World Domination, and Other Childish Pursuits


Chapter Three: Traffic Violation

Frigid woke up. She opened her eyes, sat up halfway, and yawned. It felt so nice to be in a big, nice bed. Fluffy blankets, puffy pillows, and the chance to actually get some rest... Frigid laid her head back down and closed her eyes.

Frigid woke up again. This time she kept her eyes open, flipped the light switch above her head, and reluctantly got out of her bed. She stepped over to the water fountain and had a sip, before stretching out and yawning. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and looked around the room. It was dominated by her usual light blue, silver, and white palette, but was complimented by several splashes of pink. The bed was much larger than she needed, and she patted herself on the back for that foresight. She was a little taller than when she had the bed brought in, after all. And the edges of the bed had been colonized by some opportunistic stuffed animals. A polar bear, some seals, a pod of orcas, a white fox... There was a flock of penguins at one of her other lairs.

She slid open the door to the attached restroom, and went about starting her day properly.

Once she was cleaned up and dressed again, she helped herself to the heat from the cute, cozy little rooms. Nothing like an artificial cold snap to properly wake you up in the morning. Not that it was really the morning anymore, glancing at the big wall clock. She turned the thermostat off, and then stepped through the big shining silver door. She shut it behind her, and then stepped through the silver corridor and opened the even larger door at its other end. She stepped out of the vault and into the main body of her lair.

None of the computerization extended past the door. Everything in there was mechanical where possible, like the thermostat, and what electronics were necessary were 'dumb', like the lights. The door itself was locked behind a mechanical combination and a wheel a normal person couldn't hope to spin. There were never too many safeguards for the room where you slept, and it had the added advantage of offering privacy even with Susie in her systems. Speaking of her artificial sibling...

"Good afternoon, Frigid!" This time their voice came out of the intercom system. If Frigid looked around at more or less any screen, the 'S.U.S.I.' crawl was interspersed by ':)'. They had much more sophisticated ways of communicating a mood or giving themselves an avatar, but ASCII pictures were somehow their favorite. Apparently it was charming.

"Good morning, Susie. It's not the afternoon yet, whatever the clocks say. I'll let you know when I decide the time of day gets to change. Well, I guess that will be up to you soon enough anyways. I'm going to jet, now." More or less literally.

"Oh. Going so soon?"

"That's right. I'm sure you'll be fine holding out here with me out of your metaphorical hair again. I don't want to hang around Canary City any longer than I have to." She was looking forward to flying again. She had lairs and supply caches set up so she could jetpack across the country, though she might not go that far all at once.

"Oh. I was hoping you would stay longer. I don't suppose that's grounds where you might have to stay longer?" The face in the crawls was replaced with ';~;' which took Frigid a moment to parse.

"Why do you want me to stay? If you're enjoying my company too much, well, I'm flattered. But you could follow me to a better-placed base."

"I could do that." The face in the crawl shifted to ':/'. "But I'm trying to keep my footprint down, for the moment. I'd rather not move around too much until I'm more confident no one is searching for me. Even your networks aren't impossible to monitor for that kind of activity. But I would still quite appreciate the protection of your presence. Would it be too big of a favor to request that you stay? Pretty please?"

Frigid sighed. She had to reluctantly admit that made sense. She thought Susie was being a little too cautious, but better that than the opposite. And a short stay in Canary City couldn't be that bad, right? "Alright, fine. As a favor to you, I'll stay here. But I'm still going to out and find something to do. I'll be back tonight."

"Thank you very much! I'll see you later."

Frigid climbed up the shaft out of her lair, and opened the new hatch. It wasn't a perfect replacement, but it was functional. Not quite so heavy as the original, but still more than a normal person could hope to lift up. The concrete slab had been much simpler to replace, just dragging out a spare. It probably wasn't necessary to hide the hatch like that, but it couldn't hurt. It might be harder to keep the base secret if this was going to be a regular commute, but what were they going to do? Trespass in an ordinary citizen's home? If it was discovered, she could just be sure to decommission it before getting back in the game.

She got to the surface, and... Oh, right, the nearby traffic. It was probably safe to assume it wouldn't stay secret. Frigid shrugged, shut and locked the hatch behind her, and set the concrete slab into place. She wandered through the field a little bit, and then got too bored to keep up the probably unhelpful secrecy-measure. She could finally, finally fly for the first time in much too long. She reached behind her and pulled out the control sticks. She turned her jetpack on, ready to use, and took in a deep breath. She channeled power into her legs, a little liberally, and coiled to launch.

She sprung, leaping into the air. She went higher than she expected, and felt a little buzz of thrill even before she started the engine. It kicked on and launched her even higher, and she couldn't help but cackle as she soared into the sky. No matter how many times she saw the ground shrink away beneath her and felt the air rush by, it never, ever got old. She tilted the engine's angle to propel her forward and keep her roughly aloft, and she started to follow the freeway back into the city. She was dipping, but negligibly so. She looked up at the clear blue sky, and the few fluffy clouds that dotted it. She was well below cloud level, of course. It was only a jetpack.

But it was the greatest jetpack ever designed. Of course, she had something of an unfair advantage, in that she only had to design it for herself. If someone else tried to use it, it wouldn't end well. One of the essential problems with a jetpack for any normal person was what to do with all the heat of the engine and exhaust. Frigid, meanwhile, had an opposite consideration. The exhaust still had to propel outwards, of course, but the more heat that she could harvest, the better. The jetpack was her favorite battery by far, even if it was nowhere near the most efficient.

Frigid almost felt as though nothing could spoil her mood. Only almost, because she wasn't so enraptured to forget which concrete and stainless steel vista she was approaching. But there was no winning. Be blissfully unaware, and circumstance would deliver the nasty surprise with relish. But spare even one single stray thought to the potential problem, and fate wouldn't be able to resist the temptation. Innocently fly over toward Canary City and have Updraft whizz over to intercept you.

How did she even fly, anyways? She could float in air, that was simple enough. The weirder part was how she could propel herself forward without any motion of her body. She wasn't swimming, she was jetting. Did she have to be floating to do that? Could she propel an individual body part, or did it have to be her whole form at once? She always seemed to fly forwards, but was that out of necessity or just the convenience of watching where she was going? Was she directly accelerating herself or displacing air to propel herself? Whatever the specifics, there had to be some way of doing more with that than just flying. She supposed it was a blessing Updraft hadn't bothered to question it long enough to think of whatever it was.

She tried to veer off away from Updraft's approach, but it was pointless and she knew it. She couldn't outmaneuver the superheroine, not in normal flight. Updraft flew over and swung around behind her, pulling up to her other side. She tried to shout something, and Frigid sighed. She glanced at Updraft, who was sticking her arms out in front of herself for whatever ridiculous reason, then looked back in front of herself. Distracted flying was never a good idea, but there was no way around this. "I can't hear you!" She glanced at Updraft again, who was trying to shout back, because of course she was.

The one flaw with her jetpack design was the fact that the thing was loud. Admittedly it did serve as a deterrent in aerial combat, but otherwise it was just as much an inconvenience for her as anyone else. Her helmet prevented any hearing damage, and could lower the sounds as quiet as she liked. But blocking a very loud sound would filter everything else out with it. So far she hadn't found any way around it. She was a genius, not a wizard.

As much as she would love to slowly make her archnemesis deaf, she was going to have to talk to her. She was going to have to land, before— Frigid sighed, and cut the power to her jetpack. Updraft had grabbed her, and now she was somehow hovering too. Not dangling like she should have been. Seriously, just how did that work? "Okay. I hope you have a good reason for bothering me this time. And please don't tell me it's because I'm flying without a license. Jetpacks don't count, it's a legitimate recrea—"

"Frigid please shut up." Despite herself, Frigid did. Updraft didn't usually talk like that, and she sounded almost concerned. "We need to have clear airspace right now. Just land and do... whatever. Please don't cause trouble, people are going to get hurt if I'm not up here to help them."

"What's going on? I—"

"No time! Do I have to land you or can you do that yourself?"

Frigid hesitated for a moment. This was just surreal. Here Updraft looked urgent, almost desperate, and it wasn't even satisfying. "I can land. Go do... whatever."

Updraft let go of her, and gravity remembered she existed. She started freefalling, but casually turned her engine back on. The takeoff burst shot her back upwards, and Updraft glared at her for it before she could lower the thrust. She started to gently descend, ending in a perfect landing. She was just barely in the city now, and a couple people were staring as she landed. She didn't pay them any mind, as she started casually strolling down the sidewalk. She wondered what nonsense Updraft was tangled up in. Someone else trying to take over the city, maybe? But who else had Updraft worried like that?

Honestly, she didn't get it. Whatever two-bit cad was making a move, she must have been the bigger threat. Who would they even have to clear airspace for? Strix, or maybe Orb Weaver? The Dire Dirigible? Worse than jokes! And yet Updraft had the gall to just—to just dismiss her? Her? It was insulting, but all the worse for Updraft, because in the distraction—no, no, no. Frigid sighed and pushed her visor up. She was playing nice right now. Even if she did want to drop the ploy early, she didn't have any actual scheme yet. The heroes could deal with whatever this was themselves, she was just another citizen of Canary City. She couldn't help but groan a little at that thought. She would have to convince Susie to move to her island as soon as they felt up to it.

And she had barely even got the chance to fly! Just enough for the sudden grounding to really taunt her. She put her hands on her cheeks, and sighed again. Oh, whatever. It was just for one little emergency. Updraft would handle it pretty quickly, she was sure. If that pesky hero was good for anything, it was that. She furrowed her brow, and started heading down the sidewalk faster. She found herself halfway tempted to flout the flight ban and take out her frustration on whoever was causing the inconvenience before Updraft could, but it wouldn't be worth it. She sighed again, at length, and noticed most of the others on the street were staring at her.

This wasn't right. Why did she feel so awful? It wasn't just the moratorium on flight, or bumping into Updraft, there was something else. It was beneath everything else, a layer of almost sickly feeling and general irritability under the specific annoyance. It was... Oh. Of course. Why hadn't she realized it sooner? Frigid hadn't eaten anything since the ice cream last afternoon. She would have to go get a hot meal.

But she probably couldn't dine by check. Well, maybe she could, but she had to get a card or cash or something eventually, so it may as well be now. On the bright side, for the time being it would be pretty easy. Her assets would have been unfrozen after the pardons, surely. And that meant her earliest accounts would be open. No jumping through hoops, no aliases. She could walk down to most any national bank and request a debit card under... well, still not her own name, but the point was she didn't need a disguise. It wasn't even any more walking than she would have to do to get to a nice eatery anyways.

When Frigid got to the nearest bank, and stepped through the glass doors, every pair of eyes turned towards her. Most of the people waiting in the building looked terrified, which was stupid. She hadn't ever robbed a bank in her life. That was for supervillains of considerably less resources and resourcefulness, and... normal criminals. Frigid stepped into the end of the shortest line. Eventually the skittish little people seemed to realize she wasn't going to do anything dastardly to them, as bouts of whispers no doubt circulated the good news about her new leaf. Still, she couldn't help but notice the new arrivals ignored her line.

She was tantalizingly close to the teller (after a couple people had coincidentally excused themselves to the restroom and joined the ends of another queue, she couldn't help but notice) when someone slammed the door open with truly unnecessary force. "It's your unlucky day, folks! Your precious superheroes are finding themselves busy with... with..." Frigid looked over her shoulder and grinned at the man wearing an electric purple balaclava. A large sky blue badge on his chest read 'EE', and in one hand he carried something that looked suspiciously like a taser with plastic fins attached to the sides.

The Electric Eel, as Frigid felt entirely confident was the man's nom de guerre, promptly walked back out through the door. Frigid turned back around. The other customers had a bevy of reactions, some even applauded her as if she'd done anything. She wouldn't have actually stopped the man if he proceeded with his heist. What did she care about the bank's money? Her deposits were insured, like anyone else's. Instead she just made a mental note to definitely get to work on the electricity-resistant outfit concept, and waited patiently for the lines to move again.

It was rather time-consuming, but surprisingly painless, to get a debit card issued. She had to say her legal 'name', of course, but apparently now they allowed alternative first names on the cards. 'Frigid Duval' still wasn't quite right, but it was a step in the right direction. Maybe, while she was pretending to have dropped supervillainy, she could find a court willing to change her name to Frigid. It wasn't like 'R-784' was particularly acceptable, it was absurd they always refused her proposed change. It was stupid she had to do anything in the country's courts at all, but contesting the validity of her supposed national citizenship would be more than a little counterproductive at the moment.

Regardless, in the here and now she had easily, conveniently spent money. She headed out of the bank, ignored the news crew waiting outside, and went to find a good restaurant. She would treat herself to something, but she hadn't decided what yet. After a moment, she noticed everyone around was looking up at the sky. She did the same, and saw a passenger plane lazily cruising over the city. It was at an oddly low altitude, and an oddly low speed, but odder still was the fact it only had one wing. But underneath it, of course, were Updraft and Cometman. Even from this distance Frigid could recognize the colors.

Was that what all this was about? Saving one paltry jumbo jet? Did it really take their combined efforts and a pause on air traffic to manage something so simple? Frigid rolled her eyes. She could do it so much more efficiently. If she bothered to try and devise a solution, anyways. Certainly she could, if she had access to Updraft and Cometman's bizarre flight power. With her own powers, while she could lift the weight of a plane, she'd have no leverage in the air. And even if she somehow did, applying it would probably break the bit of plane she pushed on before it meaningfully slowed the thing down. Besides, the point was to avoid dedicating individual superpowered people to the task. The smarter route would be to build some kind of device to handle it. But at that point, why not just design safer planes? Well, no, that could lessen the need for a landing-assistance safety net, but not eliminate it. Unless she replaced planes entirely with— Oh, whatever.

She really needed to eat something already.

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