Wanted for two jailbreaks and destruction of public property, the Redressers were hiding in Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, going over their options.
Dwayne picked up the list. “Alright, what have we come up with? Get jobs under assumed identities. Okay. Lean into crime. Not super enthused about that one. This one just says ‘Dark Web’. Carl? Can you expand on that?”
“You know, like on the internet. But, like, untraceable.”
“I’m not sure yet. The library was closing, so I had to stop reading the wikipedia page.”
“Okay. Now, there seems to be an option missing from this list. One that I think we ought to look into. Can anyone guess?”
Carl peered into distance, racking his brain. Frankenstein drummed his fingers on the table in thought. Mia continued trying to ignore the whole conversation. Kathryn woke herself up with her snoring.
“Znxx, wha? Where are we?”
“You guys,” Dwayne said. “I think it’s obvious what we’re meant to do. We’re back together as a team, operating outside of the law, each of us with their own specialty. Frankenstein, you know what I’m thinking, right?”
“An agricultural commune?”
“No! Let’s be outlaw vigilantes! Let’s be supers. Fighting crime. Hunted by the very police who we’re helping in our mission to protect the streets. It’ll be great! We can have secret identities and everything. Well, those of us who aren’t blue or undead. No offense.”
“Hey, it’s catching on in Scandanavia,” Kathryn said.
“Which one? Never mind. I don’t want to know. So let’s talk powers. The old lineup was flawed, which we saw after a couple of excursions. Frankenstein, you’re good as the muscle. Mia, I like you as the brainy tinker. But the rest of us need new skill sets since none of us are actually magical or godlike. Carl, I like the blue. It’s a good initial distraction. Can we build on that? Make you a dark elf or something?”
“I learned to juggle flaming sticks in the freak show. Can we use that?”
“Okay, okay, I like what I’m hearing. Fire, blue skin, maybe a devil theme? A demon? An imp? Let’s put a pin in that and come back. That leaves you and me, Kathryn. I’m kind of the leader. The general giving orders. So you–”
“Hang on,” Kathryn said. “Why do you have to be the leader? My TED talk ratings are just as high as yours. And I think a female leader would be a good change. Good publicity, too. Think of if we made the news. If people see a man grandstanding about vigilanteism, they’ll get scared. But if a woman does it, that could be empowering. Inspirational, even.”
“Then what do I do? Carl’s got fire covered, so my only other skill is inspiration. Could we use a bard? Is that a thing outside of RPGs?”
Kathryn thought for a moment. “The nearest I know of would be a hype man. Like Flava Flav or Bobby Byrd. You could stand off to the side and cheer us on or repeat what just happened to amp us up. How does that sound?”
“Ifrit!” Carl said.
“Ifrit as in the fire demon?” Kathryn asked.
“Yeah! I could make my hair crazy and twirl fire and be really scary. Ifrit! What do you think?”
“Well, Carl, I must congratulate you on your knowledge of Islamic mythology. Ifrits are a kind of fiery jinni that appear in the Koran as well as more secular works like the 1001 Arabian Nights.”
“Oh. I just knew it from Final Fantasy IV. Rydia summons them and they do damage to all the monsters. It’s especially powerful against–”
“Okay. Thanks, Carl. Good job. So we’re good? We’ve got Ifrit and Frankenstein. Mia, you can make another costume and be the tinker or engineer or whatever. Dwayne, you’re Hype-Man (hyphen included). And I’ll be Professor K the psychic and keep my boobs inside my damn shirt. We can use earpieces to simulate telepathy like televangelists do. I like this plan!”
“She likes that plan!” Dwayne said. “How’s that, fellow outlaws?”
“One question,” Frankenstein said. “How do we make money doing this? We still need to eat and presumably pay the rent.”
“Once we get a name, we can sell merchandise,” Dwayne said. “Until then, we work on commission. If we stop a robbery, we get half.”
Mia stared ahead blankly and muttered, “We’re doomed.”
A few nights later, an alarm went off in downtown Big City. The Sand Witch ran out through the employee entrance of Adjectiveless Carl’s Pawn Shop with her sand blaster in one hand, a bag of jewels in the other, a tank of sand on her back, and a big, floppy hat on her head.
As she turned a corner into an alley, she found herself face to face with a flame-twirling blue man, a woman in a steampunk outfit, another woman pressing two fingers to her forehead intently, a man in a neat suit and skinny tie straight out of 1983, and, well, Frankenstein.
“What is this?” she asked.
“We’re the Redressers,” Kathryn said, “and we’ll let you choose WHICH of us beats you up first. No PAWN intended.”
“No pawn!” Dwayne repeated.
“That’s right!” Carl said. “We’re outlaw vigilantes and you’re about to regret doing all that crime!”
The Sand Witch put down the sand blaster, pulled out a gun, and shot all five of them. She then picked up the bag and ran home.
~ ~ ~
Mia stirred. The last thing she remembered was getting shot. She opened her eyes a crack. She seemed to be in a giant cave with high, red walls that disappeared into darkness. The ground was hot. She sat up and saw Dwayne, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein on the ground near her. They were rousing as well.
Now that she was awake, she noticed the acrid, sulfurous odor in the air. She stood up to get her bearings. Fire and lava seemed to be everywhere. “Guys?” she said. “How did we get inside a volcano?”
“Oh, it’s not a volcano,” said a voice behind her reminiscent of Frank Nelson. She spun around and saw a bright red man in a tuxedo leaning on his walking stick. He had small horns on his head and a long, forked tail. “I’m afraid you’re in Hell.”