Chapter 1: Plushie
On Conflict Diamond - I've made her female though I do know this complicates the double date mentioned in the web series. In my headcanon, Moist went on a double date with 3 women.
The best laid plans are nearly always horrible, and that's just the way that Billy liked them. Interlocking his fingers under his chin, he nodded approvingly at the schematics carefully arranged on the table before him. Being an evil mastermind had prerequisites – and colour coding one's evil plan was one of those unwritten rules, the secret coda by which one must rise to greatness. Or horribleness.
“Oh yes, it will be horrible,” he whispered in what he hoped was an impressive manner. “My nemesis, prepare to meet your doom...prepare to meet...THE FREEZE RAY!”
A manic peel of laughter followed this.
“Prepare for the chills of defeat to roll down your spine, prepare to suffer an icy reception, prepare to...to...”
“Star in Ice Age?” supplied Moist from the door.
Billy leapt up from the table, blindly fumbling through the paperwork for his goggles. To be seen monologuing without the webcam was one thing, but to be caught doing so – by a minion, no less! – in civilian clothing? Giving up in disgust, and planning to re-educate himself on some of the finer points of standards, Billy turned to his friend and mustered up an evil glare.
Moist wiped his sleeve over his forehead. “Uh, sorry to interrupt your Mr Freeze moment. Not that I want to, because it's totally...um...chilling...”
Billy's glare intensified, aided by a menacing snarl.
“...and horrible!” added Moist hastily. “But I'm pretty sure we have a problem.”
“How sure are you? If this is the mutant rabbit trying to buzz itself into our apartment block again...”
“No, no. No mutant rabbit. It's the...others.”
Billy rolled his eyes. “The others? Don't tell me – they're multiplying like rabbits. Moist, if you're going to start up with that again, I will have to do something drastic. I might even start checking my own mail.”
Moist's eyes widened. He held up his hands in a placating gesture.
“Let's not, you know, get drastic or anything,” he said nervously. “I mean the guys. You know, your friends?”
“Oh. Them.” Billy's mouth suddenly felt furry.
Watching him with a concerned expression, Moist moved into the flat and carefully shut the door. After resting his ear back on the door, listening intently for any intruders, he turned back to Dr. Horrible and said in a low voice, “What's happened to you, man? You're supposed to say something like...henchmen are minions not friends...”
“Moist, I don't need help writing my scripts,” Billy told him irritably.
His friend gulped noisily. “You're gonna need help. Everyone says...everyone says you're slipping. They say you're losing your touch. Getting soft, like plushie-soft. Or my newspaper soft.”
A hot squirm of his intestines forced bile up into Billy's throat. Swallowing furiously against the burn, he looked around for his goggles in yet another futile attempt. He managed in a croak, “I am not a plushie! I'm Dr Horrible, I have a PhD in horribleness. The only reason I haven't defeated my nemesis is because he happens to be extremely dense – in both senses of the word! And I do not have time for pissing contests with posers in parkers, so I'm not going to start showing force unless I have to!”
Moist fidgeted, but he ventured bravely, “Then what are you doing tonight?”
“Going to Penny's,” Billy conceded.
“Instead of doing something evil, huh?” Moist demanded.
Billy felt as though someone had kicked him in the chest – not a sensation he was unfamiliar with, because of Captain Hammer. But this time he couldn't seem to move, and for one wild second thought he'd been shot with the Freeze Ray.
“That's not – ”
Moist crossed his arms and waited.
“It's not – ” Billy tried again, his voice higher pitched than usual. “It's not like that! Penny supports my decision to try to get into the Evil League of Evil. She even likes the goggles – how many people can say that?”
Moist snorted wetly, in a way that made it sound like he'd fallen into a bog. “Whatever. I'll be at Pink Pummeller's tonight, if you change your mind.”
After watching his friend disappear out into the corridor, Billy sat down hard on the floor. He wriggled uncomfortably before discovering his goggles underneath him. Peering down into them, a vague sense of unease washed over him.
“It's not like I don't have any plans!” he snapped.
The empty room mocked him.
“I'm perfectly horrible! I have viewers, I have fans – granted, they're ceiling fans, but that still counts! Doesn't it?”
Billy glanced wildly from side to side. He scrambled back up to the table and peered intently at his plans. These were the plans of an evil genius! But as he narrowed in on the schematics, he could have sworn that every line, every word, every colour screamed “PLUSHIE! PLUSHIE! PLUSHIE!”
For the next ten minutes, he tried to convince himself that every ELE member had cowered under their kitchen table at least once.
Or at least thought about it! Billy reasoned furiously, hugging his knees.
Being confronted with a closed door can leave one in two states – either one of determination or the state that not-quite-famed Dr. Horrible found himself in some minutes past dusk. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, Billy dug through his pockets for nothing really – maybe lint, because you can never have too much lint, right?
“Lint,” he repeated out loud, disturbed. “Lint under my fingernails. Brilliant display of genius there, you…you…genius. I’m not going soft, I’m harder than a…a…this is crazy, just because I can’t think of any good insults or metaphors any more – AH! Hi Penny! I didn’t even ring the bell yet.”
A bemused tilt settled over Penny’s lips as she watched him from a few paces away. Billy wrenched his hands out of his pockets, quickly inspected the nails and then lunged in for a hug, digging his chin into her shoulder. He pulled back to smile distractedly into her green eyes.
Penny raised her eyebrows shrewdly. “You do realise that my flat doesn’t have a bell, right? Is there…something wrong?”
“Why…why…why would you think that?” Billy stammered.
“Your eyes are kind of twitchy, maybe?”
“Oh. Right. It’s very glary today.”
Penny reminded him gently, “It’s after dusk.”
“A moth flew into my eyes,” he amended lamely.
Slipping a hand behind his neck, she coaxed him into her flat. Once under the spell of soft amber lighting, Billy allowed her to sit him down on the two-seater – the one that was mostly pink but with a nasty looking dark stain on one of the cushions. Penny had dragged him along on a dumpster expedition a few weeks ago…something or rather about recycling…and found the sofa hidden underneath a pile of black leather.
Billy still wondered where that much black leather had come from.
“Something is wrong,” Penny’s voice snapped his attention back to the present. “You can tell me. Is it your application for the League?”
Surprised, Billy realised that he truthfully hadn’t thought much about the Evil League of Evil since the last weekend. Sure, he’d been planning, but Bad Horse and his terrible death whinny had been relegated to a secondary objective. He hung his head.
“It’s Moist. He said I was a plushie.”
Penny patted his knee. “Oh, I thought you’d have made a sweet little plushie.”
“I am not a plushie!” Billy said crossly. “For one, you can’t put me through the spin cycle at the Coin Wash. And – and – I have a Stun Ray! I’m about as soft and plushie-like as a triceratops!”
Inwardly, he crowed. Ha! A metaphor! I have not lost my horribleness. But there was that dinosaur movie. The one with the squishy-looking animations…that was nice…
Horror smacked into him with the force of a sucker punch from Captain Hammer at this thought. Billy skirted his eyes back up to Penny, who was biting her lip thoughtfully. She rested her elbow on the back of the sofa, and then tucked her chin onto the fist of her hand. Watching her apparently serene contemplation, coupled with the orange glow alighting her face, Billy felt his panic subside.
“You could try making more public appearances,” Penny suggested after a while.
Billy curled his lip. “I am not challenging Johnny Snow to a freeze match while the League is watching. That's nothing impressive – I'd defeat him inside of two minutes. No, it will have to be a masterpiece of planning, a heinous crime...”
A murder would be nice of course...
“But I'm not going to kill anyone!” he assured, taking Penny's hand in his over her knee.
But if everyone thinks I'm going soft, I might just have to...no. No. Penny wouldn't even look at me again.
“I mean it,” he said firmly.
“I know, and that's great,” Penny acknowledged. “What you need to do is get into the newspapers. Once you're there, it's evidence. Think of something...” A smile. “...horrible enough that someone wants to write about it.”
And like a sign from a higher being of existence, the picture of a hammer appeared behind Billy's retinas. A slow, terrible smirk emerged, quickly masked by his hand as he faked a cough. Once the tell tale sign of an ingenious plot was carefully concealed by a neutral expression, he nodded absently.
“I'm sure I will think of something. But enough of that. How are you going with the signatures...?”
Upon opening the door, Moist eyed his friend suspiciously. Billy reached up to fiddle with his goggles – a deliberate gesture to alert the henchman to his garb. He passed the inspection. Moist slinked aside and Dr Horrible made his entrance, arms crossed, glove fingers clenched. Probably fortunate that the cumin stains had come out in the wash. It might have ruined the ensemble.
He nodded to the Pink Pummeller, once an aspiring villain now relegated to henchman duties, who tapped his bright pink boxing gloves back in response. Then to Conflict Diamond he tipped his head sideways – a villain must never fully turn their head to acknowledge a minion if they are not straight ahead. Conflict Diamond probably would have smacked Moist into the next world for referring to her as one of the guys. Or maybe just taken off her black Ray Bans and used her piercing gaze, good for slicing through bank vault walls if her power decided to work, to rend him in two.
“Where's Purple Pimp?” Dr. Horrible asked after casting his eyes around the Pink Pummeller's lounge room, conveniently choosing to skirt over the two large stuffed Pink Panthers in the corner. You never know. A plushie might be among them.
Moist shrugged. “Yeah, apparently he wasn't Pimp enough to get a ride over or something.”
“He just doesn't want to be caught with the pond scum,” Conflict Diamond rejoined in a bored tone, checking to make sure her black nails – no, talons – were about as long as her actual fingers and as sparkly as her diamante studded eyelids.
Momentarily disquieted, Moist muttered something under his breath and found a nice patch of vinyl. He attempted to cross his legs, squelched loudly, thought better of it and casually propped one knee up.
“So, uh, I'm sure Dr. Horrible has a good plan for us,” Moist started hopefully.
Conflict Diamond snorted, but made no further comment. Spitting her with a reproving stare, Dr Horrible paced along floor towards her. “I know there have been some rumours, which would be very unfortunate should they be true. However, that is not the case. I have formulated my next scheme and I require your services.”
“See, I told you he'd think of something,” Moist said as an aside.
The Pink Pummeller held up a glove. “Did I ever doubt you?”
“No, but you doubted me,” Dr. Horrible spoke over him. “Now, pay attention. My nemesis, Captain Hammer, has gone too far this time. He – ”
Conflict Diamond cleared her throat. “What has he done?”
“W-What?” Billy blinked, momentarily stunned.
“You said, he's gone too far this time. What's the tool done?”
“Well – nothing lately. But that's not the point, it's all the things he's done, and will do, if I don't stop him. Now, in order to ambush – ”
“That's enough.” Conflict Diamond delivered the interruption with nary a ruffled feather. “Don't you come prancing in here thinking we're going to be the brawn to your brainless operation. Captain Hammer is your nemesis, your problem. Might I remind you, I'm not in the Henchmen Union – nor do I share your wet dream of joining the Evil League of Evil. See you next week, if you're still in one piece...or haven't been further pussy-whipped in the meantime.”
The wall rattled as the door slammed behind the black blur of the would-be villainess. An awkward pause descended over the Pink Pummeller's living room, which met a timely end in a raspberry from Moist's patch of vinyl. He sloshed a hand over his brow, perhaps to wipe away some moisture but only managing to smear more on. Dr Horrible sent him an exasperated look.
“Must be PMT,” Moist tried to assure him. “But we're still here, we'll be your henchmen – won't we Pink P?”
The Pummeller nodded hastily. “Of course we will!”
Slightly mollified, Dr. Horrible straightened his spine and once again adopted his deep, authoritarian voice. “Right. My nemesis. The ambush – we were up to the ambush weren't we?”
Both his henchmen nodded mutely.
“Excellent,” Billy continued. “I have selected the most effective location of arranging an ambush for Captain Hammer. The building is so far unused, but for our purposes it must be filled with people. Preferably newspaper people. And it will probably work better on a slow news week, otherwise no one will bother turning up to watch.”
Moist made a whining noise. Dr. Horrible looked at him again.
“Sorry, just getting the appreciative chills already, is all,” Moist said apologetically.
“Yeah, even I'm getting chills, and these gloves are really hot!” added the Pink Pummeller.
Billy fought the asinine and heroic urge to smile. Sure they're hot...hot pink.
“In order to utilise the building,” he said out loud, “we must work hard. There will be sacrifices to make, meals to miss and TiVo must become your new friend.”
He held up several leaflets, all covered with columns and rows from edge to edge. The henchmen looked up expectantly. Dr. Horrible explained triumphantly, “We need to collect over two-thousand signatures on this petition for the new Caring Hands homeless shelter by next week!”
A ghastly silence followed this.
“Caring Hands...homeless shelter?” Pink Pummeller repeated dubiously.
Even Moist started to look apprehensive.
“Yes,” Billy said testily. “For the shelter's opening day, an invitation will be sent to Captain Hammer, requesting that he be the main attraction. He won't be able to keep away from so many cameras and adoring fans – fans that aren't the ceiling variety. But we will have laid a trap for him, enabling me to shoot him with my newly developed Freeze Ray. And then...”
He fell silent, staring off into the distance as the evil plan unfolded before his eyes. Moist and the Pink Pummeller exchanged confused glances, until Moist asked, “And then what? Something horrible?”
“For me to plan, and you to read in the newspapers,” Dr. Horrible answered gleefully.
“But what if it isn't in the newspapers?” Pink Pummeller ventured bravely.
Moist leapt to his friend's defence. “If Dr. Horrible says it will be in the newspapers, then I'm going to buy them all until I find at least one sentence. Because a sentence is probably enough for the League, huh?”
Dr. Horrible thought it might be best to adjourn the meeting there, before things got too out of hand. He really didn't feel much like cowering under any kitchen tables in the near future.
When Billy woke the some days later to find himself sprawled over the floor in his secret lab, goggles stuck fast in his hair and a white glove within sniffing range, he couldn't help but feel both guilty and victorious. Well, obviously, he was once again on the way to performing a perfect plot – except this time it wouldn't end with him in hospital. Maybe. But it had occurred to a part of him that he probably shouldn't be using Penny's homeless shelter group like this...
The League is watching! he reminded himself, Defeating Captain Hammer has to count for something! Then I will be bigger than Bad Horse! And then Penny will...Penny will...
“Penny will what?” he mused. “Penny will get the building for Caring Hands to use! And then we can celebrate...”
He certainly knew what kind of celebrating he had in mind, but such thoughts were best left for victory parties. Gloriously evil victory parties – the kind that Purple Pimp would not make an excuse to miss. There should be tequila at the bar, also, so that all villains were sufficiently incapacitated for him to collect DNA samples. You never knew what you could do with a strand of hair, really. Professor Normal had a reputation of growing mutant zombies out of DNA. And those mutant zombies were apparently really awesome.
I bet a mutant curry would be scarier… Billy reflected.
And another thing. DNA could tell you if you were dealing with a mutant villain, or a villain pretending to be a mutant. Perhaps this could once and for all solve if Johnny Snow was a natural popsicle, or if he was cheating and using small portable air conditioning devices…
…but that wasn’t important. Not now. He had a fresh whiteboard to decimate with ingenious scribblings – and stick figure diagrams – as well as a sizable container of left over vegetarian curry in the freezer, next to the remains of a certain mutant rabbit. That itself was an entirely different story. Along with why so many mutant mammals existed in California.
“Psyche! I’m all set!” he decided, clutching his hands together gleefully and letting lose his best evil laugh – which really wasn’t all that impressive, but for once he imagined it was.
Grimacing as he raked fingers through his mattered hair, Billy scooped up his gloves and donned them once more. Continuing to feebly cackle, he stalked out of his secret lab in search of food. He threw open the freezer – and stopped, perplexed. Nothing. Not even the mutant rabbit. Billy pressed a finger to his lips, scanning the fridge side to side with his whole face. Huh, well this was new.
“A reanimated rabbit ate my breakfast,” he deduced, awed.
“Or your girlfriend could be heating your breakfast up for you?” offered a voice behind him.
Billy prided himself on being above reflexive shrieks, but couldn’t stifle the rabid twitching that seized his eyes. Turning around to regard Penny, who was adorned in a rather flattering flower print dress and matching purple jacket, he found himself momentarily speechless. For a second he could smell laundry powder and spent that brief moment locked into seeing her again for the first time.
He coughed. “What did you do with the rabbit?”
Some things were supposed to stay cosmic mysteries, Billy supposed. He stretched his smile a little too wide and seated himself at the table, quickly brushing off his latest schematics into a pile on the floor.
“A conversation for another time,” he dismissed. “To what do I owe this…crazy random but delightful visit?”
Twitch, twitch. Please, Penny, don’t look at the plans that I pushed onto the floor while you were watching in my attempt to be inconspicuous. Because if you noticed that my plans say "Caring Hands homeless shelter" then I will have to think up a lie in maybe two seconds, a lie that actually makes sense. And I’m not awake enough for that…
Penny rested her hands on her hips. “You…don’t see or even call me for nearly a week, and I’m supposed to just let you carry on without being worried?”
The amount of disapproval she could put into one word was even more terrifying than Bad Horse’s whinny. And so Dr. Horrible caved.
“Sorry?” he said sheepishly. “It’s just, I thought of something. Something good. This is the one. This will get me into the Evil League of Evil, I know it!”
“Am I going to hear about it now, or should I wait for your big performance?”
Billy simply smiled up at her. “I love you.”
That was the magic topic-changing trick. Penny beamed at him and scooted over to sit on his lap. Surprised at first, but rather pleased, he circled her waist with his arms and pulled her closer until they were nose to nose.
“What would I do without you?” he murmured.
“Eat more meat, maybe?”
“Well, there’s that…”
“Spend all your time in that lab, living off the remains of rabbits?”
“I could, you know, entertain that possibility,” Billy breathed against her cheek.
“Maybe you could entertain this possibility,” Penny responded softly, tracing a finger along his jaw. “I love you, I missed you and maybe you need a little break.”
“Will there be frozen yoghurt after?”
“I could…arrange that.”
It probably wasn’t all that surprising that the curry went soggy in the microwave following this. But then, one had to make sacrifices. Dr Horrible lazily considered this some time later as he curled up against Penny’s back, breathing in the scent of her hair.
“Mmm,” he protested, but not that much.
“Is there any reason we now have several thousand signatures for the shelter petition?”
Chapter 2: Obstacles
“The date is set. The venue is arranged. And Captain Hammer's reign of corporate stupidity will be over in just one short day. Alert your friends and/or enemies. It will be...epic."
Static filled the screen, interspersed with jagged horizontal lines that undertook a long journey from top to bottom. A burst of interference scored through the white noise, before distant curses in a human voice began muttering through the speakers. Two fast thuds sounded, coinciding with jolts across the display. Finally, a fuzzy image spun into view, sharpening as everything came into focus.
“Slight technical difficulties,” Dr. Horrible grumbled. “But, you know, it's not that important. Even though the cam is apparently stuck on black and white which sort of makes it look like one of those bad 30's monster movies...and that would make me the mad scientist with a brain fetish...except I'm clearly in control of most, if not all, of my faculties.”
A frown crossed his face.
“It's not a perfect allusion, granted. I'll fix the video for you tonight. Owing to my recent plans, I haven't been able to catch up on your emails. Should this operation be successful – and it will, because I have an advanced degree in applied horribleness – I probably won't have time to peruse your titillating responses.”
For some reason, that sentence came out more absurd that it had sounded in the shower that morning. Billy paused and tutted his tongue against his teeth momentarily, then shrugged off his indecision.
“Okay, moving along.” He cleared his throat and pushed his goggles off-centre unconsciously. “The date is set. The venue is arranged. And Captain Hammer's reign of corporate stupidity will be over in just one short day. Alert your friends and/or enemies. It will be...epic. Also, if you happen to be a reporter and are covering tomorrow's...event, I'll be seeing you soon...”
Dr. Horrible watched the webcam light flicker out. He contemplated his laptop's background – a picture of Penny, smiling in embarrassment while she twirled in a new dress – before smiling and shutting the device down. By now, the nasty swirlings of guilt were easily passed off as the ill product of choosing to devour a cheeseburger in a fit of meat craving in the middle of the previous night.
Clutching his stomach at this thought, Billy shuffled out of the chair towards the bathroom.
There were various obstacles that prevented the inmates of the apartment block from escaping unscathed. First and foremost, the sticky door syndrome. It wasn't something that happened often, but usually when one was in a hurry. Balancing his washing basket between the wall and himself, Billy muttered under his breath and slammed a knee against the door to his flat. His knee cap ached angrily in response.
He shifted the basket, glanced desperately up at the ceiling and drove his other knee hard into the wood. A yelp followed this as he tumbled into the hall. The ground pinched his nose and then a rain of dirty laundry smothered him.
“I do not have time for this,” Billy protested into the carpet.
Wriggling furiously, he managed to poke his head out from under a couple of layers of shirts. He snuck a look around and found Moist staring down at him.
“You okay, Doc? That looked pretty nasty. You don't have jitters or anything, do you?”
The second obstacle – a good friend...er, henchman...but slightly more than irritating neighbour. Billy sprung up, dusted various socks and other items off himself and crossed his arms. His stomach squirmed momentarily.
“No, of course not.” Billy cleared his throat in attempt to take his voice down a few pitches. “Just, you know, the door. It got stuck.”
Moist nodded. “I got ya. After tomorrow, you can get your own unsticky door.”
“Here's hoping...” Dr. Horrible sighed.
“Uh, I mean – yeah. It's on. Keep ready.”
“Keep evil,” Moist returned with a grin.
Narrowing his eyes, Billy tried very hard not to mirror his friend's enthusiasm. He waited until Moist had passed down the hall before gathering up the strewn clothes into his laundry basket. Glancing skirtively over his shoulder, just to make sure Moist and/or mutant rabbits weren't watching him with beady eyes, Billy shook himself out and walked briskly towards the exit.
A shadow eclipsed the far door frame.
“Just what are you up to?” demanded a mass of ginger hair.
Twitch, twitch. Billy cleared his throat nervously. “I'm sure – at least, slightly sure – that I remembered to pay the rent this month.”
“Not that,” the voice rumbled ominously, before the third obstacle, the feared landlady, stepped into the light.
Although probably an entire foot shorter, she could definitely be more than terrifying – especially when wielding her weapon of choice. Billy eyed the large tooth brush as she waved it, wondering if he could dive out the door unscathed. Failing that, he was at least sixty-five percent sure that he could devise an Anti-Tooth Brush Ray with sufficiently little chance of an explosion. And it wasn't like his immediate neighbours had ever complained about such explosions before – and that last one was totally not his fault.
Although it probably hadn't been a good idea to wrap foil around viscous material in his last microwave.
“Relax.” The tooth brush weaved through the air. “Wanted to check if one of my tenants still had a pulse. You haven't resurfaced from your pit of voles for a while.”
“That's-that's nice you care.”
“Yeah, I don't much care for dead tenants. They don't pay so well as living ones.”
It was with this cheerful thought that Billy finally escaped.
He could see Penny already waiting through the window of the laundromat when he arrived. Aside from the unavoidable detours in the hallway of his apartment block, there had been that slight problem involving an old lady, her dog and her dog's fettish for Billy's dirty socks.
Obstacles. Why did it always have to be obstacles? Why couldn't he just walk down the street to the laundromat without being molested by terrifying dogs as high as his ankles? Why couldn't the Evil League of Evil just give a multiple choice placement test like any normal society of eccentrics?
Dr Horrible cleared his throat importantly, then again when it failed to garner any attention. The result he achieved was not exactly perfect. A passing child on a cyclist swerved and clipped his laundry basket, sending it flying against the window of the laundromat. Billy flattened himself on the pavement so no one inside would look out and see him, especially with a pair of boxers sliding down in front of his face.
“I thought I saw you,” Penny said from above him.
She knelt down and began calmly picking up his clothes. Her bright low-cut top certainly gave him an interesting view for a few seconds before Billy scuttled away in search of his socks.
“You're late,” Penny spoke again.
“Late night. Really late night. But with absolutely no plotting, scheming or shopping channel.”
Her smile sent unwanted but pleasant warm tingles over his skin. “Are you okay, Billy? You seem kind of...distracted.”
“Hm, what?” Billy was trying hard not to let his eyes stray down past her neck.
Penny made a face. “Funny. Come on, I don't have a lot of time today. We're setting up the new homeless shelter. You are coming to the dedication tomorrow, aren't you?”
“W-wouldn't miss him – er, it. Wouldn't miss it for the world.”
“Good.” She looked pleased. “And Billy?”
“Do you think I should wear this shirt more often?”
There was something to be said of a villain who delegates – that something being that he actually had someone to delegate to. That said, any villain who allowed such lapses in security by delegating to minions ended up either hammered against a wall or working the register at the convenience store down the road.
Billy wasn't entirely sure which scenario he preferred. Eating a wall versus eating customer complaints. A brain teaser for another day.
He paced exactly four steps east, and four steps west. And then north, because there was a sticky patch on the vinyl in Pink Pummeller's living room. He probably should have gone south after that. But impressive crossing of arms, tilting of head and impervious stare...can slightly make up for that.
“Are you sure they won't notice us sneaking in the Freeze Ray?” Moist asked.
Dr. Horrible was mostly sure, but he couldn't be entirely sure of that either. He settled for scoffing, “Am I sure? Moist, you don't get into the Evil League of Evil just by being sure. Aside from the obvious – fear, respect, the ability to reverse parallel park – one must be unwavering in their plans.”
“Or you could just kill someone,” Moist pointed out. “Do you think they make Bad Horse reverse parallel park?”
Billy considered this. “I guess if you're a horse you don't really need to drive – but that's not important. What's important is that tonight, Captain Hammer will experience the humiliation of – ”
Moist looked expectant.
“And that's not important either,” Dr. Horrible announced, turned and paced southwards.
Pink Pummeller had dreams. Sometimes at night, but mostly when he was standing in the line at the convenience store. Or when he was sitting at home, being stared mercilessly at by dozens of teddy bears begging to be cuddled. At which point, he would dream of pummelling them into the carpet. And dream was all he would do, because he couldn't actually pummel them. His grandmother gave them to him, after all. And she was kind of his landlady. She'd even made his outfit.
He dreamed he was wearing that outfit now. Especially the gloves. He'd managed to wear the same socks, though. Definite plus. They were extra thick, so his big boots wouldn't fall off. Except he wasn't wearing boots, but the same principle applied. Or it should.
“You're here to set up?” a woman asked him brightly.
Pink Pummeller nodded. “The lights. To make them turn on.”
“Okay, let me know if you need anything,” she told him. “A helping hand, a sandwich...I'm Penny by the way.”
That name sounded vaguely familiar. Moist might have mentioned it once or twice. Pink Pumeller dreamed he was with Moist and Dr. Horrible, plotting dastardly things. But here he was trying to...do something. Actually he wasn't entirely sure of that. But henchmen weren't supposed to be sure. That was a job for villains.
He felt suddenly relieved.
“Can I have a sandwich? With lettuce?” he asked hopefully.
“Why, shouldn't it have just lettuce?”
“Just, you know, checking.”
Now that reminded him of Dr. Horrible. For some reason. Pink Pummeller watched her leave, was briefly distracted by the thought of lettuce, and then began to wheel the trolley towards the access ramp to the stage. He pulled nervously at the white sheet covering the contents. It was bad enough that he had to wear a bright orange cap with a fake lighting company's logo stamped across it – but being made to stow Dr. Horrible's Freeze Ray behind the stage, now that was really dangerous!
He should have argued for a pink cap. Pink is a nice, safe colour. Except when it's on the fast and heavy fists of the almighty Pink Pummeller! Ha!
At least he was wearing pink socks.
“You know I don't watch TV,” Billy muttered, stabbing his completely meat-free dinner and keeping an eye on the television set sputtering away in the corner. Tonight's top story was something or other about Captain Hammer making a public appearance...ah.
Tipping his phone away from his ear, he almost missed Penny's next sentence.
“Captain Hammer? No I didn't know he would be there tomorrow. Wow. That's so strange. And unexpected. You know I once asked for his autograph? Yeah so that's strange. Haha, what are the chances?”
“You wouldn't be...planning anything would you?” Penny's voice went quiet.
Twitch, twitch, twitch. “Me? No. Nooo.”
“Okay,” she said.
Billy had no idea what that meant. “Um. So. You wearing that top again?”
“Depends,” Penny teased. “I'll be seeing you tomorrow, right?”
The female newsreader on the television made an appraising remark about how nice it was that Captain Hammer was opening a homeless shelter. Lettuce-flavoured vomit slid up Dr Horrible's throat.
“I won't miss,” he vowed, then added abruptly, “Bye Penny.”
He rested his thumb over the hang up button. But he didn't push it.
Penny sighed into his ear. “Goodnight, Billy. I love you.”
Then he hung up.
The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Forecast – absolute humiliation and pwning of one's arch nemesis. Plans – all planned. Evil costume – slight tear in a very compromising spot. Dr. Horrible stared at the tear for a short moment before marching over to his bathroom.
Two minutes later, he had patched the tear up from the inside. He hadn't quite thought that band-aid solutions were literal, but there you go. It had to happen at least once. Although the band-aids were kind of itchy. At least, being on the inside of the pants, the Barney the Dinosaur design wasn't in any way obvious.
Billy stepped out of the pants and into his jeans. Incognito – at least for now. Hopefully soon enough he wouldn't have to keep going back to common civilian clothing. Although, Penny liked his jeans and may have mentioned more than once that they were flattering.
He stuffed his Dr Horrible outfit into his bag and shuffled out the door. Two seconds later, a henchman dutifully appeared at his side.
“Nice day, huh?” Moist supplied.
Dr. Horrible answered him with cool, indifferent silence. This time, no obstacles blocked their path to the outside. Except the random sock in the middle of the corridor, which was easily mastered.
He did, however, spend the rest of the way to the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter looking around for a matching sock.
Something soft and scary touched Pink Pummeller on the shoulder. He whimpered, shrieked and spun around. Seeing who it was, he sheepishly looked down at his shoes, more than ever needing a peek of the pink socks hidden down there.
“Sorry,” Penny said with a smile, dropping her hand. “I thought you would want a lettuce sandwich, because all the other ones I made have extra things on them. But if you'd like extra lettuce, I can probably get some.”
Accepting the brown paper bag that she offered him, Pink P mumbled his thanks. Then a thought occurred to him. “Is there something around here that opens the curtains at the back of the stage?”
He didn't see why Dr. Horrible couldn't just design something that could shoot through cloth or walls, like an X-Ray...Ray...but orders were orders. Freeze Ray – no obstacle – very frozen hero. Apparently. The science was a little sketchy to Pink Pummeller. In his opinion, any weapon that had to resort to strange substances not found on the periodic table was just heading for trouble. Not that he would allow himself to think such thoughts. He was a henchman. A henchman with grand plans, such as finally completing Commander Keen 5: The Armageddon Machine. Fifteen years and he'd been stuck on the last level. Either he couldn't figure out how to get to the ending, or a floating space bomb would come along and end it for him.
Penny touched his shoulder again. “Um, the cord is over here. Do you need help opening it?”
“No, not using it, I'm in charge of lights,” Pink P reminded her. “Definitely not using it.”
“Okay. Just let me know if you need anything else. Extra lettuce, a book to read, a jetpack to go to the moon with...”
“How to finish the last level of Commander Keen 5?” he asked hopefully.
Penny blinked and shook her head. “Extra lettuce then. And if you do have trouble with the curtains, I'll be on the stage so you can signal me if you want to.”
She smiled again and left.
Five minutes before showtime and the hall was decked out in blinding lights and potential lens flares. There was a blackout on any recordings or photography until the make-up lady had finished giving a last minute spruce-up to Captain Hammer – not that he needed it. His face was naturally this perfect and had absolutely nothing to do with man-style moisturiser that was selling for half price at Wal-Mart. Absolutely nothing to do with it.
So the only reason he demanded the touch up was to provide a witness to his impeccable skin. He would probably have done one of those acne removal cream ads, except he didn't want people to think he'd ever suffered such a terrible affliction. The endorsement offer had hurt to turn down – the closest he'd ever come to feeling real pain.
“Do I even know why I'm here?” he demanded of his manager in a storage closet doubling as a make-up room. “No I don't. Who invited me to this dump anyway? Where are my cue cards? I need one of those drinks with the little umbrellas.”
“I found your cue cards on the floor outside,” a helpful voice said behind him.
Captain Hammer spun around and regarded the woman suspiciously. She looked familiar, but then everyone looked familiar. Except the man he saw in the mirror. Now that was damn fine. He snatched up the cue cards. “Did you read them?”
“No, but I think I'd like to hear your speech,” she said quietly, brushing back her red hair with her fingers. “Do you...remember me?”
Oh no, a fan. He really should stop rescuing some of them if this kept happening.
“Sure, I remember you,” Captain Hammer said easily, while shooting a panicked look at his manager.
The smile his visitor gave him was sweet. Nice. She kept talking. “You know when you saved me from Doctor Horrible? And the van?”
“Ah, Doctor Horrible and the van. Did he bother you again?”
“No. Thank you. I'll be on the stage with the mayor.”
Captain Hammer narrowed his eyes at her. Then he asked for a drink with the little umbrella again and this time got what he ordered. He didn't even notice Penny slipping out the door.
Five minutes later, everyone was in position. The audience was seated in awed appreciation, the reporters were leaning forward in their chairs and the mayor was standing before them. Not that anyone paid him any mind – Captain Hammer was also primed in his seat next to Penny. Unbeknownst to a certain corporate tool, other people were ready.
Pink Pummeller lurked in the wings, fondling the curtain cords. Moist leaned up against the wall outside the hall – or was trying to. He kept sliding down onto his butt. And as for Doctor Horrible...everyone would know soon enough.
The mayor invoked the sacred name of Captain Hammer – the audience applauded. Their hero took to the pulpit and waved a hand around at them. He made a patting motion, signalling them to return to an admiring silence. Carefully, he arranged the cue cards in front of him, squinting at the minute text. Hmm, maybe tiny cue cards were a bad idea. He did have big hands after all – and they weren't the biggest part of him.
“We need more places to put the homeless,” he lectured the audience. “Because I'm tired of seeing them on the street. This way I don't have to see them because they will be blooming within the walls of tender loving care. And they get to have free soup.”
Sweeping his hand over the faces in front of him, Captain Hammer made sure to latch eye contact with at least four women. He held the pause just long enough for the smiles to appear. He continued, “You won't hear the homeless complain – it's not their way. Anyway, if they're out of earshot then it's a definite bonus to this city. And each of you – and me, especially me – who signed this petition, made it happen.”
(“What petition?” he'd asked his manager a few days before.
“The one you signed. It has your name.”
“I don't remember a petition. Will there be reporters? If there's reporters then, okay, I'll go. But I need my own dressing room.”)
This memory was momentarily lost in the pleasure of basking in the scope of at least six video cameras. Unfortunately, his last cue card seemed to have followed into the oblivion. Captain Hammer shifted the cue cards around, looking for it and trying to smile around at the audience whose dutiful applause was winding down too rapidly.
Okay. He could improvise. He'd done the improvising thing before. His manager had signed him up for that private drama class for such a situation.
“And that petition thing shows us one thing,” he announced slowly. “That even though I'm the one with all the power, you can do something to save people too. It's not a big something, but you've got to do something, right?”
Sometime during this speech, the red curtain behind Captain Hammer shivered. A soft protesting clunk made them wave even more. The parts touching the floor began to sway. Now sitting next to the mayor, Penny looked over at the curtain. She shook her head, smiled awkwardly around in case anyone was watching and moved quickly off stage.
Here she found Pink Pummeller, hands bound up tightly in the dusty cord as he heaved unsuccessfully. Penny cleared her throat. “Do you need help?”
“No,” he mumbled and pulled again.
“You're not very good at lying,” Penny told him and seized part of the curtain. “Here, let me help. They get a little stuck at the beginning but once you unsnag them - ” The curtain gave under a sharp tug. “ – there you go. Now you can open them.”
Penny turned away and paused. She looked over at him. “Can you please tell my boyfriend to give me something to do next time?”
An open astonished mouth met this. “You mean – you and Doctor – ”
“You'd better hurry,” Penny advised him and disappeared.
Pink Pummeller hurried. The curtains parted like a red sea of thick cloth, exposing a bare wall to a distracted audience – and the sight of a Freeze Ray aimed right at the pulpit. Stationed at the device was none other than Doctor Horrible.
How'd he get there so fast? Pink P thought admiringly. He wasn't there when I last checked.
He gave himself two more split seconds of appreciation before diving for his costume, stashed underneath a cobweb. It was probably a good thing he didn't notice the spider crawling away.
An icy blast shot from the back of the stage, engulfing Captain Hammer in static periwinkle. Generally this sort of thing didn't happen at the opening of homeless shelters, so at first no one was sure what to do.
There was a collective silence. Then someone gasped. This seemed like a good idea. Everyone gasped.
And then a deep, unsettling laugh slithered from the back of the stage. At the last maniacal note, Doctor Horrible emerged into the spotlights. Several extra flashes lit up the stage, immortalising the visage of a village, for either a front page or an obituary. Captain Hammer was frozen and forgotten – something that really would have irked him if he'd been aware of it.
Although Billy half-wished the hero would share the sensation of burning eyeballs and sunburn radiating from half a dozen different cameras. Half-wished, not entirely wished. Because being blind was slightly better than being hurled against a wall. Or being scraped off one. Or...being eaten by a mutant rabbit.
Shaking his head to clear purple spots in his vision and rogue thoughts from his brain, Dr. Horrible laughed again before addressing the stunned members of the public. “Oh, please! Don't stop applauding on my account. Did you seriously listen to that guy?”
Here, Dr. Horrible stopped and turned back towards Captain Hammer. That stupid smirk was frozen on his face. “And look at him. Quiet as the grave. Still as the grave. He can't help you. Where's your applause now?”
Someone lost their head in the audience and went shrieking for the exit. He skidded, backstroked wildly in mid-air and then slapped down hard on the ground. The door, mere feet from where he lay, opened. A slight figure in a diving suit entered. He lifted a hand as if to wave at the villain, thought better of it, and shut the door behind him.
Moist then looked down at his victim. “Slip, slop, slap and slide, buddy.”
A reporter attempting to slink closer squealed and went sliding past. Moist watched her, shrugged and planted his feet in line with his shoulders on the slippery floor. He was wearing socks and leg warmers over the diving suit – a dirty pink that looked safely grey enough not to raise any questions among manly men. They were borrowed from Pink Pummeller, and most likely knitted by his grandmother.
Moist wasn't entirely pleased about that, but his feet were really cold. And his outfit was lame and unoriginal. But it had just been sitting there in the bargain bin, waiting for a chance to see daylight...
By now, the message was clear. Captain Hammer was useless, the floor was just as useless – and a terrified citizen had just had a nervous release of gas in the front row. Doctor Horrible now had the floor.
“I am Doctor Horrible,” he continued, once everyone had settled down and were regarding him with stunned expressions. He began descending the stairs at the front of the stage. “And Doctor Horrible is...” A pause. Another long pause. “...is here.”
That could have gone better. Improvising catchphrases in the comfort of one's own secret evil laboratory was one thing – feebly spouting the first and worst thing that came to his head, in public no less, was a mistake almost too fatal to learn from.
He looked around. Where was Penny? Why wasn't she there?
I want her to see this.
God, I'm glad she's not here.
She would understand.
She told me not to lie...
Dr. Horrible noted the arrival of Pink Pummeller, also decked out his disguise. Hm. Henchmen with matching pink on their feet. Not exactly the look he was hoping for. The villain cleared his throat. “Please pass anything of intrinsic value and/or nostalgic importance to the nearest henchman. And please, it's double R in Horrible, like the adjective.”
A few pens started madly scribbling. Better. Hopefully this meant there was a good chance no one had recorded his feeble catchphrase. Better still that Captain Hammer hadn't heard it. And yet there were still too many witnesses. It wasn't as if he could silence them, you know. Not unless he fired them all with an eternal Freeze Ray, which would defeat the purpose of the operation.
Nothing quite like robbing an entire hall of people under the very nose of Captain Hammer. But something didn't seem right. It just didn't seem...enough, somehow?
Doctor Horrible climbed the stairs to view over his domain once more. Moist and Pink Pummeller were doing their henchmen duties...there would be rewards, of course, but the greatest reward would be helping him land a seat on the Evil League of Evil, which would be totally cool. Erm, and more than cool.
A subtle breeze puffed over his neck. He looked to the door, then shrugged. But there was a really...really...bad sound.
Then a hand heavier than a three tonne truck landed on his shoulder. Shrugging became slightly difficult following this. In fact, breathing and thinking became a bit out of reach too. It didn't help that all of the audience, even his henchmen, seemed to be looking behind him.
“Um,” said Dr. Horrible and promptly ducked.
Captain Hammer's thick fist slammed through the air where his head had been. He scuttled sideways to get a clear look at the Freeze Ray. Seemingly inert – and there was that issue of his arch nemesis being unfrozen.
A heavy boot attached itself to one of his knees and sent him flying backwards into the mayor. Okay, could have been worse. The corporate tool was probably just playing with him. Which...still managed to fill him with dread. Dr. Horrible dug a hand through one of his pockets, tugged impatiently – and felt something rip loose.
A very itchy band-aid floated down his leg.
This was the least of his problems, but it was really distracting. Captain Hammer advanced. The mayor pushed him off. The hammer logo grew very big. Dr. Horrible bent over low and tried to barrel past towards the Freeze Ray.
Hammer leapt over in a single bound, hard enough so that the wood beneath his feet splintered. He wrapped both hands around the Ray and bent it around his foot. Winking towards the audience, he hurled it up through the ceiling.
Things...were getting a little dire.
Captain Hammer chuckled. “You really think I didn't know about your stupid Freeze Ray? Your stupid...” His eyes travelled down the villain's torso. “...little...Freeze Ray? Really, Doctor, you should be more careful about what you say on that blog of yours.”
“But you were frozen...” Dr. Horrible began, and stopped.
“And for how long? Not very. Try not to hit your head too hard on your way down to hell.”
Captain Hammer seized him by the front of his lab coat and hurled him across the room with such force that the knock he took during the Wonderflonium heist was a mere caress by comparison.
Hammer, meet nail. Nail, meet wall.
A sickening pop and a suspicious crunch later, Billy found himself sliding down the wall. Nothing seemed to hurt, which was probably a bad thing. It was nice on the floor though.
He closed his eyes. Kind of peaceful, actually. If you ignored the shouting, the stampeding feet, the hazy painless throbbing...which suddenly wasn't quite as painless as it could have been...
This was the time for some improvising.
Doctor Horrible passed out.
Chapter 3: Shikadi
"Still in one piece, Horrible? Come on. Someone's bound to notice the big hole in the side of the police station, even if you haven't."
The first thought that broke Billy's unconscious state was the sharp tension burning in his shoulder. Hissing against the pain, he gingerly walked fingers over his offending left appendage and felt the tell-tale misplacement. Great, so the corporate tool had dislocated his shoulder – third time running.
Can't he wait until I have health insurance that actually covers anything? he thought dizzily. Does he have any idea how hard it is to get insurance when you keep being thrown against brick walls? And ow. Ow.
Weakly, Billy pressed his right palm against a cold forbidding surface and propped himself up against the wall – which was equally as cold and hard. The darkness thing got a little old so, finally, he was brave enough to open his eyes.
Iron bars, smirking thickset man in a flabby uniform, Spartan decoration scheme...a very unfortunate conclusion. For some reason, this struck Doctor Horrible as strange. Unthinkable. You never heard about Bad Horse being hobbled in a stable, after all. Or Fake Thomas Jefferson padded up in an asylum. That would be just...weird.
“Do I get a phone call?” he gritted while attempting to snap his shoulder back into place.
The guard glanced back over at him, dropping a yawn into his hand. “You have a lawyer?”
“Well no. Villains don't need lawyers. And besides, what lawyer do you know who isn't applying to the Henchmen Union anyway?”
“You're got a point there,” the guard conceded. “Alright. Do you have any friends to call?”
Dr. Horrible straightened his back against the wall and immediately wished it hadn't. He winced. “They're notfriends. They're henchmen. Totally...different.”
“Isn't that a bit...”
“More like really lonely. You're like a hermit with an evil complex. You need help. You ever considered seeing someone? Because you need to.”
“Right. Well this has been fun. Could you get me a doctor? Captain Hammer dislocated my shoulder. Again.”
“Again?” The guard lifted an eyebrow. “You a glutton for punishment or something?”
Billy crossed his arms and scowled. “I...just want...social change.”
A dime skipped and jumped its way across the floor. For a moment, Bill contemplated it before focusing back on his tormentor. The guard now had his back to him, sorting through paperwork and what looked like sudoku puzzle books. It took two minutes for the guard to explain in a mutter, “That's all the change I got. Keep it.”
Billy waited a while before slamming his shoulder into the concrete wall. He preferred to think that he grunted in a tough manly fashion, although his ears rang with a high-pitched protest that may or may not have resembled the call of a disembowelled hyena. A crunch, some writhing and a thick pop later, he was lying back on the floor where he started. But it felt good. Good in a way that would have been entirely improved by morphine.
“You think you can handle a visitor?” the guard queried from his post. “Or are you still auditioning for the opera?”
Penny? You shouldn't be here. Please be here. Please don't...
His girlfriend entered the room. This should have been worrying, but a delirious happiness flooded Billy. He jumped to his feet, preparing to spill it all – from the midnight meat hamburger runs to the slight matter of a certain botched heist –
“Thank you, officer.” Her voice sounded stuffy and flat. “I just wanted to see the person who ruined the opening.”
Knots formed themselves all the way down Billy's throat straight to his intestines. Reflexively petting his still twinging shoulder, he opened his mouth. A strangled noise emerged. He tried again. In the distance, he could hear hyenas.
“I have nothing to say to you,” Penny snapped at him, stripy shadows crossing her face.
Doctor Horrible paced towards her. “And yet here you are. Using a redundant sentence, by the way. For the record, I didn't ruin anything. It was Captain Hammer who did the ruining. Did you listen to that speech? And they get free soup. Great. That's helpful. I'd like to see him serving up slop in a soup kitchen.”
She took a step back, shaking her head. Hair fell across her face. Her lips moved, cut in half by one of the bars. Billy tilted his head to one side and frowned. What...? Moving barely half an inch to one side, Penny mouthed words slowly and deliberately at him.
Stay. Away. From. The. Wall.
Glancing at the wall behind him, and seeing some suspicious brown stains around the toilet, Billy shrugged. Okay.
STAY. AWAY. WALL.
He figured she was using capital letters now. The wide and frantic movements of her lips brought her the closest to shouting without actually making a sound. Kind of like when you're in a chat room and no one will voice call you because your profile picture is too sexual-predator-creepy or something, so you have to use capital letters to shout obscenities. Not that this was a familiar experience. In the last twenty-four months, anyway. And he had shaved the moustache.
Penny click-clacked out of view. He watched her go, nibbling on the tip of one of the glove fingers. After he tasted grit, this habit was quickly discarded. Or rather, he ripped off the glove and started in on his nails. Then his hand got really cold he resumed his comfort gnawing on the glove.
Stay away from the wall? He'd been trying to stay away from walls ever since Captain Hammer had decided he should get up close and personal with them. Do or do not – because trying is for losers. And good guys. Because the result is what matters, not how you get there. Clearly.
Billy cast his eyes around the cell.
Most of the time, anyway...
Dim moonlight snuck in from somewhere. Blinded, Dr Horrible attempted to pull his goggles over his eyes, except lying unconscious on one's face had turned the surrounding hair into sticky tentacles that refused to release his goggles – without undue pain in his hair follicles. Quite simply, it meant tearing out hair, and he didn't exactly want to be seen moulting.
He watched the wall. The wall watched him.
The concrete creaked out a laugh.
He threw a boot across the cell and regretted it.
Mostly because it bounced back and hit his shoulder. But shoes shouldn't do that. Boomerangs did that, not boots. Although...there was rubber on the soles, but that was no reason for the shoes to ignore the laws of any realism and bounce back an entire distance of five metres. Unless the Earth's gravitational field had disappeared over night and everyone outside the police station had been seconded off to the moon to begin a life of mining and...floral possibilities...this could not happen.
Billy threw his boot again. It wedged itself where the wall meet the floor.
“Well that's helpful,” he muttered.
The boot had betrayed him for the LAST TIME –
It flew violently back at him. Along with chunks of concrete, glass and metal, accompanied by a whining discharged pop. He ducked belatedly. Any speech he had planned for his traitorous boot disappeared in a cloud of dust.
“Still in one piece, Horrible?” a voice demanded from somewhere overhead. “Come on. Someone's bound to notice the big hole in the side of the police station, even if you haven't.”
Five sharp talons dug into the soft flesh behind his elbow of his bad arm and yanked him up. Billy gnawed into his lip to keep from making embarrassing noises. A few might have escaped his mouth.
“I need to put my boot back on...” he protested.
Diamantes twinkled at him through the haze. “Were you that desperate to get at a sock? Don't you know they have toys for that? Leave the boot. On second thought, leave the sock as well. I am not touching that.”
“Eh, you didn't press the buzzer. No points for you. Now stop thinking and start squealing.”
Conflict Diamond pulled him over the edge of the building. Foot and hand-holds were burnt into the bricks, allowing a quick easy climb down to the alley below. This was was a crazy happenstance – helpful, but mostly crazy. The bricks became slippery at the bottom, that possibly could have resulted in an undignified fall to the ground and then being saved by the quick hands of Moist. That would have been entirely unwanted physical contact. If it had happened, that is. Which it did not, because it didn't end up on YouTube.
“Moist!” He may have sounded hysterical. “My evil moisture buddy!”
“Did they give him morphine or something?” Moist asked Conflict Diamond.
The not-henchman, not-villain dragged her long nails on the bricks. “He'd be seeing the little green fairy by now. Instead I ended up rescuing the One-Shoed Bandit.”
Moist looked concerned. “You lost a boot? That's bad, isn't it? Can't they use that to find what size shoe you are? And then go around putting the boot on until it fits?”
“I'm not Cinderella, Moist,” Billy said irritably. “And besides, in a city this large, what's the chance of no one else having the same shoe size?”
“Your foot is kind of small,” Moist said dubiously.
Conflict Diamond stuck two fingers into her mouth and blew hard. An excruciating whistle later, a solid vehicle shot into the alley. It was bulky, yet stream-lined, and the windows were so dark you could study the stars off the reflections. The purple bodywork – and matching neon light stripes – could only mean one thing.
The Purple Pimp stuck his head out the window and gestured. Shouts of alarm overhead were just the right incentive to get into a car with a weird looking guy wearing a hat. Billy found himself flattened up against the door on the other side, with someone in his lap. Someone who smelled very nice if he just stuck his nose into her neck...
“Penny, how did...the wall...you..wha?”
“You should let your woman plan your heists, Dr. H,” the Pimp suggested.
Conflict Diamond leaped into the middle of the back seat, followed by what appeared to be Pink Pummeller wearing flip-flops. Moist turned around from the front. “You okay, Doc?”
“What – of course I'll be okay,” he said. “Once this...excuse for a getaway car is moving. This does move, doesn't it?”
Conflict Diamond slapped his knee. “Leave the witticisms for me, Horrible. They look bad on your lips.”
Once the last limb was tucked inside, the Pimp Mobile lurched off down the alley, leaving stomachs, kidneys and other assorted organs back by the police station wall. Or would have, if the vehicle's shell wasn't reinforced with some mysterious element that was known by some theorists and largely unknown by anyone with something better to do with their life than ponder the structure of cars owned by has-been villains.
Billy preferred to leave it in the realm of “mysterious” and “unknown”.
Other things, not so much.
“Penny, you...are you alright?” he demanded. “You might be a little mad, but it'd be better if you were mad instead of hurt and mad, because then that..that would really suck balls.”
Kisses are a useful tool – conveying one's love, bartering physical contact for some of grandma's money and...of course...shutting up babbling evil scientists. This was of no particular concern to Doctor Horrible, mainly because he was fairly certain it was the first use, since he had clearly finished his stream of consciousness before his girlfriend kissed him.
“Are you alright?” Penny asked. “When he threw you against the wall, it sounded really bad. I wanted to go check on you, but I didn't want to, you know, compromise your identity.”
Moist cleared his throat. “What she means, Doc, is that she was trying to get us out the back door.”
This was news to Billy. “There was a back door?”
Purple Pimp snickered, before flinging the steering wheel wide to the right. The car followed immediately. The passengers – a little after that. Slightly painful, made even worse by the fact that a certain left shoulder went careening against the side of the car hard enough to pop it out and right back in.
“Did you guys hear a hyena?” Moist voiced from the front.
“Was there a reason you tried to redecorate the back seat with our brain matter?” Conflict Diamond growled, leaning forward to pinch the Pimp's ear.
“I shouldn't have paid my rent for next month, I'm going to die...” Pink Pummeller mumbled.
Purple Pimp pointed out the flashing blue and red lights behind them. “The pigs are on us. And get your claws out of my ear, Conflict, it's new you know!”
She let go very quickly. The sirens increased in volume while the traffic light up ahead began to change. The Pimp Mobile began hopping forward, groaning, coughing and possibly swearing. It lumbered through the intersection.
“That looked a lot like a red light,” Billy pointed out.
“Still green!” Pink Pummeller said.
“Amber – and shut the hell up!” Pimp shouted back. “What does it matter if we break another damn law? You know how many I've broken just tonight? I had to double park to pick up some of your homies and then I had to cross an unbroken line right in front of the police station. SO DON'T TALK TO ME ABOUT RUNNING A RED LIGHT.”
Moist held up a hand. “You said it was amber.”
Doctor Horrible rolled his eyes and looked sideways to Conflict Diamond for support. She was looking at Penny instead. “You can't get any decent lackeys these days, can you?”
“I don't know, they seem okay to me,” Penny said, smiling.
A police car screamed in front of them. Purple Pimp swore and sent the car leaping off down a side street. He demanded, “Conflict, you packing anything?”
“Depends. Do I get to keep one of your ears?”
“Can you help us?” Penny entreated.
Conflict Diamond sighed. “Only coz you asked nicely. And you're cute in that top.”
She elbowed her way into Pink Pummeller's lap, extracting a squeak of indignation and ignoring any ensuing protests. The bullet-proof glass slid down for her. Conflict Diamond slipped off her sunglasses and squinted. She bit her lip. She wriggled. Pink P tried very hard to sink into the seat and into obscurity. Results were varied.
Precious moments passed – and then Conflict Diamond laughed into the wind. Thin lines of crimson laser shot out from her naked eyes, slashing the tyres of a pursuing police car. It spun out and blocked the path of another car, but still one more escaped, swerving all over the road behind them. Conflict Diamond hissed, “These Shikadi are toast!”
Pink Pummeller stared up at her. Okay, so he got stuck on the cleavage for a moment. Then he was staring at her face. He asked, not quite believing, “You play Commander Keen?”
“Who doesn't?!” she bellowed, stabbing her hand through the air outside.
Squirming up against the seat, he managed breathlessly, “Have you ever finished The Armageddon Machine?”
“Yeah. Piss easy. Move out of my way!”
Pink Pummeller slipped down the seat so fast he almost ended up limbo dancing under the seat in front. Limbo dancing brought to mind a night not three years ago involving tequila, a pink fluffy teddy bear and...something about an alien spaceship. He blinked up at the woman kneeling on him as she lasered the entire road, bursting water mains and searing through street lights.
He gulped. “So I was wondering...”
“I prefer women,” Conflict Diamond told him, and kneed down hard between his thighs.
Pink Pummeller barely shifted precious parts of himself out of the way.
“Oh,” he said.
The last cop car's bonnet exploded into white sparks. Conflict Diamond nodded, then turned back to her more geographically convenient victim. “Pink P, you lure the space bombs onto the generator. That's how you finish the last level of The Armageddon Machine.”
With that, she wrenched open the door and whizzed onto the pavement. The door slammed shut behind her.
“Is that safe?” Doctor Horrible said into the confused silence.
“No, but she told me she's had a lot of practice,” Penny answered lightly.
Pink Pummeller's eyes were glued to the rear window, and this was not a problem which he wished to rectify. He breathed, “I hope my grandmother likes her.”
Purple Pimp cleared his throat. “A little zip-it!”
“Are we interrupting your zen?” That was Moist.
“No. I can't hear the police scanner over this racket. So zip-it!”
Twenty minutes later, after dispatching Pink Pummeller off to his flat, the Pimp Mobile rolled up to Billy and Moist's apartment block. The sirens sounded comfortably distant, although the red light over the pawn broker thirty metres down the road caused some momentary panic for at least two members of the getaway party. Never mind that those two happened to live on that street.
Shaking out his shoulder, Billy tried hard not to look at his girlfriend. He didn't think she was mad. If she was really mad, she'd have left him in jail, which would be less-than-awesome. Extremely un-awesome, in fact.
Moist made to slide out of the car, but Purple Pimp grabbed his arm and jerked a thumb over at the two other passengers, now standing on the pavement. Moist dutifully sank back into the seat.
“Billy, I wish you had told me,” was Penny's first pronouncement, standing in a mixture shadows and a convenient shade of red light across her eyes. That kind of thing only happened in bad horror movies, especially the sinfully re-watchable kind starring Alec Baldwin.
Billy stuck his hands into his pants pockets. An uncomfortable rip somewhere down below reminded him of his torn pants, something he had forgotten about in all the excitement of taking a room of media representatives hostage, having one's own ass handed to them by a common household tool and then losing a boot. That last one really smarted.
He kept his eyes down. “I just wanted to get it right...and I can't even do that!”
“It looked right to me...up to the point where the Freeze Ray died.”
She didn't seem mad. That was good.
“It needs work,” Billy said glumly.
Penny quickly squeezed her arms around him and kissed his cheek. Drawing back, she fixed her smile on him. “Can I help you get it working?”
“Look, I know why you lied to me. Again.” She shook her head. “So this is going to stop. I'm yours if you want me. Hench-woman, soundboard, girlfriend and maybe...maybe something more one day.”
Billy kissed her because, you know, it was the right response and nothing to do with lacking a sufficient answer that comprised of words that actually existed in an English dictionary. Penny's lip gloss smelled really good. Kind of like boysenberry, but without the bitterness. He only stopped kissing her when Purple Pimp made an extremely inappropriate suggestion.
Billy wasn't quite letting go of Penny just yet. He held her at arm's length and promised right to her, “I won't ever not tell you something about my evil plans ever again.”
“Great!” Penny grinned. “I'm going to let you get some sleep first, though.”
“Yes, by yourself. But tomorrow, you can come by my place. I have some ideas for your application to the ELE.”
Glancing over at the Pimp Mobile, and suffering a mild coughing attack, Billy asked hopelessly, “You think they'll take me even after this?”
“Everything happens, Billy. And, together, we're going to make sure it happens.”
Purple Pimp tapped the side of his car impatiently. He didn't need to tell Moist to get moving, but didn't seem particularly fazed when Penny sat back in the car and asked for a ride home.
Moist and Billy stood in the red-tinged shadows for a moment.
“I should get her a present,” Billy muttered.
“What did you have in mind, Doc?”
Sixteen hours later, a washing machine accompanied by a wannabe villain were sitting in Penny's kitchenette. Penny bit her lip and didn't say a word.
“You don't like it?” Billy clenched his fingers to stop them from shaking. “I just thought – you said doing laundry was one of your favourite things...and it's one of my favourite things, so why-why not bring the washer to you?”
At last, she offered a tiny smile and explained, “I like going to the laundromat with you Billy. That's what makes it fun. And besides, if everyone owned a washing machine, do you know how bad that would be for the environment? It's better if a lot of people use just a few.”
That...went differently in his head.
Two hours after this, Doctor Horrible and a henchman were attempting to wheel a washing machine up a flight of stairs in a dark building. The elevator may have been easier for all concerned, but it wasn't exactly discreet.
“That's a bummer,” Moist said when he heard the explanation. “But bringing it here? I don't get that.”
Billy stopped to adjust his goggles, and noticed the running shoes on his feet. He had yet to find another pair of boots, so he was pretty much stuck with those. And they had bright green laces, which added further insult to injury. At the thought, he rotated his left arm in its socket just to make sure. Penny had suggested he get it checked out, but Billy had plans for a Healing Ray that he probably shouldn't test on anyone but a mutated rabbit.
The machine slipped down a step. Moist muttered his apologies and then added what sounded like his new catchphrase, the one that went “slip slop slide” or something. They resumed their long trek up the stairs, although they soon reached the level they wanted.
“What was with that catchphrase anyways?” Dr. Horrible asked him.
Moist's shoulders slumped. “A skin cancer awareness campaign in Australia.”
“Really? You didn't think anyone would notice?”
“Australia...” Billy mused. “I was going to give that to Penny when – never mind.”
“Nice beach front property.”
It took far longer than was necessary to install the washing machine into the rather empty laundry room buried within the headquarters of the Evil League of Evil. That might have had something to do with the power socket being behind the door – which was just useless, but somehow just the right kind of diabolical.
Then again, a laundry room without any appliances was diabolical itself.
“You really think Bad Horse needs a washer?” Moist asked.
Billy didn't have an answer for that one. He flipped the on-switch. Nothing happened. He flicked it backwards and forwards a few times. Great, just great. Not that he had a real reason for bringing a washing machine to the Evil League of Evil, considering that he'd probably never get in now.
The lights dimmed, then exploded. There were several loud bangs from down the hall.
They exchanged glances, then hurried outside. What looked like a thick line of balls of smoke streamed out of a room not two doors down. Villain and henchman spent a minute or so having a panicked discussion with their eyes, before Doctor Horrible peered into the hazy gap of the double-doorway.
On first inspection, it looked like any normal evil conference room, except with a layer of gritty smoke lurking near the ceiling. Once his eyes adjusted, Billy noticed a good deal of ash. In fact, there was a pile of ash for every seat, and even a larger pile on the floor at the end of the table.
His mouth felt very dry. “Moist, did I just – ”
“ – wipe out the entire Evil League of Evil?” Moist finished. “Yeah.”
“Huh,” said Dr. Horrible.
“Was this some diabolical plan you had or did it just kind of happen?”
Choosing not to answer that, Dr Horrible kicked the pile of ash on the floor – presumably it was the remains of Bad Horse – and stood there, gazing down the table at his friend...ahem...henchman.
The silence didn't have much awe to it, so the lone villain at the League's table decided to change that. Elongating each syllable, he announced, “Doctor Horrible is here.”
Moist gulped. “Dude, that is totally badass.”