It was bound to happen eventually.

The only thing that surprises me is how long it took, Darius thought as he guided a girl who was now short a few fingers, and a good chunk of her hand, up to the Mechromancer’s office.

Not that any of the kids called him that. To them, he was just the boss.

“He’s going to kick me out,” the girl muttered through gritted teeth.

Impressive pain tolerance, he thought.

Still, impressed or not, Darius had no soothing words to give her. Even if he did, he doubted she would have accepted them.

The Boss was a strange guy – no two ways about it – but Darius liked to think he had a rough handle on his personality by now. A very rough understanding, but it was enough to tell him that the Boss would have no use for a crippled orphan.

If they couldn’t work, then the Boss had no use for them. He wasn’t subtle about it either. He’d already kicked out a few kids who thought they could take advantage of a ‘free ride’. There’d been no warnings given or anything like that, just two of the ‘buckets’ striding onto the workshop floor and bodily dragging the offenders out into the street.

Which for the girl standing next to him was a death sentence, and they both knew it.

Especially in the current weather.

Sighing at the misfortune of it all, he knocked on the door to the man’s office.

Part of him hoped the Boss wasn’t in, while the other just wanted to put the whole thing behind him. His deliberations on the subject became moot though, when a command to come in translated through the door.

“Let’s get this over with,” the girl next to him muttered as she shouldered her way in.

Resigned, Darius followed her.

The inside of the supervillain’s office was just as plain as it always was. No trophies. No decorations. Just whatever project the man was working on at the time, a desk, and the ever-present Bucket standing guard at the back.

It was another oddity about the man, amongst dozens of others.

Darius had on occasion had cause to meet with a few block leaders from the local gangs in their personal quarters – invariably when he had a bit of valuable tech to trade – and they always went out of their way to show off whatever opulence they had available to them.

Usually to the point of gaudiness, he admitted privately.

The Boss was different.

Despite being the most personally powerful person the youth had ever met, he seemed to have no use for decoration. Actively disdained it actually.

Perhaps you don’t need to show off when you reach a certain level, Darius wondered.

“What?” The man asked, not even turning away from whatever he was working on.

Some kind of flying drone if the rotors are any indication.

“There’s been an accident,” Darius stated, knowing from experience that it was better to get straight to the point with the man.

That got his attention.

“An accident? Was anything damaged!? How did- Oh.” The man trailed off as he noticed the girl standing across from him. “Alright, why is there a young woman dripping blood onto my floor?”

Darius wasn’t offended by the lack of use of a name. He doubted the guy even knew it, and it wasn’t like he was derisive about it. It beat the usual nicknames he received from people in power.

Gutter-trash, human debris, street-rat…

“She’s the one that accident occurred to, sir.”

“Just her?” The man continued, his metal mask hiding whatever expression he might be wearing from view. “None of the machines or materials were damaged?”

“No, I’m the only one that was crippled.” The girl spat before Darius could speak, sending a shiver up the boy’s spine as he waited for the man’s violent response.

None was forthcoming though.

“I doubt that, because at the very least, something was contaminated by biological matter.” Those strange eye lenses turned back to him. “I trust whatever it was has been cleaned?”

Feeling a little green as he remembered the bloody scene he had happened upon downstairs, Darius still nodded. “I set someone to the task before I brought her up.”

Whether they’d actually done the grizzly task remained to be seen, but he figured he didn’t need to mention that.

“Good. Good.” The Boss nodded, before turning his gaze back to the girl, who stared back in defiance mixed with fear and pain. “Tell me? Why weren’t you wearing the personal protective equipment I provided?”

“I was.” The girl lied.

No one wore the gloves or the eyepieces. They were thick, cumbersome and uncomfortable. More than that, they weren’t ‘cool’.

A fairly ridiculous concept in retrospect, but one had to remember that many of these kids had survived on the streets for years. Danger was nothing new to them, and so they ignored the equipment provided, safe in the knowledge that they would be fine ‘if they were careful’.

A thought process that Darius was not immune to, as he discretely slipped his ‘unprotected’ hands behind his back.

“I doubt that.” The man answered. “You might have lost one glove in the accident I concede, but I doubt you removed the other one with a crippled hand.”

The girl had nothing to say to that, so she stood in silent anger, blood still dripping onto the floor as she clutched the wound with her good hand.

“I thought so.” The man muttered, more to himself than anyone else. “Still, this does present an opportunity.”

“Sir?” Darius asked as the man strode over to his desk and started rummaging through the drawers.

“Oh, you’re still here?” The supervillain said as he turned back around. “You’re dismissed. Head back to work. The girl will be fine with me.”

“Natasha.” The girl in question stated, a little of her earlier resentment giving way to puzzlement at not being promptly thrown out.

Though whether that’s for the better or not, remains to be seen. Darius thought, mind trying desperately not to jump to the worst conclusions.

Still, it was out of his hands now.

With a final goodbye, that the supervillain evidently failed to hear, Darius strode out; leaving the nervous young woman and the Artificer behind.

Out of my hands, Darius thought as he strode down the stairs to the workshop.

Ethan kept a wary ear out as he squatted in a rundown public restroom.

Now if only I wasn’t too terrified to shit, he thought tiredly.

His short-lived tenure as a member of Bronte’s rapidly forming inner circle had reached its end. Apparently, the woman did not take kindly to people undercutting her.

Who knew?

Which was why he had spent the last few days jumping at every errant click as he waited for his inevitable accident to occur.

Which wouldn’t be hard, given the current gang war. Just walking down the street at the wrong time of day was just begging to have an ‘accident’ these days.

At least I've still got the jacket, he thought. Hurt like a motherfucker, but it did stop the bullet.

He had for a brief moment considered taking what he knew to Zigzag – what precious little there was. Of course, he had ruled that out within moments of thinking it up. The shapeshifter was probably already well aware of what was going on in the Saints, but much like him there wasn’t a ton they could do about it.

With the Kings finally starting to bring their numbers to bear, the man/woman had their hands full just keeping the gang together. He imagined their plan was to try and win the war with the Kings, and then use the ensuing swell of support to dismantle Bronte’s faction.

Or it could be something entirely different, he didn’t have a clue. He usually tried his best not to get involved with the political crap.

He’d only gotten involved with Bronte because it was known that an association with her provided discounts at a certain store. Sure, he had his laser gun now, but it wouldn’t do him much good if Bronte decided she wanted him gone.

Or would it? He thought as an idea occurred to him.

Their was another ‘faction’ forming inside the Saints, albeit it was only referred to as a joke.

“The ‘Orange Rats’.”

Everyone knew they worked for Mechromancer, and that meant they were off limits.

To both sides of the rapidly growing divide within the gang.

After all, they were the ones helping to provide the growing flow of weapons into Erich’s Armaments, and without those they were all fucked.

“Untouchable.” He murmured, the beginnings of a plan forming.

Rapidly pulling out his phone, he started to pull up a familiar webpage.


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Bio: A supervillain in the making

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