World Domination, and Other Childish Pursuits


Chapter Seven: Vigilanteism

It was good to have a sense of purpose again. That had been what was missing, the thing getting in the way of really enjoying her vacation. No more aimless wandering, no more floundering to find something of value in the unfamiliar mess of metropolitan civilian society. Things made so much more sense on her island, but there were certain opportunities it just didn't offer. And now was the time to make use of some of them, laying more groundwork for her ultimate success. Which had brought her to the fancy clothing store—it even called itself a boutique—looking at dresses. The workers at the counter had certainly been surprised to see her walk in, but she ignored it. She knew what she was doing, and didn't need any measurements or tailoring or recommendations or whatever else it was she was confident clothing store employees were prepared to offer.

She had in mind the general aesthetic sensibilities, and it didn't take long to find a variety of suitable dresses. She bought the six best, and for her trouble got another big showy bag, as if the one for the six suits hadn't been bad enough. It wasn't the most wieldy manner of storage. But it was fine, she hadn't really been expecting to fly it all back to her lair. She felt good about it. Shopping in itself wasn't especially fun, but she was looking forward to the end result. There was more to do first, of course, but that just made the anticipation sweeter. Rosy thoughts flitted through Frigid's head as she walked down one of the city's busier streets. People gave her space, as if things hadn't been nice enough already.

"Hey! You there, Frigid! Face me!"

Frigid stopped on the spot and sighed. It was an entirely unfamiliar voice, shouting with what seemed like genuine passion. Frigid spun on her heel, staring through her visor at... She groaned. The obvious source of the shout was a skinny man in a black bodysuit with a large white V on his chest, face 'hidden' by a little domino mask. Great, just what she needed. Some no-name superhero hassling her to make a name for himself. He seemed to be waiting for her to say something in response. So, she turned around, and started walking again.

"Hey! Where are you going!? I told you to face me! You're going to face the bite of The Venger!"

Frigid couldn't help herself. She spun back around, not even trying to hide the stupid grin that had split her face. "The Venger? You call yourself that? In seriousness?"

The Venger evidently didn't see the humor, judging by the scowl on his face. "You think this is funny?"

"Yes." Frigid cackled. He made it so easy! The civilian crowd was backing away slowly to give the pair some distance. Smart, but there wasn't any need. "Sorry, are you maybe behind on the times? I've been pardoned. There's nothing for you to take me in over. Or are you not a hero? If you're coming after me for rep, you're even dumber than you look. I'm retired, and way out of your weight class, trust me." Frigid wanted to wave a hand dismissively, but the bag of clothing would muddle the meaning. So she settled on turning around again and walking away. Sure, the guy was funny, but he'd really run the joke into the ground if given the chance, she could tell.

"Oh, I am most definitely a hero." The man said it with all the unwarranted self-satisfaction she would expect from a cocky new superhero. He clearly had no idea what he was doing or how he actually measured up. But she would leave it to someone else to knock him down a peg.

She had thought that was pretty much the end of it when she heard an earsplitting crack, followed by a metallic ringing noise and what felt almost like a punch in her back. Screams came out of the crowd, and Frigid started pulling in heat from her surroundings. She slowly turned around, noting the small but growing puddle of fuel on the ground, and the deformed bit of metal laying on the pavement not far from her. And, most telling of all, the man was pointing a pistol right at her, held in one hand.

"You—You shot me! With a gun!"

"That's right!" The man grinned widely, as though this was some impressive achievement. "Dismissing me was the last mistake you're going to make. Don't even think about running away. You're not escaping justice."

"What? I told you, I was pardoned! You don't think I'm just lying about that, do you? What, did I fool every single police officer in this city?" Just great. A cocky idiot with a gun. He had actually caught her off-guard, but all he had hit was her fuel tank. Which was still leaking, but aside from the smell that wasn't a huge problem. Yet.

"Don't give me that." He scoffed, and then puffed out his chest, of all things. "I don't mean the phony justice doled out by the man. I mean real justice. You're going to pay for the blood on your hands, in blood."

What? "And whose blood is on my hands, exactly? I've never killed anyone. Is all you know that I'm an ex-supervillain, or something? Do you not do research as part of this whole schtick?" Frigid had regained her composure, mostly, her voice back to dismissal and arrogance. But her heart and mind were racing. She had faced foes with guns before, of course, but she hadn't been prepared for something like this out of the blue. She willed power into her limbs as the temperature dropped, not something anyone could see. But if he fired a shot and she did dodge in time, he might hit someone who hadn't run far enough away. And letting a common idiot murder someone because they thought they could simply take down Frigid with a handgun? That would be unacceptable.

The Venger stood there for a few moments, just shaking his head. Good. Eventually he had finished his quiet grandstanding and started squawking again. "Right, your hands are so clean. And all those people who died due to your father's schemes while you held off the heroes are on whose hands exactly?"

What? Frigid narrowed her eyebrows. "What are talking about? If my father killed them, then clearly he killed them! I never assassinated anyone for him, or guarded any death rays. It's not my fault! Don't you dare put his crimes on my hands! What was I supposed to do? Stop him myself? Because I did that, you know, more than once!"

The man rolled his eyes. "That's right, move the goalposts. This response is all the confession I need, only the guilty are so desperate to shift blame. You're—"

Frigid cut in, as quick as she could make the words coherent. "Alright, well before you finish passing judgement and shoot me as you are oh so clearly about to do, you should take note of the puddle at my feet." As much as her blood was boiling with indignation, she didn't have time to protest her (relative) innocence. She had to end things quickly. "You hit my fuel tank earlier, and it's been leaking since. Fire another bullet my way, the sparks will ignite it, and that will make the whole fuel tank explode. So you think there's blood on my hands. Is there blood on the hands of everyone in the store behind me? On the hands of everyone in the block, if the fire spreads?"

"You're taking hostages?" The man looked at her, outraged.

"No, I— I'm just pointing out the problem you caused and are about to make so much worse if you proceed with your attempt to murder me! I didn't do anything, you self-absorbed raving lunatic!" Frigid was glad he fell for her bluff—the man shot her fuel tank without an explosion, how was her lie not obvious—but it was swallowd in indignant outrage. "What is wrong with all of you people? How can you honestly sit back and believe that everything bad that happens is only the villains' fault? How do you manage to stay oh so self-righteous while you go on without a thought or a care to do exactly the same things as the villains you claim to oppose? Is the quintessential superhero power mental gymnastics? And why do you have this bug so bad that you are going to gun down a child in the street and still call yourself the good guy?"

"Hey!" The man all but snarled at her. "How dare you? How dare you! Don't try to play word games! How can you claim the moral high ground when you're the obvious evil one here!?" He took a step forward and thrust an accusing finger at her, bodily leaning into it. He started to launch into another round of recriminations.

Frigid seized the moment and launched forward as fast as her borrowed power could propel her. Almost immediately she had to pull back on the power, skidding on the sidewalk as she hurtled towards him. The man almost jumped and then tried to line the gun back up but by then she was barreling into him shoulder-first. It hurt, but it clearly hurt him worse as he toppled, getting layed out flat. Frigid barely kept herself from falling over with him, then hurried to kick the gun out of his hand, with maybe a little more force than necessary. If he made a noise she hadn't paid enough attention to notice it, and then the main sound in her ears was blood rushing. She planted her foot on his stomach just in case she hadn't knocked the wind out of him.

"Don't. Move." She took in a deep breath, then a few more. It had been a long time since she had faced a desperate situation like that, demanding instant action. What a rush! Frigid was grinning ear to ear. She had handled it perfectly. Of course she had; how could such small fry possibly think he was a threat to her? To Frigid? She hadn't even had to drop the shopping bags to deal with him! Said pathetic man gasped or gagged or something, and Frigid took her foot off him.

"I hope you've learned your lesson. You aren't cut out for this. Do you even have powers?" She didn't get an answer, but she hadn't really expected one. That wasn't the point. It simply wasn't a victory without a little gloating. Unfortunately, as ever, the victorious mood was cut short by the intruding sounds of those pesky spoilsports, and their sirens.

Wait. "Oh, no." This wasn't right. This was too soon! She didn't have her plan ready yet, and she was down a jetpack again. She looked behind her, and of course Updraft was already there, flying down the street towards her, because how could she ever be so foolish to expect anything less? She skitted away from the prone hero, and glanced around quickly for exits. She couldn't face Updraft in the air, but Updraft couldn't really do much to her from a distance either. So, either slug it out fast or find some way to lose a flying tail... No time to waste, either, she couldn't afford to get stuck in the city or, with her luck, all of Bastion would come down on her head. And she couldn't bring them right to Susie, so it would mean she'd need to run to next closest base, and all of her vacation plans would be up in smoke—

Updraft landed in front of her, looking worried. Well, that was a good start, but no time to savor that, she had to talk her way out of it. "Updraft, I swear, this isn't what it looks like—"

"Frigid! Are you alright?"

That was not what she expected Updraft to say. She had heard it before, but only while buried under rubble or being on the other side of an explosion. And she hadn't needed the patronising concern then, either. "I'm fine. You didn't actually think this nobody could have hurt me, did you?"

"Good. Did anyone else get hurt?" Updraft turned her head to look around, and Frigid eyed the man on the ground.

"No, everyone should be fine. He only shot once, and I saw where the ricochet landed, nobody got hurt. And I'm fine, although I can't say the same for my poor jetpack." She sighed mournfully, although her heart wasn't really in it. There was no way this was going so smoothly. Was it a trick? Was Updraft distracting her, while someone else came to close the loop? No, no, that kind of subtlety wasn't her nemesis's style at all. And unless The Venger was part of the setup, there simply couldn't have been time to organize an ambush for her. Maybe she really was getting away with defending herself for once.

"Oh!" Updraft's eyes went wide behind her stupid goggles. "Oh no! You're leaking gas everywhere, we need to—"

"It's fine. First off, it's not gas." Frigid rolled her eyes, and finally set her shopping bags down. She pulled off her jetpack and slung it around, holding it in one arm. She dug in a belt pouch with her other hand. "It's fuel, yes. But I'm not an idiot or an amateur, you know that. It's not very volatile, the spills aren't a fire risk yet." She pulled out some putty and plugged the leak, carefully sealing the hole. There didn't seem to be any other damage, thankfully, but flying was still out of the question. "You do know it's not liquid fuel that burns, it's the fuel vapor in the air?"

"Oh, um... That's good. I'm sure we can get someone in to clean this up, then. I'm just glad nobody got hurt. Well..." Updraft stepped over to the man and went about ensuring he was still breathing, or whatever.

Frigid put her jetpack back onto her back, and picked the clothes bags back up. She really wanted to leave before the police arrived, but she couldn't just flee the scene suddenly. One false step and her good luck of not being punished would go up in a puff of smoke, she was certain. She didn't actually know what the police arrival was like, for a bystander. Or... Frigid scowled at the realization that in this scenario she was a 'victim'. Hardly! She trotted over to where the gun had skidded off to. She was tempted to break it, but that would probably be considered a problem for the police.

"Frigid?" Updraft was looking up from the guy. Frigid looked back at her. Updraft's captive audience, yet again. "What happened? Are you sure you're alright?"

Great. Was she going to have to explain this twice? Then the guy on the ground spoke up for her. "Wow! I knew you were too weak to do what needs to be done yourself, but that you're actually concerned for this villain! Don't you know what she's done?"

Updraft narrowed her eyes behind those goggles she wore and looked down at 'The Venger' with a surprising amount of disdain. "Of course I know what she's done! Who do you think has stopped most of it?" Frigid rolled her eyes. Yeah yeah, gloat it up. "I'm also pretty sure I know what you've done, which was shoot at an unarmed civilian."

"Unarmed!? Civilian?" The man was putting comically exaggerrated notes of disbelief in his voice, but Updraft didn't bother. He tried to force his way back to his feet, and Updraft gently but firmly pushed him back down with one hand. He tried to kick her in the side, and she just didn't even flinch. Frigid could barely hold back a laugh, this was priceless. He apparently didn't even have a second gun, not that a handgun would do much good against Updraft. It was pathetic, but more amusingly, it was her nemesis's nuisance to handle now. He was shouting something about how Updraft was just as bad as her but Frigid wasn't really paying attention anymore. He was much funnier to watch than to listen to.

Then the police showed up, and the atmosphere was just ruined.

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