The Mighty Slammer, heinous, highly-armored supervillain, laughs. “Bahahahaha! My trap’s perfect! You never saw it coming!”
I look around the alleyway. Nothing here except overturned trash cans and a meowing cat. I clearly have her cornered. There’s clearly not a trap involved if I’m the one who pushed her down here.
But she keeps laughing, and I tense up, ready for a fight.
The Mighty Slammer punches the ground. The concrete shatters and a shockwave of pure kinetic energy flies in my direction.
But… it’s not very fast.
I, uh, sidestep and dodge it.
The energy goes past me, ripping up the ground and colliding with a parked car. The car explodes in a fiery burst.
“You’re good,” she says, “but I’m better.”
“That barely makes sense in this context. I haven’t even attacked you.”
“Well then, why don’t you try?” She raises her hand, encased in a metallic glove, and flexes. You know, that armor looks extremely familiar. Like, Moonslash the Cybermancer levels of familiar.
“Say, isn’t that a power glove?” I ask.
“A what now?”
“Oh, I guess not.”
With that, I charge forward and lunge in her direction. But instead of attacking her head-on, a terrible decision when a single punch can knock me out, I go past her, then jump onto a nearby wall an bounce off. I spring away from her and kick her in the helmet. She reels back in a daze. I land right behind her and kick her in the back—
Then the Mighty Slammer fires her rocket boots and nearly melts my face off as she bolts forward. She, too, bounces against the alley wall, but when she does it, she knocks a damn crater in it. And when she jumps back to me, it’s with that kind of cartoony anime sound effect where you know someone is about to be pummeled.
A fist comes within millimeters of colliding with my face. The pinky finger of the glove brushes against my cheek, moving with such force that it alone leaves a scratch and makes me bleed.
“Oh.” The only thing I am able to utter is “Oh.”
And then the explosion of brick from the wall behind me knocks me clean to the ground.
I get up and back as far away from the Mighty Slammer as I can manage.
“That’s it?” she asks. “I get the sense you ain’t so good at fighting.”
“A lot of people tell that to me. It’s pretty hurtful,” I say. “But I’ll counter that with the fact that I’m a pretty resilient kid. Knock me down, I get back up. Knock me out, I… Well, eventually I get back up and kick your ass some other time.”
“You must think you’re some kind of hero, then.”
“Yeah,” I say. “The kind of hero who defeated Athena Supreme on top of a speeding train. The kind of hero who saved the city from the Social Media Killer. The kind of hero who, just last month, stopped the reign of terror of the Dial-Up Demon!”
“…Uh, what? Who?”
“Who? Who to Which one?”
The Mighty Slammer scratches the bottom of her chin. “All of them?”
“You’ve never heard of the Social Media Killer? Remember, the one from five or six months ago who was hacking everyone and then blew up a factory?”
“I don’t watch the news that much,” she says.
“She was so famous that surely you heard of her at some point. I’m sure everyone in Chechnya’s heard of her, for Christ’s sake.”
She shakes her head. “Sorry, kid.”
“Well then, that kind of ruins the heroic statement I had planned where I’d say something like, first I fought the Social Media Killer, now I’ll fight the Mighty Slammer, or something like that. I hadn’t figured it all out yet.”
“Wait, you’re wrong.”
“My name is not the Mighty Slammer,” she says.
“No way. That name’s lame.”
“So it’s… a different name.”
“Yeah, of course. I’m Mighty Slammer.”
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
“You just said the same thing. The Mighty Slammer.”
“No!” she shouts, raising both fists into the air.
I back away one step. “What?”
“I’m Mighty Slammer, not ‘the Mighty Slammer.’”
“What’s the diff—oh, I see. No the.”
“So you are a Mighty Slammer, but not the Mighty Slammer.”
“Does that mean there are other Mighty Slammers?”
“No, only me.”
“So you are, then, THE Mighty Slammer, in a sense.”
“Only for dipshits who think that Mighty is an adjective in this context,” says the Mighty Slammer. Er, Mighty Slammer. “Mighty Slammer is the name. It’s a grouping, just like your name is, uh…”
“Morgan Harding. First name Morgan, last name Harding.”
“Right. Think of Mighty Slammer like your name. Mighty is my first name, Slammer is my last name. But not actually, since those are not real name words.”
“So can I call you just Mighty? Or do I need to call you Ms. Slammer?”
“It’s not actually my name! It’s my supervillain name! You have to call me by the full name each time. Mighty Slammer. Say it with me: Mighty Slammer.”
“Right, right,” she says. “So you get it?”
“I get it.”
“Good. Then, where were we?”
“You know, if you were a bit more of a hysterical dame, I could call you ‘Flighty Slammer.’” I chuckle a little bit at my own extremely clever joke.
Mighty Slammer tilts her head to the side. “I don’t understand. You keep saying things I just plain don’t get.”
“You’ve never heard of the word ‘flighty?’”
“I’ve heard of flight. Like, flying. Never heard of ‘flighty.’”
“Really? It’s not that common these days, but I really thought you’d have heard the word before. Do you not watch old detective shows?”
“I don’t watch the news much,” she says.
“Detective shows are not the news,” I say. “They’re fiction. Well, for the most part at least. They have those true crime shows and stuff too I guess. But those didn’t exist that much back in the days when broads were broads and lads were dicks.”
“Honestly, I don’t watch that much TV.” Mighty Slammer shrugs.
“Then what do you do? What are your hobbies?”
In the distance, I hear the whirring of helicopter blades growing closer. With any luck, that means the police choppers are headed this way. The exploding car probably tipped them off, if nothing else.
Just have to stall for a few more minutes…
Luckily, Mighty Slammer seems quite eager to indulge. “I have lots of hobbies!” she exclaims. “I love canning. You ever had homemade strawberry preserve? Scrumptious stuff. I also love soapbox derbies. Kinda weird, but it’s been a thing since I was a kid. Oh, and fishing. There ain’t many good fishing spots near here, but I sometimes take my RV out to the Atlantic and spend a few days near Tybee Island. I wanna go to California one day, if I get rich enough. Or maybe Guam. I bet there’s lots of good fish in Guam.”
“So you’re one of those old-fashioned butch types that loves the simplicity of the outdoors and manual labor.”
“Yep? But what does butch mean?”
“Oh, uh, I mean… You know. Flannel shirts. Short hair. Has a taste for petite types.”
“I do love flannel, and my hair is pretty short… But if you’re hitting on me with that petite comment, I gotta say, I’m taken.”
“I’m not petite!” I shout. “I’m just skinny. I need to work out more.”
“Yeah, you do. Put some muscle on those bones. Force yourself to get the next size up for all your shirts because your abs are too ripped.”
“But I don’t wanna buy new shirts… This one I have right here, you see it?” I point to my t-shirt, dark gray and with the design of a young boy with a cap turned backwards and drinking a soda can. “This is my Toby ‘Radiation’ Fox shirt. I got this back when I was in middle school. Middle school! And it still fits me.”
“Pretty cool, huh?”
“…Pretty pathetic,” she says.
My heart is broken. “I really do need to work out more, huh…”
“I know a good gym, if you need it. It’s called Robo-Boxing & More, over by 5th and Charles West Memorial. You heard of it? The robo-boxing is what it is, but the gym’s really cheap and it has all the equipment you need.”
“How cheap are we talking?”
“Fifteen bucks a month. Or three bucks a visit.”
“Oh, that’s pretty good. But I hear whenever people get gym memberships, they always became way less motivated to actually go. The money spent gives them enough satisfaction that they don’t bother. I worry I’d be like that. It already happened to me once when I tried to learn Japanese.”
“Learning languages is hard. Getting good muscles is hard too. It’s not the money that’s the problem. It’s the discipline. And the only way to learn good discipline is to fight for it.”
“You know, you’re a decent fellow,” I say. “How come you’re a villain?”
“Oh! That reminds me,” Mighty Slammer says. “I had a good joke I was going to make. I forgot about it though because we went off on a bit of a tangent.”
“Oh, really? What is it?”
“Okay, let’s back it up. You were calling me butch or whatever. I said, sorry, I’m taken.”
“So, ask me what I mean by that.”
“Uh, what do you mean by that.”
“I’m taken, alright. I’m taken…” Mighty Slammer strikes a pose. “…by crime!”
“Oh.” I fail to even smile. It’s that bad a joke.
She notices my lack of laughter and slumps over a little. “That bad, huh?”
“It needs a little work.”
“So we both have areas to improve on,” she says wistfully. “You need better glutes, and I need a better sense of comedic timing…”
“Maybe we could train each other?”
“Nah.” She waves me off. “We’re too different. After all, you’re a hero, and I’m a villain. It just isn’t meant to be.”
“I feel like we are fated to be caught up in some sort of star-crossed lover phenomenon,” I say. “Not that I’m attracted to you, but what are you doing Saturday evening? Assuming you don’t get caught by the police tonight.”
“No dates. I’m ace,” she says, completely missing my snark. “And if I’m still on the streets, I’ll probably be doing the same thing as tonight: Wrecking the hell out of bad restaurants.”
“Wait, you weren’t robbing Ralph’s Lunch?”
“Well, I mean, I did steal the money where I could. I’m not a heathen. But nah, I only went in there to give a taste of revenge. I avenged my tastebuds after I had such lousy crap like that place.”
“I mean, I don’t like Ralph’s Lunch either, but is that really appropriate? Couldn’t you just leave a bad review on Netnect?”
“I did that too, don’t worry.”
“Oh yeah, what’s your username on there?”
“Like I’d tell you that!” She hesitates for a moment. “It’s MightySlammerRulez.”
“Cool. I’m MorganH1989. Wanna be friends?”
“Oh yeah, sure thing.” She activates her portable PC, and the screen and keyboard on her wrist fold out. “Netnect sure is a good website, isn’t it? I like to use it whenever I need to write bad reviews of restaurants.”
“So you’ve basically created, like, a detailed list of every place you might want to wreck so that police can predict your movements?”
“…Huh. I never thought of it that way.”
“Are you sure you’re fit for a life of crime?” I ask.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. I’ve got a lot more restaurants I hate than the ones I’ve reviewed… so far!!”
“So you really are only attacking restaurants you hate. Wow.”
“What was your username again?”
“Let me just type that in here, and…”
Out of nowhere, a flash of metal. A clanging sound. And then Mighty Slammer topples backwards, her portable PC flying in the air away from her.
A loud footstep. A figure emerges from the shadows of the alley.
It’s a guy…
…and he’s dressed…
…entirely in Magitek Corporation gear. He wears a Magitek brand knight helmet, two Magitek brand portable PCs on his arms, Magitek brand rocket boot kneepads and elbowpads, and patent-pending Magitek brand cyber-jousting boots. The fact I recognize all of these products is bad enough. The fact that this man is adorned head to toe in all of these devices is even worse.
He holds up his Magitek brand scabbard and points it at the woman he just pushed over. “Give yourself up, foul beast,” he says.
“Hey, rude,” she mutters. “Morgan, who the hell is this?”
“I have no idea. Hey, guy, who are you?”
He takes a step back and gives a deep bow. “This one is known only as the Crusader. The protector of Atlanta and all that is good and righteous.”
“The Crusader… Just to be clear, you mean THE Crusader, right?”
I give a sneering glare to Mighty Slammer. She shrugs.
Mighty Slammer gets up and brushes herself off. “What, are you some kind of superhero team now?”
“I have never met this man before in my life,” I say. “Swear.”
“I bet you were planning this trick the whole time!” she shouts. “You just wanted to stall me. You never wanted to become real friends with me. Jerk!”
Well, she was correct about that, but about the police choppers which grow ever closer by the moment, not about this Crusader fellow.
But, with her feelings hurt and a bit too cornered for comfort, she kicks off her rocket boots and blasts away back to the rooftops. I don’t have enough room to make a huge jump and knock her back to the ground like I hoped, thanks to the dolt in the Magitek armor standing right in front of me.
“Drat,” the Crusader says. “I had hoped to capture her before she got away. Alas, I shall continue my nightly patrols elsewhere. Thank you, good sir or madam.”
“I’m neither, and you’re not welcome. You let her get away!”
He seems completely unfazed. “It’s a work in progress. We shall capture her some other time. Until we meet again, fellow traveler!” The Crusader leaves as quickly as he came.
And then the police choppers arrive just in time for them to find me, and I get to do another round of questioning for two hours before I’m let go.
All in a night’s work…
Well, at least there’s one positive.
Mighty Slammer dropped her portable PC somehow. It’s lying right there on the ground. I take it and grin.