I always thought The Paleontologist was a goofy superhero concept.
Your obsession with fossils. That silly tool belt…
What were you going to do, brush dust off me? Stab me with your tiny shovel?
But you’ve really upped your game. When those velociraptors bounded off your ship, screeching like deranged kangaroos, I was so scared I almost forgot I had an army of unstoppable nanomolecular deathbots.
Back when I was just a clueless underling, the first Doctress Death told me never to dream up elaborate deathtraps. She said they were foolish and that a raygun to the face failed less often and was every bit as permanent.
And yet, here we are!
You stuck inside a moon-crystal box surrounded by deathbots in a room slowly draining of oxygen. Me on the other side of an impenetrable labyrinth.
What’s a little foolishness between old enemies, eh?
When I first got into this business, I only ever wanted to be respected. To be somebody.
I tried out for the Super Team, but they said I was dull. Uninspiring.
So I signed up as Doctress Death’s minion. I never thought she’d kill everyone I’d ever loved and tell me she’d just made me hostage-proof.
After that, I made it my life’s work to avenge my family, my friends. Oh was it sweet, how her face contorted when I shoved that nano-steel blade into her sternum during her takeover of the Royal Museum. How she died knowing it was me that she should have been paying attention to instead of stupid Captain Primus.
But revenge is a funny thing, you know? After that, I didn’t know what to do next. I couldn’t go home because I no longer had one. And I couldn’t give up evil because who would believe me?
Then you showed up a few days later demanding “justice for the dead,” and while I thought it was hilarious that you turned out to be talking about the dinosaur skeletons she’d destroyed, I also thought, well, why not pick up the Doctress Death mantle, at least for a little while?
I guess I’ve kind of lost sight of my old self in the years since then. Of what it was I ever wanted.
You know, we’re not so different, really. Neither of us have ever fit in.
Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way Captain Primus reacts when you suggest ideas. The way Lady Supernova looks at you like you’ve crawled out of some hole on those digs you’re so fond of.
It’s the same way everyone always looked at me, back before I was Doctress Death. Back when I was…
I’m sorry, I’m not crying. It’s just… There’s moon dust in my eyes.
Anyway, I’m proud to call you my frenemy.
I always used to destroy things to celebrate, but you’ve inspired me! I’m going to change.
I’ll open that moon crystal box you’re stuck in. Turn back on the oxygen. Dissolve my impenetrable labyrinth. I’ll even command my deathbots to disperse to the kitchen, to bake a cake we can share. Just to show there’s no hard feelings.
Out of the death chamber…
I’m just down that corridor.
Okay, you got me.
This is the airlock.
Seriously, though. I do feel like we’re kindred spirits. Both of us have been wronged by our supposed allies, and both of us have a strong sense of justice.
I can tell you disagree.
And okay, sure. Some might say that by pushing you out an airlock to die, I’m continuing the evil ways of my predecessor. That I’m stamping out the hero who saved those kids in Montana from falling into that resurfaced tar pit—even if you were just trying to preserve the fossil record.
Those people don’t understand how to take the long view. How to make sure justice lasts.
And that’s where we differ. You’re like Captain Primus and the others: content to take action when evil concerns you, content to save the things you think need saving. Heck, I used to be the same.
But when your raptors came bounding at me, incisors flashing, I had a burst of insight: Good, Evil—they’re two sides of a coin, endlessly spinning, completely inseparable. A matter of perspective.
It doesn’t matter whether the side you’re on is labeled “hero” or “villain.” Both do terrible things in the name of justice. Don’t believe me? Just look up how many minions Lady Supernova’s killed. How many people she’s left missing family members, lovers, mentors, friends.
So really, I have to thank you. You’ve inspired me to stop my petty villainy and tear down the whole damn system.
Speaking of which, that airlock door’s going to cycle open any second now.
I can see the despair in your face as you wedge that pick of yours into the wall, holding your breath in the vain hope the outer doors will shut again before you asphyxiate and die.
You think you’ve lost. You think I’ve won.
But while we’ve been chatting, my deathbots have been busy. By now, they should have already meshed with your raptors, and when your corpse is cooling out there on Mare Imbrium, they’ll be eviscerating all the heroes they can find, starting with Captain Primus.
Then, when the Society of Nefarious Persons, Machines, and Other Entities invites me in to celebrate, I’ll turn the raptors on them, and when they’re gone I’ll self-destruct my moon base in one final glorious doom-filled blaze.
It’s funny, really. It’s only because of you that I can bring about a new era. An era where no single being is powerful enough to decide who’s good, who’s evil, who gets to call the shots.
Even though you’re about to die, you’ll be instrumental to the end of all villainy.
I hope that brings you solace.
Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.
Here are some ways you can help:
Sign up to become a monthly donor. Read more…
Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from WeightlessBooks.com
Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.
Have a product, service, or website our readers might enjoy? Ad space available on the website and in our e-reader issues. Sponsored posts opportunities are also available. Learn more…
Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend!