The Rules of the Game
You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
Secure in the pilot seat of his latest terrible (and terribly brilliant) robot, Megamind smirked down at Metro Man's small form.
"How does it feel, Metro Man?" Megamind taunted. He could see Minion perched on a building a safe distance away, clapping and smiling. Apparently his newest sound system was working. Excellent. He summoned a menacing laugh, undeterred by Metro Man's calm expression. "Knowing that you're doomed?"
"Justice is never doomed. Like the phoenix, it will always rise again," Metro Man countered.
"Ah, but my not-so-dear nemeesis, the phoenix-" Megamind began, starting to stride forward. He stopped in mid-step and mid-sentence as actual alarm contorted Metro Man's face. It was an unfamiliar look, enough to make Megamind pause.
"Time out," Metro Man said. His gloved hands formed a hasty white T. "And don't move." The last sentence was filled with urgency.
"What is it?" Megamind demanded, looking at his screens. Was there another villain trying to steal Megamind's glory and interrupting their battle? But no, there was nothing around save for a few smoking ruins of buildings that had gotten in his way, and a news helicopter circling the scene. There wasn't anything that explained Metro Man's unusual reaction.
Then Megamind glanced down and nearly laughed. A mother duck and her children waddled beneath his robotic boot, oblivious to the battle or that Megamind could crush them simply by completing his forward movement.
"I should have known," Megamind said, sneering. "Even the hero of Metrocity cannot resist cute things."
"And not even you are enough of a monster to kill them," Metro Man said.
His firm conviction galled Megamind; he was half-tempted to crush the ducklings just to prove Metro Man wrong. But that would be petty. Megamind was many things—handsome, brilliant, the master of all evil—but he wasn't petty.
"Fine," Megamind said, folding his robotic arms and wishing he'd installed the ability to roll the robot's eyes. He made a mental note for next time. (Not that there would be a next time, he reminded himself. Metro Man was doomed.) "You understand, however, that if anyone asks, you will tell them that my robot's system briefly froze up."
"Of course," Metro Man agreed.
Together they waited for the ducklings to reach a safe distance.
"…my cameraman and I were witness to an unusual sight during Metro Man's battle with Megamind today," a woman's voice announced.
Looking up at the sound of his name, Megamind scowled at prison's television. His head hurt from where it had hit a wall as Metro Man had wrestled him into handcuffs.
The woman on the screen seemed to look back, bow-shaped mouth curved in amusement. "That's right, folks, even a villain like Megamind seems to have a soft spot in his heart for ducklings," she announced, and Megamind repressed a manly yell of dismay.
"My robot froze! Ask Metro Man!" he yelled.
"I have Metro Man here himself to tell me more," the woman continued as Megamind gaped in horror. She turned, the camera moving to focus on a familiar, smug face. "First, let me say, it's an honor, Metro Man. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview."
"Glad to be here, miss," Metro Man said, flashing a smile for the cameras.
The woman cleared her throat. A flush spread across her face. "Please, tell us in your own words what happened today."
"Megamind and I were in the midst of battle, when I spotted a family of ducks under Megamind's feet. Naturally I couldn't allow the ducklings to be harmed, so I asked Megamind to pause our fight long enough-" There was more, Metro Man's lips still moving, but the rest of his words were drowned out by Megamind's shriek of rage.
"This is how you keep your promises, Metro Man?" Megamind yelled. "Heroes keep their word! THEY KEEP THEIR WORD!" He slumped in his seat. It was going to take ages to repair his reputation after this.
"Thank you so much, Metro Man," the woman was saying. Megamind glared at her as she looked up at Metro Man, her eyes crinkling at the corners. She turned to face the camera. "This is Roxanne Ritchi, reporting to you from Channel Eight News."
Seething, Megamind steepled his fingers in front of him. "You will rue this day, Miss Ritchi," he vowed, meeting those startlingly blue eyes.
Roxanne rolled her eyes at Megamind's evil laughter as he paced around her. To be honest, his maniacal laugh needed some work. She opened her mouth to tell him so, and then caught sight of a white blur speeding their way.
The tension, coiled in her back, eased, and she smiled at Megamind. "You know, you should try using less hyperbole," she suggested sweetly. "After the fourth or fifth time you tell me that Metro Man will never find us and he immediately does, you start to look slightly—wait, make that very—stupid."
Megamind scowled, his eyes fixed upon Metro Man. "How does he find me?" he muttered.
"Well, if you were less predictable, maybe he wouldn't," Roxanne suggested, and sighed as his ears flushed pink and he ignored her. She smiled at Metro Man as he landed. Below them, the waves roared and crashed against the cliff. "It's great to see you, Metro Man. Really. Now, if you two don't mind, Megamind can release me and you two can go have fun doing your little thing-"
"Don't fear, Roxie! I'll see that Megamind gets justice!" Metro Man announced.
She winced at the nickname, but forced another smile. "That's great, really, but I'd prefer if I could get out of these bindings first-"
Megamind laughed. "You've fallen into my trap yet again, Metro Man!"
The two faced off, glaring at each other, and Roxanne felt her fraying temper snap.
"Hey!" she yelled. They both turned and stared at her. She gritted her teeth and said slowly, "Time out. I have somewhere to be, so here's what is going to happen, gentlemen. You, Megamind, are going to release me. You, Metro Man, are going to set me down at the nearest bus stop. Then you two can do whatever you want."
"That isn't how this works, Miss Ritchi," Megamind said condescendingly. "What is the point of a hostage if she leaves at the start of the battle?"
Roxanne narrowed her eyes. "If you don't release me, I am going to be late to my niece's birthday party. Do you want to cause a nine-year-old to cry on her birthday?" Megamind opened his mouth to respond, but she shook her head and continued. "Yeah, yeah, you drink the tears of children for breakfast, great. But you are not making Elaine cry!"
Megamind and Metro Man exchanged a look.
"Cutting it close to the wire," Juliet remarked as Roxanne stepped into the house.
"Let's not talk about it," Roxanne said, brushing her windswept hair irritably out of her face—with all the flying she wound up doing, she really should get a shorter haircut, she thought to herself—and then groaned as she caught sight of the pile of presents. "Oh, crap."
"What?" Juliet followed her gaze. "Roxanne. Don't tell me you forgot Elaine's present."
"It's in my apartment," Roxanne said, sighing. Her apartment, which now had a gaping hole instead of a window. "Do you think Elaine would understand if I told her to take a rain check? I can bring it by tomorrow, but I really don't-"
She stopped at the sound of children screaming. Those weren't joyful shrieks either, but ones of terror. Exchanging a look with her sister, Roxanne raced to the backyard.
Most of the little girls were screaming and hiding under the picnic tables. Only Elaine stayed standing, her eyes wide as she stared up at Minion. "Aunt Roxanne," she breathed in wonder. "You got me a robot. You are the best aunt ever."
Despite herself, Roxanne felt her lips twitch into a smile. "I'm sorry, sweetie, but Minion isn't your present," she said. Then she planted her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. "Minion, you're interrupting the party."
"I'm sorry, Miss Ritchi," Minion said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "But I realized you'd forgotten your niece's present during your abduction." He held up a brightly wrapped box. "I thought you might want it."
Elaine wrinkled her nose, eyeing the box doubtfully. "Can I have the robot instead?"
"You won't get away with this, Megamind," Metro Man snapped, watching as Megamind threw his head back and laughed. "The animals of Metro City will not serve you as unwilling slaves!"
"Ah, but they will, once my latest invention has warped their small, malleable minds," Megamind said. "You'll be forced to watch as dogs and cats turn upon their owners, as the creatures in the zoo tear down their cages and wreck havoc!" He laughed again and raised his hands towards the sky. "Let my brilliant plan begin!"
An expectant pause followed. Then an awkward one.
"Minion," Megamind hissed, frozen in his pose. His smile had become fixed and more like a grimace. "Code: that was your cue."
"Code: we're not quite ready yet, sir," Minion said. The weapon glowed a sickly green in his robotic hands. He lowered his voice, but the words carried to Metro Man's ears nonetheless. "Besides, as I told you, we still haven't fully tested the weapon-"
The weapon blew up.
Even Metro Man tumbled backwards at the force of the explosion. When he regained his footing, he could hear Megamind yelling, a touch of panic in his voice, "Minion? Minion!"
"Megamind," Metro Man began, scowling. That explosion could have actually harmed someone, if the citizens hadn't already been evacuated from the block. He let out a hard exhale of air to dispel the smoke and dust. Then he stared, all thoughts of admonishing Megamind vanishing.
Megamind cradled Minion's robotic form, the metal blackened and smoking. The fishbowl had cracked, and an unconscious Minion floated in the rapidly dwindling water.
"Time out," Megamind hissed without looking back at Metro Man. "I've got to get Minion to water." His hand, as it cupped Minion's bowl, was shaking.
"There's a park two blocks over, with a pond. I can get him there faster," Metro Man found himself saying. He couldn't look away from Megamind's hand as it trembled, or the tension in Megamind's back as he knelt there.
"Fine," Megamind said, not meeting his eyes, and handed Minion's bowl to him. "But don't think this means I'll go easy on you next time!" he added, unconvincingly. He pasted on an equally weak sneer. "You'll find that no good deed goes unpunished, Metro Man."
Metro Man opened his mouth to retort, but nothing came out. Instead he looked at Megamind's dirt-covered face, blanched a paler blue with misery, at Minion struggling back into consciousness, and just felt tired.
"Two blocks over," he repeated. "You can't miss it." Then he clasped Minion's bowl to his chest and flew.
"Good to see you again, Minion," Metro Man said, landing lightly in the middle of the street. "I hope you're feeling better."
"Thank you, I'm feeling much better," Minion said. He waved a cheerful fin. The sunlight glinted off his robotic body, bringing out an unfamiliar blue shade in the metal. A new, stronger type, Metro Man supposed. "I am certainly up to watching Megamind defeat you today!"
"Why thank you, Minion," Megamind said from where he posed on top of his latest dastardly invention, his black cape billowing behind him. He sounded pleased. "Now, if you're done exchanging pleasantries with our enemy, Metro Man and I have a date with destiny."
Metro Man caught the sight of a familiar white news van rounding the corner. He forced himself to straighten to his full height, putting on a determined smile. He raised his voice. "Your destiny, Megamind, is to be defeated! Metro City will never be yours, not as long as I am here to protect its fair citizens!"
"We'll see about that," Megamind said, an evil smile spreading across his face, and attacked.