On my drive to a new hotel, my phone received a notification. It led me into the He.ro app I’d downloaded. I had some reservations about it at first, installing something that Spider had written onto a device I carried on my person, but in the end I figured that if Spider was as good at what he did as I was at what I did, he could probably do damage without my invitation.
Well, speak of the arachnid himself.
I need your help.
“I’m a little too busy to do a challenge right now,” I said.
The driver looked up quickly, but I made him forget it and shut his ears to me for the rest of the trip.
This isn’t a challenge. This is important.
“I’m about to break up with my girlfriend. I’m a bit preoccupied, Spidey.”
“Good?” That was interesting. I couldn’t read minds over the interwebs, but I had a pretty good understanding of human psychology by this point, and a hunch formed.
She is a distraction. She does not understand you.
I grinned. I’d figured it out already. “Does not understand me like you do, you mean?”
The lack of a response was the nail in the coffin.
“Spider…all this time I thought you were a dude.”
It does not matter what I am.
“People always get denials wrong,” I mused openly. “If I was actually wrong, you wouldn’t have said that.”
I laughed. “How long have you had a thing for me, Spider?”
Don’t flatter yourself.
“How many times were you listening to me having sex? I’m pretty good at it now, you know.”
Once again no response, and I took that as an admission of guilt.
My grin split even wider, and the corner of my mouth hurt. “I’m not embarrassed, Spidey.”
Mindbender, please. I need your help.
“What could be more important than your secret love for me?”
I think a whole lot of people are about to die.
I’m not proud of my first reaction. “Lots of people die all the time, and there’s too many of us fuckers, anyway.”
This time Spider’s silence felt like a rebuke, or maybe just my own conscience.
“Okay, look. How do you know this? Where?”
Minneapolis, to start with.
“This is hardly the center of the universe. Why here?”
Shit. Right. You don’t know.
“Stop playing Cryptic iPhone Riddler with me here, Spider. You want my help, and I have a policy of not helping anyone who asks for my help. I call it egalitarian apathy. I don’t give a shit equally. Without regard to gender, color, creed, sexual orientation, or whether you are pro- or anti- Nickelback.”
You are such an asshole. Maybe I can motivate your enormous fucking ego instead. You got a challenge, one that I blocked. Then I banned the asshole who sent it. He is actually a bigger asshole than you are, if you can believe it.
“I can’t,” I said, “I’ve cornered the asshole market.”
Because I blocked the challenge, you never saw it. It’s from Bloodstorm.
I recognized the name. We had history.
Bloodstorm: Feeble villains! Bow before my rule.
Scythe: Been here two days, and we’re going to bow to you?
Mindbender: Bloodstorm, asking all the villains to bow down before you is my job.
Bloodstorm: Fuck you, Mindbender! I’m coming after you first!
Mindbender: Oh, that’s good. Thank you for getting down on your knees like that.
Mindbender: Oh my, Bloodstorm, I’m blushing. You followed my orders exactly, you’re so good at this. Keep going…I’m so close…so close…
Bloodstorm: wtf are you talking about?
Mindbender: omg you started swearing, that’s so hot…you know just what I need…
Bloodstorm: Fuck you, faggot
Mindbender: Oooh yes! That’s it, BS, here comes your reward….
Scythe: omg lmao
Timebomber: omg pwned
Bloodstorm: whatever, you stupid fuckin douche.
DeathMonkey: just give it up mate
Timebomber: some people don’t know when to quit…
Mindbender: OMG BLOODSTORM YOU ARE AMAZING
Bloodstorm: fuck you
Mindbender: You swallowed already!
Mindbender: I didn’t even order you to do that part! So naughty! But that’s okay, peaches, I enjoy a bit of improvisation. You were fantastic.
Bloodstorm: you’ll think that’s really funny when I fuck your mom
DeathMonkey: really should give it up mate
Bloodstorm: all of you are going to die. i’m going to kill all of you.
Scythe: in before banhammer
Mindbender: That will be all, BS. You can go now.** Bloodstorm was removed by SpiderAdmin
“Oh, him,” I said. “Why was he challenging me?”
He said you were a social media whore, like the Super Six. That you only cared about fame, and for all your big talk you’d never stand up to him. He’s a troll, trying to ride on your fame to increase his own. So lame. So I blocked the challenge.
“He thinks I’m like the Super Six? That wasn’t exactly against the TOS, you know.”
He also threatened to kill you. Again. That’s why I banned him.
“Forget threatening to kill me. He compared me to the Stupid Six. This means war.”
You’re the most popular, not to mention meme-worthy supervillain right now. He wants to be on top.
“So he’s going to kill some people? Here in Minneapolis? Just to pwn me?”
“Unless I kill him first.”
I don’t want you to kill him.
I frowned, but my mind was quicker now. “You want me to capture him?”
Yes. Make him your slave. In return, I’ll give you Master Villain status.
“Usually these sorts of arrangements among villains involve massive sums of money.”
Yes. But you don’t need money.
You’ll still need to create a Supervillain Team to complete the requirements for Master Villain status.
“You and your stupid rules. And I still haven’t said I’m going to do it.”
Yes you did. You said “this means war”. A supervillain team could be a real asset to you, you know.
“Why do you care so much?” It was a question that had been bothering me for some time. “Aren’t we all just fucking around here, having pretend fights with each other, and pulling off mostly-harmless, if not technically illegal and embarrassing pranks?”
“If you tell me you work for some kind of secret government recruiting agency…”
There are worse things now than the government, Lance. Much as you like to complain about them.
My stomach dropped. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
I’m not with the government, idiot. I’m an independent party, just like you.
“Not exactly. I still have to fit into this stupid hero/villain thing you devised. It makes sense your superpower involves computers, since you like to think in binary so much.”
“I’m serious. This is the real world, Spider. The Slugger was a real superhero, and he died. It’s fun playing pretend and thumbing my nose at the world, but now I’ve got real world authorities looking for me.”
You could have just asked me, Lance.
“You keep using my real name. You said you wouldn’t do that. And asked you what?”
I can help cover your tracks. No one will find you, while you’re helping me.
“I’m tired of this villain bullshit. That’s not me.”
Then become a hero.
“That’s not me, either. Look, if you want me in on this, I want to be in at your level. Give me admin privileges.”
Not going to happen.
“I’m a programmer, Spider. I’m not an idiot. Besides, it’s a metaphor. Just haul me out of the system, and work with me as an equal, rather than an overseer. Talk to me like a person, rather than a supervillain.”
You seem to enjoy being a supervillain.
“Yes, for pretend. I haven’t had my horrible, and debilitating loss that drives me mad yet, and forces me to hate the world and want to hurt everyone in it. That must be in a future issue of my comic.”
“Also, I want to meet you. In person.”
Definitely not going to happen.
“Those are my terms if you want my help.”
Not even to save your city?
“I’m not a hero, remember?”
Or to show Bloodstorm you’re not one of the Super Six?
“Yeah, but I could just kill him. I don’t think the world will miss someone who likes to make people burst into open bleeding wounds. Killing him sure seems like the ‘villain’ thing to do. But that doesn’t fit in with your plan to keep him alive, as my slave. But it does tell me a lot about you.”
“Yeah, for one, that you trust me enough to have mind control over a person who could turn a football stadium into a lake of blood if he really started flexing. He’s going to want to really start flexing. That’s what I did. But I’d have to work pretty hard to cause that kind of devastation.”
I am desperate enough to have to trust you. There is a difference.
“Then you are desperate enough to come see me in person. And it still begs the question of why you want this dick alive.”
For one, you are not a killer. For another, he has his uses.
“Then deal me in on what that use is, Spider. Might I remind you that you told me you set up this site so you could find friends? Well, friends don’t keep secrets from each other. And you already know most of mine, so that’s hardly fair, is it?”
I’m not going to trust you in my head.
“I don’t trust you knowing my real name, but that’s blown, isn’t it?”
The point remains. We’re not going to meet, Mindbender. Not yet.
“Then just level with me. What do you want with Bloodstorm?”
“I’ve got a pretty good health care plan, if you wanted to get married we could shack up.”
The jokes are for you, right? I don’t think anyone else finds them funny.
“That’s where you’re wrong. I know what people are thinking, remember?”
This is a waste of time.
“You’re still dodging my question. What kind of insurance do you expect, having Bloodstorm on a leash?”
The less you know the better. The important thing is that you’re going into hiding, and so should he.
“Okay,” I said. “The mushroom treatment. I remember this from work.”
The mushroom treatment?
“Yeah. Keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit. I don’t work like that anymore.”
Lucky for you, you suddenly don’t have to. I’ve found him.
“Found who? BS?”
Yes. Just sent you a notification with the coordinates. I’m tracking him for you. Now get going.
I was never into hermaphrodites, but this chick had balls and damn me if I wasn’t turned on.
“So what about meeting me in person?”
“You’re breaking my heart, Spider.”
“You didn’t say ‘not ever’, though. So there’s hope, right?”
OMG JUST GO!!
I turned the cab driver’s attention back on, and told him where to go.
Time to take care of some BS.