Frankenstein turned around to see an evildoer approaching. That is, he saw Mia pushing a mannequin with an ‘EVILDOER” sign hung around its neck and a bandana on its head for that 90s gang affiliation sort of look. He tried yet another spin-kick and this time he actually connected.
“Yes! Take that, Doctor Larceny! Frankenstein owns these streets!”
Mia patted the 230-year-old undead scientist on the back. “That was good, Vic. Unfortunately, you also took out poor little Fido.”
She pointed at the ground, where the mannequin lay on top of a cardboard box with “DOG” written on it in marker.
“Ach, this is nothing! I could zap a dog back to life in no time.”
“I’m sure that would go down great with the girl who was walking him. ‘Don’t worry, sweetie, I’m a big green monster with secret lab equipment and I’ll make your dog a zombie like me.'”
“Hey!” Carl yelled. “We don’t use the z-word. Victor is not one of them.”
“Thanks, Carl,” Frankenstein muttered. “Stupid blood-craving, brain-eating, fast-forwarded maggot sacks.”
“I’m sorry, Frankenstein,” Mia said.
“No, I’m sorry! I’m sorry that the first time I land a kick with this vintage leg the dummy falls on a box! Won’t someone pleeeease think of the box?!”
“How about a break?” Kathryn asked. “I think we’re due for one. How long have we been at this?”
Mia looked at the clock. “About twelve minutes. Okay, Dwayne, come in with the lasers!”
Dwayne ran in with a broom and tried ramming the others with it. “Pew, pew, pew!”
Carl threw off his oven mitt boxing gloves. “Man, this interactive 3-D training environment sucks! Where are the holograms? Where’s the control room with dials for adjusting the level of peril we’re in?”
“You don’t get holograms if you can’t stop a broom,” Mia said. “The point of this exercise is not to show off any fancy moves or score the maximum number of hits. It’s to think about your environment and the consequences of your actions on that environment. No one will thank you for stopping a mugger if you total their car in the process.”
“Mia is right,” Dwayne added. “The public would trust supers a lot more if they didn’t cause so much wanton collateral damage.”
“But we’re not supers,” Kathryn said. “We’re just playing dress-up. Well, except Frankenstein.”
“True, but remember,” said Carl, “we’re all playing dress-up at first. It takes time to organically grow the aptitude that will later inform our confidence.”
“Don’t quote your book at me,” Kathryn retorted. “Or would you like me to give you a list of religious laws that tattooing yourself blue violates, cross-referenced by region and century?”
“Stop it!” Dwayne shouted. “We’re all on the same team, and we ought to act like it. Now I know our nerves are a little frazzled from the last–” He looked at his watch. “–fourteen minutes, so I want us to recenter our training for a minute with you two saying something nice about each other. Carl?”
“Kathryn, you are the toughest member of the team who wasn’t brought back from the dead.”
“Thanks. And Carl, the Picts would like your blue skin. They’d think of you as a mighty warrior.”
“Thanks. That doesn’t really apply to me or this millennium, but thank you.”
“Okay,” Mia said. “Let’s take a break. Go to the bathroom, grab a bite, write a post about mindfulness on your blog. Do whatever you’ve gotta do. Dwayne, can I borrow you?”
Mia and Dwayne walked upstairs from the finished basement, aka training room, and headed to the kitchen for a couple of smoothies.
“First of all,” Mia said, “I wanted to thank you again for putting us up. I think it’ll make a big difference in building the team if we’re immersed in the whole super lifestyle. But can you tell me something? We’ve been here for three weeks now and you haven’t given one seminar since I got here. If you’re work isn’t steady, how can you afford this huge house?”
Dwayne chuckled. “Oh, that’s not my only revenue source. These days you’ve got to diversify, especially in a creative field like motivation.”
Mia rolled her eyes.
“So a few years ago I decided to get into real estate.”
“Oh, do you flip houses?”
“Not quite. In fact, I do the opposite.”
Dwayne chuckled again. Mia was really getting tired of the chuckling. “Let’s just say I have terrible luck in the restaurant business. All those open flames and all that oil and paper flying around. It’s an accident waiting to happen. So I shorten the waiting period.”
Mia gasped. “Insurance fraud? That’s terrible!”
“Ah, but with that insurance money I’m able to improve people’s lives with my seminars and have this nice house for the team to train in to prevent larger crimes. So maybe the ends justify the means.”
Mia thought for a moment. “No! No, the ends absolutely do not justify the means! That’s what dictators say. You’re no better than those robbers I stopped.”*
*See episode 3! -Devilishly Dynamic Dan!
“Now hang on. It’s not like I enjoy torching my properties. It’s just a way of getting paid. If my motivational speaking took off, I wouldn’t have to do it anymore.”
“No, I can’t get behind that. It’s not okay. You have to get a job or something.”
“Ugh, gross. Now hang on, hang on. I’m getting an idea. Okay. Okay. Good, got it. Okay, let’s say I own a little bodega downtown.”
“And let’s say there is a permanent segment of the population that is not above committing crimes, including theft, arson, and destruction of property.”
“Now, what if we sort of guided, persuaded, compelled that population to do what they were already going to do at my little bodega instead of the one down the street?”
“It’s getting slimy.”
“But then, just as enough damage has been done for the insurance to pay off, along comes a team of supers who catch the criminals and hand them over to the authorities, thus ridding the community of a problem.”
Mia sighed before talking it through. “You’re not committing arson. You’re telling criminals to hit your store instead of someone else’s. You’re saving people damage and emotional trauma. But you’re still planning it ahead and profiting off of it.”
“I think the words you’re looking for are ‘win-win’. Plus as long as I’ve got this house and a stocked kitchen, you don’t need to go back to that coffee shop job.”
Mia thought about it. You know, “thought about” is a little strong. Let’s say Mia rationalized it.
“So do we have a deal?” Dwayne asked.
“Yeah, we have a deal.”
“I am starting to hate you again.”
“But you are giving me room and board. No such thing as a free lunch, right?”
“That reminds me. The monkey’s room needs to be cleaned out. Would you mind?”
“Yep. Definitely starting to hate you again.”