Part 1 of a prose story set aboard Space Station 10. This will force me to finish it. Enjoy! Part 2 to follow within 48 hours.
Space Station 10: Wali and the Supervillain
The supervillain wanted to monologue, and Commander Wali wasn’t having any of it.
“You think your pathetic brig on Space Station 10 can hold me?” the man—Wali thought his name might’ve been Dr. Dangerous—sneered.
“I’ll make your precious guards bleed and beg—“ he spat from behind the blue electric barrier. The blue electric barrier was shockingly effective, Wali thought, and then groaned at her accidental pun. It was though. It had foiled more brilliant minds than Dr.—Damnation?
“Look, Bob,” Wali said, knowing full well that wasn’t his name.
“It’s Dr. DERANGED!” Deranged’s neatly trimmed gray beard quivered with coiled-up rage.
“Right. Doctor Dangerous.” Wali held up a hand to stifle his protests. “There are a dozen well-secured facilities on the planet of Proxima alone. Space Station 11 is larger than us. Space Stations 9 and 7 have more money than us. Why did the Earth Alliance go to the trouble to send you here?”
Deranged laughed a well-practiced supervillain laugh. Wali sighed inwardly and cursed Mac Adams. Somehow, this was all his fault. Allah, Deranged even had a white lab coat. That was clichéd, even for Mac Adams. Hey, reader, Wali thought, just in case she’d suddenly fallen into one of Mac Adams’ prose stories, I know you have questions, and I. DON’T. CARE.
“Heh-heh-heh,” Deranged finished his too-long laugh. “Space Station 10 is notorious for allegedly breaking weaker-minded villains. You FOOLS underestimated me! I made the Jupiter 7 plead for mercy before I slaughtered them. I unleashed the Mind-Beasts of Great Saxon onto the piteous colonies of Mars. I COMMANDEERED a passenger flight on a mission of peace and restarted the civil war of the asteroid belts—“
Wali thought she had seen some of those headlines.
“They sent you here because we. Don’t. CARE,” she said, drawing herself up to her full height of 5’5”. “We don’t. They send us all the supervillains for processing. You do you, Doctor. You want to take over the station? Great. I have paperwork you can do for me. So. Much. Paperwork. Paperwork, and budget cuts, and personnel reports, none of which actually have anything to do with being a leader, which, frankly, I’m good at, if the Earth Alliance weren’t so blasted bureaucratic— anyway. Where was I?”
Dr. Deranged waited. He was not at all accustomed to this response. Usually they bowed down in terror, the fools, whimpering and sobbing and—“I…paperwork?”
“Right. I have some paperwork for you to fill out,” Wali said, and tossed the computer tablet through the specially designed one-way electric barrier. It passed easily through and landed with a thump in front of the slightly perplexed Deranged. He began to laugh, more by default than anything else.
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Commander… but I won’t be filling out any of your precious little paperwork. In fact,”—Deranged cackled—“I’ll show you what I’m going to do!”
Deranged ripped off the top sheet of paper crumpled it up, and stuffed it in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed the paper.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me you poisoned it! Well, I’ll have you know I’ve built up immunities to several different toxins. You see I’m one step ahead—“
“Just a laxative,” said Wali.
Deranged blinked and tried to swallow.
“I’m kidding. I would’ve had to care to do that, and I don’t. So. Seriously, I can print a new top page in ten seconds. If you don’t fill out the paperwork, that means I don’t have to fill out any processing paperwork, and we just toss you a FoodCan™ three times a day so you can eat. Kind of a win-win for us.”
Deranged thought carefully. He was 53 years old and honestly had not encountered anything like this in several years of supervillaining. Decades, really. None of his opponents–not one–had ever pretended not to care. What a strangely unique strategy! Almost brilliant, if one thought about it. And he was thinking about it. His eyes lit up: was Aadila Wali the worthy adversary he had sought for so long?
“Commander,” Deranged said, taking a newly respectful tone, adding a slight bow. “Do you play chess?”
Wali paused. “No,” she said, and turned to leave.
She turned back and Deranged’s heart leapt. She’ll insist on white, he thought. King’s pawn to d4. That’ll be her exit line. No! She’s quirky. She’ll lead with a knight! And then I’ll use Rembrandt’s defense—she’ll never see it coming—
“Let me know if you need us to print a new topsheet. Sooner you fill out the paperwork, sooner you can get back to terrorizing people or, you know, evil schemes or whatever.”
Deranged was genuinely shocked. And nothing shocked him anymore. He stifled a small, plaintive sob. No chess? People just didn’t do that! How–what–did this woman have a will of iron?! They always played chess with you! They couldn’t resist! That was where you traded metaphors and veiled threats and hints of diabolical plans! Without the chess, how was he supposed to taunt them?
Junior Specialist James Lontaro was on guard duty, tall, thin, and wore glasses even though he could’ve gotten his vision corrected to 20/10 in thirty seconds (he was stubborn like that. Wali really liked stubborn). He saw Deranged’s heart break and looked at Wali in awe.
“I love to watch you work,” he whispered. She gave him a professional nod. “JuneSpec,” she said as she walked out of the brig.
It wasn’t until the brig doors were closed behind her that Wali allowed herself to smile. Today might actually be fun.
Of course, Aadila Wali did in fact care quite a lot about a few things: anyone on board her station—correction: anyone on board her station from her universe, plus Junior Specialist Sachi. Sachi, although human was not from this universe, and had not really paid her dues, but she worked hard. But she was irritatingly peppy, so that was a minus. Her station itself. The human and humanoid colonists on Proxima (the planet SS10 rotated around) and about the alien ex-enemy known as “The Honey,” which made her close to unique among those in the Earth Alliance military, since most everyone else wanted the Honey dead. But Wali was a war hero, and they had to listen to her. The command of SS10 had been hers for the taking… because no one else wanted it. It wasn’t a prize job to begin with. Anything that annoyed her mother the Admiral, which Space Station was perfect for.
Wali’s list of cares and likes very much excluded the writer Mac Adams, and Wali was fine with that. She had had a perfectly content, normal, hardworking, ordered life until he somehow showed up in her brig, babbling that he was a writer from another universe and had created this whole world and—well, it wasn’t relevant. Wali was a scientist at heart, as her were her two highest-ranking senior officers, and Mac Adams’ entire schpiel sounded suspiciously noti like science.
And then they got their first supervillain, and the Earth Alliance discovered that the supervillains who went into Space Station 10 cocky, confident and insane came out a week later desperate, pleading, and meek—they’d do anything the E.A. wanted, just don’t send them back to SS10, those people (and three aliens) are INSANE. The Earth Alliance liked this a lot. And Wali’s Executive Officer Elleil (no last name) had pointed out that this would actually be excellent for the upcoming round of budget requests.
Lo and behold, four more broken supervillains over the next four weeks, and Space Station 10 was looking at a 15% budget increase for the next fiscal quarter, minimum when they’d been lucky to avoid cuts for three years running. This made Wali very happy.
Becoming the de facto storage center for supervillains was yet another pain in her behind, but it was a small price to pay for 15 freaking percent.
Elleil caught up with Wali as she walked to the conference room for the morning meeting, where Deranged would dominate the conversation too much. He’s just another prisoner. They can’t expect us to BREAK him. I want to manage expectations. And how did Elleil know where I was going to be?!
“To answer your unspoken question, I saw you leave the brig on the security camera feed in my office. And I know how fast you walk,” Elleil answered. “A good X.O. should anticipate her commander’s needs. And I am…”
“A very good X.O.” Wali had no trouble admitting this. Elleil, at age 48, was both older and with fewer years (just four) in the E.A. than most X.O.s, and Wali liked both those things. Old enough to not be overly ambitious, recent enough to not be completely polluted by the E.A.
“So,” said Elleil. “I noticed you…made a change for the security guard arrangements.”
“We start with the far-too-supportive JuneSpec Lentaro. Switch to JuneSpec Ian at his most miserable. And then JuneSpec Sachi to finish off Deranged. She could make anyone beg for mercy. Especially when they think they’ve escaped Lentaro.”
Elleil had no trouble conceding the effectiveness of this lineup. If you added their Chief Engineer Chantay Lincoln and their 2nd officer and communications officer Trantor Pinacae (his DNA was 40% plant, though he looked mostly human), you had the prison guard equivalent of the 1927 Yankees—if not a murderers’ row, then close. Elleil had one complaint.
“You removed Mac Adams from my lineup? He…to use a baseball metaphor, ‘bats cleanup.’ He, to use another baseball metaphor, can ‘steal right field.’ ” Elleil had gotten really into baseball lately.
“No,” said Wali. “Out of the question. Mac Adams is utterly untrained. We only let him stay on this station because he has nowhere else to go.”
“I think you need to trust my instincts, Commander,” Elleil said. “I think we cannot break Deranged otherwise,” she added.
“I don’t care,” said Wali, but this was no longer precisely true. She suddenly wanted to break Dr. Deranged. She wanted to break him a lot. Like an…like an insert baseball metaphor here, she thought. Literally, the words ‘insert baseball metaphor.’ She knew nothing about the game.
To be continued.