He enters the new shelter building quietly, careful not to look suspicious but also careful not to attract too much attention. The common room/auditorium is empty for the moment, so he moves quickly, pushing the cart that holds the obnoxious statue of Captain Hammer into a storage room and then returning to its place, setting up his new Death Ray and positioning himself behind it, then carefully draping the red fabric over himself. It is the perfect disguise; no one will ever look under until it's too late.
It's harder than he expected, standing still and listening as Hammer makes a complete ass out of himself in front of everyone - and worse, standing still and listening as these complete morons eat up every spoonful of crap that Hammer dishes out. What is wrong with them? Can't they see what he is? No, of course they can't. He bites his lip to keep from sighing in disgust. Of course they can't.
So he waits, and he waits, and he waits just a little bit more, until the time is absolutely perfect, and then he pulls the cover off and he shoots -
and just like that, Hammer shuts up. Finally. The moment of blessed silence is almost worth everything he's gone through to get to this point. He gloats for just a moment - finally - and then he springs into action.
"OUT! EVERYONE OUT! GET OUT OF HERE!" He fires a couple of warning shots into the ceiling - he doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, he mostly just wants them panicked. And talking - he definitely wants them talking. Or screaming; screaming works, too.
Once the room is mostly cleared (and he's sure that Penny isn't there, because he does not want her to witness this), he braces himself to take the shot. It's harder than he expected to pull the trigger, even after everything. He never wanted to be a murderer, just to change the world. But he's got to have power to change anything, and in order to have power he's got to get into the League, and in order to get into the League he's got to kill, and so he psyches himself up one final time - head up, Billy-buddy - and he takes a deep breath to pull the trigger.
And the Freeze Ray dies.
Uh-oh. He turns to look at it. "That's not a good sound," he manages, before turning back just in time to take Hammer's fist to his face. Shit.
The Death Ray hits the floor hard, and he can see when Hammer picks it up that it's damaged and malfunctioning. "Don't - " he tries to say, but Hammer, as usual, isn't listening to him. Hammer's heavy boot slams down on his sternum, knocking his head into the floor (and that's gonna leave a mark, if he makes it out of this alive). As usual, Hammer has a witty quip to make before pointing the Death Ray at him, and he notices that Hammer doesn't flinch at all, not even for a second, before pulling the trigger.
This won't be Hammer's first kill. He wonders how many others came before him.
And then the Death Ray explodes. Shrapnel flies in every direction, imbedding itself into walls and floors and furniture. There are screams from every direction - the loudest of all from Hammer himself, who sounds genuinely confused about why he might be in pain. Not that he even looks injured - he manages to get himself off the floor without help and heroically flee the room, knocking two people over in the process.
And then he hears her voice. "Oh, my God," she's saying. "Oh, my God. Oh, my God."
Penny. Oh, no. He's frozen, petrified by the thought of what he might see when he turns around. Is she hurt? Did one of those pieces of shrapnel hit her? Is she... is she...?
The thought is so real, and the fear so strong, that for a second, when he turns, he actually sees her lying there against the wall with pieces of the Death Ray gun poking out of her body, looking up at him with an expression of uncomprehending pain on her face. He actually feels his heart shrivel up inside of him before he blinks, and he looks again, and he realizes that she is there, and looking up at him, but she's kneeling beside someone else. He shifts forward slightly, getting a better view.
He thought the Mayor had gotten out with the first group of screaming escapees, before everything went wrong. Of course, he'd also thought that Penny wasn't there, and apparently she was. Apparently she was there for everything, and she is staring at him with an expression of horror on her face.
He steps forward, thinking for one long, crazy moment that he might apply first aid, that he might somehow be able to fix this colossal blunder that is somehow worse than every other time any of his plans got somehow screwed up. But when he does, she holds up a hand in a warding-off gesture, and she shouts, "No! Don't come any closer! Stay away from me!"
He feels his jaw drop. "What? But... Penny..."
"No!" She turns her face away from him for a long moment, and when she turns back again, her eyes are full of tears. "You know, I really liked you, Billy. I thought you were... I thought you were nice."
"I am nice!" he protests, feeling ridiculous.
She scoffs. "You're a liar." She gestures at him, then the whole room, that one wave of her hand encompassing his clothing and the whole situation, and the Mayor who is bleeding out beside her. "You lied to me about everything."
"You wouldn't have wanted to be with me if you knew I was a villain!" he protests.
She shakes her head. "And clearly you think so little of me that you don't think I would understand why you felt like the system needed dismantling? You think I'm so stupid that I can't understand the difference between supporting and working for social change on a massive scale and pouring poison into the water system?"
His mouth works, but no sound comes out. She gives a bitter laugh. "That's right," she says. "The first time I offered you that petition, you could have said, 'Hey, Penny, so, I'm actually working to effect real social change, you know? Institute real reform. But you know, I feel like the only way to do it is to work against the system as a villain, because being a hero means working for the clampdown.' And then we could have maybe had a real conversation about it. We could have talked it over like adult people who have equivalent intelligences, and, hell, who knows? Maybe you could have even talked me over to your side!" She shakes her head. "But instead, you lied to me, over and over, and now..." She looks down at the body in the floor. "Now this man is dead. And it's your fault."
"But... but I tried to stop him! I tried to tell him it was broken, and he wouldn't listen to me!"
She laughs then, and it's an ugly and brutal sound. "You brought it here in the first place." She stands up then, and the hem of her dress has blood on it. She stalks toward him. "This is your fault. You did this. So stop trying to blame everyone else for your problems and accept responsibility for your own actions." She holds up a finger. "You lied to me from the beginning." Another finger. "You brought this weapon here." Another finger. "You spent so long gloating that you couldn't even execute your stupid evil plan without screwing it up." She stands there, very still, for a long moment, and then she repeats herself. "This is all your fault."
She turns away from him then, moving toward the door, and he takes a step in her direction, holding out his hand. "Penny, wait!"
"No." She pauses, turning back to look at him again, and the blank, shuttered expression on her face twists his heart even harder. "Stay away from me, Billy. Just stay away." And she turns her back on him. When she pushes the door open, he can hear the sound of screaming sirens in the distance, and he shakes himself out of his stupor for long enough to make his escape through the facility's back door.
The headlines scream his guilt for the next week or more; MAYOR DEAD AT HORRIBLE'S HANDS; DR. HORRIBLE KILLS MAYOR, INCAPACITATES CAPTAIN HAMMER; HAMMER HELPLESS BEFORE HORRIBLE; they all proclaim his defeat again and again in forty-eight point font. He spends days curled up in his massive chair, his forehead pressed against his knees, ignoring Moist's knocks at the door and the repeated pinging of his email program that doesn't stop until he snatches the speakers out and throws them across the lab in a short-lived fit of rage.
The only thing that makes anything better - if you could call anything that happens right now better - is that Hammer isn't getting to keep her, either; the tabloids, in between suddenly speculating about his own sexuality and whether or not he and Moist are a thing (apparently Conflict Diamond and Bait and Switch have all been eager to talk to the press about their good buddy Dr. Horrible), there is a photograph of Penny packing her things into her little car. The accompanying article quotes her as saying that she's leaving town for good, and that it's time for a fresh start somewhere else. He goes back to bed for a day or so after that one runs.
And then the letter comes.
Moist bangs on the door and shouts at him to come out - he has a letter from the League, and it's sealed with the silver hoof of Bad Horse. He isn't sure he cares, but he comes out anyway, and he stands in the living room in his boxer shorts and tears the letter open and begins to read.
Congratulations, it begins.
Your application to join the Evil League of Evil has been approved with distinction. Your efforts to bring chaos to our fair city, by the murder of the Mayor and the incapacitation of the so-called hero known as Captain Hammer have been exceedingly successful, and you are hereby invited to join the Evil League of Evil, effective immediately.
On a personal note, it continues, I was extremely surprised and impressed by your performance. To be honest, Dr. Horrible, when we received your most recent application, I was not expecting much. You have, in the past, shown yourself to be more than a little disorganized and frankly somewhat hopeless. Seeing your incredible success in this matter was both unexpected and, honestly, somewhat satisfying. After my many years of service as the Overlord of this League, I had thought that there was nothing left that could surprise me. I was wrong.
I want you to know that I will be keeping an eye on you in the future, it concludes. I think that you have a great deal of potential, and I very much look forward to seeing how membership in the League will improve your villainy.
Yours in Evil,
He reads the letter over two or three times. It doesn't make any more sense the third time than it did the first. He finally hands it to Moist, who dries his hands off on the legs of his jeans and takes it carefully, holding it between the tips of his thumbs and his forefingers as he reads it aloud.
Moist looks up at him. "Oh, my God. Oh, my God, dude, you're in!"
"I'm in," he repeats, the words feeling hollow in his chest.
Moist grabs him by the upper arms, shaking him just a little bit. "Snap out of it, man!" he nearly shouts. "Look, I get it, you lost your shot with her, but come on, it's not like she was the love of your life. She was just a girl at the laundry that you barely knew. This is the League, man! Your dream come true!"
He takes a deep, shuddering breath. Right. The League. The Evil League of Evil. The thing he's wanted all his life: the ability to make valuable connections, the proximity to power, the change to effect real, actual change in real, actual ways. The chance to make a real difference. The chance to make the world over the way it needs to be made over.
The chance to show everyone what he's really capable of, and who he really is: an actual villain. Not a joke. Not a failure. He'll show them. He'll show all of them. And when he's done showing them...
A slow smile spreads across his face.
He'll show her.