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How to Free Oneself of Persistent Mellon-Kolly

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On the catwalk of the plaza between the two towers of the Metro Man Museum, Megamind gazed sadly at the immense rotating statue of his former nemesis. He held the bouquet of yellow roses close to his chest and said, "Battles we will now never have..." His voice cracked at end, echoing around him in the night air. The sound waves resonated within his aching, lonely heart. His eyes filled as the giant face slowly came into view. "You know, I never had the chance to say goodbye. So it's good we have this time now." He reached inside the bouquet and pulled out a detonator. "You know, before I destroy the place." He flicked up the red safety switch and hit the button to start his standard three-minute countdown. With a soft sigh, he met Metro Man's cold, unresponsive stone face. "Nothing personal. It just brings back too many painful memories." He dropped detonator and flowers over the catwalk rail, and resolved to drop his troubling mellon-kolly along with them.

Megamind took a deep breath and turned away from the statue to proceed along the catwalk towards the elevator. He knew his trusted brain-bots would catch the detonator on the ground floor far below and finish preparing the nitro explosives, as he'd ordered them.

"Hello?" A feminine voice called out, stopping him in his tracks. "Hello!" she called again, her voice closer.

He gasped in recognition. Roxanne! She's here on the statue catwalk, too! He took a step backwards, realized he was wearing his warning-sign print pajamas with red-eyed bat house shoes, and covered his mouth with both hands to stop a dismayed shriek. My blue satin House Cape of Evil isn't big enough to hide this sartorial travesty! Her footsteps were coming closer. Panicked, he whirled and ran the other direction, trying to keep the statue between them to block her line of sight. He looked down to fumble at his sleeve for the Disguise Generator Watch and slammed into something hard, metal, and unstable.

Megamind's dismayed shriek this time was very audible as he tumbled to the catwalk floor in a mess of limbs, a wheeled metal cart, around thirty books, and a complete stranger...all tangled together with one blue satin House Cape of Evil draped like gift wrap over all.

Head ringing after impacting several hardbacks and then the floor, Megamind could only lie there.

"Bernard!" Roxanne cried with concern, the quick clicking of her heels approaching.

That woke him up. He pummeled at books, overturned cart, and someone else's warm body. The other person--a man--groaned.

"Oh, Bernard! All your books! What happened?"

Before he could think to reach for his watch, the House Cape of Evil was lifted away, and Megamind stared up into Roxanne Ritchie's wide blue eyes, then over at his fellow entangled captive's irritated brown ones.

The silence lasted for five shocked seconds.

He said the first thing that came to him. "Ollo."

Roxanne threw down the cape. "Megamind!"

"Roxanne!" he replied, keeping his voice light to hide his dismay at being caught. "Fancy meeting you here!" He tried to suavely free his his leg from under a pile of books, but they went sliding everywhere on slick covers. To make things even more awkward, the aforementioned covers were plastered with an image of his grimacing face. That photo is so unflattering. I knew I should have cubed that photographer.

He climbed to his feet and tugged the corner of his cape free from where it had been pinned under the cart. He shook the cape out and retied it at his neck, trying to hide his unfortunate choice in sleepwear as smoothly as possible. "And you are?" he asked the unknown man, voice oozing with politeness.

"Unimpressed," the other man--Bernard, according to Roxanne--said. His words sounded completely flat. He pointed at the mess of spilled books and toppled cart. "I am not in a happy place right now. And more importantly, neither are my books."

"What are you doing here, Megamind?" Roxanne demanded.

"I am..." he trailed off, wondering what he could possibly say to explain why he was inside Metro Man's museum. At least she didn't see the flowers!

"Wearing a pretty tasteless costume," Bernard finished for him with a hint of scorn and an obvious once-over.

Megamind blinked at him. Costume?

"You're here to dishonor Metro Man's memory, aren't you?!" Roxanne reclaimed his attention when she stepped forward into his personal space and jabbed an accusing finger into his chest. "Finally defeating him wasn't enough, and now you're here to destroy his memorial, too!" Another jab. Her fingernails were strong and surprisingly stabbity.

"Ow!" He rubbed his chest. "How did you know--I mean, of course I must remove the memory of my arch nemesis!" He did his best to puff up with proper villainous pride, but it was ruined when Bernard cut in again.

"Your arch nemesis? I don't think so. Clearly you aren't Megamind." He bent to pick up a handful of spilled books and held one out to show Megamind its cover. Of course, it was the one with the horrid photograph.

Bernard tapped the photo to emphasize his otherwise blasé words. "Megamind's head is not that grossly exaggerated."

Megamind hid a wince at the forced close-up of the cover.

Roxanne pushed Bernard's arm aside and got in Megamind's face. "What's the matter?" she said with sickeningly false sweetness as she batted her eyes. "Do you need to clear the Museum's obstruction of your view from City Hall?"

"Megamind's soul patch is one-eighth of an inch wider than yours. Use a ruler."

"Or was it that you couldn't take seeing the reminder of the city's hero every day?"

"I'd wipe that blue makeup off your face if I didn't loathe personal contact."

"Tell the truth for once!"

"Not that we'd believe you, anyway. Since you clearly aren't Megamind."

"Admit it, Megamind!"

Already thrown off his game by the persistent mellon-kolly, the crash into Bernard's book cart, and Roxanne's surprising insight into his purpose there, Megamind had taken a step back with every new accusation. He ended up pinned against the railing, leaning away from Roxanne's loathing and Bernard's apathetic disdain. He inwardly flailed for a response and ended up blurting out the truth. "I came to say goodbye to Metro Man!"

Roxanne's astonishment was so complete, she genuinely gaped at him. "What?"

Bernard was positively eloquent with a single raised eyebrow.

"I even brought flowers for him! I..." Megamind looked from Roxanne's shocked face to Bernard's disapproving eyebrow. "I...I don't have to explain myself! I am Megamind, Master of all Villainy and Evil Overlord of the City!" His watch beeped the two-minutes warning. "And I have to go. We have to go." He warded Roxanne out of his personal space with one imperiously raised hand and strode towards the elevator. When he didn't hear their steps following, he turned and marched back to them.

Their expressions were still locked in disbelief until Megamind grabbed one hand of each and yanked them forward. "Time to leave!" He pivoted about, whirling Roxanne in a half-circle to complete the motion, and pulled them in his wake.

"Hey! Let go!" Roxanne smacked his hand with her free one, trotting after him. "Stop manhandling me!"

Bernard's protest was a sound of disgust. "Urrrgh." He tried to tug loose.

Megamind kept walking rapidly, refusing to release either Roxanne's small hand or Bernard's much larger one. "Loathe it all you like, but you're still coming with me."

The elevator opened with a carefree ping right after he hit the down button, and he hauled both of his resisting companions inside, then spun them about so they were against the far wall. He dropped their hands and fixed them there with a heavy gaze instead, holding them in place as the door closed behind. He punched the button for the ground floor without looking away.

"Why are you forcing us to leave?" Roxanne snapped at him, eyes narrowed.

Megamind crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes in return. "I came here to destroy Metro Man's memorial, remember? And we have one minute and thirty seconds until the explosives detonate."

Roxanne gasped and clapped her hands to her mouth. "I was right?" she squeaked out.

"Yes."

"Then why save us?" Bernard shifted against the wall. "You're breaking character. Megamind doesn't save people. He should leave us to die in the rubble."

The elevator gently stopped at the ground floor and opened with another cheerful ping. Megamind ignored the double flinch as he grabbed their hands again. "You're wrong, Bernard." He pulled them out of the elevator, then moved behind them to propel them forward through the lobby. "I have never intentionally killed a civilian in my schemes, and I don't plan to start now."

Roxanne gaped and Bernard sucked in a sharp breath when they registered the massive pile of nitro, dynamite, and barrels of accelerant laid out around the base of the Metro Man statue. Brain-bots hovered industriously around the explosives, tending to the finishing touches.

The sight effectively shut up both of them. They stopped fighting his insistent pushing on their backs and ran for the front doors, bursting through them. They scrambled as quickly as they could manage down the long staircase.

"Can we escape the blast zone?" Roxanne asked in genuine fright as she skipped every other step.

Megamind considered his carefully calculated Metro Man Museum and Mellon-kolly Mass-Destruction schematics. "No. We lost too much time crashing into book carts and having inconvenient confrontations."

Wheezing, Roxanne staggered to a halt at the base of the staircase and flung her arms wide to emphasize the vast empty city square that seemed to swallow them. "What do we do?! There's no shelter! Not even a taxi cab!"

Bernard, also wheezing, looked up at the huge structure that loomed above them. "Crushed by masonry." He took a deep breath. "I'd always believed my research books would be what killed me."

"Not today!" Megamind declared and whistled sharply. He grabbed Roxanne by the nape of her neck and did the same with Bernard. "Everyone down!" He yanked them flat onto the cold pavement and threw himself on top as his brain-bots answered his summons. Two hundred of the cyborgs swarmed around them, electronic chugging filling their ears as the bots interlocked legs and utility tentacles to form a sparking multi-layered shield that completely enclosed the trio in a living half-sphere.

Just in time! Megamind thought with triumph--and a touch of relief--as his watch sounded the final warning beep.

The Metro Man Museum exploded in a glorious testament to villainous planning and execution. Megamind had to smile, even as Roxanne screamed beneath him, and Bernard's entire body stiffened to stone.

The brain-bot shield took some heavy hits, but it held through the entire explosion and scattering of debris. My exit strategy needed some contingency plans, but still. Success! Indeed, he didn't feel a trace of that irritating mellon-kolly.

Megamind sat up in the small cushion of air locked around them by the brain-bots and gently pushed the cyborgs. "You all did splendidly, my lovelies!" The brain-bots parted and he stood, watching his little cyborgs break apart their formation and hover around him. "Daddy is so proud of you!" he said, stroking the nearest one. A damaged bot, its glass dome cracked and leaking fluid, did its best to approach for praise. He cradled it gently, and the huge metal teeth beneath the dome nipped fondly at his pajama sleeve. "Ah, my sweet brain-bots. You did such a good job! Extra enzyme-and-oil baths for all of you!"

At that pronouncement, the brain-bots' electronic chugging rose to an excited pitch, and the still-hale bots zipped about in pleasure, making his House Cape of Evil ripple in the resulting breeze.

"Now, help your damaged siblings home and begin repairs. No bot left behind, after all!"

The cyborgs raced to comply, with those undamaged or still able to fly lifting the casualties in their tentacles and soaring up into the dust-filled night sky. With obvious care, Megamind settled the bot he'd been stroking into the embrace of two others and waved them away. He sniffled. "Sometimes I think those grotesque roving brains are my best creation."

He sighed with genuine affection, watching the last of the cyborgs disappear into the murky clouds of dust and grit, before he thought to check on his human companions.

They were where he had left them, sitting on the pavement in a small circle that was clear of rubble, papers, and damaged brain-bot parts. Bernard's glasses hung askew from one ear, Roxanne's coat had lost a button, and both were staring at him in shock. Or rather, Roxanne was staring in shock, complete with wide eyes and open mouth. Bernard's version consisted of raised eyebrows and silence.

"Are you all right?" Megamind asked them. What's with them? I didn't even use the ball-bearings shrapnel.

Roxanne blinked, then looked beyond him to the pile rubble that had once been the Metro Man Museum. Her face crumpled. "You really did it," she whispered. She and Bernard climbed unsteadily to their feet.

Confused by their reaction, his good mood began to evaporate. "I said I was going to destroy it. And you figured it out on your own beforehand, remember?" He turned to Bernard, ready to ask for confirmation, but his words stuck in his mouth at Bernard's expression.

For Bernard had an expression. His brows were pinched together, his eyes large, and his mouth slightly curved down. He bent to pick up a singed and torn book that must have bounced off the brain-bot shield and landed at their feet. He wiped the book clean with his suit sleeve, revealing that cover. Bernard tried unsuccessfully to straighten out a broken corner.

"Your kicked-puppy impersonation will have no effect on me, Bernard!" Megamind cried out. But of course, it had. He felt the mellon-kolly slam back into him full-force, withering away the last vestiges of joy that the explosion and his devoted brain-bots had awakened in him.

Roxanne shakily walked to where a large piece of the Metro Man statue's head had impacted. She placed a hand on it. "Why did you do it, Megamind?"

"Because I'm evil," he answered automatically.

She clenched her hand. "No, there's more to it! Before you hauled us out of there, you said you were saying goodbye!"

Megamind grimaced. "I was! I mean--" He felt pinned down again by Roxanne's intense gaze. He stole a peek at Bernard and saw the man was watching their exchange with his hurt expression, all the while cradling the damaged book in his hands.

That image was the final crack in the dam restraining his denial. "It was too painful," he admitted, the words like water gushing free.

"Painful how?!"

"Megamind doesn't feel remorse. It's converse to being evil," Bernard said, his quiet voice cutting through the air, the statement feeling far more accusatory than Roxanne's.

Megamind took refuge in anger as he shouted, "Because he gave me purpose!" He pointed at the statue rubble Roxanne had touched. Appropriately, it was one of Metro Man's eyes. In the museum, the statue's eyes had seemed narrowed in confidence. Out here, cracked and chipped and off-balance without the rest of the face, the eye was slitted in accusation. Megamind met its cold glare and matched it with despair. He turned his back on the debris and asked Roxanne and Bernard, voice raw and hands open, "Without Metro Man, what am I?"

Neither had an answer, and judging from the return of the disbelieving expressions, one would not be forthcoming anytime soon.

He regarded the rubble that had once been a monument to his ultimate rival and lifelong...well, not friend. Companion, perhaps. Who, appropriately enough, he had killed. Being a villain and all.

Megamind folded into himself. "I feel writch-ed."

A heavy silence descended upon them.

"My workplace is destroyed, my books are part of the rubble, and now an over-eager fan--who I think we can all agree has taken his cosplay to an unhealthy level--expects me to believe that Megamind is no longer satisfied with his victory." He let out an aggrieved sigh. "I can't handle this changed reality without coffee." He set the damaged book on top of the statue fragment and began to pick his way through the rubble strewn across the city square. He paused and called over his shoulder. "Are you two coming or not?"

Megmind glanced uncertainly at Roxanne, whose face seemed clouded and closed off. It only made him feel worse.

"Particularly you, Fake Megamind. You definitely owe me a gourmet coffee for costing me my job."

Megamind dragged his gaze up to examine the scattered pages of destroyed books that had settled around them, casualties of the explosion, and then gave the world a tired half-shrug. "I suppose he has a point." He followed Bernard, and was comforted a tiny amount when he heard Roxanne's heels clicking in his wake. Her steps were hesitant at first, then faster. They both caught up with Bernard, who was meandering down the street, hands in pockets.

Bernard detoured around a large pot hole in the pavement and found a silver lining among the wreckage, if delivered in a very dry tone. "At least the most valuable books are safe in the basement vault."

"Fire-proof?" Roxanne asked.

"Villain-proof, at least according to the paperwork."

Megamind considered for a second. "Is this the big blue environmentally controlled room, with the keypad, retina scanner, and dual-key entry system?"

Bernard raised one arm to halt their progress and stared levelly at Megamind. "Yes."

"Uh...the paperwork was right! Completely villain-proof! Tested and approved!" Megamind pasted a big smile on his face until Bernard resumed walking. I'm really glad I only looked at everything inside. If I'd stolen the parchments and drawn mustaches on the photos and paintings, he'd have noticed. The idea of further upsetting Bernard made Megamind uncomfortable. He felt bad enough without adding yet more guilt-fuel to power the mellon-kolly.

He tried not to dwell on the darkness inside his head and instead focused on their surroundings. They passed the building he'd painted a target on and then used as a vehicle-dart board--that was a fun afternoon--numerous closed shops of varying types and clientele, and one group of roving teenagers who had caught sight of Megamind and then ran for it. He watched them flee in sheer terror. Should I be happy to inspire such fear, or sad that my fellow villains should be so repulsed by me? Granted, they were far from super-villains, but still. Villains.

From Bernard's other side, Roxanne said, "I'm sure you don't realize this, Megamind, but it's selfish of you to think that Metro Man only existed to give you a purpose."

He stiffened and snapped in reply, "I do know that! Sort of! Abstractly! I mean, he did protect civilians and more important public structures from the odd fire or natural disaster, but..." His words trailed off, defeated.

"And thus, clearly, you still aren't Megamind," Bernard stated. "I'd find a more scathing way to express myself, but we're here." He walked up to the front door of the only cheerfully-lit business on the block.

The citizens of Metrocity had grown accustomed to the destructive day-to-day events of Megamind's rule. Visible through the large and only slightly cracked windows, the shop was almost full of chatting, smiling, reading, or writing people. All of them had steaming cups and small plates of food at hand. It was clear not one of them was still disturbed by the huge explosion and fallout of same that had happened only a few blocks away. Quick phone calls had confirmed the safety of family and friends, and they themselves were unharmed. What more could be asked by those who lived under the domination of an evil super-villain?

Bernard pushed open the door and stepped inside. Megamind halted, taking in the shop full of people, and then himself. Weeks earlier, Minion had scanned him in his normal super-villain outfit to set as the Disguise Generator Watch's default setting. Now seemed a good time to use it. He reached for the watch.

Roxanne grabbed his hand. "Come now, Megamind. Don't be shy and lurk on the doorstep. Your PJs were good enough to blow up the museum. You can wear them to get coffee."

Is it my imagination, or does she sound a little vindictive? Megamind asked himself. He let her haul him inside the shop, choosing to keep the secret of his watch's function and let her think he was simply hesitant to be seen in public while dressed like an over-stressed college student. At least I'm wearing my House Cape of Evil.

When he paused in the entry way, all of the lively conversation and movement within the shop died. Everyone gasped, or dropped their forks in surprise, or simply gaped with mouths wide open. A baby began to cry.

Roxanne and Bernard waited for a few seconds, then Roxanne cleared her throat and gave Megamind a heavy look.

He got the message. He pasted the obviously fake smile upon his face again and waved his hands as if to shoo their attention away. "Don't mind me, good citizens of Metrocity! Keep enjoying your koo-fee and writing your memoirs and bad poetry as if I weren't here! Go on, now!"

It didn't work.

Megamind snapped. He whipped his Dehydration Gun out of its holster and pointed it at the room. "I said ignore me!"

As one, every person in the room jerked their attention back to their former activities. Even the baby stopped crying and resumed making a paste out of cookie crumbs and water from his father's glass.

He holstered his gun. "They obey so readily now," he remarked sadly, and heard Roxanne mutter with exasperation under her breath.

His two companions found a small round table that was conveniently empty in the rear of the full café. A waitress appeared and took Roxanne and Bernard's orders, ignoring Megamind as commanded. When he didn't speak up to place his own order, Bernard asked for a second of his chosen drink. The steaming cups appeared very quickly.

Megamind wrapped his blue hands around the hot cup. "Okay, here we are, in this strangely cluttered but quaint restaurant with hot drinks..."

Roxanne tapped one finger on her ceramic cup with increasing speed, her irritation growing to match. She leaned forward and said with frustration, "Megamind, you control the city. You're camped out in City Hall! Bernard's right. How can you possibly be unhappy? You've won!"

"I know I've won, but..." he took a sip of his koo-fee to give him time to find the right words. "But now there's nothing to do. No one to challenge me. It's so...boring."

She clenched her cup with such fierceness, Megamind had to marvel at the strength of ceramic's molecular bonds.

"Bored?!" she snarled at him. "Bored?! I just said that you control the city now! How about you--I don't know--try to control it?! Or did you fail to notice the buildup of trash strewn about the streets?! And the gangs of looters stealing everything not nailed down! And all the structures you damaged in your victory party!"

He leaned away from her, startled by her vehemence. He gave her the obvious stock reply. "But...I'm evil! Evil doesn't manage civilization! That's not evil!"

"Why not?! What's the point of your genius if you don't use it?!"

"Evil genius!" He protested loudly.

She glared at him, her face radiating an arcane mixture of anger, frustration, and exasperation. It was powerful enough that Megamind wondered if he should resume work on his Looks Could Kill project. It seems I don't have the wattage to pull it off. But Roxanne might.

Bernard interrupted their argument with a straight-forward question. "Why are you evil, Megamind?" The name dripped with sarcasm. Bernard sipped his koo-fee and patiently waited for the answer.

Megamind and Roxanne both sat back in their chairs, startled by the question.

Bernard continued, "There's no printed record for why you're evil. I've read every book on Megamind and four more that have yet to make it to print, and not a single one lists a reason or quotes a source. So why are you an evil genius?"

Megamind could only gape at Bernard, almost dropping his koo-fee cup into its saucer on the table. From the corner of his eye, he could see Roxanne cross her arms, her mouth set in a firm line.

He floundered. I've never told anyone about my past. Only Minion knows because he was there, and Minion is my loyal minion, and would never tell tales--not even about the time when I made him that slinky cyborg body that shorted out in the bubble bath and knocked out the power for half the city! Megamind squirmed, considered pulling his Dehydration Gun and simply cubing everyone, but he liked the peaceful and only slightly terrified atmosphere of the koo-fee shop. And he was actually having a real conversation with someone not Minion. Fishy loyalty aside, Minion was his support staff and underling. And without the witty banter he'd always exchanged with Metro Man...it was nice to chat with someone again.

He studied both of them warily, heart pounding inside his chest. And they actually want to hear what I have to say!

He made the choice and leaped.

"I tried to be good, when I was little. Or at least tried to make my fellows happy. My five hundred criminal foster parents were easy enough to please. Then the prison sent me to shool outside, the same shool as Metro Man. But every time I tried to do something nice for my classmates or teacher, it always failed. I wanted to give everyone a delicious snack, but my pop-ed corn started a fire. I built a little scooter for Jennifer when she was on crutches due to a broken leg, and it mowed her down without mercy and broke her other leg. The Automatic Voice-Activated Chalkboard Scriber made such a lovely shriek as it wrote, but it also made everyone pass out." He picked up his koo-fee cup again, savoring the warmth on his skin. He stared down into the frothy, chocolate-sprinkled liquid. "Everything good I tried ended up going bad. And Metro Man was always there to fix what I did wrong and save everyone." He grimaced. "Everyone not me, that is. He ended up covered in gold stars, and all I ever earned were quiet times in the corner, suspensions, and finally expulsion when Metro Man flew the entire shool away. Eventually I gave up trying to be good. All I was good at was being bad. And now, here I am."

He cautiously looked up from his koo-fee to gauge the reactions of his two listeners. Bernard's lips were slightly pursed, brow barely creased. Roxanne simply seemed confused.

"Gold stars?" she asked.

Megamind panicked inside his head. Of all the things in that story for her to latch onto, it had to be the most embarrassing one! "Gold stars mold shars!" he scoffed and tried to wave it aside as nothing, flinging his arms about to accentuate his words. "It doesn't matter! I can't be good! I can only be evil! Evil doesn't need gold stars, evil needs to conquer! To destroy! Evil needs to fight good! Evil needs a hero to oppose it! Him! Me!" He froze in his chair with arms akimbo and gauged their reaction again, his chest heaving from his passionate exposition.

Bernard thoughtfully sipped his koo-fee. "He's saying Megamind needs a hero to rescue him."

At that declaration, Megamind lost track of his surroundings. The warm and sweet liquid in his cup, the strained cheerfulness of the café around them, his conversation with Bernard and Roxanne, the destruction of the Metro Man Museum, and even the frustrating, persistent mellon-kolly that had been the source of it all.

I need a hero?

Megamind's glorious intellect was rendered blank, which was in itself such a rare event that even he couldn't believe it had happened.

Bernard settled down in his chair with satisfaction and crossed his legs, the hint of a triumphant smirk upon his lips.

Could he be right? But how? How could a researcher who likely panics at the threat of a paper cut possibly know me, the Master of All Villainy, that well?

Megamind returned to reality when Roxanne snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Earth to Megamind! Let's get back to the subject here."

He gulped and picked up his koo-fee in shaking hands, taking a big drink and refusing to acknowledge Bernard's statement of mind-blanking wrongness.

Roxanne said, her voice earnest, "Megamind, all that happened when you were a kid. Your attempts at good failed because you didn't really know how to use your genius, or know to consider others and the repercussions you might cause. But you're an adult now. You do know how to use your genius!" She took a moment to dab her mouth with her napkin and visibly steeled herself to continue without judgement. "So your life lacks purpose now that you don't have Metro Man to fight against. Why don't you use your genius to make a new purpose for yourself?"

Megamind blinked. "Make a new purpose?"

Roxanne smiled encouragingly. "Yes! Maybe you could--"

At that moment, a pudgy red-headed man burst into the koo-fee shop, calling out, "Roxaroo!" He craned his head above the other patrons until he locked onto their table. He made his bumbling way towards them, tripping over chair legs, excusing himself to almost every person he passed, and sucking in his ample stomach to scoot in the narrow space between chairs, all the while waving at Roxanne and calling cutesy variations of her name.

Roxanne rubbed her forehead with one hand, an embarrassed flush on her cheeks.

"Roxanne!" The stranger came to a puffing halt next to their table. "I'm so glad I found you. The station called and needs us on location at the Metro Man Museum. Some jerk loser blew it up!" He laughed. "Probably Megamind, am I right?" He grinned around the table, doing a double-take when the identity of the blue man sitting next to Roxanne finally sank in.

"Megamind!" he laughed weakly, pointing with one finger at him. "Wow. Fancy seeing you here, right after you blew up the museum. Which is your museum, since you control the city, and hey, you can do whatever you want with it! Right?" He laughed again.

Megamind raised an eyebrow at the man, who while he had saved him from any potential gold star explanation, had also interrupted Roxanne when she was no doubt about to say something extremely profound and life-changing.

The redhead was still self-consciously babbling as he pulled out Roxanne's chair to help her stand. "Like, wow, Roxanne. I've invited you for coffee every work day for weeks and you always say no, but you're fine having coffee with some intellectual dweeb and Megamind? What's up with that?" Another forced laugh followed.

Roxanne gave him a quelling look as she gathered her coat off her chair, making him backpedal instantly. Megamind rather admired her control of the bumbling idiot.

"I mean--of course you can have coffee with whoever you want, and Megamind probably like pointed his gun at you. Conqueror of the city, and all!" He had the temerity to give Megamind a two-finger salute before he waved at Roxanne to proceed him out of the café.

Megamind seriously considered cubing him on the spot. Perhaps Roxanne could find a use for him as a paperweight.

As if she'd read his mind, Roxanne shook her head the slightest amount and signaled for him to remain seated. She took a deep breath as she buttoned up her coat, fingering the threads that once held the now-missing button. "Megamind. You have that huge, amazing intellect. Consider using it to do something not evil. Just this once." She gave him a genuine, encouraging smile and left the shop.

Her serious and quiet words, so different from how she usually spoke to him, felt like a soothing hand upon his shoulder.

Unlike Bernard's following words, which grated upon him. Hard.

"Not evil. That should be easy for you. I've been waiting to point this out, and now seems the appropriate time." He gave Megamind another scathing once-over. "Megamind would never let himself be seen in public in his..." he paused as if to prepare himself for the distaste of saying the word. "Jammies. Megamind has far more showmanship than that."

Megamind sucked in a noisy, frustrated breath. He'd been so distracted by the conversation and missed gold stars and potentially not being evil and irritating redheads that he'd completely forgotten he was wearing his pajamas. Embarrassed, irritated, confused... It all come to a head.

He sprang from of his chair and whipped out the Dehydration Gun again, a soundless snarl on his lips as he pointed it at Bernard.

All conversation in café stopped. The baby started crying again.

Bernard snorted derisively. "Oh look, you've whipped out the replica a second time. It's not a very good one, you know. It's missing the row of indicator lights halfway down the barrel." He set down his koo-fee cup with the sharp clink of ceramic on ceramic and curled his lip right back at Megamind.

Megamind actually growled. He shot Bernard's koo-fee cup, which condensed into a perfect blue cube. "I removed the lights last time I tweaked my gun," he explained, his voice low.

Bernard lifted his saucer to study his now cubed koo-fee cup at eye-level. "You stole that gun from Megamind."

I have had it with this guy! And Roxanne! And painful conversations filled with angst! And most of all, with this ridiculous mellon-kolly! He took one hand off his gun and twisted the frame of the Disguise Generator Watch, calling up his usual super-villain outfit.

With flair, he waved his free hand up his now properly-clad form. "Fool! I am Megamind!"

Bernard sniffed. "Prove it."

Megamind shot him.

The cube landed with a cheerful clink next to the former koo-fee cup cube on Bernard's saucer. He scooped up both. "Take that, you coolly apathetic and stubborn but irritatingly charismatic fiend."

He threw his head back and laughed. Laughed his most evil laugh as the koo-fee shop emptied of screaming, panicked civilians. He laughed away his irritation, the pain from bad memories, the stress of his first real conversation in weeks, and best of all--he laughed away the mellon-kolly. For as he laughed and tightly gripped the cubes, his magnificent brain considered Bernard's and Roxanne's words, and he found the answer he had been seeking.

With a swirl of cape and a dance of boots, the Master of All Villainy returned to the night outside. He strode the few blocks to the city square, smirking at the flashing lights and chatter of emergency response teams as they wrung their hands over the destroyed museum. He kicked open the front door of City Hall and shouted, "Minion! We have evil to plot!"

.oOo.

Within the depths of Evil Lair's work room, Megamind fluttered his fingers over the finished Hero DNA Payload Bullet. He delighted in its bright yellow glow that cast golden beams over his skin, and carefully loaded it inside his waiting Diffuser Gun. The weapon's large plexiglass tube captured and amplified the glow, making the room positively shine.

"And now, Minion, we need to find the perfect person to mold into our hero."

"And how will we know who the perfect one is, sir?" Minion asked him. He picked up a clipboard, loaded a sheet of fresh paper, and held a blue pen ready to start an all-important qualities checklist.

"We need someone intelligent! Someone who knows every aspect of Megamind, who can use that knowledge to truly make himself worthy of battle! And witty banter! Can't have a proper fight without the witty banter!" he winked at Minion, who stopped writing and slowly lowered the clipboard.

"Do you mean me, sir?" Minion asked, voice cautious and uncertain.

"What? No!" Megamind spun from the Hero DNA Payload Bullet and ran to his companion, reaching up to clasp him by his hairy gorilla-suit shoulders. "I could never do without you, Minion! I would never torture you by forcing you to go against your loyal and devoted nature by competing against me!"

Minion relaxed inside his suit's fish-bowl head, and the evil accomplice and super-villain traded warm smiles.

"Then did you have someone specific in mind, sir?"

"Yes! Someone who knows me so well, he was half of my inspiration for the plan!" Megamind whipped a cube out of his pocket. He brandished it at Minion. "It's only a small matter that he couldn't recognize me standing right in front of him. Not everyone is perfect, and neither is he." He gave Minion a sharp grin. "Not yet." He tossed the cube artfully in the air and blasted it with his Dehydration Gun in De-Dehydration mode at the apex of its arc.

The koo-fee cup crashed into the floor and shattered.

Without missing a beat, Minion verified, "A hot beverage, sir?"

Megamind made a frustrated sound and darted to their domestic rooms inside Evil Lair. He pawed through the clothes hamper for his warning-sign pajamas, found the other cube in one of its pockets, and ran back to the main laboratory. "Ah-ha! Here he is!" He waved the cube triumphantly over his head.

Minion had taken Megamind's hasty retreat as a chance to begin cleaning up the cup shards and spilled koo-fee. He tipped the filled dust pan into the trash can, then reached for the mop. "Excellent, sir! Let me finish this before--"

"No time for that now, Minion! Leave the koo-fee to evaporate. We must continue the plan!" He waved a dismissive hand at the dark puddle.

"But this coffee probably has milk and sugar in it. It will be sticky once dried."

Megamind's delight at the prospect of his plan's nearing fruition faltered slightly.

"And ants, sir. Sugar will attract ants. You know how much they bothered you when we didn't clean well enough after the sugar-based mind-control nanite candy."

Grudgingly, Megamind nodded. "You're right, Minion. I do so hate ants inside Evil Lair." He pulled a chair out at one of his plan-covered work benches and sat. He studied the cube in his hands, restlessly listening to the busy Minion, who was humming a cheerful tune as he wielded the mop and rolling bucket. Megamind pulled a second chair up to the work bench, swiveled the chairs so they faced each other, and carefully placed the Bernard cube on the other seat. "Wouldn't want my new hero to shatter into a hundred pieces on the floor like that unfortunate cup." He fondly stroked a fluff of lint off the cube. "I have plans for you, my stubborn researcher." He began to giggle--or rather--began to laugh a delighted, evil, if slightly high-pitched laugh of anticipation.

"All done, sir!" Minion declared with a big smile.

"Excellent!" Megamind jumped to his feet and drew the Dehydration Gun with flourish. "Let the good times begin!" He verified it was still in De-Dehydration mode, aimed squarely at the cube, and pulled the trigger.

Bernard jolted back into his normal form, swaying a bit until he caught the edge of the bench with one hand for balance. He rubbed his eyes in confusion at the instant change in surroundings, and then his eyes settled on Megamind.

"I already said you stole that gun from the real Megamind. Shooting me with it proves nothing."

Megamind simply smiled at him. "Hello again, Bernard. Your persistent doubting nature and cutting comments were sorely missed."

"He really does refuse to accept that you're you?" Minion tilted himself inside his suit's bowl.

Bernard glanced at Minion and froze.

Megamind shook his head at Bernard with affection. "The limitations of the human brain, Minion. It can't always see what's right in front of it, and even when it can see it, it can still manage to ignore it. Most fascinating."

"Hey, I'm pretty sure that was an insult," Bernard commented with a definite edge to his voice.

"Are you certain about this, sir?"

"Unquestionablingly-ly!" Megamind spun about to give the perfect swoop to his Workshop Cape and reverently lifted the loaded and glowing Diffuser Gun from its holding rack within the cement shield-box. "Yes! The wonderfully stubborn and insightful Bernard will be my perfect new nemesis!" He made a grand, sweeping gesture around the large, cluttered room. "And it is here, at Evil Lair, where I will--"

Bernard had been observing Megamind's theatrics with a heavy expression, but at those words, he seemed be lit within. "Wait--Evil Lair? This is Megamind's hideout? Really?" He gaped from where he sat, then leaped out of the chair.

"Wait! Get back here!" Megamind almost lost his grip on the Diffuser Gun. "I'm not done with my monologue about my nefariously glorious plan!"

Bernard ducked out of Minion's attempted grab. He kept running around the room, looking at everything and doing his best to take it all in as quickly as possible. He would pause for a moment to study a hanging diagram, then spin about to shuffle through a stack of blueprints on a drafting table, then dart to a whiteboard and trace sketchy schematics with hovering fingers.

"Intruder! Intruder! Intruder!" a swarm of brain-bots with angry red eye-rods swooped into the room, electronic chugging loud and sounding the alarm.

Megamind ran to cut them off, patting the air with his hands in a soothing motion. "Easy, everyone! He's not an intruder! He's a...a..." he trailed off, unable to find the right word. The brain-bots' eye-rods faded to peaceful orange as they waited.

"A comrade? No, a compatriot? Not really. An innocent civilian?"

The bots reverted to intruder-alert red.

"Friend!" Megamind shrieked as they charged. "He's a friend! Not an intruder! Cancel intruder! False alarm! Stand down! Friend!"

Relieved at preventing cyborg-delivered harm to Bernard, Megamind took a deep breath and turned about to locate his exceedingly curious hero-to-be. He came up short when he found Bernard right behind him.

Bernard grabbed a brain-bot out of the air and squinted down at it. "How do these things work? I've always wanted to know." He moved the bot around, examining it from various angles. Its utility appendages wiggled, but it could not resist after Megamind's designation of Bernard's protected status.

Far be it for Megamind to ever pass up an opportunity to expand upon his own genius. "The brain is suspended in a proprietary nutrient gel I make myself, and it acts as a conductor between--"

Minion appeared and plucked the hapless brain-bot from Bernard's grasp. "Sir, perhaps we should return to the plan?"

"The plan?" Megamind slapped a hand to his forehead. "Oh yes, the plan!" He laughed ruefully to Bernard. "I was so distracted by your reaction to Evil Lair, and then you wanting to know about my brain-bots. No one has asked about my brain-bots before!"

"Sir..."

Megamind snapped himself back on track. "Yes, Minion! You are correct, we have no time for that now!" He reached to guide Bernard to the work bench. "Resume your seat, Bernard, and we shall continue!"

But Bernard had evaded him again, this time lured by various diagrams displayed next to one wall. He trotted over and examined them, ducking around the charts and papers hung on strings from the ceiling, until he realized that those were noteworthy, too. "I recognize this," he said to himself. "This is the Dehydration Gun. But in one of its earliest forms!" He halted at a cork board and reverently touched a blueprint. "The Death Ray that killed Metro Man!" Another free-standing work bench caught his attention, and he crouched down to study a model made from thick wire, paper, and glue. "This must be some kind of new battle suit."

Megamind marched over to him, most frustrated, but before he could drag Bernard back into his evil scheme, the other man grabbed his cape and dragged him closer.

"This is a new battle suit! Have you worked on it any more? Is it still in the model stage, or can you show me a newer version?!"

Megamind stared at Bernard, whose face was lit. He'd been almost dancing around the room, his excitement at finding all the diagrams and plots growing with each new discovery. Bernard likes my work. He's interested in it. In...me!

All thoughts about the current plan vanished.

"The suit is still in development, but we're making some advancements with the joint manufacturing. The previous formula fatigued too quickly."

"Advancements? You mean a new metal alloy? Or perhaps ceramic?" Bernard asked, seeming to glow with excitement.

Megamind grinned, pleased that Bernard had guessed correctly. "A little of both. Though we're having trouble with the elasticity."

Bernard nodded understanding. "Not enough?"

"Too much, actually."

"Really!" Bernard breathed. "Have you considered adding chromium and molybdenum to strengthen the alloy?"

Minion entered the conversation by handing Bernard a molecular structure diagram. "I did suggest that, but we're having trouble adjusting the foundry to handle the alloy and ceramic both."

"You have your own foundry?" Bernard asked as he looked over the diagram.

Megamind nodded and beckoned Bernard to follow him to another work bench. He whipped out blueprints. Bernard poured over them in delight, and Minion appeared with a 3D molecular model made from ping-pong balls and dowels. Bernard dug around through the scattered papers, seeking out flash cards and something to write with, while Megamind wheeled over the closest cork board, removed all its previous contents, and started anew.

Bernard's different perspective and knowledge-base provided an excellent foil for that of Megamind and Minion. They bounced ideas off of each other, talking excitedly and even occasionally finishing each other's sentences. The fresh ideas sprang forth from the trio of minds like mutant kittens escaping a box, each one bent on world domination. Even the brain-bots became involved, chugging contentedly as they bustled about, bringing plotting supplies and refreshments, and even retrieving a cup of koo-fee from the café for Bernard. The sound of geeky delight, glorious scheming, and laughter among new friends discovering each other filled Evil Lair with a warm and only slightly evil glow.

The brainstorming continued for a good half hour until it was dispelled by one incredulous female reporter.

"Megamind? Bernard?! What's going on here?!"

The three of them froze, mid-plotting. Very slowly, they turned around and faced Roxanne.

She crossed her arms, but thankfully chose not to comment on their obvious embarrassment.

Megamind's thoughts took a moment to catch up to the situation. "Roxanne! How did you get inside?!"

On cue, the brain-bots charged. They zoomed toward her in full angry red intruder alert mode.

Megamind darted after them, waving his arms frantically as he called off his cyborgs. Again. "No, everyone! She's another friend! Stand down! She's a friend!"

Eying the now friendly brain-bots around her, Roxanne said, "Thanks. They've never attacked me before. It's kind of scary." She tapped the single pink brain-bot with a fingernail. It snapped at her with its hinged metal jaw, and she jumped back.

Waving the brain-bots away, Megamind approached her. "Come now, Roxanne. I mean, what's scary about a hundred flying, intelligent, automated brains set to attack any unknown interloper within Evil Lair?" He stopped in front of her. "But never mind that. How did you find us?"

She sidled away from the last of the brain-bots still watching her and shrugged. "This is the only building with an observatory on top. And I found this welcome mat that said 'Secrit' Entrance in front of a graffiti-covered wall." She made air quotes around 'secrit' to emphasize the incorrect spelling.

Megamind glared at Minion, who shrank down in his fish bowl with a sheepish grin. "I kept forgetting where it was."

Bernard couldn't help himself. He snickered. "That is so very Megamind."

Roxanne approached Bernard, clearly looking him over. "Bernard, you're not tied up! And you're...laughing?" The observation was definitely framed as a question. "I didn't think you knew how!"

Insulted, Bernard stopped his quiet laughter and self-consciously began shifting through the various papers and diagrams they'd been working on.

For some inexplicable reason, Megamind felt the need to defend him. "Bernard has shown himself to be a first-class asset! He's given us valuable insight, for he is a magnificent foil to my genius!"

"And mine!" Minion chimed in.

"But mostly mine, of course!" Megamind insisted. He flared his Workshop Cape of Evil and stalked around Bernard in a most predatory manner. "I can't wait to see how he will oppose me after my latest scheme is complete, and he is Metrocity's newest hero! And he'll be created by me!"

Megamind and Minion began a dance of triumph, skipping and shuffling through the room. All they needed was accompanying music, but given Minion's track record with the tape deck, it was probably best left out of the picture.

"What?" Bernard asked, his voice flat in a way it hadn't sounded since he'd been rehydrated.

"What?" Roxanne demanded with shock.

"That's what this new battle suit is for, Bernard!" Megamind brandished one of the pages Bernard had helped conspire to cover with new formulae. "For our first magnificent battle!" He struck a dashing pose. "The Master of all Villainy, Megamind!"

Minion did a playful, double-handed point to Megamind. "That's him!"

"Versus Metrocity's newest hero, Bernard!"

Another double-handed point, this time to Bernard, who flinched. "That's you!"

"We'll have to work on your super-hero name, of course," Megamind added practically. "Something short and powerful, to showcase your role in protecting the city!"

During all of this, Bernard had continuously backed away from the work bench, where he'd been contentedly standing a few moments earlier. He stopped next to Roxanne. "What are you talking about, Megamind?"

Megamind failed to notice the change in Bernard. He smiled widely and gave them a bow, complete with hand twirl. "You guys gave me the idea! Bernard, you said I needed a hero to rescue me. And Roxanne, you said I should use my genius to make a new purpose for myself. I'm going to do both!"

He signaled to Minion, who retrieved the loaded Diffuser Gun and handed it to Megamind. Its bright golden glow shining up from below onto Bernard and Roxanne's faces cast them into masks of horror. Not that Megamind paid any attention to such obvious symbolism. He was far too busy expanding upon his grand scheme.

"I extracted Metro Man's heroic DNA from cells I found on his last cape and transformed them into the bullet-shaped payload inside this gun! I can now shoot the DNA into Bernard, thus transforming him into a brand-new hero and the defender of Metrocity!"

At the grand finale, Minion set off a giant party popper and danced about through the confetti and streamers, imitating cheering crowds while Megamind beamed.

After ten very long seconds of silence, Bernard spoke first. "You want to use an untested bullet of evil science to transform me into a mutated super-hero so that I may fight you and give you a new purpose in life now."

"Yes!" Megamind cried with triumph. He whirled to Minion. "You see, Minion?! I knew he'd understand! Intelligence is the right way to go!"

"Indubitably, sir!"

Roxanne cut in sharply. "Did you even bother to ask Bernard first?"

Megamind halted another boot-scuffle of triumph. "Ask him? Why should I? Who wouldn't want to become a mutated super-hero created from an untested bullet of evil science? And fight me in glorious mutually beneficial battle across the land!" He ended with arms flung wide open to the air, cape fluttering.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe because friends don't shoot untested evil science bullets at friends without asking permission first!" Roxanne shouted at him.

Megamind dropped his arms, his brow furrowed. "What is this friends thing of which you speak? Since when were we friends?"

Roxanne growled and took a deep breath. "Since we had coffee together and talked about your true feelings! Since I walked in on you and Bernard plotting evil together!"

Megamind and Bernard traded astonished glances.

"Sir, you did identify both of them as friends to the brain-bots," Minion helpfully pointed out. "Granted, it was to stop the intruder alert attacks, but you did say it."

Uncertain, Megamind shifted his weight, eyes moving from Minion's pleased smile to Roxanne's angry glare to Bernard's stoic blankness. "I am confused."

Roxane sighed. "Bernard. Do you want Megamind to shoot you with an untested evil science bullet that might transform you into a mutated super-hero? With the understanding that this is one of Megamind's schemes, and as we all know, they have a rather spotty track record?"

Bernard's face edged from stoic blankness to careful thought. After a moment, he adjusted his glasses and asked, "Will the hero DNA let me work and research faster? That would really help me get the Museum back in order."

"I believe it might," Megamind began, then caught himself. "Wait. You'll have super powers! You can't use super powers to read and catalogue!"

Bernard grew stony. "They will be my powers, and I can use them how I want. And that means rebuilding my Museum."

Megamind flailed. "But that's not what I want you to do!"

"Friends respect each other's decisions," Bernard said, arms crossed and eyes narrowed in determination.

Before Megamind could find the right words to express how wrong that was, Roxanne broke in.

"Megamind, do you remember what you told us in the coffee shop? About how your attempts to help people always ended up making things worse? It was because you didn't think things through. You didn't consider your victims'--I mean, your classmates'--perspectives."

"I...suppose."

She turned to Bernard. "What do you want from this, Bernard?"

"I want to repair the Museum. I want my job back." He jabbed a finger at Megamind. "You're not the only one without a purpose in life now."

With a horrible sinking feeling, Megamind remembered his dreadful persistent mellon-kolly. My lack of purpose set it upon me. If I've removed Bernard's purpose by destroying the museum, then...I might cause that same mellon-kolly in Bernard. The idea of cursing Bernard with that disabling emotion made him sick.

"Oh," was all he could think to say.

Always his faithful supporter, Minion spoke up. "Sir, friends also help friends. You don't need to use the hero DNA to help him, if he doesn't want it. You can help him rebuild the museum right now! I mean, you do have an obedient unquestioning automated brain-bot army!"

Megamind felt his heart lighten, just a little. "That is true, Minion. My brain-bots helped me destroy the museum. They could certainly help me repair it." His creative juices began to flow. "And we don't have to stop at the museum! We could clean up those streets Roxanne mentioned!"

"And repair City Hall," Roxanne added. "The Mayor and City Council already know how to run things, they could be your delegates, Megamind, and help get the city working again, too. But for that, they need a place to work."

"Yes, I can see it now." Megamind's smile returned, this time with genuine warmth as he welcomed both Bernard's and Roxanne's ideas into his plotting. "The City Council can take care of the day-to-day things, while I focus on the bigger picture!" He dashed away to the far corner of the work room and dug through a large stack of dusty pages until he found the one he wanted. "Speaking of larger pictures--here's my plan for a city-wide blackout button! So the Abandoned Observatory's telescope can see through the night sky again, without the persistent city glow! Then the Abandoned Observatory wouldn't be abandoned anymore! Though we'd have to rebuild the Observatory, first." He chuckled.

Roxanne laughed, the sound a mixture of relief, incredulity, and joy. "Well, it's certainly an idea." She returned Megamind's smile.

Bernard appeared then with a small smile of his own, as he worked with scissors in one hand and a sheet of bright yellow card stock in the other. He carefully cut out a shape, and handed it and a roll of tape to Roxanne.

She realized what he intended immediately, and faced Megamind with happiness.

"This if for you, Megamind. You've earned it for learning to listen to your friends. For having compassion. For--potentially--doing good." She held up the shape Bernard had given her.

A gold star...

Roxanne pulled a section of tape from the dispenser and firmly affixed the star to Megamind's shirt front.

He stared down at his first gold star, then up at Roxanne, then at Bernard. His eyes were huge and surprisingly shiny.

Bernard gave him a big smile--which for Bernard was an entire half-inch lift of one corner of his mouth. "Okay, I admit it. You really are Megamind." He took a step closer and whispered into Megamind's flushed blue ear, "Don't give up on the Hero DNA Payload Bullet just yet. After all, I didn't say no." He pulled back and winked.

Megamind felt a wide grin spread across his face. He went to grab Bernard's hands to pull him into a dance of triumph, but stopped himself with sheepish laugh and did a solo routine about the pair in excitement. "There's so much to do! Let's fix the museum! But first we have to clear the roads so materials and trucks can get through!"

He spun in a circle, his cape fluttering in a blue wave behind him. "Come to me, my brain-bots!"

They answered his summons and came out to swirl in a huge tornado around the trio, creating a wind storm that ruffled hair and capes and suit jackets.

"It's time for us to get busy!" Megamind laughed. And maybe, hidden within the delighted depths of his classic evil laugh, there was a smidgen of goodness to be heard.

completed 12-07-14, last tweaked 12-23-14