Chapter Three: Mistakes
Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Instead, reach out. – Benjamin Franklin
Click. Click. Click-click.
"Are you doing it right?"
Their voices were hushed in the crypt-like silence of the lab, their anxious movements muffled by the gentle, steady thrum of machinery around them. It had taken the three girls several attempts to get into their father's lab, all of them doing their part to make sure Margo's operation would go smoothly. Margo had done extensive research and quizzed several classmates thoroughly, and now knew exactly how she wanted to format her father's profile. Agnes had distracted Gru earlier with paper dollies, so thoroughly that he was headed to the craft store to purchase more construction paper. Edith had found a can of spray paint and given it to the minions, knowing they would putter about with the canister for hours. All three girls were in the clear, and they were huddled nervously around the brilliant blue computer screen which was the only illumination in the dim lab. Dr. Nefario was swearing noisily in the next room, attempting to finish the Glue Gun which Gru had ordered. At every bang, the girls jumped.
Margo squinted at the screen through her rectangular glasses and laboriously pecked out the necessary profile requirements for . "Name, Felonious Gru. Occupation, Supervillain. Hobbies …?" She trailed off, looking questioningly at her sisters. "What does he like to do?"
"Build forts out of orange juice boxes," Edith supplied.
"Hunt unicorns!" Agnes piped up, taking her thumb out of her mouth long enough to answer.
"Hobbies, taking care of my three daughters and enjoying culinary arts," Margo typed busily, muttering to herself. "Profile picture …?" She paused and minimized the website, squinting harder as she looked through Gru's personal folders to find a picture of him. There were precious little – actually, there were more photos of weapons he and Nefario had designed. But there was one he had saved, and it made Margo stop for a moment, something stuck in her throat. It was their first Christmas photo together; the one Nona (Gru's black belt mother) had taken of them. Agnes was hanging on Gru's black and silver scarf, mouth open in a laugh. Edith was sucking on a candy cane and seemed to be more focused on the presents beneath the spangled Christmas tree than the camera. Their father was either holding onto Agnes or trying to dislodge her – or a strange mixture of both. Margo was the only one smiling at the camera, and she felt a little chill of lonesomeness. Margo, the one who was always trying to do the right thing. Good little Margo, always being the responsible one, the one looking out for everybody.
"What about that one?" Edith pointed out the picture her older sister was hovering over, and Margo was jerked roughly out of her reverie.
"Right, that one looks good," She said, hoping the catch in her voice wasn't readily apparent. The brunette double-clicked the picture and waited impatiently for the screen to load, and then continued on with the profile. The next question, however, stumped her. "What are you looking for in a spouse?"
"What's a spouse?" Agnes yawned, crawling up the swivel chair and sitting in her big sister's lap. Her huge brown eyes were sleepy and unfocused. Margo stroked Agnes's black hair absently.
"Partner," Margo answered automatically, and then bit her lip. "What are we looking for in a mom?"
"Someone pretty!" Edith said excitedly.
"Someone who sings," Agnes mumbled tiredly, resting her head on the desk in front of her. "An' knows how to find unicorns. An' bake cookies."
Margo pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and started typing.
Someone pretty, who can bake cookies and find unicorns and give good advice. Someone who can handle being around lots of noise, because the minions can get loud. Someone who doesn't mind cotton candy in their hair and isn't afraid of thunderstorms or dogs. Somebody who can draw a house and build stuff like rocket launchers.
She clicked 'publish'.
The pristine white lab was totally still. An expanse of snowy countertops stretched on for hundreds of feet, and assorted hardware was everywhere. Several bizarre looking weapons were disassembled, their metal innards spread neatly over strips of cloth to keep the counters clean. An entire row of fragile glass containers were full of oddly colored liquid which wafted strangely scented fumes into the air. From the back, the faint thump of rock music crackled in spurts, tuning in and out due to a shaky radio feed. At the rear of the lab, there was a small wing which opened into a smaller, dirtier room where the music was loudest. This was where all the repairs happened, and at the moment, Dexter McGinnis was working on a particularly difficult update on the sonic battering ram her boss ordered. Several wires crackled around her, sparking and singeing her arms every now and then, and the continuous mechanical vvvvt! noise of her drill nearly drowned out the radio. Half-in, half-out of the sleek black ram, Dexter muttered quietly to herself as she tinkered with the big piece of machinery.
"There we go, c'mon, you can do it," She murmured, setting aside her drill for a moment to check on how stripped the bolts were. Jenny had burst in yesterday – full of soot and ashes, capering about in her spandex and jubilantly recounting the battle she had won against Vector. She had broken every invention Dex had sent out in the field with her, but after all, why else did she keep an inventor on site? The jaded engineer had been more concerned with Jenny's multiple cuts and bruises, but the ecstatic trophy wife had merely brushed her off and drifted upstairs to cuddle with her husband. Dexter sniffed to herself, pulling her goggles off her face and pushing them up past her bangs. A clear line of soot circled her eyes, her cheeks and face dirty and unwashed save for the patches around her eyes. She brushed a strand of frizzy brown hair out of her eyes and leaned against the sonic battering ram, expelling a breath of exhaustion.
"Dex?" A voice chirruped from the door, and the engineer looked up wearily to see her boss come in, short coiffed red hair swinging a little. "Hey, are you okay? You look sort of tired. Do you need tomorrow off? It's Saturday, after all," Jenny said, crossing the threshold and ignoring the sputtering wires around her. Dex grinned at the eccentric trophy wife – as bosses go, she was pretty good. Jenny was highly attentive to Dex's human abilities, although she always seemed to ask for the impossible. She seemed to think Dexter's capabilities as an inventor were the best in the world, and although Dexter liked to think that to cheer herself up, she knew that she didn't have a prayer of making half the things Jenny wanted.
"Nah, I'm okay, just finishing up changing the alternator on the sonic ram," Dexter said mildly. She pulled her goggles off her head and dusted her greasy fingers on her lab coat. "You really did a number on that poor thing, Miss Kickerman. I hope Vector's got the bruises to justify it."
The delighted young superhero beamed at the question. "You bet! That battering ram was great, his door got knocked down in five seconds flat. I just went in there, and pow, got him right there! His shark was a bit of a problem, because I didn't want to hurt the poor thing, but he nearly got me, if it hadn't been for your electro net I would have been chum. Anyway, I –"
"-dueled him right in his very own living room and finally snapped the electro cuffs on him, dragging him down to the police station and firing off a few more cliches before zipping away," Dex finished with a knowing smile. "You've only repeated yourself a few dozen times."
Jenny's pert mouth twisted a little. "I haven't been boring you, have I?" She asked, a crease appearing between her brows. "I just … I'm so excited about this. His own father had to come bail him out, isn't that wild?"
Dexter smiled to herself as she unbuttoned her lab coat and hung it up by the door. It was getting late, and as pleasant of a boss as Jenny was, it was still the weekend and Dexter had plans at home. "No, you're not boring me at all, Miss Kickerman. I'm just going to head off, I've got a few, um, things to get to before the week starts again." The frizzy-haired engineer plucked the pencil out from behind her ear and slid it into the pocket of her overalls, unbuckling her tool belt and hanging it over her swivel chair.
"Oh, all right then," Jenny said, and there was a note of lonesomeness in her voice. "Do you want to stay for dinner? I could whip us up something in the kitchen. Let's go! I'm pretty sure I have some Alfredo sauce left over, what do you say?"
Dexter shook her head. Jenny was a lovely girl, but there was something a little desperate in her eyes. Richie was a nice man, but gone often and left his poor young wife to her own devices. Boredom had driven her to becoming a superhero, and goodness knows what fearsome hobby the pangs of ennui would drive Jenny to next. "Thanks for the offer, Miss Kickerman, but I've really got to go," Dex said, and offered her a consoling smile. "Maybe next week."
"Call me Jen," She said, and she sighed. "All righty then, I'll just … go have some fun! I'll see you on Monday then?"
"See you then," Dex said, swiping her keycard and leaving the wannabe superhero behind.
It wasn't as though she didn't like spending time with Jenny, Dex mused as she clambered into her car. The trophy wife was a sweetheart, and cheerful most of the time, but sometimes she just got a little … clingy. Of course, there wasn't much else for the poor girl to do in that great big house except lounge around and do Pilates, but Dexter preferred to do something more educational with her time than eat cheesy pasta. Something that involved lots of mechanical pencils and clay.
Two hours later, Dexter was up to her eyeteeth in clay. She had been obsessively molding and sketching for ages now, building a prototype of the collapsible tank she had thought of earlier. Something large enough to have some heavy weaponry, but light enough to be able to fold into a cube and carry around without too much difficulty. It wasn't easy, but it had been a special request from Jenny several months ago; at the time, Dexter had turned her down flat, saying it wasn't possible, but now that she had some time to herself, she rather liked the idea. So she was tearing apart large hanks of gray-white clay and following the quick sketch she had drawn of the tank, both in collapsed form and extended version. Unfortunately, she had faced a roadblock. There was no more clay to be had, and the craft stores were closed at the moment.
She rocked back on her heels and studied the invention. It would keep until morning, of course, but Dex rarely liked the idea of leaving a project alone overnight, in case the inspiration left her. But this was a Hobson's choice, seeing as she didn't have any more clay, so with a sigh the young inventor went to the sink to scrape clay off her hands. The cold water and soap took the clay off, but it was difficult to scrub the caked grease beneath her short nails. Dexter left the model where it was and went down the narrow hallway, batting at light switches as she went. The apartment she lived in was modestly small, a good studio for a young inventor, and although her lab was neat as a pin, this place was cluttered to the point of danger. Stacks of thick, dusty textbooks crowded every corner, and at least a dozen pads of paper had gone into the sketches on the walls. Devices she had created were on shelves or counters, either being put to use or given away to somebody. A TV blared in the center of her living room, the One Stop Super Shopping Network. One day, she was going to have her inventions sold on that station – sold to thousands of superheroes all over the world.
Dex unclipped her overalls and shrugged out of them, and then pulled off her loose gray tee shirt. She was a short woman, with shoulder length frizzy brown hair usually kept pinned back in a knot. A sheaf of hair usually fell into her eyes before the day was out. She was trim, but it had more to do with a high metabolism and eating little than actual physical exercise; Dex rarely had time for that. She was positive that at thirty she would be as fat as a house, but for the time being, lodged firmly in her mid-twenties, thirty seemed a long ways off. Her face was round and strongly freckled, along with her shoulders and arms, but there was something too sharp about her jaw and nose which put off the 'cute' image. Usually, however, Dexter didn't bother about her looks – she didn't feel the need to dress up only to get herself dirty again in a couple of hours. Besides, her last boyfriend was a distant memory, so there wasn't anyone to get dressed up for.
After a quick shower, Dex emerged scrubbed of everything but her freckles, wrapped in a flannel bathrobe which she usually pushed up to the elbow. Her frizz was lying mostly tamed on her head, and she settled into her swivel chair, powering up her sleek chrome laptop which she had built herself. True, the Wi-Fi connection was tenuous, but it was gorgeous and had more memory than most government satellites. She clicked open her email inbox and discovered a few more plans from Jenny, who had sent them only minutes ago. Dex tried hard to shove away the lump of guilt in her throat, but didn't manage it quite as successfully as she'd hoped. Maybe Richie would come home early and engage his wife.
She went on the internet and logged onto her account on . It was an old, old account, used more for the online chatbox purposes than anything else. She delighted in sharing ideas with other brilliant minds, and although most of the other smart people there were rather desperate loners, there were one or two people who kept their accounts open for the same purpose she did. However, on the front page, something caught her eye.
Newest Member: Felonious Gru. Visit profile?
Resisting curiosity had never been a virtue of hers. And why did that name seem so familiar?
His profile was woefully thin, and while her own profile was a neglected little article, his was unusually sparse and random. His Looking For In A Spouse box was particularly strange, although it was the profile picture that caught her eye. A Christmas picture – oh, he had a family. Three beautiful little girls that frankly did not look a thing like him. He wasn't … well, he wasn't the prettiest of men. An exceptionally long nose which had a hook at the end and a perfectly bald head was a strange combination, although he did have very nice eyes. And he seemed to be fairly well built. Critiquing profiles was something of a mean little hobby of hers, and she had to admit, while this one was really rather weirdly written, the profile picture was compelling. The little girls were adorable, really.
[Send Friendship Request: Yes – No]
She hesitated for only a moment. Why did he seem so familiar? Well, of course, there was a Supervillain named Gru, but he didn't have daughters, and to be honest she had no idea what he looked like. And his 'Occupation' column listed Supervillain as his job, but that could be a joke.
A friendship request couldn't hurt.
[Send Friendship Request: Yes – No]
[Friendship Request Sent!]
A/N: Yay~! More reviews! This makes me SO HAPPY! To be brutally honest, I am a sucker for reviews, they make this story SOOOOO worth it. I've had a bit of writer's block lately, (okay, more than a bit), but reviews will make it go away. :D