hings hadn’t gone so well in the courtroom. His mohawk looked good, his earrings and necklaces had been shined up with the ultrasonic the night before, and he made sure to scowl throughout in that way people found intimidating. He still lost the case.
He doesn’t shake hands with the prosecutor on his way out of the courtroom. It was the same fool who beat him last month and the month before that. His record is starting to bulge in the loss column. He feels like a heavyweight fighting in a welter league and he just can’t catch his breath.
The truth is, he missed his partner. She was always nagging and second-guessing him, third-guessing him too, but she knew the lingo. She’s holding a gavel now and he was left to shoulder the partnership.
He isn’t sure why people keep hiring him. You’ll find the same thing at a fight. Fools betting on the one that looks like a winner. Each one of them coming through his doors, with that hopeful shine in their eyes.
A couple of pretty boy lawyers in all their get-up laugh as he pushes through the revolving doors. Sharks always smell the blood.
This latest one hurt. He really wanted to win. Not just to get back on track, but because he actually felt for the kid. Reminded him of himself at that age. Young and angry and alone. But so righteous. He isn’t sure if the kid stole what they said or not. He isn’t sure if it even matters. It seems so petty with the rest of the world getting away with murder and massacre.
He crosses the street and cuts through the alley. He goes in through the back so he won’t have to see any of the other guys in the gym.
The locker room smells like old sweat. He strips methodically, pulling off the gold chains, hanging up his five thousand dollar suit on a ten-cent hanger. He pops the combination and opens his locker.
Inside is his leopard fringe leather jacket. Shitkicker boots. He’ll put it all on. Just like old times, just like always. Punch his fist into his open hand and hit the streets. He’ll find the one responsible and tattoo his ass. He couldn’t make them pay in the courtroom, but on the streets. Hell.
But there was no one to find. No one to hit to beat the hurt out of things.
Instead, he reaches past the jacket and pulls out his electric razor. The chains are only plated, but he can still get a hundred bucks for them. It isn’t a total loss.
hat a dive, he thought, wiping the sweat from his eyes and looking up at the old house. The peeling paint, the boarded front door. If it wasn’t on his route, he’d never bother coming all the way out here. It was the kind of place you’d expect to find slavering jaws and sinister lurking presences.
He shoved another leaflet in the mailbox and headed off on his way, back across the open field west of the white house.
Several feet away and one storey up, he lurked in the dark bosom of the attic, waiting. He couldn’t go downstairs because of the light, so he lurked here among the dust and useless things that pile up attic corners. If some wannabe adventurer came stumbling along, without a light, he would eat it. Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to do except continue lurking.
An adventurer was stringy business, all muscle. And they were always carrying things—gems and swords—junk that irritated his already irritable bowels. Sometimes he got a Jehovah’s Witness, but they always talked too much. And the Avon ladies gave him gas. He hoped if something showed up, it would at least have the common sense to be carrying a brass lantern.
Maybe then he could get a good look at himself. Having lurked in a dark place his whole life, like his parents before him, he had no concept of his own appearance. He felt out of shape. Lurking was not good exercise. And he was suffering from chronic Vitamin D deficiency.
His mom told him he was beautiful, but what else could you expect from your mother. He could be disgusting, hideous. How would he even recognize the difference? He had nothing but darkness to measure himself against. And darkness wasn’t anything but a place to lurk.
He could take a chance. Throw open the windows. Head out into the world with all its sunshine and possibilities. But he’d have to put some pants on first. And there was his photophobia to worry about.
His stomach growled. The whole thing was rather depressing. In the end it just seemed like so much fuss. It was easier to stay here. To lurk a while longer, and wait for something to happen to him instead. Even if it never did.
one of them remember the last time they’ve all been together. Close enough to touch, to hug awkwardly. None of them live on the same continent, and flights being what they are these days, well. Plus, Linka’s been in jail since that Pussy Riot thing, so in the end, it’s easier just to get together on Skype.
They’ve almost given up on Wheeler when he finally signs on with some excuse about it being too early in Brooklyn. Like every American, the world should revolve around him. They play a little of the catch-up game. Kwame has just divorced for the second time, Gi’s latest insemination has taken. It’s the kind of small talk strangers make when still masquerading as friends.
They finally get to business. The pipeline, of course. In the old days, they’d organize a field trip, stage some rallies, sit down with the bigwigs and try to talk some sense into them. But it always ended up in the same bottleneck. Older and wiser, probably lazier, they now just skip to the point and pull out the big guns.
One at a time, they angle laptop cameras to focus on their rings. The boys make sure their tattoos are showing, the girls make their best duck-faces before they shout the words. They’ll let their powers combine and settle back while the Captain minces about and does whatever needs doing. Smash the pipeline, educate the masses, coif his mullet.
But when it gets to Ma-Ti, small and simpering as ever, something’s missing. His ring. The one they all used to snicker about. He had to pawn it to put the down payment on his new condominium in Rio.
They get a bit exasperated, he whines about nobody respecting him. They talk about back-up plans, but they’re surprised to find that none of them really care. Who needs the aggravation? It’s all so 80’s spandex and 90’s grunge and Y2K. Now, you can fight it from inside the system. Slowly. Buy local, eat organic, say Monsanto in thinly veiled disgust at not-too-expensive restaurants. They have the power to make the kind of difference no one will notice.
very time, he has the same question: what year? Enough with the 20XX bullshit, just tell me the year. It’s true, the defrost left him crabby and constipated. The Doc is looking old. A little less hair on top, the white in his beard whiter than ever, almost translucent. Like he was slowly fading away.
They don’t bother to make small talk. He’s been in suspended animation, dreamless, and the Doc’s been buried in research and planning. They live to thwart, that is all.
The year actually doesn’t even matter anymore. What is more important is the time. The iteration. How many times have they done this already? Nine? Ten? More. More than could ever be necessary.
They spend some of that time going over his rust spots with steel wool and blue paint. The Doc doesn’t even bother with new gadgets anymore. Why fix it, if it ain’t broke.
Just let it break. Let it stop.
Eight more robot masters to fight. Whichever order you’d like. At first it was a novelty, now it’s a chore. The designs, the names, it’s all just a rehash now, like even their adversary is tired of the game. And who would it be this time? Some mysterious ‘other’ Doctor. Great. Do they really need the theatrics? No matter who is prancing about as the bad guy this time, however complex the back-story they’ve been sent, you always know it’s going to be him in the end. He might put on some sunglasses or dye his moustache, but when the curtains come down it’s always him.
The Doc snaps the blaster on to his stump and yawns. He’d yawn too, if he were only human. They’d do it again, only to do it again. Sisyphus had it easy.
Maybe this time, when it’s over, the freeze will last longer. Maybe forever. Maybe this time, he’ll finally get some rest.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.