I woke up.
My head felt awful and things definitely weren’t great, but I woke up. And the fact that I woke up meant that I wasn’t dead.
Unless I was in Hell? I turned to my right and saw a demon, which had me being like, “Holy shit I’m in Hell,” but then I realized it was just Hellfire, and then I wondered if it was kind of weird that I was friends with a demon.
I had bigger problems to worry about. For instance, he and I were both tied to chairs.
He was still unconscious.
I looked to my right. Blue was there, and then Cathect. Cathect was out like a light, I swear to god. He was drooling and everything. But Blue was awake, alert. She looked defiant.
“Glad you’re awake,” she said.
“Me too,” I said.
“Me three,” Jane said, wielding a huge mallet and wearing a banana costume. Shit. She was The Banana. I should have known. I should have remembered.
“The Banana,” I whispered.
“Here to slip up justice,” she whispered back.
I was really glad Hellfire wasn’t up for this little tete-a-tete. The last thing I needed was him getting ideas from this lady.
“You should quip better,” Blue said. “Also, you need a new costume. Also, you shouldn’t be such a fucking bitch.”
Wow. I don’t think I’d ever seen Blue so pissed off before.
“You’re angry. Is it because I’ve left you vulnerable, peeling your outer layer and revealing that of a scared little girl?”
“No,” Blue said, squirming to get out of the rope. “It’s because you’re a stupid fucking bitch with a stupid fucking costume and I can’t believe you fucking call yourself Banana.”
I really wished Cathect would wake up already, because someone needed to point out that the costume basically made her a walking penis symbol. I mean, really. Bananas. Penises. It wasn’t that hard to see the correlation, and it was gross.
“What did you just call me?” Jane the Banana asked.
“Oh, shit,” I said. “Did I say that out loud?”
“The thing about calling me a walking penis?” Jane asked. “Yeah. Yeah, you said that.”
“Well, uh,” I said. “First of all, let me say, ‘Whoops.’”
“Oh, shut up,” Jane said.
“I don’t know what you and Marquez are trying to do,” Blue said. “But it won’t work. You’re stupid to even try.”
“And yet here you are,” Jane said.
“And here you are,” Blue said. “In a banana costume. I think we have you beat.”
“Will you guys let the fucking banana outfit go for two seconds?”
“Well,” I said. “I know that you could probably kill me so I don’t want to get on your bad side. But at the same time, it’s kind of hard to overlook. I mean you really do look like a walking penis.”
“What is this obsession with penises?” Jane asked.
“I’m not–” I said. “I’m, like, the least obsessed with penises. I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t like it, and I just wish you could wear clothes like a normal person.”
“You’re the one making it weird!” Jane yelled.
“You’re the one wearing the banana costume!” I yelled back. “It was already way weird before I opened my mouth!”
Marquez opened the wood door, and I really started to wonder where I was. This place looked like little more than a concrete box. It had four cement walls, five wood chairs, and one of those flimsy lights that dangled from the ceiling.
I was guessing basement, but I was far from sure.
“Told you not to wear the banana outfit,” Marquez said.
“Costume,” Jane said. “It’s a costume! This is why I hate it when you bring work home. It makes me feel insecure.”
While Jane and Marquez had their problems, I tried hitting the calling beacon on the inside of my wrist. I just hoped it would come before they … I don’t know. What do bad guys do when they have people tied up? I mean, I wasn’t killed when I was a kid, but that was different. I was a kid! People don’t kill kids. Not even supervillains. You know the sort of people who kill kids? Soon-to-be-dead supervillains.
“Let’s have this conversation outside,” Marquez said, eyeing the four of us.
“Alright,” Jane said. “But I want to have a real conversation! No more banana puns.” She whispered to Marquez as the two of them walked out the door. “I’ve heard so many banana puns.”
As soon as the door shut behind them, Blue said, “Anybody got a plan?”
“Retire,” Cathect said. “This job is too weird.”
“A little late for retirement,” Blue said.
“As soon as we figure this out,” Cathect said. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got a nice cozy job available for me at a porn company.”
“Can’t you just get that stuff for free online these days?” I asked. “I didn’t realize there were still, like, companies for that sort of–”
“The point,” Blue said. “The point is that we need to get out of here.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “I have a plan. But, uh, should I say it?”
“Why wouldn’t you say it?” Blue asked.
“What if they have cameras in this place?” I asked.
Without turning to look around, Blue said, “They don’t.”
“You’re–” I began to ask.
But Blue cut me off. “Photographic memory. I’m sure.”
“Right,” I said. “But what about a two-way mirror?”
“There are no mirrors here,” she said. “Only walls. I’m thinking basement?”
“That’s what I figured.”
“Cathect!” I said. Didn’t get a response. “Hey, Cathect!”
“Yeah?” he asked. “What’s–” he stopped for a second. “Oh, that’s right. We’re here.”
“Nano has a plan to get us out of here,” Blue said.
“What is it?” Cathect asked.
“She doesn’t want to say,” Blue said.
“Why?” Cathect asked.
“Thinks the bad guys can hear us.”
“Perfect,” Cathect said. “So what are we supposed to do? Just sit here while Nano does something that probably won’t work.”
“Um, hey ye of little faith. How about being nice for once?”
“You want to see me nice,” Cathect said. “You should probably look for me when I haven’t been drugged and tied to a chair. Hey, what’s up with Hellfire. He still asleep?”
“Yeah,” Blue said.
“Bet he could get out of those ropes,” Cathect said. “You know, with demon-y stuff.”
“They probably gave him a heavier dose,” Blue said. “Marquez isn’t dumb.”
“Her partner though,” I said. “Seriously, Cathect. You missed the banana suit.”
“What banana–” Cathect began. But he got quiet as soon as the door opened again. Two burly-looking guards walked into the room, wearing suits and sunglasses. I thought I recognized them from the dining room.
“Oh, goody,” Cathect said. “It’s the Blues Brothers.”
“Is he trying to insult us?” the short fat one said. “Because seriously, I consider that a great compliment. It’s probably the greatest compliment I’ve had all week.”
“Ol’ Jimbo here is a Jim Belushi fan,” the tall skinny one said.
“John Belushi,” Jim said.
“That’s what I said,” the tall skinny one said.
“No, Don,” Jim said. “You said ‘Jim Belushi’.”
“Jim Belushi,” Don said. “The guy you like.”
“No,” Jim said, starting to look a bit angry. “John Belushi was a comical genius! John Belushi was a man whose very existence recalls the Messiah! Jim Belushi, on the other hand, is a hack! A hack who takes his brother’s Holy name and–”
“Jim!” Don said. “Stop! I hate it when you get worked up like this. You know it’s bad for your heart.”
“Jim Belushi is bad for my heart!” Jim said, clutching his chest. “Oh, that man.”
My suit broke through the ceiling, crashing on the floor right in front of Jim and Don. Its arm arced back and it swung a punch right in Jim’s face. Then it kicked Don in the shin and karate chopped him on the back of the neck. Both of them fell down before they could even move to grab their guns.
“Okay,” Cathect said. “So we should definitely let Nano take her suit to more of our missions.”
“Yeah,” Blue said.
My suit walked over to me, untying the ropes around my wrists. It wasn’t quite done when three more guards burst into the room. They shot at the suit, but their bullets just ricocheted off. One struck the guard in the thigh, and he fell to the floor.
When the suit had finished untying me, it opened up. I stepped into it, and it closed up again. Then I turned around, confident with the protection of the suit, and socked one of the guards in the jaw. It felt good to sock someone in the jaw. I’d hit people before, obviously, but nothing so strong as a good old fashioned ‘sock’ to the jaw. It made me feel superhero-y.
I took the other one and rammed his head into my knee. Man, I felt cool.
“Whoa,” Cathect said, as I turned around and untied the ropes around Blue’s wrists. “Hellfire would love this.”
Right. Hellfire still wasn’t awake. Damn.
When I’d done that, Blue went over to untie Hellfire’s wrists. I moved towards Cathect.
“So how’d you get the suit, anyway?” he asked.
“Luck,” I said. “Obviously.”
“Agent 09 didn’t help you at all?”
That made me stop for a moment. Not on the outside, of course. On the outside, I went to untie Cathect’s wrists and get away from the crazy supervillain who had kind of surprised me (even though I shouldn’t have been surprised because she was the CEO of Sum Industries, but man, I just wanted so badly for her to be good).
On the inside, I realized how uncool I was. I realized how much I’d relied on Agent 09 for everything I had, even though she never even seemed to care. Was all this just her way of showing that she cared? Or did she just let me have this to feel less guilty about all the stuff that had happened when I was younger?
Either way, I hadn’t gotten the hang of the whole, ‘being an adult’ thing. Didn’t adults do stuff for themselves?
“No,” I said, responding to Cathect’s question. “Me getting the suit is a long story.” I’d untied his wrists. “I’ll tell you about it sometime.”
Cathect stood up, shaking his ropes off.
“I can’t wake Hellfire up,” Blue said.
“We’ve gotta move,” I said.
“Duh,” Cathect said.
Marquez walked into the room, Jane in tow.
“Looks like these four are trying to peel,” Jane said.
“Honey,” Marquez said.
“I’m my own woman, dammit,” Jane said.
“Not now,” Marquez said.
I walked over to Marquez. “I trusted you.”
“Your mistake,” she said.
“Why are you like this?” I asked, grabbing her wrist. “Why are you so evil?”
A smirk spread across her lips. For a second I thought I was seeing things, but her fingers grew. They stretched like putty, slipping into the crevices of my suit. Then she pulled her hand out, taking wires with her, which definitely wasn’t a good thing.
I felt my suit short out. I tried moving my arms or my legs, but nothing happened.
“Answers don’t always come easy,” she whispered into my ear.
I felt cold. Couldn’t see anything now that the suit was dark.
I heard Blue struggling. She groaned. Then something fell to the floor.
“I surrender,” Cathect said. “I mean, I don’t even–”
Cathect groaned. Something else fell to the floor.
Damn, it was cold in here.
— — —
“Have you ever been to a psychiatrist?” I asked, “Because I really feel like you could use a couple of crazy pills.”
“I have,” Marquez said, sitting in the wood chair, her calm steely gaze meeting mine. “They’re not ‘crazy pills’, they’re medication. And the fact that you’d try to tie someone’s mental illness–”
“You’ve tied me and my friends up in chairs,” I said. “And you’ve now knocked us out twice. So I don’t think crazy is so far from whatever it is that you are.”
She laughed, leaning back a little. “Whatever it is that I am,” she said. “Whatever it is that I am. Interesting way to put it.”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
“Crazy has nothing to do with it,” Marquez said. “And it isn’t a word that should be so carelessly thrown around. No, it has nothing to do with insanity. I tied you and your friends up because I’m a villain.”
That tripped me up for a second. Supervillains aren’t supposed to say that they’re supervillains. That’s not what they do. They’re supposed to have reasons for doing what they do. They’re supposed to justify their actions with a tragic upbringing or whatever.
“You think you’re a villain?” I asked.
“What else would I think of myself as?” she replied.
“No, it’s just–”
“You think I’m stupid?” she asked.
“No, it’s just–”
“Ask yourself this. Why are villains considered villains?”
“Because they’re bad,” I said.
“And why are they bad?” she asked.
“Because they do bad things,” I said.
“Bad things,” she said. “Like murder. Like robbery. Like kidnapping.” She stopped talking. For a while, I thought she wouldn’t continue. But then she did, “Or, perhaps, just being different.”
“That doesn’t make you a villain,” I said, my mind reeling.
“Villains are the people who break the laws of society.” Marquez said. “Some of the laws are written down, while others go unspoken. Some of them are laws meant to protect people, others are laws meant to protect people’s sensibilities.”
“It’s not like that,” I said.
“How many Confederates saw Abraham Lincoln as nothing more than a villain?”
“Didn’t the British colonists think of Gandhi as a villain?”
“How many gay people have been killed by straight people, painted as villains for loving the people that they love?”
The thought killed me.
“A lot,” I said.
“A lot of people have been ostracized by society while trying to fight for the rights of others. But a lot more have died just for being who they are. For being different.”
“Everyone’s different,” I whispered. I at least needed that. I at least needed that hope.
“No,” she said. “Everyone has differences, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s different. There are people out there who are all too similar, indistinguishable, awash in a sea of straight rich healthy abled whiteness–white maleness. I’m villainized because I’m not one of these people. I’m sure you’re sometimes villainized for not being one of these people. I’m a villain because society pushes me to do things.”
“Pushes you to do things?”
“You see things go wrong all the time,” she said. “People who don’t realize how good they have it, people who think other peoples’ pain is funny.”
“You’re doing this because of what people find funny?” I asked.
“I’m a supervillain,” she said. “I’m a fucking supervillain, because I refuse to work for a society that was built on the backs of slaves, that’s perpetuated on the backs of the poor, that relies on sexism and heterosexism and cissexism to just get from one fucking day to the next.”
“So you work against society.”
“Because I have to,” she said. “And I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with who I am. I don’t. I really don’t. People used to look at me everyday like I’m a freak. Now that I’m rich, now that I think I mean something in their narrow worldview, they look at me like I’m a person again. But they won’t, soon. I’ll wipe their smug grins off their fucked up faces. I’ll make them know how deeply they’ve fucked up.”
“You’re angry,” I said.
“Damn angry,” she said.
“Because you’re gay?”
“Because of the way society treats gays, sure,” she said. “But it’s so much more than that. It’s about the way society treats everyone.”
“I’m gay,” I said.
“But I’m not angry.”
“And why do you think that is?” she asked.
“Because I have a different perspective,” I said. “Because I don’t think people hate just to hate. Because I think that people are stupid, but you have to like them anyway.”
“You have that perspective,” Marquez said, “Because you’re young. And more importantly, stupid.”
“Nevermind,” she said. “It’s not worth talking to you.”
She turned around and began to walk out the door.
“Why am I here?” I asked. “If you want to get back at straight people, why me?”
“I thought it would be obvious,” she said, stopping right in front of the door. “I hate the way your mother treated me. After everything we’d been through together, I hated how she’d defend others.” She turned her head to the right, and I saw a glimmer in her eye. “The world thinks of me as a villain because I want to change things. But me? That’s not why I see myself as a villain. No. I know, deep down, there’s something angry underneath. I know I need to get back at your mother, before I can be happy.”
She walked out the door.