The Redressers: Part 3

“So what’s the mission?” Mia asked.

Dwayne brightened up. “This is gonna be fun, and a good one for breaking in a new member. Who’s ready to revisit those old baddies Master R.A. and the Dorm Room Dojo?

The team groaned.

“Oh, come on!” Dwayne said. “You loved fighting them last year!”

“Last year we were still recovering from dimensional vertigo after fighting Baron Universe,” Frankenstein said. “We were just glad to win a fight after two months of losses.”

“What if I told you they did something really diabolical?” Dwayne tempted.

“Like what,” Azrella asked, “shut down the campus firewall?”

“Nooooo.” Dwayne was getting coy. “Like ripping apart the fabric of reality!”

The team went silent for a moment, then erupted in enthusiasm.

“Yes!”

“Awesome!”

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

Mia was more grounded. “Um, excuse me. What exactly does ‘rip apart the fabric of reality’ mean?”

“Oh.” Dwayne took a beat. “Well, uh, the Dorm Room Dojo have obviously gotten their hands on some kind of inter-dimensional weapon that can, ah, destabilize the foundation of the, um…the…” He snapped his fingers. “Little help?”

Frankenstein chimed in. “Multiverse?”

Dorizan offered a guess, too. “Quark field?”

“Yes!” Dwayne turned back to face Mia. “Quark field. Yep. Really dangerous stuff. Everything’s at risk. Gotta stop ’em.”

Mia furrowed her brow. “Okay. If you’re sure.”

“Excellent,” Dwayne said. “Okay, Redressers, let’s stick it to evil!”

The Redress Jet roared over the city. As it lowered to the ground in a park near Master R.A.’s lair, Azrella activated the cloaking device, turning the jet invisible. The Redressers exited the jet and raced to meet the naughty scamps of the Dorm Room Dojo.

Twenty seconds later, Hunter was running through the park to catch the frisbee his friend Chase threw. Hunter was stunned, not only by the shock of there being a huge solid object where he couldn’t see anything, but also from the concussion he received by running at full speed into the Redress Jet’s wing.

“We’re almost there,” Dwayne said. “Their hideout is in the backroom of this business.”

Mia looked up at the sign. “So the Dorm Room Dojo’s secret lair is in the back of Master Chu’s Karate School? Seems kind of obvious.”

“Yes. Only a devious criminal genius like Master R.A. could use such deft reverse psychology. By making it obvious, it really puts law enforcement off their trail.”

“Except for us.”

“Right. Right, except for us. Yes.” Dwayne cleared his throat and firmly, if loudly, cautioned his team. “We’ll go in through the employee entrance to catch them off guard. Hopefully, they won’t see us coming.”

The front door to the karate school flew open and fifteen goons wearing backpacks and matching gi-themed uniforms ran out and into formation. Their leader, Master R.A., strolled confidentally between them to face off with Dwayne. He wore a polo shirt, khaki shorts, sandals, and a lanyard with a nametag on it.

“Ah, we meet again, Redeemers,” Master R.A. said.

“Redressers,” Dwayne corrected in a stage whisper.

“Right. Redressers. It appears you’ve come to fight, so I won’t invite you to the 3rd floor lounge Friday night. We’re watching ‘Anchorman’ and having some snacks, followed by a little ice-breaking game I like to call Rip Apart the Fabric of Reality!”

The Redressers gasped, except for Mia. “Why are you surprised?” she asked. “We already knew about the quark field.”

“Quark field?” Master R.A. asked.

“Yeah,” Azrella said. “You know, how your device will disrupt the quark field?”

“Oh, right,” Master R.A. said. “Sorry. We, uh, we pronounce it ‘kwerk’, so I got a little confused there.”

Dwayne leaned nearer to Master R.A. “Just skip to the attack.”

“Right,” Master R.A. whispered. He raised an arm and shouted, “Dorm Room Dojo, attack!”

The parking lot exploded with battle cries, grunts, and impressive spin kicks. Mia crouched behind a car and watched the fight. The punches, blocks, kicks, and dodges were so expertly timed that it seemed like no one actually got hit. She saw one of the goons approach Dorizan from behind and started to call out a warning, but the goon stopped and waited his turn until Dorizan was finished with the current fight.

Mia scanned the scene. They all seemed to be waiting for the right moment, like dance steps. And why weren’t Azrella and Dorizan using their powers?

“Hey, Azrella! Can’t you turn them into gerbils or something?”

“Not until tomorrow! I already used today’s power to get revenge on a jerk from middle school!”

Well, that makes some sense, Mia thought.

“Dorizan! Why don’t you zap them?”

Dorizan looked panicked. “The, ah, sun! There’s some interference from the sun that’s affecting my powers!”

“Must be a solar flare, right?” called Frankenstein.

“Yes! A solar flare!” Dorizan puntuated the sentence with a right cross that the goon swept aside.

Mia looked over at Sun Wukong. He was scratching his butt and watching the fight.

Mia sighed. She stood up and slowly walked into the melee. “You can stop now. Stop.”

They kept fighting.

“Stop!”

Everyone stood still. After a second or two they dropped their arms.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because they world is in peril!” Azrella said.

“No. It’s not. You’re faking this. Do you even have powers?

“Yes, of course,” Dorizan said. Dwayne nudged him. “No. No, we don’t.”

Mia stared at each Redresser one by one. “What’s the big plan? This isn’t fun, so why are you doing it? Are you trying to join a real team? Go around the comic convention circuit? What?”

Dwayne stepped forward. “We need the publicity. For our programs.”

“Programs?”

Master R.A. tapped Dwayne on the elbow. “Hey, uh, bad timing and all, yeah, but if we’re done, can we get the check?”

Dwayne pulled a folded check out of his pocket and handed it to Master R.A. “I just made it out to the school. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, that’s perfect. Thanks. Come on, folks!”

The Dorm Room Dojo went back inside.

“Look, we’re not heroes,” Dwayne said. “At least, not the kind that saves lives with our fists. We save lives with our programs and books and presentations.”

“Do you run a rehab or something?”

Dwayne smiled. “We’re motivational speakers. I specialize in finding meaning in the everyday. Azrella is Kathryn, and her TED talk on commonalities across religions was featured on NPR last year.”

Kathryn waved. “Hi. I don’t usually dress like this, obviously.”

“Dorizan over there, his name is Carl. He started out as a boardwalk performer in San Francisco.”

Carl chuckled. “You can say it. I was in a freak show. We’re trying to take back the word ‘freak’ to be empowered. Heh, empowered? Powers? That’s good. Anywho, I really was born without any genitals. I have a catheter. It’s everyone’s first question. Pulling my pants down made the show really awkward, so I had my whole body tattooed blue to be exotic instead of dirty and started acting like an alien. I made pretty good money and turned it into a series of presentations on humanity and what we have in common.”

Mia looked at Sun Wukong. “What about him?”

“He is a monkey and he is a she. She’s a regular old monkey. But she’s potty trained!”

Mia turned to Frankenstein. “And who are you?”

“I’m actually Frankenstein. The whole thing is true. But no one wants to work with a 230-year-old scientist in a pile of corpses Voltron-ed together, so this is the best gig I’ve got. But Dwayne loves my story. He thinks he can get me on ‘Ellen’!”

Mia let the information sink in. “Huh. Well, I’m going to go home now because this is stupid and dishonest. Should I catch a cab or is one of you going to fly me back in– Hey. How do you have a jet with a cloaking device?”

Frankenstein puffed out his chest. “I made it!” Mia stared at him in awe. “Well, when you have 200 years to yourself and a scientific mind, you invent some things. It’s clean energy, too! Solar to start up and tiny wind turbines that help charge it once it gets going.”

“That’s impressive! But I’m still quitting.”

“Right. Makes sense,” Dwayne said. “I’m sorry to see you go. I was hoping your engineering skills would help us make our fake powers look more realistic.”

“Uh huh. And the hacked information you used to impress me?”

“I know a guy. Hundred bucks.”

“I hate all of you. Frankenstein, I guess you’re okay. The rest of you can go to hell. I’m going home.”

Mia called a cab and went into a gas station shop to get a coffee while she waited. She was adding sugar when two men in ski masks ran in and pointed guns at the clerk. Mia crouched down behind the coffee bar.

“Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod,” she whispered. She peeked over the counter. The clerk had the register open and was fishing out ones. “Think, Mia, think!”

Then she realized she was still wearing her steampunk cosplay. If they would be surprised enough by the sight of it, maybe she could do something. She looked around and grabbed some snacks.

A few seconds later, Mia strode past the hot dogs and announced herself. “Drop the weapons, boys. This suit is charged up and ready to strike.”

One robber walked up to her, gun aimed at her chest. “What’s it charged with, Boba Fart, fan fiction?”

“Nope.” In an instant she jammed the jelly donut in her hand onto the barrel of the gun. “Raspberry!”

“What the?” He looked at the barrel and pointed it back at Mia.

She took a couple of steps back. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

He pulled the trigger. The donut exploded, sending the bullet to the floor and jelly in all directions. Enough force went backwards to send a little casing shrapnel into the robber’s face. He screamed and grabbed his cheek.

The second robber started towards Mia, but she’d already thrown the banana peels she’d soaked with coffee onto the floor. He stepped on one and crashed to the ground. She grabbed both of the guns and handed them to the clerk.

“Here, you have these. I hate that stuff.” He took them and aimed them at the robbers while he called the police.

“Hey,” he said. “Thanks for not smashing anything or blowing stuff up like most superheroes. I only had like 80 bucks. One window would’ve cost more than that. How did you know that would work?”

Mia smiled. “I’m an engineer. I mathed it.”

Mia walked out as her taxi was pulling into a parking spot. The Redressers witnessed her heroism and stood with their mouths agape.

“That was incredible,” Carl said.

“Yeah,” added Kathryn. “Not one serious injury and no property damage.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you’re not some macho manboy or an antihero shooting everything. Take care, jerks.”

“Wait!” cried Dwayne. “What if you took the lead? What if you taught us to save people like you just did?”

Mia thought for a second. “Man, I don’t know. I’m more about numbers than teaching.”

“You can have a commission on all of our engagements. And what else do you have going on? Cosplay and coffee or the real thing?”

Mia looked at the cab and back at them. “Ah, crap. Fine. But I’m quitting the second I go back to hating you guys!”

“Yes! And now, the credits with our rap song.”

“Oh no!” Mia said. “No one’s hearing that ever again.”

“Awwwwww,” they all whined like a bunch of chumps.

The Car Trip of Destiny

When I was 11 or 12, my mom, my brother, and I drove from Virginia to Maine to visit my aunt. Most of those 2 days in the car were spent listening to my brother’s new tapes. I had no idea the effect those three cassettes would have on me.

1) George Carlin, “Occupation: Foole”: This was my introduction to smart standup. In the middle of the comedy boom, here was a guy in the 70s talking about people’s voices and backgrounds, the absurdity of jobs, and the concept of obscenity. Heady stuff for a kid going into the 7th grade.

2) “Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album”: Boy oh boy. Not only is it complete filth; it also introduced me to a lot of non-filthy adult concepts, like how entertainment is manufactured, how religion and careers are kinda dumb, and boring everyday angst. Also very intelligent silliness.

3) The Sex Pistols, “The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle”: In 1994ish, I knew about grunge, but not punk. I heard this tape 50x before I ever heard “Never Mind the Bullocks”, so all the self-reference was lost on me. But it was strange and goofy and then, FINALLY, some actual songs appeared and I loved it. They were screwing up. Johnny Rotten said he didn’t know the words to “Roadrunner”, which blew my little mind.

Hearing these three tapes on repeat for an 18-hour drive melted my brain a little. After that trip, most Seattle music wasn’t raw enough. Most comedy wasn’t funny or silly enough. Most standup wasn’t thoughtful enough. Most records didn’t embrace the medium’s possibilities enough.

I think more than any single event, that 2-day trip influenced Future Dan’s radio shows, comedy band’s albums, live bands’ performances, podcast, and books. I learned that week that every medium has arbitrary rules that don’t automatically apply to you. I’ve tried to use those principles ever since, to varying degrees of success, and hopefully will continue to get better at each of them.

My Boba Fett Movie Pitch

Straight-laced architect Boba Fett has a stable, if dull, life. Then one day he bumps into free spirit Gina at the grocery store. Literally! He apologizes for crashing his cart into hers and then – strangely for such a nervous spazz – asks her out on a date!

Gina opens Boba Fett’s eyes to the wonderful world out there. (Which is hard because of his tinted visor!) Through her, Boba Fett discovers the music, excitement, and joy that was missing from his life. He feels like he can do anything. And then, something goes wrong.

Gina’s pet worrt gets sick. They take him to the vet and the vet says he’s deathly ill because of an allergy to wookiees. But how did the worrt come in contact with a wookiee? Then Boba Fett remembers the client who came in last week with a wookiee who wanted him to redesign his YT-1300 Corellian light freighter: Han Solo!

This is a worrt, by the way. One hangs out in from of Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi and eats a lizard or something.worrt

Boba Fett is furious with the smuggler ruining the first real happiness he’s ever had. He quits architecture and becomes a bounty hunter obsessed with collecting on Solo’s head. Gina tries to talk him out of it. The worrt has medicine and will recover, but Boba Fett has already left.

We all know what happens next. Boba Fett chases Solo to Bespin and takes his carbonite-encased body to Jabba. But what we don’t know is that as he falls into the sarlacc pit, he gets a transmission. It’s Gina. The worrt is fine. He can come home now. Cut to black. Credits.

4 seconds into the credits, we see Boba Fett activate his jetpack and fly out of the sarlacc! Which makes sense since it’s only an hour into the movie. He apologizes to Han and Chewie and the three of them start a kickball league.

The remaining 90 minutes follows their ragtag team as they take on the rich kickball champion team from the other side of the galaxy. Gina is their coach and her worrt is the team mascot. Now that he’s got his allergy medicine, he and Chewie are best buds!

They’re not doing great in the playoffs, but they learn that what matters isn’t winning; it’s being themselves. This newfound confidence helps them get to the finals and beat the rich kid team! The worrt scores the winning run because there’s no rule that says worrts can’t play!

Boba Fett and Gina use their share of the kickball championship money to get married and start a home for stray worrts. Han and Chewie leave to fight the Empire and Boba Fett says, “Be careful, Han. You’re no good to me dead!” They have a good laugh.

The end….?

The Redressers: Part 2

Mia’s eyes widened as she stared at her new teammates.

“Mia Ortiz,” Dwayne announced, “welcome to the Redressers!”

Mia responded as anyone would in her situation. “Is that Frankenstein?”

The being composed of slightly decomposed body parts stood up. “That’s correct.”

“Oh, sorry. Should I have said Frankenstein’s monster? Well, being called a monster can’t be nice.”

“You were correct the first time. I am Victor Frankenstein. My orginal body died in the Arctic and my creature killed himself soon afterwards, but I left instructions with my assistant for placing my brain into another body assembled through, ah, para-ethical methods. One thunderstorm later, I was off the table and continuing my biological research.”

“Wow!” Mia exclaimed. “That’s amazing! So are you all literary characters or are some of you non-fiction?”

A woman stood up and raised her sceptor. She wore a robe that covered her like a cloak made of mystery but somehow exposed 90% of her breasts. “I am Azrella, sorceress of the dark arts. My soul is tied to a demon who grants me limitless power, but I can only use it once a day. I have worked with this team for…I feel like you’re staring at my chest.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. It’s just weird that everything else is covered except, uh, your–”

“I know. It’s ridiculous. But the demon I draw my power from is…let’s say he’s from another time.”

“Oh, right. Biblical times.”

“No, like 1991. It could be worse. He could have dressed me in just a few straps.”

“Tell me about it! Isn’t it nuts that full nudity in today’s comics comes across as less pervy and gross than early 90s women who are at least covered enough for a PG-13 movie?”

“It’s all in the depiction. The gatekeepers who kept female writers and artists out of comics for so long are finally going away so now we’re seeing women depict female characters as fully developed people instead of boobs in spandex.”

“Oh, I know! It’s so refreshing to feel like I can see myself in a comic!”

“Hopefully, the wave of inclusion will soon fulfill its promise and people of all types will feel welcome and represented in all kinds of media. Even comedy nerd blogs soon won’t be a bunch of straight cis white men.”

Hmm.

Dwayne interjected, “While I appreciate that we’re all learning today, I feel like we should move on.”

Mia and Azrella rolled their eyes at each other.

“Who’d like to go next?”

A blue, hairless person with no pupils, no clothes, and apparently no gender stood up. “I shall volunteer. I am Dorizan, this sector’s iteration of the galactic consciousness known as Dorizan. I protect this solar system’s lifeforms from cosmic threats with my invulnerability, control over my body’s density, and sweet finger lasers. Pew, pew.”

“Wow, that’s incredible! Do we get a lot of cosmic threats?”

“I suppose so, relatively speaking. Especially considering the primitive nature of life on this planet. Few of you seem to understand the infinite vastness of reality and your insignificance within it. It’s enough to make one reconsider protecting lives that are wasted so frivolously.”

“You must be great at parties.”

“Of all activities, parties are one of the least practical.”

“You know, for some big deal space god, you’re not quick on sarcasm.”

“Sarcasm is a hindrance to communication and should be avoided.”

Dwayne stepped in. “He’s like this a lot. Traversing the galaxy kinda wrecks your perspective.”

“And the, uh, bathing suit area?”

“The Dorizan don’t have sexes. They’re kinda like if you stored the universe’s power into some mannequins. No organs, no names. They barely have individuality.”

Dorizan began spasming and making a strange breathy grunt.

“Are you okay?” Mia asked.

“I’m fine. My counterpart in sector 9561 is being tickled.”

The only one left was a monkey in a little robe.

“And I suppose this is the team mascot?”

The monkey screeched.

“Sun Wukong isn’t our mascot,” Dwayne said. “He is the most eminent member of our team. He is the ancient Chinese monkey king, who traveled west to retrieve Buddhist sutras with a famous monk.”

Sun Wukong screeched again.

“Yes, yes, I’m getting to that. He’s immensely strong and can go halfway around the world in a single somersault. He can clone himself with a single hair, command the elements, and protect people against demons.”

Sun Wukong made a sly, offhand hoot.

“He wouldn’t interfere with Azrella’s demon, naturally.”

“Naturally,” Mia replied. “So with a monkey god, a cosmic defender, a sorceress who can do anything, and the brains and brawn of Frankenstein, what do you need with an engineer? Can’t you just smash and zap just about any threat you come across?”

“Yes.”

“Yes.”

“Yep.”

Son Wukong grunted.

“Don’t listen to them,” Dwayne said. “You fill a very important role. Besides being presumably able to make any necessary repairs to the Redress Jet, as the token mortal, you can remind us that human life is frail and needs protecting.”

“Oh, goodie. That’ll look great on my resume.”

“You can also get kidnapped by villains if we’re ever low on missions.”

“Is it too late to quit?”

“Yes.”

“Fine. Well, I guess if I’m gonna work with a team of heroes, I should know any backstory. Do you guys have any personal baggage?

“I used to date him.”

“I used to date them.”

“I died four times. No, five!”

“I was evil for a few weeks.”

“Oh, right, I was evil once, too, but I was being controlled by a wicked psychic, so it doesn’t count.”

“I come from an alternate universe where we don’t have nachos. It doesn’t come up much, but when we had a team fun day at a baseball game, boy, did I make a scene! Ha ha.”

Sun Wukong screeched for about 20 seconds while gesturing at the others one at a time.

Dwayne looked down in shame. “Yes, that was a dark period.” He took a deep breath. “But we’ve moved on from that and I think we’re stronger for it.”

Sun Wukong chirped.

“Right. Except for Mike.”

“Who’s Mike?” Mia asked.

“A former teammate we lost.”

Frankenstein chimed in, “He was our last engineer.”

“Shhhh!”

Mia looked in vain for a jetpack or a parachute or some other means of getting the hell out of the plane immediately. Not seeing anything, she resigned herself to her fate and asked the next logical, if regrettable, question.

“Well, Dwayne, what’s the mission?”

“I’ll be happy to tell you next episode. But now it’s time for the credits.”

[a crappy rap beat starts]

Awwwww
Vick Frankenstein, he was dope in the lab.
Died in the Arctic, but his body was nabbed.
Got a new body made of dead dudes’ parts,
Now he’s a Redresser and the doc of dark arts!

Dorizan and Azrella: a powerful pair!
One is from space and don’t have any hair.
The other’s got a demon that’ll do what she wants.
Together they kick butt on all of their jaunts.

Next up is Sun Wukong, the monkey king.
He can fight. He can clone. He can do anything!
Mia is the STEM queen, the top engineer.
She’s integral to the team, though she just got here!

They’re the Redressers and they’re saving the world,
From all kinds of baddies, whether urban or rural.
So come back every week if you like this crap.
This is The Redressers, and that’s a wrap!

The Redressers: Part 1

“Hey, Weedkiller! Tight dreads! Army Ant, those antennae are perfect! Whoa! Sweetie, you are the best, most adorable Panda-Man I’ve ever seen! Can I get a selfie?” Mia crouched down next to the 7-year-old and held him tight as she snapped a picture with her phone.

The cosplay contest at the Mid-River Silver Age Con was the highlight of her year. She’d spent weeks perfecting her steampunk design and another month constructing it.

She had a lot more free time to spend on cosplay since she finished her BS in mechanical engineering. She found work, don’t get her wrong. It just wasn’t exactly in her field. Or any field. But she liked coffee and muffins, so serving it to customers wasn’t the worst job there was. At least, that’s what she told herself every day until her shift ended, when she rushed home, waved hi to her roommate, and shut herself in her room to apply for any job she could find.

She had the degree and the brains, but she hadn’t gotten through an interview without embarrassing herself, cutting off the interviewer, or accidentally insulting the company. She sometimes considered studying her rejection letters to find patterns of polite, normal conversation she might use for future interviews.

She looked up from her phone to see a tall, cut, middle-aged man approaching her.

“OMG! Your costume is amazing! That black armored spandex spy outfit is spot-on. Where’d you get it? Aw, man, you’ve got little pouches and everything! And your gun looks so real! I can’t believe you got it past security. They usually want it to look fake.”

“It is real.”

“Ummmm, okay, wow. Hey, I’ve gotta catch up with my large group of paranoid friends who will call the police and track my phone if I’m gone for more than 10 minutes, so I’ll see you later.”

“Mia, wait!”

Oh, she waited.

“How do you know my name?”

“I know everything about you, Mia.”

Mia froze.

“Just kidding. I know a lot about you, but not everything. Probably. But I’m not a creep or anything, just a spy. And now that I said the s-word, you have to come with me or I’ll kill you.”

Mia was still frozen from before.

“Sorry, I was kidding again. I’m working on my managerial methods. My performance evaluation said I come across as distant, so I’m trying to use humor to be more easygoing.”

“Maybe stick with distant instead of casual jokes about murdering me.”

“Noted. Okay, but I do need you to come with me. That was real.”

“Are you really a spy?”

“Oh, yeah. Super secret stuff. Killing terrorists, neutralizing evil organizations, fighting off aliens before anyone finds out about them. It’s crazy.”

“Did I do something wrong? Oh, crap. Does Etsy fund terrorism?”

“No, no. You’re not in trouble. I want to recruit you!”

“Huh. So the Etsy thing just now wasn’t an immediate clue that maybe I’m not the type to rely on to kill scary people?”

“Oh, we’ve got killers. Ha! So many killers. You have no idea. No, we need you because you were the best engineer in your class.”

“Wow, really?”

“Oh, hell yeah! Look at the detail on your costume! All those little gears and belts and stuff? I’d almost expect it to work.”

“Well…don’t tell anyone, but it does.”

“That’s gonna be hard. I’m really bad at keeping secrets.”

“Really?”

“No, sorry, kidding again. So definitely stick with distant?”

“Are you a dad? You strike me as a dad. Wait, how do you know about my mad engineering skills?”

“College transcripts, your emails to your parents, your friends’ texts about you, your advisor’s files. Speaking of which, he’s really gross. Hooks up with a different freshman every year.”

“Yuck! Should I report him?”

“Meh. I’ll slip some articles about some crazy STD outbreaks on campus into his news feeds. That should settle him down.”

“What STD outbreaks?”

“Oh, it’s not true. I’ll have our media division make it up.”

“Wait. So fake news is a real thing?”

“Oh yeah. Well, some of it. Only like 15%.”

“Like what?”

“I can’t say unless you work for me.”

“What’s it pay?”

“Not much week to week, but you get a big bonus if you survive each mission.”

“You should really stop kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“Can you make my student debt disappear?”

“Sure, yeah. Do you want it paid off or just eliminated?”

Mia’s eyes widened. She had never felt so powerful before. “Eliminated.”

“Awesome.” He tapped on his phone for a few seconds and showed Mia her new principle balance: $0.00.

“Woo hoo! And no killing? Just building stuff?”

“No killing. You in?”

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

“Come on. My ride’s waiting outside.”

“Yes! Best day ever!”

“Do you need to tell your friends first?”

“Oh. Right. That was a lie. Not a big, ah, friends person. Or fam-i-ly. Orphan. Only child. Bad at relationships. Not a great roommate. Also never was much of a–”

“Yeah, I know. I read up on you.”

“You have that in your files?”

“What? No. I follow you on Instagram. By the way, you’ve gotta stop posting pics of polenta. It tastes fine, but it’s not photogenic. Okay. Ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s do it! I just said that, didn’t I?”

“It’s okay.”

They stepped outside of the arena and onto the sidewalk. The street was closed off for the convention and there wasn’t a car to be seen for blocks.

“Where’s your ride?”

The bottom of a rope ladder suddenly dropped in front of them. Mia looked up to see a plane — or maybe a spaceship — whose cloaking device had just disengaged.

“Oh, one thing. The other members of the team are pretty unusual.”

“How unusual?”

“You like comics, right? Hold on tight. Oh, by the way, I’m Dwayne.”

Mia screamed as the ladder was hauled aboard and she and Dwayne were yanked into the air. Within seconds, she found herself in a cargo bay. She caught her breath and looked around.

Dwayne spread his arms. “Mia Ortiz, welcome to the Redressers.”

“Is that Frankenstein?”