Supervillains Anonymous Chapter 1

6/09/2015 11:00:00 AM Lexie Dunne 0 Comments

When the person throwing the book at you has superpowers, the book moves supernaturally fast. I learned this when, less than a day after I’d been unceremoniously accused of being an accessory to murder, I stood in court, officially charged with the crime.

Actually, stood was a bit of a stretch. Swayed was a little closer to the truth. I was fortunate to be upright at all, thanks to a recent three-story drop headfirst into a mall fountain. A normal human wouldn’t have survived. I was a little luckier due to some enhancements that had made me more than human, but even then, the drop had been a bit much for me. Everything hurt: my ribs, my throat, my head, even the backs of my knees.

None of that changed the fact that I was chained up in the middle of a secret underground courtroom facing a panel of men, and they’d just declared me guilty of helping kill the closest thing I’d ever had to a best friend.

Who hadn’t even been dead a day.

There were five of them—or six. Possibly seven. Definitely not more than eight. My vision swam in and out, so details were a little difficult. Five or six men, each face grayer than the last, each haircut worse than the next, all of them sitting at a table at the head of the wood-paneled chamber. They were lit from above by yellow spotlights that cast their ghoulish features into deep shadow. They’d been speaking for either one minute or ten, but their words had floated in the air, incomprehensible.

One word punched through the haze of agony now: “Guilty.”

I tried to look up. It upset my balance, so I tipped forward instead, and the guard who’d been pulling me around all—what was it? Morning? Evening?—day jerked me back upright.

I tried not to throw up on his shoes.

As I stared at the floor, words cut through the dizziness, clear as a bell rung right by my head. “Gail Godwin, for the crime of accessory to the murder of Class B Hero Angélica Rocha by the Class B Supervillain Chelsea So-Called, you are hereby sentenced to serve thirty years in Detmer Maximum Security Prison.”

I forced my aching head up and looked at the man at the end of the table, the only one I recognized. I knew him. We’d only met formally once, but it had left an impression. The second time I’d seen him, he’d arrested me. And now he had convicted me of murder. I looked up in the blue eyes of Eddie Davenport, CEO of the largest company in the world. The light fell in a perfect halo over his blond hair. I squinted at him, and I said, “What the hell?”

Or at least I tried to. What came out was, “I don’t like these potatoes. Can I have them scrambled instead?”

And I passed out cold.

Overall, not very inspiring last words. Luckily, they turned out not to be my last.

I’d heard of Detmer Maximum Security Prison.

Even if I hadn’t been Hostage Girl, I would have. It was the place they threw all the supervillains who had committed terrible crimes against society. The woman who tried to take over New York City with radioactive gerbils, the idiot in San Jose who had tried to boil the Pacific. They all ended up in Detmer. And usually, they ended up breaking out of Detmer.

Unfortunately for me, I was usually the villains’ first stop after they escaped. It’s a little difficult being in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Kidnapped Most Frequently,” but for four years, that had been my life. Some of it had to do with proximity, I figured, since Detmer wasn’t that far from Chicago. Simple, really. Escape prison, kidnap Hostage Girl, get your name on the news and a quick fight with Blaze. I’d even made it convenient for them by never trying to fight it.

I never thought I would actually end up in Detmer, though.

Detmer was for supervillains.

I’m many things, but I’m not a villain.

Davenport Industries, which ran most of the world and anything related to superpowered individuals, had not received that memo. I woke up in a prison transport vehicle, my eyes practically crossed from the pain of a metal harness pressing against what had to be at least one broken rib. When I politely tried to scream and let the driver know, a syringe became involved. Which was why I stood now in a line with six other women, hands cuffed in front of me as they marched us down a long hallway that smelled like lemon Pledge, and everything seemed pleasant and disconnected. Just a handy side effect of the fact that I was tripping balls from whatever they’d plunged into my neck.

A chain kept me attached to the woman in front of me. A second chain attached me to the woman behind me, and so it went. Guards in gunmetal gray uniforms walked alongside, fingering the triggers on their stun batons so that sparks rained down onto the tiles.

I frowned at the handcuffs wrapped around my wrists. I didn’t like them. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t like them. I wanted them off.

“Stop fidgeting,” one of the guards told me, sending out a new shower of sparks.

I blinked at him and wondered why my left eye wouldn’t point straight.

After the hallway, we were led into a room with drains set in the floor. Medical equipment, a woman in a white lab coat, another woman in scrubs, and a new set of guards awaited us.

“Face forward.”

I started to turn the wrong way. The woman next to me rolled her eyes. They moved along the line, undoing the chains and cuffs. When she got to me, the woman in the lab coat—Dr. Kehoe, it said in pretty blue stitching above the pocket—frowned. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Reusabital. Driver says she got a little quippy.”

“That’s probably true,” I said. “I have, like, back-talked pretty much every villain this side of the Mississippi.”

Dr. Kehoe frowned and held her hand out for her tablet. “Godwin,” she said, reading the screen. “Gail Godwin. Look at you. That much Reusabital would turn an elephant into Sleeping Beauty, and you, you’re just a bit drunk.”

“Don’t think I am. Drunk feels nicer than this. Plus, I don’t remember any tequila.”

“Uh-huh.” The assistant undid my handcuffs and moved on to the woman next to me.

Salud to you, too,” I said, and looked forward again. This time it was my right eye that felt off. That was going to be a problem eventually.

I kept squinting as they ordered us to strip out of the orange jumpsuits. Some of the women hesitated, but I kicked off the clothes easily enough. Modesty was for people who hadn’t been given Mobium and therefore didn’t have my rather amazing muscles. Those were a pretty new addition to my life, which was why I was proud to show them off. I felt a little less proud when I realized how cold the room was, and that the woman next to me had a fantastic tattoo of Edvard Munch’s The Scream across her upper arm, which definitely put my muscles to shame.

Dr. Kehoe and the nurse in scrubs moved up the line of us. It took me a couple of women to realize that they were cataloging birthmarks, scars, and tattoos with the tablet. Dr. Kehoe dictated to her assistant, asking for origins on tattoos and scars. With the first few women, this took a couple of minutes at most. Motorcycle accidents, the occasional knife fight, chemical burns. Easy stuff.

When they reached me, they both stopped and stared.

“Hmm,” Dr. Kehoe said. I tilted my head back to look at her. “We’ll start from the top. This scar on your hairline?”

I rubbed it with my fingers. “Dr. Laboritorium was trying to perform brain-wave experiments on me. The helmet cut into my head, but don’t worry, Blaze saved me and knocked him out.”

“And this scar on your temple?”

“TongueTwister hit me with a rock when he called up a dirt devil. I was in the hospital for like a week.”

“The scar below it?”

“Can’t remember. That might be Queen Bae knocking me out with a Swarovski honeycomb. Diamonds are definitely not Girl’s best friend.” I grinned at my own joke though it had been nearly a year since I’d called myself by my own terrible nickname.

“What else could it be?” Dr. Kehoe asked. Her assistant’s fingers were flying over the tablet as she desperately tried to keep up.

“Might’ve been Lady Danger. She has Great Danes, you know. Big ones. Scary teeth.” I waved my fingers in front of my mouth in approximation of fangs before I touched my forehead again. “Wait, no, this scar? This scar is definitely from that time the Saratoga Kid visited Chicago and wanted a hostage to present to his new bride at Niagara Falls. Sorry. I get them all mixed up.”

Dr. Kehoe sighed. The other women in the line were openly goggling at me now. “Just how many of these scars do you have, Godwin?”

I shrugged. “I lost count years ago. There’ve been a lot of villains. They’re dumb, and they leave marks.” I turned to look at the other women in the line with me. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Scream Tattoo Lady said dryly.

“Why don’t we move her to the end, Dr. Kehoe?” the assistant said. “We have a schedule.”

“Good point.”

So I waited, cooling my heels while Dr. Kehoe and her assistant moved down the line. Each woman was handed a box at the end and they were shuffled together through a door that led into the prison. I didn’t like that door. It did funny things to my stomach.

Finally, Dr. Kehoe approached me with a sigh. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

An hour later, my throat was dry and I wasn’t feeling so pleasantly drunk anymore. “Yes,” I said, answering Dr. Kehoe’s question as she looked at the bottom of my foot and the tiny scar that ran along the seam of my instep. “I was dangled over an active volcano by Melodrama Madam. I really don’t like to remember that one.”

“All done,” she said. “You can put your foot down. You can collect your box and your bunk assignment. Where’s she going?” The last was directed at her harried-looking assistant.

“She’s going in with the Villain Syndrome patients,” her assistant said. She paused and looked at the screen again. “Is that right? She’s not tagged for VS herself. Oh, and that’s even stranger. Her doctor from Davenport’s requesting access to her.”

I felt my spirits inexplicably soar. My doctor from Davenport was a woman named Kiki, and while I wasn’t sure she’d be able to help me, as she hadn’t stopped my arrest, I had some questions. Maybe she could answer them.

“That’s certainly not going to fly,” Dr. Kehoe said, looking at the tablet as she crushed all of my hopes. “Send the denial straight to Dr. Cooper. We look after our own in Detmer. Are you ready to go to prison, Godwin?”

“No,” I said.

“Too bad.”

I was handed a box full of clothes and given an opportunity to pull them on: a green tunic-style shirt, black pants, new black shoes that were surprisingly comfortable. Less comfortable was the needle pushed into the part of my shoulder that met my neck. I only protested a little, though it made my entire arm feel sore. I felt a spurt of nerves in my middle as I was escorted to the door that would take me into the confines of Detmer Maximum Security Prison.

I stepped through.

By some counts, I had been kidnapped over two hundred times by more than fifty villains in a four-year period. I had been mentioned by news media so often that I had my own tag on the Domino, nobody remembered what my real name was, and the sight of my face alone had been enough to send people to sidewalks on the other side of the street to avoid being in my potential blast radius. There had been political cartoons, tourist T-shirts, and little plaques around businesses near my apartment talking about various attacks. What I’m saying is I probably clocked in over a thousand hours in the company in supervillains during my tenure as Hostage Girl.

And not a single one of those jerks had seen fit to mention that Detmer Maximum Security Prison was, in essence, a day spa.

Bewildered from the drug and by the bamboo floors, fluting music, and papyrus wall hangings, I followed a guard—“Oh, no, we’re called monitors here! Please, call me Tabitha!”—away from the processing area. Detmer was open and airy. There wasn’t a ninety-degree angle to be found in the entire place. I was shown the recreation areas, a giant cafeteria that looked more like a five-star dining lounge, the most high-class gym I had ever seen (the chrome was blinding), and several lounges that looked like they had sprung fully formed from the pages of a designer magazine.

“Detmer was, of course, designed with the comfort of its guests in mind,” Tabitha said in a bright, plasticky voice as she bustled along. I followed in her wake in a drugged haze. There was a feeling niggling at the back of my mind, like I should protest this, like if only my thoughts would work together I would be angry beyond belief. Mostly I was mystified. Maybe everything had just been one prolonged nightmare. Perhaps I hadn’t seen a shopping mall ripped to shreds by a man with earthquake abilities, and I wasn’t wrongfully in prison for assisting in the murder of my trainer.

Maybe polka-dotted camels would show up and start dancing the marimba around the next corner.

“Guests are free to wander around the complex as they choose. There are no mandatory mealtimes or lights out, which you might find in other facilities.” Other prisons, I realized hazily. She was talking about places where people who had committed crimes were held and punished, not other spas.

“And if you ever have any questions, feel free to ask me or one of the other monitors.” Tabitha redefined perky. If she stopped smiling, the Elder Gods would probably descend upon the world and feast on the entrails of the living. “That’s what we’re here for!”

I blinked dumbly at her.

“You must be tired!” Tabitha led me down a new hallway, one lined with glass doors at even intervals. The track lighting along the ceiling made everything appear soothing. “These are the living quarters. You’ve been housed with the Villain Syndrome patients.”

“Huh,” I said now. Did I need to be alarmed about that? Villains with VS were the most terrifying kind: they truly believe they were committing acts of good—usually through colossal destruction and loss of life. Come to think of that, this was probably worrying, yeah. I scratched my nose and nodded. “’Kay.”

“Do you have any questions for me?” Tabitha asked.

I thought about that for longer than usual. “When is dinner?”

“Very soon. You’ll find a schedule inside, and it has all of the movies playing in the cinema. We’re very lucky to have the newest releases. Here we are: room 407! That’s you!” She stopped in front of one of the glass doors, identical to the rest. “Only you and your roommate can enter your room—and the monitors, of course, but we hardly count!—so you’ll have all the privacy you need.”

I looked at it. “With a glass door,” I said.

Tabitha’s smile grew strained at the edges. “In you go. The Reusabital should be wearing off now, which is good. We don’t believe in any restraints, medical or otherwise, in this complex.”

“In prison,” I said, tone never changing.

Tabitha chuckled, like I’d said something extremely amusing. “Enjoy your nap.”

I put my palm on the little panel beside the door and watched it slide open. Apparently, Detmer worked just like Davenport. There was probably some irony in there somewhere.

With Tabitha gone, the world seemed a little less plastic. My thoughts began to connect in logical fashion once again as I stepped into my cell. I was in prison. I wasn’t supposed to be in prison. I was in my room in Detmer, which was actually like some kind of demonic day spa, and Angélica—

My breath hitched as everything finally broke. Every emotion under the sun slammed into me at once: fury at the injustice, grief so sharp that it felt like it was cutting into every exposed inch of my skin, confusion and anger and sadness. My hands began to shake. I clenched them into fists, but it didn’t help. Everything built and built, the pressure growing behind my temples until it finally happened: I screamed.

I screamed and I kept screaming even though my throat felt raw and ripped to shreds. What felt like hours ago to me, I’d had everything: I’d been happy, shopping for new clothes at the mall with friends. And now, I was in prison for a crime committed by an actual supervillain, and every time I tried to point that out, they drugged me. My friend was dead because of a hit she’d taken for me. The scream went on and on until I couldn’t breathe. I dropped to my knees and hiccuped as tears spilled. I finally did what the drug had been keeping me from doing: I broke down and sobbed.

At some point, I must have crawled over to the bunk beds along the wall and climbed onto the bottom bunk. My eyes were swollen from crying, and my throat ached, as I stared at the underside of the bunk above me.

I was in prison.

I didn’t even know Chelsea, the woman they’d claimed I had helped kill Angélica. We’d met a grand total of twice, and both times, she’d been doing her damndest to kill me. Unluckily for her, I’d had a run-in with a mad scientist who had dosed me with some kind of super-element. The Mobium in my body made me faster and stronger, quicker to heal, and more perceptive. It sped up my metabolism to frightening levels, which was why my stomach currently felt like it was trying to digest itself. But the most important thing it had done had been to enable me to survive Chelsea’s powers, which was why the first time she’d tried to kill me (in a bank, while I’d been trying to meet with a journalist associate of mine), she had been unsuccessful.

The second time, my superhero trainer had knocked me out of the way, and Chelsea had unloaded a full blast into her. I’d watched Angélica seize and die in a hospital bed while I’d been fighting off my own injuries and unable to help her.

I rolled over onto my side and felt another set of hot tears leak out of my eyes.

Why did Davenport believe I knew Chelsea? Why would they ever think I would do anything to Angélica? I liked her. Sure, she’d spent most of our acquaintance attempting to put me on the floor, but she had been genuine and kind, and fiercely hilarious. A tear dripped onto the bridge of my nose and onto the feather pillow under my head.

“Do you plan on knocking that off anytime soon?”

I flailed, which was a mistake because pain exploded up and down my side. Angélica’s lessons kicked in: in an instant I was halfway across the room, on the balls of my feet with my hands held in loose fists in front of me.

The woman who’d spoken, who had to be seventy if she was a day, stared at me, utterly unimpressed. She found me so uninspiring that I almost wanted to apologize for my very existence. She leaned one shoulder against the wall and raised a single silver eyebrow.

“Who are you?” I asked, wiping at the tears so they wouldn’t hamper my vision.

“Your new roommate. I’m tired of listening to you snivel.” With surprising spryness for a seventy-year-old, she crossed over and pulled herself easily onto the top bunk. Her legs dangled over the side. “Name’s Rita.”

I eyed her warily for a second. The sniveling comment had made my ears burn, but I didn’t see the point in alienating my roommate right away. “Gail,” I said. “I’m Gail.”

“You smell like fresh meat.” Rita actually sniffed the air. “Hell, you’re still shiny. What’d they get you for?”

I swallowed hard. “They say I helped kill somebody.”

“Only helped? Underachiever, I see.”

“Yeah, thank you for your opinion,” I said. “I’ll cherish it always.”

Rita tilted her head and considered me. It didn’t escape my notice that she hadn’t volunteered what she’d done to get her locked up. “So that’s how it’s going to be,” she said.

“How what’s going to be?”

Rita hopped down off of the bed, landing lightly on the toes of her orthopedic sneakers. She wore an outfit similar to mine. What her arms lacked in tattoos, they made up for in sheer muscle tone. She was only a little taller than me, and her skin was sun-worn and withered like an old nut. But her eyes were bright and hard.

I tightened my fists as the hair rose on the back of my spine. Every sense tingled.

“Hurt yourself, did you?” she asked instead of answering my question. “You’re leaning a little.”

I raised my chin. “What’s it to you?”

“Looks like you hurt yourself right here,” she said, and delivered a short, sharp-knuckled punch to the side of my rib cage.

I immediately dropped to one knee with my hand over my abdomen, air hissing between my teeth. I hadn’t even seen her move. “What the hell was that for?”

“You’re new,” she said, leaning over and twisting her head so she could meet my eye. I had to bite down hard on every instinct I’d ever possessed, all of which were screaming at me to lunge at her face and blind her. Angélica had warned me time and again not to attack in anger. Rita might be old, but she was fast, and she was strong. “You seem stubborn, which means you probably won’t learn quickly. That’s fine. The only one you’re hurting is yourself.”

“What is your problem?”

Rita’s smile was so cold, it dropped the ambient temperature a couple of degrees. “With you? There is no problem. But there are rules here, and you will follow them. As my new cellmate, you represent me.” She grabbed my chin hard enough that I swear I heard my jaw creak. “You will not embarrass me, child.”

I hissed out a breath. “Screw you, old bat.”

Nothing changed behind those flat blue eyes. “Oh, you’re precious. I should—”

I punched her. Because I was in pain and still a little dizzy, it wasn’t the precise, devastating punch Angélica would have wanted, but I struck Rita’s wrist, knocking her hand away from my chin. I dropped onto my elbow to try and spin and kick her legs out from under her. She leapt nimbly out of the way. Though I expected her to kick me in the abdomen, where I was vulnerable, she did something else entirely: she started clapping.

“So you do have some fight in you,” she said, bringing her hands together hard enough that the sound hurt my ears. It felt like an explosion in the tiny white space of our cell. “Good.”

I climbed to my feet. “Stay away from me. I’m innocent, but that doesn’t mean I’m taking any crap from you.”

“We’re going to have so much fun together.” She toyed with the hem of her shirt for a second, and I noticed that all of us had DETMER stamped on the bottom of our shirts, as if we would ever forget where we were. She inclined her head like a queen dismissing her subject and strolled right out of the room.

I stared after her. Great. I’d been wrongfully thrown in prison, my friend was dead, and my roommate was a psychopath. When was this nightmare going to end? And could it get any worse?

Fate really had it out for me, apparently. Two seconds after that disastrous thought crossed my brain, I saw movement in the hallway outside. A flash of green walked past, and back, like the person had seen something and needed to double-check. Just like that, there was only glass separating me from the yellow bug eyes of one Razor X, who had personally kidnapped me seventeen times (a record). He stared at me through the glass in utter puzzlement.

When he removed the silver helmet he’d always worn, I realized I’d gotten something very wrong about Razor X: she was not a dude. Strawberry blonde hair spilled over her shoulders. The bug eyes looked even creepier without her helmet.

She reached up and knocked on the door. I stumbled back until I was pressed up against the wall. All of my old enemies were in this prison, and the only thing between them and me, I realized with a horrible feeling of dread, was a glass door.

“Crap, crap, crap, crap,” I said under my breath, like a mantra. She couldn’t get in, but I felt like a zoo creature, trapped in the room while she stared. I took a deep breath, gave her my best glare, and went to sit on the bed. Surprise crossed her face (maybe; it was hard to tell with the huge yellow eyes) before she shrugged and walked away.

I put my head down and stared at my own lap, at the black pants and the edge of my shirt, with my name on the bottom hem. GODWIN stared back at me. No longer Hostage Girl, Girl, or Gail. Now I was going by my last name.

Rita’s shirt had said DETMER in the same place.

I’d assumed that it had been the name of the prison. It was, but I had forgotten one fact: Kurt Davenport, founder of Davenport Industries and the original Raptor himself, had built Detmer Prison. He’d named it after his wife, the very first prisoner.

His wife Rita Detmer.

My cellmate wasn’t just any random supervillain.

My cellmate was the very first supervillain.

I was rooming with Fearless herself.

I stared at the wall. I stared at the ceiling. I thought about Angélica, and about Chelsea, and that weird secretive council chamber. About stripping naked in front of a complete stranger and having my scars cataloged like library books. How I was in prison with at least fifty people who had ample reason to hate me. How I couldn’t stay in my room forever, not with the way my stomach was beginning to hurt from lack of food.

Thinking about that, I did the only thing I could: I crawled under the covers, pulled them over my head, and stayed there, shaking, until I fell asleep.

Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.