Alright. I’m starting to understand what Pebbles meant by chaotic tedium. The plan started well enough. Trebla attacked, Hellion’s Henchmen stormed the building, and civilians screamed a bunch. Some of the people inside the building were then taken as hostages.
“...WHICH IS WHY FORTRESS CITY MUST CEDE TO MY DEMANDS!...”
But, after that phase of the plan was completed, things got a little stranger.
“... I ALONE CAN PLAN FOR THE UNFORESEEN! WITHOUT MY GRAND VISION FORTRESS CITY WILL SUFFER CONSTANT CHAOS!...”
It was my understanding that robbing a bank meant stealing money from it. Not making a speech on the front steps of the building. True, he was also shooting at any cop cars that showed up, but that was more a consequence of the plan rather than a part of it.
“...FEAR NOT! FOR MY RULE WILL BE BENEVOLENT, AND JUST!...”
Part of my uneasiness with the current state of affairs was that I hadn’t known about this ‘speech’ part of the plan. It had been labeled under “Trebla distracts the heroes,” but I felt it should have been labeled “Trebla attracts the heroes” instead. I didn’t understand how this helped us rob the bank. I was curious, but my requests to Lia that I be provided with a complete set of the plans, including Trebla’s portion, had been denied, citing security risks.
Oh well. I’m sure whatever Trebla was aiming for had to be important. Either way I had a job to perform...
[Zaps: Hey Tofu, I’m not seeing the room I’m looking for.]
[Tofu: You’re at the fifth floor intersection?]
[Zaps: ...ah. Fifth floor.]
...tedious though it may be. Did nobody read their packets? My mask had a constant stream of texts coming in from minions who were out of place. Luckily the masks had a handy little voice-to-text feature to keep the radio uncluttered.
I was in the lobby of the bank, a large chamber that took up most of the first two floors of the building. A lot of polished stone, metal, and glass went into making this room as impressive as possible. Obviously this ‘banking’ faction did quite well for itself. I sometimes wonder why architecture seems so varied among human dwellings. Some of it makes sense, such as one building serving a different purpose from another, or when a faction like the Tinker Tots makes modifications that suit them. But what about things like ‘wallpaper’, or ‘carpets’? They had so many different variations of the same thing. How did they ever choose what to use? Mikey had mentioned how bare my apartment was, so I was planning to fill it out more to match a human dwelling, but how should I pick furniture? Or decorations? I wasn’t exactly expecting many visitors, but I’d rather not worry about my den making visitors suspicious.
Maybe I could just take some of the furniture from this place? The chairs here seemed rather comfortable. I’d ask if it fit into the plan later.
I patrolled around the lobby, making a slow perimeter while I answered questions and directed the minions on other floors. Buzzer and Ifrit had gone with their own groups, so that not everyone directing was in the same spot. There were some hostages in one of the lobby alcoves, guarded by Dillo and Spikes, and Olson and Gregor were near the front window of the building keeping an eye on things. I made one more pass of the lobby before I wandered over to Olson and Gregor, to see if anything had changed outside.
“PEOPLE ARE FALLIBLE! THEY MAKE MISTAKES AND I AM NEEDED TO CORRECT THEM! LIKE THE DRAINAGE ON THIRD AND VICTORIA! THE CONTRACTORS SCREWED IT UP!” yelled Trebla from outside.
“Sure does like to hear himself talk,” said Gregor.
“Aw come on, the guy’s hilarious. Right Tofu?” asked Olson.
“Bah, you greenhorns don’t know what you’re talking about. This is top-shelf villainy right here,” replied Olson.
“...AND THE TRAILER FOR GHOSTBUSTERS NINE GAVE AWAY THE ENTIRE PLOT! THE WHOLE THING!”
“...although he does seem to be running out of material. Heroes better get here soon.”
“It’s been seven minutes since we started,” I supplied, “the first hero was supposed to show up at the five minute mark.”
“Ha. Never around when you need them I guess,” said Olson.
“I’ve actually been meaning to ask about that,” I said, “The plan for this robbery doesn’t just assume the heroes will show up, it seems to rely on it. I thought the point of a robbery was to get in and out before they show?”
“Ah, but see, you are assuming that money is the goal here.”
“Well not the main goal. Let me paint a picture for you. How much money do you think we can steal from here?”
I wasn’t really sure how much money the average human had. I’d never worked a regular job. If I used what I had earned so far as a baseline, and did a few calculations based on the estimated population size of this sector...
“A few million dollars?” I guessed.
“Nope, way too high. E12 and the surrounding sectors are crawling with villains and other desperate sorts, who can walk through walls, shoot lasers, etcetera, etcetera. They wouldn’t keep a lot of cash at a branch building like this. Try a few hundred thou, maybe.”
Ah, I could see the problem. “He won’t earn a profit from stealing the money.”
I had earned three thousand from the warehouse robbery job, five thousand total with the bonus they gave me. Multiplied by thirty of Hellion’s powered minions, that was a minimum of ninety thousand just to hire us. Plus he had his own minions to pay, and if anyone got arrested or injured there would be legal and medical fees.
Olson continued, “Now it’s possible he could milk blood from this stone. Ransom the hostages or something. But a guy like Trebla? Nah, he’s a showman. I’ll bet dollars to donuts this is all part of some other scheme he’s got going on. Maybe he’s planting evidence against an enemy, or looking for blackmail material. Maybe he’s planning to steal the entire bank company in a hostile takeover in the stock market. Maybe this is just another domino in some plan that will pay off months from now, or-”
“GOD DAMMIT WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG! GET OUT HERE AND FACE ME!”
“...maybe he just wants to beat up some super heroes on camera.”
I doubted that was the goal. The plan called for cracking open the safes on both the basement and first floors, as well as ransacking the offices on higher floors for important files or computers. He was probably looking for important resources to use in future plans, and fighting the heroes was a means of crippling key figures for later, or something. Using such a detailed plan as just an excuse to fight heroes would be… disappointing…
“Well if he wants to fight a hero I think he’s gonna get his wish,” said Gregor, and he pointed outside the bank.
Walking down the street, almost casually, was a human male in a colorful costume. His pants had a bright red, yellow, and blue pattern. His mask had a matching color scheme, and was full-face, with cutouts for his eyes, mouth, and nose. Strangely, the mask seemed to be made of a cloth material rather than something protective. While he wore no shirt, a shiny yellow cape was draped over his shoulders.
Target recognized: Suprex, E12 hero leader, powers described as “enhanced endurance, flexibility, and strength.”
Estimated threat: High.
I remembered him from when I got arrested, although I hadn’t yet seen him in action yet. Supposedly he never took off the mask, which meant he didn’t have a civilian identity. He approached Trebla, coming to a halt twenty or so feet from him before speaking.
“Señor Trebla, your reputation precedes you. Might I ask why you are causing trouble in my home on this lovely day?”
“YOUR SECTOR HAS THE HONOR OF BEING A STEPPING STONE IN MY CONQUEST OF FORTRESS CITY!”
Suprex laughed, then replied, “A wonderfully optimistic goal. But, I’m afraid we can’t allow that.”
A second human appeared, this one diving down from the sky behind Trebla. The shifting purple light around her identified her as Magenta, her fists extended and glowing as her forcefield concentrated around them. She must have flown over the bank itself to stay outside of Trebla’s line of sight.
She accelerated towards Trebla, no doubt intending to hit him from behind. Maybe someone managed to send a warning, or maybe Trebla had other ways of sensing her, because when she was about twenty feet away he spun and held a palm out towards her. The same energy ray he used on the car shot out, hitting Magenta full-on. Her forcefield held, but the physical force it applied to her counteracted her forward motion, and sent her careening into the side of a building across the street. Hard. She fell to the ground dazed.
Huh. Maybe this part of the plan wasn’t so bad.
Suprex grimaced, then unclasped his cape before throwing it to the side (why have it if he wasn’t going to use it?). Then he charged Trebla, who spun to meet him, and they began to trade blows.
I was about to signal the others to move into the next phase of the plan, when a shout rang out from behind me. I spun to witness Dillo and Spikes being thrown through the air and across the lobby, an impressive feat considering both were of the physically imposing variety of mutants. The woman who had thrown them was another I recognized from my time in E12. Easy to do since she appeared to be composed of a highly reflective metallic substance. It sort of looked as if she was a statue made of the same shiny metal that decorated the lobby. No need for a mask and armor on this one.
Target recognized: Ferrosa, E12 hero, powers described as “enhanced endurance and strength, metallic body.”
Estimated threat: High.
Behind her a blur went back and forth, a hostage disappearing each time it streaked by. That must be Turbo, bringing the number of heroes rapidly up to four. I assessed the situation in comparison to the plan, and sent out a text to Lia describing the situation. She quickly responded with a message to all the minions.
[Lia: Suprex and Magenta have engaged Trebla. Ferrosa and Turbo are confirmed in the lobby. All minions please skip ahead to phase 5, we’ll be going with scenario 5B. Robo-Lemmings will be released into the lobby in two minutes.]
I was quickly inundated with messages from minions asking where to go. I answered them while I prepared myself to fight Ferrosa and Turbo. Turbo was almost finished evacuating the hostages, which was fine. They had already served their purpose as a distraction, diverting the heroes’ first strike. If they were rescuing the hostages they weren’t catching us in a sneak attack, and we didn’t really care to harm the hostages anyways.
Best to start attacking Ferrosa before Turbo was finished though.
Dillo and Spikes were relatively unharmed from being tossed about by Ferrosa, although Spikes needed help unpinning herself from the wall she impacted. A somewhat unfortunate side-effect of her mutation, which had an assortment of spines and quills running down her back and forearms. She seemed quite irritated about getting stuck to the wall, and after Dillo pried her off, she pointed her arms at Ferrosa and, to my surprise, launched spikes from her arms! Several of the bony spines flew through the air and impacted Ferrosa, who reflexively blocked them but needn’t have bothered, as they broke on her metallic skin. Spikes cursed, but kept shooting. Her projectiles didn’t do much, but Dillo started to throw furniture at Ferrosa, and then Gregor and Olson joined in. I followed their lead and unstrapped the mouthpiece of my mask. Then I shifted my mouth a bit, and spat a metal ‘slug’ at Ferrosa. It impacted her torso (and made an interesting ringing noise).
“The heck was... Tofu, what the hell is wrong with your face?” asked Olson to my side.
“Ssllien’sot” I tried to answer. I had finally figured out a compact design by using my tongue and the material in ‘bubblegum’ as the ‘band’. Just needed to hook up the flexible muscle to different parts of the jaw. Admittedly it wasn’t very good if I wanted to talk at the same time, and I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t strong enough to puncture Ferrosa… I wonder if Spikes would be willing to share? Her mutation looked really useful, if somewhat limited in ammo. The spines seemed to grow back quite fast, but she was already eating one of her MREs with one hand. Must be calorie intensive.
I tried to sidle closer to Spikes as we kept pelting Ferrosa with projectiles (maybe I could see how the spikes worked?). Surprisingly, Ferrosa hadn’t tried to move from her position and stop our barrage, and I realized she was trying to shield the hostages from any stray debris. Heroes really took this “protecting civilians” thing seriously. Ferrosa held up easily under our assault, enough that I started to wonder if I was just wasting ammo. I was just about to shift my mouth back when it became a moot point. One of the chairs Gregor had thrown suddenly blurred and flew at Olson instead, knocking him over.
Turbo was finished with the hostages.
“Oh shi-” cried Spikes, right before Ferrosa barreled into her, and sent her tumbling into Dillo. Luckily for him the armor plates that encased his body stopped her spines from hurting him. Unfortunately for me it meant I was right next to Ferrosa. I fired a metal slug at Ferrosa point blank. It hit her in the eye and her head snapped sideways with a ringing noise.
For a moment. Then her face turned back to me, her mouth twisted into an almost-snarl. What was the correct curse word to use in this situation?... “Shit” I think. Yeah.
Ferrosa’s punch caught me where the solar plexus would be on a human, and I went flying. Not as far as I think she expected, since I was heavier than a normal human, but enough to send me sprawling halfway across the lobby. The fight got a bit rough after that. Olson was getting absolutely pummeled by Turbo, and Gregor wasn’t nearly fast enough to help him. Ferrosa was stomping her way across the lobby towards them, only stopping long enough to kick Dillo and Spikes along the floor with her. We were swiftly being herded in. I was starting to worry we wouldn’t be able to stall the heroes long enough.
I righted myself, and extended my arms and legs into my prefered combat configuration. Then I extended whiskers out of my suit, before spitting more slugs at Ferrosa as fast as I could. She raised a hand to guard her face, and then abandoned kicking Dillo and Spikes to charge me. She was surprisingly fast considering how heavy being made of metal should make her. Still, with my legs configured for jumping and running she wasn’t able to catch up to me, and I led her on a chase around the lobby while pelting her with slugs. Even better, Spikes and Dillo managed to recover enough to go and help Olson and Gregor, and between the four of them they prevented Turbo from targeting any one of them for too long. It seemed Turbo’s injury was still bothering him. Now we only had to hold out for twenty-three more seconds.
Which was around the time that Turbo decided to target me instead. He abandoned taking shots at the others, and attacked when my back was turned. He touched one of my whiskers and triggered a reflexive attack, my leg whipping out to try and hit him.
“Ohit’sthisfuckeragain!” came Turbo’s sped up voice. I was immediately assaulted by a barrage of debris picked up from all the broken furniture. While objects he threw returned to a similar speed a normal human might have thrown them at, he was able to pick up multiple objects and put them in motion before the first had finished traveling. The resulting wave of broken furniture knocked me off balance, and right into Ferrosa’s range. She grabbed my arm in a vice grip, and began to punch me in the stomach. I tried to spit some slugs, but after the first she punched me in the face twice, breaking the slingshot mechanisms. The other minions tried to help, but between Turbo and Ferrosa there wasn’t much they could do. Ferosa was too tough, and Turbo was too fast to hit. But! We managed to last the full two minutes.
A terrible grating noise came from one of the rooms at the back of the lobby, and out of the door poured what at first looked like a swarm of armored pack rats. They had generally the same shape as a rat, but I quickly realized that these things had no organic parts at all! They were completely mechanical, and looked to be covered in metal armor that was polished until it shown like Ferrosa. Several of them had non-standard modifications that spat sparks, or had whirling blade attachments. These must be the Robo-Lemmings.
I was fascinated. This was the first bio-weapon implementation I had seen that was completely non-organic, and I was curious to see what they would do. I was, however, less excited at being tossed into the swarm of mechanical monsters like a fleshy projectile by Ferrosa. Admittedly I panicked at first. But after the other Robo-Lemmings didn’t attack me, I pulled myself off the one Robo-Lemming I had crushed, and started putting myself back together while watching the other Robo-Lemmings all rush Ferrosa. She was strong enough to destroy them, but they used the same swarm tactics rats did, disregarding personal safety so that at least some of them would be able to reach her. Where they touched I saw sparks fly, and eventually they overwhelmed her, dragging her down and carrying her out the front of the building (breaking the floor to ceiling window as they did so). Turbo zoomed around the room, but the Robo-Lemmings covered everything, leaving no safe footing, and he was forced to retreat as well.
Cough “You guys alright?” asked Olson from his spot on the floor.
The other minions sounded off, and I gave a thumbs up since I couldn’t talk yet. Gregor was the least injured among us, and despite Dillo and Spikes being kicked around by Ferrosa, it turned out Olson was actually the worst off. He had several fractured ribs and a broken leg.
“Mind helping me out Spikes?” asked Olson, and Spikes shot him in the chest and neck quickly. He reappeared unharmed, then said “Well that was fun, what’s next on the agenda?”
The other minions groaned.
“Buzzer respond! I know you can hear me damnit!”
My group had retreated to one of the back halls of the lobby that led to a side entrance. It was the main congregation point for gathering the loot before we left, and minions were bringing boxes and bags out the door to waiting vans. Lia stood off to the side, yelling into her mask, and the minions gave her a wide berth. Seems not everything was going according to plan? When she saw me, she instantly abandoned trying to contact Buzzer and headed towards me.
“Tofu! Have you heard anything from Buzzer? Or the other minions who headed to the top offices?”
“Not since about three minutes ago.”
“Damnation. Alright, follow me. The rest of you to your assigned places.”
Lia led me to a door that opened into a spacious stairwell. Then she stomped up the stairs (impressive while wearing ‘high heels’) while muttering about people that couldn’t follow simple instructions.
“Incompetent… have to do everything myself... probably broke the vibrosaw… Tofu! You can open a steel safe correct? Your resume said you carved through a reinforced floor.”
I have a resume?
“Um, I believe so. But it might take a while if I have to be careful.”
“Well you’ll have about... four minutes to try, Master Trebla will be done with his fight soon. It’s a small safe, imbedded into the wall of the branch manager’s office. Cut the whole thing out of the wall if you think that will be quicker. Buzzer’s group was supposed to be in and out quickly but they haven’t been responding. Probably managed to damage the vibrosaw or some other such nonsense. Let this be a lesson to you, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
We continued up the stairwell, sometimes passing minions bringing down boxes of files or computer equipment. But then as we passed the fourth floor a violent crash shook the stairwell, and a wall on the landing ahead of us caved in as a humanoid shape in golden armor flew through it, embedding itself in the opposite wall.
“Master Trebla!” yelled Lia as she rushed up the stairs, stumbling a bit due to the pieces of rubble that had scattered about. I decided to follow her up when no heroes appeared through the hole in the building.
“Mrph, is that you Lia?” came Trebla’s muffled voice. He slowly pulled himself out of the hole and brushed off his armor (which had held up remarkably well considering), then he spat out a tooth. “Perfect timing. Pencil in a meeting with my usual dentist please, and make a note: Suprex’s power is more than just physical enhancements. Managed to punch past a Gentis MK3 reactor forcefield. Past mind you, not through. Should be impossible… some kind of second dimensional shortcut? Or maybe a mental ignorance erasure...how would one counter that… and… wait. Shouldn’t you be overseeing the vans right now?”
“I-I’m so sorry sir! There was a slight hiccup with the tenth floor office safe. I-I wouldn’t have left my post except the assigned minions have stopped answering, b-but no worries! Tofu here can open the safe, we’ll be right on track, n-no d-delays expected.”
“Tofu? Ah, yes! The lad who faked his death while fighting Magenta. Absolutely brilliant performance young man. Top marks on acting and dramatic tension, and I was told it was all ad libbed on your part? Never could get the hang of it myself. Glad to see you’ve changed your outfit as well, ‘street thug with bullet-proof jacket’ isn’t very thematic, although I will admit it helped sell the ‘hero assaults impoverished minion’ angle. Next time might I suggest-”
His next words were cut off as a lamppost rocketed through the hole in the building. Lia and I both ducked in alarm, but Trebla stepped forward and managed to catch the missile head on! His suit whirred as whatever devices it contained strained to halt the force of the projectile, and he threw it to the side a moment later.
“Excuse me for a second, seems Suprex is getting impatient. Definitely some physics nonsense happening here. He can’t fly and we’re on the fifth floor; the angle doesn’t make any sense. Two dimensional shortcut, it has to be…”
Trebla walked to the hole in the building. Then he looked around as if searching for something before firing three blasts of his laser down into the streets.
“That ought to keep him busy for a moment. Now then Lia, you said the team that went to the top floor are having difficulties? What did they say the problem was?”
“Um, w-well I’m not exactly sure. They haven’t been responding.”
“Not a simple mishap then, if they’ve gone silent they ran into trouble. How odd, most of the heroes in response range are below. Brick patrols too far out to make it in time, and he’s not exactly subtle... Hydrox should be putting out that warehouse fire on E12’s south end… A vigilante? No, too many heroes about, they wouldn’t risk it… Who else is close enough too… Ah!”
Trebla suddenly smiled, fully and broadly, the bloody gap from the missing tooth making him look rather…
“I HAVE IT! Oh this will be just splendid! Lia! Scenario fourteen B. Send young Tofu here. And Ifrit! There was two of them when I read the report, it needs to be matched! And get footage! I don’t care how. Tofu! The safe contents are secondary, instead attempt to kidnap the branch manager, they might not bite otherwise. But don’t kill anyone! Now’s not the time for that. Lia! We’ll go with a modified five dash seven B. Get the minions moving, don’t wait for me. If I get arrested go with extraction plan thirty-seven or thirty-nine, I’ll let you decide. Tofu! I’ll be able to buy you fifteen to twenty five minutes, but as I said ad lib isn’t my specialty. Ifrit should be on the sixth floor. Use escape tunnel two when you're done, the vans won’t be able to wait. Now go! GO! Everyone to your places! Oh I do so love a good debut! I’ll have to reorganize my schedule for...”
Trebla continued to talk for a bit, mostly to himself I think. Lia and I had already taken off in seperate directions to implement his orders. I just wish I understood the purpose here. This was a risky modification to the plan, and a lot of things could potentially go wrong.
At least I now had a firm grasp of chaotic tedium.