There was something off about the way the pirates took Roxanne’s ship, and it had nothing to do with the fact that those ‘pirates’ were all a bunch of jagged, sparking, spike-adorned floating robots who swarmed through the ship like an unstoppable tide.
No, Roxanne had heard of stranger things than that. It was a big universe, and searching out the truth often sent her down the path of weird. What was truly odd, though, was the nagging feeling that they weren’t after the ship itself, or their expensive recording equipment, or even a ransom for her crew. The bots had been precise, orchestrated, efficient, and Roxanne couldn’t get the thought out of her head that they seemed focused on her.
Not that she was going to mention it. She and her small crew were kneeling with hands above their heads in the cargo bay, and Hal was already fully engaged with an under-the-breath litany of panic. The last thing she wanted was to give him an excuse to switch tracks and try to ‘protect’ her instead. Besides, she thought as she stared down the glowing red eyestalk of one of the bots (it was staring back, she was sure), her instincts were telling her to stay quiet and observe, and her instincts very rarely led her wrong.
They hadn’t been waiting long when the bots ushered them back to their feet and the bay door groaned open. The terrified crew marched out under the gaze of their cold captors, into the dark belly of what Roxanne guessed was a much, much larger ship. Why the lights were down, she didn’t have a clue. If the nervous whimpering of her coworkers was anything to go by, it was working as an intimidation tactic at the very least.
The bots nudged them into position, arranging them in another line, shoulder to shoulder in the cavernous room and just on the edge of the light coming from their shuttle, their shadows stretching forward in black stripes across the grungy floor. Roxanne could just barely make out shapes in the dark, jagged silhouettes that in some cases stretched far above her head, and she was about to open her mouth to ask her captors about the skimmer whose outline she could just barely make out when a menacing laugh broke the silence instead.
Intimidation tactics, Roxanne thought again. Perhaps the war-paint covered bots were a part of that as well?
She could hear small whimpers from the others as the peals of laughter slowly died off, desperate quickened breaths as they all waited for whatever was coming next.
And - nervously glancing at each other - waited.
And at the exact moment that the tension hit peak discomfort, a spotlight came to brilliant life ahead of them, earning gasps all around and a few stuttered shouts as a figure was illuminated in the beam.
An alien, she realized. A species she had never seen before. Humanoid, with a larger skull than hers and skin that was pale blue and unblemished where she could see it, except in a thin, silvery crescent of a scar on his left cheek. A fitted black jumpsuit with shiny blue trim hugged tight to his narrow frame, and a cape flared out behind him. He was tall- no, she quickly amended that thought, his boots were platformed to make him appear taller, and his high collar added to the grandiose effect. There was a scabbard hanging from a belt at his side, long and dangerously curved, and some sort of custom blaster with glimmering filigree on the grip rested in a holster on his other hip.
“Crew of KMCP ship Verity,” he said, his smooth voice ringing out true in the held-breath silence, “you have the special privilege of being my personal guests for this evening. I see that you have already met the Brainbots, I hope they have been accommodating you well.”
“Who are you?” Roxanne asked after a loaded pause, since the pirate didn’t seem in any hurry to continue his speech, and no one else was stepping up. Hal whined under his breath beside her; she ignored him. “What do you want with us?”
His smirk grew slowly across his face as he looked her over, seeming terribly pleased. “I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of me yet, Miss Ritchi.” Her eyes widened in shock- how did he know who she was? “Please allow me to remedy that.” He stalked closer with a lazy sort of purpose, the dramatic spotlight following him as he came. When he was almost close enough to worry her, he spread his arms wide, flinging his cape out behind him like flaring wings and drawing his cutlass, twirling the blade with practiced grace as it hummed in the open air. “I am Megamind! Incredibly Handsome Pirate Captain and Scourge of the Allied Worlds!”
Roxanne stared for a long moment as Megamind posed, feeling more confused than intimidated. If this guy was a scourge of any worlds, Roxanne should have heard of him by now, but he was a complete unknown. There had been rumors of increased pirate activity in the outer systems, that was true, and Roxanne had even planned for that, but from what Roxanne had gathered it sounded like a number of small, independent pirate crews cropping up with ramshackle ships, not some singular menace with a flair for the dramatic. If she had any inkling that someone this well armed and staffed was prowling this system then she would have planned better than a concealed blaster in her boot and a skilled cockpit team. She raised an eyebrow.
“Okay, well, that answered my first question, but what exactly do you want?” She lowered her hands from above her head experimentally, gesturing to herself and her crew. “We don’t have anything of value to you.”
His eyes flashed but he didn’t tell her to put her hands back up. It took her a moment to recognize the amusement in his expression. “Oh Miss Ritchi, you couldn’t possibly be more wrong.”
“Fine then. But we can’t do anything for you unless you explain exactly what it is you want.”
He smiled enigmatically, sheathing his blade again. He strolled up and down the line, inspecting and attempting eye contact with each of her crew in turn, shaking his head and making an exaggerated noise of disappointment as all of them flinched or looked away. Roxanne felt a twinge of frustration. This guy might be a pirate, he might even be a dangerous one for all she knew, but he was very clearly trying to get a rise out of them and Roxanne would be damned before she gave him the pleasure. And, seriously, the guy had someone working spotlights for him. He felt like a holodrama star, not a murderer.
Eventually he came back around to her, narrowing his eyes. “I get the feeling that you’re the only one that I’ll be able to have an actual conversation with, yes?”
“What, were you expecting me to cower?”
He- giggled, that was the only word for it, and he bounced a few steps away before he seemed to school himself. “Oh, you’re going to be fun. I didn’t factor that in.” He grinned, then spun around, making a small gesture with his hand just before the spotlight faded and proper lights came up, revealing an impressive open space filled with what looked to Roxanne’s eyes to be mechanical monstrosities. There were ships, from skimmer size to small fighters and even a moderate sized transport ship, as well as a massive shape that she could only guess was some sort of exo-suit covered in spikes, and a few large robots that she couldn’t for the life of her guess at the function of. “Enough chatter then! This way, Miss Ritchi,” Megamind instructed, striding between the jagged shapes with utter confidence. “There are some things I would very much like to discuss with you.”
She started walking without a moment of hesitation, realizing after a step or two that one of the- what had he called them? One of the Brainbots had swooped in behind her as if it was expecting the need to usher her along. She gave the thing a look of consideration as it made a noise, sort of a short, grating, mechanical bark, but it didn’t push or snap at her. Thank goodness, with jaws like that. It just stayed about a foot behind her like an escort.
Megamind led her out of the hangar and through a small hallway, into a small room with a table, two chairs, and a wide, impressive viewport. He pulled a chair out and gave her an expectant look, and after a moment she took a seat.
“You’re polite for a pirate,” she said, and almost as if to contradict her he balanced his own chair back on two legs, his feet up on the table.
“You’ll find, Miss Ritchi, that I’m full of surprises.”
“Uh huh.” She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table, eying him dubiously. “What’s your interest in me? Is this a ransom thing? Because I don’t think you’ll get very much for me.”
“What makes you think this is about you?” he asked, and she glanced around pointedly, indicating the private audience he was granting her. He ignored that and continued. “Maybe I’m interested in your ship. Maybe I’m just utterly smitten with the cam work of one of your crew.”
She snorted out a laugh in surprise. “Your bots haven’t been particularly subtle about staring at me,” she said. “Maybe next time give them a more effective play-it-cool directive.”
“Hm.” He glanced over at the Brainbot still hovering in the corner. “Did you hear that, Hex?” It responded with another of those bark-howl noises, bouncing slightly mid-air. “Don’t worry. We’ll work on that later. You did very well.” He smiled, then turned his attention back to her quickly. “Perhaps that’s a good place to start.”
“No,” he said slowly. “They are not mine.”
There was a long pause as Roxanne tried to figure out what exactly that meant, and how to respond to it. “What… what exactly is this?” She glanced around herself again, her eyes lingering on the curving swath of stars she could see out the viewport, then tracing back around the sparse room, over the table, over him. “Is this an interview? Do you want me to interview you? I can’t do you much good on that front unless I can have a cam worker with me, or at the very least my datapad.”
“Funny and clever,” he murmured. “You really do have it all, don’t you?” He chuckled lightly. “Perhaps I just want to talk, before we get down to business.”
“Business,” she repeated. “Right.”
His eyes flicked back and forth between hers, and then he moved so fast that she almost couldn’t follow it, kicking his feet up off the table like a dancer, and leaning forward instead, echoing her posture with his elbows on the table and his face almost too close to hers. “You aren’t in the least bit afraid of me. Are you?” His tone had changed too, less melodramatic, less scripted. “I am a pirate. You know that I could kill you, right? Don’t I intimidate you even a fraction?”
She leaned away from him, just slightly. “If you were going to kill us, you would have just done it. Clearly,” she adjusted the hem of her shirt, narrowing her eyes, “you want something else. So why don’t we quit dancing around the issue and get to it. Or you could just keep leaping from topic to topic until I lose track of the conversation completely. I’m sure that would be an excellent use of both of our time.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Ah, I really did choose well. As you wish, Miss Ritchi. You are correct; I brought you here to interview me. I need you to get a message out for me, since you’re a popular little rising star on your network.”
“A message? What kind of-”
The ship rocked, suddenly, a muted groaning noise echoing through the metal hull. Roxanne gripped the table as the Brainbot weaved midair, and Megamind leaned into the motion with an odd sort of grace and then lifted a device on his wrist up to his lips.
“Minion! Code: Situation Report.”
A worried voice came from the device, obviously a concealed communicator. “A squad of fighters, sir,” he said. “Alliance insignias on the hulls.”
Roxanne and Megamind both glanced instinctively to the viewport, but there was nothing to see there but stars.
“That didn’t feel like a weapon impact.”
The device crackled for a brief moment. “Er. I don’t think it was. Sorry, sir, but I’m pretty sure he’s here.”
Megamind scowled darkly. “Of course he is. Of course he is.” He sighed. “Make the preparations for Code: Breakup. Get the prisoners back to their own ship and make sure it’s secure.” The voice on the other end gave a confirmation and Megamind lowered the communicator again, giving Roxanne a calculating look. “Follow me, Miss Ritchi. I’m afraid our interview will have to be postponed until we manage a bit more privacy.”
She stood, keeping her footing careful in case the ship rocked again. “You aren’t putting me back on Verity with the others?”
He led her out into a series of labyrinthine hallways, the Brainbot dutifully behind her. She tried to pay attention to the turns he was taking, just in case. “Of course not.” He smirked at her over his shoulder. “If I did that, I wouldn’t have the least bit of leverage, would I?”
She blinked at him. “Hm. So I’m to be a hostage, then.”
“A rather unfazed one, at that. And you’re only noticing now?”
“Oh?” she said, feigning innocence. “I thought we were your ‘personal guests’, Captain. I’m utterly shocked that you would do something so crass as to take a hostage.”
She could see that he was smiling, but as the ship rocked again an edge of grimness slipped into his expression.
The room he finally stopped in was wide like the hangar, but substantially more empty. How big even was this ship? Roxanne glanced between the two objects in the room worth mentioning; one was a flat panel of metal standing free like a lost piece of wall, dramatically lit from above, and it took her a long moment to recognize the second as a- a person. Or something like a person, at least. The silhouette was like a massive humanoid, hulking and hairy on the lower half, but she could see mechanical joints and access panels, and where the head should be was a water tank with a fish inside- a fish who was currently eyeing her curiously with a cautious, toothy smile.
Megamind was already busy fiddling with something on the panel, so she couldn’t count on him for direction; she went with her instincts instead. “Um. Hello there.”
“Hello, Miss Ritchi.” His smile grew to a fully fledged grin. She recognized his voice instantly as the one from Megamind’s communicator.
“You must be-” she thought for a moment, pretending not to notice Megamind staring at them from a few feet away, “Minion? Was that it?”
“Ah, yes. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Ma’am.”
“Ahem,” Megamind said with a pointed look, interrupting her confused consideration of the word ‘finally.’ “Now that introductions are out of the way…? We are on a schedule here, you know.”
“Sitting on a time bomb, you mean.”
“Shush. Now! Miss Ritchi! Against the wall, if you please!”
She glanced where he had indicated, mildly concerned as she noticed what looked like a padded metal harness sticking out from the panel. “Really?”
“Oh, trust me, you’re going to want to be secure for this next part.”
What kind of pirate would say ‘trust me’, and sound like he actually meant it? Roxanne stared for a moment, then glanced over at Minion, who nodded encouragingly. Well, she shrugged, it was just a harness. It probably couldn’t be much worse than having her assignment interrupted, her ship boarded, and herself essentially kidnapped, could it? And, frankly, the story that she was going to get out of this whole pirate boarding mess was going to be exponentially better than the puff piece the station had originally sent her out to do, anyway.
“I’m only being polite, you know,” she said as she put her back to the wall. “Just because I’m your guest.”
Minion stepped up and secured the harness around her with surprisingly deft and gentle hands, considering they were as huge and metal as the rest of him.
“Ah,” said Megamind, arms folded primly over his chest. “If only everyone in the galaxy were as polite as you, Miss Ritchi.”
There was a groaning metal sound, and Minion and Megamind exchanged a purposeful glance. Minion made a gesture that Roxanne didn’t understand, then Megamind pulled a face and flicked his wrist oddly. Minion glanced over and gave her a smile and wave before retreating out of the spotlight and out of sight. She hoped, quietly, that he was running off somewhere safe from whoever it was the Alliance had sent to deal with these troublemakers. He seemed too nice to wind up in an Alliance prison.
The harness was snug, but oddly comfortable around her midsection. She wriggled slightly, but the metal had no give. Maybe she should have tried to run or something- but as she glanced around at the thought, she saw the sparking domes of at least fifteen Brainbots off at the edges of the room, standing by. Honestly, she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.
Megamind was facing away from Roxanne, staring at the door intensely as his fingers moved fluidly at his neck, adjusting something that Roxanne couldn’t see. After a long moment he dropped his hands and starting pacing back and forth instead, his cape billowing behind him.
There was no further preamble to it, no more quakes through the hull or menacing metal noises, the door just slid open and a man marched in, unhurried, purposeful, and when Roxanne recognized him her mouth dropped open.
It was - she blinked twice to make sure - Metro Man. A single breathy laugh escaped her, completely out of her control. The last Prince of Glau was here. He was here, on the same ship that she was, in all his cream-and-gold-jumpsuited glory, and he was presumably here for the express purpose of rescuing her. This was surreal beyond measure.
“Well, well. How kind of you to join us,” Megamind said, voice gone icy and apparently unconcerned with one of the most well-known and important people in the galaxy glaring back at him.
“Don’t worry, ma’am,” the Glau Prince said, flashing a brief grin towards Roxanne, who was proud to say that she had managed to stop gaping at him before his attention had turned to her. “I’ll get you out of here in no time and put this reprobate back behind bars, where he belongs.”
“Tsk.” Megamind narrowed his eyes, and Roxanne saw him do something to his wrist device, held behind his back and away from Metro Man. “Aren’t you theoretically some sort of royalty? For shame. You should know that it’s quite rude to ignore your host.”
“I’ll deal with you soon enough, pira- wait, what do you mean, ‘theoretically?’” he asked, his brow furrowing.
Megamind rolled his eyes so forcefully that Roxanne was worried he would hurt himself. “Oh my stars, your head is full of dust, isn’t it? Ah- ah,” he skipped back a foot as Metro Man started towards him, then grinned and brought his communicator to his lips. “I think we’re about done here, yes? Code: Breakup.”
Some part of the wall behind Roxanne buzzed to life, and she could see and feel the fuzzy edges of some sort of force field bubbling up around her. When she glanced up Megamind was looking back at her over his shoulder, his expression sly. She could see the bare edges of a forcefield around his head as well, like a helmet, and he gave her a wink at her the exact moment that the ship’s hull started to split open and apart.
The air was sucking out fast, Roxanne could hear the whistling rush of decompression but the forcefield Megamind had put up around her held fast, held fine, she could breathe normally and this should probably be terrifying but (Oh, trust me) she was clearly safe, and now that pieces of the ship were moving away from each other Roxanne could see the seams where the ship was clearly meant for this. From the way Megamind’s boots appeared to magnetize to the flooring, from the cackling laugh that he gave at Metro Man’s obvious shock as he grappled for something to hang on to, this had been the plan all along.
Just before the last of the air escaped, Metro Man drew a huge breath and held it, glaring hard at the pirate and very clearly wishing to tell him off. Megamind had no such issues.
“Oh? What’s that, my muscle-bound Alliance mascot?" Roxanne blinked with surprise that she could hear him through the vacuum, but his voice- she blinked, craned her neck. There were speakers, on the panel behind her. Just so she could still hear him? Could Metro Man hear him too? "You seem like you’re having a bit of trouble breathing. Is the air out here too thin for you?”
Roxanne had heard rumors, before, of the sorts of things the Glau Prince was capable of, but she had always assumed that much of what people said was exaggerated, and this guy was actually standing, scratch that, floating in the void of space with no specialized equipment and his only concern seemed to be holding his breath. He should definitely be dying, right now, but instead he just looked somewhat irritated. Apparently, Roxanne thought, Glau kids were of a fairly strong stock.
The pieces of the ship were scattering out and away from the fixed perspective of the floor the three of them still stood on, and Roxanne could see Brainbots clinging to individual pieces and maneuvering them with controlled bursts from their small jets, belying the apparent randomness of the movement. This was all orchestrated, all very carefully planned, not that anyone would ever be able to tell from the way Megamind was enthusiastically pointing at Metro Man and giggling.
Megamind interrupted himself with a yelp when Metro Man flew at him, literally actually flew with no help from propulsors or jets from what Roxanne could see, and lifted the pirate by the front of his suit, narrowing his eyes.
“Ha,” Megamind said breathlessly. “Are you really sure you want to be focusing on me right now?”
And as Metro Man glanced over at Roxanne, Megamind curled his body up, lifted his feet between the two of them and kicked, and it turned out that Megamind, for one, actually did have jet boots, which blasted the pirate a good dozen feet away from Metro Man with the added benefit of scorching a black smear across the Prince’s formerly pristine suit.
Roxanne was forcing back a laugh at the absurdly hurt look on Metro Man’s face when the panel she was secured to shifted, lifting away from the floor. Alright, so Megamind hadn’t just been bluffing to get away, but at the same time the panel didn’t seem to be going anywhere more dangerous than where she already was. Metro Man didn’t seem to share her lack of concern, though, judging by his wide-eyed expression, and he ignored the rapidly retreating alien in favor of floating over to her side. He gave the forcefield around her a speculative look, then visibly decided not to risk breaking the seal. He lifted the panel instead, apparently unbothered by the burden, and started pulling her out towards his squad of ships, towing Verity in their wake.
She wasn’t looking at her rescuer, though, because her eyes were still out on the controlled chaos of the debris field, where Megamind was. He was practically dancing through the void, kicking and swinging off of bits of metal as he passed them, twisting through space and even more graceful in zero-g than he had been on the ship, and though Roxanne couldn’t hear him anymore, she could see his face, could see the way his chest moved, and she knew that he was laughing as he went. Laughing, until he slipped out of sight completely.
Scourge of the Allied Worlds, indeed.