There was nothing more disgusting than watching her brothers mow their way through a box of takeout wings from Go City Wings To Go. Madison in particular seemed to have no regard for his own cleanliness, and Susan was always surprised to see that Henry was almost as bad when it came to chicken wings. It was Mego and Hego, Susan had to remind herself – not Madison and Henry anymore. Although even her brothers often forget to refer to each other by their superhero names, since they were still new to the business.
It was a slow night, and Walter and Wendell had begged their oldest brother to go out and get wings for dinner. Henry was keen on remaining in Go Tower at all times to make sure they didn't get any emergency calls on the giant viewing screen the city had just installed for them, as he was always a stickler for responsibility, but Susan had told him to live a little. Now, as she watched her brothers covering their faces with more barbeque sauce than she thought could even be slathered on a single box of wings, she began to regret telling Henry to live a little.
"This was an excellent decision," said Henry as he bit into another wing. Susan heard the sound of the wing's bone crunching and flinched in disgust, but her brother didn't seem to notice or care. "I suppose we can't be out fighting the forces of dastardly destruction every evening, so it's alright to-"
He was cut off by the sound of the viewing screen snapping to life, sending a bright light through the dim control room. The Mayor stared down at them from the screen, taking a moment to recover after seeing his go-to Go family covered in sauce and sitting around a table scattered with chicken bones.
"Sorry to interrupt your dinner," said the Mayor, "but we have an emergency! There's a new supervillain in town, and he's just given us an ultimatum. We must pay him five thousand dollars within the next hour, or he'll rain down destruction on Go City."
"Five thousand dollars?" asked Susan. "That's it?"
The Mayor nodded.
"Okay... well, did he say how he was going to rain down destruction on the city?"
"No, he did not, but I got the feeling he may be a threat. Fortunately I don't have to rely on my corrupt and incompetent police force to solve these problems anymore, do I? Because I have my very own supercharged team of problem solvers!"
The Mayor giggled with glee, at which the Go siblings glanced at each other as they waited patiently for him to continue his briefing.
"He's located on Go Mountain, and he wants us to bring the money there within the hour. But I think it would be better if Team Go went to meet him instead, don't you think?"
"I certainly do," said Henry. "What's this supervillain's name?"
The Mayor's face was replaced by a photo still of a hunchbacked man in a mask and cape, wearing what looked like bird-shaped boots and laughing malevolently. "Aviarius," spoke the Mayor's voice as Team Go looked over their new enemy.
"Sounds like a fowl foe," cracked Henry before withering under the glare of his sister. "Uh, we'll take care of it, Mr. Mayor!"
The Mayor nodded happily as his head returned the viewing screen in place of Aviarius' photo. "Wonderful, wonderful. And by the way, when you detain him, could you stop by city hall before taking him to the police station? I'd like to get a few photos of Team Go keeping their captive subdued, maybe one of myself shaking hands with the rest of you, cuffing Aviarius. Just your standard press release protocol, you understand. And if you succeed, we could have a little celebration afterwards! Lots of Go City movers and shakers invited, that kind of thing. What do you think, Henry?"
Henry stood up from the round control room table, chicken wing sauce still smeared across his face, and gave the Mayor a snappy salute. Susan rolled her eyes. Clearly he was still working on how to act like a superhero. Image was big with Henry. At least, most of the time, Susan noted as she passed him a napkin. The viewing screen went black, and her brothers got up from their meal.
"It's time to teach this scoundrel a lesson!" said Henry. "Shego, Mego, Wegos – to the Go Jet!"
He strode off with a purpose as Susan got up from the table. She made a show of being reluctant, as she had been increasingly annoyed with Henry's go-get-em attitude, but she had to admit that she was intrigued by the appearance of this new enemy.
Henry had brought them to Schmo City a couple of months ago, where he had made a deal with the Mayor and gotten a contract to set up shop in the city as resident superheroes and protectors. The Mayor had kindly renamed the city and provided them with their own tower, jet, and monthly stipend. Not a bad deal at all. Susan got the impression that the mayor saw his very own team of superheroes as a great ticket to boost his sagging popularity and get reelected, and – spurred by the sweet nothings he had been whispering into her older brother's ear since then - Henry was happy to go along for the ride.
Ever since they arrived in the city, however, they had been fighting thugs, crooks, and petty criminals. The occasional competent foe popped up here and there, but generally it was no test for Susan's increasing mastery over her abilities. She could tell her brothers had been getting bored of the small time jobs too. Maybe this Aviarius would be a change from the routine. Not to mention that there was something incredibly familiar about the name, the hunched back, the scrawny figure. Susan definitely wanted to get a closer look at the new player in town.
Another nail chipped as Susan dragged herself up the last crag before reaching their destination. Taking the jet had not been very useful when they still had to climb the mountain to get to Aviarius' lair – hopefully this would not be turning into a trend. She reached down and helped her younger brothers up to the spot they had just reached on Go Mountain, where the ground leveled off briefly before continuing to rise towards the summit above them. They were near the top of the mountain, but judging by the nest of eggs in front of them, Susan knew they had reached the lair.
"Who trespasses in The Nest?" shouted a voice from a small cave nestled in the rock face behind the nest. Aviarius appeared from the darkness, pointing imperiously at his intruders. "Who are you, and more importantly, do you have my five thousand dollars?"
"You should really think about asking for more money next time," said Susan. "Nobody's gonna take your threats seriously if you don't aim higher."
"Yes, but if I only ask for five thousand dollars, wouldn't they be almost certain to pay me?"
Susan paused, wondering if he had a point.
"We're here to stop you!" exclaimed Henry in a thundering voice as he stepped forward. "My name is Hego, and these are the subordinate members of Team Go, here to back me up in stopping your reign of terror! There's nowhere to fly now, Aviarius!"
"What are you talking about? We're on a mountain. I could fly anywhere!"
Susan pondered Aviarius' flying comment and looked at the large eggs in front of her, nestled inside their nest of straw and assorted twigs. She began to wonder something for a moment before deciding it was too stupid to even consider. Fortunately, Madison asked the question for her.
"Are you actually like half-bird or something? And are those your eggs?"
Aviarius laughed raucously. "Does it look like I could squeeze those things out? They're half my body weight! No, they're made out of hollow polystyrene with some texturing and coloring added. Just part of the avian mystique, you see. And I'm not a half-bird either, for your information."
"Hey, just wondering," said Madison sheepishly as his siblings looked askance at him. "I read about some some crazy geneticist in a magazine once, I thought maybe you had some modifications done. It's not that far-fetched."
Shego watched Aviarius and began to realize where she recognized him from. This time, she had a more relevant question to ask.
"Is that you, Avery?"
Susan's brothers gasped at her observation, obviously recognizing their foe almost as soon as she pointed out the resemblance. Aviarius stared at his green-skinned foe for a moment, a malicious smile passing across his own face.
"Yes, I'm Avery. And you, I assume, are Susan Go."
"I thought there was something vaguely familiar about you three" - Avery pointed to Susan, Henry, and Madison - "when I saw you climbing up the side of this mountain and waited for you to get to my little nest here. It's been a long time, but it's hard to miss green and purple skin. I see you've got some new suits, as well. It looks like I'm not the only one who's been going through some changes lately!"
"We're superheroes now, Avery," said Henry, "and I'm disappointed to see that instead of growing up from your schoolyard bullying, you've chosen to follow a path that will lead only to prison and tears!"
"Oh please. As if I chose this path! Everyone had me pegged as a bad egg for as long as I could remember. I didn't get the muscle that you have, Henry, so I had to defend myself by being nastier than the others! And once I became a bully, once I became the bad guy, do you think anyone gave me a chance to be anything else? No! Why, do you all remember what they called me in school because of my hooked nose and scrawny arms, when they thought I wasn't listening? Bird man!"
Susan and Madison snorted in unison, and even Henry had to hold a hand to his face, attempting to look serious while suppressing a laugh.
"Ha ha ha," said Aviarius. "Hilarious. I remember you calling me that on a few occasions, Henry."
"It's Hego now, evildoer."
"The point is, I just became the thing that everyone wanted me to become. I fulfilled the destiny that was set out for me, from the beginning, just as you and your siblings were set on a path by that meteor which has taken you to this very place, at this very moment. None of us had any choice!"
"It's Aviarius now, do-gooder!"
Henry stepped forward, making sure he didn't accidentally slip and crack the polystyrene eggs, even though they belonged to what he imagined would soon be Team Go's avian arch nemesis.
"We had no choice in getting our powers from that meteor, and I believe it was destiny for us to become the superheroes we are now. But we didn't have to choose to follow our destiny. We could have denied it. It's our choice to do good, to fight people like you, just as it was your choice to let others define you and follow the path of villainy!"
Susan began to tire of Henry's lectures, and she wondered if he even really believed what he was saying. Henry had talked about destiny before, about the necessity for them to use their powers for good as a team. He seemed to have a conviction in the inevitability of what they were doing. And yet here he was, changing his tune. Telling Avery is was all about choice, that he was a villain because he wanted to be. Because he liked it.
"Enough talk," said Henry. "It's time to clip this bird's wings!"
Susan raised an eyebrow at the awkward and somewhat creepy comment from Henry, but she joined her brothers as they attacked. Avery had clearly picked up some of his own moves since they had gone to school together as children, but he was still no match for a united Team Go. After taking a few punches, he let out a strange squawking noise and retreated into his cave.
"Follow him!" shouted Henry. "To the bird cave!"
As Susan descended into the mountain's depths with her brothers, she couldn't help but wonder if all Henry's talk about destiny was just window-dressing. Just something he liked to hear himself saying out loud. When it came down to it, as hypocritical and self-serving as it sounded coming from him, Susan found herself agreeing with what her brother had told their foe. Avery's turn to villainy, her own choice to join Team Go. It was their choice, not destiny. Susan hoped she had made the right one.
A fire was roaring in the family room of Drakken's lair-cum-house, and Shego looked out the window as she enjoyed her warm surroundings on a comfortable baby blue couch. Beside her, a window looked out into the front lawn and the neighborhood beyond. Shego noticed that the trees' bare branches were no longer being whipped by the wind; it had died down, and in its place, a few flakes of snow were beginning to fall.
Drakken stepped back after hanging the last ornament from the Christmas tree: a test tube, with a hole drilled in the glass near its top and a hook and string attached for hanging. It was actually filled with some kind of glowing substance, although when Susan had asked what it was, Drakken appeared to have no idea. He stepped back and appraised his handiwork.
"What do you think, um – what was your name again?"
Shego, who had been sitting on the couch for a while after deciding three ornaments was as much help as Drakken would get from her with decorating the tree, looked over his finished work. It wasn't bad as far as trees went, she supposed. "It's Shego," she said. "And I think it's the nerdiest looking tree I've ever seen."
There were maybe three real ornaments hanging on the tree, as far as Shego could tell. The rest were a collection of various sciencey-looking devices and knick knacks. Drakken had dragged them out of storage in some other room of the house while he had asked Shego to hang two stockings from the brick ledge over the fireplace, which read 'Drakken' and 'To Be Determined.' on their fluffy white trimmings. Judging by Drakken's ornaments, he was definitely a supervillain of the mad scientist variety. Shego had to give him credit for realizing that finding someone more physical to help him in his evil schemes was a good idea. They would work well in complementing each other's abilities.
"Why are you in Middleton, anyway?" asked Shego. "This doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd find a lot of blue-skinned supervillains hanging out."
"You'd be surprised," said Drakken. "Middleton, for some reason, has a high concentration of interesting activity going on. There is a headquarters of a secret organization called Global Justice in this town, although I have not determined exactly where it is located.
"Not only that, but the Middleton Space Center is leading the world in some cutting edge technology that I would love to get my hands on. And one of my old college classmates happens to work there. James Possible," said Drakken, his voice lowering into a hiss for a moment. "And he has a daughter, too. With a babysitting website, although I've been getting the vague impression she's up to much more than just babysitting."
"What, like superhero stuff?"
"Perhaps," said Drakken. "We could even end up fighting her one day, once some of my plans come to fruition. It would be poetic, would it not? Fighting the progeny of my ex college friend?"
Shego snorted. "The day you use me to fight one of your old college classmate's brat kids is the day you'll have to find a new sidekick, Drakken. And I think we should talk about the sidekick thing, by the way. Maybe we should make this a partnership."
"Now now," laughed Drakken nervously, "let's not push it, Shego. Any good working relationship needs a heirarchy of command, am I right? Let's be reasonable here!"
Shego narrowed her eyes for a moment, but decided she would hold off before evaluating the nature of her newfound partnership with Drakken. She had just gotten there, after all, and kicked his first hire out of the house upon her arrival, so maybe she could take it easy for a while. Scope things out a little.
"So when am I getting a tour of this house? Or lair - whatever it is?"
"Excellent idea, Shego. Follow me!"
Shego got up from the couch and followed Drakken through the house as he showed her around. It was a house like any other, but she noticed odd-looking doodads and pieces of arcane technology piled haphazardly into corners here and there, and a couple of the rooms were filled with computer stations and beeping, blinking mainframes. Shego wondered how long he had been a supervillain. Why he had chosen his path. She could tell he was working on his supervillain mystique, his personal brand, and hadn't quite gotten it down yet.
Much like Aviarius. She remembered that first fight with Team Go's arch nemesis. He had stood no chance against them, and Shego thought the bird motif was pretty one-note, but at least at the time, she had found Aviarius and his lair interesting. Fascinating, even. Living in a cave on a mountain, taking what he wanted – at least, he would have, if Aviarius had been more competent. Even during that first fight, she had been intrigued by his lifestyle. By the alternative to Team Go. It had taken a long time to rise to the surface since then, but seeing Avery's turn to evil had caused a silent rumble to begin within her. A disturbance, echoing in the depths of Susan Go.
Here in Drakken's house, however, she could already tell that the man had more potential than Aviarius. They weren't even in the same league.
"And here," said Drakken as he led her through the laundry room and opened the door to the garage, "is my hovercraft! Isn't she a charmer?"
Shego's eyes widened at the sight of the strange vehicle parked in the garage. It looked like a flying saucer, its blue chrome surface shining under the garage lights. There was an open cockpit on the top where the hovercraft could be piloted, and Shego was already fighting to resist the urge to jump in and send it tearing out of the garage door.
"I may let you fly it eventually," said Drakken. "Although I will have to train you carefully. It's a complex device, not to be handled by novices."
Shego walked up to the hovercraft and looked over the side into the cockpit. There were about five or six buttons, along with a joystick; it looked like she would figure it out in about five minutes. But she had to admit that she was increasingly glad she had knocked that other sidekick out of the house and taken his place. This Drakken guy had promise.
She had doubted herself many times over the last couple of weeks, doubted whether leaving Team Go had been the right decision. The lack of grounding, having no idea what she was going to do with her future – it had been a trial, to say the least. And there were even times when she missed her brothers. Despite her doubts and her second guesses, however, she knew that she had been growing distant from them for a long time, and she knew that there was no longer any way they could be together. She had grown too different from them. Madison was too whiny, too jealous and passive-aggressive, and Henry was too unyielding. Too devoted to procedure and protocol. More than all that, she was a bad guy now. This was where she belonged.
And yet in some way, even if she could never return, a part of her was still in Go Tower. Team Go was a part of her past, after all, a fold in the fabric of Shego's personality. A piece of her life's puzzle, which might never be completed but was at least beginning to take shape. Despite all that she had been through recently, she felt a certain satisfaction now that her feet were truly on the ground. She almost felt cheery, actually. Maybe she was comfortable enough to get off the ground, just for a little bit.
"Hey Doctor D," she said-
"Drakken, please. It's Doctor Drakken."
"Whatever." Shego made a mental note to call him Doctor D repeatedly in the future. "Can I borrow this hovercraft of yours? I have to go out tonight."
"But you just got here!" pouted Drakken. "How are we supposed to begin building our professional relationship if you disappear as soon as I hire you? We have things to do tonight! It's Christmas Eve!"
"Things? Like what?"
"I was going to make some Cocoa Moo, and there's a Snowman Hank marathon on later tonight. It's tradition, Shego!"
Shego groaned. For a mad scientist capable of inventing some of the things she had seen in his house, he seemed to have a real dorky streak. "Look," she said in an attempt to placate him, "I'll be back later tonight – maybe a lot later – but I'm not leaving for good, okay?"
She leaped into the hovercraft's cockpit and pressed what looked like the obvious power button. Sure enough, the engines flared into life, and she felt a rush of exhilaration as the machine lifted off of the garage floor. She swiveled the joystick and turned it front end to the garage door, and once Drakken realized she was going whether he liked it or not, he opened the door to prevent her from bursting through it on her own. Shego looked down at her new employer and gave him a wink.
"Can you go grab my duffel bag from the family room? I just need to do a little shopping."
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Go Tower, not a creature was stirring – except for Walter and Wendell.
The two of them crept out of their room and made their way stealthily through the tower, trying not to wake up either of their older brothers. They passed through the massive control room, the viewing screen staring down at them in the darkness, and walked past the round planning table towards the other side of the room until they reached another pair of automated sliding doors. The doors were far louder than any noise they were making, but that couldn't be helped. Past the doors was another, smaller room, with some plush blue and purple couches and chairs arranged around a fireplace lined with stockings. A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, sheltering a collection of presents, and Walter and Wendell were planning to shake a few of them and guess what was inside. Definitely not open them, though. Not until morning. Or maybe they would just open one each.
The Christmas tree was not the most interesting object in the room, however. Walter and Wendell were far more intrigued by the strange figure standing frozen beside the tree, caught in the act of placing a present beneath its green boughs. An open duffel bag lay on the floor near the tree, and the stranger in question was disguised by a ski mask and black bodysuit.
"Who are you?" asked Walter.
Wendell scratched his head. "Are you Santa Claus?"
Shego stared at her brothers for a moment, shocked that she had been caught red-handed. She had even avoided coming in through the front door, not sure if her brothers would have removed the hand-recognition access that her powers gave her, and climbed down the chimney instead. Apparently, it was not enough. She felt a tug of sadness at seeing her younger brothers, who weren't completely insufferable compared to Hego and Mego; she had been hoping to sneak into Go Tower while getting the fewest possible reminders of her past. She didn't want to get entangled when she was just beginning to move on, after all.
Shego cleared her thoughts and realized they were waiting for an answer. "Santa?" she asked, before looking down at the black bodysuit she was wearing. Apparently, neither she nor her older siblings had done a very good job of explaining Santa Claus to the twins, she thought. Either that or they thought it was normal for Santa to go incognito as he passed out his Christmas presents.
"Yeah. You got it, I'm Santa alright."
"Awesome!" said Wendell and Walter as they gave each other a high five.
"Now get out of here and let Santa do her job, or you're both gonna get thrown in this duffel bag and dropped out of my sleigh onto the North Pole."
"Yes Santa! We'll be good!"
Her twin brothers scampered away as Shego resumed taking the presents out of her duffel bag and placed them under the Christmas tree. It had not taken long to get the presents she wanted once she found a store that was still open – a Smarty Mart, unsurprisingly - as she had already had her gifts in mind before she ended up leaving her brothers. The Smarty Mart had even been running a last-minute sale, but Shego did not need sales. She got her presents 100% off. Going to Go City itself had been a short trip as well, since Drakken's hovercraft went at insane speeds and had an extending glass cockpit cover for cold weather.
Once she finished putting the presents under the tree, she would be leaving Go Tower again. She had no idea if she would ever be back. But back at Drakken's house, she had been caught by a rare moment of Christmas cheer. Perhaps this was her way of saying goodbye to Team Go.
Hego tried to brush his teeth a little faster as his little brothers banged impatiently on his bedroom door. He knew they wanted to open their presents, but they knew they had to wait for him in order to do that. Mego too, although Hego knew that Madison was not much for Christmas cheer. Neither was Shego, he reflected. But it still hurt to know that she would not be there with them, for the first time in as long as he could remember.
He finished brushing his teeth, put on his blue robe, and opened the door. "Alright already," he told his brothers. "Is Mego up yet?"
"Yeah, he's waiting on the couch," said Walter. "He said you take so long to get up that you're like a hibernating bear."
"That I am," laughed Hego heartily. "That I am!"
The Wegos grabbed him by the hands and dragged him impatiently through Go Tower until they reached the family room, which was no small accomplishment when they were a fraction of his size and strength. Hego saw Mego sitting on the couch with a surly expression on his face, arms folded across his chest. The Wegos wasted no time in leaping down beneath the tree and pulling out presents, throwing the ones that weren't theirs haphazardly towards their two older brothers.
"We saw Santa last night," Wendell said.
Hego smiled and gave Mego an amused expression, at which Mego shrugged indifferently in reply.
"That's swell," he told the Wegos. "You two sure have an active imagination."
The Go brothers began to open their presents, and even Mego was moved enough by the potential for loot that he got off the couch and crouched down on the floor in order to unwrap his own gifts. Before long, Hego came across a nondescript package that he did not recognize, wrapped in what looked like a copy of yesterday's newspaper. He ripped off the newspaper and opened the box inside, revealing a pair of shiny new dumbells.
"Look at these babies!" he exclaimed as he held the weights up. "Just what I wanted!"
Mego looked critically at his brother's present. "Don't you have that weight already?"
"No," said Hego, "or I did, but Shego threw them out a window about six months ago, remember? After an argument we had in the gym. I never got around to buying them again."
Mego didn't really care, and he returned his attention to the present he was opening. Inside was a box of coal. "What the heck is this all about?" he shouted, clearly not amused.
Hego couldn't help but laugh at the sight of the coal, but he noticed something green poking out from the black bricks. "What's that?" he asked.
Mego pulled a soot-coated wad of money out from between the coals.
"Whoa - twenty bucks! Now there's a sensible, rational gift!"
The Wegos found a present addressed to the both of them and tore off the newspaper, opening their own box to find a single present within. Hego watched the two them as they stared at their present in awe.
"What did you get, Wegos?"
Walter was about to hold up the present, but Wendell grabbed it from him, prompting Walter to get up and push him. Wendell pushed back, and they began to roll around wildly as they fought over their gift.
"It's mine!" Walter yelled.
"No way! It's mine! Clearly it was meant for me!"
Hego hadn't even been able to get a good glimpse of the gift, although it looked like it had been some kind of electronic gaming device. Whatever it was, there was only one, and clearly his younger brothers were in no mood for sharing. Normally Hego would have admonished them for fighting on Christmas morning, but at the moment, he was far more intrigued by the presents they had gotten. He knew he hadn't wrapped any presents in newspaper. And it was something Mego might choose to wrap them in, but Mego didn't usually get them gifts. Hego picked a card off the floor which had been attached to his newspaper-wrapped gift and opened it up, reading the inside.
To Henry, it said. From Santa.
So it was an anonymous gift. Or maybe not so anonymous.
Hego happened to recognize the sparkling green ink written on the card. He even remembered the green, plastic goblin-tipped pen that it was written with. It was remarkable that pen still wrote, he thought. The last couple of weeks had been hard for him, ever since his sister left Team Go – wondering if she could ever come back, realizing on some level that she would not, that she had been drifting away for a long time. Wondering if he was to blame. But maybe Shego was not completely gone, after all.
His brothers were too busy enjoying their own gifts to hear him, but Hego looked up at nothing in particular and spoke in a soft voice. He knew she would not hear his words. But, if he was lucky, the spirit behind them would travel farther than words ever could.
"Merry Christmas, Susan."
Notes - That's it! I was originally going to upload this on Christmas Eve but I figured nobody would be reading then, and I was busy celebrating Christmas Eve myself anyway, hehe. But here it is. After the last few holiday stories I've uploaded, I don't know - maybe the holidays are just a bad time to post things and hope for reviews, or maybe my stories are getting worse without me even noticing it. Not that I'm whining. Well okay, I am just a little bit. :-p But thanks to those who have reviewed and happy holidays!