“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.
“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.
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.”
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.