Okay, this was supposed to be short. It is not short. It is a riff off of a comment from a request for dark fic prompts from like 2 months ago.
It took a while.
Damon Rudd had not meant to reform. He had been living a perfectly happy life destroying anything at that pissed him off, thwarting people who got his way (heroes with overdeveloped moral senses usually, Golden Hawk and Wise Ibis and the like), being amazingly rich and getting richer, and more or less doing whatever he wanted to do. This had been working fine, until, walking behind one of his businesses, he found a woman and two children digging for food in his dumpster. This, Damon found, pissed him off. But because he was not an idiot, he was able to see that what pissed him off was not the woman.
It wasn’t the kids, either, or even the food in the dumpster (Although he did make a note to order a look into the amount of food waste from his employee cafeteria), but their hunger.
Damon did the obvious things first: he took the woman, Tansy, and her daughter and son to dinner at a nearby diner, made sure they had enough to eat and plenty of leftovers. But because Damon was, again, not stupid, and because he was a charming and conniving man, he managed to get the woman’s story out of her as well.
Their conversation revealed that one of his competitors was to blame — irresponsible and flat out dangerous business practices had combined with malicious lawyers; they company had refused to pay Tansy’s husband’s medical bills for conditions and injuries they had caused, and thus Tansy and her kids had lost both a husband and father but their house and cars, too. Damon had his target. Damon liked having a target.
The conversation — mostly the kids — also let him know that there were many other homeless and hungry people on the streets of the Sparkling City. While he happily destroyed his competitor, their lawyers, and (twice as ruined) everyone who had made their ruinous HR decisions, Damon also found himself opening a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and a free housing unit.
Damon liked destroying things, and now he was destroying homelessness and hunger in the Sparkling City. Great! He was happy again. He had targets, he had solutions, and his enemies were cursing his name.
Golden Hawk and Wise Ibis and the like were, of course, suspicious. But the more they dug, the more money he poured into his hunger-and-homelessness-destroying projects, and the less fault they could find. It was wonderful.
Then someone — a brave someone, because everyone knew what happened to people who pissed off Damon Rudd — told him that nearly 20% of the unemployed in the Sparkling City had gotten that way as the fault of robots.
His robots, the pride of his company. The one thing he had thought he’d done with unselfish motives. Sure, they’d made him rich, but they took over jobs that were dangerous or unpleasant or very difficult for humans to do. They had been revolutionizing both space exploration and medicine. He had been helping people.
He broke some things. He broke quite a few things. But Damon had long since learned that he could break things and be seen as eccentric — since he was rich — so he broke only things, his own things. And then he set his jaw and started thinking.
Damon Rudd had a new target, and it was himself. What was he supposed to do about that?
He set one whole wing of his research division on to brainstorming jobs that humans could do better than robots and be trained for on the job. He bent his HR manager’s ear until she nearly quit, and when she threw a paperweight at him, he knew he’d hired the right woman for the job.
He opened a second free housing development and put a competitor out of business just to feel better for a couple days, casually thwarted a villain who tried to take over his territory and, while he recovered from a small broken wrist issue – the villain had some interesting technology, all of which he planned to steal – hired a crew of people to turn the villain’s proto-lair into a community learning center and restaurant. He annoyed Wise Ibis and Flickering Stars for a while, in part by meticulously doing nothing illegal or even particularly immoral. Then he went back to bothering his HR director.
He’d been so close to cracking the labor problem when someone else had decided, since he clearly was going soft, that they needed the territory that he’d always held.
Which was fine, he could use the distraction, except somehow they captured him.
Damon Rudd stared at the antiseptic, white-and-glass cage he had woken up in and very carefully did not start swearing.
He hadn’t been sleeping on the job, but he had been wandering alone in places he would normally have brought bodyguards. His guards – even his suit – made people he wanted to talk to nervous. So he was dressed down – he’d had to send someone to buy him blue jeans and a t-shirt, and he thought he looked a little ridiculous, but his secretary and assistant had promised him he looked handsome but not so stiff as normal (which had introduced him to the concept that he was normally stiff, something Damon had not previously considered).
He wasn’t sure quite what had happened, but he was pretty sure it had involved a tranquilizer dart and a strike team. He’d felt a pinch, lost consciousness, and now he was in an 7x7x7 cube, just big enough for him to lie down in, surrounded by soft-edged white walls with a wide glass front.
Trapped. From the front of his cage, he could see a white hallway and a white wall. That was it. When he shouted, the walls seemed to eat his voice.
This would be one hell of a way to die, starving to death and forgotten in a box in some villain’s lair.
Although he had to say he was impressed with their construction and the way even the toilet and sink seemed to be formed out of the walls. Maybe aliens? There’d been an issue with them a few years back… but the plastics didn’t look like more than plastic, and sound-deadening was well within human means. Heck, he was pretty sure he had a manufacturing plant that could make this sort of thing.
If he had been kidnapped by an employee, Damon was going to be very irked. Once he got out.
His assessment of the room finished, Damon sat back on the bed and started plotting his potential paths.
Meals appeared through the floor; there was no way to get through the hole. The meals were on a timer; they were bland but filling and didn’t appear to be drugged. Lights were also on a timer, although they never went truly dark, just dimmer.
After five meals and two restless sleeps, it appeared that if Damon was at danger of being killed by anything, it was going to be boredom.
He had a routine; he had his plans, he had checked every millimeter of the room at least three times. Possibly ten. After five more meals, he was honestly considering the risk of death by lack of stimulation.
He wasn’t sure if the explosion at the end of the hall was an improvement or not, but he moved to the back of his cage and waited, wishing he had some sort of weapon, anything but a room with furnishings that wouldn’t move and one bowl from yesterday’s meal – held as an experiment to see if the next meal would come if he didn’t return the bowl.
Said bowl – plastic, of course, white and antiseptic – was better than nothing. He waited, bowl at the ready, to see if this was some sort of rescue or an attack – or both.
Three explosions and about thirty-nine seconds later, Damon lost all composure and started swearing.
“You.” He glared through the glass at Golden Hawk. “No.”
“Me.” She bowed, the gesture full of sarcasm and making the gold of her costume catch the light and trick the eye. He always wore sunglasses when he had to thwart her. His kidnapper had failed to bring him any, however.
“I suppose you’re better than another day of boredom.” He set the bowl down. “Shall we play chess?”
“I don’t see a board.”
“And you can’t play in your head?” The taunt was so standard he was pretty sure they’d had this conversation before, word for word. Except the boredom.
“How about I get you out of there instead. Ibis and Stars are taking out your captor at the moment. Nasty – person.”
“Nastier than me? I’m hurt.”
She had to get him out of here. She had to. But the thing was, Golden Hawk saw things in very black and white ways. She might not consider that a business, his employees, several charities, their beneficiaries, and a good number of other things depended on Damon Rudd being free to continue to do as he wanted to. She might simply see that he was a villain. And if she left him here…
“Now, let’s see.” She pushed at the wall across from his cage until a panel swung open. “Hold tight, you three,” she called down the line. “This woman, she wasn’t exactly discriminating in who she grabbed,” she explained conversationally. Damon tensed. You didn’t talk like that to someone you were going to let go – to an enemy that you were going to let go. “She’s got you, the Midnight Mole,” she gestured down to the left, “and several good heroes.”
“Hence why you’re here.”
“Well, part of it.” She pushed four buttons. The floor seemed to move under Damon’s feet – almost imperceptibly, but there was something.
“That way, that way,” she called, gesturing to people he couldn’t see. “She took costumes, you see. She took almost everything off of people. I don’t need you seeing everyone’s real face.”
“Kind of you,” he grumbled. “What about the Midnight Mole?”
“Oh, he’ll stay in here for a while longer. We have a police wagon coming to pick him up.”
Damon’s blood went cold. “And me?” He made himself sound like he didn’t care. It was harder than it ought to be.
“You, Mr. Rudd?”
He didn’t think he’d ever seen her smile.
It didn’t glint, at least, although her teeth were supernaturally white.
“You are coming with me.”
“With – wait.” He kicked the bowl up into his hand again. As a weapon, it was pitiful, but he was not going without a fight. If he ended up in the heroes’ hands, he was doomed. “I’ve committed no crime-”
“You’ve been caught committing no crimes,” she corrected. She was still smiling.
“I’ve done nothing wrong, and I’m the victim in this circumstance! Aren’t you the hero?” He didn’t like the note that was sneaking into his voice, but she was starting to spook him, and he was still trapped in a cage with very little to help him out. And Golden Hawk, she was moving closer and closer to the cage. He had never noticed how predatory her expression looked up close.
Maybe he’d never seen it this close. Maybe he’d just never been this worried – he refused to even think “scared” – about her. Maybe he’d never faced her alone, without any of his tools.
“I’m a hero,” she agreed quietly. “But, in this case, that means that I can do something questionable and nobody will blink twice.”
“And,” he licked his lips and considered the situation, “you’re thinking of doing something questionable.”
“Ah, ah,” she scolded. “Wasn’t it you that told me the difference between planning and thinking?”
His blood ran cold. “You know what I am,” he began slowly.
“Not yet. But I have a nice cozy place back at Headquarters. And I imagine after you’ve been there a few days, I’ll know a lot more about you. Oh, don’t worry,” she purred, as if he could do anything but. “I’ll let you contact your business interest. By letter, of course. Censored letter.
Damon took another step back and held his bowl as much like a weapon as he could. He was not going down without a fight.