Metro Man steps into the familiar bar and grill and the bartender greets him warmly from behind the bar, "Hey, Metro! How's the hero gig treating you?"
"Oh, same as usual. How's business?" he asks, always pleased to have a normal conversation with someone for a change. No banter, no ridiculous declarations of love from random citizens; just two men exchanging inconsequential small talk. He never discusses anything of any real importance with the man, but enjoys their conversations purely for their relative normalcy. It's something he has precious little of in his life. He heads toward the bar and chooses his usual stool.
"Great! You shoulda seen the place last night! It was packed to the rafters. Glad the fire inspector didn't show up. I'm not sure if we were under capacity or not," he confides.
"You know that isn't safe, Pete," he scolds gently, without any real intention of reporting him.
"I know, I know. But what am I gonna do? Turn down paying customers?" he argues.
"Pete…" Metro Man sighs, knowing his position as protector compels him to say something.
"Yeah, yeah. I know. Public safety is more important than profits." He waves off the hero's argument, "If I give you a beer will spare me the speech?"
He grins. "You drive a hard bargain, my friend."
"Yeah, yeah. Here ya go big guy," The barkeep pops the cap off and slides a frosty bottle into the white-clad hero's hand. It's from a local microbrewery, Metro Beer. It's Metro Man's preferred brand and he's even done some commercials for the place, always ending with a message about drinking responsibly.
He takes a pull from the beer and sits on the barstool, facing out into the room. It's nearly two in the afternoon and the place is dead. There are only two occupied tables. An old man who's normally here at this time of day sits at a booth by a window reading the day's paper while nursing a beer and polishing off his burger and fries. He'd glanced up at the superhero when he'd entered, but had merely nodded and turned back to his business. Metro Man is a regular here and it's one of the few places where he can go without being constantly stared at by everyone in the room. Of course, the bar attracts some gawkers, but at least
most of the customers leave him alone. Pete does his best to keep his patrons from making pests of themselves, a service Metro Man appreciates.
The second occupied table hosts a young couple he'd never seen before. They're back in the corner near the fire escape, watching the room and staring right at him, grinning. No doubt they're thrilled to see the hero up-close. He hopes they don't come over asking for an autograph. "Hey, Pete, I want to give you a heads-up. I'm meeting someone here in a few minutes and I'd appreciate it if you'd keep the rubberneckers back."
"Don't I always?" he asks. The bartender is busy wiping down the area behind the bar and tidying up. "Anybody I know?"
The hero smiles. "Yeah," he takes another sip of beer, "Megamind. Probably Roxy too."
Pete doesn't respond immediately, but considers his answer carefully before saying. "Well, I suppose so long as you're here, it's not like he's gonna cause any trouble." He lapses into silence as he rearranges some of the shakers and bottles. Then he observes, "It shocked the hell out of all of us when those two up an' got married like that. I did not see that coming. You think he's really retired?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure he is," he answers truthfully, "She told me she was going to save him when they first started seeing each other. I never thought she would, though. To tell the truth, I thought I'd probably be hauling her off to prison right alongside him before too long." He sighs in relief, remembering the day he'd tried to talk her out of dating the villain. "I've never been so glad to be wrong in my life."
The bartender looks over at him, a twinkle in his eye. "When you said you was meeting someone, I was gonna guess it'd be that new super lady you been flying around with. Whirlwind's the name, right?" He'd heard rumors about the two of them and wants to know if they're true.
"One of her names anyway," he agrees, "It sounds like she might have a different name for every city she's lived in." That fact worries him and that worry is plain on his face.
"You think she's a villain?" the perceptive man asks.
"I don't know. I hope not." He downs his beer like it was soda pop, which it might as well be for all the effect it has on his invulnerable system.
Pete opens a second and passes it over without Metro Man ever asking. Pete usually gives the hero his first beer on the house. He knows he'll make it up on volume. Metro Man's alcohol intake is limited only by his bladder capacity. As far as the bartender can tell, the superhero doesn't get drunk. "When are you expecting them to show up?"
"Anytime now. Megamind isn't usually late," he answers. He turns his gaze toward the front of the building, briefly engaging his x-ray vision to check the street outside for his friends. "Why don't you get me a basket of fries while I wait."
"Sure," he answers, marking the order down on his pad and walking it over to the kitchen to hand off the ticket.
The couple in the far corner has waited long enough. It's two o'clock now. "Yoo-hoo! Metro Man," the woman calls. His back tenses imperceptibly, but he doesn't turn around. Another fangirl. Just when he was beginning to relax and enjoy himself. He meets Pete's eye. The bartender tosses his bar towel over his shoulder and walks toward the end of the counter, preparing to go ask the lady to please leave the hero alone.
"I think he's ignoring you my dear," comes a familiar voice, pitched loud enough for the hero to hear without any enhanced hearing, "Over here, old friend."
Metro Man spins on his stool, facing into the room and toward the table in the far corner. The couple looks the same as they did before. The woman is blonde wearing a T-shirt and jeans, both tight-fitting. The man has dark hair and wears a leather jacket and jeans. Neither face is familiar. Metro Man is confused. He wonders why he thought he knew that voice? "Do I know you?" he asks.
"You're not very perceptive today," the man observes, steepling his fingers in front of him and looking the taller man in the eye. "Look closer."
This time Metro Man looks close enough to notice the man's startling green eyes and, on his left arm, a silver and black watch that's more than just a watch. "Megamind!"
"Bravo, Metro Mahn," he drawls, "I said I'd meet you here at two, and here I am. Right on time."
Metro Man takes his beer and moves to his former rival's table, taking one of the two empty chairs, avoiding the one that stands with its back to the room. "You can't stand to just walk into a room, can you? You always have to make an entrance."
The woman he now knows is Roxanne, giggles, "You know he lives for this stuff, Wayne. Let him have his fun."
He studies his ex-rival, noting the twinkle in his green eyes. The man obviously enjoyed his little trick. "Fine, you got me," he concedes good-naturedly, "Now shut off those disguises so I can see who I'm talking to."
"And have Metrocity's finest sweep in and take me off to prison? I think not," scoffs the disguised man.
"They won't. You have my word," the hero promises.
Megamind turns to his wife, tilting his human-seeming head slightly in silent query. She nods and switches off her own watch. As her real face shimmers into existence, he sighs and turns off his disguise as well. Although he's still wearing blue and black, today the blue is in the form of a pair of faded jeans and the black is a button-up shirt with the collar turned up over the back of his neck. Metro Man wonders if he'll ever get used to seeing the other alien in normal street clothes. Well, nearly normal. The man does have his customary gun in a holster strapped to his leg.
Megamind is well aware how clothing influences people's perceptions. By abandoning his signature supersuit, he makes the statement that he's no longer the villain. But with the villain's persona goes some of the respect and fear that have helped to keep him safe for years. It makes him nervous. The familiar de-gun does wonders to maintain his confidence. So does his wife's presence by his side. She's good with people and can usually diffuse awkward situations with a smile and a well-turned phrase. Despite his amazing intellect, the subtleties of human social interactions still give him trouble, but he is getting better at it.
Roxanne clasps his blue hand under the table, squeezing it encouragingly. This is the first time they've been out together in public intentionally undisguised. She knows it makes him feel exposed and vulnerable. "It'll be okay," she assures him, "This place is safe. Pete will keep people from bothering us."
Megamind glances at the bartender. He's back behind the bar, apparently refilling salt and pepper shakers. The man watches the room while he works, but doesn't seem concerned by Megamind's presence. When he notices the blue man watching him, he smiles and nods in a professionally polite manner and continues with his task as if nothing were amiss.
"So…" starts the hero uncertainly, "Have you been here long?"
"About twenty minutes," Roxanne answers, "He—" She her husband in the side. "—insisted on arriving early and casing the place first."
"It's never a bad idea to know what you're getting into ahead of time," he defends himself, "I wouldn't want walk right into a trap."
"I wouldn't ambush you, little buddy," Metro Man objects.
He doesn't look entirely convinced. "Perhaps," he concedes, "But it's a habit that has saved my life on several occasions, so I don't think I'll be abandoning it. And don't call me that. It's demeaning."
"Sorry." The graying hero turns his attention to Roxanne, "So, how are you holding up Roxy?" He looks around to make sure no one's close enough to overhear and lowers his voice, "Still battling morning sickness?"
"Ugh! Yes!" she answers, her voice low as well, "I'll be so happy when I can eat something before lunchtime and have it actually stay down. It is getting better, though. My mom says she had the same thing when she was pregnant with me. Apparently it runs in the family."
"Have you eaten yet?"
"Yeah, some. But I'm starving again. I swear, the baby's only this big," she holds her hand up with her forefinger and thumb about an inch apart, "but it eats like its daddy."
"And how do I eat?" challenges her husband.
"At all hours and never what you should be eating." She grins and bumps her knee into his playfully under the table. He hooks his boot around her ankle and traps it with his other foot. She lets him have his prize, knowing that he feels most at ease when he can touch her.
"Oh, so that espresso ice cream at 1 am last night was the baby's fault?" he teases her, rubbing the side of his foot against hers slightly.
"It had to be. I hate espresso ice cream," she answers, as if that explained everything.
Megamind smiles fondly and shakes his head. He starts to say something further on the subject, but snaps his jaw shut as he sees Pete approaching the table with the basket of fries Metro Man had ordered earlier. He also has another beer. He places the fries and beer in front of Metro Man and picks up the empty. "Good afternoon, ma'am. I haven't seen you in here in awhile. Are you ready to order your drinks?" Without waiting for an answer he proceeds to tempt her with some of the beverages he knows from previous visits that she has a preference for. Roxanne is also a regular here. "We have a special on Margaritas this week. I also have some more of that cherry wine you liked last time. Or maybe a Long Island Iced Tea?"
"Sweet Tea, please. But just the regular stuff."
Pete finds that order from her peculiar. Roxanne's not an alcoholic (he's tended bar long enough to recognize those), but she almost always has a drink with her meal when she comes in. He wonders if that means the rumors about her are true, but holds his tongue. It isn't his place to pry. So, instead, without missing a beat, he says, "Sure thing. How about you sir?" He turns to Megamind and makes a guess at the type of drink the man might be interested in. "We've got all the major brands of beer on tap and a good selection of imports and microbrews in the bottle. The list is there on the table, if you're interested." He gestures toward the beer and wine list sandwiched between the condiments and advertising in the center of the table, but the former villain makes no move to pick it up. "Or, if you'd prefer soft drinks, we have Pepsi products—"
"I'll take coffee," Megamind interrupts before the man has a chance to go through his entire drink selection.
Pete considers the novel possibility that the retired supervillain is a teetotaler. That would also explain Roxanne's non-alcoholic order. Pity. The explanation that she's expecting would be far more interesting.
"And more fries for Wayne," she says, grabbing his basket and pulling it in front of her, "These are mine." She takes the pepper shaker from the middle of the table and proceeds to sprinkle the contents liberally onto her stolen food.
"Hey!" Metro Man objects.
"Oh, you big baby. You can wait another five minutes," she declares.
"Well, now I'll have to since you've ruined them with too much pepper," he complains.
She pops a fry in her mouth eloquently, daring him to make something of it. Megamind smirks in approval, sliding his hand onto her knee under the table. Metro Man wonders if they think he doesn't notice.
"O-kay," their server says, "Are you folks ready to order your food, or should I give you a few minutes?"
"I know what I want," Metro Man answers, "You two?"
"Me too. Sweetie?"
"No, but you two order first. I'll know by the time you're finished," he answers, opening one of the laminated menu their server had dropped off when he'd seated them. He glances at each of its three pages. To the observer, it appears that he's just skimming, but Roxanne knows he's probably carefully reading each entry. He's that fast.
"Buffalo chicken wrap," she tells Pete.
"Double bacon cheeseburger," answers Metro Man.
"Apple pie ala mode with caramel sauce. And whipped cream," orders Megamind, stacking the menu back with the others for Pete to take. Both his tablemates look at him strangely. "What? I already ate my lunch."
Roxanne rolls her eyes. Pete says something about bringing those out soon and wanders back to his place behind the bar. Once he's gone, Megamind rests one elbow on the table and props his chin in his hand. "So, what's so important that you need to talk to me about?" he asks. His other hand, still under the table, traces up and down his wife's thigh. Wayne pretends not to notice.
"Well, there are several things, really." He rolls his bottle between his fingers, considering how to proceed, "Have you heard about that new super? Whirlwind?"
"I heard you've been flying around with her," Megamind's knowing grin makes Metro Man blush.
"Yeah, well…" he clears his throat, "She's really something. I never realized before how much I wanted to just fly with a woman. I mean, without having to carry her. No offense Roxy."
She smiles, "None taken." Then she thinks, "But, I'm confused. Haven't you flown with other supers before? I know you're not the only one with the power of flight."
"Yeah, but it's not the most common power. I've only met a handful of flying women in my life, and none of them were quite… like her." His eyes gaze off dreamily into the middle distance.
The couple exchange incredulous looks, Megamind smothering a very un-villainous giggle at his former rival's obviously smitten state.
Roxanne recovers first. "Well, congratulations Wayne. I'm glad you found someone," she tells her friend sincerely. She wants to see him happy. Lately she'd thought he didn't seem very content with his life, even before she'd run off with Megamind. She hopes this new girl will cheer him up.
"Too bad she's a villain," interjects Megamind, the evil glint back in his eye.
"Why would you say that!" Roxanne objects. Of all the mean, inappropriate things to say—
"No, Roxy. That's actually one of the things I wanted to know. She says she's been on the run since she was seventeen. I'd like to think she's on the right side of the law, but I'm afraid that she isn't."
"Did you run a background check?" Megamind asks.
"Yeah, but whatever she's been up to, she's barely left a trace. It makes me think that she's either a very minor player—"
"Or very subtle one," finishes Megamind.
The hero nods seriously. "The FBI has no records on her. The Heroes Consortium doesn't either. Neither do the Holders of Justice or the Righteous Defenders League. I even checked the Neutral Power's Registry. None of them have any records of a super meeting her description; not hero, villain, or neutral. I did find some references from local news outlets around the world that I think are describing her. But they're no more specific than what the news has been running about her here. For a super with her powers, she's stayed under the radar remarkably well. I was wondering if you could check with the Alliance of Evil? See if they know who she is?"
"Sorry, I can't. My lifetime membership was revoked last week. My retirement from evil is now official." He takes one of Roxanne's fries, brushes most of the pepper from it, and eats it. Then he adds, "Metrocity is now officially up for grabs, by the way."
He shrugs. "I warned you it was coming." He pauses for a moment, contemplating stating what seems very, very obvious to him, "You know, I wasn't kidding about her being a villain. It's fairly likely that she's here to stake her claim to Metrocity and make a name for herself. She might think you'll go easy on her because she's female, especially if she can use her womanly wiles on you. It wouldn't be the first time a city's hero and villainess were attracted to each other."
"Yeah, and you know how well that always works." He rolls his eyes sarcastically.
"Might be fun, though," the blue man teases.
"No. The hero can't date the villainess." He sighs in frustration and runs his fingers through his perfect hair. "I have a reputation to maintain."
"Wayne, some things are more important than your reputation," she says quietly, but seriously. "Look at me and Megamind. If I'd let my reputation rule my life, I'd still be single and I'd miss out on the best thing that ever happened to me." Megamind smiles and squeezes his mate's knee. The feeling is definitely mutual. "I don't want to see you to give up before you've even tried."
"The city would fire me if they find out I'm seeing a villainess," he states, unmoved by her argument.
"Hmm…" Megamind taps his chin as if in thought. "If only you had a multi-billion dollar family business to fall back on..." Roxanne frees her foot from his just far enough to kick him in the in the ankle, "Ow!" he objects.
She knows he's not hurt, so she ignores him. Instead, she turns to the hero. "Aren't you jumping to conclusions? You don't actually know that she's bad," she argues.
"Right. It's just a coincidence that a brand-new super shows up just weeks after the city's supervillain announces his retirement," Megaming quips.
"Oh, I haven't even gotten to the coincidence yet, little bu—my friend." Metro Man shakes his head and takes a deep breath, preparing to share the most unlikely detail about the mysterious Lady Doppler, "Have you ever heard of a place called Korbalst?"
That gets Megamind's attention. He leans back in his chair and crosses his arms across his chest. "Not since I was an infant." He narrows his eyes suspiously. "How do you know that name?" Megamind is certain he's never mentioned it to the glaupunk.
"Where's Korbalst?" Roxanne asks. She'd never heard of it.
"If what Whirlwind told me is true, it was the fourth planet of the Tet'lijor star system, where Megamind and I came from. Is that right?" he directs his question at Megamind.
"Yes." The viln nods. "But your accent is atrocious."
"You're one to talk, you still can't pronounce Metro City."
"Can't and choose not to are two different things. Metro City," he pronounces just to prove the point, careful to make it come out as two distinct words, though the o still doesn't come out quite right.
The glaupunk rolls his eyes.
"Why does Miss Whirlwind know the name of a dead planet?" Megamind asks, returning to the subject as if he had never left it.
"She says she's a balsti. Is that the right word?"
"If she's claiming to be from Korbalst, it is."
"Do you think it's possible she really is?"
He considers the question for a moment. Finally admitting, "I don't know. I didn't see any pods other than yours when we left. Of course, I couldn't see Korbalst at all. I think it was on the other side of the accretion disk. The balsti could have sent out an entire fleet of ships and I wouldn't have seen it past that gas cloud."
"No. She said she was sent alone, like we were," Metro Man explains.
"I wasn't alone. I had Minion."
"You know what I mean. Did the balsti look human?"
"I don't know. I never met one. I was only eight days old, remember? The only outworlder I met before I left was the Glaupir Ambassador."
"Why would a baby meet an Ambassador?" asks Roxanne.
Megamind shrugs, "Met might be too strong a word. Let's say my mother was eager to show me off to everyone she knew. The Ambassador was at court on my fifth day, so I was introduced to her there. Ambassador Hess of the clan T'stag. She cooed over me and tickled me, but unlike all the viln women, she wouldn't hold me. She said she was afraid she'd hurt me by accident, since I was just 'a fragile little viln,'" He rolls his eyes as he speaks the late ambassador's words translated into English, "Mother explained to me that the glaupunk are so strong that they always have to be careful of the things they touch, for fear of breaking them. Ambassador Hess told Mother that, 'The viln just don't make things sturdy like they do on glaupir. Even your princes are like glass.' Mother didn't miss a beat, though. She just said, 'We cannot all be made of steel.'" There was a fond smile on Megamind's face at the memory of his mother's words.
Metro Man blinked. He had forgotten that Megamind claimed to be some sort of royalty on his planet. "What did she look like? This ambassador?" Metro Man asks. He has no memories of his own people and had often wondered, in particular, what the women looked like. Were they muscular, like some of the human women in muscle magazines, or more like a normal human?
Megamind pursed his lips, considering the question. "At the time I thought she was pretty strange. Her skin was the wrong color and her head was so tiny." Megamind smirks to himself and shakes his head at the memory of a time when someone who looked human was an oddity and his kind was normal, "I liked her eyes, though. She was the first person I'd ever seen with blue eyes. Viln eyes didn't come in blue. Green, orange, violet, brown, even yellow. But not blue." He turns to Roxanne and locked his green viln eyes on her blue human ones. "I always liked blue eyes." He sits there gazing into her eyes for several seconds, both of them grinning like the newlyweds they still are.
Metro Man wonders if Megamind remembers he's still there.
Then the blue man blinks and turns his attention back to his old rival, looking over the hero's physique with a critical eye, "She wasn't bulked up to the ree-dee-culous proportions that you are, but, for a woman, she appeared quite muscular. Still feminine, but more like a valkrie than a noblewoman. If she were human, I'd guess she was thirty-five or forty years old. She was tall, compared to a viln. Probably six feet, though it was hard to tell since she never actually stood on the floor. She floated everywhere, which I thought was a good trick. I couldn't figure out how she did it."
"All my people flew, then?" Wayne asks.
Megamind shrugs, "I don't know. I always assumed so."
"What else do you remember?" He leans forward across the table, eager to soak up every word.
He thinks back, accessing memories he hadn't consulted in years. He points at Wayne's face. "Her nose was shaped like yours, but she didn't have that massive chin you've got. Her face was striking I suppose, with high cheekbones and a widow's peak. I can't say that she was very attractive to me, either then or now, but I suppose you would have liked her. I did like her hair, though. It was brown. A bit lighter than Roxanne's, but long and braided on either side of her head with little gold beads worked into it. I'd never seen hair on a person's head before. It looked so soft and smooth. I'm afraid I threw a fit when the adults wouldn't let me touch it."
Wayne snorts at the idea of the infant Megamind having a temper tantrum. He finds it remarkably easy to believe. The little guy had always been excitable.
Megamind scowls at him, "I was only five days old, you remember. That sort of behavior is perfectly reasonable for a child that age."
Wayne clears his throat, "Of course. I'm sorry. Keep going. What else? Do you remember what she was wearing?"
"Yes, she had a white bodysuit similar to what my mother wore, but without the high collar. She was also barefoot, which seemed rather vul-gar for the throne room. Everyone else covered their feet. I remember the nails of both her toes and fingers were gold. Painted, I assume, since your nails aren't metallic. And her toes weren't webbed at all."
"Why would her toes be webbed?" asks Wayne confused.
"Viln have webbed toes," Roxanne pipes in, "It surprised me too the first time I noticed."
Metro Man isn't very good at concealing how weird he thinks that is, which puts Megamind on the defensive. "Vilnsit was made up entirely of small to middle-sized islands scattered across a shallow world ocean. Most viln spent a lot of their time in the water. Why do you think we raised minion-fish as companions?"
"I... have honestly never thought about it, actually," Wayne answers. Realizing his earlier tactlessness, he apologizes, "Sorry, buddy. I didn't mean to make you feel like some sort of weird fish-man." He pauses, but when Megamind doesn't respond, he plows onward, "You don't have gills or anything, do you?"
"Really, because that could be really useful." Okay, now he's just teasing the blue man and the hero can't help grinning.
Roxanne does her best to glare at Wayne in disapproval, but her eyes give away her amusement.
"That's about all I remember about the Ambassador," Megamind huffs, unwilling to dredge up any more memories at the moment.
"Thanks," Wayne says quietly, "I really appreciate you sharing. I don't remember them at all. I'd always wondered."
"Well, at least some good comes out of remembering everything." he concedes, his black mood leaving as quickly as it had arrived.
"But you don't remember the balsti?"
"Not other than just their name and that of their planet."
"How do you even know the planet names if you were that young?" Wayne asks. "You said you left when you were, what? Eight days old?"
Megamind nods. Wayne is correct about his age, but it is a bit misleading. Vilnsit days were longer than Earth days are. More than twice as long. Even now, Megamind has trouble with his sleep cycle because his natural circadian rhythm doesn't match Earth's short days. In reality, Megamind had been approximately 18 Earth days old when he'd left his planet forever. Even so, that is still very young. Humans that age do little more than nurse and sleep, but viln brains are big for a reason. Healthy viln infants were capable of learning relatively complex ideas shortly after birth, even before they could speak. "I had a mobile in my room that was a model of the entire star system," Megamind explains, "The scale was inaccurate, obviously, but it was rigged so that the planets and moons orbited correctly. It was a standard child's toy. My parents and nurse used it to teach me my colors, numbers, and the names of all the major bodies in the system."
"At eight days old?"
"Oh, dark heavens, no! On my eighth day everyone was panicking. No one had time to sing me nursery songs or teach me anything. I'd learned all of that easy stuff before I even met the ambassador."
Metro Man stares at him in astonishment. He knew Megamind was smart, but that smart? At that age? The hero finds himself reassessing his former rival.
Before he feels compelled to respond to that revelation, Pete returns to the table with their drinks, including yet another beer for Metro Man, and a new basket of fries, "Sorry that took so long. I had to brew a new pot of coffee." He sets everything in front of the right person and adds a little metal box full of sweetener packets and little plastic shots of half and half to the center of the table. Megamind immediately grabs half a dozen sugar packs, tears them open, and empties the powder into his coffee. "You food should be ready soon. Do you need anything else?"
"No, thank you," Roxanne answers for them all, "We're fine."
"All right, then," answers the server before heading back to the bar.
The men watch Pete and don't resume their conversation until the man is out of ear-shot.
"So, what does the balsti want with you?" Megamind asks.
"I'm not sure yet. I sort of insulted her when she said she was an alien from our system. It seemed too convenient to be true. I guess I owe her an apology."
"Maybe. Or she might have gotten her information from one of my uncles. I never hid my origins from the men who raised me. I don't think any of them would rat me out, but some of them are more trustworthy than others. There are good reasons most of them were in prison in the first place. For the right incentive…" He shrugs, "We can't verify her identity based just on how well her story matches my memory. We'll need a DNA sample. It's the only way to know for certain."
"Oh, she's going to love that," the hero bemoans, trying to picture himself asking Whirlwind for a sample. He doubts that will go well.
Megamind sips his coffee. "What else did you want to talk to me about? You said there were several things."
"Yeah, well, I talked to Judge Fergussen. How would you like to be paroled?"
"Well, yes," the fugitive answers calmly, "I'd also like to grow a full head of hair, but that's not likely to happen."
"I like you better bald, sweetie. You'd look silly with hair." Roxanne interjects.
"She finds bald men sexy," he winks at Metro Man, "That's why you never had a chance with her."
Roxanne punches him in the side hard enough to make him go, "oof!" He captures her fist before it can do any further damage.
Back to the point, Metro Man thinks. "Judge Fergussen finally noticed that you pretty much walk out of prison anytime you like. She thinks that sentencing you to more time behind bars isn't the smartest idea."
"Well, I noticed a long time ago that humans, in general, are not all that smart. Present company excepted, of course." He squeezes his wife's captured hand. "I didn't expect them to ever just give up and let me go, though."
"They're not letting you go. They want you to perform some community service in exchange for your freedom."
The blue man quirks an eyebrow, "What? They want me to pick up trash in parks, or something?"
"You ever considered being a protector?" Wayne asks with a grin.
Roxanne's eyes go wide, Megamind, a protector? She turns to her husband to watch his reaction.
"You're got to be kidding. Why would they even trust me to do that? I might rob whoever I'm supposed to be saving." He thinks it's a stupid idea.
"Well, that's sort of my problem. If you agree, they'll be putting me in charge of you."
Megamind's eyes narrow suspiciously, "Oh, that's familiar. Are you going to fly me over to the corner if I misbehave?"
"I'll be your boss, not your jailer."
Megamind crosses his arms over his chest, "I'm not sure I like that much better. Whose brilliant idea was it to make me, of all people, a protector?"
Metro Man sighs and looks down at the table. "Mine."
"Yours? But… why? Do you really miss me that much?" His expression changes instantaneously as he reigns in his confusion and substitutes nonchalance instead, examining his fingernails in evident boredom. "I know I'm incredibly handsome, but I always thought you went for girls. And, even so, I'm no longer available." He turns his hand around and waggles his fingers to show off the silvery band on his ring finger. "Though, I do understand why you'd find me hard to resist," He turns on his old cocky evil grin and aims it in the hero's direction. Roxanne scowls at her husband.
A pained expression crosses Metro Man's face and he groans at his friend's immaturity. "Must you? I swear, sometimes I think you go out of your way to be irritating."
"I really do," he confirms cheerfully. "And yet, knowing what I'm like, you actually want to work with me? Why?"
Metro Man runs his fingers through his perfect hair as he collects himself. He sighs again and admits, "I need help. I've been doing this job, 24/7 on my own since I was 18. It's exhausting."
"You don't get tired," Megamind objects.
"Shows how much you know, genius." Metro Man contradicts him, "It's mentally draining. Do you know how hard it is to be constantly at the beck and call of any citizen who's in trouble in the entire city? I'm starting to really hate my life. I need a support crew. I need to be able to take a night off. I need to be able to relax and know I'm not the only one responsible for the entire city's safety."
"Isn't that what the cops and firefighters are for?" Megamind asks.
"Yeah, they should be. But anything remotely dangerous and they call in the man who can't be hurt." He jabs his thumb at his own chest for emphasis.
"You know I'm not invulnerable, right?" Megamind points out, "I'm not you."
"You manage to hold your own against me. That's nothing to sneer at. Besides, most protectors aren't nearly as powerful as I am. They work with what they've got. Some of them don't have any powers at all and rely on fancy tech to give them an edge. Like you. Besides, I've seen you in action. You aren't invulnerable, but I've seen you take blows that would cripple a human and you just get up and walk away."
"And you would know, since you were the one throwing the punches." the ex-villain grumbles. Metro Man is right, though. He is tougher than a human. Some of that is the result of his alien origins. He's always been tough, though not nearly on the level of a super. It's a natural trait. The rest is the result of the specially engineered materials that make up his supersuit, which gives him added protection from blows and lacerations. He wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as he had as a villain without it.
"You were the villain. That was my job," Metro Man defends himself.
"And now it'll be my job? What do you want me to do? Walk down the street in a giant battle suit rescuing kittens from trees?" He gestures expansively, nearly knocking his coffee mug over in the process.
"Let the brainbots handle the kittens. Most of what I do is catch criminals, rescue people, destroy the occasional giant robot, and be a visible deterrent to anyone who might want to cause trouble. You can handle that, can't you?"
Megamind is quiet for a moment, considering the offer. He leans forward, elbows on the table, fingers steepled in front of his nose. "Even if I wanted to, no one will accept me as a hero. That girl I rescued: do you know what she did when she saw who it was that saved her?" He pauses as if waiting for Wayne to respond, but plows on when he doesn't. "She screamed louder than she had when that monster was raping her!" Again, his hands flail about to emphasize his point, then he rubs his hand up over his oversized cranium, calm again in an instant. "I couldn't get near her. Roxanne had to calm her down. How am I going to help anyone when they take one look at my devilishly handsome face and run screaming?"
"Oh, yeah. I've never had that happen to me," Metro Man responds sarcastically.
"Yeah right. Everyone loves you," he says petulantly.
"Well, they do now. But that took years of public relations work. When I first started, about half the people I rescued freaked out. I mean a huge guy flying in to save them, shooting lasers from his eyes and performing feats of superhuman strength? I've had people run back into a burning building to get away from me."
"But… at shool everyone loved you." The blue man is clearly confused.
"They were six, of course they loved me." He shakes his head, bemused, "I was like Peter Pan to them. But then I grew up. I wasn't cute anymore. I was dangerous. I had to prove to them that I could be trusted. So will you."
"How?" Megamind asks with narrowed eyes.
"Oh, come on. You remember. I made public appearances constantly. Made sure to smile, kiss babies, display my powers in non-threatening ways."
"I thought you were just showing off. Sucking up to the mindless drones." It had never occurred to Megamind that the hero's brownnosing might have actually had a purpose.
"It might also be a good idea to stop calling the citizens that. Nobody likes to be called stupid." He takes a pull from his beer, swallowing most of it in one go. "I had to show the city that I was a good guy. You can do the same thing. You've already started that with what channel 8's been doing with those brainbots of yours. We just need to keep going. Go out there where people can see you. Maybe get you a new costume. Something in white."
"No, I am not wearing white. I absolutely draw the line at wearing white." He crosses his arms over his chest and scowls at the hero. He thinks this isn't going to work.
"But heroes wear white." Metro Man argues.
Roxanne had been silent up to this point, but now she feels the need to intervene. "Not every hero's a boy scout like you, Wayne. I can't imagine Megamind ever being that sort of hero."
"I'm having trouble with the idea of being a hero at all," he grumbles.
"I'm not," she answers, capturing his hand and giving it an encouraging squeeze, "I think you'd be a much better hero than a villain."
"Supervillain," he corrects her. He's always picky on that point.
"Superhero," she challenges.
He sighs, his expression softening as he speaks to the love of his life. "You think I should do it," he states. He's sure that's what she's thinking.
"I think you need to find out exactly what terms they're offering," she answers, "You don't want to trade one prison sentence for another. But, I'd like to be able to go out in public with you, like a normal family. Especially once the baby's here." She squeezes his hand again. "I don't want to live in hiding for the rest of our lives. But, if you really don't want to, I'll stand by you. This isn't our only option."
It really isn't. They have several plans in the works that promise to give them some semblance of a normal life. He doesn't have to rely on the city for anything, if it comes right down to it. He does have an entire robot horde and technology advanced enough to make NASA look like a high school science class. But it would be easier to do it with the city's help than without. "Do you really think I can be a hero?"
"I know you can. It's just a matter of whether or not you want to. I don't want to push you into it."
Pete returns with their food and refills but scurries off quickly, sensing that he was interrupting something. Besides, there are customers at the door. He hurries over to seat the group of four at the far other end of the restaurant. Since they aren't regulars, he takes an extra moment to ask them not to bother Metro Man or his guests.
Back at the hero's table, the conversation dies for a few minutes as the three begin to eat. After scarfing down half her wrap, Roxanne gazes longingly at her husband's apple pie and ice cream. He pretends not to see her and licks his spoon deliberately slow, knowing she's watching. Just as he removes the clean flatware from his mouth, he flicks his eyes up to catch hers, a wicked smirk on his face. She blushes and bites her lower lip. He loads his spoon again and, hesitating a second just to tease her, holds it up to her mouth. She grins and eats the spoonful with exaggerated enjoyment, eyes locked with her husband the whole time.
"Guys, you know I'm still here," objects Wayne from across the table, "This is why you two shouldn't be allowed out in public."
"Jealous?" Megamind asks, waggling his eyebrows ridiculously.
"If I say I am, will you stop?" he groans.
"Well, since you asked so nicely." Roxanne condescends cheerfully, "Actually, I have to visit the ladies room." She stands and kisses her blue husband on the cheek chastely. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Behave yourself, Spaceman," she warns before walking away towards the hallway that leads to the restrooms. Megamind watches her leave, appreciating the view of her rear as she walks. When she turns the corner out of sight, he looks back at his former rival's disapproving scowl. "What?"
"You were staring at her butt," he accuses.
"She's my wife. I'm allowed," he answers.
"Has no one ever taught you how to behave in public?"
"Not really, now that you mention it." Megamind grins as he sips his coffee.
"Spaceman is you, right?" Wayne asks, wanting to clarify the point.
"The one and only."
He laughs, "You're not the only alien at this table."
Megamind shrugs, "She's always called me that. The first time I kidnapped her, she asked me what I was supposed to be, some sort of spaceman? I told her I was Megamind: Incredibly Handsome Criminal Genius and Master of All Villainy and that yes, I was a man from space. I thought it might intimidate her, but it didn't. She started calling me Spaceman after that. It's funny. From anyone else it would have been insulting. But from her it never felt that way. Almost like she was flirting with me."
"She probably was but you were too dense to see it."
"That's possible. She never calls you Spaceman, does she?" Megamind asks, hoping for some reason that the pet name was his alone.
"No, buddy. She always just calls me Metro Man or Wayne. Sometimes Hero, but mostly only when she's mad at me."
Megamind nods, pleased to think he's her only Spaceman.
"So, how is she really?"
"Tired a lot. She's been falling asleep nearly as soon as she gets home from work and she's already complaining that her pants are getting a little tight. And she has to use the bathroom constantly, which baffles me. The fetus is just too small to be putting any significant pressure on her bladder at this point. It must be hormonal." He pauses to scrape the last of his half-melted ice cream out of his bowl. "All things considered, I'm actually surprised how normal it seems to be going. I'm still concerned that she'll miscarry, but everything looks like it's going well so far."
"I still think it's amazing that you even managed it." Wayne observes, shaking his head, "I mean what are the odds? You are one lucky alien." He raises his bottle toward him, as if in a toast, before polishing it off.
Megamind nods in acknowledgement, grinning. "Got it on the first try too, as far as we can tell."
"Megamind," Wayne groans, covering his face with one hand. "I really didn't need to know that."
"No, I'm not bragging about my sex-u-all prowess. Although..." his grin turns to something distinctly lecherous for a second before noticing the uncomfortable expression on Wayne's face. He shakes his head and loses the grin. "Never mind. What I mean is that it's a good sign." He leans forward, explaining in earnest, "If it had been difficult for us to conceive, I'd be more worried about complications due to my viln genes. But such a quick conception indicates that humans and viln might be virtually identical!"
Wayne cocks an eyebrow and looks the other alien up and down before observing, "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"
"No, no. I don't mean by looks." He shakes his head and continues, his words coming faster in his excitement to explain his theory, "Appearance can vary widely within a species without affecting fertility significantly. Just look at dogs. Would an outside observer guess that a bulldog and a greyhound were the same species? When it comes down to it, body size, hairlessness, and skin color are really very minor traits. My DNA is so similar to human, that I suspected... but I just wasn't sure. After all, there are still obvious differences and I just wasn't sure if they were significant. The head, the increased toughness, the faster reflexes. None of that is human, but is it enough to matter? I didn't know. But, don't you see? This confirms it! Viln and humans might as well be the same species. We're that close." He holds up his hand with two fingers crossed together, "That is why I was sent to this planet! I'm sure of it!"
"You were sent here to breed?" Metro Man asks. He thinks it sound like the plot of a bad sci-fi movie. One where the Earth-girls all wear short skirts and high heels and not much else.
"Yes! No. Not just to breed. But to find a mate and raise a family? Yes. I'm certain of it. Old friend, I'm the last of my people. What's the use of my surviving if my race dies out with me? I was sent here for a reason. I've always believed that, I just didn't know what that reason was. I think I do now."
Wayne can't exactly argue with that logic, except, "What about me, then? And Whirlwind, if what she claims is true. Why are we here? Neither of us can breed with humans."
"I don't know, maybe there wasn't a planet with glaupunk- or balsti-compatible natives. Or maybe there was, but not all in one star system. Maybe Earth was a compromise. It has to be significant that you could both pass for human without ending up in some research lab."
"Well, one of us did, anyway," Wayne says quietly, thinking about Whirlwind again. It tears his heart to know what happened to her. Even if it turns out that she is a villain now, nobody deserves what she went through.
"Come again?" asks Megamind, confused.
"Whirlwind was raised in an ASCA lab." he says, looking at his hands instead of Megamind, "I said she'd been on the run since she was seventeen. That's who she's been running from. Apparently she called a tornado out of the sky and single-handedly destroyed an entire research facility. She escaped, but everyone else inside died."
"And she's not a villain?"
He shrugs, "From what she tells me, it was justified."
Megamind strokes his goatee in thought before nodding, "From what I know about the ASCA, it probably was. I know what they do to subjects there."
"How do you know that?"
"Metrocity's supervillain wasn't the only position available to me when I turned eighteen. It's another reason I like my privacy. Their means of persuasion leave much to be desired. I'd rather they not know exactly where I live. Especially now."
"Now?" Wayne asks stupidly, his thoughts still on Whirlwind rather than Megamind and Roxanne.
"They've been showing some interest in Roxanne." That gets Metro Man's attention, "I think they might suspect she's pregnant. I don't want them to ever get their hands on her or our baby. I don't know what I'd do if they did." Actually, he suspects what he might do. He'd turned the idea over in his head many times as he lay awake at night with his wife curled against him. He would do whatever it took to protect them. His army is formidable and filled with weapons designed to defeat a god. He would attack and kill them all, if necessary. But worse than that is if he were captured in the attempt, because then he knew he'd do whatever they ordered just to keep his family safe. Anything. And that frightens him.
"Hey, buddy, I wouldn't let them hurt Roxie or the baby," Wayne assures him with the confidence of an invulnerable hero.
"Yes, and you've been so effective at preventing her from being kidnapped in the past."
Wayne opens his mouth to speak, then rethinks his words. "Good point," he admits. "Is that why she's got the brainbots following her around most of the time?"
He nods, but doesn't say anything further because Roxanne returns to the table, sliding past Megamind and back into her own chair. Looking at Megamind's empty plate, she pouts slightly, "You ate all the ice cream."
"We have ice cream at home."
She huffs and nibbles on a cold french fry instead. "So, what are we talking about now."
"Aliens and earth women," he answers.
"Hmm," she answers, suspecting they were talking about no such thing. She doesn't have a chance to answer, however, as Wayne's head goes up, listening. "Those people over there just called into the channel 6 action news line. The woman in red. She took a cell phone picture of us and she's hoping to collect the $50 they offer for reporting breaking news."
"I hate channel six," Roxanne grouses.
"Pete's going to be furious when he finds out. He won't let them in here again," Metro Man predicts.
"What is wrong with this city that my eating lunch is considered breaking news?" Megamind complains.
"What makes you think this is about you? It could be about me, you know," Metro Man points out. "Metro Man Eats Cheeseburger: Details at six and ten."
All three laugh, although they know it's just the sort of story Metro City news stations will run on slow days. Roxanne had unfortunately endured reporting on all too many stories just as inane.
"Get out of here. I'll run interference." Metro Man plasters a radiant smile on his face and strides over to the other table.
Behind him, Roxanne follows Megamind to the emergency exit door. She doesn't see what he does, but he pops it open without triggering the alarm and they slip through. Once outside, they turn the dials on their watches and transform into an utterly non-descript middle-aged couple and walk away with no one being the wiser. Another amazing Megamind escape.