Rise Of Darkness, Part Four: Business Before Pleasure

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(May 3rd)


“So, how are you finding civilian life?” Professor Edwin Terror toyed with his coffee mug as he asked the question, glancing around at the busy coffee shop. Across from him, his former pupil considered the question carefully. Spencer Ecchs had been surprised when the Professor had called him up, mentioning that he was in Boston on business and was interested in catching up – most of his old supervillain acquaintances had long since abandoned him to the corporate world. Under the circumstances, the question wasn't odd – if anything, Spencer had been expecting it twenty minutes ago, when they'd first started talking.

“Profitable.” He said finally, stirring his tea. “Not many supers get involved in the private domain, for some reason. I'm already making a fortune on a few patents, and my pseudotech's really helped the company I work at take off.”

The Professor nodded slowly, his expression unreadable. “I must admit, I was sad to lose you as a student.” He replied. “I always thought that you had more talent than you cared to let on. But as long as you're happy…”

“Well.” Spencer shrugged with practiced ease. “Who needs to be happy, these days? I'm going to be able to retire at 30, if I want to. I'll just wait and be happy then.”

Edwin chuckled. “A cunning life plan. I only wish I had considered it – at that rate, you'll be retired before I am.”

Spencer looked up from his tea. “I can't see you retiring, Professor. It's part of your… I don't know, your 'you'. The world without, what was it, teaching heroes…”

“…the true meaning of fear.” Edwin finished wryly. “God, I remember that catchphrase, although I'm surprised that you do. It was before your time, young man.”

Spencer shrugged. “Face it, Professor. You're a legend. You fought all the greats – Dudeman, the Justicars, the Royalteens, Max Power…” He shook his head. “Back when it mattered.”

“What, the costumed crime? That never really mattered, Spencer.” Spencer looked over in surprise as the Professor smiled paternally. “It was always smoke and mirrors, games that we played to keep ourselves amused. Oh, it would have been nice to get rich off one of those schemes, but the goal was never really power or money. Superheroes, supervillains, it was always about the ego. We wanted to show the world how dangerous we were, how powerful. They wanted to be loved. The new rules…” He trailed off and shrugged. “Formalizing the issue.”

Spencer sighed heavily. “I know, it's just that it seems so much more staged, now. The stakes were real, back then, even if the goals weren't quite what they seemed to be.” He looked over at his mentor. “You still do heisting from time to time, Professor. Why do it? Why not just – I don't know – start a sports team or something?”

The Professor finished his coffee, glancing around the room, and then smiled. “Well, to be honest, it's the thrill. It's not quite the same as it was, but it's amusing to see what the young bucks are capable of. And there are certain… side benefits.”

“Oh?” Spencer raised an eyebrow.

“Indeed. No one studies my experiments particularly closely, as long as they seem to be devoted to my heists. No one questions my actions, because a villain is supposed to behave with secrecy and just a touch of madness. You'd be surprised at what you can get away with, Spencer.”

“Really.” Spencer's voice was casual, but he leaned forwards slightly in his seat.

“Oh, indeed. Why, my recent exploration into reality alteration has been nothing short of astonishing.” Professor Terror's eyes glittered with amusement. “Not much commercial application for it as of yet, I'm afraid. Nothing that you would be interested in.”

“Reality alteration.” Spencer said slowly. “Controlled?”

“Working on it.” Edwin replied. “I'm making great progress, although I've been having some trouble with the halcyon adapters.”

Spencer's eyes narrowed. “I've been working on halcyon adapters at work.” He said suspiciously.

“Have you?” The Professor's face was a mask of innocence. “What an amazing coincidence. You should stop by some time, take a look at my work. Maybe there'll be another patent in it.”

Spencer hesitated. “No. I'm done with villainy.” He said eventually.

“I highly doubt that.” Professor Terror leaned forwards, eyes locking with his student's. “You know what I remember most about you, Spencer? You thrive on challenges. The more difficult the problem, the more interested you become. I suspect that your current job has you absolutely bored out of your mind, just about ready to snap.” He smiled grimly. “Let's see… unless I miss my hunch, you've built some sort of laser in your spare time, and are just about ready to level it at the fools in Marketing.”

“How did you…” Spencer started, then hastily added, “I wasn't planning to use it.” He sighed heavily. “I don't know, Professor. I left villainy for a reason. It's empty. At least in business I have a milestone.”

“Then come help me, Spencer.” Professor Terror's smile grew. “Trust me. If my experiments succeed, we're going to change the world.”

Spencer considered, then downed his tea. “Alright, I'll give it a try. I'm not leaving my job, though. Business is the wave of the future.” He shook his professor's hand firmly.

“To the future, then.” Professor Terror replied.

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