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Chapter 2: Closing Negotiations
Megamind blinked in shock, sitting back in his chair as her request sank in. He steepled his fingers as he looked over his hands at her, staring silently for a good minute before he spoke. "You certainly don't ask for anything much, do you? A cure for cancer. It would certainly be a worthy challenge, but its certainly not very eeevil." He arched at eyebrow at her. "Might I ask what brought this on? Did the American Medical Association ask you to make the request, or is this something personal?"
Now her composure cracked a bit, an unmistakable vulnerability in her blue eyes. She took a breath to keep her voice from shaking as she answered. "My mom, she...she was just diagnosed with breast cancer."
His green eyes widened, and an involuntary soft gasp escaped him. He'd seen the ravages of cancer in some of his 'uncles' in the long-term ward of the prison. It was a horrible, wasting disease, and honestly, he wouldn't wish it on anyone. He remembered that during the last kidnapping, she'd been called to the hospital by her mother. This was not good at all.
Roxanne swallowed around the tightness in her throat, trying to regain her composure. "They just found it a few weeks ago, but it's already bad. A rare genetic quirk in my family is causing it to spread rapidly throughout her body"-
"Do you share this genetic quirk? Have you been tested to be sure you're alright?" he interrupted, frowning in concern.
She gave him a small, broken smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "My mom had me get tested the same day we found out about it. According to three different scans, I'm fine. But the doctors are putting it in my files to be tested every year now."
"A sensible course of action considering the circumstances," he said, mentally heaving a sigh of relief. Thank the evil gods she was alright. "Now, you said its spreading rapidly. What stage is the cancer in now?"
Roxanne tried so hard not to break right then; oh god, it hurt, it hurt so much to say it out loud. Saying it made it even more real and horrible. "The doctors say its already progressing to the final stage. They're giving her three months to live. She's...Mom is-" My mom is going to die. Her breath hitched, and she turned her face away from him, trying to get back her composure. She would not cry in front of him, she would not look weak.
Minion and Megamind exchanged troubled glances while she was distracted. Minion was growing deeply worried for the lady reporter: loosing any member of a family was hard, but it was psychologically proven that the death of a beloved parent was particularly devastating no matter what age. Poor Miss Ritchie, he thought to himself. And Mrs Ritchie, too.
Roxanne got her breathing under control, her fists unclenched, and that rock hard lump in her throat finally subsided. Her eyes were clear and calm as she looked back at the supervillian. "Can you do it? Can you make a cure?"
For a moment, he couldn't look away from her deep blue eyes. She was looking at him like he held all the answers in the world, like he was her only hope; and with a small start, he realized that he was. There was currently no one else on Earth as smart as he was, so she had no one else to help her now.
He found himself very much not wanting to fail her.
The blue alien steeled himself, giving her question his total attention. It would be difficult; his medical skills were a bit rusted, but the science was not impossible. His mind raced through the different scenarios for a cure. Hmm, a virus to target the cancerous cells' genetic coding would work, but the chance of mutation in the virus would be quite high; thus it would not be safe without an anti-virus. He could augment the white blood cells with specific formulas and biochemicals to destroy the cancer, but again, mutation was possible, and safeguards were needed to be sure of prolonged successful remission. Of course, a purge of the malignancies via injection of pre-programmed nanobots into the bloodstream would have to be done first. It would buy him time to work, and certainly help lessen the stress on his new patient. And on Roxanne, as well.
It could be done. It would take time and some effort, but it could be done. (He tried very hard not to think about the very real, very human consequence if he failed.) "I am fairly certain of success, given the proper samples and access to your mother's charts, tests, and room. I confess, I'm rather curious how you're going to work around the fact that you've called in the city's resident Master of all Villainy to attend your own mother's health."
The reporter gave a half-smile that somehow manged to look a bit fierce. "I knew you were going to bring that up. Well, the way I see it, there's two options. Option one; we tell the truth and everyone knows about the deal."
Both aliens stared at her in shock. "Um, th-that doesn't sound like a good idea, Ms. Ritchie," Minion said nervously.
"Its not as crazy as you might think," she reassured the alien fish. "If Megamind is working on a cure for cancer, no one is going to stop him." She looked back at the villain. "Hell, the terminal patients might just start cheering as you walk in the doors."
"Not to be completely crass, but I think you might be over-estimating the value of your mother's life if you think they'll just let me waltz into a hospital full of defenseless patients," Megamind said in some disbelief. "My roguish good looks will only get me so far, you know."
Roxanne mentally winced at what she was about to say. Lord knows, she was surprised that he hadn't seemed to catch her saying it earlier. "Look, the whole world knows that your IQ is one of the highest, if not the highest, on Earth. The hospital will give you practically anything you want if you're applying that kind of brainpower to curing cancer."
He leaned back in the chair, grinning smugly. "I love hearing you say that. One more time for me, please?"
"The hospital will give you-"
"The terminal patients might start-"
She lightly grimaced as she said, "The whole world knows that your IQ is one of the highest-"
"The highest, I believe you said?"
"-the highest on Earth."
He grinned so wide it showed all of his teeth. "Ah. Music to my ears. Now, you were saying about this particular option?"
"Okay, the pros for this," she went on, "are, first off, that you get to rub this in Metro Man's face for the rest of his life."
Megamind blinked in surprise. "What? How's that going to work?"
"Think about it," she said, her voice rising in enthusiasm. "He saves people from crooks and natural disasters, but that's nowhere near as many people as you might think per year that he saves. If you do this, and find a cure for cancer, you would be saving millions of people each year!"
"...and this is good for me, why?"
"Because in one fell move, you would be completely outdoing him without even breaking a sweat! You would be showing up Metro Man, beating him at his own game, in front of the entire world, for so long as cancer exists!" She gave him a small smile. "You, Metro City's supervillain, would be a far better hero to a lot more people, while barely lifting a finger. That's going to drive Metro Man completely nuts for the rest of his life."
Megamind couldn't help his grin at the thought of that scenario. "Hmm. Alright, I like the sound of that. Go on."
"Second pro: it would show off your genius. The entire world would sing your praises."
"I love hearing you admit that I'm a genius," he said with a small happy sigh. He chuckled merrily, then switched it to an evil cackle at her admission.
Roxanne shot him a look, then went on. "Obviously, pro #3 is that my mother lives, but that's more of a win for me." She mentally added, And if my personal misery is of any interest to you, pro #4 is that you'll get to watch her disown me for life for even thinking of doing this. "That's about all I've got for option #1."
"A most interesting proposition so far," he said with a nod to Minion, who nodded in agreement. The villain looked back at her. "Now, what is option #2?
"Option #2 is more covert. We tell no one what's going on, probably saving the hospital staff some heart attacks. I already have a cover story to get you in; claiming you're a prodigy oncologist that is trying out a brand new treatment for cancer. There shouldn't be any trouble as long as you're disguised somehow. And if any doctors try pulling on their egos to say you can't work there, I'll have them on an expose so quick, they'll be seeing their shocked face on the news before they even notice the camera." Here she frowned a bit. "I'm not quite sure on how to get you in past security without them raising a fuss."
Megamind smiled wryly. "Oh, I think I have that part covered on my own. I have invented a brilliant device that can allow me to walk through Metrocity completely undetected! Hard-light technology will alter the appearance of my handsome self into any dull human you care to see."
"Really?" she asked in some surprise. "You already have something that can do that?"
"Oh yes, indeed," he grinned. "Its been a project of mine for a few months now"-
"Ah, Sir," Minion interrupted, recognizing the signs of an immanent rant and wanting to head it off before it could completely derail things. "Should I go get you and Miss Ritchie something to drink? It looks like you both might be awhile at this."
"Oh? Yes, of course," Megamind answered.
"Anything in particular you'd like, Miss Ritchie?"
"I don't suppose you have any sweet tea?" she asked.
"Absolutely! Sir loves his nighttime tea," the cheerful fish replied. "I'll be back in a minute." He hurried to the kitchen.
Megamind and Roxanne watched him go, the girl with an amused smile. Minion really was the sweetest thing. Megamind cleared his throat, catching her attention. "And now we come to the part that has me the most interested, my dear Miss Ritchie, and the most curious."
"What is it?" she asked in mild nervousness, suspecting what he had in mind.
"What's in it for me? I'm all for an intellectual challenge, but this is quite a bit of trouble on my part, don't you think?"
Her heart began to pound madly in her chest, barely visible tremors shivering up and down her body. This was the part of her plan that had her the most worried, even frightened. She'd spent every waking moment after coming up with her plan praying to God that she was not wrong about the blue alien's true nature. He's not an evil man. He's not! All the times he's had me completely at his mercy, and he's never once harmed or mistreated me. He could have taken anything he wanted, and I couldn't have stopped him. Megamind is a villain, not a monster. All she could do now was have faith in him.
She opened up the offer to him, laying all her hope in this move. "I... I honestly don't know what I could give you that you'd want. I couldn't think of anything I have that you'd want. So, she swallowed quietly, I'll leave the price up to you. What do you think would be fair?"
He arched an eyebrow, blatantly surprised at her open offer. "I'm a villain, Miss Ritchi. Fair has nothing to do with it. But let me ask you this; what would you be willing to give?"
"Anything. It's my mother..."
Both eyebrows went up now. "Anything?"
"Well... Anything short of murder or something like that."
"Ah, then not truly 'anything'," he said, making air quotes. "So lets narrow it down a bit to what you will do. Would you steal for me?"
Theft, she could live with. "Yes."
"Would you betray people who trust you? Including Metro Mahn?"
That was much harder. But she met his eyes and nodded, blinking back the slight pressure of tears building in her eyes. "Yes."
"Would you hurt people?"
"No." She looks up at him sharply. "I can't hurt people, Megamind. I won't."
"Well, now we've defined the limits of your payment options. I can work with this." He gave her a long, considering look before he nodded to himself. "I've asked you before to join me as my Evil Queen and you've always refused. Would this favor change your answer?"
She swallowed quietly, took a deep breath, and met his eye defiantly. "If that's what you want, then yes."
He couldn't help his smile at her answer before he went on. "An Evil Queen would stand at my side, coming up with ideas to help me, and trying to take out Metro Mahn right along with me. She would be my willing partner. Will you do that?"
Roxanne eyes widened, and she took a steadying breath. "Yes."
His smile grew wider. "It will ruin your reputation and probably give you a criminal record."
"If it saves my mother's life, I don't care."
He stood from his chair, walking forward to stand in front of her. "If you're in, you must be in all the way, Ms. Ritchie. I won't have you backing out or resenting our bargain. You would be my Evil Queen for so long as you live."
Roxanne nodded. "I don't go back on my word. Not if you keep up your end of the bargain."
He frowned. "You know, she'll die eventually. I won't be able to keep her alive forever, even without the cancer. For that matter, she could get hit by a bus crossing the street. I'm only agreeing to cure her cancer, not be her personal superhero."
She gave him a small smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "I know. I wouldn't ask that of you."
He searched her eyes to be sure she was certain, and nodded at the determination that he saw there. "Alright, then. We have an accord, Miss Ritchie." He extended a black gloved hand to her, that she accepted as he helped her stand from her seat. They shook hands to seal their bargain, and then, to her surprise, he lifted up her hand and lightly kissed her knuckles.
"Welcome to the team, my Evil Queen."