in 2041. Or if you do, I've never seen them. "No catch. I just want all the world's money."
"You want what?"
"The money. Currency, simoleans, moolah. Dollar dollar bill, y'all."
"I got that part. But why?"
I shrug and heave a sigh that's partially still a wheeze. I'm not used to running this far. "Don't know. Why do you want to take over the world so badly?"
That catches him off guard. "Power, I guess? Nature? Mental illness?"
"Join the club, buddy. Being a superhero wasn't ever going to get me what I wanted, so I jumped ship. I don't know what my compulsion is, but I want to be rich. You could help me."
"Help you how?"
"Set my plan into motion. Hack the banks. In 2041, ninety-seven percent of all the world's money is digital. I need you to get that digital money for me."
"And you will...?"
"Finance your evil plan. I'd prefer not to use all of it, but if you help me, I guess it won't matter. I have thirty trillion dollars at my disposal." I think I hear his jaw drop, and I almost laugh. "It's not as much as you think. Inflation took a pretty big toll on it, but it's equivalent to about ten trillion in today's money."
"That's... considerable." He seems to be wondering something devious. Hopefully not thinking of stealing my money and buying Germany or something.
"Yes it is," I agree proudly. "Let it sink in. Thirty trillion dollars. A simple contract. The world for its money. And a sexy partner in crime."
Another dirty look. I wiggle my eyebrows, but I doubt he can see.
"And you can promise me this?"
"Yes, sir. A businesswoman always keeps her word." Things were definitely going in the right direction. Maybe he hadn't had time to think of a better evil plan before I'd come along.
"Fine. You've got a deal." Now just to make sure he doesn't double cross me. But money always trickles back.
I sit up in the cool grass, feeling a little rested. My heart is still beating quickly, but my powers are returning. The cloak was what took so much of a toll on me. I finally manage to get a good look at the man next to me. Orange prison garb. Not as wrinkled as he appeared under the light green of my plasma. Dark hair, a neglected goatee, bright blue eyes. Thin. Not a bad looking guy by any standards. You can just see the scarring from the accident that gave him his powers. It occurs to me that we need to get him into a costume or something. In that bright orange, he sticks out like a sore thumb, just as he's supposed to.
Then I remember Doctor Impossible's color scheme: red and gold. Subtlety was not his forte. But he's in a different generation of heroes from me. True, in 2041 people are a little stealthier – look at my black jumpsuit; it's a perfect example – but they weren't always that way.
"You got a costume stashed somewhere?" I ask. It's a stupid question, but at least it gives me a good excuse for staring at him like an idiot.
"Of course." A nice smirk.
2041 is not as I remembered it. I know I was bragging about doing my research on this whole project, and it went pretty well up until we got back to my time. I guess I just didn't really think of what the consequences could be for taking Doctor Impossible out of his own time and into mine. For thirty-two years, the man disappeared off the face of the Earth. I can imagine what the heroes must've gone through, but I'm sure they gave up after the first few years without a peep out of him.
There's something... good about this place. Everything looks a little nicer. These results are pretty predictable if you ask me. Looks like not much changed, but there's a deficiency in evil. Too many heroes, not enough villains. Walking through the streets in civilian clothes, complete with a burkha (my skin's just dark enough to pull it off), I see heroes flying above the Boston skyscrapers. It's a little intimidating, and I can see Doctor Impossible's worry behind his sunglasses.
"Feeling good?" I ask, half-jokingly. "The balance here seems off, and just because you disappeared for a while. Must be nice to have the world's supply of evil hinge partially on your existence."
The good Doctor just scoffs at me. I got to notice he isn't much for talking unless it's really important, at least to him. Strange character, very strange. Probably a serious introvert before he got good at the evil laugh.
Time to go see what me-from-the-dimension-where-Doctor-Impossible-doesn't-exist managed to hoard into her stash. I know I'm taking a serious risk showing Doctor Impossible the location of my secret money hoard, but hopefully I left it in the same spot. We enter a discreet red brick apartment building bordering the trees and grassy mall of Commonwealth. I take the stairs down two stories to a basement that the elevator doesn't go down to, fish a key out of the pouch on my left shoulder, the same one I keep my stickers in.
There's a brief moment of trepidation, but the key fits in the lock in this door. Not too much has changed. I count myself lucky. I hadn't considered anything would change. There's something to remember next time I go carousing around through time.
The basement looks like a giant janitor's closet, and it probably is. That hasn't changed. But when I feel around the back wall where the invisible seam to my secret entrance's doorway is, nothing's there. I trace the full path of the door, just to be safe. I even scratch off a little of the white paint to make sure the door hasn't been sealed that way. Nothing. I must've hidden the money somewhere else in this dimension.
But a thought sneaks into my head. And then it hits me. There is no me here. I took Doctor Impossible from the past and returned to this moment in the future, but it's not the same future I left. A world without Doctor Impossible is one where I've traveled back in time to perform a hasty jail breakout, to return to a future I skipped over entirely, up until now. This alternate reality hasn't seen me yet. Which is good, and bad. Good because they won't see me coming, bad because...
"What's wrong?" Doctor Impossible asks, derailing my thought train. It was carefully balanced on one rail anyway. I really should've thought this through better. But like I said, thinking isn't exactly my strong point.
"Uh. What do you mean, what's wrong?"
He cocks an eyebrow at me. Apparently lying isn't my strong point, either. "You've been pawing at that wall for a few minutes now. What are you looking for?"
I take a deep breath. "I would try to put this in a gentler way, but I can't think of how to, so I'll just be frank: the money's gone."
Oh, crap. He's going to beat me to a pulp. I could fight back, but I don't want to. He's my only hope. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I sincerely apologize. I didn't think..."
"You don't think at all."
"Yeah, I know. That's the problem. But we can get it back. It won't take long with both of us working together. You can hack their systems and make weapons, and... you know. Do your thing."
"And where will we get the money for that?"
"I'll..." Cringe. "Steal..." Cover my head. "Some..." Scrunch my eyes closed. "More?" Shit. He's totally going to murder me. Nice going, Synergy. So much for having all the money, now you'll be lucky if you walk out with all your limbs intact. If you can walk.
Just as I'm about to peek up (the suspense is really getting to me) I hear an exasperated sigh. "You are such a complete failure. Fine, I'll show you how it's done." Doctor Impossible mutters something about heroes apparently not being what they used to, and an insolent child like me would never have made it in his day. I don't care. Condescension: A better alternative to death! I'd rather have my ego crushed than my skull any day, and it was still by Doctor Impossible. I don't think being called a failure by the World's Smartest Man is really saying much, and coming from him it was still sort of a compliment. Maybe he sees hope in me or something.