Party 7-II

Crash the Party.

Surprisingly enough, the trash of the supervillain world didn’t have their bar in a classy area of town. And here I was expecting marble pillars and a valet.

The small building was rundown and decaying; most of the bits that hadn’t yet fallen off were well on their way to doing so. Two stories, squat and stocky, it looked like it had been a bar in its past life, or, judging by the age, a saloon. Maybe even a tavern.  The windows were dark, and at first, silent, but if you really listened, you could hear the faintest mumble of conversation, just barely audible over the sounds of the city.

I pushed open the rotting door, and watched as it fell forward with a thud, and a squelch. I walked over the decayed wood to avoid stepping over the pile of crap that lay across the narrow hallway (that’s crap in the sense of ‘old junk’, and also crap in the sense of ‘literal human waste’). Freefall and Flatline followed close behind, Freefall sniffing as she smelled the place's odor. It was an unpleasant mix of old alcohol, dried blood and all-too-fresh sewage, and given what lay behind the false wall at the end of the corridor, it suited the place perfectly.

I rapped my knuckles on the false wall, and a section of paneling slid back and to the side. Behind it emerged a pair of beady eyes, belonging to the doorman of this dive. With a face not even a mother could love, a pathetic physique and an even worse power, Rat was the butt of the villain "community". His power gave him an affinity with rodents, obviously; not enough to actually control them, but they generally listened to him. The only reason he was the door guard for a place like this was because the people who frequented this dump liked to see him get hurt.

As for how that happens...

The sneer on his face slid away as he recognized us, and he froze in horror.

"Evening, Rat," I said cordially into the slot, then leant back and kicked the door open in his face.

There's a trick to breaking down doors. Most people just aim straight for the handle, and get nothing but a twisted ankle for their trouble. It's actually the strongest part of the door, and bones aren't stronger than metal (well, most people's aren't). You don’t want to try and break the hinges, either, for much the same reason. What you want to do, instead of trying to break the bit that’s designed to not break, is try and separate that bit from the weaker rest. If you kick just next to the knob and lock with enough force, you can break the whole assembly off: then, the door will just swing open. It’s like lifting an engine block: not easy, but pretty simple. It is possible to kick the entire thing off, but it takes a lot more force, and more precision. In this particular case, though, the hinges weren’t attached very well, so I got the same effect for a lot less work.

There was a crunch as the wood splintered, and the door smashed inwards, sending Rat flying backwards, blood streaming from his nose. The low buzz of conversation that had been humming along in the background halted, and as we stepped through the ruined doorway, all eyes were on us.

It's known as the Shithole. Not by the people who frequent it, or at least not officially, but the circles we moved in stuck with the nickname (we don’t move in any circles. That was a joke). I think, officially, it was called something like the Ball and Chain, but really, Shithole was more appropriate. If you've ever been to a dive bar in your life, you'd probably feel right at home. If you’ve ever been a rodent, insect or other pest in your life, you’d probably also feel right at home. Moldy slats covered a dirt floor, misaligned and splintered. The tables, chairs and bar were all the same, except that most of them were stained with beer and vomit. The lighting was shit-brown, the walls were shit-brown, and I'd be willing to bet that the beer was shit-brown too. Or, knowing the place, possibly just shit. 

The clientele, though, were anything but typical. Aside from the bartender, every single one of the thirty-odd people in the room was in costume of some kind. Some bright and garish, others dull and dirty, they all had one thing in common: they were ugly as hell. These weren't the high class super villains, and they sure didn't have wealth and taste. These were the put-upons, the dirty and the destitute, the scum that wasn't floating to the top any time soon. They didn't plan elaborate heists, they held up corner stores. They didn’t hold the President hostage, they mugged people. They, quite frankly, were pathetic, and the Shithole was where they came to bitch and moan about the supervillains that were actually deserving of the title.

A happy side-effect of all that complaining, though, was that they often had a good ear to the ground when it came to supervillain crimes (possibly because they were so close to the ground in the first place), and that's why we were here. If the idea that George suggested was to have any chance of developing into a full-blown plan, we needed information. 

There was some shock on the faces that stared at us, but not much. This was a villain bar, after all; they were used to people doing the door kicking thing. 

"Good evening!" Given that it was night, I'd not bothered with the scarf around my face, so the grin that was plastered across it was clearly visible. "Before anyone does anything stupid-"

A bolt of crackling electricity shot towards us, but Flatline stretched an arm into its path, and as soon as it touched his skin it disappeared. The man who’d shot it at us froze, arm still outstretched.

"-I'd remind you that the three of us could beat all of your asses raw," I finished smugly. "Anyone else wanna take a shot?"
None of them moved, but judging by their faces, it was still entirely possible one of them would try something. Secretly, I was glad that someone had already, and even gladder that whoever it was that fired off that shot used electricity. With Flatline's effortless shutdown of it, at least some of them probably thought he was a power nullifier, and that prospect was a pretty good deterrent. Lemme tell you, and this is me speaking from personal experience, there’s not a lot that’s more frustrating than watching your best shot fizzle into nothing, and these guys and gals had egos more fragile than fine china.

"Oh good, you can learn," I sneered. It was fun, getting to mock supervillains like this. These people were criminals, and it meant I could be the absolute asshole that I normally couldn't. And don’t you start making finger quotes, I am nowhere near as bad as I could be. Basically, dealing with these people meant I got to ham it up, and there was no way in hell I wasn't milking that for everything it was worth. 

“So,” I proclaimed, strolling over to the nearest table, “you’re probably wondering what this is all about.” I considered hopping up on top of it, but decided against it; having the high ground stops being an advantage pretty quickly when it collapses out from underneath you, and in a place like this, that was a distinct possibility.

Behind me, Freefall and Flatline had taken up positions on either side of the door, and observed silently. They were used to dealing with situations like this; when talking with villains, me and Ricochet were usually front and center. We could shit-talk like no-one else, if I do say so myself.

“Shut the fuck up, Skew,” a voice called from the back of the room. I recognized it; Spoiler, a minor villain who mainly focused on armed robbery. Her power gave her a weak decay effect on non-organic materials; not strong enough to collapse a wall or do anything major, but enough to fuck with machinery or anything fragile. She mostly did armed robbery, and I’d busted her a couple of times, left her for the ‘heroes’ to come pick up. Of course, she’d obviously escaped. They always escaped, but there was fuck-all I could do about that. “The fuck you think you are, coming in here? There’s ten times as many of us; fuck off, or we’ll fucking kill you.” 

She was also a big ol’ pottymouth.

I turned to her and gave her my best condescending smile. “I’m sure you’ll try. Hush now, the adult is talking.”

She snarled, and rose, but a minor use of my power sent her back down into the front of the chair, causing it to slide backwards as she slid off the front and hit the ground with a heavy thump. It was about power with these people. The three of us weren't actually powerful enough to defeat thirty-odd supervillains, even ones as shitty as these: at a certain point, it really did just come down to numbers. But there were metahumans out there who could, possibly without even breaking a sweat, and what we were doing was getting them wondering if maybe we could too. Flatline had stopped the lightning bolt cold, and now I'd effortlessly disabled Spoiler before she'd even manage to stand. With luck, they'd-

A rippling wave of laughter swept across the room, spiteful and mocking, and my fists involuntarily clenched. It wasn't directed at me, though; for some reason, all the humor was directed at Spoiler. I turned my head slightly so that Freefall could see my face and, checking that none of the villains were watching us, mouthed the word What? at her. 

I couldn't see her eyes behind the blue-tinted aviator's goggles, but I suspected they were mocking as she mouthed clumsy back, which really just served to confuse me. I tilted my head at her questioningly. What, did she mean that I'd used my power clumsily? What would she know?

She sighed silently, mouthed the word again and tilted her head towards where Spoiler was still lying on the floor, face bright red and furious. It took me a second, but I finally got it. They thought she was clumsy. They didn't realize that I'd had anything to do with it.

Huh. Well, that was annoying. I briefly considered just leaving it, and with a different crowd I might've done; it'd deflected their attention, and some of their unpleasantness, away from us quite nicely. But my instincts were telling me that that wasn't the right way to be handling this crowd. I needed them focused on us, and I needed them uncertain that they could handle us. 

Spoiler was finally getting off the ground, profanity streaming from her mouth. As she pushed herself up, I used my power again, turning her upward momentum sideways and sending her crashing into the ground once more. This time, though, I snapped my fingers as I did it, and when she fell this time, the attention of the room was all on me. 

I gave a mocking grin, baring my teeth. "Sit... stay."

That garnered the reaction I wanted. Some of the gazes were hostile, but others were hesitant, and no-one wanted to be the one to make the first move.

This whole situation with the bag and the datapad had had me stressed recently. I’m a pretty simple person, and I like problems I can solve by punching them. I normally left big-picture stuff to Talie, but with her absence I’d been forced to step up, and I did not like it, Sam-I-am. I didn’t really have the skillset to deal with complicated stuff.

A roomful of scared, violent criminals with superpowers, though?

This, I thought, this I can work with.