Early Retirement

Blood Guzzler finally looked at peace. His look of fear frozen on his face when I pushed him off the cliff face earlier had eased. Now his body served as a makeshift door for our shelter. In the light of Helios, his eyes finally thawed and could close. Blood Guzzler. What an awful name. I wish I had known him better. We met before Mount Logan but I always put him off. To be fair, he was off-putting. To know that I’d never get the chance to really know him was painful. Not in a ‘wish we could have been friends’ sort of way, mind you, but more like ‘his life was so shallow and short why bother’ sort of way. He was a symbol of my own life. Violent and meaningless. Who would remember him now? Who would remember me for that matter?

My nemesis, Hildi the Hunter, was crushed by a giant robot for Devil’s sake. I have no children. I never conquered the Earth or destroyed a civilization. There would be no statues of me if I die in this frozen cave. I put so much of myself in fighting Hildi that I lost the reason I even became a villain in the first place.

We can’t all be the Amazing ‘look at me aren’t I so flipping great’ Richard.

Count Smackdown rubbed his hands together and held them closer to Helios. I had convinced him to wear a snowsuit but he was uncomfortable. Anything more covering than a unitard was obscene to him. A crooked yellow smile stretched across puffy red cheeks. He seemed like he was enjoying our adventure. This wasn’t about treasure or glory for the Count. He tagged along for the drama. He wanted the thrill of the fight. If he made it to Shadowdoom’s treasure first, it would be a bonus. I’d seen him snap men in half just because he liked the sound. I am comforted that he sees me as an equal. I would sleep soundly if I felt the need. Unlike Spell Bandit.

The mage pulled his poncho around himself closer. He shook like he was cold but I knew better. He had a pistol-wand trained on each of us hidden from view. His eyes dropped while he fought to stay awake. Spell Bandit’s clothes were threadbare. Without Captain Havoc Senior around to keep his name in the papers, he’d had trouble finding work. He had confided in me while he served one of his sentences at the Mountain. I guess he thought we were similar since we both lost a nemesis. He was nothing like me. He needed this score to stay relevant and fed. I need this score to make my come back. People will fear Baron Von Kill once more.

As soon as Spell Bandit gave in to sleep, he’d end up like Waterdog. Frozen to death where he sits. Like a good boy. Someday some hikers might find him. There could be a news story about how weird it is. Maybe a Buzzfeed article about funny super villain deaths.

His body would be close to the Witness’s. Well, he could have survived. It was hard to tell in the commotion. When Count Smackdown tricked Broc Slides into causing the avalanche, Witness had tried stopping his powers from bringing down Mount Logan. It had been enough time for me to give him an atomic wedgie. I had slipped the waistband of his underwear over his power sapping eyes, and shoved him off the cliff. He fell heels over head slapping against each rocky outcropping as snow chased after him.

At least Witness took his defeat well. Broc Slides cried the entire time Count Smackdown drove him into the ground. The boy tried to use his rock powers to stop it. Through pure force, the Count drove him like a railroad spike. He didn’t have time to finish the job, unfortunately, before the avalanche blew us off the ridge.

We fell together with Helios. Hitting a flat section of the mountain, snow us buried alive. The fire from the old man, yet, soon created an ice cavern around us. Blood Guzzler’s body happened to fall nearby. We used him to keep out the harsh night winds.

I turned my attention to Helios. In his prime, he fought Moonglow. His evil had threatened the entire solar system. Now he was fighting to keep his flame lit against the snow. He wore simple white robes with a gold laurel crown. He meditated.

Count Smackdown rubbed his hands together. He said, “Getting a bit chilly, Helios. Mind turning up the heat?”

The old man didn’t reply yet he flickered and brightened. Water trickled from the walls. His lips pulled into a tight smile. He was showing off or wanted us to think that he is. I felt it though. A slight tremor in his output. He was weakening.

“Count Smackdown,” I said. “May I have one of your power bars?”

The big man smiled wider. He reached toward a backpack at his side.

“Hey, partner!” Spell Bandit’s poncho was rattling now. “Just keep y’all’s hands where I can sees ‘em.”

We all froze for a moment. The tension in the cave rose as did Helios’s fire. The Count started to open his mouth but a low moan made us all jump. We turned our attention to Blood Guzzler but his body was still. The moan made us jump a second time. Farther into the cave, we could hear something cracking, crumbling, and loosening. Spell Bandit didn’t even hide his pistol-wands now. Their smooth metal barrels aimed at the end of the darkened passage.

“Well,” I said. “Go check it out.”

Spell Bandit shook his head. “No way. This is some kind of trap. You first.”

“When would I have found the time, dear sir?” I gestured to myself like I’m hurt. “Come, let’s investigate together.”

Count Smackdown scooted closer to Helios. He said, “Call if you need us.”

Together, Spell Bandit and I crept through the cave. He ignited one of his wands with a light spell and kept the other aimed at the darkness. We continued till the ice passage narrowed. We moved forward in a single file with him up front. His light reflected off a wall of ice. Moving the light up the wall, we could see a figure frozen under the glassy surface. It was hard to make out but it looked like a person. The light crept up the body to reveal a face freed from the ice.

It. Spoke.

“IT’S BEEN AN EON!”

“Devil’s blood!” I cried out. “You scared the hell out of me Eon.”

He was stuck to the wall. He tried to free himself but only had one arm lose. He flailed an arm at me. “Its… been… an EON!”

Eon caught Spell Bandit by the shoulder. The mage aged rapidly. His skin cracked, wrinkled, and paled. He fired off three shots into Eon’s chest. The ancient man frozen to the wall didn’t even flinch. Spell Bandit collapsed to the ground. He aged sixty years in the span of a few seconds. All that was left was a dried husk. A shell of their former glory.

That could have been me on the ground. My face stretched into a pained scream. Terror running down my cheeks. Spell Bandit had lost track of his goals. He had been rash. Greed blinded him. His ambitious shortsighted. That won’t be me on the ground.

I reached for Eon’s face as he reached for my hand. Poison gas erupts from mine hand. It engulfed his head and his body went slack.

“It’s… been… an…”

I closed his eyes. “Rest, you have another long sleep ahead of you.”

Count Smackdown slapped me across the back. He said, “Nice double kill, pal.”

I shook my head. Behind the muscle-bound man, the light of Helios was darkening. I said, “It all seems so meaningless. The death. The killings. The villainy. Is there a point to any of this?”

Count Smackdown shrugged. He said to me, “I’ve never been much of a thinker. That’s always been your schtick. As long as we’re free committing crimes together again, I’m content.”

I started to think about the inevitability of death. In the Mountain, I didn’t have the luxury of freedom. The weight of choice. We had schedules. Routine. Our every movement was thought out. Planned. It was like clockwork and we were the cogs and gears. Now we were broken clock pieces floating in an ocean of trash.

As I was spiraling into this vortex of existential horror the big lug patted my chest with the back of his hand. It nearly knocked the air out of my chest. He pointed with the other at Eon. The ancient man turned to dust. Where he had been frozen revealed a metal wall. The Count raised an eyebrow at me and motioned to the wall. I nodded. Using both hands, I sprayed acid down the entire section. It hissed on contact till an oval section was missing.

We stepped inside a darkened room. Our footfalls echoed on a steel gangway. We reached a handrail. We were right next to Shadowdoom’s vault the whole time.

“Finally, with this treasure trove of doomsday devices, the world will be ours. We’ll raze every jail to the ground. We’ll crush every bank and even the concept of money from the world. With this armament of pure evil, we’ll…”

The automated lights clicked on. Section by section, fluorescence flooded the room. The bright white light covered every surface. Every empty surface. Every inch of horrible, terrible, awful empty space.

A single handwritten note laid at the bottom of the room. I flew down the stairs three at a time. My heavy boots clunk on each fall. Count Smackdown ran after me. I’m quicker than him though. He stopped and called out after me but I didn’t hear him. I raced to the note and snatched it up. The Count leap from catwalk where he stopped chasing and landed on his feet effortlessly.

My handed rattle with anger holding that note. I felt my face flushed with heat. I crumpled the letter up and threw it down. I stomped on it and screamed. I kicked at the air and cursed the stars.

Count Smackdown picked up the wadded piece of paper. He read it out loud:

“Dear Idiots,

Sorry for whatever trouble you went through for this vault. I needed Shadowdoom’s weaponry more than you. There may still be some wine in the break room. Enjoy!

Kind regards,

-Reggie.”

Smackdown chuckled and said, “Sweet, free wine.”

“Do you know what this means?” I asked. “The Immortal Reggie has my doomsday devices..”

He shrugged.

“It means… I have a new nemesis. No matter what I do. No matter what it takes. I will kill Reggie!” I said all this with the gusto and flourish of a Shakespearean actor. I made wide sweeping motions with my arms and thrust my fist at the air.

The Count clapped. He said, “Didn’t that jerk die?”

I reply, “He’s… Immortal… It’s in the name.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.

We stood still. I was formulating a plan. The Count seemed bored. He whistled and looked around. I snapped my fingers together.

I said, “I’ve got it. I heard something in the Mountain about Reggie. I have a plan but we’ll need a patsy. A real moron that will do anything we tell them.”

A body wearing a leather one-piece hit the ground next to us with a wet dull smack at that very moment. I jumped and Count Smackdown caught me. We both looked at the body and the gangway they fell from. The body turned over with blood running out of their mouth.

“Blood Guzzler,” the leather-suited freak said.

I jumped out of the Count’s arms and clasped my hands. I say, “Mr. Guzzler, I’m so pleased you survived. You must be a regenerator. I have a job for you.”

And just like that, I had a purpose once again. A meaning. A plan. I was a clock once more. I was finally at peace.

To be continued.

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