World Domination, and Other Childish Pursuits


Chapter Four: Slander

It was a nice restaurant. It wasn't a fancy restaurant, as Frigid had no patience remaining to spare to reservations or dress codes, but it was nice. The patrons had dressed up even without being made to (though none so properly as Frigid herself, of course), and she had been given a table in her own little section. That had probably been done for the benefit of the other diners, but she was hardly going to complain. But of course the most important thing about any eatery was the food, and the place didn't disappoint in that respect. She had no complaints at all about her plate of pasta, the breadsticks, nor her second plate of pasta. Of course, after so long on only bland fodder, gone from the cafeteria to a cooler to her, it probably would have been difficult to disappoint her. But whether it was actually a wonderful place or she was simply rediscovering the joys of hot food didn't really matter.

What mattered was that she felt better. And full. Not to mention that she was unlikely to forget to eat again anytime soon. She sat at her table, waiting with finished plates in front of her. A little worry bubbled up that Updraft was going to bust in and hassle her in public again. But nothing of the sort happened, and eventually a waitress stopped by to give her the bill. She penned in a tip that was twice as much as the actual bill on the little receipt-ish slip thing that went with cards, and then signed her name with relish. The look on the waitress's face was almost worth it.

It wasn't a significant waste. It wasn't like she was going to spend all the money in that account before she wrapped up her vacation and it was promptly frozen once more. She could withdraw it as cash, but then there would eventually be laundering to deal with, and she was not generally starved for funding with any given scheme anyways. A lot of supervillains seemed to be, judging by all the bank robberies and ransom attempts. Some of them even seemed to think schemes should gather money as the end, instead of using money as a means to achieve something better. It was absurd. Frankly, it was insulting to a proper visionary like herself.

Frigid shrugged, and walked out of the restaurant. She was going to amble around the city for a bit, to digest her meal before getting back to flying. At least, she was intending to do that, but a reporter just outside the restaurant was in the way of most directions for ambling. Frigid looked around, but nobody was staring. What was wrong with this city that this was normal? She sighed. At least only one had followed her from the bank. A woman dressed in a suit, who looked strangely composed for having followed a minor around for the last however long. She also had a disgustingly cheery smile and sharp eyes. Apparently looking her way for more than three seconds and not walking away was enough for Ms. Reporter to launch into things.

"Hello again, Frigid. It has not taken long for you to find yourself in the news again. Only one day after your official pardon and release, and you have already foiled a bank robbery. Is this the start of a new superhero career?"

Frigid just kept staring at the woman for a few seconds. To her credit, she didn't show any discomfort. After another moment Frigid recognized her face as the reporter who had asked about her father the day before. Great. Finally, Frigid shrugged. "I'll be honest with you," she lied, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I didn't witness a bank robbery, much less foil one. I went to the bank for a normal transaction. I didn't so much as say anything to anyone but the teller."

"But testimony from people on the scene at the time was clear that someone had entered with obvious intent to rob the bank, until you looked at him. Which—"

"Right, right, that. Look, they can say what they like. But personally, I don't believe in judging someone's intentions simply from a supervillainesque ensemble. You could see the hypocrisy, I'm sure. Which I suppose brings me to an actual point I can give you, for a story, if you really must follow me until you get one. It's absurd that you are all ready to leap on the idea that I'll become a superhero. Expecting me to renege and become a supervillain again, that I could actually understand. I would find it less than ideal, for obvious reasons, but I would understand. But this? Ask yourself something. If I did announce that I was going to become a superhero, that I was going to turn my powers towards combatting villainy, would you be glad? Would you trust me? Wouldn't the idea that I was still a dangerous person, still regularly employing violence, be unsettling? Wouldn't you question my motives, if maybe I just wanted to abuse the power and responsibility that would afford me, or at the very least selfishly enjoy the privilege to fight people? Wouldn't, shouldn't you be the least bit suspicious?" Frigid let the question hang for a moment. Then she grinned. "But there's the good news! I'm not going to become a superhero. So there's no need to worry about me. But maybe you should question whether or not there's reason to worry about the others."

The reporter still had a good poker face. She nodded, and then was already responding. "I see. To be sure I'm understanding, are you criticizing the institution of superheroes? Are you sure that isn't simply lingering resentment, considering your past? And can you deny that your own history is not evidence for the necessity of superheroes?"

Frigid rolled her eyes. She hadn't intended to get into a debate, but oh well, here she was. "I feel I can deny it, actually. What have superheroes done about me? They've stopped me, yes. Again and again, yes. But that's just the thing, isn't it? Again and again. Does that really sound like a working system to you? I'm reformed now. I'm one of the few success stories the system actually has. And do you know why? Because it's certainly not that Updraft put me in the Canary City Youth Detention Center." She snorted, shaking her head. "It's that I got pardoned. I was offered a chance to do good and I'll prove that I can. I'm not saying immediately pardon everyone, obviously. But getting people to the point they could safely be pardoned should be the goal. If nothing else, putting villains in prison when they shortly get back out again isn't anything but a delaying measure, and that's all superheroes are for. ...Well, almost all." She glanced up at the sky. "I'll give them credit for disaster relief. But the vigilanteism? No. If you maintain society through violent force which isn't actually under society's control, it's very precarious. Not impossibly precarious. I obviously didn't push the status quo over. But I'm sure, eventually, something will. My suggestion is we should voluntarily do it together, peacefully make a more stable system, before something knocks it all down with overwhelming force."

Frigid sighed and looked back down. Then she smiled wide. "Okay, there, is that enough words for your rag? I'm assuming the lack of a camera means you're with a newspaper, anyways. I went poetic so the brevity might be better excused. Besides, it's an exclusive, I'm sure you can print it. In any case, it's all you're getting. Ever. So, don't bother following me around anymore. I know your medium is dying all across the country, and it hangs on here by being a superheroes tabloid and local guilty pleasure, but I'm not having it. And unlike the usual quarry you pick on, my identity isn't a secret I would be jeopardizing with a court case. Bye!" Frigid smiled even wider, then walked off at a brisk pace.

That exchange probably hadn't been worth it, but whatever! Canary City should be delighted she was so magnanimous as to offer it this much attention in one day. It wouldn't be, because everyone and everything in it was spoiled by hosting two famous superheroes who lacked the sense to realize they didn't need to maintain their perfect PR images every single second of every single day. They didn't need to feed those ridiculous leeches that passed for the local media in order to keep up everyone's adoration. Everyone loved them by default, at this point. They must have no idea they were wasting so much time reinforcing an image that had long-since become unassailable. Even she used to buy that they really were the perfect caricatures of benevolent, generous superheroes they appeared to be.

But now she knew better. Which didn't really change anything, though it was one more reason she needed to take over the world. The world needed her to take it over, really. Better she put herself in charge than let some ambitious and powerful idiot seize control first. A world run by her father was a chilling prospect, and he was one of the better options. Of course, she wasn't interested in ruling the world for only selfless reasons, but the state of civilization was embarrassing. How could anyone see it and not feel the need to run it?

Did people just not realize how fragile their status quo was? Did they know, but imagine themselves powerless to do anything? The self-proclaimed 'heroes' she could understand, at least, as they felt they stood to gain most from preserving things as they were. A lack of proper ambition, for all their ability. But it was just as well. The less proper competition she had, all the better. Heroes were obstacles, but reactionary, predictable ones. Not that difficult to overcome, not for her. Or at least they shouldn't have been.

It was really only Updraft who posed actual difficulties, but—No, she was not going to think of Updraft. Frigid stopped in her tracks and looked around. The streets were safe, just random civilians, but of course up there in the sky she could spot that white-and-red eyesore. When would she learn not to tempt fate like that? And, of course, she was heading in her direction. Without a plane in tow this time, it was inevitable she would gun for another pointless confrontation. Frigid sighed, then casually clambered up the side of the nearest building.

Her lunch didn't entirely agree with the acrobatics, but it wasn't a problem. It was definitely better than having some conversation in the street where anyone could overhear. Especially if that reporter was still lurking around nearby...

Of course, Updraft lighted down on the roof in front of her. She was frowning slightly, a gesture Frigid was all too happy to return. After a moment, Updraft spoke up. "You know you can't take off from here." It almost sounded like she was trying to chide her, as if she had any right.

Frigid rolled her eyes. "Obviously. I'm just here to talk to you. What were you flying over to bother me about?"

"Oh. Uh." Updraft was silent for a second. "Mostly that you randomly climbed up on a building, honestly. I wasn't actually trying to find you before that." She laughed slightly.

Frigid rolled her eyes. Sure. At least Updraft was about as bad at spying as she was at lying. "Oops. Well then, I suppose I must simply get back off of this building then." Slowly, exaggerratedly, Frigid turned around.

"Wait. Since we are talking anyways, I did have something to say the next time I saw you. I heard about the bank robbery, and I wanted to say—"

Frigid spun on her heel and stepped towards Updraft. "What," she snapped, "Don't tell me you're thinking this might be the start of a superhero career too? It's not happening."

"Oh, of course not!" Updraft laughed again. It was really more of a giggle, which somehow was worse.

Frigid narrowed her eyes. She took another step towards her nemesis. "What? Do you really think it's a laughable idea? Here I thought you of all people would get it."

Updraft shook her head. "No no, it's not laughable. Believe me, I would love it if you actually became a superheroine. But I do know you, Frigid."

That made Frigid scoff. "You really don't."

"Uh-huh. Well, if you announced you were becoming a superheroine, I wouldn't trust it for a second. I'd give you the chance, of course, but I'd have to keep an eye on you."

"Why am I not surprised? So, is that what this really is? You're keeping an eye on me, to catch me when I inevitably turn back to my evil ways? Since naturally you know better than the actual authorities who saw fit to let me go."

"Oh, no." Updraft waved her hand dismissively. "After all, you aren't saying you're going to be a superhero. You aren't trying to get close to me, or engaging in major business deals for your father, or doing anything suspicious at all. You're saying you want to be a normal civilian, though you haven't given up on the costume or jetpack. That I can just about buy. And more than that, you've done some genuine good. I make a point of congratulating ordinary citizens for acts of good samaritanship, and that's what I wanted to say. Thank you for doing the right thing." Updraft showed her a big, warm smile. It made her stomach crawl.

She huffed and rolled her eyes. "What I did was hardly extraordinary, Updraft."

"I know. It doesn't have to be. It doesn't matter whether anyone else could have done it or not. What matters is that you could, and you did."

Frigid groaned, and actually turned around. She couldn't bear to look at that sanctimonious face any longer. "Sure, fine. I'll remember to skip out on the next good deed to save myself another one of these interactions." She started casually climbing back down the building. Halfway down, she called up to Updraft: "Oh, and of course you wouldn't forget, but remember. You can't take off from there, you know."

With that, she let herself drop and landed on the street. She was going to go flying already.

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