Pistol and attention transfixed upon his traitorous former partner, Neutrino descended the steps a safe distance from where superhero Waveform jogged in the opposite direction, boots ringing on metal, toward the control room exit. Volkow paid little heed to the weapon trained on him; instead he busied himself reading a lengthy caution poster on the nearest wall, with unwarranted interest.
When the room’s heavy doors finally crashed shut, Neutrino’s malice melted into amusement. He holstered the pistol. “You promised his mother behind his back, didn’t you.”
Volkow turned toward him. “Is there any other way?”
“Better him than me.” Neutrino clasped Volkow’s outstretched hand, warmly. “For both our sakes.”
“Indeed. If I reappeared on your mother’s doorstep today, I wager she’d resume booby-trapping her property in a heartbeat.”
“Oh, she’s had the booby-traps set up 24/7 for the past five years just in case.” A grin played on Neutrino’s face. He enjoyed the other man’s earnest, though needlessly dramatic, dejection in light of this news, which served as a bitter reminder that he failed to win and maintain the good graces of a valued comrade’s mother. “And you have really bad luck with those things.”
Volkow dismissed the painfully accurate assessment with a sour sniffle. “Yes, yes, on to more important matters: the other villains.”
Smiling, Neutrino folded his arms. “I’m certain—as certain as I can be, anyway—that the bosses of Revell City’s underbelly are still oblivious that I’ve joined you in your newfound anti-evil tendencies; and no one is wise to our plan to topple the top bosses for Waveform.” He flicked Volkow’s wrist casually. “Hey, you know, arranging ‘incidental’ meetings like this to keep suspicion off my back is getting seriously out of hand. This one was beyond elaborate and—while I’m incredibly proud of it—I am clean out of ideas.”
He followed Volkow’s distracted gaze to the device attached to the floor. Neutrino added, “We could’ve used a fake one.”
Volkow knelt by the device and considered it with regret. During his youth he’d invented a great many terrible things. “Waveform’s seen enough of my inventions,” he said, working to deactivate it, “he would’ve spotted a fake in an instant.”
Neutrino watched him work, and reminisced. “Remember how the bosses used to brag whenever we worked for one of ’em, rubbing it in the other bosses’ faces? Like kids showing off who has the bigger water gun, or whose dad has a cooler car. But they’ve realized you were the brains of our outfit and, now, they’re scared. It’s as plain as day. The idea of squaring off with you terrifies them.” He chuckled. “I know you don’t care for it one way or another, but it makes me happy.”
When Volkow initially became a criminal, he had no intention of climbing the ranks of the feared to be the best, and he certainly never kept tabs on the outrageous rumors that trailed in the wake of his devious exploits. The tremendous infamy surrounding his name meant little to him. If anything, he found it amusing. For this reason villain bosses preferred to employ him above others since he was powerful, reliable, and displayed no interest in the ongoing grapple for power.
The device’s quiet hum powered down into a soothing silence. “I promise you,” said Volkow as he replaced the lid and secured it. “This ruse of ours will be over in no time then you’ll finally be free to raise your new family in peace.”
“And Waveform? We should tell him.”
“Not yet.” Volkow rose with a good-naturedly scoff. “That man can’t lie to save his life and his bumbling attempts to be dishonest in favor of our plan would likely prove more suspect than if you were caught red handed. Which brings me to the Pier 11 phase of the plan—I successfully carried it out. It’s complete.”
“And, on my end, the L. Fischer Lighthouse phase is complete as well.”
A hearty laugh erupted from Volkow. “We may help Waveform win the day yet! But for now…” He slapped Neutrino’s arm lightly. “You slip out past the authorities; and I’ll make it look like you put up a good fight and got away, and of course I’ll get rid of this.” He indicated the harmless device.
After sharing a brief farewell embrace with Volkow, Neutrino raced away up the steps he’d come by and yanked open one of the heavy doors, incognizant of the speechless superhero lurking in the deep shadow of one of the pillars surrounding the exit.