"You're sure about this?"
Minion had been sure, right up until the point that the boss said that. Oh, they'd both blithely sang out we're gonna die! on the way out of prison, but that was just a general assessment of the odds. Long experience had taught him that you didn't start panicking as long as the boss looked like he knew what he was doing - regardless of whether he actually knew what he was doing, which was largely irrelevant, because the important part was the confidence.
But when Megamind hesitated and looked up at him and asked that question that he was hoping not to hear, Minion sincerely hoped he did a good job of covering the nervous way his fins flared. "Sure I'm sure. I'm a better stunt driver, and you know it, sir."
"Only because I'm too busy being the devilishly handsome genius part of the team to worry about such mundane tasks as driving," Megamind shot back, and the moment passed.
Tighten had given them an hour. They'd made good time breaking out of prison, but neither of them particularly wanted to push the limits of the psychotic superman's patience. An hour was short notice to build all the things that Megamind would need to build to pull this plan off. That was where Minion came in. His job was to run interference: if he could get Roxanne to safety, and hold Tighten's attention for a few minutes, that would give the boss just enough time to finish everything he needed to. Barely.
"Here," said Megamind, and passed him the spare hologram watch. "Give it a test? I'll be in the lab if there's any trouble." And then he was off, without so much as a glance back.
Minion obediently strapped it onto his wrist and set it – not to the face of the warden, or the dozens of others saved in it, but to the blue face of his boss. While the odd sensation of being under a hologram took some getting used to, Minion was long used to it, to the point that it no longer threw him off to be suddenly a good foot or so shorter. The mirror set in the corner of the lair was still cracked from their earlier fight, but Minion spared a glance at himself in it. The hologram was a near-perfect replica. Certainly enough to fool the brain-bots – ironically, it had been "Bernard's" little adventure in the lair that had given them the idea for this plan to begin with. The bots weren't all that bright to begin with; they obeyed their "daddy" only about half the time, and they seemed to view Minion in his robotic suit as more like walking furniture than as an authority figure. With Megamind's face and voice, however, they would (hopefully) obey him.
Almost unconsciously, he glanced back towards the mirror again, and corrected his posture and expression to further improve the illusion. He wasn't concerned about Tighten seeing through the disguise. (He'd been fooled by Space Step-mom, after all, and frankly Minion suspected that Hal wasn't all that much smarter than the brain-bots.) Minion was used to acting. He and Megamind had been doing this gig together for going on twenty years; mimicking the boss' familiar mannerisms was easy. But this was different than just fooling some prison guards or pulling on a blond wig. This would be a show for the whole city, and it had to be convincing.
With a sharp whistle he summoned the brain-bots, and they swarmed in with a chorus of robotic barks. He swirled his cape, adding an unnecessary but dramatic flourish at the end, and the bots clustered around him, their carapaces crackling blue with electricity. Even Metro Man would have been fooled, Minion thought.
All he needed was a clever line. "So, Tighten," he told the mirror with a dark chuckle, "we meet again! Let's see if I can loose the deathgrip you've set on my Metrosity!"
It sounded horrible as soon as the words left his mouth, and he instantly regretted it. He regretted it more when he realized the boss was watching him from the doorway, and Minion let out a small dismayed eep.
"Not bad for a first attempt," said Megamind in a distracted tone, "but let's stick to the script for this one, shall we?"
"I finished tuning up the hover cycle," he continued, gesturing animatedly with one long-fingered hand as he paced across the lair, "but the jet pack needs more work. Just buy me a little time, and I'll be right behind you." They were both tense. Megamind did not normally bother to beta test any of his inventions before siccing them on the city (Minion remembered the Equestrinator incident with a wince) but this was different. Tighten was not Metro Man. If the jet pack exploded in midair, or either of the watches malfunctioned, or if the brain bots got distracted as they so often did, they would not get another chance. Roxanne would not get another chance.
"Remember to update the Metro Man hologram, sir, he's got a little grey at the temples now. Wouldn't want you to get caught over a little detail like that." Minion helpfully jotted it down on a post-it and stuck it to the hastily sketched blueprints for Megamind's new power gloves.
The boss was already moving, already working. "No time to lose, Minion. Code: good luck."
"Code: you too, sir."
Smoke. Lights. Guns N' Roses. No fear. Just another of the boss' brilliant schemes, and it would work perfectly because it had to. He trusted the boss, who was after all certifiably a super genius. Tighten was waiting atop the tower with Miss Ritchi, just as he'd said he would be, and Minion was as ready for this as he would ever be.
"You dare challenge Megamind?" The air thundered around him as the bots amplified his voice – Megamind's voice – a hundred times over. Stick to the script.
"This town isn't big enough for two supervillains!" Tighten called back. A cliché comeback. The boss was right: Hal was no good at banter.
He signaled, and the brain-bots flared to life as they took their places. Perfect as if they'd rehearsed it a thousand times.
"Oh, you're a villain all right," he retorted, and was surprised at how easy the words came. Walk the walk long enough, and talking the talk comes naturally. "Just not a super one!"
"Yeah? What's the difference?"
He lifted his arms and strode forward on a wave of bots. Don't think about it too hard. Don't look down. Especially don't look down. Just be him.
Tighten took the offered challenge, surging forward and right into the cloud. They'd keep him busy for as long as they could. Minion had no interest in tangling with the superhero-turned-villain directly, and dropped down onto the waiting hover cycle. The tower succumbed to gravity and began to topple, and without even needing to be asked a pack of brain-bots bolted to slow its plummet; the bots were on their game today, as focused as they had ever been. Maybe they could sense what was at stake, or maybe they had just grown attached to Megamind's most frequent kidnappee. Still, they only took its velocity from lethal to slightly-less-lethal, and he wasted no time in gunning the engine.
"I knew you'd come back," the intrepid reporter called to him, breathless but apparently unfazed by the fact that she was still falling.
He resisted the urge to call her Miss Ritchi, which would have ruined the whole illusion in a heartbeat, because Roxanne was neither Hal nor a brain-bot. "Well, that made one of us," Minion told her with complete honesty. His first instinct was to just rip the metal restraints right off her – but, oh right, the boss didn't have super-strength or a robot body. Old standby, then. Whipping out the dehydration gun Megamind had provided him with, he zapped the bars, then snagged the reporter. Daring rescuer: one more thing to put on his extensive resume.
Minion did not understand how the watch worked, and he'd lost track of Megamind's attempts at explanation after the boss used the words 'quantum' and 'perception filter'. Roxanne didn't seem to notice anything strange (or furry) as she clung tighter to his neck, and he was too busy driving the motorcycle to reflect on it further.
He wasn't sure which one he registered first: the thunderous roar of building colliding with building behind him, or Roxanne's startled gasp. Tighten had taken the broken-off half of Metro Tower and was aiming it straight at them like the world's biggest javelin.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
Good question. There wasn't a plan anymore. Nowhere in Megamind's extensive notes had he covered the eventuality that Tighten would hurl an entire skyscraper at them. Which meant that it was Minion's turn to come up with something on the fly. "Well, it mostly involves not dying!"
"I like that plan."
The shockwave from the falling architecture sent the hover cycle tumbling, throwing it off balance until it rammed into the road hard. The hover cycle refused to hover anymore – the internal antigravity mechanisms must have broken from the impact. Thankfully the engine still ran, but friction from scraping along the road was slowing them down fast. Too fast. Minion didn't quite dare to look behind him for more than an instant at a time, but from the deafening rumble, the half-a-tower was not slowing down as it hit the road. In fact, it was gaining on them.
"Can't you make this thing go faster?" Roxanne yelped into his ear – actually the side of his bowl, but focus, Minion, bigger things to worry about right now.
"I can't control it!" It was all he could do to keep the hover cycle upright and moving forward, as opposed to flipping over and spilling them both into the path of the oncoming building. Funny, how imminent death made your mind skip all over the place – he was noticing little things without even meaning to, like the way that even now, Roxanne was not screaming. She had screamed when the tower started to fall, but that had been more involuntary response than anything. Now, in "Megamind's" arms, her terror was evident only in how tightly she clung on. Trusting him – trusting Megamind, he corrected himself. They were both trusting on that one slim hope… but Megamind always did know how to work with slim odds. And somehow it occurred to Minion then, the way that it had not occurred to him before, that maybe Miss Ritchi actually does love the boss.
He spotted a cloth awning off to one side of the street, and took his chance while he had it, hurling her towards it as gently as he could. It was the softest landing she was likely to get, and Miss Ritchi, he knew from experience, was tougher than she looked. She might get a nasty road rash, but you recovered from that, whereas you generally didn't get better from hundreds of tons of concrete and steel running over you.
Bare seconds after that, the motorcycle spun out of control at last. Somewhere under the hologram, glass made a crunching noise, which was not a good thing to hear in any circumstances, but especially if you happened to be a fish. Then he skidded into the fountain and everything went black for a little while.
When he came to, Miss Ritchi was leaning over him with an expression of concern, which was such a silly reversal of the norm that he fought down the urge to laugh, covering it with a cough. Whoa. He hadn't felt this dizzy since the first time Megamind had dehydrated and rehydrated him. A slight breeze ran over his gills, which was not unpleasant the way it would be if he was an Earth fish, but it was not nearly as refreshing as a good swim.
(The boss owed him a churro break after this. So many churro breaks.)
She looked on the verge of tears. Less like the impossible Miss Ritchi, who feared neither alligators nor spiders nor gatling guns to the face, and more like Roxanne who had just fallen about twenty stories and been thrown off a moving motorcycle and was now holding her maybe-love-interest's prone body. "I'm sorry," he told her weakly. "I did the best I could."
She'd never know that he wasn't referring to the wild hover cycle ride at all. He'd done the best he could to protect Megamind, and he hadn't understood until just now.
Behind her head, a streak of white pursued a streak of orangey-red across the sky. He'd missed the dramatic entrance, which was disappointing, but knowing Megamind one of the brain-bots would be capturing the whole triumphant scene on camera. Minion would catch one of the many, many play-by-plays.
"I'm so proud of you," Roxanne whispered.
He spared a brilliant, solitary moment to bask in reflected glory. Then he reached for the watch.