Author's Note: Whoo! My first multi-chaptered Megamind fic. Ok. The basics. This story borrows some themes from my other fic, 'Damsel', although it's not necessary to read that one in order to understand this one, I don't think. There are OCs but I tried to keep them within the style/flavor of Megamind itself, and they basically just exist to further the plot and poke fun at the Justice League, Avengers, and other superhero teams. And... that's about it.
Roxanne glowered at the brain bot on the other side of the kitchen. She wasn't sure what had possessed it – some kind of glitch in its computerized brain, a flight of fancy, maybe some lingering resentment over her introduction into its life – but the thing had grabbed her purse. The handle was draped through its mechanical jaws, unscathed but beyond her reach. She'd spent the past twenty minutes chasing the bot throughout the house, trying to get it to let go. She'd thought she'd won when she'd finally managed to clap a couple of pots on either side of the little robotic menace, but she'd forgotten how strong the things could be, and had nearly gotten her arms wrenched off for her trouble. Which was what brought her to their current impasse, as she rested her hands against the back of a nearby chair and stared at the glowing, whirring little menace.
Chasing it hadn't worked and her efforts at imprisonment had fallen resounding flat. It was time for a new plan. Roxanne sucked in a deep breath.
"Okay," she said, purposefully trying to keep her voice light and playful. The way she generally heard Megamind talk to them. "Okay, you've had your fun. Now give mommy her purse back…" The bot whirred curiously, hovering sideways a little as she started making her way slowly towards it. "That's it, there's a good little robot, just let me-"
She lunged, letting out a triumphant cry as her hands finally closed around the bag. The brain bot made a squeaking sound not entirely unlike a protest and tugged, pulling the purse strap tight, and Roxanne knew exactly what was going to happen right before the stitches ripped and the whole thing came apart. Her wallet, keys, the tiny bag of emergency toiletries, her make-up kit, her anti-kidnapping gun and her cell phone all went spilling onto the kitchen floor. The brain bot took off towards the living room, the torn strap flapping from between its teeth, leaving her to hold the broken and empty remnants of her favorite purse in her hands.
Roxanne sighed. "I hate that bot," she muttered, falling to her knees and picking everything up. She eyed the clock, but thankfully she wasn't quite running late yet. Megamind had left for his lair early that morning, possessed by some moment of inspiration that had struck him during the night. She'd woken up halfway when he'd leaned over to kiss her cheek at the crack of dawn, and woken up all the way when she'd heard the sound of the car pulling out into the street. Despite the insane hour she'd been unable to go back to sleep. That was turning out to be a good thing, though, as she went and got her old purse replaced all of the contents, frowning a little because it was just shy of being big enough to hold it all. That was the main reason she'd replaced it in the first place. In the end she shoved her cell phone and keys in her pocket instead and headed back out the door, right in time for her phone to start jangling.
"Hello?" she answered, locking up behind her and starting down the street towards the bus station. Metro City had really good public transportation – it was even better now that Megamind was actively helping it, rather than occasionally blowing pieces of it up – and she preferred using it to driving herself around. It was always impossible to find a parking space downtown anyway.
"Roxanne, you've got to get down here now," the voice of Bill, her current cameraman, informed her.
Roxanne frowned. "Wow, that was helpful and specific," she replied. "Where's 'here' and what's happening?" She paused, figuring that she'd probably have to hail a cab now. There was a brief crackle of static which made her furrow her brow. She looked up – always look up if something's going on Metro City – and sure enough, there was dark smoke on the horizon. Her heart lurched.
"City Hall," Bill replied. "I would've picked you up but I thought you were already on the way. You… you should be here."
Something in his tone made fear snap inside of her like a whip, and without missing a beat Roxanne hung up on him, hailed a cab, and shoved a few extra bills into the driver's hand with an order to step on it. As the streets zipped past she that the police had set up the usual warnings, and when they reached the street blockage to keep civilians out, she went by foot. Part way through she realized that she'd forgotten her press pass in all the morning's chaos, but thankfully no one questioned her or tried to stop her. Up overhead the clouds and smoke rolled and flashed, though she didn't hear any of Megamind's usual banter echo down to her.
That was a very bad sign.
Police and a few firemen had created a perimeter around City Hall. She spotted Bill and the news van pretty quickly, and started to dash over, but then something in the sky overhead caught her attention and she came up short, halting in shock.
Hovering over top of City Hall was a woman clad in a vaguely armor-like outfit. The ensemble included a pair of knee-high golden boots, a flimsy red skirt, and what looked to be a metal bikini top. It didn't leave a whole lot to the imagination and couldn't possibly have been comfortable in the cold air, but Roxanne was far more concerned with two things – one was the fact that she recognized that woman. The other was the fact that said woman was holding her unconscious boyfriend in one hand, his black-clad body dangling limply from her grasp, head limp and dangling towards the ground. Her throat stuck at the sight. But it didn't make any sense. All of the onlookers were staring up in confusion. Some of Megamind's black smoke dissipated, and Roxanne realized that the woman wasn't alone. Hovering just behind her was a man dressed in brown and green spandex, with a stylized army helmet atop his head and an eerie, off-white light emanating softly from his hands. The ground around the City Hall building didn't look badly torn up. In fact, it seemed like very little fighting at all had gone on. The mayor was out, and she dimly noted that he was arguing with a very buff young man in a white speedo and ankle bracelets.
"What…?" Roxanne breathed.
Those people, the woman holding Megamind, the man behind her, the guy on the ground – they weren't supervillains. She recognized them all from a piece she'd done years ago, back when she'd first been made Metroman's exclusive reporter. They were heroes. Specifically, they were all part of the Leadership Circle which governed the Heroes' Collective, a global group of united superheroes which Metroman had belonged to. For one moment Roxanne dared to hope that things weren't what they looked like.
Then she noticed that the man in the Speedo had Minion, sans his robotic body but still within his sphere of water, tucked under one arm. The fish alien was bobbing inside it, his eyes glazed and unfocused. He was unusually silent.
Roxanne found her voice. "What's going on here?" she demanded, the question coming out surprisingly loud and carrying far enough that most eyes turned in her direction. Silence descended again for a moment, enough so that she could hear the quiet hiss-pop of Megamind's smoke machines. He had a few pocketed throughout the city. For a few seconds, it seemed like nothing would break the quiet. Then a heavy hand fell onto her shoulder and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Roxanne Ritchi. Star reporter for Metro City News. Victim of one hundred and fifty six kidnappings and fourteen attempted kidnappings, formerly affiliated with the late Metroman, currently attached to the career criminal Megamind," a raspy voice said from a step behind her. She turned and flinched away, glaring at its owner. The man was a little on the short side, with five-o-clock shadow covering his square jaw, and the top half of his head hidden beneath a grey mask. He was wearing a matching wife-beater and a pair black tights. "You must have one wicked case of Stockholm's, lady," he growled.
Roxanne ignored the dig in favor of gesturing towards the woman holding Megamind. "Classy. What's the Heroes' Collective doing here, Slasher? And why are your friends manhandling Metro City's savior?" she demanded.
Reaching into a side-pocket of the wide, silver-colored belt he was wearing, Slasher pulled out a cigarette. Oh. Wonderful. The one time she'd interviewed the man she'd had to spend the entire time sitting in a cloud of smoke, and given the circumstances, she wasn't in the mood to do it again. Roxanne's glare intensified as he lit up. "Savior. Ha. Public opinion on that menace might have changed, Ritchi, but the laws don't," he growled out. "Your boyfriend up there has eighty-eight life sentences to his record. But that's city business. He'd be a local problem if it weren't for the one crime that we don't overlook." He let out a puff of smoke, his eyes narrow behind his mask. "Murder."
Waving a hand to clear the smoke away from her face, Roxanne gave him her best look of incredulity. "Are you sure that's a regular cigarette you've got there? Megamind's never murdered anyone."
Slasher paused, giving her an assessing look. "Delusional?" he muttered under his breath. Then, more clearly, he said "have you already forgotten about your former associate, Ritchi? Metroman?"
Roxanne felt her heart sink into her gut. How could she have…? Well, there'd been a lot going on and a lot to take in for the past few months, that was how she could have forgotten. But she remembered it now. The Heroes' Collective usually let heroes operate independently, patrolling their own little 'sectors' however they saw fit. They only really came together when there was a global crisis. Or, and this was the problem, if a member of the Collective was killed. In which case the whole group would descend upon the person or persons responsible, escorting them to the maximum security prison which various governments had helped them construct in space. A prison reserved for the most dangerous and deadly criminals to threaten the world. A prison that was reportedly impossible to escape from.
But things still didn't make a whole lot of sense. "Why are you just showing up now then?" Roxanne demanded, her fists clenching. "Where were you guys when he was apparently running rampant through the city? Or when Titan did a bang-up job of nearly killing us all?"
Slasher inhaled deeply and let out another smoky breath. "Politics," he replied. "Disbelief. Heroes like Metroman don't go down easy. When it was first brought to our attention we assumed it was a gambit of his. After the Titan Incident we were left to conclude that wasn't the case. Power plays ensued. Metroman had a lot of sway in the Collective. There were disagreements on the new management scheme. But that's done now." Another drag. "Sorry for the delay."
Reaching out in a fit of temper, Roxanne snatched the cigarette from his mouth and tossed it onto the pavement. "Listen, you-" she began. Then she paused as Slasher's right hand flashed, distorted, turned sharp and long and metal and came to rest just under her chin. He glared at her.
"Don't touch my smokes, lady," he snarled. She grit her teeth, staring him down over the tip of his hand-turned-blade.
"Give it a rest. I did a report on you, remember? You've got a rule against killing. You're not going to break it over a cigarette," she snapped back at him.
They stared off for a minute.
Slasher moved his hand back, returning it to its normal shape and snorting at her. "Most people forget that when they're under the knife."
"Yeah, well, throw in a few whirling saw blades and a machine gun or two and then we'll talk about intimidation," she returned. Throwing another anxious glance towards Megamind – the woman holding him was shouting something at the man behind her – she tossed her hands up in momentary frustration. There was only one possible solution for their problem, and while she didn't like doing it, she didn't see how there were many alternatives. She wasn't about to let them cart Megamind off to jail. "You won't consider making an exception?" she asked, just to be sure. "He really didn't actually mean for that plan to work, you know, and he's all we've got now – who's going to defend the city without him?"
Slasher shrugged. "We've got a guy. Promoted him from the Teen League. He'll do," he said. "No exceptions for hero killers."
"Fine. Metroman isn't dead."
She was expecting either surprise or skepticism, and got the latter, Slasher giving her a look that even through his mask said he thought she was full of it. "Heroes don't abandon their cities Ritchi. If he were alive he'd have shown up when Titan attacked." At that, his expression dropped some. "I knew him. Good man, solid hero. Heh. Shoulda known he'd die – the good ones always die."
Roxanne raised an eyebrow at him.
"Damn," he said, exhaling heavily. "Now I need another smoke."
"He's not dead!" she exclaimed. "He's alive! He's fine! He's just an idiot. Look, I'll take you to him, alright?" Sorry, Music Man, she thought, even as she made the offer.
Slasher gave her a long, assessing look. Then he lit up another cigarette, stared towards the sky, and nodded at no one in particular. "You get one shot," he said. "I'll drive."
If Roxanne had thought that that first drive to the little red school house with Megamind was awkward, it was only because she had lacked a sufficient frame of reference. Slasher loomed silently in the news van, his not-inconsiderable-bulk of muscles awkwardly filling out the seat (apparently, he didn't actually have his own car) as he silently followed her directions, reeking of Old Spice and tobacco and something else that she didn't care to try and identify. The worry settled in fast and hard as she only piped up with the occasional 'turn here' and 'no, go back, you passed it', wondering how the Collective had knocked Megamind unconscious. If he was badly hurt. If Minion was alright, and what that glazed look in his eyes had been about.
"There," she said when they finally cleared the last side street, and the tiny hill with the school house came into view. "That's it."
"His old haunt," Slasher noted.
She blinked at him. "You knew about it?"
He shrugged. "I know everything."
"Yeah, right," she shot back. "If you knew everything then you'd know he was still alive."
Slasher glared at her. "I do know everything. That's how I know that he isn't alive."
"Then why did you come?"
"Sometimes I wonder why the world hasn't killed that last flicker of hope in me. Then I remember-"
"Oh look, we're here," Roxanne cut him off, and he put his foot to the brake. She all but lunged for the door handle, storming towards the small red building with intent. Slasher followed a little more slowly behind her. A light wind kicked up the grass at her feet, blowing past them as she opened the door and led him down to the lower level, where Music Man's apartment and memorabilia were all kept.
It was dark. The apprehension in her increased as she noticed the way that all of the lights had been dimmed, and the rooms had been reduced to still silence. Even the lights behind the display cases were out, the bulbs dark and busted, as if they had been left running until they'd burned out and never been replaced. There were no glasses with ice-cubes, no sounds of running water or hum of electric power. A fine coating of dust was layered overtop of everything.
Dread swallowed her whole.
No, no, no, no, that bastard. She looked around desperately as Slasher came up from behind her.
"No signs of life," he noted.
That couldn't possibly be actual dust, she decided. She and Megamind had visited just a few days ago, and the place had been fine. She walked over to a coffee table and ran her finger over the top of it, rubbing the substance between her fingers. She sniffed it. When that proved fruitless, she even went so far as to lick it, before retracting her tongue in disgust. "Corn starch," she realized. "It's fake, it's corn starch!" She whirled towards Slasher, who gave her a steady look of pity.
"You are one weird lady," he informed her. Then he took one last, long look around, sucked in a deep breath, and turned on his heel.
"No, wait!" she called, tearing after him. "Wait! Don't you get it? He set it up. He has super speed! He probably did it when he heard us pull up!" Slasher ignored her. She felt the beginnings of panic take over the worry and apprehension, the feeling like something was being slowly and thoroughly torn from her grasp. "Will you at least taste the dust? Just taste the dust!"
"Please!" she tried, stumbling up the stairs in his wake, out of the old unused classroom and into the sunlight again. "Please, believe me. Megamind didn't kill him. Who has copper for a weakness? It doesn't even make any sense!"
Again, no answer.
"You can't take him!" she found herself blurting instead, as Slasher came up the van and then kept going, walking past it and making no move towards the door. She kept chasing him, vividly recalling when she had wanted to chase Megamind after he'd left her here, too, a look of defeat so prominent on his face when he told her that villains 'didn't get the girl' that even then she'd felt her heart crack.
Slasher paused, half turning to look back at her. "He's already gone," he said, nodding slightly towards the sky. Roxanne followed his gesture, looking up to the fluffy white clouds and line of buildings. It took her a second to piece it together. The sky was clear and blue.
It was completely bereft of any whisper of black smoke, any spark of electricity. Any hint of conflict.
Home was quiet when she walked through the door. Roxanne lingered in the entryway for several long moments, purse dangling from one hand, cell phone and keys in the other. Outside the sky was pitch black.
They'd taken him. And Minion. They'd taken them, all traces of them gone when she'd raced back to City Hall, the crowd still milling about in confusion and disbelief but the 'heroes' nowhere to be found. There had been anxiety high in the air. The station had wanted – no, the station had needed her to cover the story, to provide people with information so that they'd understand what was going on. And she'd done it. Standing in front of the camera, talking with a mechanical lack of flare and inflection that was atypical of her style. But she hadn't been able to do more than that for work. Instead she'd taken to the city hall steps, dialing up every number she knew from the old days, every person who had some kind of connection to the Heroes' Collective or who might possibly know where Music Man was. She'd dug up numbers and remembered more than she thought possible, dredging her brain until the font ran dry, and then she'd gone back to the school house again, but all to no avail.
The lair down by the observatory had been cleared out. She'd checked. All of the brain bots that had been there were gone, and so were the exo-suits, the ray guns, the in-progress devices and the completed plans for new things to help the city run better. They hadn't even left the harmless, purely beneficial things behind, like his idea for a better water filter and pipe system. When she'd walked through the door, she'd almost been expecting to find their home emptied, as well, but mercifully that didn't seem to be the case. The invisible car was gone. The hover bike was still in the garage, though, and the trio of brain bots that they kept to (supposedly) clean up around the place still seemed to be there.
Stepping slowly forward, Roxanne dumped her belongings onto the coffee table, and looked slowly around. She walked over to the hallway. Minion's spare suit was still in his room, propped up against the wall next to a table that held some magazines and a little tube of fish food. The bathroom looked fine. The bedroom was tidier than it had been when she'd left that morning, presumably thanks to the bots. The bed was made and the discarded pajamas had been picked up off of the floor, and the holographic watch was sitting forgotten on the bedside table, next to the alarm clock. He must have left it there when he went out in the morning. He'd probably been so excited over whatever thought had occurred to him…
Roxanne took in a deep breath and let it out again. It wasn't the end of the world. It wasn't. Megamind was better at breaking out of prison than any other supervillain, ever. He'd grown up in a prison! Maybe no one had escaped from the Collective's orbiting jail before, but there was a first time for everything.
He's coming back, she assured herself.
Metro City's 'new hero' was a man who called himself Dinomight. Roxanne recognized him from a special she'd done two years ago. Except back then he'd had an afro and an unfortunate predilection towards talking like a bad rap video. The Dinomight she interviewed for the station was a little taller, had shaved himself bald, and mercifully avoided saying 'yo' at any point in the proceedings. In and of himself, she supposed, he wasn't that bad. He had explained himself as having 'the strength of a tyrannosaurus rex, the speed of a velociraptor, the endurance of a triceratops, and the complexion of a brontosaurus', which came off as incredibly nervous and rehearsed, but seemed accurate enough for a description. It wasn't really his fault that she wanted to beat him senseless with the microphone during the entirety of their time together, and when the cameras were finally turned off, he probably hadn't deserved the death glare she'd given him. Or that dig about his red spandex leotard.
It didn't really matter, anyway. As soon as Megamind figured out how to break free of prison, and they worked out a way to keep the Collective from arresting him again, Dinomight would be old news. He wasn't turning out to be very popular. Most people resented having a hero 'assigned' to them, especially as they felt that, all things considered, it was too little and too late from the group that had left them at Titan's mercy. Even when he'd been playing the part of the villain, Megamind had been a known quantity – he was theirs, a fixture, part of their lives.
Part of her life.
The brain bots drooped and moped around the house, sometimes drifting around Minion's empty suit in confusion, sometimes just dropping into the corners of various rooms and lying there, making sad little buzzing noises. It had been a whole month since the abduction (as she had come to think of it). Coming home for another day, Roxanne tried to remember the last time she'd gone an entire month without seeing Megamind. Not since the first time he kidnapped her, she thought, if she was counting his live appearances on television. She swallowed hard when she walked through the door. Ever since he'd been gone she'd found herself lingering strangely whenever she came in, like she didn't know what to do or how to move around when it was just her in a place that was supposed to be theirs. Which was ridiculous. They hadn't even been living together for that long. But part of her still kept expecting to come in and find him waiting for her, with a smile and some blithe comment about how tricky it was to devise a space shuttle out of pop cans, and she found herself invariably disappointed and bereft every time that wasn't the case.
Sighing heavily, she put her things away, stepped out of her shoes, and headed for the bathroom. She paused for a moment at the doorway, spying the bedroom's beside table out of the corner of her eye as she moved.
The holographic watch was still sitting there.
Something in her chest clenched, and Roxanne changed paths, walking over to it instead. She picked it up. On the outside it just looked like an ordinary watch. There weren't any instructions for 'how to scan' or 'how to project', because those would obviously give away its purpose, but she knew that some of it had to do with twisting the clock face, and it really had more buttons than even an athletic watch rightly should.
Closing her hand around it, Roxanne turned and headed back into the living room. She grabbed her anti-kidnapping gun out of her purse. Originally she and Megamind had agreed upon outfitting her with a dehydration gun, largely because it was highly effective at subduing people and also non-lethal. After a rainy-day attack thwarted its effectiveness, however, he'd insisted on switching her to a stunning ray instead. It was a little more flashy and aggressive, but she'd gotten used to the change. Tucking it under one arm, she went back into the bedroom and flung open the closet. The floor was a mess of orphaned socks, boxes she still hadn't gotten around to unpacking from her old apartment, and all sorts of odds and ends shoved into the back corners and up onto the top shelf. Dropping to her knees, she dug through it all, and when that search was done, she stood on her tip-toes and went through the clutter at the top, too.
Something of an idea was beginning to take shape.
She came away from the closet with a pair of black leather boots, an older model cape, some small night-vision goggles, and a tiny, glowing binky. Carefully, she laid everything out on top of the bed. She had all of this, Minion's spare suit, three brain bots, and the hover bike in the garage. She wasn't sure how much of Megamind's infrastructure the Heroes' Collective had taken out. She hadn't seen a lot of construction work, and his city improvements had remained, but she'd still have to investigate that, she decided. Her mouth was dry. Insane, that was what her idea was.
It was a good thing he had tiny feet for a guy, she decided, before turning back to the closet and fishing out her tightest black pants and a blue v-neck blouse.
The number of times she'd seen Megamind do this – the number of times she'd seen any villain do this – one would think she could pull something like it off. Roxanne swallowed, hard, leaning against the wall of the alley across from Metro City Bank, one hand closed around the handle of her anti-kidnapping gun, the other fidgeting worriedly with the side of her cape. She took deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. The hover bike was beside her. A few experiments had proven that the brain bots still knew how to put on a show, and could handle some of the stuff that she couldn't make heads or tails of. They didn't listen to her nearly as well as the listened to Megamind, or Minion, but she was fairly sure they'd pull this off, if only because it was something routine for them.
All she had to do was work up enough nerve to carry through with it. Her hands were sweating, and the tight, dark clothing made her unconscionably hot. She kept noticing the spikes on the cape's shoulder pads out of the corner of her eye, and she was still figuring out how to properly control the hover bike.
But she couldn't think of anything else, and she had to do something. She'd never been the kind of person who could just sit by and do nothing, not even when that meant walking straight up to her deadly ex-cameraman-turned-super-powered-menace, standing before him in full knowledge that he'd probably kill her. Compared to that, really, this was nothing. It wasn't like she was unused to public presentations, after all, and in the end that was really all it was. A show. A big, fancy show, and she might be in a different role, but it was a show she'd been part of countless times before.
There. That was as much nerve as she was going to get, she decided, swinging one leg over the side of the bike. She flicked the little switch at the top that she knew turned on the shield. Shields had been Megamind's new favorite toy before the abduction. He'd put one in any vehicle he could get his hands on, thrilled with the new technology he'd uncovered, and bizarrely preoccupied with safety issues in a way that seemed atypical of him. She could still remember him showing her the bike's shield the first time he'd installed it. "See!" he'd exclaimed. "I based it off of the mechanics of Minion's environ-mental sphere. Now if anyone else decides to throw a building at you two again it'll be less of a problem!" His smile had reached almost from ear to ear, and she'd reached a hand out, feeling a rush of wonder when her fingers had rested against a small, blue-tinged patch of air. That she was impressed had been obvious, and Megamind had been so happy to successfully show off for her.
Determination filled her, and she waited for a break in traffic before hitting the gas. The bike lurched from the alley, crossing the road and zipping forward, straight up to the bank's doors. The door guard caught her eye and with a look of panic flung himself sideways. As she crashed through the glass and metal archways she felt the adrenaline hit her, sharp and fast, and the shield deflected the debris safely away without so much as a flicker while the propulsion systems sparked against the marble floors and the brakes screeched loudly in her ears.
The brain bots must have caught her cue. The smoke vents around the bank went up, filling the place in record time with dark clouds and sparks. It wasn't nearly as impressive or thorough as it would have been if Megamind had been doing it, but so far, so good. The bank's patrons stared at her in shock as she got off the bike and raised her stun gun, pulling a black sack out from the satchel behind the seat and tossing it to the floor in front of the service desks.
"Fill it," she snapped, the blood pounding in her ears.
Resounding silence was the initial response. Someone dropped one of the little chained pens at the front of the line, and the plastic clapping sound it made against the wood resounded through the air. No one moved, and swallowing down her apprehension, Roxanne aimed her gun at one of the security guards. With a mental apology she squeezed the trigger, and in a beam of flashing light he went down, crumpling to floor.
That did it.
The remaining security guards pulled their guns. She was still standing close enough to the bike and its shields that it didn't matter. No one opened fire, anyway, and most of the bank's patrons were familiar enough with their situations to just duck and cover, dropping to the ground, the vast majority of them still looking more puzzled or confused than scared. Roxanne caught the eye of the manager, and gestured meaningfully towards the empty sack. "Fill. It." The hand not holding the gun shook a little bit. She forced it to stop, clenching it into a fist instead. Had the silent alarm been set off yet? It must have been, right? She swallowed, and hesitantly the manager moved to comply.
Sirens started blaring outside. The sack was halfway full before she heard the broken glance tinkle behind her, and caught the sight of red spandex and a tall, scaly figure from the corner of her eye.
"Whoa…Miss Ritchi?" Dinomight asked, bewildered. "What are you doing?"
Roxanne turned around to look at him, putting her free hand on her hip and running her tongue over the roof of her mouth in an effort to get a little more moisture there. "Oh. You know. Just a little criminal activity. I thought I'd use it to flesh out my resume, I mean there's only so many times you can write 'got kidnapped' before people stop taking you seriously." She laughed. It sounded a little strained even in her own ears.
Dinomight frowned, the thick ridges on his forehead making it a monumental gesture. Cautiously, he looked her up and down. "Okay, wait, hold on. I think you might be having some kind of psychotic break," he suggested.
She reached over discretely to flick off the bike's shield. Then, she shot him in the shoulder. Well, she'd been aiming for his head, but it would do. The beam rebounded off of his thick hide and ricocheted towards the ceiling, where it broke apart against the lights. He took a staggering step back, but didn't fall, so she re-aimed and squeezed the trigger again. The second shot went wide, and she flinched a bit as it streaked through the broken doorway and hit one of the police cars outside, but the third and fourth both struck Dinomight directly on the chest. They rebounded just like the first had, streaming over the heads of the ducking bank patrons and hitting the walls. Dinomight staggered again, and then, before she could take another shot, lunged forward. His rough hand yanked the gun out of her grip so fiercely that she wondered if he'd dislocated her shoulder. He whipped her around, pulling her arm back so that the rest of her body was forced to contort with the motion, quite effectively stopping her from doing any more damage.
"I'm sorry, Miss Ritchi, but I'm going to have to take you in," he said.
She glanced back at him. "That's pretty much always how these things end, isn't it?" she asked, much to his obvious bewilderment.
The low-level supervillain cell at Metro City's women's prison hadn't seen a lot of use, but it wasn't really all that bad. Roxanne could think of worse and better ways to spend her day than avoiding female convicts, receiving daily counseling from a very soft-voiced Dr. Quin, and sleeping in the same room as her toilet. It was more horrible than not-horrible, and after the first few days she started to doubt the effectiveness of her plan. But it was too late to change courses, even if she spent every night kicking herself and wondering when exactly she'd lost her mind, so she tried not to think about the fact that she might have just made a mess of her life for nothing. The trial had been pretty expedient, at least. Metro City was used to the revolving doors on its prisons and didn't waste a lot of time.
She had been in the midst of contemplating the abject failure of her spectacularly bad idea when one of the guards came and got her, informing her that she had a visitor.
Finally, Roxanne had thought, slumping a little in relief as she was led out of her cell and down towards the visitors' room.
The figure waiting for her on the other side of the glass barrier was dressed in a trench coat and a brown fedora, with a thick beard covering the lower half of his face and large, dark sunglasses over his eyes. Roxanne sat down across from him and picked up the little black phone on the side of the booth, swallowing hard, wondering if she could get this part of it done, now. She simultaneously tamped down on the sudden surge of anger and betrayal she felt rising in the pit of her stomach at the sight of him.
"I thought you might turn up," she said into the receiver. Music Man answered her, his words unintelligible from the other side of the glass. She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Pick up your end of the line. Normal people can't hear through the barrier, that's what the phones are for," she instructed him.
His lips pursed in another brief show of displeasure before he complied. "Roxy, what were you thinking?" he asked.
She scowled at him, a flood of rage sweeping through her with surprising thoroughness.
There were words, she knew, that she was supposed to say, but right then it was kind of hard to find them in all the midst of her anger. She'd heard the phrase 'seeing red' before, but she'd never really understood until that moment. It was like she was so mad that her heart wanted to leap out of her chest, and all of the spiteful things she wanted to say clogged in the back of her throat like a traffic jam. When she was finally able to fish a few out, they emerged from her in a low and furious hiss. "What was I thinking?" she demanded. "You… you… there are so many possible insults for you that I can't even pick one! You…!" Somehow, rather than rising in volume, her voice just seemed to get lower and lower as her temper reached its incoherent heights.
Music Man winced.
"You didn't even warn us!" she settled on, her hand gripping the phone until her knuckles were white.
"I know," he replied quietly. "I didn't even think about that side of it. I'm kind of a selfish person, Roxy." His expression brightened a little. "I never knew that about myself before! Since I left I've been discovering all these things about who I really am-"
"Stop talking now," Roxanne snapped. Whether it was something in her tone or just a reflexive reaction to her anger, amazingly, Music Man's mouth closed with a soft snap. He sat stiffly across from her, looking at her with eyes that were visibly wide behind the tint of his shades.
"Okay," she said, taking in a deep breath and trying to get some of her temper to recede. It wasn't easy. "This is an important question, so I want you to think about it before you answer me," she said, very slowly. "Why did you come here?"
Music Man stared at her. He coughed a little. "Well, see, I've playing at the hospital a lot lately. The sick kids really like my music. And I was in the waiting room when I read in this magazine about the 'psychological healing powers of music', so I thought, hey, that could be…" Taking in her expression, he trailed off. Some of the forced lightness faded away from him, and he slumped, his shoulders sagging and his large hands resting on the small ledge in front of him. After a few seconds he reached up and took off his sunglasses, lightly pinching the bridge of his nose in a gesture that was probably more subconscious imitation than genuine fatigue. He sighed. "I know you don't have a lot of friends. You know, because of… everything. I guess I felt – I don't know. I tried to ignore it, but after the news story about what you'd done, I couldn't stop thinking about it."
Roxanne let out a breath that she hadn't even realized she'd been holding. "So you actually do care," she replied, the note of a question lingering in the comment, bitterness coloring her tone. His head snapped up sharply.
"Of course I do!"
Her temper flared. "Don't say that like it should be obvious!" she said. "It's one thing to decide that you're not going to be the city's hero anymore. It's another to just leave your friends high and dry when they need you. This is the second time you've done this to us, but now, it's all your fault that everything's going wrong."
Music Man flinched. "In my defense, he really did build a death ray and try to trap me in the observatory. I mean, it could have gone that way-"
"No it couldn't have!" Roxanne cut him off. "And it didn't, so you need to tell those old colleagues of yours that you aren't dead." She let out a breath, running one hand through her hair in agitation.
"I can't," he replied sadly.
"Why?" she demanded. "Why is your reputation still so valuable to you?" Her voice broke a little bit, despite her intentions, and she could feel hot prickles at the corners of her eyes that warned of the potential for tears. "With your power, no one can make you do anything you don't want to. People might resent you for not helping them anymore, but no one can force you to be a hero."
Music Man raised his hands in the universal gesture for 'lower your voice', which didn't do a lot for her mood, and darted a glance around at the other convicts and their visitors. "Shh," he said. Then he pulled back, his expression turning torn for a moment, before drifting into something like resignation. "I don't care that much about my reputation," he whispered into the receiver. "That's one of the things that's changed about me now. If it was only that, I could live with it. But the Collective has people…" he trailed off a little, sucking in a deep breath. "Look. You don't just retire from being a superhero, Roxy. If the Collective knew that I was alive they'd send someone after me. Someone with powers that worked against mine."
Skepticism was her first reaction to his assertion. Maybe it was because she was still predisposed to think of him as indestructible, maybe it was because she no longer found herself inclined to put a lot of faith in him. "What would they do?" she asked. "Threaten you into saving babies from burning buildings and thwarting evil plans?"
"Pretty much, yeah," he replied sincerely. "They wouldn't be able to arrest me or anything like that. But they'd make my life hell." He shifted in his seat, giving the room around them another anxious glance. "They have ways of dragging people back in whenever they try and get out. They say it's for the sake of protecting the world, and I think they really believe that, but it's not pretty. You think Metro City sees a lot of action now?" Shaking his head, he moved a little closer to the barrier between them. "They'd send every villain and anti-hero on the planet after me, hunting me down, challenging me to fights, forcing me into confrontations until I cracked. They'd burn down my hideouts. They'd figure out where I was hosting gigs and attack there, too. My musical career would be finished – even if I didn't rise to their bait, my audience would probably all get killed."
There was a careful sort of quiet between them as Roxanne turned that idea over in her head. She was at war with herself, she found. The part of her that still considered this man (be he Music or Metro) a friend, the part that had gambled on her little stunt being enough to get him to seek her out, wanted to think the best of him, and believe that he was telling the truth. He'd come, after all. On the other hand, the part of her that hated his guts wanted to accuse him of being a selfish liar and somehow strangle him with the phone cord. Only one of those reactions was in any way practical, however, so she pursed her lips and inhaled deeply through her nose. "If that's true," she said, lowering her own voice to a whisper. "Then would you help me if I could promise that no one would find out that you're still alive?"
Music Man gave her a long, pensive look. Her heart began to sink, and just as she was beginning to think that all of her insanely stupid plans really would be for naught, he gave her a look that reminded her just a little bit of his old self. Not the public hero, but the guy who'd tell her tacky jokes on the way back from Megamind's lair, with the wind whipping around them, seeming to blow away some of his shiny veneer. He pointed firmly at her.
"Alright," he said. "But only this time. And only because this really is my fault."
Relief broke through her chest almost painfully, and it was strange that that was what finally got the tears to spill out of the corners of her eyes.
Step one was, of course, breaking out of prison, which was accomplished by simply having the brain bots blow out one of the walls. Since her cell wasn't high security, that was pretty easy. All she needed to do was have Music Man deliver her the communicator for them (which he did by way of super-speed) and then she spent four hours whispering requests into it until one the bots finally got the idea. By then Music Man was waiting for her outside, and whisked her away before the guards could even figure out what had happened. The bots were none too pleased to be called into his presence, but only seemed to express it by ineffectually gnawing at his elbows from time to time.
Step two was reclaiming her gear, some of which she'd stashed before her 'heist', and some of which was confiscated by the police. She took care of the former while Music Man and the bots handled the latter, working together to make the theft look like it was machine-orchestrated, but using his powers to facilitate things and ensure success. He kept a low profile, dressing dark and moving quickly whenever he could, and every time he came back from such 'errands' she found herself nearly jumping out of her skin due to his sudden appearances.
"That's why I hardly ever used super-speed," he told her. "People find it really unnerving."
"You don't say," she'd generously replied, before giving him the break-down of 'step three'. The tricky step.
Music Man hesitated on that one. "I don't know," he said. "What if he suspects something?"
Roxanne sighed, resting her forehead in her palm. They'd retreated to his old hideout rather than her home, figuring it was less likely to get searched, and the fake dust and gloomy atmosphere were just reminding her how mind-numbingly frustrating her accomplice really was. "Of course he's going to suspect something," she said. "We just need to make sure that he doesn't suspect the right thing. That's why the bots are going with you again," she pointed out. He didn't look very reassured.
"The last two times there weren't any people involved…"
"Yeah, it's a little riskier, that's true," she agreed. "But sometimes you just have to take risks if you want to get things done."
He mulled that over for a little while, a curious expression on his face. "Huh," he said. "Never really thought of it like that. I guess I haven't ever had to risk a lot before. I guess I never really had things that I was afraid of losing before."
…Okay. She supposed she could feel kind of bad for him about that. Also, vaguely insulted. They were friends after all. Sort of. With a slight roll of her eyes she patted him on the shoulder, then pulled out the holographic watch. She'd spent almost as much time tinkering with it, trying to learn it, as she had the hover bike, but she was fairly confident that she knew what most of the dials and buttons did. Holding it away from herself, she turned on the scanner and let the lasers do their work. Then she strapped it pointedly to Music Man's wrist, turned the face, and a second later found herself staring at her own stunned reflection. Success.
"Don't break it," she warned.
Reaching up, Music Man patted his – her – his cheek, and then gave a rather bemused look down at his chest and hips. "This is very weird," he informed her in her own voice.
"Yeah, this is probably going to be a brain-bleach memory for both of us," she agreed. "Let's get it over with quickly."
Music Man turned. She caught his arm before he took off with the bots, though, making him pause and look back at her. "Don't let him catch you using super-speed, though," she reminded, remembering just who she was talking to, and what his definition of 'quickly' might be.
He rolled the copy of her eyes at her. It was creepy. "Duh," he said, the surreal tint to the moment deepening. Then he surprised her by patting her hand briefly, almost reassuringly, and took off with a somewhat heavier stride than she generally employed, their borrowed black cape trailing behind him and the shoulder spikes catching the moonlight as he headed up the steps.
When he came back two hours later, an unconscious Dinomight was slung over his shoulder, and a look of general triumph was on his copy of her face.
"You've gone too far this time, Miss Ritchi!" Dinomight shouted.
'Miss Ritchi' was probably the worst name for a supervillainess ever, Roxanne mused, taking off down the streets of Metro City as fast as she could, the hover bike whirring sharply with each swerve and turn. She clutched the handles as tight as she could, once again ridiculously grateful for the shields Megamind had put in. Otherwise she probably wouldn't have had the nerve to cut things as closely as she did.
"Just try and stop me, you prehistoric poser!" she tossed back. Then she winced. Prehistoric poser? Where the heck had she pulled that from? Though, all things considered, she probably already knew the answer to that. The wind whipped around the bike's shield and she sped up a little. On foot, Dinomight was closing the distance, his scaled legs pumping lightning fast as he wove between traffic and tried to get a hand on her bumper. Scowling, Roxanne hit one of the switches underneath the speedometer. A jet of blue flames erupted from the tailpipe and scorched over the superhero's scaled fingers. There was a brief delay, then a pained yelp, and he fell back a few steps. "Is that the best you can do?" she jeered.
"It doesn't matter how fast you go, Miss Ritchi. Justice is inescapable!" he called back. Overhead, she could distantly hear the sound of police helicopters closing in.
Careful, Roxanne thought, feeling the color drain from her face as she urged the bike between two lanes of traffic, and took off in the direction of the waterfront. The sides of a pair of cars cut shockingly close as she did. The drivers and passengers gaped as she whipped by. She let out a harsh laugh, surprised at how clearly it rang out from her, carrying down the road in her wake. "Metroman used to think like that, too. But just look at what happened to him!"
Dinomight roared, obviously consumed by a moment of righteous anger, and his feet hit the ground with increased ferocity, cracking the pavement and sending little bits of concrete spraying upwards. He reached for her, but misjudged, aiming his grab too high and rebounding off of the bike's shields instead of catching it on the side. The blow forced him to stumble back again. As Roxanne rounded the next corner, she grinned in triumph. Megamind's ransacked lair was dead ahead. Leaning over, she spoke into the tiny communicator for remotely commanding the bots, which she'd shoved firmly underneath one of the cape's shoulder-pads. "Go," she hissed. Nothing happened. "Go, go, go, c'mon guys, you know the drill, please…"
A solid moment ticked past. Briefly, she worried that she'd arrived at the point where things finally fell apart. But then vents around the fake observatory opened up, filling the air with dark smoke as the brain bots turned them on. Roxanne swerved counter-intuitively into the darkness, Dinomight still thundering down the road behind her. When she'd driven far enough that she was sure she couldn't be seen anymore, she squeezed the brakes, pulled down on the handle that controlled the bike's altitude, and then sent it lurching awkwardly up, up, until she was hovering well above the domed roof of the building, the engine whirring a little more loudly and her nerves singing in her ears. From her new vantage point she could see the emergency helicopters all the more clearly, though they were (wisely) keeping their distance. When she was confident that she'd gained enough height, she released the altitude handle, and dared to look down. The entire base of the lair had been surrounded in darkness. Dinomight was nowhere to be seen, but the patterns of the smoke below her would imply that he was still running around down there, trying to find her. Presumably, he wouldn't know that the hover bike could fly so high.
A few sparks lit up at the top tendrils of smoke, and a moment later her trio of brain bots emerged, hovering around the bike. Carefully, holding her breath all the while, Roxanne reached out and clicked off the shield. Then she put her fingers to her mouth and whistled, internally crossing her fingers. To her relief the bots obediently swarmed onto the back of the bike. She hastily clicked the shield back on, feeling much better once it was there again. That done, she reached into her pocket, pulled out her cellphone, and hit '3' on the speed dial.
It rang once before it picked up.
"Go," she said.
Sorry, hon, she thought, right before the lair exploded.
It was quite a bit like the last exploding observatory she'd been witness too. The air turned frighteningly hot and the ground shook, red flame arcing through the black smoke below, swallowing it up and consuming the walls of the lair. The explosion came in several large, dusty parts, and each time the shockwaves caused the bike to lurch terribly, until she was forced to take herself out over the water – both to avoid the heat and flames, and to keep from inhaling the dust that had begun to billow up. She probably should have thought that one through better, she decided, keeping one eye on the destructive display until the last resounding boom had shaken through the air. The fake observatory dome groaned loudly as it collapsed in on itself, crashing in bits and pieces into the inferno below.
All in all, it was quite an extravagantly deadly sight. Roxanne slumped a little against the front of the bike, before reaching back and handing her phone to the nearest brain bot. "Here," she said. "Go ahead and munch on this." Most people didn't orchestrate their super-villain plans via cell phone, after all. It was probably better to leave that last call as vague as possible.
The bot didn't need any encouragement, closing its metal jaws around her phone and chewing it apart with a few gleeful little whirrs. She gave it an absent pat, staring down at the lair's wreckage. "He couldn't possibly have survived that," she said, sucking in a breath, waiting.
When the automatic vents kicked in and the smoke finally began to clear, it was to reveal a lot of damaged property, the shattered remnants of Megamind's former workspace, and a single, charred skeleton lying in the midst of it all. Squaring her shoulders, Roxanne gathered enough nerve to let go of both of the bike's handles long enough to stretch her arms out into the air. Then she tossed her head back and laughed as loudly as she could. "Metro City!" she bellowed, wishing she'd been able to figure out how Megamind got his sound system to work. "Your beloved Dinomight is no more!" She added in another laugh for good measure (fighting off a cough towards the end) lowered the bike's altitude a little bit, and took off again.
Holy crap, she thought, as she zipped between buildings, weaving and winding her way through the city until she had backed down one last, darkened alleyway, and dared to finally stop. I can't believe I just did that. Her heart was beating so fast that she was sure it couldn't be good for her, and her arms and legs were shaking a little as she slid off of the seat, letting out a heavy breath. A second later she blinked, and found herself face-to-face with Dinomight.
He took a reflexive step back from her. "What? What?" he demanded, looking sharply around the alley. "Did someone see us?"
Placing a hand on her chest, Roxanne tried desperately to get her heart to stop pounding against her ribs. She sucked in several deep breaths. "No," she said, reflexively giving the alley another once-over. But there were no windows. Just a few brick walls and the open sky overhead. Even if anyone had seen her drive in, they wouldn't have seen him enter, at least. "Just… sneaking up. Unsettling. Remember?" she explained, gesturing pointedly towards him. His shoulders slumped in relief, and he nodded in understanding before extending his right arm towards her.
Carefully, Roxanne deactivated the holographic watch, and took it off of his wrist. Dinomight's scaly face was instantly replaced with Music Man's bearded visage.
"I've gotta say, though, you're really good at that," she informed him, tucking the watch into her pocket.
Music Man grinned. "I never thought I'd have to fake dying more than once," he admitted. "It was actually kind of fun. I can sort of see why the little guy was always so stoked for this, it is much more interesting when you're on the losing side."
"In your case? It's probably just the novelty of it," Roxanne pointed out. "Anyways, you're not really losing when everything is going according to plan."
He gave her a look and then let out a sigh. "You know, I never told you this before, but the way you always bring me down is really kind of annoying."
She blinked. He adopted an expression that seemed like it was half-introspection, and half the annoyance he'd just mentioned. For a solid minute she just stared back at him. "…I bring you down?" she finally demanded, shaking her head and wondering if he even realized how petulant he sounded. He shrugged.
"You're always sniping and being sarcastic and throwing amplifiers at my head."
"Twice is not always."
"See? Like that."
Roxanne scowled at him. "So we're just overlooking all the gushing media praise I've given you over the years, then?" she asked. "Mr. My-Heart-Is-An-Ocean-Inside-A-Bigger-Ocean?"
He heaved another, heavier sigh. "That stuff doesn't count. You weren't even really talking about me, you were just building up the already excessive hype for 'Metro Man'," he asserted. "Since I started embracing my true identity, you haven't paid me a single compliment. Even the little guy at least said my music was good."
"Seriously? You really want to complain about this right now?"
Music Man gave her a look that was eerily similar to the petulant stubbornness that Megamind sometimes showed. She felt a headache coming on. "Fine," she exhaled. Nice, nice, what could she say about him that was nice? She looked him over for one awkwardly drawn-out moment. When she opened her mouth again, a bit of his anticipation showed on his face. "Um… your beard makes you look kind of like a lumberjack?"
Anticipation with replaced with momentary befuddlement. Music Man mouthed the word 'lumberjack?' to himself, and Roxanne quickly attempted to change the subject before things got any worse. "Look, we don't know how much time we have," she reminded him, drawing him pointedly back to the task at hand. "The Collective took ages to decide to come for Megamind, but if what Slasher said to me was true, then they might be quicker to react this time around."
Music Man nodded quickly. "Oh, it's probably true. Slasher knows everything," he said.
"He does not!" Roxanne suddenly snapped. She surprised even herself with the abruptness of her reaction. "You'd have to be a pretty damn observant person to know everything, and from what I've seen, he isn't even cut out to be an amateur detective. He wouldn't even taste the dust!" Reigning in her temper, she forced herself to calm down and move on before the obvious questions could be asked. "But that's beside the point. I've got to get going, and you," she pointed a finger at his chest. "Need to make sure that the real Dinomight doesn't escape and ruin everything."
He frowned at her. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that part," he said. "It's not that I really mind volunteering the time and everything. I need to practice my classical instruments, so, I figured I could do both at once and kill two birds with one stone. But how am I supposed to keep him from recognizing me if you're taking the doo-hickey disguise watch with you?"
Roxanne gave him a long, long look.
Music Man started guilelessly back at her.
"…Seriously?" she asked.
He spread his arms. "Well, it's a legitimate problem! If I don't have a disguise then sooner or later he might notice that I look a lot like Metroman. It's not as if I can just shove on a pair of glasses and fool him completely! He's a superhero!" he complained.
Sighing, Roxanne ran a hand down the side of her face. "You take an opaque, fabric sack of some kind," she said. "And whenever he's conscious and you're not using super-speed, you shove it over his head." Really. It was like he hadn't even been there for all of those kidnappings. She was starting to wonder if he'd just been humming country jingles in his head every time he zipped into the rescue, and just tuning the rest of it out.
His shoulders relaxed a little, as though a genuine concern had been lifted off of them. "Oh," he said. "Huh. That's a good idea."
"Yeah. Can't imagine where I got it from," she replied. Almost immediately she regretted the blithe comment, though, as something in her chest constricted, and how messed up was it that talking about the basic practicalities of kidnapping could fill her with a sudden and painful nostalgia? Forcing the feeling down, she nodded to Music Man, and made her way back towards the hover bike.
Please let this work, she thought. Please.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! Next chapter, we'll find out what's going on from Megamind's side of the equation.