The Redressers: Part 10

After a very unusual somersault, Donut found herself at the rubble that used to be the Statue of Liberty. She leaped on top of a giant toe to get a better view. It would have been just a jump, but her newfound powers upgraded it to a leap.

As she steadied herself from the leap’s unexpected impressiveness, Donut scanned the scene for the Redressers. She spotted them as they took turns making out with the chunk of statue that contained the mouth. What a bunch of creeps, right?

Donut assumed a heroic stance, pointed at her newly-evil former teammates, and shouted, “Hey! Lady Liberty didn’t give you her consent!”

The Redressers turned to face her. They recognized her and started laughing. “Look out,” said Kathryn, “that banana’s loaded!” Oooooh, that just burns me up.

Donut looked around, excited about the potential banana. When she saw there wasn’t one, she got really embarrassed. That embarrassment manifested itself as anger, which then led to shame for allowing her anger to distract her from Buddha’s teachings.

Just then, Buddha appeared two toes over from her. “Hey-y-y-y, Donut! How’s it going?”

“Not great, sir. Those guys blew up the Statue of Liberty and made fun of me. It’s making me really upset. I’m not controlling my emotions or letting go of my ego at all.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. There’s plenty of time to shed the baggage of earthly life. Right now the bigger issue is those guys causing trouble.”

“So it’s okay if I get mad and take things personally?”

“What’s important is you’re aware of it and work to improve in the long run.”

“I dunno, that sounds like an excuse.”

“Think of it as training wheels. No one finds enlightenment in one day. We’ll work on clearing your mind tomorrow. Right now, you’ve got to stop these jerks from wrecking more symbols.”

“Okay. Thank you, sir!”

Donut leaped at the Redressers. This time it was a fully intentional leap and her form was inspiring. She shouted, “Monkey rise!” and grew until she was a hundred feet tall. She shouted, “Monkey staff!” and her magical staff materialized in her paw. She swung it at the Redressers and knocked all five of them out over the harbor.

Carl quickly waved his hands and created a huge portal in their trajectory which popped them out behind Donut. The force of five people hitting her at full speed knocked Donut prone.

Kathryn smirked and said, “Let’s get rid of that stick, eh, little monkey?” She grabbed the butt of the staff and turned it into water. Can you believe it?

As her weapon splashed away, Donut rose to her feet. Though she was much larger than her opponents, she was outnumbered. She tried kicking at them, but they dodged nimbly.

“Donut!” Buddha called. “I gave you other powers!”

“Like increased awareness and control over my pulse?”

“No! Like finger lasers! You have finger lasers, dude!”

“Holy crap!” Donut yelled. She spread her fingers out and fired ten lasers at the Redressers. She only hit Frankenstein and Kathryn, but they were all terrified. “This is amazing! Thanks, Budda!”

Frankenstein shot a death beam at Donut, but she shrank down to fifty feet and it went over her head. Dwayne shot his machine guns at her, but she turned her body to kevlar and the bullets bounced off her. Jeez, I can’t believe I used to like these guys. Well, not Dwayne. He always kind of sucked. Anyway.

Mia looked around for anything technological to take over, but only saw a bunch of dumb old copper and concrete. Ha! How about them all-natural, organic apples?

Just then, Skranenflon appeared. “To me, my Redressers!” he called. “Hey, what gives? You’re making us look bad up here!”

“It’s that monkey,” Mia said, not mentioning her inability to contribute to the fight in this setting. “She somehow got Sun Wukong’s powers and we can’t stop her.”

“Aw, man! Is that Buddha guy here? Ooooh, I hate him! He’s like a walking coexist sticker. I’d better power you guys up.”

Skranenflon wiggled his nose and the Redressers were suddenly much buffer. Dwayne and Carl were now well over six feet tall and covered in veiny muscles. Frankenstein was now ten feet tall and looked more like a Hollywood action star than a stitched-together pile of corpses. And Mia and Kathryn were now standing back to back and wearing sports bras, knee-high boots, bikini bottoms, and random straps on their arms and legs. Mia’s hair was now purple and Kathryn’s now had a white streak. They also had a strange urge to make out with each other. Mia looked over at Skranenflon, who was staring at them with a big, pervy grin. Gross!

Mia and Kathryn shook their heads to clear the horniness and all five Redressers punched the air in front of them, each discharging different types of energy. Dwayne’s was plasma, Mia’s was electricity, Frankenstein’s was dark energy, Kath– Oh, who cares? Donut fired her finger lasers back at them and all the various beams met in the middle, pouring more and more power into a bright ball of energy. The ball exploded, knocking all six of them back on their butts. Wow!

“Aw, come on!” Skranenflon shouted. “This isn’t working at all!”

“I know,” Buddha said. “This is ridiculous! We’ll be here all week at this rate.”

“Forget it,” Skranenflon said. “I’m calling in our fleet.”

Skranenflon tapped a few buttons on his gauntlet and within seconds, hundreds of starships came out of hyperdrive in the sky above New York. A loudspeaker from the ship in point position crackled, “This is Pandemonium-1, reporting in.”

“All units, fire!” Skranenflon commanded.

Just then, Buddha drew a mystical sign in the air and another fleet of starships appeared overhead. They immediately started firing on the Pandemonium ships.

“Great job, Nirvana,” Buddha said into his earpiece. “I knew you’d get here in time.”

“Time is a construct, sir,” Nirvana-Red-Alpha replied. “We’re concerned with higher things, like kicking some infernal tail.”

“Atta boy,” Buddha said.

The Redressers and Donut looked up at what would surely be the greatest science fiction movie of all time if anyone wants to buy the rights from me, when they suddenly disappeared.

They rematerialized in the cockpits of the lead ships for their respective sides, Donut with Buddha in Nirvana-Red-Alpha and the Redressers next to Skranenflon in Pandemonium-1.

“What’s happening, sir?” Donut asked.

“I guess it’s time you knew. This was all a proxy war in the eternal battle between Skranenflon’s and my rival alien empires.”

“That’s mind-boggling and all, but shouldn’t you be worried about the innocent people down there? They could get killed!”

“Oh, right.” Buddha wiggled his fingers and the Earth disappeared. “Sorry to scare you like that. Earth was a hologramic arena we created to play out our moral conflict in more concrete terms.”

The space battle raged. Every second, more ships from the opposing alien races exploded into dust. Before long the only ones left were Pandemonium-1 and Nirvana-Red-Alpha.

“Oh, poo,” Skranenflon said.

The universe dissolved to reveal Skranenflon and Buddha sitting on either side of a sophisticated video game console.

“Hmm, looks like another tie,” Skranenflon said.

“Shall we play again?”

Skranenflon sighed. “It’s so tedious. Can’t we just do it directly?”

“You mean with our fists?”

“Yeah, why not?”

“Well, okay.”

The two beings stood up and started kicking and punching each other. Neither was getting hurt, so the fight was pointless.

After a few minutes, Skranenflon said, “Nope, this still isn’t getting us anywhere.”

“No bodies, then?”

“No bodies.”

Both beings dissolved into amorphous clouds that slowly grew. The clouds slammed into each other, intermingling and then pulling apart. Each collision resulted in a few particles of each cloud winding up inside the other cloud, then being destroyed by their equivalent of white blood cells. After several millennia and countless collisions, both clouds had only experienced nominal losses.

“This is getting us nowhere,” Helen said.

“I can’t believe it,” Methuselah said. “Over eight billion simulations and we’re still no closer to determining if people are generally good or evil.”

“It seems like it’s mostly determined by the almost random conditions you grow up in, with some influence by characteristics that you’re born with,” Helen said.

“Yeah, I know,” Methuselah said. “I was working on the same experiment. Why are you being so expository?”

“Why are YOU being so expository?” Donut mumbled. She stirred, realizing she had been talking in her trance. The Redressers, Buddha, and Skranenflon had stopped fighting among the rubble on Liberty Island and were staring at her.

“Heh. I guess you heard all that, huh?” Everyone nodded. “Then I guess we can just cancel the fight and move on with our lives.”

Everyone shrugged and shook hands. Donut looked at the camera and winked.

I read over the last sentence. “Looked at the camera and winked?” I said. “What am I thinking? This is text! Ugh, this arc is so stupid. I’m not even posting this episode.”

I crumpled up the paper I was writing on and threw it on the floor in disgust, quitting my Redressers story forever.

As I walked away to drink seven more coffees, the wad of paper looked at the camera and winked.

THE END

The Redressers: Part 9

Mia, Dwayne, Kathryn, Carl, and Frankenstein looked from the three-story demon in a tuxedo to their infernal surroundings.

Kathryn shook her head. “Ha! I did not expect this.”

The demon twirled his walking stick and let it rest on his shoulder. “I suppose I ought to get the tour out of the way so we can begin your eternal torment. My name is Skranenflon and I’ll be your attendant while you’re here. Anything you need, just wail and gnash those pearly little whites. You’re all here because you did lots of nasty things up there like breaking out of jail and eating shellfish. Ooooh, He hates that! (It’s a texture thing. They’re so chewy!) Anywho, up there is a limitless void separating us from the mortal plane and everywhere around you is a burning lake of fire. Any questions?”

“So is there like, sex stuff here?” Carl asked. “Lotta pervoids? Where do you keep them?”

“In the boiling lake of fire like everyone else,” Skranenflon said. “We used to specialize the punishments to match the crimes — you know, starving the gluttons while showing them food just out of reach and beating the greedy with bags of gold — but we’ve had such an influx of sinners over the last five thousand years and their sins are so varied and intermingled that we had to simplify everything. I tell you, some days I don’t know why I show up at all. Long story short, if you’re looking for perverts, you’ll have to ask around while the flesh melts off your bones.”

“Hmm. Well, it’s an icebreaker, anyway,” Carl said.

“That’s the spirit. Now, before we get started, there’s a technicality to take care of. We give all newcomers the option of either serving as minions of evil or being tortured for eternity with a chance of parole in a few million years, give or take based on your case. It’s a very difficult decision and–”

“We’ll do it,” Dwayne said.

“Are you sure? Everyone else has chosen the torture and hope for eventual redemption rather than doing evil.”

“Nope. No, thank you. We’ll do it.”

“Does that go for all of you?” The Redressers shrugged and nodded. “Wonderful! I’ll get the paperwork started. Hey, Adolf! We’re going to need a few badges over here!”

Before long, they were outfitted with black leather outfits of varying degrees of coverage and were reading the user manuals about their new satanic powers. Mia was now a cyborg with a robot arm, a laser eye, and a spiky red metal mohawk. She also had the ability to interface with any technology and take it over. Dwayne had grown into a gravelly-voiced muscle man with throbbing veins, a face tattoo, enormous guns, and lots of pouches. An inordinate amount of pouches. Kathryn had the power to transmute materials from one substance to another. Her new uniform showed even more cleavage than her old one, but she didn’t mind anymore since she was working for the devil. Carl had the cosmic power to transport people anywhere and create special “survive in space” bubbles if necessary, Finally, Frankenstein could now shoot beams that could kill and other beams that could bring stuff back to life. It was pretty impressive, honestly.

“What do we do with this incredible power?” asked Kathryn.

“You’ll be working with the terrestrial reclamation team,” Skranenflon said. “The main focus is spreading as much evil over the Earth as possible in order to drive more souls down here. We made some great strides in the 20th Century, but these darn millennials just aren’t taking the bait like their parents did. Do you know how many twenty-somethings killed someone because of their race or religion last year? Two million! When you say it out loud, that sounds like a lot, but it used to be much higher! So you need to stir up the hornets’ nest. Spread fear. Destroy some buildings. Blame it on some kind of group. Have fun with it! And don’t worry about the morality. You’re already in Hell. Okay, Genghis. Let ‘er rip.”

Genghis waved a glowing sword and the Redressers disappeared. “Boy,” Skranenflon said, “I thought they’d never shut up.”

The Redressers appeared in the alley where the Sand Witch had killed them. Their bodies were still there. Frankenstein tried out his new abilities by re-animating the arm of Dwayne’s body and making it wiggle around. “Yoo hoo, Dwa-a-ayne,” he said.

Everyone had a good laugh except Dwayne. He growled, “Cut it out!” and shot Frankenstein’s legs off. Frankenstein made the arm flip Dwayne the bird and then de-re-animated it before making his legs grow back.

“Well,” Mia started, “what do you guys wanna do?”

Carl said, “I guess if we’re supposed to spread fear and violence, I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

He waved his arm and a vertical disc of blue light appeared. “Step in. This’ll be fun.”

Meanwhile, remember the monkey who ran away a few segments ago? She was hanging out on a fire escape, eating a cantaloupe she found in the trash, when a chubby old man approached on the ground below. She shrieked and jumped up.

“Hey, up there. Don’t be startled. I’m a friend.”

The monkey squatted low, then slowly raised her head to look at the potential threat.

“Here, this will help us get to know each other.”

The old man wiggled his fingers in the air and the monkey suddenly felt like her brain was exploding, but without any pain. Just expansion. She gasped and then made a few vocalizations.

“Puh! Puh! Fuh! Muh muh muh. Oh, wow! I can talk!” She clasped her hands over her mouth. “This is amazing! What did you do? Who are you?”

“No biggie. I’m Buddha. Nice to meet you.”

“Wow! Like, THE Buddha? You’re a big deal.”

“Oh, I do okay, I guess. I try not to let it go to my head.”

“Oh, right. That’s kind of your thing, isn’t it? Wait, how do I know that?”

“You’re wise, little monkey. I just made you a little wiser. Speaking of, along with speech, I went ahead and gave you Sun Wukong’s other powers. Crazy strength, somersaulting halfway around the world, changing shape and size, all that. I threw a couple of extra ones in as a surprise. I figured you could use them.”

“Use them? For what?”

“Well, you know those people you used to hang around with, the Redressers?”

“Yeah.”

“Old Scratch has given them superpowers. He wants to wreak havoc, drown the world in blood, yadda yadda yadda.”

“That’s, uh, not great.”

“Right. And since you know them, it seems like you’d be a good one to stop them.”

“Yikes! That’s pretty heavy stuff, sir.”

“I know, but the finale’s coming up so we have to make sure things are set up for the big battle.”

“Okay, I’ll do my best. But isn’t fighting kind of antithetical to your teachings?”

“You’ll find a way. You’re a pretty clever monkey. By the way, you should think up a name. ‘The monkey’ is pretty impersonal.”

She thought for a minute. “How about Donut?”

“Donut! What an excellent name. Something that brings you immense childlike joy. Very good, Donut.”

“So what do I do now?”

“I’m sure your former colleagues will make themselves known before too long. Then just go to wherever they are and do something about it. You good?”

“I think so. Hey, there aren’t any sexual politics underlying a female monkey getting powers from a semi-divine male, are there?”

“Probably. But I think you saving the world from weaponized masculinity makes up for it.”

“Okay, good.”

“Come back when you’re done. We’ll grab some churros and empathize with whatever’s around.”

“Sounds like fun. Thanks!”

It was about that time that the Redressers blew up the Statue of Liberty. News crews in New York started broadcasting live footage immediately, and Donut saw the the images on a TV in a sports bar she was passing in Big City. She planted her feet for a somersault and took a deep breath.

“Time to fling some righteous poo.”

The Redressers: Part 8

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.”

“Doing what?”

“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.”

The Redressers: Part 7

~ Ten Months Later ~

Some people find religion behind bars. Some see the error of their ways and vow to reform. Some are made more violent. The Redressers had been awaiting trial in jail for fifteen months and Carl had a sudden burst of insight.

“Man, jail sucks!”

Mia, Kathryn, and Frankenstein glanced at him and settled back into their own interior monologues, which were immediately interrupted by Carl again.

“Seriously! This place is the worst.”

“Prison is worse,” Mia said. “When we’re found guilty and sent there, this is gonna seem like a vacation. From what I hear, the gangs are a lot more dangerous.”

“The lockup gangs may not be violent,” Frankenstein said, “but they’re so incredibly irritating! They’re either having episodes because they stopped taking their meds or they’re just sloppy drunks.”

Kathryn rolled over on her bed, threw up, and fell over the side into the vomit. She sat up, barely noticing the filth. “D’you say drunks? ‘Sthe Toilet Winos comin’? Those guys’re great.” She fell sideways, back into the land of blacked out slumber.

“She’s gotten worse,” Carl said. “She swears she’s just investigating the Toilet Winos undercover, but jeez.”

Mia sighed. “This wasn’t the plan. We were supposed to network with the minor league gangs here to get intel on the guards so we could expose the institutional abuse. We may be stuck waiting for our trial, but we can do some good in the meantime. But our spokeswoman is just–” Kathryn farted in her sleep. “Yeah.”

“I still think one of us could do it,” Frankenstein said.

“Oh, come on. The public won’t take the charges seriously coming from a Latina, let alone a blue guy or a corpse quilt, no offense. We need a white lady, and ours has John Bonhamed out.”

“In her defense,” Carl said, “have you tried the toilet wine? It’s only kind of terrible.”

“Our trial starts soon,” Mia said. “We’re running out of time. We need a plan.”

 

~ ~ ~

“All rise,” announced the bailiff. “The honorable Judge Natliss Yebajuge presiding.”

“Be seated,” the judge said. “I’ve got a fundraising dinner to get to, so let’s try to hurry this along, okay? Prosecution, start your engines.”

“Thank you, your honor,” said District Attorney Gary Dean Stanton, no relation. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we have here a pretty straightforward case of four people wrecking a store so the owner could file a false insurance claim and walk away a rich man, and then attempting to break the owner out of jail, causing quite a lot of public property damage and getting caught red-handed in the act. Okay, so it’s not that straightforward, but it is a solid case. We have security camera footage and sworn testimony from the jail personnel, as well as the testimony of the owner, who was more than happy to rat out his friends in order to cop a plea bargain.”

“What?!?,” Frankenstein cried, slamming his massive hands on the table.

The judge banged the gavel again. “I’ll have order! Go on, Mr. District Attorney.”

It didn’t get much better after that.

 

~ ~ ~

That evening, they were put back in their cell. Mia started off the panicking session. “This sucks so bad! I can’t believe I stuck with you idiots! Now I’m gonna go to prison and my career is toast, not that it ever started off to begin with, and I’m gonna end up in some stupid gang explaining to everyone how tasers work or something. Ugh! I hate all of you!”

After a moment of awkward silence, Carl spoke up. “Heh, isn’t it weird that they put us all in one cell? They didn’t even separate the men and women.”

The others stared at him.

“It’s just weird. Heh.”

“L’you plizz step tlkng?” Kathryn felt like a steamroller was crushing her head and all of the gloppy chunks were splattering into her bowels. “‘M ne’er drinkin’ toilet wine ag’n. Mean it dis time.”

“Shall we attempt an escape?” Frankenstein offered. “I bet if we put out heads together we could figure out a good plan.”

“I appreciate the thought, Frankenstein,” Mia said, “but I wouldn’t suggest putting people’s body parts together if I were you. Just saying.”

“Psst!”

The Redressers looked at each other.

“Psssssst!”

They raced to the window, which took like a quarter of a second because it’s a jail cell. Outside, they could barely make out a figure waving in the dark.

“Guys,” the figure said in a stage whisper. “It’s me, Dwayne! Where are you?”

“Over here!” called Carl.

Dwayne ran up to the window and pressed his face to the bars. “You’re all clear, kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home!” He waited for a reaction. It didn’t come. “Get it? Like Han? It doesn’t matter. Just stand back, okay?”

Dwayne took a few steps back and pulled a small bomb out of his jacket pocket. He hurled it at the jail cell and it exploded in flames. The flames began to spread across the cheap paint that the jail was coated in, but the actual bricks weren’t harmed.

“Huh,” Dwayne said. He scratched his head. “Any ideas?”

Frankenstein pushed on the wall. It collapsed outwards, creating a giant hole. The others stared at him, mouths agape.

“What? We needed a hole. Come on.”

The alarms blared as they ran out of the cell and into the open air. Dwayne was watching the fire spread over the jail. It was getting near the government center now.

“Should we tell someone?” Dwayne asked.

“Sorry,” Mia said. “I left my phone in the evidence locker.”

They ran a few blocks before taking a rest. Mia stuck her pointer finger in Frankenstein’s face.

“You could have done that at any time?”

“Um…yes?”

“Why didn’t…I’m so…This team sucks so bad!”

Kathryn knelt down and threw up. “Ohhhhh, tha’s better.” She spat and stood up on her wobbly legs. “Okay, lez go.”

They ran off into the night. They stopped six times to convince Kathryn that running away was still a better idea than taking a nap at a bus stop.

When they arrived at Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, they got to work planning their next steps.

“So what, we’re outlaw vigilantes now?” Carl asked.

“I guess so,” Dwayne said.

Mia put her head in her hands. “All I had to do was serve coffee and apply for jobs.”

The Redressers: Part 6

Mia, Carl, Frankenstein, and the monkey that they kept around despite her not, in fact, being the fabled Monkey King Sun Wukong gathered in the parking lot of the Big City 2386th Street jail. “Where’s Kathryn?” asked Carl.

With the impeccable timing of a fictional story, Kathryn approached the team at that exact moment! Isn’t that exciting? What are the odds? I mean, seriously. If you factor in the timing of the traffic sig– Hmm? Oh. Right. Sorry.

Kathryn approached the team. She was embarrassed and then immediately furious. “Why didn’t anyone tell me we weren’t doing this in uniform? You know I hate my boobs flopping out of this stupid thing.”

“Okay,” Mia said. “We all know the plan, right? Kathryn, you go in and distract the guards with your, um, yeah. After they’re nice and drooly, the lights will go out and you take the keys. Then we come in as backup and keep them occupied while you free Dwayne. ”

“For the record, this plan sucks,” Carl said.

“I know, but you all lied about having powers so it’s this or no team. Got it, everyone?”

They all said “Yeah” in unison like some stupid 80s Saturday morning cartoon. They might as well have put their hands in the middle and said, “Go Redressers!” Yeesh.

Kathryn made her way to the entrance and Carl crouched down next to the monkey. “Okay, Sun Wukong, listen closely. I’m going to pick you up and put you in that air duct over there. Your job is to get to the security desk and– Hey! Hey, come back!”

Since it was the first time she had been outside in weeks, the monkey they insisted on calling Sun Wukong saw an opportunity to escape and took it. She scampered off at top speed for over half a mile before crawling into a cardboard box and taking a nap. Later that night she would wander behind a grocery store and find a dumpster full of delicious produce that was mostly edible. It was the first night of the rest of her happy, fulfilling life. Bye, little monkey! Good luck! I love you!

Carl watched her run away. “Crap. Uhhhh, okay, plan B. Mia, you’re an engineer, right? Can you disable the security system?”

“Oh yeah, of course,” Mia said. “I’m sure you have the manufacturer, the model, and all the specs of this building handy, right? No? You don’t? That’s okay, because I can just ‘hack’ it like in movies, right? Let me get out my laptop and password-cracking software and I’ll get us in, right? Idiot.”

Mia let out an exasperated sigh and thought for a moment. “Vic, come with me.”

“What do I do?” asked Carl.

“Stick with the plan. When the lights go out, go in and help Kathryn. We’ll be right behind you.”

Mia and Frankenstein walked around the building until they found the building’s power supply. A transformer sat behind a locked chain link fence.

“Okay, Vic. We need to get in and basically destroy that round thing.”

“I know what a transformer is. It bumps the voltage up or down for a neighborhood, office building, or similar pull on the power grid.”

“Ooh, someone has Wikipedia.”

“Actually, Dan’s dad is an electrician and taught him that when he was like eight.”

“Who’s Dan?”

“Um, nothing! Let’s break this thing, huh?”

Frankenstein ripped the fence apart and stomped at the transformer with all his might. It exploded in a shower of sparks and the jail went dark.

“Arrgh!” Frankenstein yelled. “Fire bad! Rarrr! Ha ha, just kidding.”

Inside, Kathryn realized they had made a slight miscalculation going into this little escapade. Of the three guards on duty at the moment, two of them were women. She tried using her feminine wiles anyway — you never know — but the female guards quickly got wise to her scheme.

“You can cut the crap now, lady,” said Sheila the Guard With a Full and Personalized Backstory. “I’ve got to finish an essay tonight since I’m attending college part time to get my degree and pursue my career goals and I don’t have any time for your nonsense.”

Just then, the lights went out. Carl ran in and crashed into Kathryn. He got up and shouted, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be shaking your boobs at the guards!”

“Ixnay on the oobsbay!”

“What?”

Before Kathryn could respond, three 20 million billion-candlepower flashlights were shining on their faces.

“Don’t move,” said– guess. Go on, guess.

Did you guess yet? Okay, let’s see if you’re right.

Said Louise, the other female guard. (Were you right? Good job!) “We’ve got tasers and guns and this job is super boring so we’ll light you up and post it on cooljailvids.net if you try anything.”

Louise covered them as Sheila and the unnamed male guard who doesn’t get any lines (take THAT, patriarchy!) put on the handcuffs. Mia and Frankenstein then burst in and all three guards pointed their guns at them.

“Aw, crap,” said Mia.

Dwayne perked up as Louise locked the rest of the Redressers in the cell and walked away. “Great! You came for me! So, what’s the plan?”

He looked from face to face. The others looked away.

“This is part of the plan, right?”

Nobody made eye contact for three weeks.

 

~ Five Months Later ~

Dwayne was led back to the cell. He was beaming. “Guys! I’m out! I’m going home!”

“What?” Mia asked. “How is that possible?”

“My trial ended. The judge let me off with five months, time served.”

“But you conspired to burn down your store and commit insurance fraud,” Carl said.

“Right,” Dwayne said as he picked up his couple of belongings. “White collar crime. Fraud is all money stuff and conspiracy is practically Wall Street! Good luck, everyone. Peace!”

“Wait,” Kathryn said. “Are you gonna come back to help us? Or hire some lawyers? Or anything?”

Dwayne grimaced. “Ah. Right. Well, the terms of my release bar me from having any contact with you guys, including providing legal aid.”

“So you’re saying you’re leaving and we’re stuck here for another ten months until our trial?” asked Frankenstein.

“Um, yes. Sorry about the whole inequality thing. I was talking to the judge and he was saying how you guys are in for property damage and attempted jailbreak and those are pretty lower class, so your trial isn’t that high a priority.”

“Time out,” Mia said. “You were just chilling out with the judge?”

“Oh. Yeah. White collar defendants get access to the lounge.”

Kathryn shook her head. “Courts have lounges?”

“Yeah. It’s like airports. Fraud and conspiracy are practically first class diamond club.”

He realized he sounded a little too exuberant. “I tried to get you in, but they wouldn’t let me,” he lied. “On the upside, a few months in jail is going to add a powerful new level of complexity and pathos to my seminars!”

Mia, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein were stunned, mouths agape. “Well,” Dwayne said, “I guess this is goodbye.”

He started towards the exit as the unnamed male guard locked the cell.

“But you’ll come back for our trial, right?” Carl asked.

“Can’t hear you! Too far away! Sorry!”

They would never saw him again. They assumed. And so should you. Seriously, what a jerk.

The Redressers: Part 5

Dwayne ordered another beer. After two hours of searching Yelp for dive bars and roadhouses in Big City and filtering the results for graffiti and chairs that are easy to smash, he decided The Heaving Possum was the place to go to find someone to rob his bodega. After sitting at the bar for three hours, though, his enthusiasm was starting to lag.

Just then, a wild-eyed man plopped down on the stool next to him and pulled a few dollars out of a duffel bag. “Gimme a quadruple, Jimmy!” he said. The bartender poured some Drain Cleanser Whiskey into an old fast food souvenir Looney Tunes glass and slid it to him. The man gulped most of it down and set the glass on the bar. As smoke arose from the whiskey eating through the glass and the bar beneath it, Dwayne knew he had found his criminal element.

“Say,” Dwayne nonchalantly began, “Don’t you hate it when other people have stuff you want? I know it makes me want to take it. Right?”

The man looked at him suspiciously. “You’re speaking awfully openly about your antisocial compulsions.”

“Well, it’s a changing world. Openness is the new mystique!”

“I dunno. Sounds like entrapment.”

“Hah! I don’t know the meaning of the word!”

Dwayne pulled out his phone and looked up what “entrapment” means. He turned back to the stranger. “Oh man, I definitely do not want to do entrapment. No, I’m just a big fan of theft!”

The man cocked an eyebrow. “Theft, huh? Yeah, theft is okay. But how do you feel about robbery?”

“Oh yeah, I’m super into robbery,” Dwayne said. “Are you?”

“I enjoy a rob now and then.”

“Right? It’s great! Other people have stuff, you take it, and then you have it!”

“Ha,” the man said, “you’re a real rob head, aren’t ya? The name’s Do-Harm. Robbing Jack Do-Harm.”

“My name is, uh, Nickname Nick. And lemme tell ya, I’ve got a tip on Dwayne’s A-1 Top Notch Elite Fast Quick Diamond Lucky First Stop Mart Shop. It’s very successful and definitely the place to hit. Lots of cash just lying around in piles and a cowardly cashier with a big paunch and asthma and social anxiety.”

“I love this idea! But before I trust you, you’re gonna have to pass the Robbing Jack Do-Harm’s robber’s test!”

“Okay.”

“What the best part about robbery?”

“Getting money, of course!”

Robbing Jack Do-Harm raised his fist. Dwayne cowered and quickly said, “I mean getting other people’s money because we like causing trouble and doing evil so much!”

Robbing Jack Do-Harm lowered his fist. “That’s right. Okay, let’s go rob this asthmatic coward.” He stood up, spread his arms, and shouted to the heavens, “I hate asthmatics!”

As they headed for the man-shaped hole in the wall that The Heaving Possum’s customers used for a door, another surly, downtrodden, crazed member of Big City’s criminal underground stood up. “You heading for a job, Robbing Jack?”

“Yeah. The place is run by a real wheezer.”

“Any chance there’s any of those dirty professeurs there?”

“Probably not. Sorry.”

“Aw, sockla blue,” he mispronounced.

They stepped outside. Robbing Jack Do-Harm tsked and said, “It’s a shame, really. I thought hating asthmatics was a hard criminal ethos. Poor Reggie got stuck basing his entire criminal career on victimizing middle school French teachers.”

They soon arrived at Dwayne’s A-1 Top Notch Elite Fast Quick Diamond Lucky First Stop Mart Shop. “Well,” Dwayne said, “here we are. Need anything? Ski mask? Glock? Poison gas-spewing gun thematically linked to your modus operandi?”

“No, thanks. I picked the villain name Robbing Jack Do-Harm because I like to keep things simple.” Jack shattered the glass door with his crowbar and walked inside. “Ye-e-es, there’s two things I love to do: rob and do harm. Oh, that reminds me!”

He opened the door to a refridgerated case, pulled out a gallon of milk, and swung the milk with both hands up into Dwayne’s face. He then grabbed Dwayne by the collar and smashed the door on his head repeatedly.

“Ah, yes, nothing fills my heart with childlike glee as much as robbing and doing harm.”

Dwayne spat out his tooth. “Yeth. I thee what you mean.” He shook himself out of the daze. “But you altho like wrecking the plathe, right?”

“Oh, no,” Jack said. “I try to do as little damage as I can. It attracts too much attention. A door here and there is one thing. That’s a necessary evil. But I like to slip in, get as much money as possible, hurt somebody, and slip back out.”

Dwayne froze, eyes wide. “Wait, so you’re not going to cause claim-worthy damage to this property?”

“No, of course not! Besides the undesired attention, it could also lead to the owner of the place winding up with a fat insurance check. That goes against both my taking their money and my doing them harm!” He spat on the floor. “No, thank you. Say, where’s the asthmatic clerk?”

Dwayne was near panic. This was going to be harder than he anticipated. He slyly reached into his pocket. He calmly pulled out his phone. He stealthily typed a mass text to the Redressers to hurry up and come in. He subtly pushed the Send button. He clumsily dropped the phone on the floor. He tensely looked up at Jack. He nervously watched Jack’s eyes as he read the text. He suddenly found himself on the floor after Jack kicked him in the stomach.

Just then, the Redressers ran inside the store in full costume. Jack threw his hands up. “I surrender! Just don’t wreck the place!”

After a moment of confused silence, Azrella picked up the credit card reader, unplugged it, and threw it at Jack before rushing him. He blocked the reader with his arms, leaving him susceptible to Azrella shoving him into some shelves. Jack, the shelves, and about $800 worth of nearly expired canned meats tumbled across the floor.

As Jack struggled to his feet, Dorizan waved his hands, seemingly causing the lottery kiosk to fly through the air of its own volition. After Frankenstein threw the kiosk, he ducked back behind the counter for his grand entrance.

Mia came in next in her steampunk cosplay. She pressed a few buttons, activating the small motors controlling the fans and belts in her suit. It all looked very impressive and distracted Jack for a few seconds while Frankenstein snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Jack turned around, saw the hulking amalgamated graveyard, and screamed. Frankenstein knocked over a row of shelves and picked Jack up under the shoulders, holding him in the air while Mia tied his arms and legs together.

Meanwhile, Dwayne was outside giving the address to the police dispatcher. A few minutes later, two squad cars arrived and Robbing Jack Do-Harm was off to jail for fifteen months while his case was processed because he couldn’t make bail. The police thanked Dwayne for keeping Jack at the scene. They’d been looking for him for months. As the police drove away, the Redressers celebrated their first bona fide victory / successful insurance fraud.

The next day, Dwayne strolled confidentally into the insurance office. An hour later he strolled out with a fat check. Well, it was a thin, normal-sized check, but the amount on it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Four days later, two police officers strolled confidentally out of Dwayne’s house with Dwayne handcuffed between them. “Did you seriously think we wouldn’t look at the security footage? That was the most obvious insurance fraud we’ve seen in years!”

The Redressers watched from the basement window. As the police drove away, Kathryn said, “So we’re gonna break him out, right? That’s what a real team would do.”

Mia, Carl, and Frankenstein made quiet, noncommittal noises. Kathryn added, “Come on, guys. He brought us together and is trying to help our careers. We owe it to him.”

Frankenstein had a rebuttal. “Well, he did break the law. Plus with him out of the house, I won’t have to sleep in the basement anymore.”

Mia walked over to Frankenstein’s side of the room. “I told him if he did anything to make me hate him, I’d be out. He got arrested, so I’m fine with walking away from all of this.”

Carl stood by Kathryn. “I hear you, but we all signed on for the robbery and fraud in the first place. It’d be hypocritical to turn on him now that he got caught.”

Mia thought for a moment. Her shoulders slumped. “Ugh, fine. In order to take responsibility for my actions, I’ll help break Dwayne out so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions.”

Kathryn and Carl high-fived. Kathryn asked, “So what do you say, Vic? Are you in?”

“I suppose,” Frankenstein replied in his best Eeyore voice.

“Well,” said Mia, “I guess we’d better start figuring out the intricate details of how we’re going to break Dwayne out. It’ll probably take a really long time to work it all out. Ha, can you imagine if we were in some serialized fiction story that has to have cliffhangers and constant drama? This would make a really dull episode.”

Just then, the wacky neighbor kid came in and said his wonderful catchphrase. Everyone on the recording of an audience had a good laugh.

The Redressers: Part 4

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.”

“You…trash houses?”

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.”

“Okay.”

“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.”

“Sure.”

“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.”

“Awesome!”

“I am starting to hate you again.”

“I know.”

“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.”

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 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?”