Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire
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Velveteen vs. Bacon.

Title: Velveteen vs. Bacon.
Summary: The continuing adventures of a former child superheroine and her allies, who include Rainbow Brite's lesbian little sister, an escapee from a Rankin-Bass cartoon, and a deeply irritated Victorian gadgeteer with a ray gun that used to be a toaster. No, really.

***

Jackie Frost, presumptive heir to the role of Snow Queen and guardian-in-training to the season of Winter, stood framed in the crystalline glitter of her mother's magic mirror, staring at her friend and sometimes ally, Velma "Velveteen" Martinez. Opening her mouth, the blue-skinned girl uttered four words, each weighted with the strength of prophecy:

"You cannot be serious."

"Trust me, I don't believe it either, but yeah, I'm serious," said Vel. "Yelena needs a place to crash for a few days, until we can figure out our next move."

"Okay, just ignoring the part where it's borderline impossible for me to get past you saying 'Yelena needs a place to crash' when you're not talking about shooting her out of the sky, why does it need to be the North Pole? We're busy up here! We're doing important things! Secret Christmas things! Do you want to be responsible for getting the entire East Coast accidentally placed on the Naughty List? Well? Do you?"

"She's allergic to pollen, which puts the Princess's place out of the running, she can't go back to the dorms or she'll wind up re-brainwashed before she even finishes getting un-brainwashed, I wouldn't send my worst enemy to stay with Hailey, and my place is full of Torrey," said Vel calmly. "You remember Torrey, don't you? Dimensionally-displaced time travel girl who, oh, right, dated a parallel-universe version of Yelena for years and might not take very well to me announcing that she's coming to stay with us for a little while? Sorry, Jackie. I don't care how much you hate the idea. Yelena needs a place to stay, Santa said I could always ask the North Pole for help, and I'm asking."

Jackie's lower lip wobbled. "You hate me and want me to be miserable," she said, in an accusing tone.

"If that's what you have to think in order to sleep at night, you go right ahead and think that," said Vel amiably. She turned her back on the mirror, walking to the door at the front of the room and opening it to reveal a tired-looking blonde in an obviously borrowed sweatsuit. The legs were too short and the shirt was too large, making her look like she'd been the victim of a terrible laundry day prank. "Hey, Lena. It's all settled, and you're good to head for the North Pole."

"Really?" Yelena looked past her to the mirror, where Jackie's reflection was standing with arms crossed and nose stuck ostentatiously into the air. "The North Pole doesn't look like it's feeling the love here."

"The North Pole is totally feeling the love," said Vel, shutting the door again. "The North Pole is practically turning cartwheels. Jackie, on the other hand, is a stone cold bitch."

"I can hear you, you know," said Jackie.

"This is me, not caring. Do you see my 'I don't care' face?" Vel walked toward the mirror with Yelena close behind her. "Jackie."

Jackie didn't turn.

"Jackie."

"What?"

"She has—"

"I have nowhere else to go," said Yelena, cutting her off. Jackie finally turned, blinking at the pale heroine. Yelena sounded...not defeated, exactly, but worn-down, and vulnerable in a way that she hadn't allowed herself to be since the day when she attacked her own best friend in the locker room. "I can't go back to The Super Patriots. Even if I wanted to, even if I was stupid enough to think that I could somehow infiltrate them from within, they'd change my mind."

"She means that literally," said Vel. "You know that. Come on, Jackie. Marketing is basically the definition of the Naughty List. Help us defy naughtiness."

"That's a low blow," grumbled Jackie.

"I learned to fight from The Super Patriots," said Vel. "I only fight fair when somebody's aiming a camera at my face. So will you do it? Please? For me?"

Jackie groaned. "Oh, sweet Claus, I am going to regret this..." Her reflection turned to Yelena, stabbing a finger toward the other girl. "You will not touch anything you're not given permission to touch. You will not harass, bother, interact with, or even talk to the elves. You will not go into my room."

"Anything you say," said Yelena.

"Want her to hold her breath the whole time, too?" asked Vel.

Jackie paused, shooting a quick glare at Vel before sighing, looking back to Yelena, and saying, "The North Pole is happy to extend you the hospitality owed to all who come to us with open hearts, honest souls, and a healthy interest in hot chocolate. But so you're aware, if you fuck up, they're never going to find your body."

"I understand," said Yelena. She turned to Vel, hugging the other woman as she whispered, "Thank you."

"Don't thank me; we've got a long way to go before we're anywhere near out of these woods," said Vel, hugging her tightly back. "Now go get some sleep. I'll call you in the morning."

"Sleep," said Yelena, laughing a little unsteadily. "I remember enjoying sleep..."

"No one will mess with your dreams here," said Jackie. "Whatever nightmares you want to have, they'll be your own."

"You have no idea how happy that makes me," said Yelena. She brushed her hair out of her eyes with one hand, leaving a sparkling trail of glitter hanging briefly in the air. Then she stepped forward, and pressed her hand against the mirror. Jackie's fingers slid through the solid glass, lacing with Yelena's.

"You owe me," she mouthed, eyes on Vel. Giving a single sharp yank, she pulled Yelena toward her, and into the mirror. The glass rippled like water, and both of them were gone. The only reflection remaining was Vel's own: a battered, slump-shouldered girl in a burgundy and brown superhero costume, with a slightly askew rabbit-eared headband holding back her hair.

"I owed her more," said Vel, reaching up to adjust her headband. She looked like she'd been put through the wringer, and technically, she had...but there was something new in her expression, something that it took her a moment to recognize.

She looked hopeful.

"I'd better know what I'm doing," she said to her reflection, which didn't respond. Then she turned and left the room, shutting off the light as she went. She needed to go home, and explain the situation to her roommate before some inevitable wacky coincidence took the explanation out of her hands. That was never a good thing, and she couldn't imagine that it would be any better when the person she was trying to explain things to had a ray gun.

Privately, Velveteen was starting to believe that life never actually got any less complicated. The universe just found new ways to mess with you.

*

According to the official company records, no working adult superhuman has voluntarily left The Super Patriots, Inc. of their own free will without becoming a supervillain inside of the year. Those individuals who do choose to leave are inevitably characterized in psych profiles and human resources files as "unstable," "unpredictable," and "in need of additional therapy before they can be considered fully integrated into the heroic population." It paints a clear picture of people whose powers have damaged their ability to live normal lives, until they are inevitably driven into the arms of evil. The question then becomes clear:

How many of these people were considered "potentially dangerous" or "a high risk individual" before they made the decision to break with the corporation that trained them, sold them to the waiting world, and, in many cases, created them? No one has access to those files but the staff of The Super Patriots, Inc., and no one can deny that it would be potentially damaging to the corporate reputation if it were to suddenly come to light that people left not because they were evil, but because they could no longer live under the watchful eye of the Marketing Department.

Are monsters made...or are they marketed? As long as The Super Patriots, Inc. controls the psych evaluations of a world's superhumans, we may never know the answer.

But there are some who have suspicions.

*

"Torrey? Are you, uh...are you home?" The air in the living room smelled like gun oil and fresh-baked muffins. Velma sniffed the air, adjusting her grip on the duffel bag that held her costume. Fruit-based fresh-baked muffins. That was a good sign. She was pretty sure that gun oil muffins would be a sign that her roommate's grasp on reality, never better than questionable, had started its inevitable downward spiral. "It's Vel. We need to talk."

"Where else would I be, and who else would you be?" asked her roommate, emerging from the kitchen with a tray of steaming muffins. "I need you to eat one of these. I think they may be...not evil, precisely, but morally questionable."

"...right," said Vel, and reached for a muffin. Maybe it was unfair to think of Torrey—more properly referred to as Victoria Cogsworth, of the London Cogsworths—as having a questionable grasp on reality. Torrey had an excellent grasp on reality. It just wasn't the reality that she was currently trying to co-exist with.

"Please let me know immediately if you develop a tingling sensation in your extremities," said Torrey.

Vel paused with her hand out-stretched. Then she sighed, shrugged, and took a muffin. "Right."

"Now, then." Torrey put the tray down on the table near the kitchen door. "What did you wish to discuss? I assume you've discovered my augmentations to the hot water heater. I assure you, they're stable. I don't make unstable modifications to my own domicile."

"Uh, no, hadn't discovered that, but thanks for the reassurance, it's a big help." Still holding the muffin, Vel walked to the couch and sat down, gesturing for Torrey to do the same. Looking suspicious, Torrey followed her, and sat. Vel took a deep breath. "Okay. So. It's like this."

"You've initiated a team-up with this universe's version of Yelena and are unsure how I'm going to react to the idea that the only remaining version of the woman I love is not only unavailable to me both physically and emotionally, but will now be hanging about the city with increasing frequency, leading inevitably to a churning maelstrom of hurt feelings and sexual frustration. On my part, not yours, although potentially on hers, as she was, as I've said, quite in love with you in the timeline where she and I first met."

Vel stared. "Uh..."

Torrey snorted. "Really, Velma. Does the phrase 'my name is Victoria Cogsworth, I am a registered genius' not mean anything to you? Oxford doesn't allow just anyone to take the exams, you know. There are standards."

Vel continued to stare.

"The entrance requirements alone knock most dilly-dalliers and flim-flammers right out of the running, and when it comes to the defense of your thesis, well." Torrey's voice took on a strangely smug undertone. "You'd best be bringing your asbestos undergarments, and pray that your projectile-deflection array is prepared to be challenged by some of the best minds of the last eight generations!"

"The last eight generations?" asked Vel, despite herself.

"They were doing remarkable things in preservation back in my home dimension," said Torrey. Her face fell as she apparently realized that her professors, no matter how well-preserved, weren't there anymore. No more students would face the wrath of the meticulously maintained head of Galileo. "But I suppose that's all water under the bridge now, isn't it? You must have known that I'd see the pictures of the two of you. It's not like I've had much to do beyond sitting about here and looking up your world's superheroes on the internet. 'Blacklight.' As if that would fool anyone who knew Yelena."

"Um," said Vel, and took a large bite of muffin.

It tasted like raspberries and seaweed. After a momentary pause to consider her options, she swallowed. She'd eaten worse.

"It was only a matter of time before the two of you resolved your issues if you were already informally teaming up on a regular basis." Torrey shook her head. "I might have preferred that time to be a little more removed from the now. I'm not sure how prepared I am to meet this timeline's version of Yelena."

"She's really nice, except when she's being a bitchy diva controlled by The Super Patriots, Inc.'s Marketing Department," said Vel lamely.

"Funny." A very small smile twisted the corners of Torrey's mouth. "My Yelena used to say the same thing about you."

"Um." Velma cleared her throat and set the muffin carefully aside. "So anyway. Lena's going to be staying at the North Pole for a little bit. Just while we get things settled and figure out how to keep The Super Patriots from trying to take her back." Not for the first time, she found herself wondering just how many of the "brain-washed superheroes" she'd studied as a child had been totally normal people who just wanted to be left alone until The Super Patriots had them dragged back for reconditioning. "But she'll probably be around more. It's up to you how much you want to deal with her."

"I both never want to see her again and want her to fall naked into my bed at the slightest crook of my smallest finger." Torrey sighed. "Being dimensionally displaced does put one into some rather...unique...situations vis-a-vis one's romantic life. Do not worry about me. I will comport myself respectably. But be warned." She raised a finger. "I will not lie to her. If you bring her home, I will be forced to tell her that I am aware of her secret identity. I cannot deceive her."

"Torrey..." Vel paused, looking for the right words, and finally said, "She's not your Yelena."

"And when you were in my Yelena's timeline, did it matter that he wasn't your Aaron?"

Velma didn't answer.

Torrey sighed, and stood. "No," she said. "I rather thought not. Now if you'll excuse me, I have muffins to see to."

Velma stayed where she was, and watched the other woman go.

She couldn't think of a single thing to say.

*

An hour later, Torrey was in her room doing...well, whatever it was that a dimensionally displaced gadgeteer did when she was alone. Frankly, Velma tried not to think about it too hard. She hadn't gone into her spare room since it was ceded to Victory Anna, and she treasured her ignorance. She was just considering whether or not she should treasure her ignorance while taking a nice, distracting bubble bath when the doorbell rang.

"Coming!" Velma turned off the television, slid out of her chair, and trotted over to the door. She paused with her hand on the knob, peering out the peephole. There was "living like a normal person," and there was "living like an idiot." Pretending that she would never have work follow her home fell into the latter category.

The man standing on the porch with a bunch of daisies in one hand was definitely work following her home, but in the good way. Velma opened the door, beaming. He beamed back.

"Hi," said Tad (better known as "Tag" when he wasn't in his secret identity).

"Hi," said Velma.

"These are for you." He held out the flowers. Looking a little puzzled, he added, "Torrey emailed me and said you were having a bad day. How did she get my email address?"

"I'm pretty sure that if you ask her, the answer is 'certified genius,' so let's not ask her." Vel took the flowers. "You wanna come in?"

"As long as I'm not interrupting." Tad smiled a little. "Look at us. Being all normal-people at each other."

Velma raised an eyebrow. "It's after midnight."

"I didn't say we had a good local model for 'normal.'" Tad stepped inside, moving out of the way while she shut the door. "Where's Torrey?"

"In her room. If she emailed you to come over, she's probably giving us space. That, or she's attempting dimensional tunneling again." Velma walked toward the kitchen. Tad followed. "I think there's a vase in here somewhere..."

"So now that we've answered the 'where's Torrey' question, and you're working on the equally vital 'where can I put these flowers' question...what's going on?" Tad leaned up against the counter. "I mean. Not that I'm opposed to having an excuse to visit my incredibly hot, super-powered girlfriend when nothing's actively trying to kill us, but I get a little concerned when people send me emails commanding my presence, with flowers, at the earliest possible opportunity."

The vase was at the back of the cupboard, behind a bunch of chipped coffee mugs that Velma didn't remember buying. They had just shown up in the cupboards, seeming to sprout from the house the way shelf fungus sprouted from trees. "You remember the lineup of my original junior team?"

"Uh, yeah. It was you, that lobster guy—"

"The Claw," supplied Velma, as she filled the vase with water.

"Right, the Claw. Action Dude, and Sparkle Bright, right?"

"Right." Velma put the vase down on the counter and picked up the flowers. "Sparkle Bright was my best friend, right up until the day when she tried to kill me in the locker room. Well. The day I thought she tried to kill me. It turns out she was pulling her punches, but she was so hurt over the things she'd been told I was saying behind her back that she just...lashed out. And I was hurt enough by the things I'd been told that she was saying behind my back that I never questioned it."

"She was the photon manipulator?"

"Yeah. She still is."

Tad paused, expression shifting to one of slowly dawning comprehension. Finally, sounding almost like he'd just bitten into a lemon, he asked, "Is Blacklight really Sparkle Bright in disguise?"

Velma paused in the act of placing the flowers in the vase. Then she let them go and turned to face him, scowling. "All right, am I just stupid, or am I literally the only person on the planet who couldn't recognize my former best friend because she put on some black spandex and stopped trying to murder me?"

"I think it's the 'stopped trying to murder you' part that kept you from figuring it out," said Tad apologetically. "I mean, you really didn't have any reason to think that Sparkle Bright would change costumes and try for a team-up. Not unless it came with contact poison or something."

"Still. I feel like a total idiot right now." Velma shook her head, gesturing for Tad to follow her back to the living room. "I mean, it took traveling to an alternate timeline that never actually existed for me to realize that I was having team-ups with my childhood roommate, and you and Torrey both just figured it out on your own. If it weren't for the part where I'm too stressed to beat myself up, I'd be kicking my own ass for stupidity right about now."

"Alternate timeline? What alternate timeline?"

Oh, crap. "Um. You know. The one Torrey is from."

"You told me she was staying with you as a favor to Santa Claus—"

"Which is technically true, he asked if she could use my guest room for a little while."

"—not that you'd actually traveled to another dimension. I'd sort of expect that to be the sort of thing you'd lead with when you were explaining the situation to your boyfriend." Tad glowered at her.

Velma sighed. "Look, I took the Alternate Reality Survival module in Heroing 101, and I passed with flying colors." Largely because Halloween had already been abducting her on a regular basis by the time she had to take her finals. "I didn't want to worry you by bringing up something that had already happened, was already over, and wasn't going to happen again."

"How can you be so sure that it's not going to happen again? Dimensional instability is a thing, Vel. A real thing we have to really worry about."

"Because Torrey's here." Velma looked at him gravely. "She wasn't originally from the timeline I got sucked into. Her original dimension was destroyed in some sort of freak time travel accident, and then she wound up caught in that other timeline, which was never supposed to exist in the first place. Me leaving...I popped it somehow." Where "somehow" was code for "the holidays created it to teach me a lesson, and after I was finished, they didn't need it anymore." "So Torrey wound up in dimensional freefall. I can't wind up in that timeline again. If I could, then we'd be able to send Torrey home."

"And now you're...what? If Blacklight is really Sparkle Bright, what happens next?"

Velma sat down on the couch. "What happens next is things get complicated."

"Complicated...?"

"She's leaving The Super Patriots. She's at the North Pole right now, since I couldn't exactly keep her here. And tomorrow, we'll start figuring out how we're going to handle things."

"Handle—Vel." Tad sat down heavily next to her. "You're talking about helping the current co-leader of the main team walk away from her contract."

"Yes. She's my friend."

"Vel—"

"Would you want me to leave you? If you were the one who hadn't been able to get out, would you have wanted me to leave you just because it was dangerous to help you get out?"

Tad paused. Took a deep breath. And finally asked, "How can I help?"

Velma smiled.

*

It had been relatively easy to get the couch set up for Tad, who only really needed a pillow, a blanket, and a pack of Sharpies to feel right at home. Velma had kissed him goodnight in the hall, warned Torrey that they would have company in the morning (and that there was male company staying the night), and retreated to her own room, feeling very much like she needed to take a cold shower. Or two. Or three. Or just give up the pretense that cold showers were working, and ask Jackie to put her into the deep freeze. It wasn't that she didn't want to spend more time with Tad in a...well, carnal sense. It was that their relationship hadn't reached that point before she went and got herself pulled into the alternate timeline, where she had technically cheated on him by sleeping with a parallel version of her ex-boyfriend.

Thinking about that too hard made her head hurt, and it was late. Frustrated and worried about what the next day would bring, Velma went to bed.

The smell of pancakes woke her bright and early, at the crack of...Velma cracked one eye open and squinted at the clock. Eleven. The crack of eleven. Well, it was before noon, and as superheroes tended to be a largely nocturnal lot, that was early enough to be indecent. She sat up, yawned, stretched, and put on her bathrobe (stolen from the Crystal Glitter Unicorn Cloud Castle) before leaving her room.

The smell of pancakes was even stronger in the hall, as was the smell of frying bacon. Velma made her way to the kitchen, where Torrey and Tad were sharing space at the stove. Tad was making pancakes. Torrey was frying a wide assortment of breakfast meats—some only half-recognizable—in one skillet, and what looked like an entire pound of bacon in another. Both of them were fully dressed, although their levels of formality were dramatically different: Tad was wearing the clothes he'd had on the night before, and Torrey was...well, Torrey. She never looked less that perfectly put-together, assuming that the current standard of "put-together" was "heading for an Alice in Wonderland vs. War of the Worlds costume party."

Tad noticed Velma standing in the doorway first. He looked up, and smiled. "Hey, sleepyhead. Feeling better?"

"There's bacon. Bacon makes everything better," said Velma.

"It does little to conceal your shameful semi-nudity," sniffed Torrey, without looking away from her assorted meats. "There's company en route. If you'd care to greet them not looking like you're available by the hour, you've got just time enough to change your garb."

"This is my house," said Velma, mildly. "I could kick you out."

"But you won't," replied Torrey.

"Sad but true." Velma looked to Tad. "Company? Company who?"

"Jackie and, uh. Sparkle Bright."

Velma paused. Finally, reluctantly, she asked, "Tad, are you sure you should be here right now? Sparkle Bright doesn't know your secret identity."

"Actually, yes, she does," he said, sounding abashed. "Jackie sort of phoned in on the bathroom mirror while I was, ah..."

"Pissing," supplied Torrey.

"Oh, come on!" said Vel. "How come you say I look like a hooker when I come out in my bathrobe, but you have no problem with bodily fluids?"

"I am a scientist," said Torrey primly. "Everyone must expel waste. Your wardrobe, on the other hand, is a personal choice."

"Anyway," said Tad, before the pair could start flinging things at one another. "Since I wasn't wearing a costume, and Jackie knew me already, she said I should just stay in street clothes and be the mundane boyfriend who knows about superhero stuff, and worry about the revealing myself later. I said that didn't feel right, if you were helping Sparkle Bright get out of The Super Patriots. Long story short, I sort of gave up my secret identity to make your ex-best friend more comfortable."

"...whoa." Velma crossed the kitchen in three steps, put her hand on his shoulder, and kissed him soundly. When she pulled away, she said, "You are the best boyfriend, and I will make it up to you. Possibly with dinner, unchaperoned by roommates or teammates or any other sort of people who aren't us."

"Um, okay," said Tad, looking stunned. "It's a date."

"Great. Now I'm going to go put some clothes on," she shot a glare at the seemingly oblivious Torrey, "before company gets here. Try not to burn down the kitchen?"

"Doing my best," said Tad, and kissed her again, quickly, before she turned and walked away.It was going to be a long day. She could already tell.

*

Ten minutes later, the three of them were settled on the couch, eating breakfast, and waiting for something to happen. The doorbell rang. Velma stood.

"That's our cue," she said, setting her plate aside, and moved to answer. A glance out the peephole confirmed that it was Jackie—whose naturally blue skin couldn't possibly clue the neighbors off to this being the local superhero's house—and a weary-looking Yelena standing outside. She undid the locks, opened the door, and stepped to the side. "Come on in, guys. There's bacon."

"Yay, bacon!" said Jackie, and practically bounded inside, dragging Yelena by the arm. "Delicious, high-calorie, fatty bacon."

Yelena looked like she was about to throw up.

Velma sighed. "Jackie. That's not nice."

"What?" Jackie turned wide, calculatedly innocent blue eyes on Velma. "I'm just singing the praises of bacon."

"Yeah, in front of someone who's been living on a diet plan designed to make her look good in skin-tight spandex for her entire adult life. Have a heart." Velma moved to hug Yelena. "Hey, sweetie. How'd you sleep?"

"Like the dead." Yelena's answering hug was a lot more like clinging than a simple embrace. Velma didn't try to push her away. Yelena had earned a little clinging. "I didn't have any dreams about photo ops or stock prices or anything."

"That'll be the corporate brainwashing starting to wear off," said Tad, from the couch. "Whatever they use on us can't get to the holiday lands. Your subconscious is trying to purge."

Yelena pulled away, blinking at Tad. Then she smiled. "Tad, right? I mean, Graffiti Boy?"

"It's 'Tag' these days," said Tad. "It's nice to see you again."

"You, too." Yelena tucked a lock of long blonde hair behind her ear, gaze shifting to Torrey. The gear-draped redhead was staring at her with something that could only be described as unabashed longing, like she knew better, but couldn't help herself. Yelena's smile wavered, but held. "And you are...?"

"Victoria Cogsworth, registered genius," said Torrey, and put her plate aside. "I fight the criminal element as 'Victory Anna.'"

Yelena laughed. "Oh, like 'Victoriana.' Good one."

Torrey's face fell, longing transmuted into something closer to grief. "Yes, I thought so, too, when it was suggested to me." She stood. "I do beg your pardon. This many powered individuals in a room can only end with someone deciding we need to go on patrol, and I need to collect my pistols before I go up against any of the native ruffians." Then she was gone, fleeing down the hall to her room.

"I..." Yelena blinked. "Did I say something wrong?"

"The situation with Torrey is complicated," said Velma, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand. "She's from a world that doesn't exist anymore, and she's been stranded in a timeline that never existed for the last several years, and right now, she's my roommate. So just go easy on her, okay? She's got a sort of super-science power set thing going on. I think you'll like it." Also she's hopelessly in love with a version of you that's pretty close to the real thing, and I don't know how either of you is going to cope with that, so let's just ignore it for as long as we possibly can, okay?

It was all going to end badly. But for the moment, this was maybe the best way to put that off.

"Um. Okay," said Yelena. Then she paused, putting a hand over her stomach, and gave Velma a hopeful look. "Am I really allowed to eat bacon now?"

Velma grinned.

*

Meanwhile, on the other side of Portland, strange things were afoot in the covered parking garage of a small residential building which had been converted, for a time, into a private dental practice. It was still a private dental practice, and would remain so for another forty-eight hours, at least, until the damned bank came with their closure notices and loan paperwork. As if it was his fault that a superhuman dental practice couldn't find traction in this damp, mold-patched excuse for a major metropolitan area. All the precogs he'd consulted had assured him that this spot would be the site of major superhuman activity.

Maybe he should have asked them for a timeline on that.

But no matter! The men from the bank wouldn't be arriving for days yet, and there was still time to put his final plan into effect. A plan which would, through its sheer daring, guarantee that the name of Dr. Walter Creelman, DDS, would not be forgotten!

The good doctor (who was, by any reasonable measure, really well on his way to becoming the bad doctor) looked at his neat lines of carefully-designed robots and began to giggle. Then he began to chuckle. Finally, giving in to the inevitable, he placed his hands on his hips and began to cackle outright.

Those fools. Those silly, ignorant fools. Someone had to show them. And he, Walter Creelman, DDS, was exactly the Doctor of Dental Surgery to do it.

TO BE CONTINUED...
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