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56.2 - Mess Hall

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It sucks being a pyromaniac. Wait, no. Being a pyromaniac is amazing. It sucks being a pyrokinetic. Hot Mess reflects on the boss's powers. They're so amazingly versatile, and he's done some pretty kickass things with them. By contrast, all she can do is heat things up. She's forced herself to compensate, using science and trickery to leverage her one-trick pony into an Olympic-level dressage exhibition. For example, her current plan to kill Kid Kelvin-- Wait, kill? What happened to "be his nemesis"? Ladies and gentlemen, it's been a rough few weeks. Humiliated in front of the girl she wanted as a lieutenant! Shamed through her defeat by that boy with the stupid suit! She's decided to assign him her own nickname. He's not "Pietro, the Plasma Prince". He's "the Pangolin". It's an animal that's armored and looks incredibly goofy. Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah. Embarrassed by a couple of teenagers in front of her--! You know what, why are we dwelling on this? Let's get back to the part where we kill Kid Kelvin. After all, he's the real problem. He never, ever made an effort to adopt her as a nemesis. And what's wrong with her? Is it her appearance? Admittedly, her hair is kind of plain, her skin is a weird color (though it looks great underwater), she doesn't have the best figure ever-- You know what, this is depressing too. Fuck it. Really, the only thing that'll help is to kill Kid Kelvin. Okay, but how? Well, back to her patented system, named after the Star Wars droid 3P0: Pyrokinesis plus Perception plus Perspicacity plus Zero fucks given. Kid Kelvin, thanks to his cold powers, is one of the few people on campus who buys those absurdly tart gumball thingies from the vending machines. Mother Puckers. Hot Mess privately suspects the label on the machine is a joke left by the student body. The fonts are slightly different. The repair man doesn't seem to care about replacing it either. Repair man? Oh yeah! The plan. Anyway, she used her pyro-powers to slightly overheat the machine, just enough to cause an untraceable breakdown but not enough to excite suspicion. "University Physics, Volume 2: Thermodynamic Processes". Hooray for Openstax. Then she called it in, on the phone number helpfully plastered on the machine. The repairman showed up, just as expected, and while he was inside, she broke into his van and got an imprint of the machine access keys. After that, it was a simple matter to open the case herself, then rig a grenade right behind the Mother Puckers vending lane. The next person to purchase one would get a nasty surprise. All she has to do now is wait. Heh heh heh. #Cutscene More on the way.
[Well, that went dark quickly. In a humorous way, of course. Awaiting the next scene!]
Given Messy's track record, I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes.
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Grenade: check. Hideout to spy on the shenanigans: check. Escape route, for when Gardner security activates: check. Cheap complex device attached to school security monitors, to aid escape: check. Here he comes, here comes Kid Kelvin, he's a victim on wheels! He's a victim and he's gonna be splattered over someone! He's buying candy so you better look alive, he's waiting for the change from his crisp new $5! And yes the odds are against him in this dangerous work, you bet your life Kid Kelvin won't make it through. Go Kid Kelvin, go Kid Kelvin, go Kid Kelvin go awaaaaaaaaay----! MOTHER PUCKER! Smoke pours out of the vending machine - a huge cloud of it. There's no explosion, no shrapnel as the machine tears itself apart to embed chunks of steel in his vulnerable flesh, no wailing and gnashing of teeth, no lamentations of the freshmen. Furiously, Hot Mess starts texting Samir, one of the two henchmen who's still in her service - the others are taking some well deserved time off in the Ukraine. H: THIS WAS A SMOKE GRENADE WHAT THE FUCK SAMIR S: But you said you wanted to smoke his ass, boss H: I MEANT KILL HIM YOU DIPSHIT S: I thought you only used your powers on your nemesis, I assumed it was a figure of speech, like you wanted a distraction, so I got the smoke grenades. H: Okay I'll give you that one Back at the lair, Samir wipes his brow. It never bodes well to have live grenades around a pyrokinetic. He briefly thinks about looking at that rumor he heard, of a Fedex in town that hires exclusively serious ex-military ex-mercenary types. But the money is good, and for all her faults, the boss is extremely fair to her subordinates. Hot Mess puts the phone back in her pocket and takes stock of the situation. Kid Kelvin is stumbling out of the smoke. Alive. Very much alive. God dammit. I mean, it could be worse. He looks ridiculous, like a cartoon character who took an explosion to the face, all blackened up and gasping for air and confused. I mean, he really does look ridic-- That's it ! Hot Mess rubs her hands together. Yes. Why kill him when she can humiliate him? The way he humiliated her? Only worse, a thousand times worse. A million times worse! She runs off to the janitor's closet, to indulge in an evil laugh. The girl's bathroom is way too crowded for such things these days.
[+10 for a reference to both Alycia's Lost Lambs and Speed Racer .]
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The boss describes telekinesis like a laser, and pyrokinesis like a flashbang grenade. Fire is just heat energy applied to air, and heat energy is just molecular motion. A pyro doesn't have the fine control to apply all that motion in the same direction, but sometimes that's not necessary. Hot Mess has honed her power, not just to create and shape fire, but also to agitate any object that won't immediately catch fire. She's been taught to plan her capers, but she's also good at improvising. This time - Operation Humiliate Kid Kelvin - planning and support isn't necessary. And this can double as a training exercise. The boss will approve. Let's carefully review our efforts. Analyze the payoffs from success, and diagnose the root cause of failure. Balloon full of Cheez Whiz from the cafeteria, suspended with double-sided tape on the ceiling, and detonated remotely using advanced pyrokinesis. Yield: Kid Kelvin was covered in Cheez Whiz. Success. Locker release mechanism fused shut. Yield: Minor inconvenience, since he appears not to care about how he's doing in classes and hence doesn't carry textbooks around. Failure. Analysis: failure to take subject's psychological profile into account. Stole and incinerated normal clothes while he was changed into sweats for PE. Extra work was necessary to infiltrate the boys' locker room, and there was one very surprised ginger lad she had to glare into submission. Yield: Sent home to get replacements. Operation terminated early. So far so good. There's plenty of prep that can be done for Day 2. Clearly the level of humiliating incident needs to be calibrated to keep the victim at school. Furthermore, aside from the Cheez Whiz, not many people were actually witness. This needs to be something bigger. How about a callout? A letter of challenge. Yeah, that's the ticket. She watches as Kid Kelvin opens his newly repaired locker. She sees him pull out a slip of paper, glance at it, and frown. She watches, carefully, as he ambles down the hallway and disappear. Is he off to tell a teacher or administrator? Is he going to chicken out, call the adults in? If he does, he looks weak. She'd have to disappear from the school for a bit, but it would be a walk of triumph - she got him. And if he tries to handle this himself, he's on her turf. She's trained by a master supervillain. Kid Kelvin, despite the rumors about his connection to King Winter, has exhibited no operational awareness, no tactical or strategic sense, nothing. These thoughts occupy her as she comes round the corner, still tailing her target. It's only when she almost bumps into Kid Kelvin, staring at her, does she realize something's amiss. "You've been following me around," he says, coldly. Hot Mess tries to assemble her thoughts, throw back a haughty retort, but he cuts that off too by holding up a piece of paper. It looks strange... "Did you leave this in my locker?" he asks. Okay, now she's ready. "Hah! Yes, I did. Let's see if you're man enough--" "Fine. I'll go on a date with you," he says. "But just one." What? The paper. It has hearts on it. There's handwriting visible, but it's not hers. She used stencils to disguise her handwriting, hide anything identifiable about the message. "Meet me out front after school." He smiles, sort of, and walks away. WHAT?
[HA!]
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Next episode coming soon! In the meantime, I feel like this is Hot Mess's love theme. Lyrics here .
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Nono Rodriguez has a lot to process. Summer wanted her to go work with the others - for Jason. Well, for Jason's company. Foundation? Club? But Jason Quill is definitely involved somehow. She's still not sure how to feel about-- Urk! She's grabbed by the collar and dragged into a classroom by a strong hand, and feels another clamp itself over her mouth. Someone has a solid grip. She can't move or scream. She hears the voice of that girl, hissing in her ear. Hot Mess. Emma. Is that her real name? What should I call her? "Kid Kelvin said I could go on a date with him. I need your help." What? After a few tense moments, negotiating whether or not there will be any screaming or commotion, the hands are withdrawn and Nono is free to talk again. She turns to look at the other girl curiously. Hot Mess looks angry, and shrugs angrily, and doesn't make eye contact. "There was a stupid mixup. Someone put a love note or some nonsense into his locker. Geez, just text, it's 2018." "So what was the mixup?" asks Nono. Hot Mess gains a moment of self-awareness, and scowls even more deeply. " I used a note because it's untraceable by the academy's high-tech forensics or the police. Wear gloves, lay on your back in a public park to avoid skin or hair follicles falling-- Why am I telling you this? Anyway. I need your help." Nono shakes her head, trying to clear her confused thoughts. "Wait. Wait. I thought you were, y'know. Trying to hurt him or something." "I am!" the other girl announces. She squints. "Well, I was. I still am. Kind of. Anyway, listen. He humiliated me. So I'm gonna humiliate him. He's gonna realize I'm his logical nemesis, the villain he has to defeat again and again, only I'm gonna be the one defeating him, y'know, because I'm better trained and more dedicated and anyway ! Heroes and villains don't date." Nono pulls back at that. There's a long silence. "Then uh, don't date him." It's apparently not that easy. Hot Mess stares back at her. "It's... wouldn't he win, though? I mean, yeah, he read the wrong fucking note, but now that the challenge is out there, I have to meet it or he wins." "Why are you asking me , anyway?" Nono hears her voice flare up just a bit. It's surprising to her. "Well, you punched me in the restaurant." Hot Mess doesn't seem too upset about it now, given how calmly she replies. "That was pretty assertive of you, I'm proud. I think you'd make a good lieutenant, and I'm not giving up on you. I just need you to see for yourself how amazing it would be to partner with me. So I'm giving you another chance." Nono sighs. This is a baffling conversation. Another troubling thought has settled into her mind, though. This girl is pretty clearly a supervillain. Or trying to be one anyway. If I'm supposed to work for Jason, on his operations staff, helping fight crime and stuff, would they make me report her? I mean, yeah, she did hold a restaurant hostage and that was pretty stressful, and people almost got badly hurt, but I don't think she's trying to hurt people, she's just confused and angry and doesn't do the right thing most of the time, or maybe more likely never, she needs someone who can help her out, sending her to jail wouldn't do that, and maybe she can be turned around, in fact, if I can manage that, maybe Jason would be impressed and people would think better of me you know this really sounds like a good idea. Nono cracks a shy, careful smile. "I'll try to help you. So um, why do you want Kid Kelvin as a nemesis anyway? Why's that important?" Hot Mess blinks. "It's obvious. I have fire powers and he has ice powers. We're a classic pairing." What? "But... he didn't do anything hurtful to you or anything? When did he attack you? Have you guys fought before?" "Nope." Nono rubs the bridge of her nose. "So.. you just decided he'd be a hero to fight, 'cause he has ice powers." "Yep." Is she for real? Nono's experience writing Agent R comes back to her. The advice she got, and consistently followed, was that bad guys were never just bad guys. Villains had to have recognizable motives. The easiest way to do that was to write a personal connection with the hero. For example, Malice Chance had stolen away JQ from our hero-- Oh. Oh. If I'm working for Jason, I might have to talk to his girlfriend. Awkward . We're gonna pretend that fanfic never happened. All of it. Nono shivers, but rallies. Back on topic. "Okay, you can't just not date him 'cause you see it as a challenge. But, um, what do you really know about Kid Kelvin? Who he is as a person. I mean, when you're taunting him, you have to be on topic, right? 'Cause just generic ice and cold puns only go so far. It's important to know his strengths and weaknesses." Hot Mess has an intense look on her face, and nods in vigorous agreement. "Yeah, relate to the hero. The boss said that too." The boss? There's a boss? Some villain she reports to? Now there's a detail that Jason might want to hear about. "Okay, good, so... this is... a fact-finding mission. You're a secret agent, worming your way into the enemy camp, and you have to get him to let down his guard. Umm, he doesn't know you tried, uh, to fight him that time, right? .. Okay, well, that's slightly easier..." Nono realizes she's starting to get into this. Hot Mess shrugs. "Look, I don't dress well, I get that. This is all to blend in, though. So I'm going to need a better outfit, and make myself presentable." "I can help with that too," Nono volunteers. And somehow get Duskshine involved, without exposing her to danger? God. This is getting out of hand. Nono is surprised at the almost confessional tone of what Hot Mess says next. "I wasn't always this way, Nono. I was gonna be valedictorian at my school. I had a future. I don't have anything now, except this..." The softness is wiped away by a sudden fire. "Those god damn jocks! They took it all from me. They made me burn! They hurt me! And the boss wouldn't even let me kill them..." She looks ready to cry, but holds it together. Just one sniffle escapes, then her strength is back in full. "This Kid Kelvin, he's another one of them . The cool boys. The jocks. I'm gonna show him. I'm gonna show everyone. And you're gonna help me." Nono feels actually scared. She's not sure of the specifics. She doesn't think that she's going to personally get hurt, here and now. It's just that feeling, the one when things are spiraling out of control and she's helpless to do anything about it. The other girl smiles fondly. "You're gonna be a great lieutenant, Nono. We're gonna do such great things together." She leans in, awkwardly and hesitantly, and kisses Nono on the cheek. Then she's gone, leaving a very confused young woman behind.
[I love Nono's whipsawing back and forth -- This is a great idea! This is a horrifying idea! I can do good! I might be endangering a friend! Very good stuff.]
Bill, I'm loving every moment of this.  Can't wait for part five.
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While part five (of probably six) is being worked on! I forget if I ever posted suggested villain stats for Hot Mess. So try these on. Hot Mess (Modern generation) Drive: To impress the boss by making Kid Kelvin your nemesis Moves: Bring plans and contingencies into play through your training Dominate the mundanes on the scene with wits, guts, and powers Visit the hell of your existence on those who interfere Conditions: Afraid, Angry, Hopeless It occurs to me that adding Conditions to a villain not only makes them more powerful, but adds avenues for defeating them in more positive ways. For example, this iteration of Hot Mess won't have Guilty, but a more powerful one might - and if it gets marked, could she be brought back from her obsessive quest through friendship and support? Maybe. That's definitely different from Alycia's story (and who I'd argue has a sort of Guilty permanently marked), and certainly not guaranteed. What do you think, sirs?
I haven't read through the "constructing a villain" so I can't speak to that, but it certainly sounds like HM.  And it makes sense that conditions drive villainy, esp. when those conditions rise to the level of pathology -- someone who is profoundly under a condition, beyond the ability to do a normal clear. ("Lock" a condition ...)  Alycia being perma-Guilty is certainly plausible (though perma-Angry also fits sometimes). I wonder, though: given the Respect-driven nature of the Scion, I wonder if perma- Insecure is what she's suffering from..
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After school, huh? Fine! Not like she's going to class anyway. She just prowls around, finding unoccupied rooms at Gardner during the regular classes, plays on her phone, polishes her plans for total domination, that sorta thing. Nono's advice was good. This is a fact-finding mission, not a date. This makes sense and helps her with some of her concerns. She does have one big problem left, though: the advice from the boss. Relate to the hero. But she hates him. Kid Kelvin made her look stupid, blew her off, kept just not showing up, over and god damn over again. He's irresponsible and it makes her look bad for picking him as a nemesis. Plus, he's personally obnoxious. Every time she sees him, he's got that bored, vacant look on his face, like he's got better places to be. No you don't, dorkface! You're stuck in school like the rest of the lemmings! Anyway. The boss's advice has always been good. And he's been good about answering questions. She opens the secure app and sends him a message. She puts her phone away, more confused than ever. Kid Kelvin is standing out front, still looking bored. "Hey." Hmm. We're still upholding our cover, so... "Hey yourself." This is an intel mission. We're supposed to learn about him. Common places he can be found, that sort of thing. So: "So where are we going?" "Y'like barbecue? You okay eating pork, no religious or allergy stuff?" "Sure. Spicier the better." He chuckles. "Yeah, I agree. Fine. Meet you here." He writes down an address on a slip of paper and hands it over. "It's the Halcyon Hog Pit. Eastern style. See ya at 7." Perfect! That leaves a few hours to go track down Nono Rodriguez again, prepare a suitable cache of explosives and tracking devices, scout escape routes, the whole hog. So to speak. Nono came through with a decent shirt-and-skirt combination that isn't too far from her size. This coffee-shop bathroom isn't great, but it's functional, and the primping and makeup don't take more than forty-five minutes. That's enough time for Samir to rig the claymores. Nono has been alternating between cooing reassurances ("you look great, hon") and worried warnings ("please don't try to kill anyone"). She keeps furtively trying to do something with her camera-phone, probably signal someone or take a picture, and Hot Mess keeps having to find new and increasingly ridiculous excuses to disrupt that nonsense. But it seems to work out. The other henchman, Pierre, pulls up in the car with the "Uber" sticker in the window. Say what you will about the century's Internet economy and the crushing effects of government-mandated capitalism (the boss sure does), but it makes a hell of a cover. Hot Mess waves goodbye to Nono and gets underway. This state has some kind of weird thing about barbecue. Apparently there's two varieties, Lexington and eastern-style. Whatever. By the time she's finished with all this girly-girly nonsense and ready to roll, by the time she's double-checked and triple-checked the holdout pistol and grenades and tracking devices in her purse, she's actually hungry. Pierre will be on standby for a quick getaway if the date goes very well (she manages to defeat Kid Kelvin right then and there) or very poorly (the cops show up, AEGIS paradrops in, her date gets boring or grabby). And..... he showed up in his regular school clothes. Fuck it, why does she even bother? The first several minutes of the date are the second worst part of the evening. It's the usual nonsense. Kid Kelvin is still acting bored, and he's trying - god dammit, he's really trying , if you know what I mean, haha that was a joke, kill me now to get me outta this shit show - to make some kind of conversation. He just sucks at it. She tries to tease information out of him, and he just keeps bringing it back to her. "What classes do you like", "who's the teacher you hate the most", the most boring high-school nonsense you could ever ask for, and she spins the same web of lies she fed into the Gardner computer system via the boss's hacker contact. Finally, though, things turn around a little. He says something, almost shyly, like he's not sure how it'll be taken. And it's weird, because he has resolutely not talked about his role as a superhero so far. Data points, data points! Oh yeah, what did he say? It was uh, it was: "Y'know, I was supposed to meet a girl at a restaurant for a date awhile back. It got attacked by a villain. Too bad." Well duh it got attacked, that was the point of inviting you to the restaurant. But that's not the point. Hot Mess has a lot going on in her exciting and dynamic life, but there's a brain inside that skull and it's working full time. He wants to know if I'm the girl he was supposed to meet. Well yes, that would be the logical conclusion of the lie, so full steam ahead! "Oh, yes. Well, I asked a friend of mine to ask you, so.. that might have been me." He nods to that - of course he would, he thinks he's so smart now, like he solved the riddle, I'm the shy girl who can't get up the nerve to ask out the great Kid Kelvin, fuck you and your attitude-- "Wish I'd made it. I mean, the date'd be ruined, which is bad. But I'd have got to meet that unknown villain. Y'know, not many people in this city like hearing this, but villains can be really neat, interesting people." Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech. "Te-tell me more." "Well... Take King Winter, that guy who fought the Gale family." And who you've done your best to convince the world is probably your dad, though you never come out and say so, ya big wuss. "Sure, he tried to destroy the world with a huge ice comet. But they don't talk about when our government almost did, when we were rivals with the Russians and had nukes. And they thought they had good reasons. Why didn't anyone ask him his?" "Okay?" "Then there's that guy up north, the guy who can grow and stuff. All kinds of anti-government stuff, but who has he really hurt? Who has he killed? No one." He's talking about the boss! OMG OMG OMG. Wait, he's still talking. Reel your shit in and listen. "And y'know, he's made some interesting points about our fucked up political situation..." She wants to shout it. She settles for a gleeful "Yes! There's more going on than we're told." "Yeah. And some villains are willing to pull back that curtain, and expose the hypocrisy and lies. For example...." The two have been talking for ninety minutes. Just, y'know, talking. And eating. Lots of eating. Lots and lots of eating. But mostly talking! What the fuck? The barbecue has been  amazing . Whatever generations-long family-recipe bullshit these North Carolinans buy into for their smoked pork, it's working. And the sides, god damn. Sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, some kind of weird aioli sauce from the planet Saturn that's too good for human mouths. It's new to her, because she's used to ketchup and it's all mayo and weird tasting oddly shaped bits of meat but it  works . She's stuffed, and she's going to have to waddle out of here. Hope Pierre can tie her to the roof rack or something. On that note! Hot Mess glances at her phone. Coded message from Pierre - security window closing soon, AEGIS surveillance birds will be overhead. Time to go! "Listen, I should get going," she says. "Yeah. Hey, this was really good. We should do this again." "Yeah, let's," her mouth says, apparently too full of mind-control mayo and hypnotic spices to let her brain take charge. This is when the worst part of the evening happens. He leans in, close, like real close, and kisses her. His mouth tastes like spicy seasoning and pork. Then he pulls away. And before she can regain any sort of equilibrium or initiative, he's out the door. What? God dammit. God DAMMIT. GOD DAMMIT HE HUMILIATED HER AGAIN. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK - inhale, you need air - FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. She spits, and wipes her mouth off with a napkin. Ugh. Ugh. I need to vomit. I'll vomit in Pierre's car. No, I'll vomit back at the hideout, I have my mineral water there. And a bubble bath after. There's one consolation. At least Kid Kelvin walked out the door, carrying a tracking device she planted on him. As long as Samir is on the job, she'll know where he goes. Who he sees. Where he lives. And then, then, yes, oh yes, it'll be time for revenge. Which is a dish best served... hot!
[Oh, Emma ...]
There is some future were Hot Mess and Kid Kelvin team up with Nono doing support.  It does matter if they're a heroic or villainous duo or even something a little more complicated than those two labels.  But that's the future I'm rooting for.
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And here's part six of six, the wrap-up. The apartment is surprisingly secure. This is a safe-house. Hot Mess recognizes the general idea from the boss's own hidey-holes: layer your security, but don't trust the false front to be enough. There's multiple mechanical and electronic locks here, plus a motion sensor. Fortunately, she brought enough party favors for everyone. Samir grumbled about the expense of all this infiltration gear, but pulling a few thousand out of her cash stash shut him up immediately. And he grumbled about the unsafe situation - walking into an unknown apartment where anything could be rigged up is dangerous. She had to reassure him personally that she'd be careful. At the end of their talk, he showed him his smartphone, on which were pictures of the rest of the gang. Hot Mess likes the group shots the best, like the whole crew gathered around the burned-out T-90 Russian tank in front of a half-wrecked hotel. They look so happy. Ugh, fine , back to the work at hand. The door is cold to the touch, and she worries about thermal sensors. But no, the apartment is just god damn frigid. She opens up, and finds herself having to gently modulate her own body's temperature. She watches her own breath curl into vaporous dragons and dissipate. Okay, infiltrate the apartment of a known cryokinetic: definitely check. Next steps: get some kind of leverage, some incriminating evidence, some personally relevant gewgaw, whatever. Something she can use as a trump card to lure Kid Kelvin out, manipulate him, control him-- There's an old guy in the front room . He doesn't turn to look, doesn't acknowledge the intruder in his home in any way. He just stares at a television. The volume is down. There's a remote control next to his chair, on some kind of TV tray. His fingertips are barely resting on it. The TV is ... uh, boxed up? No, there's some kind of plastic sheet over the whole thing. Probably to let it survive this god-awful cold. It must be near freezing in here. She's keeping her core temperature stable, keeping heat from leaking into the room - probably would set off some kind of safety sensor - and it's demanding her concentration. If Kid Kelvin can stay alive in here, even live here, sleep here? - his powers must be different than hers in some way. He must have some kind of passive cold immunity. Good to know - this was a worthwhile trip. So what about the old guy? "Hey, old guy," she says. He doesn't respond. Okay, fine. Rooms identified: check. Bedroom: check. Bathroom: check. Handy little device on the door to notify her if someone comes in: check. Samir on electronic overwatch: check. She gets to the door of the bedroom when she hears a loud, angry noise. It's not a stream of coherent words, just... sounds that might have been English, once. What? She reaches out to touch the old guy's shoulder, watches as he flinches and whines in obvious discomfort. Even maintaining her power, she's still too hot? Fine, there's gotta be - there we are. Oven mitts, insulating against heat. Will they work? Yeah. He wants to get up. God, he's so light. He trembles when she gets him to his feet. Is there some kind of walker? Yeah. She reaches for it, watches ice crystals evaporate from the metal the moment she lays hand on it. Old guy wants to go.. somewhere? Bathroom. Gross. At least he won't need my help in there. Nope, nope, he definitely does. God dammit. It's twenty minutes before he's comfortably back in his Ice Age BarcaLounger. Hot Mess isn't even sure how the fucking plumbing in this place can work. Some kind of antifreeze in the toilet, maybe. At least everything went as much to plan as taking a dump can ever go. Why am I helping this guy? Basic human decency, probably. The boss doesn't want villains to be inhuman monsters. He keeps talking about how villainy is liberating, how freeing it is to do your own thing, to not be beholden to bullshit rules and outside expectations. But he doesn't kill puppies. He doesn't murder civilians - or even heroes. And he doesn't seem to care about things like revenge. This last part has been a tough sell for Hot Mess. She's been to therapy - the boss saw to that - and her volatile hatred for humanity has simmered down into a comfortably short-tempered impatience with most people. There's exceptions. People like the henchmen, who've been just super helpful through this whole Kid Kelvin ordeal. People like Nono Rodriguez, who despite her silly reluctance to join the organization has been personally a blessing. People like... Kid Kelvin? I mean, he is a person now, isn't he? He's got a family - probably? Maybe he's just really into kidnapping old cryokinetics with dementia and making them watch Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet. Okay, probably not. He's smarter than he looks, though that leaves a lot of room, I mean god damn. And he's into villains. That's pretty cool. And he knows good BBQ places. I mean, she's not interested in dating him, and that kiss was nasty and definitely unsolicited, but just... y'know, talking to him? That was okay. He gets it. The old guy is now back in his chair. He's sort of looking at her side-eye, like he's finally put together the fact that the person who just helped him wipe his ass is not his son. You're about thirty minutes too slow, man. And he says something. And it's really weird, and it makes her wave goodbye and mumble some kind of well-wishes, and take her device off the door and head out, and hope to god the expensive mechanisms she used to get in here can reverse course and make the door look like it was never opened to begin with. There's even money on this guy forgetting anyway, and it's not like she can do anything about it if not. What did he say? Her brain is still not sure what to do. She feels like fainting. Wait, no, that's the body temperature regulation. Okay, we're done doing that! He said "thank you". Huh. Fuck. Hot Mess is enjoying a pint of Rocky Road from Ben & Jerry's. Cold -- God dammit. She thinks she's got it figured out. She has a plan. She knows how to make Kid Kelvin her nemesis. She sees him now, actually sees him, as a human being, not just as a superhuman. She feels kind of dumb about earlier, but y'know what? We're not gonna talk about that part. We're just going to pretend like this was all part of the big master plan all along. But she still feels stupid. The ice cream is reminding her. It's weird, not hating herself like she used to. It's weird, being able to admit that she did. Lots of things are weird. She briefly considers kidnapping Nono Rodriguez, tying her up in a chair, and putting a gag on her mouth. Then she'd outline the plan, with PowerPoint as a backup, and do this really cool gesture at Samir to take the gag off at key moments so Nono could give feedback. On consideration, that probably won't engender a lot of loyalty from her future lieutenant. But Samir's newest swag haul did get one of those neat wireless clickers, that let you advance through a slide deck, and she really wants to try it. There is one person who can give feedback, though. She puts together a capsule summary and texts the boss. The ice cream tastes so much better after she reads his reply: "I'm really proud of ya. Go do it." What dastardly plan is our evil villain concocting? We'll find out in another installment of The Adventures of Hot Mess. What did you folks think of this installment, though?
But in a good way.